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Aaron David Miller: The pro-Israel community has won, so stop “geshraying” already

Aaron David Miller has a stirring piece in the LA Times that deserves to be quoted in full.

A note on my headline:”geshray” is Yiddish for “wail.” Other than that, believe it or not (is everyone sitting down? Get ready…), I have nothing to add! Nothing more needs to be said, as far as I’m concerned. Anyone disagree?

The Israel litmus test

Why do so many American Jews demand unwavering commitment to Israel from their politicians?
By Aaron David Miller
March 9, 2008

‘You’re nothing but a self-hating Jew, and your boss is an anti-Semite.” It was the spring of 1990. I was an advisor to then-Secretary of State James Baker, and I was briefing a Jewish group from Atlanta — and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Baker was tough on Israel when he needed to be, but he was no anti-Semite. I told Mr. Atlanta that if he wanted to argue about policy, fine; otherwise, we should keep the ad hominem out of it.

Almost 20 years later, here we go again. This time, a Democratic candidate for president, not even the official nominee of his party, is under attack from some deeply confused and ill-informed American Jews. Again, the charges of hostility toward Israel are being irresponsibly bandied about.

Some of this, to be sure, is the seasonal silliness associated with political campaigns. But the persistent attacks on Sen. Barack Obama — and especially on former Clinton administration official Robert Malley, one of his many informal advisors — shouldn’t be casually dismissed as crackpot commentary. They reflect two troubling reactions, or, more precisely, overreactions, within the American Jewish community that undermine its credibility and harm American interests in the process.

First, some full disclosure. I’m not associated with any political campaign and am not running for anything. For nearly 20 years, I worked at the Department of State, under Republican and Democratic secretaries of State, on the Arab-Israeli peace negotiations.

What’s more, I am a close friend of Malley, who served as special assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli affairs between 1998 and 2001. Malley and I continue to collaborate on Op-Ed articles and conferences.

In recent weeks, I’ve been extremely disturbed to see him attacked as an enemy of Israel and as an apologist for the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Perhaps most offensive, several publications have run personal attacks on Malley because his father, in the 1960s, founded and edited a left-wing magazine called Afrique-Asie, which was friendly toward the Palestine Liberation Organization and other Third World movements.

But so what? These charges are ridiculous. There’s no question that Malley has been critical of certain Israeli actions and behavior (as have I). He was criticized, for instance, for an article he wrote in the New York Review of Books that took issue with the notion that Arafat was solely responsible for the failure of the Oslo peace process. But he is not “anti-Israel,” let alone the Israel hater his critics portray him to be. He is well-respected by Arabs and Israelis alike, and he believes deeply in the idea and the reality of Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign and secure Jewish state. He would never do anything to jeopardize that.

In a joint letter last month, five of his longtime colleagues (former Clinton national security advisor Samuel R. Berger; former U.S. ambassadors to Israel Martin Indyk and Daniel Kurtzer; former U.S. peace negotiator Dennis Ross; and myself) made Malley’s commitment to Israel unmistakably clear. As for the mean-spirited guilt-by-association charges having to do with his family, Malley told the Forward, a Jewish newspaper, that while he loved and respected his father — who died in 2006 — he did not agree with him on everything.

The attacks on Malley (which are, of course, really attacks on Obama) don’t merely reflect concerns about the views of a single mid-level advisor; they flow from a deeper dysfunction. The first piece of that dysfunction is what you might call the “cosmic oy vey” — the tendency of many American Jews active in pro-Israeli causes to worry about everything, without a capacity to identify what is important and what isn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. Jews — and yes, I am one of them — worry for a living. Their history compels them to and to be always vigilant. Yet in America, where they have achieved a level of security, acceptance and power unparalleled in their history, their existential worries paradoxically seem to have grown even greater. When Jimmy Carter writes a book — a bad book, incidentally — comparing Zionism to apartheid, many American Jews go crazy. When two university professors, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, write another bad book — about what they call “the Israel lobby” — many Jews react as if the sky is falling.

The fact is (and many American Jews are reluctant to accept it), the conflict in the United States between Israel’s supporters and its detractors is over. And the pro-Israel community has won. No figure in American mainstream politics can be viable without being firmly supportive of Israel. Americans overwhelmingly back Israel’s right to exist safely and securely as a Jewish state. For reasons of shared values, as well as strong domestic political support, Israel has become an organic part of American culture, religion, politics and foreign policy for Jews and non-Jews alike. Our most recent presidents, Clinton and George W. Bush, have been the most pro-Israel presidents — ever.

