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Total number of comments: 6171 (since 2009-07-31 03:28:07)

Donald

Donald Johnson is a regular commenter on this site, as "Donald."

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  • Waging resource warfare on Palestine
    • "that Israel should be praised for supplying Gaza with electricity, and that without obedience, Gaza’s power should be cut. This argument implicates the obligations of Israel as occupying power under International law, but it is also heavily guided by myths about the occupation."

      I've even seen that argument in the NYT--not in op ed pieces, but in the news section.
      The rebuttal is pretty simple. Israel and Egypt keep the people of Gaza in a vast open air prison. They are under a blockade. If they didn't allow for some goods and basic necessities (including electricity) to enter, they wouldn't be running a prison camp. They'd be running a death camp.

      We don't praise countries that have large numbers of political prisoners for not starving them to death. There are nearly 2 million political prisoners in Gaza.

  • In Photos: Thousands pack Rafah streets for funeral of top Hamas commanders
  • Democratic Party leader echoes Netanyahu's new theme: Hamas equals ISIS
    • This process isn’t pretty but it how nation states are born, and what allows for genuine self determination of peoples."

      Well, at least you're being honest, except for that glowing phrase "genuine self determination of peoples". Most of history is full of slaughters and atrocities conducted in the name of some BS ideology (self-determination of peoples is a modern one, I guess). But you realize that that doesn't really fit the usual narrative of Israel as a wonderful democracy which does its best to avoid civilian casualties and has the best of intentions and so on and so forth. You've lumped Israel in with ISIS and the several bloodlettings between the Hutu and the Tutsi (btw, you're one of the first people since I read Chomsky who seemed to realize that the Rwanda genocide of 1994 wasn't the only massacre between the two groups.)

  • Despite ravages of war, Gaza supports armed resistance to lift the siege
    • " i follow your link and he’s ragging on MW again. "

      I just read the tweet. What an incredibly stupid and childish thing to say.
      He picks one post (which I didn't think important either) and talks as though that represented the Mondoweiss output on the Gaza slaughter. It's why I can't take MJ seriously on anything, even when he says things I agree with. He just doesn't seem reliable when he talks about things where I can check up on him.

  • Salaita’s stellar teaching record exposes political motivation behind his firing
    • " So in theory the letter’s contradictions seems to indicate he’s supposed to be working before his appoint is formally approved. "

      That issue is covered by Corey Robin and others at Crooked Timber. Apparently it's a fairly common procedure with academia. It's obviously a stupid way to proceed, as the current situation demonstrates, no matter which side of the issue one takes. I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me that a university has opened itself up to a big fat lawsuit if it tells someone he will be teaching some courses in September, the person quits his job, moves 1000 miles, only to be told that the university rubber stampers have decided not to rubber stamp the appointment. The time for the college bureaucrats to interfere with hiring decisions (on good or bad grounds) should have been long before.

  • 'Lesson: The Jews will defend themselves even if it means killing children'
    • "Zio-supremacists seem content to strive to be just a little bit better than the worst. Their philosophy appears to be something along the line of “Sure, I could be a law-abiding citizen, but murderers exist so I might as well be a rapist.”"

      I think you've got something there. Most defenses of Israeli behavior rely heavily on that sort of reasoning. I think I'd summarize most of them as follows--

      1. We try to avoid civilian deaths. (As evidenced mainly by the fact that they could have killed even more if they wished).

      2. Someone else is worse.

      3. Therefore, criticism of Israeli war crimes is invalid.

  • Air strikes and rocket fire resume as Gaza negotiations collapse
    • Um no. They say at least that many killed and that the data is preliminary.

    • I've seen this online, but can't recall where. It seems a little whacky. Maybe some dissident group wanted to try this, or maybe the Israelis have tortured enough prisoners to build up a false story.

      From your link there's this--

      "Police, soldiers and security personnel uncovered more than $175,000 during the arrests and found 24 rifles, six revolvers, seven rocket launchers and huge amounts of rifle cartridges and bullets."

      Not exactly the sort of arsenal I'd expect if one wanted to overthrow a government, not even a pseudo-government like the PA. One could probably take some shots at settlers.

  • Ceasefire comes to a close -- Mohammed Assaf's 'Raise Your Head High'
    • "I think of myself as a sincere friend of the Palestinian people, and I’ve certainly never dehumanized them"

      You're not a sincere friend--you put all the blame for the killing of civilians on Hamas, which means you justify Israeli killing of Palestinians. What you are is a classic shooting and crying type. You want to think well of yourself and your ideology, so you look for every excuse to explain away the worst crimes of your own side.

      The blog had a commenter like you a few years ago who professed peace and love and friendship, but could always be counted on to rationalize away Israeli war crimes in exactly the same manner you do. At first one thinks that maybe the person just hasn't thought things through, but eventually it becomes clear what's going on. The "shooters and criers" are as hard to reach as members of the Israeli right. Maybe more so.

  • HAMAS made me do it!
    • "In Gaza, as I’m sure you know, there are no remaining settlements,"

      But the occupation continues, unless you think that living in a vast prison is the end of the occupation.

      "What you consider “ruthless” is actually a criminal, terrorist strategy."

