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July 29, 2006

American Jews: Intelligent and Admirable People

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

As Ezra Klein's Shabbos Goy, it falls to me to defend American Jews from Mona Charen's post calling them "downright stupid." She criticizes Jews for opposing Bush despite his being "indisputably the most pro-Israel president in decades."  She continues:

For those who want a taste of what a Democratic administration would be doing right now in the Israel/Hezbollah war, check out Clinton Secretary of State Warren Christopher’s op-ed in today’s Post. This is the Christopher who spent most of his time in office cooling his heels in the outer office of Hafez Assad. (His successor spent most of her time importuning Yasser Arafat.) That worked out really well, didn’t it?

In fact... yeah!  Christopher's op-ed describes successful American diplomacy, performed at the request of Israeli prime ministers, that ended hostilities like the ones we see today.  Remember when America's "Honest Broker" role in the Middle East wasn't a joke?  Remember?

Handshake

The Christopher piece points to an important role that America can play in the Middle East, which we aren't playing now.  We can solve a common political problem in the region that runs something like this: Islamic militants do something vicious that creates Israeli demand for a violent response.  While Israeli leaders are under domestic political pressure to shoot back, they can only do so in a way that harms large number of civilians, derailing the peace process and driving people into the miliants' arms.  They don't want to do this, but political pressure forces their hands. The shooting begins, and that's when America steps in and negotiates some settlement between the two sides.  Israel needs us to do this for them, since the leaders don't want to look like weak compromisers.  As Christopher says: "A succession of Israeli leaders has turned to us, and only us, when they have concluded that retaliation for Hezbollah attacks has become counterproductive. Israel plainly trusts no one else to negotiate on its behalf and will accept no settlement in which we are not deeply involved." 

The region has taken a severe downturn in more recent years.  Bush pushed for an election that Hamas won, sidelining Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader that Israel wanted.  Clinton managed to hold things together even with Arafat in charge, while Bush threw away the gift that fate gave him in the more reasonable Abbas.  If "pro-Israel" means "Willing to let Muslims die", then I can see how Bush is the most pro-Israel President.  But if it means "Actually helping the Israelis solve their security problems", the case becomes a lot more difficult. 

Returning the focus to the political intelligence of American Jews, it seems to me that they're doing the smart thing in avoiding a party that mostly wants to use them as pawns for creepy goals.  Consider Texas megachurch pastor John Hagee, who runs a Christian television network and has close ties to powerful Republicans including Tom Delay and George W. Bush.  (Via Kevin.)  Hagee supports Israeli military action because he thinks it will help fulfill apocalyptic Biblical prophecies:

When addressing Jewish audiences, Mr. Hagee generally avoids talking about Armageddon. But his books, whose titles include "Beginning of the End" and "From Daniel to Doomsday," are filled with death and mayhem. "The battlefield will cover the nation of Israel!" he writes in "Jerusalem Countdown," his recent work, describing a "sea of human blood drained from the veins of those who have followed Satan."

You can see why American Jews wouldn't be into this sort of thing.  The kind of "Pro-Israel" sentiments that are aimed at covering Israel in a battlefield and generating a sea of human blood aren't widely shared by the American Jewish community.

The second creepy "Pro-Israel" group, which overlaps with the first, consists of people whose support for Israel mostly springs from their desire for violence against Muslims.  When I look at this blogger, for instance, I can't shake the impression that his support of Israeli military action comes mostly from a barely contained and oft-expressed desire to kill Muslims.  If you share my moderately Gandhian attitude that violence against civilians is counterproductive when you're trying to get other people to absorb your values and live peacefully with you, you might see some tension between a concern for the well-being of Israel and an indifference to civilian casualties caused by Israeli bombing.  Accusations of anti-Semitism fly freely from the fingers of right-wing bloggers interested in some good Muslim-bashing -- see this insane post from Darleen in which she attributes all sorts of anti-Semitic motives to Amanda Marcotte that were altogether absent from anything Amanda was saying.

In conclusion, if I may be permitted a sweeping generalization about American Jews, let it be this:  They are very smart people whose opposition to ignorance and bigotry I admire.  And that's why they refuse to enter a Republican coalition that refuses to work against violence in the Middle East for its own apocalyptic and hateful reasons. I wish more of my countrymen were like them. 

