Monday, October 12, 2015

Blogging about Israel

Quite some time ago a comment showed up for moderation, which I did not moderate. It was creepy in a variety of ways. But one thing that it contained was the question, "Why do you blog so much about Israel?" Well, I had to wonder if that particular reader had a problem with his vision, since all of my posts under the "Israel" label were even by that time rather old. Yes, there are quite a few of them, but my blogging interests had already moved to other topics by that time, as blogging interests have a way of doing, sometimes randomly. But it nonetheless really bugged this commentator that I would have so many pro-Israel posts. No doubt he wanted to do some kind of psychoanalysis on me. Both the creepy left and the creepy right tend towards psychoanalysis of their opponents. It's one way of avoiding replying to content.

I get a lot of my news about Israel from this interesting (yes, far-right) blog by Carl in Jerusalem. I find the news so often so depressing that I don't read Carl as much as I used to. Plus, he does more on Twitter now, and I don't follow Twitter. But it's still useful to keep up.

Here's the thing: What both the anti-Israel left and the anti-Israel right don't realize is that it's possible to be pro-Israel, or even to the right of pro-Israel (that is to say, annoyed with Israel's leaders when they don't defend their people enough or when they enter into the zombie-like fake "peace process") without romanticizing. I am not under the illusion, for example, that I would "fit in" in Israel or that the bulk of Israelis are "my kind of people." For example, I am well aware of the fact that the country has a socialist economy and that its government contains many anti-religious, left-wing secularists. That creates an internal dynamic to Israeli politics that is all too familiar to me as an American conservative. Just as many people in power in America would hate me as a scary "religious conservative," so would many people in power in Israel. But that doesn't mean that the Haredi or "ultra-conservatives" would be my dear buddies, either, even though I often agree with their perspective on their internal politics and on the realities of "Palestinian" terrorism and other topics. See, I believe that Christians should be free to evangelize, yes, even in Israel where doing so is "insensitive," not to mention illegal. The nicer ultra-orthodox would use the power of law to suppress such evangelism. The less nice would try to stone Christian missionaries if they carried out, e.g., street preaching.

I also realize that Israel has very liberal abortion laws and an out-of-control Supreme Court. And they foolishly have no death penalty (again, the result of being founded by a bunch of earnest, secular socialists), which means that they have all these warehoused terrorists sitting around in prison who should have been fertilizing the ground long ago. When misguided leaders later want to trade scores of evil terrorists for a kidnapped soldier, why, there the evil terrorists are, waiting to be traded! Which provides a perverse incentive for more evil terrorists to kidnap more Israeli soldiers. It's enough to make any sensible conservative want to tear out his hair.

But the reader who follows such matters will have noticed by now that even these complaints are not the usual complaints against Israel, whether from the anti-Israel American right or the anti-Israel American left. I didn't say that they love to kill "Palestinian" children. I didn't say that they are wicked colonial occupiers. I didn't say that the so-called "settlements" are an offense against justice and right. I didn't say that Israel "stole" the land.

That's because I think that all of those things are false. So I have ended up being hard-line pro-Israel not because I have no criticisms. Nor is my reasoning that "God gave them the land, so we have to support them." I never make such religious, premillenial Christian arguments myself. Nor do I look at Israel through a romantic haze. Rather, I think that for all its faults Israel is a good regional ally for the U.S. (though it has often been badly treated by the U.S.), shares important political perspectives and goals, and that it is madness to try to turn any more of that sliver of the Middle East back over to murderous Arabs. Indeed, if anything could have shown that, the disastrous case study of the Gaza strip should have done so for all the world to see. That the world doesn't see means that the world is deaf and blind and would, in fact, prefer that the entire nation of Israel commit hari kari in the name of crazily abstract principles combined with a false historical narrative. And again and again the lies and falsehoods come up, combined with suppression of facts. For example, how much do most Americans know about rock attacks by "Palestinians," sometimes "teens," that kill ordinary Israeli Jews just trying to drive down the road and go about their business? Not much, I'll warrant. So my fundamental sense of fair play is moved to note these things and take the side that I think is most aligned with truth and accuracy. I have realized which group wants to get on with the business of living normal lives and taking care of themselves and which group(s) want nothing but destruction, not even desiring to rule themselves in a constructive, peaceful fashion. Once one has really noticed that, it's difficult to have any sympathy anymore for the "Palestinian" cause.

