A Jewish Gaza?

Having praised the new Foreign Policy site, let me welcome them to the blogosphere by taking exception to this hypothetical from new-minted FP blogger Stephen Walt, which has been mentioned favorably by Yglesias and Klein as an example of the sort of daring thought that mainstream op-ed pages fail to publish:

Here's a thought experiment:

Imagine that Egypt, Jordan, and Syria had won the Six Day War, leading to a massive exodus of Jews from the territory of Israel. Imagine that the victorious Arab states had eventually decided to permit the Palestinians to establish a state of their own on the territory of the former Jewish state. (That's unlikely, of course, but this is a thought experiment). Imagine that a million or so Jews had ended up as stateless refugees confined to that narrow enclave known as the Gaza Strip. Then imagine that a group of hardline Orthodox Jews took over control of that territory and organized a resistance movement. They also steadfastly refused to recognize the new Palestinian state, arguing that its creation was illegal and that their expulsion from Israel was unjust. Imagine that they obtained backing from sympathizers around the world and that they began to smuggle weapons into the territory. Then imagine that they started firing at Palestinian towns and villages and refused to stop despite continued reprisals and civilian casualties.

Here's the question: would the United States be denouncing those Jews in Gaza as "terrorists" and encouraging the Palestinian state to use overwhelming force against them?

The odd thing is that by Walt's own account, the answer would seem to be "Yes," since presumably the rump Orthodox Gaza - run, perhaps, by Verbover Jews - wouldn't have an all-powerful lobby shaping U.S. policy and public opinion to its specifications. Or am I missing something?

More seriously, this analogy - which Chris Brose critiques elsewhere on the FP site, and which comes complete with the staggering insinuation that the recent bombardment of Israeli towns (as opposed to, say, this business) is the only reason why the United States treats Hamas as a terrorist (sorry, "terrorist") organization - is a reminder of why when I say that the American Right needs a new realism, I really do mean a new realism, because so many of the old realists have failed to distinguish themselves in the debates of the decade just passed. That failure is the subject for an essay, rather than a blog post, but for now let me just say that on the one hand, you had figures in the broad realist firmament (from Henry Kissinger to George Will to Chuck Hagel) lining up to support the invasion of Iraq at a time when the Bush Administration could have used a serious critique from the right (and then acquitting themselves less-than-impressively, in Hagel's case especially, in the debate over what to do with Iraq once things had fallen apart) ... while on the other hand you had figures like Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer deciding that the best way to promote legitimately important "realist" ideas (like, say, that America should be pushing Israel harder to abandon the West Bank settlements, and that American Jews ought to play a more constructive role on this front) was to wrap them up in a farrago of oversimplifications and half-truths, ride the ensuing attention up the bestseller list, and then cry "persecution!" when anyone called them on it.

I admit to some professional bias here, since The Israel Lobby opens with a none-too-veiled insinuation that the Atlantic, which commissioned the original essay and then declined to publish it, did so out of fear of a potential backlash from the Jews the Israel Lobby. I wasn't privy to the editorial decision-making surrounding the piece, so I'm speaking only for myself when I say that we almost certainly rejected the essay because it was lousy - because the analysis it provided on a subject of great moment was indefensibly slanted and wrapped in frankly conspiratorial thinking. Buried within that analysis was the kernel of a good point, which might have made for a good essay in different hands - just as a foreign-policy realism in general might have had a more constructive impact on public debate in the Bush Era (and it did have a constructive impact, I should allow, in many arenas) had it not been associated with such fundamentally unserious figures as Chuck Hagel and, well, the authors of The Israel Lobby.

Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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