“Is Israel Finished?” – Michael Enright’s surprising (and disappointing) interview with Ron Rosenbaum

enright

Michael Enright, host of CBC’s flagship program ‘The Sunday Edition’ gave a long interview to Professor Ron Rosenbaum on January 18th. Rosenbaum argued that Israel’s days are numbered. Is it true? Read more.

Michael Enright is one of CBC’s most respected journalists. Well read, cultured, liberal in outlook, his weekly radio program “The Sunday Edition” reaches a broad audience across Canada. So who he interviews, and what he says, is important.

On January 18th, Enright interviewed Professor Ron Rosenbaum about a recent article written in a Jewish digital publication, The Tablet, “Thinking the unthinkable: a lamentation for the State of Israel”.

In his interview with Enright, Professor Ron Rosenbaum gave three main reasons that the State of Israel may be facing extinction:

  1. Anti-semitism is on the rise around the world (astoundingly even in countries where there are no Jews).
  2. Israel’s immediate neighbours are consumed with hatred and have immense military capability which they threaten to use to wipe out Jews (or throw them into the sea).
  3. Liberal Jews in America are less and less willing to stand up for Israel.

Unfortunately, CBC host Enright who has a reputation for inquisitive, skeptical and honest journalism, did not seriously question Rosenbaum on any of these points. In fact, he sometimes went farther than Rosenbaum himself, claiming for example that anti-Antisemitism is on the rise in Canada. He did not even challenge Rosenbaum’s surprising assertion that Israel’s human rights record is second only to that of the USA (presumably therefore ranking well ahead of Canada).

The interview provoked a lot of criticism. Dozens of scathing letters are to be found on the Sunday Edition Facebook page, including some from Jews. Many argued that Rosenbaum was wildly exaggerating any military threat to Israel, and challenged the idea that hostility to the State of Israel meant that Jews themselves were to be annihilated or “thrown into the sea”.

However, Rosenbaum’s third point, that liberal Jews are turning their backs on Israel, could be very significant. If true, it is very threatening to the Jewish State. “Why am I the last liberal Jew in America to support Israel?”, asked a plaintive Rosenbaum. Unfortunately, Enright did not ask him to justify his assertion. Is it true that Liberal American Jews are turning their backs on Israel? And if so, why? And what does it mean for the future of Israel as a Jewish state?

I interviewed Grafton Ross, Vice Chair and Senior Analyst for the National Education Committee on Israel/Palestine. According to his assessment, there are still lots of liberal Jews in North America who are willing to defend Israel, but their numbers are shrinking.

12 comments

  1. He is right but for the wrong reasons; Israel is going through self destruction through the killing of the two-state solution by expanding and increasing the illegal settlements in the West Bank with no engagement in a serious negotiation with the Palestinians, also increasingly using excessive power against Palestinian civilians, added to deteriorated human rights situation inside Israel itself and the rise of the extreme right wing not only in all the governmental and army positions but in the Supreme Court which was one day a filter for many atrocities. Demographically, Israel is losing more and more of good minds (brain drainage) because of security and economical instability with sharp rise in the ultra-Orthodox percentage in the society that do not work nor serve in the army and just live on the expense of the rest of the society. These are some of the reasons that make Israel a temporary phenomenon in the Middle East, it needs a book to discuss all of them.

  2. HI Peter,

    Good groove commenting on current stuff in media!!!

    Hope all is good

    Robert

    Canada Talks Israel-Palestine wrote: > Peter Larson posted: ” Michael Enright, host of CBC’s flagship program > ‘The Sunday Edition’ gave a long interview to Professor Ron Rosenbaum > on January 18th. Rosenbaum argued that Israel’s days are numbered. Is > it true? Read more. Michael Enright is one of CBC’s most respe” >

  3. What’s really fantastic about Rosenbaum is his apparent belief that ALL opposition to Israel (violent and non-violent) is the result of anti-Semitism and NONE of it is the result of Israel’s actions. That belief, more than anything else, is what will lead to Israel’s demise.

  4. One, inevitably of many, letters that Michale Enright chose not to include in his programme.

    See below.

    For the discourse.

