Mobius and I debate what’s good for the Jews in American politics… and then some
Posted by Ron Coleman on September 9, 2008
My friend Mobius drew me into a discussion on Facebook of what an awful thing for Israel a McCain victory would be, and I posted a link to this post, where I addressed certain aspects of that issue a little while ago. He weighed in big time in the comments, and while this is mostly inside baseball if you’re not Jewish, I am putting so much work into responding that I thought it would be worthwhile to elevate this into a post.
As to the first, it wasn’t that long ago that, when the Iraq War was widely “recognized” by smart opinion as a dumb, losing proposition, it was Israel’s fault that it happened in the first place — the “neocons” were handmaidens for the Zionists. Now winning it was dumb, because it’s bad for Israel! Not quite blame the Jews, but an interesting variation.
This is not an argument. This is playing games. I can point to plenty of sources, such as the CATO Institute, that in the run up to the war identified the invasion of Iraq as bad policy, stam, not bad policy because it was “a war for Israel.”
So what? Libertarians don’t prove (or do) anything. Ever. This trope can, however, be found in virtually every camp that is hostile to “neocons.” As Dore Gold writes:
On the liberal side, Chris Matthews, who hosts MSNBC’s Hardball, echoed Buchanan when he spoke about “conservative people out there, some of them Jewish…who believe that if we don’t fight Iraq, Israel will be in danger.” Likewise, former Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart warned of “ideologues” who were not able to distinguish between their loyalty “to their original homelands” and loyalty “to America and its national interests. . . Another variation on the Israel theme is the assertion made by Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist, that General Zinni heard from administration officials that the Iraq War would advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process because “the road to Jerusalem leads through Baghdad.” According to this thesis, the Iraq War would chiefly help Israel’s drive to obtain peace on reasonable terms – still a benefit to Israel. “
How about this:
The notion that we could just waltz in and inject democracy into an extremely complicated, devout and ancient culture smacked–still smacks–of neocolonialist legerdemain. The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives–people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary–plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel.
Wow, who said that? Some black-hearted neoconservative? Yeah, sure — that’s one way you could describe Joe Klein, I guess.
Now, it’s possible that Barack Obama does not share this view — but how many members of his administration, based on the hard-left crowd around him now as well as the militant black cadre that is part of his base, would disagree with these assertions?
(Mind you, the first person to fire that salvo was Pat Buchanan, who is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a Lefty, let alone a Democrat.) Furthermore, you will find few on the Left or on the Paleoconservative Right who are worried about Israel’s security prospects.
I agree, and Barack Obama is on the Left.
self-loathing elite that lacks the will to even purport to lead a confused and mainly unmotivated populace that obsesses on a slim minority of practitioners of its own religion in its midst as the bogeyman that explains its existential hopelessness.
…is self-righteous Orthodox blustering.
Really? Which part? Certainly not the “confused and mainly unmovitated populace” and the “existential hopelessness” part — see here for a pretty thorough survey of the Israeli left’s contributions to post-Zionist moral panic and nihilism. I like this, though, from that fascist theocrat, Yossi Klein Halevi:
The Israeli sin, some began to suspect, was to believe in ourselves and in our national mythology — in fact, to believe in anything at all. The state was just a state, without metaphysical or even historical meaning. What mattered was survival of the individual, not the collective. “Don’t call me a nation,” sang Shalom Hanoch. Every Israeli for himself.
DISILLUSIONMENT WITH all systems and ideologies is the starting point for both nihilism and spiritual search. Together, those two options help define today’s Israel.
As to the “obsesses on a slim minority of practitioners of its own religion in its midst as the bogeyman” part, I suppose you’ll wave away Jonathan Rosenblum’s analysis, but how about this, from Professor Noah Efron, writing in no less than Hadassah magazine:
A handful of ultra-Orthodox Jews, each holding a plastic bag, pushed through the crowd [after a terrorist bombing]. They had come to collect shreds of human remains from the street, trees, gutters, stores and rooftops, so that these fragments, too, could receive a proper burial according to Jewish law. They worked for many hours, collecting lumps of flesh, later analyzing them to determine whose flesh they were.
These men belong to a loosely affiliated organization called Chesed shel Emet (True Righteousness), also known as Zaka, which provides a training course, including hours of videos of mutilated bodies in order to desensitize the volunteers and exercises with practice dummies. . . . As I watched from the charred sidewalk on Dizengoff, secular Jews raged at the religious ones, shouting that the ultra-Orthodox had no right to participate in this national tragedy. They accused the religious of enjoying bagging dead secular Jews. They said that the ultra-Orthodox (haredim) were no better than terrorists themselves. . .
Once alerted to its existence, I observed enmity toward very religious Jews everywhere in Israel, and it seemed to me that it was growing. Newspapers and magazines print political cartoons and caricatures depicting ultra-Orthodox Jews as vampires, leeches and apes, sometimes with horrible hooked noses, warts and stooped backs. Others show them controlling the strings of government from above like a puppeteer or perched on the backs of secular Jews, who bow under the weight…. A study carried out in the summer of 2000 found that 49 percent of Israeli high school students, when asked, said that they “hate the ultra-Orthodox,” the same percentage that admitted to hating Arabs. . . .
For most Israelis, haredim are our collective obsession, the monster under our beds, the thought that we cannot banish. Fighting haredim has taken the cast of a religious rite, undertaken with the fervor of piety. For those who heed this calling, something greater is at stake than budgets and military roles.
He must be drinking that glatt-kosher Kool Aid, huh.
FWIW-The majority of Israelis define themselves as religious, even if they don’t see themselves as halakhic or devout.
That is very special. Was that “religious,” or “spiritual”? And so what?
And to suggest that the members of the Israeli government are self-loathing, well… when I heard Peres speak in Jerusalem in May talking about “the eternal, undivided capital of Israel,” he sounded more like Zev Jabotinsky than Israel Shahak.
Peres? He’s still working? Peres is the last of the old guard, as you know, and he speaks to and for no one but the apparat at this point. (See prior links for proof of self-loathing among the sub-octogenarian set.) But maybe he also speaks to and for those American Zionists, who root for Israel to “go, go, go!” as if it were their favorite sports team while sitting safely in the stands and heading home to suburban comfort while watching the highlights on TIVO and calling in on radio shows to argue over “our” season.