A Debate on the Israel Lobby

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 20 Comments

I’m trying to have more dialogues with Richard Witty because he’s a smart guy who disagrees with me, also I’m grateful that he’s come to this site overcoming his objection to a lot of stuff said here. (On a personal note, we knew each other when we were kids; I’ve remet him twice in the last couple years; we are family friends.) Not sure what will come of these dialogues. I can’t imagine convincing him of my point of view. But when I say there has to be soul-searching among Jews over the Iraq war, maybe this is what I’m talking about….

What follows is an exchange over the Israel Lobby, a term Richard disputes. It begins with my challenge, then his response, then my counter-response. I’m sure there will be more later. One thing I promise is I’ll give him the last word. Only seems fair.

Let ‘er rip!

WEISS: I have a challenge to you, Richard. you apparently object
to the very words Israel Lobby. My impression is that you feel it is non
specific, imprecise. I feel that you are depriving journalists and thinkers of
an important rhetorical and analytical tool: generalization. We generalize
about the Christian evangelical movement in politics being anti gay rights and
anti abortion though I imagine there are a good # of evangelicals who dissent
on those views.

Or here is a damning generalization about the Catholic
church, one I share, in a blurb for a filmmaker exposing the pedophilia:

This unsettling Oscar-nominated documentary from
filmmaker Amy Berg investigates the life of 30-year pedophile Father Oliver
O’Grady and exposes the corruption inside the Catholic Church that allowed him
to abuse countless children.

Damning words. A terrible shadow over all the good
priests, the great majority I’m sure. Well here we are dealing with a true
movement inside the Jewish church of today, to support Israel vigorously in
politics and the discourse, with money, letters, etc. This is in my view a
lobby, a very fair journalistic generalization. It seems to me you establish a
code of sensitivity in the media re our group, Jews, that the media would never
uphold (and I suspect you wouldnt either) w/ respect to any other group. 

WITTY: I think generalization is at best a first stab at
understanding. Beyond that, someone that sincerely wants to know and convey
what occurred, or is occurring, must be more specific in one’s thinking and in

Even among AIPAC, there is support for respectful peace
efforts, so even to name AIPAC is NOT specific enough. I remember reading about
six months to a year ago, when prospective candidates were lining up to mingle
and make presentations at a national conference, on one day Dick Cheney showed
up and articulated the “we stand with you in your courageous defense against
Islamo-fascism. We will never hinder your efforts in any way.” (my
representation of his comments, not a quote). He got a standing ovation.

The next day, Barak Obama showed up and stated again in
very rough paraphrase, maybe even wishful thinking “We will stand with you in
your efforts to make a just peace for mutual security and well-being. We will
never hinder your efforts in any way. Anything that the US can do to enhance
the prospects of peace, my administration will do.” And, also received a
standing ovation, though probably from different members of AIPAC.

There are only a couple common commitments that AIPAC
members share, and on the issue of security that is the general unwillingness
to expose Israeli civilians to terror currently, and indefinitely. I share that
view. If that makes me complicit, then I am complicit.

There obviously are other organizations that make up a
loose coalition (even coordinated probably occasionally) that emphasize the
conservative viewpoints (also not monolithic).

When you speak of the Israel Lobby do you mean to lump in
BritZedek, or Meretz USA ? That is what Walt/Mearsheimer do, and you do, in
your choice of language. It was dramatic once, and achieved some questioning.
Now, that period is passed, and it doesn’t achieve inquiry but only
polarization and insult to those that are engaged within the system to
accomplish a peace.

I am in the civil middle. I reject the radical
approaches, the “throw them out” approaches, either of them (throw the Israelis
out, or throw the Palestinians out).

And, to present that emphasis, I need to be more specific
than the particular generalization, “THE Israel Lobby”.

I actively SUPPORT the “Healthy and Kind Israel Lobby”. I
oppose the “Expansionistic and Suppressive Israel Lobby”.

Even supporting or rejecting a person, I find inaccurate
to the point of qualms of conscience. People, groups, can change their
conclusions and strategy. I recently met a friend of the Olmert family, who
described that Olmert had a personal change in perspective from very
conservative (regarding the city of Jerusalem as Jewish when mayor) to
committed to peace. The individual I met cited that Olmert’s children had
encouraged him to meet with Israeli and Palestinian peace activists, that he
had an incomplete understanding of the community(s) that he had responsibility
for. I don’t know exactly where he settled his views, but the point is that
people, even organizations change. The people change and the conditions by
which they act out their decision structures change.

