For a few years, I’ve wondered why Haaretz, an otherwise excellent newspaper, gives such an expansive platform to the infantile right-wing nationalist doggerel of Smuel Rosner, apparently their blogger-in-chief. But I think I’ve begun to understand it: With the right-wing nationalist cranks of CAMERA and other shock troops of AIPAC are doing their utmost, in the name of “supporting Israel,” to close down the English language web site of the country’s best newspaper, maybe they decided that they need Rosner as a beard — or, perhaps in this instance, beard-and-crocheted yarmulka… Whatever it takes, I suppose.
But the beard appears to be starting to itch. As the moral and political midgets that lead Israel today rushed to denounce Jimmy Carter for doing the grownup thing and opening talks with Hamas, the editors of Haaretz pulled no punches, telling them in a stern editorial why Jimmy Carter should be given the royal treatment by Israel. Noting that none of Carter’s detractors had achieved anything close to what he has done in bringing Israel to peace with its neighbors, the editors wrote:
The boycott (of Carter by Israel’s leaders) will not be remembered as a glorious moment in this government’s history. Jimmy Carter has dedicated his life to humanitarian missions, to peace, to promoting democratic elections, and to better understanding between enemies throughout the world. Recently, he was involved in organizing the democratic elections in Nepal, following which a government will be set up that will include Maoist guerrillas who have laid down their arms. But Israelis have not liked him since he wrote the book “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid.”
Israel is not ready for such comparisons, even though the situation begs it. It is doubtful whether it is possible to complain when an outside observer, especially a former U.S. president who is well versed in international affairs, sees in the system of separate roads for Jews and Arabs, the lack of freedom of movement, Israel’s control over Palestinian lands and their confiscation, and especially the continued settlement activity, which contravenes all promises Israel made and signed, a matter that cannot be accepted. The interim political situation in the territories has crystallized into a kind of apartheid that has been ongoing for 40 years. In Europe there is talk of the establishment of a binational state in order to overcome this anomaly. In the peace agreement with Egypt, 30 years ago, Israel agreed to “full autonomy” for the occupied territories, not to settle there.
These promises have been forgotten by Israel, but Carter remembers.
And, of course, Haaretz, representing the grownup trend in Israeli politics, knows that, as Rob Malley and Hussein Agha so eloquently explain, pursuing a peace process that excludes Hamas is not just futile, it’s actually deeply damaging to the prospect for peace.
The beard doesn’t agree. Representing the teenage logic of the Bush Administration and the AIPAC crowd, he scolds his editors and urges them to “just say no to Carter.” Everybody hates Carter, didn’t they know? And he lives only to undermine Israel. His apartheid comparison, with which anyone (including the Haaretz editors) who knows anything about apartheid and the conditions of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank finds little quarrel, is based on “a concoction of exaggerations, inventions, distortions and lies.” Don’t know who’s more mordantly funny, this guy or the Australian with the undertaker’s voice, Mark Regev, who flaks for the Israeli foreign ministry.
If nothing else, the presence of Rosner’s cranky right-wing nationalism on the Haaretz site is testimony to the paper observing best tradition of openness to a diversity of op-ed opinion. But it’s also an argument for mixing things up a little more.