Many Americans see Israel as the good guy out of ‘emotional inertia’

Phil Weiss: Yesterday I wrote to the pseudonymous journalist FE Felson: I’m thankful for your contributions to this site. A true joy I’ve had in the last couple years is meeting people who are smart, Not Crazy (which a lot of folks in this Middle East line are), and brave. I love our country too much not to believe that we will prevail on this question, restoring balance…

Felson responds:
There was one particularly interesting comment in our dialogue yesterday; someone mentioned that we seemed to be talking about two different audiences — me focusing on mass opinion, you on the elite decision-makers and opinion-shapers — and that we’re both right in our own way. I wonder if there’s something to this.

Generally, I don’t bring up the I/P stuff when I’m around “elites” (partly because this is usually in a professional setting, where trying to create a conversation about Israel wouldn’ be appropriate), but I do when I’m around less political friends and family. This is a lot of where my pessimism comes from. I had a long discussion (more like heated debate) with my father about it at Christmas ’07. He’s smart, follows current events, and knows something about the Middle East (he was stationed in the Mediterranean in his Navy days).

He sounded just like John McCain — a well-meaning neocon who thought he was standing up for a country being threatened by Nazi-like terrorists. I could see his line of thinking, and how he got there, so easily. And I know where he got it from: He’s not an academic or a scholar; he just absorbs popular media messages and reacts to them. All he’s ever heard about are Palestinian suicide bombers and Iran’s quest for nukes and the crazy shit that Ahmadinejad says. And he’s horrified by the Holocaust (when I was like 10 he sat me down with a Time-Life book on World War II and showed me concentration camp pictures so that I’d be aware of the awful things human beings could do).

He means well. I don’t think he has any idea of the number of civilians killed by Israel, of what the occupation has actually meant for everyday Palestinians, and of how marginalized Ahmadinejad actually is within the Iranian hierarchy (and how much of his Israel-bashing is designed to provoke the West to prop up his domestic political standing and take attention away from his domestic incompetence: Mission accomplished!). I tried over and over to get him to think about all of this, but he wouldn’t bend. He was fixated on the Holocaust, suicide bombers, and anti-Israel bluster from Hamas/Ahmadinejad. I think he’s typical of many Americans. He doesn’t follow I/P news regularly, but he knows the basics because he digests enough news. His sense of the history is flawed too: to him, Israel was a haven for Holocaust victims. He knows nothing about the expulsion of the Arab population. In his mind, he’s on the side of the good guys, and emotional inertia closes his mind to an alternate view and keeps him there.

I guess my hope is that it’s a generational thing. My dad may never change, and neither will most Baby Boomers. But maybe my generation’s experience has been different enough. I don’t know, though. I brought up I/P with a non-political friend from college the other day. He couldn’t see the difference between criticizing Israel and attacking Jews. He’s called me an anti-Semite twice since then, although mostly for comic effect, I think.

Weiss rejoinder:
Note the philosemitism of Felson’s dad. My generation came of age with that! Of thee I sing! As to the conservative/middle American support for Israel, yes but: I again point to the Iraq lesson. Former terrorists are now in parliament. Americans excuse terrorism there, because we lived the occupation, now we understand occupation and murderous factional dispute in a Shia/Sunni connection. This lesson is simply too portable to Israel/Palestine for it not to be having a beneficial effect on Obama’s ability to navigate. Though I sure wish it had been a big issue in the campaign. A lot of people would have gotten educated.


Felson:
There was a study a few years ago showing how voters’ party identification is generally set at a young age — in their late teens or early 20′s. There are plenty of exceptions, but as a general rule, they stick with their party for life. If you get to them early enough, they’re yours for life. If the same is true for Israel/Palestine, then I guess there’s nothing we can do about my dad’s generation. I wonder about my own. As I say, my experience with non-political friends hasn’t been encouraging (although among friends in politics/journalism, I’ve found more sympathy), but that’s hardly a scientific study. The most important element of this is mass media, and I still think the message that casual consumers of news of all ages receive is almost uniformly pro-Israel.

Posted in American Jewish Community, Beyondoweiss, Israel Lobby, Israel/Palestine, US Policy in the Middle East

{ 50 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Suzanne says:

    Maybe the emotional inertia claim was somewhat true prior to 9/11–when a lot of Americans saw I/P as two peoples at loggerheads over the same land.

    Israel was simply an ally in protecting American self-interests–and that was it. (yep, oil that keeps your house in Scarsdale–or whereever you live, nice and cozy)

    By the same token, however, Americans were neutral about Islam and Arabs.

