Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pilger on Democracy/Obama on Zionism

John Pilger thinks the American election was a referendum on Israel. As Norm Geras points out, that's absurd and rather an insult to the notion of democracy.
Though the voters voted on the basis of the public campaigns of the candidates, Pilger somehow intuits that what they were really voting for was the sort of thing that he would be in favour of. In this piece as in the pre-election one he emphasizes his attachment to democracy - true democracy rather than the 'pretensions' of 'a corporate dictatorship'. It's a shame his concept of democracy entails knowing the wishes of the electorate, however it is that they actually vote.
Would it be too far off to say this kind of obtuseness is of a kind with conspiracism? Rather than admit that few people agree with him, Pilger prefers to imagine Obama as essentially unelected.

Jeffrey Goldberg
links to an interview he did with Obama, published in May. Here's some of what Obama had to say about Israel and Zionism during the campaign:
You know, when I think about the Zionist idea, I think about how my feelings about Israel were shaped as a young man -- as a child, in fact. I had a camp counselor when I was in sixth grade who was Jewish-American but who had spent time in Israel, and during the course of this two-week camp he shared with me the idea of returning to a homeland and what that meant for people who had suffered from the Holocaust, and he talked about the idea of preserving a culture when a people had been uprooted with the view of eventually returning home. There was something so powerful and compelling for me, maybe because I was a kid who never entirely felt like he was rooted. That was part of my upbringing, to be traveling and always having a sense of values and culture but wanting a place. So that is my first memory of thinking about Israel.

And then that mixed with a great affinity for the idea of social justice that was embodied in the early Zionist movement and the kibbutz, and the notion that not only do you find a place but you also have this opportunity to start over and to repair the breaches of the past. I found this very appealing...

I think that the idea of a secure Jewish state is a fundamentally just idea, and a necessary idea, given not only world history but the active existence of anti-Semitism, the potential vulnerability that the Jewish people could still experience. I know that that there are those who would argue that in some ways America has become a safe refuge for the Jewish people, but if you’ve gone through the Holocaust, then that does not offer the same sense of confidence and security as the idea that the Jewish people can take care of themselves no matter what happens. That makes it a fundamentally just idea.

That does not mean that I would agree with every action of the state of Israel, because it’s a government and it has politicians, and as a politician myself I am deeply mindful that we are imperfect creatures and don’t always act with justice uppermost on our minds. But the fundamental premise of Israel and the need to preserve a Jewish state that is secure is, I think, a just idea and one that should be supported here in the United States and around the world.

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