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Kristof’s conditional empathy

US Politics
on 14 Comments

Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times writes what is mainly a good column about refugees, then goes out of his way to insert a bit about how the Syrians appreciate Israeli volunteers, but European volunteers object. The article is titled, “Hysteria About Refugees, but Blindness on Guns.” The dateline is Greece.

Here in Lesbos, the fears seem way overdrawn. Some of the first aid workers Syrian refugees meet when they land on the beach are Israeli doctors, working for an Israeli medical organization called IsraAID. The refugees say they are surprised, but also kind of delighted.

“We were happy to see them,” said Tamara, a 20-year-old Syrian woman in jeans with makeup and uncovered hair. The presence of Jews, Muslims and Christians side by side fit with the tolerance and moderation that she craved.

Iris Adler, an Israeli doctor volunteering with IsraAID, said the refugees were often excited to receive assistance from Israelis. “We are still in close touch with many of them,” she said, including a mother whose baby she delivered on the beach after landing. Hostility to Israeli aid workers, she said, came not from refugees but, rather, from some European volunteers….

Historically, we Americans have repeatedly misperceived outsiders as threats. In 1938 and again in 1941, one desperate Jewish family in Europe tried to gain refugee status in the United States but failed, along with countless thousands of others. That was Anne Frank’s family.

There is so much going on in this you’d need an essay to point it all out, but here is one thing: In order to make Syrian refugees sympathetic they not only have to suffer at the hands of our enemies, but they have to share “our” views.  People over there are only worthy of empathy if they express gratitude towards Israelis, in contrast to Europeans who are cynical about Israeli motives.  That’s his message: we should feel empathy for people if their views don’t disturb our Western complacency in any way.

Kristof almost never writes about Palestinians and when he does it is with condescension. But he is a master at this sort of thing, being in favor of empathy, but showing his independence of leftist cant by adopting centrist cant. I think he thinks he is doing a good thing, but the way he inserted one irrelevant bit of hasbara in an otherwise decent (though still flawed) column is really cynical; and so if a reader writes a complaint you look like the unhinged reader with an obsession.

Well yes– but that’s how it works.  You can slip in anything this way.

Here is a link to the Israeli doctor he quoted— Iris Adler, writing about her experience for an American Zionist organization (the Schusterman Foundation) and praising the Israeli army as a humanitarian organization. Adler also treats the Zionist story as one of deliverance from Europe:

As a Jewish Israeli, it is easier for me to feel what the asylum seekers are going through. While I was never a refugee, my great grandparents were. As I stood on the shores of Lesvos, taking people off boats, I thought about my great grandparents and this helped me connect with them and understand their plight – probably more than many of the other teams that were there doing this holy work.

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14 Responses

  1. bryan
    bryan
    December 7, 2015, 11:11 am

    “While I was never a refugee, my great grandparents were. As I stood on the shores of Lesvos, taking people off boats, I thought about my great grandparents and this helped me connect with them and understand their plight – probably more than many of the other teams that were there doing this holy work.”

    If you have to go back to your great-grandparents era to paint yourself as a victim of injustice and hardship – then join the human race: there are few people who cannot portray their distant ancestors as victims of discrimination, exploitation, displacement, or just sheer grinding poverty, with none of the things we take for granted – chiefly education, medical care, security and justice. And no this is not holy work – irrespective of your religion or theirs, humanity owes human rights to all our fellows.

  2. Krauss
    Krauss
    December 7, 2015, 11:27 am

    Maybe I am a bit cruel, bit if Israel is a land of refugees, how come it has taken in zero Syrians?

    I guess Adler’s unreconstructed racism blinds her to her own blatant hypocrisy.

  3. a blah chick
    a blah chick
    December 7, 2015, 11:34 am

    Well, Kristof did go to Gaza earlier this year. His article was published in the NYT on March 7. A sample:

    “The suffering here has multiple causes. Israel sustains a siege that amounts to economic warfare on an entire population. Hamas provokes Israel, squanders resources and is brutal and oppressive in its own right. Egypt has closed smuggling tunnels that used to relieve the stranglehold, and it mostly keeps its border with Gaza closed. The 1.8 million Gazans are on their own, and one step forward should be international pressure on Israel and Egypt to ease the blockade.