    And talk about inertia…we remained asleep during the Iranian revolution, the 1993 WTC bombing–and a host of other Islamist attacks.

    Post 9/11 is another story. Neutrality towards Arabs and xenophobic Islam has disappeared. The I/P conflict is no longer seen in a vacuum. We know firsthand what Islamists do to infidels.

    They'll decapitate you just has voraciously as they did Dan Pearl, Philip Weiss. You are not exempt.

    Unless of course, you convert. :-)

  2. LeaNder says:

    Suzanne are you sure you are female?

  3. Suzanne says:

    what's the matter, Leander? Am I more cerebral than the mindless skanks you associate with?

  4. MRW. says:

    You dont know who did in Danny Pearl. You only know what you were told.

  5. Suzanne says:

    Note to self: Anti-semites are also misogynists who think women are stupid and incapable of expressing articulate and forceful opinions.

  6. MRW. says:

    Enjoying this Weiss – Felson colloquy.

  7. LeaNder says:

    Maybe Suzanne is related to Bill/SOG? I was waiting for this to happen:

    They'll decapitate you just has voraciously as they did Dan Pearl

  8. Suzanne says:

    "You dont know who did in Danny Pearl. You only know what you were told."

    lololol! This is getting better and better.

  9. Rowan says:

    For sentimentality about Israel, as it has evolved and devolved over time, may I recommend these three contrasting versions of the zionist israeli patriotic anthem, "bab el wad":
    link to niqnaq.wordpress.com

    the first one is not the original song, but the other two are, and they contrast remarkably, as between Pinewood-style sixties newsreels and nineties Israeli MTV.

  10. Citizen says:

    Re: "The most important element of this is mass media, and I still think the message that casual consumers of news of all ages receive is almost uniformly pro-Israel."

    This is the take-away, not the guessing about the generations and why they were in their POV. My dad was never pro-israel and he is from the WW2 generation. And, neither am I, despite the one-sided view I have heard since the mid-1960s. That does not mean I have a rosy view of Arab states.

    Felson is the more astute one here. Whether you are talking about the grass roots, or the elite, the major game is mass Media control. 1st Amendment Free Speech
    holds the trigger for justice, yay, even practical justice. And as to whether or not the USA ultimately stands up for its principles and strategic interests, as distinguished from both Israel and Arab nations' interests, depends on access and sharing of information–the key to authentic democratic citizenship.

  11. Glenn Condell says:

    'Suzanne are you sure you are female?

    Posted by: LeaNder | February 03, 2009 at 03:08 PM

    what's the matter, Leander? Am I more cerebral than the mindless skanks you associate with?

    Posted by: Suzanne | February 03, 2009 at 03:12 PM

    So, you believe implicitly that men are more cerebral than women Suzanne? You've got to be a bloke; either that or a self-hating woman.

    Mr Felson's dad has drunk the Kool-Aid like most Americans. It's the same thing as when you hear them declare that they have say the best justice system in the world, without any idea of the competition. Partly this is because they also believe they have a free press which tells them the truth. Add to this the official national self-love (admittedly a fairly widespread condition) and you have a horse you can lead to any old water, there to drink deep.

    Israel and it's partisans know this better than anyone, and are shameless in exploiting it.

  12. Ed says:

    Inordinately Jewish Hollywood and Jewish media likely played a role in brainwashing Felson’s father, as it has all Americans. Those who closely study the I/P issue and the Zionist problem understand the devil in the details, but most Americans only understand what they’re spoon fed by the media.

    One key to breaking the Zionists and their neo-imperialist partners is getting to the popular culture opinion shapers, which is starting to happen. Apparently there were a couple of anti-Jewish jokes at the golden globe awards recently. Maybe a “recovering Jew” identity is being formulated, as a “recovering Catholic” identity was a few years ago.

  13. chris berel says:

    You dont know who did in Danny Pearl. You only know what you were told.

    Posted by: MRW. | February 03, 2009 at 03:14 PM

    The tapes meant nothing. The confession meant nothing.

    If Weiss doesn't admit it is true, then it must be false? I think with that statement, weiss has destroyed any credibility he ever enjoyed. I assume he has earned the title "lying sack of s**t".

  14. Sarah says:

    (test – trying to close the bold)

  15. Sarah says:

    (no luck?)

  16. Suzanne says:

    Obviously I'm winning the argument here if anti-semites are changing the subject and fixating on my rare typo or gender.

    I have to wonder if it's not some homo-erotic fetish on their part, but…I'd rather stick to the topic at hand.

    Next?

