Saturday, August 30, 2003

Sorry about the length of this one folks, but this deserved a proper Fisking. From (where else?) the Sunday NY Times magazine, Ian Buruma is the author.

The Jewish Problem pops up in the strangest places. In the winter of 1991, at the height of the first gulf war, I asked a right-wing Japanese politician who still wields considerable power in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to explain the Japanese role in the Middle Eastern conflict. After clearing his throat with some perfunctory remarks about oil supplies and United States-Japan relations, he suddenly stopped midsentence, gave me a shrewd look and said: ''Look, we Japanese aren't stupid. We saw Henry Kissinger on TV. We know how America operates. We're perfectly well aware that this war is not about Kuwait. It's about Jewish interests. It's all about Israel.''

Perhaps he had read too many books about Jewish conspiracies (Roosevelt was a Jew, Churchill was a Jew, Rockefeller was a Jew, etc.), for which the Japanese market seems to have an insatiable appetite. He was, in any case, not known for his intellectual finesse. But the idea that Israel or Jewish interests are somehow at the center of world events or, at the very least, at the center of American foreign policy in the Middle East is widely held, and not only outside the United States. No matter what the current American administration does to save the tattered ''road map'' toward an end to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, sinister motives are still bound to be imputed.

First of all, the phrase "Jewish Problem" or Jewish Question", inevitably sets off alarm bells. We know from the get go that this article is not going to be about the Jews as a living, breathing people or civilization, but rather as a concept, as an archetypal image culled from thousands of years of Gentile fascination, revulsion and manipulation of their own image of the Jews. This article will about the Jews as a thing, an object, and not the reality of Jewish history or existence.

Second, the author (a professor at Bard College, another shocker) is clearly posing a question here, a dilemma which will be the subject of his article. The problem is, there isn't any dilemma here. Everything he has pointed out thus far is unambiguous anti-Semitism, the fact that he can't muster up the guts to condemn even this in definitive terms is telling indeed. He seems rather horrifyingly unperturbed that anti-Semitism is now mainstreamed in Japanese culture, or that leading political figures express it so openly. He simply dismisses all this with a rhetorical wave of the hand before moving on to more pressing, ambiguous issues. Nor does he seem much aghast at the fact that such sentiments are, by his own admission, now "widely accepted", indeed by most of the world. Rather he seems obsessed with finding out "why", rather than taking the more obvious, although substantially less comfortably impotent, tack of comdemning this fact and wondering how to combat it.

Even legitimate criticism of Israel, or of Zionism, is often quickly denounced as anti-Semitism by various watchdogs. In European political discourse, not only is anti-Zionism quite acceptable, but so are vague allegations of too much Jewish influence in public life, especially across the Atlantic. And in the non-Western world, it's not even necessary to keep such allegations vague.

Exactly which "watchdog groups" he's talking about is never spelled out, which leads me to believe that this is just a rhetorical device intended to placate his Liberal readership. In fact, the ADL, UJC, AIPAC, et al, are rather reluctant to accuse anti-Israeli groups of anti-Semitism, and I personally wish they would do so more often. Most mainstream Jewish groups in this country are desperate to avoid causing a stir and spend most of their time going after fringe groups like the neo-Nazis and the Klan. When it comes to Leftist anti-Semitism, they are worse than useless and in my opinion are making the situation worse through their disgraceful silence. Buruma's statement to the contrary is intellectually lazy balderdash. Again, we also see the total inability to muster even a cursory condemnation of what is going on here.

Rarely can such a tiny country as Israel, and such a relatively small minority as the diaspora Jews, have been assumed to exercise so much influence in world affairs. The special relationship between Israel and the United States, and the supposed dominance of ''Jewish interests'' in Washington, is by now encrusted with so many layers of mythology and bad faith that it has become very difficult to discuss Israel's role in American politics critically and dispassionately. Yet not to talk about it invites only more conspiracy theories.

There are several myths to be considered. The first is the idea that the American or the British government is dominated or manipulated by Jews.

