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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Jewish worriers - Open letter to Larry Derfner & Maurice Ostroff about God's Warriors and their correspondence

Dear Larry and Maurice,
I have followed your correspondence regarding the now notorious CNN film as best I could, and tried to make sense of all of it.

Larry Derfner wrote:
But on the subject of the Israeli-Arab conflict, you are, according to my definition, a hardline right-winger. I say that because your view, or at least your stated view, of the conflict is that in 100% of the disputes between Israel and the Arabs, Israel is 100% and the Arabs are 100% wrong.
This is a continuation of the sort of argument you used in your article, is it not? "It is right wing, and therefore it is wrong." Serious analysts don't base arguments on calling names. Leave that to Stalin in the sessions of the Politburo. It doesn't matter if Maurice is an agent of the reactionary kulaks, a right-deviationist, a wrecker of the five year plan or a left deviationist. It doesn't matter if CAMERA is composed of third-temple fanatics or A.N.S.W.E.R. advocates. What matters is the logic of their criticism.
If Maurice is a hardline right-winger, then what might Benjamin Netanyahu be? You don't seem to have much gradation in your scale. Such distinctions are usually the mark of superficial minds that want to substitute labeling for analysis, and to dismiss uncomfortable and inconvenient facts by painting them with the stigma of "wrong opinion" or "not PC." Churchill was a "hard line right winger" but he was right about Nazism, and his opponents were wrong. They got away with discrediting him for many years just by using labels like "war monger."
There are some simple propositions that are central to our problems: Settlements are wrong, terrorism is wrong, and Jihadist fanaticism is a danger to civilization of all types. It is hard to make all three statements without being labeled a leftist self-hating Jew and a traitor by one group, an Islamophobic neocon by the other side, and a Zionist war monger to boot. I happen to hold all three beliefs. I don't know where that puts me on the Larry Derfner political scale, and I don't care either. Until we get all those self-serving fools and fanatics out of the room, we cannot have a real discussion.
Propositions have to be considered independently of who is saying them, and independently of other ideological baggage they might bring with them. You need to learn to stick to the issues, and to teach your readers to think rather than to lob labels at each other like grenades. If Aumann or Haniyeh say that the Sun is shining, then the way to prove if they are right or wrong is to look out the window, rather than arguing about whether they are right-wingers or left-wingers. Forgive me for saying that it is an embarrassing and juvenile sort of argument. It may sell newspapers. You are in business to do that. But it makes heat, and not light.

The gab-fest benefits the film itself, because any publicity is good publicity, and it benefits the organizations who are dumping on the film, and who will get more donations from their loyal followers. It does nothing to advance either truth or the cause of Israel, regardless of whether these are the same or different. No neutral or anti-Israel person is going to be convinced by CAMERA or Honest Reporting, and there is no way to ascertain the facts without seen the film and doing the research. Reading these reviews adds nothing. I know who Osama Bin Laden is and I know what he wants. I don't need Honest Reporting or Christianne Anampour to tell me. By now I suspect that only about three dozen people care about that film. It was just another bit of vacuous entertainment with no more truth value (maybe less) than an episode of The Shield or House, and less entertainment value. Discussing it gives it publicity.

The last time there was a similar dustup it was about Spielberg's film, Munich. Reading the criticism of Jewish organizations, I thought that Spielberg must have joined the PLO or maybe the Hamas. Then I saw the film, which was largely sympathetic to Israel and the Zionist cause, and portrayed humanistic and humanitarian Zionists tortured by the necessity of killing, contrasted with fanatic and one-dimensional Arabs. I have learned not to trust the moral standards and aesthetic and professional judgements of these organizations and to form my own judgement.

