My colleague and good friend Michael Crowley doesn't seem to get Judea
Pearl's point in this morning's Wall Street Journal about President Obama's
Cairo remarks about the intellectual and sheer-factual history of
Let me try to clarify it for Michael. The history of Israel cannot be fathomed without understanding that it emerges from the Zionist idea (both ancient and modern), from the Zionist struggle (both ideological and with arms) and the Jewish response to Zionism which was a successful in gathering of the exiles. After all, half of the world's Jews now live in Israel and speak their revived-by-Zionism Hebrew language. The point is that if the president truly wanted to give an honest rendering of the conflict he wouldn't have omitted this essential ingredient of the narrative.
So it's not whether the Zionism argument would have persuaded the Arabs and the Arabs of Palestine, in particular, about the justice of the establishment of Israel. No, it wouldn't have, not by a long shot. But it would have been truthful history and not potted history like that which Obama has endorsed.
Attributing the birth and development of Israel solely to the Holocaust is, then, simply wrong, egregiously wrong. Moreover, the presidential attribution justifies and reifies the Arab grievance that they are paying for Hitler's crimes. Did the president imagine--I cannot believe he did--that this account might not soften Palestinian feelings towards their neighbors? This means it was both largely false and undermined Obama's stated goals.
Actually, I believe that the enemies will now count the president's words as added evidence for their long-time grievance. This will harden Palestinian positions and general Arab positions, as well. Let's wait and see.
As it happens, I have written a big piece on the presidential address, "Narrative Dissonance," for the print edition of TNR. It is now published on the web site, too.