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Tags: For | Israel | Without | Illusions: | Interview | With | Paul

For Israel, Without Illusions: An Interview With Paul Gottfried

Thursday, 29 January 2004 12:00 AM EST

I find nothing wrong with Israel defining itself as an ethnic national state, which it obviously does through the Law of Return and by stressing its Jewish national character. Jews have the same right to make such identitarian choices as Japanese, Serbs, Frenchmen or Germans. If Euro-American people now engage in multicultural grandstanding and do all they can to divest themselves of their national heritages, the fault lies with them, and not with Ariel Sharon or David Ben Gurion.

I'm also not impressed with the argument that Israel is at fault because Jews in Europe and North America typically favor the cultural-religious eclipse and even disintegration of their host nations. Clearly Jews outside of Israel have adopted a double standard about Jewish and gentile rights to national identity, but the Israeli government has not caused the problem. Israelis have not ordered Martin Peretz, Alan Dershowitz, and Abe Foxman to think and act in this hypocritical, malicious fashion.

In my view, Jewish liberals and neocons who favor both a Jewish right to ethnocentricity and a Euro-American obligation to have open borders and to exchange their traditional identities for 'human rights," have turned paleos against Israel.

It is hard for me to imagine that those who supported the Afrikaners and in some cases a French Algeria, are genuinely torn up over the treatment of the Palestinians and are against Israel entirely because of the Palestinian question. What may be rattling rightwing critics of Israel is the double standard pushed by Jewish liberals and neocons – that is, the preferential right given to Jews to practice ethnic exclusiveness.

I recall an interview with Dershowitz, who had just published a booklet expressing his anguish about his son marrying a gentile. Although Dershowitz declared himself an agnostic, his being Jewish, he explained, was the most important thing in his life because of his identity with the Jewish people.

Indeed, this identity was clearly racial as well as cultural, although I had just heard the same figure inveighing against Bob Jones University for discouraging interracial dating. Presumably Dershowitz would defend this apparent inconsistency by citing the Holocaust, a multi-purpose tool that is used against anyone who disputes the special rights that Dershowitz and other Zionists claim for Jews but deny to other ethnic groups.

The problem is that Americans and by now most Europeans have nothing to do with Nazi atrocities, and the attempt by the Left to brand anything it dislikes as "fascist" is both outrageously dishonest and blatantly anachronistic.

But again I see no reason to blame Israelis for trying to defend themselves against an implacable enemy bent on their destruction. I'm also not sure that making concessions, even dismantling West Bank settlements, will make the Palestinian hardliners give in to a peace agreement.

And although I believe that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes by an earlier generation of Jewish settlers in the course of a war, I see no way that "justice" can be done here without placing at risk all the Jews in Israel. The right of national and physical survival should come first for the Jewish state, even if American and European Jews have urged their Christian neighbors to turn the U.S. and Europe over to Third World populations as a demonstration of anti-fascism or of anti-anti-Semitism.

Finally, I have enough faith in the sanity of my fellow paleos to know that if they were Israelis, they would not pursue the national suicide they sometimes prescribe for Israel. They would simply apply their sound principles to another national interest. Note that unlike Charles Krauthammer and Dershowitz, the Israeli government stood with the Afrikaners, and not with the ANC, in South Africa, a fact that my friend Pat Buchanan once appreciated.

In short, I view Israel as an ethnic national state with a constitutional government that offers legal protection to non-Jewish minorities. While it is a gross exaggeration to pretend that Jews and non-Jews can do equally well in public life or enjoy the same social respect in Israel, I would rather be a non-Jew in Israel than a member of a religious-ethnic minority in just about any Muslim country. Indeed, I would rather be a non-Jew in Israel than a non-Catholic in eighteenth-century France or a Catholic in Ireland under English domination.

Israel does not "bother" me because its government does nothing to interfere in my life and indeed provided a home to family members who were escaping from the Nazis and landed up in Palestine. If AIPAC behave like bullies, then our quarrel should be with Zionist groups in the U.S. in the same way as with IRA supporters in Massachusetts. I have met lots of paranoid Irish Americans, as well as whining accusatory Jews, but do not hold the Irish Republic responsible for their hysteria.

