Israel Cocoon Of Denial

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Gregory Djerejian’s long post on the flotilla fiasco contains an important analysis of the continuing ideological delegitimization of Israel and Israelis’ cocoon of denial about its causes:

And last, while there are still other strategic setbacks besides, the continued de-legitimation of Israel among large swaths of global opinion coming out of the ’06 Lebanese conflict, the dismal Operation Cast Lead, the Goldstone Report, and now this latest debacle, is worth highlighting as well. I know, I know, everyone would be beating up on Tel Aviv anyway, we are told by those who are always at the ready to provide carte blanche style rationalizations for whatever conduct Israel might deem appropriate, and with whatever the consequences, but this seems too easy a retort, no?

At this point, if little old Jewish me says something critical of Israeli policy nobody is very interested. That’s just “the usual suspects” going at it again. But the fact of the matter is that my tendency to write in this vein has been responsive to events. It largely began with the attack on Lebanon, which struck me as continuous with the folly of the Iraq war, and intensified over time as Israeli policy has drifted further and further to the right. Or to put it another way, Ariel Sharon’s formation of the Kadima Party made me enormously hopeful that the formation of a center-right party that would isolate Bibi Netanyahu on the fringes of politics could lead to peace. Instead, Israeli politics has shifted so far right that Kadima is now a left-of-center opposition party, and Netanyahu governs in coalition with further-right elements.

Of course irrational bias against Israel is a real phenomenon, but the habit of deploying this concept to deflect criticism has blinded a lot of people to the real opinion dynamics in the world. It’s just stunning to me how swiftly Peter Beinart has been shifted (along with me, Ezra Klein, Eric Alterman, and a seemingly endless list of liberal American Jewish writers) into the category of “knee-jerk Israel-hater who we should dismiss.” And of course that’s to say nothing of how non-Jews (and even worse, Europeans!) who have bad things to say about Israel are treated. The problem with this isn’t that individual people are being treated poorly (I’m fine, Beinart is fine, even the much-slandered Steven Walt is fine) but that Israel seems increasingly sealed off from the notion that there’s a cause-effect relationship between Israeli actions and hostile public responses. All harsh criticism is by definition a manifestation of a worldwide anti-Jewish conspiracy that rather implausibly runs from Kenneth Roth to Richard Goldstone and has unaccountably intensified during a period when, by coincidence, Israeli politics took a hard right turn.

Which is perhaps a long way of introducing the idea that I hope people over there will read Spencer Ackerman’s review of Start-Up Nation and take it to heart, but I’m quite sure they won’t.