Thursday, January 13, 2005

Review: A World Without Israel

Via Gregory Djerejian, Josef Joffe imagines a world without Israel.

Joffe thinks a world without Israel would not be much different. I think he misses the point of the critics he is trying to defend against. Serious critics of Israel and America are not against the Israeli state per se. Nor do they "absolve the Arabs of culpability". They just don't think America is an honest and impartial broker in the region, which causes a whole slew of problems.

Imagine for a moment that Sweden and Norway are mortal enemies at war. Then ask yourself this question: Would it be in America's best interest to have me and my fellow Norwegian-Americans direct US policies in Scandinavia?

Consider these facts:
  • The American Ambassador to Israel is Jewish

  • The American neoconservative movement inspired Bush's recent foreign policy initiatives
  • Of the 11 prominent neoconservatives listed on wikipedia, 8 are Jewish (Feith, Frum, Horowitz, Kristol, Kristol, Perle, Strauss and Wolfowitz). At least 4 of them hold (Feith, Wolfowitz) or held (Frum, Perle) prominent positions in the Bush administration

  • Jews in America are financially strong. According to Jewish intellectual Benjamin Ginsberg (1993):
    Today, though barely 2% of the nation's population is Jewish, close to half its billionaires are Jews. The chief executive officers of the three major television networks, and the four largest film studios are Jews, as are the owners of the nation's largest newspaper chain and most influential single newspaper, the New York Times. In the late 1960s, Jews already constituted 20% of the faculty of elite universities and 40% of the professors of elite law schools; today, these percentages doubtless are higher.
Clearly Jews have influence in America. And on the domestic front I have no problems with it; I consider it a tribute to both American meritocracy and the hard work and ingenuity of Jewish-Americans.

But like many critics I find the strong Jewish influence of US policy in the Middle East unfortunate. This influence is clearly seen in UN Security Council and General Assembly votes. Basically; the world wants Israel to withdraw and stop building settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, but the United States always intervenes on Israel's behalf.

So, just like you wouldn't want a me to decide what America should do about the Swedes, I don't want Jews to run American Middle East policy. That is the essence of the world's critisism. Josef Joffe and most American writers just don't get it. And that is very unfortunate because Israel and Palestine need them to help Mahmoud Abbas and Sharon/Peres make the most of the rare opportunity for peace presented by Yasser Arafat's death.

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