Face Of The Day

ISRAEL-GERMANY-HOLOCAUST-US-HISTORY-NAZI

At the archives of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum, the front page of the original issue of the Nazi family magazine “Sonnie ins Haus” (Sunshine in the House) shows baby Hessy Taft as the ideal German Aryan baby, part of the Nazi propaganda developed by Joseph Goebbels. The magazine cover was recently donated by Taft to the museum as part of the “Gathering the Fragments” campaign. Hessy Taft (nee Levinson) was born in Berlin in 1934 to Jewish parents Jacob and Polin Levinson, who were originally from Latvia but later immigrated to Germany. By Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images.

The Revenge Doctrine

The situation in Israel and Palestine continues to escalate, with Israel going all-in on its latest offensive in Gaza to quell renewed Hamas rocket fire:

The Israeli military announced the call-up of 1,500 reservists and the deployment of two infantry brigades along the Gaza Strip. Convoys of trucks carrying Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers were seen on the highway headed south Tuesday. … Over the last 24 hours, Hamas and other anti-Israel militant groups in Gaza have fired more than 100 mortar rounds and rocket shells at Israel. More than a dozen were intercepted by Israel’s U.S.-supported Iron Dome missile-defense batteries, but many others fell on Israeli soil. Most of the rockets landed in open fields, but some hit structures.

Yishai Schwartz remarks that the torture-murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir by alleged Jewish extremists last week is a symptom of a growing pathology in Israeli society:

[I]deas have power, and it would also be a mistake to write these murders off as the insane acts of deranged lone wolves. The perpetrators were deranged, but they were not alone. The same pathologies that animated Kahane’s followers and that Wieseltier identified decades ago have not disappeared. Radical nationalism, militant millenarianism, and social resentmentoften tinged with the fundamentalism of religious dogmaare all too alive in Israel’s underclass. And after years of steady Palestinian violence and rejection, too many in Israel shrug off the rhetoric of its own racists as regrettable, but understandable. …

It’s that resignation in the face of racism that scares me, and partly that’s because it comes from a place I understand. There is something beautiful about the belief that because we are Jews, racist rhetoric will never lead to brutal murder. And there is beauty to the genuine shocknot just horror, but surprisewhen it does.

Do you remember when American newscasters and presidents could still honestly declare themselves “shocked” and “unsettled” by mass shootings and school violence? In retrospect, that shock was a beautiful thing. But in the United States, those days are gone. We have grown accustomed to domestic mass shooting. And I fear that a similar thing is happening here in Israelthat this will be the last time that an Israeli defense minister can seem genuinely shaken by the reality of Jewish terror.

Dershowitz remains optimistic that Israel will bring Abu Khdeir’s killers to justice:

I believe the Israeli legal system will be fair, or perhaps even bend over backwards, when it comes to the brutal murderers of Khdeir. Criminal trials in Israel do not involve juries. Accused criminals are tried by professional judges, who are in general selected on a non-partisan basis. Verdicts and sentences are less likely to be influenced by popular opinion than in the United States, where judges are either elected or politically appointed, and where jurors are supposed to reflect the views of the people.

Even if some Israelis might have more sympathy for Jews who killed a Palestinian than for Palestinians who killed Jews, that sort of public bias will have little impact on the trial of those accused of killing Khdeir. The age of the defendants, however, might. There are reports that some may be minors, and Israeli law does take account of the age of accused criminals. But older vigilantes may well be involved as well, either in planning, inciting or protecting the actual killers. The investigation is ongoing and will not stop until everyone who has played a culpable role in the murder is apprehended and brought to justice.

But Saletan has his doubts about Netanyahu’s pledge to treat Abu Khdeir’s murder the same as other acts of terrorism:

It’s not just Netanyahu who has pledged that Khdeir’s killers “will face the full weight of the law.” Naftali Bennett, Israel’s economy minister, says he and his right-wing supporters “will demand the Terrorist Law we put forward be applied to the boy’s killers.” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says the killers “should be treated as terrorists.” Khdeir’s parents point out that there’s a simple way to make good on these promises. “Destroy their houses just like [Israel] destroyed the houses of the suspects in Hebron,” says the boy’s father. “Demolish their houses and give them life sentences,” says his mother.

