My guide was a righteous radical

Israel/Palestine
on 59 Comments

The other day we visited friends upstate in New York, and my wife set it up so we could visit a sanctuary for animals in the same neck of the woods. I had no idea what I was in for, hadn’t given it any thought. I suppose I’d expected a petting zoo. It was a tidy arrangement of barns in a tucked-away little valley, and after paying at the front desk we joined a tour of a dozen other people. Our guide took us from the chickens to the ducks to the cows to the goats to the sheep to the pigs; and she was a radical. Her speeches were a litany of the atrocities that the livestock industry commits against our innocent four-legged brothers and sisters for money, one horror after another, from dipping the ducks’ butts in boiling water to pull off these lovely soft feathers you’re feeling right now, to leaving sheep to freeze on the ground when they’re feeble, to tearing the babies from the milk cows and imprisoning them in this device so that they would get no exercise and spoil the veal. The sanctuary had a veal-calf cage there as an exhibit, as they had a galvanized steel farrowing device that a sow is placed in before she gives birth.

We learned that free range is a myth devised to make poultry more edible, that the milk you drink has pus in it because the cows are sick, and that the farm near us that we thought was developing humane methods of slaughter to help small farms across the region is a hive of butchers in blood-spattered clothes from which the sanctuary has liberated several sheep…

I say again, Our guide was a radical. She believes that the conventional eating habits of human beings are immoral and disgusting, she feels more commonality with grass-cropping beasts than with money-hungry humans, and she said triumphantly that the black and white bull named Willy had changed more people’s diets than any other “being” at the sanctuary. I’m sure she is a vegan. One other member of our tour said, “Go vegan” at the end with a fist pump, though others wore down and leather jackets, and seemed to have arrived with the same false assumption that I had.

The tour filled me with a kind of despair. It seemed to me that the guide was as righteous as I and my friends are about the occupation, that she feels herself as marginalized as we have felt ourselves to be. And as we tell ourselves a story about how a grassroots movement is going to win everyone else over some day, and meantime the mainstream toils in ignorance and we toil in the light, she and her friends must tell themselves a similar story. I was silent throughout the tour, didn’t confess to any of my dietary sins, was pleased to see that my belt was hidden and my shoes were canvas. It seems likely that my wife and I will change our eating habits somewhat because of what we learned on the tour, but not entirely. The truth is we don’t trust our guide’s judgment. Her red lines are not ours. Her deck seemed stacked.

And again, that’s where I feel some kinship. Driving away, our friends said that they admired the guide’s dedication to a lost cause. She will surely convert a lot of people in her life, maybe make some headway. Hers is a long struggle. Her deck may be stacked but you can’t really argue with the bottom line: eating meat entails great cruelty. And humane farming is to her what liberal Zionism is in the eyes of an anti-Zionist– it’s worse than the hard original, because it would sanitize the inhumanity and provide cover for it so as to prolong its existence. She would rather people see the true face of the business.

I’ve said before I’m a reluctant radical. I don’t want to be alienated from the main body of humanity. I don’t want to be righteous and always-right and sanctimonious. Because I’m as bad as anyone else. I live on ethnically-cleansed land, I have money in the market. I have a liberal’s trust in civilization to evolve, to come up with more and more progressive norms, and I’d rather be in the corps than the vanguard. My wife says my issue is different from our guide’s; that people are streaming into my camp. But maybe that’s just what we tell ourselves; and visitors are polite with us, and can’t wait to get away. And I should accept my role as the sanctuary guide has accepted hers, without apology.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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59 Responses

  1. alan
    April 16, 2013, 9:05 am

    Stop agonising man and get on with it. Carry on doing what you do – it’s good. Pay attention to your conscience. And try to live without causing harm to your fellow creatures! You say you have a liberal’s trust in civilisation to evolve so what’s not to like about developing your understanding of how compassion might play a part in your dietary choices? What’s so ‘radical’ about that? The label is dismissive as you must know – the information your guide gave you has prompted that response because she made you feel uncomfortable. So you know what you have to do. (As well as helping the cause of peace and justice in Palestine of course!)

    • kalithea
      April 17, 2013, 4:04 am

      So if we were living in the 1930s, and a righteous German stopped to ponder about sounding too sanctimonious with his peers because he feared being alienated from the main body of humanity by being overly righteous and radical in his defense of Jews whose store front windows were being smashed…one should pause, take one’s time, do the back and forth, while others suffer; the oppressed can wait; we have the luxury of time to reflect over this…the Jews can wait. Let’s not rush in to rescue them and get all sanctimonious and RADICAL about it.

      But that’s just it, the “main body of humanity” doesn’t always act very humanely.