For too many American Jews, these successes haven’t created a greater sense of security; they have only persuaded them to keep up the fight to ensure their good fortune continues. Too often this means stigmatizing people who criticize, or even question, particular Israeli policies as detrimental to U.S. interests or to the peace process or to Israel’s security itself. There is a strong tendency even in parts of the mainstream American Jewish community to interpret any such questioning — of the type that occurs every day in Israel itself — as outright hostility.

I’ve lost count of the number of times Jewish activists or friends have said to me that this official or that journalist or this academic must be anti-Semitic. On other occasions, I have been told that I myself should not to be so publicly critical of Israel, lest we give our enemies grist for their propaganda mills.

This “us versus them” mentality still runs deep, and it is particularly harmful when it comes to the Arab-Israeli issue. That conflict is not some kind of morality play in which the forces of evil do battle against the forces of light. It is a conflict in which both sides have legitimate needs and requirements and do both good and bad things in pursuit of them.

To be called an Israel hater for speaking out against Israeli actions when they are wrong and counterproductive — actions such as building settlements and bypass roads or confiscating land — or to be called an anti-Semite for suggesting alternative ways of thinking when the status quo is leading nowhere is not only absurd, it’s dangerous.

In the end, American Jews who impose a litmus test of boundless commitment to every single Israeli action hurt not only their community but the United States as well. Israel is a tiny country living in a dangerous neighborhood. The U.S. and Israel need a special relationship based on confidence and trust to further their mutual interests — but that does not mean we need an exclusive relationship in which America acquiesces to everything that Israel or its supporters in the United States think is wise. This is a critical distinction. One can only hope that, next time around, we are fortunate enough to get a president and Middle East advisors who understand it.

Aaron David Miller, who served at the State Department as an advisor to six secretaries of State, is a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and the author of the forthcoming “The Much Too Promised Land: America’s Elusive Search for Arab/Israeli Peace.”

41 thoughts on “Aaron David Miller: The pro-Israel community has won, so stop “geshraying” already

  1. Everybody knows who is anti-semitic and who isn’t. And James Baker definitely was. Jimmy Carter teaches in Sunday school that Jews are poisoning the Jordan River and numerous other fun tidbits. And to be lectured to by on of “Bakers JewBoys” is a little disingenuos to say the least. ( BTW “Sandy Burglar” should be in jail )

  2. Bill,

    Come on, you can do better than that. When you’re arguing with the Jew-obsessives on Phil Weiss’ blog, you are often very entertaining and original. Can’t you come up with something better, or least funnier, than warmed-over, right wing pap in response to us pro-Israel/pro-Palestine lefties?

  3. Jimmy Carter has written that Israeli authorities disrespect the Samaritan religion, just as the New Testament complained that they did 2000 years ago.

    I feel that Carter’s statement was anti-Semitic. First of all, there were no “Israeli authorities” in the New Testament. There were Jewish authorities, but not Israeli ones.

    Any time someone complains that the Israelis are being like the (bad) Jews in the New Testament, that is an anti-Semitic ethnic reference to Jews.

    Furthermore, Carter, who is in his 80s, is confused. The New Testament taught that everyone, including the Jews and the Samaritans, should become Christians.

    The New Testament was not a document which taught religious freedom for non-Christians, and it did not respect non-Christian religions, including the Samaritan religion.

    My father, like Jimmy Carter, is in his mid-80s, and you have to respect people who are still active at that age. But Carter’s remark about the “Israeli authorities” disrespecting the Samaritans in the New Testament was anti-Semitic.

    It was not merely anti-Israel, since there was no Israeli government in the New Testament. Carter’s reference to the New Testament was a reference to Jews.

  4. I think Carter deserves more respect than you are showing Jonathon.

    I think his demonstrated commitments to public service, even into his 80’s, are laudable.

    I wish that I was as dedicated.

    There is a point about confidence itself, that it is a component of the ability to accept others. If one is confident, then one has a great deal more latitude in means to function in all respects, including negotiating and implementation.

    It allows one to discern whether a statement is “sticks and stones” (dangerous or overtly damaging) or just “words” (inconsequential) or real words (important).

