“Is it possible that the whole world is wrong and [the Jews] are right?”
– Ahad Ha-‘Am, 1893 (about the blood libels)
– Kofi Anan, 2002 (about the Jenin “massacre”)
“How impoverished a world, when the answer to that question is no.”
- Richard Landes
Glenn Greenwald believes in ‘American Exceptionalism’.
He is a firm believer that, contrary to what most Americans think, his country is exceptionally oppressive to its perceived enemies, both foreign and domestic. The America conjured by Greenwald daily on his blog is that of an imperialist hegemon exporting ‘terror’ around the globe - a putative democracy which stifles dissent and denies true freedom to its citizens.
One day historians may look back at the likes of Greenwald and marvel at the political dynamic in early 21st century America which influenced affluent and privileged Americans – those blessed with freedom and prosperity unimaginable to most – to be so hyper-critical of their own nation and possessed with a seeming religious belief in their country’s immutable sin.
While it would be easy to contextualize Greenwald’s hostility towards Israel – and the ‘Comment is Free’ columnist’s history of employing Judeophobic tropes in the service of criticizing the state’s American supporters – in a manner imputing antisemitism, a different conclusion should be reached. Though, admittedly, he seems to have accepted narratives about the dangers of Jewish power which are often advanced by anti-Jewish racists, his anti-Zionism seems to more accurately represent a political derivative of his anti-Americanism.
The American public’s overwhelming support for Israel likely only indicates, to Greenwald, (ala Noam Chomsky) imperialist overlap.
To Greenwald, both nations’ proclivities to ignore the fiction known as the “international community” and go their own way in protecting their interests and in refusing to bow before the UN designated authorities on moral behavior (in sober recognition of the selective justice pursued by such arbiters of civility) makes them especially worthy of opprobrium.
Indeed, quite recently the Guardian blogger expressed concern that, contrary to conventional wisdom on which nations in the world should be criticized for flagrantly defying international norms, it is the stubbornness of Israel (and the U.S.) which should rightly earn them the status of “rogue states”. (A short quiz on the US, Israel on ‘rogue nation’ status, CiF, Dec. 4).
Their sins, per Greenwald? Opposing Palestinians observer status at the UN, opposition to calls for international oversight of Israel’s nuclear facilities, and Netanyahu’s decision to allow for zoning and planning for future Israeli homes between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim.
For Greenwald, it simply isn’t possible that the whole world is wrong – that granting the Palestinians a road to statehood independent of negotiations and without assurances as to the nascent state’s peaceful intent, is advisable – and Israel and the U.S. are right.
Nor, evidently, can Greenwald conceive why Israel may be a bit suspicious that Arab-led efforts to neuter Israel’s military advantages may not be motivated by the best of intentions.
And, of course, Greenwald is baffled as to why the Jewish state is hesitant to defer to the collective wisdom of leaders in Brussels, London and NYC before engaging in planning decisions near their capital.
Though these all represent unique questions, they are also tied in to a larger dynamic often at play within the pages of ‘Comment is Free’ – a tendency of those who fancy themselves anti-colonialists to engage in a form of soft colonialism which continually fancies in haughtily lecturing Jews on what they need to do, and what they need not do, to pacify their enemies and achieve peace.
The history of such imperiousness attitudes in the face of determined Jewish will predates, by quite a few years, Glenn Greenwald and the New Left – and indeed the evocation of the ‘obstinate Jew’ underlay much of early Christian anti-Judaism.
In its modern (20th century) form Jews were asked why they stubbornly infested a continent instead of packing up and leaving for Palestine – to be followed, decades later, with the inverse query: why don’t they get the hell out of Palestine and return to their European cities of “origin”?
Thousands of Jews ignored warnings to avoid emigrating to Palestine during WWII, as the consensus was that the land couldn’t possibly economically support such a massive influx of impoverished refugees.
Jews were told to delay, or permanently avoid, declaring statehood in 1948, as Western leaders were certain that they’d be horribly defeated by numerically superior enemy forces.
Levi Eshkol was told not to launch a strike against Arab armies, which were amassed along their border in June 1967 and planning a catastrophic attack, but to wait instead for the international community to intervene. Golda was told much the same in the days leading up to the surprise Arab attack on Yom Kippur in 1973.
The voices of wisdom and protocol were certain that Menachem Begin absolutely should not strike Iraq’s nuclear facility in 1981.
Oslo, Israelis were assured by statesmen and diplomats, would moderate Palestinians and reduce their motivation for terror. The ‘Land for Peace’ formula, they were told, was simply axiomatic.
In 2001, when Israel denied it had committed a massacre in Jenin, the spokesman for the ‘international community’ – and more than a few journalists – scolded Jews for their pomposity: How could it be that Israel was right and the whole world wrong?
When a few stubborn scholars began to critically examine the death of Mohammad al-Durrah, many stood aghast at the audacity of questioning what everyone simply knew to be true.
Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon would make Hezbollah less powerful, they said. And, similar territorial concessions in Gaza would neuter Hamas, denying the Islamist group their raison d’être – and would surely bring peace to Israel’s south.
The roots of radicalism lay in occupation we were and still are told – a political calculus not scrutinized even after thousands of rockets have been launched from unoccupied land. And, of course, defending yourselves against such premeditated acts of terror emanating from sovereign Palestinian territory will only radicalize the radicals.
Through it all, the secular sages who continue to grace the mainstream media pages have never waned in their beliefs: that they know what’s best, their ‘tough love’ will save Jews from themselves.
Yet, despite being an evidently stubborn lot – or, more likely, because of it – Jews (not unlike Americans) are alive and quite well, proud, prosperous, masters of their fate and still audaciously goin’ rogue.