      In this case I was referring to Hamas firing from within its population, something that guerrilla groups have often done. Suicide bombing against civilians is a criminal terrorist strategy and also ruthless. Guerrilla groups often employ terrorist tactics as well--the Zionist militias all used them.

      And Israel from its very founding and before has followed a criminal terrorist strategy, to use your preferred terminology.

      "What’s depressing, in my view, is people who may think of themselves as “leftists”, making excuses for, and even supporting , Hamas terrorists."

      How sad you must feel, seeing people on the other side making the same sorts of rationalizations you use yourself for your own favorite murderers. In the case of Hamas, as bad as their past has been and as dubious as some of their ruthless tactics are (I'm happy to accept the conclusions of whatever human rights groups manage to investigate both sides), they look a lot better than Israel does. The Israelis have this charming notion that they have the right to impose collective punishment on an entire group of people, shoot their farmers and fishermen and loosen or tighten restrictions as they see fit. They treat every single person in Gaza as a criminal. So why be surprised if some people in Gaza resist in ways that are not legal? They're already being punished, guilty and innocent alike.

      Do I like Hamas? No. I'd be delighted to see both Hamas and Israel's leaders in prison after being tried for their respective crimes. But the world doesn't work that way. And people have tried nonviolent resistance to the blockade and it didn't work. The Israel-supporting West doesn't give a damn about Palestinians unless they shoot at Israelis--that's a lesson both the West and Israel (including so-called lefties like yourself) have taught them. So Hamas is the opposition the Israelis have created for themselves. Try treating the Palestinians like human beings and maybe you'd have nicer opponents.

    • "It is not always wrong, surely, to respond to a crime by an action that would have been criminal in the absence of provocation. That’s when the rule of proportion kicks in."

      Yes. I suppose one has to point out the obvious in this case. So it would normally be criminal for Israel to blow someone up in Gaza, but if that person had just fired a rocket at some Israeli town, it wouldn't be criminal. It would be criminal to blow up a hospital that was near the location from which the rocket was fired.

    • Guerrilla groups commonly have ruthless attitudes. So do governments. What government would encourage settlements in an occupied military area, knowing they will be the target of terrorists, unless they figure that the terrorist attacks will work in their favor as propaganda? The Israelis sometimes claim they need the WB for strategic depth--they then try to fill it with their own civilians. Reasonable moral people would recognize that what the Israelis do to Palestinians in both the WB and Gaza during "ceasefires" amounts to a series of war crimes. And that the Israelis understand this will provoke violence in response, which can then be used to rationalize massive war crimes by the Israelis. There is nothing you can say about the Hamas firing rockets from populated areas which doesn't apply much more strongly to Israel's own behavior. No government which truly cared about the long term survival of its own civilians would do what Israel does--other considerations come first, and if Israeli civilians die, it's just more grist for the propaganda mill.

      As for Gaza, "reasonable, moral people" would condemn both the guerrillas that do this, and the government which responds by blowing up civilians with indiscriminate firepower. Reasonable people wouldn't think that one war crime is an excuse for another. Unreasonable and immoral people use the crimes of one side to justify the larger crimes of the side they support.

      It says in your self-description, Jon S, that you're a member of the Israeli left. What a depressing thought.

  • Witnessing Gaza
    • "Are you sure that you read the entire essay?"

      Yes. It sounded much like the sort of dreck that Eli Wiesel might write on this subject.

      "As to the huge number of civilian casualties, including the children – their blood is on Hamas’ hands."

      That was his real point and yours and it is utterly immoral. "Rabbi" Sacks is a hypocrite and an apologist for war crimes. There's nothing new about this--apologists for America's behavior in Vietnam (specifically the free fire zones) made identical arguments there, and I imagine the Russian apologists for the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan made similar arguments about how the Soviets responded to the mujahideen (who were not boy scouts in their behavior either).

      So yes, I read that claim that we all have to work together and by itself that was fine--but the other theme in the article, the reason you like it so much, is that he also absolves Israel of any blame for its own sins. We all work together to end hatred and we do this by condemning Muslims and Christians for their sins, and by absolving Israel when it kills hundreds of children. Sorry, but that's not what honest moral leadership looks like. That's a man trying to make himself feel good and blame everyone else for the sins of the side he favors. Sure, he wants peace and reconciliation, but only if he doesn't have to be honest with himself. I wonder if the good rabbi is married? Does he take that approach if he has an argument with his wife? Does he tell her that he wants reconciliation and they both have to work at it, and oh, by the way, it's her fault he raised his voice and in fact any notion that he himself might be to blame is just an example of her irrational hostility towards him.

      I'm fairly sure Hamas leaders (who in recent years say they are willing to live with Jews) would make exactly the same argument with respect to their suicide bombing campaign in the Second Intifada. Perhaps "Rabbi" Sacks and the Hamas leadership could get together around a campfire and swap rationalizations.

    • Sacks had the opportunity to point out that Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all capable of violence and intolerance in the name of their respective faiths and how all three groups need to examine themselves, but instead he made it all about how the horrible Muslims and Christians are constantly blaming Israel when Israel kills people. It's just days since Israel killed hundreds of Palestinian children and for him, the problem here is anti-semitism. I wonder if you and he are capable of understanding how nauseating this is.

