After first visit to Israel, ‘Foreign Policy’ editor says religious, garrison state has ‘passed its sell-by date’

Israel/Palestine
on 36 Comments

 

David Rothkopf, photo by Christopher Leaman

David Rothkopf, photo by Christopher Leaman

We often say that once Jews open their eyes, there’s only one way to go, left. Foreign Policy ceo David Rothkopf– who came from a family of Zionists, who has often stood up for Israel, who attacked Walt and Mearsheimer– finally visited the place late last year and couldn’t write about it because he had the awful feeling that the place had “passed its sell-by date.” Now he’s gone public, in a dialogue with his former college roommate Michael Oren; and hat’s off to Rothkopf for his courage and honesty.

There are some great ideas in what he writes below. The heart of his piece is this fabulous line:

I find the response of Zionism [to modern historical challenges] to be exactly the wrong one.” 

Let’s hope this opens up a mainstream conversation about Zionism.

Excerpts. First, Rothkopf is frank about Israel’s stiffnecked response to Palestinian compromises:

As you and I have also discussed, the opportunity has always been there for Israel to take a different course, embrace the idea of a Palestinian state, and lean in to the peace process precisely because you have known that the Palestinians would struggle to follow through. While this may seem cynical, it meant the risks would be low, the return would be high, and if peace resulted all the better. After all, in my view, demographics and economics and common sense all dictate that nothing could do more to secure Israel than the establishment of a flourishing Palestinian state.

But Israel didn’t lean in. And Rothkopf didn’t have a good time on his visit. Though he tries to say nice stuff.

I was only there a couple of days, and I couldn’t, of course, see much. Though I did get to speak with many people — from [former Israeli national security advisors] Yaki Amidror and Uzi Arad to (Haaretz editor) Aluf Benn to President Shimon Peres. These conversations covered a wide spectrum, and on that level, I came away energized and engaged. I loved the people even when I disagreed with them. I loved the nature of the debate, the willingness, the urgency with which virtually everyone I met discussed big critical issues. But in driving around Israel, in going to meetings, in listening to discussions at the conference I was at, even in looking at the landscape all around, I got a different sense … one that was entirely unanticipated.

Israel seemed old to me. Not old in the sense of antiquity. It seemed old like the core ideas that had brought it to life not as a country but as an idea and an ideal in my youth seemed so compromised, so battered by “realism” and self-interest, so undercut by political deals, that I couldn’t help but wonder if the country had passed its “sell by” date, that its freshness was gone and some of what was good was starting to turn. That sounds harsh, I know, and that’s one reason I haven’t written anything yet on my reactions…

Battered by self-interest. Good line. Rothkopf reflects openly. His father was a Zionist, he believed in Israel after the Six Day War, he stood up for Israel in the U.S. discourse. But he never went there before. Why? The same reason I didn’t. His life was here, in a society that has consecrated minority rights, not in the “garrison state.”

Reflex was my first instinct for supporting Israel. But it is not sustainable if you have a truly Jewish mind … a mind linked to a tradition of “struggling” with even the Highest Power. Ideas and beliefs have to be tested against a reality. Today there are other safe places for Jews in the world, notably America. Today there are other ways for Jews to live and be true to their traditions that don’t involve the harsher realities of a garrison state…

By the way, this is a conversation among Jews. I wonder how long that can last…

In all candor, I came away from my visit wondering if that dream had died or withered so that those who believed in it faced an urgent and stark choice: rethink it or accept that it will die and with it will go many of the aspirations we had for it when we were much younger (and that I sense you still have for it today)….

Rothkopf sounds a lot like Truman and John Judis here:

I’m no Zionist. I’m actually pretty deeply opposed to the notion of religion being in any way involved in either the governing of a state or the formation of its national identity…

I should be among the most supportive of Israel. Indeed, I still think I am in many respects. But, as a member of the U.S. policy community (if there is such a thing … a club that deservedly evokes Groucho Marx’s line that he wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would admit him), the fact that I feel Israel is increasingly diverging from what I thought it once was should matter. If the well-informed and well-disposed are concerned for the future of the country and troubled by settlements and apparent insensitivity to the fate of a population that is rapidly growing to be the majority population within your borders, then regardless of the flaws in my education or reasoning, it matters.

