The musings of one Andrew Langer - defender of liberty, passionate protector of individual rights, foodie. (Note: Said Musings of Andrew Langer are his own, and the views represented herein are likewise his views, and not the views of any other people, entities, foodstuffs, etc [unless otherwise specifically and explicitly noted].)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Mugged By Mideast Reality

I was home sick today (with the entire fam, in fact - we all picked up a bug either in Texas or on our way home). I ventured out to pick up some heavy-duty decongestants and happened to catch NPR's "Talk of the Nation". One of the guests was a scholar, novelist, and Fordham law school professor named Thane Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum is a progressive, much in the vein of classmates of mine from Fieldston - and one who, for many years, held the belief (some might call it naive) that the Israeli-Arab conflict could be solved by talk, negotiation, and compromise.

But Rosenbaum has had a change of heart - and I have to respect him for his intellectual honesty and willingness to come to terms with the reality of the situation. Anyhow, I want to post a recent opinion piece he wrote for the Wall Street Journal ( :

Red State Jews
Mugged by Mideast reality.

Sunday, August 13, 2006 12:01 a.m.

This is a soul-searching moment for the Jewish left. Actually, for many Jewish liberals, navigating the gloomy politics of the Middle East is like walking with two left feet.

I would know. For six years I was the literary editor of Tikkun magazine, a leading voice for progressive Jewish politics that never avoided subjecting Israel to moral scrutiny. I also teach human rights at a Jesuit university, imparting the lessons of reciprocal grievances and the moral necessity to regard all people with dignity and mutual respect. And I am deeply sensitive to Palestinian pain, and mortified when innocent civilians are used as human shields and then cynically martyred as casualties of war.

Yet, since 9/11 and the second intifada, in which suicide bombings and beheadings have become the calling cards of Arab diplomacy, and with Hamas and Hezbollah emerging as elected entities that, paradoxically, reject the first principles of liberal democracy, I feel a great deal of moral anguish. Perhaps I have been naive all along.

And I am not alone. Many Jews are in my position--the children and grandchildren of labor leaders, socialists, pacifists, humanitarians, antiwar protesters--instinctively leaning left, rejecting war, unwilling to demonize, and insisting that violence only breeds more violence. Most of all we share the profound belief that killing, humiliation and the infliction of unnecessary pain are not Jewish attributes.

However, the world as we know it today--post-Holocaust, post-9/11, post-sanity--is not cooperating. Given the realities of the new Middle East, perhaps it is time for a reality check. For this reason, many Jewish liberals are surrendering to the mindset that there are no solutions other than to allow Israel to defend itself--with whatever means necessary. Unfortunately, the inevitability of Israel coincides with the inevitability of anti-Semitism.

This is what more politically conservative Jews and hardcore Zionists maintained from the outset. And it was this nightmare that the Jewish left always refused to imagine. So we lay awake at night, afraid to sleep. Surely the Arabs were tired, too. Surely they would want to improve their societies and educate their children rather than strap bombs on to them.

If the Palestinians didn't want that for themselves, if building a nation was not their priority, then peace in exchange for territories was nothing but a pipe dream. It was all wish-fulfillment, morally and practically necessary, yet ultimately motivated by a weary Israeli society--the harsh reality of Arab animus, the spiritual toll that the occupation had taken on a Jewish state battered by negative world opinion.

Despite the deep cynicism, however, Israel knew that it must try. It would have to set aside nearly 60 years of hard-won experience, starting from the very first days of its independence, and believe that the Arab world had softened, would become more welcoming neighbors, and would stop chanting: "Not in our backyard--the Middle East is for Arabs only."

It is true that Israel has entered into peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan that have brought some measure of historic stability to the region. But with Israel having withdrawn from Lebanon and Gaza, and with Israeli public opinion virtually united in favor of near-total withdrawal from the West Bank, why are rockets being launched at Israel now, why are their soldiers being kidnapped if the aspirations of the Palestinian people, and the intentions of Hamas and Hezbollah, stand for something other than the total destruction of Israel? And if Palestinians and the Lebanese are electing terrorists and giving them the portfolio of statesmen, then what message is being sent to moderate voices, what incentives are there to negotiate, and how can any of this sobering news be recast in a more favorable light?

The Jewish left is now in shambles. Peace Now advocates have lost their momentum, and, in some sense, their moral clarity. Opinion polls in Israel are showing near unanimous support for stronger incursions into Lebanon. And until kidnapped soldiers are returned and acts of terror curtailed, any further conversations about the future of the West Bank have been set aside.

Not unlike the deep divisions between the values of red- and blue-state America, world Jewry is being forced to reconsider all of its underlying assumptions about peace in the Middle East. The recent disastrous events in Lebanon and Gaza have inadvertently created a newly united Jewish consciousness--bringing right and left together into one deeply cynical red state.