    • miriam6
      April 17, 2013, 4:06 pm

      Once gain MW seemingly unknowingly enters the arena of self- satire and self parody

      ” Her speeches
      ( those of the quoted animal rights nutcase )

      were a litany of the atrocities that the livestock industry commits against our innocent four-legged brothers and sisters for money, one horror after another, from dipping the ducks’ butts in boiling water to pull off these lovely soft feathers you’re feeling right now, to leaving sheep to freeze on the ground when they’re feeble, to tearing the babies from the milk cows and imprisoning them in this device so that they would get no exercise and spoil the veal.”

      ” The sanctuary had a veal-calf cage there as an exhibit, as they had a galvanized steel farrowing device that a sow is placed in before she gives birth.”

      ” And I should accept my role as the sanctuary guide has accepted hers, without apology. ”

      “And again, that’s where I feel some kinship.”

      ” And humane farming is to her what liberal Zionism is in the eyes of an anti-Zionist– it’s worse than the hard original, because it would sanitize the inhumanity and provide cover for it so as to prolong its existence. She would rather people see the true face of the business.”

      So Phil actually appears to believes that comparison CAN be made between animal rights campaigners and those campaigning for Palestinians rights that the two subjects of concern are interchangeable.

      The veal sow cage and the “caged” existence of the long suffering of Gazans, in Phil’s piece Palestinians becomes one and the same horror.

      As the animal rights fanatic embraces her role as “sanctuary guide” so does Phil accept his role as “sanctuary guide ” of those “caged” Palestinians.
      How sporting of him.

      Compare if you will, the content and substance of Phil’s’ text with this text from an interview in “Guernica” by one-hit-wonder author and firm animal and Palestinian rights enthusiast Alice Walker. ”

      ” How Palestinians became the baby seals of the Western human rights lobby ”

      By Brendan O’Neill Politics Last updated: June 17th, 2011 from the Telegraph online.

      “This new interview with American author Alice Walker gives a brilliant insight into what motivates trendy pro-Palestinian sentiment in the West today. Notice how effortlessly she flits between talking about Palestinians in Gaza and chickens in factory farms. In one breath she talks about the “cruel and inhuman” treatment meted out to Palestinians, who are “frazzled and suffering everyday”. And in the next she talks about chickens that are “raised under horrible, torturous conditions”, and the fact that people who tuck into chicken dinners don’t realise that they are eating “something precious, beautiful, rare”

      “Palestinians and chickens – these seem to be the two big moral concerns haunting Ms Walker’s head. She sees their predicament as comparable: just as Palestinians are caged in Gaza, so chickens are caged in factory farms. And just as we “must help those suffering in Gaza”, so we must “change the way chickens are thought about and raised”. Ms Walker is certainly doing her bit. Next week she will be on the latest Gaza-bound flotilla, named “The Audacity of Hope”, which will deliver letters from concerned American citizens to Palestinians, which is of course just what Palestinians need. And she spends the rest of her time meditating with animals, in particular chickens, as a way of rediscovering “the peace we once shared with the other animals on the planet”.”

      “She might sound barking, but actually Ms Walker’s lumping together of Palestinians and chickens reveals much about the cocktail of pity and paternalism that drives influential Westerners’ pro-Palestinian lobbying today. They increasingly see Palestinians, not as a group of people capable of exercising the same democratic and political rights as the rest of us, but as wide-eyed and pathetic victims who must be saved from Evil Israel by the better-minded, better-educated activists of the West. Palestinians have been turned into the playthings of Western do-gooders, loveable victims deserving of pity and sad, tear-stained letters from Alice Walker and friends. In short, they’ve been reduced to the level of chickens: sad little creatures whom caring Westerners can coo over and stroke and maybe take home and put in the garden for their friends to marvel over. This is not solidarity – it is a public display of pity, designed primarily to advertise the superior moral sensitivities of anti-Israel Westerners than to do anything practical to assist Palestinians.”

      You know, if I were a Palestinian in Gaza, I wouldn’t only throw stones across the border at Israeli troops. I’d also hurl them at “The Audacity of Hope” flotilla when it turns up next week, with its cargo of insulting letters from achingly right-on Americans who have moved on from crying over baby seals to crying over poor Palestinians.

      see original Brendan o’neill article at:
      link to blogs.telegraph.co.uk.

      original Alice Walker article at:
      http://www.guernicamag.com.

      link to spiked-online.com

      • David Samel
        April 18, 2013, 8:29 am

        What horseshit, miriam. A real “gotcha” moment. Congratulations. Phil draws an equivalence between Palestinians and chickens! And to prove your point, you cite an equally dishonest article in the Telegraph.

        As for the charge of paternalism, do you really think that Palestinians in Gaza would be more supportive of your and Brendan O’Neill’s views than those of Alice Walker and Phil Weiss? Do you really think that if Israel ever allowed one of these ships to reach Gaza, it would be met with stones thrown by Palestinians out of anger at being compared to chickens or baby seals? Do you really feel that Palestinians would be appreciative of your concern for their feelings?

      • eljay
        April 18, 2013, 9:14 am

        >> You know, if I were a Palestinian in Gaza …

        But you’re not a Palestinian in Gaza.