Generalization hinders that transformation.
Knowledge enhances it.

Another criticism of the use of the term is that it
doesn’t give room to “not know”. I don’t know what any other individual is
thinking. I don’t know what the collective consciousness of a group is. I don’t
know what occurred accurately. I don’t know what or how the relationship of individuals’
perspectives compare with “what really happened” (actually I accept that
history itself is a construction of objective and subjective, subjective
experience distinct from propaganda though).

In a generalization, is there any room for “I don’t
know”. In practice, it appears not.

I think Walt/Mearsheimer’s coining of the term, even
after they experienced criticism for that and for the polemic character of much
of the LRB article, indicates a parallel stubbornness to not learn from both
prior mistakes and intelligent criticisms. (They got yelled at by some, but
respectfully even fundamentally criticized by others. They adjusted to the
respectful criticisms of imprecise documentation, but not the fundamental
criticism of the “unrealist” generalization of the thesis as a whole.)

[Second email]

“we generalize about the christian evangelical movement
in politics being anti gay rights and anti abortion though i imagine there are
a good # of evangelicals who dissent on those views.”

I don’t, having met some committed fundamentalist
that regard the fundamentals of “love thy neighbor as thyself” as more
compelling and clearer, than “sodomy is an abomination”.

Similarly, for Jewish fundamentalists, ala the particular
yeshiva of the Jerusalem massacre. I’ve been to orthodox yeshiva when I was in
Israel in 1986, and got “thrown out” for not adopting the view that Torah was
literally given to Moses complete and identical at Sinai. Somehow including
details of his death, following the revelation, and somehow also including the
“complete” and “identical” oral tradition.

I emphasize, without sufficient study, that the purpose
of Jewish identity is described in Torah as to serve as a “nation of priests”
which I interpret in the revised understanding of the term tikkun olam, to be
comprehensive growth/transformation (deep individual, deep primary
relationships, deep community relationships, respectful inter-community
relationships, egalitarian, universally empowering).

And, that Torah (comprehensively understood, including
nature, including testable wisdom from all sources) is given to us to support
our effort to be capable of serving God and reality effectively in that manner.



I’m not entirely sure how to respond. A lot of your
commentary here has a spiritual character, which I agree with. I believe in
personal development and in ideas about community. Then there’s the world of policy. And people are bombing innocents or sanctioning them because they are in the wrong place, not showing sensitivity to the fact that they might not subscribe to their country’s political position.


The overall objection I have to your statements is that
they seem to me to reflect the views of a Jewish community that goes from
America to Israel and includes many diverse components, from peace camp to
hardliners, and you are on the liberal end. My definition of community is
different from yours; it is very American. This gives me much less sympathy to
Israelis, in fact I am not that interested in Olmert’s personal transformation.
I don’t really have time for it. I’m interested in Barak Obama’s
transformation, and yours and mine and Dick Cheney’s. This is my country, it’s
hard enough to keep up on the personalities and strains here without worrying
about Israel too. So when I hear about Olmert, my big question is, Has he stopped the racist settlements I observed when I visited his country and Palestine? 

You offer the varying responses to Cheney and Obama at
AIPAC as illustrative of a real range of opinion within the organization. I
don’t buy it. I would return you to a simple issue: the failure of Obama’s
Jewish congressional surrogate lately to reject the settlements in a debate
before a Jewish
audience in Ohio. I find this morally horrifying, having been to the
occupied territories. My moral urgency on this blog comes out of one central
drive—I do not want my country tied to the racism and apartheid that I saw in
Hebron and the West Bank. Simple.

Many Jews share my point of view, but again I
say when Obama’s spokesman goes to a Jewish audience in a political venue, he cannot even go near my
point of view. And even more staggering, he cannot approach the language of the
Road Map, our country’s official policy, which years ago said that settlements
must stop
. They don’t stop, in large part because of the politics of this.  

If there are a lot of sensitive thoughtful people in that audience, I don’t really care. For me, the generalization that The Political Jewish Community of
the U.S. supports the colonization policy of the Israeli government is a
true one. Yes it is a generalization, yes there is some nuance. But until a
leftleaning politician can even open up some dissent on this question, you
can’t challenge that generalization.

If I merge Brit Tzedek and APN, I do so because the peace
camp has been feckless with respect to the lobby. They have never challenged
the lobby effectively. A moment very much like the horrifying failure of Obama’s surrogate
to take a stand was the moment 4 years ago when Howard Dean backed down from
his position that there should be an evenhanded policy in the Middle East. This
horrified Dan Fleshler, a guy I have great respect for. He has bravely
described a meeting
of liberal Israel advocates after Dean’s collapse who failed to come out
on Dean’s side. He has spoken of the need for an alternative to the lobby.

believe such an alternative will emerge, thru IPF and Fleshler and MJ Rosenberg and others. But
we live in the real world, and so far it has not emerged. The peace camp could have
quit AIPAC over the settlements issue. I believe it should have quit AIPAC over
this issue. It refuses to do so.

The reason it doesn’t is that like you they are concerned
with Israeli security, the right of Jews to live in peace in Israel. I was with
Dan at a BBC radio event nearly 2 years ago at which he spoke about the latest
crisis in Israel. And he said then that Israel faced “existential” threat. I
challenged him after the radio talk about whether this was true, and he said he
had immediately regretted saying the word. My point in bringing this up is that a natural concern
for Jewish lives seems to morph into an “existential” concern that I believe
was born of the Holocaust. And I know too that at one key moment Dan actually spoke up for the lobby, concerned that if the lobby fractured, Israel could be pushed into the

In this sense I think Jews are being too ethnocentric. At the Ohio debate we see the concern of Jewish politicians with an "existential" threat from Iran that I believe is exaggerated, over any concern at all for the destruction of hope to Palestinian children now. We
are seeing a kind of holocaust in Iraq right now. Yet Jews only seem to see the Jewish lives lost, and rationalize this limited vision by saying that No one else cared about us during the Holocaust. I
see those Israeli lives lost, but the answers that Israel has come up with are
essentially violent ones. I want nothing to do with them.

I don’t understand what is wrong with Walt and
Mearsheimer’s argument. I see nothing wrong with it. I think it was brave,
important and earthshaking. You are a religious person and you see everyone as
different and special, I sense. You are not statistical in your point of view.
I am more political in my focus and see things statistically. And again I say
that there is this powerful force in American politics that is kneecapping
anyone who says the settlements are a bad thing. I am morally outraged by this,
and will work against it. I am not sure who’s driving the train, if it is conservative Jews, leadership
Jews, neocon Jews, establishment Jews, older Jews; or if it blends elements of
all of these, which is my own experience of Jewish life; still it is there and
must be identified and opposed. As I opposed the religious right.

The generalizations of the media about the religious right
were often crude. I met some of those religious people as you have and as a religious person myself (with a far less evolved practice than yours) empathized with
them. But how do you explain the movement of voters in Ohio in ’04 who helped
defeat Kerry over gay marriage? They were religious right. I don’t know if they
were 10 percent or 90 percent of the Christian community, but it seems utterly
fair of the media to use the generalization, evangelical Christian, when trying to understand their power; and then go
in and see if there are distinctions to be made.

You seem angry that we have not been specific enough
about the lobby. I wish I understood it better myself. But note that when a
well-known journalist gives a talk to the lobby on how to help Israel in the
upcoming elections, Peter Beinart the other day, AIPAC won’t let me attend; and
Beinart doesn’t write about it. I attended Middle East Forum and CAMERA events
by paying $50 a shot, and then I reported on how those organizations work. Two years ago
when the New York Theatre Workshop cancelled a scheduled production of the Rachel
Corrie play because of pressure from the community or board members, I covered
that story for the Nation and couldn’t get a straight answer about why this censorship
took place. The chairman of the NYTW is a former college roommate of mine,
Stephen Graham, a son of the late Katharine and Philip Graham. He did not return my
phone call. Was that the lobby? Yes, it was: it was some kind of campaign
against the right of Rachel Corrie even in death to free speech. And it would
not identify itself; or those who saw it in action wouldn’t say how it worked.

