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


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  • A massacre committed by another "close friend and ally" of the United States
    • Donald, I really do understand, I think, your suspicions abut my good faith, and maybe why you didn't like being made an example of troll-seeking. I apologize for that - my criticism wasn't really specifically aimed at you, and I see we are in basic agreement on other matters. I don't know if my detailed reply to your detailed reply has made it through moderation yet, but, if I promise for now on to try to take a virtual breath, to give you the benefit of the doubt, to be slow to take offense, and to wait for you to dispose of other matters about which I may not be aware, how about you try and do some of that for me, in the future?

    • Since you asked, Donald:

      Maybe you should pay attention to what Seham said, how fuster misinterpreted her, how he then changed his claim about what he had said, and in general what the issue is.

      1. Seham’s headline said “Another massacre committed by another close friend and ally of the United States”

      2. Fuster replied with “Wonderful headline to the post. Any massacre committed is not the fault of anyone other than an ally of the United States.”

      That doesn’t follow from what Seham said. No one reading it in good faith would have jumped to the conclusion that fuster did. Apparently you are fine with this.

      In my view, fuster was reacting to a tendency to over-simplify and exaggerate, and to set aside the ongoing depredations committed by avowed enemies of the U.S., as well as by more complicated cases like Qadafi's Libya, for the sake of monotonous America-bashing.

      3. I point this out.

      4. Fuster then replies that no, Seham does blame the US for the deaths in Bahrain. That’s true, but that’s not what he accused her of saying in the previous post.

      This kind of criticism which is shot from the hip, inflammatory, and inaccurate is what I’d call “trollish”.

      You and fuster have a difference of opinion about interpretations of Seham's intentions and fair readings of Seham's headline. My impression is that fuster's interpretation of Seham's intentions is at a minimum arguable, based on the immediate context, the general context of events, and as further evidenced by other posts and commentaries of Seham's.

      Seham did use quotes for "close friend and ally," but I'm not sure what they're supposed to mean. Is Seham referring to diplomatic language - Hillary's perhaps? That would be one fair interpretation, especially given Seham's anti-American tendencies. For another writer, the quotes might have indicated that Bahrain - or the Bahraini government - isn't really a "close friend" - even less now that, contrary to the kind of policy we would prefer, the government is making what is really an alliance of convenience more difficult to sustain. (With allies like these...)

      Personally, I think the word "troll" should be reserved for people who don't attempt to explain themselves, who never or rarely take responsibility for their own statements, and who are more interested in causing trouble, upsetting people, sidetracking discussion, etc., rather than in seeking the truth to the best of their ability.

      Occasionally throwing an elbow or writing clumsily or even "shooting from the hip" doesn't in my opinion make a person or frog a troll, or even "trollish." It makes that person or frog imperfect. I think the Wikipedia definition is serviceable:

      In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response[1] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

      I don't see fuster's comment as being intended to provoke emotional or off-topic responses. It was totally on-topic. To call it "inflammatory" is, again, to suggest that disagreeing, or even just being wrong, equates with bad faith and intentions. That strikes me as an attitude typical of fanatics.

    • There are several people here whose views, or whose way of expressing them, strike me as fanatical, annie, but "fanaticalish" would be a lighter charge - of tending towards the fanatical, by, for instance, insisting on a uniformity of opinion by name-calling. Seeking offense at every opportunity and making vile accusations also fits within that pattern.

      Donald wasn't the first to call fuster a "troll," and, in Donald's defense, he was in this instance picking up fuster's own sarcastically self-effacing usage. Apparently because fuster utilizes sarcasm and because he goes against the grain of "more extreme than thou"-ism on the subjects of Zionism and American policy, there are those, including perhaps you, who would rather he disappeared. Maybe, if you have your way, you will someday have a busy blog in which you NEVER have to confront an opinion or argument you don't already agree with, unless pre-treated by one of your ideologically pure allies.

    • Annie, I've known fuster for two or three years now. We frequently hang around the same blogs. I guess you find it shocking that people adopt avatars. You could have one, too, that would show up on this blog. Just go to and follow the simple sign-up. I'd recommend an image that somehow conveys belief that everyone who disagrees with you is part of a conspiracy. Maybe Julia Roberts from that movie with Mel Gibson wouldn't be TOO obscure.

    • So, people who don't agree with you are "trolls" or "stupid"? If this is the kind of discussion you want to pursue, you can count me out, Donald.

    • Delirious Joy in Bahrain - Kristof today:

      perhaps on orders of the crown prince, the army troops had been withdrawn, and the police were more restrained today. Police fired many rounds of tear gas on the south side of the roundabout to keep protesters away, but that didn’t work and the police eventually fled. People began pouring into the roundabout from every direction, some even bringing their children and celebrating with an almost indescribable joy. It’s amazing to see a site of such tragedy a few days ago become a center of jubilation right now. It’s like a huge party. I asked one businessman, Yasser, how he was feeling, and he stretched out his arms and screamed: “GREAT!!!!”

      Many here tell me that this is a turning point, and that democracy will now come to Bahrain – in the form of a constitutional monarchy in which the king reigns but does not rule – and eventually to the rest of the Gulf and Arab world as well. But some people are still very, very wary and fear that the government will again send in troops to reclaim the roundabout. I just don’t know what will happen, and it’s certainly not over yet. But it does feel as if this just might be a milestone on the road to Arab democracy.


      We don’t know what exactly President Obama said to the king in his call last night, but we do know that the White House was talking about suspending military licensing to Bahrain. This may have been a case where American pressure helped avert a tragedy and aligned us with people power in a way that in the long run will be good for Bahrain and America alike.

      Americans will worry about what comes next, if people power does prevail, partly because Gulf rulers have been whispering warnings about Iranian-influence and Islamists taking over. Look, democracy is messy. But there’s no hint of anti-Americanism out there, and people treated American journalists as heroes because we reflect values of a free press that they aspire to achieve for their country.

    • This tendency - hardly yours alone, Donald - to define as "trollish" posts that disagree with the predominating view comes across to me as "fanaticalish."

  • Obama gives big thumbs up to settlements at UN (and kills the two-state solution --Haber)
    • You must be seriously uninformed about European history outside of the narrow slice you're interested in, seen from your very peculiar perspective. Otherwise, you're indulging in repugnant lies.

      By November 1938, the German state had utilized violence in numerous ways - through proxy forces, through agents, through juridical murder and larceny, through incitement, though many other tools - to dispossess, selectively murder, and drive into exile Jews (and others) from throughout the expanding German Reich. Well before the Nazis gained control of the German state, of course, they and their allies had been pursuing and inciting violence against the Jews.

      Adolf Hitler had declared war on the Jews by, at the latest, 1918, when he blamed them for Germany's defeat in World War I and promised revenge. Now surprise me by saying that you don't admire Hitler's historical analysis, and aren't a big fan of his expansive commentaries on the same and related subjects in Mein Kampf.

    • Or how about this one, sethla?

      "Do the math, biorabbi: Untermyer organized a declaration of war on Germany on March 24, 1933. The German state absorbed the blows with non-violent resistance until Nov. 9, 1938."

      Worthy of Julius Streicher, that.

    • You're aware that abstention in this instance would have had the effect of voting yes? I'm not sure whether anyone even considered the potential ramifications very seriously, since the U.S. made it clear all along that it wouldn't let a UNSC resolution of this type go forward at this time or for the foreseeable future.

    • It's misleading to characterize the veto as "big thumbs up." It may feel that way to those who, like most here, consider U.S. support for Israel a scandal in itself and a matter of the highest priority; or to those who, unlike numerous U.S. allies and many critics, view Obama as having been too supportive of Mubarak - but Obama's the president of a country facing a wide range of new and old uncertainties. In the meantime, according to the last opinion poll I saw on the subject, Americans still support Israel by super-majority numbers - as against adversaries who remain deeply unpopular. You may not like it, but do you really consider it realistic that in this situation, at this political conjuncture, Obama would want to invite a new upsurge in attacks on his policy, his orientation, and his very legitimacy?

  • Rosen: 'A few crude jokes on twitter do not make a philosophy'
  • Welcome to Palestine…now let’s reset the relationship
    • I was familiar with Meshal's and similar statements, and though I respect Dr Khalaf's position as well as the way he expresses it, I think summarizing Hamas's position as above - grouped together with those "virtually pleading for peace based on a genuine two state settlement" amounts to shading the truth, and also exaggerating the unity on the Palestinian side.

      There's a related contradiction in the depiction of the Israeli side - sometimes described as "psychotic," but within a context of a "reset" based on forgetting the past and being welcomed. Most people wouldn't and people in general probably shouldn't welcome dangerous psychotics into their midst. Fuster and others among those unpersuaded, either pro-Zionist or at a minimum not fiercely anti-Zionist, react to other aspects of the presentation that seem to "stack the deck" in other ways.

