Lawrence Wright plays it safe on Gaza

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 57 Comments

Two weeks ago on this site, Michael Ratner reviewed a play about Gaza called The Human Scale, by Lawrence Wright, a writer for the New Yorker. The show ran for four nights in NY. Well, here is another review, which must be anonymous, as the writer fears for his/her employment. We don’t usually jump on (well actually, we sometimes do!), but Wright is an important writer…

Last month, the Public Theater in Manhattan staged a new piece, entitled The Human Scale, written and performed by Lawrence Wright, of the New Yorker, on the recent history of Gaza since the capture of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. The production is based on his November 2009 article on his travels to Gaza and Israel, “Captives”, which refers to both Shalit and the population in siege-ridden Gaza. This play deserves a lot of credit for revealing under-reported conditions on life in Gaza in the three years following Shalit’s capture on June 26, 2006, including details on the destruction of the Gazan economy, casualty figures, findings of the Goldstone Report, and others.

Surely no one needs to remind readers of this site what an ideological profession the business of journalism is, but wow, I must say I was pretty surprised at some of incredible omissions of causality and fact in Wright’s performance that probably weren’t noticed in the slightest by the seemingly-sympathetic audience in attendance. Well, this site’s dedicated to dispelling vulgar propaganda, so let’s begin:

The entire premise of the play was built upon some apparent spiritual linkage of the captivity of Shalit and the 1.5 million subhumans locked inside Gaza. The show began with the October 2009 video of Shalit issued by his captors to the Israeli government and the press. Shalit appears gaunt, reciting his name and rank and health and other things. And according to Wright, his captivity is the reason for the ongoing siege of Gaza.

Nice place to start history, considering the “economic diplomacy” (to use the words of the Israel Project) imposed on Gaza began well before Shalit’s capture, and began to take form immediately following the September 2005 withdrawal of Israeli settlements from the Strip under Ariel Sharon. Looking back at that period, an agreement on the degree of air-tightness of the closure of the strip was negotiated between Israel, the pathetic Palestinian Authority, and the European Union, ensuring Israeli supervision, and in effect, veto power, over all persons and goods entering the strip. At the time, James Wolfensohn, the Quartet’s Special Envoy in charge of coordinating the withdrawal and border policy, complained publicly about the lack of cooperation by the Israelis, backed by the US, in living up to the terms of the nominal “independence” gifted to Gaza, with only 10% of Gazan exports being allowed to leave the strip, and continued Israeli control of the borders, coastline, and airspace of Gaza, crippling any hopes for self-sustenance in the territory. This impasse eventually led to Wolfensohn’s resignation from the post in 2006, which he elaborated on in a number of public statements and interviews. Thus began the proto-siege, which has been repeatedly tightened in successively sadistic stages since.

The next major tightening of the blockade came with the election of Hamas to power in January 2006, which crippled the banking system by freezing the assets of banks doing business in Gaza, as well as further restricted the entry of food, medicine, fuel, and other crucial supplies. Wright’s play pretends that this state of affairs began in reaction to the capture of Shalit, which is either the result of journalistic incompetence, deliberate omission, or “dramatic license” for the sake of framing a theatrical narrative.

In fact, this second phase of the siege began on January 26, 2006, almost exactly six months before Shalit’s capture. Whatever the reason for this omission, it helped mischaracterize Israel’s actions as an overreaction borne of concern for the helpless captured son of Zion, rather than the form of collective punishment that has been the go-to practice in that country’s conduct for decades against the populations of the lands that have fallen under its occupation. I think Abba Eban’s impolite explanation for this in 1981 explaining Israel’s continual bombardment of Lebanon in 1981, “there was a rational prospect, ultimately fulfilled, that afflicted populations would exert pressure on governments for the cessation of hostilities…” makes for a good operating principle in describing the trend. Using the June 26, 2006 capture of Shalit to explain these actions obscenely suggests that the siege, along with the never-ceasing attacks on Gaza since the withdrawal, have somehow been the exceptions to the norm of conduct during the serial aggressions of the Jewish state.

Now that we’ve called into question the entire opening premise of “The Human Scale”, let’s take a look at other artistic approximations of history (maybe the work should have been publicized as historical fiction to avoid these criticisms), as well as the good points.

The piece moved on to warm discussions humanizing Jews, with their contributions to science, the arts, philanthropy, Nobel Prizes won, etc. This was followed by the same showering of cuddles about the various contributions of Muslims to modern societies. All very nice, though Wright ended that line by pointedly noting that Muslims have only achieved 8 Nobels, compared to the countless won by Jews. I thought that was a nice touch, lest anyone suspect Wright be a crypto-Muhammadite.

Wright alluded to a line of Jewish law referring to hostages, stating that some Mishna verse “forbids ransom of hostages for more than their value for it disrupts the balance of the universe”– when comparing the ransom demanded by Shalit’s Palestinian captors, of around 1000 prisoners, in exchange for the Israeli soldier, thereby posing a bunch of theological questions about the worth of Jews to Arabs. He then went on to beatify the corporal with cosmic musings on “What is the value of this single Jewish life?”

The second section of the play was filled with these sappy posits. Perhaps it moved some “we need dialogue” types in the audience, but didn’t really do much for miserable cynics like myself.