Once again, we see the shocking moral impotency of the author. In fact, the appellation of enormous conspiratorial power to Jews is nothing new nor anything particularly rare. It is, in fact, one of the most common and well known aspects of modern anti-Semitism, crystallized in the legenday Protocols of the Elders of Zion (a text which, astonishingly, Buruma never discusses in depth, even though it mirrors exactly the phenomenon he's discussing). How this blatently obvious fact, that the accusations of conspiratorial Jewish omnipotence are culled directly from classic anti-Semitic ideology, eludes Buruma so utterly is beyond me. The only explanation I can think of is that it shatters his liberal assumptions of ambiguity and infinite complexity and therefore simply has to be ignored. He is writing an essay of inordinate length to prove that attacking Israel is a phenomenon of complex origins and motivations, inconveniant facts are better left out.

Christian fundamentalists are more important to the Republican Party than Jews -- there are many more of them, the Christian Coalition is highly efficient and most Jews still vote for the Democrats anyway.) Even though Israel is often described as the only democracy in the Middle East, the Christian right's remarkable devotion to Israel is not necessarily driven by democratic principles. The ''Christian Zionists'' are convinced by a literal reading of the Bible that Christ will reappear only once the Jews have repossessed the Holy Land. Their other conviction, that Jews will either die in an apocalypse or be converted to Christianity, is not so reassuring. Still, the Rev. Jerry Falwell declared on ''60 Minutes'' that evangelical Christians would make sure no American president would ever do anything to harm Israel. At a conference of the Christian Coalition held in Washington last year, there were more Stars of David than crucifixes.

Once again, we're dealing here with a combination of hyperbolic exagerration and utter ignorance. Buruma is a professor at Bard College, I'm betting he knows very little about evangelical Christian theology and what he does know comes from violently biased secondhand sources. I doubt he's read a word by a single evangelical theologian in his entire life. From my own encounters here in Israel with evangelicals, I've come to believe that they support Israel for a number of reasons. Yes, some are end-times Messianists. Some are painfully aware of Muslim persecution of Christians throughout the world and support Israel since it is the demon of choice for the Muslim world. Some appreciate the fact that, under Israeli rule, they can visit the many Christian sites in Jerusalem and around the country freely. Some are motivated by feelings of religious kinship to the religion that fostered their own (not all Christian denominations view the parental relationship between the two faiths negatively). Buruma's oversimplified condemnation of a large and complex religious movement is stupid and bigoted, as well as one which he would never engage in were he dealing with Islam, Buddhism, or any other non-Western religion. This is PC hate speech at its worst, all the more so because the language is so aggressively clinical. He ought to be ashamed of this graph. But it gets worse:

Then there are the foreign-policy hawks for whom Israel has been a strategic inspiration. The notions of ''pre-emptive'' war and ''regime change'' were exemplified, if not exactly pioneered, by Israel. The Six-Day War of 1967 was launched by Israel in self-protection, admittedly in the face of far greater provocation than Iraq ever gave the United States. And the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 was part of an Israeli effort to install a more friendly government in Beirut. Both actions, deplored by critics of Israel all over the world, were seen as marks of admirable resolve by friends of Israel in the United States.

This is, quite simply, willful idiocy. The '67 War was not launched against a mere "provocation", Israel's existence was about to be snuffed out and its population slaughtered. I know people who helped dig mass graves in Tel Aviv's public parks. Israel was surrounded by a numerically superior force poised to attack at any moment. To claim that Israel was the aggressor in that case is less than revisionism, its baldfaced, ideologically motivated lying. In Buruma's case, I think it stems from not knowing what he's talking about. I advise him to read a few books on the subject before he embarrasses himself further. He also fails to mention the motivating factor of the Lebanon War: the PLO terrorist campaign on Israel's northern border and the brutal genocide of the Maronite Christians in Lebanon (at the hands of the Lebanese Muslims and their ally, Nobel Prize winner Yasser Arafat's PLO) with whom Israel formed an alliance. Both of these factors are relentlessly ignored by the self-appointed human rights advocates who condemn the war and whose propaganda has now become commonplace in the universities. Again, Buruma needs to do some research before he makes a fool of himself. Honestly, you would think the NY Times could find someone to write on this subject who at least knew something about Israeli history. Too much to hope for, apparently.