    “Yet I have to acknowledge that Israel’s strategy of collective punishment may be succeeding with a sector of the population. Gazans aren’t monolithic in their views any more than Americans, but many said that they were sick of war and of Hamas and don’t want rockets fired at Israel for fear of terrible retribution.”

    It’s like now step forward and two back.

  4. Emory Riddle
    Emory Riddle
    December 7, 2015, 11:39 am

    “Historically, we Americans have repeatedly misperceived outsiders as threats. In 1938 and again in 1941, one desperate Jewish family in Europe tried to gain refugee status in the United States but failed, along with countless thousands of others. That was Anne Frank’s family.”

    As far as I can tell, nobody else has ever claimed the Frank’s tried to come to America in 1933. Kristol must remind us of how we are guilty of not doing enough for the Jews. We are all guilty — well, except for Jews that is. They are never guilty of anything and, if they are, it is because anti-Semitism drove them to it.

  5. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    December 7, 2015, 2:39 pm

    “As a Jewish Israeli, it is easier for me to feel what the asylum seekers are going through. While I was never a refugee, my great grandparents were. As I stood on the shores of Lesvos, taking people off boats, I thought about my great grandparents and this helped me connect with them and understand their plight – probably more than many of the other teams that were there doing this holy work.”

    Why travel all the way to Lesbos. Just go to the top of one of your Gaza watchtowers and look at the devastation or do an eyes wide open as opposed to shut tour of the West Bank. to connect with and understand plight.

    As for “doing this holy work”. Holy work my a..e All she has been doing is servicing the Zionist “humanitarian” rapid response image team – always on standby to fly to “safe” earthquake zones etc with their cute little Star of David emblem uniforms and tents and get the maximum publicity for the good old most moral light unto the nations country in the history of the universe ( BTW please read small print = no non Jewish refugees accepted in the Promised Land).

  6. annie
    annie
    December 7, 2015, 4:53 pm

    People over there are only worthy of empathy if they express gratitude towards Israelis, in contrast to Europeans who are cynical about Israeli motives. That’s his message: we should feel empathy for people if their views don’t disturb our Western complacency in any way.

    color me cynical but i think you may have missed another message of this story. it’s sort of a “look over here” counter message published the same day as ben norton’s story at salon titled Selling desperate Syrian refugees’ body parts for profit: Israeli man arrested in Turkey for organ trafficking and ynet’s story: Turkish authorities arrest Israeli suspected of organ trafficking

    the story broke 3 days ago in turkey http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/video-israeli-organ-trafficking-suspect-arrested-in-istanbul.aspx?pageID=238&nID=92093&NewsCatID=509

    http://www.salon.com/2015/12/05/selling_desperate_syrian_refugees_body_parts_for_profit_israeli_man_arrested_in_turkey_for_organ_trafficking/

    ynet: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4735121,00.html

    According to a report in Turkish newspaper Daily Vatan, Wolfman allegedly arrived in Istanbul from Bangkok to convince struggling Syrian refugees to sell their organs.

    He had reportedly already started contacting Syrian refugees, and was making arrangement to operate on them in small hospitals in Turkish cities.

    Earlier this year, Wolfman and six others were charged with organ trafficking and organizing illegal transplants in Kosovo, Azerbaijan and Sri Lanka. The offenses in question were committed between the years 2008-2014.

    and the german press http://www.dw.com/en/suspected-israeli-organ-trafficker-arrested-in-turkey-reports/a-18896905 . so maybe he was just getting in front of the news. anyone googling israeli and syrian refugees — this would pop up.

    • italian ex-pat
      italian ex-pat
      December 7, 2015, 9:10 pm

      I don’t know if this is the same individual I remember reading about a few years ago, an Israeli doctor running a private clinic in Turkey, where he performed kidney transplants on wealthy Israelis using kidneys sold by young men, usually from Afghanistan and other poor ME countries. He was getting tens of thousands $$$ a pop from the recipients, while paying a fraction of that to the ‘donor’, who was desperate for the money and of course wasn’t informed of the dangers and possible deadly complications from the surgery. I think that’s how the story broke, Turkish authorities finding one such young man slumped in an airport waiting for his flight home, almost dead from lack of medical care after being relieved of a kidney in a hasty operation.

