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July 22, 2006

Finally, Some Intellectual Consistency From Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens spent an enormous part of his pre-September 11th life criticizing Israeli policies in the mideast and supporting the Palestinian national movement. He co-edited a book with Edward Said, wrote countless articles, gave a million speeches, etc.

Then on 9/11 he realized the secular progressives he'd worked with for decades had been harboring a secret desire all along to live in a caliphate ruled by Osama bin Laden. It seemed like a strange thing for secular progressives to want, particularly the women, but that just underscored how dangerous they were.

Of course, Hitchens' new allies were the exact same people he'd excoriated for decades on Israel/Palestine. The question then became how long he'd hold onto his previous views on this issue, since they were now glaringly anomalous. For a while he gave it a shot. Here he is in December, 2003:

HITCHENS: I think a second term for [Bush] is more likely to lead to pressure being brought upon the Israelis than the election of any feasible or possible Democratic candidate... it's a great deal more likely that the regime change forces in the case of Iraq, in Washington, will be helpful in the solution of the Israel-Palestine dispute.

Right. It's just this kind of clear-sighted, 100% accurate prediction for which Hitchens is justly famous.

In any case, as anticipated, he's now given up the ghost completely. Dennis Perrin explains:

In the final spasms of our friendship, Hitchens and I exchanged numerous emails about his apparent lack of interest in the continuing woes of Palestinian life...Amid all this bluster, Hitchens never really answered why he was largely silent on Palestinian suffering.

Or at least Hitchens didn't until he wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal last Tuesday. Says Dennis:

Titled "The Politics of Sabotage," the piece exposes a part of Hitchens that he's been trying to suppress or explain away, namely, giving the Israeli state the benefit of the doubt when it's engaged in full-scale aggression...Hitchens finds that Israel's "blowing up of [Lebanon's] bridges and the other interruptions of all air and sea traffic possess a certain grim rationale"...

So committed is Hitchens to this premise that he writes "the former Israeli fans of Vladimir Jabotinsky are saying in public that Israeli colonization of Arabs is demographically impossible and morally wrong."

These former Jabotinsky fans are part of say that Kadima has renounced colonization is simply false, as continued settlement of the West Bank (establishing "final borders") immediately shows. And at last look, I've seen no indication that Kadima plans to give up East Jerusalem...That Hitchens blames Hamas and Hezbollah for derailing something that doesn't exist -- de-colonization -- and that he confuses political pragmatism and necessity for state morality (another phantom concept), merely deepens his deceit, whether intentional or unconscious. Hitchens may not see himself becoming an Israeli state apologist, but after reading this piece (which I'll send to anyone who wants to read it), I can see why the Wall Street Journal might happily differ.

The rest, all worth reading, is here.

Posted at July 22, 2006 06:34 PM | TrackBack

It seems like the last thing I recall reading from Hitchens before his second life as a neocon was his indictment of Henry Kissinger. It's funny how Hitchens has since become a Dada parody of the Dr.

Posted by: Lloyd at July 22, 2006 10:00 PM

What Hitchens is doing is what all bullies like Israel and the United States must which is to frame the story. For America it was Iraq had WMD a threat to the entire world and for Israel according to Hitchens and others is that Israel must defend itself from being assaulted and manipulated by the Syrians and other Arab countries.

In Mark Twains book "Roughing It" concerning Twain's trip to Nevada with his brother by stage coach there is one chapter where they become trapped at a station during a flood along with some other people including a bully. The bully soon finds what he deems an easy mark and proceeds to find any excuse he can to pick a fight with his victim. Even compliments given to the bully by the victim are turned into insults by the bully. This is exactly how all bullies operate whether they be individuals or nations.

Taking a romantic view of "our duty" to undo the evil we have wrought by supporting Saddam in the past is just another way of framing the situation paving the way to invasion, so noble, so responsible, so manly and honorable to face the framed reality with hard nosed realism.

An lo and behold once we have set the stage with all of the necessary accoutrements we may in a level headed and even handed manner proceed to beat the living daylights out of our victim and all shall applaud our efforts as noble and high minded.

And if anyone is crass enough to point out the injustice of torture, rape, murder and who knows what else well they are just traitors and cut and runners. It is the way it has always been and the way it will always be. You might call it human nature.

