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Wally Shawn: much smarter than Ehud Olmert

By Michael J. Smith on Thursday January 1, 2009 11:22 PM

A recent piece by actor Wallace Shawn in The Nation is quite typical of much well-meaning but imbecile commentary, by American liberals, on the Middle East:

It is not rational to believe that the Palestinians in the occupied territories will be terrorized by force and violence, by cruelty, by starvation or by slaughter into a docile acceptance of the Israeli occupation. There is no evidence that that could possibly happen and mountains of evidence to the contrary.
I call this the Insanity Defense. What's happened to those Israelis? They're acting... crazy! Wally would rather believe that they've somehow gone off the rails than that they cold-bloodedly mean, and always have meant, to exterminate or chase away a whole people and take their land.

In fact they are acting, of course, under the plain ineluctable logic of Zionism, as clearly foreseen and bluntly articulated by Jabotinsky and Herzl and Ben-Gurion. They've acted on this logic for, what, three generations now, and made steady progress. Who exactly is going to stop them? Why should they fear that anyone might?

(Do you think they're worried about Obama? Puh-leeze.)

Benny Morris -- recently granted an exceptionally ample spot on the New York Times op-ed page -- has famously argued that the Palestinians are to the Israelis as, say, the Iroquois are to the Americans. History, to the defeated, may say alas but cannot help or pardon -- as the man said.

This is a deeply repellent and revolting argument, but face it, Wally: there's nothing irrational about it.

It's what all those Israel Bonds went to support. What did you think?

Comments (5)


The pathological metaphor has a way of working itself into descriptions of such situations. It was the Algerian "cancer" that was eating away at the vitals of French society, notwithstanding 130 years of sustained depredation visited on that unfortunate North African society by Frenchmen of every political stripe.

That other racial settler state of the Mediterranean is also instructive in getting a handle on the state of mind ("an intellectual Galapagos Islands, a political Jurassic Park, where bizarre cousins of ideas elsewhere shamed into extinction still roam the mindscape proudly") inhabited by those of Morris' ilk:

Morris' disease was diagnosed over forty years ago, by Frantz Fanon. Based on his experience in subjugated Africa, Fanon observed that "the colonial world is a Manichean world. It is not enough for the settler to delimit physically, that is to say, with the help of the army and the police, the place of the native. As if to show the totalitarian character of colonial exploitation, the settler paints the native as a sort of "quintessence of evil". The native is declared insensitive to ethics, "the enemy of values." He is a corrosive element, destroying all that comes near it, "the unconscious and irretrievable instrument of blind forces" (from The Wretched of the Earth). And further down, "the terms the settler uses when he mentions the native are zoological terms" (let's not forget to place Morris' metaphors in the context of so many other Israeli appellations for Palestinians: Begin's "two-legged beasts", Eitan's "drugged cockroaches" and Barak's ultra-delicate "salmon"). Morris is a case history in the psychopathology of colonialism.


Clio plays fair

if you give her enough time
and you servive as a people
she'll let you play the roman legions
and let some other shadow smuck of a volk
play the jews


Michael: you may be mistaking the final objective of Greater Israel with the partial objective of the current invasion of hurting Hamas, destroying its policing and aid-delivering abilities, deligitimizing it and reducing it to a complicit organization like Fatah. This is a hypothesis, and the strategy may not work, but it's not just a liberal delusion. See the lead article on Counterpunch today.

I actually think the Shawn piece is pretty good, and quite far out of line with most liberals, who are mostly saying nothing, from what I can tell.

As poor and oppressed people around the world are very well aware of the events in the occupied territories, and as they strongly identify with the Palestinian struggle and point of view, the future of the Jews looks increasingly dim.

Consequently it is disgraceful and vile and no favor to the Jews for American politicians -- for narrow, short-term political advantage, for narrow, short-term global-strategic reasons and, yes, also in expiation of the residual guilt they feel over what happened to the Jews in the past -- to pander to the irrationality of the most irrational Jews.

Certainly nothing our new president could do would be of greater value to the world -- and greater value to the Jews -- than to abruptly end the sickeningly patronizing habit of supporting an irrationality which was born in tragedy and will end in more tragedy.


"No favor to the Jews" is certainly true enough -- Israel is the worst thing to happen to the Jews, as such, since the Shoah.

On the other hand, Israel is great for the Israel lobby -- a vehicle for immense power and influence.

Time was, the Lobby existed for the sake of Israel. Now, I wonder -- does Israel exist for sake of the Lobby?

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