      I see Dr. Khalaf making an admirable but only partly successful effort to reach for a different, morally elevated and most of all common language - a rigorously moral and non-judgmental orientation toward the future, especially as in that line highlighted by other commenters: "The Palestinians are the door to your redemption, the revivification of ethical Judaism." But in the next line, he reverts to absolute pessimism and abnormal psychology: "But you won’t grasp any of this." Well, if you really believe that, then why even say it? The "letter to the Zionists" approach is defeated by such gestures.

      Criticisms aside, I'd urge him to continue on this path, and honestly am grateful for the effort and the example, but it makes me want to think more what it means to call someone of another faith to be true to that faith. Is that really a sensible gesture, and, if so, how? The issue is, after all, one of common ground, both in the idea and in the reality.

    • Oops garbled my own understanding - meant to say, that I thought Hamas 1) has officially offered truces of different lengths, without prejudice to future negotiations/decisions and 2) has offered to cease the armed struggle though without guarantees, upon Israeli withdrawal to the '67 lines and granting of right of return, but in neither case has implied a revision of the Hamas Charter and acceptance of a 2-state solution.

    • Dr Khalaf,

      Thank you for your eloquent article Can you please link or otherwise refer me/us to Hamas' unambiguous and credible embrace of a genuine two-state settlement? I apologize if I have failed to keep up, but my impression was that the furthest Hamas has gone in any official respect is to offer a relatively long-term truce in exchange for immediate withdrawal to the '67 lines.

  • But we don't live in an ideal world
    • PW: In re Egypt, George Friedman summed things up this way:

      An 82-year-old man has been thrown out of office, and his son will not be president. The constitution and parliament are gone and a military junta is in charge. The rest is speculation.

      I think that's an excessively cynical way of putting things, but Friedman kind of sees that as his job. I think the rest of us can, without getting carried away, acknowledge that the mere opportunity going forward for Egyptians to "speculate" in a way that matters, to shape their future self-consciously, is a significant objective achievement, a great thing for anyone who believes in human freedom. On the other hand, if the protesters hadn't put forth a reform deal that even the most cynical member of the regime could rationally take, or if they had mounted an objective threat to the state as an organic whole (which includes the army), they might gotten nowhere - or have been slaughtered.

      As for Israeli identity, if I understand your question correctly, I think it would be (and on its present course likely will be) affected over time by a sense of divergence from America. But I don't think Israeli identity is dependent on the opinions of American Jews. I think it's re-created and reinforced daily in the lives of Israelis. How American Jews in general would answer your question, even after prolonged intense exposure to MW, would still depend most on who was asking and how.

    • lareineblanche,

      Maybe we can set aside a discussion of Nazism for now.

      Regarding Hamas and its competing alternative definition: Hamas explicitly favors the establishment of an Islamic state - Article 6 of the Charter reads as follows:

      The Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas] is a distinguished Palestinian movement, whose allegiance is to Allah, and whose way of life is Islam. It strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine, for under the wing of Islam followers of all religions can coexist in security and safety where their lives, possessions and rights are concerned. In the absence of Islam, strife will be rife, oppression spreads, evil prevails and schisms and wars will break out.

      Anti-semitic statements by Hamas spokespeople ("The Jews can't be trusted," "the Jews are animals," etc., etc.) tend to attract much more attention than this traditional Islamic mode of co-existence "under Islam." If the latter is noted at all, it will typically be in the context of scaremongering.

      I think Hamas means it, and, furthermore, I think this form of Islamism does constitute one coherent and pragmatic theory of the state. In relation to Rothbard and/or Hobbes, it stands as a typical example of the state both as guarantor of order and final adjudicator of claims (through the monopoly on violence), but as much more besides. In this respect Islamists are, I would argue, rather more typical of the norm, and closer to a truth of human existence in general - because who and what we are as individuals, every aspect of our realization of ourselves, occurs in relation to others, to some collective or set of collective identities, and that this is as much the human reality of the state as the monopoly on violence that helps to facilitate its operation.

      What I'm saying is that it's not a question of "psychoanalyzing" states, but of recognizing that even the idea of psychological identification falls short of expressing the degree to which any "I" is an "I" at all only to the extent that he or she relates to others as part of a "we."

      I agree that the definition of the state in general and of the Israeli state in particular have been subject to change historically, but that's a circular statement, since such change occurs not just in history, but as history - not in a vacuum or as mere theory, but in a sense as its own ground.

      The commenters who say, simply, "it's not for others to decide whether or not we should exist" are castigated in various ways, but the beginning and end point of this discussion is still what people are willing to fight for, and how hard (to the death). From this perspective, perhaps we can acknowledge that neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis are going to give up their identities as they know and have constructed them because someone else thinks they should, because it suits someone else's moral determinations. That's like asking them simply to cease to be.

      It's more complex than "blood and soil," though blood and soil shouldn't be underestimated as powerful human motivators in their own right. You mention the alteration in the Israeli self-conception brought about by political economy: I do think that an alternative path of collective and individual identity formation is every day more available to the Israelis and everyone else, and can be detected and described on this level as on others - perhaps an emergent transnational or global human identity (flowing with those rivers of capital) that prior to our age was hardly conceivable except as messianic prophecy or through its twin, worldwide revolution. But that identity, or strand of identity, is still being born. It is more frequently encountered as a transitory loss of interest in the prior identity-formation than as a concrete idea for someone to live, fight, and die for.

      The willingness, however, to sacrifice for a religious culture-state has been amply evidenced, for thousands of years. In this context the Hamas Charter becomes directly relevant: Islam presents a vision of a world community, and is distinguished among religions for the concreteness of that vision. The Islamists possess an historically field-tested transnationalism - a model for a global state designed to submerge national, ethnic, and religious conflict. It would be a mistake to proceed as if they don't, even if we also believe that in one way or another they will be compelled to adjust their beliefs and practices, perhaps as Zionists will be compelled also to transform themselves.

    • For example - here's Rothbard subverting his own premise, arguing against the Hegelian concept of the state without identifying it as such, and turning to a radically ill-chosen example:

      The useful collective term "we" has enabled an ideological camouflage to be thrown over the reality of political life. If "we are the government," then anything a government does to an individual is not only just and untyrannical but also "voluntary" on the part of the individual concerned. [...]Under this reasoning, any Jews murdered by the Nazi government were not murdered; instead, they must have "committed suicide," since they were the government (which was democratically chosen), and, therefore, anything the government did to them was voluntary on their part. One would not think it necessary to belabor this point, and yet the overwhelming bulk of the people hold this fallacy to a greater or lesser degree.

      While misstating both the history of Nazi Germany and the theory of the state as positive collective enterprise, Rothbard sloppily moves from the "we" to the "they" and implicitly the "I." As a result he misses the devastating and very real conclusion of history, which validates the point that he is trying to argue against: The Nazi state was a suicidally self-destructive collective. The genocide was a primary expression of that collective's inherent self-destructiveness, the "we" of the German state turning against itself and achieving as close to a total annihilation of itself as a nation-state can achieve. I think it clearly resonates with Zionism in the latter's pathological dimensions - not that Zionism is the "same" as Nazism (or could be), merely that the conversion of a faulty concept into a bad reality cannot be evaded forever.

    • lareineblanche, we agree that conceptions of the state are central to this discussion. I'd be very wary of being tied to Rothbard's definition or even his mode of definition. In addition, we have a major competing definition of the state and its purposes being advanced by Hamas in particular that needs at some point to be taken into account.

    • Isn’t a state simply the monopolisation of violence for the state’s ends?

      No. That is a totally reductive interpretation of what a state is or should be. Even for Hobbes, the justification for the monopolization of violence was the common interest of the governed. Your definition is circular: The "simply" turns monopolization of violence into an end in itself, as though "state" = "monopolization of violence for the sake of monopolization of violence."

      What I believe is more true, and has a bearing on all of this discussion, is that any formation of any state always inherently implies some reduction in absolute freedom and equality, but absolute freedom itself is an unreal ideal. Real freedom requires actualization, a positive content, and that is the basis of the state: The state properly understood is the realm of actualization of freedom both individually and collectively.

      Judaism is a religion. To associate with a state will do nothing but profane the religion, and impede the state.

      The above holds only for certain views or definitions of religion and certain views of the state. From the perspective of many who consider themselves devout, in all of the great religions, acceptance of a non-religious state would be the profanation, the blasphemy.

      One problem is the concept of Judaism as an ethnicity mainly - a peculiar kind of birthright rather than a set of beliefs. In this connection, we encounter two main moral justifications for support of Israel, especially from the American perspective. The main justification that "sells" durably is support of Israel as a "fellow democracy" - actually a fellow democratic capitalist state. This justification has nothing directly to do with Jewish ethnicity, but in effect substitutes an alternative ideology - for Americans a quasi-religious ideology - for the traditionally religious or even ethno-religious one. The second justification is a form of international "affirmative action," often reduced in these discussions to "making up for the Holocaust," but actually a much more complex historical discussion that eventually overlaps with the first justification.