The next section laid out the immediate background to the capture of Shalit, the June 9, 2006 Israeli attack that killed two Hamas commanders, as well as a number of civilians. A video was played showing a screaming Palestinian girl next to the corpse of a slain relative following this strike. I’d give Wright a point for acknowledging the suffering of Palestinians in a pretty gross video that dragged on long for dramatic effect. I’m sure he forgot (again) to mention the unilateral ceasefire undertaken and upheld for the prior sixteen months by Hamas preceding this Israeli attack. Nice for presenting the Tom-and-Jerry conflict as one of tit-for-tat retaliation between intractable foes.

Wright then continues to mention, retroactively, the election of Hamas to power earlier in 2006. He states that Fatah refused to accept the result of this election, and in response to this, Mahmoud Abbas called for a referendum amongst Palestinians accepting or rejecting a two-state solution to the conflict. This referendum, did indeed happen, but Wright claims at this point that the reason the path to peace was averted at this chance was the intransigence of Hamas. What he failed to mention was the American role in forcing the following events to unfold, leading to the takeover of Gaza by Hamas forces. Up to this point, the collaborationist Fatah government was economically supported by millions of dollars in aid by the Umited States and the European Union. Once Hamas won the elections, the US, along with the EU, withdrew direct economic support for the Palestinian Authority, to “encourage” a regime change within the territories that would exclude Hamas from participation.

Wright repeatedly insisted on Hamas’ perpetual rejection of the common two-state solution as a leading cause of, if not the primary cause of the impasse in reaching a peace agreement. He does not mention, however, Hamas’ position of acceptance of the 1967 borders as the basis for a long-term truce as of 2005, and, as of 2007, a permanent peace. These positions have, indeed, been reported, including within American media, repeatedly since then, in the Associated Press, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and others. They remain unmentionable, inconvenient facts to this day, however, but I expected more from Wright.

And of course, the subsequent US military aid and training of Fatah death squads to overthrow the Hamas government after economic sanctions failed to displace Hamas from power also went unmentioned. The ruckus in the summer of 2007 that led to the complete takeover of Gaza by Hamas was characterized by Wright as a civil war amongst Palestinians, which is true to a degree, as could be said about conflict between the Sandinistas and Contras in Nicaragua in the 1980s. I would imagine the US role in enabling all this bloodshed might be of interest to a responsible investigative American journalist, as well as the New York crowd, but sadly, Wright helped to shatter my faith in the courage of mainstream reporters in our country.

He proceeded to quote Ari Shavit, a columnist for Ha’aretz whom he takes very seriously (as New Yorker editor David Remnick did before him), giving the standard Israeli propaganda line against further territorial withdrawals: “We dismantled the settlements, and then we sat back and said, ‘Let’s have a new beginning.’ What we got was rockets and Gilad Shalit.” I guess that sounds pretty reasonable, if one forgets the fact that Israeli attacks on Gaza never ended following withdrawal, as illustrated by the June 9 attack and the many more preceding it. No surprise, Wright didn’t challenge this line, though he was certainly aware that the violence during the period following withdrawal was not one-sided.

The siege that supposedly began with the capture of Shalit should be considered the third stage of suffocation of Gaza, the fourth coming after the Hamas ouster of US-backed Fatah death squads. To his credit, Wright does compare the death tolls of Israelis and Palestinians between 2005 and 2007, with Palestinians coming out way ahead, by an order of magnitude or two. Puzzlingly, he doesn’t continue this line of reasoning when he moves on later to the events precipitating the massacre of December 2008-January 2009. No, Wright goes on to read from the Hamas charter, quoting its dedication to the liberation of all Palestine, its rejection of the right to exist of the state of Israel, and its quoting of Islamic scripture justifying the murder of Jews.

Sick stuff, indeed. For a second I was beginning to feel some sympathy for the leadership of the Morlocks living under military occupation for the past 43 years, but those quotes helped avert that crisis. My faith in atheism was in question before this, but Wright helped reaffirm it with these quotes. The clash of civilizations, indeed. I hoped he had more for the audience. It would have been helpful then, if Wright continued on to paint a more comprehensive picture of the attitudes of the antagonists in the clash by quoting the founding documents of the Likud Party, which have never renounced their claims to the land that encompasses the state of Jordan today, or David Ben-Gurion, or Ehud Olmert, affirming the “right” within even the left and centrist parties in Israel to the whole of the territory between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea. He could have quoted the comparisons of Palestinians and Iranians to the Amaleks, in the Old Testament by Benjamin Netanyahu and mainstream Israeli religious figures, or the notion of collective punishment that makes up the fable of Noah’s Ark, if he were seeking to persuade the audience of the lunacy of these mutual religious rejectionists.

But, disappointingly, he didn’t find the time for anyone but Hamas. Bernard Lewis would have been proud.

At last we arrived at Operation Cast Lead. He began by mentioning the ceasefire that was in place for the six months preceding the event. He didn’t shy away from describing the Israeli attack on November 4, 2008 that precipitated the end of that agreement. Hamas responded to this attack by resuming firing retaliatory rockets into Israel. He (truly laughably) lamented why Hamas could not just agree to renew the ceasefire afterward to avert the destruction that soon came. His memory failed him again, as there was no mention of the substance of the ceasefire agreement, ie, a termination of firing of stone-age rockets in exchange for lifting the siege, which never happened. I suppose that, in Wright’s mind, Hamas and the Gazan population would have entered the world of the civilized if they simply agreed to starve to death silently. That makes sense, considering that Wright framed his piece to tie the execution of the siege to the captivity of Gilad Shalit.

