Saturday, October 01, 2011

Hussein Ibish on Atzmon and Mearsheimer

Excellent discussion by Hussein Ibish on Gilad Atzmon and John Mearsheimer: self-criticism, self-hate and hate.
Why Mearsheimer found Atzmon compelling in spite of these attitudes, even if they are largely concealed, implicit or downplayed in his book, is a very disturbing question. Ever since he and Walt began criticizing the role of the pro-Israel lobby (Jewish power in Israel and the United States being a subject that deserves serious interrogation of the kind being done by Peter Beinart, among others), Mearsheimer (far more than Walt) has been developing an outright vendetta with the Jewish mainstream that, I fear, has become deeply personal and therefore distorted.
Last year he gave a dreadful speech at the Palestine Center in Washington in which he abandoned his long-standing good advice to Arab and Muslim Americans to develop an alliance for a two-state solution with peace-minded Jewish Americans. Instead, he counseled Palestinians and their allies that Israel would never agree to the creation of a Palestinian state and that because of demographics and other factors, Palestinians would ultimately prevail, and that in effect they need do nothing to achieve that victory (save, he noted, engaging in the kind of violence that might rationalize another round of Israeli ethnic cleansing). In response to that worst of all possible advice, I dubbed him the “Kevorkian of Palestine,” because I believe he was preaching a form of assisted suicide. He was repeating the siren song Palestinians and other Arabs have been telling themselves about Israel and Zionism since the 1920s: that demographics are destiny and steadfastness alone would secure a victory over the Israeli national project. To say that history has proven this logic incorrect, and led from defeat to defeat, would be a gross understatement.


  1. It is not that I disagree with the overt content of what Ibish writes. I do not. However, I wonder about his comment "Jewish power in Israel and the United States being a subject that deserves serious interrogation of the kind being done by Peter Beinart, among others." What does that mean?

    Is he saying that if one speaks politely, one can communicate hateful ideas about Jews - not that Beinart is hateful. It reminds me of our arrogant leader, Mr. Obama, who told Jewish leaders that introspection by them about Israel is in order - which is a pretty hateful comment, all things considered.

    On the other hand, I do believe that one needs a thick skin and that the PC movement has done real harm to this country, allowing Liberals to be lazy, discounting the views of Conservatives as being bigoted and unworthy of debate. That has not helped Conservatives see the error of their way either. So, it is bad all around, with lazy opinions being the norm - no one challenging views because it is easier to pin labels than to engage in debate and thought.

    If Ibish meant to say that, if one is polite, one can attack the Jewish community, then he is being the polite version of Mearsheimer. If not, then what is being communicated is unclear in the context made. Perhaps, Ibish is endorsing the arrogance of the Beinarts and Obamas, who have said a lot of silly things about the Jewish community, asserting "deep" thoughts about things that, to any other group in the world, would be laughed about as nonsense.

  2. I don't know what Ibish meant by that remark, but you might take a look at his blog to get an idea of how he usually writes. He works for the American Task Force for Palestine, and definitely wants there to be a Palestinian state, but he's not interested in annihilating Israel or Jews (in fact, he advocates working with Jews, and Jeffrey Goldberg, at least, has had some good things to say about him). He also denounced the idiotic speech that Mearsheimer made last year about "Righteous Jews and New Afrikaners."

  3. Hi Rebecca,

    I have read Ibish from time to time over the years. He is a sane voice, although I do not agree with his point of view. I was reacting to what I saw as a very odd comment. I gather you have no explanation for it that is kind. He may, I suppose, wanted merely to indicate that one can be critical without being a bigot. That, however, is not really what his words assert.