Sunday, January 24, 2010

Michael Hirsh is wrong about what is beneath comment, which is related to Richard Haass' desperate attachment to Mousavi's green movement

We've seen Richard Haass, president of the US Council on Foreign Relations suggest that the solution to Iran's disputes with the United States is to support those in Iran who are protesting supposedly falsified election results. Over six months after the results were reported, no convincing evidence as arisen that the results were falsified, and a poll taken in September showed both that the amount of people who say they voted for Ahmadinejad matches the reported result and that only around 10% of Iranians do not have confidence in the reported results.

Beyond that the changes the protesters want to see apparently are not supported by a majority of Iranians. For example 87% of Iranians polled say they are generally satisfied with Iran's governmental system and 62% of Iranians agree with the government that religious figures should have the power to veto laws of parliament.

Moving away from the protesters in Iran, the changes Haass wants, Iran to give up a nuclear program that would reduce one of Israel's key strategic advantages, as well as ending support for "terrorism", by which he means groups that do not accept Israel's legitimacy, these are far less popular in Iran than even the changes the reformers want.

I've argued that Haass clings to the idea that the green revolution offers some solution to the dispute between the United States and Iran not because there is any indication that it is feasible, but rather because it would cause painful cognitive dissonance for Haass to allow himself to reach the conclusion that Iran will not somehow cease to pose a threat to Israel's existence - that Israel's legitimacy can be successfully challenged by anyone.

Michael Hirsh, in a different opinion piece in Newsweek shows us the process by which Haass has lost his ability to accurately perceive Iran and other parties in the Middle East:
Ahmadinejad-like challenges to Israel's basic right to exist are beneath comment. But as long as all those Arabs and Palestinians remain in its midst, their political status unresolved, critics from all sides will keep questioning how long Israel can endure as both a Jewish state and a democracy. Why not organize a well-funded PR strategy, complete with eminent proxies (retired statesmen of the kind TV producers love to book), to begin to address those questions now? Go on the offensive: a case could be made that, as the only Mideast state actually approved by a vote of the U.N. General Assembly (Resolution 181 in November 1947, partitioning Palestine into Jewish and Arab sections; Jews embraced it, and Arabs went to war over it), Israel has the right under international law to retain its identity as a Jewish state. By contrast, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon were merely patched together by treaty bureaucrats at around the same time—hardly a global imprimatur.
Hirsh' argument about international law is stunningly weak. I always point out that the 1947 United Nations that voted for partition was openly racist and colonialist. I sometimes feel like refuting Hirsh's argument would be a waste of time because it is clear that for many of the people who matter, including the 200 million non-Jews in Israel's region, the argument Hirsh presents has no persuasive power at all.

Hirsh's argument only matters if over 100 million of the non-Jewish people of Israel's region live under authoritarian American neo-colonies, with over 100 million more under constant economic and often military attack emanating from the West until the region surrenders to Hirsh's reasoning. In other words, Hirsh's argument only matters as long as the US is, on Israel's behalf, willing to prosecute the war on the Middle East that resulted in 9/11 and that now consumes the majority of US foreign policy resources, has killed several thousand US soldiers and will ultimately impose costs of over a trillion dollars on the US economy.

If the US becomes unwilling to pay the price for Israel, a one-state solution will have to be reached that protects the individual rights of Jewish people who decide to remain in a state without a protected Jewish majority and that does not require the rest of the region to live in authoritarian Western colonies as they did 100 years ago or suffer through Western sanctions.

But aside from Hirsh's meaningless argument, the idea that distorts US foreign policymaking is contained in the first paragraph of the quoted section:
Ahmadinejad-like challenges to Israel's basic right to exist are beneath comment.
Hirsh implies, but does not argue that it is somehow immoral to challenge the right of about 5 million Jewish to have a majority state in Palestine. Hirsh claims it is possible to make an argument that the UN gave Jewish people a right to create a state in the territory that at the time had a non-Jewish majority, and to alot Jewish people a disproportionate amount of land with no right of refusal for the non-Jewish people of the territory. Yes is it possible to make that argument. But Hirsh implies that it is immoral, it is beneath comment, to disagree with that argument. That is crazy.

It is a weak argument to start with. The idea that it is immoral to disagree is absurd. A corollary of Hirsh's implication is that the 80% or more of the more than 200 million non-Jewish people who live in the region, over 160 million people, who do not consider Israel legitimate are all immoral. This is another crazy idea that has motivated the West to pursue policies that have caused tremendous damage and imposed a huge amount of misery on the region. This crazy idea is almost directly responsible for the attacks that have come from the region aimed at the West in response.

But the idea that Hirsh hints at, that it is immoral, in some sense anti-Semitic, to challenge the right of about 5 million Jewish people to have a majority state in Palestine, has floated almost entirely unchallenged in the background of the thought processes of people like Richard Haass, Gary Sick and Juan Cole for their entire careers as analysts of the Middle East.

To be exposed to that idea just once has nearly no effect, but with continuous repetition over a period of years the idea becomes an unchallenged premise that impacts the analyst's perception of the entire region. Haass, Cole, Sick and others over time lose their ability to relate to, understand, or perceive as reasonable the thought processes of people who have not received hints again and again that it is immoral to challenge the legitimacy of Israel.

Haass, Cole and Sick believe no reasonable Iranians could support Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad can only possibly have support, as Cole claimed in June, of 20 or 25 percent of the Iranian population. Their belief does not come from polling results. Their belief is the result of an unknowing projection of their experience of accepting without challenge, hundreds or maybe thousands of times, Hirsh's idea that rejecting the legitimacy of Israel is immoral onto people who have not been conditioned as they have.

Hirsh's idea is nonsense when exposed to scrutiny. I've never seen even a half-serious attempt to justify it rationally. Hirsh claims Ahmadinejad's position is beneath comment, which is convenient for him because to comment on it is to expose Hirsh's position as ridiculous. Unfortunately, for too large a proportion of the US foreign policy establishment. And tremendously disappointingly, also for Barack Obama, the idea is never exposed to scrutiny.

The people of the region suffer greatly for this American inability to openly comment on the idea that 5 million Jewish people have a legitimate right to a majority state in Palestine - against the wishes of most of the non-Jews of the territory and wider region. The United States suffers increasingly because of its own inability, among other ways, including the unfortunate losses on 9/11, attacks before and after that and US losses in its military responses to it.

Hirsh is steering his readers away from the idea of one state, to the detriment of America, to the disastrous detriment of the people of the region, including the 1.5 million people of Gaza who are currently being starved and the 60 million people of Egypt who have to live under an authoritarian colonial dictatorship in order to implement that starvation of Gaza. About 5 million Jewish people in Palestine benefit from the US and the region paying the costs necessary for them to have a guaranteed majority in a state in that territory.

Hirsh's implication that to challenge this situation is immoral or somehow anti-Semitic is absurd on its own, but repeated regularly the implication has greatly distorted the US foreign policy-making process and the perceptions of most people who participate in that process.

1 comment:

lidia said...

I like it that you have no illusions about J.Cole, Arnold. He is still an authority for USA "progressives" - the same J.Cole who was for agression against Afghanistan, and who was also for agression against Iraq, providing a paper from UN, as if it meant something! He claimed that rape of Fallujah by USA military was OK, because they got the right paper from UN! And to think that he is not ignorant, that he knows languages and customs and history of the ME! And he sees himself as "progressive"!