Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Belligerent, Newly Defined

Genghis Khan has returned. This time, however, he is a she, ethnically European rather than ethnically Asian, and wants to massacre Palestinians rather than Chinese.

And she goes by the name "Hillary Rodham Clinton."

Ben Norton of Salon condemns Hillary Clinton's "Fighting oppression,inequality and injustice on Passover," posted in "a right-wing pro-Israel website."  She

told the Biblical story of Exodus and stressed that lessons should be drawn from it for today.

With hawkish right-wing rhetoric, Clinton steadfastly defended the Israeli government. She conflated the Jewish religion with the state of Israel and condemned critics of the government as anti-Semitic.

Clinton's piece referred to "anti-Semitic" or "Semitic" exactly zero (0) times.

It didn't stop there, however, as Norton accused Clinton of "doing what can only be described as 'goysplaining' — or, as a non-Jew, condescendingly accusing a Jew of betraying his own people for criticizing Israel."

Norton can be excused for not fully explaining what "goysplaining is," a term of which even the Urban Dictionary is unaware.  It does, though, sound bad, as is intended. He cannot, however, be easily excused for claiming Clinton was "condescendingly accusing a Jew of betraying his own people for criticizing Israel."  She spent virtually the entire article emphasizing her own support for Jews and for Israel, stopping only to issue what Norton apparently believes was a blistering attack:

Protecting allies and partners like Israel is one of the most solemn duties of any Commander-in-Chief. Yet others in this race suggest we must remain “neutral” in order to negotiate. But Israel’s safety is simply non-negotiable. And it would be a grave mistake for the United States to cede the mantle of leadership in the peace process to anyone else. For the security of Israel and the world, we need America to remain a respected global leader, and be ready and able to block any international effort to isolate or attack Israel.

That is what for Norton constitutes condescendingly accusing a Jew of betraying his own people.  Yet Clinton therein criticizes not Bernie Sanders personally but his position on Israel. Sanders has argued the USA should adopt "an even-handed role trying to bring people together and recognizing the serious problems that exist among the Palestinian people." The reference an even-handed role is similar to Donald Trump's stance; hence the reference to "others in this race."

The Vermont senator has not stated whether he would oppose an international effort to "isolate or attack Israel," which is a more significant issue, given that neutrality or "an even-handed role" between the two sides is rather abstract. It's not clear, moreover, how a President Sanders would respond to a move made against Israel by the United Nations, the European Union, or any other force, the international effort his rival pledges to block.

"For the security of Israel and the world," the former Secretary of State emphasized, "we need America to remain a respected global leader, and be ready and able to block any international effort to isolate or attack Israel."  This, Norton maintains she "belligerently" added, thereby giving a new and expanded meaning to the word "belligerent,"  which now includes defending the notion of Israel's security and the USA's role as a global leader.

For some reason, Norton finds relevant the Jewish scholars who have stated "there is no evidence whatsoever that the Jews were ever enslaved in Egypt," which is an arguable notion.  He makes it no better when, in a generous mood, he contends the "likely fictitious" Exodus "story may have religious and symbolic significance."

Fiddle faddle.  Theological scholar Richard Elliot Friedman, who with a skeptic's eye believes there was a limited departure from Egypt at the time, explains

My rabbi used to tell me as a child that even if we could prove that biblical events were not true, the Bible still contained great lessons.

Over time, though, I’ve come to the opposite conclusion. History matters. 

History does matter.   And it is the history not only of the Israeli occupation or even of the Holocaust. It includes centuries of violence, officially sanctioned or otherwise, of Muslims against Jews.  It includes, additionally, Israeli support of the Palestinian economy and its decision not to pursue regime change in Gaza when nearly in its grasp, despite the threat Hamas poses to its existence.

Israel is not always right, as Hillary Clinton no doubt is aware. However, her perspective is far less clouded than those of her critics who couldn't be less interested in even-handedness.

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