Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Max Hastings: the Netanyahu quote that won't go away...

In a wonderful CiF piece, conservative historian Max Hastings describes the gradual fading of his love affair with Israel, a story perhaps not dissimilar to the disillusionment many on the European Left experienced from about the seventies on to today.

Hastings' CiF piece is excerpted from a much longer lecture but one small passage has gone around the Tinkerwebs like wildfire, the paragraphs where Hastings quotes a young Israeli who turned out to be today's Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu:

[In the 1970s] I glimpsed a darker side of Israel. I learned a lot about the ruthlessness of Israeli anti-terrorist operations. I spent many hours talking to thoughtful Israelis, who voiced their fears about the perils, the threatened corruption of their own society, which they perceived in the 1967 conquests. I also became dismayed by the naked imperialism displayed by Israel's rightwing zealots. One night at a dinner party in Jerusalem in 1977, I heard a young Israeli talking about the Arabs in terms which chilled my blood. "In the next war," he said, "we've got to get the Palestinians out of the West Bank for good."

To me, in my naiveté, Israel's struggle had hitherto seemed that of a brilliant little people, who had suffered the most ghastly experience of the 20th century, struggling for survival amid a hostile Middle East still bent upon their destruction. Now, suddenly, I found myself meeting Israelis committed to the creation of a greater Israel embracing the West Bank, who were utterly heedless of the fate of its inhabitants. The Palestinians were perceived as losers, a mere incidental impediment to the fulfillment of Israel's historic territorial destiny. By a curious quirk, that young Israeli whom I heard enthuse about emptying the West Bank of Arabs was Binyamin Netanyahu, today his country's prime minister.

I can't help but wonder if this youthful indiscretion will have come to Obama's attention, as the latter is set to meet the PM soon...


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