Moments after making remarks in Jerusalem about Middle East culture that enraged Palestinians and undermined the public relations value of his trip to Israel, Mitt Romney looked around the room for Dan Senor, one of his campaign’s top foreign policy advisers.
It was Mr. Senor’s book about entrepreneurs in Israel that informed his comments, Mr. Romney explained to the group of Jewish-American donors he had assembled at the King David hotel. [...]
His presence in the tight orbit of advisers around the Republican candidate foreshadows a Romney foreign policy that could take a harder line against Iran, embrace Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move away from being the honest broker in the conflict with Palestinians.
But his views and influence have drawn new scrutiny to Mr. Romney’s Mideast positions, particularly after Mr. Senor said last week that Mr. Romney respected Israel’s right to pre-emptively strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. Campaign aides conceded that Mr. Senor got “a little ahead” of Mr. Romney on Iran, but said it had not diminished his role at the campaign.
For those of you who haven’t read “Start-Up Nation” before, it’s a very, very good book. There are some very interesting insights into Israel’s tech scene, and great stories of Intel and Microsoft’s presence there, how they came to be, and how they came to flourish. I can’t recommend it enough.
What it does, however, is sneakily puts the reader’s view of Israel through a very specific lens — in not discussing the conflict at all, or the occupation, it limits what a reader can get from it. I’m all for not dealing with the occupation in every piece of writing, and at every mention of Israel. I don’t think a book like this needs to address it. Not every book or article does. It’s just not necessary. What is important, though, is for the reader to understand there’s more of the story.
The danger comes when using the book, having not discussed the conflict at all, is then used in a discussion about Israelis and Palestinians. Hence, Romney’s remark attributing poor Palestinian GDP per capital to a culture problem. Um, what about the occupation? You can’t ignore it.
All of this is part of many parts of the Zionist Right trying to shift the conversation away from the Israel’s ugly aspects — social inequality, Arab rights in Israel, and, like I said, the occupation of millions of Palestinians. You need to discuss Israel holistically, taking into account all of these issues, as well as the astounding success of Israel’s economy and hi-tech scene. Not doing so makes you forget the bad stuff, which needs to be fixed before Israel can count itself as a truly successful actualisation of the Zionist dream.