He then went into the details of the Gaza massacre. Numerous pictures of destruction were displayed on the video screens. Excerpts from the Goldstone Report were read, describing the destruction of what remained of the Gazan infrastructure and economy, including its farmland, power plants, sewage system, factories, and more. He gave conflicting figures about the death toll of the massacre between Israeli and Palestinian and human rights organizations, and their differing proportions in sorting out combatants and civilians. Several thick stacks of papers of reports from Human Rights Watch, Goldstone, Breaking The Silence, and B’tselem were held up and compared to a thin Israeli probe on its conduct during the war, obviously to illustrate the comparison between the consensus of humanity on the onslaught and Israel’s downplaying of the violence.

And Wright deserves credit for that. But then he went on again to cover his ass from any suspicions of excessive sympathy for the Palestinians by oddly stating, in light of all the facts and pictures he had offered, that “Israel of course went to extraordinary measures to protect civilian life. [It] dropped over 2.5 million leaflets warning people to flee.” Very strange indeed, considering the facts and pictures of death and destruction he had just spent several minutes on that seemed to prove the opposite. There was very little discrimination in the bombing in Gaza; everything got it– houses, the “civilian infrastructure”, UN facilities, international schools, hospitals, the coastline, the country, the cities. My eyebrow was raised for a second at this seeming contradiction. He followed this by saying “but of course, Gaza was totally encircled, and there was nowhere to flee.” Oh, okay, never mind.

Wright concluded the performance by blaming Hamas for its refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist and or renounce violence. Unfortunately for me, a few more questions arose in my mind here. Has Israel ever accepted the right of a Palestinian state’s existence? Has Israel ever agreed to renounce violence? What exactly is “the right to exist” of a state? In fact, Israel has done neither of the first two, and “the right to exist” is not a concept that exists anywhere in international law, in the UN Charter, any of the Geneva Conventions, anywhere. The idea has more or less been invented by supporters of Israeli aggression as an excuse to avoid the long-standing international consensus on a two-state solution, based on the pre-1967 borders between Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. That settlement is reaffirmed every year by the UN General Assembly in its Peaceful Settlement Of The Question of Palestine vote by literally the entire world, with the United States, Israel, and more recently, Australia, playing the roles of the rejectionists of peace. These guidelines basically restate the guidelines of UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967, and are duplicated, literally word-for-word, in the Saudi Peace Plan of 2002, and is accepted even by every Arab state, as well as the PLO, as well as (surprise, surprise) Hamas.

Wright is correct in reminding us that Hamas does not accept the “right to exist” of Israel. Hamas has repeatedly recognized its political existence, as has the entire Islamic world, Fatah, Hezbollah, and Iran, but not the “right” of Israel to have displaced them from their ancestral land.

Such details don’t matter much when playing it safe for American liberals in a theater crowd.

The play ended with one last plaintive mourning for the two parties of victims, the children who just can’t stop fighting no matter the toll to their respective societies, and Wright pondered why Hamas would be so willing to persist in its thirst for death no matter the cost to the Gazan population. I suppose asking why Israel can’t end its siege of Gaza and occupation of the territories considering the (much smaller) death toll it’s experienced over decades would be impolite though.

And last was the final prayer for peace, remembering what life was like in the region 23 years ago, at the time of Gilad Shalit’s birth. According to Wright, it was a hopeful time when over 100,000 Gazan laborers worked within Israel, there were tensions, but still a sense of optimism between the sides of a common future together, or some similar cartoonish pleasantries. Why couldn’t we go back to that? That nice period of occupation when soldiers were human enough to only break the bones of protesters. But that’s literally the question the play ended with.

57 Responses

  1. Keith
    April 4, 2010, 6:36 pm

    Excellent summation of recent Gaza history. Valuable references.

  2. Larry
    April 4, 2010, 7:49 pm

    The very fact that The Human Scam, I mean The Human Scale ran for four nights in New York is very proof of the worthlessness of the play (sight unseen). If it had any teeth, it would not have played one night in New York. The descriptions you give of scenes in it are hollow. But then what can one expect? The New Yorker is the magazine of the generic, politically-correct species of Liberal.
    I still remember Joseph Papp and his disgusting censorship of the Palestinian production of The Story of Kufur Shamma at The Pubic Theater over 20 years ago.
    And then there is My Name is Rachel Corrie.
    New York is sadly a glorified hick town…

    • Larry
      April 4, 2010, 7:59 pm

      By the way, Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower is a fascinating book. I read it twice since it was written like a suspense novel.

  3. James Bradley
    April 4, 2010, 8:00 pm

    Wright repeatedly insisted on Hamas’ perpetual rejection of the common two-state solution as a leading cause of, if not the primary cause of the impasse in reaching a peace agreement. He does not mention, however, Hamas’ position of acceptance of the 1967 borders as the basis for a long-term truce as of 2005, and, as of 2007, a permanent peace. These positions have, indeed, been reported, including within American media, repeatedly since then, in the Associated Press, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and others. They remain unmentionable, inconvenient facts to this day, however, but I expected more from Wright.

    You’ll notice that those liberals who support Israel will blame Hamas (and to a lesser extent the settlers) for all the problems in the conflict.

