David Brooks seeks to reframe Zionism

on 36 Comments

When David Brooks puts forth a definition of Zionism, it merits our attention. Brooks is talented and sometimes incisive, but his main gift may be his acute sense of where Commentary leaves off and the ideological mainstream begins. There he parks, on the often shifting line between the two: kind of a neocon but not, understand, the frothing kind. It’s a slot he shares with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, sometimes described here as the most important Jewish journalist in America, and given the current configuration of power and opinion, a central one.

So in a seeming aside to his column praising Jewish over-representation in the world of intellect (should pro-Iraq-war media figures be quantified as well?) Brooks writes:

“Israel’s technological success is the fruition of the Zionist dream. The country was not founded so stray settlers could sit among thousands of angry Palestinians in Hebron. It was founded so Jews would have a safe place to come together and create things for the world.”

Perhaps also sensing that Americans need a refresher course in the purpose of Zionism, Jeffrey Goldberg immediately reproduced the above paragraph on his blog, appreciating that Brooks “frames Zionism in a completely different way than the news pages do” and “writes smartly about the competition between tribal and worldly Zionism”.

There is a tale in these carefully crafted sentences. David Brooks’s settlers are “stray”—as if some overly enthusiastic campers missed their trail, only to put down their rucksacks in Hebron—and not, as is actually the case, a well-financed salient backed by the American tax code, the Israeli government, and overseen by the IDF. (I’m reminded of the time, many years ago, when Leon Wieseltier explained to my wife that the Israeli army ended up on the outskirts of Beirut because they had misread their maps and got lost.)

Note too the passivity Brooks attributes to them. They don’t occupy, or build, or settle, or agitate. They “sit” –surrounded by “angry Palestinians.”

One wonders whether David Brooks, after five hundred or so NY Times columns, has considered what would happen if he devoted just one to depicting the actual situation in Hebron. Not the stray settlers who “sit” –but the settlers who throw stones at Palestinian children on their way to school, throw garbage and feces at the Palestinian markets, who scrawl “gas the Arabs” on Palestinian homes,

gas
Photo from Hebron by Doug Whitmore, Christian Peacemakers

cut apart olive trees belonging to the remaining Palestinians–all under the watchful protection of the Israeli army. Hebron is probably the closest thing to pure apartheid that exists anywhere in the world right now: Arab residents are barred from even walking on certain sidewalks in the old city. Many Israelis surely find it distasteful, but not enough to use their democracy to stop the army from protecting the settlers, not enough to terminate the state funds which build the settler roads and maintain infrastructure. Most Americans are oblivious; it’s not as if their mainstream media report from Hebron. So if David Brooks wrote a column about Hebron, it would multiply public awareness of what goes on there many times, and might be a huge step towards rectifying the situation.

But he doesn’t and probably never will. He is pleased to let us know that he finds the settlers a little bit infra dig, and that when Americans think of Israel they should think of software geniuses. It’s a skilled performance, but one almost prefers the forthrightness  of the neocons who make no pretense of desiring  a just settlement with the Palestinians, asserting instead that we should support Israel more than we do any other country in the world because it "shares our values."

About Scott McConnell

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of the American Conservative. The former editorial page editor of The New York Post, he has written for Fortune, The New Criterion, National Review, Commentary and many other publications.

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36 Responses

  1. Richard Witty
    January 18, 2010, 9:19 pm

    Go there Scott and see for yourself.

    • Avi
      January 19, 2010, 8:34 am

      When was the last time you were there? 40 AD?

  2. emi
    January 18, 2010, 9:33 pm

    thanks very much for this, scott!! brooks’ column was embarrassing as well as deeply misleading–i’m glad to see him being called out here!!

  3. James North
    January 18, 2010, 9:42 pm

    A great article, Scott. And again I ask, if Israel is such a technological and economic success, shouldn’t it be telling the United States government it doesn’t need any more aid?

