Our western privilege is the legacy of historical violence

on 55 Comments

For the last week we’ve been running pieces responding to Matthew Taylor’s statement that the Gaza flotilla should have been committed to nonviolent resistance. We’re almost done. Max Ajl is at bat.

David Bromwich has responded to my comment about non-violence and violence with a strong, textual case for non-violent mobilization. Engagement is welcome. There is space for tactical and conceptual clarification and discussion. First, though, several mistakes, misinterpretations, and mis-directions demand correction. Bromwich insists that “For Gandhi and for King non-violence was a principle,” and proceeds to lay out their ideas, appending a post-script with extended quotations. I do not know why Bromwich brought up King, who was anyway not the dogmatic pacifist he presents, and whose non-violent activism achieved its partial successes against the specter of violence in American urban centers and the threat of revolutionary militancy from the Black Panthers and the social spirit they stood for. Anyway, I did not bring King up. Here I will stick to Gandhi:

I do believe that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence I would advise violence. Thus when my eldest son asked me what he should have done, had he been present when I was almost fatally assaulted in 1908, whether he should have run away and seen me killed or whether he should have used his physical force which he could and wanted to use, and defended me, I told him that it was his duty to defend me even by using violence

Bromwich placed this quotation at the end of the piece in which he insists that Gandhi’s non-violence was principled. Similar statements abound in Gandhi’s work. Clearly, Gandhi was not a principled adherent to non-violence in the sense that I used it, or in the vernacular sense that most would understand principled non-violence. If I say that non-violence is my principle, and then advocate punching someone, then the reasonable conclusion is that non-violence is not my principle. Principles that one deviates from are like quitting smoking between cigarettes. Non-violence as a principle I adhere to except when I don’t is not a principle, it’s a tactic that I sometimes advocate and sometimes don’t, sometimes practice and sometimes don’t. Bromwich and I can banter back and forth over what the phrase “moral principles” or the word “principles” mean, but it is pretty clear that we are both using it in the sense stipulated above.

Moreover, the quotation precisely points up the problems of not recognizing the continuum on which violence and non-violence exist. Rigid bifurcations are problematic, both for obvious reasons—is pushing the Israeli soldier at Budrus violence or not?—but also for reasons that are less obvious. Non-violence and violence are only polar opposites in a realm of ideas which demands that they be so. Their sharp separation is in fact an ideology. Why this should be so I will get to below. I don’t understand why Bromwich insists that Gandhi was a principled practitioner or promulgator of non-violence is beyond me, although I do understand why he sidesteps the complications of drawing a clear, dividing line between even physical, immediate violence and non-violence. It can’t really be done. When violence and non-violence are understood as shading and melding not merely at the margins but throughout, the idea that non-violence is a tactic, an action, a way of implementing something rather than its essential character, and furthermore something that should be assessed consequentially, becomes obvious.

Next, Bromwich has taken my (I thought quite) obvious normative statement on non-violence being a tactic rather than a principle and confused it for a factual statement. I do not know why he did so.

The next issue is normative. Calling for non-violence when one is not standing by the non-violent is an attempted affirmation of purity, nothing more. Gandhi and King stood on the front lines of their efforts, whether or not they were correct (Michael Neumann has shown fairly persuasively that as practical matters both King and Gandhi’s efforts were failures). They were embedded organically in the social movements they sought to influence.

The ideal of spiritual transformation Bromwich discusses is one I partially agree with. In the Gandhian sense, it suggests something about our own transformative potential, saying that our lives, our desire to imbue meaning and dignity to them, can take precedence over plain physical survival. The idea was roughly that a supra-human essence could be achieved through non-violent action. Fuzzy stuff, but not totally mis-guided. It is clear that a person, a society, a state, a world created by violence will carry the birth-scars of that fire with it for some time, and we know this neurologically as well as historically. Violence has begeted violence, and wars ended by violence have not ended war. A.J. Muste pointed this out: “The problem after a war is the victor. He thinks he has just proved that war and violence will pay. Who will now teach him a lesson?” And so it goes on, sociologically as well as psychologically.

The thing is, we already live in a world soaked with violence. The notion that we can remove, via spiritual transformation, the scars of violence while still living in a world totally riddled with it suggests that spiritual catharsis will be easier in a world where structural violence is reduced considerably, if not nearly eliminated. And this sort of thinking can move in another direction too—not that we totally reject violence, but that we cocoon ourselves from its damages. Violence will influence the character of the world we wish to create, sure, but it already does so, and if righteous violence can reduce the scale of constant, structural, morally unacceptable violence—the occupation, the siege—why on earth would we on principle reject its use, or morally privilege non-violence?