  5. “””I think Carter deserves more respect than you are showing Jonathon.”””

    Taking Carter’s words seriously IS showing respect. I didn’t say he was anti-Semitic, just that I objected to one statement of his as anti-Semitic.

    Carter did retract another statement in his book. He wrote a statement which, taken literally, meant that Palestinians could or should engage in terrorist acts against Israelis until there is a peace treaty.

    Carter announced that the statement was in error, did not represent his views, and would be removed from future editions.

    I doubt that Carter really believes that “Israeli authorities” existed in the time of Jesus. The statement is probably something that he does not believe and is also in error. But what he wrote was anti-Semitic.

  6. Here is the exact quote, as found in the Washington Post’s review of Carter’s book:

    “””On his fateful first visit to Israel, Carter takes a tour of the Galilee and writes, “It was especially interesting to visit with some of the few surviving Samaritans, who complained to us that their holy sites and culture were not being respected by Israeli authorities — the same complaint heard by Jesus and his disciples almost two thousand years earlier.”

    There are, of course, no references to “Israeli authorities” in the Christian Bible. Only a man who sees Israel as a lineal descendant of the Pharisees could write such a sentence.”””

    “What Would Jimmy Do?”–The Washington Post, 12/10/06

  7. You know its an interesting thing about Jimmy Carter. In the fall of 1942 he decided to enter the naval academy. Presumably has a healthy 18yr old. There he spent the next 4 yrs. Meanwhile I believe that there was plenty of things to do in the Pacific or the North Atlantic at that time. Not has safe has Annapolis though.

  8. I nominate Bill Pearlman, aka Sword of Gideon, for a Fleshie!

    Jonathan Mark should also be considered!

    Great minds! Scintillating prose! Inclusivist values!

    Hugely impressive!

  9. Agreed doonga! Agreed! Such visionaries! Hear, hear! Come all ye people, and hear what these passionate and eloquent Zionist Doves have to say!

    Bill “the wang of wideon” Pearlman is SO “entertaining and original” on Phil’s blog! All it takes is one anti-Zionist comment to get him foaming at the mouth, going for his gun, and hurling anal sex and poopy insults every which way, well, it is downright revelatory. Not to mention, convincing.

    Then there’s all the classic lines about Hitler and ovens–too original! Truly, one-of-a-kind! Obviously, anyone who has any problem with a Jewish supremacist ideology and rogue state must worship Adolf! Bill you are prescient I tell you prescient!

  10. Not to be outdone, a double fleshie, with sugar and Arab baby tears on top, for brave Jonathan Mark, the sound of one hand clapping, the voice crying out in the wilderness, our lost prophet, the lone soldier of God’s army.

    When will people wake up the fact that anti-Semitism is not only real, it is the gravest danger to humanity that has or will ever exist!?!?!?!?

    It is the most important political issue of all time! Especially in the United States, where it affects such an enormous portion of the population, unlike, you know, taxpayer subsidies for Israeli colonies, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, corporate welfare for military industries…

    Nothing–nothing–should be discussed without metriculous examination of ANY remotely possible anti-Semitic potentialities therein!

  11. “””Obviously, anyone who has any problem with a Jewish supremacist ideology and rogue state must worship Adolf!”””

    Hitler viewed himself as fighting “Jewish supremacist ideology” just as surely as Luke Skywalker’s friend above views himself and the Palestinians militant groups as doing so.

    Bear in mind that Hitler believed that Jews ruled the world, that the Jews had an agreement called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to rule the world, and so on.

    Hitler believed in the collective guilt of the Jews just as surely as our friend above believes in the collective guilt of Israeli Jews.

    And Hitler viewed violence against Jewish civilians as justified, just as our friend above views violence against civilian Israeli Jews as justified.

    If you don’t believe me that Hitler thought of himself as fighting alleged Jewish supremacism and domination, simply read Hitler’s last political testament, from 4/29/1945:

    “””Adolf Hitler’s Final Political Testament

    …It is untrue that I or anyone else in Germany wanted the war in 1939. It was desired and instigated exclusively by those international statesmen who were either of Jewish descent or worked for Jewish interests…Centuries will pass away, but out of the ruins of our towns and monuments the hatred against those finally responsible whom we have to thank for everything, international Jewry and its helpers, will grow.