At the same time, I am often weary. Who wouldn't be, even looking at the situation from a distance? It's hard to deal with what is in essence an intractable socio-political situation. The "Palestinians" have no reasonable plan. They want Israel destroyed "from the river to the sea." Most Israelis would love to work out some form of peaceful coexistence with their neighbors, but that isn't what their neighbors want. So the situation has to go on indefinitely. Our American rulers consistently pressure Israel to harm its own people, overlook even rocket attacks on its borders, and engage in foolish negotiations. Indeed, Republican Presidents have been some of the worst offenders. George W. Bush arguably did more harm to his Israeli ally than Barack Obama, because he was allegedly Israel's friend, so there was a motive to let Condoleeza Rice micromanage such internal matters as how many building permits were written for East Jerusalem. Which is crazy. At least with Obama they know they are dealing with an enemy. But the spectacle of the Middle East is rarely an edifying one, and after a while I feel as though (as with many topics) I have said all that there is to be said, which is why I rarely blog about Israel nowadays.

My attention was partly drawn to the subject again by the recent flareups of rocket attacks and terrorist attacks and also by someone's posting (apparently with approval) this silly story on Facebook about a babyish, potty-mouthed "Palestinian American" academic, specializing in victimology, who is trying to make a killing in the grievance market because he wasn't given an enviable job. His hiring was shot down when his virulent, f-bomb-filled rants against Israel on Twitter were brought to light. Poor baby. The sympathetic post is notably coy about his "controversial" tweets. The AAUP, which is of course completely on his side, nonetheless does include some of them in an appendix  here. Needless to say, they make it clear why he wasn't considered a good candidate for a full-time job teaching the young in the world of higher education. Not that his "work" is any better.

Oh, in happier news, oil has been discovered on the Golan Heights on the Israeli side. Good thing it wasn't given back to Syria in an act of mindless, unilateral niceness. As Carl in Jerusalem muses, one wonders if there is also oil on the Syrian side. But they'd have to stop shooting to find out.

So that's what it means for me to blog about Israel. And now I'll probably go back to not doing so for awhile, because the subject depresses me. But when I do, that's where I will be coming from.


John said...

Someone has to love the object of endless hate.

John said...

I have to share a story, just read, of an Israeli café owner who is offering a 50 percent discount to Jews and Arabs who dine together at the same table. It seems many who choose to do so are also insisting on paying full price in support of the owner's efforts. Blessed are the peacemakers! The owner has more results to show than decades worth of politicians.

Anonymous said...

I guess the real issue is that you spend a lot of time complaining about anti-semitism when you're not even a semite. It makes you look ridiculous and spineless.

Lydia McGrew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lydia McGrew said...

f you're the same "anonymous" that posted a different comment, I'm not moderating it through, because one of the nice things about full moderation is that it enables one to save time. It's a wonderfully freeing feeling. Still harping on the U.S.S. Liberty, for crying out loud. There's lots I don't know about foreign policy, but the things the folk like you "know that aren't so" outweigh my foreign affairs ignorance by several metric tons.

In any event, your most recent can be answered swiftly: I spend virtually no time complaining about anti-semitism. I can't remember the last time I wrote about it, though it was probably on this blog several years ago, I would guess. I notice it when I see it, because I'm not an idiot and because I retain the use of my faculties, but most of the time I don't bother to mention even what I notice. In a variety of places on the Internet. This is mostly because I consider the creepy alt-right to be not worth bothering with, as in your case. You will notice that the term occurs nowhere in the main post. But apparently you see "complaining about anti-semitism" everywhere, because you wear that color of glasses.

True, creepy bigotry is unpleasant wherever it is found. If that be anti-semitism, it's creepy. If it be hatred of whites, it's creepy. If it be hatred of blacks, it's creepy. If it be misogyny or man-hatred, it's creepy.

Being able to recognize creepy bigotry when directed at groups other than those to which one personally belongs is known, among reasonable men, as maturity.

The alt-right crowd lacks maturity, which is why they think even _noticing_ bigotry directed at some group other than "one's own tribe" is "spineless." Plus they have plenty of creepiness of their own to go around.

Which is why most of your comments probably won't be moderated through.

Anonymous said...

"Still" harping about the U.S.S Liberty? Would you apply this to 9/11? It's been 14 years, do we "still" have to talk about it?

They were both egregious attacks upon the U.S. and they both showed people who don't have blinders over their eyes who our enemies are. Those pro-Islamic liberals you complain about who always make excuses for Muslims, you're basically of them except your favorite pet happens to be the Jews instead of Muslims.

"True, creepy bigotry is unpleasant wherever it is found. If that be anti-semitism, it's creepy. If it be hatred of whites, it's creepy. If it be hatred of blacks, it's creepy. If it be misogyny or man-hatred, it's creepy."

You know, I can actually respect this sentiment.

"Being able to recognize creepy bigotry when directed at groups other than those to which one personally belongs is known, among reasonable men, as maturity."