Here is the problem. I agree that forms of non-violence can, in theory, use carefully, produce a better world than that produced by what Bromwich means by violence. But how to test this theory? How to concretize what must seem like a fantasy to people under horrible oppression? The answer is actually clear. Organize with them. Believe your belief, work to share your belief with the oppressed, make it real. This is what Gandhi and King did, notwithstanding their practical failures, which can be useful for our own enlightenment—we learn, and we do better. It’s important to underline the situational, ethical component to this dialogue. It’s easy to juggle ideas on the internet, juxtapose elegant conceptions of non-violent practice with messy blood-struck guerrilla resistance, and move on from intellectual play to self-serious prescription. A prescription for Palestinian pacifism amounts to saying to a people under the gun: “Oppose the violence that I pay for, and throw your body on the machine. Some of you will die, but it will be better for you. Trust me. But I will not throw my body on the war machine. I will not throw my body on the war machine of which the war machine that is oppressing you is a cog. I have nothing to do with that war-machine.” The affirmation that non-violence is better than violence is one of faith rather than history. As should be clear from the lofty, maybe slightly ridiculous tone of the paragraphs above—more theological and ethereal than analytical—what we are dealing with here is a form of atheistic religion. The core doctrine is that non-violence by itself will lead to a better world than this one. At the very least, anyone preaching such a radical creed needs to practice it first.

To that end, the notion that “we” are practicing non-violence when “we” partake of non-violent resistance is unacceptable. Our tax dollars and our passive acquiescence, our quiescence, or quietude, our muted fury—all of this creates complicity in violence, and there is something hypocritical in advocating non-violence while we do not, at least episodically, throw ourselves on the machine that churns out Palestinian and Iraqi and Afghan and African bodies. Violence suffuses our societies, and the privilege we have to write and speak about non-violence is a privilege that is the heritage of historical violence. Let us look at the podium from which our voices and “values” sound out. It is made of bodies, and they are mostly brown.

Moving on from mostly abstract, normative questions, there is a serious tactical discussion to be had on the left: how to resist an army that has abandoned its morality? There is no evidence that militant non-violence can work against a military apparatus that has regressed to bestiality, the blood-and-soil worship of classical fascism, an element of genocidal ideology, as Ben Kiernan has pointed out. There is institution-building that is being done. People work hard to create parallel media apparatuses that can seriously contend with the narratives power produces. People work hard to use what resources they have to send ships to end this blockade, to seriously jam up the siege engines, and build up a critical mass to end the occupation and end Zionism. We Westerners, we white people, we affluent Jews, have the power and privilege to do this in a non-violent way, in our own societies, because of the legacy bequeathed to us by systems of violence and their ideological stabilizers—racism, colonialism, imperialism, capitalism. We seek state support for our goals—a Turkish naval escort, or EU putting pressure on Israel to lift the siege—and what is a state but an instrument created by and dispensing violence? If we want to create a new world relatively unscathed by the scar tissue left behind by violence, at the very least, we can stop inflicting the damage that will leave those scars. Then let’s talk about violence and non-violence, and practice non-violence when we can and violence when we must.

Those advocating non-violence write at a considerable remove from this history.

There’s a kind of psychotropic quality to that sort of writing, as though the conflict plays out in the realm of ideas and not in the realm of history, as though we can will history into being discursively, as though the memory of trauma is irrelevant to the prospects for popular mobilization, although James Scott calls the memory of oppression the central factor preventing further mobilization. The Palestinian 1st Intifada produced a thousand dead, over 100,000 injured and jailed. Overwhelmingly non-violent, Palestinians paid a remarkable price for their pacific resistance. Those who write on Palestinian non-violence, who write on Palestinians generally, generally ignore that uprising. The world ignored that uprising while it was going on. If Palestinian non-violence could “work” in an abstract trans-historical sense, where is the Palestinian state? Was it Palestinian laziness for not persevering in Intifada for another couple years to really thoroughly gum up the machinery of occupation? Nearly every Gazan I speak to thinks the buffer zone marches are amazing (on the basis of no successes whatsoever, I should add). They are terrified of participating. They don’t want to die. Historical sociologists acknowledge that you can’t simply re-write or postulate the course of history according to fantastical what-ifs except as an impotent—and in this context, delirious—mind-puzzle, that there are structural constraints to agency. 

Bromwich, writing as though he is innocent of a literature discussing the occupation, the blockade, the way they are ideologically stabilized in the West, representations of Palestine and of Muslims, of Palestinian resistance, and of non-state violence, goes on to assert: “In Israel today, the story is that the blockade and the occupation are necessary because without them the Palestinians would subject Israel to an ungoverned series of terrorist attacks. Does terrorism or non-violent resistance seem a likelier method for disproving that assumption?”

But who assumes this? Israeli leaders? No, they know the truth: that the blockade is meant to unseat the elected Hamas government and that the occupation is meant to destroy Palestinian nationalism. The Israeli populace? It generally accepts the moral soundness of Zionism, an ideological conditioning that overrides or readily accommodates the real reasons behind the blockade and the occupation, and will itself not shatter easily. The American public? Since when do we contribute to policymaking, and since when is Palestinian non-violent resistance adequately reported here?