    Any information that contradicts what they say like Hamas creating a new charter, or Hamas agreeing to 67 borders for a full peace, or Hamas accepting the Arab Peace Proposal, is ALWAYS conveniently never mentioned. This is despite the fact that this information is easily accessible and is repeated almost daily by Hamas officials.

    Hamas is the boegeyman, despite the fact that they’ve shown themselves to be quite capable of giving the so called liberal Zionists everything they ever wanted (A two state solution BASED on the 67 borders).

    In the eyes of the liberal Zionist Israel can make mistakes, Israel is not perfect, but Israel wants peace (despite the fact that Israels foundation in Zionism rejects peace straight out). Its just those Hamasniks that want to drive them into the sea.

    • yonira
      April 4, 2010, 8:12 pm

      Hamas didn’t create a new charter. Hamas never said they would recognize Israel.

      The Right of Return (if descendants are included) would essentially make Israel another Arab state, what would Israel’s motivation before this?

      link to

      • Citizen
        April 4, 2010, 8:58 pm

        Why should anyone recognize an alleged right of Israel to disposses the natives, especially after aggressive war for lebensraum was penalized in 1945? And would motivate the natives to accept a right of return of foreigners when the natives don’t have it themselves? You don’t make any sense, yonira–although Goering would understand you: might makes right. And so would Hitler; he claimed the right of lebensraum in Mein Kampf, you may recall.

      • James Bradley
        April 4, 2010, 10:01 pm

        Yonira stop lying, I’ve provided you the link multiple times.

        Hamas drops call for destruction of Israel.

        link to

        Furthermore, Israel has yet to recognize a Palestinian state, why does Hamas have to recognize Israel as a “Jewish” state?

        And which Israel are they supposed to recognize? 1948? 1967? Or present day Apartheid Israel?

        Finally, Israel better offer up some pretty good concessions before the Palestinians recognize and accept their very dispossession.

        As usual, all of your arguments are based on fiction. The fact that Hamas is ready to accept a permanent peace deal with Israel based on the 67 borders scares the shit out of you, because you no longer have any excuse to justify the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

        The very fact that Hamas (the most extreme of the mainstream Palestinian groups, and the group that was democratically elected) is willing to accept a permanent peace deal with Israel in which Israel would get to keep 4/5’s of historic Palestine should ring a bell for you.

        Unfortunately, you continue to pretend as though this isn’t the reality in a vain attempt to delude people into accepting the existence of your precious ethnic supremacist state that was built on top of the homes of the indigenous population whom you continue to deny the right of return to.

      • RoHa
        April 5, 2010, 2:11 am

        “why does Hamas have to recognize Israel as a “Jewish” state?”

        Because Israel has no legitimacy unless it is granted by Palestinian recognition.

      • Julian
        April 5, 2010, 7:49 am

        “Hamas drops call for destruction of Israel.”

        Wrong again. Hamas never changed it’s charter. Gazi Hamad (Hamas candidate)”Hamas is talking about the end of the occupation as the basis for a state, but at the same time Hamas is still not ready to recognise the right of Israel to exist,”.
        Everyone knows Israel exists whether Hamas recognizes it or not. There is no need to delude anyone. As soon as the Arabs get over the delusion that 5 million Arabs are “returning” to Israel and that they will finish the ethnic cleansing of Jews they attempted in 1948, peace will be possible.

      • Psychopathic god
        April 5, 2010, 10:33 am

        goodie goodie, the Yonira-Julian tag team is on the case.

        Nancy Drew and Scoobie Do.

      • potsherd
        April 5, 2010, 11:00 am

        “They made a desert and called it peace.”

        Israel will never accept peace until every last Arab is dead or enslaved.

      • yonira
        April 5, 2010, 12:58 pm

        Manifesto and charter are two different things James, the manifesto was written prior the election, the charter is still in place. please its not that hard to understand.

      • James Bradley
        April 5, 2010, 7:32 pm

        Hamas has made their position clear on the Charter.

        Its merely a revolutionary document that was born out of the terror and destruction that Israel inflicted upon the Palestinians in the fist Intifada in the late 80s. A time when Israeli soldiers would shoot Palestinian children in the head for daring to go to school (Israel had shut down the entire Palestinian education system during this time).

        The charter is not a document that guides Hamas as a group, just looking at their political actions since 2005 when they became a political party is proof of that.

        But you will stupidly cling to your false belief that as long as Hamas wrote a charter almost 3 decades ago, that must mean they’ll never ACCEPT peace, even though they’ve publically and openly accepted a peace plan that would give them LESS than 1/5 of their historic homeland, a territory that they are entitled to in full but in the interest of peace are willing to concede 80% of.

        Anyway, in the words of Hamas representatives themselves:

        link to

        As for the 1988 charter, if every state or movement were to be judged solely by its foundational, revolutionary documents or the ideas of its progenitors, there would be a good deal to answer for on all sides. The American Declaration of Independence, with its self-evident truth of equality, simply did not countenance (at least, not in the minds of most of its illustrious signatories) any such status for the 700,000 African slaves at that time; nor did the Constitution avoid codifying slavery as an institution, counting “other persons” as three-fifths of a man. Israel, which has never formally adopted a constitution of its own but rather operates through the slow accretion of Basic Laws, declares itself explicitly to be a state for the Jews, conferring privileged status based on faith in a land where millions of occupants are Arabs, Muslims and Christians.

        As always the double standard is in place for the Palestinians. Are the Israelis asked to renounce violence? Is Likud being asked to change its charter? Are former Prime Minsters of Israel asked to repudiate their racist and inflammatory comments that compare Palestinians to beasts of burden or insects?

        The writings of Israel’s “founders” — from Herzl to Jabotinsky to Ben Gurion — make repeated calls for the destruction of Palestine’s non-Jewish inhabitants: “We must expel the Arabs and take their places.” A number of political parties today control blocs in the Israeli Knesset, while advocating for the expulsion of Arab citizens from Israel and the rest of Palestine, envisioning a single Jewish state from the Jordan to the sea. Yet I hear no clamor in the international community for Israel to repudiate these words as a necessary precondition for any discourse whatsoever. The double standard, as always, is in effect for Palestinians.

        I’m sorry but Zionut propaganda is not going to work here. You should know better by now.

      • Keith
        April 4, 2010, 11:11 pm

        YONIRA- When has Israel ever recognized the Palestinians right to exist? I’m not talking about a Palestinian state, I’m talking about the human beings known as Palestinians to be able to live in peace and dignity with fundamental human rights. Has Israel ever said this?

      • Sumud
        April 5, 2010, 12:22 am

        If Israel wants millions of Palestinian refugees to give up their right of return they need to make a credible offer of compensation and reparations. Pretending right of return doesn’t exist, or waiting for ALL the 1948 refugees to die (this appears to me the intention) isn’t going to make the problem go away. It is vicious and inhumane though.

        The Arab Peace Initiative supports whatever solution to right of return that the parties negotiate. Eight years later, the Arab League are still waiting for a response.

      • Julian
        April 5, 2010, 7:58 am

        I’m sure Israel will pay compensation as soon as the million Jews thrown out of Arab countries get there money, property and 50 years of interest on those assets back.
        Olmert offered to allow several thousand Palestinians to return as part of a very comprehensive and generous offer. It was rejected as all offers have been rejected.

      • thankgodimatheist
        April 5, 2010, 8:16 am

        I’m sure Israel will pay compensation as soon as the million Jews thrown out of Arab countries get there money, property and 50 years of interest on those assets back.
        YAWN! ! The same lie over and over again!

        By Yehouda Shenhav
        “An intensive campaign to secure official political and legal recognition of Jews from Arab lands as refugees has been going on for the past three years. This campaign has tried to create an analogy between Palestinian refugees and Mizrahi Jews, whose origins are in Middle Eastern countries – depicting both groups as victims of the 1948 War of Independence. The campaign’s proponents hope their efforts will prevent conferral of what is called a “right of return” on Palestinians, and reduce the size of the compensation Israel is liable to be asked to pay in exchange for Palestinian property appropriated by the state guardian of “lost” assets.
        The idea of drawing this analogy constitutes a mistaken reading of history, imprudent politics, and moral injustice.”
        link to

      • thankgodimatheist
        April 5, 2010, 8:23 am

        Olmert offered to allow several thousand Palestinians to return as part of a very comprehensive and generous offer. It was rejected as all offers have been rejected.
        There was nothing generous about them. All offers were made on Israel’s terms and could not be acceptable to ANY Palestinian.. Get this into your bone brain…It’s not about charity here it’s about peace based on justice and rights, things you have no idea what they mean, ethnic cleanser!

      • Psychopathic god
        April 5, 2010, 10:52 am

        sooo — there were ‘millions of Jews’ living prosperously in Arab countries before 1948. What happened that made the lives of Jews among Arabs so untenable after 1948? Apparently, life was secure throughout the time Ottomans ran the region; throughout the 1800s, when Herzl spent an entire decade trying to convince European Jews that they were “persecuted,” but could finally get only Russian Jews, who had been caught up in the Russian Revolution and were fleeing for their lives as non-Jewish Russians thought Jews were complicit with the overthrow of their Russian government. But all this time, Jews in Arab countries were snug as a bug in a rug — and mighty fine Persian rugs they were, so fine that passengers were displaced from more than one flight so that plundered Persian carpets could be flown to Israel.

        Jews stayed in Iraq until 1950. Explain that to us, Julian: Iraqi Jews CHEERED for the Germans, were eager for a German victory. Why didn’t Europe’s Jews flee to Baghdad from 1933-1945, after all, Jews had lived, grown very wealthy, and exerted authority in and from Babylon/Baghdad from 586 BC all the way until 1950. Didn’t Herzl know this? If Herzl was so concerned for the security of his people, why didn’t he help threatened Russian Jews migrate to Baghdad, where Jews had been safe for over two millenia?

        Maybe Baron Rothschild’s realization that an encampment on the hinge between Asia and Europe promised untold flows of riches, had something to do with the decision.

        away with your pathetic braying, “Jews always persecuted….compensate them….”

        When will Israel pay to Iran the hundreds of millions that a Swiss court has decreed Israel owes Iran on just ONE of the several lawsuits Israel has lost on the cases of the oil and shipping contracts between Israel and Iran? When will Israel pay its just debts?

      • annie
        April 5, 2010, 11:51 am

        Olmert offered to allow several thousand Palestinians to return as part of a very comprehensive and generous offer.

        julian, could you please link to a copy of that offer i’d like to read it. including a link to the map or formal descriptions of the proposed border in the offer. thanks.

