John Kerry Tells The Truth … Therefore He Has To Apologize, Ctd

The above tweet is not exactly atypical of many supporters of Greater Israel. And David Harsanyi rightly bemoans its absurdly broad brush. But then, rather than responding to the substance of my post on John Kerry’s truth-telling at the Trilateral Commission, he insinuates that I am also anti-Semitic and even links to the poisonous and deranged screed that Leon Wieseltier maliciously penned about me.

Sigh. Harsanyi disputes the term ethnic cleansing to describe what happened in 1948. Maybe that term, along with the invocation of the a-word, inflames more than it enlightens. But it remains true that around 700,000 of the 1.2 million inhabitants of Palestine were either evicted from their homes or fled during the war of independence for Israel. All of them were Arab. In 1946, the Jewish share of the population of Israel was 30 percent. In 1950, it was closer to 50 percent. By the 1970s, it was over 80 percent.

Now we can debate for ever the nuances of this, who was to blame, etc. (and the Arab world definitely shares that responsibility, by its intransigent and violent stand against a Jewish state). But that’s a massive demographic shift along religious and ethnic lines. If today, 700,000 inhabitants of a country were expelled or fled to make way for a population of a different ethnicity, and if the ethnic/religious majority was changed in a matter of a few years, I don’t think we would be debating the question of ethnic cleansing. And it is that history that hangs over the ethnic engineering Israel is attempting on the West Bank. On that occupied land, Israel is settling hundreds of thousands of Jewish Israelis, in order to shift the demography some more. It is my contention that this further act of colonization is completely incompatible with any short- or long-term two-state solution; and that the Israeli refusal to stop it – even during negotiations – is the essential obstacle to any possible peace agreement. And using Occam’s razor, I cannot see any reason for it other than a longstanding commitment to build the Jewish state with a Jewish majority over the entire territory in dispute.

Harsanyi says I single out only Israel for censure. Of course that’s untrue. The very day I wrote that post, we also covered the appalling regime in Egypt. We covered the foul regime in Iran obsessively in 2009. We haven’t shied from the gruesome human toll in Syria, even as I oppose deeper intervention there as well. So to Harsanyi’s point, I favor ending aid to Egypt as well as to Israel, and I’ve written so several times. My own view is that the US should do what it can to get out of meddling in the entire Middle East. It’s a mug’s game, in which the eternal loser is the US.

Harsanyi further insinuates that I regard the Greater Israel lobby as the only force for Israel’s interests vis-a-vis America’s in American politics. Again not true. Yes, the lobby is ferocious and intransigent and disciplined and, in my view, has actively worsened Israel’s global position in the last decade. But it would not have that clout without overwhelming American identification with Israel as opposed to Palestine’s Arabs, or indeed anywhere in the Arab world.

The trouble is that that emotional support can, in my view, prevent Israel from taking necessary steps to salvage its reputation, its morality, and its survival as a Jewish state.

Max Fisher rightly points out that the apartheid metaphor could lead some to infer that a Jewish state should be abolished just as the Afrikaner state was. That’s not my view at all. My view is motivated primarily by frustration at Israeli extremism but also by a view that a Jewish state must survive and prosper as a moral cause. Because I’m so harsh on Israel’s policies right now, that might seem surprising to some. But if I weren’t committed to a Jewish state in existence as a safe harbor for the Jewish people, I wouldn’t even be writing about this much at all. My view – shared, for example, by the current Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer – is that a Jewish state permanently disenfranchising a hefty proportion of the people it controls is immoral and self-destructive and toxic to the entire enterprise and unworthy of the great civilization that the Jewish people, against hideous odds, have constructed over the centuries. And no amount of insinuation or name-calling is going to make me change my mind.