June 03, 2003

More Thuds and Screams from the Topkapi Palace

It is very difficult to follow the faction-fighting within the George W. Bush White House. Here is a Washington Post article in which three different internal White House factions are trying to convince the outside world of three different things:

  1. President Bush is unintelligent, uncurious, and underbriefed. He has "baffled" advisers with comments that indicate he does not understand the points of disagreement between Israel and Palestine, and who has no clue what outcome he wants to see, for Bush has neither "the knowledge or the patience to learn this issue enough to have an end destination in mind."
  2. President Bush thinks that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah is a good person, and that both Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon are bad people, and sooner or later the U.S. hammer is going to come down when Bush decides to dictate an Israel-Palestine settlement that will make Abdullah proud of him.
  3. Bush will continue to support Sharon because neoconservatives in the White House will script things carefully enough to eliminate any possibility for major conflict: "Sharon's meetings with Bush, moreover, are carefully prepared and choreographed by both sides. Potential issues are carefully vetted and discussed by senior aides before the two men meet, so there can be little chance of a misunderstanding. Rice often speaks with Sharon at length the day before he sees Bush in the Oval Office..."

Needless to say, only one of these three internal White House factions--or, rather, at most one of these three internal White House factions--can be telling the truth. But because Washington Post staff writer Glenn Kessler wants to preserve people from all three sets as sources, he is careful not to tip his hand, and not to tell us which two (or three!) are lying.

We really could use a better press corps...

washingtonpost.com: Bush Sticks to the Broad Strokes:


Bush Sticks to the Broad Strokes
In Mideast Peace Push, President Wary of Details and Deep Intervention

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 3, 2003; Page A01

President Bush, who today begins his first high-profile effort at Middle East peacemaking, is convinced that Israel must accept a Palestinian state to ensure its survival, according to current and former aides who have heard him discuss the subject. But they say he has shown little interest in the details of the complex disputes in the region and remains skeptical of intervening deeply in the negotiating process.

Bush often has a viscerally negative reaction when officials try to delve deeply into issues -- such as the final borders of Israel and a Palestinian state, or the status of Jerusalem -- that are central to the conflict, according to people who have participated in discussions with the president. President Bill Clinton at the end of his term debated those questions at length with Israelis and Palestinians, but Bush dismisses them as "all those old issues," two participants in interagency debates said.

The president has baffled some of his aides with comments they thought minimized the obstacles toward the two-state solution he talks about. For instance, the president has told aides that the Israelis are wasting their money on expanding settlements in the West Bank because ultimately those projects will become housing developments for Palestinians.

Some aides suggest this is a naive view of the settlement issue, noting that experts on both sides of the issue believe unchecked expansion of the settlements would make it impossible to create a viable Palestinian state. Other Bush advisers say the president's comments simply reflected his determination to create a Palestinian state.

The president's personal relations with Middle East leaders also play a significant role in how he approaches the issues. His distaste for Yasser Arafat led to his call for new Palestinian leadership, but he is also uncertain whether Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon truly has a vision to achieve peace. The leader in the region who has won his greatest respect is Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, who bluntly confronted the president last year over the Palestinian issue.

This account of the president's views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is based in part on interviews with senior officials throughout the U.S. government, most of whom spoke on condition that their names and the agency of government for which they worked not be identified, and several who disagreed with the president's policy decisions. As these officials described it, Bush remains wary of the issue despite this week's peace initiative and is dismissive of the negotiating course set by his predecessors at the White House.

Some of these sources said his hands-off approach, characteristic of Bush's decision-making style on other issues as well, makes them skeptical that the president will achieve his goal of two states living side by side. But a White House official said Bush's style has allowed him to place much of the burden on achieving results on the Israelis and Palestinians, where the official said it belongs. As a step in that direction, Bush plans to assign a team to monitor compliance by both sides.

"The president isn't in the weeds looking at every issue," said a White House official when informed of the contents of this article. Bush believes old approaches, such as focusing on the borders of a Palestinian state, are less useful than "what happens to the institutions inside those borders," which is why he is focusing on Palestinian political, security and economic reforms first, the official said.

