Inviting David Brooks to My Class
M. Shahid Alam | Pulse Media | January 17, 2010
On January 12, the New York Times carried an article by David Brooks on Jews and Israel. It so caught my eye, I decided to bring its conservative author to my class on the economic history of the Middle East. I sent my students the link to this article, asked them to read it carefully, and come to the next class prepared to discuss and dissect its contents.
My students recalled various parts of the NYT article but no one could explain its substance. They recalled David Brooks’ focus on the singular intellectual achievements of American Jews, the enviable record of Israeli Jews as innovators and entrepreneurs, the mobility of Israel’s innovators, etc. One student even spoke of what was not in the article or in the history of Jews – centuries of Jewish struggle to create a Jewish state in Palestine.
But they offered no comments about Brooks’ motivation. Why had he decided to brag about Jewish achievements, a temptation normally eschewed by urbane Jews. In my previous class, while discussing Edward Said’s critique of Orientalism, I had discussed how knowledge is suborned by power, how it is perverted by tribalism, and how Western writers had crafted their writings about the Middle East to serve the interests of colonial powers. Not surprisingly, this critique had not yet sunk in.
I coaxed my students, asking them directly to explore if David Brooks had an axe (or more than one) to grind. Was there an elephant in the room they had missed? What was the subtext of the op-ed?
At last, one student moved in the direction of the missing elephant. David Brooks had not mentioned the ‘aid’ that Israel had received from the United States. Did my class know how much? Several eyebrows rose when I informed my students that Israel currently receives close to $3 billion in annual grants from the US, not counting official loan guarantees and tax-deductible contributions by private charities. Since its creation, Israel has received more than $240 billion in grants from the US alone.
We had grasped the elephant’s ear, but what about the rest of it, its head, belly, trunks, tail and tusks. My students did not have a clue – or so it appeared to me.
My students did not understand – or perhaps they did not show it – that no discussion about Israel, especially in the NYT, could be innocent of political motives. Israel is a contested fact, a colonial-settler state, founded on ethnic cleansing, a state of the world’s Jews but not of its Arab population, which continues to marginalize the Palestinians it calls its ‘citizens,’ to dispossess them in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and strangulate them in Gaza. Supported and coddled by the United States and other Western powers, Israel now faces growing protests from diverse segments of Western civil society. Churches, labor unions, professors, students and other activist groups are calling on corporations and governments to divest from, boycott and sanction Israel. As always, but now more than ever, advocates of Israel continue to manufacture myths, opinions, and ‘facts’ that can cover for its crimes against the Palestinians and other Arabs in its neighborhood.
Isn’t that what David Brooks was doing, I asked my class, by painting Jews and Israel in the colors of pure glory?
I saw a few nods of recognition. But one student demurred. ‘Doesn’t everyone glorify his own country. The US too had engaged in ethnic cleansing. What is the difference?”
There are two differences, I submitted. David Brooks is glorifying Israel but he is not Israeli. More to the point, he is glorifying Israel to cover up for Israel’s present and projected crimes against Palestinians. He is covering up for Israeli apartheid that exists here and now.
At this point, many in my class gasped at what they heard. It was a voice dredged from the past. It was a defense of genocide quite frequently advanced in the previous centuries when white settlers were exterminating natives in the Americas, Oceania and Africa. ‘We had done so much better with the land than the natives.” Occasionally, such repugnant ideas from the past, which we think we have buried forever, leak into the public discourse. Perhaps, it is good that they do, to remind us that the past is not dead.
David Brooks starts his article with statistics to show that the Jews “are a famously accomplished group.” Do we need to be convinced of the accomplishments of the Jews? Is there anyone who contests this? So why does Brooks feel the need to support this with statistics? “They make up 0.2 percent of the world population,” he informs us, “but 54 percent of the world chess champions, 27 percent of the Nobel physics laureates and 31 percent of the medicine laureates.” Just in case, these comparisons failed to clinch the point, David Brooks offers more comparative statistics.
Does Brooks wish to rub in the point? Or is he saying, Look at all the great things we have done for you Gentiles. We are indispensable. Don’t you criticize what we do? Don’t you go against us? Or does he feel so personally inadequate, this forces him to seek comfort not in Jewish accomplishments – as he claims – but in Jewish superiority?
