Sunday, January 07, 2018

Saluting Conor Cruise O'Brien

From this appreciation of Conor Cruise O'Brien:

Although Cruise O’Brien denounced nationalism in his own country, he adopted another’s in the shape of Zionism, which led to his absorbing, if one-sided, book The Siege (1986). He accepted the premises of Zionism somewhat uncritically, and paid too little attention to the Palestinian Arabs, who had been the majority population of Palestine when Zionist settlement began, and to the possibility that they had suffered an injustice. This unlikely displacement of patriotic feeling sprang partly from his own philo-semitism, and partly from his tendency to conflate all terrorists (notably, the IRA and the PLO), but also from an undoubted esprit de contradiction: he took up the cause of Zionism and Israel just as the liberal left turned against them. 
Partisan as he was, Cruise O’Brien adhered to his own code of intellectual honesty in his study of Israel. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Zionist movement was split between the Labor Zionists under David Ben-Gurion and the right-wing Revisionists led by Vladimir Jabotinsky (the forebears of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party). Cruise O’Brien pointed out in an essay published in his 1988 collection Passion and Cunning what many liberal supporters of Israel have tried to overlook—that in their attitudes toward the Palestinian Arabs, the only real difference was that Jabotinsky expressed himself with a public candor that seemed impolitic to Ben-Gurion.


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