Bush has suggested to aides that the process will take care of itself. These aides said that in the president's view, the reforms of the Palestinian Authority will create an alternative to Arafat, the Palestinian leader who has been ostracized by the United States and Israel. This will then create a groundswell of popular support within Israel for creating a Palestinian state, and either the Israeli government accepts it or is replaced by a government that will, the aides said.

The White House official said Bush's approach -- seeking a Palestinian interlocutor for Israel -- is beginning to bear fruit with the election of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, whom the president is scheduled to meet with along with Sharon on Wednesday in Aqaba, Jordan. Bush is to meet today with Abbas and Arab leaders in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

But some administration officials who have disagreed with aspects of the president's policy are concerned that Bush's belief that the hard questions will be figured out by the parties in the region -- without firm intervention by the United States -- ultimately will leave the peace process adrift.

"He does not have the knowledge or the patience to learn this issue enough to have an end destination in mind," said one administration official who has pushed for more decisive U.S. action.

As one example, this official and others pointed to Bush's role in settling the administration's internal debate in December over the "road map," a peace plan drafted by the United States with the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

After hearing from Sharon and others, Bush began to have serious doubts about the plan, just as the parties were about to reach agreement on a final product. Sharon, along with key members of the religious right and the neoconservative movement in the United States, maintained that the document did not reflect the themes of Bush's June 24 speech in which he called for new Palestinian leadership and a Palestinian state by 2005.

Sharon dismissed the road map as a product of the Near East bureau of the State Department, which U.S. and Israeli conservatives have long accused of being too accommodating to the Palestinians. There also was heavy pressure from American Jewish groups to change language that had been carefully negotiated with the EU.

Just before negotiators were to arrive in Washington on Dec. 20 to discuss the draft, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice gave Bush the seven-page document to read, as well as a summary of its key points, administration aides said. He came back the next morning and, according to U.S. officials, told his aides that the road map was consistent with the vision outlined in his speech. He ordered U.S. officials to get the word out to the Jewish groups.

The Middle East was the subject at Bush's first National Security Council meeting in January 2001. He told his aides he wanted to do something about the Arab-Israeli conflict, but without affecting the administration's other aims in the region and by avoiding the deep involvement of Clinton, according to Edward S. Walker Jr., who was a Clinton holdover present at the meeting.

Given where Bush started out, this week's summits in the Middle East are "a big jump for the president," Walker said. "But he doesn't have to perform much on this trip," except give the appearance of being engaged for Arab and European audiences. They will be closely watching because of the president's pledge in the run-up to the war with Iraq that he would make Middle East peace his top priority after the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

Walker recalled that at the first National Security Council meeting, Bush said he wanted to keep an open mind on Sharon and Arafat, though he felt they carried a lot of baggage. But Bush quickly grew to detest Arafat, concluding he was a liar and a poor leader who lacked vision, aides said.

Bush spoke briefly by phone twice with Arafat in the first six months of the administration and refused to meet with him. Last June, after Bush called for a Palestinian state by 2005, he ordered U.S. diplomats never to talk with Arafat again, arguing he had failed to contain Palestinian attacks against Israel.

Bush, in an interview with Eqypt's Nile TV last week, said, "It's not a fair characterization to say we were hands-off -- quite the contrary. I took an assessment of what was possible and realized that it was impossible to achieve peace with Chairman Arafat."

The administration has been careful, on the other hand, to coordinate its policies closely with Sharon, so much so that Sharon bragged about the "deep friendship" and "special closeness" of the U.S.-Israeli relationship during the Israeli elections in January.

But the relationship between Bush and Sharon is complex. Bush has told aides that he has serious doubts that Sharon has a vision to achieve peace, and that if Sharon does have such a vision, he hasn't shared it with the president, according to administration officials.