    (and why is there suddenly all this bolding?)

  17. Sam says:

    >> Am I more cerebral than the mindless skanks you associate with?

    Umm, Suzanne, I don't think you're mistaken for a man because of any blinding streak of intelligence you exhibit here. Rather, I sense, it's — and how do I say this without offense? — it's because of, umm, the muscular timbre of your views. Put differently, you come across a little butch, you know? Some may see that as being not too, too feminine.

    Me? Well, I don't know. I gotta admit, I find it kinda hot. I've never shagged a fascist chick before but, I mean, there is certainly an alluring quality to the notion. Especially if uniforms are involved. And maybe a checkpoint.

    Work with me here: suppose I had to get my goat to market, and you started giving me a hard time. I stare you down and you stare right back, giving no quarter. Then you get angry, barking directions and insults. Then I, in turn, give no quarter. The sun beats down. It's late in the day. There is dust everywhere. Finally, you order me around to the side and, although this is detectable only by the slightest modulation in your voice, I immediately know what it's about. Yada yada yada, all while the goat watches.

    I tell you what — you should really consider coming out with Chris and myself as we seek to bolster Israeli morale. See how it goes?

  18. chris berel says:

    Winning? You all ready won, hands down. Especially when they have to question your gender.

  19. syvanen says:

    ok turned it off.

  20. syvanen says:

    Suzanne writes: Obviously I'm winning the argument here if anti-semites are changing the subject and fixating on my rare typo or gender.

    I avoid engaging you when there is overtly antisemitic comments (and now sexist ones) directed your way. However, you do deliberately provoke them and I believe at some level you see this as justification for the Gazan slaughter. Why these obviously antisemitic comments here on Weiss's blog just goes to prove the righteousness in slaughtering Gazans. This does not sound logical but it is psychologically plausible.

  21. Suzanne says:

    Chris–yeah…It's that same bs of calling a woman beeyotch or a lesbo if she plays hardball.

    Why I should be expected to be all nice and demure on a board full of ideological zealots, is beyond me. pfffftttt! lol!

  22. roy belmont says:

    public service html end bold

  23. Sarah says:

    On the subject at hand, I can say from experience of several years that things are definitely changing. I've been involved in online activism on this subject since 2002. Since that time, the number of people who are able to now see the truth of what the government of Israel has been and is doing has grown by orders of magnitude. It's not uncommon for me to be told by people that their views on the Middle East have been changed because of things I have written and because of things they have read elsewhere online.

    It's the internet that is making the difference, although the small amount of truth that gets through the filters in the mainstream media also has an important impact. And it's not just the younger generation who are telling me that. More often than not it's Baby Boomers.

  24. roy belmont says:

    public service html end-bold attempt #2

  25. Sarah says:

    On the subject at hand, I can say from experience of several years that things are definitely changing. I've been involved in online activism on this subject since 2002. Since that time, the number of people who are able to now see the truth of what the government of Israel has been and is doing has grown by orders of magnitude. It's not uncommon for me to be told by people that their views on the Middle East have been changed because of things I have written and because of things they have read elsewhere online.

    It's the internet that is making the difference, although the small amount of truth that gets through the filters in the mainstream media also has an important impact. And it's not just the younger generation who are telling me that. More often than not it's Baby Boomers.

  26. roy belmont says:

    end-bold attempt2

  27. roy belmont says:

    end bold attempt 7.3

  28. Sarah says:

    Crap. I'm having quite a lot of difficulty navigating this format successfully. Sorry about the multiple posts.

  29. roy belmont says:

    end-bold attempt 9.5

  30. roy belmont says:

    end-bold attempt 9.5(b)

  31. roy belmont says:

    Final end-bold attempt

  32. LeaNder says:

    You can't close it roy. The program should be written so that unclosed tags are closed with each comment. It will stop if there are enough comments and it shifts to the second comment page.

    ********************************************
    Tag Team:

    "Suzanne" (and why is there suddenly all this bolding?)

    A: Since you didn't close your bold tag above, chatterbox.:-)lol (!!!) Was a bit to hasty. I am an expert on that.

    "Suzanne"

    They'll decapitate you just has voraciously as they did Dan Pearl, Philip Weiss. You are not exempt.

    Unless of course, you convert. :-)

    "chris berel":

    You dont know who did in Danny Pearl. You only know what you were told.

    Posted by: MRW. | February 03, 2009 at 03:14 PM

    The tapes meant nothing. The confession meant nothing.

    If Weiss doesn't admit it is true, then it must be false? I think with that statement, weiss has destroyed any credibility he ever enjoyed. I assume he has earned the title "lying sack of s**t".

