What does Jew-hatred look like when it goes global? Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter and his new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, came up at a party last night.  The gathering was fairly typical for my circle in Cambridge.  About a third of the folks there were Jewish.  The average age was 30s and the average education level somewhere between master’s and medical doctor.  Most of the folks were right-thinking kind-hearted sorts, who’d like to see a legally married gay couple in every 10th suburban house, a Prius in every garage, and organic produce on every table.  For the gentiles at the gathering, Jimmy Carter was a hero, slightly ahead of Clinton in the pantheon of ex-presidents, and his latest book only increased his stature.  Jimmy Carter never had a unkind word for anyone and, for many decades in and out of politics, managed to find the good in everyone with whom he interacted, domestically and internationally.  For the gentiles, Jimmy Carter was entitled to wear the badge of “Nicest Guy in the World” (formerly belonging to Jesus?).  If Jimmy Carter had surveyed the world’s regions and chosen to single out Israel for condemnation, that was only because Israel was in fact the world’s most evil state filled with the world’s most evil people.

For the Jews at the party, there wasn’t a strong feeling of kinship with Israeli Jews.  They were American-born, descendants of the last waves of Jewish emigration to the U.S., roughly 100 years ago.  Nonetheless, for the Jews at the party, Jimmy Carter was a garden-variety Jew hater and the book was prima facie evidence of his Jew-hatred.  Why would he bother to take the time if he didn’t hate Jews?

The gentiles took issue with this.  Jimmy Carter, a Jew-hater?  He has many (American) Jewish friends, surely.  Can’t someone hate Israel without hating Jews?

Upon further reflection, I had something of an epiphany.  Jew-haters very seldom have hated the Jews whom they knew.  Even in 1930s Germany, most Germans were as least neutrally disposed towards the Jews whom they had met in their towns.  The Jew who ran the clothing store was okay; it was the rich Jews in Berlin who were ruining Germany.  The world was national then, so the distant Jews whom one would tend to hate would be Jews elsewhere in one’s own nation.  Our economy and media are global now, however.  The idea of the “neighborhood Jew” should extend farther.  You would think that  Jew at your company or school was okay.  And Jewish entertainers on TV, such as Seinfeld, were okay.  And in fact, if you’re an enlightened non-prejudiced liberal person, maybe all American Jews are okay.  Where could a thoughtful well-educated Jew hater now find Jews whom it would be safe to hate?  Israel.

If you’re European and want to hate Jews, you don’t have a choice but to hate Israeli Jews, since your parents and grandparents killed all of the folks who would have been your Jewish neighbors and countrymen.  If you’re American, it isn’t politically correct to rave about the Jews in Manhattan and Washington who wield behind-the-scenes power in finance and politics.   Jimmy Carter is therefore pretty much the best that we could expect of a elite American aggravated by the existence of Jews.

It is beyond the scope of this posting to determine whether or not Israel truly is the most evil country in the world, who is at fault in the Arab-Jewish war that was declared in 1948 and shows no sign of ending any time soon, or how much the Palestinians have suffered from being on one side of the front lines of this war.  What is interesting to me is how my liberal Jewish friends are going to continue to hold onto their liberal political affiliations now that the greatest of American liberals turns out to have adopted most of Yasser Arafat’s ideas.

A 40-year-old single moderately observant Jewish friend of mine said that she was tired of Jewish men, but having trouble meeting non-Jewish guys who shared her fondness for Israel, which she has visited several times.  I suggested a Republican Party fundraiser…

[Disclaimer:  Everyone in the discussion had read newspaper articles about Jimmy Carter and his book, but nobody had actually read the book!]


  1. Colin Summers

    January 27, 2007 @ 8:54 pm


    I am astonished that someone as irrelevant as Jimmy Carter can still be worth a discussion at a gathering, let alone a well-reasoned blog entry.

    I suggest William Freidman’s book, From Beruit to Jerusalem, which very concisely explains why a Christian like Mr. Carter might have a problem with a Jewish homeland. He really should have stuck to hammering nails for Habitat, but I guess his knees got to him and he had to return to sitting behind a desk.

    As you get older, similar to when you are a toddler, your imaginary friends become more important.It feels like Carter is steering according to who he’s meant to hate. It’s odd, because I feel like of the U.S. presidents he came closest to seeing a real peace, with Begin assisting.

    I haven’t read the book either. I sure watched a lot of footage of him NOT apologizing for the content.

