Friday, May 9, 2008

Juan Cole's Fine Appraisal of Israel at 60

I'm not being facetious. Cole's post, titled "Happy 60th to Israel", really is a startlingly positive description of some of the ways Israel is making the world a better place (he concentrates on technology and medicine). I've linked to it for a number of reasons:
1. Seeing as I tend to castigate him almost every time he's wrong about Israel, it would be dishonest of me (and churlish) not to praise him when he's right.
2. The Popperian in me forbids me to overlook this unevenness in the pattern; even if it makes Cole's criticism of Israel just a bit more serious for coming from a man who can be complex rather than simplistic.
3. When it comes to Israel, Cole's voice is one of the more aggravating ones on the American scene. Yet occasionally he has these "lapses" which remind us that the public sphere in the US is fundamentally different from the scene in Europe. Whoever his counterparts are in Europe, they have fewer such "lapses", and their hostility is harsher.
4. Yet even the hostility in Europe can at times be tinged by the results of a few centuries of enlightened thought. Posts such as this one from Cole, or this one from the Guardian, remind us that for all the differences in positions, there remains at least some residue of rational thinking and modes of discussing in which most of the political discourse in the democracies is still embedded. (Though see my "Rational Discourse" label for examples of how this is weakening). This is not true when dealing with most of Israel's shooting enemies. Hamas, Hezbulllah, Iran, but also large chunks of the so-called "moderate" part of the Arab world are not committed at all, on any level, to the rationality that is still largely accepted in the West.

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