        And you’re not a victim of the oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist “Jewish State’s” 60+ years, ON-GOING and offensive (i.e., not defensive) campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder.

        You’re just a hateful and immoral Zio-supremacist.

      • miriam6
        April 19, 2013, 5:00 pm

        ” But you’re not a Palestinian in Gaza.”

        Neither are you .

        So why take it upon yourself to talk about them as though they were poor voiceless creatures in need of your pitying defence?

        For such a self-proclaimed “humanist” as yourself, you are very quick to label other people with crude stereotypes’.

        I just despise folks like you.

        A person steeped in self justifying pity for the Palestinians.

        By the way , every time you repeat your tired little ditty:

        ” oppressive, colonialist, etcetera ” YAWN,YAWN,YAWN….****************************
        ***************************************************
        you are displaying your IGNORANCE of history.

        The 1973 Yom Kippur war was a DEFENSIVE war forced on Israel when it was ATTACKED by EGYPT.

        Get your facts right.

      • eljay
        April 20, 2013, 8:22 am

        >> Neither are you .

        Correct. So, neither of us is a Palestinian, but only one of us – you – is a hateful and immoral Zio-supremacist.

        >> So why take it upon yourself to talk about them as though they were poor voiceless creatures in need of your pitying defence?

        I talk about them as though they are people oppressed by Zio-supremacists like you. And that’s exactly what they are.

        >> For such a self-proclaimed “humanist” as yourself, you are very quick to label other people with crude stereotypes’.

        “Zio-supremacist” isn’t a “crude stereotype” – it’s a valid descriptor that applies to people just like you.

        >> I just despise folks like you.

        Of course you do – you’re a hateful and immoral Zio-supremacist.

        >> … every time you repeat your tired little ditty: ” oppressive, colonialist, etcetera ” …

        Calling my words a “tired little ditty” doesn’t change the fact that Israel remains an oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist state, born of Jewish terrorism and ethnic cleansing, and maintained and expanded by means of a 60+ years, ON-GOING and offensive (i.e., not defensive) campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder. It merely underscores the fact that you are hateful and immoral Zio-supremacist.

        >> Get your facts right.

        Since its inception, the oppressive and supremacist “Jewish State” of Israel – among other unjust and immoral acts – has been stealing, occupying and colonizing land outside its / Partition borders.

        Those are the facts, but hateful and immoral Zio-supremacists don’t like them.

      • American
        April 18, 2013, 1:36 pm

        They increasingly see Palestinians, not as a group of people capable of exercising the same democratic and political rights as the rest of us, but as wide-eyed and pathetic victims who must be saved from Evil Israel by the better-minded, better-educated activists of the West. Palestinians have been turned into the playthings of Western do-gooders, loveable victims deserving of pity and sad, tear-stained letters from Alice Walker and friends. In short, they’ve been reduced to the level of chickens: sad little creatures whom caring Westerners can coo over and stroke and maybe take home and put in the garden for their friends to marvel over”…….miriam6 s

        LOL…and why not? Turning the Jews into pets Westerners can coo over and ‘loveable victims deserving of pity and sad, tear-stained letters ” worked for Zionism. Maybe it will work for Palestine.

  2. pabelmont
    April 16, 2013, 9:09 am

    The world is over-filling with people. Coincidentally, many of these people (Americans, among them) are burning fossil fuels furiously and thereby bringing on climate change — and, so many say, mass starvation as agriculture changes (dropping toward zero where there is too much heat or drought).

    But for the moment it is feasible — and usually not illegal — to raise animals in the numbers that carnivorous people “need” and to do so in the crowded and “efficient” ways that the animal rights people deplore. And while all this raising of food-stuff animals continues in the manner it does, including feeding the beef animals with grains (instead of grass) which REDUCES methane contributions to climate change (as compared to grass-fed cattle) (to my surprise), growing as many cattle as we do still contributes a tremendous amou nt to methane to the atmosphere.

    Here the horror many feel at the industrial manner of treating captive food-stuff animals reminds us of the horror we (at Mondo) feel at the Israeli manner of treating captive Palestinian people.

    Perhaps if there were a sufficient tax on fossil fuel production (i.e., removal from the inert state in the ground), the production of pesticides and fertilizers (which use petroleum as a feed-stock) would be reduced and agriculture would use less fossil fuels and meat-producers would find corn and other grains used to feed cattle, etc., a good deal more expensive than it is today — in a more-or-less subsidized “farm” economy. If food were (even) more expensive than it is today, people might think twice about eating meat, about having (multiple) babies, and about living beyond a reasonable lifetime — all good things (to think about).

  3. Bill in Maryland
    April 16, 2013, 9:09 am

    Thank you Phil for sharing your insights in such a beautifully written way.