  • Israel and its advocates have a new target in sight: Head of UN inquiry William Schabas
    • "The story has 26 paragraphs. Only three of the paragraphs actually list potential Israeli war crimes, and what the charges are. The rest of them are either attacks on Schabas or special pleadings from Israeli officials justifying what they did and claiming that they already started their own investigation."

      The Kershner story was mostly a process story--the infamous "he said, she said" type where journalist merely reports that this person says X and this other person says "not X" and is too lazy to provide enough facts to enable the reader to tell who is telling the truth. It's something a reporter will do if the reporter is lazy or is afraid of seeming to take a side or worse, if the reporter actually wants to mislead the reader into thinking a question is genuinely controversial when the evidence clearly supports one side.

      And even as a process story Kershner slants it. So Goldstone is given a name and his retraction and his stated reason (the Israelis investigated themselves and convinced Goldstone he was wrong) is given. The fact that he was under tremendous pressure is not mentioned. The fact that his colleagues didn't agree with his retraction is mentioned, but in one sentence. Their names are not given and their reasons are left unstated. They don't matter.

      On the bombing and shelling of Rafah after the Israeli soldier was allegedly captured, , no estimate of the number of Palestinians killed is given, and Kershner misleads her readers by saying it was an attempt to retrieve the Israeli soldier, when in fact it was more likely an attempt to kill him rather than leave him as a prisoner.

      From here on this is what one should expect from the NYT. The Israelis are going all out to devise excuses for everything they just did, and the NYT will dutifully report them all. The point will be to leave in the minds of their readers the notion that this is an unresolved issue--one side says X and the other not X and there's no way to tell who is telling the truth. I somehow doubt they ever are this sympathetic to, say, Syrian government denials of war crimes. Nor will they give a sympathetic hearing to Hamas arguments if the commission finds them guilty of war crimes.

  • Israel's foundation in a 'terroristic campaign of expulsion, ethnic cleansing and murder' is the 'deep wound in that part of the world' -- Sullivan
    • "Yes many Zionists are liberal but Harris is not just “the liberal genteel sort of person”. That is trying to spare Zionism. Harris is on record sharing his wet dream about a nuclear first strike. Harris’s views are tribal, they are Zionist if you look at his sources, not classic liberal."

      I'm not trying to spare Zionism and agree it is tribal in nature. I also think Harris is a tribalist, but there are "liberals" who invoked their liberalism as an excuse for massive violence, as in Vietnam.

      My impression (I haven't read enough) is that there has always been this tension in mainstream liberalism, going back to the 19th century, where you have liberals who mix their liberal ideals with some form of racist or tribalist thinking and you end up with people like Harris. There were liberal colonialists back in the bad old days, people who supported violence against the supposedly uncivilized barbarians in the name of liberal ideals. Harris is part of a long perverse tradition.

    • "Sullivan: Well, I think we’re probably starting to go in circles now. But I think it is good that we can have a civil conversation about these things.
      Harris: I agree. And I’m very grateful you took the time to do this, Andrew. It makes me very happy that we can have exchanges like this.

      Sullivan: Any time, Sam. Any time.
      --------------------------------------------------
      Still members of the same club, aren't they? Would Sullivan have this conversation with David Duke? Duke could no doubt point to horrible black men like Idi Amin, or cite example after example of atrocities in post-colonial Africa. Would anyone think Duke had something interesting to say about any of this?

      Would Sullivan have this sort of "civil conversation" with a proud anti-Semite? More to the point, would he have a civil conversation with someone who wholeheartedly supports Hamas? Would he even have a civil conversation with someone who supports some of Hamas's actions with reservations? It's nice that he sees that Israel is responsible for making Palestinians hate them, but he's still playing the same old game where people like Harris are still fundamentally civilized people with whom one can have a discussion, but Hamas is beyond the pale. But Harris is just the liberal genteel sort of person who would support almost any level of war crime, so long as he thinks an Islamist is at the other end. He's a secular equivalent of the person who wrote the Hamas charter. Sullivan is fine with people like this, because he was one of them a few years ago and he still feels a kinship.

  • With friends like these...
    • Billmon was kind of a legendary blogger back in the early or mid 00's. My favorite while he was around. Tweets often tend to be over the top, but didn't a deputy speaker say something genocidal recently?

    • I went back and edited it while the option was still available. Didn't think of that until after I posted the thing you responded to.

    • I gotta amend my number. I said 52 percent--must have subconsciously subtracted 48 from 52. Weird.

    • "Nearly half of Israelis wanted to give Obama the Ebola virus for his birthday Aug. 4."

      That's not actually a fair conclusion, unless they did a scientific poll. If it's just a voluntary online thing, then you are likely to attract a disproportionate number of idiots and of course it also doesn't mean they would all really do it. It does show that 48 percent of the respondents are idiots.

      Though it wouldn't surprise me if a random sample of the Israeli population with this range of options would give similar results. But it shows what we already knew,that the vast majority of Israelis supported the Gaza war and resented Kerry for even suggesting that maybe the blockade should be lifted. The overwhelming support for the Gaza War, the election of rightwing fascists, and stupid comments like those of "peace advocate" Amos Oz are the disturbing thing to me.

