My posting the exchange, below, fits in nicely with a point Iâ€™ve been making lately in conjunction with my argument that the Democrats in Congress are our most important weapon for defeating the Bushites. In advancing that argument against the considerable flak it has drawn from various people on the left, Iâ€™ve made the point that the situation of a politician is fundamentally different from that of the rest of us. To be an elected office-holder, one must please a majority of his/her audience, whereas someone like me gets to speak the truth as he sees it and let the chips fall where they may.
That connects with my posting this exchange in that I anticipate that a majority of the audience for this piece â€“on this site, and still more so on a few others where it will also likely appearâ€”I expect I will lose rather than gain standing. In other words, more people, I expect, will think my interlocutor, with whom I am here in intense debate, and who is indeed a bright and articulate fellow, represents the more right and righteous point of view.
But Iâ€™m not running for office, and so I donâ€™t have to concern myself with popularity. I get to do what I say one should not expect most politicians to do: stand up for what he thinks important and right for its own sake.
So, what do I regard as important about the issue under debate here? It affords another opportunity to look at a mind-set that I believe prevents the left from playing a constructive and effective role in Americaâ€™s political life.
What follows is a discussion of Israel and its motives. For the most part, I have shied away from discussing the Arab-Israeli conflictâ€“ not because my views would be unpopular with this audience but because it would be a distraction from what I see as the central task of our times, which is to save America from the evil forces that have taken it over.
But I believe this exchange is now more relevantâ€“ not because the issue of Israel and its relationship with the Arabs is any more pertinent to our central challenge, but because the deeper issue I am addressing here is not about Israel per se but about a mind-set all-too-common on the left. It is a mind-set that manifests itself not only in relation to Israel but much more generally.
That mind-set is one that I would describe as one that insists on ignoring the moral complexity and ambiguity in human affairs. It is one that Iâ€™ve characterized as indulging in the fallacy of â€œall shades of gray are black.â€
This mind-set seems eager to construe all the worldâ€™s problems as simple matters of the good guys against the bad guys, and in any given situation â€“such is the insistence that there is never any ambiguity about whatâ€™s the right thing to doâ€“ it is virtually always those who have power who are the altogether bad guys.
To me, the rise of these Bushite forces to dominance of America has constituted a phenomenon of discontinuity in American history, a moment in which â€“to a most extraordinary extentâ€”it HAS been appropriate to speak of evil. But in the mind-set of which I am speaking, this regime is more like â€œmore of the same,â€ and black-and-white ways of thinking are seen as applicable to a wide array of issues and groups in the world.
According to this mind-set, there is no difference of great significance between the ordinarily corrupt and the downright evil, between the timid Democrats and the power-lusting thugs of the Bushite regime. The members of the traditionalist conservative Christian movement are dismissed as truly and profoundly bad people. Americaâ€™s role in the world is an unremitting tale of the unjust and exploitative imperialist abuse of power.
And for years the left has also, of course, seen Israel as one of those unambiguously bad guys. They have a powerful military, they are the occupying power, and so â€“according to this mindsetâ€“ it is quite clear what is going on and who is to blame.
In order to maintain so simple a view, thereâ€™s much in the complex reality that must be ignored, and much that must be distorted.
Please note: in my trying to confront this simplifying, complexity-denying mind-set in relation to Israel, I am not trying to justify Israeli policy. In another situation, Iâ€™d be glad to engage in a discussion of which of Israelâ€™s policies I support, which I condemn, which I am unsure of, and especially which policies I wish they would try that they have not. But that is not the nature of the present conversation.
This is a conversation about a piece of the picture regarding Israeli motives. My interlocutor has a simple and dark picture of those motives. I believe this picture, by leaving out a vital piece, is a distortion.
Leaving out that piece is, in my view, no trivial matter. It transforms a morally complex picture â€“which would demand a tolerance for moral ambiguity and an empathy for the challenges faced by other people in a different situation from oneâ€™s own â€” into a stereotypical all-out struggle of good against evil, of the oppressed against the evil Zionist-fascist power.
One really needs room in oneâ€™s sense of humankind for more than one kind of drama to play a constructive role in this complex world.
I believe that the mind-set that insists on the moral simplification of the world into powerful players, who deserve nothing but hatred and opposition, and weaker players, who deserve whole-hearted support, is part of why the left, with many of its good values, has become so marginalized in American political life.
Enough of preliminaries. Let us now turn to the exchange.
The thread had nothing to do with Israel, but my interlocutor, Morley â€“whose part in this exchange I am posting here with his permissionâ€“ brought in Israel, as he often has, in order to attack it, which he did by declaring that neither the United States nor Israel is â€œaverse to using nuclear weapons.â€ I then responded:
Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:
Do you have any basis, Morley, for declaring that Israel is not â€œaverse to using nuclear weaponsâ€?Morley Says:
The strategic basis for the US and Israel powerstates to use nuclear weapons is obvious from a strictly military point of view. They have a lot of them, and most powerstates donâ€™t have any. If they used â€˜cleanâ€™ micro-explosions to, say, try to destroy Iranâ€™s nuclear facilities, they could justify them as nuclear bombs to eliminate nuclear weapons, just as they use terror to attack â€˜terrorists.â€™Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:
Having actually used nuclear weapons, they are now in the position of increasing the threat of a more massive attack. That is why so many small countries are now starting to develop nuclear weapons, as a defense against this threat, which both the US and Israeli leaders publicly refuse to rule out.
Of course this scares the shit out of the US military, as it does of any reasonable person. Once you start a war, it is extremely difficult to stop it. Once you start using nuclear weapons, the problem is much greater. There is no way to go back to the non-nuclear consensus.
But of course only politically insane leaders would use them. Unfortunately, the homicidal faction in both the US and Israel are ideologically insane. They are committed to military imperialism in a world that has moved beyond it. Neither powerstate understands that world opinion is now an increasing power force, and that past forms of military aggression are obsolete. Otherwise the bombing of Lebanon by Israel would never have occurred.
Unfortunately most people cannot envision the world as other than it was. People do not like to think that their political leaders are evil or delusional, and even less that their powerstates are. Although most people are beginning to recognize that Bush is an incompetent cretin (which the Gops like to install in the presidency; they can steal more that way) they donâ€™t understand that he is delusional. All he wants to do is to maintain his power and credibility, and he may be persuaded that credit.â€
I cannot see, Morley, how your response amounts to any evidence whatever that the Israeli leadership is â€œnot averse to using nuclear weapons.â€Morley Says:
Your apparently profound animus against Israel â€“reflected both in comments publicly posted here, and in a couple that I declined to post because they went so far out of their way and off topic to attack the â€œZionist fascistsâ€â€“ will quite possibly close your mind to thinking about Israelâ€™s relationship to nuclear weapons in any other way. But let me propose an alternative.
From the time Israel was created until well into the 1970s, not a single one of Israelâ€™s neighbors accepted Israelâ€™s right to exist. In 1948 and then again in 1967, Israelâ€™s neighbors ganged up in an effort to destroy it. (Israel struck first in 1967, but only after acts of war by Nasserâ€™s Egypt, and in a GENUINELY pre-emptive strike, i.e. hitting while its enemies were readying their own strike.)
In the wake of the 1967 war, in which Israel seized land previously controlled by Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, the Israelis initially sought negotiations in which the land could be traded for an agreement that would allow Israel to live in peace with its neighbors.
The Arabs responded with their famous â€œthree Noâ€™sâ€: no to peace, no to recognition of Israel, no to negotiation.
It is in that context that Israel sought to possess nuclear weaponsâ€“ to have them, to be understood to have them, but not to explicitly admit to having them.
It might be beyond what you are willing or able to do, Morley, to enter into Israelâ€™s security situation with an empathetic concern for its survival. But if you were a nation the size of New Jersey, in an era in which technology has shrunk space still further, so that such a territory can be hit with missiles in mere moments, and sliced in pieces by tank columns in less than an hour, what would you do to assure your survival?