Bromwich proceeds to create a set, “terrorism” vs. “non-violent resistance,” that erases the right—the transcendental right—to armed resistance. If there is no right to armed resistance, the Palestinians may not ethically use violence. But what it is that Palestinians may not use is likewise obscure, because Bromwich dodges the problematic of conceptualizing or defining “violence.” Understandably. He will find doing so quite hard. Do Palestinians have the international-law-sanctioned right to resist? If not, why not? And what is a sound tactical and mediatic strategy for highlighting Palestinian non-violence so as to recode the symbolic structure of the conflict? Those advocating non-violence don’t have much of an answer for that. It’s a problem. Probably most writing on Palestinian issues, even from a sympathetic perspective, don’t know that huge numbers of Gazans engage in non-violent marches, or that someone named Ahmed Salem Deeb died in one. This is not their fault. The US press doesn’t report non-violent resistance in Gaza. The mainstream presses in fact refuse to report that non-violence, since we inform them of that resistance every time it occurs.

How is Palestinian non-violence in Gaza supposed to proceed when the foreign press ignores it and the IDF has no interaction with the protesters? Even were the foreign press to pay attention, inevitably some boys would throw stones, and the Israeli and American press would assert that such stone-chunking was “violent,” thereby contaminating Palestinian satyagraha-or-whatever. The problem isn’t the Palestinians. It’s our press. It’s us. Palestinians have conceded the anti-colonial struggle that the Algerians undertook 50 years ago. They conceded 78 percent of their land in 1988, and courageously conceded terror even as Israel reserved the right to destroy their population centers. Who are we to demand more and more and more concessions? We are no one. They will determine their goals and strategies, not us.

Maybe I will try another example. Presumably those who might advocate non-violence for Palestinians also cherish the heroism of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Those Polish Jews fought desperately, bereft of much solidarity except a bit from the external resistance, which didn’t dare to offer its counsel. Through their resistance, little happened to the mindsets of the surrounding Polish population. Survival rates for the partisans in the ghetto were, however, amazing. Would King or Gandhi have suggested non-violence? How appropriate is it, anyway, to excise the texts of King and Gandhi from their historical contexts and treat their works as scripture? Was it violence when in Warsaw those who knew death was imminent committed suicide? Is “violence” the use of force to kill, the use of force in self-defense, the use of force against an enemy? Is the violence of those incinerating Nazi soldiers—or fending off an occupying army—condemnable on principle? Is it “non-violent” to refuse to use violence when that refusal’s immediate effect will be someone’s death? Is it possible that “violent” and “non-violent” aren’t much more than mercurial proxies for value judgments, that perpetually end up working to the detriment of the global South, to the purpose of securing the privilege of the global North?

The Palestinian plight is not academic. Israel has the moral and physical capacity to destroy the territorial basis of Palestinian nationalism. Palestinians are fighting for their lives, and to those who assert the feebleness of non-violence or the impotence of violence, there is a simple response: the Palestinians are still there; they have not won, and they have not lost. As far as I know no one has tried to write out the tally showing which increment of their current status is due to the gun, and which to sumoud. Now may be a moment to focus on non-violence, a non-violence in part meant to appeal to a violent world. Anyway, I am not sure at all, and they shouldn’t and don’t listen to me—correctly. Most importantly: the notion of implementing “transfer” is perpetually prepared for deployment from the Zionist armory. If what it takes to stave off politicide are Hamas rockets capable of incinerating Merkavas, yallah. And if what it takes to stave off politicide are Hamas rockets capable of attacking Israeli population centers, then before clamoring to join the Western lynch mob of moral judgment, we should acknowledge that when you put a people in hell, they will learn from their surroundings. And then we should acknowledge that we have put them in hell.

That is if we are feeling sententious or self-pitying. There are other options. Western writers live amidst the center of this world’s power. Bromwich and I inhabit the center of that center. We non-violently could stop the Israeli war machine dead, and our non-violence in Western societies would I suspect be met with far less violence than the militant pacifism of those on the outskirts of the empire—especially because all we would be challenging would be a satrap of the empire, and not its core. Instead of seeking to direct the Palestinian struggle, here’s something to make it easier: make the costs of Zionism intolerable to our thug government. Most of us are not up for it. We have more important things to do. We take breaks from our work secure in the safety of structural barriers created and maintained by violence to lecture a struggling people on the immorality of their resistance to the violence we produce that permeates their lives. We refuse to seriously look at the horrible efficacy of some—not all—of the counter-violence, the tragic and inevitable result of a people being backed into a corner (Yes, Hezbollah and Hamas rocketry have bought Lebanese and Palestinians breathing space, and uttering this truth does not necessitate moral or ethical judgment). Gandhi would have reluctantly approved. We accede to terror daily, but reserve the epithet “terror” for the desperate acts of those we put through hell. How dare we.

55 Responses

  1. Don
    June 19, 2010, 9:28 am

    Magnificent post, really. Though depressing to contemplate my own “quiescence” to the violence Max describes.