Sharon's meetings with Bush, moreover, are carefully prepared and choreographed by both sides. Potential issues are carefully vetted and discussed by senior aides before the two men meet, so there can be little chance of a misunderstanding. Rice often speaks with Sharon at length the day before he sees Bush in the Oval Office.

Before the June 24 speech, there were extensive negotiations between a small group of Israelis and Americans over the parameters of the speech and how far Bush could go without falling out of lockstep with the Israelis, one participant said. Not only does Sharon's chief of staff meet frequently with Rice; so does Arie Genger, an Israeli American businessman who is a close friend of Sharon.

Bush called Sharon a "man of peace" last year, infuriating Arabs angry over the Israeli army's actions against Palestinians in the West Bank. Bush publicly has not backed off that statement, but last year he privately rebuked Sharon when the Israeli leader began to repeat the comment to the president, administration officials said.

Bush interrupted Sharon when he began to say he was a "man of peace and security," according to a witness to the exchange who recounted it. "I know you are a man of security," Bush said. "I want you to work harder on the peace part."

Then, adding a bit of colloquial language that first seemed to baffle Sharon, Bush jabbed: "I said you were a man of peace. I want you to know I took immense crap for that."

Aides said the one leader in the region who has earned Bush's respect is Abdullah, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, who forcefully challenged the president over his handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a visit to Bush's ranch in Crawford, Tex., in April of last year.

In a scene that one senior Bush adviser later likened to "a near-death experience," Abdullah arrived at Crawford with a book showing pictures of Palestinian suffering and a 10-minute videotape of images of children shot and crushed by Israelis that had appeared on Arab television.

The adviser said Abdullah spoke eloquently about what these images meant -- conveying a respect for life rather than a hatred of Israel -- and then laid it on the line for Bush: Was he going to do something about this or not?

Current and former officials said Abdullah put it this way: I will work with you if you are willing to deal with this issue. If you can't, let me know now. No matter what, I'll always say positive things about you in public. But I have to make certain calculations on my own if you aren't going to step up to the plate.

Bush replied that he was working on a vision and would present it soon, the current and former officials said.

"It certainly made an impact on the president," one official said.

Few leaders had ever spoken so directly to Bush. The president, the official said, concluded that Abdullah was a good person who has a vision of where he wants to lead his country. Since then, the president frequently asks aides whether Abdullah believes Bush is living up to the commitments he made at Crawford.

Posted by DeLong at June 3, 2003 10:16 AM | TrackBack


So, now we are supposed to be shaping foreign policy after the dictates of Saudia Arabian princes? Are these guys supposed to be our friends in any other way than selling us oil? Phooey on false Saudi princes.

Awful article.

Posted by: bill on June 3, 2003 01:12 PM

Perversely, the idea that Bush is attached to Prince Abdullah makes a certain amount of sense. Consider the war on Iraq. Who wins by it? Well, US troops are out of Saudi Arabia - a major irritant to certain Saudi Arabia-based fundamentalists. Who felt threatened by Iraq in the first place? Saudi Arabia, again.

Posted by: Scott Martens on June 3, 2003 01:37 PM

I'm not sure how (1) Bush is an idiot and (2) Bush distructs Arafat & Sharon but wants to please Abdullah are mutually exclusive. Indeed, a fool without vision would find it easy to be guided by the pleasure of a charismatic despot.

Sorry, just to clarify: Bush=fool, Abdullah=despot.

To be honest, I gleaned one truly positive thing out of that article: Bush apparently isn't completely Sharon's patsy.

But it does appear that Crown Prince Abdullah may be the number-one head motherf***er in charge [http://www.mnftiu.cc/mnftiu.cc/war9.html].

Posted by: JRoth on June 3, 2003 02:00 PM

I'm not sure that's quite fair, Brad. How about this: Bush is not personally concerned with the details of the Israeli-Palestinian issue and, despite Israeli-influenced briefings from Condoleezza Rice, he maintains a more personal view of the conflict. Bush detests Arafat, is suspicious of Sharon, and respects Prince Abdullah. His advisors have strong views about US policy regarding the conflict, but don't know whether he will ultimately side with Abdullah or Sharon.