  • Despite potential groundswell, Congress reluctant to recognize Palestinian rights
    • Was it here or somewhere else that I read that Congressional staffers were appalled at the recent passing of the money for Iron Dome? Supposedly even some staffers who worked for a Republican senator were disgusted. It was supposed to be nothing but a raw demonstration of AIPAC's clout, to get Congress to show unwavering support for Israel.

      I'm probably citing some story that appeared here--been reading so much lately I'm losing track.

  • How many Israeli civilians have been attacked from the Gaza tunnels? Any?
    • "You really need to learn more about the history of Hamas. Suicide bombings... "

      If you mean me, I already mentioned that. You know, the part that said they did suicide bombing that killed hundreds of civilians. Should I have said it several times? But you ought to ask yourself why they didn't try to send suicide bombers through the tunnels at the beginning, before the Israelis knew about them. Or I'm asking. Is there any evidence that they tried anything like that this time? I've heard nothing.

    • Well, no, it means we don't know for sure what they might have done with them. Again, repeating what I just said, why wouldn't Hamas have opened the hostilities by sending a wave of suicide attackers out of those tunnels to the nearest population centers? Is there any evidence that they tried to do this? Wouldn't that have been the best time to strike, before the Israelis knew there were so many tunnels?

      I'm not putting it past them to do such a thing--they did employ the suicide bombing tactic during the Second Intifada that killed hundreds of civilians. But in this case, they seem to have used the tunnels for military purposes, to strike back hard at the IDF, while the rockets were used to terrify the Israeli civilian population.

    • If Hamas wanted to use the tunnels to attack civilians, wouldn't the best moment to do this be near the beginning, when the Israelis weren't aware of how extensive the tunnel network was ? Why wait until they found out?

  • Steven Salaita case recalls blacklisting of Pete Seeger and Paul Robeson
    • I wrote an email on his behalf, but I wish he exercised better judgment in his comments. If this controversy does hit the mainstream press, I can well imagine the sort of coverage those comments will get. Yes, there's a context and it's sarcasm and so forth. And the press is so great at conveying context.

    • No reason to feel irony. If a rightwing Israeli were not hired for political reasons, it would be just as outrageous from the academic freedom standpoint. You don't seem to understand the issues, either of the academic boycott or what happened here.

  • After Gaza
    • My take is that I would need to know much more before I could reach a firm conclusion. Could Israel be supporting jihadi groups to take the pressure off itself? Sure. It did something like this when it initially supported Hamas, to weaken the leftist nationalist Palestinian groups. Enemy of my enemy and all that.

    • Aren't people here opposed to ISIS? Don't we say that they and their buddies in Syria are genocidal? And if something has to have an Israel connection to be really bad, then haven't some said that Israel supports ISIS? (I have no idea if that's true, but Israel probably does benefit from having ISIS around to cause chaos in countries that might otherwise be Israel's foes.) How is it that bombing ISIS means we are at war for Israel?

      So what's the problem with people labeling ISIS as genocidal? The fact that most of those same people are hypocrites on Israel and Gaza is no reason why they should not label actions by ISIS as genocide if they fit the definition.

  • Even Wieseltier is upset by 'indifference in Jewish world' to Gaza slaughter and wholehearted Israeli support for it
    • "Enough of your ‘universal whataboutery” as self or site appointed historical moral oracle at MW"

      I don't care what you think about me. The Israelis, as bad as they are, are basically doing the same sorts of things that Americans have done. The historical analogies work in our favor, if you are in favor of Palestinian rights. If you have some other agenda, maybe not. American liberals easily understand what was wrong about the free fire zone tactics used in Vietnam--now just get them to see the same thing is going on in Gaza. That's been the problem--progressive except for Palestine. But some are starting to see the similarities.

      The same is true of the Jim Crow analogy. Get people to understand the connection between how white America used to act and the defensive apologetics of white Southerners and the way Israel acts and the defensive apologetics of the Lobby and again, people who disapprove of the one will disapprove of the other. It's how I got to see what was wrong with Israel and its defenders--it all seemed so familiar.

    • I was hoping Phil would link to this NYT Book Review piece by Neil Sheehan written in 1971. The only caveat I'd have is that the numbers for the civilian dead in the war are way too low. But otherwise it's a fascinating look at how slowly US reporters were to recognize war crimes right in front of their face, as Sheehan says about himself. But some of them did get there in the end. I wonder if we're seeing that stage with Israel in Gaza? As with Vietnam, people have come to the realization very slowly. At the NYT editorial board they still aren't there.

      war crimes in Vietnam

      All the issues in Vietnam are pretty much the same as they are in Gaza. People didn't use the human shields term, but the argument was the same. In the incident Sheehan himself wrote about, a few snipers in some fishing villages drew so much fire from US forces that the villages were destroyed and hundreds of villagers killed. Back then Sheehan might have agreed that the VC should not have fired from the villages, but he also realized (eventually) that the US response was so disproportionate that it was a war crime.

  • On being accused of anti-semitism by well meaning liberals
    • You seem to have written a comment containing nothing that resembled an argument, demanding that others dance to your tune. Not going to happen, Gene.

  • My friends say I'm being too nice to Hamas
    • " you have no grounds to criticize those you, and it is you, whom you are slaughtering. Black people are also often less than liberal, what you gonna do, criticize away you repellent self satisfied jerk."

