Saturday, February 14, 2009

Some Middle East Talk

The article:


"...This is a brave article. Will Jews hear it or will Jews respond in a common reflex manner which insists on fighting fire with fire and denouncing this kind of criticism of Israeli thinking as giving comfort to the anti-Semites of this world? Everyone avoids this discussion in North America because of the widespread belief that everything Israel does is right. It reminds me of the American bumper stickers I saw while living in California in the early 70's: "America -- love it or leave it." In other words, sha shtil. Fortunately, for the world, the anti-Vietnam war forces weren't sha shtil and the war finally ended. Everybody won when that happened...."


"...Like Jerry, I well remember those bumper stickers, and the word that invariably came to mind every time was "jingoism," with its clear definition of "my country right or wrong." History long ago taught all of us that when a country feels threatened from outside, (as Israel does, and certainly with justification) jingoism is even stronger in the hearts and minds of those who feel at such risk. And so I fear that this article will, in spite of its inherent logic, not only fail to move anyone, but may well stoke the fire of the opposition to such views. Some will, I suspect, even label it as treasonous. Is this man safe? I would worry. Ans as for the attempt to distinguish between “Zionism” and “Israel”….well, not in my lifetime, I despair..."


"...Oy vey, what a hodge podge, this mess is.

Here is for me its deepest contradiction and its fuzziest thinking even within its own terms of reference. On the one hand this kind of thinking is rejected: “A Jewish and democratic state? The Zionist left said yes automatically, fudging the difference between the two and not daring to give either priority.” That is to say, what Levy rejects is the glossing over of the apparent antimony between a Jewish state and a democratic state. Levy will not, like the left he tries to eviscerate, “fudge” that distinction.

Yet we have him right next, on the other hand, saying, “Anyone who wants a meaningful left must first air out Zionism in the attic. Until a movement that courageously redefines Zionism arises from the mainstream, there will be no broad left here.” Please, someone, square me that circle. How does Levy even begin to conceive of an aired out *Zionism* that has any coherence as a particular idea and a democratic state? Any idea of Zionism that is not empty must privilege Jewishness and, therefore, as we refuse to fudge, must cut against democracy.

There is also screed in this piece from the tilted, question begging circularity of its title, to calling Barak variously, a “grave digger”, a “hangman” and a “liar”, to mainstream politicians “making two wars” (with the clear implication of unjustifiably starting two wars as a foregone conclusion), to Israeli voters being so mindless as to be misled by “lies” (read: "ideas I disagree with"), to the “warmonger litany”—“Lebanon, Gaza, the killed children, cluster bombs, white phosphorus and all the atrocities of occupation”. Watch this for a contrast:

And Levy fails to back up what he is so self righteously vociferous about condemning—the lie that there is no one to talk to about peace. Let him or any of you tell me whom Israel can talk to, name names if you can, as Abbas is now over extended in the P.A. and Hamas is gaining popular support, and is without question part of a continuum of terror that runs from Iran through a possibly flexible Syria through Hezbollah and to Hamas, all grounded in the tenets of the Muslim Brotherhood.


Again, names please?

Levy can’t put his money where his mouth is, judging by this piece: good at hortatory declamation, bad at thinking and reasoning and evidence.

And riddle me this, now stepping outside Levy’s own terms of reference, how is it that Italy, say, can be considered an Italian country, where Italian is spoken, where myths of Italian origin feed national sensibility, where ethnic Italians the world over have certain national prerogatives, where things Italian inform public education, and so on, while still being perceived as a liberal democracy, with its own WW11 past not so far behind it, while Israel cannot be?

So unlike Jerry, I (who, probably like Jerry, favor a two state solution, a program of unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank, and who’s confounded by the Settlement Policy) find this article intellectually cowardly rather than brave. And Jerry’s false either/or categorization of its reception—“Will Jews hear it or will Jews respond in a common reflex manner which insists on fighting fire with fire and denouncing this kind of criticism of Israeli thinking as giving comfort to the anti-Semites of this world”—as though one cannot criticize it save for a “common reflex”, is, with all due respect to Jerry, an insult to independent and nuanced thought, and harbors a certain unseemly, self satisfaction...."

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