Posted by: rob payne at July 22, 2006 10:30 PM

Hitch hated Mother Teresa with a vengeance. He also hated men who deserved to be hated: Kissinger and others, like Christopher Hitchens. I used the past tense, because these men conjugate in the past.
Hitch is the most brilliant self-hater of the previous generation.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at July 22, 2006 11:31 PM

I don't know about hating, but Mother Teresa was not the gold standard in obvious admirability.

Posted by: Saheli at July 23, 2006 12:49 PM

Agreed, Saheli.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at July 23, 2006 04:22 PM

On the Foreign Affairs site, they just had a on-line "conference" about Iraq, in which Kevin Drum, Larry Diamond, Fred Kaplan and Leslie Gelb and Stephen Biddle participated. Hitchens did too. I felt sorry for him, actually. The star turn hawk language, so '03, embarrasses the hawks now. Two years ago, C.H. would be the man to reply to -- now, he was the man everybody ignored. He got - sadly -- a couple of pity replies, from respondents who then went on to obviously more serious comments.

In one way, hating Hitchens position, I was glad. But in another way, I know that this is exactly what would have happened to Chomsky or someone of that kind, too. The narrative is reforming, and it is all about how, simulataneously, Iraq is a disaster and we can't withdraw from Iraq. The Dems are going to replay the Nixon line for 2008. You can see how the Story is being woven just in who is included and who is excluded -- the participants know just who to respond to. I wonder if the wheel will turn full circle -- whether Hilary Clinton will campaign on a "secret plan" to end the war.

Philip Dick, where are you?

Posted by: roger at July 23, 2006 06:13 PM


Hillary Clinton is basically a war hawk and is on a par with mighty Joe Lieberman on supporting the war in Iraq and both are completely out of touch with voters.

Hate to change the subject but I just found this.

Photos of little Israeli girls writing on bombs exclaimed. Or is it?

Though I believe what the Israeli are doing is wrong that does on mean I think everyone that is an Israeli citizen is some kind of evil monster. I am sure without doing a google search that there are many Israeli that do not support mass murder which is the kind of thing usually reserved for leaders of any given country.

Frankly I don't think this explanation really explains anything but it is rather an attempt to frame the situation as Israel the victim while really Israel is clobbering Lebanon. I am not saying Israel is not without its victims or saying it is okay for Hezbollah to kill people in Israel but this explanation seems a bit strained to me.

Apparently the little girls are actually drawing little pictures of the Israeli flag on the bombs after someone else has written "To Nasrallah with love." And apparently this is because Nasrallah is the party responsible for bombing the small town the little girls live in.

I would be curious to see what others think of this explanation.

Posted by: rob payne at July 23, 2006 06:32 PM

Though I believe what the Israeli are doing is wrong that does on mean I think everyone that is an Israeli citizen is some kind of evil monster...I would be curious to see what others think of this explanation.

The point, or at least my point, was never that everyone in Israel is some kind of evil monster. It was that similar pictures of Palestinian children shouldn't be used (as they are constantly) in attempts to prove that all Palestinians are evil monsters.

The explanation provided at that link is legitimate, but then so are all the explanations provided about similar pictures of Palestinian children. People behave in all kinds of ugly ways in horrible situations. That doesn't make them monsters.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at July 23, 2006 06:47 PM


I think I had much the same thoughts you did upon reading the explanation posted on the pictures. It certainly is legitimate to complain about being attacked yet I thought the author was a little too one sided in her views failing to mention Israel's propensity to use violence by focusing on just the victims in Israel.

I have been very critical of Israel so I just wanted to make it clear I don't hate Israel or really anyone else for that matter, well there is Bush of course but he is always an exception in so many ways.

I did not make the above post as a criticism of your blog or of people who put the pictures up I was actually trying to be critical of Goldman the author for being too one sided.

Posted by: rob payne at July 23, 2006 08:05 PM


I am curious to know if old Hitch's metamorphosis can be considered truly 'Kafka-esque' since he went to bed as a cockroach and upon awakening, was transformed into a rat!

Posted by: americanintifada at July 24, 2006 01:20 AM