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Yes, the "peace promise" is hubristic

Reader comment on item: Netanyahu's Quiet Success

Submitted by Peter Herz (United States), Apr 30, 2010 at 22:08

All American presidents think they can impose a Mideast peace, and all are frustrated.

The reasons are clear. One side has the choice of either winning or dying; the other finds the survival and success of the other to be an intolerable insult, and would prefer to wrap itself in a mixture of self-pity, paranoia, and out-and-out pathology.

And, I suspect, there is probably a considerable amount of shock on the Israeli side. Nineteenth century historians such as Gustav Weil and Ignaz Goldziher led the early Zionists to suppose that Islamic society was somehow more "tolerant" than the admittedly bigoted Christian Mitteleuropa in which they had been raised, and that it would be possible for an Arab Muslim society to welcome a Jewish immigration determined to be accepted as an equal rather than as jizya-paying dhimmi. Yes, it was true that the Ottomans welcomed the arrival of the Sephardim and certainly looked better than Los Reyes Catolicos--but if Ferdinand and Isabella wanted to destroy the Jewish community of Spain, Beyezid wished to squeeze from it every copper of subject-people tribute possible.

Official America has some serious blinders, too. Ever since the Washington Post and New York Times told us in 1979 that Khomeini represented Muslim "fundamentalism", we have labored under the superstition that there is a large and influential Muslim "modernism" ready to roll over and play dead at the command of its cultured despisers (a little like early 20th century Protestant modernism in Europe and America) with which "we" can do business. We've projected onto Sufi'ism the image of Quakerism and Beat-style Zen, and force ourselves to not see its violent history.

Perhaps the most pernicious fruit of an earlier "Orientalism" (although I really don't accept Said's view) is a romanticization of the "other" which prevents Westerners from taking seriously the warts, disfigurements, and out-and-out unpleasantries of non-Western cultures--even after a 9/11 has literally blown up in our faces. America, for the time being, enjoys a certain distance from the ugly side of Islam; Israel, however, finds it must live with that ugly side of Islam on the other side of a narrow urban alley.

Submitting....

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