On the Difficulty of Recognizing the Jewish State of Israel

From the simple recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, peace and a Palestinian state follow. The chief geopolitical excruciation of our time, the Palestinian obsession of the United Nations, the rancor of millions who thrive on demonizing either Israel or Palestinians — all of it shrivels if Palestinians and surrounding Arab states simply recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

But that single, simple step to peace remains elusive. Why?

Note that I am urging Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, not merely Israel’s right to exist. The extremists who cannot even acknowledge Israel’s rudimentary right to exist are part of the permanent insurgency against peace and human decency. They will never entirely disappear, but they can be marginalized.

The question of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is more complicated. It would mean, for example, giving up any Palestinian “right of return” to Israel. Asking Israel to absorb potentially millions, or even hundreds of thousands, of Palestinian refugees in Israel would be an invitation to geopolitical suicide. Eventually, Israel’s Jews would be a minority population. Israel’s Jews cannot become a minority population, for there would then be no defensible homeland for the Jews. Jews would again become beholden to a fickle majority, as they were in Europe and Russia — and to every Jew who vows to remember, this cannot happen. Never again.

We melting-pot Americans are not accustomed to thinking of states as ethnic enclaves — even though they often are. We would chafe at the notion of Guatemala as a Mayan state or Kenya as Kikuyu state. But the viability of Israel as a Jewish state is a special case, rooted in excruciating history.

Think of the Middle East as a football field. Think of Israel and Palestine as two wee postage stamps on this football field. The scale is important for the history that follows.

On October 4, 1946, President Truman issued a statement declaring United States support for creation of a “viable Jewish state.” On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly approved a partition plan that divided the tiny area into three entities: a Jewish state, an Arab state, and an international zone around Jerusalem.

Jews accepted this internationally-sanctioned partition. Arabs did not. At this crucial inception of Israel, there was never any international question that the tiny nation of Israel would be a Jewish state.

There was a sound reason for this tiny new state, and a sound reason that it be Jewish. In 1946, there were still tens of thousands of displaced Jews in Europe, survivors of the Holocaust. The thriving Jewish communities of Europe were all but wiped out. The Nazi machine killed six million Jews and produced a new word: genocide. But the defeat of the Nazis did not defeat homicidal anti-Semitism. Jewish refugees attempting to return to their European homes met murderous bigotry.

The middle 20th-century put to rest forever the notion that Jews, as a minority, could rely on the good will of their host nations. Good and patriotic German Jews, good and patriotic Polish Jews, good and patriotic Hungarian Jews — all died in the gas chambers, or were killed by locals when they tried to return.

Jews needed their own place to live. Their original homeland, the place that gave rise to the Bible, the place where they had a continuous presence for thousands of years, the place where Jews had been going for decades and transforming the land, made sense.

The world understood this in 1947. The world understood that Jews needed one place that they controlled, one place where pogroms were impossible, one place where Jews could be Jews without apology and obsequiousness. The world understood that the people who had suffered the most horrific slaughtering in human history had earned a place of their own.

Arabs also lived in this land. Indeed, Arabs, Jews and Christians had been living side-by-side for quite some time in what was then the British Mandate. And so the world did not give it all to the Jews. The world split it between Arabs and Jews. It was the solution to which everyone now aspires: a Jewish state and an Arab state. Yes, 64 years ago, the world solved the Middle East problem.

The Jews said yes, but the Arabs balked. On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, proclaimed the existence of a Jewish state called Israel. President Truman’s administration immediately issued the following statement: “This Government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine, and recognition has been requested by the provisional government thereof. The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the State of Israel.”

On May 15th, Arab states issued their response statement, and Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq attacked the new state of Israel, aided by volunteers from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Libya. It could have been over for Israel then. It very nearly was. The football field attacked the postage stamp with determination to wipe it out.

Meanwhile, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, declared a new genocide against the Jews: “kill the Jews wherever you find them — this serves God.” He really meant it. He had passed the world war with fascists, and while a guest of fascist Italy in 1941, he submitted to the German government a draft declaration of German-Arab cooperation, stating:

Germany and Italy recognize the right of the Arab countries to solve the question of the Jewish elements, which exist in Palestine and in the other Arab countries, as required by the national and ethnic (völkisch) interests of the Arabs, and as the Jewish question was solved in Germany and Italy.

Had the Nazis prevailed in North Africa (they didn’t), they had a plan to exterminate Palestinian Jews and prevent the establishment of a Jewish state, and “the most important collaborator with the Nazis and an absolute Arab anti-Semite was Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem.” Many honorable Palestinians refused to take up arms against the Jews because of their disgust with Haj Amin al-Husseini.

The fledgling state of Israel survived, barely, the attack of every surrounding Arab country. Israel survived again in 1967 and 1973, when Arab regimes attacked Israel with intent to destroy it. The violations of international law, never mind human decency, in these attacks are legion.

Meanwhile, Arab states set about dealing with their Jewish populations, and it wasn’t pretty. Most of Yemeni and Adeni Jews, some 50,000, were evacuated between 1949-1950 in fear of their security. 150,000 Iraqi and Kurdish Jews were encouraged to leave in 1950 by the Iraqi Government, which ordered in 1951 “the expulsion of Jews who refused to sign a statement of anti-Zionism.” The Jews of Egypt began fleeing the country in 1948, and most of the remaining, some 25,000, were expelled in 1956. The Jews of Algeria were deprived of their citizenship in 1962.

So Jews were being systematically kicked out of Arab countries, typically without their property. There could have been a “Jewish refugee” problem exceeding the “Palestinian refugee” problem. But there wasn’t because Israel of course accepted the 800,000-1,000,000 Jews kicked out of Arab countries. Palestinian refugees, meanwhile, suffered horrible deprivations of basic rights by their host countries.

