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Jewish World Review July 3, 2002 / 23 Tamuz, 5762

Jonathan Tobin

Jonathan Tobin
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Of Thee We Sing

Bush push for democracy is fitting tribute to Fourth of July | This year, Americans are likely to think less of vacations and more of patriotism on the Fourth of July. Though life has, for the most part, returned to normal since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, it is doubtful that many of us will forget that trauma on our nation's 226th birthday.

The revival of flag-waving has caused dismay in some circles in this country. In the decades since the Vietnam war and Watergate and the cynicism those events engendered, patriotism had gone out of vogue and was seen as reflecting a base chauvinism.

Yet I think cheering the red, white and blue on this Fourth of July, more than ever, reflects not our knee-jerk jingoism, but a celebration of what America's stands for. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, it was plain what was at stake in the war on terrorism was the survival of our nation's most important values.

The America we celebrate this holiday is a beacon of liberty to a world hungry for the freedoms American citizens take for granted. Those who wish to destroy this nation do not merely want to knock down our tall buildings or murder as many of us as they can.

America is more than merely the world's last surviving superpower or the reflection of the paranoia of Third World nations and Islamist ideologues. Though some see fast-food and bad Hollywood movies as this country's most influential exports, the truth is, they are not. It is our ideas and democratic values that have the power to change the world. And it is those ideas that our enemies - who are enemies not merely of America or Israel, but of everything America stands for - wish to extinguish.

What the terrorists want is to destroy the ideas of democracy, representative government and freedom of expression that threaten their totalitarian view of the world and their hold on the general populace.

And that is also why President Bush's speech last week stating our policy goals in the Middle East was such an appropriate prelude to the Fourth of July.

Bush made it clear that America's vision for the Middle East wasn't merely a drive for territorial compromise or the appeasement of Arab calls for further empowering the Palestinian Authority and its terrorist leader, Yasser Arafat. Instead, Bush said very clearly that the prerequisite for any moves toward creation of a Palestinian state was the establishment of democracy and the rule of law in P.A. territory.

This was a significant difference between the approach of Bush and that of his predecessors.

It was not good enough for Bush for the Palestinians to give lip service to an end to terrorism or the creation of an entity that would live in peace with Israel. Rather, he insisted that any concessions made by Israel would have to be preceded by tangible proof that the Palestinians had, in fact, adopted democratic government and completely ceased their war of terror against the Jewish state.

Inevitably, many pundits and supposed experts on the Middle East have derided the president for what they consider his naive stand. An emphasis on genuine reform of Palestinian society and respect for democracy is, they say, an obstacle to progress toward an agreement and places too great a burden on the Palestinians.

But the president has learned from the failure of the Oslo accords that peace with the Palestinians will only be possible if their state (in whatever form it takes) is a stable democracy. Bush understands this. His critics do not.

What I would like to see is not a cutback of administration rhetoric about democracy but an expansion of it, including aiming some of the same demands at America's Arab "allies" who are no less tyrannical than the terrorists running the P.A.

A U.S. foreign policy that puts American values first is not only the best possible path to true peace in the Middle East, it is the best possible way for our president and the entire nation to celebrate our Independence Day.

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JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

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