    …The leading circles in English politics wanted the war, partly on account of the business hoped for and partly under influence of propaganda organized by international Jewry.

    I have also made it quite plain that, if the nations of Europe are again to be regarded as mere shares to be bought and sold by these international conspirators in money and finance, then that race, Jewry, which is the real criminal of this murderous struggle, will be saddled with the responsibility.

    …I do not wish to fall into the hands of an enemy who requires a new spectacle organized by the Jews for the amusement of their hysterical masses.”””

  12. Jonathan,
    It is common practice to translate the Hebrew “benei Israel” into English as either “children of Israel” or Israelites. Most Christians, particularly evangelical Protestants tend to conflate Israelite and Israeli. This normally does not seem to be a problem for Israel or for American Jews. One of the most famous parables (analogical stories) in the New Testament is the story of the “good Samaritan.” This story illustrates the ethnic enmity between the two peoples at the time. If Carter had said “Jewish authorities” as you suggest he would have been accurate but then, no doubt, you would have taken this as prima facie prove of anti-semitism. For those who are on the constant search for anti-semitism it is easy to find.

  13. Bill,
    Unfortunately Carter lacked your crystal ball so that he would know in 1942 that the war would end in 1945. After all, the Pentagon was still planning for a 1946 invasion of Japan when the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. Incidentally, George W. Bush was also a healthy young man during the Vietnam War. He spent his time protecting the skies of Texas and may have missed quite a few drills in order to take part in a political campaign in 1966.

  14. Nice obfuscation Tom but it doesn’t wash. I think that a guy who maintains that he wanted a naval career would have found plenty of opportunities in the Solomon Islands in the fall of 1942. Or perhaps on convoy duty in the north atlantic. Carter sat out the war at the Naval Academy. And may I remind you that this was the “good war”. No moral ambiguity. Plenty of guys enlisted on December 8th. Not Jimmy Carter though, he sat in classrooms.

  15. “””Jonathan,
    It is common practice to translate the Hebrew “benei Israel” into English as either “children of Israel” or Israelites.”””

    You are absolutely correct. And it is extremely UNcommon to translate “bnei Israel” as “Israelis.”

    Indeed, the English word “Israeli” came into being to distinguish residents of modern Israel (“Israelis”) from residents of ancient Israel (“Israelites.”)

    One would not correctly speak of Anglo-Saxons in 800 C.E. as being Englishmen. One would not correctly speak of the residents of what is now France in 200 B.C.E. as being Frenchmen. Similarly, anyone who refers to ancient Israelites as being “Israelis” is using the word incorrectly.

    “””Most Christians, particularly evangelical Protestants tend to conflate Israelite and Israeli.”””

    The vast, overwhelming majority of Evangelical Christians use the word “Israelite” the same way that everyone else does. They refer to ancient residents of Israel as “Israelites,” and to modern residents of Israel as “Israelis.”

    That is standard usage. It doesn’t originate with me. I am not imposing it on anyone.

    “””This normally does not seem to be a problem for Israel or for American Jews.”””

    What is not a problem? Christians referring to ancient Israelites as “Israelis?” I agree that it is not usually a problem on the rare occasions when it happens.

    Except in this case, when Jimmy Carter is accusing the ancient “Israelis” of wrong-doing, and saying that modern Israelis are like the bad “Israelis” in the New Testament.

    “””If Carter had said “Jewish authorities” as you suggest he would have been accurate but then, no doubt, you would have taken this as prima facie prove of anti-semitism.”””

    If Carter meant “Jewish authorities” when he wrote “Israeli authorities” then he should have said so. No good comes from bowdlerizing.

    If indeed, upon reading what Carter wrote, some readers inferred an anti-Semitic meaning then too bad for Carter. What if the inference is correct?

    Would you seriously think that taking anti-Semitic discourse, if it was that, and substituting the word “Israeli” for “Jewish” renders the discourse okay?

    If that even occurred. I had assumed that Carter, who is in his 80s, was merely confused.

    “””For those who are on the constant search for anti-semitism”””

    Do you object to searching for anti-Semitism? Why?

    Maybe instead people should lay back, let anti-Semitism become socially acceptable as it once was (even in the USA up through the 1940s) and only then start to worry.

    What’s it to you anyway?

    “””it is easy to find.”””

