Elie Kedourie’s Radical Dissent from Orientalist Orthodoxies

An Iraqi-born Jew, Elie Kedourie (1926-1992) left his native Baghdad to study at the London School of Economics, where he went on to serve as one of the leading scholars of the modern Middle East. From his doctoral dissertation onward, he was a fierce critic of the regnant Middle East studies establishment that deeply influenced British (and American) foreign policy after World War II, and continues to do so today. Michael Doran discusses Kedourie’s intellectual legacy and in particular his 1970 essay, “The Chatham House Version.” The title refers to the view of the Middle East proffered by the British counterpart to the Council on Foreign Relations—a view based on a flawed faith in a chimerical Arab nationalism and a tendency to blame Western imperialism for Arab pathologies. (Interview by Eric Cohen; audio, 48 minutes.)

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More about: History & Ideas, Iraqi Jewry, Middle East, Nationalism, U.S. Foreign policy, United Kingdom


Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship