Monday, March 29, 2010

The White House Seder

For a certain set of militaristic, pro-Settler Jews, Obama is the new enemy. He has been abused all over the place for mildly protesting the expansion of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, even though opposition to such settlements has been US policy since 1967. He has been called an opponent of the existence of Israel and even an anti-Semite. (Glenn Reynolds: "Possibly Obama just hates Israel and hates Jews. That’s plausible — certainly nothing in his actions suggests otherwise, really.") He is not much more popular in Israel; at one point, I seem to recall, his approval rating in Israel was less than 10%.

What I find weird about this is that Obama has very strong connections to American Jews. He was mentored as a community organizer by Jews, his early political career was shepherded by Jewish patrons, and he has many close Jewish friends. The only election he ever lost was to a black opponent who painted him as a tool of Jewish interests. His closest advisers include many Jews: Tim Geithner, Rahm Emanuel, and so on. This comes to mind because he is once again hosting a White House seder, where the Presidential daughters play the role usually assigned to the youngest Jews present. What gives?

The explanation, I think, is that the politics of Israel make people crazy. Israelis vs. Palestinians is one of those issues that invites us vs. them thinking. You are either for Israel or against it, for the Palestinians or against them. And if you are for Israel, you must be for everything Israel does, you must think Israel is always in the right, you must always see Israel as a tiny little kingdom of justice surrounded by huge and powerful enemies, a position that justifies every act taken by its leaders.

I have myself been accused of "believing anti-Semitic crap" for asserting that during the 1947 war, Jewish soldiers evicted Muslims from their homes by force. I regard this as a simple fact, completely irrelevant to the question of what Israel's boundaries ought to be now. The new East Jerusalem settlements are, of course, relevant to the boundary question. I regard them as stupid and immoral, which is how I feel about all the settlements. But not because I am opposed to Israel. I consider myself a supporter of Israel. I simply believe that in the long run Israel can only survive by achieving peace with its neighbors, and it can only remain a Jewish state by concentrating all of its people within a small geographic area. The annexation of Palestinian areas is disastrous for both goals.

There are only two ways Israel can survive as a Jewish state. Israel can either abandon all or most of the settlements and allow the Palestinians to form a state in the West Bank and Gaza, or it can carry out ethnic cleansing on a Stalinist scale and claim all those lands as its own. The second option would, I submit, put such a stain on its soul that it would never recover its sense of itself as a land of justice, quite apart from the reaction of the rest of the world. So the only option is the first. Every settler home makes that harder to achieve; makes it, I believe, more likely that the future of Israel will be unending violence and ever-increasing hatred. Obama, I think, understands this, which is why his positions are entirely right and his opponents are crazy.


Frisky070802 said...

Interesting post, and I agree with you about the general tact Israel needs to take.

But I was surprised by your claim Jarrett is Jewish, and looked unsuccessfully for evidence of that in her bio and such. No luck. What is your source?

John said...

Sorry, my mistake. She just appeared in a list of White House aides that seemed to be a list of Jewish attendees.