Those narratives, at least as we witness in our political dialogue, has created an oppositional struggle between good and evil, and with our history and support of Israel, it is clear who is good and who is evil.
That exceptionalism, I think, has created a certain blinder when it comes to seeing Israel as broker in the region. Turn on any talk show, with any politician from any side, and you will hear that particular narrative echoed. Harry Reid said that if Canada or Mexico was sending rockets into civilian areas, we would respond just as Israel has. A former Marine wrote into the Times to respond to that particular claim, and suggested that American soldiers and civilians face just such attacks from far better trained and armed insurgents in both Iraq and Afghanistan. But, he notes, American servicemen and women do not respond as the Israelis have, and have studiously avoided firing into civilian areas even when they know that the insurgents are hiding there.
In particular, I am stunned at the Israeli explanation for the 30+ civilians killed at the UN school. The Israelis say they were responding to mortar fire from the school. Mortars are insidious because their high trajectory and lack of primary flash make it very difficult to trace the source of the fire; you have to have a spotter locate the crew. The Israelis claim that they traced the source of the fire precisely to the school; if so, they must have directly spotted the crew. Thus it is inconceivable that the Israelis did not know that the target was a crowded UN school, yet they chose to fire on the school anyhow. I say without hesitation that this is a criminal act. If the Israelis had said, “sorry, it was an accident”, that could indicate a targeting problem, confusion, or inferior training. But to openly admit that they responded reflexively to the Hamas fire without consideration for the inevitable civilian casualties is beyond the pale. The Israelis blame Hamas for firing from the school (although UN personnel on the ground dispute this), but choosing to fire directly at civilians is far worse; it is tantamount to murder. US servicemen do not behave that way in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we face much deadlier adversaries (Hamas mortar crews are apparently not very effective: I believe that all but one of the total Israeli combat fatalities have been from friendly fire). In the rare and unfortunate cases where US personnel have willingly targeted civilians, they have been court-martialed and punished.Israel should be seen as any other nation state trying to defend itself, and should be held accountable for when they, like other nation states, over-react and cause more harm then they have to in war. In other words, the counter narrative here is not to see Hamas as some kind of "freedom fighter" going against an evil colonial regime, but to see Israel as over-reacting--perhaps understandably, but still over-reacting to terrorism. As one writer noted (lost the link) Israel has fallen into a rather dysfunctional way of responding to their enemies, and seem to have decided to respond with hatred to hate, and with killing to loss. One TMP writer compared this conflict to the Spanish Civil War where many Americans and Brits imagined (correctly) that Franco was a terrible enemy, but missed that those fighting for the Communists were hardly better. When George Orwell tried to point that out, he was shunned by those who wanted to see those battling Franco as good.
Not comparing Israel to either side, actually, but merely noting that in this particular war, good versus evil is not a useful narrative, and, I believe, stops us from getting to any kind of genuine solution. Bush didn't invent this approach, but he seemed to canonize it into American policy. Perhaps if this were a conflict in Africa or South America, Americans would be able to see both sides with some degree of clarity--clarity that they lack when they see Israel.