Sunday's New York Times Book Review featured two reviews of Israeli authors, both commenting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In one, Jeffery Goldberg reviewed Benny Morris's latest book on the one state and two state solutions, and the other was a celebration of Amos Oz by Liesl Schillinger. Although separate reviews, they complimented each other is presenting a biased narrative of the conflict.
First the Morris review. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that a review of a Benny Morris book is yet another chance for The Times to repeat his racist views towards Palestinians with barely a critique. That they would choose Jeffrey Goldberg of all people to review the book pretty much assured it would be a softball. Goldberg makes it clear that Morris views the conflict as "primarily
cultural, not political" and proceeds to not challenge his racist views of Palestinians culture. Goldberg shares Morris's shameful and laughable argument that Palestinian driving habits prove that they don't value human life, which in turn renders them unable to share a state with Jews. Instead of criticizing this racist point, Goldberg simply asks, "might the differences [between Jewish and Arab drivers] also be explained by higher rates of poverty among Arab Israelis?" Huh? In addition, Goldberg uses the review to regurgitate the "generous offer" canard yet again, and includes Morris's infamous claim that Israel should have gone farther in forcing Palestinians off the land during the Nakba. About this call for ethnic cleansing, Goldberg simply says Morris sometimes comes to "inflammatory conclusions."
When he's not letting Morris off the hook Goldberg even piles on a bit himself, referring to "the great dysfunction among the Palestinians" and refers to Hamas as "a cult that sanctifies murder-suicide." But all of this was to be expected, Goldberg is Netanyahu's stenographer after all. Actually, he didn't seem to devote much energy to the review and it really just falls flat, especially given the importance and urgency of the issues it discusses. I would have much preferred if Ali Abunimah or Anees of Jerusalem had been given a chance to review Morris's book. It would have no doubt been much more interesting and relevant.
Schillinger's review of Amos Oz provided an interesting, if unintentional, companion to Goldberg's review. Oz is routinely celebrated in the liberal American press as the great Israeli humanist, the conscious of a nation. Schillinger's review focused on Oz's insistence on "imagining the other" which Oz feels is the "antidote to fanaticism and hatred." He is presented both as a cosmopolitan author, and a kibbutznik pioneer. You can imagine he may feel out of sorts in Lieberman's Israel; he harkens back to the Israel liberals in the US used to love. It feels like the seemingly annual celebration of Oz in either the Times or New Yorker is perhaps meant to help liberals remember why they supported Israel in the first place.
It was hard to read the Oz review without thinking back to Morris and his belief that it is culture that separates Palestinians and Israelis. While Goldberg joins Morris in blaming the "Palestinian death cult" for their own predicament, Schillinger provides the illustration of the glorious, moral Israeli celebrating "the other." Schillinger makes Morris's point for him. It is the Israelis who are culturally superior and it is the Israelis who deserve our support. It seems to be a point that the Times has been trying to make to its US readership for a long time.