AIPAC Al Jazeera American foreign policy American Jews Israel Israel lobby Israeli occupation Palestinians

Are there passionate moderates watching Al Jazeera?

This past Thursday, I was on the Riz Kahn show on Al Jazeera English. along with Mitchell Barak, CEO of Keevoon, a polling firm. The more I do these media gigs, the more I understand the impossibility of commenting on the Middle East, American foreign policy and American Jews without offending someone.

In this case, for this audience, I was delighted to get the opportunity to point out that even though Israel has one of the most powerful militaries in the world, the security threats it faces are NOT the concoctions of fear mongers; the possibility of Iranian nukes, Syrian chemical weapons, Hamas rockets reaching Israel’s coastal plain from the West Bank cannot be discounted or disregarded. I stated that Israel had to continue developing weapons to maintain its defensive capacities, but that trying turn down the regional temperature via diplomacy was critically important. So, hundreds of thousands of Israel-bashers were probably infuriated.

I also provided standard-issue sound bites on behalf of the pro-Israel, American Jewish left: e.g., Obama needs the political wiggle-room to lean on both sides of the conflict, rather than just one side; there is no contradiction between between being pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian and pro-American, as we all share an interest in ending the occupation and a peaceful, two state solution, etc. etc. So, those in the pro-Israel community who passively accept the status quo (who knows how many? Al-Jazeera is increasingly popular in Israel, I hear) were probably infuriated.

The question is, how many passionate moderates were in that audience -in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, small pockets of North America? How many Al Jazeera fans are willing to admit to themselves, if not to each other, that Israeli fears are based on tangible realities, even if they are sometimes overblown and exaggerated by politicians and activists? How many are willing to swallow their distaste at the idea that it is possible to be “pro-Israel” and not the incarnation of evil? Not many, I fear.

17 thoughts on “Are there passionate moderates watching Al Jazeera?

  1. “Passionate” moderate is the key word.

    Rather than silent majority (or minority), we should speak up.

    Peace is best. As there are obviously reasonable actions that can be taken now, and are being taken, they should be embraced.

  2. Well, imo, as long as those passionate moderates are silent (and I have ZERO idea how many exist)–Yaakov & Bill Pearlman have every right to be dubious.

    Until there is tangible, empirical evidence of these folks–how can we know they exist?

    I’m not religious…I don’t have that kind of faith. 🙂

  3. You did well, Dan. I didn’t think Barak was especially impressive but you were cogent and seemed perfectly reasonable. I don’t see how it could hurt and perhaps it will help…

  4. I didn’t originally see the link. Just watched the program.

    I have to give al Jazeera credit for allowing this dialogue to take place between pro-Israel elements and anti-Israel viewers.

    It does seem to me there’s this misconception–whether intentional or not–that AIPAC’s relationship to Israel is the moral equivalent of say, Islamists’ political relationship to the territories.

    What is apparent to me–but will probably be lost on anti-Zionists–is how much more flexible, versatile and subsequently more progressive–the pro-Israeli camp is than the anti-Zionist camp.

    BTW–seems Biden gave his answer on what America’s stance will be should Israel decide to take matters into its own hands on Iran.

  5. a 1st time reader- and, perhaps, probably the last. you refer to giving bho ‘wiggle room’ to lean on both sides. a glorious statement but where is the ‘leaning on the other side’? there has been a disproportionate pressure placed on israel- a constant theme of the deluded left while only perfunctory comments are directed to the palestinians who, as you know, have indicated they will wait to get what they want from the u.s.’s pressures upon the israelis. I don’t think one can take seriously anything bho says about israel when his cairo speech’s narrative was merely parrotting the arab narrative of the creation of israel. also, bho has surrounded himself w/ persons who have a long history of hostility to israel and the jews.
    who knows best what is in israel’s best interests?
    liberal jews who place israel’s security well down their list of priorities (after global warming; affirmative action; etc) or israelis themselves? let israelis determine what is in their best interests. 2nd guessing israeli policies from the safety of a starbucks on the upper east side of manhattan hardly qualifies as either an informed opinion but, rather, a comment upon one’s sense of self deluded self importance.

  6. Dan says:
    there is no contradiction between between being pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian and pro-American, as we all share an interest in ending the occupation and a peaceful, two state solution, etc. etc.

