Anti-Israeli Pro-Israelism

I don’t think that Bret Stephens or perhaps his editors/headline-writers at the Wall Street Journal realize what they’re doing when they label Barack Obama “an Anti-Israel President.”

The initial reaction of the majority of Obama supporters will likely be to reject this characterization of the President and his views, but every attempt to describe those views as anti-Israel encourages those who support the President to adopt that description for their own stance.  In other words, the attempt to separate the President from elements of his coalition threatens instead to separate that coalition from Israel.

It is not yet true that America is anti-Israel, or even neutral in the dispute between Israel and its enemies, but every time a consensus position is labeled “anti-Israel,” “anti-Israel” becomes a little bit more, or more nearly, consensual.  Every time I’m asked to choose between the President and the leadership of another country, it becomes a little easier to make the choice rather than merely reject it.  I begin to think a little bit more of myself as the citizen of a country hostile to Israel.

Stephens and his less restrained allies may hope to move Obama or, failing that, move the country, but what if they were to succeed in the latter, and actually to defeat this or any other president on the basis of insufficient affection for Likud-led Israel?  It’s at that point that the national consensus on which they seek to stand may finally crack beneath their feet.  In short, they seem to be wishing what they most fear into existence.  It’s a familiar pattern, of course, of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Stephens responds to the specifics of the President’s AIPAC speech with a series of rhetorical questions:

Mr. Obama got some applause Sunday by calling for a “non-militarized” Palestinian state. But how does that square with his comment, presumably applicable to a future Palestine, that “every state has a right to self-defense”?

This seeming contradiction actually expresses just how much of a surrender is being demanded of the Palestinians, the logical implication under a rule of consistency being that a non-militarized Palestinian state would have no enemies against whom it would require a military defense.  It’s a just barely tenable perspective. The circle is, indeed, the one that everyone is seeking to square – everyone who does not believe in eternal occupation and subjugation.  Everyone in this instance especially includes those who, like Roger Cohen, find apartheid Israel at least as “indefensible,” if in a different way, as the supposedly indefensible, though historically quite effectively defended, 1967 borders.

Stephens continues:

Mr. Obama was also cheered for his references to Israel as a “Jewish state.” But why then obfuscate on the question of Palestinian refugees, whose political purpose over 63 years has been to destroy Israel as a Jewish state?

Perhaps because unambiguous affirmation of the legitimacy of the Jewish state, as Stephens’ own casuistry demonstrates, necessarily implies cancellation of the full “right of return,” for the same reason that the full right of return implies the destruction of “Israel as a Jewish state.”

Why ask questions when you clearly already know the answers?

And then there was that line that “we will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and their rhetoric.” Applause! But can Mr. Obama offer a single example of having done that as president, except perhaps at the level of a State Department press release?

Perhaps remaining for all intents and purposes silent while Israel punished Hamas and its rocketeers, then increasing military assistance and cooperation would qualify.  I’m not sure exactly what Stephens expects the Obama Administration to do.  Send in some Marines to beef up the Gaza blockade? Require Hillary or one of her aides to help search Palestinians at a crossing of the West Bank “barrier”?

What, then, would a pro-Israel president do? He would tell Palestinians that there is no right of return.

Which he just did.

He would make the reform of the Arab mindset toward Israel the centerpiece of his peace efforts.

Is there anything that Israel might do to aid or encourage him in such efforts?

He would outline hard and specific consequences should Hamas join the government.

Would that be before or after he outlined hard and specific consequences for expansion of illegal settlements or for the inclusion of neo-Revisionists in the Israeli government?

Such a vision could lay the groundwork for peace. What Mr. Obama offered is a formula for war, one that he will pursue in a second term. Assuming, of course, that he gets one.

What vision?  All I see are empty questions, along with the encouragement of escalating intransigence, and the notion that Mr. Obama might somehow bludgeon the Arabs into liking the Israelis more.


14 comments on “Anti-Israeli Pro-Israelism

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  1. Good piece Colin

    The sum total of the meaning of the WSJ piece, and of the GOP’s reaction to O’s speech is encapsulated in the ending sentence (fragment) “Assuming of course he gets one” (second term).