    No, anti-Semitism is hard to find in America in 2008. It’s easy to find in the Arab world and Iran, and somewhat easier to find in the UK (land of Amy Winehouse and Sasha Baron Cohen, so don’t carry this observation too far) than in the USA.

    Why? Because anti-Semitism became socially unacceptable in the USA about 60 years ago. Looking for anti-Semitism is good. It keeps it unacceptable.

    New Testament-based hostility towards Judaism–e.g., Carter’s claim that the “Israeli authorities,” acted wrongly in the New Testament and are doing it again–is also hard to find.

    President Carter’s criticism of “Israeli authorities” in the New Testament is singular. I am glad and would prefer that things stay that way.

  16. “the good war, no moral ambiguity”…

    WWII casualties, conservative estimate: 40 million civilians, 20 million soldiers

    WWII methods: genocide, forced labor, torture, biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons

    WWII economic cost in 2007 dollars: $10 trillion+

    …besides Bill, “the good war”, isn’t that cap’n Bibi’s war on terror??? Are you morally ambiguous on terrorism Bill? Aren’t we in a good vs. evil fight for our very survival here!?!?!?

    I know I’m crapping my pants, what about you?

    To Richard, please, Richard, don’t encourage me. I already told you I am a nobody, with no influence. I would of course be happy to debate Zionism with you, or any sensible, conscientious two-stater. I’m sorry that I am not strong enough to resist mocking you when you are at your philosophical best, wittling Phil with Wittyan conditionals and semantics.

    We have been around that mulberry bush, and I simply can’t match your energy, your bounding leaps and endless summersaults and curly q’s of logic, which I believe you produce in order to remain in good conscience in your acceptance of Zionism. Well, you may be an octagenarian but lemme tell you, you still have quite a spring in your mental step, not to mention an innocence bordering even on naivite.

    (I also have admiration for some Zionist endeavors, kibbutzim, technology, etc. But I cannot ignore the racial connotations, the methodological insistence on displacement of indigenous populations and violent takeover of their resources, as you are able to.)

    You have written passionately, voluminously, to justify Zionism, I grant you that it seems in earnest most of it, but in convincing me, or anyone at Mondoweiss it seems, you have failed.

    It is not your fault–the flaw lies with the ideology, Richard. It is ethnocentric and racist to its core.

    What about crafting a post-Zionism with a future for Jews and Arabs as equals? What about reading Johnathan Cook’s piece in Counterpunch and thinking long and hard about it?

  17. “Hitler believed in the collective guilt of the Jews just as surely as our friend above believes in the collective guilt of Israeli Jews.”

    That’s why it is so morally evocative, righteous, and powerful in its humanity, that the modern state of Israel completely eschews collective punishment, disproportionate retaliation, and extrajudicial killing, those evil, loathesome Nazi tactics.

  18. I know that you think the wrong side won WW2, but some of us are quite happy that the Germans and the Japanese lost. And if the Israeli’s used anything that came within a thousand miles of Nazi tactics this problem would be solved because the Palestinians would be gone. But they don’t, they don’t have celebrations over killings, they don’t desecrate body parts of their enemies, and they fight this thing with one and half hands tied behind their backs. There is no other country in the world that would put up with this shit, none. And if anybody is the true heirs to Hitlers Germany it’s the Arabs.

  19. MM,
    Have you read my comments on Post-Zionism on Mondoweiss?

    To summarize,
    There are two reasons that Zionism appeals to Jews:

    1. History (and current experience) of contempt ranging from prejuducial attitude, to application of that prejudicial attitude in the form of attempted political silencing (even the variants, not just the “monolith”), to persecution to genocide.

    We trust (and distrust) our own community for haven and self-governance.

    Following the holocaust, and the post-holocaust prospective permanent refugee status, a need.

    2. Fulfillment of religious instruction (falsely to my understanding) and religiously originated image and sentiment.


    Some speak of “post-Zionism” in entirely temporal terms (the Zionist generation is dying, and the post-Zionist generation is now alive, referring to the Zionist as the pioneer generations.

    Others speak of “post-Zionism” more substantively in the terms relative to the two primary motives/attractions.

    IF, the world were free from persecution, if Arabs and Jews (and MANY others in relation to Jews) did not have the scars that they express violently, then there would not be a need for haven, and haven would be an historical memory, worthy of continuing to remember but not necessarily to act on currently.

