Thursday, October 29, 2009

J Street Round-up, 1

OK OK OK. Given what this blog is about, I can't really not deal with the J Street conference that took place this week, and, more broadly, with the J Street story in general.

Of course, given that I only have 32 hours each day, and some of them need to be utilized for non-blogging activities, I'm not quite certain how to fit this new task in if I'm to address it seriously. So I've hopefully launched a new series, "J Street Round-up", and we'll see how long it turns out to be.

This first installment brings to you a video of an entire meeting that took place at the conference. I don't know who the moderator is. The panelists, however, are Jonathan Chiat from The New Republic, and Matt Yglesias, the popular blogger. Two intelligent and articulate men, Chiat probably center-left in American politics, Yglesias firmly left. Their topic was the meaning of "pro-Israel".

In spite of the difference between them, they are both pro-Israel. What stuck me was the degree of their disconnect (both) from the Israeli reality. Certainly Yglesias, and probably also Chiat, would fit into the Meretz part of the Israeli political spectrum - yet there's a reason Meretz hovers on the edge of political extinction these days. I'm not saying the Meretz position is illegitimate - but it does have to deal with a whole set of facts known to every Israeli; most deal by abandoning the Meretz positions, and a small number deal and manage to maintain their positions. These two fine young men - I'm not being facetious - are engaged in a conversation about Israel that doesn't relate to the world Israelis live in.

This may be a broader problem.

Debate: Jon Chait & Matt Yglesias square off on what it means to be pro-Israel from Isaac Luria on Vimeo.

Update: Yglesias has written about this event on his blog, here. His post is quite reasonable; his readers, on the other hand, the dozens of them commenting, are, well, silly.


Anonymous said...

I managed about 28 minutes of it and that's left me with the question: Do these guys do any thinking while they are talking?

Anonymous said...

But it is a world Israelis live in, in the broader sense.

Reason suggests that j-street is wrong and maybe even disingenuous. But reason doesn't rule the world and responding intelligently to the thoughts that emanate from j-street may be the best shot Israel has at responding effectively to the thoughts that emanate from people who are more openly hostile.

These guys successfully distill a lot of animosity into a group of fairly easy to topple straw man arguments. So they're doing their part. Now the reasonable right or center voices have to do theirs.

Anonymous said...

in my book these people are immune to arguments, they are pontificators and thus you will never get any of them to admit that there may exist Catch 22s in this world and that somehow living/compromising/ balancing with them is at times the best one can do. (to a retired paralegal the original Catch 22-scenario doesn't read absurd at all but as a very exact description of common work days in that environment)

Admitting that there are Catchh 22s is the kind of best they will never ever condone, it isn't in their text books, it doesn't comply with theories and that it may be good for living breathing humans is of secondary importance to them.

Jeffrey Goldberg quotes Yglesias with something like amazement about other people's take on his speech bubbles (Sprechblasen) - that was to be expected: first they play with matches then they are amazed that sombody may try to start fires with them.

- If one wants to take these people down a notch or two then maybe the only chance is making their listeners aware that all one hears is a string of fancy worded platitudes. Maybe they write better than they speak but after having listened to them I am not willing to give them a try unless it were to help with fisking jobs.

Gavin said...

Seems to be a lot of confusion among Jews over what Israel actually is Yaacov. Is there actually a consensus view?

My non-Jewish perspective is that Israel is a product of history. Whenever Jews are a minority in any country or community they end up being persecuted. The Shoah may gain the most attention but the word pogrom precedes it and is just as sinister. History suggests very strongly that even the US is only a transient sanctuary.

The only practical solution to ending the persecution is to be the majority. Simple enough I'd have thought. Am I being too simplistic or have many (Jewish) people forgotten their history?

Regards, Gavin