      Whether Wolfman is that same man or not, he was apparently indicted in Israel years ago but managed to flee the country, and continued to carry on his criminal practice in various countries for years. I do wonder, how difficult was it for him to escape Israel’s justice, they are certainly not known for lax security. Could they have allowed him to flee rather than have an ugly trial with negative international publicity? Sorry to be so cynical, but these days I tend to be suspicious of everything that happens in Israel and the way it’s reported in the media.

      In any case, it seems that Mr. Wolfman is being extradited to his home country, so they’ll have to deal with it. That, and the Duma murderers’ trial (if it ever actually gets to court) should make for interesting news, although, so far and not surprisingly, hardly any coverage in the US’ MSM.

  7. dbroncos
    dbroncos
    December 8, 2015, 12:16 am

    Governor Chris Christie made his name and his career prosecuting mayors and other NJ state politicos on pay to play bribery charges. The pay to play scandal involved a popular Rabbi’s son in NJ, real estate ponzi schemes, tax fraud and international money laundering that was tied to human kidney trafficking through Israel by way of a synogogue in Brooklyn. Christie launched his political career prosecuting this case in front of the cameras. He made it clear that what was imortant about the case were the elected officials taking bribes. All the other stuff was incidental and not really important to the bigger crime of corruption in politics.

    • italian ex-pat
      italian ex-pat
      December 8, 2015, 9:38 am

      @ dbroncos

      I remember that one, too. Article and photos in the NYT (only, I think, because it happened right next door). After that, nothing. Did I miss the follow-up, or was the story buried?

      I hope the recent arrest in Turkey triggers more exposees of doctors who engage in such abominable – but oh so profitable – practices.

  8. Keith
    Keith
    December 8, 2015, 5:08 pm

    As long as we are on the topic of Syria, I am going to quote and link to an article by Pepe Escobar that provides a geostrategic perspective on what is involved in this brutal proxy war.

    “Syria is an energy war. With the heart of the matter featuring a vicious geopolitical competition between two proposed gas pipelines, it is the ultimate Pipelinestan war, the term I coined long ago for the 21st century imperial energy battlefields.

    It all started in 2009, when Qatar proposed to Damascus the construction of a pipeline from its own North Field – contiguous with the South Pars field, which belongs to Iran – traversing Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria all the way to Turkey, to supply the EU.

    Damascus, instead, chose in 2010 to privilege a competing project, the $10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syria, also know as «Islamic pipeline». The deal was formally announced in July 2011, when the Syrian tragedy was already in motion. In 2012, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed with Iran.”

    ….

    “An Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline is unacceptable in the Beltway not only because US vassals lose, but most of all because in currency war terms it would bypass the petrodollar. Iranian gas from South Pars would be traded in an alternative basket of currencies.”

    ….

    “What’s certain is that, geo-economically, Syria goes way beyond a civil war; it’s a vicious Pipelineistan power play in a dizzying complex chessboard where the Big Prize will represent a major win in the 21st century energy wars.” (Pepe Escobar) http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/12/08/syria-ultimate-pipelineistan-war/

    • annie
      annie
      December 8, 2015, 5:15 pm

      thanks keith, that’s a great article. i’d also recommend moon of alabama’s recent post. (includes map)

      Is Erdogan’s Mosul Escapade Blackmail For Another Qatar-Turkey Pipeline? http://www.moonofalabama.org/2015/12/is-erdogans-mosul-escapade-blackmail-for-a-new-qatar-turkey-pipeline-project-.html

      • Keith
        Keith
        December 8, 2015, 5:57 pm

        ANNIE- “…that’s a great article.”

        Thanks Annie. Pepe Escobar and Moon of Alabama seem in basic agreement. What I find particularly distressing is the absolute recklessness of it all. All of the killing and destruction is bad enough, but if these mad men cause it to spiral out of control and nuclear weapons are used (a very real possibility), we can all kiss our you-know-what goodbye. They are playing “chicken” with nukes!

    • lysias
      lysias
      December 8, 2015, 5:34 pm

      Washington decided Assad had to go after Hezbollah humiliated Israel in 2006. Noam Chomsky’s prophetic piece on Washington choosing Sunni over Shiah was published in 2007.

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