Monday, April 16, 2007

Chomskyite Billionare Pleads Oppression

Its always a bit odd when extremely powerful and influential people, such as Ivy League professors, nationally televised commentators, ex-presidents and internationalist gozillianaires claim to be laboring under the yoke of brutal oppression and terror. For oft-discussed reasons, this phenomenon seems to manifest itself almost constantly when Israel and its enemies are involved. George Soros, perhaps the richest Chomskyite in the world, has unsurprisingly penned his own sob story, which appears in -- where else? -- the New York Review of Books. The irony is thick on the ground when one of the richest men in the world claims to be the aggreived victim of brutal repression. His bone to pick is, of course, American policy in the Middle East and its "discussion", claiming that "The current policy," of which Soros of course disapproves, "is not even questioned in the United States. While other problem areas of the Middle East are freely discussed, criticism of our policies toward Israel is very muted indeed. The debate in Israel about Israeli policy is much more open and vigorous than in the United States." This is amusing if only because Soros' quite stridant criticism is appearing in the same publication which publishes a near constant stream of anti-Israel opinion and even played host to Tony Judt's call for the dismantling -- i.e. destruction, for those uninterested in euphemism -- of the Jewish State itself.

Soros, like his less Chomskyite colleague Donald Trump, appears to suffer from an unfortunate character flaw typical of extremely rich men: the belief that making enormous amounts of money qualifies one to pontificate on literally anything and everything. He claims, for instance, that:
The Bush administration is actively supporting the Israeli government in its refusal to recognize a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas, which the US State Department considers a terrorist organization. This precludes any progress toward a peace settlement at a time when progress on the Palestinian problem could help avert a conflagration in the greater Middle East.
Some of us, who know from bitter experience that Hamas is not "considered" a terrorist organization but is a terrorist organization, may find such refusal an admirable display of all too rare political courage. We may also believe that the greatest threat to peace in this area and the most likely cause of a "conflagration" in the Middle East is radical Islamic groups such as, well, Hamas. But I digress.

Soros, like his colleagues, who publish in major journals and hold Ivy League jobs while claiming to be silenced and oppressed, does identify the ostensible source of his suffering. His is hardly an original thesis, and not at all surprising. It is, of course, AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group which all anti-Israel idealogues love to hate, as they hate anyone who dares to express the radical idea that Zionism is a good thing and Israel deserves to not only survive but to thrive without the threat of war and terrorism. Soros' case, however, makes even less sense than those of his colleagues. Since he is desperately trying not to invoke a conspiracy theory -- even as he does precisely that -- he instead ties himself in knots trying to equate various unrelated critiques into a single, ominous phenomenon. He claims, for instance, that
Supporters of Israel have good reason to question AIPAC's advocacy and they have begun to do so. But instead of engaging in critical self-examination, AIPAC remains intransigent. Recently, the pro-Israel lobby has gone on the offensive, accusing the so-called progressive critics of Israel's policies of fomenting anti-Semitism and endangering the very existence of the Jewish state.
Soros then cites Alvin Rosenfeld's paper for the AJC as an example. It is, perhaps, pointless to remark that the AJC is not AIPAC, and that Rosenfeld's paper was a perfectly legitimate exercise in intellectual criticism. Such subtleties are likely lost on a man who cannot tell the difference between a Congressional lobby and a personal critique of Israel's naysayers. In ancient times, such as ten years ago, the conflation of disparate Jewish opinion into a single, monolithic, oppressive force would have been called antisemitism, but we are now, apparently, more civilized than that. And, of course, we would not wish to cause the obviously delicate Mr. Soros further pain and suffering.

On the question of AIPAC itself, Soros invokes the usual boogeymen, such as the "neocons" -- a completely meaningless term which has come to mean anyone or anything of which the left disapproves -- and charges
AIPAC's mission is to ensure American support for Israel but in recent years it has overreached itself. It became closely allied with the neocons and was an enthusiastic supporter of the invasion of Iraq. It actively lobbied for the confirmation of John Bolton as US ambassador to the United Nations. It continues to oppose any dialogue with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas. More recently, it was among the pressure groups that prevailed upon the Democratic House leadership to drop the requirement that the President obtain congressional approval before taking military action against Iran. AIPAC under its current leadership has clearly exceeded its mission, and far from guaranteeing Israel's existence, has endangered it.
What Soros, not surprisingly, seems not to understand, is that AIPAC's mission is not to "ensure" American support per se, but rather to advocate the position of the Israeli government. For better or worse, all of the supposed evils which Soros decries were based on the policies of the elected Israeli government and for good reasons: the Bolton nomination led many to hope that the racist attacks on Israel in the UN would be more passionately and effectively opposed, the Iranian threat is obvious, and opposition to "dialogue" with Hamas has been the avowed position of the Israeli government for years. How encouraging apartheid-style policies in the UN or undertaking policies of appeasement towards Iran or Hamas helps the cause of Israel's existence is beyond me, but it is not unusual for advocates of brutality -- such as rapists or abusive fathers -- to claim that they are acting in the best interests of their victim. Which does not, of course, makes such assertions even slightly true. Soros, in the interests, apparently, of gravitas, asserts his bona fides. He is a "critical thinker."
But now I have to ask the question: How did Israel become so endangered? I cannot exempt AIPAC from its share of the responsibility. I am a fervent advocate of critical thinking. I have supported dissidents in many countries. I took a stand against President Bush when he said that those who don't support his policies are supporting the terrorists. I cannot remain silent now when the pro-Israel lobby is one of the last unexposed redoubts of this dogmatic way of thinking. I speak out with some trepidation because I am exposing myself to further attacks that are likely to render me less effective in pursuing many other causes in which I am engaged; but dissidents I have supported have taken far greater risks.
What "risks" Mr. Soros is facing are unclear to me, since AIPAC is obviously not going to throw him in the gulag. Perhaps his wealth has made him oversensitive to criticism. As Balzac once said: "Behind every great fortune lies a crime." Mr. Soros may be nursing an existential guilt we can only guess at, and for which any criticism at all is simply too much to bear. This is not an excuse, however, for such egregious bad faith as that evidenced in his statement. He claims to be "a fervent advocate of critical thinking." He is not. He is a censorious liar and a monomaniacal paranoiac. Like all judge-penitents, the principle he invokes applies only to himself. The idea that others may apply "critical thinking" to George Soros himself, and reach conclusions unfavorable to him and his opinions, seems impossible for him to concieve. Instead, he denounces any and all dissidents as oppressive, slanderous, tyrannical, undemocratic criminals. Hypocrisy is, of course, the last refuge of cowards. But the coward who believes himself a courageous prophet is not merely pathetic, but dangerous, because the lengths to which such men will go to realize their demented utopias are unlimited and they all end, ultimately, in murder.

Soros, however, is not up to such ominous standards. He is simply another in a long line of self-righteous egomaniacs -- witness Jimmy Carter -- unable to fathom the fact that people less wealthy and successful than him could reach different opinions and conclusions than himself, so he begins looking for insidious other forces to explain his failure to persuade the world to follow his unrequested advice. Nietzsche made a cogent observation during the opening decades of political antisemitism that the antisemite was by nature an example of the slave mind, one who is unable to overcome his own shortcomings and realize his will to power. Rather than blame himself, the antisemite seeks out the Jew as the source of his own impotence. Soros, in his frenzied invocations of invidious hidden enemies, ought to take heed.

Cross posted at Kesher Talk.