Some Israelis are already concocting excuses for not applying the policy to Jews. Almagor, a 28-year-old organization that claims to speak “for terror victims’ rights,” says in its mission statement that every victim “is entitled to justice: punishment of the criminal, the psychological closure that comes with punishment, laying down the law in its full force.” But on Monday, in a letter to the Israeli government and members of parliament, the group’s director pleaded that while “we need to deter Palestinian terrorists by destroying houses and exiling their families,” Jews don’t need to be treated this way, because they seldom kill.

Face Of The Day

Mahmoud Abbas receives Mohammed Abu Khdeir's family

Fifteen-year-old American citizen Tariq Khdeir meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on July 7, 2014. Khdeir was beaten by Israeli policemen and arrested on Thursday during the funeral of his cousin Mohamed, who was abducted and killed by suspected Jewish settlers on Wednesday. By Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

Bibi’s Vengeance

A reader writes:

That quote from Netanyahu about god avenging etc. – that isn’t something he came up with; it is a standard religious thing to say whenever someone is murdered by an enemy (השם יקום דמו if you can read Hebrew; הי״ד , the acronym, is often simply added to the notice of such a death). Normally and through most of Jewish history, this was interpreted to mean simply that god will settle the score with the killer. The more sinister interpretation is obvious, but it is also quite a new idea, historically speaking, and it is only taken up on the very far right by supporters of the late racist hate-monger Meir Kahane. (To give you some idea of how far out they are from the mainstream, parties that advocate his teachings are outlawed.)

Another Jewish reader:

There’s a worse quote from Netanyahu. He quoted national poet Cham Bialik, as saying “such vengeance, the vengeance of the blood of a little child, is yet to be invented by the Devil.”

But he quoted out of context. Bialik, writing after the Kishinev pogrom, actually wrote (in his “On the Slaughter, Al Ha’Schita): “And damned be he who calls for vengeance!/Such Vengeance, the vengeance of a little child/is yet to be invented by the Devil.” In the Hebrew, it goes like this:

וְאָרוּר הָאוֹמֵר: נְקֹם!

נְקָמָה כָזֹאת, נִקְמַת דַּם יֶלֶד קָטָן

עוֹד לֹא-בָרָא הַשָּׂטָן –

This is one of most famous bits of poetry in Hebrew; it is taught to schoolchildren all over the country. By inverting the quote, by laying the emphasis on vengeance instead of its denouncement, Netanyahu was dog-whistling to his extreme right-wing crowd. He does so often; the Israel left has been calling him “inciter in chief” since the 1990s. Not something mentioned often in Republican circles, I’d bet.

Quote For The Day

“Abu Khdeir’s murderers are not ‘Jewish extremists.’ They are the descendants and builders of a culture of hate and vengeance that is nurtured and fertilized by the guides of ‘the Jewish state’: Those for whom every Arab is a bitter enemy, simply because they are Arab; those who were silent at the Beitar Jerusalem games when the team’s fans shouted ‘death to Arabs’ at Arab players; those who call for cleansing the state of its Arab minority, or at least to drive them out of the homes and cities of the Jews.

No less responsible for the murder are those who did not halt, with an iron hand, violence by Israeli soldiers against Palestinian civilians, and who failed to investigate complaints ‘due to lack of public interest.’ The term ‘Jewish extremists’ actually seems more appropriate for the small Jewish minority that is still horrified by these acts of violence and murder. But they too recognize, unfortunately, that they belong to a vengeful, vindictive Jewish tribe whose license to perpetrate horrors is based on the horrors that were done to it.