Notice that he describes Palestinians as the majority inside Israel’s borders. Dispenses with the ’49 armistice line, just as Palestinian solidarity folks do.

Again, this is a Jewish conversation. Rothkopf reminds us of the heart of the Israel lobby, American Jewish devotion to the place.

You may think my view of Israel was naive. It may have been. But it was also the foundation for the historical narrative. Policy, as you know well, is not driven by reason or facts, but by people, prejudices, expediency, habits, and inertia. Changes are hard to engineer. And when views drift from what they were and support wanes, it may well be not just that facts have changed but that narrative themes and emotional underpinnings of a relationship that are based more on perception than reality have shifted to a degree that makes them more important. And that has an impact on relationships. Generational shifts also play a big role in this.

I guess what I’m saying is that I think Israel has a real problem with losing the narrative that can’t be rationally argued away but needs to be addressed. I’m just a canary in the coal mine.

Rothkopf mentions the Palestinians at last, and though he stabs at Jimmy Carter, he addresses Jim Crow on both sides of the Green Line.

the core criticism of Israeli behavior is not about how Orthodox women are treated on buses or how Ethiopian immigrants are treated in Israel. It is about how Palestinians are treated both within Israel’s borders and within the Palestinian territories as a consequence of Israeli actions. You, better than anyone, are aware of the facts behind these critiques and know that you do not have to be a Jimmy Carter and loosely throw around terms like apartheid to feel that Palestinians are entitled to their own self-determination. Or to know that Israel’s needs should not have a greater claim on outcomes in that part of the world than those of Palestinians; that local resources, like water, ought to be shared equitably; or that the rights of Palestinian people to vote, to have their own state, to have claim to their own historical and cultural heritage should be inviolable as it is for any other people. Further, those rights — the very same ones that have been referred to here for centuries as inalienable — do not simply appertain to Palestinians in what we all must hope will soon become a Palestinian state. They also ought to pertain to Palestinians who choose to live in Israel.

Next, a beautiful disquisition on history. This is the answer to anyone who says it’s a dangerous neighborhood. Yes it’s a dangerous neighborhood, the world is a dangerous neighborhood, the human psyche is a dangerous neighborhood, and what is our role in stoking religious hatred and division?

As for the question of the separation of church and state, while I acknowledge many states do not share the views outlined in the U.S. Constitution on this point (and indeed, many Americans seem uncomfortable with the concept in practice), I am as clear and resolute on this as any principle I hold.

History is the story of the human catastrophe that results when states promote religious ends or use religious criteria to guide their governance. As we have often seen, the embrace of religion into the identity of a nation, while being sold to the people as something unifying and elevating, is often something else. It is exclusionary. It is about finding a way to achieve cultural and ethnic “purity.” It is an idea that should be more anathema to Jews, given our history, than to any other group. I find the response of Zionism to be exactly the wrong one. It suggests we have seen how others have abused religion by intermingling it with governance and national identity and the only protection is to do the same thing ourselves…

This is also good. Dear Michael, we can’t hold the elite fort anymore. The grassroots are driving the conversation (as I have said). And even as he dismisses Walt and Mearsheimer, Rothkopf embodies their idea; for when he says “guys like me” are “essential” for Israel, he is describing the importance of Jews to the Israel lobby.

You can refer to it as a problem among “elites.” It is not. It is a problem among important communities that are essential to the coalition that has provided support for Israel in the past and will be just as important in the future. You know that. It is not just the rise of J Street. It is not just liberals and the Walt-Mearsheimer anti-Israel Lobby Crowd. It is guys like me. You know, guys who grew up in New Jersey who were captivated by the story of a Jewish state that was in a way “ours,” who were lifted up by the heroism of the Six-Day War, guys who admired the stories of turning the desert green. You know guys like that, right? You were one.

Guys like me. That means Jews. (Enough already. You gotta open up the window and let me breathe.)