    I initially put the link below in response to previous post…but it seems to me Max Ajl has addressed this issue of violence in a breathtakingly intelligent, and compellingly honest way.

    Here is an article in Haaretz which mentions “the deterrent effect of violent activities”. (about the “effective” use of violence by Israeli settlers)

    link to haaretz.com

    • Egbert
      June 19, 2010, 1:43 pm

      Oded Ravivi, leader of the Efrat regional council, “a member of the Likud Central Committee, an attorney and a lieutenant colonel in the reserves” cmes out with the classic weasel phrase “I don’t want to sound like I am encouraging illegal activity” when accepting settler violence is effective.

  2. lysias
    June 19, 2010, 9:50 am

    Without Bose’s Indian National Army, which fought with the Japanese against the British, and without the mutinies in the Indian navy and army that were precipitated by the attempt to try the veterans of the Indian National Army for treason right after the end of World War Two, I doubt if the British would have quit India quite as soon as they did.

    Nonviolence was accompanied by violence, and the stark threat of further violence if nonviolence was not allowed to win.

  3. Mooser
    June 19, 2010, 9:53 am

    I am in complete agreement with the pacifist position. The Israelis should abandon violence, immediately.

  4. gingershot
    June 19, 2010, 9:57 am

    The Iranian humanitarian ship to Gaza is in the Red Sea now – well guess what also just entered the Red Sea?

    Israeli/Egyptian papers are reporting the American Fleet and an Israeli warship have just crossed the Suez Canal Friday and are now in the Red Sea – apparently desperate and no longer trying to disguise their coordination on the prosecution of their ‘War against Islam for Israel’

    Retired Egyptian General Amin Radi, chairman of the national security affairs committee, told the paper that “the decision to declare war on Iran is not easy, and Israel, due to its wild nature, may start a war just to remain the sole nuclear power in the region.

    link to ynetnews.com

    link to haaretz.com

    • Frances
      June 19, 2010, 10:04 am

      And the comments on ynet are to DIE for. One commentator is “excited” to see how it plays out. And they really believe none of the violence in the region is caused by Israel. It would be funny if they weren’t armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons.

      • lysias
        June 19, 2010, 10:12 am

        A lot of people were excited by the events leading to World War One in July-August 1914 as well.

      • Menachem
        June 19, 2010, 10:37 am

        Who are you kidding Frances, 3/4 quarters of th commentators on Mondoweiss were ecstatic following the Turk’s ‘martyr operation’ on the MM.

        Israel won’t use nuclear weapons, they didn’t use them in ’67, in ’73, or in ’82, there is nothing the Iranians could bring that the Israelis/Americans couldn’t counter without the use of nuclear weapons.

        If it comes to war, Israel won’t hold back like they did in ’06. But there will be no need for nuclear weapons. If Hezbollah and Hamas enter a war, Southern Lebanon and Gaza will be turned into a wasteland.

        Turkey will sit back and allow it to happen, Saudi Arabia will allow Israeli planes to fly over, and the majority of the Arab world will rejoice.

        I pray it doesn’t happen, because Iran will do damage to Israel, there will be a ballistic missile barrage like we haven’t seen in modern history.

      • Danaa
        June 19, 2010, 12:47 pm

        Menachem: “the majority of the Arab world will rejoince”? you must live in one interesting alternative universe.

        In your universe, you “pray that it doesn’t happen, because Iran will do damage to Israel”. In our actual universe, we – as in most of us in the civilized world – Israel not quite included(other than a small contingent led by Amira hass and Gideon Levy) pray that it doesn’t happen because of the huge cost to Iranian lives. Which is who and what we are talking about, right/ the wanton murder of countless innocent people, guilty of nothing else but being Iranians. Which matters to israelis (most of them, at least) not a hell lot of beans. Seen one muslim country, seen ’em all, right?

        Actually, Iran and israel are, in a way, peas in a pod. They got Ahmadinejab, israel got Lieberman +shas. They got fundamentalists, israel got even more, percentage wise. They can disappear people, so does israel. And what’s a little torture among friends, anyways? there are differences of course. Iran attacked no one in decades; israel attacked several countries for whatever reason they feel like giving at any time. israel has nuclear weapons aimed, among others, at european capitals, turkey and american assets. Iran got none- yet.

        Now that I think of it, maybe Israel should help Iran become nuclear power. At least then they’ll have that much more in common. They might even exchange ambassadors then, who knows?

      • Frances
        June 19, 2010, 1:09 pm

        Menachem June 19, 2010 at 10:37 am

        “Who are you kidding Frances, 3/4 quarters of th commentators on Mondoweiss were ecstatic following the Turk’s ‘martyr operation’ on the MM.”

        You must have been on a different site. Most of the commentators on Mondoweiss were shocked and disgusted by Israel’s actions. Ecstasy was quite thin on the ground that day.