Over 400,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon, and they are barred from 73 job categories including professions such as medicine, law and engineering. They are not allowed to own property, and even need a special permit to leave their refugee camps. Unlike other foreigners in Lebanon, they are denied access to the Lebanese health care system. The Lebanese government refused to grant them work permits or permission to own land.

The Arab League has instructed its members to deny citizenship to Palestinian Arab refugees (or their descendants) “to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland.” In other words, Palestinian refugees are pure politics for Arab League members. And that is why the most free Palestinians live in America and Israel.

If I were Palestinian — and sometimes I wish I were just for the test of my character in the teeth of oppression and suffering — I believe I would be skeptical of my Arab brothers and their cynical anti-Semitism, and I believe I would say yes, let there be a Jewish state and a Palestinian state so that I could at least begin to control my own destiny, and I would cease to be a pawn in the games of nations that have done nothing for me except exploit my victim status.

Israel must be a Jewish state. There must be a homeland for Jews. And there must be a homeland for Palestinians. We have not evolved beyond ethnic thinking and ethnic hatred. That will take a while. Meanwhile, there can be peace, accounting for ethnic hatreds — but it must begin with recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

And acceptance of a Jewish state begins with understanding of what happened to Jews. The Holocaust must become real to Palestinians. In the New York Times, Palestinian social scientist Mohammed S. Dajani Doudi and Jewish-American historian Robert Satloff write:

But Palestinians, and Arabs more generally, know little about the Holocaust and what they do know is often skewed by the perverted prism of Arab popular culture, from the ranting of religious extremists to the distortions of certain satellite television channels to the many ill-informed authors. What happened to the Jews during World War II is not taught in Arab schools or universities, either as part of world history or as a lesson in genocide awareness or as an atrocity that ought not to be repeated.

* * *

Almost two years ago millions of Muslim Arabs listened carefully when President Barack Obama, speaking in Cairo, respectfully recited sentences from the Koran and proclaimed America’s endorsement of a two-state solution to achieve a durable Israeli-Palestinian peace. Few, however, remember that he also condemned Holocaust denial. Now that the Arab masses are applying the universal lessons of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in taking down their authoritarian governments, it is time they take back the learning of history, too. That includes teaching their children the universal lessons of the Holocaust.

History, true history, is almost always painful. Understanding why Israel must be a Jewish state is painful. Jews in Israel cannot ever again submit to the tolerance of a host culture. That is absolute.

On Egypt, from Israel

Hod Hasharon, IsraelI write from my son Daniel’s home, about 20 minutes outside of Tel Aviv. It has been six months since I saw Daniel, and I’ve been giddily happy in ways that elude me in Washington DC. I juggle that pleasure with graver feelings about what is happening a little distance to the south in Egypt, with, to date, 200 dead and hundreds more injured. I shudder along with many Israelis at the possibilities. I texture these emotions with contemplation of Natan Sharansky’s take on democracy and what is happening in Egypt—which, to complete the pastiche, permits me a respectful nod to one of Sharansky’s heroes, Ronald Reagan, who would have been 100 on Sunday.

When Israelis shudder these days, it is not with a gush of familial affection for Mubarak. After all, for Mubarak, as for most Middle Eastern tyrants today and the European tyrants last century, the Jews are such serviceable scapegoats. Indeed, Mubarak’s counter-offensive against the protesters began by blaming Israel and the Mossad for the protests. When the pro-Mubarak forces began attacking foreign journalists with shouts of “Jew!” they reflected the sinister reports from Egyptian state-run television that Jews had infiltrated the protests.

But Mubarak was a credible peace partner for three decades. He met regularly with Netanyahu. His steadfast adherence to the peace treaty with Israel has stabilized a volatile region and provided a critical paradigm for the world to see: coexistence is possible, honorable, and mutually beneficial. There has been no region-wide saber-rattling, much less war, against Israel since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, fairly credited Mubarak with saving many Arab and Israeli lives by preventing war in the Middle East.

So, despite Mubarak’s periodic indulgence in cynical Jew-baiting – a global phenomenon to which Israelis are accustomed – Israeli prime ministers have regularly instructed their officials to avoid public criticisms of Mubarak. When the protests broke out in Egypt, Netanyahu wisely instructed his cabinet to stay mum. For the Israeli government – reflexively reviled both by protesters and regime – there was no percentage in taking sides. But the Israeli public hasn’t been mum.

For a people who suffered genocidal slaughter within the memory of some of the living, Israelis are remarkably even-tempered about anti-Semitism. It’s a kind of peace-for-hatred swap. Give us peace, keep your anti-Semitic cesspools. We’ll take a rough stability and reconcile to being blamed for shark attacks in the Red Sea. Hardly a bargain crafted in heaven – but enormously better than the hellish alternative, cesspools and war. It’s not a formula for long-term stability – all that government-inspired hatred will eventually spew somewhere – but for Israelis, for decades, it has been the only formula available.

That formula also makes many Israelis uneasy with Arab democracy. The “power of the people,” after all, springs forth according to the attitudes of the people – and populations programmed for so long to despise Jews may exercise less restraint than the autocrats they topple.

A 2009 Pew Research Center opinion survey of Arab attitudes toward Jews would be chilling at half the hostility: 95% of Egyptians, 97% of Jordanians, 97% of Palestinians and 98% of Lebanese hold unfavorable opinions of Jews. In other words, virtually the entire population.

Note that the survey specifically asked about “Jews,” not Israelis or the Israeli government. Note further the breakdown in Lebanon: 98% of both Sunni and Shia Muslims, and 97% of Lebanese Christians, hold unfavorable opinions of Jews. There is nothing inherently Muslim about anti-Semitism. Among Israeli Arabs, 35% hold unfavorable views of Jews. But most Middle Eastern Muslims live under governments that cynically spread virulent anti-Semitism like candy. Where there are populations other than Muslims in these countries, as with the Lebanese Christians, they gobble the candy just as fast as the Christians in Tsarist Russia and Nazi Germany.

