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Total number of comments: 2925 (since 2009-07-31 03:28:07)

Donald Johnson

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

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  • When it comes to Syria, our press is full of moralizing and propaganda, and short on analysis
    • I should clarify--I understand now that you are not saying Assad is innocent. ButI think your principles just confuse the issues unnecessarily for reasons I have already explained. So now, hopefully, I will shut up.

    • You say here--

      "I lay responsibility for ALL of the death and destruction on the empire. "

      Which logically implies that Assad is innocent. There is no responsibility left to lay on anyone else. But why exactly do you have the right to do this? Being a citizen of the US doesn't mean you get to say that Assad isn't responsible for his own actions.

      "What right does the arsonist have to criticize the behavior of those inside the building he set on fire? You have no moral standing to criticize the behavior of those under imperial attack "

      Which paints a picture of innocent people in a building who are doing things that can't be criticized by the arsonist. It's a poor metaphor. A better one-- there are people in the building, some torturing the others, and the US in its wisdom thought it a brilliant idea (and I agree with you that the intentions were not good no matter what we claim) to hand weapons to some people inside, some of whom turn out to be torturers themselves. The actual truth is that Assad is a dictator and the USgovernment and others are trying to overthrow him. The predictable result is that the already cruel and dictatorial behavior of the government becomes much worse. There are multiple guilty factions--the US, the Saudis, Qatar, the Syrian government, ISIS, Al Nusra, various other rebel groups, Russia, etc....

      And there is zero reason not to say so. I know that Chomsky says citizens should criticize
      their own government first. That's basic morality. It doesn't mean you have to shut your brain off. A Russian citizen should be able to criticize our behavior and Syria and the behavior of Russia, and that of Assad and that of the rebels, Every human being on earth should be able to, in theory at least, have a discussion about Syria and who is doing what to whom, to the best of our ability to determine it. Artificial limits on what you can say about this or that are a bizarre self-limitation on trying to understand what is happening. And silly. You can be perfectly clear that the US is guilty of massive crimes and still notice that Assad's government tortures people and bombs civilians.

      My last post, I think. We are going in circles.

    • I agree neither of us are experts but your moral stance is inconsistent. You say on the one hand that we have no right to judge Assad, but then you talk about him as though he was innocent, so you are implicitly judging the Syrians who say he is a monster and who think the outside world should take action to overthrow him. A Syrian who had been tortured by Assad or who had lost family to Assad would not see him as a victim. My stance is that it is a brutal civil war made much worse by outside intervention and our role should stop. I hear arguments that the rebels commit atrocities and believe them. I hear the same about the government and believe them. One can quarrel about particular incidents, but overall it seems clear that there are terrible things being done by both rebels and the government. There is no justification for the atrocities of either side and I can say this while at the same time saying we were utterly wrong to intervene, that we made the situation worse and that I personally under no circumstances could see a moral way to justify Americans bringing Assad to court.

      There is a confusion here. The fact that we have no right to intervene does not mean that as individual human beings we can't express our views on what is happening. If I adopted your approach, it would sound as though I think Assad is morally justified in what he does and for that reason we shouldn't intervene. In reality I don't think Assad is morally justified in his behavior, I think there is a lot of evidence of Syrian government atrocities and I still think it was wrong for us to intervene, in part because we made the situation much worse, but more fundamentally because we don't have the right to do it.

    • I agree with basically everything you say about US foreign policy and in fact said much of it here ( without going through the whole list of countries we have intervened in, which includes many more horrific examples.)

      And no, that doesn't mean Assad's side is innocent. What it means is that America has no legal or moral right to be intervening in Syria or other places, and that we bear a huge portion of the blame and that our press is covering it up. But you can say this without denying the reality that many Syrians have been victimized by the Syrian government. In fact, if anything the refusal to say this probably detracts from the credibility of some on the anti imperial left who otherwise make good points about US involvement. If we take the view that we can't talk about the Syrian government role in killing civilians without somehow supporting USimperialism, then all discussion turns into competing propaganda systems. It contributes to cynical mistrust of the antiwar side.

    • Thanks. Yeah, the D.C. types who pushed for Iraq have gotten away with it. The only lesson they learned is that large American ground forces lead to American casualties and Americans don't like that. They learned nothing else, and want to keep sowing chaos, with the support of much of the press.

  • Trump's new war has neocons, Clintonites, and Israelis applauding, but left and realists dismayed
    • "Has someone here denied that there are reports..."

      This is why I don't spend much time in comments. Endless parsing that means nothing. Gamal and Keith get mad when I say Assad is a war criminal, which is what I would also say about various US presidents and American allies and all forcthe same reason-- they commit atrocities against unarmed people. The evidence against Assad is as strong as it is against Israel or the US. One can question individual cases, but to argue that the government isn't guilty of massive crimes against civilians is no different from Israeli apologists denying the evidence in Gaza. There too you could question individual accounts. It's a simple straightforward concept and there are only two relevant ways to argue against it --

      1. Deny virtually all the claims of Syrian government atrocities. That would be interesting if real facts could be deployed to back it up. But it is wildly unlikely.