      In all of this discussion, however, the ardent critics of Zionism seem to slide all the way over to a moral absolutism regarding such "affirmative action" - also, as we say in the U.S., "quotas and set-asides." Are we all really sure that negotiating or legislating preferential treatment for one group in the interests of the good of all is always inherently immoral? I think, to the contrary, that any real world transition to a more just set of arrangements is going to entail numerous compromises, and inescapably involve recognition of special rights and special classes - the dispossessed and who qualifies for compensation, access to and preservation of significant sites, bases of law, etc. I think this is the underlying truth in Mr. Slater's argument.

      No real state of any kind - Jewish, Islamic, non-denominational; bi-national, confederative, post-national; Israel, Palestine, or Freedonia - can exist except within such less-than-ideal determinations.

  • Record! I am an Arab.
    • Both matter, in different ways.

    • I think you may underestimate what an accomplishment that is. You're probably also a lot less sensitive to the kind of criticism - some of it totally unhinged - that Obama has been receiving in the U.S. from the other side.

      Take another look at Obama's statement on Friday, especially where he directly associates the Egyptians with the American Civil Rights movement, putting them under the sign of Martin Luther King. That is very, very high praise, especially coming from him, for obvious reasons. It's the "good America" that the American electorate embraced when it elected him. He also associated the events with the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, and opposed them to terrorism, and evoked echoes from his own campaign... It wouldn't have been possible for him to "brand" these events this way if he was thought to have been driving them, or to have taken possession of them - assuming even that he could have done so or that any such effort wouldn't have blown up.

      We can differ in our estimate of his personal preferences or real contribution. Either way, we have Americans now identifying with and rooting for "Arabs in the street" - better than the Green Movement because successful. This is a fantastic reversal - if not yet complete - of the "clash of civilizations" culture given such a huge boost by 9/11 and the "War on Terror."

      Positive movement of this type - let's hope it's maintained - can open greater space for American politicians, the President in particular, to do what's manifestly in the American moral and practical interest - distance itself from Israel, get out of Afghanistan, reach a peaceful accommodation of some kind with Iran, and, most of all, stop killing Muslims, directly or indirectly.

    • The anger I felt at the Obama administration's shifty response to Egyptian demands for freedom was indescribable, in retrospect though, the reactions from the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel plus the buffoonish statements from Mubarak and Sulieman on Thursday only made this victory of the Egyptian people all the sweeter.

      It's probably unrealistic to expect many people to view the events dispassionately, on either side, but O handled things in such a way so that the real progress that has been achieved is stamped "Made in Egypt" rather than "Made in America." Better for him and better for you. If you or anyone can say precisely what he should or could have said or done differently, to a better result, what is it?

  • Revolutionary thought
    • RoHa, an attempt to rebut your arguments point by point and persuasively would be an all-day affair at least. I'll just declare that in my view any notion that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have not been "concerned with these issues" is wrong, and that it was not for nothing that Nietzsche declared Christianity a "slave morality," and located its origins in Babylonian Judaism. What worldly powers, organizations, and sects have done with revealed religions is another story altogether - possibly THE story - but any simple criticism of Jews, Christian, and Muslims for having co-existed with, reached accommodations with, or prospered in and from patriarchal slave societies also applies to the Stoics and just about everyone else, too.

      The "Judaic insight" to which I originally referred would be the viewpoint borne out in the religious literature, the law, and history, and which can be summed up, if not of course done justice to, as a monotheistic system each of whose main elements - oneness and uniqueness of God, individual responsibility, universal humanity, social justice, freedom of conscience, progress to redemption - absolutely require each other.

      The best elaboration and exploration of this system of which I am aware is Hermann Cohen's RELIGION OF REASON, a book I've mentioned in other discussion at MW, and which made a very strong impression on me that I'm still working out. If you acquire or run across a copy, you will quickly find extensive support both in referenced "sources of Judaism" and in a rigorous philosophical exposition for many of the arguments I've made here. Cohen also directly addresses what I think you mean by exclusivism in Judaism, assigning it a dialectical and also historically contingent role within his monotheistic/messianic system.

      The critique of Stoicism, or of its limitations, also isn't something I came up with myself. Cohen discusses it, essentially adopting the Hegelian view, but articulating it through an idealization of Judaism rather than of Christianity, though with I believe the same destination. While refreshing my recollection of those discussions, I ran across this interesting summary discussion of the difference between Stoicism and modern human rights theory: link to

      To go much further at this time, I think I'd probably end up just throwing the books at you, to little immediate purpose or effect. Maybe PW will see fit at some time to open up space at this blog for speculative discussion of comparative religion and philosophy, perhaps in relation to Jewish identity vs. Zionism, a discussion that also ought to be relevant to discussions of Islam, Islamism, Orientalism, and Islamophobia, and to much else of current interest. Or maybe we can find some other setting to advance the discussion.

    • Clearly it's neither anti-democratic to propose or even to insist with all your strength and all your soul that only a one-state solution is acceptable. As a proposal, it may not currently have majority support, or even be taken seriously by a substantial minority. So? People and times change. What was unimaginable yesterday may be unquestionable tomorrow. That was the point of Phil's "revolutionary thought" as I took it.

      Phil’s use of the term “non-Zionist” is ambiguous.

      It could mean the personal psychological attitude of universal acceptance (humanizing the other), or it could mean the imposition of a single state political form.

      There are more alternatives than those two. "Non-Zionism" on its face is a negative, but passive and relatively open formulation. It simply dis-invests in Zionism. It doesn't necessarily imply active anti-Zionism, or active opposition to the continued existence of Israel as presently constituted, or replacement by any particular set of ideals. Of course, that doesn't prevent partisans from seeing such disinvestment as effective collaboration with the other side.

    • I confess. I find the Bomb, among other things, more impressive than the cuckoo clock.

      As for +1k S-lands vs +1 USA, you don't get to choose! We're stuck with the neo-empire for the foreseeable future, and getting to the replacement system may entail some ups and downs. However, a world of 1k S-lands - if you mean 1k smallish democracies, with yodeling and Ricola for all, well I admit it has some attractiveness as a model to aim for... I anticipate, but don't expect to live through, people waking up and discovering that the difference between One World and 1K Switzerlands all comes down to how you squint.

    • Well there's a logical contradiction there, comrade Witty. To admit, today, that "morphing to non-Zionism" is or may be desirable is to take, today, an, as it were, pro-non-Zionist position, which is conceptually a non-/anti-Zionist position. So you're already engaging in that form of dissent.

      My reading is that your real main concern would be humanitarian and realist in the sense that a frontal attack on Zionism and on the secure, wealthy, and powerful Zionist Entity would be counterproductive and destructive - whether conceptually "just" or not.

    • Well, I confess I'm a small town yokel-y kind of naif with a dopey tendency always to see the best in people and frogs, but I think fuster's sarcasm was aimed a little differently - to underline how PW's use of the phrase "politically sophisticated Arabs" could be interpreted much more neutrally than Avi chose to, and how anyway there was little cause, on the basis of these remarks, to go nuclear on PW.

      Now, I'm relatively new to the discussions at MW, so for all I know Avi has much better reason than I'm aware of to deny PW the benefit of whatever doubt. Avi strikes me as admirably committed to a morally rigorous stance, and I doubt that many here take reminders about subtle and not so subtle Orientalism and other forms of prejudice too much amiss. On the other hand, I'm aware that PW has been furiously denounced by big name dudes as a traitor to the Jews, dangerous Islamophile, etc., so that's got to count for something if you're at all inclined to grade on a curve.

      I confess I am so inclined, even if that kind of thing has already gotten me denounced as "mr hasbara" by another MWer. I had a similar "can't we all get along?" reaction to the fierce response to J Slater. Naive though I may be, I have been a little bit around the block in politics, and have seen pointless fratricidal splinter-group tendencies do their work before. Not saying it's happening here - how would I know? - but it's got a bit of that aroma.

      As for RE Zionism: It is, as you say - not sure whether you entirely meant it - merely "a" true Zionism. If it was, as you also say, and as I also believe, "faulty to begin with," then that makes it conceptually vulnerable, susceptible to deconstruction from within, and to the nurturing of a less faulty understanding of what "Zion" ought to have stood for.

    • Don't see how you draw that conclusion from the Frog's comments, tree. It's not a question of a value judgment, one culture superior to another, it's a question of knowing what you know and and not knowing what you don't know.

      Also, Jewish ≠ Zionist, just as anti-Zionist ≠ anti-semitic. For that matter, why should we consider ourselves obligated to speak of Zionism itself as monolithic? Maybe real existing Zionism is in a critical sense anti-semitic, and drawing closer to a true or ideal Zionism therefore becomes the best antidote.

    • Quite welcome, PW. And thanks to RoHa, too, for thoughtfully and seriously taking the other side.

