From Shelby Steele in the Wall Street Journal – “Israel and the Surrender of the West” – comes a highly articulate rendition of a familiar conservative stance. Ideological from first word to last, such work can add to pre-existing understandings only by accident, most likely against the author’s intentions.
Since time immemorial, such fundamentally propagandistic appeals have been offered as clarifying statements of the obvious – even as they radically suppress, yet cannot help but trace, what you might call the “other obvious”:
When the Israeli commandos boarded that last boat in the flotilla and, after being attacked with metal rods, killed nine of their attackers, they were acting in a world without the moral authority to give them the benefit of the doubt. By appearances they were shock troopers from a largely white First World nation willing to slaughter even “peace activists” in order to enforce a blockade against the impoverished brown people of Gaza. Thus the irony: In the eyes of a morally compromised Western world, the Israelis looked like the Gestapo.
This, of course, is not the reality of modern Israel. Israel does not seek to oppress or occupy—and certainly not to annihilate—the Palestinians in the pursuit of some atavistic Jewish supremacy. But the merest echo of the shameful Western past is enough to chill support for Israel in the West.
The other obvious – what’s obvious to the other – is especially painful for the pleased recipient of Steele’s implicit flattery to consider, especially since that recipient has just been symbolically inducted (or re-inducted) into the army of a righteous minority. Even the notion that Steele’s assumptions are contestable or one-sided may be treated as unforgivably provocative.
Everyone knows that every single one of Steele’s assertions is always already paired with another particle in the opposite spin state. Everyone, even and especially the most fervent Zionist, knows that “the reality of modern Israel” is both as Steele asserts it to be, and as Steele asserts it cannot be.