    B: What statement by "weiss" are you alluding to? You have to address Suzanne. She tried to take Phil down the river to Pearl's fate. Neither FE Felson nor Phil mentioned him. But your fast & easy insult surely rings a bell.

    Suzanne sounds like the naive, babbling, sweet and childlike female stereotype of the 50's: How about Doris? Would such a type be interested in the topics discussed here?

    chris berels uses the same fast invectives for Phil, we already know from SOG/Bill Pearlman.

    Maybe we do not have new plants or trolls, just a verbally split personality we all know.

  33. Glenn Condell says:

    'Why these obviously antisemitic comments here on Weiss's blog'

    syvanen, please point to even one anti-semitic comment on this thread. Ed's observations about the top-heavy representation of Jews in opinion-shaping industries is, whether you like it or not, a simple statement of fact. I dunno about the recovering Jew/Catholic business, but it's drawing a very long bow indeed to call it antisemitic.

    MRW's doubts about the Official Story are shared by many people. Doubt about official stories in times like this is not evidence of anything more dangerous than prudence.

    As for sexist, what? Sam's 'muscular timbre'? Come. On. You mightn't like the 'tone' of his post, but contempt and disgust do have a tendency to bring that out in all but the best of us (such as our host).

    Suzanne's inference that men are more cerebral than women (a point she has neatly avoided facing, preferring name-calling as usual) stikes me as the most sexist remark on this thread.

    As for racism generally, stand back and tell me that Suzanne and Chris, with their nonchalant apologetics for the slaughter of Arab innocents, aren't the leading racists in this little community.

    Don't let people like that set the pace here. They and the widespread mindset they represent, which still holds the reins in th US, are the reason this blog was started.

  34. Glenn Condell says:

    'Why these obviously antisemitic comments here on Weiss's blog'

    syvanen, please point to even one anti-semitic comment on this thread. Ed's observations about the top-heavy representation of Jews in opinion-shaping industries is, whether you like it or not, a simple statement of fact. I dunno about the recovering Jew/Catholic business, but it's drawing a very long bow indeed to call it antisemitic.

    MRW's doubts about the Official Story are shared by many people, and MRW has shown a tendency to doubt virtually everything. Doubt about official stories in times like this is not evidence of anything more dangerous than prudence.

    As for sexist, what? Sam's 'muscular timbre'? Come. On. You mightn't like the 'tone' of his post, but contempt and disgust do have a tendency to bring that out in all but the best of us (such as our host).

    Suzanne's inference that men are more cerebral than women (a point she has neatly avoided facing, preferring name-calling as usual) stikes me as the most sexist remark on this thread.

    As for racism generally, stand back and tell me that Suzanne and Chris, with their nonchalant apologetics for the slaughter of Arab innocents, aren't the leading racists in this little community.

    Don't let people like that set the pace here. They and the widespread mindset they represent, which still holds the reins in th US, are the reason this blog was started.

  35. Glenn Condell says:

    Er, sorry, having all sorts of problems with this site.

  36. Ed says:

    Suzanne and chris, if the two of you really want to contribute, why don’t you suggest from the Zionist perspective how the Jewish settlers can be integrated into Palestine once Israel cedes what’s left of the West Bank to the Palestinians, now that Israel’s ploy to cede Gaza and take the entire West Bank has blown up in its face. You Zionist Establishment types seem to be deliberately poisoning the possibility of moving forward using a few Gaza rockets as pretext. Why don’t you instead use the West Bank as a lab to determine how Jews and Arabs can find a way to co-exist?

  37. Scott says:

    I wonder if FEF has ever asked his Navy-man-in the Mediterranean dad about the Liberty. It's a small part of the whole issue –obviously has nothing to do with the Palestinians. I'm about 80 percent sure the Israelis sunk it on purpose (to prevent foreknowledge of their plan to go into the Golan?); the Liberty survivors are 100 percent sure. I don't want to make too much of it–it's far from the worst thing Israel has done. But it does illustrate a certain contempt for America . Anyway, perhaps FEF should get his Dad one of the better Liberty books, I'd be curious about the reaction.

  38. Julian says:

    "why don’t you suggest from the Zionist perspective how the Jewish settlers can be integrated into Palestine..'

    I guess the same way Arabs live in Israel. As citizens.

  39. syvanen says:

    Glen Condel .. Much of the language here is over the top. Sexist yes. In a charged atmosphere any reference to female sexuality is sexist. Just the rules of the game. I happen to believe that many of things Ed says is antisemitic. The problem is not the Jews, it is the Zionist Israelis that are the problem.

