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‘Even-handed’ rebuke

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It’s no secret that the Jewish community is riven by the Obama administration’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (See page 38.) We all want it resolved, but at what cost?

Often what’s deplored — as had been in previous administrations — is an apparent effort to be “even-handed,” criticizing Israel but giving the Palestinians an easy pass. That could (1) result in a Palestinian advantage in any negotiations and (2) weaken the decades-long friendship between the United States and Israel.

Leon Wieseltier delivers what might be called an even-handed rebuke, in the April 29 New Republic, to both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama.

It’s eloquent — and persuasive. It might even do some good.

He scores Netanyahu on leadership, insisting “that it is mad for Netanyahu to think that he can have it all: the [potential] strike on Iran, the steadfastness of America, the churlishness about a peace process, the apartments in Ramat Shlomo. In these strategic circumstances,” he posits, “Rabin and Sharon would have damned the settlements, and the small perspective that they represent.”

We’re not so sure about that, but both men had the clout and support to push ahead with their programs. Netanyahu is in thrall to a zillion competing parties. (Wieseltier is quick to say that he concurs “that Israel has the right to build in Ramat Shlomo,” adding “I have the right to jump off my building … but it would not be the intelligent course of action.”

But “what most alarms [him] is that there has occurred in Israel an eerie loss of faith in the art of diplomacy…. [T]he Israeli government should be a hive of diplomatic creativity. It should be swarming with proposals and concepts....”

As for Obama, “To what extent does the American aim of improving our reputation in various Muslim societies entail American acceptance of the current state of those societies?”

He assails “Obama’s creepy habit of addressing Muslims in religious terms, when there is no more urgent battle ‘in the Muslim world’ than the battle for secularization....”

He writes, “I want Israel to make peace with the Palestinians even more than Obama does, because I love the Jewish state and I fear for it; but because I fear for it, Obama’s adamant refusal to open his famously large heart to the depth of Israel’s anxieties, … to recognize that his coldness toward Israel has the effect of confirming its delegitimation in many corners of the globe … repels me. It is also,” he concludes, “bad community organizing.”

Some of this is no doubt offensive to all parts of the Jewish/political spectrum — but if you get everyone mad at you, you might be doing something right.


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A view from the pew


Toward an end to gun violence

It is not entirely foreign to Jews to imagine being massacred at prayer.

This is not even a question of historical memory, although our story overflows with such murderous episodes. No, we just have to think back to last November, when assassins burst into a synagogue at Har Nof, in Jerusalem, and butchered four men there as they stood lost in the Amidah, the silent prayer at the heart of the service.

Then the killers slaughtered a Druze policeman who tried to protect the daveners.

Last week, a crazed, racist 21-year-old, a loser with a bowl haircut, dead eyes, and a gun, went into the Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston, like Jerusalem, is an old city (although of course here in the New World we measure age in centuries; in Israel it’s in millennia). It’s been at the heart of the slave trade, and so represented evil, but it is also beautiful, graceful, quirky, and a bustling tourist destination.



Thoughts on identity

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