Andrew Sullivan on Michael Oren

I haven't commented on Michael's much-talked-about piece in The New Republic, in which he argues -- and I haven't read it closely-enough yet, so pardon any possible misinterpretation -- that the mission of the Goldstone report is to essentially deny Israel the right to self-defense -- because I'm so effing busy with actual journalism right now. But I thought this reaction from Andrew is interesting, and I'll try to write about the whole thing later. Israel, Andrew writes, should try to "get some perspective and to see, for a moment, how things might look from the outside."

I can see why they may feel encircled and alone. But they're not. Even those of us who have been made angry by their recent actions and seeming unconcern for the needs of their most powerful friend, want to help. God knows I love Israel and its people; and I understand that some of the extremism among neocons is really an excess of passion and love rather than mere belligerence and orneriness. But, seriously guys, get a grip. Help the US help you. And try to see the wider picture.

I remember once in Beirut an American diplomat complaining to me about Israel, as American diplomats will often do, especially in places like Beirut. She said, in essence, "I don't understand why Israel behaves the way it does. It has the support of the most powerful country in the world, a powerful military, an educated population, and nuclear bombs. If I had that, I wouldn't feel so lonely." What she was doing was mirror-imaging, not seeing the world through the eyes of the people she was ostensibly trying to understand. In other words, she was seeing Israel's world through the eyes of a Christian American. The point is, the past can be used to predict Israel's behavior, just as it can be used to predict most anyone's behavior, and the Jewish past was very often a bitch.

But while the world has an obligation to understand Israel and its motivations (or, at least, an abiding interest in gaining such an understanding) Israel has an interest in understanding why the world might see some of its actions as excessive. I'm not referring here to Israel's reaction to the Goldstone report, which was a pre-cooked travesty, but to more legitimate criticism about its settlements and its actions in Gaza. I'm not arguing that Israel must agree with every criticism, but I am arguing that not every single criticism of Israel is motivated by a desire to exterminate the Jewish state.