Thursday, August 06, 2009

Victor Davis Hanson On Obama's Bullying Of Israel

For those of you who don't know, Victor Davis Hanson is classicist and historian at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, as well as a best selling author and one of America's profound thinkers who gets referenced frequently in these pages. FrontPage Magazine just did an astounding interview with him on Obama and Israel:

FP: Victor Davis Hanson, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

I’d like to talk to you today about the Obama administration’s Middle East policy.

A recent piece in the Washington Post noted that the only country in the world with which the U.S. has worse relations since Obama took office is Israel.

An American administration is soft on butchers that rule Iran and desperately seeks dialogue with them, yet it is giving our friend and ally, and the only democracy in the Middle East, a hard time.

What gives here?

Hanson: Two thoughts cross my mind:

(1) In general, for a variety of complicated reasons, Obama sees those who dislike the United States—an Ahmadinejad, Assad, Castro, Chavez, Ortega, etc.—as somehow more authentic and representative of their own "people." In turn, reaching out to the 'real' leadership of the disadvantaged and oppressed requires special post-colonial, post-imperial skills of a postracial, post-American leader such as himself.

In a sort of messianic role, he thinks he's our bridge to the revolutionary leadership of formerly Third World peoples. But the Iranian democrats in the street, the Honduran Supreme Court, a Uribe, a Maliki government, or the Israelis, all these pro-American friends for some strange reason like the United States, and, most likely, like us for what Obama would call reactionary reasons; so there is nothing sexy about them for Obama really.

(2) Israel--democratic, capitalist, Western, pro-American--is emblematic of all the things that Obama in the past has been skeptical about, since Israel appreciates our values, history, and what we stand for. Again, this is passé for Obama--as if one in a Columbia University seminar on post-imperialism were to raise his hand and declare, "Isn't it great that Israel is a beacon of democracy and Western values in the region?"

Imagine the reaction of the professor and students to that poor fellow, and, presto, there is what bothers Obama about Israel. In domestic policy terms, Israel is like the present health care system, Wall Street, the 5% who need their taxes raised, "they" who raised the bar, the insurance companies, etc., the Palestinians more like the victimized, poor American middle and under classes.

FP: It would be fair to say that there is a strain of anti-Semitism in the Obama administration, yes? A black pastor recently reflected on the problem of anti-Semitism in the black community and noted that it has definitely influenced Obama. Your thoughts?

Hanson: I don't know the answer to that. But I do know that any 20-year devotee of Rev. Wright would have been bombarded with thousands of anti-Semitic tropes and asides, all reinforced by current 'inner-city' hip-hop propaganda and blame-gaming.

I think it was Prof. Henry Louis Gates himself who once warned of the new anti-Semitism of the black inner-city. So Obama as a Chicago organizer and contributor to Trinity Church would have been surrounded by anti-Semitic types.

And we know the writ: at home Jews are supposed blood-suckers whose stores profited off the ghetto, whether the old Pawnbroker type or the new record exec that takes the lion share of profits from black rapping geniuses, to abroad where Israel--small, Western, without oil, without terrorists, without third-world romance--simply either is nothing to be afraid of, or represents the collective rich, overachieving and exploiting Jew.

Rev. Wright said even worse about Jews, and many of Obama's former associates reflect such stereotyped views as well. I suppose in one sense of being objective and disinterested, it speaks well of American Jewish voters that the majority of them voted their generic liberal principles that trumped concern for Israel, since Obama clearly will prove to be far more anti-Israeli than Jimmy Carter.

FP: Obama is being hard on Israel and yet doesn’t appear to be cracking down on Palestinians for their terrorism against Israel, let alone their refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist. Your take on this?

Hanson: Our historically challenged President seems to think not only did the Muslim world invent the printing press and supposedly showed tolerance during the Inquisition in Cordoba, but that there were no Israeli-Arab wars before the 1967 "occupation" of the West Bank.

In his mindset, Jewish exploitation explains West Bank and Gazan poverty and failure, not any intrinsic pernicious ideologies, much less aggressive acts by the people who live there.

So go back to 1967 borders, with proper affirmative action remedies for past exploitation like the right of return, and there is no longer grievance, just perpetual peace and shared thanks for the messianic conciliator. In Chicago terms, Israel is the exploitive landlord, Palestinians the oppressed tenants--and Obama the superior, all-knowing organizer-mediator who will give pep talks to the Palestinians on "responsibility" and "self-help" while drawing material concessions from the too wealthy Israeli building owner.

FP: What do you make of Netanyahu's disposition toward Palestinian statehood, settlements etc? How does this factor into what Obama is trying to do?

Hanson: Netanyahu has outlined a world in which there is a Palestinian state side-by-side a Jewish state, a gradual evolution to a two-state solution in which, just as one million Arabs own land and are often citizens of Israel (many of them immigrants to, rather than original residents of, Israel), so too Jews could likewise purchase land and live in safety in the West Bank or other areas beyond 1967 Israel under future Palestinian governments with all the protections that Arabs receive in Israel.

But that would be impossible to Obama since it leaves out grievance, past exploitation, mitigating circumstances, corrective and affirmative action, and all the other asymmetrical mechanisms that are to be extended to the oppressed "other." Israel as the powerful and rich must offer concessions, Palestine as the weak, poor and oppressed should receive them--that is called in the U.S. these days equality of result, spread the wealth, targeted positive invention, etc.

So, again, Netanyahu is talking logic and reason to those for whom such things are now relative constructs and competing narratives predicated on power, not absolute truths.

Read the rest here...a must.

hat tip Carl

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