  4. OlegR
    April 16, 2013, 10:34 am

    It might be even worse than you think.
    The guide (and i know the type can probably recite her arguments which are dubious in a lot of cases)
    has one thing on your side which is a really strong moral argument based on the fact that we really can live on a vegetarian or even vegan diet and don’t do it out of convenience and habit.

    • Danaa
      April 16, 2013, 12:54 pm

      OlegR,

      a really strong moral argument based on the fact that we really can live on a vegetarian or even vegan diet and don’t do it out of convenience and habit.

      Sometimes sense from you, or perhaps a softer side of the heart? second time I notice something from you that I could quite agree with, if only in passing.

      Now, to the argument you could have finished with: Israel really could live with a palestinian neighbour state – even on strict ’67 borders – they just won’t do it out of habit (of fear, suspicion and loathing) and convenience (why go to the trouble and incur the tiniest of risks, if one can get away with more?).

      If you understand the moral high ground argument with regard to human consumption of animals, then you do the argument (even the maximalist one) about 2 states, and maybe that’s where you are.

      Trouble is – with a viable 2 states all but a faded mirage, what we have left is a situation analogous to one where even “humane” farming would be, effectively, outlawed, and PETA advocates criminalized. That’s where Israel is going – a state where the word – “humane” – will be treated as code for “subversive” – -

      The day when the stampede to the moral low ground becomes all too visible is not far off, unfortunately.

    • kalithea
      April 17, 2013, 3:43 am

      Some people treat their pets and animals in general better than other human beings. Some people humanize their pets and dehumanize other human beings.

      • American
        April 18, 2013, 1:44 pm

        kalithea says:
        April 17, 2013 at 3:43 am
        + Show content
        Some people treat their pets and animals in general better than other human beings. Some people humanize their pets and dehumanize other human beings.>>>

        Well I’m pretty sure I do that and really don’t apologize for it….mainly because being an animal lover/rescuer I get a good look at what some humans do to defenseless animals.

  5. yourstruly
    April 16, 2013, 10:44 am

    righteous pro-palestinian radicals have a better chance of success than righteous anti-animal butchery radicals, because, for one thing, palestinians can speak for themselves, whereas, cattle et al, well, they just can’t.

    • Danaa
      April 16, 2013, 12:59 pm

      Which is why the next battle lines will be drawn to enforce silence (just see the attempts – not yet successful – at introducing “hate speech’ clauses on campuses; or the use of libel laws in the UK or the effective silencing in Canada).

  6. Annie Robbins
    April 16, 2013, 10:46 am

    what a great article. another home run–out of the ball park.

    • Walker
      April 17, 2013, 10:28 am

      I agree! While I tend towards righteous sanctimony myself, I know it’s a good thing to be able to see things from more than one point of view.

  7. seafoid
    April 16, 2013, 10:56 am

    Israel isn’t coherent. There is no point in a Jewish nihilism. Or maybe there is but I don’t get it.

  8. aiman
    April 16, 2013, 11:04 am

    Excellent thought-provoking essay.

  9. Scott
    April 16, 2013, 11:28 am

    The author of a great book on animal rights, Matthew Scully, was also. . .a Cheney speechwriter.

  10. Patrick
    April 16, 2013, 1:21 pm

    Phil, Your positions on Israel and Zionism are much closer to the mainstream of humanity than is the position of U.S. and a few other western countries (like Canada).

  11. Citizen
    April 16, 2013, 1:45 pm

    Good article, Phil.
    I feel much like you about the matter. On the one hand, animals are not humans. Yet humans should be responsible for all species with less power. Personally, I love eating meat. Yet we can’t all get it by personally hunting it down and shooting it ourselves in the most painless manner, after it has had a life of roaming free, relatively speaking in contrast to industrial provision of meat. Anyway I look at it, I must face the fact that I live as I do and living animals pay for this. The first agenda item arises, if they are human “animals,” can I live serenely knowing this? No. That’s my first priority. Secondly, I need to look the plight of actual animals as my literal food. I’m trying to get there, supported by both my sisters who are vegetarians, not yet vegans. You have less to apologize for than your guide. I know it’s glib, but you could have asked her, what she thinks of her government’s enabling of the Palestinian plight. You were too polite, and sensitive. And you knew she was hard-core for the animals. So let’s support her to the extent we can, and stay the main course–tackle man’s inhumanity to man, then man’s insensitivity to animals, not to mention our environment generally, etc.

  12. W.Jones
    April 16, 2013, 1:53 pm

    I like dairy and poultry. They are not inherently bad, and help to prolong the species. Notice that domesticated animals are not in threat of extinction like some others. When cows are ready, then they act along with it. “Moo! Milk me!”

    Palestinians, on the other hand, were not asking to be dispossessed and expelled.

  13. libra
    April 16, 2013, 2:04 pm

    Phil Weiss: I’ve said before I’m a reluctant radical. I don’t want to be alienated from the main body of humanity. I don’t want to be righteous and always-right and sanctimonious.