    And, as I’ve said, I don’t believe that the religious neo-Zionism is in conformity with Torah, so I don’t really give that validation really any authority. I do regard the Torah description of in-gathering as primal, but conditioned on soul preparation by the community keeping the commandments, and primarily the ethical ones that effect one’s character/consciousness. “Love thy neighbor as thyself”.

    But, the condition that the world is free from hatred and vengeance (no matter who originated it), is NOT the present reality, nor any primary party’s present committed promise.

    So, the best relative to that deferred cataclysm, is to continue to defer it. And, the two-state solution, sincere good neighbor to sincere good neighbor is the only possible current path to mutual acceptance (as fraught as it is with mutual complaints).

  20. Our friend, above, does not deny believing in the collective guilt of Israeli Jews, just as Hitler believed in the collective guilt of European Jews.

    Our friend’s belief in the collective guilt of Israeli Jews has consequences with respect his unwillingness to condemn intentional killings of Israeli Jewish civilians. Just as Hitler felt that the collective guilt of European Jews justified killing them.

    Fleshy-winner Teddy, after vainly attempting to get our friend to state that Hamas, Fatah et al have ever engaged in unethical attacks on Israeli civilians, concluded:

    ““””Thanks, MM. I guess the answer is no. I figured there is no behavior by any Palestinian Arab in the last 100 years that you object to. Say hello to Luke Skywalker for me.””””

  21. Our friends revisionism apparently is not restricted to Israel.

    “””“the good war, no moral ambiguity”…

    WWII casualties, conservative estimate: 40 million civilians, 20 million soldiers

    WWII methods: genocide, forced labor, torture, biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons

    WWII economic cost in 2007 dollars: $10 trillion+””””

    Notice that the peculiar person who posted this makes no distinction between the Nazis and the Allies.

    The 20 million soldiers includes several million Nazi soldiers. Why should I care about them?

    I am glad they are dead. The world is better without them. I understand that there are good Germans of today who had such soldiers as parents. But I cannot bemoan the deaths of Nazi soldiers in combat.

    Our friend speaks of “genocide.” What genocide, pray tell, did the Allies carry out during WWII?

    There are a group of peculiar people who post on and elsewhere who feel that US entry into WWII was wrong. Since our friend has revealed himself to be one of those we now know a little more about where he crawled out of, and where he will return at some point.

  22. Jonathan,
    I’m curious, does any critical mark about Jews or about individuals who happen to be Jews constitute anti-semitism? If, so then by the same criterion you must be a hell of an Arab hater?

  23. Bill,
    You must be aware that there were probably a few admirals that were in Carter’s graduating class as well? Are they also cowards who simply chose to safely sit out the war in classrooms?

    The same argument was tried by a right-wing Israeli journalist against Rabin. He felt that Rabin and other officers in the Palmakh were simply sitting out WWII. It was a good thing that they did considering what happened in 1948. So are Yadin, Allon, Dayan, and Rabin to all be condemned as cowards who sat out the war in classrooms or on kibbutzim?

  24. Moshe Dayan lost his eye fighting for the British in WW2 on a raid against the Vichy forces in Lebanon I believe. Not sure about the rest though. Doesn’t detract from my point though. Jimmy Carter made a deliberate decision to sit out the most seminal event of his generation in safety. Not much different than George Bush in the national guard, no question. And yes, I think that a healthy 18yr old who supposedly wanted a naval career in 1942 might have found more important places to be than Annapolis

  25. The Palmach and Haganah supplied fighters to the British war effort. Wikipedia writes of this incident in which Moshe Dayan lost his eye:

    “””World War II

    He was arrested by the British ten years later in 1939 (when the Haganah was outlawed), but released after two years in February 1941, as part of Haganah cooperation with the British during World War II.

    Dayan was assigned to a small Australian-Palmach-Arab reconnaissance task force,[1] formed in preparation for the Allied invasion of Syria and Lebanon and attached to the Australian 7th Division. Using his home kibbutz of Hanita as a forward base, the unit frequently infiltrated Vichy French Lebanon, wearing traditional Arab dress, on covert surveillance missions.

