27 March 2007

26 March 2007 - Soros goes for appeasement

Billionaire George Soros has a truly awful article (“On Israel, America and AIPAC”) in the most recent issue of the New York Review of Books. It is really so poorly conceived and clumsily written that it ought to be a source of embarrassment to the author and to the publication (though both probably view it as a great triumph). It is really one of the weakest article the Review has yet published on the subject.

Soros strings together a series of disjointed claims, some basically correct and some wildly and willfully inaccurate, about Israeli policy and the role of AIPAC in formulating it. Some time ago, Soros planned to set up an alternative lobby to rival AIPAC, one that would take a dovish approach to Israel instead of AIPAC’s ostensibly hawkish one. He abandoned the idea, but is still banging the same drum.

I won’t go into the messy details of the article, which does not merit close analysis. One glaring mistake says it all. Soros writes:

“. . . Hamas is not monolithic. Its inner structure is little known to outsiders but according to some reports it has a military wing, largely directed from Damascus, which is beholden to its Syrian and Iranian sponsors and a political wing which is more responsive to the needs of the Palestinian population that elected it to power. If Israel had accepted the results of the election, that might have strengthened the more moderate political wing.” (emphasis added)

This is worse than wishful thinking. It is the politics of appeasement. The idea that Israel could have hoped to exert a moderating influence on Hamas by welcoming its terror-supporting, genocidal government is reminiscent of Chamberlain’s promise that Hitler could be bought off with a few conciliatory gestures and small territorial sacrifices. Soros’s article is just a recapitulation of the capitulation at Munich.

One hesitates to use such parallels, because Soros is a Holocaust survivor himself. However, there is no other way to describe his approach. Perhaps we should not expect him to know more than others do about the events that led to Hitler’s rise. It is ironic, though, that the founder of the Open Society Institute should find it necessary to attack Israel, the only open society in the entire Middle East.

Another problem with his article is that it basically repeats and expands the conspiracy theory that AIPAC controls American foreign policy. Soros tries to avoid responsibility by adding a disclaimer: “One of the myths propagated by the enemies of Israel is that there is an all-powerful Zionist conspiracy. That is a false accusation.” Yet the rest of his article cannot but lend credence to that theory.

I was reminded, reading this sorry article, of Ronnie Kasrils’s speech in the South African Parliament in October 2003, when he launched his campaign against Israel. Kasrils claimed: “I am not using the icon of the concentration camps…I am not making that comparison,” then contradicted himself, saying Israeli policy “smacks of the way Fascism in Europe dealt with people they considered to be nonpeople.”

One cannot help but speculate about Soros’s motives. He is not a self-hating Jew; indeed, he professes to be neither a practicing Jew nor a Zionist. More accurately, he is a target of antisemitism who has decided to defend his own interests by joining the anti-Israel bandwagon. Soros, after all, fits the role of the villain in the anti-Jewish narratives that were once constructed around financiers such as Rothschild.

It was Soros that Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammad had in mind when he blamed a Jewish conspiracy for his country’s currency crash. Perhaps Soros is frightened by such perceptions, or sees them as an obstacle to doing business, and wants to minimize costs by attacking Israel. I’m not sure it helps—though attacking Israel is pretty costless nowadays, despite what Soros claims.

I think the reason that Soros and so many critics of Israel parade the idea that they have been accused of antisemitism (or of being self-hating) is that hating Jews is actually not generally viewed as a bad thing. Everyone wants to believe they would draw the line at outright persecution, but many also seem to think Jews deserve what they get, a feeling perhaps reinforced by the wretchedness of Jewish victimhood.

In South Africa today, critics of the ruling party are often labeled as racists. While many people complain about this, few are willing to say that they themselves have been called racists, lest someone actually believe it to be true. I think people would be as wary of letting it be known that they had been accused of antisemitism if hating Jews were really seen as a bad thing. Instead, it has become a mark of martyrdom.

Regardless, there is no doubt that in elite intellectual circles, Jews are expected—and expect themselves—to denounce Israel. It is seen as a test of courage, a sign that you are prepared to detach yourself from your primordial moorings and enter a world of supposedly transcendent beings, a symbol that your primary loyalty is to the literary club and not to the people or places you might have come from.

Real courage would demand that people confront prejudice head-on; that they use their minds to discover the truth of an issue rather than regurgitating slogans and leftover bits of dinner-party conversations; that they have the courage to face criticism rather than hiding behind contrived tales of martyrdom. The only conspiracy is the attempt by Soros and his allies to hide, and hide from, the truth.


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