I haven’t read the Oren letters, I’m sure I would lose my breakfast. Rothkopf’s letters should be celebrated. He says he is for a two-state solution and tolerates the idea of “a Jewish state.” But how long before that idea also crumbles in the face of the harsh reality of the eternal occupation, and he says, I’m not going to support your religious state any more. Because at bottom he rejects Zionism, Oren’s definition of Jewish peoplehood tied to a Jewish state.

Therefore Israel cannot be the Jewish state. It can be Jewish state. But even should its people choose that path, for it to be a moral state, it must be one that guarantees the rights and prerogatives of every citizen equally regardless of religious orientation, gender, ethnicity, etc. It is hard to say Israel does that now.

I’ve barked at Rothkopf a lot over the years. As he admits here, he’s been an Israel lobbyist. I celebrate his clarity and courage. Let’s hope he hosts more forums that lead the American discussion, and not just the American Jewish discussion, away from the narrowminded claims of his father and roommate, forever.

Thanks to Nima Shirazi.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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36 Responses

  1. Krauss
    May 15, 2014, 11:27 am

    I want to believe that Rothkopf has opened his eyes but I remain skeptical. Why?

    Because I’ve read very similar columns from people like Bradley Burston or Carlo Strenger. They sound like universalists, but they keep crawling back to defending Apartheid when it counts. Would Rothkopf feel comfortable saying these things to a Palestinian? Or is it a Jew-only conversation, just like J Street wants?

    Finally, a bit unrelated, but still significant: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4520060,00.html

    It was leading Ynet’s front page during the morning. Yeah, the BDS movement is dead, I’m telling you!

    An additional thing:

    Zionism, as we all know(at least those of us growing up in Jewish communities), is the central plank of the modern (secular) Jewish identity; it has replaced just about everything else.

    Rothkopf is basically openly agonizing not over Israel per se, but over his own identity. It is, at its core, an existential article he is writing. And I agree, it is brave of him. But bear that fact in mind when you read it, and why it is directed at Oren out of all people. Oren acts as a balance to Rothkopf’s guilty conscience, for “betrayaing” his people, i.e. for slowly abandoning Zionism.

    There is no evidence that Rothkopf’s turnaround is driven by genuine compassion, rather than the fickle follies of a middle-aged man whose concept of Israel was stuck in the same sophistication of a teenage boy prone to romaniticism and militarism, like most teenage boys.

    This also bleeds into a larger point. That a lot of the whole “the path that Israel’s on is unsustainable” should be read as “the path that Israel’s on is making my Jewish identity unsustainable”.

    Israel’s path is very sustainable in terms of raw economics and military. If it hadn’t been, the occupation would have ended a long time ago and not deepen, year by year. So much reporting on Israel is really reflected in the anxieties of American secular Jewish identity. But since you basically can’t report on Israel without being Jewish or at the very least a mild Zionist(just look at the NYT staff in Israel, all of them Jewish Zionists), the change has been incredibly hard to change the conversation around I/P, which is why the campus is the central fight today.

  2. Donald
    May 15, 2014, 11:42 am

    You should read the Oren letters. They are as bad as you expect them to be. Here’s one quote–

    “You bought into that myth — we all did. But some of us looked deeper. And what we found was extraordinary. We found a society which, in spite of unspeakable pressures, managed to stay democratic, open, creative, self-correcting (frequently to a fault), self-defending, ultra-literate (in Hebrew), and Jewish.”

    This particular sort of self-righteousness is something you find in Israelis and rightwing Americans. Yeah, Israel is democratic, except when it isn’t. 19th Century America could say the same. And self-correcting to a fault is just Oren’s way of saying that Israeli dissidents should shut up.

    Later Oren says that what Rothkopf is really saying is that Israel should work to shift the blame over to the Palestinians. So none of what Israel has done to the Palestinians really matters, it’s just a question of getting people to blame the Palestinians for their own suffering.

    One thing Oren keeps missing in his attempts to link Israeli sins with American sins is that he’s right, and it does his argument no good at all, because his own views reflect what is worst in American history. At best he’s the white Southerner who was more upset about Yankee hypocrisy on race relations than about the injustice of Jim Crow.

