My new theme is that the Israel lobby in our country is regrouping around J Street and a program of withdrawal from the West Bank in order to fend off the looming threat to Israel, the anti-Zionist left. To make this shift, the lobby must throw the neoconservative Greater Israel types under the bus– because they are fueling the left by enabling the occupation.
Further evidence comes from the fact that neoconservative David Brooks in the New York Times today comes out against those who would “permanently colonize the West Bank.” His old buddies.
Israel faces a “torturous… horrific choice”, he writes, to end the colonial project so as to forestall international criticism. Brooks praises the leader of the new Zionist consensus, Ari Shavit:
Today this brutal situation boils down to one torturous choice, which Ari Shavit captures in his superb book, “My Promised Land”: “If Israel does not retreat from the West Bank, it will be politically and morally doomed, but if it does retreat, it might face an Iranian-backed and Islamic Brotherhood-inspired West Bank regime whose missiles could endanger Israel’s security. The need to end occupation is greater than ever, but so are the risks.”
Then Brooks distances himself from his neocon buddies:
amoral realists [who] decide in the brutal situation that anything that advances survival is permitted. Under their leadership, security becomes insecurity because security measures are taken to the extreme. These are the people who want to permanently colonize the West Bank.
Brooks can no longer marginalize the left critique. In fact, he is frightened by the American Studies Association vote this week and the movement to isolate Israel. Notice how careful he is not to condemn our side out of hand. We are often good people, with high ideals. And he too is against the occupation… But.
there are people whose minds seem to flee, almost by instinct, from ambiguity to absolutism. These are often good people, with high ideals. But they take a dappled society in a tough situation, like Israel, and they want to judge it according to black and white legal abstractions….
You notice these people because you rarely see them taking the perspective of people they dislike. They don’t acknowledge that even the most humane projects often involve error, fear and sin along the way.
Many Europeans think about Israel this way, as do the folks at the American Studies Association, or A.S.A., which this week announced an academic boycott of Israel. The A.S.A. has a problem with the way Israel is occupying the West Bank. Who doesn’t? But the A.S.A. refuses to acknowledge the complexity of the horrific choice that Ari Shavit identifies.
The A.S.A. instead wants to take Israel’s mistakes and use them as a pretext to make it a rogue nation.
I’d point out, Brooks is agonized by the “horrific” choice of leaving the West Bank. Why does an American columnist regard such a territorial matter half the world away as so painful– when so many other territorial/sovereignty issues over much greater swaths of the planet don’t amount to a hill of beans here? Because of religious attachment, in an empowered American group. And what have been the consequences of such devotion? American support for the occupation, for 46 years.