Paul Berman on Israel/Gaza

A very good interview at Z Word:

…The comparison to the Nazis began to emerge in the 1970s in Western Europe and also in the Arab world, and by now it is pretty much everywhere you look.
It’s a remarkable comparison in all kinds of ways, but I’ll point out just one aspect. The Nazis are generally regarded as the worst, most evil political movement in all of history – a political movement that not only committed crimes but stood for the principle of crime. By comparing Israel to the Nazis, people mean to suggest that Israel is likewise one of the worst, most evil political institutions that could possibly exist. The accusation is cosmically huge. And the cosmically huge accusation makes perfect sense – if you keep in mind the venerable idea that the Jews stand in the way of mankind’s achievement of a perfected system of universal justice and happiness.
From the standpoint of the venerable idea, Israel’s problems with its borders and its neighbors do not resemble the difficulties that other states have with their own borders and neighbors. There is no point in making statistical comparisons – the comparisons that might show how many people have been killed in Israel’s wars, or how many people have been displaced from their homes by Israel, compared to the number of people killed and displaced by other wars and other states around the world. The statistics, if you looked at them, would reflect the fact that Israel is a small place, and its borders none too large, and its wars and disasters are not among the hugest that have taken place in the last sixty years, or even the last six years.
[…]
I’m enthused by Obama. And, in my enthusiasm, I find myself thinking: this election has been the most inspiring event in American history. The American Revolution was inspiring, and the Civil War and Lincoln likewise, and Franklin Roosevelt and the victory over fascism, and all that – inspiring events because they signaled big forward steps for democracy. But there has always been something wrong with America, and the claim to be democratic has always contained an extra clause. And so, each of those big successes in the American past has been accompanied by a small, unobtrusive asterisk, which leads your eye to the bottom of the page, where you find the extra clause, which says: “Democracy is fine and good for most people, and yet, for various unfortunate reasons, one part of the American population is hereby excluded.” The asterisk has meant that America is living a lie. Even at America’s grandest moments. But no longer! Not on this one point, anyway. The election just now is the first large event in American history that can be recorded without an asterisk.
[T]his election has been the most inspiring event in American history
The old-fashioned antisemitic right-wing is completely on the outs, for now. As for the anti-Zionist left in America: The Nation magazine, the Answer movement, the professors who want to boycott Israel (now, that’s an interesting phenomenon!) – these kinds of tendencies are pretty marginal, in America. The views of The Nation magazine on the Middle East are represented in the degree of about five percent in the Obama administration. We have every reason to believe that President Obama will be totally sympathetic to Israel’s principle policy, namely, the policy of continuing to exist. I don’t know everything that Obama will do – but he won’t adopt his measures on the basis of an unstated antipathy to Israel.
Now, if the new administration were capable of taking a wider view of the problem in the Middle East than the Israelis themselves are sometimes capable of taking – would that be bad? It’s good that Obama has expressed a compassion for the Israelis who have lately suffered – but also for the Palestinians.

On the Israel file, Obama’s record so far is decidedly mixed. I’m relieved to see he will not participate in Durban II, but the appointment of Saudi shill Chas Freeman to chair the National Council of Intelligence is worrisome, to put it mildly.
Damian P.

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5 thoughts on “Paul Berman on Israel/Gaza

  1. “Obama has expressed a compassion for the Israelis who have lately suffered”
    I’ve been watching and I’d be interested to know what that suffering would be. Their casualties have been very light.

  2. Pengun
    Israeli casualties have been light because Israel has built bunkers throughout the south so that its people can protect themselves against the daily rockets fired at them by Palestinian terrorists (8,000+ and counting). As a result, most rockets fail to kill the children they are meant to kill (so far, 90 schools have been hit and 20% of the population in Sderot is being treated for psychological problems as a result of the constant existential threat and bombing).
    The difference here of course is that Palestinians put their women and children in the line of fire (by firing the rockets from schools, hospitals and homes) to maximize casualties and gain sympathy from “useful idiots” throughout the world.

  3. Thanks for the interesting post.
    I agree that the decision to withdraw from Durban II was a correct one and would argue as I did on my own blog (www.buckeach.blogspot.com) that I think the US handling of Durban has been quite good. They appear to have made a real effort at engagement and dialogue and backed out when their options had been exhausted.
    As for the Freeman appointment. Well, his previously stated views and affiliations do give pause, but every time I hear such a concern I am reminded of Rahm Emmanuel and the highly influental position he holds. That always reassures me.

  4. “I’ve been watching and I’d be interested to know what that suffering would be. Their casualties have been very light.”
    They would have suffered more if they had not put up a wall to keep the murderers out, and also they tend not to use their populations as humans shields.

  5. “They would have suffered more if they had not put up a wall to keep the murderers out”
    I wonder why they need that wall there? Oh right, I forgot, Palestinians are all evil murderers, and Israel is pure and perfect.
    Wow, even I’m getting bored of hanging around here.

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