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Total number of comments: 234 (since 2011-01-31 06:10:06)


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  • This website is 5 years old
    • A certain frog, who believes he's been quietly banned, and says he's never received a response to his inquiries on the subject, sends his kind regards:

      Wondrous blog. [Acerbic comment pre-moderated]

      As I've said in other places, this blog is a rarity on the political internet - a site where a true range of opinions on a highly controversial set of subjects are regularly represented and debated. Sometimes the war of ideas turns into a war of ideologues, and sometimes it gets ugly, but that's inevitable.

      But I still don't get why fuster has been excluded - if he has been. I know him rather well, and I don't see how his past contributions or his stance can be taken as unacceptable, given the typical "lively" state of discussion in these parts. How "moderation" happens here is a bit of a mystery to me, and I think it's in the interest of a "community" for people at least to be publicly warned rather than peremptorily disappeared.

      Still wondrous overall, of course.

  • Slater seeks to reconcile Zionism with justice for Palestinians
    • Hi again, Potsherd2,

      I guess you separate yourself from a certain type of judgmental idealist after all, but I don't think you fairly characterize Jerry's position. I suspect he, on his own account, would be ready to accept a very great degree of compensatory "suffering" for the "guilty Jews," but that would be easy for him to say, wouldn't it, since he's merely a sympathetic observer.

      In another way, however, I think that the position you call for is explicit throughout his writing - that the Israelis and their friends should recognize they have a major moral debt to pay. But you can believe that and not believe that shame and mortification for the sake of shame and mortification is the way to go. You can also believe that the moral judgment is much more complex than "the guilty Jews," and that insisting on any partial judgement is presumptuous and counterproductive, and itself a moral wrong or the beginning of one. Maybe it's more practical to seek non-zero sum alternatives - measure that would ameliorate, perhaps greatly ameliorate, the suffering of all concerned, beginning with those suffering the most. The Israeli moral self-interest in expiation and redemption also might at some point become important, a retrieval of ideal Judaism as a matter of fact, but, if we're going to talk about moral self-interest, then maybe we should also talk about the moral-self interest of anti-Zionists, too.

    • Potsherd2 - a concession to reality, to "natural justice" if not to ideal morality. The two often come into conflict. By natural justice, trial by combat on the large scale, being a victor in a cataclysmic world war means that you count. Might made you right.

      I think you're correct about UN Security Council, whose establishment and configuration was also a concession to natural justice, or historical necessity, or practical politics. Making it obsolete, in a good way, would be a good thing, would define a great historical task.

    • Hi lyn,

      The phrase "world that counted" was borrowed from Potsherd2's concession regarding the actual correlation of forces ca. 1948. It goes without saying that in an ideal world, everyone would count, and that the new and old great powers would have treated the Palestinian Arab rights as sacrosanct, like everyone else's rights.

      Instead, you had a bunch of people who'd just finished - well, actually hadn't quite finished at all - tolling up the "butcher's bills" and registering 10s or 100s of thousands of casualties, 100s of thousands killed in two blinks of an eye in the case of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and nodding gravely, then getting on to the next case. They were still watching millions of people, sometimes millions of their own people, the ones who counted the most to them, being pushed from one end of the table map to the other. They were drawing and re-drawing boundaries containing millions of square miles and crossing out hundreds or maybe thousands of years of history with red pencils. Millions of people were still dying all around the world - most prominently in the Chinese civil war, the India-Pakistan partition, and the German mass re-location - as part of this globe-spanning re-division of empires, culminating a process that had actually been going on intensively for 30-40 years. "Arbitrarily take someone else’s life, or home or possessions by pointing a gun at them and threatening them, just because they don’t have the wherewithal to defend against it" is how an overwhelmingly large amount of the world's business was still being done in 1948, if in the name of not having to do it (as much) anymore.

      "They" (we) were used to playing God with people's lives, and - ironically, in historically very telling ways - they/we didn't take the plight of a few hundred thousand Palestinian Arabs being asked to vacate most of a not exceeding attractive patch of a land and enjoy citizenship and new lives in the re-defined landscape. Considering that in many of their/our minds the Palestinian Arabs had been Nazi collaborators, and the Jews deserved a special place divvying up the spoils, the victors probably thought that the former were getting off fairly easy, at least considering the pitilessness with which the defeated, and their friends, were customarily treated elsewhere and since forever. That the resisters turned around and defied the solemn decision of the people that counted, and instead went to war, re-submitted them again to this ancient moral logic.

      Which brings up the relative absence throughout this entire discussion of the Palestinian Arabs and allies as self-conscious actors in their own destinies. I've just gotten through explaining how they were on the other side of overwhelming and pitiless historical forces, but, of course, the Palestinians themselves, along with the future Israelis, played a role in determining how hard or easy the whole thing went, and much of the character of the fight was determined locally. I fully understand and accept that they had a right to resist, but that resistance included a number of very bad decisions, and it didn't take the form exclusively of Gandhian soul-force and exemplary commitment to the highest in ca. 2011 humane and democratic values.

      What I propose generally is that we view the history historically, not from false presumptions of supreme understanding and towering moral superiority, and treat the present and potential futures with a view not just to what any one or a group of us think should happen, but also to what our knowledge of human nature and relevant facts allows us to guess about what can happen and about what must happen - that is, if we want to do better than our forebears, instead of just repeating their mistakes from the other direction. As Woodrow Wilson put it, but in foreign affairs didn't always achieve it, "Speculative politics treats man and situations as they are supposed to be; practical politics treats them (upon no general plan, but in detail) as they are found to be at the moment of actual contact." The speculative aspect of this conflict is incredibly fascinating, it ends up being the through the looking glass history of human morality and civilization. It is therefore a dangerous temptation, since it leads people to seek and get "religion" on what must be done.

    • But perfect justice is of course impossible, because it would be imposed on Jews.

      Perfect justice defines the impossible. In politics, it defines the insane and irrelevant, except when it defines the catastrophically destructive. Otherwise, it may not even be imaginable, but whatever you think "perfect justice" would look like in the area of historical Palestine, because it could not be walled off from the rest of humanity in space and time, it would not be achievable without perfect justice everywhere.

      But maybe you can relieve me of my burdens of misunderstanding by kindly pointing to a real existing example of "perfect justice" for the Israelis to emulate.

      Incidentally, do you honestly believe that the imperfect solution that Jerry points to would be worse than every other, or even than most other, or even than many other governmental set-ups on Earth? Why exactly is this situation such a transfixing obscenity and crime against humanity for you, but not, say, Tibet, the Congo, the plight of non-Muslims in Islamic Republics, the underclasses of the US of A and Europe, or the factory workers of Asia going blind building our beautiful HD screens?

      If injustice must be suffered (which it will) it will not be suffered by Jews.

      So we can put you down in favor of Jewish suffering?

      If innocent children must be punished, it must be the children of the innocent who suffer, not the guilty Jews.

      So we can put you down in favor of the suffering of innocent Jewish children?

      If anyone must live in a refugee camp, it must not be the Jews.

      So your more-final-than-Jerry's -solution would involve putting the Jews in refugee camps?

      If anyone gets to determine whether refugees will be repatriated, it must only be the Jews.

      So your more-final-than-Jerry's-solution would be the suspension or termination of political rights for Jews?

      If there must be a choice between a Jewish and a democratic state (which there must), it must be Jewish and undemocratic.

      What is it about Judaism as opposed to Catholicism, Protestantism, Sunni Islam, Shi'a Islam, Buddhism, communism, socialism, libertarianism, anarchism, capitalism, atheism, or any other belief system that makes it, in your estimation, as the basis for a system of laws and governance, inalienably and disqualifyingly undemocratic, and enough more so than all real existing human governments to justify disproportionate attention?

      I know I've asked a lot of questions of you here, but your version of idealism is typical, and you seem more capable than some of providing rational answers.

    • Jerry/Slater, can speak for himselves, but "effectively irrefutable" merely means that no one in the part of the world that counted could see to refuting it.

      As for "necessity," I'm still not sure what necessity means to you in these contexts. “Historical necessity” is a traditional phrase – and often means that someone is paying a heavy price for a crime someone else committed, or for no crime at all - because some other historical process was for all practical purposes irresistible.

      More to the point, if founding Israel there/then/in that way wasn't really "necessary" in your 2011 view, why exactly would it make it "necessary" now to re-visit or revoke the unnecessary judgment of '47-8 and overturn the entire history that followed up to the present day? Why shouldn't we still be permitted, in fact required, to calculate comparative advantages and balance equities?

    • CK: the guarantees were conditional. Like a contract, Israel did not fulfill its obligations, thus rendering the contract void. It was Israel that did not fulfill its part of the contract and so its claim is void.

      Postherd2, of course, this isn't a simple contract. Anyway, where is your evidence that the UN as a body or individual states considered their recognition of Israel absolutely conditional on fulfillment of subsidiary obligations associated with the "contract" - especially those obligations that Israelis and others would claim either never or no longer could be fulfilled without cooperation of the other parties? That the UN has passed diverse resolutions and did not as a body or through its members interpret them as a basis to "void the contract" argues against your proposition - even before we get to the actual language of key resolutions and diverse escape clauses.

    • MHughes, from where are you drawing this "permanent residence"-based theory of sovereignty and the "fundamental basis of moral life"?

    • Shmuel - I don't know what you mean when you say you don't know what "2 of [my] 3 strategies mean." During the 19th Century, defense of Jewish rights in Europe took on the organizational forms typical of political life in modern nation-states. Typically, the German versions were very well-organized. You're obviously somewhat familiar with the history of Zionism, and probably are familiar with the WZO. Two of the best-known assimilationist organizations in Germany were the Central Union (Central Verein or CV) of Jewish Citizens and the League of Jewish Front-Line Veterans (these are my off-the-cuff translations of their names). Both organizations were disbanded and ceased to exist in 1938. Some might argue that the leftwing revolutionary organizations of the period, given the disproportionate participation of Jews, amounted to another form of assimilationism. So, that would be Strategy #2. Strategy #3 typically relied on gentiles of good will in political parties and social organizations and clubs, in countries or social settings where Jews were excluded or where Jewish communities were already heavily segregated.

      There were Jews all over the world, sure, but I think it was across Europe that Zionism's historical vindication against assimilationism and against reliance on the good will of gentiles was perceived to have occurred, on the basis of very strong, if mostly negative evidence - not on the basis of the later prosperity of Jews in Israel or anywhere, though I wouldn't dismiss this additional argument out of hand.

      Shmuel and Potsherd2 - for clarification: The formal recognition of Israel and therefore favorable adjudication of the basic Zionist claim took place in several ways, including the ones you name, also including state to state recognition. Revising or adapting that recognition/validation in secondary ways would be normal and natural, but that's a sword that cuts both ways. Revoking or annulling it would be something else again, and, as I suggested, entail the creation of a counter-claim on the part of Israelis who had accepted and built on the implicit guarantees. Threats to renege on those guarantees evoke certain bad memories, and may tend to reinforce the Zionist ideology of self-reliance (see above).

    • I tend to be mistrustful of tough-minded realism, because I think people switch back and forth between moral arguments and toughminded arguments depending on which version is convenient, or on whose ox is being gored.

      Quite true, but also a tough-minded rejection of tough-mindedness. In what I referred to as the "physics of power-politics," the moral dimension would be a primary element. The switching-back-and-forth you describe corresponds to the dialectic of political power. Excesses in one direction or the other are sooner or later corrected, not always (usually?, ever?) happily for those concerned.

    • Potsherd2, I think you're right that justice is fundamental, but getting to fundamental questions is a philosophical project - implying definition of first principles and clear and necessary development from them.

      I also agree that it's a very interesting question, but the requirements of that philosophical discussion go beyond Jerry's main purposes in the essay.

      For instance, you respond to Jerry's assertion that the Holocaust made what MHughes calls "1905 Zionism" irrefutable as follows:

      Neither irrefutable nor urgent. …
      And this being the keystone of the entire case, it falls apart at the first puff of logic.

      "Irrefutable" can mean "logically irrefutable," and I think that's the primary meaning, so I also reacted against Jerry use of the word. It's a word I don't really associate with any philosophically rigorous discussion (in which any mere assertion or proposition already implies its opposite, its refutability). I would have qualified it with "effectively" or "practically" or some such.

      But I also think this problem speaks to a limitation in Jerry's approach that I don't consider a flaw, since he doesn't present himself as offering a philosophical treatment of the history of the Jews (which means the Jews in world history, not just the internal history of Jewish communities), or a critique of the concept of Zionism.

      What this conversation skirts - because we are mostly ill-equipped and disinclined to see into the minds of the people of the Earth, the decisionmakers on top of the governing coalitions and nation-states of 1947-8 - is the reason that the world, as represented in the United Nations and the leadership of the old and new "Great Powers," found Professor Slater's argument, the Zionist argument, adequately persuasive - or, possibly, "effectively irrefutable."

      Looking into their minds and their decisions would require, among other things, that we re-familiarize ourselves with the terms of what in Europe was known as “the Jewish question,” and which was re-cast and reinforced in each main era of European civilization (which, from the perspective of 1947-8 was, and in many ways still today is, “civilization” per se).

      What was “the Jewish question”? In its historically proximate, secularized form, it was a problem for the nation-state. Previously, it had been posed as a question of minimum necessary uniformity of belief under Christian-theocratic governance - typical "answers" often including expulsion, expropriation, forced conversion, isolation, etc. Jerry's essay handles this question by sticking to the practical-political, but necessarily unfolds as a critique of two main competing answers to the Jewish/Israel question of the state. It is inevitable that this critique tracks the theory of the state as enunciated during the 19th Century, because our terminology derives from that earlier discourse, implying that we have not yet evolved, advanced, thought our way all the way beyond it.

      Now, many participants in this discussion seem to believe that they possess a full-fledged, ready-to-go, fully workable alternative/replacement theory, and that it's just the stubbornness of the nasty Zionists that prevents us from putting it into practice. At a minimum, they will need to overcome Jerry's critique, but they need to consider that merely convincingly themselves that they have done so won't be sufficient. Overcoming the impediments to ideal justice that Jerry isolates, and somewhat regretfully seeks to adapt to, is something that would have to be done, in real human detail, not just theorized. It may not be convincingly theorizable at all until or to whatever extent it's actually done.