      What a load of bull. I don't want your approval. Tell lies because of collective guilt. Be a politically correct little lefty who never says anything critical of the resistance because my tax dollars help Israel. Yeah, boy, that's really what everyone should be striving for.

    • IB--I admire your stance, but you've got more patience than me, I guess. But you're probably right.

    • "he laid down his life not for a particular belief, but simply for the right to go about examining the ideas of other people, thinking about them, and asking his interlocutors to do the same.” "

      A little high-falutin'. Sometimes people have blindspots and use their intellectual abilities to rationalize them. Your friends might be wonderful human beings in other respects and no sarcasm intended, but they've got a pretty big blindspot on this subject. Probably we all have blindspots of some sort. This subject is theirs.

      Not that Hamas can't be criticized--it can, and should be. But your friends are defensive of Israel and seem more upset that Israel is getting bad PR for killing hundreds of children and want the blame all placed on Hamas. Maybe you should just talk to them about other subjects. I have a friend like that--we do politics once in a while. He says nothing one couldn't pick up from Fox News and nothing I say gets through to him. I suppose we both like to bicker occasionally, but there's no point to it.

    • "but if each one of us wasn’t able to to express the views and feelings of Jews in general, how will anybody know what Jews think? Are we to be without a voice? And if we could speak only for ourselves, who would represent ‘the Jews’?"

      Damn that's clever. Funny too.

    • Did you think Roland holds the views he laid out here?

    • I'd be curious if your friends could spell out your arguments as well and as fairly as you have presented theirs. In my experience I don't think very many defenders of Israel could make the case on the other side.

  • 'NYT' is furiously rewriting history of Gaza conflict
    • "What did Michael Oren say about Al Qaeda in Syria? That if he had to chose, he works prefer AQ won because the other dude is pro Iranian."

      I haven't followed that part of things. It doesn't surprise me that he'd think it, but I am surprised he would say it out loud.

    • "Stephen Zunes pointed out this hypocrisy the other day on a podcast. HRW, Amensty, and the UN (namely Navi Pillay), are irrefutable when comes to Syria et al, but anti western, Hamas loving, Israeli haters when it comes to Israel."

      Yeah exactly. It's been like that forever.

    • "Well your picture of yourself is not the picture others have you…lol"

      A dig, no doubt, but not sure how it made sense. If one is trying to make a solid case to people who read the NYT that it is biased on this subject, you have to acknowledge that they printed stories about Palestinian suffering that really did convey what was happening. You then have to point out that their analytic pieces started dragging in arguments from the Israelis that are easily refuted by human rights groups that condemn both sides (and so aren't solidly in the pro-Palestinian camp), but they left out some of the arguments. You then point out that the editorials are so biased the writers hardly seem to have been reading the articles in their own paper.

      This isn't how I always write, especially after having read one of their awful editorials, but if I were going to make a case to someone who wasn't reading much beyond the NYT, that's what I'd do. Pointing to something Senator Fullbright said in 1963 probably will have them scratching their heads.

    • Only an idiot takes testimony acquired under torture as "proof". In fact, that's often the point of torture--not to acquire real information, but to make people say what you want them to say.

      sheerafrenkel article

    • I prefer to type things out. I picture myself making the case for NYT bias to people who don't follow the issue closely, but read the NYT and see moving stories about Palestinian suffering. If you just say "Oh it's all pro-Israel crap", it just makes one sound like an ideologue not paying attention to the details. Maybe that works for some.

      Also, no, I don't think it's some foreign conspiracy. There are people in the US, many of them non-Jews, who are psychologically conditioned to think that Israel can't be the real bad guy, it's gotta be Hamas or the Arabs or anyone other than an Israeli. And besides, the NYT has had a rotten record on writing about human rights that goes back to the Philippine American War (or so I vaguely recall--it's been years since I read about that). Establishment types are inherently stupid on some issues precisely because they are powerful. The system that gave them success must be fundamentally okay, or they wouldn't be where they are.

    • I think the NYT storyline is essentially this--

      1. It's awful how much suffering the Palestinian civilians experienced. So much of the firsthand reporting is really good--Tyler Hicks on the kids at the beach, Anne Barnard speaking to a Palestinian therapist about what Palestinians are going through. The individual reporters are no doubt sincere here, but it also conveys the message that the NYT as an institution cares about ordinary Palestinians and honestly reports their suffering. (The trick is how to put all the blame on Hamas.)

      2. The analysis pieces are mixed, but intended to give the Israelis plausible deniability. Some good stuff in there and they try to be fair, but they give a lot of attention to Israeli points of view which are clearly denial of responsibility. On any other human rights issue in the world, the NYT would give Amnesty International and HRW credence over the denials of a government. HRW was slow getting there, but they've pretty clearly stated that Israel is guilty of war crimes, along with Hamas. HRW believes its lying eyes over Israeli denials. The NYT accepts without question their view of Hamas, but treats Israeli denials as part of a legitimate debate.

      3. And then when we ascend to the heights of Mt. Sinai, where the NYT editorial board is busy chiseling the Truth as they see it on tablets of stone, maybe Israel was a bit careless with their firepower, hard to say, kind of unfortunate, but Hamas is pure evil, no doubt about that. And the blockade is something that can be lifted in exchange for weakening Hamas. Because the lives of ordinary Palestinians, unlike the lives of ordinary Israelis, are to be used as bargaining chips.