That's how I read it, anyway. And, despite myself, I think the stubborn idiot approach might be just what the conflict needs.

Posted by: ogged on June 3, 2003 02:02 PM

Any chance of US newspaper articles being shorter? I was following it until about the 769th line, when my eyes glazed over.

Posted by: James on June 3, 2003 02:21 PM

Several years ago, someone remarked of Bush: "He'll take away the opinion of the last person he talked to". And, such a characterization seems to be borne out by Kessler's piece - the hallmarks of the intellectually incurious. Better he shouldn't involve himself in any delicate or complex process, it can only end in disaster.

Posted by: barrisj on June 3, 2003 05:02 PM

I can actually see all 3 being true.

GWB is basically a well-meaning idiot, who hangs around with a bad crowd (oilmen and crony capitalists).

GWB likes and trusts Abdullah, who seems to be able to pitch things at the right level for him.

GWB's neo-con advisors manage him towards the Likud 'lebensraum + ghettos' policy.

How will all this work out ? Not well.

The Likud gameplan is to refuse to deal with the PA until it moves against Hamas and so on. But the PA was so weakened by the recent assault (and it's own faults) that it will be unable to win the civil war quickly.

This means it is "pointless to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority" during the civil war, and then because Hamas et al will win the war (possibly with help from the wilder reaches of Israeli Intelligence), you dont need to negotiate with them afterwards.

Oh, and cripple any Left coalition by banning all the Arab parties in Israel, leaving the Arab minority with no-one to vote for.

One day, there will be a great Greek tragedy written about all this, starting with a commando, on a mission to Beiruit to kill Yasser Arafat.

Ian Whitchurch

Posted by: Ian Whitchurch on June 3, 2003 05:31 PM

That's how I read it, anyway. And, despite myself, I think the stubborn idiot approach might be just what the conflict needs.

Dividing the world into states run by people for whom Bush has a clever nickname like "Pooty" and states run by people with whom Bush is not on a cute nickname basis is no substitute for a coherent foreign policy.

Even if personalizing geopolitics weren't a stupid idea, there's no reason to suppose that Bush is even a competent judge of character, let alone a discerning one.

Posted by: son volt on June 3, 2003 05:40 PM

It's "pooty-poot" son volt. How can we discuss this if we can't get our facts straight?

I've actually blogged about the fact that Bush is a bad judge of character so you'll get no argument there. But all the reasons and details of the Israeli-Palestinian solution militate against a breakthrough; I really am at the point that I think someone blind to them stands the best chance of accomplishing something.

Posted by: ogged on June 3, 2003 06:22 PM

The Representative from VeryVeryHappy votes for possibility number 1.

Posted by: The Mighty Reason Man on June 3, 2003 06:27 PM

They might not be lying. They might be idiots.

Tomorrow's Guardian has a piece that hits all the same notes as this WaPo piece:


Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on June 3, 2003 07:52 PM

They might not be lying. They might be idiots.

Tomorrow's Guardian has a piece that hits all the same notes as this WaPo piece:


As for the potential benefits of "playing dumb", it can be a useful tactic in a situation such as this, where all parties have been speaking in code for so long that they have lost the habit of speaking, and perhaps therefore of thinking, directly in terms of the real issues. But the key word is "playing".

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on June 3, 2003 07:55 PM

I don't know.

It definately seems like (1) and (2) or (3) could both be true. Whether (2) and (3) could both be true is in question.

Posted by: Luke Francl on June 3, 2003 08:07 PM

I have to admit when Bush send Retired General Anthony Zinni to work with this problem I was amazed. Zinni is the smartest person this administration has sent anywhere to do anything. The fact that we have never heard a peep from the good general about his failure to move the peace process foreword is alarming.
Maybe Bush heard the comment from one of Sharon's handlers that Arial was playing GWB like a violin? Being a Texan, I am sure he prefers to be a fiddle?