Prosecuting the murderers is no longer sufficient. There must be a cultural revolution in Israel. Its political leaders and military officers must recognize this injustice and right it. They must begin raising the next generation, at least, on humanist values, and foster a tolerant public discourse. Without these, the Jewish tribe will not be worthy of its own state,” – the editors at Ha’aretz.

The Best Of The Dish This Weekend

Pamplona Running Of The Bulls

The horrifying kidnapping and almost instant murder of three Israeli Jewish teens was only bested by Bib Netanyahu’s disgustingly Cheney-esque response: “May God avenge their blood.” To have the leader of a democratic country bless the concept of revenge after such an inflammatory event is quite something. It is not something that George W Bush engaged in publicly after 9/11, which was a thousand times more deadly than the foul crime on the West Bank. It is not something any leader seeking to keep his country civil and united would ever do.

So when a sectarian revenge fantasy becomes real – and a young Palestinian teen is burned alive in response – I think the prime minister bears some responsibility. But then he bears responsibility for so much: the relentless settlement of the West Bank, destroying any chance for a two-state solution (by clear design); the sharp deterioration in Israel’s relations with Europe, Turkey, and the United States, as a result; and the devolution of Greater Israel into a situation where sectarian revenge killings are now part of the fabric. It seems increasingly clear to me that Netanyahu should be seen less and less as a democratic figure like a European prime minister, and more like a democratically elected Middle Eastern sectarian figure, like Maliki. With the same potential consequences.

And here, for good measure, are two IDF soldiers beating the 15-year-old American cousin of the murdered Palestinian teen, allegedly caught in a violent protest:

Another video of the beating is here. If it looks like something the basij do in Tehran, you’re not far off. The State Department has issued a statement in response.

Meanwhile, we spent the weekend noting how spirituality is not all there is to religion; and that democracy may well produce a new kind of tyranny. We featured a creepy new Cronenberg short; a gorgeous floral time-lapse; and a reflection by yours truly on how to be an American and an Englishman.

Plus: sex after 60; getting off with your iPad (literally); and the anti-depressant qualities of Botox.

The most popular post of the weekend was written by Alexis de Tocqueville; the second most popular was on the relationship between narcissism and porn addiction.

You can always leave your unfiltered comments at our Facebook page and @sullydish. 15 more readers became subscribers this weekend. You can join them here – and get access to all the readons and Deep Dish – for a little as $1.99 month.

See you in the morning.

(Photo: Revellers hold up their red handkerchiefs during the opening and the firing of the ‘Chupinazo’ rocket which starts the 2014 Festival of the San Fermin Running of the Bulls on July 6, 2014 in Pamplona, Spain. By Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images.)

Crime And Collective Punishment

The three Israeli teenagers who went missing last month were found dead on Monday, leading Israel to step up its harsh crackdown on Hamas:

In the past two weeks, Israel has launched a massive security operation in the West Bank that has led to the rounding up of over 400 Palestinians suspected of being Hamas operatives. The house-to-house searches and mass arrests brought Palestinian youth out into the streets. At least five Palestinians have died after being fatally shot by Israeli soldiers in the resulting crackdown, including 15-year-old teenager Mohammed Dudeen. … At least three Palestinians in the isolated coastal strip have died as a result [of airstrikes].

The latest volley of violence:

Palestinian rockets hit two homes in Sderot but caused no injuries. Ten people were injured by the Israeli strikes. According to The New York Times, the Israeli military said they had launched airstrikes in response to earlier rocket fire, specifically targeted training sites associated with the militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza. Israel also positioned troops along the Gaza border in what it described as a defensive measure.

Here are some young racist Israelis using the occasion to march through the streets yelling “Death to Arabs!”;

Their brazenness may well have been stirred by Netanyahu’s use of the word “revenge” to describe the Jewish state’s response to the horrifying murder of three Israeli teens. MJ Rosenberg is aghast:

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s response was perhaps the most repulsive response to an event like this that I have ever seen by any national leader of a civilized country. He vows “revenge.” Revenge? Not Even George W. Bush used that term after 9/11, pledging instead to bring the people who committed the crime to justice. FDR after Pearl Harbor? The parents after Newtown?

