The Most Brilliant Thing I’ve Read All Year.

June 21, 2010 at 12:03 pm (By Amba) (, , , , )

A must, must, must read:  Shelby Steele on why “world opinion” is smugly scapegoating Israel while Obama’s America largely stands by:

This is something new in the world, this almost complete segregation of Israel in the community of nations. And if Helen Thomas’s remarks were pathetic and ugly, didn’t they also point to the end game of this isolation effort: the nullification of Israel’s legitimacy as a nation? […]

“World opinion” labors mightily to make Israel look like South Africa looked in its apartheid era—a nation beyond the moral pale. And it projects onto Israel the same sin that made apartheid South Africa so untouchable: white supremacy. Somehow “world opinion” has moved away from the old 20th century view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a complicated territorial dispute between two long-suffering peoples. Today the world puts its thumb on the scale for the Palestinians by demonizing the stronger and whiter Israel as essentially a colonial power committed to the “occupation” of a beleaguered Third World people. […]

This […] has become propriety itself, a form of good manners, a political correctness. […]

One reason for this is that the entire Western world has suffered from a deficit of moral authority for decades now. Today we in the West are reluctant to use our full military might in war lest we seem imperialistic; we hesitate to enforce our borders lest we seem racist; we are reluctant to ask for assimilation from new immigrants lest we seem xenophobic; and we are pained to give Western Civilization primacy in our educational curricula lest we seem supremacist. Today the West lives on the defensive, the very legitimacy of our modern societies requiring constant dissociation from the sins of the Western past—racism, economic exploitation, imperialism and so on.

And on what really drives hatred of the West in the Muslim world:

[T]he Palestinians—and for that matter much of the Middle East—are driven to militancy and war not by legitimate complaints against Israel or the West but by an internalized sense of inferiority. […] For better or for worse, modernity is now the measure of man.

And the quickest cover for inferiority is hatred. The problem is not me; it is them. And in my victimization I enjoy a moral and human grandiosity—no matter how smart and modern my enemy is, I have the innocence that defines victims. I may be poor but my hands are clean. Even my backwardness and poverty only reflect a moral superiority, while my enemy’s wealth proves his inhumanity.

In other words, my hatred is my self-esteem. This must have much to do with why Yasser Arafat rejected Ehud Barak’s famous Camp David offer of 2000 in which Israel offered more than 90% of what the Palestinians had demanded. To have accepted that offer would have been to forgo hatred as consolation and meaning. […]

[T]his attraction to the consolations of hatred, is one of the world’s great problems today […] The fervor for hatred as deliverance may not define the Muslim world, but it has become a drug that consoles elements of that world in the larger competition with the West.

Go read it, quick.  Stop me before I quote more.

ADDED: I’ve observed before that people who can claim suffering, directly or by association, often love to have that absolve them of moral complexity:   the wronged can do no wrong (we know this is wrong:  look at the generational handing-down of child sexual abuse, for just one example).  (No, I’m not immune to this temptation either — at least in its insidious, venial “gateway drug” form:  the tendency to seize on excuses for being less than responsible.)  And many who do not claim suffering themselves love to take up the cause of “the victimized innocents” — be it fetuses, animals, or oppressed peoples — at least in part because it justifies their expression of moral superiority and rage.  I consider this opportunistic sanctification of victimhood one of the nastiest psychological dodges of this, or any, time.

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