What we see, then, is not a Jewish conspiracy, but a peculiar alliance of evangelical Christians, foreign-policy hard-liners, lobbyists for the Israeli government and neoconservatives, a number of whom happen to be Jewish. But the Jews among them -- Perle, Wolfowitz, William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, et al. -- are more likely to speak about freedom and democracy than about Halakha (Jewish law). What unites this alliance of convenience is a shared vision of American destiny and the conviction that American force and a tough Israeli line on the Arabs are the best ways to make the United States strong, Israel safe and the world a better place.

Ah, and now enter the evil neoconservatives. Their presence was, of course, inevitable, as is the good liberal's utter disdain for them and their beliefs; but note the word "peculiar".

Not all Americans agree with this hard line, to be sure: a recent campaign by American Jews to press Sharon into accepting a two-state solution shows this.

So lets get this straight. For neocons to ally with fundamentalist Christians is "peculiar", but for American Jews to get in bed with the Left, the most anti-Semitic political force in America today, makes perfect sense. Brilliant Buruma! Thank God we have Bard College around to show us proles the path to enlightenment. This attitude is, unfortunately, typical. In Buruma's eyes, the Jews cannot act like any other people, making alliances based on their interests and their own hard-headed assessment of their position, but must be higher, more noble. They must bed down with those who hate them and call for their blood rather than make friends with those unenlightened "evangelicals", who are just too, well, believing for us smart folks at Bard College. I don't know much, but I know patronizing racism when I see it. To Buruma we are, after all, a "Problem", and not a people. I guess we've just forgotten our place, haven't we?

Whether he will comply with American pressure to stop building a barrier to keep the Palestinians more or less imprisoned inside the occupied territories is doubtful, especially when Palestinian suicide bombers continue to blow up buses -- and the Israeli government continues to kill Hamas leaders. And there is no sign that President Bush will make a serious effort to make the Israelis dismantle, or at least stop building, Jewish settlements in the Palestinian areas. The idea that Israeli and American interests, as defined by evangelical Christians, neocons and Likudniks, converge, as if by force of nature, is not seriously challenged in the United States.

The "he" in question here is Ariel Sharon. Not a word about Yasser Arafat, of course, or any of the other Palestinian leaders, and whether they have anything to do with this. Only Hamas is mentioned in passing, as if it were a force of nature and not a political/terrorist movement. His remarks about the assassinations of Hamas leaders and the security wall are simply offensive. Does he not believe that Israel has the same right as other sovereign nations to secure its border and protect its citizens? Or does he think Israel ought to simply submit to its citizens being murdered on a semi-daily basis? Is Jewish blood really so cheap at Bard College these days? Or am I being unduly "impassioned" on this subject?

There is also the ugly conflation of "evangelical Christians, neocons, and Likudniks", a phrase lifted verbatim from Pat Buchanan's stump speech (that's a whole other discussion) and representing exactly the sort of conspiratorial goobledygook the author's been claiming to condemn and disdain. Even if this sinister triangle were as powerful as Buruma claims, why then do so many liberal Democrats still unabashadly support Israel? Why then is the Defense Department, no gaggle of evangelicals or neocons, so staunchly behind the Israeli-American alliance? Why is Israel's congressional support so utterly bipartisan, if this axis of conservative evil has such an iron grip on American public opinion? Buruma is showing his agenda here in a serious way, and its not a pretty one.

To judge from much of the world's media, especially in Europe and the Middle East, this was always true. In fact, it was not. The turning point was the Six-Day War. It was then that many Europeans took up the Palestinian cause and Israel could count, for the first time, on the almost unconditional support of the United States.