    • Krauss
      May 15, 2014, 11:46 am

      self-correcting (frequently to a fault)

      I laughed out loud.

      • piotr
        May 15, 2014, 1:16 pm

        Well, whenever Israel is too democratic, it is prompt to correct itself. Anyway, Israel is so adorable that it cannot be guilty of anything serious.

        I have to find a link to an authentic story about a southern belle tried for killing her third husband (the previous ones died in suspicious circumstances as well), and the jury was ready to found her guilty until she took the stand. It was more than 100 years ago and the jury was all male, and she was cleared of all charges.

        From that point of view, Rothkopf strikes at the main asset of the Jewish state. Past expiration date, not exactly as adorable as promoted.

      • marc b.
        May 15, 2014, 3:08 pm

        you can’t have a conversation with ‘Zionism’ without reflexive resort to the superlative. ‘to a fault’, ‘extraordinary’, ‘unspeakable’, ‘ultra-‘. if there were a diagnosis for auto-erotic promiscuity, oren would be in need of treatment. honestly, redhead isn’t much better on that score, although his screed elicits sympathy. (if just once we lesser beings could be provided with some basic definitions. it might help to know what a ‘truly Jewish mind’ is, when trying to evaluate his analysis. and this: ‘policy driven by . . . inertia?’ what is that? a mixed oxymoronic metaphor? I know I’m quibbling, but is this the best we got? yeesh.)

    • Elisabeth
      May 16, 2014, 3:49 am

      One thing Oren keeps missing in his attempts to link Israeli sins with American sins is that he’s right, and it does his argument no good at all, because his own views reflect what is worst in American history.

      So true.

  3. pabelmont
    May 15, 2014, 11:56 am

    QUOTE: “I guess what I’m saying is that I think Israel has a real problem with losing the narrative that can’t be rationally argued away but needs to be addressed. I’m just a canary in the coal mine.”

    He says the problem is a lousy Zionist narrative. Well, but what about the even lousier Zionist behavior?

    He’s a bit tentative, refuses to “dump” Israel here and now, refuses the “apartheid” label. so, Like Obama/Kerry, he is warning Israel of difficulties lying ahead. He’s a “canary in the coal mine”.

    I think this is significant because it adds to the Obama/Kerry talk, it backs it up, it says the sands are shifting in the elite establishment, what I call the BIGs, the Establishment, the Oligarchy. (And if the sands were not shifting there, how explain Obama/Kerry?).

    And Oren will go back to Netanyahu adn tell him, and BB will wring his hands and say his coalition will allow him to do no other than to keep on keeping on.

    Ride that horse over the cliff, because it is the only horse in the game.

    Just like the politics of ignoring Climate Change has been (mayne that’s changing?).

  4. seafoid
    May 15, 2014, 12:04 pm

    ” But it is not sustainable if you have a truly Jewish mind … a mind linked to a tradition of “struggling” with even the Highest Power”

    It’s just not a sustainable Judaism. It’s too nihilistic, with zero openness or generosity.
    I don’t think any dead Bundist would recognize it as Jewish.

    . http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/1c5f1352-79d5-11e2-9015-00144feabdc0.html

    “I recalled a conversation in 1991 with Professor Stanley Cohen, the eminent sociologist who died last month. We were discussing IDF human rights abuses, which Cohen worked tirelessly to expose. He turned to talk instead about his profound concern for young Israelis, specifically the brutalising effect that militarisation was having, and would have, on successive generations of young men and women. At the time his concerns seemed misdirected; on reflection what struck me was their prophetic accuracy.”

  5. ritzl
    May 15, 2014, 12:10 pm

    A) It’s good that Rothkopf is being this introspective while still active at FP. It seems like these types of realizations/statements come after “retirement.” Maybe these views will shape his editorial judgements at FP Mag.

    B) This is interesting, in that it’s a hopeful work-in-progress type of thought process:

    Policy, as you know well, is not driven by reason or facts, but by people, prejudices, expediency, habits, and inertia. Changes are hard to engineer. And when views drift from what they were and support wanes, it may well be not just that facts have changed but that narrative themes and emotional underpinnings of a relationship that are based more on perception than reality have shifted to a degree that makes them more important. And that has an impact on relationships.