  2. Dave

    January 27, 2007 @ 11:32 pm


    I know this post is more about being sick to the core with Jew-hatred than Jimmy Carter, but I am continually amazed by Carter’s no-doubt carefully managed popularity as an able negotiator and peacemaker. He certainly didn’t exhibit any skills of that nature while US President, and why everything he says these days isn’t regarded with a healthy dose of skepticism of the ‘if you’re so smart why’d you blow it when you actually had power to effect change’ flavour is beyond me.

  3. ColoZ

    January 28, 2007 @ 4:47 pm


    The Arabist anti-Semitism on the left is disturbing, no doubt about it. But there’s plenty of the old country-club bias on the right too (and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the real influence on Carter’s views). And the Republicans’ pro-Israel stance stems to at least some degree from apocalyptic Christian ideas, which is hardly comforting to me: these people do not have Israel’s true interests at heart any more than the “Free Mumia/Tibet/Palestine” crowd does.

    Look at the current Congress. In the House, 29 of 230 Democrats are Jews, but only ONE of 205 Republicans. In the Senate, 11 of 51 Dems (over 20%!) but only two of 49 Republicans. Given how completely essential we are to any conceivable Democratic majority, the Jew-hating left fringe isn’t going to get anywhere in terms of influencing actual policy. The GOP is much freer to be destructive to Jewish and Israeli interests because they don’t rely as much on Jewish votes. In practice, of course, the parties are pretty similar on Jewish issues at the moment. But if that were to change I’d bet the party that’s actually full of Jews would be our truer friend.

    And that analysis along ignores the fact that most American liberal Jews tend to be, well, liberals. We have priorities beyond Israel, and they do not include cutting taxes on wealth, deregulating industries, propping up domestic fundamentalist Christianity, or starting major wars.

    (Dave: Negotiating a peace between Egypt and Israel that’s lasted thirty years isn’t the work of an able negotiator and peacemaker?)

  4. Paul S.

    January 28, 2007 @ 5:06 pm


    Jimmy Carter, who cares? The guy is irrelevant, nearing the end of his life, realizing how mediocre he is. Of all the presidents I’ve lived through (b 1962) his presidency was the most miserable. Sky high interest rates, energy crisis, hostage crisis, over 400 days of impotence, making the American public feel the most helpless it has ever felt. That he has to resort to Jew hating and contrarianism is no surprise, the only good thing he has done is Habitat.

    I find more interesting your slant Phil. Starting with the “right thinking” comment, I guess you meant this in the “correct” thinking versus the “conservative” thinking realm. Your 1 in 10 comment is probably more realistically 1 to 3 in 100, and that’s if all gays want to be legally married.
    What bothers me most is the characterization of all or most “Gentiles” as Jew haters. This is one gentile who feels Israel is justified with its statehood and justified in most of the actions it takes to protect its people. I also think that most Israelis and most Palestinians would like to coexist in peace. The problem is the extremist groups on both sides. Israel, for the most part is capable of controlling its extremists. The Palestinians on the other hand seem incapable. All one has to do is simply observe how the Palestinian factions can’t even get along amongst themselves.

    With all, or maybe I should say any, due respect, your “Jew hater” gentile friends are NOT “right thinking”, enlightened or for that matter even smart. I can also guarantee that each of your “Jew hating” friends is extremely liberal.

  5. philg

    January 28, 2007 @ 8:46 pm


    Paul: Indeed, by “right thinking” I meant “correct by Cambridge standards.” As for anti-Jewish attitudes being associated with liberal political beliefs, I would agree that the correlation is there, but it is only partial. One of my friends particularly cherishes guns and the idea of the U.S. as a Christian society. He blames Jewish Americans for restrictions on gun ownership and restrictions on government-sponsored Christmas trees. Perhaps what we are seeing is that Jew-hatred cuts across the political spectrum (I certainly hope that I did not characterize all or most Gentiles as Jew-haters; surveys show the number to be less than 20 percent in the U.S.). In ultra right-wing (militia-style) circles, it is acceptable to be openly upset about American Jews. In left-wing circles, it is more socially acceptable to center one’s Jew-hatred on Israeli Jews.