    Notice, that Suzanne does not respond to my post, but just continues with the most inflammatory posts. This is justification for the extreme anti-Arab racism that she is defending.

  40. Richard Witty says:

    The most important point to your fictional Mr. Felson, is that BOTH narratives are true.

    Probably both slightly exagerated, but mostly true.

    To adopt an anti-Zionist narrative only would be innaccurate. To adopt a pro-Zionist narrative only would be innaccurate.

    Peace is constructed by moving forward from the present, not by an attempt to reinvent the past.

    We are selective in which "brutality" to pay attention to. The walls have ears in Israel, but they don't in MANY other places, even near.

  41. Ed says:

    In contemporary times, “antisemitism” is merely the failure to defer to Jewish supremacist pretensions. Certain Jews simply don’t like being treated in the verbal rough-and-tumble way they treat everyone else. They can dish it out, but they can’t take it. Syvanen has made the profound intellectual error of buying into left-liberal politically correct doctrine. I suspect he’s a party-line Democrat, as are many anal-retentive “Anti-Semite” decriers.

  42. LeaNder says:

    Peace is constructed by moving forward from the present, not by an attempt to reinvent the past.

    It's not about reinventing the past, its about confronting it, without the whole series of evasions, we meet on the topic.

    The Palestinians had to pay for something that happened in Russia and Germany. That is the point.

    The problem is on the Jewish side the name Amin Al-Husayni is repeated ad nauseam to show the direct line between the Nazis and the Palestinians.

    The other side simply highlight the initial close support and cooperation of the Nazis with the Zionists

  43. LeaNder says:

    Peace is constructed by moving forward from the present, not by an attempt to reinvent the past.

    It's not about reinventing the past, its about confronting it, without the whole series of evasions, we meet on the topic.

    The Palestinians had to pay for something that happened in Russia and Germany. That is the point.

    The problem is on the Jewish side the name Amin Al-Husayni is repeated ad nauseam to show the direct line between the Nazis and the Palestinians.

    The other side simply highlight the initial close support and cooperation of the Nazis with the Zionists

  44. Suzanne says:

    Syvanen–The jabs at Arabs from posters (more aimed at radical Islam than anything else) is minimal compared to the psychotic rantings of the "Jewish consiracy" theorists here. Therefore, I do not feel compelled to defend myself to you or anyone else on this board. You are not coming from an honest place.

    Please forgive me in advance for scanning past all idiotic posts from this point on. Thank you. :-)

  45. Suzanne says:

    typo correction to stifle the anal retentives before they bark: "Jewish conspiracy theorists."

  46. Citizen says:

    Any way you look at reality, the Jews live in green grass, the Palestinians starve in the desert. And this is due to American goy money and UN diplomacy. Similarly, the American banksters live high, the rest low. There is a connection. What to do?

  47. Ed says:

    LeaNder: "The Palestinians had to pay for something that happened in Russia and Germany."

    Utter baloney. This is another component of the anti-Western civilization leftist narrative. Organized Jewry has historically had trouble everywhere, which is why it should have its own state. But its dysfunction shouldn't be encouraged and underwritten by the West. One of the reasons the Left has historically been anti-Western civilization is because leftists Jewish intellectuals understood authentic Christianity was disinclined to underwrite organized Jewish dysfunction. Leftist perpetual-welfare advocates want every dysfunction underwritten by Western civilization, which today is coasting on the peace and prosperity of its former Christian incarnation. In this way, the Left is essentially misanthropic, not unlike organized Jewry.

  48. LeaNder says:

    Look Suzanne, it's more complicated today. There are many, even "academic" conspiracy theorists. Some people simply wonder why these conspiracy academics are so politically convenient, and who they serve? Cui bono?

    And concerning what syvanen feels may be anti-Arab positions I suggest you read: Avner Falk.

  49. LeaNder says:

    Here he comes again with all his furor. What will your authentic Christianity look like? Is your vision a theocracy or simply political theology with the implicit assumption that the Christians are the better human beings on earth?

    I surely would prefer the company of anti-Western … leftists Jewish intellectuals, or let's say the company of Walter Benjamin to that of Carl Schmitt.

  50. D. says:

    Sam's post will join those of the P.A.Z.-J.E.W. in the Mondoweiss pantheon. (And I'm surprised syvanen allowed himself to get wound too tight by chris/suzanne's presence to get it.)

    I for one will be hearing this line in my head every time I read Suzie's rantings: "Yada yada yada, all while the goat watches. … "