Posted by: S.K. Silk on June 4, 2003 12:02 AM

Ian Whitchurch wrote:

"GWB's neo-con advisors manage him towards the Likud 'lebensraum + ghettos' policy."

From the article below:

"Using Holocaust imagery to describe Israeli
defense policy only compounds the hurt. It is
nothing less than a contemporary variant of
Holocaust denial and a vicious and malicious form
of group libel."

This odious and quite wicked comparison between Israel and the Nazis is typical of a Britain which has more and more begun to resemble pre-war Vienna in the depth of the anti-Semitism of its Úlites. The allusion to the "Jewish neocon conspiracy" also does little to moderate the racism of the poster's remark.

Of course, one has to remember that this is also a Britain that not only fought a war in spite of and not because of the Jews and did not lift a finger to help the victims of the Holocaust, but also condemned hundreds of thousands of Jews to death because of its virulently anti-Semitic immigration policy to Palestine. And there is very little question in my mind that, as in the rest of Europe, had the Germans invaded Britain in 1940 the overwhelmingly anti-Semitic British population would have collaborated with the Germans to murder the great majority of the Jewish citizens of Great Britain. Obviously nothing much has changed in the intervening 60 years. Indeed, the complete insouciance with which the British have watched the cold-blooded murder of hundreds of Jewish civilians recently only reinforces this fact.

What is also notable is the Streicher-style propaganda that is rife in the British media and elsewhere. Nowhere does anyone suggest that the Palestinians have been their own worst enemy. Nowhere is the rejection of the very generous terms at Taba even mentioned. Nowhere is there a defence of Israel. Well, what can you expect from a media that is passionately engaged in the deligitimization of a sovereign democratic state.

As I mentioned in another context, the enormous contribution to Great Britain by Jews has most assuredly been a case of pearls before swine.

From yesterday's Ha'aretz:

Judeophobia - not your parents' anti-Semitism

By Barry Kosmin and Paul Iganski

Is a new hostility toward Jews emerging in Great Britain?

Is there a `new anti-Semitism' in Britain? And if
there is, where is it? These are the questions,
among others, tackled by a new book, "A New
Antisemitism? Debating Judeophobia in 21st Century
Britain," published by JPR, the Institute for
Jewish Policy Research, London. It contains essays
by a cross-section of Jewish thinkers in Britain -
writers, academics and other experts - including
Peter Pulzer, Melanie Phillips, Chief Rabbi
Jonathan Sacks, Jonathan Freedland, Robert
Wistrich, Anthony Julius, Winston Pickett and
Howard Jacobson.

The book challenges the
impression given by many
commentators - especially in
the United States - that a
singular, pan-European virus of
anti-Semitism has infected
European countries. Yet scratch
the surface of that notion and
even a cursory analysis of the
problem shows a different

picture: what's happening in Britain is not the
same as it is in France, in Germany, or elsewhere
in Europe for that matter. In addition, there has
been little in-depth and focused analysis on
Britain, as distinct from her European neighbors
- until now. It is this analytic gap that "A New
Antisemitism?" seeks to fill. Along the way it
also challenges some of the current conceptions
about present-day anti-Semitism.

Where is it?

The first place that many look for anti-Semitism
is on the streets. Certainly it's the seeming
upsurge in violence against Jews that has
exercised many commentators. But it's important
to step back and take a more careful look:
Historically, violent anti-Semitism has been
associated with social and economic dislocation
and political crisis, as in Weimar Germany. Yet
at the start of the 21st century, Britain has a
low level of unemployment, a strong currency, low
inflation and social and political stability.
British Jews as individuals also face little
economic and occupational discrimination: they
have above-average socio-economic status, having
achieved prominence in the commercial,
professional, artistic and public life of the
nation out of all proportion to their numbers.

To be sure, recent history still casts a dark
shadow. The violence of Kristallnacht and its
portents understandably resides in the collective
memory of many Jews when thinking about Europe.
Look again, however: The moral climate of the
1930s was the result of a right-wing animus that
fed directly into the economic, racist and
biological components of anti-Semitism.