    Shorter version: Facts don’t matter in policy formation, except that they do. Or alternately, perceptions drive policy, but facts drive perceptions.

    DR sprinkles his letters with references to facts as a/the basis for changing perceptions. Wrestling with competing mental constructs, he is. Good sign.

    C) Aside, and PW repeatedly disclaims that this is an intra-Jewish discussion, but I do not and probably never will understand why people like DR, that have come so far in their thinking, do not, or will not go 10km to the east to say Nablus or Jenin or even Gaza to complete the picture. What’s the obstacle (because this limitation appears so often that there clearly is one)? Sincere question.

    Thanks. Great article. Hopeful.

    • Boomer
      May 16, 2014, 5:46 am

      Re: “PW repeatedly disclaims that this is an intra-Jewish discussion, but I do not and probably never will understand why people like DR, that have come so far in their thinking, do not, or will not go 10km to the east to say Nablus or Jenin or even Gaza to complete the picture.”

      At one level, I agree, it seems very strange. At another level, I think I do understand. They know well enough what they would see. They are not concerned with Palestinians. That is evident from DR’s comments.

      • ritzl
        May 16, 2014, 1:23 pm

        @Boomer- Sometimes my attempts to ignore the obvious are astonishingly successful.

        I don’t want to believe what you say. I want to believe that an open mind is a universalizing condition, but you’re probably and sadly right.

  6. Annie Robbins
    May 15, 2014, 12:13 pm

    god phil, your link to morrison’s TB Sheets…what can i say… taking it to the next level, twisting the knife. slays me!

    • justicewillprevail
      May 15, 2014, 12:49 pm

      Devastatingly apt metaphor in the link. The claustrophobia screams in that track.

    • Philip Weiss
      May 15, 2014, 1:01 pm

      Thanks Annie, I just love that song and album so much….

    • amigo
      May 15, 2014, 2:09 pm

      Annie, I left a comment on the Ron Lauder thread but it is still awaiting clearance.

      I was simply adding humor to the mystery of the 29 comments disappearing by mentioning Shawshank.No complaint intended.Just Irish wit.

      • Annie Robbins
        May 15, 2014, 4:13 pm

        hey, i was it amigo. like i said, no worries! i didn’t for a second take it personally. really ;)

  7. hophmi
    May 15, 2014, 12:18 pm

    ” I’m actually pretty deeply opposed to the notion of religion being in any way involved in either the governing of a state or the formation of its national identity…”

    Then move out of America. Because while we have the most clear division between church and state here, the notion that religion is in no way involved in the governing of America or the formation of its national identity is a fairy tale. Move to another planet, because it’s true of every state on earth, including and particularly those of Europe, where Christianity forms a part of the national identity, whether Europeans care to admit it or not. Don’t go to the Middle East, of course, where Islam is the state religion.

    This is exactly why Oren is correct when he suggests Rothkopf is naive.

  8. eljay
    May 15, 2014, 12:19 pm

    >> Reflex was my first instinct for supporting Israel. But it is not sustainable if you have a truly Jewish mind … a mind linked to a tradition of “struggling” with even the Highest Power. Ideas and beliefs have to be tested against a reality.

    1. Does this mean that Zio-supremacists do not have “truly Jewish minds”? y.f. and the boyz – guys with serious “Jewish street creds” – may object.

    2. If support for Israel cannot withstand the test against reality made by a “truly Jewish mind”, support for “god” – an idea and belief even more fanciful than the idea or belief that a colonialist and supremacist “Jewish State” is a good thing – can’t be far behind.

  9. David Doppler
    May 15, 2014, 12:20 pm

    “Let’s hope he hosts more forums that lead the American discussion, and not just the American Jewish discussion, away from the narrowminded claims of his father and roommate, forever.”