And if the WASP majority in America wish to behave like damned fools and bleed all over the floor with their misplaced guilt, then whatever they do to express their neurotic feelings is their fault. Ethnic whiners, Jewish and non-Jewish, get their way because they are dealing with demoralized Western nations, who accept the double standard imposed on them.

You're right. I would tolerate a much higher degree of identitarianism in Western Europeans than our multicultural media would allow. While Jewish identitarians seem both excessive and hypocritical, Europeans are explicitly self-destructive. In my view, LePen sounded soft in how he would deal with the Muslim problem in France, though his stupid wisecracks about Jews made him appear much more rightwing than the stands he took in his presidential campaign.

Reading German newspapers and listening to Joschka Fischer, it seems that Germans are not "overcoming their past" but exceeding the madness of the Third Reich. I would much rather see patriotic Germans than hysterically masochistic ones, who deplore the fact that the Russians didn't rape enough of their women or the English didn't incinerate enough of their civilian population. It is the lack of national self-respect among the French, Germans and the English that is becoming their ruination.

You were quoted on November 27, 2002, as saying you would vote for Sharon if you lived in Israel and remarked, "He's a blood-and-soil nationalist, like the old Afrikaners, and won't do anything to endanger the security of his nation to please Barbara Streisand or Joe Sobran." (Ilana Mercer, "To be or not to be blown up," WorldNetDaily.com) What’s your current assessment of Sharon?

My view of Sharon has not changed since September 2001, when I depicted him as an old-fashioned nationalist concerned with the welfare of the country he has defended throughout his life. Despite his background in a party that was once emphatically committed to territorial expansion, Sharon seems willing to make concessions for the sake of peace, e.g., dismantling settlements on the West Bank.

As for his sometimes insensitive campaign to root out terrorists there, I'm not sure I would do anything different in his position. Unlike Bush and his neocon handlers, Sharon is not fighting a war of choice or a crusade to make the world safe for ideologues. He is involved in a struggle for national survival.

As for the right of all Palestinians to return to Israel, I suppose it follows from accepting a suicidal notion of justice, which most Israelis properly reject. Finally I would note that Israel is full of the descendants of Arab Jews who were treated rather unpleasantly, before they took a hint and made Aliyah [immigration to Israel]. Should we view the unkind treatment of these Jews who fled to Israel as an offsetting "original sin"? By the way, original sin may be useful as a metaphysical concept but becomes a pernicious poison when applied to political life.

I do not mean to give the impression that "original sin" has nothing to do with political life. What I object to is the appeal to guilt as a means of extracting concessions by designated victim groups at the expense of those who are being shaken down. In a very significant sense, I do believe that original sin, seen as human violence and egocentricity, make traditional social institutions and constraints necessary for our living together.

Morris may be overstating his case. What he means to say is that Israel would be better off if it didn't have to deal with a growing Palestinian minority within its borders. I agree with this concern but don't see how expelling more Palestinians in 1947-48 would have lessened the Palestinian danger. Having more angry Palestinians massed on one's borders or screaming for revenge in refugee camps would settle nothing for the Israelis.

The real solution would have been a partition that allowed for predominantly Jewish and predominantly Palestinian or Palestinian-Jordanian states that could have made peace. But the outbreak of hostilities over the creation of the Israeli state made that outcome unlikely.

For instance, Ilan Pappe of Haifa University wrote in The Scotsman last September: "For genuine peace to be achieved, Israel has to be made accountable for the expulsion of almost all the Palestinians who lived in 1948 in the areas which became the Jewish state (which constituted 78 per cent of the original Mandate Palestine). If Israel does not admit to its 1948 ethnic cleansing through the recognition of the right of the Palestinians to return, why should its leaders genuinely bother with the fate of the remaining 22 per cent of Palestine in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip? A just solution to the heart of the matter – the refugee problem – can probably best be served by constructing a unitary or a bi-national state involving both Palestine and present-day Israel. This would be based on the principles of human and civil rights that would enable the people living in between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean to attend to other issues – women's rights, ecology, human economy and poverty. Any other way, as the past has shown, will perpetuate the conflict in the torn land of Palestine and Israel."