It was long part of the understanding that developed among strategic thinkers during the cold war that the only truly legitimate usefulness of nuclear weapons to the two superpowers was to deter attack from the other. The United States â€“seeking to protect Western Europe from the Soviet Army without having any realistic chance of deterring by conventional means alone a Soviet invasion across Germany (the Soviets having so many more troops to bring to that theater than the United States could ever afford to station there)â€“ used the threat of nuclear retaliation as a means to deter the Soviets from attacking across Germany.
For the Israelis, the value of nuclear weapons has been similar. Greatly out-numbered, vulnerable to missile technology (from Iraq in 1991, from Lebanon this past summer, and from Iran in a possible near future), and with time threatening to undo its current military advantages), Israel certainly has a â€œuseâ€ for nuclear weapons: not to explode them, but to wield them as a deterrent.
One of the strategic paradoxes of the cold war was that while the only rational use of nuclear weapons by the U.S. or the U.S.S.R. was to threaten but not actually explode a nuclear weapon, that same rational use required that the threat of their actual use be plausible. In other words, to the foe he was trying to deter, the rational actor had to seem capable of acting irrational action.
So, if Israelâ€™s survival is threatened, it will doubtless make every attempt to persuade its potential destroyers that it will not hesitate to act like Sampson of old, just as the two superpowers strove to persuade each other during those dangerous cold war years: i.e. the nation relying upon such a deterrent will wish for its adversary to believe that even in its own death throes, when it has absolutely nothing that it can gain for itself, it will bring the temple down upon its enemies so that they will die as well.
But to understand such behavior, one has to be willing to understand the situation, and empathize with the needs, of someone else. As I said in an earlier comment recently where, again, the subject was Israel: hatred is a notable solvent of fair-minded thinking.
hatred, shmatred. I asked my wife to read your argument (she supervises appellant lawyers) and she thought it was reasonable. I think you are both as crazy as loons. Your thesis would be arguable if Israel was not at the same time stealing the land, water, and resources of the populations they dominate.Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:
But they are. Israeli militarism is not defensive, it is colonial, worse than imperialistic. It is racist, pure and simple. What they and the US wants is for states and representatives to recognize Israel without specifiying what the borders are, while they are oppressing and brutalizing Moslems.
Israelâ€™s policies are not only evil, they are pathologically irrational. The West is rapidly losing power. It is way past time to negotiate a settlement that everyone can live with. But, just as in the US, a right wing group gained control of the Israeli powerstate, partly by assassinating Rabin, and instituted â€˜facts on the groundâ€™ that makes an Israeli-Palestinian solution increasingly impossible, because of the intermixure of peoples.
Aparteid Israel has taken the place of South Africa in the worldâ€™s. and my, opinion. A recent poll of the worldâ€™s people ranked Israel as the worldâ€™s worst state. But Jewish liberals continue to defer to Jewish fascists, especially in the US, just as the Dem leaders defer to the Gops.
Israelâ€™s policy is not defensive; they are not trying to secure safe borders, but, rather, trying to expand the area they control. This policy is insane. The state of Israel will not survive a few decades with this imperialist policy. And in the meantime the likelihood of horrible historical events keeps increasing.
Donâ€™t get me wrong, Morley: Iâ€™m not justifying Israeli policy in any general kind of way. Theyâ€™ve been engaged in a struggle for survival for sixty years now, and it has definitely had a deleterious effect on the Israeli mind and spirit. (I wrote on NSB of two films that explore this well: the Israeli film WALK ON WATER, and Spielbergâ€™s MUNICH.)Morley Says:
But the leftist orthodoxy in condemnation of Israel seems quite distorted to me.