    • I wish I had a few months to write on this subject, RoHa, but I'll have make do for now with some words that are long for a comment, but brief as an encapsulation of the history of history.

      You write:

      I know some people torture the Judaic tradtion to squeeze those ideas out of it, but I have never been convinced. It is easier to find them in the Christian tradition, but the Christian tradition was influenced by Classical Greek thought from the start of the Pauline tradition.

      "Torture" seems like rather a strong word for reading the Bible and other religious texts, though I know that's how many people treat such reading. It doesn't take deep study - I don't claim to have done especially deep study - to find support for the Judaic teaching as a doctrine of "liberty and justice for all, under God" - it's all there right on the surface. Where in Classical Greek thought are there equivalents to "You will love your fellow human being," to the institution like the Sabbath and its emphasis on equality, to the extensive social legislation in Deuteronomy and elsewhere to tend to the poor and the dispossessed and engage in real acts of loving kindness as an absolute condition of faith?

      The very word "Stoic" represents a refusal of to react to suffering, including the suffering of others. It meant that the Stoics had little difficulty, as a rule, harmonizing with the selfish interests of the elite, and taking no interest in the mass of humanity, defined as generally incapable of attaining wisdom and therefore virtue as stoicism understood it.

      When I used the word "universal" above in regard to economic and social rights, I didn't just mean universally applicable in the sense that an emperor and a slave could both attain wisdom and negate their physical circumstances and emotional affect, I meant: applying inherently to all human beings, each in the "likeness" of the eternal creator etc.

      When you use a term like "Stoic cosmopolitanism," it would be helpful if you referred to specific thinkers or schools and specific time periods. Anyway, the concern for all mankind, all the nations, all the families of man, the commandment to treat strangers equally, also pervade the sources of Judaism in explicit terms - from the beginnings to the end because the only adequate correlate to one God is one humanity. As for Christianity, Jesus Christ was a messianic Jew - his preaching articulated within and joined to the Jewish prophetic tradition. It's why the Christian Bible gots two testaments. This is, to say the least, a complex discussion, and at some point has to include interpenetration between Greek and Jewish sources, but Christianity didn't come from nowhere, and its primary sources and setting were Judaic.

      There may be, as you say, a clear descent from Stoicism in regard to natural law, and none of this discussion is meant to imply that Stoicism wasn't one of the great moral and intellectual attainments of antiquity and therefore of all human history, but the critical difference between them and modernity is the addition of Jerusalem to Athens (or Rome), including up to 2000 years of developing Christian, and a Protestant reaction that was typically expressed as an overthrow and detailed negation of Catholicism and a return to the sources, including the Old Testament sources and pure monotheism. This is especially clear in Locke (a Christian theologian writing against High Church Anglicanism), Hutcheson (a Presbyterian preacher), and Jefferson (an ideal monotheist/Deist) who, to bring us back to the American Founding, can be taken as responsible for inserting that very monotheistic reference to the "Creator."

    • Thanks for filling in the picture.

      I apologize in advance, but no celebration of the glories of Swiss history as against the ugliness of certain other national histories can be complete without the following:

      link to

      The forces of history, and its principal actors, are often less squeamish than many visionaries, and are forced to deal with the human material as they find it, and circumstances as circumstances find them. Something someone once said about omelettes and eggs also comes to mind.

      Maybe Americans are not "heading in the wrong direction" as a nation so much as depending more than previously on others to point the way, but we can take some heart, for all we've done wrong, in having helped create the setting for them do so, and often the content they return to us.

    • The key elements of that famous sentence were common in the political literature of the time (cf. Gordon Wood).

      I agree with you that the Lockean influence is indelible, but, as for the "beginning of the modern Western conception of the self," I tend to be wary of such statements. A beginning of the modern conception would be the furthest limit of the prior conception, and the beginning of the prior conception would be whatever preceded that, and so on - which isn't meant to discount Locke. He's often associated with a defense of personal property rights, and has even be condemned on that basis, but the twin argument for the absolute moral necessity of freedom of conscience, though seemingly more obscure because, for us, unfashionably theological, is at least as important, and is directly expressed both in the Declaration of 1776 and the Bill of Rights of 1789 (1st Amendment especially), and is kin to the contemporaneous Declaration of the Rights of Man (the bases for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

      It's not trivial in this context that Locke's thought was grounded in theology - in a logic of salvation: For Locke, without freedom of conscience there is no authentic salvation. A state or religion that denies individual freedom robs people of the most important thing of all - moral redemption that is authentic because freely chosen. This logic is also present, and arguably originates, in prophecy - and can be seen as the proper realm of religion. It fully complies with the Deism - idealized monotheism - popular among the Founders.

      It also joins the expressed aspirations of the Egyptians, whose joy we're today witnessing and sympathetically participating in, to the ideals of the American Revolution - among other revolutions. That it goes back to the sources of monotheism is important not because the sources automatically validate it, or even less because the recognition might boost Jewish pride (almost a contradiction in terms given the status of humility in Judaism), or American patriotism (whose proper object is an idea, not a land or a dead history), but because the prophetic sources of Judaism and Americanism are also the prophetic sources of Christianity and Islam, and make the same logic available, as it is grasped, to all Jews, all Christians, all Muslims, and to all those who, like the first recipients of the prophecy, come into contact with it from non-monotheistic orientations. That also means that all of the religions of the East can also be re-articulated in relationship to this dialectic of the free individual and the society of freedom. Even the origins of dialectical materialism and the atheist impulse, and the correction of their application, can be found here. It has nothing to do with, is the necessary contradiction of, any forced acceptance of particular mythology, religious or national, or with any particular image of the divine.

      So that's my revolutionary messianic thought for the day.

    • RoHa: The Founders' intellectual world, and the intellectual world of the Enlightenment, was much broader than some Classical revival. Their ideas were heavily influenced by religion and by biblical sources.

      As for Stoicism vs Judaism as a relevant influence, key characteristics of Judaism arose as revealed religion or prophecy, rather than as philosophy, but, either directly or as mediated through Christianity, formed a basis for universal social and economic rights and justice, and for a guiding concept of historical progress (history as an orientation toward a better future of all mankind, rather than as a mere description of a national past). These ideas are generally absent from and alien to classical philosophy, including Stoicism.

      The "modernized" part of your "modernized Roman Republic" is at least as important as the second part. The Founders and Framers were, generally speaking, steeped in the classics, and some originally hoped that they could build a republic of virtue, but experience and necessity soon forced them to move well beyond Greek or Roman models. They self-consciously sought an escape from the limitations of classical political science, with which they were quite familiar, eventually moving through Lockean natural law and Whiggism to the innovative doctrine of popular sovereignty - and to a messianic idea of the "American Israel," as the preachers especially liked to say, as a "light unto the nations."

    • What - we did bad things to the Native Americans? Who knew?

      I didn't say anything about "exceptionalism." Putting the Declaration of Independence and the work of the Founding generation in the context of a long, imperfect, and incomplete historical process (of the singular process of world history) is the opposite of an exceptionalism. Under what theory of history or politics was the American Revolution a step backward?

      Anyway, the distance between ideals and reality didn't begin with the Founding of the U.S.A.

    • Yes, Mr. Weiss (you can call me CK, btw), it was messianic, and I hope we are both using the term approvingly.

      The American idea - of universal rights inalienably endowed by the Creator - was pre-figured in and embodies and advances the original Judaic insight, as was understood among the Founders. The recovery of this idea - not the xenophobic and retrograde version worshiped by many of our contemporaries - has been advanced by Obamaism, and is today being advanced by a people better prepared to embrace it than we Americans often/mostly seem to be.

      Obama was ridiculed as the "Obamessiah," but, as so often, there was a truth in the jibe - one that should have nothing to do with idolatrous worship of Obama the man, but everything to do with what the American electorate sought to affirm in electing him.

    • Let Egypt be a light unto the nations.

      Not just a revolutionary thought, a messianic thought, in messianic language.

      I say go with it: Call your messianism the all-ways right, appropriate, and necessary alternative to Zionism.

      How much bloodshed? That's not for us to know - or to put ahead of doing what's right - but we can hope and pray that there's already been enough, far more than enough.

  • Crash on the Nile– Mubarak isn’t stepping down!
    • FWIW: George Friedman - whose analysis has been pretty good all along - is now saying that the military must effect a coup in the next several hours or, essentially, lose control.

    • It's almost as though they were trying to provoke a violent reaction and/or justify a coup.

    • And the Eternal shall make Himself known to Egypt and the Egyptians shall know the Eternal that day; yea they shall worship with sacrifice and offering and shall vow a vow unto the Eternal and shall perform it…

      –Isaiah 19:21

      Was just running into this quote in relation to discussion on another thread, when the almost-news was announced.

    • It's too early to assess, Chaos, since we don't know what the "package" is, but, even if Suleiman were to take over temporarily, it would be as a dictator-in-transition under highly questionable legitimacy, "dictator" in a land where the people, with the eyes of the world upon them, take down dictators. Something essential has already changed, but the military regime must be replaced step by step, over time, since the military apparatus still is seen as a guarantor of order and security - a not quite paradoxical project, but a somewhat contradictory one.

  • 'Why bloggers avoid writing about Israel...'
    • Anyone who's spent any time at all arguing the history of Israel has likely observed the spectacle of fearsomely better-informed and very highly motivated and invested partisans taking over the conversation on both sides. That's what the example, absurd on its face, of "not knowing about the Giraldi letter" stands for: The fear of being exposed as a dilettante (i.e., like all of the other "bloggers"). The other fear, of being branded an anti-semite, subjected to a letter-writing campaign, and so on, stands for something else, too: Knowing oneself to be unequipped morally and intellectually to follow one's own thoughts to their logical conclusions.

  • Window of democracy has likely already shut (and Hillary knocks at Suleiman's door)
    • Yes, exposing the repressive nature of the militarized state would represent fundamental ideological progress. It seems that such progress is always hard won, and the time scale could be years, not months.

      On the other hand, it is at least conceivable that the military regime is more susceptible to pressure - from its ostensible allies and from the international community as well as from the protesters and sympathizers - and more aware of its own limitations than pessimists like Asst. Prof. Stacher recognize. An alternative interpretation of events is that the regime is continually testing how much it can get away with while it plays for time. The question then would be if concessions can be won sufficient at least to commence a viable reform process while protecting the protesters and other dissident or opposition voices.

    • Knowing may not be enough, for now. Actualizing that knowledge or its implications is something else entirely. You need numbers, organization, leadership, a strategy, a platform, and meaningful popular support. You need a way to split the military against itself - and a lot more. In a classical revolutionary situation, the military is typically a spent and broken force, or openly divided, with significant elements refusing orders or openly siding with the revolutionary forces. Has there been anything beyond a few stray minor news items to suggest anything remotely of the kind in the offing? The account offered in the essay suggests just the opposite: That the military chain of command and discipline, as well as its popular support, remained intact from beginning to end.

      A more mature revolutionary movement might have approached the situation in several different ways, but it takes some breakdown in the forces of order to begin to develop a mature revolutionary movement.

      Maybe in time, or next time, or the time after that - but, again, that's only one scenario for change, and that it mean that what has been accomplished isn't significant, and that there might not be other significant things still to accomplish.

    • The problem with this and similar articles is that it puts forward a premise that its own analysis thoroughly undermines. What evidence is there that any significantly better short-term outcome was ever available? That a real "window" was ever really "open"? At the same time, the advances won during this phase of a popular struggle may be difficult to quantify, but that doesn't make them any less essential, and there is still opportunity to extend the perimeter of freedom and democracy further, and to bring the next phases of development closer.

  • American revolution
    • I think you're right, but it also underlined something else: The protesters depend on the international community as much as on the military for their physical security. Unlike the Chinese, the Egyptians were not able to black out the world all at once. But to whatever extent the international community loses interest and sympathy, or becomes divided, the protesters may find themselves re-exposed.

    • Fisk seems, as often, to be too obsessed with the trees to see the forest here.

      Why assume that Wisner was selected other than precisely because he was well-known to and trusted by Mubarak and the rest of the regime? O was supposed to send Noam Chomsky? If O decided to talk to Hamas, wouldn't you expect him to send someone more like Mark Perry than Martin Peretz?

      Fisk's interests and O's interests - or O's perception of the U.S. interest - aren't identical. Even Wisner's "gaffe," next to the manner in which it has been disowned, is completely in line with O's typical positioning, and with the U.S. overall strategy... as is the "radical" rejection of this positioning and strategy.

  • Slater on Shulman's Israel: 'moral nihilism and sheer stupidity'
    • We're in complete agreement on Cohen. What I'm trying to think through, and preparing to write on, is Cohen's philosophy as the (til now?) unspeakable, pre-figurative (pre-figural? - still looking for the right word) theodicy of the 20th Century - including the Holocaust and the "Zionist eclipse" of messianism. Our current historical moment continues to demand it in every headline.

    • The interpretation I'm putting on that set of passages from Isaiah derives from Hermann Cohen's RELIGION OF REASON, the chapter on "Messianic References in the Prophetic Writings." The earlier comment - thank you for your kind words - was also partly informed by Cohen's philosophy of religion. Though I was a Dual Covenant baby, I was pretty much raised by the wolves as far as religion is concerned, so I'm not very familiar with alternative or traditional interpretations of this passage of Isaiah.

    • How Balaam works within the system of messianism/monotheism in relation and opposition to Zionism would be another interesting discussion, however.

    • The tradition that MHughes976 refers to would certainly be in keeping with the general opposition between nationalism and messianism. The messianic age is the age of God the Eternal being recognized in all of the nations, and all of the nations gathered together with the remnant of Israel: The fulfillment of Israel's work was to be realized in the universalization of truth.

      This idea is expressed in many different ways, including in the whole history of the Jewish people, of course. In very direct language, the messianic prophecy in Isaiah 19:11-25 depicts the Eternal being acknowledged by Egypt, then Assyria, and third by Israel among previously doomed peoples, and the nations receiving the blessing in that order.

      Oddly enough, the news is just coming of HM's resignation... Assyria can't be far behind!

    • Well, then, I take back my statement about looking forward to your response, ms hasbara-detector.

      You can't really need evidence (can you?) that other states discriminate - and much worse than merely "discriminate" - based on ethnicity, religion, political ideology, and every other indicator of human difference you can imagine, sometimes in total disregard of their laws, sometimes in full positive compliance with their laws - so what are you asking for in terms of "back up"?

      Please don't bother answering if you're just going to go nit-picking through phrases and tossing off accusations.

    • Thank you, Avi. I find myself largely in agreement with you on the fundamentals and otherwise in sympathy, though I'm unsure about the particulars and the path. For instance, I'm not yet convinced that some version of the 2-state (non-)solution may not have to play a role (or is not already playing a role) in getting to a result that would be more just for both the Palestinians and the Israelis, Jews and non-Jews alike. I'll withhold further comments and questions until some later time (business calls).

    • i’ll deal w/the rest of your comment on another post.

      Please take your time. I'll look forward to your further comments, and please feel free to call me "CK" or "CKM" or "Mac" or anything else that strikes you as adequately identifiable and easier to type than "MacLeod."

    • there’s no comparison, because our laws and courts provide a framework to address the ills of which you speak. our laws do not support discrimination which you ‘concede’. so why make the friggin argument?

      In many respects ours laws and courts provide a shoddy and ineffective framework for addressing those (and other) ills, and support many kinds of discrimination and inequality. In addition, having the most ideally wonderful set of laws in the world is nearly meaningless, or worse, if the will and the means are not present to implement and enforce them. Avoiding the appearance of hypocrisy and judgmental arrogance is advisable if your objectives ever include persuasion of those not already firmly committed to your side.

      why not just say: the American idea negates such differences but it’s not controversial to point out “in practice” the U.S. falls short of its ideals?

      I don't presume a consensus on what the American idea is. I also don't presume interlocutors inclined to give me the benefit of whatever philosophical doubt. In my view the simple positive construction "the American idea negates..." would be more open to misinterpretation.

    • Annie - on the two main usages to which I was referring:

      I don’t doubt that he’s a nice guy. Many people are nice and cordial. It’s his political stance that — so far — I find appalling.

      link to

      he goes on to hide behind the banner of “Israel has the capacity to change”. That’s his Deus Ex Machina which he uses to extricate himself from having to defend the indefensible.

      link to

      I asked Avi to clarify these views, since one obvious interpretation of them would be that Israel is engaged in indefensible and appalling actions, and the mere suggestion that it possesses the capacity for change is itself merely a ploy.

      you’re justifying israel’s actions by claiming ‘in practice’ other states do the same thing? what kind of argument is that? you’re making me dizzy?

      Recognizing that no one enters into this operating theater with clean hands isn't an argument for dirty hands. Depending upon how you approach the question for "capacity for change" and therefore the range of permissible compromises with the Israeli state as currently constituted, it may matter very much whether you come across as a hypocrite or a fanatical idealist unwilling to treat all sides fairly. That goes for Israel's enemies as well as for its friends.

    • Annie, the U.S. may not "rely" on ethnic nationalism and the other ideas I mentioned legally. In fact, the American idea broadly stated can be seen as the negation of such differences. At the same time, I don't see how it could be be a controversial point at all that "in practice" - i.e., in reality, in effect - the U.S. falls short of its ideals. To the contrary, ethnic, tribal, and racial ideas still pervade our culture and our politics and the application of our laws. I'd hardly know where to begin to list examples. The differences between the U.S. and other nations in this regard aren't trivial, and that's why I conceded them.

    • Indeed, I am confused by your positioning, Avi, that's why I'm asking for clarification. Doesn't that go without saying?