    Well Phil, who wouldn’t want to still hobnob with everyone back in Manhattan or down at the Hamptons? But if those invites ever dry up, I’m sure you’d be warmly welcomed by the lunch-pail crowd. And the great thing is, they don’t want you to be righteous and sanctimonious either. Especially about the fillings in their sandwiches.

  14. David Samel
    April 16, 2013, 3:31 pm

    Phil, the analogy between your guide’s views on eating animals and your views on Israel is very perceptive and even convincing. To take it a little further, most of us eat meat by giving very little thought to the cruelty required to put it on our table; and most Jews accept their second birthright of the safety valve of automatic citizenship in Israel by giving very little thought to the cruel indifference and contempt for Palestinians that is required to give us that option. btw, I sense the potential for criticism that I am drawing an equivalence between Palestinians and farm animals, and I really hope nobody goes there. My point is that it’s human nature to blithely accept privileges, whether eating meat or assuming ethic-based superiority over others, without recognizing that our choices often have victims.

    As for forgoing meat, my oldest child became veggie at age 10 when she realized that the chicken on her plate was the same as the animal at the petting zoo, and had been killed to feed her. My youngest followed suit, and gradually the rest of us did as well. I find that very promising. Some things appear crystal clear to children, and are harder for adults to see after many years of rationalizing. Vegetarians are still a small minority, but are growing enough so that veggie options at restaurants, and all-veggie restaurants, are exploding in number. The same phenomenon is evident with younger people leading the amazing recent transformation in poll numbers on same-sex marriage. I see the same happening on Israel. Younger people are more apt to see the horrible unfairness of one people ruling over another and less inclined to accept any of the lame rationalizations offered to defend it.

    • Citizen
      April 16, 2013, 5:26 pm

      @ David Samel

      Yeah, even McDonald’s is now selling veggie stuff. Personally, I’m so old, I find it to be not worth my fast food bucks, but I recognize the more civilized future. I wish I wasn’t so wedded to my fat-dripping meaty comfort foods and mashed potatoes and gravy, etc. I have no defense except to say, when you’re really old like I am, eating is much more important than when I was young, when I viewed food as merely filling up my gas tank.

      • American
        April 18, 2013, 1:23 pm

        @ Citizen

        I am having the exact opposite reaction as I get older…..younger I was into fine dining and gourmet cusine, now I could care less…..if something special is available, fine, if not I’m just as content with a bowl of cereal.

      • Citizen
        April 20, 2013, 8:08 am

        @ American
        I was never into fine dining or gourmet cuisine. All I meant, for example, is
        whereas when I was young, although I enjoyed eating a good burger, I’d wolf it down and be on my way, whereas now, I will eat it more slowly, savor it more, look forward to having it more. Food is more of a priority to me now, but I still cook my own usually, and choose the same standard fare I always did.

    • W.Jones
      April 16, 2013, 6:00 pm

      David S,

      Don’t you think there are important differences though?

      Do Palestinians have a “human soul” or an “animal soul”?

      Farm animals are intentionally fed and cared for, and on a small farm losing a cow or another animal is a big deal. Kids get attached to farm animals, and even feel bad sometimes when they get eaten.

      Does the System seek to exploit them as the US South exploited slaves or farms exploit work horses or other animals? Isn’t it a significantly different relationship, because we are not talking about farm animals who are cared for, maintained, and exploited. At the end of the day, isn’t there a difference from the distopian “Animal Farm”?

      • David Samel
        April 17, 2013, 9:35 am

        Of course there’s a difference, W, which is why I said: “I sense the potential for criticism that I am drawing an equivalence between Palestinians and farm animals, and I really hope nobody goes there. My point is that it’s human nature to blithely accept privileges” I’ve never been one to draw an equivalence between any animals and humans, but I do try to minimize or at least reduce the suffering I cause animals.

    • Donald
      April 16, 2013, 7:08 pm

      Good for your family, David. I’m not there yet. Also, we have a cat, which isn’t going vegan. There are limitations on what one can do. Well, limitations on what a cat can do.

      I thought Phil’s post was great on various levels. Basically I think as you do, that all (everyone I know anyway) rationalizes some form of oppression or cruelty and no, neither am I equating animals to humans. But there is an underlying similarity in the mindset that says we can inflict cruelty if it benefits us and many of us tend to snarl and become defensively sarcastic when our own failings are pointed out. In that sense I can understand exactly where the uglier pro-Israel reactions come from.

      On the other hand, we can also look at the activist as Phil did and wonder uneasily if sanctimoniousness is alienating. Now I’m just repeating Phil, just as in my first paragraph I was echoing you, so I’ll stop.

      • kalithea
        April 17, 2013, 3:22 am

        I wonder if those who raised their voices to condemn crimes against Jews were too radical, “sanctimonious” and alienating?

        I must weigh my indignation and check myself the next time Gaza gets carpet bombed, I would want to “alienate” anyone.