I must give this nut credit. Unlike other Jewish liberals, who advocate open borders, multiculturalism, and being soft on violent minority criminals in gentile countries but integral national solidarity for Jews, Ilan Pappe wants liberal policies applied to Israel as well. Of course if I were an Israeli, I would put this person in a padded cell.

The U.S. should treat Israel benevolently as an ally. At the same time, I don't think Americans should be made to believe that they owe Israel special favors because of Christian complicity in the Holocaust or because the U.S. acted in such a way as to abet Hitler in the final solution. In other words, relations between the two countries should not be built on misplaced Christian guilt.

I also don't like the special pleading about our shared human rights-democratic heritage. Democracy has become a god term at the very time that constitutional government in Western countries has given way to social engineering and bureaucratic tyranny. While I do prefer the government of Israel to that of Saudi Arabia, I can also find good in some Arab monarchies like Jordan and Morocco.

I think some of this attachment is based on religious sentiment, the philosemitism that has almost always outweighed the anti-Jewish prejudice in Protestant societies. Pro-Israeli feeling has been strong even among non-Dispensationalist Protestants and has now spread to Catholics. Such sentiment, in my opinion, is fine, providing it is not shaped by the morbid guilt feelings that are now afflicting Western Christian societies and providing it does not lead to knee-jerk support for anything a particular Israeli government may want to do.

By the way, I disagree with those paleos and libertarians who imagine that the U.S. is always ready for war because of the Israeli lobby. We are ready for war because of the Wilsonian ideology that has gripped this country. Wilsonian imperialism is now one of the few moral glues that keep the "American people" together. It is the foreign policy extension of the aggressive multiculturalism practiced at home.

In my view, it is ludicrous to believe the problem will go away as soon as AIPAC grows weaker. Although American Zionists, particularly the neocons, can be socially obnoxious, by themselves they have not produced the ideological and imperialistic side of American politics. As my Swedish friend Claes Ryn shows in his book "America the Virtuous," global democratism did not start with the neoconservatives. It has been around and viewed as a foreign policy option for at least a century.

There are obviously those who believe that all our foreign policy problems stem from Ariel Sharon and that if only we can get the Israelis to make further concessions in the "peace process," we can then cut back on our military expenses. With some luck we may never hear about "global democracy" once the Israelis start taking back Palestinian refugees.

Needless to say, I share neither the trust of such people in the Arabs nor their optimism about the possibility of being rid of the Jacobins and Trotskyists. What may drive some of them is a justified but misguided hatred for the antics and mendacity of American Zionists. But as I've already explained, Sharon is not responsible for Foxman, Peretz, or Dershowitz.

The charges leveled at Israel for having foreknowledge of 9/11 that it refused to share with us is based on misleading inference. Because the Israelis are constantly warning about Arab terrorists, a tendency that Raimondo usually pokes fun at, they have now been made responsible for not protecting us sufficiently against 9/11.

Although I see no evidence that the Israelis deliberately blew up what they knew to be an American ship with the attack on the USS Liberty, I am bothered by the Pollard affair, which revealed the utter cynicism of the Begin-Shamir regime. Both of those leaders, and particularly Shamir, dripped with anti-Gentile malice and this may have been reflected in the way they treated their American "ally."

On the other hand, I see nothing of this in the current Israeli government, although the fallout from the Pollard incident – both the fact that his information landed in hostile hands and the reaction of the Americans – makes it unlikely that there will be a repeat performance.

I don't believe my thinking has changed much on this subject, but I have moved beyond the impulse to tease Jews who adopt a double standard-that is, I no longer jest by making arguments for the Palestinians as Third World victims of Western imperialism. Why bother to tease silly people, who are probably incapable of seeing their inconsistency?


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I find nothing wrong with Israel defining itself as an ethnic national state, which it obviously does through the Law of Return and by stressing its Jewish national character. Jews have the same right to make such identitarian choices as Japanese, Serbs, Frenchmen or...
Thursday, 29 January 2004 12:00 AM
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