Operation Make the World Hate Us
June 03, 2010
Israel does not need enemies: it has itself. Or more precisely: it has its government. The Netanyahu-Barak government has somehow found a way to lose the moral high ground, the all-important war for symbols and meanings, to Hamas. That is quite an accomplishment. Operation Make the World Hate Us, it might have been called. I leave it to others to make the operational criticisms of the Israeli action, and will say only that even my amateurish understanding of the tactical challenge posed by the interdiction of the boats suffices to suggest that there were other ways to do this.
Look, I wish the Israeli raid on the so-called “Freedom Flotilla” had ended differently. Why, I ask, didn’t Israel’s navy disable the engine of the Mavi Marmara and drag the ship into port? Who knows? The engines of the other boats were apparently disabled—or so reliable sources say. But, frankly, when some 800 men and women, distributed over six boats after weeks and weeks of preparation, are headed towards Gaza on the wings of slogan and hysteria, you don’t take that many chances.
May 24, 2010
Peter Beinart replies, or purports to reply, one more time: From Leon Wieseltier to Jonathan Chait to Jeffrey Goldberg to Jamie Kirchick to David Frum, the main complaint is that I didn’t spend enough time discussing the nastiness of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and extremist Muslims in general. Not only is that not my complaint, or even a complaint I agree with, it's a complaint I specifically disagreed with in both my replies to Peter. There's just no longer any point of contact between the argument I wish to make and the argument Peter wishes to refute.
May 21, 2010
Embarrassment is an important element in the pedagogy of experience. There are mistakes I will never make again because I made them once and was usefully shamed. In the winter of 1974, when I was a bright and callow student, and did not yet grasp the difference between knowledge and knowingness, I endured such a lucky education at the hands of Diana Trilling. The subject was the danger of simplification in the intellectual engagement with politics.
May 12, 2010
One of the frustrating things about debating the Middle East is that most of the people to my left find it difficult to fathom, or sometimes inconvenient to acknowledge, the existence of actual liberals who have somewhat hawkish views on Israel. So anybody whose view on the Middle East is to the right of Naomi Klein must be a reflexive supporter of Israel and probably a "Likudnik," and could not possibly have any other foreign policy principles that dovetail with their views on Israel. Last week I wrote about a report bringing to light Richard Goldstone's Apartheid-era history.
April 27, 2010
On October 19 of last year, the op-ed page of The New York Times contained a bombshell: a piece by Robert Bernstein, the founder and former chairman of Human Rights Watch (HRW), attacking his own organization. HRW, Bernstein wrote, was “helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.” The allegation was certainly not new: HRW had been under assault for years by American Jews and other supporters of Israel, who argued that it was biased against the Jewish state. And these attacks had intensified in recent months, with a number of unflattering revelations about the organization.
Frankly, I do not think that Barack Obama ever really believed that an accommodation with Iran over its nuclear designs was possible. What follows is that he prevaricated about this promising turn in diplomacy and that one, all the while knowing he was going straight down a dead-end street. And going down that street in a quite cavalier fashion so as to keep his critics at bay. Some Americans were even persuaded by the seemingly confident president that he must have something up his sleeve.
The TNR EXCHANGE: Trust Fall
April 15, 2010
James Risen, a Washington-based writer, and Yossi Klein Halevi, a Jerusalem-based writer, have been friends since they both crashed the Nazi Party headquarters in Chicago as student reporters 30 years ago. They have been joking and arguing about news and politics ever since, especially when it comes to Israel and the Middle East. This e-mail exchange began in the shadow of the dispute between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government.
April 13, 2010
Since I have no reason to believe that Benjamin Netanyahu is bluffing about his readiness to attack the nuclear facilities of Iran, I find his recent behavior incomprehensible. In the wake of an Israeli attack, terrible things will almost certainly happen. There will be another war with Hezbollah, whose missiles will this time reach Tel Aviv. The Iranians may themselves respond directly with force. The price of oil will explode, afflicting ordinary people everywhere with the consequences of Israel’s strike, and provoking a new revulsion against Israel, and also against the United States.
No American Troops Should Die Protecting Israel
April 12, 2010
Almost before the celebrants at Barack Obama’s inauguration had gotten over their hangovers some 15 months ago, the president designated George Mitchell as his special envoy in the Middle East. I wrote then and several times since that he would be a flop, poor man. After all, it’s not the case that he had been a great success in any of his other high-minded missions, including the investigation into steroid use by baseball heroes.