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Comment on ‘Try Tough Love, Hillary’ (Roger Cohen, 12/01/08)

November 1, 2008

In response to:

Try Tough Love, Hillary

New York Times | December 1, 2008

As an American of Jewish descent who long ago recognized that the Palestinian reaction to Israel has more to do with their viewing them as European colonialists than as Jews, I cannot tell you how gratifying it is to me to hear this conversation — finally! — starting to enter the mainstream.

The term ‘facile conflation’, used by Mr. Cohen to describe the soon-to-be-ex-administration’s habit of lumping all Arabs into one large glop of ‘Them’, can also be fairly applied to the manner in which successive generations of right-wing Israeli politicians have conflated a local geographic (and, to some extent, ethnic) conflict with The Holocaust. This conceptual overlay has done a grave disservice to the conversation, and appears to many as a cynical ploy intended in furtherance of the taking and holding of land. As Mr. Cohen’s article clearly implies – and Mr. Olmert essentially admits – it is against that backdrop that Israel has so successfully pressed its demands for billions of dollars of military aid, and in so doing has enlisted the United States as the primary enabler of a corrosive and misguided set of policies regarding the conflict.

The Holocaust was a horrible event, and few with an open heart and well-functioning mind could possibly deny its impact on the national psyche of Jews, and of Israel. I would venture to guess that even the most virulently anti-Israeli Arabs would give that history its due*. But this is a different set of issues, and it’s in keeping with the BEST Jewish traditions of fairness and intellectual honesty to carefully de-construct the understandable sensitivity – even defensiveness – borne of having been the victims of an attempted genocide from the conflict with the Palestinians.

It’s time for the US to support Israel – and American Jews, for that matter – in the quest to live up to the ideals of the Torah and Talmud, in the hard process of negotiating a just and equitable solution, and in pressing back against those radical fringes on both sides of the conflict who seem committed to a dangerous and apocalyptic course of events.  If I were Hillary Clinton, that’s the lens through which I’d approach my new job as Secretary of State – and a leg up on an anticipated candidacy in 2016.

*if you doubt that, consider this: with such a rich legacy of Nazi imagery and rhetoric to draw upon, why do we see almost never see the symbols and arguments of the Third Reich used by Palestinians? To my mind it’s because they don’t feel they’d be a valid representation of their own rage against Israel, which is tribal rather than anti-Semitic in nature.

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