      • pabelmont
        April 5, 2010, 7:47 am

        I imagine that Yonira has the numbers right, here. A return of all Palestinian refugees (from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza, etc.) together with their descendants would (or surely might) create a non-Jewish majority in Palestine (and in whatever part of it is to be called “Israel”).

        But so what? Whoever promised the Palestinian Jews (say of 1917 or of 1947) a “rose garden” of numerical dominance? No one. See here.

        Balfour did not even promise a “state” but only a “national home” (and “state” would have been so easy to say, if that was what was meant) and did not say anything about non-Jews except the EXTREMELY IMPORTANT “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

        My own judgment, wholly unsupported textually, is that the right to reside in one’s home, to live on one’s land, etc., may fairly be counted among the “civil rights” of the Palestinian non-Jews and that the expulsion of 1948 (and the even more important refusal by Israel to allow the return of non-Jews after 1948) violated Balfour. (If Balfour was no longer “in effect”, then upon what do the Israelis base their claim for a state? Surely not the UNGA 181 (1947), because, as Israel never tires of demonstrating by ignoring it, the General Assembly has no power in the UN, and can make recommendations but not dispositive decisions.)

        So, as I read it, Balfour and Mandate and UNGA 181 considered most generously toward Jews only (at best, at most, do I make myself clear?) allowed an “Israel” to come into being the population of which consisted of its entire Jewish and non-Jewish population together with such other and further population which cared to immigrate into “Israel” and was allowed to do so by the government of “Israel.” Or Russian non-Jews calling themselves Jews, for that matter.

        (Needless to say, that “Israel” is not the Israel which we have today.)

        I rather doubt that a population so composed would have had a Jewish majority even in 1948, because Jewish war-aims, as carried out, included capturing territory beyond the (barely) Jewish-majority territory set forth in UNGA 181.

        If all the world’s Jews had immigrated to the “Israel” I’ve just painted, might there have been (after such immigration) a Jewish majority? Quite possibly. But it didn’t happen that way. And, anyway, who’d want to live in a desert kingdom with a vast undersupply of water, one very important definition of the under-used concept of “over-population”? Not me. Not most American Jews I know.

      • thankgodimatheist
        April 5, 2010, 8:00 am

        “Balfour did not even promise a “state” but only a “national home” (and “state” would have been so easy to say, if that was what was meant) and did not say anything about non-Jews except the EXTREMELY IMPORTANT “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. ”
        In any case pablemont what Balfour promised or did not should not be of primordial importance since the promise was issued by an imperial power. It had no legality in terms of international law or any law of the time.

      • Julian
        April 5, 2010, 8:08 am

        “what do the Israelis base their claim for a state?”

        There is no need to base any claims. In case you haven’t noticed Israel is a state for over 60 years. The need to make claims is long over. I’m sure you will continue to cry about it, but it’s not going to change.

      • thankgodimatheist
        April 5, 2010, 8:27 am

        but it’s not going to change.
        Dream on, settler!

      • Psychopathic god
        April 5, 2010, 11:17 am

        just started reading this this morning. haven’t digested it, so just an extensive quote/excerpt from “The nation in Israel: Between democracy and ethnicity,” by Alain Dieckhoff.

        The Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel, read out by …ben Gurion on May 14 1948, bears traces of the heated discussions which accompanied its composition. The Zionist leaders disagreed as much aabout the procedure for elgitimizing the State as about the political regime to be established. In order to preserve a maximal consensus in the Jewish camp at the time…the compilers … compromised. Thus, the creation of the new State is justified by simultaneous appeals to
        [1] the voluntarism of the pioneers who had revived Hebrew and established the kibbutzim,
        [2] the distress resulting from the Shoah,
        [3] international law (the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the UNO partition plan of 1947),
        [4] the principle of self-determination, and
        [5] historical rights based on the inseparable tie between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.

        Crafting a name for the entity was similarly consensus-driven:

        The title “Kingdom of Israel,” by which ancient Israel was known up to the coronation of Saul, would have implied the establishment of a community ruled by divine law: an objective immediately rejected by the immense majority of Zionists. On the other hand, to speak of the “Republic of Israel” was unacceptable to the religious parties, since they believed that monarchy was sure to be restored with the advent of messianic times. So the compromise formula “State of Israel” was preferred…. From its very act of foundation, the State of Israel presents, like Janus, two faces: … it reflects the ambivalence of the Zionist national program.
        In its beginnings, in the 1890s, the Zionist solution as conceived by Herzl had a single aim: to give Jews a political sovereignty by creating an independent State. …The intention…was not to create a Jewish State…but a State for the Jews, where they would be in the majority and therefore politically dominant.”

        pp. 84-85

      • Taxi
        April 5, 2010, 12:29 pm

        Everything changes.

        What goes up, must come down. This is universal law.

      • yonira
        April 5, 2010, 1:00 pm

        reality is an afterthought on this blog Julian, especially when you are an arm chair activist.

      • MHughes976
        April 5, 2010, 1:55 pm

        Balfour clearly didn’t mean what he said about the non-Jewish communities and more or less said so in his letter to Lord Curzon in August 1919 – see Margaret Macmillan’s ‘Peacemakers’ on Balfour and his works. The British were awarded the Palestine Mandate on the basis of public undertakings which had been made insincerely. We should still feel some sense of national disgrace about that.