  • Palestinian refugees displaced again as they flee Islamic State in Iraq
    • " I will never forget that it was Amnesty International, who spread the “throwing babies out of incubators” story instead of uncovering the lie."

      I remember that, and put it down to the fact that there is no organization or group of people that always gets it right. The Saddam regime did a lot of awful things, but not that particular awful thing, which was a PR invention. I don't jump to the conclusion that Amnesty International is a pawn of Western imperialism. Human Rights Watch is biased in a pro-Western way , but criticism of them by lefties is also exaggerated. The fact is that if AI and HRW were pawns of the West they do an exceedingly bad job covering up the crimes of Western countries. They did a devastatingly effective job exposing Reagan Administration lies in Central America in the 80's (or rather, one of HRW's predecessor groups America's Watch did). HRW (or rather, Middle East Watch) did a very thorough report on America's air tactics in the Gulf War. HRW has done a good job documenting Israel's crimes--the only flaw here is they often use the term "may be a war crime" about things which obviously are war crimes, but they get there in the end. (And yes, I've seen what Finkelstein and As'ad AbuKhalil say about them.) Amnesty International has called for an arms embargo on both sides. I'm for that, though the key word there is "both".

      And of course AI isn't an antiwar organization as such. They report on the violations of the laws of war, but their mission isn't to take sides. In practice, if one side is committing most of the violations it will be clear if one reads their reports.

      Overall, even with their flaws I trust AI and HRW more than I trust people on the allegedly antiwar left to be accurate and to try to get the facts right, because they have the idea at least of trying to report all the information they have on atrocities of all sides. They'll get it wrong sometimes, but that's the ideal I want in a human rights organization--I wouldn't trust an explicitly anti-Western imperialist organization much more than I'd trust, say, the mainstream press. The BS just comes in different forms. People on the anti-imperial left have our own political agendas, our own reasons for emphasizing this atrocity and de-emphasizing that one, for believing one source and not another. If that didn't lead to us being unreliable and wrong sometimes we wouldn't be human. And people on the antiwar left aren't actually antiwar as such in many cases--just anti-Western war. It's fine to concentrate on the crimes we as citizens are most responsible for, and in fact obligatory, but invariably some people on the antiwar left start taking sides and cheering for one side in a conflict and downplaying or denying their crimes. It happens in every single conflict where people on the anti-imperialist left are involved in protesting.

      In this case, merely from reading the AI and HRW reports it's clear that ISIS is worse. And the idea that AI is deliberately trying to incite sectarian war in Iraq is something I'd need a hell of a lot more evidence for than what you provide in that last couple of paragraphs. Getting it wrong--yes, that's possible. Deliberately inciting sectarian war--wildly unlikely.

    • I don't know about this--

      "spreading largely unfounded rumors of unjust of oppression of Sunnis by Maliki-led Shia"

      Depends on what you mean, I guess. "Largely unfounded" could mean exaggerated, but not entirely false.

      Amnesty and other human rights groups seem to have ample evidence of human rights violations by both sides, though ISIS is worse.

      link to amnesty international

      revenge killings of sunni detainees

      war crimes committed in the battle for mosul

      So does HRW

      iraq

  • Gaza war gives rise to new Jewish group targeting Jewish institutions that support occupation
    • "I’m happy to have jewish folks start wholly ineffective, sectarian peace groups, I just don’t see why it needs to be congratulated, publicized and so on. I’d be even happier if these same folks could just join existing Palestine solidarity groups and, you know, blend in,"

      I'm not very clear on what makes a person identify himself or herself as Jewish. Sometimes it's religion, sometimes a cultural thing or just who their parents were. Anyway, people who identify as Jewish might very well be ashamed and outraged that their religion (or cultural heritage or whatever) is used to support war crimes. So some form groups to speak out against it. It seems perfectly natural to me. Liberal Christians do or did the same sorts of things to fight the Christian Right. They didn't necessarily join other already existing groups on the same issue. This isn't some nefarious sectarian plot--it's just common human behavior. Part of the motivation would be to convince other Christians that we should be siding with the poor and not with the rich or whatever the social justice issue happened to be.

      There's nothing stopping these people from joining other groups, and some might, but they might think they have more chance to reach other Jews with a Jewish group, or being human with only a certain amount of time in the day, they might just participate in one. Now if they try to shove the Palestinians out of the picture, so that only Jews are allowed to talk about the issue, then yes, that would be ugly.

      J Street, as I recall, showed its true colors fairly soon. Or the leadership did. I vaguely recall reading (maybe at this blog) that some of the rank and file were not in line with the leaders, but if I were them, I would move on to some other group, Jewish or not, if I cared about the Palestinians.

    • "And Donald, you’re sort of a Tom for groups like this. You’re always there to defend these groups, that are by definition sectarian given their titles."

      Yep. The heated reaction to this seems stupid and intolerant to me. No, not anti-Semitic. Just self-righteous crap. Everyone has to think just like you. They can't identify with a community on the basis of religion or whatever. I don't know what it means to be Jewish and don't really care, but it's no skin off my nose if it means something to others.