It warrants note that Egypt’s anti-Semitism co-exists with an astounding level of racism concerning sub-Saharan Africa. I am reminded, only suggestively, not conclusively, of imperial Japan’s racial attitudes, not least the analogy of being in a continent, but not of it, rather above it. Egypt of course cannot embark upon a program like Japan’s in the 1930s – thankfully no modern nation can. But do I understand Israel’s uneasiness over the prospect of unleashing popular Egyptian attitudes in the Middle East? Yes.

Here is Israel’s geo-military reality, and why Egypt-anxiety looms large: Israel borders Hamas-controlled Gaza, Hizbullah-controlled Lebanon, Iranian ally Syria, Jordan and Egypt. If the largest of these, Egypt, turns Islamist, repudiates the treaty with Israel, or otherwise renews saber-rattling against Israel, then Israel confronts a very grave security threat.

Mubarak, for all his typical autocratic pathologies, has been a steadfast partner in the maintenance of peace with Israel. Egyptian “democracy” has the disadvantage of being substantially less predictable, even assuming some early version of democracy has any staying power.

Some Israeli commentators, bucking the prevailing anxiety, note that there are many good and decent people, with the most genuine democratic aspirations, involved in the Egyptian protests, and this is doubtless true. But history has often been unkind to good and decent people in the throes of revolution. There were heroically good and decent people in the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the 1979 Iranian Revolution—and in the first two, none would have guessed the ultimate victory of the most radical and bloodthirsty faction. Each of the three became brutally repressive and terrorist regimes. Hillary Clinton was right to warn against repeating the takeover in Iran, with a “small group that doesn’t represent the full diversity of Egyptian society” seizing control and imposing its ideological beliefs.

Natan Sharansky has a different take, one unencumbered by doubts about democracy. He is one voice in a great crowd of voices in Israel, and not a dominant one. He had more influence in Washington than in Tel Aviv. George W. Bush said in 2005, “if you want a glimpse of how I think about foreign policy, read Natan Sharansky’s book, The Case for Democracy.” The book became a bestseller in the U.S.

Sharansky survived nine brutal years in the Soviet gulag for his advocacy on behalf of Soviet Jews wishing to leave the Soviet Union. Released in 1986, thanks to his wife’s campaign and the personal interest of Ronald Reagan, he moved to Israel and became active in Israeli politics. Sharansky was in the gulag when Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” For Sharansky, it was a transformative moment, a rekindling of faith in the world to see evil and name it so—the necessary beginning to confronting and weakening it. It is a capacity with uneven fortunes in all times, including modern times.

The Wall Street Journal’s David Feith recently interviewed Natan Sharansky for the occasion of Reagan’s 100th birthday, and it is a most rewarding read. Sharansky insists that all people, regardless of religion or culture, desire freedom. “That’s a very powerful universal message. It was powerful when the Iron Curtain exploded, and it’s as powerful today.” As the events in Tunisia and Egypt illustrate, he says, there are limits to control by fear.

The current anxiety about what happens next, according to Sharansky, is an anxiety of our own making.

“Why is there such a big danger that if now there will be free choice for Egyptians, then the Muslim Brotherhood can rise to power?” Mr. Sharansky asks. “Because they are the only organized force which exists in addition to Mubarak’s regime.” Mr. Mubarak quashed almost all political dissent, with the general acquiescence of his American patrons. But he couldn’t stop the Brotherhood from spreading its message in mosques. Meanwhile, he used the Brotherhood as a bogeyman, telling the U.S. that only he stood between radical Islamists and the seat of power.

Sharansky exposes the fatal circularity – what we mean when we say “come back to haunt you” – of bedding with hate-mongering dictators.

Sharansky points out that Mr. Mubarak is no great man of peace. Indeed, since 1979, Egyptians’ “hatred toward Israel only grew.… Egypt became one of the world centers of anti-Semitism.” That’s because all dictators must cultivate external enemies in order to maintain their grip on power. So even when Mr. Mubarak “lost Israel as an enemy, he continued to need Jews as the enemy.”

Sharansky’s prescription is eminently sensible, if unlikely to be embraced in the U.S. Mubarak must go—lest hatred of Israel and America reach an even higher feverish pitch—and then, instead of focusing on an illusory “stability,” U.S. policy should link U.S. aid to measurable progress in Egypt’s development of free institutions.

Sharansky believes the White House pronouncements about Egypt are getting better – especially compared to President Obama’s disturbing silence about human rights or dissidents in Egyptian jails during his Cairo speech, and the administration’s truly bewildering and inexcusable silence during the 2009 uprising in Iran – which, unlike, Egypt, was actively hostile toward America and Israel.  It’s troubling to think the Obama administration is learning some basics on the job, but bearable if the trajectory is good.

My teenage son looks over my shoulder and says he has heard of Sharansky but can’t recall what he does. We talk about it briefly. We could all bear a little more familiarity with the voice of Natan Sharansky.

On the Tea Party, racists, and cynical “reports”

A new report called Tea Party Nationalism, backed by the NAACP, links the Tea Party with racists and extremists.  Amazing.  How pre-post-racial could we possibly be?  And when will liberals cease this preposterously lame narrative about right-wing racists?

I say this to liberals as a plea: yes, there are racists in America, but the impulse to find racists everywhere, and particularly among political opponents, horribly abuses the genuine dialogue we should be having about race, and woefully dilutes the very concept of racism in the minds of millions.

Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips says exactly, “here we go again.”

The report doesn’t actually conclude that the Tea Party is racist — though it will be used that way.  In fact, its opening sentence declares, “we know the majority of Tea Party supporters are sincere, principled people of good will.”

But it then discusses in alarmist terms the efforts of racists and extremists to “infiltrate” the Tea Party movement.  The logic is guilt by association, and the charge is to purge.