    On June 7, the night before the invasion, the unit crossed the border and secured two bridges over the Litani River. When they were not relieved as expected, at 04:00 on June 8, the unit perceived that it was exposed to possible attack and — on its own initiative — assaulted a nearby Vichy police station, capturing it in a firefight. A few hours later, as Dayan was using binoculars they were struck by a French bullet, propelling metal and glass fragments into his left eye and causing it severe damage. Six hours passed before he could be evacuated and Dayan lost the eye. In addition, the damage to the extraocular muscles was such that Dayan could not be fitted with a glass eye, and he was forced to adopt the black eyepatch that became his trademark. On the recommendation of an Australian officer, he received the Distinguished Service Order, one of the British Commonwealth’s highest military honours (and is a medal which is awarded to junior officers only in exceptional circumstances).”””

    I think it was Ben-Gurion who wrote that the Yishuv (Jews of Palestine) should fight the White Paper (British policy of preventing Holocaust refugees from entering Palestine) as if there were no World War II, and fight World War II as if there were no White Paper.

    In practice that meant sneaking Jews into Palestine while enlisting in the British Army.

  26. Jonathan and Bill,
    Yes I forgot about Dayan’s eye–although he lost it while serving as a scout attached to Br forces, rather than as a member of the British army.

    I guess, Bill, if I ever meet any of those admirals from the class of 1946, I’ll have to let them know that you think that they are just cowardly careerists.

  27. “””n WWII, the British Army formed The Palestine Regiment in Palestine in Sept. 1942, consisting of Jewish and Arab battalions. Their badge was an olive tree in a circle inscribed “Palestine” in English, Hebrew and Arabic. When the badge was issued, some 60 Jews mutinied because it contained an Arabic inscription, but there was no further trouble in the regiment. In Sept. 1944 the three Jewish battalions were grouped into the independent “Jewish Infantry Brigade Group” in Egypt.”””

    Whether Dayan was in the British Army or merely an auxiliary, there were three Jewish Palestinian battalions in the British Army during WWII. A battalion has on average 1000 men, so that is 3000 Palestinian Jews in the British Army itself.

    If the 3000 was everyone who volunteered or was the number that Britain was willing to equip or had a need for.

  28. Tom, go right ahead. I think that there were three wars in our history that had absolutely no moral ambiguity. The revolution, the civil war, and WW2. And I don’t care how many admirals came out of the class of 1946. The real navy, real sailors, were in constant action and siting it out was not a an honorable choice. And that’s exactly what James Earl Carter did.

  29. Bill,
    Its interesting that you see no moral ambiguity in either the American Revolution or the Civil War. I don’t know if this illustrates two-dimensional thinking on your part or simply ignorance.

    In the American Revolution about a third of the population of the 13 colonies fought with or supported the revolutionaries, about a third supported the loyalists who sided with Britain and about a third sat out the revolution. So, by your thinking, two-thirds of the American population were either traitors or cowards. Most American slaves sided with the British who promised them freedom for that support.

    In the American Civil War nearly the first eighteen months were spent with the Union forces fighting to merely restore the status quo ante. The Civil War was fought on the North’s side to prevent secession, a matter that the Constitution was silent upon. In Dec. 1814, two weeks before the Treaty of Ghent that ended the War of 1812, the Federalists of New England met at Hartford, CT and threatened secession. One of the leading participants at that convention was Daniel Webster, one of the leading figures in the Whig Party in later years. The Whig Party was the forerunner of the Republican Party, the party that Lincoln belonged to for most of his life.

    On the South’s side the war was fought to protect the right to import slaves into the territories in the West for the rulers. But most ordinary Confederate soldiers fought in the war to protect their country and their homes.

    In neither war was there “absolutely no moral ambiguity.”

  30. Bill,
    I forgot to discuss World War II. In that war we were the Allies of a genocidal dictator who had murdered millions of his own subjects and was still doing this during the war. He was also the former ally of the dictator that we were fighting.

    At the end of the war we returned thousands of refugees from the Soviet regime back to the Red Army so that they could be imprisoned in the gulag or shot. I guess there was “no moral ambiguity” in that. Or maybe because they were not Jews, or at least the vast majority were not, it does not make any difference to you.

  31. “””I forgot to discuss World War II. In that war we were the Allies of a genocidal dictator who had murdered millions of his own subjects and was still doing this during the war.”””

    How many of Stalin’s subjects do you assert that Stalin killed DURING WWII, the time when the US was allied with Stalin?