Alas, the Jews in Israel have not matched the achievements of the Jews in the Diaspora. The Jewish state contains close to 40 percent of the world’s Jewish population, but very few of the Jewish Nobel laureates are Israelis. Only nine Israelis in sixty-one years have won the Nobel prize. If we exclude the three ‘Peace’ laureates – wouldn’t you, if you knew who they are – that leaves six. Only three of these six were born in Israel, and one was born there while his parents were visiting relatives in Tel Aviv. Hardly a great total. Ireland, with a smaller population, has six Nobel laureates.
David Brooks knows this. “The odd thing,” he writes, “is that Israel has not traditionally been strongest where the Jews in the Diaspora were strongest.” Why has Israel fallen short? Blame it on the Palestinians and the Arabs. “Instead of research and commerce, Israelis were forced to devote their energies to fighting and politics.” Brook’s intent would have been clear even without my italics.
That was in the past, however. Israel is now bubbling over with innovation and entrepreneurship. Tel Aviv is now “one of the world’s foremost entrepreneurial hot spots.” Once again, statistics are offered to establish Israel’s leadership in civilian research and development. Israel’s more ominous leadership in military technology is not mentioned.
Moreover – and this is David Brooks’ point – this technological success “is the fruition of the Zionist dream.” Then follows another piece of chauvinism. Israel was “not founded so stray settlers could sit among thousands of angry Palestinians in Hebron. It was founded so Jews would have a safe place to come together and create things for the world.”
David Brooks disguises Israel’s second round of colonial expansion that began in June 1967 as a diversion from the main goal of Zionism, a distraction created by ‘stray’ settlers in Hebron. The close to half a million Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, supported, financed, and protected by the world’s fourth most powerful military are minimized as ‘stray’ settlers in Hebron, who are a problem only because they are surrounded by ‘angry’ Palestinians.
Israel was founded – David Brooks asserts, invoking the language of Zionism – so Jews could have a “safe place” and create “things for the world.” Has Israel been a safe place for Jews? Safer than the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or even the Arab world before the Zionist movement became official in 1917? Plausibly, the answer is, No.
One must also ask, What ‘things’ has Israel created for the world? What ‘things’ has Israel given to the Arab world, other than wars, massacres, ethnic cleansings, occupations, war crimes, and alibis to its rulers to create repressive regimes. What has it given to that other world – the Western world – that Brooks probably has in mind? It has jeopardized their strategic interests in the Islamicate. On more than one occasion, it has brought the United States close to nuclear collision with the Soviet Union. The most valuable ‘things’ that Israelis provide to Western powers, to the United States in particular as an occupying power in Iraq and Afghanistan, are the technology and tactics they have been perfecting while crushing the Palestinian resistance. But David Brooks cannot talk about this.
Then comes the coup de grace. This is the blow aimed close to Brook’s primary target – the Arabs. Jewish and Israeli superiority must finally be placed against the terrible paucity of Arab creativity. Arabs are asked to declare the patents they have registered in the United States. The astronomical gap between Arab and Israeli patents can have only one cause. The Arabs do not have the “tradition of free intellectual exchange and technical creativity (my italics).” In true Orientalist style, blame Arab failures on Arab culture.
Ironically, the two countries Brooks picks to make his point – Egypt and Saudi Arabia – are the closest Arab allies of the United States. The US never wags its finger at the despotic monarchy in Saudi Arabia or the repressive dictatorship that has controlled Egypt for decades. The United States can only strive to bring ‘democracy’ to its enemies.
Yet for all its triumphalism and crude claims of superiority, the NYT op-ed ends on a disappointing note. Israel’s innovators – the sons of Zionist dreamers – bring no commitment to Israel. Just a little instability, and they will vote with their feet. “American Jews used to keep a foothold in Israel in case things got bad here. Now Israelis keep a foothold in the U.S.” As remarkable as it is, Israel’s success is “also highly mobile.”
Is David Brooks the great friend of Israel that he must believe he is? All that any one has to do to destroy Israel’s economy, he writes, is “to foment enough instability so the entrepreneurs decide they had better move to Palo Alto, where many of them [Israelis] already have contacts and homes.”
