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June 24, 2004

Comments

bob


Is the case here that (1) Israel is a democratic nation, operating within accountable, morally defined boundries (2) Israel operates against a significant existential threat (3) that the terrorist threat it faces operates on the basis of indiscriminate, un-targetted violence and hence (4) Israel should be a cause championed by the liberal left?

With this I broadly agree, if only in despair of leftish attempts to accommodate the most backward elements of "political-Islam" and its general failure to grasp any notion of moral equivalence.

However, I have two worries which (to my mind) have never been largely addressed by left-wing supporters of Israel.

(1) To what extent does Israel's claim to support rest soley on the basis that it acts in terms of self-defence? Does not the expansionist policy of settlement construction (for example) impact upon the moral status of Israel's claims to be soley protecting the Jewish right of self-determination?

(2) If the boundries are blurred, in the sense that significant elements within both Israel and occupants of the territories seek the destruction of the opposing "entity", then what moral status should be awarded to the military conduct of either side? Is the fact of having the apparatus to carry out targetted, military strikes, against the ability to only carry out acts of mass civiliian murder, of any moral significance?

I would be interested in any response to these dilemas.

Effra

"The reason I support Israel is not primarily that she is a Jewish state - though I consider the history of modern Europe demonstrates overwhelming grounds for a homeland for the Jews - but that she is a constitutional democracy. She shares our values, and is on our side."

Unfortunately Israel's conduct since 1967 (as an expansionary nation state, not a "homeland") has made that an increasingly lonely position for a self-declared liberal left-winger. Why so? Because most of the world's soi-disant liberals have succumbed to blind, irrational "anti-semitic" prejudice? Or because specific policies and acts by Israeli governments, both Labour and Likud, have rendered the chance of a lasting settlement more moot?

Playing the neo-Nazi and guilt-by-association cards doesn't work any more. It behoves candid friends of Israel-- not that a breath of criticism of Ariel Sharon is often found hereabouts-- to ponder much less reflexively why Israel has become so unpopular. Let's have less self-pitying paranoid pop psychology and a bit more realpolitik.

To begin: why should we assume the automatic and eternal identity of interest between Britain and the USA and a country the majority of whose Jews wish their fellow citizens of Arab (i.e. semitic) origin, whether Muslim or Christian, to be "encouraged" to pack up and leave? And 46% of these Israeli Jews think the Arabs should be prodded to do so by being disenfranchised:

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/apmideast_story.asp?category=1107&slug=Israel%20Poll

That said, there is more frank and constructive criticism of Zionism within Israel than in the diaspora. Maybe humane leftists such as Oliver should make aliyah and give them a hand.

Janan Ganesh

Israel has probably the most democratic political system in the world and deserves the admiration of anyone who unapologetically favours free institutions over those of autocracy (sadly, this excludes the growing number of cultural relativists who deny any moral difference between the two).

However, where I depart from Oliver and many others is why Israel's admirable qualities necessarily obliges other states, such as Britain and America, to protect it. To cite its status as a constitutional democracy as a sufficient reason to support it is the worst kind of Wilsonian reductionism. Morality or cultural sympathy cannot be the imperative behind any state's foreign policy. It not only leads to imprudent policy (Vietnam is still the ultimate example) but violates the proper relationship between citizen and state. My state has a duty to serve my interests and those of my compatriots. I don't want Britain's blood or treasure to be expended on other states unless it benefits Britons (and in a more substantial way than just "making the world safe for democracy" or whatever).

Supporting Israel, or any particular state, can only ultimately be justified if such a policy serves our interests. I fail to see how it does. Having a pro-Western democracy in the Middle East is only of any utility if it exerts a pro-Western democratic influence on its regional neighbours. Israel patently fails to do this.

Israel's only strategic value is that it provides a base from which American military attacks can be initiated against, say, Syria. This is valuable and we should provide enough support for Israel for it to continue giving us this privilege but no more beyond that.

I cannot stress enough that this principle applies universally, not just to Israel. It is my preferred approach to foreign policy, not a hateful resentment against the Jewish state in particular. I hope Israel survives and prospers. I just don't see a case for other states to ensure it does.

