[Marxism] Hand-wringers and hypocrites

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Wed Aug 9 08:55:07 MDT 2006

Red State Jews
Wall Street Journal
August 9, 2006; Page A10

This is a soul-searching moment for the Jewish left. Actually, for many
Jewish liberals, navigating the gloomy politics of the Middle East is like
walking with two left feet.

I would know. For six years I was the literary editor of Tikkun magazine, a
leading voice for progressive Jewish politics that never avoided subjecting
Israel to moral scrutiny. I also teach human rights at a Jesuit university,
imparting the lessons of reciprocal grievances and the moral necessity to
regard all people with dignity and mutual respect. And I am deeply sensitive
to Palestinian pain, and mortified when innocent civilians are used as human
shields and then cynically martyred as casualties of war.

Yet, since 9/11 and the second intifada, where suicide bombings and
beheadings have become the calling cards of Arab diplomacy, and with Hamas
and Hezbollah emerging as elected entities that, paradoxically, reject the
first principles of liberal democracy, I feel a great deal of moral anguish.
Perhaps I have been naïve all along.

And I am not alone. Many Jews are in my position -- the children and
grandchildren of labor leaders, socialists, pacifists, humanitarians,
antiwar protestors -- instinctively leaning left, rejecting war, unwilling
to demonize, and insisting that violence only breeds more violence. Most of
all we share the profound belief that killing, humiliation and the
infliction of unnecessary pain are not Jewish attributes.

However, the world as we know it today -- post-Holocaust, post-9/11,
post-sanity -- is not cooperating. Given the realities of the new Middle
East, perhaps it is time for a reality check. For this reason, many Jewish
liberals are surrendering to the mindset that there are no solutions other
than to allow Israel to defend itself -- with whatever means necessary.
Unfortunately, the inevitability of Israel coincides with the inevitability
of anti-Semitism.

This is what more politically conservative Jews and hardcore Zionists
maintained from the outset. And it was this nightmare that the Jewish left
always refused to imagine. So we lay awake at night, afraid to sleep. Surely
the Arabs were tired, too. Surely they would want to improve their societies
and educate their children rather than strap bombs on to them.

If the Palestinians didn't want that for themselves, if building a nation
was not their priority, then peace in exchange for territories was nothing
but a pipe dream. It was all wish-fulfillment, morally and practically
necessary, yet ultimately motivated by a weary Israeli society -- the harsh
reality of Arab animus, the spiritual toll that the occupation had taken on
a Jewish state battered by negative world opinion.

Despite the deep cynicism, however, Israel knew that it must try. It would
have to set aside nearly 60 years of hard-won experience, starting from the
very first days of its independence, and believe that the Arab world had
softened, would become more welcoming neighbors, and would stop chanting:
"Not in our backyard -- the Middle East is for Arabs only."

It is true that Israel has entered into peace agreements with Egypt and
Jordan that have brought some measure of historic stability to the region.
But with Israel having withdrawn from Lebanon and Gaza, and with Israeli
public opinion virtually united in favor of near-total withdrawal from the
West Bank, why are rockets being launched at Israel now, why are their
soldiers being kidnapped if the aspirations of the Palestinian people, and
the intentions of Hamas and Hezbollah, stand for something other than the
total destruction of Israel? And if Palestinians and the Lebanese are
electing terrorists and giving them the portfolio of statesmen, then what
message is being sent to moderate voices, what incentives are there to
negotiate, and how can any of this sobering news be recast in a more
favorable light?

The Jewish left is now in shambles. Peace Now advocates have lost their
momentum, and, in some sense, their moral clarity. Opinion polls in Israel
are showing near unanimous support for stronger incursions into Lebanon. And
until kidnapped soldiers are returned and acts of terror curtailed, any
further conversations about the future of the West Bank have been set aside.

Not unlike the deep divisions between the values of red- and blue-state
America, world Jewry is being forced to reconsider all of its underlying
assumptions about peace in the Middle East. The recent disastrous events in
Lebanon and Gaza have inadvertently created a newly united Jewish
consciousness -- bringing right and left together into one deeply cynical
red state.

Mr. Rosenbaum, a novelist and professor at Fordham Law School, is author,
most recently, of "The Myth of Moral Justice" (HarperCollins, 2004).

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