      So, to review, in a prior comment you referred to Mr. Slater's position as "appalling," and forcefully denied that Israel has the "capacity to change." Since Slater, it seems to me, tries to go about as far as he can to avoid "Premature Post-Zionism" - that is, without calling for the extinction of the state of Israel as currently constituted - and since you find that effort "appalling," I'm left to wonder what you would find non-appalling, and what your non-appalling way of getting to that non-appalling arrangement would be.

      The entire debate here has been around the claim that Slater put forth that Israel can be a Jewish State while at the same time affording all its citizens equal rights while it treats them all — in practice — equally.

      I agree with you that Slater's formulation, or anyway the formulation you attribute to him, is faulty. It depends on a definition of nationality in general and of Judaism in particular as an inherently exclusive ethnic or racial inheritance. However, the fault isn't unique to Israel, and no existing state of which I am aware satisfies that final requirement of treating all of its citizens equally "in practice."

      With or without the Law of Return or any other feature of the real existing state of Israel, moving toward that desired ideal state requires a belief in the "capacity for change," and a willingness to start where we are.

      I would go further and assert that Israel, because it is based on this faulty and retrograde concept of a Jewish state, lacks the capacity to stay the same - is inherently unstable.

    • The Law of Return is one such example. Slater insists that a Jewish State can be maintained, but he does not explain what he means by “Jewish State”. What are the characteristics or limits of such a state?

      The LoR would be a central and definitional example, not a random one. Even if no one took advantage of it - or if emigration exceeded immigration - it would remain connected to the state of Israel's reason for existing, and influence every other relation between the state, its citizens, and other states. It defines Israel as a "nation" according to ethnic, tribal, racial ideas, and to an idea of national history, that the rest of the world may sometimes imagines itself to be superseding, but which in practice everyone, even secular, quasi-open borders America, still relies on.

      There's a tendency - I have this tendency - to demand of the Israelis a greater sensitivity to ideal justice than we demand of anyone else. There are a few villages in Iran that have been continuously inhabited for 10,000 years or so, but much of the world stands on ground stolen many times over. Most of us contributing here stand on ground stolen from earlier inhabitants whom we and history determined were not exploiting it productively enough.

      But you've obviously been thinking about this for a long time, Avi. If Mr. Slater is wrong, and Israel does not have the capacity to change, then you would appear to be calling for the destruction of Israel by external force. Since Israel has no capacity to change, according to you - since the very idea is "appalling" to you - then does that imply a massively violent process of annihilation? Or do you have something else in mind?

      Maybe you've spelled out your program in some earlier comment or at another location. I'd be grateful for a link if so. At present I don't feel entirely confident that it isn't at least as "appalling" as what Mr. Slater appears to want.

    • Interesting discussion, and I somewhat regret not having gotten in on it earlier.

      One statement of Mr. Witty's stood out, regarding what he calls a "civilist" rather than nationalistic (implicitly ethnic, racial, religious-cultural) constitution of the Israeli (or conceivably post-Israeli) state:

      Right now, its a fantasy, a messianic fantasy. Good to work for, equality, bad to impose.

      I agree with the last part, as long as it's not wielded as an excuse to do a bad job of the former. To me the first part is quite telling - this idea of a non-Jewish constitution of the (post-)Jewish state being characterized as "messianic," with the word "messianic" reflexively joined to "fantasy."

      To my understanding, prior to the founding of the state of Israel, "Israel" was the name for "the stateless people," whose religion was defined among other things by messianism: Thus the paradox of the state of Israel, a decisively un- or anti-Jewish Jewish solution for what once upon a time was known as the "Jewish problem" or the "Jewish question," but in our time has been converted into the "Israeli problem."

      Further understanding the relationship and the critical differences between the Jewish problem and the Israeli problem would require us to look at the larger context of world history, not just, for instance, the history and ideological content of Zionism or the history of Palestine.

      Much more could be said on this subject, but just to stick to this idea of "civilist messianism," I'll note that the term would be a fair description of one major, idealistic impetus that accompanied the creation of the United Nations (as previously the League of Nations). It could also be a term for so-called American exceptionalism going back to the Founding. It also describes revolutionary communism. It would also encompass the project that lareineblanche describes above - of democratizing (one might almost say "civilizing") Israel's neighboring states, and, while we're at it, of further democratizing the world (and making it more just).

      We don't need "civilist messianism," or shouldn't, however, because, properly understood, it's a redundancy. Messianism was always a "civil" project, a call to "right action" in this life, not just to "right belief" - and, crucially, for all of humanity (the sole adequate correlative to the one God of monotheism), not just for the particular interest. Is it too much or too obvious to say that the state of Israel, in some respects from its founding and in its basic concept, and all the more in its actions and attitudes, has been refusing and resisting that call, and that its people, not least for their own sake, must somehow be made to hear it again?

  • America is about to begin a love affair with the Arab world
    • And actually I can bring this around to Mona v Bill: She was insisting that the Egyptian awakening was an awakening to the freedom and dignity of the individual against the beliefs of the older generation. This perception is also essential Americanism, and it's what Bill (and most Americans) respond to positively. Arguably, it also implicitly contradicts the main things (including the phantoms) that Bill responds to negatively, though it doesn't necessarily tell you what concrete form that freedom/individualism in an Egyptian context must take.

    • I think, olive, that many if not most of those liberals think more in terms of freedom, than they do about "secularism." It's definitional. The view also corresponds to a quasi-religious belief in separation of church and state. They may not even know for sure what they believe, but they insist on the freedom to quasi-believe it and to change their minds, too. It runs deep in American historical experience and self-understanding.

    • I searched around in the German sources and also was unable to find anything corresponding to the quote. The text that's widely used was apparently shortened by Goebbels from the remarks as actually delivered, so all sorts of things are possible, but tree's right that the lines don't seem tailored to the occasion, though they do read a bit like the kind of thing Goebbels & the gang used to say. On the other hand, Annie wasn't calling for burning Hollywood - just the opposite, it seemed to me. She was calling for not taking it too seriously. So not much of a smear, really - not sure that was the intention.

    • You'd be surprised - or maybe you wouldn't be? - how ready, willing, and getting close to able many of them are to separating their Judaism or philo-semitism from their Zionism. As ever with this kind of thing, a lot of the underlying hollowing-out takes place near-invisibly - just as within any other "regime."

      I don't claim to know where they'll land - at "soft Zionism" or "non-Zionism" or "anti-Zionism" or what. Maher's comical but not very funny confusion and self-contradictions are typical - and not sustainable over the long term.

    • If Mr. Weiss is right, then the love affair might carry with it more than a little nostalgia for "the way we were" - I mean for the time when we had a future. I'm not saying that America will disappear, just that its unique contribution to history coincident with its major internal development has mostly been made. If we're much luckier than anyone deserves to be - as we generally have been - we'll settle into retirement gracefully. Unfortunately, there are many determined to ensure that that won't happen - standing athwart history yelling "we're number one!"

  • Colonialist misgivings (we should have put Jewish state in Missouri)
    • Those are just the so-called "Feuersprueche" uttered as the books were consigned to the flames. Goebbels made additional remarks, a full "address" - well I provided some details on the other thread - in short, the full text that's available doesn't have anything directly corresponding to the lines originally quoted, but that full text may not be the real full text...

  • Ahmed Moor: There is a sense in Tahrir now that democracy is coming– and medics and journalists are granted respect
    • The state is not merely the apparatus, I hope you will pardon me but I do not have a lot of time to recite for you the current concept of the state, suffice it to say as I have said before it is merely the franchise of an elite.

      Just for the sake of clarity, VR, you seem to mis-read, the definition of the state that you highlight from my earlier comments: It's a definition of a concept of the state, not a description of the Egyptian state in particular, much less a compliment to it. When I say "the state broadly defined," I mean "the state broadly defined."

      In answer to the "with what and whom," you assert the Egyptian people "know" what they're going to replace the state (themselves) with, but I'm not sure how you know that they know this, or what it is they know. I'm not sure what the day-laborer, fisherman, taxi cab driver, farmer, or unemployed youth is supposed to make of a project to "crush every dominant design" and so on. I wouldn't call it "fanciful" - though it is often subject to being expressed fancifully. If not put in ethical, political, or practical terms of the sort graspable to the day laborer and co., and to the people they trust in these matters, it tends to take on the character of a religious fervor tied to a messianic vision - which is what I meant when I provided the additional context for Mr. Weiss's quotation. Given political responsibility, it tends to take catastrophe in stride. Which can be a problem.

    • Well, ya need the rest of the passage, comrade:

      Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
      (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
      But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
      Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

      As a revolutionary sentiment, it may indeed have more in common with VR's position.

    • Revolution on the other hand knows that the object is irredeemable, and must be removed and replaced.

      Replaced with what - and whom? If you - and, obviously more important, the Egyptians - lack a clear answer to those questions, then total "negation" is merely total destruction, and the typical revolutionary sensibility will never be satisfied for very long with whatever random or contingent substitutes for a coherent and functional state. Much of the violence, chaos, and eventual disappointments associated with revolutions historically derive from this problem.