Incidentally, the quote that Oliver highlights from a previous thread makes absolutely no reference to Jewishness. It does not accuse anyone of dual loyalty. There are, as Dershowitz says, loathsome accusations of split loyalties and cynical motives directed at supporters of Israel, and the fact that these are now being issued from the left as proflically as they used to emerge from the right is a sign of the degeneration of the former. But the quote in question is not an example of this.

Dan Hardie

'Jabotinsky' said, on the other thread (nothing added or removed):
'Janan, if you'd been assimilating the constant theme of this blog a little longer, you'd realise that Nixon's responsibility-- like that of everyone else on the planet, in thought, word and deed- is to Israel.'

Janan mounts a defence of 'Jabotinsky': 'Incidentally, the quote that Oliver highlights from a previous thread makes absolutely no reference to Jewishness. It does not accuse anyone of dual loyalty. There are, as Dershowitz says, loathsome accusations of split loyalties and cynical motives directed at supporters of Israel...But the quote in question is not an example of this.'

(Sigh). Oliver Kamm is a British citizen of Jewish ethnicity; this is, as the title suggests, Oliver Kamm's blog. 'Jabotinsky' states that 'the the constant theme of this blog' is 'that Nixon's responsibility-- like that of everyone else on the planet, in thought, word and deed- is to Israel.' That is as clear and as offensive a statement as I can imagine that Kamm, as a Jew, suffers from a 'dual loyalty' to Israel and to his own nation, and that he believes everyone should favour Israeli over all other interests.

Furthermore, Janan says that the post makes 'absolutely no reference to Jewishness'. This is too embarrassing.

Janan: You don't appear to know why 'Jabotinsky' names himself that: his pseudonym is a reference to the ultra-Zionist ideologue Ze'ev Jabotinsky, founder of the Revisionist movement and inspirer of the early Likudniks. (Jabotinsky was Jewish, believe it or not.) So actually, the post did make a reference to Jewishness- rather an obvious one, to anyone who knew any modern history.

Anthony

I'm glad that someone else has noted the Irving-left axis. Irving seems to be re-marketing himself as a critic of the War on Terror and a friend of the "oppressed".

maor

"not that a breath of criticism of Ariel Sharon is often found hereabouts"

Effra,
And what criticism should be made? You yourself made references to the Israeli public and Israeli policy since 1967. Surely Sharon isn't responsible those. I'd also guess that you, like others who complain about Sharon without explaining why, have been criticizing Israel since before Sharon became Prime Minister.
So please tell me: What does Sharon have to do with all this? And why should Oliver care?

As someone who actually despises Sharon (but not for the "right" reasons), it always seems to me that the common habit of despising Sharon is the "respectable" way to despise Israel. Some people despise Sharon for building a fence. For heaven's sake! That policy was suggested by his Labor opponents, and became popular via the left-leaning side of Israeli public opinion.


Janan,
What Oliver is suggesting may be the worst kind of Wilsonianism, but perhaps he AGREES with Wilsonianism. I know I do up to a point.

Janan Ganesh

Dan, please lose the artificial condescension. All this "(sigh) I can barely bring myself to point out how wrong you are" guff doesn't add anything to the substance of the discussion and makes it obvious that you are trying too hard to be some kind of Wildean intellectual gadfly.

Is Jabotinsky's statement (["If you'd been assimilating the constant theme of this blog a little longer, you'd realise that Nixon's responsibility - like that of everyone else on the planet, in thought, word and deed - is to Israel") really the most "clear and offensive statement you can imagine" for a British Jew? I think most British Jews can think of clearer and more offensive statements.

Jabotinsky's name doesn't count as part of the post.

Your love of nit-picking pedantry (both in this thread and in the Cambodian one below) distracts from the substance of the topic at hand. If you want to discuss the question of whether Israel's undeniably admirable democratic status necessarily grounds an obligation for other states to support it, which is the essence of this thread, I look forward to discussing it. But hair-splitting sophistry and contrived attempts at majesterial condescension don't excite me.

Janan Ganesh knows as much modern history as I know about brain surgery

'Jabotinsky's name doesn't count as part of the post.'