    I guess I should read the book, but I’m not encouraged by the letter from the folks in Carter’s own inner circle who resigned following its publication: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/blogs/thelede/posts/CarterCenter.pdf

    [One thing that is upsetting about this controversy is that Carter apparently had about 200 members on his Board. About 14 of them were Jews and those 14 apparently were the ones who resigned. So with both the Friday night party and the question of whether Carter’s book is grossly inaccurate we’re left with a clean split among Americans along religious lines.]

  6. Siddhartha Vicious

    January 28, 2007 @ 8:59 pm



    In your characterization of “Country-Club Republicans” as anti-Semitic, I believe you have explained the reason for such a low number of Jewish Senators and Representatives.

    The situation has changed, but the perception has not, and far too many Jewish voters are still wedded to the left, despite the fact that the right is now far more welcoming, and far more concerned for the well-being of both Israel as a nation and individual Jews than the left.

    Actually, the situation has not changed, either, as the left has never really been a friend to Jews, as shown by Roosevelt’s refusal, during WWII, to allow the shipful of Jewish refugees to land in the US, and possibly exerting influence to prevent them landing in Cuba, either, as well as not even making a single attempt at bombing the railway lines down which millions were sent to their murders.

    It seems that you are allowing your own liberal leanings to color your view of the right in regard to Israel and the well-being of the Jewish people, and cleaving to the party which has always treated the Jews with expedience, rather than actual concern.

  7. patrick giagnocavo

    January 28, 2007 @ 10:15 pm


    Carter has always been a phony.

    He made sure that the press was around to photograph him carrying his own suitcases out of Air Force 1. Problem was, the suitcases were empty – the real suitcases were carried by someone else.

    He has had a lot of donations from Saudis to his library and center for peace – no less than 6, million-dollar-plus, donors were Saudi.

    Actually if you want to find a gentile who supports Israel – look no further than the local evangelical / fundamentalist Protestant church. I am sure there aren’t many of them in Cambridge, though.

    Those churches take very seriously verses such as Genesis 12:3 “And I will bless them that bless thee and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all nations of the earth be blessed” and other verses in the New Testament that support an interpretation of Christians being supportive of Jews and Judaism.

  8. Eran Sandler

    January 29, 2007 @ 6:16 am


    Being a 5th-9th generation (depends from where you count the generations) Jew still living in Israel and having my grand father and great grand father (and so on) lived in Israel during the time it was still Palestine I do have my share of problems with the ideas of this book and, in fact, with the whole notion of a Palestinian people (only being defined after the 6 days war in 1967).

    I’ve served in the Army (though I wasn’t a combat solider) and I do know some of the bad things that happened in various checkpoints around Gaza and in the Web Bank. On the other hand I do know that there are more than a few cases that the Palestinians got a lot more from Israel than they got from their own government and most of the harsh check ups in the checkpoints were, in fact, written in blood of Israeli soldiers that were wounded or died in checkpoints because various extremists took advantage of easing up check ups or taking advantage of humanitarian aid (transferring suicide bombers inside ambulances).

    I’m guessing that the choice of the word “Apartheid” was to generate a lot of noise but I think the editor of the book, and perhaps Jimmy Carter himself, didn’t realize that there is more harm than good in doing such an association between Israel and Apartheid.

    I’m not saying Israel didn’t do mistakes and I’m not saying we are that good willing nice people we would all want to be, but I do believe Israel’s rule over the West Bank (and the rule that was in Gaza) was never even close to Apartheid no more than putting a curfew on rioting neighborhoods in the USA.

    The fact is that hatred is a lot easier to spread and to use for control purposes and we see it in regards to a lot of things, not only Israel related.

    I have yet to understand the true causes of various versions of Jewish hatred but I do believe (or at least want to) that Jimmy Carter’s book is not coming from a Jewish hatred position, but rather an attempt (maybe not a good one) to try and resolve things.

    I have yet to read the book and I do plan on reading it (god knows my book stack is way to large at the moment) and hopefully I’ll have more insight into Jimmy Carter’s opinions about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

    In addition to that (and after reading Dave Winner’s response  http://scripting.wordpress.com/2007/01/2…] which lead me to this post), I do think that being far away from Israel and not “feeling” the situation on your own flesh does make a difference in understanding both sides.

    It’s always seems nice to others to bash Israel and I think the point made by Phillip is correct that its easier to bash the people who are further away from you. I don’t know if Dave was ever in Israel but I’m sure his view point will be more complete by being here and not reading yet another’s ex-president memoir or plan to make world peace, cure world hunger, find a cure for cancer and AIDS and still be home at 6 to give some time to the kids.