By that logic, which I have rejected, Barack Obama’s close friendship with William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, never mind Reverend Wright, condemns Obama as an America-hating violent radical leftist.  So which will it be?  Shall we play the guilt-by-association game, which liberals will lose badly, or stop the madness, and credit both the president and the Tea Party as “people of good will” without reference to their sinister associations?

The report notes that the NAACP unanimously passed a resolution “condemning outspoken racist elements within the Tea Party,” and repeated the outright lie “that members of the Congressional Black Caucus reported that racial epithets were hurled at them as they passed by a Washington, DC health care protest. Civil rights legend John Lewis was called the ‘n-word’ in the incident.”

This is shameful.  Repetition of this lie actually sets back race relations.  But the NAACP evidently cares about racial politics, not race relations.

Here’s what happened on March 20th, the day of the vote on ObamaCare.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several members of the Congressional Black Caucus did something extraordinary.  Rather than using their tunnel, as they routinely do, they chose a long walk through Tea Party protests.  Curious, isn’t it?  An interest in engagement perhaps?  No, not at all, no effort whatever to engage the protesters.  Why would they do this?  Could it be that they calculated that at least one lone nut would certainly go beyond the pale and give them a lovely sound bite for the evening news?

Did they get their wish?  A gush of suspiciously immediate media reports said yes — that “Tea party protesters scream ‘nigger’ at black congressman.” Despite the well-calculated odds that at least one lone nut would go beyond the pale (hence the immediate Republican apologies for even the possibility — a category of apology I’ve never seen from a liberal), in fact, there has yet to be a particle of proof, despite scores of video cameras and the offer of a $100,000 reward for any proof that such slurs occurred, that any protester used the n-word or any other slur.  The cynical ploy collapsed.

Yet the ploy persisted, in outrageous accusations by House Democrats like Steve Cohen (D-TN), who said Tea Party protesters lack only the white robes and hoods and compared their protests to Hitler’s Kristallnacht, and now in the NAACP-supported report about the Tea Party.

By this evidence, Democrats so desperately need racism that they are willing to manufacture it out of whole cloth and white robes.

But wait…

Obama is electable because he is a “light-skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

And just so you know, “if Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”

Those Republicans…

Actually, the first quote was from Harry Reid, the second from Geraldine Ferraro, while she was working on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.  Harry and Hillary both apologized.

But wait — angry thugs did beat up a black man at a health care rally.  But the victim was a conservative opposed to Obamacare, and one of his pro-Obamacare attackers yelled a racist slur.

The report professes to be concerned about certain anti-Semitic individuals infiltrating the Tea Party movement.  Really?  Has there been a report about Oliver Stone’s anti-Semitic ranting, about a leftist cursing a Holocaust survivor, about the vile 19th-century anti-Semitism taught to Palestinian children as a matter of official policy, about Louis Farrakhan’s angry “voice of black anti-Semitism,” or indeed, about the phenomenon of black anti-Semitism itself?  If the NAACP’s, and the left’s generally, concern about anti-Semitism is now genuine, then I am hopeful of imminent reports addressing leftist anti-Semitism, perhaps even right before the election.

And speaking of the opposite of anti-Semitism, why is it “racist” to compare Obama to Hitler, when leftists routinely called George Bush “Hitler” — typically with additional virulent disparagement?  Will there be a report?

Similarly, is comparing Obama to The Joker “racist” — when much uglier “Joker,” Osama bin Laden, satanic, and “Republicunt” images of George Bush and Sarah Palin were common?  Could we get that report?

Do I need to go on?  Can we stop this cynical use of race during an administration that is supposed to be post-racial?  Is it a wonder why ordinary Americans gets very weary of the crude cudgel of “racism” for every exception to liberal ideology, including, incredibly, Sarah Palin, Republican strength in the South, gay marriage, states rights, opposition to ObamaCare, opposition to Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, skepticism about the Henry Louis Gates incident, and even support for Israel (“They are on the side of Israel because Israel is — they don’t like Jews that much to start out with, either — but compared to Muslims, they like Jews fine.” !) — and Jimmy Carter telling us that any opposition to Obama is racist (but then backtracking and contradicting his own words)?

The race card persuades fewer and fewer people.  We should, we must, have an honest dialogue about race in America — and that honorable prospect becomes more remote as leftists perpetuate the canard that racism is uniquely epidemic among conservatives.

[At The Daily Caller.]

Hispanic Racists and Hispanic Winners

It’s a wonderful time to be Sanchez and racist.  First, there’s California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, trashing her Vietnamese-American Republican challenger, Van Tran, by insisting breathlessly in Spanish on Univision that “the Vietnamese and the Republicans are trying to take away this seat” — and adding, without a particle of support, that Tran is “very anti-immigrant and very anti-Latino.”  (Not to worry though, she supported Hillary in the primaries, and so Bill Clinton will be there to campaign for her.)

Then, there’s CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, just fired by CNN for anti-Semitic remarks.  After calling comedian Jon Stewart (born Jon Leibowitz) a “bigot,” who “grew up in a suburban middle class New Jersey home with everything you could ever imagine,” Sanchez sought to describe Jews in “context” (since Jon Stewart, as a Jew, is a minority):

Very powerless people… [snickers] He’s such a minority, I mean, you know– please, what are you kidding? — I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they — the people in this country who are Jewish — are an oppressed minority? Yeah.

Liberal Hispanics can be racist and stupid!  Who knew?!  Welcome to the human race.  Perhaps we can get beyond the notion that racism is a pathology peculiar to white conservatives.  And here’s another reality: not all Hispanics are liberal (or suckers for liberal racist pandering).

Hispanics cannot be taken for granted by Democrats to quite the same extent as African-Americans and Jews.  The Hispanic community has spawned a range of political orientation, conservative, moderate, and liberal, that doesn’t give rise to the condescending counting of a minority as a reliable Democratic party voter.

