Tuesday, January 06, 2009

One Thing I've Learned

Is that Israel's national security policies provoke bitter debate among American commentators. As a regular blog reader, I can attest to the fact that no blog thread will degenerate into hostility, name-calling and abuse faster than one about either Israel, or race. Why is that? Well, our own obvious self-interest in matters of terrorism permits discussions about Israel to become proxy debates over own our national security policies which, as I'm sure you're aware, already have a tendency to devolve into the most hyperbolic and useless of conversations. But on top of that is the nasty little subject of antisemitism, both the fact and the memory and awareness of which permeate conversations about Israel. But not equally; I can find few instance of actual espoused antisemitism on even the most rambunctious blogs I read (though to be fair, hostility to Israel's bombing of Gaza may be the result of antisemitism...or, it may just be outrage at the senseless deaths being caused.) But what I do see on a fairly regular basis is something like this by Jeffrey Goldberg:

In my experience, the only people who refer to Jews, or to the Jewish state, as a "cancer" are the leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda. Comparing Jews to diseases or pathogens went out of style in about 1945, in fact. Nice going there, Mike.

Goldberg is responding to former intelligence agent and author Michael Scheur, who must have said something truly awful, right? What were Scheuer's exact words? Let's see:

Israel is not only an unnecessary and self-made liability for the United States, it is an untreated and spreading cancer on our domestic politics, foreign policy, and national security. America has no genuine national security interests at stake in either Israel or Palestine; if they both disappeared tomorrow the welfare of Americans and the security of their country would not be impacted a lick. The Arab-Israeli religious war is a war that properly belongs solely to Israelis and Arabs; let them fight each other to the death with no interference in favor of either side from the United States.

This is what prompted Goldberg to write the post from which I quote above titled "That Michael Scheuer Sure is One Crazy Jew-Hater." Now if you're like me-that is, not looking for antisemitism under every rock-you see that Scheuer was not referring to Jews as a cancer, or even really to Israel as a cancer. What he was referring to was this slavish devotion of our foreign policy apparatus to Israel's concerns, especially these days where Israel serves as handy proxy in our war of civiliations against militant Islam (which includes everyone from Hamas to Abu Sayyaf.) I can assure you with almost one-hundred percent confidence that Scheuer's tone is the result of having rammed down his throat (metaphorically speaking) the opinions of those who think that we must support Israel in every action it takes, even if they are of the self-defeating variety, and that failure to do so marks at the very least complete "unseriousness" about the war on terror or national security, or at worst, blatant antisemitism. Which in fact, is what Goldberg accuses Scheuer of demonstrating here, with a handy allusion to the Holocaust as a sort of cherry on top of the personal smear.  

For the record, I think average Americans are probably capable of discussing Israel without levelling charges of anti-semitism or unseriousness at each other. But our foreign policy apparatus, as well as our political commentariat, is substantially populated by people who are incapable of having a geniune debate about our approach towards Israel. Who in fact, are not interested in discussing the matter at all. 

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