  9. Russil Wvong

    January 29, 2007 @ 4:26 pm


    philg: If Jimmy Carter had surveyed the world’s regions and chosen to single out Israel for condemnation, that was only because Israel was in fact the world’s most evil state filled with the world’s most evil people.

    There’s a simpler explanation than anti-Semitism for this focus on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s that the Arab and Muslim world has enough power–not just because of oil, but by sheer numbers–that its grievances will be given much more weight than those of the Tibetans, for example.

    E. H. Carr: The fatal dualism of politics will always keep considerations of morality entangled with considerations of power. We shall never arrive at a political order in which the grievances of the weak and the few receive the same prompt attention as the grievances of the strong and the many.

    This summary of the controversy by Shmuel Rosner of Haaretz includes a link to this op-ed by Harriet Feinberg:

    A bit of dark humor that I remember from years ago is this definition of chutzpah: A man who kills his parents and then says “have pity, I’m an orphan.” Sadly, this scenario fits what has happened with Carter: We Jews have taken a gentle man who cared deeply and equally about Israel and about the Palestinians and who sought a reasonable and just political solution, and have gradually driven him away, then complained he wasn’t with us….

    Get a grip, folks. Israel has real enemies. Jimmy Carter is not an enemy. Amnesty and Human Rights Watch are not enemies. Critics should not be automatically treated as adversaries. Now, twenty-seven years after Camp David , there are no good solutions to the West Bank situation, only some that are not as bad as others. Was Carter so wrong?

    I gather from reviews and commentary that Carter’s description of the conflict is biased towards the Palestinian view of the conflict (Feinberg says that “his new book evinces a certain coldness toward Israel and a tendency to blame”). Apparently Carter’s intention was to provide balance, but I don’t think that’s helpful: it just polarizes the debate. What’s missing from the debate is a reasonably objective view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (My own recommendation would be William Polk’s description of the conflict in The Arab World Today.)

    Disclaimer: I haven’t read Carter’s book either.


    January 29, 2007 @ 8:33 pm


    From comments, it doesn’t seem like there will be a convergence to a solution in my lifetime. Well that is what I thought about the USSR vis USA conflict also. So maybe I should be more optomistic?

  11. Neal Lester

    January 30, 2007 @ 7:58 pm


    I’ve read the book, and it did not indicate to me that Jimmy Carter is a Jew-hater. In his book, Jimmy Carter explains that because of his historic role in the middle-east peace process he has taken a personal interest in that peace process since leaving office. That seems plausible to me and it hardly makes him a Jew-hater. Jimmy Carter does not assert that Israel is the “world’s most evil state filled with the world’s most evil people”. The book gave me the impression that Jimmy Carter cares deeply about the future of both Israelis and the Palestinians. He thinks that peace between them is their best hope. He seems genuinely troubled by the suffering on both sides. He shows sympathy for the difficulty that Israeli leaders face defending their people from a terrorist enemy. The sympathy of someone who knows the burdens of leadership. I really didn’t get any sense the he hates Jews.

    The book does contain criticisms of certain policies of the government of Israel. He wants Israel to give up her territorial aspirations in the West Bank and reverse the policies implemented to secure those aspirations. The general idea was that this would give moderate Palestinians (political) space to build a consensus for peace on their side. One can argue with the idea, but it is not prima facie evidence that the man hates Jews. It is also true that the critique of Israeli policy is more extensive then his criticism of Palestinian actions. However, I think this is a function of the intended purpose and audience for the book not because of Jew-hatred. Most Americans already understand that Hamas’s policies are inconsistent with the goal of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. While Carter certainly says as much (I no longer have the book so I can’t provide quotes), he doesn’t need to spend as many words convincing his audience of this. However, most Americans do not understand that certain Israeli policies are also inconsistent with the goal of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Therefore, he takes more time explaining what the problematic policies are and why they are problematic.

    I agree with the idea that “Jew-haters very seldom have hated the Jews whom they knew.”, although “very seldom” may be going a bit too far. Saying that “Jew-haters may not hate the Jews whom they know” might be a better. That insight applies to racism and intolerance in general.

  12. Russil Wvong

    February 1, 2007 @ 9:19 pm


    I said earlier: “I gather from reviews and commentary that Carter’s description of the conflict is biased towards the Palestinian view of the conflict–“

    Following Neal’s lead, I went down to the bookstore and read the book. (It’s short, only about 200 pages of text.) My first reaction was, WTF! I’m astounded by the disparity between the descriptions of the book and the book itself.