      "These groups make me think – and I know I’m not alone here – that it’s as important for the only voices of criticism to be jewish as it is stopping the US/Israeli destruction of Palestine. And I think that’s horseshit."

      You're probably not alone. And it's more arrogant BS on your part. Maybe some people do think that way and others don't, but you just assume the worst because you have a stick up your butt on this.

    • "I’m comfortable with being an asshole, "

      You could have stopped there. And no, it's not shocking or sectarian or anything else except helpful to have Jews organizing to push back against those in their community who give a blank check to Israeli war crimes.

  • Conflict Resolution 101: Talk to Hamas
    • On the post itself, I agree with Medea Benjamin and Jimmy Carter that we should recognize Hamas. We went through the same utter nonsense back in the 70's when the US refused to talk to the PLO, though there was a back channel of sorts through a CIA guy named Robert Ames, the subject of a new book by Kai Bird. Andrew Young had to resign from the Carter Administration because he secretly met with a PLO guy at the UN and the Israelis leaked it. Anyway, it was a stupid policy then and it's a stupid policy now.

      One reason for it is that even semi- sensible people on this subject like Andrew Sullivan (hard to believe I just wrote that) still insist on pretending that Hamas is practically the same as ISIS. People go into fits if someone says Hamas has its pragmatists. Which is just more idiocy. American foreign policy is often moralizing, and moralizing on the wrong things.

    • Okay, we can shut the comments section down now. Tom Tomorrow has pretty well summarized the whole thing right here

  • What I said to the couple holding a banner with a swastika on it
    • Can't argue with that.

    • "Yes, see, that’s the thing about people who march around holding up swastikas, there usually so reasonable, open to opposing views, sweet folks"

      Yes, well, I was half-expecting a bad ending here, but it turns out these people weren't neo-Nazis, but people making the Zionist = Nazi equation, which I also don't think is a good one for winning over the ordinary person. But people who do that aren't Nazis themselves--that's the point.

    • Good post. I'm glad the couple took your suggestion well. It's easy to go for the jugular and forget we're supposed to be the side that favors peace and justice and equality and reconciliation and all that good stuff, and want to win people to that position.

  • The selected writings of Samantha Power
    • This isn't even half of it as far as the subject of Power's hypocrisy is concerned--her genocide book is mainly about US sins of omission and not the sins of commission. She was a darling in the mainstream because of this. Noam Chomsky, who wrote about our sins of commission, is not. There's no chapter about East Timor in her book (just a footnote) and no chapter on Guatemala. No chapter on the sanctions on Iraq. She explains why the mass murder of people for their political beliefs was not included in the legal definition of genocide (Stalin had objections for some reason, though as it happens he was guilty of the crime even as defined) but she has no chapter on one of the biggest genocides not defined as genocide in the 20th century--Suharto's slaughter of real and alleged communists, to the cheers of America and probably with assistance from the CIA.

  • 'NYT' gives Israelis the opportunity to shoot and explain (why not Hamas?)
    • "the real bizarro thing is the West has no problem with the indiscriminating bombing of civilian centers under the guise as a psychological weapon to break the enemy’s will to fight."

      That's true, though in recent decades there is usually some attempt at denial and doublethink. My favorite example of this is the Iraqi sanctions and the bombing during the Gulf War that preceded it. Barton Gellman interviewed various Pentagon people after the war and in a story published in the Washington Post in June 1991 (I think) he found people in the government who said that we had targeted civilian infrastructure so that we'd be able to use the suffering of civilians as leverage. The sanctions would make it difficult to repair the damage. Then all through the 90's, the official stance of the US government and its apologists was that the suffering of Iraqis was entirely the fault of Saddam. I think even Tom Friedman might have let the cat out of the bag in one or two columns (Friedman is so wedded to the opinions of the elite he thinks like them and sometimes doesn't realize how sociopathic his columns can be).

      Westerners, both those in government and those who reflexively support them, are masters of doublethink on this subject. They can deliberately choose to "punish" civilians and deny any responsibility for the results and I suspect that some of them actually believe their own rhetoric.

      I found the article. It's really a classic, in the sense that it lets you get an inside view of how these people think. Note the guy who thinks that civilians in Iraq are responsible for their government and therefore legitimate targets.

      Barton Gellman article on the Gulf War and sanctions

    • "The fact that this hypothetical seems so absurd, yet is an authentic mirror image to Israeli military policy, highlights what a bizarro world we live in."

      That's for sure. I see people at other blogs and everywhere saying that there is no doubt Hamas rockets are war crimes (and I'm fine with that, but they are pretty minor ones comparatively speaking), but whether Israel's actions are criminal depends on a detailed analysis and some say we can't know for sure until the dust settles. Even Human Rights Watch (which I find invaluable for the factual detail in their reports) is somewhat guilty of this, though they come to almost the right position in the end. ("Almost" because sometimes they still hedge things a bit, not being 100 percent certain that this or that Israeli action is a war crime.) It actually helps to be dishonest so far as Western public relations is concerned--Israel just has to deny ill intent and that's enough to make their criminality a matter of doubt in Western eyes.

      So everything would be solved if Hamas were given better weapons and used the same tactics as Israel. More civilian deaths, and no war crimes proven.

