Through Jennifer Rubin’s looking glass.

jennifer rubinJennifer Rubin, like many on her side of the political map, seems to have not yet gotten the memo that building and maintaining alternate realities, while a pleasant enough hobby, is not necessarily useful in the non-entertainment professions. I say this because in Rubin World, the President of the United States is apparently going to Israel to make up for a single paragraph in a speech he delivered four years ago, in which he (ill-advisedly, I agree) made it sound as if Israel was established because of the Holocaust.

Never mind that the paragraph in question echoed exactly and precisely the rhetoric of both official Israel and the American Jewish establishment. In Rubin World, the Cairo event was “the speech that set off four years of ill feelings and mistrust.” It’s remarkable that Obama could do all that hard work all by himself.

The fact that the Israeli government has consistently greeted the arrival of American officials with renewed settlement expansion, for instance, has nothing to do with it. Neither does the fact that even during the supposed ten-month construction freeze,Israel didn’t actually stop the construction. This is because in Rubin World, the settlement project is not (as it is in Reality) an abrogation of international law and previous Israeli commitments to the United States (among other parties)—it is, merely, “building.” Rubin also writes that settlements have “never an impediment to peace talks under prior administrations,” rather creating the impression that the peace talks in question are to be held with the U.S., and not, in fact, the people on whose land Israel has been building all these years.

Rubin further tweaks Obama for “belittling” Netanyahu and his government (by which I can only imagine she means “disagreeing with”), but doesn’t seem concerned about Netanyahu’s open support for Mitt Romney in the 2012 Presidential campaign. Attempting to interfere in American elections might not rise to the level of “belittling,” but surely it might have added to the tension?

And then there’s Jerusalem.

Jennifer Rubin writes, with what I can only assume is a straight face, that Obama has put himself

in constant conflict with a country which can never agree not to allow Jews to live anywhere in its historic capital. (The notion that East Jerusalem should remain Judenfrei is an all-to-familiar assumption on the anti-Israel left…).

Whew. Let’s start with the fact that literally one paragraph after complaining about Obama’s mis-characterization of the Holocaust, Rubin leans on Holocaust imagery to paint the President as—what? An ersatz Nazi?

Then let’s examine her use of the word “historical”—to which history is Rubin referring? If she means the Jewish people’s historical holy city—roughly equivalent to the walled portion of Jerusalem known as the Old City—then she’s not talking about the current Municipality of Jerusalem.

Even if she’s talking about the city as it existed when Israel conquered the Palestinian neighborhoods and surrounding villages in 1967, she’s still not talking about the city as currently constituted. Indeed, at no time in history has Jerusalem looked like it does now: it’s three times bigger than the “reunited” city was in 1967, and a hundred times larger than it was a century ago. The area that we all rather inaccurately call “East Jerusalem” is not historically Jewish—most of it isn’t even historically Jerusalem.

And finally, “the anti-Israel left.” All I can really say to that is that Rubin needs to get out more.

I spent this past weekend at the J Street U Student Summit, where hundreds of highly motivated Lovers of Zion (a number of them wearing kippot) were discussing how best to save the Jewish State from its own worst impulses. In their advocacy, these American college students echo the work being done in Israel by Jews born and raised in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa, Jews ranging from noted peacenik Amos Oz to noted former head of the Shin Bet Ami Ayalon. Is Rubin honestly suggesting that when all of these people say that Israel will have to share Jerusalem to save itself, they are “anti-Israel?”

I suppose she is, in fact, honestly suggesting that. I do not for one minute doubt Jennifer Rubin’s sincerity.

Her grasp on reality, on the other hand, is a different matter. I take heart, though, from how desperately wrong Rubin was on the Chuck Hagel nomination—again and again, and again, and again. To judge from that example, Obama and Netanyahu will be using the Presidential visit to announce a two-state agreement with a shared Jerusalem as its centerpiece.

As we say in our prayers: Ken yehi ratzon—may it be God’s will.

Crossposted from The Daily Beast/Open Zion.

The anti-Hagel campaign was never about Israel.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chuck_Hagel_official_photo.jpgNow that President Obama has in fact named Chuck Hagel as his new Secretary of Defense, can we finally get one thing off the table, for now and forever more?

The ugly, facts-optional anti-Hagel campaign was never about Israel—and no matter how often the word “Israel” is uttered, neocon fear-mongering never is, in fact, about Israel.

Neocon attacks on President Obama—as channeled through the likes of Bill Kristol, the Emergency Committee for Israel, Jennifer Rubin, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, etc and so on—are about American power. They are about how a certain (pretty well discredited) ideology envisions the use of American power in the world, and they are about how power is shared within America’s borders.

The neoconservative movement is predicated on wanting to see American muscle used everywhere, at all times, for reasons that, as far as I can tell, pretty much boil down to looking tough and profiting from same. And by “profiting,” I mean literal profiting, in the form of America’s corporate interests gaining hegemony over the world’s resources (oil comes to mind), which as far as I’m concerned, doesn’t always translate to defending our shores, no matter how the Right tries to spin it.

Beyond the dream of brute force on the global stage, however, neocons (just like every political subset everywhere) are also heavily invested in wanting to be in charge. They want to set the tone and determine the discourse and, much more importantly, have their hands on the levers. They want to be in power. But they’re not, and that really peeves them off.

I don’t mean to suggest that there isn’t a genuine worldview underpinning the longing for power. It’s about as pretty and reality-based as the attacks on Hagel have been. In the neocon world, “we” are objectively better than “they” (whoever “they” may be), and the only language “they” will ever understand is force. If we’re to get what’s rightfully ours (by virtue of being Better Than), we’ll have to beat them into submission. Again and again. Ad infinitum.

And lo! The Israeli right wing’s worldview is strikingly similar!

Diplomacy, cooperation, compromise—all are signs of weakness, and all will prevent us from getting and holding on to what is ours by right. And just to sweeten the deal, Israel gets to frame its muscle-flexing as the reflexes of a victim, all while wielding the Middle East’s greatest military force—a force bristling with American-made arms, and pointed at some of America’s least-beloved peoples. Mazel tov! It’s a marriage of convenience!

Of course, there are plenty of Jews (some of them neocons, some of them Israeli) who genuinely fear that Israel’s future depends entirely on maintaining a belligerent and well-armed posture. That’s an argument that supporters of Israel (such as myself) are free to have, and in fact must have. How are we to ensure Israel’s future safety and wellbeing? What are the limits of force, to what extent is our future entwined with that of the region’s other peoples? Israelis themselves—some of them security veterans—have that conversation every day.

But can we please stop pretending that’s the conversation America’s Right is trying to have, too?

Neocons need Israel to be a place marked by bellicosity and arms purchases, to both undergird the neocon idea, and provide extra military might to back it up. Only when Israel is a place forever in peril, existentially threatened not only by every Arab and/or Muslim on Earth but also by honest words out of American politicians’ mouths, will it serve their ideological needs.

The problem being, of course, that Israel is an actual place lived in by actual people. It is not a prop, or a trope, or a tool to be used either on the world stage or in spittle-flecked op-eds.

The people of Israel desperately need a genuine, durable peace. The “pro-Israel” hissy fits that have become stock in trade for America’s right do not serve that need, on any level.

But then, they aren’t meant to, because they’re not about Israel. They’re about American power.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

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