The same sort of campaign which you
dignify as criticism was launched against Walt and Mearsheimer. I think part of
what you object to is an earnest journalistic effort on the part of a few
people, including lately Aaron David Miller on his website, to open this
process up and describe what goes on, so far a piecemeal effort involving a very complex political process that has been going on for more than 60 years and, according to Abba Eban, involves American Jews applying "pressure and influence" on American presidents. Until
Fleshler’s people actually take a stand, or the Times starts investigating the
lobby earnestly, or politicians come out against it, our efforts will be like the nine blind guys who go into a room
with an elephant and come out describing it in very different ways. This is the
nature of intellectual inquiry. 

One more point. I have been to a few Muslim countries. My
observation is that they are generally struggling with women’s rights issues
and freedom of speech. They are backward in this respect. I share the conventional prejudice on this score; these are generalizations that I feel are true and
important, inasmuch as these issues are affecting world politics. Do they
reflect every Muslim individual? No. Still I pray for reform of these backward
values in the Arab world. As I work for reform of my American Jewry, which has capitulated to racist policies half a world away.

I hope I was listening to you! Back to you…

20 Responses

  1. Richard Witty
    March 14, 2008, 9:08 pm

    A lot to respond to. I'm not sure that you heard me clearly though. You seemed to get on a roll there. (my metaphor of a car going forward and ignoring what is going on around, all muscle no senses anymore, the passengers forgetting that the car is a projectile as well as a medium of transportation).

    My parents were very sympathetic with Zionism. My mother's father was a New England fundraiser for I don't know what organization from the early 30's on, before naziism. He had pictures and letters from Chaim Weizman. He died when I was six, and my mother adopted his sentiment. Her brother, my uncle, served in an intelligence translation unit in North Africa in WW2, and only speaks hatefully (I mean hatefully) of Arabs. I don't know to what extent he had personal experience, but I do know his intensity about it.

    My father you know. He was very similar ideologically to my aunt, whom you knew very well. Liberal, but quiet about it. My aunt was more open about it and had a publicly prominent job so even as she necessarily kept her politics subdued, her sentiments and skills to apply them were obvious.

    Both surprised me in their defenses of Israel, and unquestioningly, independant of Israel's policies, behavior. (Neither sought to harm, and my aunt seemed more aware even of Palestinians' existence, but they never expressed to me anything other than support for Israel.)

    I did have a spiritual experience in my Bar Mitzvah preparation. Most important to me was the v'ahavta prayer.

    "You shall love Yah with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might (body). And these words which I command you today shall be upon your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall discuss them when you sit at home, and when you travel on the road and when you lie down and when you rise."

    I value the continuity of Jewish values. The deep commitment in that prayer. Its unequivocal. Its not "keep a little love going". Its definitely not "make sure that you are politically correct." Its "you shall love with ALL of your being."

    And, as many inspiring Jews have expressed and modeled, including putting that love into practise in all one's relations, including political, but not from ideas or math, but from love, amplified idea.

    I find that the generalization prohibits me from the intimacy, the customization necessary to love in reality (even if I don't live up to that bar most of the time). And, in my politics.

    Too much baby out with the bathwater for my tastes.

    I don't understand how in one breath you can say that you respect Dan Fleshler for example, then in the next describe him in some respect as complicit with the worst of expansionistic Zionism.

    I had some correspondence with Michael Lerner in which he said the same thing as you imply, that Israel needed tough love, reality checks, as much or moreso than they needed the appeasement of unquestioning identification.

    Maybe the need for action is obvious, and that supercedes thinking about how to choose and clarify what exactly is the goal, and what is the kindest means to accomplish the goal.

    Politically, most importantly, I find that the generalization HINDERS the political effort to change things. It alienates those that hold the same sentiments of caring for the other.

    It sounds more self-satisfying than accomplishing anything of merit.

    I've described how I believe that the Israel/Palestine conflict is NOT parallel to apartheid, because of the equal demographics in Israel/Palestine, oil and water communities currently.

    The work that I could see as valid and progressive, would include assistance to Palestinian or joint Israeli/Palestinian projects based on universalistic commitments. Things like universities, hospitals (Hippocratic ethic). Also things like ecological innovations like greywater management, water conservative agriculture, photovoltaics.