In present-day Europe, "Nazi style" anti-Semitism
- both in its ideology and its manifestation -
has been dealt with. Legislation has eliminated
the armbands and the brown shirts. Occupational
discrimination by means of racial hierarchies and
Nuremberg-style laws are no longer a threat.
Modern science has all but permanently
discredited theories of biological racial

Not on the streets

Nor are there particularly new strains of violent
anti-Semitism to be found on British streets. To
be sure, malevolent synagogue and cemetery
desecrations in Swansea, Finsbury Park and, most
recently, in Plashet East London have received
widespread media attention. Yet a closer analysis
of the data reveals a different phenomenon. The
rise in hate crimes against Jews in the last
couple of years shows the number of recorded
incidents to be a very weak indicator of the
prevailing national climate of anti-Semitism.

In absolute terms, anti-Semitic incidents are
still low when compared with the number of racist
incidents recorded by law enforcement
authorities. This is not to diminish the impact
of such acts of violence. Even a single racist
incident can terrorize a community. But the
number of recorded incidents hardly suggests a
climate of explosive hostility - at least at the
moment. Moreover, such "street anti-Semitism"
fits a familiar pattern. In recent years violent
acts against Jewish targets have fluctuated in
tandem with media coverage of events in the
Middle East. More revealing still is that fact
that a consistent level of street anti-Semitism
has more to do with Britain's "yob culture" of
juvenile delinquency than deep-seated bigotry.

There is a self-protective dimension as well: the
Jewish community in Britain is well organized
through the Community Security Trust to deal
effectively with this type of attack, usually
associated with far right extremists and young
vandals. The Jewish community can also look to
active support from the British public and from
the police and local authorities in their

A similar coalition of support and interest has
coalesced around the threat from Islamic
militants. They target not only Jews, but also
Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Western society in
general. While Jews are a key focus of their
animus since September 11 we can look to the full
protection of government and state and even the
U.S. superpower in combating the worldwide
network of Islamist terrorism.

What then is the new anti-Semitism in Britain? Is
it simply a collective psychosis - a
hypersensitive minority traumatized by the events
of 1933-45 and haunted by fears of genocidal
victimization? After all, the contributors to the
JPR book appear rational enough to refute this
allegation. Most argue that there is indeed a
cause producing an effect.


The irreducible fact is this: something new is at
work in Britain. But it's not the old
anti-Semitism. It's not eliminationist. It's not
genocidal. Nor is it even a deep-seated, visceral
hatred of individual Jews.

In fact, the "new anti-Semitism" hasn't shown up
yet on the streets in Britain. Instead, it has
taken hold in loftier places. For this reason and
others the phenomenon in evidence may be more
accurately termed Judeophobia - a fear of, and
hostility toward Jews as a collectivity, rather
than the propagation of the racial ideologies of
the old anti-Semitism. Not widespread in "Middle
England" at the moment, it nevertheless resides
among certain "cognitive elites" within the news
media, churches, universities, and trades unions.
It is a mindset characterized by an obsession
with, and vilification of, the State of Israel,
and Jews in general, in the case of Britain, as a
consequence of their strong sense of attachment
to Israel. Today's Judeophobia is an assault on
the essence of the Jewish collectivity, both in
terms of a Jewish sovereign state in its ancient
homeland, and the nature of robust, emancipated,
and self-aware Diaspora communities.

It is important to be clear: Criticism of Israeli
policy per se does not constitute Judeophobia.
It's not the argument that hurts, it's the way
it's conducted. Like the fashionable trend of
critics to equate Israel to Nazi Germany. Such
language has become routine in school yards and
student protests. Calling others "Nazis" takes on
an edge, especially when directed at those
wearing a police uniform. When this happens the
term is used as the ultimate insult with little
thought to its meaning. But there can be no
excuse when this kind of sentiment is allowed to
appear in serious broadsheet newspapers such as
the Independent and Observer.

Using Holocaust imagery to describe Israeli
defense policy only compounds the hurt. It is
nothing less than a contemporary variant of
Holocaust denial and a vicious and malicious form
of group libel.