Quite so. How could I have overlooked such an obviously, devastatingly correct point.

Janan Ganesh

"Janan,
What Oliver is suggesting may be the worst kind of Wilsonianism, but perhaps he AGREES with Wilsonianism. I know I do up to a point."

Of course, maor, but I am arguing that Wilsonianism is a bad approach to foreign policy, not that Oliver doesn't agree with it.

I too agree with Wilsonianism "to a point" (i.e. insofar as it is consistent with our strategic self-interest), which is partly why I have unequivocally supported the Iraq war since it was first seriously mooted in 2002, but I think it is dangerous to pursue it to the degree where you start committing your state's economic, political and military resources to another state simply because it is democratic.

Our universities are churning out uneducated halfwits, like Janan

I actually haven't met a bigger fool in a long time, and, more particularly, a fool more determined to persist in his folly:
Janan: 'the quote that Oliver highlights from a previous thread makes absolutely no reference to Jewishness.
Me: the post to which Oliver refers is signed by a pseudonym referring to a famous Zionist ideologue, which is a clear reference to Jewishness.
Janan: 'Jabotinsky's name doesn't count as part of the post.'

Sorry to post twice. Must go now to pick my jaw up off the floor.

Andrew Ian Dodge

Would it be churlish of me to point out that Sharon is Isreal's duly elected leader? Therefore being viscerally anti-Sharon is anti-Israel, at least in part? Disagreeing with the man's policies is fine but has the support of his country after the previous left-approved made such a hash of things and got quite a few people killed as a result.

Michael

I'm suprised that no-one has raised the issue of the possibility of dual loyalty amongst Islamists living in non-Muslim society.

GrimReaper

There is no dual loyalty among Islamists living in a non-muslim society. They are loyal only to Islam. If they become loyal to a non-muslim state they become apostates, by definition. Indeed, the enthusiasm with which Al-qaeda has been killing muslims in Turkey, Iraq and Saudi Arabia indicates that loyalty to a "moderate" muslim state also qualifies as apostasy.
In political debate, it is always better to play the ball rather than the man, and accusations of "dual loyalty" from Jews should be ignored for that reason. Melanie Phillips and Oliver Kamm believe that secular Brits should support Israel; as a secular Brit who supports Israel, I have no problem with that. Those who disagree should attack the argument, not the players.

john b

Dodge - Crazy right wingers have spent the last three years accusing GWB's detractors of hating America on the grounds you cite, but this doesn't make the position other than entirely ridiculous.

If I hate any given thing that you choose, that doesn't mean I hate you. My friend can choose a boyfriend who I viscerally hate, but that doesn't mean I hate her... end of story.

(although admittedly Sharon *was* duly elected, which makes the argument slightly more legitimate than in the American case).

janus

This is Dershowitz advocate of torture and man of dubious scholarship practices:

'In the introduction to The Case for Israel, Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School asserts that his account is supported by "facts and figures, some of which will surprise those who get their information from biased sources" (p. 2). Yet, the evidence Dershowitz adduces will surprise no one familiar with the most notorious source of historical bias on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ever published in the English language. The charts below document Dershowitz's wholesale lifting of source material from Joan Peters's monumental hoax, From Time Immemorial. Dershowitz not only copies Peters shamelessly, but knowingly does so from a book serious scholars have uniformly condemned. (For details on the Peters hoax, see Norman G. Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, and Yehoshua Porath, "Mrs. Peters's Palestine," The New York Review of Books, 16 January 1986.) He is effectively no different from a professor lifting sources wholesale from a leading Holocaust revisionist in a book on the Holocaust. On a note both humorous and pathetic, Peters, in From Time Immemorial and claiming to be inspired by George Orwell, coins the term "turnspeak" to signal the inversion of reality (pp. 173, 402). Dershowitz, apparently confounded by his massive borrowings from Peters, credits the term "turnspeak" to Orwell, accusing critics of Israel of "deliberately using George Orwell's `turnspeak'" (p. 57) and "Orwellian turnspeak" (p. 153). Is this scandalous scholarship, or is it plagiarism, or is it both? '

Norman G. Finkelstein
www.NormanFinkelstein.com

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