      2. Claim it doesn't matter because the US is evil or some other form of whataboutery or claim the government has the right to murder or torture or whatever. I reject this and find it boring. Anyone can claim a noble cause for mass murder.

      One can also do the random insult thing or engage in parsing and I lose interest. Ditto for questioning my motives, especially when I have stated plainly that the US has no right to intervene and is responsible for greatly increasing the death toll with its arming of rebels. You see that in my comment and yet you act like it isn't there. This is why, for the most part, it isn't worthwhile engaging in comment threads on the subject of Syria. It is a subject that inspires more bad faith and bull feces on all sides than any other, including Israeli crimes. So far as I can tell, this is true virtually everywhere.

    • Sibiriak-- the straw man is intended to point out that Israel's tactics in Gaza resemble the Syrian government's tactics in Syria. There are similar reports of indiscriminate bombing and shelling.

      If one or both of the chemical weapons attacks were false flags, then both were war crimes, obviously and if the US knew then it is about as serious as you can get short of genocide. I think our support for the rebels was a massive war crime regardless of the truth about the chemical attacks. I think Assad is a killer and we had no right to try to overthrow him and the pretense that we haven't intervened against Assad is a monstrous Orwellian lie put out by interventionists to justify yet more immoral intervention.

    • Gamal, you don't speak for all Syrians, millions of whom probably hate Assad even as others support him. If his forces have deliberately killed large numbers of civilians in massacres or indiscriminate bombings, then he is a war criminal. If his forces torture or murder prisoners, again he is a war criminal. If you deny that his forces have done such things, that would be a bit more relevant than the usual insults. What you call " patronizing" is me not being interested in your insults. You seem to think that by taking on the role of spokesperson for all Syrians and using the word "we" like you represent everyone in the Mideast that it is supposed to carry weight. It doesn't. If you made an argument that the Assad government is fighting the war as humanely as possible and that all the reports of indiscriminate bombardment and torture are false, that would be relevant.

      This doesn't mean the US had any right to support the rebels-- by doing this the US stretched the war out greatly adding to the death toll and anyway, using your words, it is the act of insolent moral midgets to intervene in other people's countries. We agree on that part, even if you meant the words for me.

    • Figured you'd object to that. No doubt he fights as cleanly as Israel in Gaza.

    • It's not clear what happened in Ghouta in 2013. Assad is a war criminal, but even war criminals can be framed by other war criminals. What we do know beyond question regarding Ghouta is that the original claims about the evidence were flat wrong and disproven by MIT weapons experts Postol and Lloyd.

      https://www.rootclaim.com/claims/who-carried-out-the-chemical-attack-in-ghouta-on-august-21-2013-8394#storyline_assumptions

      The link above asserts that the rebels probably did Ghouta.

      Here is a NYT story admitting that the early claims regarding the evidence were wrong, in that way the NYT has when it really would rather be writing something else.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/29/world/middleeast/new-study-refines-view-of-sarin-attack-in-syria.html

  • Israeli Jews maintain the occupation because it is in their interest -- Noam Sheizaf
    • It's not rational, but people normally don't think long term if the short and medium term seems comfortable. That is why global warming is such a threat. The Israeli blindness is the same sort of mentality. They feel fine and the long term threat would require uncomfortable changes or maybe worse from their pov, so like most humans tend to do they stick their heads in the sand until forced to do otherwise.

      On another issue, I see people making the same mistake I constantly made with a different liberal Zionist commenter several years ago--I couldn't let his nonsense go unanswered. It's a waste of time. I would like to see a discussion/ debate between someone like Peter Beinart and Phil or better, a Palestinian, but that's not exactly what's been going on here ( or in my day with the other guy). Of course people gave me the same advice back then and I didn't listen.

  • No room for Zionism in any movement for justice
    • Yonah, I agree that we have to remember the murderous ( and later genocidal) antisemitism that was one of the motivating forces behind Zionism. ( This, btw, is why I think Sandy Tolan's The Lemon Tree is one of the best introductions to the issue for Americans. You see both sides, the Holocaust and the Nakba.)

      The problem in America and in most Western governments is that the Palestinian side of the story still isn't known. Or that is my impression. I bet most Americans still don't know about the Nakba or have some distorted hatefilled version of it in their heads, like the friend of mine who repeated the old story that the Palestinians left so the Arab armies could drive the Jews into the sea and then they could come back and steal their belongings. Even liberals who know better largely ignore the issue because it can't be blamed on Republicans -- for the same reason they ignored Obama's support for the Saudi's barbaric war in Yemen.

      The BDS movement calls for equal rights for everyone. I wouldn't judge it by the words of a few commenters here.

  • The 'Times' runs propaganda about how moral America was till Trump got in charge
    • I was joking and always assumed you mostly were. If you are serious about this, you wii have to thrash out it with someone who cares.

    • This is a longstanding issue with you. I think you are going to have to face the fact that the sun has set on the British Empire and the new chronicle of empire is the New York Times and as such, it has wrested the title of " The Times" away from that British rag you keep harping on about.

