Where We’re Coming From, Where We’re Going

by A. Jay Adler on July 30, 2009
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Here is the cache of James Kirchick’s post that led to my email exchange with Andrew Sullivan and that was removed from the Contentions site. I’m not posting it here directly because it is, in fact, filled with scatter-shot invective, including, in line with my speculation about the cause of the post’s removal, one gratuitous and irrelevant swipe at Sidney Blumenthal. Kirchick may even have set a record for “number of people attacked in a single short blog post.”

His essential point, though, is a genuine one. I’m not willing to ascribe the term “self-hating Jew” to Max Blumenthal because I don’t know enough about him. I know enough about his thinking and his professional work to know that it’s callow and intellectually incoherent. I tried to demonstrate that here. His comments and blogging since his Tel Aviv video demonstrate no greater mental acuity. Commenter Jacob describes him as “an over-privileged and undernourished punk.” I won’t argue.

I am willing to say that Philip Weiss fits the bill. His cultural psychodrama is all throughout the posts of Mondoweiss, of which I’ve read far too many in order to be able to write knowledgeably about him. He is a blogging pathology with a missionary purpose seeking to play an historic role – so check your hallways for alarm sirens and flashing lights. He removed a post of his own a while back, after only a day, because it revealed too much. The cache of it is gone now, but I saved it.

Currently, he and co Mondoweiss blogger Adam Horowitz are fussing much about instituting a new more discriminating and “professional” comments policy. They acknowledge their comments sections has been filled, for the life of the blog, with invective and hatred. Obviously, they were in no rush. I’ve cited examples before. In the meantime, as of today, they are still willing to put up with this:

The Israelis filth elected Netanyahu on an exterminationist platform. They wildly applauded the Gaza massacre which Obama graciously paid for and supported to the fullest extent, while mouthing pieties about Israel’s security.

I actually have more respect for israelis like eitan, who have embraced their inner Nazi and are proud of their jack-booted atrocities. It’s the Commentary Leon Weisetlier tapeworms who pretend israelis are decent members of the human tribe who I find the most offensive.

The follow up commenter, seeking to restore a hint of humanity, urges the above commenter, “lovelyisraelis” (let’s work through that psychopathology) to “Try to understand the deep sources of your anger.” It’s almost comical. Yes, if only Adolf had sat thrice weekly with Sigmund, we all might have been spared so much trouble.

Yet Andrew Sullivan thinks the ideas of Mondoweiss and Blumenthal are worth arguing about. And vile demonization of Israel, and the possibility of Israel’s end, is increasingly mainstreamed in the political discussion.

I have a particular fondness, myself, for self-refuting arguments. Currently, those critical of Israeli concerns about Iran rather too easily argue that Israeli worries are overblown. Israeli, and the Jewish, sense of existential threat post-Holocaust (get over it already!) is monomaniacal. Yet what discussion is increasingly in the air, sympathetically or not? The possible demise of Israel.  The Israel haters mock Israel’s fierce historical concerns – while they actively seek the end of Israel.

Israel is not blameless in this. I feel no joy in being able to say that I knew thirty years ago that Likud’s stepped up settlement policy, in order to establish “realities on the ground,” would come back to haunt Israel. Yaacov Lozowick’s moving and forceful post, to which I linked earlier, speaks of how the narrative about Israel has changed. Israel and all Jews need to recognize the role Israel played in changing this narrative. When armies lose battles (hopefully not wars) they need to be brutally honest with themselves about their own role – their own failures – in the loss. Any clear-eyed observer of history who is not an antagonist to the very idea of Israel to begin must see the single fundamental cause of ongoing conflict: Arab, and then principally Palestinian rejectionism. Israel has been able to make the mistake it has made on lands captured in 1967 because the Palestinian leadership has never been willing to trade recognition of Israel and peace in return for those lands.

The narrative needs to be changed again. That is one battle, and it will be a long, hard one. But there are other battles now, beyond the fundamental one that has been there from the start.

Now Israel faces an ideological assault, mixed with overt and covert anti-Semitism, unlike any it has faced in its history outside of the Arab world. Mondoweiss and Blumenthal are just two particularly visible crests in a far larger wave of animus rolling over Western socieities. A commenter at another site where I published my Sullivan post wrote that when we begin to talk about the people who talk about the issues rather than talk about the issues, we have ceased to engage in productive activity. I told him that I don’t disagree. But now the movement to call into question Israel’s existence has become an obstacle to peace.

Peace between enemies can be achieved when two fundamental conditions have been met. One is when the political leaderships no longer believe they can achieve the ends they sought through war at a cost they can bear to pay. The other is when the people themselves are so tired of the costs of war that peace becomes more desirable than acting out their hatred of the enemy. Essentially, unless there has been an outright victory by one side, the parties must be worn down to peace. There have been times when it appeared that condition might be close to being met between Israelis and Palestinians.

Now we have the new anti-Zionists, who are not parties to this conflict, who have not paid the cost of war and are not worn down, who happily don their agitprop fatigues on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and in the comfortable suburbs to goad the conflict on. Remember, the objective of the anti-Zionists is not peace; it is the demise of Israel. Do they think Israelis will just fold? Yaacov Lozowick tells us they will not. No more than have the Palestinians. If these agitators for Israel’s end are not fools – and we know that many are – do they think Israel would end in a good way? Do they think it will simply wither away, like the State in the Marxist imagination? Or would there, rather, be just more blood and suffering on a newly calculated scale? They claim to be the Palestinians’ friend. Who will tell the Palestinians they are not?

So directly productive of peace be it not, this is now another battle that needs to be waged, against anti-Zionist hatred and the anti-Zionist idea in new ascendance, and against its promoters – dressed up in whatever finery of righteous compassion they strut themselves.


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