Michael Kelly was a brilliant writer and editor who coincidentally happened to be an American patriot and a strong supporter of Israel – a combination not commonly found in the circles in which he traveled.
Kelly, who died covering the Iraqi war in an accident unrelated to any combat, was a liberal in the pre-1970’s sense (think Lyndon Johnson or “Scoop” Jackson), another quality that separated him from the politically correct media herd. When the Monitor last year compiled a “Top Ten” list of pro-Israel journalists, Kelly ranked number six; if the list had been redrawn in the past six months or so, he probably would have finished even higher.
The best way by which to remember Kelly is to review and absorb some of his more memorable insights, so what follows are a few items drawn from his considerable body of work.
In his column of Sept. 12, 2001, noting that Yasir Arafat had been quick to condemn the terrorist attacks on America the day before, Kelly wrote that “this evil rose, with hideous logic, directly from the philosophy that the leaders and supporters of the Palestinian cause have long embraced and still embrace – a philosophy that accepts the murder of innocents as a legitimate expression of a legitimate struggle.”
Later that month, sensing that the initial wave of outrage was already beginning to dissipate among certain influential Americans who now counseled restraint and understanding, Kelly took off after the peace at any price crowd.
“Pacifists,” he wrote, “are not serious people, although they devoutly believe they are.” Acknowledging that there may be some instances where pacifism is justified, Kelly argued that this was not one of them.
“But in the situation where one’s nation has been attacked – a situation such as we are now in – pacifism is, inescapably and profoundly, immoral. Indeed, in the case of this specific situation, pacifism is on the side of the murderers, and it is on the side of letting them murder again.”
Citing a 1942 article by George Orwell which made the point that “Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist,” Kelly wrote: “England’s pacifists howled, but Orwell’s logic was implacable. The Nazis wished the British to not fight. If the British did not fight, the Nazis would conquer Britain. The British pacifists also wished the British to not fight. The British pacifists, therefore, were on the side of a Nazi victory over Britain. They were objectively pro-Fascist.”
The same logic, Kelly continued, applied to America in the fall of 2001: “Organized terrorist groups have attacked America. These groups wish the Americans to not fight. The American pacifists wish the Americans to not fight. If the Americans do not fight, the terrorists will attack America again. And now we know such attacks can kill many thousands of Americans. The American pacifists, therefore, are on the side of future mass murders of Americans. They are objectively pro-terrorist….That is the pacifists’ position, and it is evil.”
Actually, as Kelly elaborated in a follow-up column, “much of what is passing for pacifism in this instance is not pacifism at all but only the latest tedious manifestation of a well-known pre-existing condition: the largely reactionary, largely incoherent, largely silly muddle of anti-American, anti-corporatist, anti-globalist sentiments that passes for the politics of the Left these days.”
Of Camp David Kelly wrote: “[It] was a failure for Israel, for humanity and for the two feckless men, Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak, who brought it to pass. But it was not at all a failure for Arafat and his long-term strategy.”
Of the second Palestinian intifada he observed: “There was never any honest intent on the Palestinian part for peaceful coexistence with Israel….What the Palestinians seek – what Arafat has encouraged them to seek – is, as is now beyond dispute, the defeat and surrender of Israel.”
Reacting to President Bush’s June 24 speech that placed Arafat on notice that he was persona non grata in the administration’s eyes, Kelly exulted that “the United States….is out of the old fraud game. From now on, we do business with people who do honest business with us. That is radical, and it will produce radical results.”
Michael Kelly leaves a void that won’t be filled.
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org