I just sent this email to Andrew Sullivan, regarding his defense of Professor Mearsheimer's recent division of the American Jewish community into its good and bad Jews
Regarding your defense of Professor Mearsheimer's division of the public American Jewish community into the righteous and the profane: You focus your attention on the folks Mearsheimer lumps into his list of "new Afrikaners" -- a group that ranges from Mort Klein (a despicable right-wing thug if there ever was one) to David Harris (whose organization, the AJC, vociferously denounced the Israeli government's announcement of new settlements during Vice President Biden's visit). But more interesting to me are the folks Mearsheimer lists as "righteous Jews", and how their own outlooks track what Mearsehimer claims to be his and their position on the optimal solution to the conflict.
The way I understand Mearsheimer's argument is that the first-best solution to the conflict is a two-state solution based on 1967 borders. However, he claims, this may be becoming impossible, forcing us to move to a decidedly second-best (to put it mildly) outcome -- the so-called "one state solution", whereby Israel is dissolved into a single (perhaps bi-national) state with Palestine. My understanding of your own position is that you agree that this would be a bad thing, but perhaps it is rapidly becoming the inevitable thing as the best solution grows ever-more distant (and agree with Mearsheimer as far as that goes).
The reason I find Mearsheimer's list of "righteous Jews" odd, then, is that far fewer of them would agree with the above paragraph than the names on the "new Afrikaners" list. While I admit I don't know the positions of all the folks on both lists, the only person I could say with confidence would disagree that the two-state based on '67 borders solution is the best outcome is Mort Klein. By contrast, several of the "righteous Jews" are either indifferent or outspokenly opposed to that position. To be sure, there are folks on Mearsheimer's list of righteous Jews that do agree with you and I that a two-state solution is the preferable one; that if we do enter a world where a single state was the only viable outcome, that would constitute a tragedy, not a triumph. And some of these folks are people I'm proud to associate myself with, like J Street (interestingly, the only group amongst the "righteous" that Mearsheimer equivocates on -- who, I wonder, does he think amongst the J Streeters is flying a false flag?). But opponents of this vision are well represented. Norman Finkelstein is indifferent but thinks a two-state approach is more practically feasible in the near-term. Tony Karon prefers a unitary state but also thinks two states are acceptable if that is easier to attain. Philip Weiss prefers one state. Tony Judt calls the idea of a separate Jewish state an "anachronism", he too thinks one state is the first-best outcome. Naomi Klein is indifferent between the two.
Mearsheimer also groups the entire list -- "righteous" and "Afrikaner" -- under the broader label of "American Jews who care deeply about Israel." This is the fulcrum of your defense of his delineation -- that Mearsheimer's objection to the "New Afrikaners" is that, within the broader class of people who care about Israel, their political prescriptions are deeply misplaced; the "righteous Jews" are the ones who truly care and know best. But again, to characterize them as folks who "care deeply about Israel" is simply not an accurate description of several of his "righteous Jews". I mean that in an entirely value-neutral way -- not that their politics are inconsistent with a deep concern for Israel (though I think in many cases they are), but simply that they wouldn't characterize themselves as folks who "care deeply about Israel". Finkelstein and Weiss, I imagine, simply think that Israel is responsible for a significant amount of evil in the world, and are working to try and rectify it -- there is no sentimentality behind it, anymore than efforts to end North Korean brutality are motivated by deep caring about North Korea. Naomi Klein got her start in this whole field by proclaiming herself to be a "Jew against Israel".
Put simply, by their own admission a goodly portion of Mearsheimer's "righteous Jews" are not folks who "deeply care" about Israel and are committed to achieving a two-state solution for as long as it is a plausible goal. Their commitments and desires lie elsewhere. They are not our friends. They are not our allies.
But allies do exist. J Street, and its new European cousin J Call are two. TULIP -- Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine -- is another. Engage and OneVoice are two more. They are the real deal. And now, more than ever, they need our help, and cannot afford that the folks who are true friends of Israel, who recognize the current path is unsustainable, dissipate their energy by affiliating with charlatans.
The University of Chicago Law School '11
Articles Editor, the University of Chicago Law Review
The Debate Link: http://dsadevil.blogspot.com