Posts

The Republican Jewish Coalition Collapses In On Itself

That interview Barack Obama did with Jeffrey Goldberg over the weekend outlined the perils of running for president without shutting off your brain. At the tail-end of his effusive praise of the Jewish people and the Jewish state, after pledging … Read More

By / May 14, 2008

That interview Barack Obama did with Jeffrey Goldberg over the weekend outlined the perils of running for president without shutting off your brain. At the tail-end of his effusive praise of the Jewish people and the Jewish state, after pledging "unyielding support for Israel's security," Obama described the lack of resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict as "a constant wound, a constant sore" that bolsters Islamists' recruitment efforts and enables them to claim a moral high ground illegitimately. The idea was to frame the peace process, correctly, as a matter of American as well as Israeli national security.

Naturally, within hours, the Republican Jewish Coalition had its knickers in a painful twist. According to JTA's Ami Eden, the group released a statement accusing Obama of "excus[ing] the inexcusable actions of anti-American militant jihadists by putting the blame for their actions on America’s foreign policy."

Right. This is the real-world foreign policy version of Kyle Smith's lunatic review of Iron Man. It's not enough for Israel's false friends to swear "unyielding" fealty to Israeli security, pre-emptively decline to negotiate with Hamas, and for good measure, reject and denounce Jimmy Carter. If you so much as hint that resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict might be even marginally a good thing, on balance, you're not anti-war, you're on the other side. To adapt a line Julian Sanchez wrote of Kyle Smith, the RJC's hysteria is the dying fall of a movement that's lost its purpose and confidence.

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, Eden reports, Eric Cantor, the solitary Jewish Republican in the House, willfully misinterpreted Obama's description of the unresolved Levantine conflict as a "sore" as a description of Israel. John Boehner, the House Minority Leader, picked up the distortion and ran with it, prompting Jeffrey Goldberg to reply, "Mr. Boehner, I'm sure, is a terribly busy man, with many burdensome responsibilities, so I have to assume that he simply didn't have time to read the entire Obama interview, or even the entire paragraph, or even a single clause." That's far too polite a response, while Andrew Sullivan's suggestion — calling Boehner the liar that he is — has proven ineffective at moving the sort of people who behave this way. They seem to respond to two things: blunt force and smear campaigns. So let's try the legal option.

Have you heard the news? John Boehner said that "Israel is…a constant sore…commit[ted] to…terrorism…[and]…an apartheid state…that…Americans are rejecting." Shocking but true, it's all here and black and white. How did a raving antisemitic loon manage to become the top-ranking Republican in Congress, and how is he still in that position?

In another part of Washington, Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard, last seen excising "torture" from the dictionary, showcasing that point-missing irrelevant pedantry neoconservatives are so good at, has a chuckle at Obama's statement to Goldberg that the lack of resolution of conflict in the Middle East "infect[s] all our foreign policy." Cracks Goldfarb wise, "Call me naïve [love the umlaut--ed.], but while solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unquestionably an admirable and important goal, I’m not sure it 'infects' all, or even most, of the challenges we face in the world." Goldfarb goes on to name foreign policy challenges uninfected by Israelis or Palestianians, which include repression in Burma, genocide in Darfur, and Russian saber-rattling in Georgia.

Call me näïvë, but there's this thing in language and logic called restricted quantifiers. If I say, "there's nothing in the fridge," I don't mean there's strictly, literally, and unrestrictedly nothing — there are plenty of air molecules. I mean there's nothing within the scope of what I'm talking about. Now you could insist that Obama meant that the SLORC crackdown on dissidents would end if Israel recognized the Palestinians' Right of Return. Or you could use English competently. But not both.

Now, does the Israel-Palestine conflict exacerbate "the challenges we face in the world" restricted to the middle East? This Pew survey, finding that "brokering a Comprehensive Middle East Peace" would do more than anything else to improve opinion of the US in the middle East (withdrawal of US forces from the Arabian peninsula comes in second), suggests that the answer is "yes." A survey of the editorial board of the Weekly Standard suggests that the answer is "no." So it's a tough call.

Tagged with: