Friday, August 27, 2010

Last Kaplan Quote (for awhile)

Chapter 17, Crossing The Jordan:
In the 1970's, when I was in my twenties, I traveled throughout Islamic North Africa and the Middle East, settling in Israel, where I served in the military. In Israel, finding life among people of my own faith claustrophobic, I rediscovered my Americanness. What I took away from Israel was not Zionism so much as realism: While Israel's security phobia might at times seem extreme, life in Israel taught me that the liberal-humanist tendency to see politics predominantly in moral terms could not be less so. In Israel, I often met foreign journalists who demanded absolute justice for the Palestinians and talked constantly about morality in politics, which in practice meant that anyone who disagreed with them was "immoral." You couldn't argue with these people. Meanwhile, my right-wing neighbors in a poor, Oriental part of Jewish Jerusalem sought absolute security. You couldn't argue with them, either, but at least their arguments were grounded in concrete self-interest and not in absolute moral terms. (A confidant of King Hussein and Prince Hassan told me the reason the two men had trusted Yitzhak Rabin so much was that he always framed his arguments for peace in terms of Israel's military self-interest rather than morality.) Self-interest at its healthiest implicitly recognizes the self-interest of others, and therein lies the possibility of compromise. A rigid moral position admits few compromises. This is some of what I took away from Israel.

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