I don’t know how you all reacted to my previous post, “Left, Right and Centre”. Thanks to Geoff Boner for his insights into the historical background to the recent election voting pattern and also to others who commented to me on e-mail. But please folk, if you have something to say comment on the blog where everyone can see it.
Let’s revisit this debate by starting with the powerful piece by Amos Oz. He is a great Israeli, a wonderful author and persuasive polemicist – and I profoundly disagree with him. What did he say?
He argued that if Israel doesn’t create two states now there will be one state: first one run by fanatical, dictatorial Jews and then one run by fanatical, dictatorial Arabs, though he doesn’t quite say it that way. He believes that it is in Israel’s power to create the reality of two states through negotiation because it is a “propitious” moment right now. Why so? Because the Arabs are more frightened of Iran than concerned about the presence of Zionist Jews in a patch of land called Israel.
The problem is that these assertions, made with the full persuasive power and confidence of an accomplished writer, remain simply speculations at best and fantasies at worst. The stark factual reality is the entire Arab world is in an immense state of flux. The most obvious signs are the murderous internecine conflicts of the region which are setting new standards in modern barbarity. The convulsions wracking the entire Arab-Muslim world are sending tsunamis of anarchic violence allied to fanatical ideologies in all directions reaching as far afield as Scandinavia, Europe and the USA.
Besides the religious-political turmoil, the entire region is a bubbling cauldron of water insufficiency, burgeoning populations, technological backwardness, corrupt and tyrannical governance, tribalism, and cultural dissonance between rural-traditional and urban-educated communities. Israel sits in the midst of this perfect storm. In this context, the hierarchy of ethical imperatives would surely put survival at the top, preferably with humanity and integrity intact but survival at the core.
Oz recognises this of course, but by his overwrought focus on a “solution” he undermines the Israeli ability to negotiate a secure peace with the Palestinians (and their Western-Muslim handlers and enablers). Any suggestion that Israel “needs” a solution more than they do, will simply reinvigorate the maximalist and eliminationist advocates beneath the Palestinian umbrella. That is why Obama is perceived as so harmful, not only to Israel but to any prospect of peace in the region.
The besetting sin of modern liberals (and, to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, let’s call him a liberal) is to underestimate the importance of power and the intractable violence of anarchy. Yeats said it better than anyone else
“ Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed…”
Conservatives (who have sins of their own) understand this instinctively and it comes (or should come) with age and experience. Oz really does grasp this, hence his recognition that Israeli fears are justified, but in the end this vital insight is clouded by his visceral dislike of conservative patterns of perception and thought. Netanyahu is indeed a cautious, tough-minded, maddening leader, immune to both Utopian dreams of a final solution whether from the left or right. What he needs perhaps are people who talk his language but are more creative and innovative in exploring the space of possibility within which Israel operates. Israel needs a left-wing but a left which is not obsessed by a visceral hatred of rightists and not so immersed in Utopian fantasies that they hand the gun to the wannabe murderer. Along these lines see the ultimate in destructive wish-fulfilment at this site.
It is bad enough that this an invited speaker should make such an absurd statement at an important Jewish gathering, but the fact that she garnered substantial applause from the audience points to the hypocrisy and intellectual inadequacy of the J-Street movement. What a sad failure of an important segment of American Jewry to rise above knee-jerk partisanship to seriously engage with the immense dilemmas facing their kin on the front lines. Like America under Obama, they are forfeiting their claim to serious leadership in a world beset with murderous anarchy allied to fanatical and primitive creeds; and we will all suffer for it.