This is not entirely accurate. The Palestinian cause became one of the European Left after a 1968 conference in Cairo (attended by, among others, future German Green Party Foreign Minister Joshka Fischer) between the PLO and many Leftist groups from all over the world. At the conference, solidarity was promised between these groups and the PLO and, incidentally, Arafat made a speech promising the destruction of Israel. To my knowledge, not one of the groups there (who claimed to stand for justice, freedom, and human rights) made any objection whatsoever to Arafat's genocidal statements. Needless to say, Buruma ignores the fact that Europe did not "take up" the Palestinian cause spontaneously, it was an engineered alliance on the part of Soviet backed Leftist groups based in Europe during the '70s.

In 1956, during the Suez crisis, the United States actively opposed Israel's interests. It was an interesting little war in light of today's fashionable cliches about dovish anti-Zionist Europeans and hawkish pro-Israeli Americans. Israel's biggest supporter and arms supplier in the 1950's was not the United States, but France. That is how Israel got its nuclear bomb. Britain was more ambivalent and tended to lean toward the Arabs. But when President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, often depicted in the European press as an Arab Hitler, nationalized the Suez Canal, thus cutting out the British and French corporate owners, the British joined the French in an attempt to grab it back. They enlisted the Israelis in this enterprise by encouraging them to attack Egyptian ''terrorists'' in the Sinai, after which Britain and France would order both sides to withdraw from Suez. The inevitable Egyptian refusal would then be followed by a short, sharp conflict and possibly even a ''regime change'' in Cairo. All went well until the Soviets threatened to intervene on behalf of the Egyptians and President Dwight D. Eisenhower forced France and Britain to back off and the Israelis to get out of the Sinai.

This is, to put it mildly, shockingly bad history. Firstly, it totally ignores Israel's major motivation for going to war: Egypt's massive 1955 arms deal with the USSR, which gave Nasser the means to accomplish his pan-Arab ambitions and to avenge Egypt's humiliating defeat in the War of Independence (Nasser was not reticent to express his desire for both these things). David Ben-Gurion, then Prime Minister of Israel, was convinced by his intelligence sources and Nasser's own rhetoric that a war with Egypt was inevitable, so he sought to make a preemptive attack in order to destroy Nasser's army before it had the chance to fully assimilate all the Soviet hardware. "Terrorism" was never the pretext for the war, this is pure fantasy on Buruma's part. He's probably been reading too much Noam Chomsky and not much else. For the record, the French didn't "enlist" the Israelis, Ben-Gurion sought a great power alliance in order to stave off a possible intervention by the Soviets. Nasser's larceny was merely a conveniant confluence of mutual interests between the three countries. By the way, the comparisions of Nasser to Hitler are not without validity. He was a demagogic ultra-nationalist and racial supremacist with ambitions of pan-Arab empire. He openly sought to undermine and invade other Arab countries in service of his imperial ambitions and to expropriate European-built property and resources and place them under totalitarian style state control. He was hugely popular and probably did Egypt and the Arab world more harm than any other 20th century leader. The analogy has a fair amount of merit. On a last note, Eisenhower later said that his attitude towards Israel in the Suez War was the biggest mistake of his presidency.

The French remained Israel's staunchest allies until 1967, when Gen. Charles de Gaulle decided to withdraw his favors. Having only just divested France of its last colonial possessions in North Africa, de Gaulle decided to cultivate the Arabs. He called the Israelis a ''domineering'' people and warned them against going to war. As he put it to the Israeli foreign minister, Abba Eban: ''You will be considered the aggressor by the world, and by me. You will cause the Soviet Union to penetrate more deeply into the Middle East, and Israel will suffer the consequences. You will create a Palestinian nationalism, and you will never get rid of it.'' De Gaulle was not totally wrong on any of these counts.

Ah, of course, the heroic French. With their brilliant advice unfortunately ignored by the unenlightened lower orders. Rather like college professors aren't they? This graph is both inaccurate and foolish. Firstly, De Gaulle made the "domineering" remark nearly a decade before the '67 War and he said it in praise, extolling the rediscovered military prowess of the Jewish people. Palestinian nationalism existed long before the war (the PLO was founded in 1964) and was not aided by it. It was not until the '70s, when the Soviets and their proxies begun to pump money and weapons into the PLO, and to leverage their influence in the UN, that Palestinian nationalism began to become prominent on the world scene. (Vietnam was also a factor here, but I digress.) As for the "aggressor" remark, I have dealt with that more than enough already. The French abandonment in '67 had more to do with typical French realpolitik than any prescient analysis of the situation. France has always done precisely what is good for France, and nobody else. As President "I am the state" De Gaulle himself said: "France has no permanent friends, only permanent interests." Understandable, perhaps, but hardly admirable.

