Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 21, 2009

THE PROBLEM WITH FAIRNESS?.... I've been encouraged by reports that former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell may join the Obama administration as a special diplomatic envoy to the Middle East. The Anti-Defamation League's Abe Foxman is less enthused, and doesn't realize how foolish this sounds.

"Sen. Mitchell is fair. He's been meticulously even-handed," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. "But the fact is, American policy in the Middle East hasn't been 'even handed' -- it has been supportive of Israel when it felt Israel needed critical U.S. support."

"So I'm concerned," Foxman continued. "I'm not sure the situation requires that kind of approach in the Middle East."

Mitchell has demonstrated repeatedly an ability to be an accomplished and fair negotiator. Most notably, he helped negotiate the peace in Northern Ireland, because he came to the table as an even-handed mediator, with credibility as someone who can act in good faith.

To hear Foxman tell it, that's a bad quality to have in a U.S. envoy to the Middle East.

It's one thing to think this; it's another to admit it out loud. As Matt Yglesias noted, "[N]obody comes out against fairness."

Steve Benen 4:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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"So I'm concerned," Foxman continued. "I'm not sure the situation requires that kind of approach in the Middle East."

Yes, peace would be a disaster for people like Foxman. A lot of people have adapted to the current situation and are going to resist any peaceful resolution.

Christians in the US have their eschatological thrill and Arab snuff porn, Israel has their provocation so they can thin the Palestinian population, and Hamas' leadership doesn't want to have to get real jobs.

If Northern Ireland is any model, Hamas will morph from 'freedom fighters' into organized crime, as if there's any difference.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on January 21, 2009 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

It's like having Auric Goldfinger as your laser surgeon. 'I don't want anything from you. I want you to die, Mr. Bond.'

Posted by: Michael7843853 on January 21, 2009 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Someone should inform Foxman that decent Americans of all persuasions don't allow any dealer to deal a stacked or marked deck when playing a fair game.

The ME is no game, but the metaphor is no less pertinent. Foxman doesn't want fairness, justice and dignity for all our world's citizens. It seems to me he just wants to exercise a privileged position here in America.

Foxman needs to get a different line of work! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 21, 2009 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

If Mitchell is the guy who helped get peace in Northern Ireland, stick him on the next plane to Israel. That was a good 300 years of hatred that he managed to tamp down, not a measly 70 like Israel/Palestine.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on January 21, 2009 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Can Mitchell test Foxman for steroids?

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on January 21, 2009 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Abe Foxman? The sausage king of Chicago?

Posted by: Franklin on January 21, 2009 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

I think that Grand Moff Texan might not understand the basis of Hamas's support.

As heinous as some of Hamas's acts have been, the Hamas leadership also provides an extensive support services network, providing clinics, nursery schools, education (of course, propaganda goes along with the education), and food aid to the population. These are programs that governments usually provide, but the Palestinian Authority was failing to provide them; they were too busy stealing the money. That's why Hamas won the election, not because the Palestinian public supports their policies, and despite the fact that the Palestinian public is a lot more secular than Hamas is.

Hezbollah runs a very similar operation and this is the basis of their popularity in southern Lebanon.

Posted by: Joe Buck on January 21, 2009 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

Regardless, we do need another approach with the Middle East.

My suspicion is that a pro-Israel slant is getting stale and perhaps a major thorn in the side of any negotiation or diplomatic action.

Why is it so easy for fools to wage war?

How about waging peace for a change?

Peace is more than the absence of war.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 21, 2009 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

What happens when a Jew who is the head of the Anti-Defamation League defames himself?

Posted by: Jay B. on January 21, 2009 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

It's hardly surprising that Abe Foxman, a major member of the Israel Lobby and an unrepentant Likud supporter of the policies that move toward the creation of Greater Israel, would say this. To Foxman, anything short of Israel Uber Alles is anti-Semitism not so far removed from establishing a new Auschwitz.

Thetruth is, when it comes to listing "loyal Americans," Abe Foxman needs to be listed as "Citizen of Israel first."

Posted by: TCinLA on January 21, 2009 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

Sorta tells you what you need to know about mainstream Zionism.

Mainstream Zionism is against fairness. Is mainstream Zionism also against a just peace?

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on January 21, 2009 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Why does everyone assume Foxman is a zionist?

There are plenty of jews - maybe a majority in the US - who think that Israel needs to be dealt with harshly instead of fairly.

Posted by: Crissa on January 21, 2009 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

I read somewhere that Mitchell is half Lebanese-Christian and that this is giving some people the willies. One can only wonder why, but in the world that Bush has created I guess there doesn't have to be a reason. They just do.

Posted by: Curmudgeon on January 21, 2009 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

One day into the new administration, the ADL comes out against fairness and Senate Republicans come out against justice. The dogs are showing their spots.