    Also, non-polemic description of each others' experience. A traveling holocaust/zionist/nakba museum, as hard as that is to get one's head around.

    Yah/Allah does.

    My understanding of the Walt/Mearsheimer thesis is that it was an attempt to deconstruct the means by which the likud approach got adopted unquestioningly by the Bush administration, and not confronted by those with more dually loyal views. (Israel, America, AND the world as a whole, rather than just the good guys and the bad guys).

    That seems to be of only temporary relevance, if that.

    (Except in the mouths and pens of those that bear permanent animosity towards Israel and Jews.)

    How do you distinguish Phil? How is a generalization careful enough? How does it turn on a dime, when the conditions change?

  2. Richard Witty
    March 14, 2008, 10:08 pm

    "My definition of community is different from yours; it is very American. "

    That isn't what I remember of you. I remember fundamental dissent from what is American.

    In my own experience, what is close to me is my community. America is too big.

    My family (nuclear, and extended less so. I see you as often as I see my cousins), my friendships, my home town (small, not anonymous at all), my workplace.

    Jewish community is an element, but more in thankfulness to my parents for the transmission of what taught and modeled and interacted, that I feel as a continuing river in my relationships to my sons.

    I have a few old friends that I've recently reconnected with that never had children (they were teenage lovers in my home town, now 40 years. I love their friendship. I don't really know why they didn't have children.

    We haven't talked about any different attitudes. I'm still in the midst of responsibility for mine. I expect that later, I will be more freely my own person, and revise some of my current views.

    It has been important to me, an introduction to the real.

    A closeup.

    Not particularly political.

    The areas that I know about are energy and taxation, and I do feel confident to state what others should do, what policy should be.

    Israel/Palestine is too confusing for me to say confidently. I'm too aware of the pains of each. I know that even in events that many condemn, I don't know enough to, and won't compromise myself by speculating pretending to be certainty (with potentially harmful consequences).

  3. Dom
    March 15, 2008, 12:44 am

    I wanted to say that, in my opinion, this is quite an extraordinary debate; by both of you; very impressive given the types of hostility this issues usually seems to elicit.

    I also wanted to ask a question, and explain why I ask it. I am not Jewish, as will be evident by the question.

    The right wing, or conservative (or whatever the correct word would be) part of the Jewish community (in Israel and the US), has embraced, so to speak, the right wing Evangelical Protestant community, because of the Evangelicals hard core political support for Israel. I think this is a fairly accurate description, and is well known.

    So where does that leave those of us Christians (I am Catholic) who happen to be liberal, and are concerned about both Israelis and Palestinians?

    More precisely, what would either of you see as an appropriate response on the part of Christians to this issue? Or if appropriate is the wrong word…what would you Like to see Christians doing, that might in some way alleviate Jewish fears, and/or support the Jewish community as it struggles with this genuinely awful conflict?

  4. paul malfara
    March 15, 2008, 5:03 am

    Hey Dom,

    Seems to me that you're a big part of the problem. We're looking for a solution for the problem of Israel/Palestine. "Alleviating Jewish fears and/or supporting the Jewish community as it struggles with this genuinely awful conflict" is NOT going to solve the problem. Phil is trying to solve the problem, by addressing America's BLIND adherence to a right-wing, Likudite policy of supporting ANYTHING that Israel does.

    If you're concerned about both the Palestinians and the Israelis, as you say, I'd suggest your supporting a more evenhanded approach to peace in the Middle East. That entails dealing with the elected government of Palestine, promoting a unity government, DEMANDING the cessation of settlement expansion in the Occupied Territories, and perhaps getting back to the Clinton parameters.

    Damn it man, just looking at your post raises my gall. I'm a liberal lapsed Catholic myself, and asking Richard Witty about what the Americans should do to alleviate the fears of the Jewish community is NOT PART OF THE SOLUTION.


  5. Richard Witty
    March 15, 2008, 6:06 am

    One thing that you can do is object to expansionism, and urge that the US put its weight into the mediation process to not accept rationalization for the building of new settlements for example.