    The US was not allied with Stalin before WWII, and was not allied with him afterward. There was no moral ambiguity in the US opposing Stalin before or after WWII.

    We know that from 1941 to 1945, while the US was allied with the USSR, Nazi Germany killed five to six million Jews, some of them in gas chambers and a few in gruesome experiments, such as finding out what happens if you almost freeze a man to death and then have a nude woman (also a concentration camp inmate) thaw them out.

    Nazi Germany killed a half million Gypsies, and millions of non-Jews rounded up as slaves or killed by Hitler in other ways.

    Can you justify your statement that during the time when the US was allied with Nazi Germany Joseph Stalin was as bad as Adolph Hitler, thus introducing what you consider to be moral ambiguity?

    Also, just as an aside, do you believe that the heavily Jewish-American Realistic Dove audience is likely to be a receptive one to your claim that fighting Hitler was morally ambiguous?

    What is your purpose in even raising this claim here? What is it that you hope to accomplish?

    Do you think that I should say, yes, my father served in a morally ambiguous war against the Nazis and the Japanese dictatorship?

  32. Perhaps I should have said “in my opinion”. I believe that America is an exceptional nation. And the revolutionary war was a worthy effort. Has did Haym Salomon, Jewish guy, who kept the army going and bankrupted himself in the process. And has been on the whole a huge net positive for good in the world. I think the Civil War was a worthy fight in order to keep the union together and get rid of slavery. Has did Leopold Karpeles, Jewish guy who won the medal of honor in the wilderness. And I think that WW2 was a war with abject evil, the Nazi’s and the Japanese. Has did Captain Abe Baum. Of task force Baum, Robert Rosenthal, who flew 90 missions with the 8th force. And 550,000 other Jews in armed forces. But I guess that you feel differently.

  33. Jonathan,
    My point in raising it was to point out that almost all situations contain some moral ambiguity. The task of the decision-maker is to take everything into account and make the best situation that is possible under the circumstances.

    I heard the figure years ago that the Soviet Union lost 40 million people during WWII: half to Hitler and half to Stalin. I think that this is probably a gross exagerration, it was probably more like half that figure. With mass murder it is hard to ever establish exact figures.

    Maybe most Jews won’t take kindly to Stalin being compared to Hitler. But objective reality does not depend upon subjective feelings. When I was an undergraduate, at Hebrew University, I had a distinguished IR professor who alleged that the Soviet Union wasn’t truly totalitarian because it wasn’t genocidal to the point of wiping out a whole people as Nazi Germany attempted. I wanted to tell him that his ancestors and relatives would all have perished in Nazi Germany but most would have lived in the Soviet Union. On the other hand mine would have perished in the Soviet Union as kulaks but lived in Nazi Germany. I don’t see much moral difference between slaughtering people because they belong to the wrong people or to the wrong class.

    I do believe that we did the right thing in fighting in World War II–I just don’t think that it was without moral ambiguity. And this paradox I guess is beyond the understanding of you and Bill.

  34. I am glad you attended Hebrew University. Thank you for maintaining your interest in Israel since then. Your opinions are often reasonable.

    “””Maybe most Jews won’t take kindly to Stalin being compared to Hitler.”””

    But I never said that Jewish-Americans object to comparing Hitler to Stalin. I said that most Jewish-Americans won’t take kindly to the claim that the US participation in WWII was morally ambiguous. I made that statement because our ancestors (usually) served in the US military during WWII, and because defeating Hitler permitted us to be born, and the US to exist.

    “””I do believe that we did the right thing in fighting in World War II”””

    A statement cannot be both true and possibly false. If the US did the right thing in fighting WWII then it is not ambiguous whether the US did the right thing in fighting WWII.

  35. Jonathan,
    The Merriam-Webster online dictionary gives one meaning for ambiguous as “capable of being understood in more than one way.”

    I would contend that this covers most wars. The American Revolution could be seen as men standing up for their natural rights or as being disloyal to their mother country, the most developed constitutional republic in Europe. In the Civil War it was a question of which political entity one owed his or her loyalty to and what rights state governments had under the Constitution.

    The fact that most of those fighting in the American military during World War II were draftees, and many were not happy to be there, demonstrates that the decision to go to war. was not unanimously popular. Most decisions in foreign policy have negative aspects as well as positive aspects, hence ambiguity.

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