You know Israel’s in trouble when ‘NYT’ runs op-ed saying it’s replacing Iran as isolated theocracy

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New York Times headquarters. (Photo: Wikipedia)
New York Times headquarters. (Photo: Wikipedia)

A half dozen people have sent along the link to this long astonishing piece that ran in the NYT opinion pages yesterday, by two Iranian and Israeli scholars, saying that Israel and Iran are trading places: Israel is becoming an intolerant religious theocracy where extremists attack the U.S., and its failure to end the occupation means that it will become ever more alienated from the world’s good opinion, and ultimately from the U.S.– even as Iran is becoming a secular society with a relationship to the west.

The BDS movement is gaining momentum, the authors say. And the Israel lobby can’t save Israel, because its losing power; too many young Jews are marrying non-Jews here to give a hoot about the Jewish state.

“You know Israel’s in trouble when the Times is running pieces like this,” one friend said.

The authors are Abbas Milani and Israel Waismel-Manor, who are both at Stanford. Some excerpts:


Although the Israeli and Iranian governments have been virtually at war with each other for decades, the two countries have much in common…

Both Iran and Israel are now entering potentially challenging new stages in their relations with the outside world, and particularly with the United States….

As the winds of change blow across Iran, secular democrats in Israel have been losing ground to religious and right-wing extremists who feel comfortable openly attacking the United States, Israel’s strongest ally. In recent months, Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, called Secretary of State John Kerry “obsessive and messianic,” while Naftali Bennett, Israel’s economy minister, labeled Mr. Kerry a “mouthpiece” for anti-Semitic elements attempting to boycott Israel.

Israel’s secular democrats are growing increasingly worried that Israel’s future may bear an uncomfortable resemblance to Iran’s recent past….

As moderate Iranians and some of the country’s leaders cautiously shift toward pragmatism and the West, it seems that many Israelis are moving away from these attitudes.

The piece is frank and neutral about the fact that Israel’s own conduct is propelling the rise of the boycott movement, BDS. Notice the importance the authors give the divestment movement on US campuses, alongside European banks.

If Israel continues the expansion of settlements, and peace talks serve no purpose but the extension of the status quo, the real existential threat to Israel will not be Iran’s nuclear program but rather a surging tide of economic sanctions.

What began a few years ago with individual efforts to get supermarket shoppers in Western countries to boycott Israeli oranges and hummus has turned into an orchestrated international campaign, calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli companies and institutions.

From academic boycotts to calls for divestment on American university campuses to the unwillingness of more and more European financial institutions to invest in or partner with Israeli companies and banks that operate in the West Bank, the “B.D.S.” movement is gaining momentum.

Then there’s talk about the Israel lobby, and Jewish intermarriage rates in the U.S. in a not-emotional manner:

Moreover, as Western countries shift toward greater respect for human rights, the occupation is perceived as a violation of Western liberal norms. A new generation of American Jews sees a fundamental tension between their own liberal values and many Israeli policies.

This, coupled with the passing of the older generation and a high rate of interfaith marriage among American Jews, means the pro-Israel lobby will no longer be as large or as united as it used to be.

Straight talk on the NYT op-ed page. Breath of fresh air. Thanks to Harry Hjalmarson and others.

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Not sure if I agree. The whole Op-Ed reminds me of Sasha Polakow-Suransky’s book about the Israeli-South African alliance. It was written from a Beinartesque point of view. Basically, everything in Israel went wrong after 67 and that Israel had provided “moral leadership” before 67. That book was published in 2010, not 1950, yet its analysis is dated over 50 years. The same strain runs through this Op-Ed. Let’s begin by this: while Naftali Bennett,… Read more »

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.

“You know Israel’s in trouble when the Times is running pieces like this,” right. At the very least, the Lobby has lost control of the narrative. The NYT has been a marvel lately. Useful reporting and editorializing, but this piece had to have been gratifying for Phil and Annie — very prominent and positive mention of BDS. Stand up and take a bow, you guys, you’ve worked your little butts off for years, you’ve taken… Read more »

Abbas Milani lacks credibility among many Iranian thought-leaders. His extrapolation of Iran’s declining birth rate — By contrast, Iran has a falling birthrate — a clear indication of growing secularism, and the sort of thing that keeps Ayatollah Khamenei awake at night. is completely off-base: In a radio interview from Charlottesville, VA in ~2009, Nesta Ramizani, wife of highly-respected Univ. of Virginia professor Rouhi Ramizani, explained the reproductive policies implemented by the Khomeini and subsequent… Read more »

Perhaps the authors meant well, but when you equate “good” with “Western, free market and secular” than you describe positive trends as “secularizing”. I think that Abbas Milani, being a think-tanker, is putting his thoughts in terms that are well received by this customary audience. But indeed, how to interpret the drop of birth rate in Saudi Arabia? By the way, recently I have learned that halacha forbids Jews to charge interest to Jews, so… Read more »