Matti Friedman, he of some truly exceptional reporting on blatant anti-Israel bias in the media, has written a book review highly relevant in a time in which those who oppose President Obama’s Iran Deal are derided as “emotional” by the likes of Secretary of State John Kerry and others.
Describing Padraig O’Malley’s theories about Israeli Jews in The Two State Delusion, Friedman writes:
The “bonding, primal element” of the Jewish psyche, we learn, is the Holocaust. Israelis are in thrall to weapons because of the Holocaust; they are obtuse to the suffering of others because of the Holocaust; and in general they are sort of crazy because of the Holocaust. Actually, half of the Jewish population in Israel has roots in the Islamic world. Their families were displaced by Muslims, not Nazis. Israelis think many of their neighbors are out to destroy Israel not because of the Holocaust, but because many of their neighbors say they are out to destroy Israel. Israel’s actions in the Middle East, in other words, have to do with its experience in the Middle East. The country’s objective success against long odds would have to indicate that at least some of its decisions have been reality-based, if not quite reasonable.
The idea that a collective memory renders Jewish judgment defective seems to be something acceptable to say aloud these days in connection with Israel, which is why I’ve dwelled on it. It’s important to point out not only that this observation is wrong, but that it is a patronizing ethnic smear. I don’t like the careless generalizations in Mr. O’Malley’s book or his shaky grasp of the facts. But I don’t think they have anything to do with the potato famine.
One would expect an exercise in conflict resolution to end with a few suggestions on resolving the conflict. Friends of the author who read the manuscript shared this expectation, we learn, and wondered about the absence of constructive ideas. If not two states then what? “But why should I be so presumptuous as to dare provide a vision for people who refuse to provide one for themselves, not just in the here and now, but in the future too?” he replies. “For people who have no faith in the possible? Who themselves believe the conflict will take generations to resolve? Who are content to live their hatreds? Who are so resolutely opposed to the slightest gesture of accommodation? Who revel in their mutual pettiness?”
On behalf of my Holocaust-addled, Uzi-wielding countrymen and—if I may—on behalf of our intellectually depleted neighbors, I would like to express gratitude for being led to common ground: our mutual pettiness.
“The Two-State Delusion” illustrates a strange aspect of our current intellectual moment: At a time when the Middle East has achieved a truly surreal level of awfulness, many in the West have become even more acutely fixated on the Jewish minority enclave in one corner of the region. The death toll in Syria alone in four years is more than double the Israel-Arab death toll in a century. That being the case, it should be clear that believing Israel’s conflict to be the most important in the Middle East is, and always has been, a delusion—one that unconsciously underpins this treatise about the delusions of others.
While Sec. of State Kerry himself did not take the bait from Jeffrey Goldberg when asked about the Holocaust’s effect on Israel in context of the Iran Deal, one would be hard-pressed to find a better description of the Obama administration view of Israel and the Middle East than Friedman’s.
Featured Image Source: ISNA.