[T]he leaking of this memo and the notion that it represents the opinions of many in the Pentagon ought to scare Israelis and leave them less willing than ever to make the sorts of concessions Washington believes can strengthen the peace process.
Might be more persuasive if any writer ever in the history of Contentions, and possibly in the longer history of Commentary, had judged any news item as justifying a more favorable Israeli disposition toward “the sorts of concessions Washington believes can strengthen the peace process.” Anyone ever seen such a thing?
There are stories in the news right now that in most of their themes are similar to stories that recently set off waves of condemnation and hysteria in much of the world, especially in the delicate global conscience of “the international community.”
But today the denunciations are absent, the criticism muted, the calls for investigation nonexistent, and the world’s attention fixed firmly on other issues. Why could this be?
I presume that Noah Pollak believes the “real” explanation is bias, implicitly as originating in anti-Semitism, but that explanation gets us nowhere: It seems to ask, “Why is the world anti-Semitic?” – and to answer, unhelpfully, “Because it’s anti-Semitic.”
We’ve tried answering “Why could this be?” We’ve tried religious history: Possession of the Holy Land matters to some people very intensely. We’ve tried it in terms of common sense: If you declare something supremely important to you, and for good reason, your enemies are more likely to try to take or destroy it – and everyone else will be more likely to recognize an interest in the outcome.
Here’s a parallel and quite neutral geopolitical description from Tamim Ansary’s Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Islamic Eyes:
People living around the Mediterranean had good reason to think of themselves at the center of human history, but people living in the Middle World had equally good reason to think they were situated at the heart of it all.
These two world histories overlapped, however, in the strip of territory where you now find Israel, where you now find Lebanon, where you now find Syria and Jordan–where you now, in short, find so much trouble. This was the eastern edge of the world defined by sea-lanes and the western edge of the world defined by land routes. From the Mediterranean perspective, this area has always been part of the world history that has the Mediterranean as its seed and core. From the other pespective, it has always been part of the Middle World that has Mesopotamia and Persia at its core. If there not now and has there not often been some intractable argument about this patch of land: whose world is this a part of?
The globalization of economics and politics has merely added another concentric field around this “overlap.” The transnational moment following World War II, under American tutelage, also saw the recognition of the new state of Israel. From the international perspective, from within a Western-dominated globalism – which I fully understand is not an obligatory Zionist perspective, but which nonetheless may remain critical to the Zionist interest – the justice of the original “partition” can only be established within a vision of “universal,” all-inclusive human rights: a unitary global theory of justice.
Perhaps, rather than complain about being under too much scrutiny, offering the equivalent of a “but the other guys do it” excuse, Israel and friends of Israel need to begin with an entirely realistic, morally and historically inescapable premise that everything the Israelis do will be judged according to this higher, universal standard, because it’s the only standard available to a virtual international/global community – a.k.a., the world; a.k.a., as Pollak derisively scare-quotes it, “the international community.” The world will require more from Israel than from anyone else: It was a given from the moment the modern Zionist project was conceived, and confirmed the moment that the new state sought international recognition and support from the “leader of the Free World.”
A corollary would be that the world must also forgive a little more – because the world owes Israelis a debt for putting them in this humanly near-impossible position. Instead, Zionists and friends of Zionists can be found asserting one or the other end of their founding paradox: The universalism of an exclusionary particularism. The logical result of overemphasizing one against the other is an Israel detached from international protection and, specifically, American interest.
If Israel is a nation-state like any other, rather than a matter of central moral and geopolitical importance, then why, indeed, should Americans or anyone else be more interested in Israel’s fate than Uruguay’s, Mali’s, or Kyrgyzstan’s? On the other hand, if – as seems obvious to everyone except for Noah Pollak and colleagues when they argue a position that, in truth, none really believes in – there is something special about the “patch of land,” then everything that bears on what’s done with it or for its sake, or that’s said about or against it, will be magnified.
Unless the friends of Israel really are ready to see Israel completely on its own, they should forget “just like the other guys”: At best, it’s an argument whose time has not yet come. For now, it’s an argument against paying much attention to Israel in the first place – for caring as relatively little about Israel, including other people’s exaggerated and unfair interest in Israel, as we do about everything else (not much). It’s an argument for tuning out the Zionists at a moment that, if people like Noah Pollak are to be believed, represents maximum peril.
If Petraeus can promptly persuade Obama to remove those conditions and the personnel who will impede success, he will do his country and his troops an immense service. If not, he has set himself and those he commands up for failure.
I think she’s just upset that Obama didn’t appoint her instead of Petraeus, once again ignoring her much more impressive military and diplomatic credentials.