Monday, April 13, 2009

Hope for the Levant?

Norman Finkelstein commenting on the possibility of a war against Iran:

[Israel] says the NIE report’s a lie, and we still have to attack Iran. Well, most American Jews are liberal. They grew up in the generation, “Give peace a chance.” And here is this warmongering country, which has frankly become a crazy state, and which says war, war, war. And it’s becoming an embarrassment for American Jews. It’s not only an embarrassment; it’s becoming a problem. Because if the U.S. goes to war, and the war turns into a catastrophe like Iraq, American Jews are going to be blamed. So, for both ideological reasons, and reasons of self-interest, they’re distancing themselves from Israel. Israel is out of control. It’s a lunatic state.

and Israel's policy toward Hezbollah:

You know, for the past sixty years, Israel strategy can be summarized in one sentence—which they always use; it’s not my idea—that “Arabs only understand the language of force.” That’s the way you deal with Arabs. Whenever they get out of line, you take out the big club and you break it over their head. Fortunately now with Hezbollah they’re seeing “Well, maybe it’s not working.” They’ll try again. I pity the poor Lebanese, because they’re going to go in a third time, to try to knock them out, the Hezbollah.

The comments are separate in the interview but of course need to be read together. It is not just Arabs whom Israel's rulers thinks only understand the language of force. Perhaps some defender of Israel's current decisionmakers would inform us about what language they understand. I confess to perplexity.

Now, consider this perspective:

Hezbollah is in many ways not only the hope for the Arab world, but it’s the greatest hope for Israel. Because the moment Israel realizes it doesn’t have a military option, then it’ll begin to negotiate a reasonable settlement. And that’s good for Israel, if it can get a reasonable settlement, and, as you put it, extricate itself from this grave that they’re digging. So I think Hezbollah is good for Israel. It has to stop thinking that for every problem that arises, all it has to do is come in with its artillery and its planes and just blow everything away. That’s Israel.

Without being an expert on Israel but having read many morally astute and intellectually substantive reports by Israeli thinkers (not to mention American Jewish thinkers such as Finkelstein), I would amend the last sentence. No criticism intended - we all, myself included, use state names to indicate governing elites. But just to nitpick on a very important point - "that's Israel's decisionmakers." Time is running out, but I still think there is hope for the population as a whole if it can turn its back on its bloody-shirt-waving leaders.

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