      • MHughes976
        April 5, 2010, 2:15 pm

        From the account of Saul’s election you’d think that the name up to that time had been ‘Kingdom of God’, whose human rulers were Judges or Deputies, ‘Kingdom of Israel’ only afterwards. Did Israelite Kings have coronations? They were anointed – ie prepared like beasts for sacrifice to God – as are our monarchs to this day. I’d have thought that if there had been a Crown of Israel all the Indiana Jones types would be looking for it rather conspicuously.

      • Psychopathic god
        April 5, 2010, 2:16 pm

        Sykes-Picot promised the same land to be divided between French and British.

      • MHughes976
        April 5, 2010, 2:30 pm

        S-P was a secret diplomatic agreement, doing little for our reputation when it became public thanks to Trotsky, while the Declaration was highly public, proclaimed as part of the British Government’s sense of justice, so was a basis of the Mandate in a much stronger sense – though I suppose S-P was in a rough and ready sort of way honoured in the way that the Mandates were distributed.

      • Taxi
        April 5, 2010, 11:25 am

        The illegal settler movement began years before Hamas was created. So who provoked who with land theft and dispossesion, humiliation, death-threats and actual mass murders?

        (you get a gold star badge and a bag of bonbons if you get the answer right)

  4. DICKERSON3870
    April 4, 2010, 8:20 pm

    Scott Horton Interviews Philip Weiss (44:17), 04/03/10
    Investigative journalist Philip Weiss discusses the recent diplomatic dustup that exposed AIPAC’s primary allegiance to the Israeli government, the limited timetable for reversing land theft before the change is permanent, the conflict between Israeli ethnic chauvinism and deep-rooted US Jewish liberalism, the essentially racist and expansionist core of Zionism and Obama’s apparent offer of unity with Israel on Iran in exchange for a settlement freeze.
    LINK – link to

  5. Richard Witty
    April 4, 2010, 8:38 pm

    In objecting to the propaganda element of the Wright piece (which I haven’t seen, or even know who Wright is), I was struck by the propaganda of the anonymous author.

    Why does Phil post anonymous authors anyway?

    • Citizen
      April 4, 2010, 9:03 pm

      What propaganda? You, as a zionist, wouldn’t know it, but it’s best to stay anonymous in the USA
      if you have critical views of Israeli activities. Nice to keep a job if you have one, and a home too.

    • Keith
      April 4, 2010, 11:04 pm

      RICHARD WITTY- “I was struck by the propaganda of the anonymous author.”

      I would be most interested in you providing a couple of quotes of this “propaganda.” The author’s reference to the historical facts concerning Gaza seemed very accurate to me.

    • LeaNder
      April 5, 2010, 8:34 am

      Why does Phil post anonymous authors anyway?

      That feels feigned, Richard. Why don’t you attack the content of the author directly? It isn’t the first time that someone does not dare to give us his name or uses a pseudonym for fear of repressions.

      I too would be very pleased about your specific evidence, why this is propaganda. I know there has been quite a few problems in defining propaganda. One side’s propaganda is the other side’s truth.

      Shouldn’t it be simple for someone spotting propaganda to point out the selective or manipulative use of facts or the most important omissions just as the author does? Show us were he is wrong.

      • LeaNder
        April 5, 2010, 8:41 am

        Seems I was heading somewhere else here, but forget were:

        there have been quite a few problems …
        there has been a debate about the definition of …

      • thankgodimatheist
        April 5, 2010, 8:44 am

        “Show us were he is wrong.”
        If you have time on your hands you can wait Lea..Loooong time

    • Donald
      April 5, 2010, 10:53 am

      We discussed Wright’s piece in the New Yorker some months ago–I believe you participated.

      As for propaganda, let me join with others in asking you to say something specific, rather than just engage in your usual smear tactics. The anonymous author typed up a long detailed point-by-point piece on what was good and bad about the play and quite typically, you ignore all of it. Typical troll behavior.

      • LeaNder
        April 5, 2010, 11:44 am

        In objecting to the propaganda element of the Wright piece (which I haven’t seen, or even know who Wright is), I was struck by the propaganda of the anonymous author.

        Donald, thanksgod may well be right. Reading the above sentence again, I think I know why that is. Someone here once termed it conventional, I think that is Richard’s essence. But let me paraphrase:

        While reading the review, admittedly without knowing neither White nor his play, I found myself strongly objecting to the fact that the anonymous author dares to call the official Israeli position propaganda, thus I realized that the author himself must be a propagandist. More so, he might be someone the Mossad and Shin Bet may want to know.

      • LeaNder
        April 5, 2010, 11:46 am

        thus I was struck by the realization the author must be a propagandist.

  6. Richard Witty
    April 4, 2010, 9:15 pm

    To have integrity, its necessary to “play it safe” on Gaza. To go maximalist from any of the list of “authentic” perspectives, is to exagerate.

    Better to moderate one’s speech and rhetoric, so as to actually accomplish some change.

    There is no possible Israeli relaxation (incidental or fundamental) from the maximalist rhetoric. There definitely is a plausible relaxation and reconciliation with someone like Fayyad, who is both conciliatory and assertive simultaneiously (as odd as that may sound to overly simplified rhetoric.)