    • MRW
      January 19, 2010, 2:35 am

      It stole tech advances. I watched it.

      • yonira
        January 19, 2010, 3:41 am

        LOL, do tell MRW, do tell…..

      • annie
        January 19, 2010, 9:26 pm

        sure yonira, have you read AIPAC, Espionage and the US-Israel Free Trade Agreement?

        The following document case file tracks the first US Free Trade Agreement signed with Israel in 1985. The lobbying battle pitted large US corporations, American industry associations, small fruit and vegetable growers and thousands of individual petitioners against the “American-Israel Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc.” and American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. American industries were shocked when the FBI began investigating AIPAC for obtaining and distributing the 300 page report containing their trade secrets titled “Probable Economic Effect of Providing Duty Free Treatment for U.S. Imports from Israel, Investigation No. 332-180″ in the midst of the negotiations. The ITC later confirmed that the Israeli government also obtained the still-classified report. The document contains business confidential trade secrets, market share, inventory, delivery costs, internal production costs and other highly sensitive data US industries submitted under strict confidence to urge the best possible outcome for US businesses.

        Since the agreement was signed, US trade with Israel swung from surplus to a $71 billion cumulative deficit in 2008�an anomaly among all other US bilateral agreements.
        AIPAC and US Trade Secrets

        documents available at the link

      • Psychopathic god
        January 19, 2010, 10:53 am

        in the mid-80s Israel was economically stagnant.
        The migration to Israel of some 700,000 Russian Jews, many of them educated at the expense of the FSU, provided the technical know-how that sparked Israel’s technological revolution (that and technology stolen from US, primarily Pentagon (but don’t whisper Dov Zekheim lest that worthy rabbi writhe rabid).

        The US experienced a technology bubble; it burst. Now, Israel is. Eventually, Israel’s economic bubble will burst, perhaps simultaneous with the psychological meltdown that Avigail Abarbenal diagnoses/predicts. One more reason why Israel is so keen to colonize Iran: Persia supported Jews for 200 years as (a relatively small portion of) the Babylonian exiles returned to Jerusalem. The US has supported Israel for at least 40 of the last 60 years of Israel’s most recent attempt to establish a sovereignty in the Levant; Israel is ping ponging back to Iran….

  4. potsherd
    January 18, 2010, 9:47 pm

    It was founded so Jews would have a safe place to come together and create things for the world.

    Maybe Brooks could found that Israel, in some other place not already inhabited by people who will resist the invaders and make sure they can never be safe, squatting among the dispossesssed in Hebron.

    • Mooser
      January 19, 2010, 11:01 am

      When I found out Laurentz Hammond wasn’t Jewish, I almost killed myself. How could that be? Heck, Steinway was Jewish, right, and he invented the piano?

  5. JSC
    January 18, 2010, 10:01 pm

    “Perhaps also sensing that Americans need a refresher course in the purpose of Zionism, Jeffrey Goldberg immediately reproduced the above paragraph on his blog, appreciating that Brooks “frames Zionism in a completely different way than the news pages do” and “writes smartly about the competition between tribal and worldly Zionism”.”

    The problem is it is essentially impossible to be a non-tribal Zionist at this point. I found Brooks dishonest and condescending in his other column about Haiti, he still is here. The essence of Zionism today is the right of return for Jews, which Brooks talks about here as meaning a “safe haven,” while denying it for the Palestinians. Very few Zionists ever opposed this arrangement. Zionism today cannot be reconciled with granting Palestinians the same rights as Jews, since that would mean the end of the Jewish state with a Jewish majority, and so it can never be equal or as Brooks calls it, “worldly.”

  6. VR
    January 18, 2010, 11:56 pm

    Very good description of Mr Brooks design in his writing, which by the way, as I have pointed out before is not much different than the scenario painted by the colonial settlers in Hebron. You can see this even if you visit the Hebron Funds gift shop –

    “This book, written from a child’s perspective, relates in a fascinating manner the story of how in 1979 ten women moved into Beit Hadassah in Hebron. The story offers yet another source of information about the renewal of Jewish life in Hebron.