        “Israel won’t use nuclear weapons, they didn’t use them in ‘67, in ‘73, or in ‘82, there is nothing the Iranians could bring that the Israelis/Americans couldn’t counter without the use of nuclear weapons.”

        Except Iran is bringing ANYTHING, is it? The only ones jockeying for war in the region are Israel and it’s cheerleader-in-chief the US, happily advocating destroying Iran with “pre-emptive strikes”. A lovely Orwellian phrase to gloss over what would essentially be the nuclear bombardment of an entire country.

        “If it comes to war, Israel won’t hold back like they did in ‘06. But there will be no need for nuclear weapons. If Hezbollah and Hamas enter a war, Southern Lebanon and Gaza will be turned into a wasteland.”

        I thought we were talking about Iran? Israel certainly tried it’s best with Southern Lebanon a few years back, didn’t it? And Gaza, well that was just like shooting fish in a barrel.

        “Turkey will sit back and allow it to happen, Saudi Arabia will allow Israeli planes to fly over, and the majority of the Arab world will rejoice.”

        You’re not even trying to make sense anymore.

        “I pray it doesn’t happen, because Iran will do damage to Israel, there will be a ballistic missile barrage like we haven’t seen in modern history.”

        How thoughtful of you. And about the damage Israel could and would inflict on Iran (and let’s face it, they’re MUCH better equipped to wipe Iran off the map)?

      • gingershot
        June 19, 2010, 11:00 am

        I know – those remarks are as bloodthirsty as Netanyahu – the Israelis are double-checkmated and spoiling for a fight with Iran to reset the board

        I think the breaking of the Gaza siege was the straw that breaks Israel’s back – she is facing both the unparalled strategic loss of Occupied Palestine as well as the loss of her hegemony in the Middle East if she cannot batter down Iran.

        Once Israel comes under worldwide pressure to be forced to join the NPT/Middle East Nuclear Free Zone (after Iran already has joined/or greenlighted joining in 2012) all further rationales for preserving her Middle East hegemony by starting a war with Iran are ‘off the table’). If she does move against Iran (and involve the US) in WW3 against Iran she is strategically ‘done’

        I’m so scared this Israeli attack is really going to happen in the next couple of months if not the next couple of weeks – these special fleet movements are very ominous

    • lysias
      June 19, 2010, 10:08 am

      The Lebanese aid ship for Gaza “Miriam” is due to set sail from Tripoli in Lebanon next week, with 50 Christian and Muslim Lebanese women on board with medical supplies. The Israeli media are doing their best to tie the ship in with Hizbullah, like they tried to tie the Freedom Flotilla in with Hamas.

      • Frances
        June 19, 2010, 10:13 am

        You’re telling me. I ate a kebab last week and am now affiliated with al-Qaeda. It’s that easy.

        What’s even more depressing is that the lackwits in the MSM will happily parrot the Israeli line, affiliating these women with Hizbullah.

      • Mooser
        June 19, 2010, 10:56 am

        It is very gratifying to me to know that Hadassah is sending a humanitarian flotilla to Gaza.

      • lareineblanche
        June 19, 2010, 11:04 am

        Incredible. This, and the “Jewish ship” from Germany, it’s really happening. How many different people are they going to be able to tag with the epithets “terrorists” and “troublemakers” in our spineless media? I wonder how they’ll handle it. Maybe a blackout will be the only possible response.

      • sam
        June 19, 2010, 6:58 pm

        50 Christian and Muslim…hmmm. In true Lebanese fashion I bet it is 25-25 ;-)

  5. Citizen
    June 19, 2010, 10:39 am

    The problem with Max’s excellent article is that 99.9999% of Americans will never know it exists. Cable TV news shows and entertainment shows (Beck, Hannity, O Reilly, Maddow, Blitzer, Imus, PBS, etc ) all point to poor Israel
    being picked on once again as it tries to defend itself against terrorist rocket attacks.

  6. Deminer
    June 19, 2010, 10:54 am

    During the week after Kent State I helped organize the march on Washington the following weekend. We tried our best to make it go off non-violently, and things did in fact go fairly smoothly. Now looking back I often wonder if a hundred thousand people in Southeast Asia died painful deaths, because American college students did not burn a few more ROTC buildings, overturn a few police vans, and start riots in which a few dozen Americans died. Could the deaths of a couple of hundred college students in America have stopped the war five years earlier, saving a hundred thousand lives? They very well might have, and drawing a line in the sand over war back then might have made these fiascos less likely today. Passivity is THE prime characteristic of the great American gentile herd today. There has been remarkably little reaction to the prospect of a Supreme Court with three Jews and not a single Protestant. This generation of American young people have no ability whatever to take moral actions of the non-violent or the violent kind. Their silence has been stunning.

    • Mooser
      June 19, 2010, 11:09 am

      “Could the deaths of a couple of hundred college students in America have stopped the war five years earlier, saving a hundred thousand lives?”

      You’ll never know until you try. Self immolation is considered the most effective, politically. Let me know if you need a gallon of gas. And if you want to kill several hundred more college students, be sure to get permission from their parents.