July 29, 2006 | Permalink

Comments

apparently she is of the school of thought that loyalty trumphs imcompetence. I would ask her does she care whether someone kills her by accident or by intent? either way, for her purposes, isn't she still dead.

Posted by: akaison | Jul 29, 2006 3:04:04 PM

"Clinton managed to hold things together even with Arafat in charge, while Bush threw away the gift that fate gave him in the more reasonable Abbas."

well put. One quibble is that I don't think forcing the Palestinian election was a bad thing. IMNSCO (in my not so certain opinion) elections are usually a good thing, even if the wrong people sometimes get elected.

Posted by: roublen | Jul 29, 2006 3:29:10 PM

The Carter and Clinton initiatives that you laud so mightily did little to solve the root problem. The mid east is littered with feelgood treaties Muslim nations entered into with no intention of honoring.

Lasting peace comes through victory...and always has.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Jul 29, 2006 4:30:16 PM

Um, maybe because American Jews are Americans, and don't like the wrecking of America's fiscal, moral, and international strength by Bush?

Posted by: notway | Jul 29, 2006 4:38:31 PM

Forcing the Palestinian election falls in line with "Make War, not Peace and Let's Raise the Rapture Index" plan.

Posted by: sd1289 | Jul 29, 2006 4:39:54 PM

Fuck yeah fred! Kill them all - destroy all infrastructure, destroy all vestiges of culture - dominate those who have nothing to do with any violence to catch those terrorists. Slaughter innocent civilians without remorse or consideration. And hey, while were at it, lets keep pictures of the death and destruction as far out of sight as we can so it will be more abstract, all this death. Cause all this death is great as long as it happens to our enemies and, well, those who look like the enemy or live near the enemy - fuck it kill them all. Glad to know where you really stand on the value of human life. Apparently the only human life that matters is the fetus - after birth, just kill them.

Posted by: DuWayne | Jul 29, 2006 5:53:21 PM

Lasting peace comes through victory...and always has.

It worked pretty good in WWII.

Have you guys noticed how those Clinton/Carter mideast peace agreements are working out? Maybe you all have been living in a cave, on a remote island, with no TV or radio, with internet access only to this site.

And your fingers in your ears.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 29, 2006 6:17:41 PM

Anyone know how the 1994 Clinton deal to keep North Korea from getting nukes is working out? You know, the deal where he gave them the nuclear technology and made them promise not to use that technology for nuclear weapons?

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 29, 2006 6:21:35 PM

The Clinton-era peace agreements worked very well -- they kept hostilities minimal and civilians relatively safe for many years. For example the 1996 cease-fire involving Israel, Hezbollah, and Syria held for ten years, until the present conflict.

Fred Kaplan is probably the person to read on the North Korean nuclear issue. Threatening military action, Clinton forced the North Koreans to lock up their nuclear fuel rods in 1994. When the North Koreans brought them back out 8 years later, Bush... did nothing.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Jul 29, 2006 6:42:16 PM

When the North Koreans brought them back out 8 years later, Bush... did nothing.

Actually, before the North Koreans brought them back out, Bush stood in a press conference with Pres. Kim of South Korea and announced, without warning, that North Korea was in violation of all our agreements and the US would therefore cease all talks and renege on all commitments.

This of course wasn't true, and it was utterly humiliating for Kim Dae Jung. This was before 9/11, and all of Bush's policies at the time were designed to merely be the opposite of everything Clinton had done.

That's one the many reasons why 9/11 was such a gift to Bush. He was being quite accurately portrayed as a petty man who was using his office to get back at Clinton for daring to stand in the way of the Bush Family and Its Destiny.

But, as they say, 9/11 changed everything, and suddenly Bush was infused with gravitas and leadership that no one really could believe he had. Rather, the country needed to believe he had these qualities, else we would have given up all hope. His true character has been shown by his inability to live up to these expectations.

Posted by: Stephen | Jul 29, 2006 7:44:34 PM

I must say I love the way y'all keep arguing with Fred and Capt Toke like they are here to do something other than get you riled up.

