Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right


One of the nice things about this job (tracking policy) is uncovering open-mindedness, finding out that officials, talking heads, politicos, don’t necessarily fit into a slot, that they’re willing to think an issue through and be counter-intuitive. Not every hawk is bloodthirsty – few are, in fact; and bleeding heart doves are as rare as dodos.

It bears mentioning, though, when the clowns on both sides insist on putting on the makeup and doing their little dance. And Gaza is bringing them out of their little car in droves.

I spoke below of Michael Goldfarb, the McCain campaign spokesman, who thinks killing children is one way to get a point across. I’d love for this to be a pay-for-play scheme, to know that some band of liberal bloggers are back-dealing him free pizza, comfy pajamas, coffee mugs from the "300" set – I don’t know, what else do bloggers love? – to make an easy target of a decline-of-empire Nelson Muntz. But no, he seems sincere:

But to wipe out a man’s entire family, it’s hard to imagine that doesn’t give his colleagues at least a moment’s pause.

Yes! Yes it does give pause! Yes.

And on the left, we have Trevor Mostyn, the Guardian’s obituarist who practically eroticizes the life of professional Jew-killer, Nizar Rayan:

A big, bearded man, usually surrounded by balaclava-clad fighters, he was hated by Israelis. Yet on the streets of Gaza, where economic and social misery has boosted Hamas’s reputation during the past five years, he was something of a hero. He was famed for fighting alongside his men and being seen with them publicly. And he was not merely a fighter. He was highly regarded as an Islamic academic.

Big. Bearded. Mmmmmm.  Over at Goldbfarb’s Weekly Standard, Mary Katharine Ham appropriately makes minced meat of the obit, as does Yaacov Lozowick, who seems to be an affable enough Guardian obsessive.

Elsewhere on his blog, Lozowick does a good job picking apart Juan Cole’s already ubiquitous account of the events leading up to this conflict. Here’s Cole’s reductive account of decades of Israeli agonizing over how to make peace and with whom:

Israel’s political tradition seeks expansion if possible; if not possible, it seeks a balance of power with its enemies. If that is not possible, it seeks to be held harmless from its avowed foes. If that is not possible, it is willing to wage total war to punish the enemy population until it accepts at least a cold peace. (I mean by "total war" war on the civilian population in which the guerrilla group is embedded, as for instance dropping a million cluster bombs on the farms of south Lebanon in 2006 or half-starving Gazan children in 2007-2008, methods illegal in international law but routinely deployed by Israeli leaders and defended by most Zionists everywhere.) Where necessary, Israel is willing to give up territorial expansion to get the cold peace.

Say what? My brain froze at the first sentence: Israelis have debated expansionism since the 1950s and its opponents have at times prevailed (he knows this because he quotes Moshe Sharett, a dove who only became prime minister, after all.) And "expansionism" is in itself reductive: Does it embrace only the Yitzhak Shamirs, who indeed made an ideology of acquiring territory? Or the Moshe Dayans and Yigal Allons, who sought what they believed were survivable borders? Or the Yitzhak Rabins, who were never invested in permanently holding occupied lands, and who turned on it with a vengeance?

What drives me even crazier about this is that Cole (rightly) resists cheap narratives when it comes to Arabs, to Iranians, to Muslims and to Palestinians in particular. So why does he reduce Israel’s "political tradition" to a role Larry Hagman might have played?

But I won’t count him among the clowns; he has valuable insights into issues where he can actually claim expertise, and even this post is not without value: His conclusion, about the futility of wishing away the Palestinians, is worth reading, and so is his four point outline of "the new repertoires of struggle against Israel."

Meantime, back to substance, Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic and Noah Pollak at Commentary are having a bracing debate on "proportionality." Sullivan bases his arguments on the Catechism, which he admits might not fly in Israel.

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