      • Citizen
        April 17, 2013, 9:00 am

        @ kalithea
        Your comment is an astute counterpoint. PS: correx: “….I would not want to “alienate” anyone.”

      • Donald
        April 17, 2013, 9:46 am

        Interesting that you took it that way, kalithea. It never hurts to question one’s own behavior now and then and ask whether you’re helping achieve one’s goals or hurting them. But if one is morally perfect in every way then I agree, it just wastes time.

      • kalithea
        April 18, 2013, 12:44 am

        Thank you.

      • David Samel
        April 17, 2013, 9:30 am

        Donald, there’s no question that sanctimony can be alienating. A lot of it is in the “delivery.” Interestingly, my daughter recently told me that while she never gives people grief for eating meat, some give her grief for not. Her very choice of being a veggie is considered a moral accusation that she never makes.

        As for me, I’m really a pescetarian, which I rationalize this way: farm animals are raised in horribly cruel conditions, while wild-caught fish have normal lives until the day they are caught. See? People can rationalize anything.

        More generally, we in the “developed” world rationalize living lives of luxury, even if we drive a Honda rather than a Mercedes, simply because of our fortunate birth, and feel bad but do very little to help people whose life expectancy is in the 40′s or even 30′s.

      • eljay
        April 17, 2013, 7:52 pm

        >> Interestingly, my daughter recently told me that while she never gives people grief for eating meat …

        Good for her. I never push vegetarianism on anyone, either. But I’m amazed by how many people will confess they’re disturbed by animal cruelty…but, by gosh, they really love eating meat!

      • Donald
        April 18, 2013, 9:49 am

        “Interestingly, my daughter recently told me that while she never gives people grief for eating meat, some give her grief for not”

        That’s common. People don’t like to be made to feel guilty and the mere fact that your daughter doesn’t eat meat is enough to make others squirm even if she says nothing. That sort of reaction also seems to underly a lot of pro-Israel argumentation, or so I suspect.

      • American
        April 18, 2013, 1:08 pm

        Think we all rationalize…..we gave up beef and rationalized that we could eat only other ‘flesh eaters’……chickens, fish, pigs, which will eat other animal flesh…while cows won’t. Not completely rational but works for us.
        After not eating beef for a while the thought of it, even the smell of it has become revolting.

    • alan
      April 17, 2013, 10:12 am

      David I think your family’s take on dietary issues is a good example of the kind of evolution of civilisation in which liberal Phil says he trusts. I urge your kids to check out the true price of milk next!

  15. Elliot
    April 16, 2013, 5:34 pm

    I’m outspoken in my communities and, I suppose, just like the rest of us, run into plenty of negative reactions. For those of us who are not members of communes or are hermits, it’s impossible to avoide dealing with this kind of resistance.
    My liberal Zionist friends respond in all sorts of ways. One, a professor who teaches this material, tries to find common ground with me, and trusts that, being an Israeli, I may know my stuff.
    A colleague told me to my face that my views are extreme. At the same time, he was concerned enough to check with me that by taking the liberal Zionist path he hadn’t hurt his reputation among progressives.
    I go through periods where I try to avoid talking about I/P completely. I just nod and smile at the Jewish nationalism and wilful ignorance that I hear every day.
    Phil, you do serve a vital role and I’m grateful for Mondoweiss.

  16. seafoid
    April 16, 2013, 5:46 pm

    I think meat eating is far less likely to fall over than Israel is.
    You don’t need the backing of the US air force to eat a burger. We don’t know if the Crusaders at Kerak des Chevaliers were vegan but we do know they were eventually on the wrong side of the Med.

  17. DICKERSON3870
    April 16, 2013, 5:58 pm

    RE: “I’ve said before I’m a reluctant radical. I don’t want to be alienated from the main body of humanity.” ~ Weiss

    CRANKY, OLD “GET OFF MY GRASS” MAN SEZ:
    Wait just a dang minute. I thought I was amongst fellow “conscious pariahs” here at Mondoweiss.
    One fer y’all, and y’all fer none!

    . . . A warning to the prophet, the liar, the honest
    This is war
    To the leader, the pariah, the victim, the messiah
    This is war
    ~
    It’s the moment of truth and the moment to lie
    The moment to live and the moment to die
    The moment to fight, the moment to fight
    To fight, to fight, to fight . . .
    ~ 30 Seconds to Mars

    ● Thirty Seconds to Mars: “This is War” (VIDEO, 06:01) ~ link to youtube.com

    • kalithea
      April 18, 2013, 2:52 am

      A warning to all reluctant radicals;
      to conscious pariahs;
      “A warning to the prophet…”

      A prophet is not without honour, except in his
      own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. -Mark 6:4

      This IS war…against WAR.
      It’s the moment to fight, fight, fight;
      Don’t surrender!