Certainly the strong lineup of Hispanic Republicans running for office this cycle suggest that Hispanics are an electoral force to be reckoned with — by both parties, and not taken for granted, despite racial pleas by liberal Hispanics.  The columnist Carl Rowan wrote a while back, “a minority group has ‘arrived’ only when it has the right to produce some fools and scoundrels without the entire group paying for it.”  Very true.  To which I would add, a minority group has become an electoral force of consequence when the entire group is not entirely predictable.  Only then do politicians speak to them as adults.

Part of the backlash now against President Obama — by tens of thousands of Americans who voted to elect this historic president and felt proud to be Americans in casting their votes and celebrating his victory — has to do with President Obama becoming a predictable liberal.  Had he truly been a centrist, and a post-partisan president, as he promised, had he truly been post-racial, as he promised, then much of the animus against him would never have materialized.  But the President has not been centrist, and has yet to seize upon a single moment to be post-racial, despite multiple opportunities.

In short, President Obama has become a predictably liberal African-American politician.  Before the shouting begins, let me explain.  It used to be that white (and any other ethnicity except African-) Americans would fairly predictably vote against a black candidate because he or she was black.  That is no longer true and has not been for a while.  To take only the most recent example — against a white, moderate war hero, Obama won a larger proportion of white votes than any previous non-incumbent Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Whites at the center and to the right of center voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Barack Obama in 2008 because of a promise.  Both candidates were outsiders with little experience who promised to be different and centrist.  Jimmy Carter was trounced by Ronald Reagan in 1980.  2012 is a long way away — but Barack Obama is poised to lose a commanding Democratic party majority in congress in 2010.

The majority of white people are not liberals.  None of these people dislike President Obama because he is black.  They dislike him because he is liberal, and he promised not to be.  Americans voted in this historic election believing they had elected an African-American centrist, a man who would vindicate both America’s diversity and pragmatism.

But President Obama ended up being predictably liberal — on health care, enormous bureaucratic expansion, government spending, labor, labor appointees, environment, energy, immigration, racial issues, voting rights, Supreme Court nominees, and an awkwardly excessive pro-Islam foreign (and occasionally domestic) policy.  Americans might elect an African-American Republican in the near future, but it will be a while before they trust an African-American Democrat — unless, of course, President Obama successfully triangulates against a Republican congress and recasts himself, convincingly, as the centrist and post-racial president he originally promised to be.

Hispanics are better situated.  Democrats take African-Americans and Jews for granted.  They cannot take Hispanics for granted.  Hispanics are much better situated to win non-gerrymandered general elections — because they are not predictably liberal.  Because of Hispanic political diversity, it is possible to be Hispanic, moderate (or conservative), and electable — in either party, but only because Hispanics have credibility in both parties.

I wish no political future for racists like Loretta or Rick Sanchez — but for Marco Rubio, Brian Sandoval, and Susana Martinez, Godspeed.

[UPDATE: See Linda Chavez’s October 8th column, Democrats can’t rely on Hispanics forever, in which she makes the sensible point that Hispanics rank education their number one priority, and every substantive education reform measure comes from Republicans.  Republicans should be undertaking outreach to Hispanics on issues like education.]

[UPDATE: Rick Sanchez apologizes, sort of.]

European Anti-Semitism versus Measuring European Anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism in Europe is a given — but the ways of measuring it are not.

The most recent survey of anti-Semitism in Europe by the Anti-Defamation League does not properly assess anti-Semitism.  The magnitude of anti-Semitism in Europe is alarming, according to the survey, and the magnitude of anti-Semitism in Europe is no doubt alarming — but not because the survey accurately measured it.

The survey covered Austria, France, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.  Respondents were asked whether or not they thought the following four statements were “probably true” or “probably false.”

1) Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country.

2) Jews have too much power in the business world.

3) Jews have too much power in international financial markets.

4) Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.

Respondents were also asked whether they agree or disagree with the statement that “Jews are responsible for the death of Christ.”

Finally, respondents were asked if their opinion of Jews was influenced by actions taken by the State of Israel and whether they believed the violence directed against European Jews was a result of anti-Jewish feelings or anti-Israel sentiment.

It is difficult to measure bigotry because bigots will hide their bigotry when surveyed.  The only possible way to account for bigots hiding bigotry is to ask indirect questions that assess less controversial attitudes.  The survey did not do this.  For example, the survey could ask “are you acquainted with any Jews?”  And then, if no, “would you wish to be?”  If yes they are acquainted with Jews, then the survey would assess attitudes toward these people.

The first question — “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country” — may or may not assess anti-Semitism.  A respondent answering “yes” may simply believe that Jews consider Israel the homeland for Jews, that it is a besieged homeland, and that preservation of that homeland is more important than any self-preservation issue confronting “this country.”  That respondent may or may not be anti-Semitic.  Moreover, a respondent answering “no” may well believe Jews are more loyal to “this country,” but still be anti-Semitic.

The second and third questions, concerning Jewish power in business and finance, test very tired stereotypes.  Indeed, one of the silliest notions about Jews is their disproportionate financial power.  An anti-Semitic respondent could easily answer “no,” simply because the notions are silly.  (The fact that over half the respondents in Hungary, Poland, and Spain nevertheless answered “yes” is pretty much all you need to know about European anti-Semitism.)

The fourth question — Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust — has little to do with anti-Semitism.  About the Holocaust, some Jews speak and some Jews are silent.  The person answering this question may live next to the Jew who is silent or who speaks.  There is no reliable measure of anti-Semitism from speaking, or not speaking, about the Holocaust.

The issue is Holocaust denial.  The survey should have nothing to do with “talking” about the Holocaust, and everything to do questioning the Holocaust.  “Jewish claims about the Holocaust are probably overstated,” for example.  Test that.  The very real modern indicia of anti-Semitism is Holocaust denial.