    The book was written by Etia Zar (daughter of Rabbi Moshe Levinger), who was four years old when the women moved into Beit Hadassah.
    The story is in Hebrew, and is graced by breathtaking illustrations.”

    OPERATION MOVING VAN

    It is not a murderous colonial occupation, it is just “moving in,” like we would move into a neighborhood. The book especially designed for children. Same shit, different description. It is all supposed to be so innocuous.

  7. VR
    January 19, 2010, 1:59 am

    Do you know where Zionists learned their stock in trade in both writing and image? They learned it from other nations, by their subterfuge and attempt to alter reality. In the USA they embedded themselves in the “dream factory,” where alternate reality is created. Knowing that what the eye sees and the ears hear the mind believes, eventually, when it is repetitively applies.

    They helped to craft that image in the USA in cinema, where the poor weary settler came to what is now the states, and was set upon by savage Indians – so the story line goes. It is like the description that Abbie Hoffman gives in his Steal This Book introduction:

    ” Let me illustrate the point. Amerika was built on the slaughter of a people. That is its history. For years we watched movie after movie that demonstrated the white man’s benevolence. Jimmy Stewart, the epitome of fairness, puts his arm around Cochise and tells how the Indians and the whites can live in peace if only both sides will be reasonable, responsible and rational (the three R’s imperialists always teach the “natives”). “You will find good grazing land on the other side of the mountain,” drawls the public relations man. “Take your people and go in peace.” Cochise as well as millions of youngsters in the balcony of learning, were being dealt off the bottom of the deck. The Indians should have offed Jimmy Stewart in every picture and we should have cheered ourselves hoarse.”

    STEAL THIS BOOK

    So the stock and trade was learned early on in the image making arena of the big screen and TV. Than what they did is applied the same techniques in the myth of Israel’s origin, and what it is currently doing.

    Do you know what the Zionist’s dream of at night? They dream of Israelis becoming like Americans, who can live and thrive not even thinking about what they did to the indigenous population here. They try to picture themselves in the same position a number of years down the road, having either totally ethnically cleansed the Palestinians or having completed a genocide of sorts with no memory of their atrocities whatsoever. This is the type of stuff that David Brooks writing is made of.

    ALL INDIGENOUS

    The only difference is that we are in the 21st century, and the “work” of the Zionists is not finished yet, and there is still hope but not without a fight joined in by all the people who do not want a repeat of previous centuries. We will not turn the clock back for anyone.

    • MRW
      January 19, 2010, 2:32 am

      The difference, VR, is that Americans were to the British what Palestinians are to the Israelis.

      • VR
        January 19, 2010, 3:20 am

        Ok MRW, and the Zionists think they are to the world what Americans were to the British. But what does that have to do with the indigenous Palestinians and the North American indigenous people and the genocide of either?

      • MRW
        January 19, 2010, 4:29 am

        VR, the Zionists can think whatever they want. Not exactly a truth factory there: a famous co-opting of facts every time they turn around. But Zionists are not to the world what the Americans were to the British, under any description of history. Period.

        The indigenous Palestinians and the North American indigenous people are exactly the same in THAT discussion or comparison.

        Not clear. But tough luck.

      • VR
        January 19, 2010, 9:56 am

        Neither argument of what the former British citizens were doing in North America, or what the Zionists are doing in Palestine have any validity whatsoever for what was and is being done to the indigenous populations MRW. In fact, both the Zionists and the early Americans claimed they were on a quest for religious freedom, as they proceed (or proceeded) to annihilate the indigenous population. Religious themes are part and parcel of settler states, no matter whether you look at Israel, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

    • Mooser
      January 19, 2010, 11:03 am

      And smallpox can be easily innoculated for, and bacterial diseases have been almost conquered. Makes it hard to produce a death dentence out of lowered living standards. Ah, the poor Zionists, born too late!