      “This generation of American young people have no ability whatever to take moral actions of the non-violent or the violent kind.”

      I’ve still got that gallon of gas. Why not set an example they can look down to? Besides, since they took the sex-drugs and rock-and-roll out of demonstrations, what’s the use?

      “There has been remarkably little reaction to the prospect of a Supreme Court with three Jews and not a single Protestant.”

      Why not devote your life to social justice for American Protestants? There’s a worthy cause!

      At any rate, Deminer, I thank you for one of the most amusing personal accounts of why the 60’s left came to very little.

      • Mooser
        June 19, 2010, 11:15 am

        Oh, BTW, Deminer, you and Witty really need to get together and compare notes about the late 60’s. Both of you have some innate similiarities in your accounts of the times. After all, narcissism has no political boundaries.
        Youi gotta choose, Deminer, will it be the padres or the cadres?

      • MRW
        June 20, 2010, 12:21 am

        Mooser, you completely misread Deminer’s post.

      • azythos
        June 19, 2010, 11:50 am

        Mooser: Both “what-might-have-been” schemes, Deminer’s and yours, are obviously no better than the other one’s. In fact, if idle speculation had any merit, anyone would speculate that generalized violence leading to hundreds of non-black-ghetto deaths in our Dormitoryland would have either stopped all foreign wars or led to WWIII.

        One also has to ask how to justify your brilliantly witty dismissal of his remark about “remarkably little reaction to … a Supreme Court with three Jews and not a single Protestant”. Considering that we are the last-but-one officially racist nation, on a par with Saudi Arabia and Israel as to confessional tribalism.

      • hayate
        June 19, 2010, 12:52 pm

        azythos June 19, 2010 at 11:50 am

        I sort of agree, but while Deminer was basically speculating, mooser was just plain offensive and irrelevant.

      • azythos
        June 19, 2010, 1:29 pm

        Irrelevant nonsense shouldn’t be dignified by an answer, of course. Some of the shit, however, can be judged relevant because the casual surfer does read Dr. Goebbels.

      • Citizen
        June 20, 2010, 8:12 am

        Imagine if our SCOTUS was composed of three Arab/Muslim Americans, the rest Catholics, including some Latinos. Would that
        be cause for alarm, or no–simply a good example of the melting pot?

      • MRW
        June 20, 2010, 12:21 am

        Deminer, are you Luke Powell, the photographer? If you are, and I could assume so from your link here (although it doesn’t work), wonderful stuff.

  7. LeaNder
    June 19, 2010, 11:05 am

    powerful, Max. Very, very good.

    The next issue is normative. Calling for non-violence when one is not standing by the non-violent is an attempted affirmation of purity, nothing more.

    …We accede to terror daily, but reserve the epithet “terror” for the desperate acts of those we put through hell. How dare we.

  8. lareineblanche
    June 19, 2010, 11:07 am

    Of course, you’re right. Every word of it.

  9. Debonnaire
    June 19, 2010, 11:15 am

    Surprise! Surprise! Bromwich rides to the rescue again! Yet more deceit from a Jewish proponent of non-violence against the murderously racist Jewish Settler State. L’Chaim!

    • Frances
      June 19, 2010, 11:24 am

      Would you quit it with the “All Jews are evil Israel-apologists”? It’s untrue and it’s offensive.

      • MRW
        June 20, 2010, 12:12 am

        This is a disinfo artist working in tandem with Menachem.

        How many have we seen here overtime?

  10. Deminer
    June 19, 2010, 11:23 am

    Within Jewish Israel are two different cultures, two very different approaches to the world: the division between secular and religious Judaism. Western religious history often focuses upon the interactions of different ancient peoples and the moral obligations of those who were part of a group in or out of power. Enlightenment-inspried political theory mandates a single people with identical rights. Where Israel gets into logical trouble is when they try to justify our actions with both religious tradition and the intellectual framework of the Enlightenment. The whole “all men are created equal” argument and mental framework comes from a system that is logically incompatible with that of religious heritage, a central element of which was the necessity for Israel to remain separate from other peoples.

    Zionism continually plays these two logical systems off against each other, using first the logic of one and then of the other, as is convenient. At one moment the Jews are a religious people taking back their God-given homeland, and the next they are defenders of secular democracy in the Middle East, carrying on the Enlightenment tradition of Moses Mendelsen and generations of modern, secular philosophy. When actually on the street in Israel we find that a majority of Israelis say they are not religious, they are secular Jews. They are in fact atheists whose Jewishness is but racism, and they are not running a democracy either, for the Arabs are not full citizens. In attempting to have it both ways American and Israelis have no single moral framework at all, only a smorgasbord of unrelated moral one liners, trite phrases, and highly professional advertising and media people capable of turning every argument to their account.

  11. Conrad
    June 19, 2010, 12:45 pm

    If a man draws his sword we are duty bound to draw ours and give him his wish to die by the sword.