    The purpose of the book isn’t to criticize Israel, it’s to push for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, based on the two-state solution. Page 11: “One of the major goals of my life, while in political office and since I was retired from the White House by the 1980 election, has been to help ensure a lasting peace for Israelis and others in the Middle East.”

    I think the problem is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is so polarized that it’s impossible to say anything without being accused of bias by one side or the other. To me, at least, it didn’t seem that Carter was biased one way or the other. I’d disagree with some of what he says (I think he’s too optimistic), but I wouldn’t accuse him of bias or bad faith.

    A quote beginning on page 212:

    Here are two voices, one Palestinian and the other Israeli, with remarkably similar assessments of what needs to be done.

    Jonathan Kuttab, Palestinian human rights lawyer: “Everybody knows what it will take to achieve a permanent and lasting peace that addresses the basic interests of both sides: it’s a two-state solution. It’s withdrawal to 1967 borders. It’s dismantlement of the settlements. It’s some kind of shared status for a united Jerusalem, the capital of both parties. The West Bank would have to be demilitarized to remove any security threats to Israel. Some kind of solution would have to be reached for the refugee problem, some qualified right of return, with compensation. Everyone knows the solution; the question is: Is there political will to implement it?”

    Dr. Naomi Chazan, professor at Hebrew University and former deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset: “I don’t think any difference now remains between the majority of Israelis and Palestinians in understanding that there has to be some kind of accommodation between both people. There are two possibilities on how to do it. To acknowledge and then to implement the Palestinian right to self-determination, and to make sure that the two-state solution is a just and fair solution, allowing for the creation of a viable state alongside Israel within the 1967 boundaries, and if there are any changes, they are by agreement on a swap basis. And on the Israeli side, there is the need to maintain a democratic state with a Jewish majority, which can only be achieved through the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.”

    Carter does describe the occupation in critical terms (that’s obvious from the title of the book), but I would hope that simply criticizing Israeli policy wouldn’t be taken as evidence of “Jew-hatred.” He describes the Gaza Strip as basically being a large prison. Page 175:

    Gaza has maintained a population growth rate of 4.7 percent annually, one of the highest in the world, so more than half its people are les than fifteen years old. They are being strangled since the Israeli “withdrawal,” surrounded by a separation barrier that is penetrated only by Israeli-controlled checkpoints, with just a single opening (for personnel only) into Egypt’s Sinai as their access to the outside world. There have been no moves by Israel to permit transportation by sea or by air. Fishermen are not permitted to leave the harbor, workers are prevented from going to outside jobs, the import or export of food and other goods is severely restricted and often cut off completely, and the police, teachers, nurses, and social workers are deprived of salaries. Per capita income has decreased 40 percent during the last three years, and the poverty rate has reached 70 percent. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has stated that acute malnutrition in Gaza is already on the same scale as that seen in the poorer countries of the Southern Sahara, with more than half of all Palestinian families eating only one meal a day.

    On the futility of Palestinian violence, pages 187-188:

    It is certainly possible that the path of the Palestinians is leading to a dead end, and that even their Arab allies will tire of actively supporting the Palestinian cause. … Nor is Palestinian willingness to resort to violence likely to be any more fruitful in the future than it has been in the past. It must be noted that by following policies of confrontation and inflexibility, Palestinians have alienated many moderate leaders in Israel and America and have not regained any of their territory or other basic rights.

    The fate of all Palestinians depends on whether those in the occupied territories choose to pursue their goals by peaceful means or by continued bloodshed. A genuine move toward peace might bring rich dividends by arousing support in the United States and other nations.

    To me, Carter seems too optimistic about peace, without taking a close look at the political situation. Just because a majority of Israelis and a majority of Palestinians want peace doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen; there’s lots of veto players. Is it possible for Israel to remove the hundreds of thousands of settlers from the West Bank? Is Abbas in a position to negotiate, or will he simply be toppled by Hamas? (Since Carter’s book was published, there’s been ongoing fighting between Hamas and Fatah.) Would it be possible for the Palestinians to establish a viable state in the West Bank and Gaza? If not, wouldn’t the violence continue–and if so, what incentive does Israel have to negotiate a settlement?