  8. jan_gdyn
    January 19, 2010, 3:48 am

    To tell Mr Brooks what you think of his columns, past and future, go to:
    link to topics.nytimes.com
    and click on Send an E-Mail to David Brooks.

    I emailed him a copy of this great post.

  9. Shmuel
    January 19, 2010, 4:44 am

    Misleading and distracting talking point no. 5: Israel is the source of the world’s greatest technological advances (“Israel’s technological success … creating things for the world”)

    Factually incorrect, but even if it were true, it cannot possibly justify dispossession, apartheid and oppression (’48 as well as ’67), nor is it a valid argument against BDS.

    Aside: Naomi Klein had an article a couple of years back on the booming Israeli high-tech industry and its overwhelming “security” orientation. “Creating things for the world”, Brooks would call it.

    • Tuyzentfloot
      January 19, 2010, 4:49 am

      Aside: Naomi Klein had an article a couple of years back on the booming Israeli high-tech industry and its overwhelming “security” orientation. “Creating things for the world”, Brooks would call it. I recall the number of 7 billion dollar, but I’m not sure. Anyway that’s a problem with peace: no money in it :) For some at least.

    • MRW
      January 19, 2010, 5:26 am

      Shmuel,

      i>Factually incorrect, but even if it were true, it cannot possibly justify dispossession, apartheid and oppression (’48 as well as ‘67), nor is it a valid argument against BDS.

      Thank yew.

      • MRW
        January 19, 2010, 5:27 am

        Phuck: : Factually incorrect, but even if it were true, it cannot possibly justify dispossession, apartheid and oppression (’48 as well as ‘67), nor is it a valid argument against BDS.

      • Shmuel
        January 19, 2010, 5:48 am

        You’re welcome, MRW. It’s an uphill battle trying to keep these Zionist apologists on topic.

        OT, re. your message about my trip, I’ll be sure to post my impressions. Now I just have to decide between the Easter/Passover break and the summer.

    • Julian
      January 19, 2010, 10:18 am

      Factually incorrect? Every major hi tech company has invested heavily in research facilities there because they don’t don’t produce technological advances?
      It’s obvious you are not in business.
      Does it justify the entire Arab world attempting to ethnically cleanse Israel?

    • annie
      January 19, 2010, 9:50 pm

      the surveillance industry/homeland security industry is big in israel. one wonders if this accounts for the rise in global surveillance. ever wonder who makes those new machines at the airports? read neve gordon’s The Political Economy of Israel’s Homeland Security

      1.1 The Size of Israel’s Homeland Security/Surveillance Industry Israel’s homeland security industry, which is currently featured on the homepage of numerous government websites, is part of what Barrie Stevens defines as the global security industry, an “aggregation of hundreds of thousands of businesses and individuals whose aim is to sell safety from malevolent acts threatening life, property and other assets, and information. The products and services generated range from fire and burglar alarms, locks and safes, through electronic access control and biometrics, electronic article surveillance and security consulting, to armored car services, guard equipment and security fencing.”19 The market for this industry is estimated to have reached $150 billion in 2007, and is predicted to grow substantially over the next decade.20 Its remarkable expansion is firmly tied to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the ensuing war on terror, and, as the above citation from Livnat intimates, the Israeli companies have capitalized on these developments. But the growth of this industry is also intricately linked to global
      political, social, economic, and cultural processes. On the one hand, it is tied to the increasing movement of people, goods and services across political borders, and the ongoing attempt of different government agencies and businesses to find ways of decreasing the risk of smuggling, theft, drug trafficking, counterfeiting, illegal entry, disruption to global supply networks, and so on.21 These processes call for the introduction of more sophisticated forms of social management and control, some of which are unrelated to the transnational movement of people and goods. On the other hand, there is a growing perception that governments alone are incapable of adequately addressing the risks, which has led to the rise of private security contractors and to the development of new technologies whose objective is to offer protection.22

      sound fun?

