My 2007 resolution: to help friends think clearly

By Vic Rosenthal

I’ve more or less had it with muddled thinking.

I am fed up with reflexive and irrational left-wing Israel bashing (I will also no longer listen quietly to right-wing reductions of every problem to ‘socialism’ or ‘political correctness’, but that’s another article).

I want my friends to look closely at events and understand their uniqueness. Forcing chaotic reality to fit procrustean ideologies may be satisfying, but it does violence to truth. Sometimes there isn’t a simple answer.

Here are some ways that my friends can make me easier to deal with:

They can pay attention to history. It can help us understand how complicated things really are. I have one friend who likes to say that she doesn’t care about the past, we have to solve real problems today. One of these ‘real problems’ is that the Palestinians are miserable, and of course she wants to solve this by forcing Israel to give up land and make other concessions. She’s concerned about justice, but justice is a temporal concept – what you did yesterday affects how you should be treated today. She needs to learn about what both Israel and the Arabs have done in the past before she can know what justice is now.

They can eschew cant. Mindless repetition of formulas is annoying, but when they are pernicious and unsupported, they mark the speaker as an idiot. For example:

“America’s best hope of containing the escalating tensions in the region would be to address the festering wound that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has represented for decades. Common sense dictates that the time has come for the United States to apply pressure on Israel to restart negotiations with the Palestinians equal to that already put on the Palestinians to recognize Israel and contain their violent factions.” – Joshua Holland

Although the writer/idiot probably has programmed a function key to insert this rubbish quickly whenever he feels the need, note that both propositions expressed are false and certainly not commonsensical. Real common sense and history tell us 1) that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’s persistence is a result of Arab rejection of the legitimate state of Israel, and 2) that forcing Israel to make concessions when the Palestinians refuse to recognize her or ‘contain their violent factions’ is both unjust and unlikely to reduce tensions. It’s unfortunate that this point of view is also found in the Iraq Study Group report, establishing that stupidity is found in high places as well as leftist web sites.

They can try to understand what the various players actually think, rather than translating everything into a western-liberal-centric framework. Look at what Hamas and Fatah actually say about their goals before insisting that Israel deal with them. Understand that there are Palestinian and Zionist ‘narratives’ about the history of the region that are totally different (and they are not ‘equally valid’). Nevertheless, it’s important to know what both sides truly believe, and to do this you need to find sources that are not intended for Western consumption (MEMRI is good for this).

And finally, they can disentangle issues that are not related. It’s not impossible to be an environmentalist, to be pro-union, to be against various forms of discrimination, to support liberal economic policies, to oppose excessive corporate influence on government, etc., and still be pro-Israel. Just because pro-Israel positions are lately associated with social and economic conservatism doesn’t mean that the former entails the latter.

Happy 2007, and may we all think clearly.

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