06 April 2006

More on those cartoons and US-Israel relations

Today's Australian has two items which caught my eye: an opinion piece by John Birmingham "Cartoonists are not in the foreign service" and a Cut and Paste digest of three comments on that LRB/ Harvard article on US-Israel relations (see my post on 4 April).

Birmingham's piece IMO is eminently sensible. Here's an extract:

Alexander Downer,
...When Leak sat down to frame his full colour, and slightly off-colour, reply, he was simply doing what he does as well as any editorial cartoonist in the world, spinning a witty and - ahem - penetrating joke off a developing news story. Leak's role is not to further Australian national interests, to salve wounded egos or to make life easier for the likes of Howard or Yudhoyono.

The three commentators quoted in Cut and Paste are also drawing (or redrawing) well marked lines in the sand regarding their respective positions. Eliot Cohen in the Washington Post (for the full article see here) gets really worked up about the attack: "Yes, It's Anti-Semitic" is the headline in the original . Michael Ledeen from the National Review Online (full article here) writes in similar vein: "This is anti-Semitism in the grand tradition".

Mark Mazower in the Financial Times (full article only available on subscription) takes the contrary view, which is closer to mine:

Brandishing the big stick of anti-Semitism against all and sundry helps no one: it lumps together serious critique with crackpot ravings, does a signal disservice to those who really suffered from it in the past and stifles a badly needed debate within the US. There is no reason why the partnership between the US and Israel should not be susceptible to the same kind of cost-benefit analysis as any other area of policy. After all, no special relationship lasts forever: ask the Brits.

I like his distinction between serious critique and crackpot ravings. I've heard some comments which tend towards the latter at question times at Robert Fisk presentations, but that doesn't make me think that Fisk or the authors of the paper should be silenced.

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