    Carter does make this pessimistic observation in passing, on page 189: “With increasing control of East Jerusalem, with relative security from the wall surrounding what is left of the West Bank, and with thousands of remaining settlers east of the wall protected by a strong occupying force, there is a temptation for some Israelis simply to avoid any further efforts to seek a peace agreement based on the Quartet’s Roadmap or good-faith negotiations on any other basis.” Mostly, though, he seems to be proceeding without closely examining his assumption that peace is possible.

    To sum up, Carter’s basically pushing for the two-state solution, based on the pre-1967 boundaries. Carter may be overly optimistic, but I don’t see any evidence of Jew-hatred.

    (By the way, while I was in the bookstore I picked up a copy of How Israel Lost, by Richard Ben Cramer. It provides much more of a ground-level view of the conflict; Cramer’s talked to a lot of Israelis and Palestinians. It’s simultaneously negative and entertaining, which of course made me think of Philip.)

  13. Gary Drescher

    February 15, 2007 @ 9:16 am


    Philip, I’m sorry I missed your party–in part because I would like to have been there to represent the many Jews who largely agree with Carter’s perspective on Palestine and Israel.

    You suggest that Carter characterizes Israel as evil, or as more evil than its neighbors, or (as you actually put it) as “the world’s most evil state”. In reality, he says nothing of the sort. On the contrary, he consistently praises the Israeli people and their values, explicitly holding them to be comparable to those of the US. But he is sharly critical of particular Israeli and US policies toward Palestinians (rightly so, in my view). I do wish, though, that Carter’s book had been more scholarly, and had more thoroughly addressed the circumstances of Israel’s creation.

    Ordinarily, proponents of freedom and democracy object strongly to policies of ethnic/religious domination, especially when imposed by brutal ethnic cleansing. But in the US, we customarily make an exception in the case of domination of Arabs by Jews in Israel/Palestine.

    If you are not already acquainted with it, I’d recommend that you read the work of Benny Morris, a Jewish Israeli historian at Ben-Gurion University who has meticulously documented (primarily via Israeli military archives) extensive massacres of Arab civilians (sometimes hundreds at a time) by Israeli forces
    in 1948. These massacres (and explicit Israeli threats of further such killings) were largely responsible for driving 700,000 Palestinian Arabs into exile from their homes, thereby securing a comfortable Jewish majority in Israel.

    Morris, incidentally, explicitly *defends* the mass transfer of Arabs from Israel in order to establish Jewish domination there (though he does express disapproval of the massacres by which the expulsion was, in fact, largely accomplished). Morris argues that without population transfer, it would not have been possible to found a democratic but specifically Jewish state there (which is plausibly true, but hardly, in my view, a justification).

    See http://www.logosjournal.com/morris.htm.

    Israel’s ethnic cleansing continues to this very day by virtue of Israel’s implacable refusal–again for the explicit, undisguised goal of maintaining Jewish domination in Isreal–to allow the Arab refugees to return to their homeland, as is the refugees’ right under international humanitarian law. In contrast, I myself (for example) am allowed by Israeli law to “return” to live there–even though neither I nor any of my ancestors within living memory have ever set foot there–simply because I have the correct ethnicity.

    Surely these policies would garner outraged condemnation from most Americans if any other ethnic groups were under discussion instead. Is it not, then, at least conceivable that critics of Israeli policy–critics such as Carter, and your gentile friends, and some of your Jewish friends–are motivated by a
    genuine and consistently applied abhorrence of brutal mega-scale ethnic cleansing, rather than by a hatred of Jews or of Israel?

  14. Russil Wvong

    February 16, 2007 @ 3:32 pm


    Here’s an earlier essay by Morris on war crimes committed by both sides during the Arab-Israeli wars, particularly the 1948 war.

    Gary Drescher: Morris argues that without population transfer, it would not have been possible to found a democratic but specifically Jewish state there (which is plausibly true, but hardly, in my view, a justification).

    Given the experience of the Holocaust, it’s not surprising that the Zionists believed that they needed their own state and their own army. During the 1930s and the rise of the Nazis, there was nowhere the Jews could escape to except for Palestine (and immigration into Palestine was limited by the British, who wanted to stay on good terms with the Arab world). You’re familiar with the story of the SS St. Louis?

    As Morris puts it: “There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing. I know that this term is completely negative in the discourse of the 21st century, but when the choice is between ethnic cleansing and genocide—the annihilation of your people—I prefer ethnic cleansing.”