  18. eljay
    April 16, 2013, 6:42 pm

    >> David Samel @ April 16, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Excellent post. Thanks.

  19. piotr
    April 16, 2013, 6:44 pm

    I had a consultation with nutritionists advised by the family doctor, and I am supposed to eat more fruits and vegetables, so I started to pay attention to supermarket prices.

    Something is really wrong in the result of the interaction of government, agro-business, farmers and the retailers. I grew up in a country that at the time was more or less self-sufficient in foodstuff and based on small farms. Staple vegetables were roughly 10 times cheaper than meat, reflecting the fact that from an acre of land you can get at least 10 times more potatoes, beets, onions, cabbage, turnips, carrots etc. than meat. Whole grain bread was cheaper than white bread, again, you have to throw out some stuff from the grain to make it white.

    American system is very efficient in producing cheap animal products and very inefficient in supplying vegetables, and quite mediocre with fruit.

  20. Edward Q
    April 16, 2013, 9:04 pm

    I wouldn’t feel too bad. The problem with this argument is that in this critic the validity of your advocacy depends on whether or not the broad public agrees with your views, not on their correctness. Being passionate about something is how things get done. I am sure there are movements in the past that you admire which only succeeded because the people involved were determined and willing to be out of the mainstream. It seems to me this essay raises two issues: 1) how dogmatic to be and 2) how many moral demands you want to absorb.

  21. dbroncos
    April 17, 2013, 12:30 am

    Great insights, Phil. The prospects for peace and justice in I/P seem bleak at times but there is still confidence that a just resolution is possible. Contrast that confidence with the outlook on the horrors of our food industry, a component of the ecological crisis. Most of us are complicit in the accelorating destruction of our ecology and we all stand suffer the consequences. The trajectory of this ongoing, all encompassing crisis looks many times more bleak than the prospects for peace in I/P.

    • kalithea
      April 17, 2013, 3:10 am

      I think both situations run parallel in their bleakness because the end for both is driven by the same factors: greed/selfishness and ignorance. As a matter of fact these flaws seems to drive most of the world’s problems, although we can add fear/cowardice and apathy to those as well.

  22. kalithea
    April 17, 2013, 2:56 am

    This needs repeating: “And humane farming is to her what liberal Zionism is in the eyes of an anti-Zionist– it’s worse than the hard original, because it would sanitize the inhumanity and provide cover for it so as to prolong its existence. She would rather people see the true face of the business.”

    You can’t underestimate giving a voice to the voiceless and exposing those who sanitize inhumanity by providing a “liberal” cover for an option that is totally unfeasible and represents an unjust compromise that delays justice and then cheats millions of what is rightfully theirs.

    The last paragraph in this piece upsets me. How can you turn back once your eyes are open? You’re supposed to be changed by awareness. It’s like trying to fit, squeeze back into a mold of yourself that you’ve outgrown! How can you pretend to feel at ease in a crowd that just doesn’t see what you’ve seen? In a world too distracted and ignorant to care, taking a principled stand for something you know is right is undoubtedly a humbling and lonely experience, but then how can you fully understand the pain of the oppressed you defend unless you feel rejection from those who really serve injustice by DELAYING justice and who lack the courage to fully commit to what is right and humane? Sitting in the corps waiting for progress, when you know the need is urgent is in fact serving injustice by delaying the justice the oppressed deserve now. It’s a cop-out.

    “I don’t want to be alienated from the main body of humanity. … I’m a reluctant radical.” So I was trying to come up with the perfect analogy for this “radical” business and all I could think of was this, and it’s probably the most “radical” example, and I know there’s many more, but it was easily accessible, and it works. Jesus. He was a messenger of peace and compassion, but at the same time he was totally RADICAL in his time; he intimidated and exasperated his peers, his standards were considered impossibly high, he upset the status quo; he was shunned, ridiculed, tortured and killed for being a radical; he broke with the past, he defied the mold and he started with an insignificant following, that’s no longer so insignificant. I could have chosen, say, MLK, who also had radical views, but he wasn’t fighting against other blacks he was fighting oppressors who were of a different race and class and weren’t considered his peers at the time. So the analogy wasn’t perfect. Jesus was fighting his peers, i.e. other Jews. And ironically, the most intriguing aspect of your piece is the title. It drew me in.

    Since when is fighting on the front line to defend what is humane, radical? I think what you really consider radical is standing up against your peers for what is humane. And that’s radical only if you allow them to define your evolution, unless of course–you doubt yourself, and hopefully that condition won’t undo what you’ve accomplished already and sabotage your goal.

    • Citizen
      April 17, 2013, 9:15 am

      @ kalithea
      “Since when is fighting on the front line to defend what is humane, radical? I think what you really consider radical is standing up against your peers for what is humane. And that’s radical only if you allow them to define your evolution, unless of course–you doubt yourself, and hopefully that condition won’t undo what you’ve accomplished already and sabotage your goal.”

