Michael J. Totten Speaking With Benjamin Kerstein in Israel

Via AoSHQ, exceprts from an interview/conversation with Benjamin Kerstein and written up by Michael J. Totten.

The Greatest Collection of Nightmares on Earth

Although there’s a general awareness of the Holocaust, I’m not sure outsiders are aware of the depth of the sense of trauma in Israeli society. We’re a people who really are deeply wounded. Around seventy percent of the people who moved here were forced out of the places they came from. That’s true of almost all the Jews from the Muslim world. It’s true of most of the Jews from Europe who fled persecution before the Holocaust, during the Holocaust, or after the Holocaust. Very few people came here out of free choice.

MJT: Mostly just Americans, right?

Benjamin Kerstein: People from the Anglo-Saxon world, yes. Even Jews who are coming here now from France are coming to escape anti-Semitism. The Jewish community in Turkey right now is undergoing a kind of silent exodus. Initially these people come here with a feeling of liberation. They release a lot of themselves. But they also have a strong sense of trauma and resentment because of what they had to go through. Particularly in the regards to the Jews from the Muslim world, there is hardly any understanding of this on the part of outsiders. There is almost no recognition of it. Outsiders are gloriously unaware of this side of Israeli history.

Benjamin Kerstein: But I also think officials in the US, Europe, and elsewhere are much less naïve than their public statements make them appear. I don’t think many of them believe that the peace process, for instance, is nearly as easy as they say it should be. They say things like, “If we could just get the Israeli and Palestinians to sit down and talk, we could reach a solution.”

I think most of them are smart enough to know that isn’t true. I also think they’re smart enough to know that a lot of it isn’t Israel’s fault, but by blaming most of it on Israel they can buy themselves leverage in the Arab world. I think the Arab world understands this perfectly well, that it’s the politics of the gesture.

I have to say, though, that when foreign governments say Israel has to make concessions and take responsibility for the conflict, Israelis take it all very seriously. The charge of disproportionality during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, the Goldstone Report—Israelis do not take into consideration the possibility that these may just be gestures. Israelis take it personally, and they become very angry. Israelis feel very strongly that the world is against them.

MJT: Why do you suppose that is?

Benjamin Kerstein: Most Israelis are here because they fled from Muslim and European countries. They don’t feel that either of those blocs have the right to lecture them about anything. Why should a country where your parents were expelled or killed have the right to tell you how to conduct yourself in a war against people who are trying to kill you today? This is something hardly any non-Israelis understand. They don’t understand how galling we find this.

Israelis are often accused of being arrogant, but they find it extremely arrogant for Europeans and Arabs to lecture them about morals, especially during a war. What has Israel ever done that is as brutal as what Europe did to the Jews, or what Arabs routinely do to even each other during armed conflicts?

MJT: How would you distinguish between fair criticism of Israel—and even unfair criticism of Israel, for that matter—and outright anti-Semitism?

Benjamin Kerstein: I think a lot of it is a question of rhetoric. A lot of the criticism is fair, but we often hear criticism which is frankly psychotic—that we’re using poison gas, for instance, or poisoned candies to kill Palestinian children. That we poisoned the water in Gaza to prevent reproduction. That sort of thing.

[See here, here, here, Jewish Witchcraft Summons Phantom Cats to Rape Gitmo Detainees and here for some of those crazy examples.]

The issue of human decency is a big one. It may be difficult to define, but whenever criticism crosses that line, that, to my mind, is where anti-Semitism begins. Anti-Semitism ultimately is a refusal to accord basic human decency to the Jewish people. It’s a refusal to relate to a certain group of people with the common human decency with which you would relate to anybody else.

MJT: What do you think will happen here if Iran gets nuclear weapons? I’m assuming here that Iran won’t actually nuke Tel Aviv, but will occasionally threaten to do it.

Benjamin Kerstein: I don’t know. Israelis have learned to put up with a lot. My guess is that our reaction would be to go public with our own nuclear program, if it exists. [Laughs.] We may end up in a state of uneasy deterrence, like with India and Pakistan.

I think Israeli society will endure. We’ve faced existential threats in the past. People forget that. The military power the Arab states tried to bring to bear against Israel in the 1960s and 1970s would have been just as destructive as a nuclear bomb. Israel prevailed against them from a weaker position.

[See summary here.]

16 Responses to “Michael J. Totten Speaking With Benjamin Kerstein in Israel”

  1. ari Says:

    I don’t think any Israeli is going to go to Turkey these days unless they have to. I won’t even change planes there.

  2. ari Says:

    A group of American former intelligence officers is warning that Prime Minister Netanyahu plans to attack Iran in the next month – without President Obama’s approval – and is urging Obama to take action to prevent a war with Iran. http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?ID=183772&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

    Unless something big happens, an attack in the next month seems unlikely.

