Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Death of Liberal Zionism in America?

Well, perhaps not. But you gotta wonder when the only panel of "intellectuals" speaking about Israel at the AIPAC convention consists of…three neocons and a liberal hawk!

Yes, that's right. A plenary session panel composed of Natan Sharansky (russian ethnonationalist and Shalem center neocon), Michael Oren (historian and Shalem center neocon), Ruth Gavison (law professor and Israeli neocon), and Leon Wieseltier (liberal hawk literary editor of the New Republic) was held at the AIPAC convention Monday night to discuss Israel at 60. Now I know Leon. Any panel in which he is the leftwinger has got to raise some eyebrows. What does this say about the place of liberal Zionism at AIPAC? Is Michael Walzer in cherem?

The old fashioned Abba-Eban-Peace-Now-Amos-Oz liberal/socialist Zionism is no longer suitable for the AIPAC crowd. AIPAC has been hijacked by the liberal hawk/neocons. I don't even to expect to find many liberal hawks there. It's a neocon show.

As such, it is SOOOO unrepresentative of American Judaism. I can't say it better than Richard Silverstein, who writes

AIPAC is like a fun house mirror.  You stand in front of it and watch as your entire body is distorted out of all proportion.  That's the relation of AIPAC to the real American Jewish body politic.  If AIPAC is a fun house mirror that would make its annual convention a carnival sideshow.

Sure, it hurts a bit to see goyim who should know better kowtowing to the loonies of the right. But it feels good when only rightwing intellectual ideologues frequent the place.


Ben Bayit said...

Ruth Gavison is firmly with the liberal left. She is not a neoncon. Sure she has her disagreements with Arob Barak about whether or not Israel really has a constitution or not, but that doesn't make her a neocon.
Michael Oren is not a neocon. He is center-left. For that matter the Shalem Center isn't really a neonconservative think tank anymore - and hasn't been one for some while. Like any good thing in Israel started by the right - the left eventually takes it over. The Shalem Center with Oren, Asa-El and other supposedly "reformed" leftists is no longer a neo-conservative think tank. I cancelled my Azure subscription ages ago.

Jerry Haber said...

1) What makes Gavison a neocon is a) she opposes submerging Israel sovereignty to international human rights law; b) she is deeply skeptical about international human rights law; c) like most other neocons (see under Podhoretz and the Commentary crowd) she touts her formerly "liberal" credentials, in her case from her stint at the head of ACRI; d) she also defends discriminatory legislation such as the JNF bill and in general, is an international hired gun for Israel's policies; e) She is an intense nationalist who believes that Medan is a more important partner for negotiation than any Palestinian. If you want to call her a liberal hawk like Dershowitz, be my guest. But to call her left is a joke that only an extreme righwinger would make.

2) "Michael Oren is not a neocon." "The Shalem Center is not neocon." I suppose in your book that Norman Podhoretz is not a neocon and that William Kristol is not a neocon. Who is, then?

Oren center-left? Is Bibi center-left? Sharansky? (After all, Sharansky is not opposed in principle to a Palestinian state.)

Do you have any idea what the word "left" means outside of Israel. Do you realize that no American politician to the right of Nader is considered leftwing in the world?

Ah, but the Rambam already said that those who are sick of soul taste the sweet bitter and the bitter sweet....

3) What do you subscribe to now? The parsha sheet of the Yeshivat ha-Ra'ayon ha-Yehudi?

Ben Bayit said...

Forbes Magazine and Makor Rishon

Jerry Haber said...

ben bayit --

Both respectable rags, I am told. (Sorry for the Kahane crack, by the way. I should stop reading email after midnight.)

I concede that Oren and Gavison are better described as liberal hawks. I myself am not so clear of the difference between liberal hawks and neocons when it comes to Israel. What I can say is that neocons like to publish articles by liberal hawks, which is why Commentary and neocon commentators are pluralistic enough to let liberal hawks in their universe of discourse.

It may be that that's what happened to Azure. It may have started publishing articles by people who, in the past, were associated with the Zionist left and who have "moved to the right" since 2000, folks like Gavison, Rubinstein, and that fellow --what's his name -- the literary critic who writes about Zionism -- but who sounds like he walked out of the 1940's...yeah, Assaf Inbari.

Still, since I barely read Azure, I was interested in reading your comment that you had cancelled your subscription. What was the most outrageous thing they published, in your opinion? How do you account for their (gulp) move to the center-left, as you would describe it.

Ben Bayit said...

There was nothing in particular outraging. I think they allowed all sorts of leftists in so as to show that they are pluralistic. In Israel this is bad b/c the left never lets right-wingers in so instead of having lots of well-funded leftists think tanks and one neocon thinktank we have lots of leftist thinktanks and one wishy-washy centrist thinktank. Something like this would never happen in Washington DC. Yoram Hazony decided to dance ma yafis with the intllectual elites of the country. On another blog I read about how he spent a major part of a speech begging his audience to judge him favorbaly despite the kippa on his head (naturally he left Eli for Ramot long ago - for someone like you that's 2 sides of the same coin, but for others it sends a message).
In general the left in Israel - being Marxist and Leninist in origin (if not nature) will never allow something like the Shalem Center to become really effective. So they have slowly tarted to take over. Just like they eventually took over all of the Herut institution while adopting Jabotinky's policies.
There's probably more to my thinking on this, but I have to run now.

Stephen said...

I wouldn't bother saying this on more 'mainstream liberal' blogs (American-style mainstream liberal blogs, I mean). But given your invocation of the world standards of leftism above, perhaps I can add an amen to Elton Beard in the following:

There is no such thing as a liberal hawk. This really should go without saying but people like Chait seem confused about the issue. So let's recap. A war hawk is distinguished from a dove only by a willingness to go to war - that is, to shed civilized norms and resort to extreme violence including the inevitable killing and maiming of innocent human beings - for reasons other than immediately defensive.

I'd like to see a push-back on the term "liberal hawk". A hawk is someone who pushes war as something other than a last-ditch effort at self-defense. A liberal is distinguished by, among other things, avoiding war when it is not a last-ditch effort at self-defense. It's an oxymoron.