Take this, from your comment: â€œIsraelâ€™s policy is not defensive; they are not trying to secure safe borders, but, rather, trying to expand the area they control.â€
I suppose this expansionary drive is why, in the past generation, Israel has: 1) withdrawn from the whole of Sinai, which they fully controlled and could defend; 2) withdrawn from the area of Lebanon they controlled for many years; 3) withdrawn from Gaza within the past two years; 4) offered at Camp David in 2000 to withdraw from 95 % of the West Bank (an offer that yielded from Arafat not an acceptance, not even a counter offer, but a withdrawal from negotiations to begin the â€œSecond Intifadaâ€).
Is there anything factually wrong with any of what I just said? Is that consistent with your characterization of the Israelis as bent upon expansion?
Is there anything factually wrong with what you said? Are you serious? Israel withdrew from Sinai, Lebanon, and Gaza for military reasons after their imperialism was defeated by the opposing military or threat of it.Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:
Your examples are an argument FOR their (failed) imperalism not against it. Itâ€™s like saying Hitler was a peace loving leader because he withdrew from the Soviet Union during ww2.
When Israel offered the Palestinians â€˜95%â€™ of the West Bank, the part they didnâ€™t offer was the areas that divided them into Bantustans separated from each other, incapable of forming a viable state.
Do you not know this? Most of the world does. That is why most of the world, including enlightened opinion, conceives Aparteid Israel as the successor to aparteid South Africa. The left opposes Israel not because it supports the Arabs over the Jews, but supports the oppressed over the oppressors. One might think that someone who conceives himself as a moral authority and strives to apply moral principles to politics might be sensitive to the moral delemmas of brutality and oppression.
And perhaps you are, although Iâ€™ve seen no sign of it. In the writings that I have read of yours you have consistently supported Israeli military brutality. The latest and worse example is Isrealâ€™s bombing of the Lebanese population, defended by both fascist and liberal Jews on the grounds that â€˜ Israel has the right to defend itself.â€™
No it doesnâ€™t, since what is meant by â€˜defenseâ€™ is mass murder. How can you claim to oppose Bushite war and police state policies when you support its worse aspects in Israel?
Which will end historically in Israelâ€™s defeat. Her imperialist policy is not only murderous and brutal, it is self-destructive. Obviously so. Your model of the PARABLES is timeless, in the sense that it exists regardless of the historical evolution of world opinion. But the world has changed historically, and what was acceptable in the past can no longer be condoned by most people. Just as the Bushites and a War faction have gained control of the US and its policies result in a drastic erosion of power due to loss of moral authority, so Israel has been seized by incompetent, arrogant mass murders, like Sharon, which is driving the state into the ground.
Which will result in an historical increase of anti-Semitism just as Bushâ€™s policies result in an increase of anti-Americanism. My father-in-law at dinner tonight stated that his solution was that the Palestinians be culturally absorbed by the Israeli Jews. It is the kind of historical solution that I expect from him. But I expect more from you.
Morley, you select pieces of the truth to create a distorted picture that supports the simplistic, black-and-white condemnation of Israel.Morley Says:
The Israelis did leave southern Lebanon because they were worn out by the toll Hezbollah was taking on their occupying forces. (The reason for its occupation in Lebanon had never been a lust for the land, but rather to create a buffer zone to protect itself from the attacks that were customarily launched on Israel from southern Lebanon.) They were not forced out of Sinai, but instead had always been willing to trade that land for peace and welcomed Sadatâ€™s offer to do so. Though the occupation of Gaza was problematic, the Israelis were not forced out of Gaza, a piece of land that Israel never much wanted.
Likening any of these withdrawals to the Germans being driven out of the Soviet Union by the Red Army is a grotesque distortion â€“not just because of the invidious imagery but even on account of its basic military inaccuracy.
There has been a significant â€“though minorityâ€“ part of the Israeli body politic that had thoughts about a Greater Israel, which would include the Biblical lands including places deeply ingrained in Jewish history like Hebron, and Bethlehem and Jericho.
But the majority of Israeli opinion has consistently held that it would be better to have a smaller Israel (more or less the pre-1967 borders, adjusted in marginal ways for security purposes) that its neighbors would accept and leave in peace than to expand beyond that at the cost of continued strife.