    Unfortunately, that is not the situation. As you yourself saw, the Arab side view the whole Arab/Israeli conflict as a zero-sum game. It was the same during the Cold War. As long as the Communist side felt that they inherently were at odds with the West, there was no possibility of “splitting the difference” and making everyone happy, as you are suggesting in our case here. Once the Communist system fell, then the tensions of the Cold War ended.
    The problem is that, whereas the Communist system in Europe was unpopular and considered illegitimate by almost all the people who lived under it, that is not the case with the Arab world. The Arab world has a very deeply rooted world-view that opposes what the liberal West stands for. They view the West as “the enemy” who is thwarting their Arab/Muslim destiny and Israel is perceived as an outpost of the West. Even countries closely tied to the US and the West despise them. Thus, even should a “peace agreement” be achieved (something I don’t believe is possible), it would merely be transferring the conflict to a different set conditions, but NOT ending it. There can be no ending of the conflict, as they see it, until their entire society begins to change. But there is a lot of inertia. Sure, there is the example of Japan which did manage to expunge its aggressive, radical nationalism, but this was only after being decisevely in a devastating war and subject to a strict American occupation regime that ws supported by the entire world. Japan was also only a single country. The Arab/Muslim world consists of dozens of countries and something like 15% of the population of the world. How can you force them to change the way they think?
    And all of this is regardless of the outcome of the struggle for power in Iran. No matter what happens there, Islam will still be a force on the move around the world and the sub-struggle within the Muslim world involvinng the Shi’ite revival will continue. Prepare for the long haul in this struggle.

  7. CDK,

    That is an old and, I think, empty argument about the propriety of American Jews speaking out about Israeli policy. In the Introduction to my book, I explain why I believe it is in America’s national interests to turn down the regional temperature in the Middle East and foster progress towards peace. The interests of my own country –and my family and friends and neighbors– are not always served by relying compeletely on Israelis to “determine what is in their best interests.”

    Or is Israel the only country that should be exempt from American criticism?

    The Jewish tradition calls upon me to speak out against injustice. Is Israel the only country that should be exempt from criticism when I believe (some of) its policies are unjust?

    There are many other answers. One of them is that there are many Israelis who want pro-active American engagement. Ignoring them would be letting Israel down. Don’t have time to answer your first point about “pressure” on the Palestinisns but will try to get to it [I am late for work now! Bye!]

  8. Dan,

    At first I thought that Al Jazeera had gotten a Jewish host for its program, when you mentioned a Mr. Kahn. But when I discovered that he is really Mr. Khan the world was restored to its proper order.

    You should have pointed out that referring to the Israeli government as Tel Aviv would be like referring to the American government as New York.

  9. cdk:

    In English, unlike in Hebrew we normally capitalize both the first letter in a sentence and acronyms. Had you done this, what you meant by bho would have been much clearer.

  10. Come on Dan, the search for the Arab moderate, who lives there and speaks in moderation in Arabic to his own people. Well, that is going to an infinite amount of time. Because they don’t exist. You know that.

  11. Heads up PBS’s Now with David Brancaccio did a report last night on the newly trained Palestinian security force in the WB.

    Next week they are going to report the IDF perspective.

    I’m always leery of a left leaning news show…but I thought they were pretty even-handed in this report. And actually had some good news.

    I’ll be curious to see how neutral next Friday’s report is.

    Brancaccio has done some pretty decent reporting this year.

    Now that Bush is out of office–seems otherwise rational people have stopped hyperventilating. 🙂

  12. Suzanne-
    We have seen this movie before about the Palestinian “security forces”. Such a force was built up in the 1990’s and they were trained by the CIA. They were later used by Arafat to carry out terrorist attacks. In one, near Sinjil in the Shomron, a CIA-trained sniper killed 10 Israeli soldiers. Currently, the official line of the PA is that terrorism is “currently not in the interests of the Palestinian people”. If tomorrow, they decide it is, then these trained “policemen” will revert to being terrorists, and the force will again be disarmed by Israel.

  13. You mis-represent the moderates. Our argument is not that Israel faces no security threats; it is that those threats are of Israel’s own encouraging. If Israel itself were moderate, if its behaviour were not so unreasonable, the security threats against it would largely disappear.

  14. Billy-
    I presume you are referring to Israel’s “occupation of Judea/Samaria” (i.e. the so-called “West Bank”) as one example of its “immoderate” behavior.
    I should point out to you there were massive outbreaks of Arab violence against the Jews of the country in 1920, 1921, 1929, 1936-9, and wars in 1947-8, 1956, and 1967, all of which occurred before “the occupation”. So what does Israel have to do in order to be “moderate” in your eyes?

  15. It has to limit its behavior to lawful.

    It is in the role of occupier, with OBLIGATIONS to preserve social services, policing, and the prior status of title and the ultimate transfer of sovereignty.

    It cannot combine the use of military necessity as an excuse to gradually annex property, ultimately transferred to neo-orthodox settlement movement.

  16. Anybody catch Brancaccio on the POV of Israeli reservists last night?

    I have to hand it him–he has had a pretty hands off approach to letting both sides tell their story.

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