What sad and strange thinking. Perhaps, this is what happens when a person is imprisoned inside the nightmare that was sold to the Jews as the great Zionist dream. Brooks confirms that this nightmare cannot be saved by Israel’s technological prowess. Apparently, Israel’s greatest success story – its cutting-edge technology companies – are also footloose. They could be heading for the exits at the first sign of instability.
Technological prowess will not save Jewish apartheid – nothing will. But Jews can shore their lives and build a more promising future for themselves by discovering their common humanity with the Arabs, by making amends to the Palestinians, and learning to give back to the Palestinians what they have taken from them over the past nine decades.
The Zionists are prisoners of a bad dream: they must first free themselves, break free from the prison in which they can only play the part of tormentors, if they and especially their Palestinian victims are to live normal lives.
–M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University, Boston. He is author of Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism (Palgrave Macmillan: 2009). You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 Comments »
or go to
From the Archives
Far from the expected development, forestry plantations and other carbon market initiatives in Uganda have severely compromised ecologies and livelihoods of the local people.
By Kristen Lyons and Peter Westoby · The Conversation · September 19, 2015
In recent years there has been significant movement toward land acquisition in developing countries to establish forestry plantations for offsetting carbon pollution elsewhere in the world. This is often referred to as land grabbing.
These carbon trading initiatives work on the basis that forestry plantations absorb carbon dioxide and other polluting greenhouse gases. This helps to undo the environmental damage associated with modern western lifestyles.
Carbon markets are championed as offering solutions to climate change while delivering positive development outcomes to local communities. Heavy polluters, among them the airline and energy sectors, buy carbon credits and thereby pay local communities, companies and governments to protect forests and establish plantations.
But are carbon markets – and the feel good stories that have sprung up around them – all just a bit too good to be true?
There is mounting evidence that forestry plantations and other carbon market initiatives severely compromise livelihoods and ecologies at a local level. The corporate land grabs they rely on also tend to affect the world’s most vulnerable people – those living in rural areas. … continue
Aletho News Original Content
By Aletho News | January 9, 2012
This article will examine some of the connections between the US and UK National Security apparatus and the appearance of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory beginning after the accident at Three Mile Island. … continue
Also by Aletho News:
March 8, 2011
February 25, 2010
February 7, 2010
December 26, 2009
December 4, 2009
May 9, 2009
Visits Since December 2009
- 2,843,212 hits
Follow Aletho News on TwitterMy Tweets
Brian Harry, Austral… on White House Cautioned Against… Brian Harry, Austral… on US Ambassador to UN Nikki Hale… Brian Harry, Austral… on Netanyahu calls for internatio… GUZE` SPITERI on Netanyahu calls for internatio… roberthstiver on Netanyahu calls for internatio… roberthstiver on White House Cautioned Against… traducteur on Palestinian children attend cl… roberthstiver on London mayor backtracks after… traducteur on Palestinians face intense onli… donnamccoy628 on Israel to build touristic park… donnamccoy628 on Israel to build touristic park… Brian Harry, Austral… on British Foreign Policy and the… rediscover911com on Castigated by the Southern Pov… Brian Harry, Austral… on Perfidious Albion… Anthony Clifton on Venezuelan VP Releases Open Le…
- No Amount of Propaganda Qualifies as Humanitarian Aid February 26, 2017
- What’s wrong with ‘alternative facts’? February 26, 2017
- Netanyahu calls for international forces in Gaza February 26, 2017
- Palestinian children attend class in the street after Israel shuts down school February 26, 2017
- Elor Azaria verdict: a personal view February 26, 2017
- London mayor backtracks after sparking row by likening Scottish nationalism to racism February 26, 2017
- White House Cautioned Against Designating Iran’s IRGC a Terrorist Organization February 26, 2017
- Human Rights Watch Cites Al Qaeda and Collaborators in Latest Syria Report February 26, 2017
- Milo Djukanovic’s Claims of Russian Assassination Plot Are a Desperate Ploy to Further NATO Bid February 26, 2017
- US Ambassador to UN Nikki Haley: We Must Sanction Assad Over Chemical Weapons! February 26, 2017