The rabid anti-Israelis of the American left always ignore Israeli public opinion. They ignore how this well-informed public consistently expresses a preference for an end to occupation and a retreat from the great majority of those lands, if that could purchase peace.
And they ignore how even the Israeli doves â€“groups like Peace Nowâ€“ found themselves compelled to change their thinking about the possibilities for peace that Israelâ€™sâ€™ neighbors and the Palestinians offer them.
They ignore, for example, what happened to these Israeli doves â€“just as much peaceniks as any peace movement in the U.S.â€“ when Arafat started the Second Intifada.
They ignore whatâ€™s happened to Israeli opinion even on the dovish side with the discovery in the past year that it has been precisely from those areas that Israel withdrew from that they have been attacked.
If Israelis have come to believe that its more conciliatory gestures will be interpreted by its neighbors as a sign of weakness, thatâ€™s because people like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories have explicitly so interpreted Israelâ€™s most conciliatory moves.
If Israeli public opinion has moved toward what had been the more hawkish view â€“that whatever they give up in the quest for a settlement will be used as a more advanced base for continued attack on Israel itselfâ€“ thatâ€™s because that has been precisely their experience at the hands of their neighbors.
But if you look at the opinion polls, even though Israelis have come to believe that their hoped-for options for peace do not exist, they continue to believe that peace in a smaller Israel is much to be preferred to the domination of more territory with continued strife and tension.
Yes, you are right, Israeli public opinion, which is much more sophisticated than US opinion because it has to be (not that this distinguishes them much from other countries) has always wanted a smaller Israel living in peace with its neighbors. The population historically has not wanted war.Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:
What has that to do with it? No population wants war. As Goring said, why would some poor slob want to leave his family and go to war.
But the population does not determine policy, their leaders do. So as he says, the leaders state that the Homeland is under attack and anyone who does not defend it is unpatriotic and cowardly and anti-homeland and the population is brought to the state of doing the bidding of the leaders. As Goring said, it works the same in every country whatever its form of rule.
The class-based power structure, the upper 10% or so of the population rules the powerstate and through it the population. The distinction between the power structure and the population is obscured in mainstream truth to instill in the population that what is good for the power structure is good for the people.
So the powerful make up a deceptive narrative that is printed and aired by the media also controlled by the powerful. Often it includes galvanizing events, such as 9/11 events, to evoke fear and hatred in the people.
The distinctions between the classed-based power structure, the powerstate (which ignores the liberal distinction between government and Free Enterprise to include the corporate media) and the population, are fundamental.
You are arguing about what the population wants, and I am arguing about what the power structure that controls the Israeli powerstate wants. It is the latter that makes policy, corrupting over time a section of the population to do so.
Our fundamental ideological difference is how a powerstate is ruled. You have creatively stated the power problem between powerstates, but, in my opinion, have not sufficiently explored power within powerstates.
Morley writes:Morley Says:
â€œYes, you are right, Israeli public opinion, which is much more sophisticated than US opinion because it has to be (not that this distinguishes them much from other countries) has always wanted a smaller Israel living in peace with its neighbors. The population historically has not wanted war.
â€œWhat has that to do with it? No population wants war. As Goring said, why would some poor slob want to leave his family and go to war.
â€œBut the population does not determine policy, their leaders do. So as he says, the leaders state that the Homeland is under attack and anyone who does not defend it is unpatriotic and cowardly and anti-homeland and the population is brought to the state of doing the bidding of the leaders.â€
To which I respond:
You certainly are willing to contort yourself to come to the conclusion that Israel is bent upon expansion rather than self-defense.
Here you concede that the Israeli public is well-informed, but you apparently seem to believe either that they cannot get their government to pursue the policies the public wants, even on the most vital of all issues facing the nation, or that the power structure can readily manipulate this well-informed public into believing what is not true.
As for the first possibility â€“that somehow the Israeli public cannot get a government to adopt the priority of living in peace with its neighborsâ€“ it simply does not stand up to the most rudimentary of examinations.
