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The New White House National-Security Strategy Is Good News for Israel, and for America

Dec. 22 2017

While one might expect that a self-described “America First” foreign policy would be isolationist and, given the term’s history, hostile toward Jews, the lengthy strategy paper recently produced by the Trump administration is neither. Rather, writes Jonathan Tobin, if you “strip away the Trumpian braggadocio [that accompanied the document’s release], what you find are policy guidelines that are remarkably realistic in terms not only of the challenges facing the United States but those facing Israel as well.” He writes:

At the heart of the Trump doctrine are some contradictions. President Trump wants to be tough on Iran, but his crush on Vladimir Putin and Obama-like reluctance to confront Iran and Russia in Syria undermine his instinct to resist Tehran. He wants to promote American power and influence, but his pay-as-you-go version of alliances complicates Washington’s relations with its partners.

But President Trump has still produced a paper that has more common sense than some of the high-flown rhetoric that emanated from [the previous four administrations]. And the section on the Middle East is evidence of that. . . .

Among the most memorable lines in the 68-page document is a specific denunciation of one of the [so-called foreign-policy] realists’ most sacred cows: the notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “the prime irritant preventing peace and prosperity in the region.” Trump rightly discards this myth. Instead, his doctrine points out that “threats from jihadist terrorist organizations and the threat from Iran are creating the realization that Israel is not the cause of the region’s problems.” Specifically rejecting both blind faith in “democratic transformation” and “disengagement,” Trump seeks instead to strike a cautious balance between the need to assert U.S. power and the realization that American can’t fix all of the world’s problems.

Instead of seeking to “save Israel from itself,” Trump’s doctrine acknowledges the problems with pressuring the Jewish state to make concessions to a Palestinian peace partner tainted by its subsidization of terror. His faith that an “outside-in” strategy in which the common interests of Israel and the Arab states like Saudi Arabia could lead to peace may underestimate the power of rejectionism among Palestinians and the Arab street. But it is still devoid of the magical thinking about democracy and strong-arming Israel to which Presidents Bush and Obama subscribed.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Donald Trump, Israel, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy

 

Hannah Arendt, Adolf Eichmann, and the Jews

Feb. 23 2018

In 1963—a year after Adolf Eichmann’s sentencing by an Israeli court—reports on the trial by the German-born Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt appeared in the New Yorker and were soon published as a book. This “report on the banality of evil,” as the book was subtitled, outraged many Jews, including many of her erstwhile friends and admirers, on account of her manifest contempt for the entire preceding, her disgust for the state of Israel, her accusation that a wide array of European Jewish leaders (if not the majority of the victims) were complicit in their own murder, and her bizarre insistence that Eichmann was “not a monster,” or even an anti-Semite, but a mindless, faceless bureaucrat. While extensive evidence has been brought to light that Arendt was wrong both in her claims of Jewish passivity and her evaluation of Eichmann as the head of the SS’s Jewish section, her book remains widely read and admired. Ruth Wisse comments on its enduring legacy:

When Arendt volunteered to report on the Eichmann trial, it was presumed that she was doing so in her role as a Jew. . . . But Arendt actually traveled to Jerusalem for a deeper purpose—to reclaim Eichmann for German philosophy. She did not exonerate Nazism and in fact excoriated the postwar Adenauer government for not doing enough to punish known Nazi killers, but she rehabilitated the German mind and demonstrated how that could be done by going—not beyond, but around, good and evil. She came to erase Judaism philosophically, to complicate its search for moral clarity, and to unseat a conviction [that, in Saul Bellow’s words], “everybody . . . knows what murder is.”

Arendt was to remain the heroine of postmodernists, deconstructionists, feminists, relativists, and internationalist ideologues who deny the stability of Truth. Not coincidentally, many of them have also disputed the rights of the sovereign Jewish people to its national homeland. Indeed, as anti-Zionism cemented the coalition of leftists, Arabs, and dissident minorities, Arendt herself was conscripted, sometimes unfairly and in ways she might have protested, as an ally in their destabilizing cause. They were enchanted by her “perversity” and were undeterred in their enthusiasm by subsequent revelations, like those of the historian Bernard Wasserstein, who documented Arendt’s scholarly reliance on anti-Semitic sources in her study of totalitarianism, or of revelations about her resumed friendship with Martin Heidegger despite his Nazi associations.

At the same time, however, the Arendt report on the Eichmann trial became one of the catalysts for something no one could have predicted—an intellectual movement that came to be known as neoconservatism. A cohort of writers and thinkers, many of them Jews from immigrant families who had turned to leftism as naturally as calves to their mother’s teats, but who had slowly moved away from the Marxism of their youth during the Stalin years and World War II, now spotted corruption and dishonesty and something antithetical to them in some of their very models of the intellectual life.

They and their Gentile colleagues had constituted the only European-style intelligentsia to flourish in America. Most of them were only one generation removed from Europe, after all, so what could be more natural than for them to serve as the conduit of European intelligence to America? Arendt’s ingenious twist of the Eichmann trial showed them how Jewish and American they actually were—and how morally clear they aspired to be.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Neoconservatism, New York Intellectuals