    Defeating O is now more important to the GOP than advancing US interests or ensuring Israel’s security. Helping the Pals isn’t even in the equation.

  2. @ bob:When you believe that helping the Palestinians can only mean hurting the Israelis, how can it enter the equation?
    These people have completely lost track of the idea that a solution and a peace deal that costs Israel even a little and gains the Palestinians something to build on, is of immeasurably more benefit to the Israelis and the US and the world than is more of the same sad shit in which everyone’s now wallowing and tossing at each other.

    Just the thought that the Israelis might have to give back most of what they have but don’t own …….

  3. @ fuster:
    Don’t stop there, Frog. Generosity is the key to good diplomacy. Gandhi was willing to have a Muslim lead India. That’s what got him killed, but dying the right way is also an act of generosity–and dying generously is a familiar concept to the region now in question.

  4. @ Scott Miller:

    “dying the right way”

    A rare enough event in any case. Expecting it of oneself is quite an undertaking – a rigorous death. Expecting it of others is at best an irony best left to karma.

  5. @ bob:
    Except “a good death” has been a major part if not the foundation of diverse ethical and religious philosophies.

    The only alternative might be to view dying the right way as not rare, but inevitable (karma): every death a dying “in the right way,” while leaving open the question of how much ability we have to affect what that right way turns out to be.

  6. Well stated, CK. I was, of course, trying to be funny, but if I were to get serious about it, that would be my take as well.

  7. @ CK MacLeod:

    Certainly a good death is a common religious goal, but I stand by my assertion that it’s a “rare enough event” especially as defined by Scott, which I took to add an element of generous sacrifice beyond the usual meaning.

    If you redefine Scott’s definition, then of course, new directions of analysis open up.

    In any event, expecting a some kind of higher death of others, is still I think prone (maybe not inevetalbly) to a kind of judgemental fundamentalism that we see to much of.

    @ Scott Miller:

    I did take your reply as a “serious joke”. That also was my intention, although perhaps poorly executed.

  8. Looking at #8 just as I posted it, I was I had written “Certainly a god death…”. Maybe I should have left it like that.

  9. @ bob:
    Interestingly, to me, the words “god” and “good” are thought not to be related etymologically, even though the old English root for “good” is “god,” and though there may have been a time when the same word was used for both at least in some forms. Even better, the precise derivation of the word “god” is disputed, though the best guess seems to be that it goes back to an ancient Persian word for “invoke, implore.” It’s hard for me to see what one would be seek though such invocation other than some stamp of the good, but that could also be because the idea of the Good is an irreducible philosophical category and presumption – making it the “one, unique, and eternal” philosophical category and presumption. So the relationship between “god” and “good” in English – parallel and interdependent and yet separate or separately derivable is similar to the relationship between religion and ethics.

  10. @ CK MacLeod:

    It’s hard for me to see what one would be seek though such invocation other than some stamp of the good…

    Protection, validation come to mind ie contingent “goods/gods” that are the basis for the “irreducible” ie abstract beyond the real if not the Real.

  11. @ bob:
    I wasn’t writing precisely, just trying to point to the “good” lurking in the background of the “unrelated” etymological root. Within ideal monotheism, there is no good apart from God. The goodness of the good is its movement toward the divine, but somehow it’s also joined to the infant being taught (teaching itself) not to touch the flame, and the dog being taught not to pee on the carpet.

  12. Good stuff guys. Sorry I didn’t join in more.
    Just for the hell of it, here’s what’s playing at the local art museum in Riverside, if you can believe it:

    Director: Julia Bacha

    Film Screening, May 27, 7:00 PM

    Unrated | 78 minutes

    Budrus, a documentary film from filmmaker Julia Bacha, follows a Palestinian leader who unites Fatah, Hamas, and Israelis in an unarmed movement to save their village from destruction from Israel’s Separation Barrier.

    Spirit of Freedom Prize, Bahamas, 2010

    “If you want a real film about women changing history, try the documentary Budrus.”
    – Nigel Andrews
    Financial Times

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