    • PW: As I've said before, I think your vision is messianic in the good sense. The problem is that it also therefore stands for realizing eternal justice - "realizing eternity." The further problem is that comprehending that expression as something other than oxymoronic has driven some of the greatest minds history has known into gibbering insanity, total irrelevance, and worse.

      Resolving the destinies of the Israeli Jews and the Palestinian Muslims (and others) as one destiny isn't just a big project, it corresponds to and in essence is the same as the project of human civilization.

      Unifying the Muslims, the Jews, and the others - happily, peacefully, authentically as equal partners in the same destiny - would be hard enough, and significant enough, in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Doing it at the spiritual, historical, and geographical fulcrum of the world is a BFD. It could be the B-est, most F'd D of them all.

      Jerry's essay concentrates on the practical-political background and immediate realities. I think he's persuasive on them. The requirements of the BFD exist on a much broader scale, because "our historical drama" is already at the center of human consciousness and human history as we really, concretely know it. It's why MondoWeiss and millions and millions of other Mondos argue the livelong day about a tiny strip of land and the complaints of a relative mere handful of people. If history was one-person, one-vote, we'd be arguing like the dickens over the Congo or, better, the peasants of China and the poor of India, and so on, and so on.

      Our drama didn't get staged all by itself, or by us alone, just as the Jewish state wasn't a creation of the Jews alone, and, incidentally, the location wasn't selected by the Jewish Zionists alone.

    • What of other responses to anti-Semitism? What of emigration and the various forms and degrees of integration into surrounding European societies, especially following Emancipation? ... These processes continued in Europe, and there is no telling how successful they may or may not have been, say in Poland or Lithuania, had it not been for the Nazi invasion and genocide.

      The Nazi invasion and genocide didn't happen "out of the blue," and wasn't facilitated by Germans only, but, even if we presume that assimilation could have somehow worked if only it had been tried again, or better, the people making that argument in Europe, both Jewish and non-Jewish, had been displaced and largely annihilated.

      The three main strategies of Jewish defense inherited from the 19th Century were 1) Zionism, 2) Jewish political organizing in the interest of political integration at the national level, 3) organizing chiefly by non-Jews on behalf of the Jews (where they were excluded or separate).

      By 1945, options two and three had gone up in smoke or had been buried in mass graves or had been scattered to the four winds. The Zionists, on the other hand, had survived the war with their leadership, base of operations, and organization intact, and with their strategy - in their eyes and in the eyes of "the world" - vindicated.

      That's also "serious history," history at its most serious. In that sense, much of this discussion - not yours in particular, but the typical discussion of this subject - is merely pseudo-history, the imposition of abstract, unconsciously parochial theories of ideal justice on past events. Put simply, the world - which does not operate by "one-person, one-vote," but ruthlessly according to the physics of power politics - accepted the Zionist claim through its competent entities, the great powers, most of the nations of the world, and the newly formed United Nations. Revising that decision would be no simple matter, and the attempt to revise it produces a counter-claim on the part of the Israelis who acted on its basis ever since.

    • For some reason PW chose, or Slater and PW chose, to excerpt the historical overview section of the piece. I'm not sure that even the relatively narrow historical argument depends on absolutes, or that Slater even tries to put the Zionist argument on its strongest possible foundation. He seems quite conscious of alternative views, and his concluding remarks are supportive of the Palestinian counter-claims.

      The bulk of the essay focuses on settlement proposals, and is largely if not completely independent of the validity of the central Zionist argument or the wisdom of founding the Jewish state then/there/in that way.

  • A desperate encounter at the U.N.
    • Our racist refusal to recognize the noble and historic pursuit of freedom by Palestinians is very American.

      Strikes me as the kind of statement that could not be true if it wasn't also false.

  • I waiver, and still I approve of military support for the Libyan resistance
    • have you read anything indicating his mission has changed?

      Once again, annie, his mission is an element in a larger strategy, not the entire strategy. Conceptually, if in few other respects, the status quo is similar to the one that obtained in Iraq during the late Clinton and early Bush years after "regime change" had officially been adopted as policy, but military action remained narrowly restricted, and constrained by international agreements.

      can you please provide us an example of recent american intervention you assess as harmonization with the international community and its values.

      I think the interventions in Bosnia and the first Gulf War (or Gulf War Phase One) clearly qualify. The expeditionary action in Afghanistan - which probably qualifies in its most important respects as an "intervention" - took place under an effective international consensus, though obviously that consensus has been cracking progressively.

      Actually, if you review the history of American military actions, virtually every one has been defined along these lines all the way back to the founding of the country, when Jefferson framed the Declaration of Independence as a statement before "the opinions of mankind."

      Nowadays, since the world system as we know it, especially since WW2, amounts to a construct of and for liberal interventionism, it's more of a challenge to find significant areas of the world that have fully and successfully escaped the compulsion to harmonize with the international community and its values, though the process is clearly far from complete.

    • Why "intervene" in this discussion and express support for one side or another if you believe in total neutrality? There is no neutrality once you've entered into political discussion. There is at best a refusal to acknowledge what you are supporting. Todd himself, when he refers to "wishful thinking," seems to recognize this unreality of total neutrality/absolute non-interventionism, but refrains from taking the next step.

    • All true, ToivoS, and reasonable points of concern. If you already presume, as the anti-American/anti-imperialist types do, that Western influence must on balance be negative, then you will have to assume that it will affect the sorting-out of the opposition negatively. If you assume that harmonization with the international community and its values would or at least could on balance be better for the real lives of Libyans and others, then the uncertainty of the "game" is more a positive, and only the eventual defeat of Qadhafi makes it possible.

    • What you seem to be in favor of, Todd, is self-contradiction. If you really supported neutrality and were against intervention anywhere, wouldn't silence express your stance best?

    • Why waiver, PW and Seham? In the utter absence of a real revolutionary alternative, your authenticity rock will beat their ultra-left scissors every time.

      link to

  • Is another ‘Cast Lead’ in the offing?
    • There is one variable in all this: China.

      China strives very hard not to be a variable in any of this, and Chinese strategists would probably see becoming such a variable as a failure of its foreign policy. China also has its own major economic and political challenges looming. For the ME countries, putting all (or most or many of) their eggs in a Chinese basket would risk repeating and amplifying previous historical errors.

  • 'Addicted to empire... potential quagmire' -- Walt
    • happy to hear you find me unpredictable

      No, annie, I find your comments generally quite predictable in tone and content. It's the pseudo-logic connecting your presumptions, digressions, and insulting interjections that's unpredictable.

      I think that you might actually be trying to say something (other than "f u CK") in the above comment. Maybe you can try breaking up the last run-on sentence into chewable pieces.

    • oh wow why didn’t i think of that before (snark)

      Possibly, annie, because your mind words by circuitous and unpredictable ways. For instance, now you're assuming, for no apparent reason other than a desperation to imagine you've won a rhetorical victory, that the larger context being referred to was Iraq. This larger context of the Libya operation in relation to Ham's statement (which you introduced) involves factors, forces, and actors that go far beyond the limited military mission, whose main justification and stated objective were and are avoiding imminent negatives: imminent "merciless" bloodbath in Benghazi and beyond, imminent triumph of Q, imminent major and potentially definitive setback to the democracy movement as understood and supported by the international community.

    • annie, try to process the difference between a military mission undertaken by particular U.S. and allied forces and a larger context. Here's an example, I can respond to your comment, and I can also go on about my life. When questioned about my response, I could say

      I have a very discreet rhetorical mission, answering annie's [characterization withheld] comment, at least the part that makes some kind of a arguable point. So I could see accomplishing that rhetorical mission while failing to achieve other desirable objectives. I don't think that would be ideal.

    • Donald, I always enjoy your submissions on MW threads, because you stick to the ideas, and seem determinedly susceptible to logic. I'm therefore going to take a little time with this reply. The discussion should also address points raised by others in support of Walt and in relation to Greenwald's reply to Judis.

      First on the Iraq comparison: The arguments made regarding Saddam may not have been sufficient to justify all that followed in the Iraq war, but that doesn't mean that those arguments were baseless. It's not a question of "emoting," and it's even less a question of designing a one-size-fits-all rule of building a perfect world through military intervention. It's a question of analyzing a unique situation on its own terms and in actual context.

      There would have been a real cost, actually a set of real costs and uncertainties, to the Iraqis and others, attributable to not intervening in Iraq in 2003, and for that matter in letting Saddam have Kuwait in 1991. Given Saddam's track record, his ambitions, and his methods, it's fair to assume that the costs might have been extremely high, first and disproportionately to his neighbors and his own people. If you need to deny those facts to make your argument, then you don't have a good argument, and you're no longer arguing with the people who supported the Gulf War and the Iraq invasion (two phases of the same war), but with straw men. Or, to put it in your language, a war advocate could say, "I've never understood how war critics can just blandly ignore the consequences of letting an aggressive and genocidally mass murderous militarist dictator achieve dominance in the single most economically and politically critical region in the world."

      There are answers to this argument, and this thread probably isn't a good place to review the modern history of war in the Gulf, but simply dismissing it because it fails to move you is not answering it. The same goes for simply dismissing Judis' argument as a "waste of time."

      Greenwald's reply is casuistry - taking the form, as Muhammad Idrees Ahmad puts it on this thread, of an elision of "the immediate context" in favor of an "abstract argument." Others, such as Juan Cole and the author Muhammad links, have spoken expertly to the numerous real differences between Iraq 2002-3 and Libya 2011. Judas' three questions define that immediate context further: Everyone who opts for the application of a strict and generalized anti-imperialist line, or in other cases a pacifist, isolationist, or conspiracist position that arrives in the same place, has at a minimum that three-part burden to overcome: 1) bloodbath, 2) Qadhafi in victory, 3) effect on Arab Spring.

      In other words, every alternative scenario for movement forward in the Middle East and the world must begin with a failure of the U.S. and the international community - despite the presence of an adequate consensus, relatively easy means for putting it into effect, and a lack of significant opposition - to save lives, to stall Qadhafi, and to side with those seeking universal human and political rights. Every alternative that doesn't begin with and prepare to overcome the burden of those assumptions is wishful fantasy or, rather literally, sheer inhumanity - as, incidentally, are the historical critiques that pretend the alternative to war in 2003 or 1991 was perpetual peace among all the world's children and other living things. The arguments become even more fantastical when they rely on fortune-telling: After a few days of cruise missile strikes on air defense assets, and some rather minimal bombing of troop positions, those supporting the Libya operations are somehow expected to justify a non-existent quagmire, and defend the entire course of the 20-year fustercluck in Iraq, and probably Vietnam and Korea, too, before we're done with it.

      As I suggested on the Khalaf thread, the real difference on the broad left seems to be between two tendencies, which tend to co-exist in the critiques of many leftists, and are not always sorted out very consistently. One tendency sees the U.S. and other Western liberal democratic powers - the whole neo-empire - as part or potentially part of an international community supporting universal (bourgeois democratic) rights, freedoms, and institutions, its precise character evolving, but supported by military force when threatened by military force. The other tendency takes a more "radical" line, and is fed by several tendencies, including a critique of "imperialism" that doesn't seem to have been updated in around 50 years. One of the things that makes the latter line less persuasive, and in most countries rather marginal in political discussion, is that it seems to have little to offer anyone beyond positions of eternal self-righteousness for its advocates. Objectively, it seems to end up in the same place as far right isolationists, far left splinter groups, New Age pacifists, conspiracist nutjobs... and Muammar Qadhafi, and not just in 2011.

      I don't assume that it's impossible for a serious and consequential anti- or post-imperialist radicalism to arise and overcome these problems, at least to augment and potentially even to supplant the first tendency, but I don't think it will happen by wishing the world as it is away - or, in your words, "remembering the good and forgetting the rest" in its arguments.

    • I think John Judis put it well today - just the questions that the ideological opponents of the intervention need to answer:

      So I ask myself, would these opponents of U.S. intervention (as part of U.N. Security Council approved action), have preferred:

      (1) That gangs of mercenaries, financed by the country’s oil wealth, conduct a bloodbath against Muammar Qaddafi’s many opponents?

      (2) That Qaddafi himself, wounded, enraged, embittered, and still in power, retain control of an important source of the world’s oil supply, particularly for Europe, and be able to spend the wealth he derives from it to sow discord in the region?

      (3) And that the movement toward democratization in the Arab world—which has spread from Tunisia to Bahrain, and now includes such unlikely locales as Syria—be dealt an enormous setback through the survival of one of region’s most notorious autocrats?

      If you answer “Who cares?” to each of these, I have no counter-arguments to offer, but if you worry about two or three of these prospects, then I think you have to reconsider whether Barack Obama did the right thing in lending American support to this intervention.

      How The Left Got Libya Wrong | The New Republic

  • Preliminary remarks in support of the Libyan intervention
    • The evident strain running throughout Dr. Khalaf's post reflects divisions in the broad leftwing coalition. Those who find the anti-imperialist narrative more convincing than an international democratic rights narrative mainly end up siding against the intervention - as very different conceptions of the "Arab Spring" begin to emerge, too.

  • Libya/Gaza
    • PW: It appears to me that, for the Obama Administration and its overall approach to U.S. grand strategy, the Libyan operation appears as a necessary - which also means inescapable - step in the evolution of the "international community" as an alternative on the one hand to U.S. military and economic hegemony, on the other to the weakening or even the breakdown of the international system. The so-called Arab Spring has also been articulated within, and in critical ways has been about, this evolving and uncertain international context.

  • We planned the Purim party, then my partner actually read the Book of Esther...
    • Lyn, I think you're full of assumptions, "certainly indicating" all sorts of things. Are you going to explain how you reach your own positions, detail the origins of your beliefs about right and wrong, give your morality and tribe a name, so that others always can know ahead of time whether to try to attack or defend what you say?

    • Lyn, first of all, I don't possess "a stamp of religious approval." Nor do I recall ever having confessed a religious affiliation in these parts, and, since any explanation would be fundamentally irrelevant, I don't see why you bring it up. My passport doesn't have a religion box.

