The Private Intellectual
Ecclesiastes-Based Real Estate Advice

Friday, June 25, 2010  

Two Foolish People: A Comparison

Helen Thomas, you may remember, was a widely acknowledged White House correspondent since, whatever, Eisenhower's administration or something. An institution, you might say, a testament to the idea that correspondents, like politicians, ugly buildings, and whores, become respectable if they last long enough. Then she said something ugly and stupid, namely that the Jews of Israel should just leave and go "home" to Europe and America.

Leaving aside the justice or injustice involved in Israel's founding, it's a fact, and one that can not be undone without terrible and additional injustice. Moreover, Thomas did not seem troubled at the thought that "home" for most of these Jews is one of several countries that proved to be very, very hostile to their presence.

For saying this unguarded and vicious thing, Helen Thomas was cashiered from her job and dropped by her agency. Speaking engagements are being canceled and awards are perhaps being renamed. Every decent person in American public life condemned Helen Thomas as history's greatest monster for her insane, thoughtless, and stupid comments.

Compare this rough justice with the happy life of Mike Huckabee. He, too, has a plan for peace in the Middle East that involves the removal--voluntary or otherwise--of one of its ethnic populations. But in his plan, it's the Palestinians who have to leave homes, fields, and friends to be boxed up and shipped over to some other country. Here he is, in a generally congenial piece in the New Yorker:

He does not support a two-state solution, or, at least, as he told numerous reporters in the course of the trip, “not on the same piece of real estate”—which is to say he thinks that coming up with a place for the Palestinians ought to be an Arab problem. In fact, Huckabee does not believe that Palestinian is a legitimate nationality. “I have to be careful saying this, because people get really upset—there’s really no such thing as a Palestinian,” Huckabee told a rabbi in Wellesley, Massachusetts, at a kosher breakfast on the campaign trail in 2008. “That’s been a political tool to try to force land away from Israel.”

This is a historically ludicrous and morally repellent fantasy of erasing a whole people who have inhabited "the same piece of real estate" for much longer than anyone has been called Baptists. And unlike Thomas's offense, this is not the idiot candor of an unguarded moment but a repeated, explicit policy proposal. Yet he has a cable talk show, moves in largely respected circles, and is seriously discussed as a 2012 presidential candidate--a man whose Middle East policy is cribbed from the Trail of Tears.

It amazes me that Huckabee gets so little pushback on this monstrosity. That he does it in the name of Christian Zionism is, in a way, even worse. I can't find evidence of anyone confronting Huckabee with the fact that there are Christians in the Holy Land, too, and that he favors eradicating Christianity in Christ's land so that he and Pat Boone can buy Jesus tchotchkes there in peace.

So here you have two more or less equivalent views of the Israel/Palestine problem: one group should just leave (or be removed, in the Huck's case). There is a cost, a very high cost, to espousing one view and, as far as I can tell, no cost to espousing the other. This is not the environment in which our politics will ever reach a sensible, much less humane, Middle East policy.

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posted by Benjamin Dueholm | 2:38 PM
Great post. The irony lost on Hucklebee Hound is that in Israel/Palestine it is the Muslims who stand side by side with the Christians as they are all Arab.
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