On Wednesday night, Charlie Rose did a segment on the Israeli elections, featuring Dennis Ross, Mort Zuckerman, and David Remnick, and Remnick, the New Yorker editor, distinguished himself by harshly criticizing the occupation and, just as important, showing detachment from the Israeli mindset in taking on two Israel lobbyists who parrot the Israeli talking points on everything. My enthusiasm for Remnick is tempered by the fact that he too is deeply attached to Israel, as he states openly below, and so the American discourse on these issues is tightly circumscribed. But his analysis is a breath of fresh air: he continues to counter ideology with facts about a racist, rightwing society that is veering toward a “great tragedy.”
Some of Remnick’s commentary. Did Yair Lapid’s smashing success signal that Israel is moving to the left?
“It has not, it has not…. I think we need to have a more tragic sense of what’s going on with the Palestinian question… There’s not going to be dramatic movement on that at all… This election is not going to change that peril [of a third intifada]…. “
Of Likud: Netanyahu made an alliance with “an out and out xenophobic racist,” in Avigdor Lieberman. And Remnick called for negotiations with Hamas:
I bow to no one in my dismay and anger at what the Hamas charter is. It is antisemitic and eliminationist. But the history of diplomacy is filled with two sides negotiating at even greater odds than that… Throughout history! Remember who the party in power is here. Israel is immensely more powerful than Hamas… We are not talking about a relationship between two equally powerful European states. We are talking, And to my great grief, because I have an enormous feeling for the purpose of Israel, we are talking about a state that is occupying another, which is an immensely tragic thing, and extraordinarily wearing to both sides. this is not just causing great Palestinian suffering, it is undermining the state of Israel.
Remnick even speaks of the right of return with respect, he seems to know its importance to Palestinians, and describes the spiritual rot of Israel when he mentions all the Tel Aviv liberals with two passports whose children have moved to New York. He knows that the situation in Israel/Palestine is desperate:
“Great tragedy lies ahead, great tragedy lies ahead… Great tragedy awaits.”
As to my headline: How distressing that all three guests’ first references to Netanyahu were by his nickname, Bibi:
Zuckerman: “I also think that the appeal of Bibi has diminished.”
Remnick: “Israelis expect the Israeli prime minister to have a good relationship with the American president. It’s lost on no one that the relationship between Bibi and Obama is at best cool and distant.”
Dennis Ross: “…the fact is, Bibi made a deal with Kadima…”
This is appalling. James North wrote here last year:
The media should stop calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by his nickname, Bibi.
A nickname humanizes a politician. It makes them seem more affectionate. Very few if any politicians are referred to by their nicknames. Do the media call Prime Minister Cameron David? Do they say, Francois, the president of France? They don’t.
When Joe Biden repeatedly called Netanyahu Bibi last night in the debate, yes it bothers me, because our politicians are way too soft on Israel…
Bibi, to an English speaker, sounds a little childish. “Bibi” makes him out to be more benign than he actually is. He’s not benign. And when they call him Bibi– and again this is all unconscious and inadvertent– it gives the impression that this is a goofy guy who holds up a Wile E Coyote picture of a bomb at the U.N.; he seems a little bit of a bumbler; he seems the equivalent in the political sphere of those two thieves who were foiled by Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone — bad but inept and goofy.
Instead of a liar who presides over a nuclear powered colonial state that people are killed for opposing, where thousands are imprisoned and many of them, according to international human rights agencies, are tortured, and where the death of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old innocent young woman, was recently whitewashed.
P.S. All Rose’s guests are Jewish, and the one who shows any balance proffers that he is deeply attached to Israel. The piece began with Charlie Rose’s quote of veteran “Israel watcher” Jeffrey Goldberg. Goldberg is not just a watcher, he moved to Israel and joined the army because he feared anti-Semitism in the U.S. This is what I mean by the Jewish establishment. As I wrote long ago, Don’t the goyim get to register an opinion, ever? Where is Yousef Munayyer? Where is Stephen Walt? Neither of them would call Netanyahu Bibi.