    Hans Morgenthau, writing in “Scientific Man vs. Power Politics” (1946), argues that evil is inseparable from power, and criticizes moral perfectionism:

    There is no escape from the evil of power, regardless of what one does. Whenever we act with reference to our fellow men, we must sin, and we must still sin when we refuse to act; for the refusal to be involved in the evil of action carries with it the breach of the obligation to do one’s duty. No ivory tower is remote enough to offer protection against the guilt in which the actor and the bystander, the oppressor and the oppressed, the murderer and his victim are inextricably enmeshed. Political ethics is indeed the ethics of doing evil. While it condemns politics as the domain of evil par excellence, it must reconcile itself to the enduring presence of evil in all political action. Its last resort, then, is the endeavor to choose, since evil there must be, among several possible actions the one that is least evil.

    It is indeed trivial, in the face of so tragic a choice, to invoke justice against expediency and to condemn whatever political action is chosen because of its lack of justice. Such an attitude is but another example of the superficiality of a civilization which, blind to the tragic complexities of human existence, contents itself with an unreal and hypocritical solution of the problem of political ethics. In fact, the invocation of justice pure and simple against a political action makes of justice a mockery; for, since all political actions needs must fall short of justice, the argument against one political action holds true for all. By avoiding a political action because it is unjust, the perfectionist does nothing but exchange blindly one injustice for another which might even be worse than the former. He shrinks from the lesser evil because he does not want to do evil at all. Yet his personal abstention from evil, which is actually a subtle form of egotism with a good conscience, does not at all affect the existence of evil in the world but only destroys the faculty of discriminating between different evils.

  15. Gary Drescher

    February 20, 2007 @ 8:55 am


    > As Morris puts it: “There are circumstances in history
    > that justify ethnic cleansing. …”
    > …
    > Hans Morgenthau… criticizes moral perfectionism…

    I don’t think the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands (now millions), accomplished in part by systematic mass murder, can accurately be characterized as a mere imperfection. Nor do I agree that such atrocities, even when committed by horribly persectued Jews, can be excused by arguing that the end justifies the means.

    I’d be happy to debate that question with you (perhaps in a different venue; I don’t know if Philip wants his blog used for that purpose). Most people here in the US are not even aware of the ethnic cleansing and how it was implemented, and so are not even aware of the need to evaluate its justification. But for now, I just wanted to take issue with Philip’s impression that Jew-hatred is the only plausible motivation for condemnation of Israel’s past and present treatment of Palestinian Arabs.

  16. Russil Wvong

    February 21, 2007 @ 2:48 pm


    Gary: I don’t think the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands (now millions), accomplished in part by systematic mass murder, can accurately be characterized as a mere imperfection.

    That wasn’t my intent (evil isn’t to be dismissed as a “mere imperfection,” and I certainly don’t want to downplay the past and present suffering of the Palestinians). But I agree that Philip’s blog probably isn’t the place for an extended argument.

    … I just wanted to take issue with Philip’s impression that Jew-hatred is the only plausible motivation for condemnation of Israel’s past and present treatment of Palestinian Arabs.

    Agreed. Although of course Philip’s response might be to ask why we don’t have the same level of concern about China’s occupation of Tibet since 1950, for example, where something like 600,000 Tibetans have been killed. (My own answer is that the Tibetans have basically zero power in international politics, compared to the Arab and Muslim world, and so their grievances receive much less attention.)

  17. Dan Moniz

    June 17, 2007 @ 3:28 pm


    Philip (and anyone else), at the risk of reviving a long dead thread, a question for you that I’ve been asking others: is arguing against U.S. support of Israel equivalent to antisemitism? For the purposes of the question, let’s ignore degrees of support, we’ll just say that in a debate between two people, one arguing for equivalent or stronger state support of Israel and one arguing for less to none, is the second person anti-semitic? On the other hand, if you think the degree of support does matter (e.g. arguing for no support is antisemitic, but arguing for some degree of less support on some issue in some way is not or is not necessarily antisemitic), where’s the dividing line?

    I asked a friend this (though not exactly as worded above) and had a conversation in which he made an interesting point (I’m paraphrasing, possibly badly): arguing against Israel is antisemitic as it equates to saying that the Israelis do not have a right to live where they currently live, regardless of how the country was founded and the circumstances therein. It would be as if arguing that everyone who is not a Native American does not have a right to live in the U.S. (or Canada, etc.) but claiming this was not anti-American.

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