  3. ari Says:

    Here’s an interesting podcast about the use of photos by the media to tell a story, and how the biased message against Israel gets through. They call it photo bias.

    Let’s go to the videotape.

  4. ari Says:

  5. ari Says:

    An Iranian website calling the Holocaust “the great lie” and depicting an alternative version of events in Jewish history in cartoon form has been launched.

  6. ari Says:

    Why does this group rate a Presidential envoy?

    Laura Rozen cites a Times of India article on an ‘anti-American tirade’ directed at Rashad Hussein, President Obama’s Indian-born envoy to the Organization of Islamic Countries (a position that never should have been created):


  7. ari Says:

    An Arab public opinion poll being released on Thursday morning shows a marked drop in support for President Obama in Arab countries:

    The most striking finding is that while early in the Obama administration, in April and May 2009, some 51 percent of those polled expressed optimism about American policy in the Middle East; in the 2010 poll, only 16 percent were hopeful, while a majority, 64 percent, were discouraged.

  8. ari Says:

    Maan is reporting that the Hamas terrorists who shot Grad rockets at Eilat and Aqaba on Monday had some Egyptian help.

    An Egyptian security source told Ma’an that the faction launched seven Grad-grade rockets toward the Red Sea resort cities of Eilat and Aqaba.

  9. ari Says:

    Chicago was (and is) a town where dead people often vote. The ‘Palestinians’ have always wanted to emulate it. And now, in their own way, they have found a way to let dead people be political activists and vote:

    In the heart of Jerusalem, dozens of new tombs are being added to an ancient cemetery, but no one is buried beneath them. Jewish observers and sources in the Jerusalem Municipality say the pretend-graves are simply a Muslim project for grabbing land.

  10. shlomo Says:

    Turkey is getting a bit of an ego.

    Israel Radio reports that Turkey has summoned the US ambassador on Wednesday to protest remarks made by US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, who said that the UN investigation into the flotilla incident is not a substitute for the independent investigations made by Israel and Turkey. Obviously, Turkey does not want the results of Israel’s investigations taken into account.

    It is likely that when Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to the UN investigation, he saw it as something that would review the results of the Israeli investigations and not as a de novo inquiry. Whether he will accept the implicit demand made by Turkey on Wednesday remains to be seen.

  11. shlomo Says:

    Hallucinatory anti-Israel ads: I just saw that Foreign Policy magazine published an ad

  12. shlomo Says:

    I was wondering what “K.A.S.M.” mentioned in the upper right stands for.

    Luckily, the site has an illustrative definition:

    The entire site is filled with this stuff, including their plan for cutting Israel in two parts to allow “Palestine” to be contiguous.

    If the government taxed exclamation points, these guys could pay the national debt.

    Yes, these nutcases are who Foreign Policy is accepting ads from!

  13. infidel Says:

    Joseph’s Tomb is supposed to be available for Jewish worship under existing agreements between Israel and the PA. These visits are always coordinated.
    There is no reason to assume that the worshippers are all “settlers.”

    “Once again, Arabs go crazy over Jews praying”
    Palestine Press Agency reports yet again:

    Last night, about 500 settlers stormed the area of Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus.

    Sources said the local settlers practiced biblical rituals at the grave in a provocative way, and they were under the protection of a large force of Israeli soldiers who helped them to break into the area.

    Hamas was really ticked off:

  14. infidel Says:

    Reuters had 5 photographers plus stringers to cover a tree being cut. After examining the 25 photos that Reuters had of the incident, including graphic images, Honest Reporting asks:

    1. How were five photographers encouraged to cover routine IDF maintenance work — which is simply non-news? Who tipped them off, and why?

  15. uri Says:

    Michael Totten has an awesome interview with Israeli journalist and political analyst Jonathan Spyer about Spyer’s trip to Lebanon.
    You can read it here…..

  16. uri Says:

    Jonathan Spyer: Tunisia was the first Arab country to call for recognition of Israel. What’s really striking is that the Arab regimes with the biggest and most ambitious visions are the ones that failed most spectacularly.

    MJT: The stronger the ideology, the more catastrophic the failure.

    Jonathan Spyer: I think it’s hard for Arab intellectuals to come to terms with this. The big projects they most wanted to see are complete failures. I mean, none of them get excited about the Gulf emirates.

    MJT: They’re not revolutionary.

    Jonathan Spyer: And what they have to face up to now—and you know this very well—is that the three most powerful countries in the Middle East are not Arab.

    MJT: Yes.

    Jonathan Spyer: Israel, Turkey, and Iran. This is difficult for Arabs to deal with.

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