      Furthermore, no matter how uncompromising - Robespierre, Pol Pot, the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq? - the new revolutionary state will still have to enter into a "negotiation" with the former state, because the state is much more than its top leadership or even than whatever public administration. The state visibly includes, for instance, all of those conscripts upon whom the protesters, lacking a revolutionary army or more than a scrabbled-together militia, are staking their security. In the broadest sense, the state is the total and systematic expression of the entire people, not just of whatever factions presently in power or competing for power or favor. To say that that it must be totally negated is to suggest that reality must be totally negated, something that perhaps a Yippie might say, but not something that people getting around to the business of making lives for themselves find very useful or attractive.

      An authentically revolutionary process would require much more than a couple of weeks of demonstrations, and the actual demonstrations do not themselves demonstrate, and could not, that Egypt is or was truly in a classical "revolutionary situation," or that an uncompromising revolution would receive the support even of a majority of the demonstrators, much less of broad Egyptian society, or even that a very significant faction is currently in a position to agree upon the character of a revolutionary project and program.

      The demands of this particular political movement are "revolutionary" only in a very particular sense - the sense that minimal "international" standards of democracy and freedom, bourgeois democracy as a Marxist revolutionary might once have said, are revolutionary in comparison to autocracy, military dictatorship, and neo-imperial vassalage. Whether a total overturning of the state broadly defined is available, desirable, or desired is another question. I tend to doubt it, but my opinion hardly matters. I see little evidence, however, that many in Egypt who have thought the question through have reached any different conclusion.

    • @lareineblanche: I'll see your Kenny Rogers and raise you one Social D:

    • Well - and this isn't something I advocate or predict, but just as an example - suppose the "package" by next Thursday is... HM steps down, Speaker of House takes over nominal role of president (I think that's what I heard was constitutional) Suleiman stays on as chief of x-person caretaker junta (all members also barred from running) to oversee administrative functions, truth commission involving all opposition groups investigates events plus last parliamentary elections, working group under leadership of ElB or Amr Moussa with broad participation oversees free and fair elections with international observers...

      My point is that you could say "Suleiman replaces Mubarak/everything else the same" or you could say "Suleiman remains in place but his power curtailed, AND you get rid of Mubarak and get all these other wonderful things and sweeteners"... The question isn't whether whatever package satisfies 100% of the demonstrators, but what package satisfies a large enough percentage of them and other actors as against whatever alternatives...

      You got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em eventually will set in for all but the hardest cases...

    • Great report.

      It's a negotiation, Annie, involving millions of people, diverse and complex interests and feedbacks. The forces will locate and isolate a series of emergent compromise positions, and eventually a sufficient force - or exhaustion - will settle behind one or another under whatever terms.

  • 'Washington Post' blogger gets Israel-trip expenses paid by neoconservative Israel lobby group
    • I confess I'm not optimistic that she'll be enlightened by her travels, return with a newly balanced view, maybe even compensating with greater sympathy to the non-ultra-Zionist side, as a corrective to her 100% foaming at the mouth, Pamela-Geller-but-can-spell Islamophobic scare- and warmongering.

  • Ahmed Moor: The people are utterly undaunted, they have held Tahrir, anything less than Mubarak's ouster means nighttime arrests by secret police
    • 'We saw you January 25, 26, 27, 28.' There will be a day of reckoning. That is the risk in anything other than Mubarak's ouster. Anyone on tv who has expressed an opinion or carried a sign is vulnerable.

      The regime thugs - not just the upper elite, but some significant number of the estimated millions on the Mubarak payroll - also may be afraid of any day of reckoning. It's probably not hard to find motivation among those in the great circle of complicity and privilege that surrounds a dictatorial regime.

  • Neocons have abandoned Mubarak. Why?
    • More or less - not quite the same, but maybe it takes more than a week to transform a military regime that's been around for 30 - 60 years depending on how you count into a full-fledged or even half-fledged democracy. Three steps forward, two steps back.

      Could be that the Neocons are abandoning Mubarak because it's the fashionable thing to do - today.

  • Obama's greenlight to Mubarak brings bloodshed to Egypt
    • not so sweet necessarily... may just mean that the military consolidates power... and presumes that Obama et al and (enough of) the people will be grateful to it for whatever choreographed exit for Mubarak it achieves...

    • Oops - John King not Peter King

    • FWIW - CNN/Peter King reporting that American messages are now going straight to the military saying cut loose Mubarak/stand down the thugs or lose everything.

    • Why the need to personalize this discussion, Avi, or to label people, or for that matter to assign blame? Your empty assertions and assumptions are pointless static that mainly underline your unwillingness to think matters through or read carefully. Anyway, I thought you were going to "move on" to superior, less "banal" discussion.

    • cut off HM's funds? I heard that he has billions salted away. His escape? Why would they threaten to cut off his escape if their objective, under your scenario, is to get him to leave? His support in the army is majorly at issue, but the army includes numerous people put in place by HM and to greater and lesser extents implicated in HM's government. So they have to dispose of HM, but also Soleiman... and so on... then there are figures like Lt Gen Enan... then the rest of the command... then the younger officers... then the question of just how bad things could get if the military split...

      The theory is that the military needs HM to get out sooner rather than later, but who precisely is going to be left standing... or holding the bag? How to tell the difference - if you're Egyptian General A, B, or C?

    • Thank you, syvanen. Don't mean to be cold, and, as I was saying yesterday, maybe it's a lot more cold, or inhuman, to think that anyone can just wrap things up in a bow. As for the Obami coming out and backing anyone too explicitly, like ElBaradei as you say, a week from now, or sooner, or later and worse - that open U.S. backing might do both the U.S. and ElBaradei more harm than good.

      If Obama could just openly order Mubarak to step aside, then whoever took his place would be labeled, probably within minutes, and by many of the very same people who are right now attacking Obama, as the new U.S. stooge. In fact, that will probably happen anyway.

    • I have no idea where that settler comment came from. In other venues, people assume that I'm a leftist radical or maybe an Islamist, or maybe an Islamo-leftist, or who knows what... People seem to be used to arguing on the basis of assumptions of where other people must be coming from.

    • You're suggesting - what? The U.S. has a viable option of militarily invading Egypt to produce "regime change"? That's nonsensical.

      The U.S. - via Gibbs/Obama - has made its preferences rather clear - transition starting "now" - but there are literally millions of other people who have "votes," and no one is in a position of absolute control.

      As soon as any force makes a move, someone is in a position to make a counter-move or otherwise take advantage. Anyone who thinks he can fully control events is deluded.

      The military mind waits for opportunity, and understands that as soon as anyone acts, he's vulnerable. You can't take back a word or a bullet. If the military or some other force or configuration of forces is going to assert itself, they'll benefit from a pretext. The more the pretext is provided by someone else - protesters, "pro-Mubarak" forces, Islamists, whoever - the better. ElBaradei is already calling on the military to establish order by crushing the "pro-Mubarak" forces, but the very call demonstrates that the appearance of disorder serves any would-be Bonaparte's interests up to a point. The call for intervention probably has to be deafening - and may depend on the protesters having been seen to have shot their own wad, or being split between kalithea types and ElBaradei types.

      You can be sure only that everyone is struggling with uncertainty and looking for clear signals through the haze. Because the other side of the danger of acting is the danger of not seizing the moment - and it may not be clear until the dust has settled who made the right decisions.

      One hopes that no one in the US Administration is deluded enough to believe that they or any other actor can truly control events, or that today's word or decision will truly determinel tomorrow's outcomes. That's for conspiracy-mongers and other amateurs.

    • Believe whatever you want, including that symbols make decisions.

      The United States, and therefore by extension Obama, is in a position to tell Mubarak what to do, or else.

      Or else what? And to what effect? "Go in the corner and die!" Why should he? Quit or you don't get the $1.3 B in aid - like he's going to "get it" if he quits? There is a much more complex negotiation going on, not just between "Obama" - whatever the symbol means to you - and "Mubarak."

      But having people screaming "Obama this" and "Obama that" and indulging in fantasy politics serves a purpose, too.

    • Cut off the $1.3 BN to the protectors of order in Egypt? The same people that the protesters were feeding and are hoping will protect them? Who are the main potential guarantors of order?

      That threat has already been made, implicitly, to the people it matters to, the military, and the deal is they don't go Tiananmen on the demonstrators, making the alliance with Egypt, still of value to the U.S. and to the military, morally and politically impossible.

      The issue is at what point and whether Mubarak can be separated from the military and other security forces. Mubarak himself, on the other hand, is said to be fabulously wealthy. It is also of symbolic value, not just to him.

      There is a difference between having responsibility, and even having cards to play, and having control. As for the card-playing part, you have to understand what the cards are really worth, and what might happen after you play them.