      • annie
        January 19, 2010, 9:52 pm

        i don’t know who makes those new machines at the airport btw. that popped into my head and i forgot to proof read. i shouldn’t have included it.

      • Citizen
        January 20, 2010, 11:30 am

        The Israeli firms Amdocs and Magal Security Systems appear to be major players in US security devices and services, including phone calls monitoring, nuclear site protection, airport security, vote systems.
        Here’s a start; read the comments too:
        link to forum.prisonplanet.com

      • Citizen
        January 20, 2010, 11:42 am

        Another israeli firm, ICTS Intl, provided security that has failed, e.g. at Boston Logan Airport (9/11), and at a Dutch and French airport:
        link to boomantribune.com

  10. marc b.
    January 19, 2010, 9:39 am

    Brooks is talented and sometimes incisive, but his main gift may be his acute sense of where Commentary leaves off and the ideological mainstream begins. There he parks, on the often shifting line between the two: kind of a neocon but not, understand, the frothing kind. It’s a slot he shares with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, sometimes described here as the most important Jewish journalist in America, and given the current configuration of power and opinion, a central one.

    Has it come to this? Brooks is critically praised for his role at the Times and beyond, when it is clear that his columns are completely devoid of any objective analysis, and in many cases are filled with gross dishonesty. He is a petit Goebbels with no pretense of democratic inclinations. Take this excerpt from his most recent column:

    Americans, with their deep, vestigial sense of proportion, have reacted [to Obama’s attempts] . . . to overhaul most sectors of national life. The crucial movement came between April and June, when the president’s approval rating among independents fell by 15 percentage points and the percentage of independents who regarded him as liberal or very liberal rose by 18 points. Since then, the public has rejected any effort to centralize authority or increase the role of government.

    Trust in government has fallen. The share of Americans who say the country is on the wrong track has risen. The share who call themselves conservative has risen. The share who believe government is “doing too many things better left to business” has risen.

    link to nytimes.com

    Brooks writes as if this ‘ideological’ trend occurred in a vacuum, invoking Americans mythological distrust of government while ignoring a public relations campaign that predates Obama’s election and undermines any effort at dispassionate analysis by the electorate. Obama’s effort to centralize authority or increase the role of government is not a new vision for government’s role, but a seamless continuation of Bush/Cheney in most regards, with a liberal sop to health care reform.

    Could the author explain more clearly Brooks’ talent, aside from his ability to navigate the brackish waters between ‘Commentary’ and whatever?

    • Scott McConnell
      January 19, 2010, 11:59 am

      Well, for one he reads widely and not just beltway loop stuff, and clearly works at his columns rather than trying to wing it on stylistic cleverness. (i.e he’s not Maureen Dowd). And if you are, like I am, somewhat socially conservative, he can be spot on–when writing about something like sexual and dating habits and their consequences. If I didn’t sometimes really like Brooks’s work, I wouldn’t have bothered with it.

      • Donald
        January 19, 2010, 12:21 pm

        Maureen Dowd is totally worthless–I agree on that. Even when she’s right on some particular issue she’s worthless because she is nothing more than a vicious gossip columnist. Quite a few liberals despise her, incidentally–Bob Somerby at “The Daily Howler” can’t stand her.

        Brooks, though, isn’t much better. I think he’s basically a courtier, someone who flatters the Washington elite and treats them as a collection of wise men and women for the most part who are all or mostly well-intentioned–as Glenn Greenwald points out today, the only exception to this is when he decides to applaud the great wisdom of the American people which apparently manifests itself when they (according to Brooks) agree with him. His brush-off of Goldstone is not some aberration for him–Goldstone criticized Israel, a sacred cow for the Washingtonians, so he and his report were BAD. When you see him on PBS the impression that comes across is that Brooks badly wants to be part of the in-crowd, liked by the right people. Since you’re conservative, you might be familiar with a famous C.S. Lewis talk to graduating students (at Oxford, I think) about the temptation of the “Inner Ring”. I think that Brooks succumbed to the lure of the Washington Beltway inner ring.