So.... does this extend to Muslims and homosexuals? Or do you happen realize that those people are just nothing but unwanted trouble? You seem to have such harsh words to say about Arabs and Muslims, don't you think that's hypocritical? You don't want Muslims in this country and you think that's okay because it completely is. We're all bigoted, some of us are just honest about it.

The thing about Jews is that they're not co-ethnics and unlike blacks they're not even co-religionists (I'm not so materialist to where I believe that the faith can't override race in a few situations). They're not even on out side on any single political point. They're in fact the exact opposite across the board with the exception of Israel thanks to neo-con Evangelicals.

There is no logical reason for us to have any obligations towards the Jews and it's not like they're particularly pleasant so emotional reasons are out the door as well.

"The alt-right crowd lacks maturity, which is why they think even _noticing_ bigotry directed at some group other than "one's own tribe" is "spineless." Plus they have plenty of creepiness of their own to go around."

As we both know, the soft, cuddly, non-creepy and super mature respectable mainstream right has had such amazing results and gains for the last 60 years. The respectable right has outlawed abortion and pornography, stopped extreme mass immigration, and effectively stopped sodomarriage from becoming legal. Oh wait, not a single one of those things has ever happened because "respectable conservatives" have spend their entire time shilling for Israel and talking about how we have a Christian duty to bring in masses upon masses of foreigners. And we're having this go on with the Syrian refugee crisis.

Look what playing nice got you: nothing. And to think, this is the movement that had the nerve to purge the paleoconservatives, the John Birchers, and the interwar dissidents from their cocktail party movement.

John said...


Where Anonymous looks and sees what is ridiculous and spineless, I see cogency and courage. You are right to send his offerings to the trash can.

Lydia McGrew said...

Except that I don't spend my entire time talking about Israel and don't support unrestricted immigration. In fact, I very rarely even blog about Israel anymore. And I don't take the positions I do regarding Israel because of an abstract "obligation to the Jews" (except in the very broad sense that I'd rather they, like the Christians of Iraq, weren't killed off in a blood-bath), but because I think the accusations against them are baloney. Anon writes as someone who doesn't know my positions very well and doesn't even seem to have absorbed the main post very well. E.g. At no point in the main post did I say, "We should support Israel because we have an obligation to Jews as a group in the abstract."

My position on Muslim immigration is bolstered by specific arguments. In the case of Israel, I don't recall suggesting that it's population en masse be transported to the U.S. as immigrants! Rather, I think we should stop trying to pressure that country to harm its own interests, and I think kooks like the alt-right (or neo-reax, or paleocons, or whatever one calls them) should recognize how much worse it would be for the Middle East and for _any_ concerns we have there if Israel were wiped out and that region became one giant Gaza Strip. And we are insane to try to stop them from trying to stop Iran. Stuff like that. These policies do not harm us and are the barest common sense. The majority of Jewish immigration to the U.S. occurred long ago and is not presently the subject of public policy, which relieves me of the obligation to point out in any detail to Anon. the differences between the contributions made by immigrating Jews to the U.S. and those made by immigrating Muslims.

Homosexuality is a direct matter of morality, so it's extremely dumb to try to suggest that my opposition to it is somehow akin to Anon's (and his friends') dislike of Jews and "not wanting those people here."

Okay, that'll be enough of that stuff from you, Anon.

Lydia McGrew said...

For the record, I think that immigration to the U.S. should be restricted greatly _overall_, and in particular that we should question and be greatly hesitant over large-scale immigration by groups of people united by a culture or religion among themselves, insofar as this is likely to harm the good aspects of integration into American culture. (Not all assimilation is a good, but some is.) For this reason I am hesitant about responding to the ISIS situation by encouraging mass immigration of *either* Muslims *or* Middle Eastern Christians *or* Yazidi. Since I am capable of observation, I cannot help noticing the Obama administration's pointed snubbing of the Christians persecuted by ISIS (e.g., refusing to allow an Iraqi nun to speak to Congress, etc.), but it doesn't follow that I believe that those people groups should be transported to the U.S. en masse either. If there were a present proposal for, say, the immigration of large numbers of Hasidic Jews, I would apply these same concerns to such a proposal. That being said, *if* one is going to consider bringing in people in such groups, some groups are more of a problem than others, and I do not regard, say, Ahmadi Muslims (who aren't regarded as Muslims at all by their Sunni and Shia co-religionists) to be *as much* of a concern as either Sunni or Shia, and so forth. Distinctions are legitimate and are a matter of facts on the ground, and the term "Jews," being at most an ethnic term (and only loosely at that) and not even a religious term per se, is fairly uninformative and unhelpful in such questions--much less informative than "Muslims."