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« SOLUTION: Why is this word always used when it comes to the Jews? | Main | What the Big Deal Is »

Friday, 27 May 2011

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Rick Richman
Goldberg’s statement, like the similar cutesy ones by Rabin and Oz, is roughly 50 percent too clever. Amos Oz’s often repeated statement that “you make peace with your enemies, not your friends” is always trotted out to support the concession du jour, but the historically more accurate observation is that “you make peace with your enemies once you defeat them” -- which is a better explanation of what happened regarding Germany, Japan and Northern Ireland. The Oz quote should have been retired after watching the results of Obama’s outstretched (and outstretched and outstretched) hand to Iran and Syria. Likewise, Yitzhak Rabin’s admonition to “conduct the peace process as if there were no terrorism, and fight terrorism as if there were no peace process” produced -- in the real world -- only a constraint on Israel fighting terrorism: every time Israel tried to “fight terrorism as if there were no peace process,” peace processors screamed Israel was threatening the peace process, and should simply continue the peace process as if there were no terrorism. Goldberg’s quote is the worst of the lot, not only for the reasons you mention, but because it is both cutesy and derivative, simultaneously thoughtless and unoriginal. Make that 100 percent.
Mannie Sherberg
Rick -- if I weren't worried about sounding like my 15-year-old granddaughter, I'd say your post was awesome. I'll just settle for saying it's superb. Rabin was, and Goldberg is, making use of an old Greek rhetorical device -- called antimetabole -- that was very popular with ancient Roman orators but is seldom pulled off successfully by modern writers and speakers. In antimetabole, a phrase or sentence is stated and then repeated in reverse grammatical order. John Kennedy did it memorably in his "Ask not what you can do for your country ..." line, and the old proverb "Eat to live, not live to eat" is another perfect example. But most writers use it more for effect than because it makes good sense, and that, I think, is why it so often comes off as "cutesy." Most uses of antimetabole are -- to borrow your word --"thoughtless," but they sound so clever that many readers or listeners never stop to ask whether or not they're logical or sensible. One of the great temptations of antimetabole is that it enables us to sound as if our tongues are made of silver -- even though our brains may be made of mush. It's a temptation, I think, that politicians are especially prone to. Thanks for a terrific post.
Rick Richman
Thank you, Mannie -- that is the highest compliment, considering the source. I think your erudite analysis also applies to another one of Goldberg’s statements. He writes that “a centrist on the question of Israel believes that the settlements represent a corruption of Jewish ideals, but that Israel remains the physical manifestation of a righteous cause.” Great rhetoric! I think the Greek word for it is “nuance.” But if you stop to think about the thought, instead of the words, it is simply a facile way of saying that Israel is a righteous cause if it remains within the physical area where the forces that tried to destroy it called it temporarily quits in 1949, but is a corruption of Jewish ideals if it ventures beyond that line in response to the 1967 attempt to annihilate it, and if it decides to stay there unless and until those who want a Palestinian state agree to recognize a Jewish one with defensible borders (which means -- at a minimum -- the recognition of Jewish sovereignty over areas where people like Yisrael Medad have had the courage and commitment to live). Goldberg flatters himself that he is a “centrist” but Yael is correct that he is more accurately described as a straddler, proud of himself for the well-worded straddle.
Mannie Sherberg
Rick -- Your analysis of Goldberg strikes me as spot on. The adjective for Goldberg's prose that occurs to me is "meretricious" -- gaudy or flashy, but not worth much more than a dime-store bauble; ornamental but junky; showy but specious. There was a time -- long ago -- when this kind of stuff didn't make it into the pages of The Atlantic. Another example of the degradation of our culture.

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