      In regard to the Amalekites, asking whether they "really" were the maniacs they were portrayed to be is a bit like asking whether the Klingons "really" are a warlike alien species. Both Star Trek and the Old Testament may encourage discussion of underlying moral issues, and they may also provide templates for human morality and conduct - elementary classes in "Construction of the Enemy," for instance. But the Klingons "are" who the story says they are, and ditto for the Amalekites. Imagining alternative scenarios may be interesting, but sooner or later you're just writing your own script(ure).

      The discussion of scripture goes dangerously and self-defeatingly off course, in my view, when we resort to anachronistic fallacy and hostile pseudo-exegesis of the sort that I believe characterizes so much of the discussion on this thread and on this site. Yet the discovery and examination of such error is also another justification of religion, a use to which religion is put in the construction of human beings as people of reason and moral worth. It's part of the point of preserving and respecting a tradition. How we discuss the ancient scripture, seeking to confront it on its own terms, is itself both a humanizing and elevating exercise. It not only ought to be but in some significant sense is how we understand ourselves and how we go about understanding any "alien" or other.

      In this connection, I don't know whether your suppositions based on the Chabad theo-anthropology are justified. They could make for another example of an outsider seizing upon someone else's religious belief without regard for actual use and application, for position within an uncomprehended system of meaning, or they may be entirely valid.

    • lyn, I wouldn't seek to justify genocide under any circumstances, even ancient fictional ones. I'll note though that in my reading of the story, it's not the Israelites who seek genocide, but God. Taken as religious instruction, what this means I think is that incorrigible murderers must be opposed actively and unreservedly. I've already given some examples of how this moral commandment can be seen to function in modern contexts. I think it goes without saying that falsely accusing an entire people of being incorrigible murderers, and causing harm to come to them, would be morally wrong, potentially among the gravest sins imaginable.

      I don’t actually know where Maimonides stood on the relative humanity of Jews vs. others.

      Do a little research for yourself about the man: I don't think you have much to worry about there, unless you take the position that all professions of religious belief are to be condemned as false claims to spiritual superiority. (That belief really does seem to underlie a certain kind of aggressive atheism - ironically enough an implicit claim to superiority.)

      As for the Chabad rebbis you mention, I really don't know much about them, and I'm not sure why you see them as relevant.

    • The mistake, then, would be "recording," unless you believe that the Jews invented genocide along with everything else, suggewsting perhaps that the Achaean Greeks were just imitating the Jews when they had their little business around Troy.

      It's not coincidence - did you have this in mind? - that Haman from the Purim story is identified as an Amalekite by birth. Additionally, the incident that led to the call to destroy the Amalekites in Exodus is an attack on the Jews returning from Egypt. As in the Purim story, the attack on the Amalekites is retributive: If you attempt to destroy us, all bets are off, and we'll destroy you, what in modern parlance during the nuclear age would be call a counter-population strategy.

      The Imperial Way Japanese and the German Nazis also received the Amalekite treatment during WWII. The demand for "Unconditional Surrender" equated with a campaign for the destruction of the fascist polities. The actual annihilation of the entireties of the Japanese and German people was never sought, but this also fits within the tradition of interpretation of the story of the Amalekites: If the enemy of humanity, the ones who seek genocide, give up their ways, cease to act as Amalekites, then the Jewish law required that they be allowed to live in peace. According to Maimonides, they are supposed to be given a chance to accept the "Noahchide" commandments, expressing the basic covenant between God and all humankind (i.e., Biblically, we're all children of Noah, or Noahchide). The genocidal aggressor sets himself outside of the Noahchide covenant: In dehumanizing the other (as the Amalekite does in his causeless aggression against the Jew), the dehumanizer dehumanizes himself. Or, you might also say, in subtracting the divine from the human (breaking the covenant, acting as aggressor), he degrades his own humanity in a way that makes him an enemy of humanity.

      The last is, of course, the operative logic of most at MondoWeiss in regard to Zionism. To MondoWeiss, the Zionists are Amalekites.

  • On CNN, Remnick sounds dire warning
    • It’s a position that’s meant to save zionism, not bring about justice.

      Or maybe they calculate that justice defined in such terms, apparently the erasure of Israel and the rollback of world history to some Edenic moment unmarred by the Zionist devil, is not available except over a highway of corpses from both sides.

  • 'Generation Oslo' takes to the streets to chart a new path forward for Palestine
    • "Hundreds of thousands"? AFP, relying on a Hamas spokesperson, said "10s of thousands." The Guardian UK used the same number, but while referring to all protests in Gaza and the West Bank.

      link to

      link to

      A Deutsche Press Agentur report being circulated says 20,000. Haaretz and others simply say "thousands."

      A good turnout, but reporting that relies exclusively on activist-aligned sources loses credibility.

    • Page: 2
  • After Itamar: Exploring the cynical logic that makes everyone a target
    • If "the disappearance of a state" isn't genocide" by any definition," then how is it genocide, or "wiping out the Palestinians as a nationality," to offer a less-than-ideal state to the Palestinian Arabs, or to expect them to subsist within a larger Arab multi-ethnic nation? If you can have a "nation" without a nation-state, then that would apply to the Palestinians as well. In addition to ignoring what your proposed solution would actually require, you've bypassed your own logic, and constructed this special exception for the side you favor, because you're emotionally attached to your hatred of the Israelis, especially the people you refer to as "filth," even while accusing others of "bigotry akin to racism." You apparently don't care what happens to the people who would be sacrificed on the altar of your self-righteousness - most of them probably on the side you favor. People like you are too unimportant to be exhibit A in Soffer's case, but you and the self-mutilating political tendency you represent are in the brief, and help make his program, or something even worse, much more likely.

    • Donald, see below, in my reply to Woody Tanaka, what as far as I can tell is Soffer's unvarnished view of essentially the same thing you describe:

      Virtual 1-state (apartheid Israel) = current situation, politically and demographically unsustainable; ditto but even more so for "transfer" plans

      "Bi-national" state (secular democratic Palestine) = hard to imagine being brought about for a variety of reasons, including very strong religious-sectarian and ethnic opposition

      2-state = basically unjust, since under almost any imaginable configuration it leaves the Palestinians with the very short end of the historical stick, and likely in some degree of dependency on the international community and Israel itself. Even after substantial aid and compensation to the Palestinians, still likely to leave a significant minority, if not the majority, deeply dissatisfied.

      "Soffer seems to just go straight for realpolitik. Shut them in their cages and shoot them if they cause trouble, which they will."

      Serious question: Other than the fact that he expresses himself brutally, how is the likely, real world result of what he proposes worse than the actual implementable alternatives? Or - as I think is arguable - is his alternative the underlying tendency of the situation regardless of political preferences or abstract theories of ideal justice? In short, don't your and Soffer's visions in effect largely overlap, the main difference being that he directs himself to an Israeli polity that he's trying to shock into action and away from what he considers untenable extremes (post-Zionism, Eretz Zionism), while you direct yourself to the moral responsibility of the international community to ameliorate the situation?

    • in some scholar’s view, if the intent is for the nationality to disappear, even without the physical destruction of its member, it is not just near genocide, but genocide

      According to that logic, the calls for a "bi-national state" also amount to a call for genocide, since it would entail the disappearance of the Jewish nation-state. Setting aside the practicality of such plans, it would likely also entail the "voluntary transfer" of numerous Israelis - possibly to New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. For some reason, you seem to expect that the Israelis should be ready to "melt" into a majority Arab state in a overwhelming majority Arab region, but Palestinian Arabs being impelled to do the same thing should be seen as victims of a holocaust.

      Soffer's "demonic" description rests on the same set of facts that has made a succession of compromise plans unacceptable to large numbers of Palestinians. If Soffer calls what the Palestinians are being offered unattractive and probably unsustainable as a coherent, self-sufficient national entity, it's demonic. If someone on the other side says approximately the same thing, it's a reasonable explanation for continued resistance.

      Soffer may be demonic, but it wasn't Soffer and his patron Satan who denied the Levant sufficient fresh water or other resources to sustain a growing population. It wasn't even Soffer and Satan who implanted this unwanted colony Israel at the Eastern end of the Mediterranean, at the often embattled intersection of the European maritime and Asian land-based systems.

      Soffer views Israel's status in the Middle East in about the same way that the saintly Hamas, angelic Hezbollah, and much of the rest of the Arab and Islamic world do. He believes that if "they" could, they would erase the Jewish state as an independent political entity. Wouldn't you? The problem for everyone, devils and angels alike, and the true tragedy of the situation, is that there's no solution that doesn't tend to imply either gross injustice or major violence or both.

      Soffer believes that Israel can and should withdraw to a politically and materially defensible position, and leave the former occupied territories to their own devices. Under substantial international sponsorship the new Palestinian state might even rise above the geographical baseline, but, if Soffer said that, it would likely be taken as propaganda. He instead simply states that, if he was a Palestinian, he wouldn't take what's being made available to them either. Therefore, in his view, Israel needs to prepare either to cease to exist or to cope with 100 years of violent resistance. As a geographer, he expects the eventual resolution to be determined by material factors foremost, with states or proto-states doing whatever they need to do to survive (if they can survive), regardless of how people pretty up the picture for popular consumption.

    • advocating near genocide

      Seriously, what does he say that equates with "advocating near genocide"?

    • We're in agreement, then, about the significance of Soffer, Donald, and I think it's a different kind of significance than that of the other figures Blumenthal indicts. The words taken from Soffer's 2004 interview, given just before the vote on the Gaza disengagement plan, have become something of a staple in leftwing polemics. You can find the full context here - where the full interview is re-produced: link to A follow-up interview appears here: link to

      Neither the original nor the follow-up clears Soffer of the charges of 1) expressing himself brutally, and 2) supporting a brutal policy. His familiar defense boils down to "but we don't live in an ideal world." On that note, Chomsky may be right about the American Mandarins of the Vietnam Era, but others will indict Chomsky on identical charges, leaving Chomsky with, in the end, the same defense. For that matter, C.S. Lewis has his critics, too: He can also be seen as a retrograde propagandist for "evils" of various types.

      Soffer sees himself not as calling for violence as an end in itself, but as recognizing its inevitability and seeking to ensure it serves a worthwhile purpose. One of his premises is that the Israeli state as a collective entity will very likely fight to preserve itself according to its concept. It can fight and lose, or it can fight and win. He prefers the latter, but his analysis leads him to believe that the former is also a strong possibility, even the more likely result on current trends.

      A similar analysis has therefore, unsurprisingly, been of interest to anti-Zionists, somewhat in the manner that Soffer described in the excerpt I provided above. It would be of greater comfort if only there were some good reason to believe that, if Zionism loses, it will lose quietly. Do you imagine the Israelis - all those evil Zionists with their evil professors and evil ideas and evil tendencies - simply withering away peacefully, quietly voting themselves out of existence, or quietly packing up and leaving, while their neighbors and adversaries watch patiently and passively?

      You don't put your alternative in numbers and maps. Actually, I don't know what you support. If you state your alternative clearly, we can perhaps analyze its prospects and the likely costs, and compare them to Soffer's plan. My guess - it's only a guess, I hope you'll forgive me if I'm wrong - is that, since you see your end as more just, you'll be willing to accept even higher human costs, and you might even say so without raising your voice. On the other hand, if your bottom line is "least overall cost in blood," then it may very well turn out that Soffer has as good an argument as you do. Or maybe your standard is, the best that can be achieved without hurting anyone. That tends to cede the field to others - and so also entails a real human cost, whether you like it or not.

    • Donald, I'm not sure what difference it makes what anyone here thinks about Soffer the man. For all we know, he'd be gratified to learn that he holds a spot on the MondoWeiss Enemies Of Humanity List. Either it's worth understanding his ideas - perhaps because they've become basic to the overall argument or because they help predict or explain developments - or it isn't.

    • Also on Soffer, I wonder what the source for his supposed statements on Gush Katif is. I frankly don't trust Blumenthal's characterization, but remain willing to be enlightened.

      In the meantime, some of you all might enjoy Soffer's 2005 open letter entitled "An Existential Threat called 'YESHA.'" Though he remains committed to the Israeli state, he is unsparing in his condemnation of the Settlers, and blames them for de-legitimizing his "precious Israel."

      link to

      The point isn't to defend Soffer or the Iraeli politicians whom his ideas inspire, but to be wary of grouping people together in an undifferentiated manner.

    • So Lior, Shapira, Kasher and Soffer didn’t say these evil things???

      Soffer offers an essentially amoral perspective about what, according to his understanding of geography (which includes resources and demography), he believed the survival of the ethnically Jewish state would end up requiring.

      Since Soffer ends up siding with the Israeli state rather than with its opponents, you can call him a collaborator with "evil," but everyone, it seems to me, is playing with the same cards here. Consider what he said prior to the scary words excerpted in the post:

      Let’s view it from a Palestinian perspective. Let’s pretend you and I are Arafat and Yasser Abed Rabbo looking at the map. Look at what the Jews are going to leave us for a state. They’re going to leave us the Gaza Strip – which is no more than a crowded “prison.” Then there’s another “prison” called Hebron, and another, larger one called Samaria. Here there are 1.6 million, here 1 million, and here 1.5 million (soon to be 3 million). Each of these “prisons” is cut off from the rest. The Jews won’t permit us to have an army, while their own powerful army will surround us. They won’t permit us to have an air force, while their own air force will fly over us. They won’t allow us the Right of Return. Why should we make a deal with them? Why should we accept a state from them? Let’s wait patiently for another 10 years, when the Jews will comprise a mere 40 percent of the country, while we will be 60 percent. The world won’t allow a minority to rule over a majority, so Palestine will be ours. The fact that in the meantime Palestinian kids are being killed doesn’t matter; what matters is that Palestine will be ours.

      Isn’t it logical for the Palestinians to see it this way?

      So, while Abed Rabbo is off talking to Yossi Beilin, and Sari Nusseibeh is off talking to Ami Ayalon, time is passing and Palestinian women are getting pregnant. This, coupled with the flood of Arabs from other countries – 300,000 since 1948 – means they’re going to finish us off.

      This is why I keep saying that in order to save the State of Israel, we have to separate unilaterally, and as quickly as possible.