      I think doubting yourself in the face of your peers is part of being “radical.” It’s always hard to go against the grain. But that’s also how grain slowly changes, as you know. Jesus himself, an excellent example narrative, himself doubted, right?

      • kalithea
        April 18, 2013, 1:22 am

        I don’t believe he doubted himself; his conviction proved to be solid. He was tempted by great power and rejected it and only when he foresaw the horror about to befall him he asked God if there might be another way, but followed it by “your will be done”.

        His sacrifice confirmed his conviction.

    • Danaa
      April 17, 2013, 2:17 pm

      kalithea: How can you turn back once your eyes are open? You’re supposed to be changed by awareness. It’s like trying to fit, squeeze back into a mold of yourself that you’ve outgrown! How can you pretend to feel at ease in a crowd that just doesn’t see what you’ve seen?

      You must not be a member-in-good-standing of the Jewish Intellectual class. That’s where the practice of self-doubt has been honed into an art form for the gentle mannered and genteel of hearts . All of history distilled into an “on the one hand/on the other hand” (proof: there are people out there who actually think “portnoy’s complaint’ was a good book). That being the case, kudos should go to Phil for his willingness to share the doubts that plague those whose task it is to think and expound along paths that don’t get you a perch among the well-annointed of the MSM. The doubts he shares are common to many, and I have full confidence that such as they are, he will not lose heart, even as the battles ahead put ever greater strains on many a cherished welcome mat. In fact, I think that giving a voice to these questions is important, especially as it will, IMO, become increasingly challenging to stay the course and not lose heart in the face of the overwhelming powers arrayed against us all.

      Your points are good ones though. One cannot turn back once they witnessed the light. Still, for those in the jewish community who chose to cast their lot with the cause of justice and human rights, sometimes the hardest struggles will be those within. I think for most people, jewish and not, who choose to walk alongside the palestinians (especially without being one), as they forge their own history bearing the full weight of a cross we cannot lighten, a momentary pause to examine our own motives, can be of benefit. That’s just one of the ways to find out the depth of our own commitment.

      As to your apt analogy: even Jesus is reputed to have had his doubts…..

      • kalithea
        April 18, 2013, 1:35 am

        “That’s just one of the ways to find out the depth of our own commitment.”

        I accept that. But the temptation to just blend back into the crowd again and hope for positive progress when you know that justice has been delayed for so long and the need is urgent. That’s another thing.

        See my reply to Citizen. What leads you to believe he doubted himself? I don’t see that he doubted himself.

  23. sasha
    April 17, 2013, 9:01 am

    I would think, the Palestine situation (for non-Palestinians) and situation with animals are indeed very close. Both have to do with our ways to learn and to change, and with suffering of others.

    The life in society primes us for stability and security, acceptance of common way of life as reality, and automatic rejection of anything
    contradictory. Yet sometime a thorn tears through the wonderful picture (say, the thorn of suffering of others felt momentarily), and after a painful while we might start see things differently. To see that Israel is not a real state, but a state of delusion. That idea of “chosen people” is nonsense. And be accepted in a larger world as equals (where Palestinians, that were previously an abstraction, are real, equally to us).

    One can try to see similarly our attitudes animals and, more generally, the world around us. It is another delusion from the Book that world is hierarchical and those in upper layer has right over the lower one.
    That we are clever and the world is our property. And the fact that present human societies take it for granted makes it is no less
    nonsense. We behave in this world as robbers in a fine china
    store, not understanding that we ourselves are part of the china
    trampled down in search of cash register. One cannot stop violence
    between humans without seeing that it is the same as our
    cruelty against the animals, trees, rivers. That killing them does
    not differ from killing humans. That earth covered by asphalt
    is murdered earth.

    Understanding this makes one feel not secure. But,
    unlike our delusions (as Hecate told in “Macbeth”, “security is mortals chiefest enemy”), the world is insecure and unpredictable.
    Which is one of its wonders.

    There is a great book “Eternal Treblinka” by Charles Patterson that traces Holocaust to our behavior towards animals (and, in particular, to American history). I highly recommend it.

  24. chris o
    April 18, 2013, 3:54 am

    Great stuff. I love it.

  25. chris o
    April 18, 2013, 4:06 am

    The vast majority of humankind believes they have a God-given right to eat animals, and dominate them in every way. We have proven to be the Great Extinct-ers of other species. The carnage is unbelievable.

    But only a small fraction of humanity believes Jews have a God-given right to expanding parcels of land east of the Mediterranean.

  26. K Renner
    April 18, 2013, 10:58 am

    Major difference between the two scenarios- at this stage in time, people globally are dependent on the consumption of livestock. The PETA wannabe should focus instead ensuring that the animals being bred for the slaughter are not full of chemicals or other things that are detrimental to the consumer- or maybe focus on advocating for animals that are actually in danger of becoming extinct.

    People don’t “need” Zionism to survive. At this point, people do need livestock to survive.

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