Saturday, December 17, 2011

Response to Daniel Gordis

 Since the J’lem Post declined to publish my response to this piece by Daniel Gordis, I get a second chance of sorts by posting it here:

Daniel Gordis’ diatribe is both uncharacteristically whiney (“Bumper stickers, after all, are so much more appealing than thinking.”  “What are we going to cheer instead?  Moderation?  Thought?”) and uncharacteristically ill-conceived.  Whatever he may think of “not one inch” as a policy, he should contrast it with one under which Israelis will not “continue to die, year after year, endlessly”.  It may be a stupid policy.  There’s room to say it isn’t a policy at all.  But instead of attacking it on its demerits, he chooses guilt-by-association with Michelle Bachmann and American armchair Zionists, and derides them all for the temerity of thinking they know better than “all of Israel’s leaders”.  Is that an argument?  Is there some axiom that asserts that at least one of Israel’s leaders at any given moment must be right?  Has Gordis himself never argued a position for which he found no support among our leaders?  If not, he belongs to a very exclusive club.

He then turns to the legislative initiatives about the Supreme Court.  There are many who have given calm, reasoned explanations for these laws, and precedents from other Western democracies.  Whether they’re right or wrong, none of them rely on the times being “dire”, and the fact that they “horrify” this or that group isn’t exactly relevant to the kind of elevated public discussion that Gordis claims to seek.  Also, the fact that the Court is “well-functioning”, even if granted, has no bearing; none of the proposals is meant to make it more efficient, but rather more representative.

I wouldn’t have expected Gordis to describe our democracy as “fragile”, and I suspect that in another context – one where he’s not desperate to drive home these bombastic points – he would say the opposite.  That’s just my suspicion, mind you, but what I find even harder to credit is that he actually shares the opinion, recently expressed by ex-president Clinton, that writes off much of our electorate.  He’s been too consistently reasonable in the past for me to believe that he thinks our democracy is fragile because the wrong people have the vote.  Maybe he had a deadline and was fighting off the flu.  I don’t know, but I prefer to give those who disagree with me the benefit of the doubt.