Commentary Magazine


Battle of the Analogies

In an Economist-sponsored debate on the motion “This house believes that Barack Obama’s America is now an honest broker between Israel and the Arabs,” J Street impresario Daniel Levy writes:

Too often Israel’s most self-destructive tendencies (entrenching occupation, settlements) have been indulged, perhaps even encouraged in recent years. That is irresponsible friendship, akin to handing a drunken mate the keys to a car.

Feel like you’ve heard that one before? You wouldn’t be mistaken if you had. When he founded the organization last year, former Howard Dean staffer Jeremy Ben-Ami told Newsweek the following:

Well, the United States clearly has a lot of influence on Israel because of the nature of the relationship and if you’re really serious about stopping the settlements and about what American policy is — American policy says no more settlements, no more expansion and take down those outposts — if we’re serious about it, then we need to start to act serious. And it’s time to act like the big brother or the parent and to say ‘enough is enough and we’re going to take the car keys if you don’t stop driving drunk.’ We’re not talking about simply business as usual.

This wasn’t the first time Ben-Ami compared the democratically elected government of Israel to a drunk driver. He used the same analogy in a Washington Post piece as well. You’d think Daniel Levy, scholar that he is, would at least credit his pal for this noxious gag.

In response to this tiresome analogy, David Frum has his own allegory of inebriation:

Advocates of getting tough on Israel remind me of the old joke about the drunk who searched for his key under the lamp-post because it was brighter there. In the same way, American leaders (and Jewish liberals) are often tempted to press Israel for the convenient reason that Israel is much more susceptible to pressure.

If there’s anyone who’s drunk off of anything in this debate, it’s the J-Streeters and their fumes of naiveté.