    Perhaps, having functioned as an Israel Lobbyist when he was supposed to be a journalist, rather than “lead the American discussion,” he would participate in it, giving Americans who have neither a Jewish nor Muslim ax to grind, the opportunity to lead. Why do you consider him the natural leader here? Why not give the nod to someone like Stephen Walt, one not afraid to speak truth to power, damn the consequences, in the finest American and intellectual traditions? Why is Walt still sniffed at, and excluded from leadership, while this guy, who’s finally waking up to his lack of fidelity to American and journalistic values, entitled to retain his leadership?

  10. NormanF
    May 15, 2014, 12:48 pm

    David Rothkopf has a problem only with the Jewish State. He has no problems with the world’s Christian and Muslim states.

    His estrangement from Zionism comes after the fact not because Israel falls short of international standards. Again, this is ONLY country in the entire Middle East rated “free” by Freedom House.

    There is no objective reason to oppose Jewish national self-determination. No anti-Zionist, including Rothkopf, has mentioned one.

    Whatever the enemies of the Jewish State think of it, it has and will survive in spite of them.

    • Woody Tanaka
      May 15, 2014, 1:35 pm

      “His estrangement from Zionism comes after the fact not because Israel falls short of international standards. Again, this is ONLY country in the entire Middle East rated “free” by Freedom House.”

      LMAO. Yeah, because they don’t count those areas (West Bank and Gaza Strip) where the Israelis enforce a regime of oppression, and where they deny freedom on an ethnoreligious basis.

      Your boast is like boasting of an evaluation of Germany in the 1940s which ignored everything that the Nazis did in Poland, the USSR, and in all the other countries it occupied.

    • seafoid
      May 15, 2014, 2:46 pm

      “There is no objective reason to oppose Jewish national self-determination.”

      Bringing Judaism into disrepute

    • eljay
      May 15, 2014, 3:11 pm

      >> There is no objective reason to oppose Jewish national self-determination. No anti-Zionist, including Rothkopf, has mentioned one.

      Sure there is, and it’s been mentioned often. But I’ve yet to hear when “Jewish” is going to become the bureaucratic nationality of all citizens of, immigrants to and ex-pats and refugees from “Jewish State”. Until it does, “Jewish State” remains, fundamentally, a religion-supremacist construct.

      No people – not even Jewish people – are entitled to a supremacist state. No state has a right to exist as a supremacist state.

      >> Whatever the enemies of the Jewish State think of it, it has and will survive in spite of them.

      Supremacist “Jewish State” wouldn’t be the first state to mistakenly think it would survive for a thousand years…

    • Jabberwocky
      May 16, 2014, 5:17 am

      “There is no objective reason to oppose Jewish national self-determination. No anti-Zionist, including Rothkopf, has mentioned one.”

      Many mention that the colonists ethnic state was built on lands stolen from the inhabitants of that land – who had their rights to self determination trampled on.

  11. MRW
    May 15, 2014, 12:50 pm

    I loved the […] urgency with which virtually everyone I met discussed big critical issues.

    That would be 65 years of urgency?

    Spare me the cosmetics.

    • marc b.
      May 15, 2014, 10:10 pm

      Yes, well, it takes time to sort out ‘big critical issues’, as distinct from ‘critical big issues’, even for those with ‘truly Jewish minds’. What’s important is that he found the conversations stimulating.

  12. American
    May 15, 2014, 1:30 pm

    ”Today there are other safe places for Jews in the world, notably America. Today there are other ways for Jews to live and be true to their traditions that don’t involve the harsher realities of a garrison state…”>>>.

    Yes…and you know what that says about those who still support Israel dont you?
    It say they have a problem and are the problem.

  13. DaBakr
    May 15, 2014, 1:52 pm

    redhead is really just an elite punk

  14. Les
    May 15, 2014, 2:09 pm

    In a talk at a DC synagogue yesterday, Glen Greenwald said he had never ben bar mitzvaed and clearly saw no need to change that. That was a declaration of independence from his inherited religion.

  15. DICKERSON3870
    May 15, 2014, 5:51 pm

    RE: “the human psyche is a dangerous neighborhood” – from Weiss’ summary of Rothkopf’s “disquisition on history”

    MY COMMENT: Amen brother. That’s one neighborhood I steer clear of 24/7. I tend to see it as being an existential threat to humans in much the same way that the Black Flag Roach Motel® is a threat to roaches!