The fifth question — “Jews are responsible for the death of Christ” — is a frankly stupid question.  It surely touches upon a historical basis for anti-Semitism, but ineptly.

1. It begs the question, for some, whether there ever was a “Christ” (as opposed to a historical Jesus, or Yeshua bar-Josef).  Some will say “No,” simply because they object to the term “Christ,” even though they might be anti-Semitic for other reasons.

2. Strictly speaking, according to the Biblical narrative, certain Jews were responsible for persuading Pontius Pilate to order the death of Jesus.  Thus, some who are not anti-Semitic in any respect and may be ardent supporters of Israel may answer “Yes” to this question based upon fidelity to their scriptural text.

3. For many Christians, of course, “Christ” did not die, or stay dead.  Some may therefore answer “No” simply because they object to the notion that “Christ” (as opposed to Jesus) ever died.  They may or may not be anti-Semitic.

In probing anti-Semitism, the question is not whether Jews were responsible for the death of Christ, but whether “Jews are appropriately to blame for being Christ-killers.”  This framing tests modern attitudes about collective guilt for deicide.  It wouldn’t do to ask whether Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus, because according to the dominant Christian narrative, yes, certain Jews were.  It is not anti-Semitic to say that certain Jews persuaded Pontius Pilate to order the crucifixion of Jesus (and that certain Jews objected, that certain Jews were horrified, that certain Jews were disciples and many others loyal to Jesus, etc.).

The sixth and final question concerns Israel and Jews — and gives any bigot an obvious out to blame hostility toward Jews on Israel.  This query gets the real question precisely backwards.  Hostility toward Israel is sometimes anti-Semitic.  It might be useful to probe that question, but it is not useful to ask whether violence against Jews has more to do with Jews or Israel.

We can be confident, unfortunately, that anti-Semitism in Europe is robust.  We cannot be confident that it has been measured well.

While we’re on this popular subject of hate…

Part of the problem is the hatred of hate.  Too many people hate hate, see it too frequently, and plunge into their own protracted virulent hatred of “hate” and alleged “hatemongers.”

I have felt hatred at times in my life.  I’ve never hated my hatred – just found it impossible to sustain beyond a brief indulgence.  And I’ve never hated anyone else’s hate – just found it perplexing.  Actual hatred is an emotional black hole.  I honestly don’t know how people perpetuate it without growing tumors the size of baseballs.  In fact, I suspect that actual protracted hate might be physiologically impossible, or at least very rare.  What instead occurs might be a kind of tepid surrogate “hate” that secures an important psychic benefit: the definition of oneself in opposition to the hated abstract “other.”

It’s not really “hate” so much as a kind of comforting pseudo-hatred that has much more to do with negative-self-mythology (what I am absolutely categorically not) than with any actual external reality of the hated object.

Sadly, of course, hate – and hating hate – suffocates inquiry.  The paramount project for the hater and the hater of hate is self-definition.  I am so not this hateful other. The psychic benefit thus secured, any further exploration actually threatens the paramount project.  Exploring the real-world nuance and ambiguity of the object of hatred undermines the comfortable self-definition in opposition to the object of hatred.

For example, the person who hates the “racists” who oppose the mosque near Ground Zero is typically refusing any actual inquiry into the nuanced dialogue concerning the proposed mosque.  The paramount project is the hater’s reinforcement of his or her self-image as a zealous opponent of “racism.”  If any particular object of that hatred were not in fact racist, then the hater of hate loses a psychic benefit, surrenders a comforting source of his or her negative self-mythology.  “They must be racists” – not really because any inquiry has occurred that would warrant that conclusion objectively, but because “I need them to be racists for me to feel energized by my righteous opposition to racism.”

Consider this disturbing exchange at a protest of the mosque near Ground Zero, where an enraged man repeatedly cursed and insulted an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor – including this unconscionable “explanation” of his rant after the fact: “he obviously didn’t learn his lesson … because right now he wants to do the same g–d— f— thing to the Moslems that had to happen to him.”

Watch the video.  Quite apart from the merits of the spirited debate about the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, we can agree that hatred, including quite vile and irrational hatred, is not the exclusive province of the right or opponents of the mosque.

My recent focus on leftist hatred, on the cynical rush to characterize mosque opponents (or proponents of the Arizona immigration law) as “racists,” and on the concept of tolerance reciprocity has been precisely to challenge the leftist narrative that “hatred” is a defining feature of the right.  Too many leftists indulge racial politics at its worst by using racism to shut down any rational discussion and to consign their opponents to unredeemable illegitimacy.

There is racism in America – but not in the proportions shouted at us by anti-racist haters.  There is Islamophobia in America – but not in the proportions shouted at us by anti-racist haters.  As a people, we do not condone actual racism.  In fact, we are less tolerant of it, given our amazing diversity, than any people anywhere else.  The racism in virtually every other country dwarfs our own.  In most Muslim countries, shocking anti-Semitism is state policy and incorporated into educational texts.  America has been an enlightened beacon by comparison.  Why is this not a cause to celebrate our American culture?  Why does dialogue routinely deteriorate into simplistic condemnation of American “racism”?

On this critical issue of dialogue in America – dialogue that should persist constructively beyond the pernicious trump card of easy “racism” smears – we have urgently needed President Obama’s promised post-racial leadership.  But he has been so sadly silent.

 

UPDATE Aug. 28, 2010: In his latest column, Charles Krauthammer ably summarizes the concern that has animated several of my posts: the abortion of dialogue when conservatives and moderates are recklessly dismissed as bigots.  From the column:

Promiscuous charges of bigotry are precisely how our current rulers and their vast media auxiliary react to an obstreperous citizenry that insists on incorrect thinking.

– Resistance to the vast expansion of government power, intrusiveness and debt, as represented by the Tea Party movement? Why, racist resentment toward a black president.

– Disgust and alarm with the federal government’s unwillingness to curb illegal immigration, as crystallized in the Arizona law? Nativism.