    Other things that you can do is from a place of respecting both/all communities, continue to witness, and speak of what you witness, moreso than the politics that you see. (The failing of the promotion of young idealistic Rachel Corrie. I don't know the person herself.)

    There is something very inspiring about committing to never hate, while witnessing unnecessary pain.

    We tend to get impatient, and want it to be solved already.

    Why is this still happening? Why is another generation still in camps rather than viable homes/communities? Why is another generation still shelled, even by just "firecrackers"?

    Witness is very painful. If you've ever counseled a troubled marriage, there are always valid experiences and concerns, and also idiotically constructed and coercively expressed dysfunctions.

    If you are engaged and active, I would recommend starting or assisting in some of the joint projects that humanize the other, that are based on the firmly held a-nationalist values like medical services (guided by the hippocratic oath, heal who is there, not heal only Jews or Arabs), and the ecological (for which boundaries are itself an absurdity).

    (An aside. When doctors participate in terror as in England last year, or when terrorists use ambulances as their delivery vehicles, it shifts everything to "which side are you on?, the distrust is so wrenching")

    Next up in a-national development is to facilitate trade between the peoples. "Its not personal, its business." That is later in some ways because to conduct trade confidently requires physical security as a prerequisite. But, it makes a big difference.

    Ironically, that is the stated goal of much of the neo-conservative goals for the region that I've read, to create a Middle East free trade zone, of course with American advantage. (While Phil and Walt/Mearsheimer look for inferences of Israeli advantage, the material that I've read has emphasized American opportunism much much moreso, which I don't regard as so great ethically either.)

    None of this is possible though with American enabling even the relatively incidental incremental pace of settlement expansion that is happening now.

    The pace and structure of settlement expansion is likely to INCREASE dramatically if likud wins the next elections, if Netanyahu is elected prime minister and in a xenophobic coalition.

    To Islamic Jihad, Hamas, PFLP, Hezbollah "Don't you see that if Netanyahu is elected prime minister, that the conditions will be worse for Palestine. Don't you want to do what you can to influence who is in the Israeli government?"

    "We don't care. Our resistance is what is important."

  6. Charles Keating
    March 15, 2008, 9:18 am

    It's great to hear from Paul after so long!
    There was something I had wanted to ask you . . . oh yes, Paul, are you still raping dogs?

  7. Richard Witty
    March 15, 2008, 10:08 am


    Could you please refrain from the disgusting comments on threads that I post on?

  8. Dom
    March 15, 2008, 12:12 pm

    To Paul Malfara,

    My first response is…how on earth would you know that I am not as concerned about Palestinians as I am about Israelis? That I do not already support an even-handed approach, as you describe it?

    As for your complete disregard for Jewish fears..did it ever occur to you to ask…what is it, exactly, that Jews are afraid of? That you don't seem to have ANY clue about the importance of this issue is NOT impressive, at least to me.

    For Jews, it seems to me, there is more than politics involved in this issue. Do you actually read, and think about, some of the things Phillip and Richard are saying?

    Your self righteousness is awesome to behold. When was the last time you lost any sleep, Paul, over the stolen land YOU live on? What have YOU done to alleviate the wretched conditions of native Americans? Have you ever even heard of Pine Ridge?
    And tell me, please, how this is any different, from a moral standpoint?

    Are YOU supporting any efforts to rectify the extraordinary injustice inflicted on these (native American) people? (and which CONTINUES to be inflicted on them.)

    The easiest thing in the world is to pass judgement on others.

    You are a lapsed Catholic? So what? Why don't you study a little Catholic history, vis a vis the Jews, and then tell me you feel qualified to be so damn self righteous.

    I would conclude by saying it is attitudes like YOURS, Paul, that FUEL Jewish fears. And justifiably so. It is precisely because I AM balanced in my feelings and views about this conflict that I think Jewish concerns are as important as those of Palestinians.

  9. Anonymous
    March 15, 2008, 12:42 pm

    "I would conclude by saying it is attitudes like YOURS, Paul, that FUEL Jewish fears."

    Yawn, come back in ten year and let us know if you still believe such fantasies. Probably most people here, including me, were like you at some point of their lives. Now we know we were indeed part of the problem. One day that will dawn on you too.

