This week, the editors of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a liberal Munich newspaper, published a diatribe—in the form of a poem—by the well-known German author Gunter Grass. Entitled “Was gesagt werden muss” (“What must be said”), the poem denounced a possible Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The world is nearing the point where it is going to have to make some difficult decisions about how to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon—among them, a decision about whether to use military force. Given Iran’s deep hostility to the United States and Israel, as well as its history of sponsoring terrorism, the importance of denying Iran a nuclear weapon cannot be overstated. But, while President Obama says he believes Iran must be denied the bomb, his rhetoric on the subject has been curiously circumscribed.
Developments at Yale University in recent weeks concerning the scholarly study of anti-Semitism have aroused broad attention. In early June, Yale’s Provost Peter Salovey accepted the recommendations of a faculty committee to close the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA). On June 19, however, following an outcry over the news, Salovey announced that a new center, the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism (YPSA) would be established.
A specter is haunting the hopeful promise of a democratic Egypt—the specter of popularly legitimated anti-Semitism that would result from the electoral success of the Muslim Brotherhood. In light of the democratic victories enjoyed by Hamas in the 2006 elections in the West Bank and Gaza, the prospect is not a hypothetical one.
It may have come as a surprise to many people that Germany—the lynchpin of the NATO alliance on the European continent and a close ally of the United States since 1949—voted to abstain from the U.N. resolution authorizing force against Muammar Qaddafi. The country was a staunch advocate of humanitarian intervention in the Balkans, and it is most definitely not led by a government of leftists who are given to denunciations of American imperialism.
President Obama is in a tight spot. The 2010 elections have sharply contracted his ability to achieve legislative victories, while his room to maneuver on other issues will be limited by the intrusive investigations which are almost certainly coming his way. Progress will be harder to attain than ever.
A certain kind of liberalism familiar to readers of The New Republic has been stirring in, of all places, Germany and Austria. To be sure, it operates on the margins. And, yes, the impulse to appease, run for cover and all the rest lingers there as well. So, too, does the mixture of irritation, indifference, and even outright hostility to Israel.