Guilt, too, had a great deal to do with European good will toward Israel in the 50's and early 60's. This was a time when Jewish characters in German novels took on a saintly air and anti-Semitic remarks (in public) were treated as a kind of blasphemy. Anti-Semitism didn't disappear, of course, but open expressions of it were frowned upon, at least in Western Europe. If the word ''Jew'' had to be uttered at all, people lowered their voices, as if embarrassed by the very sound of it. Britain, never having been under Nazi occupation, was less vexed. Having grown up in guilt-ridden Holland, I can remember how shocked I was, sometime in the mid-60's, to hear a young lawyer in London make disparaging remarks about Jews.

Well, duh. Of course, he avoids the fact that, while there was a great deal of rhetorical support, no concrete military or political support was forthcoming from the Europeans during this period, with the exception of the French.

Philo-Semitism is better than pogroms, to be sure, but there was something unreal, and even a little unsettling, about this dutiful sense of collective guilt. It was as if Jews, including Israeli Jews, once again were not treated in the same way as other human beings, which can quickly lead to resentment, not among Jews so much as among gentiles. Zvi Rex, an Israeli psychoanalyst, once put his finger right on this sorest of points. ''The Germans,'' he said, ''will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.'' This harsh analysis applies to some extent to non-Jews all over the European continent. Nobody likes to be made to feel guilty, especially for the sins of his father.

In all fairness, I must say I agree with this completely, perhaps out of slightly different motivations.

So it was with a certain sense of relief, in the aftermath of the 1967 war, that the European left, led by Communist publications like L'Humanite in France, could point its finger at Israelis and conclude that Jews, far from being saintly, were behaving just as badly as everyone else and, indeed, perhaps worse. Once it became clear that the Israelis were not going to give back their conquered territories, the Palestinians became the prime victims to be protected from persecution, and the Jews became the Nazis. Here is L'Humanite on July 20, 1967: ''Six million Jews were not slaughtered by the Nazis so that young sabras could on occasion behave like young Hitlerites.''

In fact, Europeans, especially on the left, had a double guilt complex. One complex concerned the widespread collaboration in the destruction of European Jewry; the other was about the colonial past. France's war in Algeria ended only in 1962, after eight years of torture, terrorism and a near civil war in France. Israel had backed France in this last stand for European colonial rule. Taking up the cause of Palestinians, Vietnamese and other postcolonial peoples fighting for their ''liberation'' was a way to atone for past European sins. And because Western imperialism, since the late 60's, was largely associated with Israel and the United States, anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism came to mean the same thing. In this respect, if in little else, the editors of L'Humanite and General de Gaulle were entirely on the same wavelength.

What's being totally, unforgivably, ignored here, is the influence of the Soviet Union, which after the Six-Day War and the defeat of its proxies, undertook a massive campaign of anti-Semitism both within its borders and internationally. This campaign was most successful in the Islamic world, but it took hold also among Leftist groups in Europe and the US. The Soviets conflated anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism so as to impress upon Israel all the odious qualities once attributed to individual Jews or to Jewish collective existence (i.e. conspiracy, blood libels, capitalist exploitation, reactionary tendancies, etc.). The anti-Semitism we are dealing with now, which views Israel as the physical manifestation of all the most odious aspects of Jewish evil, has its origins in Moscow, and Buruma either ignores this or is wholly ignorant of it. Either way, the omission is unjustifiable.

As for European guilt over colonialism, its my opinion that the Europeans have decided to feel guilty about imperialism so they wont have to feel guilty about the Holocaust. I have long and short answers to that one.