  10. Charles Keating
    March 15, 2008, 1:03 pm

    This is my first post today. I'm disappointed you think I would post something like the juvenile post attributed to me above. It was posted in my name by the same person who has been posting in my name for many days now. If you go back over the last couple weeks of posts, you will see I've been posting denials
    each time this person posts in my name.

  11. Richard Witty
    March 15, 2008, 1:12 pm

    You didn't get the significance of the quotes?

  12. LeaNder
    March 15, 2008, 2:10 pm

    Richard Witty: May I ask you a couple of questions?

    Do you think that antisemitism is an ahistorical and "eternally returning" fact of Jewish life? Just as accompanying pogroms and holocausts?

    And that anti-Zionism is only it's modern dress?


    Do you think that Philip's blog or choice of topic is dangerous, and why?

  13. Richard Witty
    March 15, 2008, 2:56 pm

    There is nothing inevitable about anti-semitism. It is constructed from propaganda and adopted by those for whom acceptance of the other is not a firm ethic.

    I think that the content of Phil's blog, particularly the choice of Walt/Mearsheimer text as defining rock in the stream, is potentially dangerous.

    If "The Israel Lobby" becomes the defining slogan of mass dissent, that would be dangerous. The generalization would get applied to persecute, and potentially as hatefully as fascist literature.

    Anyone read any propaganda by Mussolini? Ezra Pound for example embraced the Italian fascist criticism of the imagined Jewish dominance of banking and media and ended up writing and narrating propaganda broadcasts for Mussolini and later for the Nazis. He chose his side.

    Brilliant Ezra Pound was that gullible, and that immature to accept that there are contradictions in the world, that he could live healthily and still "not know".

    "Ironically", the statement that the federal reserve is parasitic, and that it was controlled by Jews, WAS the line of the fascist movement.

  14. Charles Keating
    March 15, 2008, 4:49 pm


    Oops, sorry–I was in a hurry and missed your quotes around my first name.

    PS: Even NAZI ideology accepted contradictions in the world, for example theoretically, regarding who by NAZI fiat was a Jew, and as practical tactic, for example when a handful of middle class German wifes of German Jewish husbands defied the arrest of their husbands in the then NAZI public square–their loud request to release their husbands was honored.

    I guess once anything moves beyond the most purely personal to the political arena it's a matter of degree. Buber changed his tune, no?

    No effective propaganda has ever been unseasoned with some fact.

    Both the Federal Reserve System and Usury (Ezra's pet peeve) are once again in the news; some key economists call for their end with some pretty cogent arguments–as others did in our past.

    Politicians everywhere have always played the demographic card at hand, tar brushing by stastics and/or head count in any given area of structural root weakness in any national system. They can be relied on to slyly shift the focus on a new pawn to be made expendable when something in their power strategy is being countered and it looks like they need a new pawn to queen.

    That given, so I don't disagree with anything you say here. What would you say is the rock in the stream?

  15. LeaNder
    March 15, 2008, 6:34 pm

    By "Defining rock in the stream" you mean, "the lobby" should not be regarded as the main moving force behind the WWIII/IV scenario?

    How do you explain that it is much more easy for its critics to give evidence for the power of "the lobby" than for "lefties" like Finkelstein and Chomsky to point out other concrete influences behind the WWIII/IV / "the Islamofascist Threat" scenario with its diverse new Hitlers?

    I think it is much more healthy that W&M put the debate out their in the open. It had been around anyway. That's why I only found it frightening on first sight.

    The same I think about Philip's blog.

    PS: I usually hesitate to use the term anti-Zionism instead of criticism of Israel.

    link to yale.edu.

    Just noticed this:

    link to ips.org

  16. LeaNder
    March 15, 2008, 6:36 pm

    Shit: Out "there" not out "their"

    Shit happens.

  17. Glenn Condell
    March 16, 2008, 1:02 am

    'So when I hear about Olmert, my big question is, Has he stopped the racist settlements I observed when I visited his country and Palestine? '

    On the contrary, more have just been announced. Cue wringing of liberal Zionist hands.

    'I am in the civil middle.'

    You are sitting on the fence, gazing with approval at your relative's garden, well watered, spacious and thriving, even as you pointedly ignore the poor blighted soil of the tiny place next door, the inhabitants of which used to own both places. The new owners didn't purchase the place either; they simply enlisted some powerful, but guilt-ridden friends, to help them settle in on the ashes of the past owners' dreams.