Take the elections of 2001, in which Ehud Barak was turned out of office and Ariel Sharon became Prime Minister. It was completely clear to any analyst of the situation that Barak was defeated because Arafat, with his answering the offers of Camp David with violence, had cut Barak off at the knees. If the Israeli public had wanted a more dovish policy, they could have stayed with the more dovish of the two major parties. But, I myself said in the fall of 2000 that Arafat was going to make Sharon Prime Minister, and so it happened because the Israeli people had assessed the chances of achieving peace with the Palestinians through negotiations and decided that the Palestinians had rejected that option and chosen war instead.
It always takes two sides to choose peace, but only one side to determine that both will be at war. And the Israeli public freely chose in 2001 to go with the tough-guy warrior, not the man who had surprised Clinton and Ross at Camp David with the extent if his concessions in his opening offer.
It is simply untenable to suggest that the Israeli people had no choice. It makes no sense to say, about that election, that â€œthe population does not determine policy, their leaders do.â€ The population made a choice of leaders.
You speak derisively of the Leaders saying â€œthe Homeland is under attack.â€ Surely in Bushite America we can see how manipulatively this can be done. But the Israeli public knows full well â€“from a whole lifetime of listening to what their neighbors are saying, and from experiencing what they are doingâ€“ what kind of external threat to their survival they face.
Which takes us to the second of the possible interpretations of your argument: that the people do choose, but they are so manipulated by the power state that they have no idea really whatâ€™s happening and so they choose only what their leaders want them to choose.
No one who knows anything about the nature of discourse, the nature of the free press, the nature of the political system in Israeli politics could imagine that the Israeli people are led around by the nose by some unified war-loving expansionary power elite.
Their press is full of controversy, and covers a wide spectrum of political opinion, including that of the peace movement, of Arab Israelis, of the left, as well as of more hawkish and more religious factions. The access to information is unencumbered, and the debates are fierce.
Unlike in the United States, moreover, the Israeli political system is not a two-party system in which battles are fought out in the center. Their parliamentary system leads to representation by multiple parties which form fairly readily and which are all over the political map. And the government that gets formed is invariably a COALITION government, which has to take the positions of minority parties into account.
So in an election like that of 2001, this informed public is courted not by some unitary â€œpower stateâ€ but by a diversity of parties, many of which become real players in the determination of who shall rule and what policy the nation will follow.
And this informed, politically active public has decided again and again that its survival is genuinely endangered by the enmity of its neighbors, and sometimes it decides to try to deal with that enmity through negotiation and concession and reconciliation and sometimes it decides that isnâ€™t working and that its survival depends instead on using its power to defeat the power of those who threaten it.
You, and many like you on the left who have an unambiguously hostile attitude toward Israel, are entitled to be hostile to the country, and to be indifferent to whether or not it survives. What is irresponsible is to distort the objective realities of the situation so as to deny that important part of the actual nature of the struggles of the region â€“that part which involves the genuine and well-founded fears of well-informed Israelis regarding its neighborsâ€™ desire to destroy the Jewish stateâ€“ in order to keep the picture morally simple and to justify your black-and-white views.
After almost sixty years of chronic war and tension, as I have said before, the Israelis have followed policies both wise and foolish, humane and inhumane, justifiable and unjustifiable. They are a nation of both high ethics and of an ugly kind of real-politik. I am not seeking to justify whatever the Israelis have done.
But denying that the Israeli public, even the peace movement in recent years, feels threatened; denying that this is a public that has the capacity and the resources to form well-grounded opinions about its options; denying that this public is able to exercise its political will through its vibrant democracy; reducing all Israeli military concerns to some expansionist driveâ€“ these simply do not comport with basic, highly visible facts of the society and of the history thatâ€™s visible year after year in the news.
This is precisely the reason that it is so valuable arguing with you, and with the other truthers around the world. It enables one to clarify the underlying assumptions and preconceptions of the mainstream truth and the countertruth traditions opposing it.Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:
You believe that the populations of liberal Democracies determine the policies of the powerstate, especially on questions of war and peace.
