. . . the government of Israel does not like the kinds of things I say — which puts them into the category of I suppose every other government in the world.
I may be premature or overly optimistic, but I think that we’ve reached some kind of turning point in American public opinion regarding Israel in the wake of the Gaza aid flotilla debacle. Our policy of blindly supporting Israel whatever they do, at whatever cost (monetary or political) is one of the greatest barriers to peace in our time, and such a policy seems more ludicrous the more heavy-handed Israel’s tactics become. When the Israeli state’s (I must repeat, with emphasis, “State,”not people) only supporters in America are the Christian Right and Democratic party leaders with a clear vested interest in keeping the Israel lobby happy, then we might see some change.
Here’s a round-up, with some comments, of articles I’ve recently read on the subject.
“Israel’s Feeling of Isolation is Becoming More Pronounced” (from The Washington Post): If Israel is very much like America, and a taste for indie rock is a pretty good indicator of liberal political beliefs, then concert cancellations by “Elvis Costello, The Pixies, and indie folk singer Devandra Banhart” should breed some internal resentment (in addition to, you know, the murdered aid deliverers).
“Desegregation in the Holy Land” by Richard Spencer, from Alternative Right: This is not really about the Gaza situation, but it points out that relations with Arabs aren’t the only race problem Israel faces. Coming from a right-wing perspective, of course Spencer points out the hypocrisy of this, given the fact that Jews have been in the vanguard of civil rights movements in America. But what he fails to address is this: in every case of hypocrisy, the question is in which direction should it resolve into consistency- start practicing what you preach, or start preaching what you practice? Spencer’s fellow “white nationalists” clearly prefer the latter, the former is always possible and usually preferable. This leads me to a fascinating article by Peter Beinart in the New York Review of Books, which shows clearly that there is something of a generation gap between young Jewish liberals in America and their parents or grandparents when it comes to attitudes about Israel. Faced with a choice between liberal democratic values and support of Israel, young Jews will decidedly opt for the former. Or as Beinart puts it:
For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.
Beinart characterizes this situation as a “failure of the American Jewish establishment,” that is, a failure to offer an alternative “liberal Zionism.” Whatever, the reason, it is an important part of the change in public opinion I am sensing.
Michael Chabon, the Jewish-American novelist, (author of several novels I’ve been meaning to get around to reading), is a bit older than the demographic Beinart discusses, but his embarrassed reaction to the news of the aid flotilla attack in the New York Times is probably somewhat typical. He muses about the discrepancy between famed Jewish intelligence and Israel’s “unprecedented display of blockheadedness.” Had he read Kevin Carson’s book on Organization Theory, he would have no cause for wonder: a given organizational system (in this case a militarized state) may be stupid, even if the people who make it up are not. It is no accident that “military intelligence” is widely regarded as an oxymoron. But I wonder if Chabon is not evading the real issue by focusing on the stupidity of Israeli actions, which is of course that they are highly immoral. As a parallel, I suggest that George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq is one of the stupidest acts the American government has ever done, but that is nothing compared to how immoral it was. One of my main problems with liberal critics of the war is that they have been obsessed with how “badly handled” it was (the unspoken subtext being that a high-I.Q. Democratic administration would have fared better), which distracts from the fact that it should not have ever happened in the first place. Bad management does not bring people to the barricades. Fighting brutality and oppression, that is to say, fighting evil, does.
P.S.- It’s stupid that I should even have to address this, but let me clear up a few things: 1. I am not Jewish, but even if I was, that fact alone doesn’t seem to keep you safe from the charge of anti-Semitism these days (nor, apparently, does it even give you a right to visit Israel). 2. Not only am I not anti-Semitic, I would even say that I am pro-Semitic, though I would point out that Arabs are Semites too. 3. Do I think that the State of Israel should not exist. Of course! I am an anarchist: I think no State should exist. States do not have a right to exist- people do, and both Jews and Arabs, in the Middle East as elsewhere, can claim the same right.