      He puts the argument in terms that support his preferred course of action, seen from the perspective of a few years ago, but the same set of facts operate in everyone's calculations today - and underlie many of the arguments of those who seek something different. Calling him "garbage" or "evil" won't make the facts go away, or remove the necessity of dealing with the consequences. If he's wrong, why is he wrong?

  • Is Libya already lost?
    • Good catch, frog.

      It's hard to imagine what exactly Tilley imagines the rest of the world doing while the rebels were busy rebelling. In the absence of expressions of a range of opinions about a range of options, and limited steps in the direction of intervention, what are we to expect would have developed? A rebellion that would have succeeded because it had known to punch in the proper class? What does or could that even mean?

      Maybe the "deceptive message" was the one the rebels received from the countries on either side of them: that the leaderships of rotten regimes could be removed at reasonable human cost, even without much concrete external support or a coherent revolutionary program and organizatino. Maybe there was no way of learning whether this message was truly "deceptive" in this instance without putting it to the test. Maybe the opinions and limited actions from the outside world were of secondary importance at most, and the the first, second, third, and so on "mortal blows" against the rebels were the real mortal blows delivered by bullets, shells, and bombs.

      Is the West implicated? Of course. Has been for going on 3,000 years or so in that general vicinity.

  • Here we come to save the day
    • (well, maybe have to work on that )

    • annie, International law is a work in progress and dependent on perceived alignments with national interest. Look at the distance between the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for instance, and the actual conduct of the nations of the world. But PW, rightly, seems to want more than that. He wants "kids" to believe in it, and even, I think, to put their perceptions of the universal good, or right and wrong, ahead of particular national, ethnic, sectarian, tribal, class, etc., interests - or, ideally, to come to see those interests as harmoniously aligned, as the same, just as we would recognize each other as fellow human beings first and last. That would amount to nothing less than the unification of humanity around a shared understanding of justice. How many out of the Earth's nearly 7 billion people - the human material - seem prepared for that, and not just in their imaginations, but in the shadow of war or economic competition? It's the stuff of messianic prophecy. But until it comes about, to the precise extent it hasn't come about, then international law will fall short. It only just barely functions in its primary, broadly accepted fields of operation, the ones least challenging to the sovereignty of the major powers. Where it's seemingly most needed - where people are under the most stress and the most divided - is exactly where it is most often ignored or bypassed.

    • PW - international law as something aspirational (something other than conventions of behavior between and for nation-states) has to work its way through the real existing human material before it can command a superior allegiance. To say much more on the subject requires philosophy and religion working together, and eventually calls for the saying of many impermissible things, to seem to blaspheme against the religion of humanism by invoking the higher purpose even in the worst and most (typically human) inhuman things.

    • I'm with the frog on this one, PW - plays off the "gutty little Israel fighting above its weight" mythology, but also the idea that it's all just a cartoon for children. Give yourself some credit.

      link to

      Though I wouldn't be surprised to learn you two guys prefer the b&w version.

  • Why mainstream Jewish orgs haven't said a word against Peter King’s anti-Muslim hearings
    • "I’m pretty sure Jewish Islamophobia would be burning quite brightly without contact with evangelicals."

      That's one of those impossible counter-factuals, since evangelicals have been around for quite some time, and aren't going anywhere (except the millenarians), but, in general terms, if the Jewish community felt more isolated politically, here and abroad, it might very well seek accommodation and cooperation with Islam. There's plenty of history of that as well - arguably a much longer, richer, and deeper history than of Jewish-Islamic conflict.

    • What's even more ironic on the Ireland-Palestine connection is that the people King was helping to finance in the IRA actively cooperated and trained with the PLO and allied groups for decades.

      There is even evidence that IED techniques used against British (and American) forces in Iraq were passed on to the insurgents via connections between the Palestinian groups and Hezbollah - and originated with the IRA.

      link to

      Small world, eh?

  • Obama sets his strategy: Arab advocates for democracy will have to cool their heels
    • So, Keith, I take it you see Somalia as some kind of power-political intervention? Would an intervention have to be somehow counter to the interests of the intervening power to be declared sufficiently pure? What if the motives are mixed, but the political coalition in favor would never be sufficient without the humanitarian element?

      It's all in the eye of the beholder. Also, Hitler and Mussolini were far from the first or the last to claim a higher purpose that could be called humanitarian. However, I think you give a good example of the kind of voice that, the day after whatever measure, would be leading the attack, claiming that some combination of craven motives must be the "real explanation" for answering LeaNder's demand. The way things go, a healthy percentage of those calling for intervention - the worse things went, the healthier the percentage - would be following your lead.

      None of which should decide the issue for Obama - but if whatever intervention doesn't command strong support, for humanitarian reasons or self-interest or some combination, then the odds of it succeeding will be greatly reduced. Of course, that assumes that anyone knows exactly what the precise objective is ("prevent a bloodbath" isn't much of a guide), and therefore whether it has actually been achieved.

    • You'll have to put one of those reference posts you wanted, this one on how to massage Avi's self-regard sufficiently. Then, maybe!, I'll be ready for a discussion with you - but probably not.

      How was that?

    • Talk about too clever by half. Of course, the U.S. is a status quo power. Why in God's, Gaia's, or the great void's name wouldn't it be? On the other hand, it doesn't help that status quo to have the U.S. fundamentally perceived as an enemy of progress and reform.

      Meanwhile, it's childish, utopian, or worse just to assume that everyone who paints "revolution!" on his AK-47 represents an objective improvement on any level. Would a merely longer, bloodier, and more chaotic conflict in Libya to the same destination, under whoever's name, serve anybody? If the U.S. is going to get (more) involved, then exactly how far is it willing to go? Once it starts attacking radar bases... or supplying arms or equipment... or doing anything else, then my guess is that all sorts of "anonymous" or not so anonymous critics of inaction will start retrospectively choosing better targets, and better supply paths, and this faction not that faction, etc. Is Libya the same as Tunisia and Egypt, and are all three really the same as Jordan, Jordan really the same as Yemen, and both of them the same as Saudia Arabia, and both of them the same as Morocco and Syria and Lebanon... When precisely and according to whose standard do we decide that such and such a government is good enough, and who are we to make that decision? To paint them all the same hue is just the mirror version of know-nothing rightwing Orientalism.

      The Obama Administration policy, as described, is a reasonable rule of thumb, no more, no less. Virtually any other policy would be some mixture of unsustainable and foolhardy. If you want the U.S. to go around the world deciding who rules and who doesn't, who lives and who dies, who's armed and who isn't, then who exactly is the real imperialist?

  • Jewish newspaper admits that Israel has become an 'embarrassment' for liberal Jews
    • Hitler might well have argued that, Shingo. Hitler might also have argued that the sky in Spring, even in Germany, was often blue.

      Germany's strategic situation started becoming untenable well before WWI, which Germany sought an excuse to launch before the development of Russia especially rendered its strategic vulnerabilities ineradicable. Hitlerism was in part a psychotic fantasy that the end of Germany's great power/imperial aspirations could be reversed. So, while WWI was a low odds gamble, WWII was a "Hail Mary!" in the same losing game - made superficially more credible by the disarray among the Western powers and the also traditional underestimation of the U.S. The strategic situation hadn't fundamentally changed, and in that sense the German interest in suppressing Poland - which still exists today, incidentally - was as valid for Hitler as it was for his predecessors.

    • International law, Hostage, is a tool of states, maintained by states for their own sake. No state on Earth that is interested in its own survival will ever sacrifice its survival interests out of greater loyalty to "international law," or enforce international law against other states against its own interests.

    • Your reply is confused and self-contradictory, Shingo. You claim that Israel's "success" is based on expansionism, that the war was "necessary," and use 1973 as proof of its vulnerability. You even call the war "preventive." How does that contradict anything I wrote? As for tricking Nasser into attacking, I won't pretend to have familiarized myself with the entire history and development of Israeli strategic thinking, but, absolutely from a strategic perspective, it's better to have a relatively unprepared enemy act first and expose his vulnerabilities.

      Whether Israel was really "gaining in strength with each year" is a complex question whose dimensions include power relative to actual and potential enemies. We don't know what would have happened without the Six-Day War, but it seems to have effectively aborted the Pan-Arab project even as a matter of effective alliances, while solidifying the relationship with one actually existing great power, and setting back the designs of the competing great power - all classic objectives for a small state.

    • PW: I'm a well-known softy and symp Hamas-wise, therefore totally disqualified from being taken seriously in mainstream American political discourse, and worthy of condemnation to whatever small extent I am taken seriously. Being willing to see things from Hamas' point of view isn't the same as agreeing with Hamas in all particulars, however, or knowing what the best way for Hamas to secure its "state interests" would be.

    • Abstractions like "offensive" or "defensive" are over-simplifications, as the old saying about the "best defense" acknowledges.

      All that the assembled quotes on the Six-Day War prove - or suggest - is that Israel acted pre-emptively against the perceived ongoing deterioration of its strategic situation. The alternative would be for Israel to wait until the correlation of forces against it were intolerably disadvantageous - when the fight would be one that it could lose, or, put somewhat simplistically, the pan-Arab alliance under the sponsorship of the Soviet Union would be in a better position to make good on its bluster.

      Instead, the Israelis reached the military-strategic conclusion that it couldn't afford a "fair fight," and, furthermore, that Nasser's actions and rhetoric provided a more than adequate pretext. The course of the war and subsequent history, including Israel's transformation from a failing project into a relatively secure and wealthy state firmly embedded in the neo-imperial alliance structure, suggests that their calculations were rather sound, just as the conduct of the war itself, as a feat of arms, remains impressive.

      Try Segev's 1967 for a broader but quite critical view of Israel's total predicament and its conduct. Segev seems to believe that the war and especially the occupation put Israel on an unsustainable and morally dubious course, but that's not the same thing as saying that the strategy was wholly unjustified or mistaken, from the point of view of the Israeli state, compared to other alternatives.

  • There is no practical solution, and that is why I talk about rights
    • Survival need doesn't produce an absolute right, but always presents some mitigation in human terms. Of course, it's also a great crime, or sin, to pretend survival need when there was none, and this question revives when people suggest that the Zionists were acting out of pure, unalloyed self-interest and opportunism, not authentic need. Yet even this crime is mitigable, and none of us is equipped to look into the soul of every Zionist or all the Zionists and know, in case we conclude their argument is ill-founded, what they actually believed with any degree of certainty.

      We are spiritually confused, linguistically and philosophically confused, about the nature of "judgment," and the whole point of it. In judging the Israelis - or anyone else doing what he or she or they or we thought survival-necessary - each of us can first acknowledge, "There but for the grace of God..." Part of the point of the recitation of the history ca. 1948 was just to remind some of us how incredibly brutalized the humanity was, and perhaps always has been, and what a struggle it is for anyone to rise above that brutality. Perhaps we can say that the Israelis failed, world-historically failed, but each of us fails, our presence here in this discussion confirms the certainty that we have all somehow failed, even before we start searching for the ownership and historical records for the names of the people who were dispossessed or ruined or killed so that we could comfortably sit around discussing and denouncing.

      The point of judgment in the law is to preserve society as for the sake of human beings, not to glory vainly in supposed superiority to the denounced criminal. The point of punishment in the monotheistic tradition - Jewish, Christian, and Islamic - is, as much as possible against competing priorities (public safety, public morality), to preserve or restore the criminal's opportunity to redeem himself, to save his soul and our own souls, something that we sometimes conclude also requires punishment and restitution.

    • Koshiro, first one the minor historical point:

      Considering that the USSR did not yet have nuclear weapons – not likely.

      There were serious advocates of the U.S. exploiting its temporary monopoly in nuclear weapons to overcome the U.S.S.R.'s vast advantage in conventional arms and manpower. The Soviets had the blueprints, the materials, and a very active program, and would do their first bomb test in 1949. A pre-emptive war would have been nuclearized, and the prospect of a civilization-destroying nuclear war was already filling people's imaginations while the wreckage of the prior world war was still being cleaned up. The more salient point is that the two powers were already squaring off and sizing each other up. Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech was given in 1946.

      To the main point, Chaos, like many here but more so, constantly lashes out at anyone who tries to cope with the reality of the situation or to put it in context.

      You’re not worth arguing with, fuster. I have no respect for monsters who don’t know and don’t care about cornerstones of modern human rights like the Geneva Conventions.

      A monster? Compared to whom? Or are we all monsters? If we're all monsters, then every monster will do whatever monstrous things to safeguard its monstrous interests.

      Actually, I think fuster does know a little bit about the Geneva Convention, but Chaos in a state of such constant overflowing self-superior rage over the Naqba that he doesn't pause even to think about what other people are thinking or saying, or to employ even a tiny bit of humility about the moral perfection of Israel's major critics and their priorities.

      It's the kind of attitude that, in the real world, leads almost invariably to one of two things, pathetically hypocritical and childishly absurd self-gratifying gestures that are laughed off by grown-ups, or, in the rare cases of success, results are even worse than whatever harm-above-all-harms is being combated.

    • I still don't think that works, MHughes. The main authorities for this sole sovereignty would be Biblical, but the shape of ancient "Israel" (which as I understand it in Biblical terms is actually more the name of the people than a defined geographical entity) changes over the course of the Bible. What is clear is that God the Eternal orders the Jews to abide by his commandments, but, in rather significant and even definitional ways, working with history, of course, divorces them from the land.

      This goes to the essence of Judaism, and therefore travels well beyond the scope of this discussion, even if, arguably, the two discussions become inextricably intertwined at some point. An interesting though obviously speculative question to me is whether the idealization of the Jewish Law couldn't be the basis for a Jewish - or perhaps a Judaic - state whose shape in the Law, anyway, would be a greater burden on the Jew, but otherwise rely on absolute "Noahchide" equality before the law.

      In the meantime, Zionism mainly has a functional definition - chiefly to be derived from the public statements and actions of Zionists, which have indicated a willingness to share or yield sovereignty even at the holiest of holy sites.

    • Get off your high horse for once, Chaos. What's happened to the Palestinians is atrocious, but it's not the only flaw in an otherwise perfect world picture, and there'd be no picnic awaiting whoever took over after the Israelis all went into their corner and mortified themselves for shame.