    BRINGS COEN BROS’ BARTON FINK (1991) TO MIND:
    Black Flag Roach Motel Commercial- 1983 [VIDEO, 00.30] – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d55RPr5W0ys

    PERSONAL NOTE: I like both of the Coen Bros, but I empathize far more with Ethan, who not infrequently says things incredibly similar to thoughts I regularly have. Poor guy!
    I’m guessing that Joel is far less imbued with Weltschmerz. Lucky guy!

  16. DICKERSON3870
    May 15, 2014, 9:32 pm

    RE: “The most widely accepted anti-Semitic stereotype worldwide is: Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country/the countries they live in.” It’s an odd indicator of anti-Semitism given that Israeli leaders consistently claim to speak for the global Jewish community. . . ~ Donna Nevel and Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark

    MY COMMENT: I can still mentally picture myself having stopped by my mother’s house, and as I enter the den Netanyahu is speaking at the UN General Assembly for the first time since his election win in 2009. This was being carried on Fox News with more obsequious/ sycophantic fanfare than they would likely have had for a U.S. President, even a right-wing Republican.
    Just as I realized the exact nature of what was on and began to listen attentively (unpleasant as that is for me in the case of Netanyahu), I thought I heard Netanyahu say something that I interpreted as his claiming to speak not only for Israelis, but for all Jews wherever they might live*.
    Perhaps I should not have been so surprised, but I was nevertheless stunned and began doubting he had said what I thought I had heard. I knew that Netanyahu’s limitless grandiosity included his considering himself to essentially be “King of (All) the Jews” (i.e. Guardian and Savior of All Jews Everywhere), but I didn’t think he had quite enough chutzpah to make a grand proclamation to that effect here in the U.S. in a speech widely broadcast across this blessed, sacred “homeland” of ours (but most definitely not the Native Americans’ homeland). Perhaps this has something to do with the reason that a particular aspect of Indyk’s recent comments (that didn’t seem particularly important to most people) stood out to me as though it was a flashing red neon sign, specifically: Israel’s being an ARROGANT** nation. Part of the reason this was so significant to me is that arrogance is quite often associated with narcissism.

    * When I found a transcript, I confirmed that he said essentially what I thought, but he did it in a way seemingly designed so that the claim to speak for all Jews would be missed by most people since instead of saying “all Jews” he says “my people”. Unless you pay very close attention so that you can interpret “my people” in the context he uses it, the significance is lost on most people. My suspicion is that the objective was for most Jews to understand the significance of what he was saying while it escaped notice by most others. It would not surprise me if articles in the Israeli (Hebrew language) press used Hebrew in place of “my people” that meant something closer to “all the Jews”. Aren’t I cynical?!?!
    As an aside, I wonder whether cynicism is more of a cause or a symptom of Weltschmerz. Can it perhaps at times be both with the intriguing potential consequence that (assuming the mind doesn’t have entirely effective feedback inhibition) it sometimes causes the ‘mind blowing’ brain equivalent of James Brown’s most piercing scream. Come to think of it, that’s my kind of “Memorex® Moment℠”! Can you dig it? It sounds awfully good to me, but then I’m a glutton for punishment!

    ** REGARDING ISRAEL’S ARROGANCE, SEE: “Is There a Way Beyond Israeli Madness?” [Will the Chosen People and the Exceptional People Go Down Together?] ~ by John Grant, Counterpunch, 8/31/12

    [EXCERPTS]

    The patient, by the name of Israel, walks into the room and instantly bursts into a tirade of arguments conclusively proving his credentials, and says that he is better than everyone else.
    – Ofer Grosbard, “Israel On The Couch: The Psychology of the Peace Process”

