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11/13/2004 Archived Entry: "Arafat"
I don't usually like Jonah Goldberg's views (editor at National Review) but I think he makes a good point in the following commentary (see below) on Arafat, which is actually a comment on the bias left-liberal intellectuals. BTW, the Chronicle for Higher Education has published excellent article by Mark Bauerlein on the liberal bias in academia.
Jonah Goldberg writes, I don't want to spend a lot of time writing about Yassir Arafat. NRO's [national Review Online] coverage has been great and I don't think I have anything particular to add about the evilness of the guy. I don't like him. You don't like him. We don't like him.
But it is worth noting a supreme irony of the international left's love for the Palestinian cause.
Arafat was a nationalist, a bloody, cruel, vicious, jingoistic, deceiftul nationalist in the classic tradition of nationalist tyrants. This is indisputable. But most of the time, pro-Arafat types have tried to shade this fact in nuance. They much prefer calling him a "symbol of Palestinian national aspirations" or the "national ideal." Only this week have I heard him called a "nationalist" with much regularity.
But here's the irony: the left loathes nationalism. It despises it and curses it at every opportunity. It is the source or symptom of everything bad and archaic in American society, according to the Left. George Bush is denounced as a nationalist by the guys at the ironically named magazine, “The Nation." Nationalism was the historic, existential, enemy of Communism (or so we we're told) and so its place in the pantheon of human evils is irrefutable (or so we’re told). And yet, these same people love Palestinian nationalism and forgive mass murder in its name, even as they -- with a straight face -- denounce Israel's self-defense as runaway nationalism.
I understand that this is all rationalized in various academic "theoretical" disciplines, like post--colonial studies (AKA how to waste your parents money at college) as well as the usual anti-imperialistic poses. But at the end of the day the left tries to hold two nearly irreconciable convictions simultaneously. On the one hand they say nationalism in the West is an impediment to achieving universal brotherhood and all that jazz. And on the other hand they celebrate Yassir Arafat -- and others of his ilk -- as a hero for galvanizing nationalistic passions against the West.
Of course, one way to reconcile the two positions is to simply assume the Left merely objects to nationalism when it strengthens the West and loves it when its hostile to the West.
For the record, I think the Palestinian cause has more justice behind it than the anti-Palenstinian perspective but, these days, I find myself taking a "curse upon both your houses approach." As for nationalism...nations are just lines drawn on a map.