It’s at moment like this that you realize how tenuous Israel’s commitment to Western values have become of late. Here, for example, is a tweet showing bright young things in favor of ethnic cleansing of Arabs, the obvious end-point for Greater Israel:

Many are worried about a Third Intifada in response to all this. Beauchamp:

The million-dollar question is whether this escalates militarily, especially given that the two sides were already at a tense point. Before the [Gaza] bombing, 16 rockets had been fired into Israel out of the Gaza Strip. Israel alleges that they were the first Hamas-fired rockets since 2012. Other more recent rocket fire had been from smaller groups, which Hamas arguably attempted to repress in order to avoid risking Israeli retaliation. “Either Hamas stops it,” Netanyahu said, “or we will stop it.”

Max Fisher points out:

Collective punishment is designated as a war crime by the Geneva Conventions, which regulate warfare under international law.

It’s also deeply harmful to the Israel-Palestine peace process, polarizing Palestinian political groups and civilians against Israel. It also polarizes Israelis against Palestinians. Israeli government rhetoric and actions implicitly blaming wide swathes of Palestinians for the kidnapping have coincided with incidents of Israeli mob violence against Palestinians, including what appears to be the abduction and murder of an Arab teenager. …

In any case, the Hamas political leaders based in Gaza seem unlikely to have participated in a kidnapping in the West Bank committed by rogue Hamas militants, so it’s not clear that air strikes on Hamas political leaders in Gaza are an appropriate or justified response.

And as Eli Lake observes, Saleh al-Arouri, the Hamas commander believed by Israel to be the mastermind behind the recent wave of kidnappings in the West Bank, is not even in the country:

Senior Israeli officials confirmed for The Daily Beast that al-Arouri is the Hamas leader who has encouraged, funded and coordinated a campaign to ramp up kidnappings in the West Bank and that al-Arouri now resides in Turkey. …  [I]t could further complicate relations between Ankara and Jerusalem, two former allies that have tried recently to repair a broken relationship.

Meanwhile, Amjad Iraqi laments the “selective sympathy” on both sides when it comes to the deaths of Israeli and Palestinian children:

The apathy toward the “other child’s” suffering is painful to watch, including in this latest saga. In the two to three weeks following the abduction of the three Israeli boys, at least eight Palestinians were killed during Israel’s military responses in both Gaza and the West Bank. Among them were 10-year-old Ali al-Awour, 15-year-old Mohammad Dudeen and 22-year-old Mustafa Hosni Aslan. Ali died of wounds from an Israeli missile strike in northern Gaza; Mohammad was killed by a single live bullet in the village of Dura; Mustafa was killed by live bullets in Qalandiya refugee camp during clashes with an Israeli military raid.

I write the names of those three Palestinian boys not to belittle the horrific deaths of the three Israeli boys. I write their names because, while everyone will remember Gilad, Naftali and Eyal, no one will remember Ali, Mohammad or Mustafa.

And Susan Abulhawa decries the West’s double standard:

Palestinian children are assaulted or murdered every day and barely do their lives register in western press. While Palestinian mothers are frequently blamed when Israel kills their children, accused of sending them to die or neglecting to keep them at home away from Israeli snipers, no one questions Rachel Frankel, the mother of one of the murdered settlers. She is not asked to comment on the fact that one of the missing settlers is a soldier who likely participated in the oppression of his Palestinian neighbors. No one asks why she would move her family from the United States to live in a segregated, supremacist colony established on land confiscated from the native non-Jewish owners. Certainly no one dares accuse her of therefore putting her children in harms way.

