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Don't talk about the subject of the conversation, please

Your Humble Blogger's computer blew up. It's not so bad, and we are warming ourselves at the electrical fire, but it does mean that I am blogging from an seven-year-old iBook like some sort of wild animal in the wilderness. I have no idea how long it will be before I have access to a tertiochiliastic computer once more, but in the meantime, I suspect that notes will be scarce, poorly thought out, have few links and many typos, and be generally lo-rez.

I will link to a long interesting article in this past week's New York Times magazine. It's called Does Abe Foxman Have an Anti-Anti-Semite Problem? , and it's by James Traub, who appears to be an intelligent and observant person. One of the interesting things about the way the piece is written is that it assumes that everybody is a New York Jew, or wants to be. It's a very New York Times attitude, or at least it used to be. The helpful translation so that you, too, Gentle Reader, can use yiddish phrases. The affectionately mocking use of certain rhythms, the centrality of the Holocaust to modern life, the assumption that Israel is the center of modern Judaism.

The thing for me is that it's hard to escape Israel. Temple Beth Bolshoi shares the almost fanatical Zionism that I grew up with, the sense that the modern political state of Israel is of tremendous importance to us, not only as a family matter but as a theological one. We read that sense back into Scripture, over and over, and for a Jew like myself, who feels that Zionism was a terrible political and theological mistake, it's terribly alienating. And yet, given that it did happen, given that there is a Jewish state, what now? And how to even have that discussion?

The article manages to have the discussion about the discussion, or perhaps the discussion about the discussion about the discussion, without touching on the discussion itself. That's deliberate, of course; you can sense Mr. Traub shying away from even presenting the substantive views, because if he does, he will have to explain them, and weigh them, and then how to get out again?

For my own benefit, then, what seem to be to be the questions the US should be discussing about Israel: Is our aid to Israel commensurate with their need? Is it commensurate with our interests? Given that we give more assistance to Israel than to any other nation on the globe-far more-are we getting the benefit of that aid? Could that money be more useful elsewhere? Given a sense of grievance among Arabs, legitimate or not, that seems to have spread to Muslims outside the Middle East as well, how much does our support for Israel cost us? Is there any way to reduce that cost, and if so, what would that reduction cost us? Is it appropriate for us to lean on Israel to improve its human rights record, or to change other policies to suit our own interests? If not, is that something specific to Israel, or is that a general policy principle? Most importantly, what are our long-term goals in the region? Are we committed to continuing the current level of aid permanently, or are we interested in ultimately reducing or eliminating that aid? If we want to ultimately reduce that aid, what conditions would need to apply before we can do it, and what are we doing to make those conditions come to pass?

If people want to chime in with possible answers or clarifications, that would be terrific. My problem is that the whole thing seems not only terrible but unsolvable, and so I get depressed and tired, and don't want to talk about it. It's easier to talk about how there were other potential responses to the Holocaust, just as there were other responses to Peter the Hermit, to the Inquisition, to the Kossacks, to the French pograms. It's easier to talk about how people are not having the discussion, and why not, and what various people are doing to make the discussion easier or more difficult. The actual discussion, though, that's hard stuff, and I can't do it on this computer.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus:,


From the article:

The generational question does not interest him. “It’s not my job to judge whether they should feel beleaguered or not,” Foxman snapped when I raised the subject. “I do feel. And I’ve got news for you: Every one of them, in their maturing process, will experience this.”

I feel so set up: it seems obvious to respond that anyone outside a comfortable supermajority will, "in their maturing process", feel beleaguered, and the pertinent question is how one responds to that feeling (crossing borders, building bridges, closing ranks, buying guns). Feeling beleaguered is practically a plank written into the Christian (Christianist, if you prefer) Right platform, not to mention the overtly racist identity movements. It's *too* obvious a response, and it's right there at the end of the article. Someone do me the favor of reminding me that this is just a one-off comment from someone who talks in sound bites and not a cornerstone of his policy.

Yes, I have succeeded in talking about talking about talking about the discussion. And even then, I can't avoid the feeling that I'll regret it.

Ah, but when you regret it, you will feel so beleaguered...


it's gonna get worse. the golan heights are going to be one of fewer and fewer sources of fresh water in the area. soil's already drying out. some kind of deal on resources needs to be made in advance of nasty panic. i think that means israel will need to make concessions on that or end up in another, bigger war.

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