Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Jonah Goldberg just can't stay out of trouble.

Doesn't the argument that the Red Army was already occupying Eastern Europe and therefore America had no choice but to recognize, codify and celebrate that fact run at least a little counter to the rage against the Israeli "occupation"? If it's so obvious that having troops in a place confers title to that place, why should anyone think Israel should return to pre-1967 borders?

I don't like -- or agree with -- the comparison of Israel to the Soviets, but the principle still holds.

No one in the West that I'm aware of ever argued that Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe should be "celebrated." We know that Goldberg has real problems with precision in language, but really, "celebrated"?

Regarding Soviet control of Eastern Europe, America did have a choice in the matter. Put simply, those choices were A) to demand that Stalin retreat back to 1941 Soviet borders, abandon any hope of Soviet aid in the continuing fight against the Japanese, and prepare to fight an ensconced, battle-hardened, and very large and pissed off Red Army; or B) to acquiesce to Soviet control of Eastern Europe, with the slim hope that this could be changed in the future. As it was, Roosevelt chose the less bad of two very bad options. I remember when conservatives used to understand this concept.

Now, for Goldberg's "defense of Soviet occupation vs. Israeli occupation" equation to work, he would first have to find someone, anyone, who argued in favor of the Soviet occupation, that is, actually defended it and not merely accepted it as the least bad option, and against the Israeli occupation. I am not aware of any such person, or any such argument. On the other hand, you don't have to look very far (a couple Corner posts up, in fact) to find someone who condemns the Soviet occupation and defends the Israeli occupation.

Quite unlike the U.S.'s acceptance of the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, which grew from inescapable military realities, U.S. acquiescence to Israel's occupation and continuing expropriation of Palestinian land is purely political. There is no moral or strategic justification for U.S. policy aside from domestic political considerations. Attempting to equate this with the hard choices made by Roosevelt at Yalta is just daft.

But let's look deeper into Goldberg's comparison, which I think is actually quite revealing in ways other than he intends. In the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states (as in the earlier Russian Imperial system), ethnic citizens of the occupying power were encouraged to emigrate and settle in the occupied territory, the better to consolidate control and frustrate the independance of the territory. In the Soviet era, this was referred to as "russification." In Israel, it's referred to as "settlement." It's also worth noting that Nazi Germany had a similar plan in the works, called Generalplan Ost, wherein ethnic Germans would be sent to settle areas of Eastern Europe and the indigenous Slavic populations expelled. Again, you won't find many defenders of the Soviet or Nazi plan, but you'll find quite a few defenders of the Israeli occupation right there in National Review and throughout U.S. media. Am I equating Israel with Nazi Germany and the USSR? Of course not, though this is what Likudniks would probably insist. The Soviets and the Nazis were tyrannies that wrought destruction and murder on a scale that is almost unimaginable. However imperfect, Israel is one of only a handful of democracies in the Middle East, though the ongoing terror and brutality of Israel's occupation of the Palestinians is certainly no small thing. I am simply pointing out that the goals and justifications of occupation in these cases are largely the same.

A quick comment on Goldberg's inclusion of quotes around the word "occupation," which I guess are meant to imply skepticism. News flash: even Ariel Sharon, the political father of the illegal settlement movemement, has belatedly recognized that Israel's presence in the West Bank and Gaza is in fact an occupation.

Finally, regarding the canard that Roosevelt "sold out" Eastern Europe at Yalta, both Jacob Heilbrunn and Rob Farley do good work putting it to bed. But never fear, it's bound to pop up now and again in National Review, where right-wing myths go to live forever.

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