  12. Richard Witty
    June 19, 2010, 2:59 pm

    I consider it a misleading and dismissive post.

    Non-violence is either a tactic or a principle depending on the group adopting it.

    The difference between its use as a tactic and as a principle, is that in the actions of a tactic, it is merely an adopted means for victory, and by victory I mean the zero-sum definition of it “I win, you lose”.

    In contrast, non-violence as a principle rejects the hypocrisy of non-violence for PR victory, in favor of “we are neighbors permanently, we will have to live together in some respect after this conflict is over”.

    That is classic Gandhi. Non-violence as a tactic is classic Hamas (for six months, and the gullible parade it as compelling).

    The Palestinian solidarity movement is hindered by the absence of moral clarity. The opponent that solidarity is addressing is not swayed by violence as a tactic for victory, nor by non-violence as a tactic.

    The ONLY possible sway results from a change in attitude from non-acceptance of Israel and Israelis to acceptance.

    When that fundamental shift occurs, then tangible questions can be easily resolved.

    That is the real work long term and short term.

    The association of solidarity movements to non-acceptance of Israel as Israel, will not disappear until the Palestinian movements themselves accept that a Jewish majority will remain in Israel for the foreseeable future.

    So long as there is even hope of “remove them”, there will be war.

    I heard the Bob Marley song “War”. “Every where is war. Until the philosophy that holds one race superior and another inferior is abandoned, there is War….”.

    Among self-defined progressives, that is applied currently relative to persecution of Palestinians within Israel and occupied and limbo territories (Gaza).

    But, tragically, more than tragically, those same progressives do not object to the sentiments and actions directed against Jews.

    I hope that it won’t occur, but issues like the flotilla have historically invoked fascist behavior. I saw a very very small potential example, a fear.

    My rabbi friend offers a class in Torah teachings on the environment. My wife put up brochures about the class around our town. On more than half, a day after she put them up, there were slogans “Free Gaza” on the posters.

    The rabbi is neither Zionist nor anti-Zionist, so writing “Free Gaza” on the posters could be an actual attempt at suppression of his first amendment rights.

    And “Free Gaza” is not a swastika, and hopefully never becomes one.

    • Citizen
      June 20, 2010, 8:21 am

      Witty, you really need to read the article posted on this blog a few days ago, discussing non-violence in depth, and also, discussing Gandhi’s actual
      vision of tactic versus principal. BTW, what does “Israel as Israel” mean?
      What precisely do you want accepted? Would you accept the same if the shoe was on the other foot? Does that characterize Zionism as implemented over time?

      • Richard Witty
        June 20, 2010, 9:16 am

        If you notice Citizen, I read and commented.

        Ajl assumes that non-violence is JUST a tactic, and proves his own assumption, by proving his own assumption, by proving his own assumption, by proving his own assumption.

        Non-violence is only a tactic to those that don’t adopt non-violence as a life-way.

        To those that adopt non-violence as a life way (minimal net violence, not puritanical Jainist non-violence), non-violence is the recognition that ‘WE ARE NEIGHBORS’ and that are anger (whether taken out violently or non-violently) is small relative to permanent and persistent need for peace.

      • droog
        June 20, 2010, 9:49 am

        would you say ,RW that this non-violent life-way is what you practice?

      • Max Ajl
        June 20, 2010, 3:55 pm

        Richard–or perhaps this should be addressed to regulars?–you can’t possibly be this stupid.

        I wrote, “Next, Bromwich has taken my (I thought quite) obvious normative statement on non-violence being a tactic rather than a principle and confused it for a factual statement. I do not know why he did so.”

        Is there confusion about what that means? Is that even possible?

      • Richard Witty
        June 21, 2010, 7:13 am

        Certainly confusing.

      • Richard Witty
        June 21, 2010, 7:14 am

        “You can’t possibly be this stupid”.

        Why should I read you respectfully?

  13. VR
    June 19, 2010, 4:38 pm

    I think it is high time, as I have stated on numerous posts before, for a global revolutionary vanguard to arise. Not just from the particular hemisphere, but from all over the world where resistance has won its struggle.

    If the opposition says this will escalate the danger, we best point to the fact that the USA in particular and the West in tow refuses to do anything of consequence to change the equation for the Palestinians, and they have blatantly joined together in their effort to exterminate the indigenous population of Palestine. This is what I consider to be the third way, so to speak.

    I want those who have struggled to remember what you went through, and to recall all of the colonial mechanization you had to overcome, and for those who are knowledgeable I challenge you to find one that has not been employed in this colonial thrust by this Zionist contingency. It is time to put an end to this colonial project, supported boldly and monetarily by the USA, and by the West as its silent shadow. US Imperialism and its colonial larvae.

    In the USA there needs to be a full frontal assault on the current power structure, saying that we will no longer, as a united people, allow any desire of an elite to move forward to the detriment of the people. It is best that this is done as swiftly as possible, because they wish to drag us into another war of aggression and have obviously chosen the “cure” of global conflagration to rise them out of the death throes of defunct capitalism.