      Something I didn't comment on in the post--the criticism that Hamas uses civilians as human shields. Three things wrong. First, as people here know, the IDF has long used Palestinians as human shields. Second, if Hamas had built bomb shelters, Israel would probably target some of them on the grounds that they were command and control centers. They'd just use bigger bombs or earth penetrators or whatever. They were already blowing up homes and hospitals on that basis, so they'd go after bomb shelters. Third, what is the settlement policy except a vast network of human shields? Israel claims it needs the strategic depth, and then they fill that land with their own civilians. They value the settlement policy more than they value the lives of their own people who live there. The Wall won't stop attacks if there is a violent 3rd intifada.

    • That's my position, oldgeezer. If one is to choose violent resistance, resist the soldiers and don't fire rockets at civilians. One of the victims of the rocket fire was a Bedouin, if this matters. Of course, the Israelis didn't build them bomb shelters. Condemning the rocket fire for me is an afterthought--it's indiscriminate, but also a fraction of one percent of the civilian dead and a small fraction even of the Israeli dead, most of whom were soldiers. ("Were"--hoping this ceasefire holds.)

      On the other hand, if I were a Gazan I don't doubt I'd cheer the rockets as an act of defiance while under Israeli bombardment.

  • Israel, your brand is tanking
    • "Most people don’t care, and the people that don’t care don’t tend to figure in policymaking. But of the ones that do care, the overwhelming majority support Israel."

      Well, I think that's a roundabout way of saying that those who care in large numbers tend to come into this with a pre-conceived attitude of who the good guys are. And that's right--that's the Israel Lobby. People like me came into this thinking like almost everyone else, that Israel was the good guy. We changed when we found out more.

      "angry people who won’t even engage in dialogue with those it disagrees with, "

      For the most part the pro-Israel side has done its best to shut anti-Zionists or non-Zionists out of the debate, lumping them all in with anti-Semites. And it goes further than that. No rational supporter of the 2SS would have supported Netanyahu against Obama when Obama demanded that settlement expansion stop. But Congress sided with Netanyahu. That wasn't because they all came to the rational conclusion (most are educated, after all) that Netanyahu was right.

      But I agree that on the pro-Palestinian side people it'd be a mistake to stop listening to the other side altogether.

    • "Giving the correlation coefficients would also be helpful e.g. “strong correlation between educational achievement and support for Israel.”

      There was a poll showing that a week or two ago. I don't think it means much, or rather, it doesn't mean what hophmi wants it to mean. He wants this to mean that educated people support Israel because they understand the facts and can think critically--of course he wouldn't say that about people in some country where the media hadn't been overwhelmingly pro-Israel for generations.

      What would be interesting to find out is how much people actually know about the history of the conflict and the atrocities of all sides and where they stand knowing these things. I had a very well educated friend who used to spout the wisdom of the NYT editorial page on the I/P conflict--he wasn't reading the Israeli revisionist historians or Edward Said or really, anybody outside the mainstream. It would not have surprised me if he had seen "Exodus".

      There have also been studies showing that how people react to information about global warming depends not only on their educational background, but also their political leanings. So with liberals, the more education the more they think global warming is a threat. With conservatives, some studies show no correlation between education and beliefs about global warming and some actually show a negative correlation--the more educated they are, the less they believe global warming is a threat. I looked that up a week or two ago when this came up. That, of course, is a warning for us all, but at any rate, the polls hophmi refers to don't tell us much without further information.

    • "Well, the idea is that Israel’s liberal democratic values should suggest to you that maybe there’s a reason the occupation hasn’t ended"

      Yeah, it suggests that Israel's voters vote for politicians that favor the settlements.

  • Elie Wiesel plays the Holocaust trump card in Gaza
    • Obviously it's not his intent.

    • "I don’t buy the notion of Israel as god."

      Blasphemer.

    • Yeah, I think it was a combination of a desire to play George Orwell and denounce the far left and incidentally boost his career to the highest point it could reach. He wanted to think he was a daring intellectual while telling the powerful in his own society exactly what they wanted to hear. It worked. I remember the Atlantic during the period immediately after 9/11 referring to him as an honest honorable man of the left. In other words, he spat on his former friends.

    • Time for another link to one of the last sensible columns Christopher Hitchens ever wrote--

      Wiesel words

  • Seven congresspeople go to Israel on AIPAC's dime-- and one gets defensive about it
    • "Israel needs more support more often than other US allies. It’s in a hostile region. But in general, Congress treats allies with more deference than it does the US. That’s basic enough. There’s a general assumption that they can handle their own affairs better than we can."

      That's not it. In other cases where human rights and US allies are involved, Congress tends to split. Take Central America in the 80's. People in Congress can be very critical of our allies. But in the case of Israel, it's a sacred cow, virtually untouchable. Obama tried to get Netanhayu to do something as mild as stop settlement expansion and Congress sided with Netanyahu. Obama said the negotiations should precede on the basis of the 67 borders and Harry Reid sided with Netanyahu. This is the Israel Lobby--it doesn't wield unlimited power on Middle East issues, but on questions directly involving Israel itself Congress generally dances to its tune.

    • Just wanted to add my appreciation for your comment here and those elsewhere, bandolero. Really smart, balanced, and well informed.

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