    David J.A. Douglas

    ————————————————————————————————————

    Michael:

    I am writing to you with reference to your recent interview with Ron Rosenbaum, after which I took the time to examine his most recent publication “Thinking the Unthinkable: Lamentation for the State of Israel.” I found your guest’s argument to be fundamentally specious and to be premised on the perpetuation of what is at best a malicious trope, which is unfounded, disturbing and destructive. The State of Israel, legitimized by the world political order of 1948, is dismembering itself. To hold it forth, as your guest has, as a paragon of liberties and democratic practice is a stunning claim which beggars credulity. Successive Israeli governments and Mr. Rosenbaum, in cold calculation, leverage the massacre of innocent Jews by the Nazis to justify today’s policies of mass brutality, lebensraum, colonization, and brazen indifference to international law. A misplaced guilt is disingenuously used to muzzle legitimate criticism and political action against what is fast becoming a rogue state. So-called antisemitism (as if Jews were the only Semites, as against all Arabs, some Ethiopians, and many others) is cravenly abused to stultify democratic challenge. Labeling all Palestinians as anti-Israel because of the extremes of Hamas is knowingly grossly misleading. Not acknowledging the fact that Israel’s illegal military occupation, which has continued amid so-called “talks”, has now residualized what might have been the territory of a Palestinian state, belies the geopolitical plot that has been perpetrated. The self-dismembering of the legitimate State of Israel is a self-inflicted disaster which in my view betrays the best in Jewish culture and values.

    David J.A. Douglas Guelph Ontario

    David J.A. Douglas Professor Emeritus Rural Planning and Development University of Guelph Canada

  5. Below another letter that CBC chose not to read on air.

    After hearing your interview with Ron Rosenbaum, I started wondering how it could happen that two Jews, born around the same time, and growing up in the same area could end up with such different opinions. Puzzled, I went to his article on Israel where I found most of what he said in your interview. It helped me to understand why we reached different conclusions.

    Growing up among Holocaust escapees in New York, I was led to believe that anti-semitism was something unique. Later, I learned that people of many ethnic groups, religions, and races have experienced hatred, prejudice, genocides, expulsions, etc. Many other groups also believe that they have been “chosen” to suffer.

    Growing up in the Jewish community, I was led to believe that the Judaism had originated in “the holy land” and we would one day make it ours again. However, even in my Hebrew School, I learned that the Israelites were just one of many groups who lived in that area and that we interacted with, married, and sometimes fought, other groups. The holy land was a shared land.

    Growing up in a Zionist family, I was told, “Every other people has a state of its own, we Jews should too”. As I grew up, I realized that the postulate was not true. Many groups, e.g. the Kurds and Roma, live dispersed over many multi-cultural countries. Moreover, there are so many ethnic and religious groups, and they are so intermixed, that any attempt to give every group its own state would result in thousands of states (most of which would not be viable) and endless fighting. No group needs a land of its own to survive; all they need are lands where they can live safely with full rights.

    Like Ron Rosenbaum, I feel part of a extended family. His extended family comprises Jews; mine has grown to include Arabs, Chinese, Africans and other cultures as well.

    It appears that Ron Rosenbaum held on to all the myths we heard in our youth. Consequently, he believes that it would be a disaster if “the Jewish state” was replaced by a truly multi-cultural state without ethnic or religious bias. In contrast, I think it would be better for everyone if that happened.

    Dave Parnas

  6. Let’s face it it was never going to be sustainable. Time to right this 67 year wrong. Free Palestine.

  7. One more thought. After reading all the comments here and on the Sunday Edition FB page, I have slightly changed my position.

    I now think that Enright (and CBC) are doing exactly what they should do: interviewing people with different perspectives on the I/P question. As Enright points out, he had also interviewed Gideon Levy a year or so ago.

    I do think we need serious discussion of this issue in Canada. The answer is not to suppress views – like those of Rosenbaum – with which we do not agree. The appropriate response is to engage substantively with the arguments he raised.

    1. If we want a real discussion, we should have many views in one programme, not two views months apart.

      Our CBC seeks balance. It should seek truth. Balance is a defensive position. It defends against accusations of bias. Seeking truth, requires an offensive.

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