– Opposition to the most radical redefinition of marriage in human history, as expressed in Proposition 8 in California? Homophobia.

– Opposition to a 15-story Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero? Islamophobia.

Krauthammer’s tone is a touch more triumphant than I feel, but his trenchant style is worth the read.

Israel, the Double Standard, and Power

The United Nations refuses to condemn North Korea for deliberately sinking a South Korean ship and killing 46 South Koreans, but erupts, along with the rest of the European and American Left, over Israel killing nine people who attacked Israeli commandoes.

33 of the most recent 40 resolutions passed by the United Nations Human Rights Council have condemned Israel.  Current member states include Cuba, Libya, and Saudi Arabia.

Syria (!) declares publicly that “Israel is a state based upon crime, slaughter,” and Hugo Chavez (!) denounces Israel as a “genocidal” state.

Israel takes some Darfur refugees, but not all, and is condemned, while Egypt sends them back to Sudan, without comment.

The United States and Russia achieve multiple targeted killings of terrorists, without comment (or indeed celebration), but Israel, upon whom the targeted terrorists have inflicted the most slaughter, targets terrorists and the world erupts.

The mainstream media (AP) provides a helpful list of all terrorist incidents that have occurred globally — but excludes any terrorist incident directed at Israel.

Israeli leaders cannot go safely into some European countries for fear of being arrested for war crimes under the faux-doctrine of “universal jurisdiction,” while children-targeting murderers such as Hamas face no such international reproach.

Leftist filmmakers, writers and actors abuse their celebrity to try to coerce the Toronto International Film Festival into banning Israeli films — though Israel has by far the most robust free press and free speech standard of any country in the Middle East, and these celebrities have nothing to say about Saudi Arabia, which prohibits movie theaters, or Iran, which issues death-dealing fatwas against artists insufficiently respectful of Islam.

What’s going on?

Not having been born Jewish, and therefore perhaps less sensitive to the easy hatred of Jews in many cultural narratives, the explanation of anti-Semitism doesn’t satisfy me.  Though at times anti-Semitism has seemed the only explanation left, it doesn’t satisfy me because the Left — and that is where the bulk of anti-Israel sentiment now resides — simply does not rally around disgust at a nation based upon its minority ethnicity.  Call the Left what you will — racially opportunistic (overplaying the race card), racially profligate (every modern conservative notion can be explained by racism), racially condescending (“those racists in the South”), racially hypocritical (“loves the black race, hates the black man”) — the Left is not simplistically “racist” in the traditional sense of that term and would not be at a bigoted war with Israel simply because it is populated by Jews.

Something else is going on.

It is, I believe, because there is a place, in the middle of Dar al-Islam, where Jews are powerful — or more precisely, powerful vis-a-vis Muslims.  It is the power dynamic that disturbs the Leftists.  For which we need some background.

The Left has long made a fetish of power and its illegitimacy, its cynical perpetuation, its deconstruction.  Power is always a proper target because it has almost always, in the Leftist narrative, acquired its status by means of the other Leftist fetish: oppression.  Once the Left identifies “oppression” — and very few historical occupants of superior political, economic, military, or cultural position (meaning Western cultures) are exempt from the charge of “oppression” — the Leftist sensibility reflexively defines itself in opposition to this oppression.

In the Leftist lexicon, the oppositional defining force is “liberation.”  Watch carefully how this word is used throughout world revolutionary, protest, and left-despotic history.  In human history, we have yet to witness a successful Leftist “liberation” that resulted in more freedom for its people — or even less slaughter and repression.  To be sure, there have been successful (usually short-term) movements from right or center-right to center-left — but never a full-fledged Leftist liberation that resulted in anything other than, ironically, greater oppression, and typically greater slaughter.

Yet the Left routinely uses “liberation” as a semantic device to justify the opposite of whatever virtue it purports to promote.  “Liberation” means liberation into what you are not now and what you must become (emphasis upon must), because it defeats the European oppressor and is therefore ordained.  And thus has the Left reconciled the remarkable cognitive dissonance of selectively opposing some oppression and winking at abundant other oppression.

The best example is Leftist hero and cultural Marxist Herbert Marcuse, whose 1965 essay Repressive Tolerance had a profound impact upon Leftist ideology and academia.  Therein, Marcuse wrote, “liberating tolerance” would consist of “intolerance against movements from the Right, and toleration of movements from the Left.” Marcuse advocated “the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements which promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of public services, social security, medical care, etc.” After all, Marcuse concluded — with unapologetic hostility to the “sacred liberalistic principle of equality for ‘the other side,'” —  “there are issues where … there is no ‘other side’ in any more than a formalistic sense.”

In short, Herbert Marcuse made it bizarrely fashionable in some parts of America, chiefly academe, to be intolerant of any tolerance extended to conservative (or arguably moderate) thinking.  The phrase, “scratch a liberal, find a fascist” comes to mind, for what is more disturbing than a liberal decrying the “liberal principle of equality” by maintaining that there really isn’t anything “equal” to our ideas because any disagreeable idea doesn’t even deserve the status of legitimate idea?

Herbert Marcuse therefore gave the Left a language to oppose Israel, to turn facts on their heads, to oppose, as not even deserving the status of ideas, the Israeli claim to the right to exist.

How could this be?  How could any American embrace not merely disagreement, not even violent disagreement, but disqualification from that which we even need bother disagreeing because the contrary notion doesn’t even qualify as a debatable idea?

Part of the answer lies in very different European cultural traditions (which still manifests regrettably in American politics as European sycophantism).

The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 acknowledged across Europe, in the interest of ending religious wars, that each prince would have the right to determine the religion of his own state (among Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism), and that adherents of religions (Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism) other than the state religion were guaranteed the right to practice their religion.  Importantly, in the interest of ending the horrible bloodshed of religious wars, the principle of inviolable national sovereignty emerged — the principle that a king next door could institute something thoroughly obnoxious to me, and I would have no legitimate cause to object, at least not militarily, so long as the noxious decree dwelt within his own borders.