The steady alignment of American interests with Israel made it possible for American Jews to be good Jews, good Democrats and good American patriots too. This same period gave birth to neoconservatism, in which Israel played a major role. The career of Norman Podhoretz might serve as an illustration. He was once a man of the left who wondered, when ''thinking about the Jews,'' whether ''their survival as a distinct group was worth one hair on the head of a single infant.'' But, as he explained in a speech on the occasion of his retirement as editor of Commentary in 1995, he began to change his mind in the 60's, when he became ''much more aggressive in defense of Jewish interests in general and of Israel in particular.'' One reason was a sense of shock when defeat in Vietnam threatened to turn the United States into a demoralized, enervated, even isolationist power, which would no longer stand up for good against evil in the world.

And here comes the Podhoretz bashing, in which our erstwhile Bard professor not only gets everything wrong about the origins of the neoconservative movement, but also engages in a little armchair psychanalysis.

The roots of neoconservative disillusion with liberalism and the almost obsessive promotion of American power go deeper than Vietnam, however. In Podhoretz's case it goes back to his childhood experiences on a school playground in Brooklyn, where he was bullied by his black schoolmates. Blacks, he had always been told, in good liberal fashion, were poor and persecuted, while Jews were rich and powerful. Neither rich, nor powerful, young Norman grew to hate the boys that beat him up with such ease. As he explained in a famous essay, ''My Negro Problem -- and Ours,'' he hated them, but also admired them, for ''they were tough; beautifully, enviably tough, not giving a damn for anyone or anything. To hell with the teacher, the truant officer, the cop; to hell with the whole of the adult world that held us in its grip and that we never had the courage to rebel against.''

This is highly revealing. What Henry Jackson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu and George W. Bush have in common is that they enabled bookish men to feel tough, beautifully, enviably tough. Too much can be made of the connection between the Chicago philosopher Leo Strauss and officials in the current Pentagon, but one aspect of Strauss appears to have rubbed off on them. Born in Germany, Strauss was a liberal rationalist in his youth. He had hoped, he said, that anti-Semitism would end with Jewish assimilation in a liberal democracy. The Nazis taught him otherwise. By the 1920's he began to regard liberals as weaklings, powerless to stop the violent mob. If one thing ties neoconservatives, Likudniks, and post-cold-war hawks together, it is the conviction that liberalism is strictly for sissies.

This is just plain gross. In fact, it would be hilarious if weren't posited in all seriousness. First things first, neoconservatism certainly is related to the radical Left's hatred of Israel and support for racist atrocities against her. It is also related to a hundred other aspects of the confrontation between traditional Liberalism and the radical Left in the 1960s. Neoconservatism did not split with Liberalism merely over Israel, nor Vietnam, nor even over foreign policy in general. It split over the radical Left's entire vision of America, from racial problems like busing to concepts of the free market and the appropriate size of government. It split over disillusionment with the Great Society and indeed the whole concept of good/big government Liberalism. It split over the radical Left's conceptualization of American as irrefutably racist, imperialist and evil. It split most of all over a fundamental question of philosophy: is man perfectable? The radical Left claimed yes, the neocons no. From a disagreement that deep, you do not recover.

The neocons also hated and feared the fact, not that Liberalism was weak per se, but that philosophically it lacked an answer to the forces of Leftist totalitarianism. They saw this illustrated in the collapse of mainstream Liberalism in the face of a small but well-organized anti-war movement which did indeed echo in fundamental ways the fall of the Weimar Republic at the hands of the small but much better organized and motivated Nazi Party. What Buruma dismisses as macho paranoia was, in fact, a nuanced and honestly reached (and I believe accurate) assessment of the failure of American Liberalism.

The last two graphs, with their allegations of crypto-racism and ludicrous psychobabble, are nothing less than disgraceful. They smack of the worst sort of character assassination. They are also, unfortunately, typical of Liberals today, who seem unable to view people who disagree with them as being anything other than evil or crazy. Needless to say, this is idiotic. If Podhoretz were black, Buruma would be hailing his rediscovery of self-assertion and empowerment. Why shouldn't someone seek empowerment and self-confidence for himself and his people? Why should it be celebrated for all other oppressed minorities and condemned when the Jews are involved? The double standard invoked here is nothing less than horrifying. Especially since anti-Israel Jews tell the same sort of stories. (Read Chomsky's autobiographical essays.) Except in their case their physical weakness pushed them into violent self-hatred and anti-Semitism. Which would you prefer? I think I already know Buruma's answer.