      Regarding the almost-crime of the century of the founding of the state of Israel and associated events, consider what else the world was dealing with in 1948: 2 million more Germans were in the process of dying off, largely un-mourned by the world, mainly the more vulnerable among the ca. 16 million who were being ethnically cleansed from areas of the former Reich across the Oder-Neisse. Many had been living in those areas continuously for centuries. Refugees in the millions heading the other direction, including veteran Red Army soldiers, were returning to diverse Hells on Earth, and hardly anyone was in a position to more than wring their hands and cry crocodile tears over it. A bit closer to the ME, 1 million Greeks were being displaced by a civil war that would go on to claims 10s of thousands of lives. A few thousand miles away, the Communist-Nationalist Chinese Civil War was at its height, with armies in the millions facing off and 100,000s of civilian deaths - 150,000 by starvation in the siege of Changchun alone. Around 1 million people are estimated to have been killed in the aftermath of the partition of India, during the transfers of ca. 12.5 million between newly divided India and Pakistan.

      Meanwhile, the two global empires were facing off under the shadow of potential nuclear war, with the full division of the entire wrecked continent of Europe still in play.

      Just some highlights, just the year 1948. People were still playing a lot of hardball in those days, though to a large extent it was just national-industrial scale versions of what's been going on since forever.

      Morality arises within states, rarely between them - that's one of the main reasons people value them and will fight and kill to keep them, my country right or wrong. The main exception to that rule in the modern era tends to be associated with Wilsonism, though it of course had a pragmatic and self-interested side, as well as a compromised application. One of its fundamental precepts was ethnic self-determination - often accomplished through land swaps and population transfers. It led to one of the main ideas underlying the United Nations - a state for everyone and everyone in a state. Yet what the UN was meant to finish and sort out justly instead continues world round to this day.

      Real people's real lives are at stake in the Holy Land, and the devilish Israelis may not be the worst devils available. And that's not "hasbara," that's just the way things are.

    • you wouldn’t have some source confirming Zionism presently stands for a Jewish “share in sovereignty>

      Logic and observation. "The Holy Land" can be defined in various ways, but it generally refers to a region that at its furthest extent includes present-day Israel, the OT, Jordan, and even some of Lebanon. To state the obvious, no one of any significance in Israel asserts anything remotely satisfying MHughes' definition.

    • (I'm going to withdraw my prior provisional agreement with your definition, MHughes, even as a functional definition, and I'm wondering if you're repeating it unaltered from your original statement of it. "Only they"? I think Zionism presently stands for a Jewish "share in sovereignty" over some part of the Holy Land, not necessarily an exclusive share.)

    • the fact that they suffered a higher percentage of death’s had nothing to do with them favored as a target.

      An incredibly ignorant statement - the insistence on it makes it rather shameful, since to insist on something about which one is ignorant is to bear false witness.

      The Jews were always a "favored" and very "special" target of Adolf Hitler the political leader and the movement and later the nation that he led.

      Congratulations at least for admitting that the Holocaust happened and that it was kind of a bad thing. Otherwise, we'd be left to conclude that you do not share the same planet, the same knowable world, with the rest of us.

    • Were there a “viable state concept”, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

      My view is that the problem is just the opposite: Too many viable-enough state concepts for the area of historical Palestine, each perceived to have its major pluses and major minuses, because no nation-state arrangement truly solves, or can solve, the fundamental bases of oppression and can therefore be thought of as truly just, eternally stable. That's as true in the U.S. or Vanuatu as in the future Palestrael or in any of the alternative merely relatively just, relatively stable concepts.

      (Have you perchance ever read Kojeve on Hegel and on Strauss/Tyranny?)

    • jnslater,

      You write:

      Yes, you’re right: deny that link and there is no place to go in this discussion. I don’t “beg the question,” rather I have repeatedly argued that not just the Holocaust but 2000 years of often-murderous anti-Semitism made the case for a Jewish state a prima facie one.

      I still think that formulation puts the case purely in a negative form, as does the entire question of Zionism as "self-defense." The notion seems to be that the state of Israel is being brought before a tribunal for murder of Palestinians, and everyone thinks that a merely negligent homicide mitigated by self-defense would be sufficient for acquittal. There might even be some truth to that, but it remains ahistorical and anachronistic.

      For the Zionists, as for the Palestinians now, the concept of "a room of one's own" is not just a practical means to self-defense, it is an urgently desired basis of identity - which, again, is a mere abstraction, when the nation-state in this discourse stands for the field of self-realization, for attaining, nurturing, advancing the highest positive contents of human life.

      The reliance on an at best vague definition and concept of the state also goes directly to the main weakness of the Sermoneta-Gertel option of fighting for rights in the absence of a viable state concept. As any dialectical materialist once upon a time would have reminded us earlier, there is no coherent theory of "rights" that does not correspond to or imply a theory of the state. The rights that Shmuel wants to fight for are the so-called universal rights weakly advocated and defended by the international community - that is, by the weak "world state of states." We are still enough in the age of nation-states rather than the the global age (which Shmuel might also recognize as the messianic age) that no one, or hardly anyone, will stake his life on, risk his life for, or realize his life in the "international community."

      That also means that the Palestinians will remain fundamentally unsatisfied under the SSG option, and efforts merely to protect their rights will continually, and in my view correctly, be criticized as merely facilitating their oppression in perpetuity (in part by legitimizing Israeli rule). But that also means that attempts to enforce upon the Israelis measures that would mean the destruction of the Israeli state will also founder. Why would the Jews ever accept being turned into "Palestinians" again? They had thousands of years of that.

      Every argument in favor of the Palestinians getting a state is an argument in favor of the Israelis defending theirs - to the last.

      Much more could be said on this subject. I can understand why your promised essay is a long one! I'll reserve further comments until I've read and absorbed it.

    • There is no faith in oneself that does not depend on others for positive content and realization - for meaning - even as we stand alone before God the Eternal/Allah/Atheistic-What-Have-You: The rest of the religion takes care of what the Rabbinic dictum leaves out - but going much further on this subject would require religious-philosophical definition of nettlesome terms like "things," "will," "work out," and "the end."

    • The figure of 50 million Soviet civilian deaths and 29 million Soviet military casualties is a total outlier. Must come from a Lancet study. More common estimates for the total number of all direct victims in all countries worldwide, civilian and military, during all of World War II are in the neighborhood of 60 million.

      link to

      The above, consensual count, puts total Soviet military and civilian deaths at around 24 million out of a population of 169 million, or ca. 14% - a truly monstrous figure, in no need of exaggeration. There is, as the above-linked article points out, some wide variance in casualty estimates, but most of it in the upper ranges approaching 100 million comes from uncertainty about the numbers in Asia, China especially, and also with disputes about which conflicts deserve to be counted under the rubric "World War II."

    • A failure that resulted from Zionist lobbying, and which does not excuse the behaviour of the refugees who arrived in Palestine.

      A failure that was accompanied by some Zionist lobbying. Attributing the failures to accept larger numbers of immigrants to "Zionist lobbying" is incredibly simplistic, and approaches denialism.

    • Now you're really pissing me off. ;) This discussion was my initial reason for visiting this Mondo.

      The Rabbinic dictum says the same thing that you discount as unjustified faith in human nature: What it means to be human in the full sense as opposed to merely being a bag of chemicals pushed from material predicament to another is to follow that dictum.

    • This piece clarifies many issues, and is very well thought out. So, thank you, Shmuel. On the other hand, it makes me very angry with you, since, feeling I had to strike while the iron was hot, I have now spent a couple of hours working on a reply (somewhat along lines we've previously discussed), even though I really don't have time for this stuff today!

      I'll leave the other stuff to some other day, and confine myself for now to relatively brief, abstract and theoretical remarks that I don't expect to be of interest to anyone who isn't inclined to that kind of thing.

      In a conflict with no apparent solution, the form of the conflict, its material expressions and their underlying ideological or subjective content, provide the outline of the actual solution - the solution already in hand, just not yet comprehended. In other words, saying that there is no solution can only ever mean that we are not yet able to describe the situation satisfactorily. To stand by the claim of "no solution" would be the same as claiming that there is no problem - that the problem isn't a problem at all, but reality itself. But this cannot be so, because "time marches on," and the ideal, unnameable resolution draws us nearer whether we like it or not. Being human means being drawn to seek agreement and common ground. All of the parties to this conflict - a group that eventually includes everyone alive - are trapped by this reality as much as by a situation of seemingly irresolveable injustice. They are therefore merely two different expressions for the same thing.

  • Netanyahu breaks the seal on the discussion of a 'binational state'
    • Well put, P2. Merely identifying himself with the position, which he no doubt rightly believes is the overwhelming majority position, undermines it, while putting it higher on the agenda. Barak did something similar when he described his former Labor comrades as "post-Zionist."

    • only a true zionist would address a forthcoming peace initiative as an offensive.

      Silly, annie. The irony is intended, and already embedded within that oxymoronic term, "peace offensive," which is frequently encountered in political/international relations discussion.

      I honestly think your heart's in the right place. You should save your "dagger" thrusts for those situations where you're actually able to see your target.

    • Agree it's interesting to see Netanyahu confronting the bi-national state, and it's further interesting to see that the idea gets the headline, when the article is mostly about the planned peace offensive. As for the external pressure:

      In recent weeks the prime minister has come under intense international pressure over Israel’s policies. Europe’s unequivocal stance against Israel at the Security Council vote on the issue of the settlements, the rebuke that accompanied the U.S. veto, and the unpleasant telephone exchange with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week reportedly shook Netanyahu.

      I see Haaretz is sticking by its Merkel "How dare you?" story, and also insists that Israel is sensitive the U.S. "rebuke," even though the anti-Zionists were sensitive only to the veto.

      The bi-national reality and the corresponding issues of justice will continue to pull on whatever political, legal, and imaginary are fictions advanced from within Israel, the OT, the US, the Quartet, or the international community. But such fictions are what make the world go round.

  • Republican congressmen join Islamophobic hate rally in California
    • That’s very Zen of you, but fails the first step of basic logic. War does not feed off anti war setiments.

      If I had more time, I'd be briefer. Please forgive me for answering at length.

      "War" is not an ideology. Nor is "anti-war sentiments." Various species of militarism and pacifism (more often in the form of bellicose and pacific tendencies, since pure militarism and pure pacifism don't really exist) have however fed off of each other, often alternating, the temporary rise of one virtually summoning forth the other.

      Typically, counter-posed ideologies adopt each other's characteristics, all the more so when brought into actual conflict, war being a, if not the, supremely imitative activity. If you insist on seeing whatever conflict through ideologically conditioned prejudices, you will likely be blinded to or tend to minimize the degree to which this has become true for yourself: Human nature.

      The top post refers to some typical examples of the process. The Islamophobes imagine themselves to be the worst enemies of the Islamists, when any rational observer of the world understands that the exact opposite is true. Nothing could help the radical Islamists more than the perception of American Islamophobia (Crusaderism). Even better (up to a point) for the Islamist ideology, if not by any material measure for most living Muslims, would be an all-out war along clash-of-civilizations lines. That this would also serve the Islamophobes themselves, but not the peopls of the West, further illustrates the symmetry between the two sides. I could go on on this one, but you can probably trace the further symmetries and self-contradictions (what the Islamophobes do for "freedom," what the RI's do for "Islam") for yourself.

      As for Zionism and anti-Zionism, you ask for evidence. I refer you to the above comment-thread discussion. I suspect also that you already actually understand exactly what I mean, since your brief comments already point to the pretextual usage of anti-Zionism in Zionist propaganda. One of the political mainstays of Zionism has been the belief that Israel is under siege by implacable enemies who aim for nothing less than the physical destruction of the country and its inhabitants. The Zionists are still dining out today on promises uttered a generation or two ago to drive the Jews into the sea. Bloody-minded statements from the Iranian axis and from Al Qaeda and other extremists have regularly replenished the expense account.

      The mere existence of extreme anti-Zionism, frequently overlapping with anti-semitism, may not be enough on its own to sustain and protect Zionism from its own contradictions, but it's more a help to the Israeli and American right than a hindrance.

      Your argument as to "empire" and "Hobbes" isn't clear to me: I don't see how it contradicts the thesis. You appear to concede that Zionism thrives off of perceptions of persecution, and your only counterevidence is in the notion that it thrived during the period it was "indulged" by the Bush Administration. I suspect you're actually well aware that there was a bit more going on in the region and the world at the time. Either way, it would be absurd to suggest that aiding and encouraging Zionists would be directly harmful to them. There's nothing about my thesis that should lead to such an expectation. At the same time, the "indulgence" was in part symptomatic of Israel's success playing the "besieged ally in the war on terror" role, which is substantially in line with what I'm suggesting, though I was originally referring to conceptual evolutionary processes over time rather than to discrete political events.

    • It’s not clear to me how I could make an alliance with Natalie Portman (sorry for the sound of ludicrous self-importance in that phrase) since she just seems to be on the other side: what I deny she (I understand) asserts.

      Consider the Hare analogy (comment 63) that she adopted as her own. It indicts the Zionists twice, first for injuring the Palestinians in order to save themselves, then for compounding the injury cruelly and unjustly.

      I agreed with your definition of Zionism, but it remains a merely practical, and ultimately self-contradictory definition that also comes into conflict with the universal humanism that liberals like Portman, and most Israelis and Americans for that matter, also espouse. Those with "eyes to see" observe this conflict playing out every day, as it over time increases Israel's isolation and undermines its ideological integrity.

      A morally self-consistent, ideal Zionism would be the strongest "anti-Zionism" of them all. Approaching that ideal at whatever expense to the Zionism we know is a moral commandment that a Portman-liberal is already inclined to accept. What neither she nor any human being will or should be expected to accept, however, is submission to those who demonstrate - loudly, again and again, in every convenient forum and by whatever means available - that they are motivated by annihilating prejudice, hatred, revenge, and will to power, rather than by justice and will to peace.