Mr. Rosenbaum, a novelist and professor at Fordham Law School, is author, most recently, of "The Myth of Moral Justice" (HarperCollins, 2004).

Copyright © 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Blogger The Editor said...

You say you have to respect Rosenbaum's willingness to come to terms with the reality of the situation. But I would argue, strongly, that the "reality" of the situation is misleading -- and perhaps determined too much by people whose hearts and minds have already been changed, for the worse.

August 30, 2006 10:15 PM

Blogger Andrew Langer said...

AD, I appreciate your coming by and commenting, and I read your blog post.

You miss a couple of things, I think, and in doing so I disagree with your assertion that the "reality" as Rosenbaum and I both see it is "misleading".

Central to Rosenbaum's thesis is the idea that Israel's neighbors, contrary to the belief of many int he piece movement, are never going to be satisfied by any compromises or concessions made by Israel through diplomatic negotiations. This is made manifest by the response of those neighbors once those concessions are carried out - rocket attacks, kidnappings, etc.

Furthermore, in order to have negotiations, a dialogue must be initiated. But what honest brokers are there for Israel to negotiate with? Political organizations who have sworn that the destruction of the Jewish state is their root cause?

Ultimately, peace requires both sides to come to a table, willing to talk, willing to listen, and willing to _ACT_ - and to do so honestly. Israel has done so, again and again and again - and each time its concessions have been met with scorn.

Finally, I would challenge your thesis that America has not committed troops in a combat situation to protect Israel. Our intervention in Iraq was done, in part, to protect Israel from a variety of threats, and our continued presence there offers further protection.

One need only look at a map of the Middle East to see how the geostrategic interests of the United States and its allies are impacted. Iran is surrounded on three sides by US troops and US allies, and likewise Syria is similarly constrained.

August 31, 2006 11:10 AM

Blogger Fred said...

I wonder the need to enclose reality in quotes. :-)

Like Melanie Phillips said in her EXCELLENT new book Londonistan (can you tell I like it?), many people do not know the history of the creation of Isreal and it shows in knee-jerk vomittations (if that is not a word, it should be!) against Isreali self-defense. It is important to know this history because, as it happens, it is the energizing linchpin of Arab malfeasance in the Middle East.

Interestingly, I almost wrote "lynchpin".

August 31, 2006 3:35 PM

Blogger Andrew Langer said...

Thanks, Fred!

I meant to offer this link to an old blog post of mine, this one discussing the issue of geostrategic goals...

August 31, 2006 4:00 PM

Blogger Fred said...

Re geostrategy: interesting, very interesting point, Andrew. I have to admit not seeing things in precisely this way before you.

If you don't mind, I'm going to steal that some day.

August 31, 2006 5:18 PM

Blogger Andrew Langer said...

Feel free. I majored in International Relations/Soviet Studies in College, and spent some time concentrating on Geostrategy - my senior independent study was an analysis of Soviet (or, more to the point, Transitional Russian) defense strategy through the matrix of geographic realities. In other words, how geography shaped the way the Russians arranged their defense structure.

I had a great teacher at the time, a gentleman named Brian Blouet, and while I'd always had an interest in maps, Dr. Blouet showed me how to look at them in a somewhat different way.

- Andrew

August 31, 2006 8:14 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why this site is supporting Khalq? You put so many of it is obvious. Do you associate to the Golnaz and IWSF up in Cambridge?

Mideast peace requires nothing less than the dissolution of all such opaque terror groups. There are enough certainly, this phoenix of MKO just adds troubles. Bush will not debate Ahmedinejad, perhaps you are suggesting that there is no need for such honest debate via your espousal of support for the Rajavi contingent?

September 03, 2006 7:33 AM

Blogger Andrew Langer said...

Anon - I have done nothing of the sort. This site is not supporting Khalq, Rajavi, or anyone else for that matter.

At this point in time, I know tremendously little about the various parties in Iran, and wouldn't even begin to speculate.

- Andrew Langer

September 03, 2006 12:05 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog. I actually stumbled upon your blog looking for information on the mideast prior to the creation of isreal, but I must say I agree with everything Mr. Rosenbaum writes. There is only one way to deal with the advancing threat of islamic facism, and thats with force.
There is some truth to the statement that "violence begets violence", but this is not true if you defeat your enemy. While most moderate and liberal Muslims do not strap bombs to themselves, they live amongst those who do and take no action against the islamic facists who do commit suicide bombings against innocents. In many cases moderate and liberal muslims even condone such violence. For this reason, I feel little remorse for the voluntary human shields who die when the US or Isreal attack the muslims in their homes (i.e. Bunkers ), in their baby milk factories (i.e weapons factories) and mosques (i.e forts).
A Christian for peace with Muslims, after we beat them in WWIII.

September 29, 2006 12:34 PM


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