“The Occupation Is Indefensible”

In a lengthy and powerful reflection inspired by Israel’s outsized response to the kidnapping of three yeshiva students in the West Bank on Friday, Max Fisher announces that he is finished blaming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on “both sides”:

There has always been, and there remains, plenty of culpability to go around in this conflict, plenty of individuals and groups that squandered peace and perpetuated suffering many times over. Everyone is complicit and no one is pure. The crisis over the kidnapped students shows all this. But it is also highlights what has become perhaps the most essential truth of the Israel-Palestine conflict: for all the complexity of how it came to be and why it’s continued, for all the shared responsibility for this week’s crisis and everything that led up to it, the conflict predominantly matters for the human suffering it causes. And today the vast majority of that suffering comes from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Today, the suffering has become so disproportionately administered by the occupation and so disproportionately felt by Palestinians that, in a conflict famous for its complexity and its gray areas, this is an issue that looks less gray all the time: the occupation is wrong, it is the problem, and Israel is responsible. …

Ha’aretz columnist Gideon Levy generated anticipatable controversy when he wrote that “if, in the West Bank, yeshiva students aren’t abducted, then the West Bank disappears from Israel’s consciousness.” To many, this sounded as if the column were encouraging Palestinians to abduct school-age Israelis; to others, presumably including the columnist himself, it may have rung true as a description of many Israelis’ apathy to the suffering of West Bank Palestinians.

Here’s what has happened in Hebron as a result of the kidnappings:

In the three days since, the Israeli military has descended on the southern part of the West Bank where the yeshiva students disappeared, and especially on the major Palestinian city of Hebron. I happened to visit Hebron the day before the kidnapping and found it already suffocated by occupation. Dozens of Palestinians have been arrested; some estimates say 120, some nearer to 80, but all agree that it includes the entire population of middle-aged and older men who work for Hamas’s political branch (remember that they are also a political party). The military has severely restricted Palestinian movement in Hebron, forbidden residents under age 50 from leaving the country, and completely shut down all movement in or out of Gaza and the southern West Bank save for “humanitarian and medical assistance.”

I don’t know how you live in a place where a foreign army can do this to you at will at any time. And I do not begin to know how you live with it for decades and decades, as the occupation continues to advance by colonizing and settling. Until the United States is capable of ending aid to Israel unless it ceases its illegal and immoral attempt to control and repress a whole nation under its thumb, this will go on. In so many ways, this is America’s colonization as well. Until we have the foresight and sanity to cease our enabling of it.

On Chait

GAZASCHOOLGIRLOlivierLaban-Mattei:AFP:Getty

I’m overdue for the response I promised and so much is going on. But here goes.

Jon Chait is absolutely correct that I have moved very far from the hardline neoconservatism I held in the late 1990s and early 2000s. And I think he is right to say that my previous view of the subject, informed by years of marination in the topic at The New Republic, combined with a long-held commitment to the defense of the Jewish people in the wake of the Holocaust, was, in many respects, brittle. It was also not as well-informed as it should have been, although editing TNR for so long meant I was probably exposed to more argument and rhetoric on the question than most people in a lifetime. My core interests were elsewhere and still are. But my concern for Israel – and admiration of her remarkable achievements in economics and science and technology and the rule of law – has always been deep.

I never wrote much on the subject of the Israel-Palestine conflict before I started blogging – but the decision to run a highly eclectic blogazine made it unavoidable in the Middle East wars of the new Millennium and prompted me to think about it some more and follow events more closely. Readers know I constantly link to writers who know much more about this issue than I do – from Laura Rozen to Jeffrey Goldberg to Marc Lynch to Juan Cole to Stephen Walt and Reuel Marc Gerecht and countless others of many different views.

My view of the question was also made much more brittle at the beginning of the last decade by what I thought were good faith efforts by the Israelis in the 1990s to forge some kind of peace rejected unreasonably by Arafat (although my view of Taba has become a little more complicated since I have read more on the subject). The 9/11 attacks – in their evil and traumatizing impact – immediately added a new level of of emotional intensity to the threat of Islamist terror in my mind and heart, and helped me identify with Israel’s confrontation with Hamas and Hezbollah more viscerally. To select via Google, as Chait does, various, extreme passages from that period is certainly legitimate as a debating point but not entirely fair, given the long, gradual and open self-correction and re-thinking I have gone through since then.