      If, as President Obama likes to say, the arc of history bends toward justice, who cares what those doing the bending call themselves, or how they explain it to themselves? Since so many here like to compare the Israeli predicament to apartheid South Africa, consider that the whites who gave up power there didn't do so under a death sentence, or under a requirement that they denounce their origins or vacate the land. Should they have been required to do so? Would that have made for a better resolution?

    • I consider you a vain-vain man to think that just because you’re jewish, only jews are allowed to judge you.

      No, Jews don't get to judge me either (least of all because, according to determinations I had nothing to do with and don't acknowledge, I'm Jewish by my mother. That's for ideologues and counter-ideologues. In my understanding of Judaism - and of monotheism generally - judgment belongs to God the Eternal. In my understanding of being an American, I'm further qualified to tell you and them to mind your own business. Period.

      You show that you think according to collective guilt and punishment under rules that don't apply to you except where they arbitrarily place you above those you presume to judge - just like every other oppressor or would-be oppressor in recorded history.

      First you put on the ideological jackboots, the real ones always follow at opportunity.

    • How does that comparison redeem her stand and involvement in Dershowitz’s Hasbara bible?

      Nearly 10 years ago, as an undergraduate, just around 20 years old, Natalie Portman acted as a research assistant on a book in which one of her professors defended the land of her birth. Also when an undergraduate, she argued in a letter to her school newspaper that a description in a publichsed opinion piece of Israel's policy as "racial apartheid" was inaccurate, since, as she wrote, Israeli and Palestinian communities were neither ethnically uniform nor wholly inter-distinguishable.

      For those two felonies, sherbrsi and Taxi are content to declare her a thought criminal in need of their forgiveness. They apparently consider themselves competent to set themselves up as every Jew's judge, but how do we know they're qualified for that role? Or whether, perhaps, by application to them of their own doctrine of collective responsibility and the related and inevitable tactics of guilt by association, we might determine that they're the ones who should be spending their time and energy begging forgiveness for the crimes of their countries, peoples, races, political movements, parents, former professors, or fellow blog commenters?

      Someone interested actually in achieving justice and an authentic rather than perfectly imaginary improvement in the lives of the Palestinians and others affected by their struggle, rather than just in venting his spleen and posing as morally superior, might see in the likes of Portman a potential ally. The alternative approach, so common on this site, of denouncing anyone who diverges from some imaginary but never stated party line is a political pathology that deforms the accusers, and brands them, however strong their negative case against Zionism, as unfit to take responsibility - in short, no better than what they're attacking, the only difference being that they happen to lack the power to put their bad ideas into practice. (Any lover of freedom cringes at the idea of a Taxi or sherbrsi type - much less a Pathological God - with police or military power.)

      No ideology is ever defeated by an equivalent counter-ideology. Ideological anti-Zionism sustains and feeds ideological Zionism, while realizing the same racial-collective premises in alternative form. Colloquially expressed: "You become what you hate."

    • Here's some of Natalie Portman's "propaganda":

      Once during an interview, she offered a metaphor for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the David Hare play "Via Dolorosa." It's about a man who jumps out of a burning building and lands on a passerby, breaking the passerby's leg. The passerby says, "You broke my leg," and the man breaks his other leg to shut him up.

      link to

      So, what Palestinian solidarity requires is viciously denouncing the brilliant, beautiful, and world-famous Oscar-winning mom-to-be who said the above (and, schockingly, changed her last name to something prettier than Hershlag), while ignoring the Nazis in your own ranks, and pretending that you still have standing to criticize those OC cretins?

      I guess being down 63-17 to the Zionists in opinion polls isn't bad enough. You won't be satisfied until you've reached single digits.

    • No, you're both half-wrong, and Jeffrey Blankfort just proved to himself on the great Trojan Zionist thread, using deductive logic and no obvious strawberries, that he must be right, because the people he disagrees with disagree with him.

      Let's be clear tho he was accusing me of Achaean and wooden-equine rather than Trojan proclivities. (I contributed to the confusion.)

      I'm willing to take it as a compliment.

    • was just trying to help morale, annie! If you knew me better, you'd know I've fought in the internet trenches against people like that and have got the virtual scars to prove it.

    • This kind of seething lunacy is hard to take, but in all likelihood it's also a political gift to the left, along the lines of Sarah Palin, that tends to undermine the American right more than it helps. That's something that relatively mainstream conservatives - the same ones who calculated last year that Islamophobia should be exploited rather than contained - are well aware of. That doesn't make it objectively a good thing, because under certain circumstances it could still be dangerous, even extremely dangerous, and in the meantime quite harmful to individuals. In the coming years, however, being the "Stupid Warlike White People" party/movement may not serve Republicans/conservatives very well. The worst aspect of this kind of thing may be that it makes things too easy for Democrats in places like California and nationally.

  • There's work to do
    • link to

      Just got my instructions from my ZOG controller: "Tell him to get his head out of his prisonplanet."

      Must be code.

    • silly person, I don't give a flying horse's patootie about your 5 evil Izzys - who, incidentally, do not appear in the Spiegel article you link - and, as for the "stock footage" claim, if you insist on repeating debunked lunacies even after having been provided with the detailed debunking, then I'm forced to conclude that you're not arguing in good faith.

      Even the Spiegel article that you yourself refer us to repeats the debunking:

      Schon in der vergangenen Woche fegten aufgeregte Mails zu einem ähnlichen Fall rund um den Erdball. CNN habe zehn Jahre alte Bilder verwendet, um damit den angeblichen Jubel der Palästinenser zu belegen. Ein brasilianischer Student, Marcio, hatte am Mittwoch auf der Website von Indymedia, einer unabhängigen Medienplattform, einen Brief gepostet. Er schrieb, er habe Beweise dafür, dass die Bilder die am 11. September bei dem amerikanischen Nachrichtensender zu sehen waren, gefälscht seien. Das Filmmaterial stamme aus dem Jahr 1991 und zeige Freudenfeiern von palästinensischen Jugendlichen nach dem irakischen Einmarsch in Kuweit. Einer seiner Dozenten habe Videoaufzeichnungen von damals und sie mit den aktuellen Berichten verglichen. Fazit: Beide Bilder seien identisch. CNN mache Stimmung gegen die Palästinenser.

      Nur zwei Tage später, am Freitag, ruderte Marcio zurück. Die Informationen seien nur eine Vermutung gewesen, der Hochschullehrer könne seinen Verdacht nicht beweisen. Doch da war es schon zu spät. Bis heute geistern Mails mit der Fehlinformation durch das Netz, bis heute erhalten viele Redaktionen, auch wir, immer wieder besorgte Hinweise von Lesern. CNN International hat den Vorwurf gegenüber SPIEGEL ONLINE heftig dementiert. Auch Reuters TV, die das Material an CNN geliefert haben, beeilten sich, die Vorwürfe zu entkräften. Sogar auf der Website von Indymedia selbst gab es Zweifel an dem Vorwurf. Ein Leser erklärte, die Bilder könnten gar nicht aus dem Jahr 1991 stammen, weil darauf ein Ford aus einer Baureihe von 1995 zu sehen sei.

      The first half of the article does suggest that the "9/11-loving Palis" story may have been exaggerated, even if the article doesn't support your lunatic theory regarding stock footage, but, instead, as above clearly debunks it via evidence, among other things, from the original source (which can be found in its original form via the snopes link, and in English). I could buy the exaggeration part. I could even consider it likely. Calling it entirely false would require me to indict the credibility of the reporter, who apparently believed that the celebration he was reporting was in some regard typical of a strain of existent opinion.

      Regarding the main question under discussion here, it's somewhat irrelevant whether that strain of opinion was predominant in the OT. It wouldn't greatly affect the argument if the 9/11-celebration factoid was false. It might greatly affect the argument if there was the slightest reason to believe that it was, as you insist, a blatant fabrication, but, as snopes shows and as your own link shows, there is no evidence of that. It was just a guess, a supposition - a Vermutung, subsequently withdrawn by the Vermuter under an avalanche of concrete evidence. It remains one little factoid that Joe Average Non-Silly-Lunatic American puts together with a big ton of generally mutually confirming factoids that he may have assembled and filed away over the years.

      Now, that's all the attention you're going to get from me today, and possibly forever, since, in addition to giving all the appearance of being a lunatic conspiracist, you seem to be dishonest, possibly with yourself as well as with the poor honest readers of this blog, and I want no part in any of it.

    • "seeing as how the footage shown of the Palestinians on 9/11 was stock video from some time before"

      link to

      Though I hear that is run by Zionists. Or maybe it was Trojans. Or horses.

    • (btw, I really, really didn't mean to do a condescending "Donald, Donald" thing thing... it was a comment-editing error error)

    • Well, the academic Marxists who believe, of course, that the American revolutionaries were acting out of sheer proto-capitalist self-interest would disagree with your somewhat slightly more idealistic view, PW. My personal view is that it's not difficult within a complete or more complete definition of Americanism to square material and ideal self-interest - then as now. That more complete definition of Americanism - though it's still short of a complete philosophy - might include or even turn on the notion that the two forms of self-interest will tend to coincide, as two sides of a coin.

    • Donald, Donald - how would showing that bigotry and bias originate in bigotry, or maybe bias, advance us from where we began?

      We can speculate about how different reporting might create different perceptions, but why and how would that reporting change unless perceptions had been changed first?

      Say I resist the temptation to defend our forebears from our moral self-superiority, and stipulate that Americanism is a totally self-serving ideology. I think that is a good working definition in a lot of ways - not a complete definition, but to complete it I'd have to do what I just promised I wouldn't do, sooner or later requiring me to attempt to elaborate a philosophy of history in a blog comment thread.

      So, we've reduced Americanism to an ideology of at best amoral, often quite happily atrocious material self-service. To return to the question of the post: To the extent that Palestinians either serve our material purposes or make us feel good about ourselves, we Americans, especially the Trojanated Zionist types like me, will treat them better. We think it would suit them, and we know it would suit us, if they were as selfish and materialistic as we are. We think everyone should be that way. (We think the Israelis are selfish and materialistic, and we like that.)

      If the Palestinians want our affection, or sympathy, they should strive to present themselves as ready to make good democratic capitalist negotiated practical compromises of any and every moral, religious, ethnic, national, or racial value in favor of getting on with greater material prosperity and self-congratulation. They need to "cut their hair and get a job" - which could be what Fayyad is on to, but few Americans are yet aware of him - if they want us to report better numbers to Gallup, and to stop treating them as savages, but instead as good fellow citizens of the democratic capitalist world state of states that are as much like us - because that's what we like, us - as possible.

      You don't need a media conspiracy to arrive at that conclusion. All you need is an American media run by Americans and Americanists for Americans and fans of America, seeing themselves and the world as, according to you, Americans always have.

    • Jeffrey Blankfort,

      Your notion that somewhere there's a constituency awaiting USS LIBERTY TRUTH! and ready to overturn 50 or so years of bipartisan U.S. policy in their shock and anger is kind of amusing, almost as amusing as the notion that it would take a "Zionist-dominated media" to turn a bloody hostage drama at the Olympics, live on TV, into kind of a negative on the "Palestinians->happy face" PR front. Or that dancing in the streets, offering thanks to Osama, and passing out candy on 9/11 required a Zionist conspiracy to piss off the vast majority of Americans, and re-confirm them in inclinations to which they've become habituated, according to Gallup, for at least a generation.

      But keep passing out those fliers. Maybe you can get some of those enraged San Franciscans to protest and obstruct the London Olympics, which, we see, have already been declared a Zionist something-or-other by the Iranians. You can demand USS LIBERTY TRUTH! It will be another major Palestinian Solidarity PR coup.

      And I confess: You're right about my Zionized Trojanism. By the rivers of Babylon, when I sit down, I weep, and remember Priam.

    • PW - in my view, when you're talking about human beings, every cause is an effect of some other cause, and not much more or less than that until and unless integrated into some kind of philosophy of world history.

      The Israel Lobby would have to be 100% fools not to be conscious of this all and to seek to exploit it, and, since the world is a machine full of moving interrelated parts, it doesn't make sense to ask where American hearts would be if the Israel Lobby didn't exist. But, taking the long view on American ideology - and I'm trying hard just to put things in terms of traditional Americanism, what we learn at school, what we all tell each other is reinforced by experience - why would anyone expect Americans not to associate Islamic radicalism with every other kind of radicalism we generally have rejected? There wasn't really much need to add any "glue."

    • Donald, whether it ought to be or not - I'm trying to deal with what is, not necessarily with what should be - the Liberty incident for Americans is an X-file. Even if you put the worst possible cast on it, neither American leaders nor Israeli ones chose to make a big deal out of it. It didn't serve anyone's purposes to do so. It's not like Israelis acted proud of it. They didn't celebrate it. As far as I know, they didn't name a street after the commander. They didn't form a "Attack on the Liberty" commando group. As far as I know, they didn't try to do it again or threaten to do it again unless the U.S. met such and such demands.

      If you go over the major events of the last 50 - 75 or so years focusing American public attention to whatever extent on the Middle East, you will find the Palestinians (and their allies) associated over and over again, and by no means passively, with countries, movements, events, people, actions, attitudes, and initiatives that Americans don't like, don't support, don't understand, have literally fought against, in large numbers still fear, and/or totally reject.

      You can tell yourself that this, that, or the other defect in American understanding or sympathy is an effect of bigotry or media slant, but I think that view, among other things, underestimates the extent to which certain tactics and targets were selected specifically for maximal PR buck for the politically violent buck. That's just the way it is. Again, I'm not talking about some notion of what Americans "ought" to think. The fact remains that changing their feelings would require replacing images like this and video like this with something else completely. I'd be pessimistic that it's something that on a mass emotional level, the level of reflex that we're discussing, is going to be fixed by logical persuasion...

      ...we can discuss the contrasting positive associations with Israel some other time...

    • The comment about "negative campaigning" referred to an adversarial political context and to the specific objective of bringing the Israeli number down. The propagation of negative images of Palestinians and allies is something much vaster, and a by-product of war and terrorism imagery etched deeply into the American brainpan. Strictly on the question of what the American people on a very general level have had to absorb, politicized Palestinians, allies, and associates (wanted or not) have played a major role in propagating those images, in large part based on or the main point of dramatic and bloody real events, as part of their own anti-American and anti-Israeli negative publicity campaign.

