Sunday, December 28, 2014

My Discussion with Jon Haber

Michael L.

{Originally posted at the Elder of Ziyon.}

There is no more rational defender of Israel against the racist BDS movement than Jon Haber.

In fact, I am a tad pissed-off that none of Jon's writings were included in Nelson and Brahm's The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel.  The reason for this is academic snobbery.  There is no one making a better, more consistent, and academically rational case against BDS than Jon Haber at divestthis!

Haber has been fighting a lonely fight against BDS for years and he is one of those bloggers that should not need to be brought from the shadows.  This is a gentleman that any university would do well to stand up before students in order to talk about political social media and discourse around the Arab-Israel conflict.

This does not mean, however, that we are entirely in agreement.

We most certainly are not.

Jon and I are having a conversation over the role of the western-left in the ongoing persecution of the Jews in the Middle East.

My argument is that the Obama administration has done a terrible disservice to both the Jewish people and the American people through accepting political Islam within the realm of rational political actors.  When I voted for Obama in 2008 the last thing that occurred to me was that he would legitimize religious hatred against Jews.

But, hopefully each of us learn from experience and from the rousting of our own political naiveté.

For reasons that are somewhat unclear to me Haber remains in defense of the Obama administration.

What I have primarily argued is that because the Obama administration supported the Muslim Brotherhood, and the rise of political Islam via the so-called "Arab Spring," that his administration never deserved the popularity of Jewish Americans, if those Jewish Americans support the well-being of the Jewish State of Israel.

It is really as simple as that.

No politician, including the President of the United States, can support the enemies of the Jewish people and still expect the support of the Jewish people.

In Jon's latest retort he stands behind three essential premises.

The first is that a single example of Obama administration stupidity in briefly supporting the Brotherhood is not sufficient to condemn the administration.

The second is to excuse the Obama administration as simply following the line as put down by the Carter administration in terms of financial support for Egypt as a bribe to not kill Jews.

The third is to suggest that my criticisms are largely partisan.

Let me briefly take these in reverse order.  First off, the charge of partisanship is entirely without merit, nor can it be substantiated.  Although I have been a Democrat throughout the great majority of my adulthood, I am currently without political party.  I am thus not a partisan and I do not support the Republican Party... not yet, in any case.

However, the idea that the Obama administration is simply following American foreign policy as put forth by the Camp David Accords is not a fair criticism.  The point was never that the Obama administration merely provided financial and military aid to the Islamist government in Cairo, but that the administration went out of its way to assist that government in a variety of manners, not the least of which was the UN speech suggesting that the rise of political Islam was something akin to the Spirit of '76 and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

The main point, however, that I want to address in Jon's argument is his first.

He claims that one single example of administration stupidity is simply not enough to condemn it.

He writes:
genuine understanding can only come from focusing on more than one fact
I absolutely agree and would make two suggestions.

The first is that the single fact is very interesting because it demonstrates the central contradiction at the heart of Obama's foreign policy.  I am relieved that the Egyptian people had the basic decent common sense to get rid of the Brotherhood and am entirely horrified that Barack Obama supported that gang of racist thugs to begin with.

My reasons are not limited to the mere fact that Obama supported a short-lived anti-American and anti-Jewish regime in Cairo, but that it shows the central incoherence of the administration's foreign policy viz-a-viz political Islam.

The Muslim Brotherhood is the parent organization of both Qaeda and Hamas.  Obama tried to square a circle by supporting the Brotherhood while opposing Qaeda and remaining indifferent toward Hamas.

It simply does not work that way, Jon.  If one opposes Qaeda because one opposes political Islam as a rising movement throughout the world, than one must oppose the Brotherhood and all factions of this misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Semitic, and head-chopping authoritarian movement arising within the Middle East.

That is my first point.

My second point is that criticisms of Obama administration Middle East policy are hardly limited to his support of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Another highly significant criticism would be the administration's insistence that Jews building housing for themselves in Judea is somehow a crime against peace.  If there was any chance at a peaceful resolution of the conflict under Obama's watch it was not going to come from demanding that Jews be allowed to live in one place, but not another.

Finally, there is the question of history.

In Jon's conclusion he references his admiration for the writings of Harvard professor of Yiddish literature, Ruth Wisse, and Hebrew University historian, Robert Wistrich.  I, too, have considerable admiration for both, because both understand that the conflict cannot be meaningfully discussed without the proper context.

Our understanding of the context of the conflict needs to be expanded both geographically and in time.  From a geographic standpoint the conflict is between the Jewish people of the Middle East and the greater Arab-Muslim world.  It is not a matter of a Jewish Goliath versus a "Palestinian" David.  It is, rather, a conflict between around 400 million Arabs who, for the most part, oppose 6 million Jews seeking to maintain their freedom and autonomy.

Furthermore, this conflict did not begin in 1948 with the Arab attack on the Jewish people, but has been ongoing since the time of Muhammad.  This is a war fundamentally grounded in Arab-Muslim theocratic bigotry against Jews.  The local Arabs do not want a state for themselves in peace next to Israel.  If that is what they wanted they could have had it many times over by now, but they have rejected any such accommodation.  What they want is what they always tell us that they want.

They want Israel gone and the Jews dead.

And, yet, for some reason Barack Obama honestly thinks that the real problem is that Jews are living where neither he, nor Mahmoud Abbas, want them to live.  And that, my friends, is not only wrong-headed and counterproductive, but entirely racist, as well.


  1. As some philosopher once noted "man is unknowable". Is it really germane the 'good reasons' the left hates Israel? Is it materially significant to understand why the hater hates? Not really. We live in a modern world where everyone is obsessed with the inner child but what about the outer adult? As human beings we tend to grow out of the mindset of 'I'm hurting you for your own good' around age 10. After that it's just battered wife syndrome.

  2. I will say I haven't gotten around to it yet but I have read a few of Wistrich's works. I recommend you give this a read

    From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel (Studies in Antisemitism)