Then, too there is the singling out of Israel for
moral opprobrium because of its alleged
culpability for human and civil rights abuses in
its conflict with the Palestinians. All the while
gross violations of human and civil rights
elsewhere, particularly among its Arab enemies,
frequently go ignored and unreported.

The discriminatory outcome of this campaign of
vilification is the demonization of Israel, and
by association Jews wherever they may live. Such
demonization contributes little to constructive
dialogue over Israel's conflict with the
Palestinians. In fact, it is another obstacle on
the road to peace.

This new Judeophobia comfortably co-habits with
the use of disparaging stereotypes about Jews
that are a throw-back to the old anti-Semitism.
Last year, when the New Statesman - the weekly
publication for the liberal-left intelligentsia -
slapped a piece of incendiary classic
anti-Semitic iconography on its front cover - a
gold star of David stabbing a supine Union Jack -
the classic canard of divided Jewish loyalty was
effectively conjured up. The identical conspiracy
typology was evoked more recently by Tam Dalyell
- Britain's veteran Labour party parliamentarian
and a far leftist of aristocratic origin - in his
recent allegation of a cabal of Jews in Britain
and the United States using their influence to
promote a Zionist agenda.

To be sure: the new Judeophobia is less dangerous
to individual Jews in Britain than the old
anti-Semitism. It does not aim to reproduce Vichy
France in 1941, or Vienna in 1938. No one wants
to make Jews scrub the streets, or be expelled
from universities or occupations, any more than
they wish "to relocate the Jews in the East." It
is not the Gobineau or Wilhelm Marre type of
anti-Jewish prejudice.

Judeophobia in contemporary Britain is also not an
organized conspiracy. It does constitute,
however, an opportunistic coalition of interest
for the new left, the far right and radical
Islamists. It includes human rights campaigners
and activists, who, while perhaps more
well-meaning than others, in their singular
obsession contribute to Israel's demonization,
and by extension, to all Jews. Israel is now the
new cause celebre for the liberal left
intelligentsia, educated in the days of student
action, anti-Vietnam war protest, the
anti-apartheid movement, and the polarized
politics of the Cold War. Many of this 1968
generation now occupy senior positions in the
universities, media and established churches. For
them, Israel represents an outpost of what they
most abhor about liberal western democracy.

Back in the ghetto

In retrospect, this new metamorphosis of
Judeophobia was predictable as soon as Jews
asserted themselves as equals in Western
societies or alternatively on the international
stage as a nation state. As the perceived - and
in most cases, loyal - supporters of the State of
Israel, Diaspora Jewish communities inevitably
have become the target of anger and hostility,
catalyzed by world events. Few would have
predicted, however, that in this toxic mix, it is
the progressives who appear so keen to put the
Jews back where they belong - in the ghetto.

The advantage of hindsight is that it makes even
the surprising look predictable. Thus it becomes
clear that the current animus is rooted in
Soviet-style anti-Zionist doctrine that provided
the ideological foundation for the British left.
It has a clear Marxist provenance which rejects
the notion of Jews a nation and sees them only as
a class. Their nationalism is therefore
illegitimate. In Stalin's "classless" Soviet
Union, any form of alternative religious
authenticity was likewise taboo. Its ultimate
goal is not biological, but cultural and

But Judeophobia in Britain is not just a local
problem. It has a knock-on effect on Israelis -
not only because the UK is an important ally of
the United States. Britain is also the historic
cultural and media capital of the wider
English-speaking world. How Israeli commentators
and spokesmen frame the conflict needs to be
approached with care.

Unfortunately, the language used by the far right
and far left in Israel does a disservice to the
country and erodes the standing of Jews
worldwide. Israelis who use the term
anti-Semitism indiscriminately and carelessly
label virtually every opponent as an anti-Semite
actually assist the real anti-Semites. Thus the
insidious paradox: When anti-Semitism is
everything and everywhere, it's easily dismissed
as nothing and nowhere. Israelis who denounce the
IDF at pro-Palestine rallies and in the European
media give aid and comfort to Islamist militants
and those who organize economic and academic
boycotts of Israel and by extension Jews
everywhere. Stuck in a 1930s time warp, their sin
is to be in denial. Unless their Arab and radical
European friends actually don a brown shirt,
swastika armband and jackboots they refuse to
recognize that they have an animus towards the
Jewish people.

