Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sorry, Tony -- but you're still an asshole

Political spectators with weak stomachs would be advised to stay away from New York magazine this week.

First, there's a piece about Dick Cheney's lunatic spawn, Liz, and her future as a player in the Republican party.

To my untrained, unprofessional eyes, she seems the longest of long shots. Even though the article goes to lengths to try to disprove it, Liz's kinship with Dick is really the only thing she has going for her. (It's true, she worked at the State Department, but the only substantive mention of her professional life was some screw up she was responsible for when trying to hammer out an agreement with the Egyptians.)

But a blood-relationship with Dick Cheney will not carry anyone to the White House. I doubt very much that she can pose a credible challenge to Jim Webb for a Virginia senate seat -- although I suppose it's not out of the question that she could carry some deep red fly-over state.

But almost more upsetting, in a way, is the profile of NYU scholar Tony Judt.

Professor Judt is sick with Lou Gehrig's disease. I'm very sorry for him and his family. But this doesn't change the fact that he's a pretty lousy thinker -- at least when it comes to Israel. Judt gets away with it somewhat because he's Jewish. And he gets away with it somewhat because, unlike a lot of Jewish Israel critics, he actually spent significant time in Israel.

I'll even go one further: Not all of Judt's attacks are wrong. In fact, when he says, "a growing number of Israelis, [have] been corrupted into an uncompromising ethno-religious real estate pact with a partisan God" I sort of agree with him. (And I concede that "entho-religious real estate pact" is the mark of a good writer.)

The thing that I can't stand is the fact that his invective is solely reserved for Israel.

Sure, there are fanatics in Israel -- that should come as no surprise to anybody. But I find it unfathomable that Judt can't get equally outraged by the fanatics amongst the Palestinians. Fanatics like Hamas and Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade (all of which have a sharia interpretation of their future Palestinian state) have spent years directing the attacks against Israel with the intention of driving Israel further right and undermining the possibility of a two-state solution. (And have been running the lives of the Palestinians into the ground along the way, I might add.)

Yes, I concede that Israel has greater responsibilities, given that it's a functioning democracy -- but where's the disgust and anger with the other thugs who have hijacked the peace process?

Also, I thought there was a snobbishness in Mr. Judt's dismissal of Israel that I found unbearable. “Most Israelis were not transplanted latter-day agrarian socialists," Judt writes, "but young, prejudiced urban Jews who differed from their European or American counterparts chiefly in their macho, swaggering self-confidence, and access to armed weapons.”

You'll pardon my French, but that's an utterly bullshit argument. First off, what does Judt expect? "Latter-day agrarian socialists?" So Israel has to qualify morally and ethically -- according to Tony Judt's idea of a liberal democracy -- before it's entitled to its status and protection as a state?

Certainly not. Why shouldn't Israel be urban? Why shouldn't it be modern? Why shouldn't it be western-centric? None of these offenses punishable by death. Nor have I ever heard of any other state who had to defend itself on such existential (and ridiculous) grounds. (As for the claims that they're macho and prejudiced: Some are, yes. But these, too, are not offenses worthy of a suicide bomb in a market place.)

I agree with Mr. Judt that Israel is committing a slow form of suicide in its attachment to the West Bank -- but when he says that the idea that Israel will ever leave is a "fantasy" I have to reply: What have you been smoking? Israel has pulled out of territory five times in the last three decades. They abandoned settlements in the Sinai in exchange for a peace treaty. They abandoned settlements in Gaza without a peace treaty. The other three times (Lebanon, Lebanon and Gaza) there were no settlements to dismantle or abandon. While I don't see Israel leaving the West Bank right now, it's absurd to say it will never happen.

I only hope that Mr. Judt remains healthy long enough to see himself proved wrong.