    • You can complain about how the poll was conducted or about polls in general, or you can deal with the information.

      Whether or not Palestinians or people in the Palestinian solidarity movement want to put any priority on whether Americans "sympathize" with Palestinians more is one question, but, other things being equal, I think it would be helpful, just in the interest of creating political maneuvering room, to get the I number and P number at least within sight of each other.

      If you think about general bottom-line simplified American values and the general, simplified image of the Palestinians, the numbers aren't surprising at all. If you want to improve them, complaining about how unfair they are probably wouldn't be helpful. It might even make them worse.

      People tend to like people who like them back. Sympathy, to state the obvious, is also easier if you think those other are like you (or how you like or want to see yourself). Just depicting Arabs as brave peaceful modern Facebook-friending non-America-hating freedom and democracy lovers - and winners - has opened up new possibilities. But it's only been a month or so to make up for several decades of rather different depictions, and the new images will fade fast and may fail to set in if the revolutions go wrong, or turn anti-American and anti-semitic.

      Bringing down the Israeli image is more difficult, since "negative campaigning" tends to blow back on the people who do it.

    • Check the link, Edward Q... the question about Ps v Is makes no mention of the PA, and has been asked since 1988, and has never shown the Ps > 20%. The lowest score for the Is is 37 (1988). The last few years have had I in its highest historical range.

      This is what one calls significant, consistent, longstanding, and conclusive evidence - which is not to say unchangeable or controlling.

  • Glass-all-empty Richard Cohen on Arabs, democracy, anti-Semitism, Nazis
    • Why are ancient European persecutions of Jews such as you site a justification for Israeli/Zionist persecution and massacres of Palestinians?

      Why do you only pick on anti-semitism as pathological, and not the kind of racism that gives Israeli soldiers permission to shoot Palestinian kids for sport?

      Those are perverse and repugnant constructions on my comment, which was written to respond to several different statements about antisemitism. Ask Phil why he chose to write about Richard Cohen's observations on antisemitism rather than on some other subject.

      The example from the Middle Ages refers to the longer history of antisemitism that some seem intent on denying as relevant to the Zionist movement's establishment, which occurred alongside the implementation of several other strategies of Jewish self-organization in the modern age. The disproportionate absence of the latter in the larger political discussion, including especially as objects of European anti-semitism in the traditional mode, is explained in significant part by events reminiscent of the right side of the illustration, on an industrially massive scale.

    • Well, it seems that the thread where the Nazi apologists were active has been closed - not sure exactly why and how. They would take potsherd2's proposition - that Zionism is the "primary driver" of antisemitism today - and extend it as far backward as they found it convenient. For them even the Holocaust is little more than an ideological speed bump, and I have little doubt that they could explain how this was both the fault of the victims and somehow at the same time crypto-Zionist propaganda.

      The thing is, there would even be an element of truth in that argument: The people on the left in the linked illustration probably really were on some level reacting to a real threat to their belief systems and simultaneously to their political and economic lives, in some way embodied in the people on the right. If you can extend your imagination that far, then how can you deny that there is an inescapable element of truth that Zionism and the Zionist Entity itself were, whatever else they may have been or are, also inevitable and self-consistent, fully comprehensible reactions to someone else - not just, for instance, an imitation of "Blood and Soil" nationalism, as so many MWers are ready to acknowledge, but also self-defense against it?

      None of these historical entities or events exists in isolation or in simple relations of causal primacy relative to their political effects and counterweights. Whether or not antisemitism is entirely or primarily "driven" by Zionism today - I find that view somewhat simplistic and ahistorical - it's still pathological on its own terms, disfiguring and destructive to anti-semites as well as to the Jews.

    • We all know the Churchill quote, but what he really meant is another question.

    • This general problem with democracy, MHughes, has been fairly well understood for at least 2,500 years or so, and that's just the written record. Correction by experience can be a very long, costly, and uncertain process.

    • Agree with PW in re pabelmont's comment: The unself-consciousness of the "yes, democracy sometimes also sucks" crowd is dramatic. They say it over and over again, and wherever the particular political results don't suit their own prejudices and preferences, and it never seems to occur to them that other people might want to apply the same criticisms to our own and allied democratic processes.

      Yet, on some level this turns into a criticism of democracy itself, and anyone, especially a democratic politician, who raises the issue becomes vulnerable to cheap criticism.

  • Israel preparing to deport star of Oscar-winning doc ‘Strangers No More’
    • If what you say is true, hophmi - and I have no reason to doubt it - then you're be right to highlight that paragraph as manipulative polemics - IOW, bs emotionalism. However, that's true because the post as a whole declines to tell the whole story, treats as accomplished a measure that according to you has not yet been and won't be implemented, and instead offers boo bait to the anti-Z bubbas - but not because on its own terms the statement is inaccurate. "Understanding and tolerance won't be found here" is the "message" that even the mere "planning" of this expulsion sends. Regardless of the whole story of Israeli emotional self-division about the plan (or other controversial acts and proposals), if Israel keeps it up with the self-inflicted wounds, sooner or later it's going to inflict a serious injury on itself, either by bad aim or cumulative effect, assuming it hasn't done so already.

      Enough to make a guy wonder about a Zionist death wish.

  • Colonialism and violence
    • Thank you, andrew r, for your thoughtful and well-informed discussion. In my opinion, you may have over-corrected in the direction of mildness in your denunciation, however. All evidence of an intersection between extreme ideological anti-Zionism and eliminationist racism is a political boon to the Israeli right wing and its American allies. The same could be said for the active denial of such evidence, which latter, unfortunately, is not in short supply - either historically and very concretely, or in statements among Israel's leading adversaries, including their would-be allies here at this little ol' corner of the internet. The tactics that some rely on - crying "hasbara" or viciously ridiculing those who point that history out (or excusing unadulterated Nazi apologetics) - might seem effective among the relatively very small number of people who even know what the word "hasbara" means, but it's typical of tendencies that do tremendous political harm to Palestinian solidarity and allied movements in the real world.

    • @CK, why do you think anyone in this crowd would defend the medieval persecution of Jews by European monarchs or dictators of any kind?

      Open your eyes, lyn. "This crowd" includes people who are happy to parrot Nazi propaganda, others who bend over backward to defend the parrots , and others who write as though the long and peculiar history of anti-semitism was made up by Zionists and other Jews (see for example comment #78 above and following). Why? Because blinkered ideological commitments - in this case to anti-Zionism - tend to produce moral blindness and worse. It probably starts out for many as a desire to correct for having been manipulated in the past. A symptomatic tendency is always to assume, when in doubt, that an uncertain case in question will re-confirm their bias: A constant marginal shading of the truth that eventually detaches entirely from any standard of truth (and frequently of decency). Some ardent ideological anti-Zionists end up saying things about "the Jews," and saying them in certain ways, that would cause them to lash out, if not explode with accusatory rage, if somebody else did the same thing, or anything approaching it, in relation to their adopted replacement victims.

    • I'm pessimistic, frog, about your chances of getting to a Nazi apologist with a simple history lesson. But don't let me stop you from trying.

    • At first it was an embarrassment. Over time it becomes an indictment - though perhaps also a useful object lesson.

    • as a side note I don’t think Jews were so persecuted in England at that time

      That may be because the Jews had been officially expelled from England in 1290 by King Edward I, and were not re-admitted except in very small numbers under semi-legal status until well after the Puritans had arrived in the New World. The way this thread is going, I wouldn't be surprised to see someone come along to take Edward's side.

    • Jews were NOT targeted in Germany “just for existing, always and forever.” Jews were targeted in Germany because they had first declared war on the German economy and thereby the German people; they had been warned to desist or face dire consequences; they did not desist; the consequences ensued.

      Statements like the above are an embarrassment to this site.

    • Hmmm…so, the more “materially superior” a nation becomes, the more violently oppressive it becomes. Poor Israel, a victim (surprise, surprise) of its own success. :-(

      Absolutely. The only alternative to that view, apparently your view, would be to imagine the tyrant, master, oppressor as fulfilled - and simple winners in classic zero sum game. That would mean that a movement to a more just state for others would be a movement to a more oppressive state for them: a resumption of the same cycle of oppression with roles reversed, rather than progress to a better life for the Israeli Jews as well as for the oppressed.

      As for the first part, that does seem to be the pattern historically, up to the point that the weaker party is assimilated or the dominant party encounters either its own material limitations or an equal or greater adversary.

    • Is this misleading?

      To me, MHughes, the only thing misleading about your definition is that Zionism wasn't and isn't just a passive belief in those things.

    • We talk about Zionist colonialism alongside European colonialism as though they're historical outliers, when in critical respects they're the historical and even the animal norm: The stronger (however defined) tend to overwhelm the weaker.

      If not constrained by extraneous factors (the sames ones that built and sustain the Jewish state), Israeli violence against the Palestinians could have been far more "absolute." Before annie starts crying "hasbara," this observation is not meant to excuse, much less to credit, Israeli conduct, but to suggest that understanding this "employment of absolute violence" may inherently require a more "absolute" perspective. On this level, the Islamist and Leftist understandings - Israel as an outpost of the never-ending Judeo-Christian Crusade, simultaneously a project and client-state of the democratic capitalist neo-empire - also have to be considered. The one-state harmonization of Palestinian and Israeli aspirations under a just and democratic, universalist dispensation at some point will have to confront and integrate these narratives, too. In the meantime - and I suspect that this is a perspective that some may be intensely reluctant to accept - the violent oppressiveness of the Israeli state may simply be an expression of its material superiority, a mode of production and related social organization that more or less naturally tends to overwhelm its competitors on all levels, in the Holy Land as once upon a time in the Americas and as just about everywhere else.

      I think that's also why the recent "revolutions" we've been observing, to the extent they deserve to be called revolutions at all, have had the character of seeking harmonization with a universalist or global concept of human rights that also happens to be the flip-side, the democratic human face of Israel - the face that a large majority of Americans still see.

      The historical work on the Palestinian side has in part been attainment of a level of self-organization and social-ideological coherency that enables effective resistance, which may utilize, but is not the same as the "absolute" resistance, symbolized by the suicide bomber. The suicide bomber gains our attention, but not our recognition. The remaining task of resistance would involve the fuller, global meaning of "attaining recognition." At the same time, for this reason, such resistance isn't resistance at all, but rather a process of assimilation to a world monoculture or "universal homogeneous state" (state of states) based on equal and inalienable human rights and freedoms.

      If not such assimilation (which would also inherently alter the nature and content of the state of states), then what else possibly could be the concept - the political, legal, and social character - of the "one state"?

    • (Sorry about getting Dr. Khalaf's name wrong in the above comment - too late to correct)

    • There is NOTHING about the current condition that had to be.

      I'm sorely tempted to attempt to explain why the above statement cannot be true unless its opposite is also true - i.e., that EVERYTHING about the current condition had to be - but I'll instead suggest as a possibility that the 2-state-solution might survive, and even be sought and implemented, as part useful fiction, part transitional phase, perhaps as we recognize that all of these definitions are always to some extent in play and evolving. The essay points in different ways to the notion that a Greater Palestine already exists as an apartheid state under the name of Israel and in control of a large minority faction. The violence of the present is a desperate effort to ward off recognition of truths approaching inexorably from the future. No one knows the due date.

      The it-always-the-other-guy’s-fault narrative to which both Arabs and Jews in the area (and in this essay) ...

      ...and non-Arabs and non-Jews everywhere else...

      I was also tempted to push for an adjustment toward greater balance, but I can accept Dr. Khalifa's emphasis on the oppression and responsibility that runs Israel -> Palestinians, especially since, unlike some mere polemicist, he does openly and clearly acknowledge that the whole truth means accepting the implication in the current situation of "not just colonialism and imperialism, but Arab political culture." As in the prior "letter to the Zionists" piece, Khalifa seems more interested in morally shaking the Israelis and defenders by the shoulders than in verbally approximating the just/balanced "solution" he points to and briefly sketches.

  • What is the left's answer to military intervention in Libya?
    • Albright claimed not to have "confirmed" the 500k number, but to have fallen into a rhetorical trap. See link to The article also rather exhaustively goes through more realistic estimates, and the controversy over attribution of responsibility (diversion of humanitarian aid by Saddam, and so on).

      Which isn't to say that the sanctions policy was a good policy, or that Albright was right. The entire confrontation with Saddam was a vast tragedy, but thinking that it was all "our" fault is in a way another version of imperialism and self-importance - as though we're the ones who make everything happen in the world, as though people couldn't get on with the business of destroying each other without our help and guidance.

    • Being "certain" of something doesn't make it true, annie. The Lancet report qualifies as a speculative and, especially given the politics of the lead researchers and their editor, also a polemical source. The study's methodology has been widely criticized - at the time of issuance most intensively and directly by Iraq Body Count, since that time by experts in the field. Uncritically using the big round number version of a controversial and outlying study's estimated range of "excess deaths" undermines the credibility of anyone who does so.

    • "after killing about 1 million of them"

      The whole thing - all of U.S. policy toward Iraq going back decades - has been and remains bad enough, and the reminders of that fact enough worth making, not to require any resort to exaggeration. Or do you have some other-than-speculative or polemical source for that factoid?

  • Meltdown Merkel succeeds where otiose Obama failed-- informing Israel of its int'l isolation
    • Elliot, Qaradawi's menacing by design and intention. He is at war, and his side has taken a lot more casualties than the other side. I think his statements - on the Jews and on other topics - are worthy of condemnation, but for the right reasons, and in the right way. Many moderate or at any rate totally accessible, non-fanatic Muslims recognize his scholarship and importance, and treat him with respect. Dealing with him and more important with what he represents calls for something beyond mere denunciation. Part of it, I think, means extending to him and those like him the moral imagination that his statements and teachings sometimes lack, and that we're insisting on.

    • Qaradawi is a "minor" figure only in the sense that he has no formal political power. Of course, he's significant. It wasn't by chance that he was selected to speak at a great convocation celebrating the "revolution" in Egypt. He represents an important and influential current in Islamic/Arabic culture. He's considered one of the greatest living Islamic scholars, by some estimations one of the greatest living scholars, period. He also has a TV show viewed by millions of Arabic speakers.