The Jewish people today face a worldwide political
and intellectual assault from Judeophobia.
Winning the battle of ideas requires political
acumen and finesse. Only a sober analysis and
respectful discourse will win the hearts and
minds of Jews - and most neutrals.

Paul Iganski, who teaches criminology at the
University of Essex, and Barry Kosmin, executive
director of the Institute for Jewish Policy
Research, are editors of "A New Antisemitism?
Debating Judeophobia in 21st Century Britain,"
published by Profile Books and available from
Amazon.co.uk at $10.49.

Posted by: Jabotinsky on June 4, 2003 05:16 AM

Ian Whitchurch,

And if you are in fact Australian, your case is even worse, if that's possible.

Posted by: Jabotinsky on June 4, 2003 05:34 AM

"And there is very little question in my mind that, as in the rest of Europe, had the Germans invaded Britain in 1940 the overwhelmingly anti-Semitic British population would have collaborated with the Germans to murder the great majority of the Jewish citizens of Great Britain."

Good God. Thanks for taking a useful point about abuse of Holocaust imagery and rendering it completely useless by combining it with even worse hyperbole like this.

Ignore the username, I'm not British.

Posted by: Brittain33 on June 4, 2003 06:11 AM

Wow, I thought there was some sort of post length limit. Mike went nuts over there on free trade, and now this.

Oh, and distrust, not "distruct." Although that's kind of a funny typo.

Posted by: JRoth on June 4, 2003 07:47 AM

When that fool Reagan said that the Soviet Union was a failed experiment headed for the ash heap of history, I knew he was a demagogue.
When that fool Reagan said that the Soviet Union was an evil empire, I knew he was a dangerous kook.
When that fool Reagan said that we could end the Cold War by escalating the arms race, I knew the odds favored nuclear annihilation.
When the Soviet Union went broke, dissolved, and repudiated its past, I knew it was all Gorbachev's genius, and that fool Reagan
had nothing to do with it.
Because if that fool Reagan was right all along...
...what kind of fool am I?
--Jules Feiffer

The above just seems appropriate, after this story appeared today:


Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on June 4, 2003 09:41 AM

Jabitonsky :

Yeah, I am an Australian.

"To be sure: the new Judeophobia is less dangerous
to individual Jews in Britain than the old
anti-Semitism. It does not aim to reproduce Vichy
France in 1941, or Vienna in 1938. No one wants
to make Jews scrub the streets, or be expelled
from universities or occupations, any more than
they wish "to relocate the Jews in the East." It
is not the Gobineau or Wilhelm Marre type of
anti-Jewish prejudice."

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but havent members of Sharon's government done or discussed doing just this ?

Refusing work visas to residents of the Occupied West Bank is expelling them from their occupations.

"Transfer of populations" has been discussed by the wilder reaches of the Israeli Right.

Bluntly, if you want to stop being compared to Nazis, quit siezing Lebensraum, quit herding Palestinians into ghettos guarded by soldiers who check identity, residence and movement papers, and quit engaging in collective punishment of communities linked to resistance cells.

Either that, or take a good and careful look at how more successful Empires worked, and then modify your tactics.

I'd suggest the Romans for a start, because the State of Israel has a lot in common with them (eg good army, strong civic ideals, clash between Roman-born and immigrant Citizens, substantial non-Citizen population, etc).

Ian Whitchurch

PS "Government with some of the features of Statehood" ; that is a pretty good description of how the Ghetto worked in 16th C Venice. Some control over local laws and policing, but subordinate to the soverign authority.

Posted by: Ian Whitchurch on June 4, 2003 07:21 PM
Post a comment