Obviously the Treaty of Westphalia did not put an end to European wars — but it did ensconce in the European sensibility a steadfast belief in national sovereignty — it being agreed that there could never be a universal agreement on how states should conduct themselves.  And as long as states were not predatory — did not invade other sovereign states — then what they did within their borders could never be a legitimate cause of war.  This was an easy conclusion in Europe because there could be so many reasons to war with another country based upon what it did outside its borders.  Carve out, at least, as no longer legitimate casus belli, whatever happened inside sovereign borders.

Thus was it excruciating for Europe to come to grips with genocide in the 20th and 21st centuries — as long as the genocide occurred within sovereign borders. Hitler’s genocide was different because it was pan-European and driven by invasion and occupation of multiple sovereign countries.  What began as ambiguous score-settling among Serbs, Bosnians, and Croats — based upon the latter two’s Muslim alliance with Nazis in World War II and including Croatian modern revival of certain Nazi symbols — morphed into Serbian slaughter on a genocidal scale (significant events of which remain disputed).  Europe dithered.  The United States, spurred by a Republican Congress, said no, and bombed the Serbs to the bargaining table (without the backing of the UN Security Council).

It was not an easy call.  Except that it was.  Whatever the origin of Serbian fury, it could never justify mass slaughter of innocents.  Europe couldn’t quite get there because it all occurred within what had been the sovereign borders of Yugoslavia.  America had no such compunction because mass slaughter of innocents is wrong wherever it occurs.  America dithered longer than it should have — President Clinton was not comfortable with any American military projection — but bombing seemed a sufficiently safe and distant projection of American military power.  Not surprisingly, China condemned America for imperialistic determination to control Eastern Europe.

America may say, respectfully, to Europe, we understand your Westphalian grounding. We understand your reluctance to conclude that anything happening within the sovereign borders of another country is unacceptable.  We understand that you fear where this analysis may take you internally, as Europe, and how it resurrects centuries-old European demons.  But we, America, are not so constricted.  Objecting to something manifestly evil within sovereign borders does not take us to a dangerous place.  We have never been territorially imperialistic and the wars we have fought have never been about taking over countries or expanding anything like an actual American empire.  We can fight against something because it is evil without desiring that the population of the place submit to American dictate indefinitely.

In this role, America performs a tremendous service to Europe.  Individual European countries cannot countenance aggression against a particular country, however evil and even though its conduct inside its borders is hideous, because there is no European cultural principle necessarily thwarting opportunistic aggression.  Once the genie is out of the bottle…  (Interestingly, it is European countries who have no history of opportunistic aggression, such as Finland, who see the double-standard, and react rationally.)

America, on the other hand, has a rich and textured cultural tradition against opportunistic aggression.  To wit, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War (even if we had won it), the first Iraq war, the Afghanistan war, and the second Iraq war have not produced a single square inch of American territory, and never will — and in each of these wars, the enemy was a bigoted despot that oppressed his people and oppressed or threatened to oppress other people, often genocidally.

The Westphalian principle may aptly hold Europe together — but it is no model for America.  The fact that Europeans understandably cannot do what is necessary for fear of unleashing European demons does not mean that America cannot do what is right.

With respect to Israel, the Westphalian principle should have accorded Israel full sovereignty, and thus absolute, respectful non-interference.  Indeed, given that every square millimeter of tiny Israel was either conferred upon it by international blessing, or won in wars of unprincipled aggression launched against it, the Westphalian principle would seem to dictate respect for Israeli sovereignty and non-interference with respect to Israeli decisions within its borders.

Israel did not “invade” and conquer its territory.  Israel was created by international consensus because Jews had a homeland there stretching back thousands of years — and painfully obviously, no homeland in Europe where they had been genocidally murdered, and no homeland in any Middle Eastern country, from where they had been brutally expelled. Israel did not expand its territory by invasion, but acquired additional territory in the course of wars of extinction waged against it — and held some, but not all (e.g., Sinai), of this territory defensively.

Israel, unfortunately for its international status, prevailed.

Co-opted by the predominant European Left, the Westphalian principle in Europe got turned on its head and serviced the following counter-historical propositions: (1) Israel is part of Arab Palestine (though there is not and has never been any such entity) and thus subject to whatever Arab aggression therein occurs, with which one cannot properly interfere; and/or, in more fawning interpretations, (2) Europeans, out of European guilt, carved out Israel in the middle of Dar al-Islam, and Israel is therefore in fact an illegitimate colonial state within Dar al-Islam (notwithstanding the steady presence of a substantial Jewish population for thousands of years in what was indisputably the Jewish/Israelite homeland, and the absence of any corresponding “Palestinian” state, nation, or homeland).

Thus, coming full circle to Marcuse, the Westphalian principle is fatally subject and subordinate to the principle of leftist anti-power politics — the opposition to any “European” winner, any European power, that can be stretched into role of oppressor.  This distorted Westphalian-Marcusean thinking, therefore, gives cover to European countries with substantial and growing Muslim populations to oppose Israeli “oppression” and favor Muslim “liberation.”

In this paradigm, if Israel ceased to win, if Israel got a little bit, but not totally, slaughtered, one can imagine Europe getting preachy against the slaughter of Israel.  Can’t have mass murder of Jews happen again.

But unlike Europe, Israel does not have the philosophical luxury of permitting partial slaughter, gaining world opinion, and then averting total slaughter. Too many actual human beings die.  But more importantly, the effort at partial slaughter is in fact the effort at total slaughter, and Israel must vigorously oppose both — as would any other nation.

It is evidently unfortunate, for Israel’s world stature, that it is powerful.  It is necessary, for Israel’s survival, that it is powerful.

[Also published at The Daily Caller.]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 42 other followers