And it also critically ignores the major shifts in the world and the situation since then: the doubling of the illegal settler population on the West Bank, the catastrophe of the Iraq war and its ramifications for the West’s relationship with the Muslim world, the torture policy embraced by the US government against overwhelmingly Muslim prisoners, the move to the far right in Israeli public opinion (where approval of Obama once sunk to 6 percent), the effect of Bush’s blank check for Israel for eight years, the rise of Israel’s religious right, the influx of Russian immigrants, Obama’s promise as a bridge between the West and moderate Muslims, the brutality of the Gaza war just before his inauguration, and the intransigence of the Netanyahu government ever since over something as basic as mere freezing settlement construction that is already illegal. Chait writes as if the last decade had never happened and that therefore the shift in my position is somehow inexplicable, apart from some psychological inability to see nuance, or some general Manicheanism in my world view.

It would be more accurate to say that certain scales have fallen from my eyes with respect to Israel as they have with respect to the United States under the Cheney administration and its war crimes. And yes, I was moved by what I saw in Gaza, and appalled by the triumphalist neoconservative rhetoric over the dead bodies of innocent children and what I came to see as a grotesquely disproportionate response by a regional super-power, subsidized by a global super-power, armed with 150 nuclear weapons, to the war crimes of Hamas.

It is also true that I write emotionally at times, and my anger sometimes gets the better of me. But this is true of all of us. For example:

I hate President George W. Bush. There, I said it … He reminds me of a certain type I knew in high school–the kid who was given a fancy sports car for his sixteenth birthday and believed that he had somehow earned it. I hate the way he walks–shoulders flexed, elbows splayed out from his sides like a teenage boy feigning machismo. I hate the way he talks–blustery self-assurance masked by a pseudo-populist twang. I even hate the things that everybody seems to like about him. I hate his lame nickname-bestowing– a way to establish one’s social superiority beneath a veneer of chumminess (does anybody give their boss a nickname without his consent?). And, while most people who meet Bush claim to like him, I suspect that, if I got to know him personally, I would hate him even more.

Well, no one can claim that some of this anger isn’t merited, and I quite enjoyed the column as a rant myself. But there are glass houses and stones involved here.

More to the point, after graciously exonerating me from the insinuation that I am a bigot, Chait writes that Wieseltier wrote a “trenchant and persuasive dissection” of my evolving views. Note the word “persuasive”. And “dissection”. Really? Does Chait believe it is persuasive that, as Wieseltier claimed on the question of torture, for example, that

Krauthammer argues for his views; the premises of his analysis are coldly clear, and may be engaged analytically, and when necessary refuted. Unlike Sullivan, he does not present feelings as ideas.

Is Chait persuaded that my response to Krauthammer in TNR, The Abolition of Torture, was merely, as Wieseltier claimed, “feelings” presented as “ideas”? Does he think that my examination of the roots of “enhanced interrogation” has not been backed up by facts and legal precedents? Does he believe that my essay last summer was mere feeling? Does he think that my work over the last decade on this subject has not constantly been backed up by fact, argument, text, and historical precedent? Was Wieseltier’s piece really a “persuasive dissection” of these issues?

Does Chait think it was a “trenchant” argument by Wieseltier that my exploration of the question of just war in the context of Gaza was “calculatedly indifferent to the wrenching moral and strategic perplexities that are contained in the awful reality of asymmetrical warfare” when the Dish’s extensive and careful and thoughtful discussion of the subject can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, and here? Is this what Chait believes is “calculated indifference” to the complexities involved?

Is Chait persuaded by Wieseltier that my record on this blog and elsewhere has involved no “notion of the magnitude and the virulence of Muslim contempt for the Jewish world”, or that I have refused over the years to “give the whole picture”?