I donâ€™t. In my view the policies are largely determined by a ruling class that controls the corporations and media, with the support of a professional-managerial class. Their views are imposed on a disorganized and confused population, nearly 90% of the people. This is as true of Israel as it is of all powerstates, the visible Democratic forms being a window dressing largely deprived of real power.
Since you are an anti-Marxist, you obviously do not believe that classes can function in a concerted way or that a ruling class structure is powerful enough to impose its rule. And that part of its rule requires imposing a false consciousness on the population.
Therefore I see Bush and Hitler and Sharon as the systemization and centralization of past trends and you see it as aberrations. That is one of the reasons you do not emphasize the mobilization of the population; you think they are already mobilized, and it is merely a matter of deciding what course to pursue. While I see as a necessity to gain power that they do not traditionally have in liberal powerstates, or any powerstate.
That is why you think the only realistic way of the population can impose their views on peace is to vote for pro-war Dems. I think that the only realistic way is to mobilize the population, as the peace movements have done in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars, forcing whoever is in power to withdraw.
You over-generalize my point when you say, â€œYou believe that the populations of liberal Democracies determine the policies of the powerstate, especially on questions of war and peace.â€
I do not believe that to be true AT ALL with respect to Bushâ€™s war. Whether the Bushites played a role in 9/11 or not, it is quite clear that the Iraq war was something into which the Bushites lied and manipulated the country.
My point was about Israel and its public and its media and its politics and its security situation. I have been familiar for close to half a century (and certainly for more than thirty years) with Israeli politics and the Israeli media and Israeli public opinion.
My map of the world makes distinctions between different times and different placesâ€“ how the American people were led to support the war in Iraq is not the same as how the Israeli people were led to support Sharon for Prime Minister.
Youâ€™ve lumped these societies, and their military ventures, togetherâ€“ just as youâ€™ve leapt from what Iâ€™ve said about Israel to infer that I must think that the American people made an informed choice about whether or not the U.S. would invade Iraq.
The world is a complex place, and I TRY to make my map of how the world functions as complex as the phenomena Iâ€™m trying to understand.
The problem of power within societies, including in the manipulation of public opinion, is indeed one of the scourges of civilization. Liberal societies are very far from being free of those problems â€“the exploitation and manipulation of the weaker classes by the ruling classes.
Nonetheless, in some times and places among liberal societies, the people are knowledgeable and do make choices about their collective destiny. With respect to the basic choices of hawkish vs. dovish approaches to their security challenges, I believe that the Israeli people are not sheep.
They know a lot, and they participate in the choices: the problems they are facing are not new to them, but have been something that every citizen there has pondered for their whole lives.
For Americans, we find ourselves in a Vietnam or an Iraq â€“situations that the average American knows practically nothing aboutâ€“ and it takes the public a very long time to figure out whatâ€™s going on. With a somewhat apathetic and ignorant public, encountering new problems or issues, the opportunities for manipulation are huge, as weâ€™ve seen with this lying Bushite regime.
It is not an all-or-nothing matter, this business of the validity of the liberal model of â€œthe consent of the governedâ€ vs. the Marxist model of â€œthe exploitation of the proletariatâ€ and the â€œclass struggle.â€
Both dimensions are operative in our world, and in our society as well. With the Bushites, I would say, the Marxist model has become more than usually applicable to America, while the â€œconsent of the governedâ€ dimension of things has been has been eroded to a degree unprecedented, I believe, in our lifetimes and perhaps in the history of the country.
But Israeli politics does not function like the Bushite politics weâ€™ve seen here. An informed Israeli public recognizes that â€“despite their present military superiority to their neighborsâ€“ they are in a profound, difficult, and enduring struggle to survive in their hostile neighborhood.
Too many on the left refuse to take that situation into account when they discuss Israel and its conduct, preferring to cut the head and legs off the situation to fit it onto the Procrustean bed of simplistic Marxist-Leninist denunciations of â€œimperialism.â€