Max Boot has responded to my post (and one from Noah Pollak) in which I explained why, contrary to Boot’s view, I consider Samantha Power anti-Israel. I have great respect for Boot, and if he knows Power reasonably well and thinks she’s not anti-Israel that’s a point in her favor. Nonetheless, I found Boot’s response on the merits unpersuasive.
Boot makes basically four arguments: (1) the charge of being anti-Israel should be reserved for extreme cases, (2) Power’s statement don’t rise to the level of the anti-Israel statements of Jimmy Carter and the duo of Walt and Mearsheimer, (3) Power hasn’t said that much about Israel, and her controversial comments have come mostly during interviews, and (4) one of the comments I cited is ambiguous.
As to the first point, it seems to me that the charge of being anti-Israel should be leveled whenever the evidence supports it, and not only in extreme cases. Boot is correct that it shouldn’t be applied to people like Bill Clinton and Dennis Ross who think much more of the peace process than I do. However, none of my evidence regarding Power is based on supporting the peace process, at least as that process is commonly understood (i.e. no military invasion). The evidence has to do with accusing Israel of war crimes, adopting an extremely unsympathetic position with respect to Israel’s efforts to deal with terrorism coming from Southern Lebanon, and so forth.
Boot argues that we need to be very cautious “because accusing someone of harboring ‘hostile views of Israel’ is only a step or two removed from accusing them of harboring hostile views of Jews.” But to adopt this approach is to be cowed by Israel’s less honest critics who answer the anti-Israel charge by complaining that they are being accused of being anti-Jewish. The responsibility of those who wish to defend Israel is to avoid conflating the two criticisms (anti-Israel and anti-Jewish), not to shy away from warranted charges of anti-Israel sentiment.
If one rejects Boot’s first point, then the fact (if true) that Power isn’t as anti-Israel as Jimmy Carter and Walt/Mearsheimer becomes irrelevant. The charge of being anti-Israel need not be limited to cases that extreme.
Nor can the fact that Power doesn’t consider herself an expert on Israel, or that most of her controversial comments were made during interviews, exempt her from that charge. One need not be obsessed with Israel to be anti-Israel. And if someone is anti-Israel without being a specialist, an interview is where you might expect that sentiment to come through.
But let’s look more closely at where, and under what circumstances, Power made the statements in question. In one instance (Lebanon), she did so in a book. In another instance (war crimes), she did so (as I understand it) at a conference in which she took it upon herself to criticize the New York Times for writing in a headline that there had been no massacre at Jenin after all. In another instance (blaming Israel for our intervention in Iraq), the context was an interview, but the interviewer hadn’t asked her about Israel; the question was about Iraq. Power dragged Israel in by way of an attack against “special interests.” In each of these instances, then, Power was on the offensive against Israel; she was not merely being reactive.
It’s this last example that Boot finds ambiguous. Here’s the relevant passage:
It is tempting to see Iraq as the source of all our woes now, whereas I see Iraq as the symptom, in some measure, of a number of longstanding trends and defects in American foreign policy. . . .
Another longstanding foreign policy flaw is the degree to which special interests dictate the way in which the