These are not rhetorical questions. They are real questions of a fellow blogger and former colleague who has endorsed as “persuasive and trenchant” the substance of an argument that is riddled with easily demonstrated untruths. If Chait is intellectually honest, as I believe he is, he will address these points, and refute Wieseltier on them one by one by one.

My response to Jeffrey Goldberg’s endorsement of Chait’s piece (which began with the sentence: “Chait says much of what I would say, but better”) is forthcoming.

(Photo: a schoolgirl in Gaza walking through the wreckage of Israel’s air assault in January 2009. By Olivier Laban-Mattei/Getty.)

Goldblog On The Dish

AVIGDORUrielSinai:Getty

Read Jeffrey’s latest. He makes a point that improves on my own formulation:

I disagree with his formulation about Israel’s suicide, though not entirely. If anything, Israel may wind up the victim of murder-suicide. The long and brutal strategy of Arab Muslim extremists is to keep up the pressure on Israel until it makes a fatal mistake (the Gaza invasion, many believe — and I do, on some days — was an example of a non-fatal, but pretty damn serious strategic mistake) or until Israelis simply give up.

I think that murder-suicide is a better formulation. I despise the idea that Israel doesn’t have as much a right to exist as any other state, that it doesn’t have the right to self-defense as much as any other state, and I do believe that in the 1990s, the Israeli governments and people made good faith efforts to make peace that were largely, but not entirely, unreciprocated. I think Taba was more complicated than many neoconservatives made it out to be, but I had little difficulty in taking Israel’s side unequivocally in those years.

What concerns me – and concerns many – is what has happened since.

I’m sorry I haven’t had time to respond fully to Jeffrey and Jon yet – I thought it more urgent to tackle Marc Thiessen and this blog’s incessant pace makes the kind of reflection necessary to be fair in a real response in real time very hard. (And I hope Jeffrey saw my “tear his argument to shreds” point had a tongue-in-cheek quality to it. I certainly didn’t write, as his headline has it, that I would tear him to shreds. )

What concerns me is the hardening of attitudes in Israel, the emergence of a radical right in the mainstream, a foreign minister who is a vicious racist, and a response to Obama’s offer to hold a mirror up to Israel that amounted to a Cheneyite attempt to smash that mirror to pieces. Since the 1990s, the population of settlers on the West Bank has doubled, while the entire world has shifted deeply against Israel – and not solely because of rampant anti-Semitism. I do not single out Israel for war crimes – look at my record on the US. But I do believe that the Gaza war was worse than a mistake. It was, in many respects, along with the blockade, a pre-meditated crime.

And if Ehud Ohlmert were still prime minister, we might have made huge strides this past year. But Olmert is not prime minister. Netanyahu is – a wily, deeply cynical pol. And Avigdor Lieberman is Israel’s face to the world. No less than Marty Peretz has described Lieberman as a “neo-fascist … a certified gangster … the Israeli equivalent of Jörg Haider.” This is Israel’s foreign minister – and he’s there because the domestic politics of Israel put him there. We have the equivalent of Rove-Cheney in power in Israel, and we are approaching a terribly dangerous moment with Iran. I fear terrible consequences and I see in Washington the same neoconservatives upping the ante more and more.

Jeffrey doesn’t see it quite that way, but he does see the problem, and his writing has helped me understand more deeply the problem:

I’ve been writing since 2004 that Israel will one day be considered an apartheid state if it continues to rule over a population of Arabs that doesn’t want to be ruled by Israelis. That is why it is vital for Israel to establish permanent, internationally-recognized borders that more-or-less adhere to the 1967 border. Unlike Andrew, I believe that Israel has tried to free itself from ruling these Palestinians (the pull-out from Gaza is an example, as is Ehud Olmert’s recent, unanswered offer to the Palestinians to pull out from virtually 100 percent of the West Bank). But the reality remains: It will be very dangerous for Israel to engineer this pull-back, but it will be, over time, fatal for it to stay in the West Bank.

(Photo: Avigdor Lieberman by Uriel Sinai/Getty.)