- Trump’s Embattled ‘Revolution’ February 26, 2017
- How ‘New Cold Warriors’ Cornered Trump February 25, 2017
- Palestinians face intense online hate from Israelis, say campaigners February 25, 2017
- Israel to build touristic park on Mount of Azzeitun in Jerusalem February 25, 2017
- British Foreign Policy and the UK Weapons Trade February 24, 2017
- Playing with fire: Dozens of nuclear alerts underreported by British MoD, study reveals February 24, 2017
- Castigated by the Southern Poverty Law Center February 24, 2017
- Venezuelan VP Releases Open Letter to US Treasury as Parliament Demands Resignation February 24, 2017
- Free speech, censorship & the right to be wrong… February 26, 2017
- (ENG SUBS)DPR: Ukraine attacks & takes control of water filtration plant Donetsk February 26, 2017
- A thought on Culture as an Integral Part of the Conditions of Existence February 26, 2017
- Propaganda paradox: Putin’s and Russia’s popularity grows in US February 24, 2017
- Elor Azaria verdict: a personal view February 26, 2017
- Remembering the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre February 25, 2017
- Awareness campaign to boycotting the Israeli occupation February 23, 2017
- Artificial Intelligence: ‘Frankenstein’ or Capitalist Money Machine February 21, 2017
Looking for something?
CategoriesAletho News Civil Liberties Corruption Deception Economics Environmentalism Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism Fake News False Flag Terrorism Full Spectrum Dominance Illegal Occupation Islamophobia Mainstream Media, Warmongering Militarism Nuclear Power Progressive Hypocrite Science and Pseudo-Science Solidarity and Activism Subjugation - Torture Supremacism, Social Darwinism Timeless or most popular Video War Crimes Wars for Israel
Tags9/11 Afghanistan Africa AIPAC al-Qaeda Argentina BBC Benjamin Netanyahu Brazil Canada Central Intelligence Agency China CIA Colombia Cuba Da’esh Donald Trump Egypt EU European Union FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation France Gaza Germany Hamas Hebron Hezbollah Hillary Clinton Honduras Human rights India International Atomic Energy Agency International Solidarity Movement Iran Iraq Iraq War ISIL ISIS Israel Israeli settlement Japan Jerusalem John Kerry Latin America Lebanon Libya Mexico Middle East Military National Security Agency NATO New York Times NSA Obama Pakistan Palestine Press TV Qatar Russia Sanctions against Iran Saudi Arabia Syria The Guardian Turkey UK Ukraine United Nations United States USA Venezuela Washington Post West Bank Yemen Zionism
Contact:atheonews (at) gmail.com
This site is provided as a research and reference tool. Although we make every reasonable effort to ensure that the information and data provided at this site are useful, accurate, and current, we cannot guarantee that the information and data provided here will be error-free. By using this site, you assume all responsibility for and risk arising from your use of and reliance upon the contents of this site.
This site and the information available through it do not, and are not intended to constitute legal advice. Should you require legal advice, you should consult your own attorney.
Nothing within this site or linked to by this site constitutes investment advice or medical advice.
Materials accessible from or added to this site by third parties, such as comments posted, are strictly the responsibility of the third party who added such materials or made them accessible and we neither endorse nor undertake to control, monitor, edit or assume responsibility for any such third-party material.
The posting of stories, commentaries, reports, documents and links (embedded or otherwise) on this site does not in any way, shape or form, implied or otherwise, necessarily express or suggest endorsement or support of any of such posted material or parts therein.
The word "alleged" is deemed to occur before the word "fraud." Since the rule of law still applies. To peasants, at least.
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more info go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
This is information for anyone that wishes to challenge our “fair use” of copyrighted material.
If you are a legal copyright holder or a designated agent for such and you believe that content residing on or accessible through our website infringes a copyright and falls outside the boundaries of “Fair Use”, please send a notice of infringement by contacting email@example.com.
We will respond and take necessary action immediately.
If notice is given of an alleged copyright violation we will act expeditiously to remove or disable access to the material(s) in question.
All 3rd party material posted on this website is copyright the respective owners / authors. Aletho News makes no claim of copyright on such material.
Site infoAletho News
Blog at WordPress.com.