    • Was Obama even softly hinting, without being able to say so explicitly, that the Egyptian military would step in to depose Mubarak and run a transition regime?

      Who needs to hint? That's the elephant in the room and the implicit direction of events anyway - right down to the intensive fraternization between the protesters and the tank crews.

      The main question is how far in front the military will have to be, but whether Mubarak hangs on for weeks, or is replaced by a "transitional" regime, the military will likely be the main institution holding Egypt together. Events like those today may provide a pretext for a coup or silent coup.

      According to StratFor Lt. Gen. Enan, rumored so far mainly on the American right to be a potential strong-man successor acceptable to the MB and other actors, was in intensive discussions with his American counterparts prior to these events. Conspiracy-minded types will no doubt in future years assume that this whole thing was scripted. In some sense, it's merely the actual character of the regime coming to the fore. And, given the lack of an identified leadership on the protester's side, it's difficult to imagine how else things will develop other than a complete breakdown of the state.

    • You thought Obama could just tell Hosni to get out - or else what? Or for that matter that Obama could tell him to stay, or what exactly to say? What would have happened after Mr. Barack fired Hosni? Everything would have calmed down, peace and love and jobs for everyone forever and ever? Everyone who's been taking a pay-check from Mubarak (co-signed or not by Uncle Sam) to inform on enemies, write propaganda, run the prisons and staff the torture chambers would have just crawled away or maybe started a small business selling commemorative t-shirts?

    • Of course, the US is involved and co-responsible. The idea that BHO is in a position to give orders to his Egyptian underling and all of the underling's millions of under-underlings is what's childish.

    • Sorry, but it strikes me as a naive, and altogether rather strange view of the world encapsulated in the headline and the accompanying rant, suggesting that Barack Obama is in a position as world dictator or super-boss to order or permit Mubarak to do one thing or another - as though Obama, who's been on the world scene for around two years, can just fire Mubarak and his millions of clients and hangers-on accumulated over three decades in power, tell them all from from several thousand miles away to clean out their desks and hand in their files. Why would anyone assume that the whole kleptocracy and henchmen would just "go quietly" - regardless of what Uncle Sam decided yesterday or the day before? Why would they believe that if they just quit, they'd remain forever free from retribution while they scrounged around looking for new lines of work or safe passage to exile? Why do you think that the vast majority of revolutions, however just their cause, sometimes all the more in direct relation to their justice, end up violent?

  • The Egyptian revolution is coming– to the U.S.A.
    • How terribly ironic, that the century-old, predominantly secular Zionist movement was able to so thoroughly subvert and derange two millennia-old religious traditions.

      They had help.

      A lot of it.

    • Olive, I wish I had had you around earlier last year when a few of us, originally inspired by the "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy, were discussing these questions intensively. I remain more sympathetic to the Incoherence of the Incoherence than to the Incoherence, but regret that I have thusfar been able to familiarize myself with the arguments only through secondary sources and criticisms. I intend at some point to look into the aborted dialogue more closely, as I do not know, for instance, whether Ibn Rushd addressed the logical difficulty of completely separating metaphysics from ethics and politics (or even from mathematics), or whether he or anyone else has attempted for Islam the kind of idealization that Kant and Hegel attempted in relation to Christianity or that Hermann Cohen performed in relation to Judaism. From what I do know about Ibn Rushd, he at least represents that direction historically. To me, the yearning for and necessity of a synthesis or convergence along such lines drive contemporary history, and will eventually have to be articulated between the Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic faiths as well. In the meantime, I remain, I think, very open to the possibility of the kind of evolution Winter describes, but it won't - cannot and need not - happen in a vacuum.

      Thanks for the thoughtful and interesting exchange.

    • Olive, Dr. Faruq Abdullah's description is in my opinion useful and accurate, but includes a theoretical fallacy: Any so-called "literalism" always implies "selective... retrieval." The literalist eventually relies on a flawed theory of language that typically involves a reification of the sacred text as something other than a text - the attribution of a talismanic significance to the word or the book as an object rather than as signs, a fetish with magical or miraculous properties rather than a message that is inherently a matter of ever-changing interpretation. When ca. 1,000 years ago, at the arguable height of Islamic culture, the "Gates of Ijtihad" were declared closed, and the "philosophers" declared "incoherent," a susceptibility to scriptural fundamentalism or literalism was itself inscribed into the Islamic tradition. This problematic is not in my opinion unique to Islam: The other two main monotheistic faith traditions each put their own obstacles in the way of the absolute unity of humankind that is the proper and inherent counterpart of belief in God as the unique and eternal being, and that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam each proclaim. One is left with the poet's prayer, "Forgive them, Lord, that they say 'mine.'"

      But this is a discussion perhaps for a different context and a different time.

    • I agree that it's impossible to understand Islamism apart from the Islamic world's multi-leveled and devastatingly concrete encounter with the West and with globalism, but I think it's essential at the same time to acknowledge that Islamic scriptural fundamentalism - likewise "Sharia" as widely interpreted and applied - has deep historical, theological, and philosophical roots. For that matter, European revolutionary utopianism didn't emerge from the historical void either. The theological discussion seems very distant from today's headlines - and yet is ever-present within them.

    • Thanks, Olive - that's good material, and I look forward to reading the entire Winter interview later on. Are you familiar with Olivier Roy's work? For example:

      It is a mistake to think that the phenomena of religious radicalism (Salafism) and political radicalism (Al Qaeda) are mere imports of the cultures and conflicts of the Middle East. It is above all a consequence of the globalization and Westernization of Islam. Today's religious revival is first and foremost marked by the uncoupling of culture and religion, whatever the religion may be. This explains the affinities between American Protestant fundamentalism and Islamic Salafism: both reject culture, philosophy, and even theology in favour of a scriptural reading of the sacred texts and an immediate understanding of truth through individual faith, to the detriment of educational and religious institutions.

      link to

    • Welcome appreciated, Mr. North. I think your overall approach is sound, but, as you suggest, even at a site like this one, pre-conceptions, assumptions, and prejudices may prevent us from ever getting to "stage two." Out in the "mainstream," even more on the American right, the difficulties are, to say the least, much greater. I think that for our purposes in the West, acknowledging the "dark side" of the MB's history, and conceding the presence within such a large, transnational organization of divergent and dissonant voices, even in leadership roles, may be necessary. There are tremendous biases to correct, but I doubt that responding to a one-sided double-barreled assault on the MB coming from the American and Israeli right can successfully take the form of a one-sided defense. Why not instead insist that the same standards of judgment and also of forgiveness apply to the MB that apply to major political actors in the West?

    • I think you misread my point - at any rate I agree with you about how the stereotypes tend to function.

      From a philosophical standpoint - as Chaos4700's comment implies - it's questionable whether the term "theocracy" has much meaning anyway, but from my reading of the MB they're all in favor of it to the extent it does. It's not scaremongering to recognize that the MB is anti-Zionist. It probably is scaremongering, or anyway undemocratic, to presume that being anti-Zionist, or for that matter believing in some form of "theocracy," requires your exclusion from political dialogue. I personally see in the MB a Mixed Bag- if I didn't, I'd try to figure out how to join up! The dialogue with MB ideology must take place sooner or later - and will take place "on the ground" whether or not those in Israel and the West prefer to avoid conducting it in words.

    • I'm glad that I was registered at the site in time to offer my praise for this post.

      However, I'd like to introduce one element of caution about a certain rhetorical approach: Authentic freedom, justice, and peace rarely come without great cost, before and after. Once upon a time, this was as much a Jewish insight as a dialectical one, and it was the Jewish messianic understanding, a foundation of Jewish morality and what it meant to be a Jew, to accept and even seek to pay the cost (I feel compelled here to state that, despite my goyische name, I am of Jewish heritage). Much of the scaremongering about the Muslim Brotherhood and the erosion of the US-Israeli security position - itself a kind of "Dual Covenant" Judeo-Christian perversion - can be understood in connection to Jefferson's famous statement regarding America and slavery: "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever."

      Feelings of insecurity and fear are in this sense realistic. It is wise to recognize them. It just isn't morally supportable to give in to them. In the meantime, optimism is justified, but let it be optimism about the right things.

  • Comments Policy
    • I'm confident that what I described is what has occurred, and that if the individual was "banned," he was never formally warned or given any reason for the banning. Furthermore, it would be ludicrous to claim that his commenting style was even remotely comparable in offensiveness to the normal verbal conduct of numerous regulars at this site.

      The policy obviously seems to be that, if you are perceived by someone to have the "right" ideology, you can get away with anything. If not, you can simply be disappeared, while everyone pretends that this is a fair and open "community."

      Now, if you're able to give an informative answer to my questions, annie, how about doing so, instead of providing yet another typical comment chock full of flagrant and never moderated violations of Rule No. 3?

    • So who actually does the "moderating," and why is it that someone can have every comment he posts be whisked away into the void, and never receive a response after repeated inquiries as to the reasons or justifications?

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