    'But note that when a well-known journalist gives a talk to the lobby on how to help Israel in the upcoming elections, Peter Beinart the other day, AIPAC won’t let me attend; and Beinart doesn’t write about it.'

    It's proceedings were secret in much the same way as Cheney's Energy Task Force meetings were, and still are. Viz; 'We need a plan that no-one else can know about, because if we were upfront, we'd be accused of (a) planning the theft of another nation's resources, (b) treason.'

    'put its weight into the mediation process to not accept rationalization for the building of new settlements for example'

    'put it's weight' isn't specific enough. 'Threaten to withdraw financial and military support' would be better.

    Great to see such a discussion though.

  18. Richard Witty
    March 16, 2008, 5:48 am

    As Glenn so courteously brought up, you sited "racist" settlements.

    Are they? Isn't a settlement an inanimate thing? Is land Jewish or Arab or Muslim? (Not by my definition. Land is land. Title may be held by a Jew or an Arab or a Muslim, or a human, however they define themselves.)

    Is every one of them "racist"? What made them racist? Does being a beneficiary of a racist state policy, make you a racist?

    Is the condition of Jews prohibited from living there racist? Is the condition of Jews living there racist? (We agree that the condition of Arabs prohibited is racist.)

    Is it the behavior of the individuals living there that is racist? Or is it the buildings themselves?

    If the settlers were removed, by law, and then by force, and individual Palestinians took over homes for free that cost money to build, would that be theft? Wouldn't those individuals be beneficiaries of institutionalized theft? On racist basis?

    Why use rhetorical words so carelessly, why at all, without defining, more importantly, without thinking thoroughly?

    It would have gone by easily, if not for Glenn's questions.

    Its what I meant by "you got on a roll" (like a car projecting forward, periphery be damned, even where going forward is needed.)

  19. Richard Witty
    March 16, 2008, 6:01 am

    I'm in the civil middle, the middle that is willing to live and let live, that is struggling to be applied, and is not thoroughly by any party (except impotent Meretz, liberal Zionist).

    The anti-Zionist conclusions and rhetoric is not the civil middle. It rejects the validity of the choices and lives of half the population of the region.

    The incremental expansion of sovereign Israel is not the civil middle. (Even as Olmert reportedly feels for Palestinians' welfare, its necessary to act for Palestinians welfare. Feeling is at best a first step, not unlike the speculation of generalization – similar in content and consequences to financial speculation.)

    From the civil middle, acceptance of peoples, it is possible to then choose varying "solutions" depending on conditions.

    From the partisan, it is possible to change politics, to come to accept where conditions change so long as one doesn't adopt "by any means necessary", including in word.

    Mass movements aren't particularly precise nor kind historically. The exceptions are the intentionally rigorously internally reviewed non-violent ones.

  20. Glenn Condell
    March 17, 2008, 9:21 pm

    'Isn't a settlement an inanimate thing?'

    So is a concentration camp if it comes to that. Buildings are blameless, the people in them are not.

    'Does being a beneficiary of a racist state policy, make you a racist?'

    Yes, if you do nothing to change the situation.

    'If the settlers were removed, by law, and then by force, and individual Palestinians took over homes for free that cost money to build, would that be theft?'

    You mean 'individual Palestinians returned to the homes that had been stolen from them'. No, that would not be theft in my book.

    'The anti-Zionist conclusions and rhetoric is not the civil middle'

    Those conclusions are correct, practically and morally. Whether they fit some arbitrary division of what's mainstream or not doesn't matter a fig.

    'It rejects the validity of the choices and lives of half the population of the region.'

    Their choices Richard are not valid; they are being made, indeed are only possible, by stamping on the choices of the rightful owners of the land – thieves' choices don't stack up against them.

    'Feeling is at best a first step, not unlike the speculation of generalization – similar in content and consequences to financial speculation.'

    I'm afraid you have succeeded in losing me. Even the best sophistry does tend to turn to waffle after a while.

    'The exceptions are the intentionally rigorously internally reviewed non-violent ones.'

    Like Zionism?

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