Once Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979, and switched patrons from Moscow to Washington, challenging the Soviets was no longer a major American concern. But the revolution in Iran, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, produced another enemy to confront. And this new confrontation outlasted the cold war. For Khomeini's brand of revolutionary Islam inspired others. Among the Palestinians, who had always been relatively secular, Islamist extremism gradually merged with Palestinian nationalism. The intifadas began with throwing stones, but degenerated into suicide attacks on Israeli citizens, organized by Palestinians with support from parts of the Arab world. Seen from a particular perspective in America, then, especially after 9/11, Israel and the United States, bound together by cold-war concerns in the 60's and 70's, were now thrown together in an existential ''war against terrorism.'' This shaped a climate in which it is not just potentially anti-Semitic to be critical of Israeli policies, but downright unpatriotic, too.

The cognitive dissonance here is pretty violent. Buruma ignores the whole phenomenon of fundamentalist Islam except to acknowledge its existence in the most superficial way. He doesn't mention its anti-Semitic, anti-American, anti-Western, anti-modern ideology. Nor does he go into the interconnected nature of various fundamentalist groups and their use of terror (although, judging by the rest of the article, he might be wholly ignorant of such things, in which case he shouldn't be writing on the subject at all). Worst of all, he barely even mentions 9/11 and doesn't mention Al Queda at all. Nor does he deal with the fact that Al Queda and its ilk are anti-Semitic and anti-American on a fundamental level. He even puts "war on terrorism" in scare quotes. This is typical of the academic Left, who are desperate to ignore radical Islam, play down the significance of 9/11, and go one blaming the US and Israel for all the world's problems. The problem is that we are, in fact, in an existential war on terrorism, one which is not the creation of neurotic neocon intellectuals or Messianic evangelical Christians. Buruma's relentless rhetorical impotency and denial of reality only serve to prove his dreaded neocons right at every turn.

It is perfectly possible, of course, to take a critical view of Israeli policies, and of their support in Washington, without being anti-Semitic. It is equally possible to be critical of American policies without being irrationally and emotionally anti-American. Just so, you can be opposed to capitalism, or ''globalization,'' without wishing to unleash or condone suicide attacks on Manhattan.

This is what is known as "throat clearing". In my opinion, this graph may be true, its also irrelevent, since the radical Left is anti-Semitic and anti-American and does think 9/11 was a good thing.

What is disturbing, however, is the way these views now increasingly come together in a hostile cocktail. Most mass demonstrations in Europe, and elsewhere, against the war in Iraq contained banners in support of the Palestinians, even the religious extremists of Hamas, and against the global symbols of capitalism. For some people on the left, being opposed to Israel, or Zionism, goes beyond specific policies in Gaza or the West Bank; Israel is seen as the colonial Western presence in an Arab world, an American client state locked into global capitalism. Even if the Israelis treated the Palestinians with the most scrupulous generosity -- which they do not -- this impression would persist.

Finally, he starts to make some sense. Although I will say that what Barak did at Camp David was pretty damn close to "scrupulous generosity", by any definition. That last line is just another case of trying to hold Israel to cosmic standards of behavior.

For Israel, the American embrace is an ambiguous advantage. Although perhaps vital for the nation's survival, it also makes Israel the hub of global hostility toward the United States. It is, in any case, doubtful that the fate of Israel is best served by its dependence on an alliance with Christian fundamentalists and people on a mission to liberate the world with military force. It may well be that Israel's interests coincide with those of the United States for the moment, but this should not be a given, never to be examined or reassessed.