    • James Bradley
      April 4, 2010, 10:02 pm

      Fayyad is selling the Palestinians down the river, this is the only reason you find him “acceptable.”

  7. thankgodimatheist
    April 4, 2010, 10:28 pm

    To have integrity, its necessary to “play it safe” on Gaza. To go maximalist from any of the list of “authentic” perspectives, is to exagerate.
    Richard Witty
    Not sure what this means!..Translation please..Francais et Arabe acceptes aussi..

  8. thankgodimatheist
    April 4, 2010, 10:57 pm

    Better to moderate one’s speech and rhetoric,
    The moderation you’re advocating is akin to robbing me of my wallet, offering me back a quarter of its contents. I may be forced and coerced to accept the offer but I will never be forced to think it’s right. No one can FORCE me to think it’s right.
    Fayyad is trying to save some furniture but he knows the house itself is gone..

  9. VR
    April 5, 2010, 1:07 am

    Excellent article, did not miss a beat from start to finish, and presents the correct chronology to the present. The only thing those who disagree with it (with no basis) can give is their standard lies and lack of content. I call that a full sweep, and along with it the refuse is sent to the curb, yes you heard me right, refuse – those that embrace the current Israeli course, for their patent lack of humanity and decency (that includes this play and some posters here, the usual line-up of disingenuous lying useless trolls).

  10. thankgodimatheist
    April 5, 2010, 4:19 am

    Wright ended that line by pointedly noting that Muslims have only achieved 8 Nobels, compared to the countless won by Jews.
    I always felt this comparison to be a crock.. Weren’t those Nobel-winner Jews mostly citizens of developed countries (US/Europe/Russia etc.) where education standards are certainly of a higher level than those of underdeveloped countries which “produced” the Muslims winners (Egypt, Iran, Pakistan etc.) ? How valid is this comparison when it’s based on a religious/ethnic basis but of two widely different societies in terms of economy and culture? Should we also be talking of Christian winners ? Would that make sense? I bet their number is very high too but I’m wondering how many Zimbabwean or Guatemaltec Christians have won the prize in comparison to the Swedish or Dutch ones since the comparison is not based on standards of living but on religious and ethnic basis…

    • thankgodimatheist
      April 5, 2010, 4:31 am

      In other words..If a (Christian) Frenchan wins the Nobel we’d say a French won but if the winner is a Jewish French than the winner is simply a Jew? How ridiculous is that?

    • LeaNder
      April 5, 2010, 8:56 am

      There are many things wrong and highly irritating about this issue. An early topic of our dear Richard Witty too.

      The origin may well have resulted from trying to convince the world how important “the Jews” are to the world. Something like: Look “we” do this for the world so the world has to take great care of us. The problem is it feeds on the “clever Jew” which ultimately is anti-semitic. Thus it keeps up the antisemitic myth.

      Yes, most countries celebrate their “Nobel-winners” but nowhere else can one see these Olympic-games-style-national-number-competitions in science, mainly since science is a rather universal project.

  11. pabelmont
    April 5, 2010, 6:45 am

    If Hamas is offering ONLY Shalit for 1000 prisoners (including, I suppose, some hostages — people held without charge or trial), what “price” are they offering for each Palestinian prisoner (BTW, any Christians among ’em?)? Is this price too low? In Jewish law, of course.

    Or, on the scale that one Jewish fingernail is worth more than a non-Jewish life (is this a recent rabbinic pronouncement — I seem to recall but cannot verify a quote), then shalit is TOO MUCH to pay for 1000 lives.

    Of course, Shalit was a soldier and his capture comes close to an act of war. Whereas most of the Palestinian prisoners were held captive in violation of the international humanitarian law. This is an irrelevancy, I freely admit, to most people who “count”, but I refuse to count such people.

  12. Taxi
    April 5, 2010, 7:32 am

    A highly recommended read on the effects of occupation for both occupied and occupier is Steinbeck’s ‘The Moon is Down’.

  13. VR
    April 5, 2010, 9:04 am

    “You committed genocide on your indigenous population and we want to do the same thing you did.” That in essence is the argument, “lets turn the clock back before any of this was illegal.” In other words, for the sake of some white settlers lets turn the other way, just one more time. Lets do it “because we are different,” which is the claim of the unique in all instances of settler state aggressions. It is no argument, it is merely an excuse for forward illegal activity with impunity, and if it is an excuse that is acceptable, than all bets are off and yelling bloody murder for anything that happens to Israelis is not valid – including wiping them off the map that they have been howling about (with a lie).

    It all boils down to what Nir Rosen said in that article I have cited several times –

    “Normative rules are determined by power relations. Those with power determine what is legal and illegal. They besiege the weak in legal prohibitions to prevent the weak from resisting. For the weak to resist is illegal by definition. Concepts like terrorism are invented and used normatively as if a neutral court had produced them, instead of the oppressors. The danger in this excessive use of legality actually undermines legality, diminishing the credibility of international institutions such as the United Nations. It becomes apparent that the powerful, those who make the rules, insist on legality merely to preserve the power relations that serve them or to maintain their occupation and colonialism.”


  14. Joseph Glatzer
    April 11, 2010, 1:27 pm

    This is really great stuff. Thank you so much for writing it. This is the kind of thoughtful and in-depth analysis we need. Sometimes the bullshit comes so fast in these types of things it’s hard to keep up with and break down how truly ridiculous it is

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