Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Misplaced Priorities

Jesse Singal in the Boston Globe, regarding the ever-increasing influence of J Street at the expense of "mainline" groups like the ADL, AJC, and AIPAC:
Any state of affairs in which Mike Huckabee is lauded as a pro-Israel stalwart, but the hypothetical “median American Jew’’ is viewed as inexcusably wobbly on Israel, is profoundly problematic.

Amen to that. It's unfortunately becoming at least a bit murky whether J Street can avoid being co-opted by the far-left -- I think they need to draw a much firmer line in the sand against, for example, the BDS crowd. Hence, my ever-fickle loyalties are beginning to swing towards Ameinu (formerly known as the Labor Zionist Alliance). But the broader point -- that there is a profoundly skewed perception of what pro-Israel means such that radical clerics who favor a one-state solution qualify -- is spot on, and can't be emphasized enough.


N. Friedman said...

As always, the issue with J-Street is that it is a front groups, as the revelations about its donations showed (and, since I noted it long before that, as was quite obvious from day one), for forces hostile to Israel's survival. I am at a loss why you, who actually does not want Israel to survive, does not merely speak out against J-Street.

To be clear: I have nothing against groups like Ameinu - while I think they, like you, are living in a dreamland but, at least, it is not pretending, like J-Street pretends, to be what it is not. About J-Street, Congressman Ackerman's words need to be kept in mind:

After learning of J-Street’s current public call for the Obama Administration to not veto a prospective UN Security Council resolution that, under the rubric of concern about settlement activity, would effectively and unjustly place the whole responsibility for the current impasse in the peace process on Israel, and—critically—would give fresh and powerful impetus to the effort to internationally isolate and delegitimize Israel, I’ve come to the conclusion that J-Street is not an organization with which I wish to be associated.

It is not Israel that is refusing to enter final status negotiations. It is not Israel that has refused again and again to make unilateral gestures of good faith (recall the hundreds of West Bank security checkpoints and roadblocks removed, and the 10 month settlement freeze). It is not Israel that is now trying to force the peace process back in to the same dead-end from which the Obama Administration has spent the past month trying to extract itself. But astonishingly, it is Israel that J-Street would put in the stocks in the public square.

The decision to endorse the Palestinian and Arab effort to condemn Israel in the UN Security Council, is not the choice of a concerned friend trying to help. It is rather the befuddled choice of an organization so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out.

America really does need a smart, credible, politically active organization that is as aggressively pro-peace as it is pro-Israel. Unfortunately, J-Street ain’t it.

Rebecca said...

But, N., I do oppose continued settlement building. Why shouldn't the US approve of a UN resolution against it? (Maybe not this particular UN resolution, but one that places the responsibility for peace-making on both sides?)

The building of settlements in the west bank is certainly not the only barrier to making peace, but it is a barrier. And stopping construction in the settlements does not injure any Israeli core need. It doesn't damage Israeli security in any way. So why not do it?

Some settlements surely will end up inside Israel when a peace settlement is made - but why not cease building until Israel knows which ones those would be?

The answer is, of course, that this would require Netanyahu to abandon his settler supporters, which could possibly lead to the government falling. And Mr. Netanyahu wants to remain in power.

N. Friedman said...


You write: "Why shouldn't the US approve of a UN resolution against it?"

Because the UN is not voting to condemn settlements but to undermine Israel's existence. The Arab side would not agree to a balanced resolution because its goal is to hurt Israel, not to deal with settlements, which are a secondary matter - as ought to be obvious, given that, prior to 1967, the same assertions were being made against Israel within its then borders.

I quote Benny Morris:

"Unfortunately, the destruction of Israel and the right of return of the refugees have become a key component of Palestinian identity, and as long as this component does not vanish, there is no possibility of an historic compromise."

Focusing on settlements - when there is no solution in the offing anyway - when, in fact, the real issue here is the refusal of the Arab side to accept Israel - worse still, to annihilate Israel -, strikes me as delusional. I again quote Morris:

The bombing of the buses and restaurants really shook me. They made me understand the depth of the hatred for us. They made me understand that the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim hostility toward Jewish existence here is taking us to the brink of destruction. I don't see the suicide bombings as isolated acts. They express the deep will of the Palestinian people. That is what the majority of the Palestinians want. They want what happened to the bus to happen to all of us.

Moreover: "Revenge plays a central part in the Arab tribal culture. Therefore, the people we are fighting and the society that sends them have no moral inhibitions. If it obtains chemical or biological or atomic weapons, it will use them. If it is able, it will also commit genocide."

David Schraub said...

Benny Morris is not an expert on "Arab culture" (he's a historian, not an anthropologist or sociologist), and any more quotes from making blanket racist assertions about what "Arab culture" will be treated the same as quotes from Kevin MacDonald on Jewish culture and behavior -- that is, deleted and their authors subject to banning.

That goes for this comment thread and all others on this site.

N. Friedman said...


Historians of any sophistication - which he is - are normally cultural experts. Morris, in fact, is an expert on Arab culture. Which is to say, I think you are simply wrong. However, it is your website and I shall abide by your requirements.

N. Friedman said...


You compare the theory espoused by Kevin MacDonald's with that by Benny Morris. On reading the webpage you linked to, I think you have Morris wrong. I think he expressed what is, in fact, the standard viewpoint regarding tribal societies.

The great social psychologist, psychoanalyst, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist, Erich Fromm, wrote a well-known book On Being Human. In the passage below quoted (page 62), Fromm, so that we are clear, was referring, notwithstanding his reference to the primitive, to modern Nationalism, which he considered a form of tribalism.:

And by tribalism, I mean, in fact, an attitude that we find in most all primitive tribes: one has confidence only in members of one's own tribe, one feels a moral obligation only the the members of one's own tribe, to the people-and this is very essential, although it sounds trivial-an obligation only those who have eaten the same food, sung the same songs , and spoken the same language. In this tribalism the stranger is considered with suspicion, and projections of all the evil in oneself are made upon this stranger. Morality, in fact, in tribalism, is always an interior morality, valid only for the members of the same tribe; and it doesn't make the slightest difference, humanly speaking, whether this tribe is one of a hundred people or a thousand people or five hundred million people. It is always the same: that the stranger, one who does not belong to the same tribe, is not experienced as a full human being.

I see this no different than I see the comment by Morris. Which is to say, he is saying something which, while you may not like it, is not racist or immoral. To deny the tribal nature of societies (and, to say the least, Arab society where there are recognized tribes) is mind boggling.

If you do not want anyone to assert that Palestinian Arabs have hostile intentions towards Israel that are driven by societal forces, then say so. However, I find it extraordinary - since there are maybe several hundred books on the tribal nature of Arab society - that you would object to his concern that any tribalism, normally understood to have a particularist understanding of morality, might be a force pushing a group towards genocide against its enemies. That is not original to Morris and it is a widely held view by reputable scholars. And, I think it is ignorant to confuse what he wrote with what some nut wrote.

Anonymous said...

I hope Professor Schraub will ban himself and delete his own blog for spouting eugenicist tripe as well then.

"Well this is nice. Apparently Ashkenazi Jews are indeed smarter than the rest of y'all--because we had to self-select for intelligence to keep from being killed off throughout the last 500 years (tip: Andrew Sullivan)."

Or maybe he'll get tenure like MacDonald.