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June 25, 2009

the evasive passive

(In Providence, RI, for a Civic Education Institute) Tony Judt recently wrote a New York Times op-ed decrying the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League played his customary role by providing an angry letter of rebuttal. The substance of his letter begins, "Isrealis settled in the West Bank because it was deemed part of the historic home of the Jewish people. ..."

I love "it was deemed." That must have taken a while to come up with. Consider the alternatives. "The settlers deemed that the land was theirs"? That sounds a little imperialistic, doesn't it? "The Israeli government deemed the land useful to them"? Not a helpful message for the ADL director to publish in the Times. "God gave the land to Jews forever"? Some people believe that--some Jews and some fundamentalist Protestants. It's not, however, a line that Mr. Foxman wants to take, nor does it have a lot of force in international law or diplomacy.

Thus the passive--the great, responsibility-ducking passive--followed by a few strong active sentences with Arabs as the subjects. ("They rejected opportunities for peace." "[T]hey rejected the United Nations resolution ...") So they did (those few with the power to make decisions); but the Isreali government also made choices, and now the mess is theirs.

June 25, 2009 1:29 PM | category: none


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