        When Brooks stays far away from politics he can be worth reading, I suppose. It doesn’t happen very often.

      • marc b.
        January 19, 2010, 5:51 pm

        Sorry, Scott, didn’t mean to vent in your direction. It is just that there are so few good columnists left. I actually love reading people I disagree with, if they are skilled writers. If you haven’t learned something new about the world, factually, or that challenges your own biased vision of the world, then the column, in most cases, was agitprop of some species or another. And that’s all I saw in Brooks’ column in this instance.

  11. Chu
    January 19, 2010, 10:00 am

    Brooks is such a nice Jewish boy. I sometimes believe he wants to be loyal to the country and not the corporate engine. If you watch the News Hour, it’s really fun to watch him portray anger and seriousness. He puts on the serious face :|! He’s why media is so successful, he’s just the message boy understanding and relaying the complexities of Washington to the interested public.
    I thought his review of Avatar was funny. He tries to become movie critic (another hat) since he was so distraught about the message that Avatar sends to the kiddies.

  12. marc b.
    January 19, 2010, 10:21 am

    He tries to become movie critic (another hat) since he was so distraught about the message that Avatar sends to the kiddies.

    The only hat that fits Brooks is an ass-hat.

    Brooks criticizes the thematic stereotype in ‘Avatar':

    It rests on the stereotype that white people are rationalist and technocratic while colonial victims are spiritual and athletic. It rests on the assumption that nonwhites need the White Messiah to lead their crusades. It rests on the assumption that illiteracy is the path to grace. It also creates a sort of two-edged cultural imperialism. Natives can either have their history shaped by cruel imperialists or benevolent ones, but either way, they are going to be supporting actors in our journey to self-admiration.

    Brilliant. And Brooks’ analysis of the reasons for Haiti’s systemic poverty in an earlier article? Voodoo. What a f*cking ignoramus.

    • Chu
      January 19, 2010, 12:19 pm

      …voodoo and being resistant to change! He forgot to mention the creole pig slaughter in the 80’s. Brooks has achieved his positions from his Jewishness and he is a sad example of a conservative. But he’s the new conservative!

      Another piece from the Haiti article: (he links those blacks all together in 2 paragraphs)
      [re. Haiti]”Fourth, it’s time to promote locally led paternalism. In this country, we first tried to tackle poverty by throwing money at it, just as we did abroad. Then we tried microcommunity efforts, just as we did abroad. But the programs that really work involve intrusive paternalism.
      These programs, like the Harlem Children’s Zone and the No Excuses schools, are led by people who figure they don’t understand all the factors that have contributed to poverty, but they don’t care. They are going to replace parts of the local culture with a highly demanding, highly intensive culture of achievement — involving everything from new child-rearing practices to stricter schools to better job performance.
      It’s time to take that approach abroad, too. It’s time to find self-confident local leaders who will create No Excuses countercultures in places like Haiti, surrounding people — maybe just in a neighborhood or a school — with middle-class assumptions, an achievement ethos and tough, measurable demands.
      The late political scientist Samuel P. Huntington used to acknowledge that cultural change is hard, but cultures do change after major traumas. This earthquake is certainly a trauma. The only question is whether the outside world continues with the same old, same old.
      It’s time to take that approach abroad, too. It’s time to find self-confident local leaders who will create No Excuses countercultures in places like Haiti, surrounding people — maybe just in a neighborhood or a school — with middle-class assumptions, an achievement ethos and tough, measurable demands.”
      —Sounds like he is saying a new strand of colonialism would be great from Haiti and reinforces it with the profound insight of Samuel Huntington.

      Matt Taibbi picked up on his racist insights also.
      link to trueslant.com

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