Posted by: ericfree on January 21, 2009 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

I disagree with Mr. Yglesias. The Israel lobby in America routinely comes out against fairness. Any criticism of Israel, no matter how small, is shouted down as anti-Semitism. (and no criticism of Israel's enemies, no matter how large, would ever be described as anti-Arabism). The word "even-handed" is equated with hatred of Israel - as you see by the way Foxman used it.

I dont believe the Israel lobby has ever been interested in fairness. Just as the oil lobby isnt interested in fairness - they're interested in promoting the cause of their clients. The Israel lobby has been more upfront about this than most lobbies, and they've been more successful with their efforts in winning over both parties than most lobbies.

I dont understand why this is so, but it is clearly so.

Posted by: TG Chicago on January 21, 2009 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

The obvious unfairness in the ME is the overwhelming force Israel is able to use on Palestinians and other Arabs. America must stop smuggling weapons into Israel to correct this unfairness. Only when that happens will Israel negotiate honestly, and with a real stake in the outcome.

Posted by: Brojo on January 21, 2009 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Foxman never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Posted by: Dr Wu, I'm just an ordinary guy on January 21, 2009 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

When applied to individuals like Foxman, Alan Dershowitz or Martin Peretz, dual loyalty isn't an antisemitic slur, but a fact -- an obvious fact.

Posted by: ColinLaney on January 21, 2009 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

To the AIPAC-type crowd the only fair, even-handedness means blanket approval of Israeli positions against the Palestinians.

Posted by: chascates on January 21, 2009 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

Sorta tells you what you need to know about mainstream Zionism.

Foxman is a "mainstream" Zionist the same way that Charles Krauthammer is a "mainstream" Republican -- the discourse has been pulled so far to the right that extremism looks like the middle ground.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on January 21, 2009 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

But what Matt Y fails to understand is, American policy is literally expected by Israel supporters to be unfair.

Posted by: Neil B ◙ on January 21, 2009 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

I think what Foxman is saying, in an honest but perhaps not so elegant way, is that, given the current world climate and attitudes towards Israel and Zionism -- as clearly exemplified by many of the comments above -- "fairness" or "balance" in a syntactic sense may not be a particularly relevant a relevant capacity.

I agree with that. Where I differ with him is in trusting Senator Mitchell to do the right thing. He's a person of outstanding integrity who has proven his political skills in the US Senate, and his negotiating skills in Northern Ireland. And as someone with Lebanese Christian ancestry he probably knows as well as any American can the problematic nature of Arab political culture in the Middle East.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on January 21, 2009 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

Abe Foxman is a joke -- or should at least be recognized as one.

Greenwald, as usual, has the goods:

Foxman/ADL let Fox News use terms "Nazi" and "Hitler" against political opponents (10/1/07)

Foxman pulls punches because ADL is BFF w/right-wing whackos (10/5/07)

Abe Foxman persists in being a douchebag (10/8/07)

(note: the descriptions are mine, rather than Glenn Greenwald's, so the tone of each hyperlinked phrase above is a bit crude, but I don't think the attitudes described/attributed to Foxman/ADL are inaccurate.)

Posted by: Chris on January 21, 2009 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

Give 'em enuff rope. Note the phone calls by President Obama today to the area - "his first telephone calls to world leaders were to...Mahmoud Abbas...Ehud Olmert, the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and King Abdullah of Jordan."

I'm going to make an insanely stupid prediction: by marginalizing the radicalizing rhetoric of Likudniks like Foxman (the oxygen of Israeli Manichean alarmism), Obama (and apparently Mr. Mitchell) will have a workable Palestinian solution within four years, if not sooner. Factor in Obama's clear declaration of Iran as am actual state with a place in global discourse, and the uninterrupted but de-emphasized tactical/logistical support of Israel, and you have a situation where all parties get enough to start moving towards sustainable animosity. Baby steps.

Posted by: Conrads Ghost on January 21, 2009 at 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

er ... who is this Loxman fella? Although living in the UK, I thought I had a handle on all the important elected people in the States, but we never heard of a 'Loxman' here. Is he some guy that works for an Israeli bagel charity or something? If so, he needs to know that the Israeli embassies in NY, London and Paris etc are posting hundreds of propaganda stuff all over the web - so he doesn't really have to exercise himself unduly. It's all all taken care of - so they think.

Posted by: C O Lindale, London on January 22, 2009 at 4:02 AM | PERMALINK

But you forget -- Israel is special!

Posted by: Vincent on January 22, 2009 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

It's way past time to stop giving these dillweeds any play at all. All they 've done is perpetuate a constant state of war for 60 years. I really like the idea of letting the adults handle things for a change and the idea of a man known for being scrupulously fair appeals to me greatly.

Posted by: Gandalf on January 22, 2009 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK



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