Needed: More Table Thumping

NEEDED: MORE TABLE THUMPING….Rosa Brooks writes today about (shhh!) the power of AIPAC and the broader Israel lobby to enforce an atmosphere in which “it just isn’t possible to have a civil debate about Israel, because any serious criticism of its policies is instantly countered with charges of anti-Semitism.” Well, maybe so, and I agree with her that the recent attacks on Human Rights Watch were way over the top. But here’s the part that’s always struck me as the most remarkable:

How did adopting a reflexively pro-Israel stance come to be a mandatory aspect of American Jewish identity? Skepticism ? a willingness to ask tough questions, a refusal to embrace dogma ? has always been central to the Jewish intellectual tradition. Ironically, this tradition remains alive in Israel, where respected public figures routinely criticize the government in far harsher terms than those used by Human Rights Watch.

Anyone who reads the Israeli press even occasionally recognizes that this is true. Internal debate in Israel is robust and covers a remarkably wide spectrum. And not just among fringe pressure groups either. This diversity extends all the way to top politicians and gets aired on the op-ed pages of Israel’s biggest newspapers. You can routinely read stuff there that would curl your nose hairs if it were printed in the pages of the Washington Post.

Of course, that’s just generally true of American opinion, which is constrained to a surprisingly narrow range of views. We could use more table thumping over here.