    The problem Americans have with Israel is that the region it exists in is in the midst of a major political sea change, while Israel is frozen in time and holding on to its militarist, right-wing policies of extending settlements in the West Bank. It’s a policy that harks back to the ideas of the British-trained militarist Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Iron Wall, which is based on the idea a live-and-let-live policy between Jews and Arabs is impossible and, thus, Jews must militarily control and repress Palestinians [i.e. the mindset of the “pale” – J.L.D.] . . .
    . . . How does a people turn back a racially-oriented demonization program with roots that extend back many decades? How do you ratchet down a nation’s narcissism so people are able to simply see the other as a human being? . . .
    . . . On our part, Americans and the United States need to stop being a permissive yes-man and begin to show Israel some tough love. We need more US criticism of Israel. No doubt this approach will be received with gales of cynical laughter from hardliners … but so what?
    In my mind, the Israeli narcissistic and arrogant mindset would benefit from a little Buddhist detachment, more of the posture that sees the world not of separate individual selves and egos but of human beings as part of a larger flow of life. The Buddhists call the self-obsessed, separatist state-of-mind [i.e. the “pale” of Israel surrounded by Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Iron Wall – J.L.D.] that Israel thrives on and defends with weapons as “the illusory self.”
    “Once one identifies with a permanent self-concept, the pride and craving adhering to this become the pivot from which an egocentric world arises,” writes Gay Watson, a psychotherapist attuned to Buddhism.
    David Loy puts it this way: “To become completely groundless is also to become completely grounded, not in some particular, but in the whole network of interdependent relations that constitute the world.”
    I’m not suggesting Israel become a Buddhist nation. The point is for Israelis, and more important Americans, to figure a way out of the worsening condition of “us versus them” to avoid the need to obliterate them and set off a war that no one really wants. The point is to re-shape our minds to make “the other” less threatening to permit talking.
    I’m not holding my breath that Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman are going to become peace activists.
    But I’m done as an American being a silent stooge while Israeli militarist madness fuels hatred and sets the stage for war.

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/08/31/is-there-a-way-beyond-israeli-madness/

  17. W.Jones
    May 15, 2014, 9:39 pm

    If the well-informed and well-disposed are concerned for the future of the country and troubled by settlements and apparent insensitivity to the fate of a population that is rapidly growing to be the majority population within your borders, then regardless of the flaws in my education or reasoning, it matters.

    “Notice that he describes Palestinians as the majority inside Israel’s borders. Dispenses with the ’49 armistice line, just as Palestinian solidarity folks do.” ~Phil.
    I think the Palestinians are already the majority inside the land on both sides of the green Land?

    • W.Jones
      May 15, 2014, 10:01 pm

      Dear Michael, we can’t hold the elite fort anymore. The grassroots are driving the conversation

      This is somewhat true, as reflected in the creation of SJP in the last 10 years or so as a stronger element on campuses.

  18. Pixel
    May 15, 2014, 10:36 pm

    And I, Phil, celebrate yourclarity and courage.

  19. RoHa
    May 15, 2014, 11:59 pm

    It’s better than hard line Zionism, but still Zionism.

    “After all, in my view, demographics and economics and common sense all dictate that nothing could do more to secure Israel than the establishment of a flourishing Palestinian state.”
    He still wants to prop up Israel as a Jewish state.

    He’s right when he says, “Israel’s needs should not have a greater claim on outcomes in that part of the world than those of Palestinians”.

    But with “the rights of Palestinian people to vote, to have their own state, to have claim to their own historical and cultural heritage should be inviolable as it is for any other people” I think he starts going off-course again.

    Right to vote, yes.
    Right to have “their own state”, no.
    “Claim to their own historical and cultural heritage” – dubious. What does it mean, and why is a particular “heritage” “their own”?
    That and “any other people” show he is thinking in terms of “peoples” rather than people.

    And, of course, “Palestinians are entitled to their own self-determination” is wrong. Palestinians are no more entitled to “their own” self-determination than Jews are.

  20. Krusty
    May 16, 2014, 12:13 pm

    Phil,

    I come and visit Mondoweiss explicitly to see and read views that I disagree with, some of which is stomach churning (particularly in the commentary.)

    My question is a simple one: why would you right this up without having read Oren’s letters? Don’t you think you’d, at minimum, need them in order to inform your understanding Rothkopf’s own letters?

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