      He's not merely an anti-semite: He considers himself at war with "the Jews," who, for him, are the Israelis and their international Jewish supporters. His views are typical of a schizoid relationship to Judaism that goes all the way back to verses of the Qur'an and the acts and statements of Mohammed, that has been seen all across the broad history of Islam, and that, for reasons that should be well-understood at this site, have been radically skewed toward the hostile and negative during our era. His attitude doesn't derive from a racist or ethnic animus, an expression of bigotry: It's a deadly serious conclusion that he's reached by logical progression from first principles. Incidentally, that also goes for the radical anti-Zionist Jews that the YouTube video shows him meeting with.

      His statements on the Holocaust are typical for a self-consistent monotheist unrestrained by codes of political correctness. For him, God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-interested, and perfectly and infinitely just. Not a leaf falls without it serving some divine purpose. So, of course, God/Allah wouldn't have let millions of Jews and others die for no reason. For that matter, God/Allah didn't impoverish and divide Islam for no good reason: The suffering and dispossession of the Arabs are likewise part of the divine plan to bring them back to right Islamic thinking, which will necessarily lead to/be rewarded with victory over the enemies of Islam. We frequently run across Christians and Jews getting caught saying the same kind of thing - the Holocaust, HIV, a hurricane, the recession, etc., some kind of punishment for moral decline, or setting the stage for the Apocalypse or some lesser necessary transformation - producing the familiar wailing and gnashing of teeth from people who imagine themselves immune to that kind of thinking. But it's not just Fred Phelps or saner members of the religious right who believe that kind of thing. They're just the ones who feel compelled to follow beliefs of this type to their necessary implications, and to testify and evangelize. Lots of people who consider themselves good secularists, even atheists, can be found sooner or later engaging in this kind of "everything happens for a possibly mysterious good reason" spiritual deal-making and self-consolation.

      You can think of him as a Sunni Pat Robertson or John Hagee, but inestimably more learned, relatively much more important, with an outlook shaped by exile, dispossession, and war.

    • Nah, PW - I'm just trying to see things as they are, and maintain humility about what can be clearly made out.

      Even if Haaretz got this one 100% right, a plausibly deniable statement offered in private, but publicly disavowed, has a different political value than a public statement. It's true that truths beneath the diplomatic fictions are sometimes leaked, and for that matter it means something that many - not just Mondoweissers - are willing to believe that Merkel might have adopted the "tone" that her spokesman denies she'd adopt. There are those in Germany criticizing Merkel's government for supporting the settlements resolution rather than abstaining.

      It's just as true, however, that officials leaking to reporters sometimes shade the truth to serve other purposes.

    • You're still assuming a) that the Haaretz report is accurate and b) that it was some kind of statement for public consumption. Merkel's spokesman denies both, and, even if "a" were true, the denial covers "b." Even if Merkel privately expressed exasperation with Netanyahu, that's not her political position.

      For all we know, and in fact there's been evidence of it, Obama's private feelings about Netanyahu and his policy are as negative as what's being attributed to Merkel. The main effect has been that Obama has had to go out of his way to re-affirm the U.S. commitment to Israel - just as the main effect for the German government is that it's re-affirmed its desire to see the peace process and all of its assumptions re-started.

    • The report of the content of the conversation has been sourced to Haaretz only, as far as I can tell. Merkel's spokesperson absolutely ("mit Sicherheit") denies that the tone of her remarks was accurately conveyed:

      link to

      He does confirm that the conversation took place, and that Merkel continues to criticize the stalemate in the peace process, as she has in the past.

  • Clueless in Washington and Tel Aviv
    • However, I think the US is likely to sink more slowly for several structural reasons. These include its ongoing leadership in technological innovation research (although not development any more), which still gives it leverage over software, military and hi-tech hardware licensing; the country’s sheer economic size: and, again, the military dependence its foreign policy has cultivated over the past half century.

      You've both left out the most durable basis of relative U.S. wealth and power: geography.

  • ‘These are Qadhafi’s final moments’
    • Wasn't my proposal, frog. However, to play NeoCon-Devil's advocate, the main justification for the U.S. becoming "public driver" would be that no one else will take the wheel, and that, in the absence of U.S. leadership, a bloodbath may ensue. It's not inconceivable (I admit it seems unlikely) that Gadaffi might even retain power, or that power might go, after said bloodbath, to someone almost as bad, just not as nuts.

      The bottom line should be the humanitarian interest. I hope that the Prez & Co. have a better handle on it all than I will claim to. They're already taking the usual flack for not going out on a limb. O's failure to huff and puff and blow the house down is taken as a sign of cowardice or worse. I think he's probably following his usual path, dealing with certain dangers (for instance to U.S. citizens and others in Libya), and seeking to keep U.S. meddling/foreign intervention from becoming a rallying point for the bad guys.

      On the other hand, I wouldn't mind at all hearing from O, and seeing us embrace an imaginative and ambitious, though as international as practical, course.

    • Not yet completely insane. The Al Jazeera Live Blog pointed out that he chose as his backdrop for his speech a statue that depicts an American fighter plane in the grasp of a righteous anti-imperialist fist. He still believes, and he may be at least partly right, that no one will dare intervene against him - and that if anyone did, the sympathies would shift, if they aren't already quietly protecting him.

      I wonder MWers react to the following:

      More public statements, or even the imposition of sanctions, are of absolutely no use at this point. Much more urgent action is needed. The United States should be seeking U.N. approval for:

      -- Recognition of a provisional authority in liberated areas (or even a Provisional Government of Free Libya if the Libyans can organize a credible one), initially in Benghazi in the east and Misurata in the west, which seem to be liberated, although are still under threat of air attack;

      -- Provision by member countries, including specifically Egypt and Tunisia, of any support requested by these provisional authorities;

      -- Imposition of a NATO-supported "no fly" zone over Libya to halt further bombing by Qaddafi's forces;

      -- Urgent supply of food and medical supplies to any point in Libya that is accessible by road or by military transport aircraft;

      -- Provision of arms to the provisional authorities.

      When there are so many things that could be done to help the unbelievably brave Libyan people--without any risk to American lives--it is shameful to be sitting on our hands. If that is not reason enough to act, then we should be thinking about the terrible reputation the United States is acquiring, by its inaction, among the Libyan people and throughout the region. It will stay with us for a long time.

      Does the fact that it comes from Paul Wolfowitz, and has been posted on Jeffrey Goldberg's blog, affect anyone's assessment?

  • Why the U.S. will not 'do something' about Palestine
    • They can surely both be true if one accepts that multiple relatively autonomous groups combine and re-combine to make policy in the U.S. - that the U.S. is run by a system that is in turn shaped by evolving interests under objective influence, not by a single, uniform will. Even countries run by dictators or narrow cliques undergo divisions of opinion. Even a single soul can sustain contradictions.

      The psychoanalytical concept of over-determination applies quite well to national political decisions. Why we think we do something and the real reasons we do something may be very different, or they may merely be coordinated, as I'm sure you're well aware. We tell ourselves one thing, we know something else, both are true enough, and both lead to the same destination anyway. That's also why, somewhat paradoxically, geopolitical explanations that look to enduring and objective factors have such great appeal.

    • I wouldn't underrate the China Lobby too much, Mr. Blankfort, especially when you consider its role, or the role of its direct successors, in getting the U.S. involved in its two biggest and bloodiest military operations since WW2. Media and politics had a much different infrastructure in those days. The fact remains that political realities that seem impervious to change can evaporate once their time is up.

      I see that others have addressed the role of Israel in U.S. strategic calculations. I'll just say again that until you've defined U.S. strategy, you can't accurately assess Israel's importance. Those who see the maintenance of the current world system under U.S. leadership - or, if you prefer, hegemony - as a good and necessary thing are likely going to reach different conclusions than those who see the fastest possible escape from that system, for the world and for the U.S. itself, as a primary objective. Within each group, there will be further differences.

      Under the theory implicit in the top post, U.S. elites will respond conservatively regarding an arrangement that seems to guarantee their power, prestige, and privilege. The public may be even more reactionary. Even if we conclude that Israel no longer serves the purposes it once did, or even if we conclude that it never served the purposes it was supposed to, we may still be rationally reluctant to take risks, exchange current burdens for unknown uncertainties - possibly much worse problems than having to endure some bad PR from time to time.

      William F Buckley used to suggest that we just make Israel the 51st state, and, though he was joking, he wasn't overrating the commitment to our fellow democratic capitalist outpost in a cruel and dangerous world etc., etc., by very far. From this perspective, asking what strategic purpose Israel serves is almost like asking what strategic purpose Vermont or North Dakota or you or I serve. It becomes a strategic end in itself.

      Over time, however, if Israel continues to mismanage its relations to the Palestinians, its other neighbors, and the rest of the world, and continues to raise the costs of alliance, and continues to slide into illiberalism, then it will undermine the sense of "family." The potential - still only a potential - of a more democratic Middle East also may undermine Israel's position. If and as 9/11 and the War on Terror recede further into the past, especially if some kind of accommodation with Iran becomes possible, if a new regional balance can be set up as we extricate ourselves from Iraq and Afghanistan, allowing the U.S. to revert to a more easily sustainable "offshore balancer" role, then we will more or less naturally reconfigure our relationship with Israel. However, I think that Israel's symbolic and historic weight is such that it will remain a lot more difficult merely to turn our backs on the whole situation, even if from some abstract, narrowly "realistic" calculation, it seems like it ought to be in our interests.

    • "exactly how do we reach the public" is a larger question that probably exceeds the bounds of this thread and almost certainly exceeds "Democracy Now!," since I doubt that any appreciable segment of the public is or ever was aware of the existence of DN! I think that any substantial change in U.S. policy will probably be driven by external and objective factors, may seem one or two steps behind events up to the very moment an administration feels the ground has been prepared, and will almost certainly fail to satisfy the dreams and wishes of most MW commenters.

    • I noticed that someone changed "cannot" to "will not." As for the rest, that's already happened, MHughes - departures from pure Likudnik-friendly policy - and under both Republican and Democratic administrations. A strong partisan of the Israeli right can produce a whole list of items on which the U.S. supposedly has sold Israel out. Just go through the Caroline Glick archives if you have the stomach for it (though my theory is that Glick is actually one of the strongest anti-Zionist writers ot all, since the bottom line of almost every column she writes is the hopelessness of Israel's position).

      If Israel gets us involved in another war or if oil goes through the roof or if something else happens to turn American public opinion... Well, there used to be a very strong and popular China Lobby, too.

    • I agree, frog, that the PA had its own reasons to push, and to turn down the U.S. offer to support a non-binding resolution with the same content. But I think that American and Palestinian interests may actually have converged on doing the empty gesture this way. The PA gets to play independent from America. The Admin goes on record as Israel's last-resort defender, pacifying the Lobby, but with a strong statement against Israeli policy, setting up potential freedom to maneuver if the situation erodes further as a result of Israeli intransigence.

    • MHughes, it's not so much a "contradiction" (in the sense of a paradox) as a disagreement between two or more schools of thought on how to secure U.S. interests and on what those interests really are. Even if you take a mostly cynical, geopolitical or realist view, there is an argument for maintaining the Israeli alliance, and, even if there was an argument for de-emphasizing it or preparing to withdraw from it, there would still be a raft of serious concerns about how exactly to go about extricating ourselves from it. And then there's the traditional presidential/hegemonic prerogative to wait for the most opportune moment, force the adversary to act precipitously...

    • As I said on the veto thread, PW, even if, contrary to consistent and repeated prior public statements, the U.S. had been prepared to abstain (in effect voting in favor), the current world-political conjuncture would have made such a turnabout even less likely. But even if thing were calm in that region, O and any president has to think several moves ahead - not just about the intrinsic justice of the gesture, but about dealing with its aftermath and following through.

      A more realistic peace movement or far left strategy might be aimed at creating greater space for O, or anyone else, to maneuver, or to seize opportunities as they may present themselves. Say, for instance, instead of lambasting Rice for her demeanor or whatever it was that bothered people, or O for being lily-livered, why not take the admin's strongly worded statement and amplify it? Decry the veto, but start framing the whole situation for the public in terms of the costs to the U.S. of Israel policy and the inevitability of a divergence if Israel doesn't change soon, even despite the best efforts of loyal and well-meaning totally patriotic O and Hillary to hold the alliance together etc., etc.

    • Come to think of it, the title of the piece may be contributing to misreadings: In my opinion, it should probably be "will not," not "cannot do something" - and could possibly be further qualified with something like a "for now." The U.S., via the president, "could" in theory try any of a range of different "somethings." Upon closer examination, given the current correlation of political forces, dramatic statements and acts may generally look highly counterproductive to Obama - destructive of whatever's left of his agenda, more helpful to his political adversaries, and not just in relation to Israel. So, in all likelihood, he's not going to to turn his presidency into a martyrdom operation.

      However, I think it's certainly believable that at some point, after careful preparation and at the right moment, the O Team might engineer a Nixon Goes to China moment coincident with, but perhaps not primarily focused on, a significant distancing from Israeli or at least Likudnik policy.

    • I agree with the overall thrust of the analysis if not with all of its emphases or the way that some are taking them. The main takeaway, it seems to me, is that we should fully expect the United States to act conservatively in regard to international relations, and we shouldn't overrate the ability of any one person, even the president, to re-shape U.S. grand strategy. That strategy is as much a logical response to materially favorable geopolitical circumstances and world-historical processes as the product of some conscious and unlikely effort to change or control them. Wishful assumptions about an American empire falling apart, or about some better world order or non-order replacing it, may rely on false portrayals of the nature of that empire - what it's based on and what holds it together - but that doesn't mean that re-adjusting the U.S.-Israel relationship can't fit within the overall imperial or neo-imperial strategic framework, or even become necessary to it.

  • Tahrir demonstrators say they aim to liberate Jerusalem
    • If they meant it literally, they could have started marching east right then. I don't believe that they're the first people to come up with using "Jerusalem" as a rallying point or symbolic goal. ;)

      Not that someday someone might not show up who not only means it literally, but literally possesses the means. Probably not within the next decade or two.

  • A massacre committed by another "close friend and ally" of the United States

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