That said, any film that shows, at the same time, and as part of the same problem, the Jihadist threat along with Zionist and Christian extremists, is showing a lie. Nobody disputes that Amanpour does that. There is a difference between a movement that is morally wrong and theoretically a problem, and a political movement that is an active problem and a clear and present danger. Anti-abortionist fanatics and third temple builders are not my favorite people, but they haven't yet the power or the announced intention to destroy Western civilization. They are not a danger of the same order of magnitude as Al-Qaeda and other Jihadist extremists. There is no way to make Baruch Goldstein into Osama Bin Laden, or to turn Mr. Hagee into the equivalent of Ahmadinejad. Hagee doesn't run a state. He isn't building an atom bomb, and he hasn't declared the intention to make a world without anyone. Goldstein and his friends and supporters represent a morally reprehensible cause. Fortunately there are not a lot of them, and they have no power. They are not a threat to the United States, Western Civilization or Israel. Not yet. The proposition that Bin Laden has something to do with Israeli settlements is intellectual rubbish. Bin Laden's last message didn't even mention Israel. Some people don't want to admit what the real problem is. There is no reason to assist them in their self-delusion.

Larry wrote:

But the question she raises is, if the settlements are a bad thing (a point of view she supports with factual material), and every U.S. government has spoken against them to some degree, why doesn't the U.S. back up its sentiments with action - by pressuring Israel monetarily and politically to stop building settlements? And her answer is: because of the Israel lobby.

But the question I raise, is what do settlements have to do with Islamist fundamentalism in Afghanistan or the price of hay in China? Just because Bin Laden may say it is an issue, doesn't mean it is so. Bin Laden and his followers are not against settlements in the West Bank. They are against the existence of Israel. Just because Jack Kelley wrote that settlements are due to the activities of religious fanatics, doesn't make it so either. The evil of Jim Crow in the United States did not justify, and was not equivalent to, the evil of Stalinism in the USSR. Some people did equate them. It is clear now that they were as wrong as those who equated Stalin and Hitler and insisted that the US and Britain should stay out of World War II.

In any case, a lot of very unreligious people support those settlements. So what is the point? What is the connection to God's Warriors?

Bin Laden and his friends are also against loose morals in women, such as allowing divorce and parading about without a Hijab. So what? Why should this issue even be raised? Who cares what these people claim they support? Their "issues" are all just excuses for taking power by violent means.

And the other question I raise is, if the Israel Lobby is so all-powerful as you and Mearsheimer and Walt and Amanpour pretend, then why hasn't the US taken an unequivocally pro-Israel stance on so many critical issues for Israel, even when Israel is clearly in the right (that happens too sometimes)? How do they screw us? Let us count the ways:

- Boycott - United States continues to do business with Gulf and other countries that maintain primary boycotts of Israel, and the US keeps making believe it doesn't happen.

- Israel's right to exist - US does business with, and supports, numerous regimes that deny and have denied the right of Israel to exist.

- Refugee problem - the perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee problem and the entire mechanism of UNRWA is possible only because of the support of the United States and its allies. No other group of refugees is treated in the same way as Palestinian refugees. An entire mechanism, funded by generous contributions of US and European taxpayers, has been created solely to perpetuate the conflict and the misery of the refugees. The United States has never lifted a finger to change this reality, never threatened to cut off support to the UN, never tried to cajole allies into changing the status of UNRWA.

- Jerusalem - the United States, despite the efforts of the vaunted Israel lobby, does not recognize even West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Congressional resolutions, promises of Presidential candidates, all avail nothing.

It may not suit either AIPAC nor Mearsheimer and Walt and their friends to admit it, but the effectiveness of the Israel lobby is close to zero. The US government does what it sees fit to do, and then justifies it in terms of support for Israel, or not.

Concerning the legality or illegality of settlements, it is a red herring issue, Maurice. You have to decide whether you want to fight Islamism with clean hands or defend settlements. You cannot have both. By raising this issue, you are playing right into the hands of those who want to equate Israeli actions with those of Osama Bin Laden. The whole settlement issue simply didn't belong in a documentary of that type, and its presence there is bizarre. The Tal lawthat exempts Ultraorthodox Jews from the draft is also wrong, and it is religiously motivated, but that doesn't have much to do with Jihadism either.

Ami Isseroff
Posted at Israel News

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