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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Liberalism's problems with Israel

Noah Pollak has some interesting comments about Joel Beinart's criticism of Israel. Here's the gist of it.
The liberal Zionists, when it has mattered most, have defected. It has been easier to join the critics of Israel, who are fellow liberals, than to appear jingoistic and tribal by defending the hated Zionists. Some peace processors, such as Israeli “new historian” Benny Morris, have acknowledged the flaws in their thinking and have become cautious and skeptical. But some cannot come to terms with the reality of their mistakes, the failure of their predictions, and the durability of Arab rejectionism. In the liberal imagination, this is not how the world is supposed to work. In the liberal vision, everyone desires progress and the good life, and when given the choice will prefer compromise and material comfort over ideological stubbornness.

Because the history of the peace process repudiates so many of liberalism’s most cherished premises, liberalism is increasingly repudiating Israel, and doing so in a perfectly logical fashion: with people like Beinart now saying that Israel is not in fact an admirable country and that it deserves to be thrown out of the company of liberal nations. In this way, the failure of the liberal vision is transformed from being a verdict on liberalism to being a verdict on Israel.

It is Israel, we are now admonished, that has been dishonest and aggressive and unwilling to compromise. Believing this is the only way to avoid confronting the real problem, which is liberalism’s inability to reconcile its beliefs about human nature with the cruel functioning of humans in practice.

Beinart writes as if none of the tragedies of the past two decades happened, or if they did happen, that Israelis, unique among peoples, may not allow themselves to acquire any fears or resentments or lessons. Even Shimon Peres, one of Israel’s greatest doves, understands what has transpired, telling the Wall Street Journal a few days ago: "I am not surprised that so many Israelis lost their trust when they're being attacked time after time, time after time." Lost their trust indeed: the Meretz/Labor peace-process faction held 56 Knesset seats in 1992. Today they have 16. Normally in politics, such a massive shift in public opinion is accompanied by genuine inquiry about why it happened. Beinart is unreflective. It must be because of the settlers, or racism, or AIPAC.
Read the whole thing.

Sorry if posting is a little slow tonight. It's not often that I get to watch the NBA conference finals on a big screen TV.


At 6:37 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Liberalism's refusal to learn from the mistakes of the peace process and to back Israel when it tried to defend itself is why Israelis have increasingly turned against it. What is not needed to cure the estrangement is more scolding of Israel but rather an appreciation of the difficulties Israel faces in making peace with the region's unreformed autocracies and dictatorships. Until liberals understand why Israel has turned its back on them, they won't be able to get a hearing for their views from Israeli Jews any time soon. And there is no chance of that understanding, if we are go by what Joel Beinart has written about Israel, arriving in the foreseeable future.

The break between liberalism and Israel is complete as of today.


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