David Forman (“A Liberal’s Lament“) laments that
Since the onset of the second intifada, the rise of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hamas’s takeover of Gaza, the encroachment of Hizbullah, I am fighting forces within me that are edging to the political right – all the while desperately holding on to a progressive philosophical mindset. In the deepest recesses of my being, I am finding it difficult to maintain my usual equilibrium.
I am constantly doing battle with two competing inclinations – one to preserve my body (my physical well-being) and one to preserve my soul (my moral integrity). And, right now, the urges of my body seem to be getting the upper hand…
How do I maintain a sense of justice for Palestinians whose freedoms have been compromised under Israel’s 40-year occupation and continue to advocate for their human rights, when I know they are being swept up by a pan-Islamism characterized by Islamist extremism? No wonder the Israeli Left has gone underground. Many of our cherished values have gone up in smoke.
We hate the security barrier because it steals Palestinian lands, divides villages and separates families, but we sleep better knowing our children no longer play Russian roulette with their lives when they venture out in public. We deplore targeted assassinations, but when the IDF kills terrorists on their way to fire rockets into Sderot, we breathe a sigh of relief – even if innocent Palestinians are caught in the cross fire.
Does this mean that Forman and others like him have finally understood that they have misread the intentions of the Palestinians, the Arabs, the Iranians — and indeed much of the world — toward the Jews and Israel?
After all, Forman adds,
Everything that those who opposed the unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza predicted would happen has happened. Hizbullah in the north and Hamas in the south are squeezing us and, at a moment’s notice, could wreak havoc upon the country. The internecine fighting in Gaza, where Palestinians killed each other with impunity, proved a harsh reality: These Muslim fanatics are out for anyone’s blood that gets in the way of their ultimate goal – spilling the last drop of Jewish blood.
So what’s an Israeli liberal Jew to do – turn to our leftist sympathizers abroad to gain some perspective and objectivity? Who are they – the American Center for Constitutional Rights that has issued warrants for the arrest of Moshe Ya’alon and Avi Dichter for war crimes; the International Solidarity Movement or the Christian Peacemaker Teams whose Web sites are veritable wellsprings of anti-Semitic drivel?
If he previously had trouble understanding history, does he now — as a result of current events and personal danger — finally get it? Fat chance.
The arrogance of his tone gives a clue. A struggle between body (right-wing territory) and soul (belonging to the Left)! As if his ideological opponents have only an animal ruach next to Forman’s Jewish neshamah! As if they are motivated by fear and self-interest, while he is inspired by higher things!
Forman does not say that he was wrong regarding Oslo, the security fence, the withdrawal from Gaza, or — importantly — about who bears primary responsibility for Palestinian misery. Rather, he recommends for practical reasons that liberals start being more careful lest their words and demonstrations be used by our enemies — even though their “moral conscience” is still with the Palestinians (at least the non-Islamist ones):
So as not to further darken the gathering storm hovering above, we liberals will have to temper our views and moderate our behavior. Does this mean that we limit self-criticism and curtail what we say and what we do because our words and actions can supply ammunition to our detractors and to those who decry our legitimacy as a state? Does it mean that we sacrifice our moral conscience on an altar of fear? No! But, it does mean that we must carefully weigh the possible consequences of our rhetoric and activities. [my emphasis]
In other words, don’t change your beliefs, just be more careful in expressing them.
And he is prepared to acknowledge that at least the Islamists among the Palestinians comprise a threat:
It also means that we who are sympathetic to Palestinian suffering cannot become mirror images of our right-wing adversaries – abandoning any sense of balance [give me a break – ed], thus discounting Israeli pain. More so, even as we concede Israeli offenses, we must acknowledge Palestinian violence and, more importantly, its global implications. With the radicalization of Gaza, surely to be exported to the West Bank, Palestinians are part of a growing Islamist threat to Western stability, and we stand at the forefront of its eventual onslaught. [my emphasis]
What Forman does not say, and what I am almost certain that he would not say, is something like this: “We were wrong in not understanding that the Arabs, including the Palestinians, have been violently opposed to a Jewish presence in the Mideast since the turn of the 20th century, and we were wrong in thinking that the Oslo/Arafat process had a chance. Now we understand that a majority of Palestinians — both Islamist and secular — can be satisfied only by the end of Israel, and are working toward that goal with the support of much of the world”.
The bombast with which Forman presents his manifesto belies its insignificance. While I certainly welcome a reduction in anti-Israel expression from left-wing Jews and Israelis, a deeper understanding of history and events would be even more appreciated.