I love stuff like this. Israel should not be so close to the US because it makes psychotic anti-American ideologists hate Jews. The sophistry is thick on the ground. Let me clear: anti-Semitism is the fault of anti-Semites. It is their responsibility to deal with their hatred and prejudice. Jews are bound only to defend themselves against them, not to change their conduct to avoid pissing them off. This kind of blame the victim rhetoric is typical of the academic Left and it is utterly reprehensible.

The first condition for a reasoned examination would be to disentangle Israel's politics from all the anti-Semitic myths and other leftovers of a murderous past. This is not so easily done, since Israeli leaders have too often abused history themselves. The Israeli bomb attack on an Iraqi nuclear installation in 1981 might have been justified in many legitimate ways, but to say, as Prime Minister Menachem Begin did, that it was to protect ''the children of Israel,'' asking foreign reporters, ''Haven't you heard of one and a half million little children who were thrown into gas chambers?'' is to dangerously confuse the issue. The same was true when Prime Minister Sharon warned the United States last year not to repeat the mistakes of 1938 and sell out Israel like Czechoslovakia. Such false analogies serve only to invite equally odious comparisons from Israel's critics.

This is even more reprehensible. Why shouldn't Israel's leaders bring up the subject of their poeple's prior sufferings at the hands of the Gentile world? How dare you suggest that the pain of our history do not belong to us? Are black activists now prohibited from discussing slavery and Jim Crow? Are the internment camps now off limits for Japanese Americans to discuss? The people who compare the Israelis to the Nazis are vile, insulting, hateful, racist demagogues. Nothing Israel or its leaders do or don't do is going to affect the dispicable manner in which they conduct themselves. Get it through your head Buruma: these people are not rational. They are racist ideologues who believe what they believe no matter what. You can't analyze or understand them, you have to confront them head on, and the idea that you can change them by pretending the horrors of Jewish history didn't happen is not only foolish, its frighteningly deranged.

Finally, the politics of the Middle East may be murderous, but it is not helpful to see them as an existential battle between good and evil. As long as such a view persists, among zealots in Washington, Jerusalem and Nablus, the struggle between Jews and Arabs will be forever obscured by a fog of noxious myths and fantasies. Religious fanaticism is confounding the politics of Israel, as well as that of its enemies. And its influence is felt in the United States as well. Americans are right to support Israel's right to exist in peace, but criticism of Israeli policies should not be stifled by Christian visions of Armageddon, right-wing zealotry or memories of the culture wars in Brooklyn. This would not be good for America, and it is certainly not good for the Jews.

Disgusting, pure and simple. Moral equivalency at its most vile. There is nothing, nothing even close to the totalitarian madness that is radical Islam in the politics of Israel or America. No one wants to take over the world, no one wants to slaughter "infidels" (who often happen to be children) in the hopes of eternal bliss, no one wants to hurl their enemies into the sea. Buruma is simply lying, lying outright, confabulating madly to force an inconvenient and frightening reality to conform to his ideological prejudices. "Criticism of Israeli policies"? It is clear from his article that we are not talking about criticism, we are talking about racism, about demonology, about a semi-psychotic ideology which has alreadry become commonplace across much of the globe. The fact that he can't even be bothered to think about this fact, which he mentions with a breezy nonchalance that I personally find revolting, is telling indeed. Liberals in America today pay a great deal of lip service to the idea of disliking anti-Semitism, but, when the chips come down, they are worse than useless. They give (perhaps unintentionally) legitimacy and weight to its accusations. Here is an obviously intelligent and, perhaps, well-meaning college professor (who, to be fair, seems largely out of his depth on this issue) who looks at the phenomenon of global anti-Semitism and lays the blame squarely at the door of evangelical Christians and the neocons, the only groups he singles out for anything like extended criticism. This is not merely weakness, double standards, or ignorance, it is dangerous moral impotency, a stark and terrible inability to recognize political evil. We must ask ourselves: why does traditional Liberalism have no answer to anti-Semitism, why is it failing so utterly to rise to the defense of those who invested so much hope in its promise? Why, more than anything else, does this inability seem to manifest itself when the cause of the Jewish people is involved? The answer, I fear, may spell the end of the Jewish love affair with American Liberalism. It has certainly spelled the end of mine.


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