Posted by: akaison | Jul 29, 2006 9:18:44 PM

I usually don't, akaison, but here I saw it as an opportunity to provide facts that other readers might be interested in.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Jul 29, 2006 9:26:11 PM

Wait a minute. Are you seriously telling me that Clintons peace treaty in 96 between Israel and Hezbollah means that ZERO ROCKETS WERE FIRED AT ISRAEL BETWEEN 1996 AND 2006. Is that what you are claiming?

Posted by: joe blow | Jul 29, 2006 10:06:59 PM

no.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Jul 29, 2006 10:07:57 PM

The bottom line is that all these "peace deals" with the Middle EAst, whether they are brokered by Republican or Democratic hands, are just fools gold wiht no real promise.

Palestinians have too many radical factions that wont respond to any peace deal and actively work to undermine any agreements that exist. Israel, with all of their right winger hardliners, at least has something of a muzzle to keep on them thru official elections and a solid power structure in place to keep the fringe elements from getting their hands on military toys.

Syria, Iran, PLO, and Lebanon, EVEN IF THEY WANTED TO, could not sufficiently control all the hard line palestinian factions to make a lasting peace deal. There are literally over a 100 organizations with real military power and recruits, devoted to the destruction of Israel with no compromise whatsoever that nobody in the MIddle East controls.

I'm sick of everybody on here arguing that the USA has the power to control this situation. Only a fool believes that. WE have no control over the radical palestinian factions (and niether does any other brokering party). Thus, we cannot generate a long term peace deal for the region.


Posted by: joe blow | Jul 29, 2006 10:12:17 PM

You're one of those idiot supporters of zero-tolerance policies in schools, aren't you, joe?

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Jul 29, 2006 10:37:11 PM

"Clinton forced the North Koreans to lock up their nuclear fuel rods in 1994. When the North Koreans brought them back out 8 years later, Bush... did nothing."

Are you sure about that, Neil?

"In 1997, according to the C.I.A. report, Pakistan began paying for missile systems from North Korea in part by sharing its nuclear-weapons secrets. According to the report, Pakistan sent prototypes of high-speed centrifuge machines to North Korea. And sometime in 2001 North Korean scientists began to enrich uranium in significant quantities. Pakistan also provided data on how to build and test a uranium-triggered nuclear weapon, the C.I.A. report said."

Yeah, Clinton and Carter were foreign policy geniuses I tell you!

Why do you think this country does not trust liberals/Democrats with this country's national security?

Just sharing some facts, eh Neil?

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 29, 2006 11:55:25 PM

Yep. The ways you're describing take a very long time and are technically difficult to do. By letting the North Koreans take the fuel rods out of storage, Bush gave them the quick and easy path.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Jul 30, 2006 12:06:41 AM

Neil, you are a fool.

If you believe North Korea had the capability, in it's own back yard, to easily build a nuke within months, yet spent years and treasure doing it in a longer, more dificult way, you are a fool.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 30, 2006 12:15:54 AM

By getting nuclear secrets and centrifuges from Pakistan, they were breaking the agreement?!?!

Don't you get that? If they were so scared of Clinton, why did they pursue nuclear secrets?

National security is not your strong point.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 30, 2006 12:19:13 AM

Looks like somebody hasn't been reading his Arms Control Wonk!

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Jul 30, 2006 12:23:56 AM

Maybe I'm just stoned Neil, but just what is it that your link asserts?

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 30, 2006 12:34:31 AM

The Carter and Clinton initiatives that you laud so mightily did little to solve the root problem. The mid east is littered with feelgood treaties Muslim nations entered into with no intention of honoring.

Have you guys noticed how those Clinton/Carter mideast peace agreements are working out?

There was the small matter of the Israel/Egypt Camp David deal, which was brokered by Carter, and has held up ever since. The split between the number of Israel-Egypt wars before and after that treaty (4 before, 0 after) should make its value fairly obvious, even to you guys.

Posted by: Haggai | Jul 30, 2006 12:59:16 AM

Clinton has no successes in the middle east, from my recollection and Carter's foreign policy record is pretty dismal. His failures, as far as lasting treaties, far outnumber his successes.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 30, 2006 11:21:48 AM

As I keep saying- the right just make shit up as they go. Once you realize that- then it all starts to make sense.

Posted by: akaison | Jul 30, 2006 12:56:08 PM

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