Thursday, December 03, 2009

David Gelernter on Tolerance

The always-repulsive David Gelernter, who was attacked by the Unabomber and never seems to have gotten over it, appeared today on the NPR show "On Point".

Here's Gelernter on tolerance (from the 42:30 mark of the show):

David Gelernter: ... One of the most important verses in the Bible which says apply your own experience, you must be kind to strangers because you were strangers yourselves, you know what it's like. Tolerance is a Jewish idea, and emerged in this country from the Biblical community.

Caller Kathy: ... I'd like to comment on an earlier caller who was remarking about the disconnect between the principles that are in the Bible, and the actualities, especially the situation in Israel with the Palestinians. And your guest said that obviously that person had not been there and didn't know that Israel had the most just army in the world.

Well, number one, I'm Jewish, number two, I
have been there. And I will tell you that all of the commentary about how people should behave has been thrown out the window by the government and the military of Israel. And I have seen it with my own eyes - I'm not stupid. All you have to do is go through the separation wall which is an apartheid wall and see the miserable condition of Palestinians who are Muslims and Christians and see what is being done to them by the occupying Army of Israel.

Tom: Kathy, we've got the gist and our time is very short. Thank you for calling. David, how do you respond?

David Gelernter: It's always been the curse of Jews that the most vicious haters of the Jewish community have often been Jews themselves.




There's no question in my mind that Israel gets treated shabbily by the American Left, and Israel's record is much better than that of its neighbors. But on the other hand, one can't deny that there have been human rights violations against the Palestinians, of which house demolitions are a prominent example. David Gelernter's response here is grotesque and facile, and doesn't deal honestly with the question.

15 comments:

Hector said...

"I will tell you that all of the commentary about how people should behave has been thrown out the window by the government and the military of Israel. And I have seen it with my own eyes - I'm not stupid."

But did the gov't and the military also throw the Bible out the window?

manuelg said...

I agree with the point of your post.

Indulge me in pushing back on one statement in your post (that in no way undermines your main point).

> There's no question in my mind that Israel gets treated shabbily by the American Left...

There is no political organization on the US "left" that supports cutting off military support for Israel over Israel continuing to expand illegal settlements that could make a two state solution impossible.

I have heard commentators suggest it (if I remember correctly: G. Greenwald, J. Klein, A. Sullivan), but when they did they put themselves within a very small percentage of the US "Left".

Shabby treatment or not, Israel being able to continue expanding illegal settlements (possibly making a two state solution impossible) without risk to their US military aid is still a considerable political win for the right-wing/militaristic faction of the Israeli government.

Thank you for indulging my letting out a pip-squeak.

Hector said...

"...Israel being able to continue expanding illegal settlements ..."

Of all the settlements, how many are illegal? Depending on which school of thought you're on, the answer is "All of them!"

Hector said...

"of which house demolitions (see the wiki site) are a prominent example"

There is an awful lot of "he said, she said" at that link.

manuelg said...

> Of all the settlements, how many are illegal?

Not to put too fine a point on it... if we all grant this is a sub-issue about a sub-issue about the original post...

Pick a year. Pick 1947. Pick 1948. Pick any year between 1947 and 1967. Pick 1967. Pick 1968. Pick any year between 1967 and 2009. And pretend, for the sake of this exercise, that international law matters.

Since the settlement extent in 2009 is a superset of the extents of Israeli settlement in all those years, you can vary the size of the illegal settlements but they are always non-zero. Pretending, for the sake of this exercise, that international law matters.

Not to put too fine a point on it.

At some point a two state solution becomes impossible. Across the mainstream US Left and Right, this is tolerated - Israel can act with impunity, in this regard. I, personally, think this diminishes the likelihood of my great-grandchildren seeing a Jewish state - because of Muslim demographics, because of the finite ability of Egypt to prevent its population from radicalizing, because of Muslim states playing China against the US for petroleum.

I am probably wrong. I often am.

SLC said...

David Gelernter: It's always been the curse of Jews that the most vicious haters of the Jewish community have often been Jews themselves.

I had never heard of Mr. Gerlernter before but, unfortunately, there is a kernel of truth to this assertion. One need only cite Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky, Karl Marx, etc. There are also individuals like Reinhard Heydrich and Richard Wagner, who are believed to have had Jewish ancestry, who were front and center on the antisemitism front.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

SLC:

I don't dispute there is some truth to David Gelernter's general claim, but I do dispute it applies to the caller, and I do think his response contradicts his immediately preceding assertion about tolerance.

Miranda said...

A favorite quote of mine, from Ogden Nash:

"Sometimes with secret pride I sigh,
To think how tolerant am I;
Then wonder which is really mine:
Tolerance or a rubber spine?"

Tim Kenyon said...

One need only cite Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky, Karl Marx, etc.

Sorry, nope. One need also explain exactly what one intends this list of names to show. Especially when it's followed up with allusions to SS General Reinhard Heydrich.

SLC said...

Re Tim Kenyan

The list was intended to demonstrate that, unfortunately, antisemitism is not confined to gentiles. As for the late and unlamented Mr. Heydrich, his Jewish ancestry was known to the Nazi authorities at the time, which provided considerable incentive to him to demonstrate his commitment to Nazi idology.

Miranda said...

"David Gelernter's response here is grotesque and facile, and doesn't deal honestly with the question. "

I felt the same way after the facile charge about the "illegal settlements."

Tim Kenyon said...

The list was intended to demonstrate that, unfortunately, antisemitism is not confined to gentiles.

And because it is merely a list of names, and not a cogent argument that each of the named persons is an anti-semite, it neither demonstrates nor even attempts to demonstrate any such thing. Listing these names in proximity to Heydrich's is, to say the very least, unconvincing.

Miranda said...

Tim, if you research the names yourself, you can demonstrate the accusation for yourself.

William said...

The Left treats the Israelis "shabbily"? How so, exactly? By drawing attention to their horrendous record on human rights? Bad, bad Left for doing that.

Also, by saying Israel's record is "much better" than it's neighbors do you something like this: The Lebanese pelt the Israelis with rocks 10 times, but the Israelis only rain phosphorous down on the Lebanese once?

Yes, I think I see your reasoning there.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

William:

Look up "straw man" in the dictionary and get back to me when you've understood it.