    • VR
      June 20, 2010, 12:26 am

      Never forget, never give up, and never bend –


      tiocfaidh ar la!


      • demize
        June 20, 2010, 4:31 am

        What does the Irish say VR?

      • VR
        June 20, 2010, 7:47 am

        “Our day will come.” Also, “the laughter of our children shall be our revenge.”

      • VR
        June 20, 2010, 8:43 am

        You know demize, I am not only speaking to those outside who would join hands in true revolutionary form, but also to the Israelis of conscience. You have to significantly rise up to bring systemic change of the kind that will banish the current course of Zionism.

        Don’t be fools, understand that what this colonial call is and how you are being used to bring about your own destruction. Because those in power don’t really care about you, they never did, they use you just like the elites of old did before them. It is like looking at an old playbook, and you have to determine what is truly being done to you by design, just look at what has gone on before and realize you are being terribly used –

        “…the colonial officialdom had found a way of alleviating the danger [of rebellion by the poor]: by monopolizing the good land on the eastern seaboard, they forced the landless whites to move westward to the frontier, there to encounter the Indians and to be a buffer for the seaboard rich against Indian troubles, while becoming more dependent on the government for protection. Bacon’s Rebellion was instructive: to conciliate a diminishing Indian population at the expense of infuriating a coalition of white frontiersmen was very risky. Better to make war on the Indian, gain the support of the white, divert possible class conflict by turning poor whites against Indians for the security of the elite.”
        A Peoples History Of The United States – Howard Zinn, pg. 54

        You know they do not give a damn about you, they laugh and sneer at you, and think of you as brute beasts – will use you as canon fodder. You need to rise up, it is time to wake up and stop being used in such a servile manner, while all the time thinking you are gaining something by these horrible atrocities, which will eventually result in your own destruction. Time to wake up

  14. Debonnaire
    June 19, 2010, 5:37 pm

    We can all banter amongst ourselves on this but one of the holiest and respected Islamic leader’s worldwide *Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi has already weighed in on this and he says: VIOLENCE IS JUSTIFIED AND ALL OF ISRAEL AND EVERY ISRAELI IS A LEGITIMATE MILITARY TARGET. When he talks 1 Billion Muslims listen. There might be 8 schlimiels at an Hillel social who hear David Bromwich invoke Gandhi and say: “Right on, G!”

    • David Samel
      June 19, 2010, 11:39 pm

      Debonnaire, you sound like third-rate hasbara. “One billion Muslims are trying to kill Israelis, and think it is justifiable, even necessary to kill every Israeli.” Hasbarists use this line to instill fear in Israelis, and mobilize support in and out of Israel for savage violence against Palestinians, which is portrayed as self-defense. Debonnaire uses the same line, supposedly in the hope that it will come to pass. If I were a suspicious guy, I would think that Debonnaire is actually a paid hasbarist who is trying to hijack the comments in a lunatic direction. It might be seen as far more effective than the less talented defenders of Israel whose lame arguments convince no one and are easily refuted. Of course, Debonnaire could be exactly who he claims to be, an anti-Semitic genocidal lout. Who knows?

    • MRW
      June 20, 2010, 12:04 am

      The only ones who quoted this guy (Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi) recently are the ADL, MEMRI, and Pamela Geller. Those threats you attribute to him are on no bonafide Islamic site.

      • demize
        June 20, 2010, 4:16 am

        That is indeed curious. I’ll take you at your word so I don’t have to research this theologian any further.

    • Frances
      June 20, 2010, 8:23 am

      “When he talks 1 Billion Muslims listen.”

      Except that they clearly DON’T. Stop trying to paint all Muslims as being raring to kill Israelis, most of them are so unobtrusive we never hear anything about them at all. You’re starting to sound a lot like a plant.

      • Bumblebye
        June 20, 2010, 8:42 am

        Japanese knotweed? :D

      • Frances
        June 20, 2010, 8:48 am


      • Bumblebye
        June 20, 2010, 9:07 am


  15. sam
    June 19, 2010, 7:02 pm

    Beautiful piece. I see Primo Levi in their: put people in hell and they will learn from their surroundings.
    And the continuum of violence and non-violence: very true.
    We are conditioned to think of these as polar opposites never thinking of their connections. A violent act can give way to non-violence and the opposite is true. people who partake in war crimes also partake in weddings and moments of deep sensitive love. I could go on with examples… Wish it were not so gray, but that’s the world we live in.

  16. kalithea
    June 19, 2010, 11:00 pm

    Israelis are selfish, apathetic and cowardly; it’s that simple.

    Palestinians are long-suffering, relentless and dogged in their pursuit of justice and freedom.

    Who do you think I respect, regardless of violence or no violence?

    I dare anyone to say, they wouldn’t do what it takes to fight decades of injustice and oppression with their bare fists if necessary!!

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