  • Hate crimes in America: either a trap or an opportunity for Palestine advocates
    • Good post. It's weird seeing people deny antisemitism when there have been so many incidents. The one distinction I would make is that Islamophobia in one form or another has the backing of " respectable" people and the government. You get it from Bill Maher, Donald Trump, Haim Saban, and so on. Antisemitism is something that lurks in the fringes in the US. Trump is reluctant to acknowledge it in his supporters and because he is an extreme narcissist he reacts badly to even the slightest trace of criticism, but he isn't banning people from Israel.

  • 'NYT' runs U.S. propaganda on Russian crimes-- without even a comment thread
    • As I just wrote Dana, that part of my post was poorly written. I was only comparing the death tolls caused by Russian and American air strikes in the past few years as counted by the Airwars site. The total number of deaths caused by US policy in the Mideast is going to be vastly larger.

    • On the number killed by the US you make a good point-- I was thinking of the number killed by US air strikes in the past few years, which is probably in the thousands based on the Airwars site. The total killed by the US since 2003 is much much higher. I should have been clearer.

  • Obama fostered spread of nuclear weapons because of his naivete, says head of Council on Foreign Relations
    • He sees the Iraq War as a tactical blunder, not as a massive war crime. So like interventionists after Vietnam, he can't wait until Americans get over their reluctance to get involved in yet another big war, so we can get back to jumping into any and every war the Beltway crowd wants to fight. Obama was no peacenik, not by a long shot, but proxy wars in Syria and Yemen and our own bombing and actions by special forces just aren't macho enough for a guy like Haass.

  • Dennis Ross's advice to Trump is 'bullshit, delusional or lying,' to gut two-state concept -- Peace Now
    • That all seems correct to me. The facts are accurate and the reasoning seems pretty straightforward. I like your plan,, but of course it is Palestinians whose support you need.

  • The Quebec mosque shooting and the Zionist connection
    • Jon, you don't have to be an expert on any culture but your own to acknowledge the point people are making-- it is convenient for Westerners, especially Israelis, to carve out a category of violence carried out by non state actors and call it " terrorism". The next step is to treat it as uniquely awful, ignoring the fact that state violence against civilians is greater. Then even within the category of non state terror, people like you ignore the fact that the US and Israel support some of these terrorist groups.

  • Gaza fishermen see 'worst times ever' as Israeli Navy kills one and injures three others
  • Obama 'betrayed' American Jews and Trump is a 'swineherd' -- Bernard-Henri Levy
    • " seems morally inadequate."

      Yeah, if the idea is that one should avoid cruelty solely to avoid God's punishment ( but it would be okay if we could dodge His wrath)' then yes, that would be a purely self interested motive. Usually, though, the idea is that you shouldn't be the sort of person who is cruel-- God's punishment is not there just to provide the incentive but to demonstrate what God thinks of cruel people. In the NT, see the parable of the rich man in hell. In the OT, my favorite is the story that Nathan tells King David about the rich man who steals and sacrifices the poor man's beloved pet. David is outraged, as he should be, only to find he is the villain. The aftermath-- David loses his son -- is problematic since the baby pays the price, but the moral is clear. Don't abuse the powerless.

      I don't know what the point of the swineherd story is. Levy's reading is repulsive.

  • Hell just froze over: the New York Times runs an article saying Zionism is racist
    • In Dante you had choices. Or rather, Minos had choices. Under the new reginpme, you will freeze and you will like it.

    • That's a good point. We were modifying the original piece via email back and forth and I guess the headline slipped through unchanged.

  • 'Love thy neighbor as thyself' -- Really?
    • I think that is a fair point. I don't know much about Judaism, but surely you could make any religion look bad by cherry picking quotes and taking the harshest view possible. I don't doubt that there are bigoted hateful Jewish interpretations of the cited passages, but I have also read the book of Jonah-- universalist views within the Jewish tradition clearly go back over 2000 years.

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  • Why a Texas rabbi keeps losing a debate over Israel with a white nationalist leader
    • 1. The rabbi made a statement in favor of inclusiveness and love. You say this has nothing to do with Israel. Very harsh, there, hophmi. Israel practices apartheid in the WB and commits war crimes, but it isn't all evil.

      2. Finished chewing. BDS supporters favor equal rights for Israeli Jews and Palestinians. Spencer favors counties which favor some ethnicities over others. They disagree on morality, but agree on what anyone can see, which is that Israel practices apartheid. They probably also agree that on a clear day the sky is blue.

      3. Israel is very diverse and is not pure evil. It does practice apartheid in the WB and treats the Palestinians in Gaza like caged animals.

      4. Even a Nazi scumbag can score a point against a good person with a huge blind spot. I don't know anything about the rabbi, but he sounds like someone unprepared to deal with the ugly realities about Israel.

  • I hereby chuck my right to Jewish national self-determination
    • I haven't looked tried to look it up, but I assume the majority of Israeli Jews were born there. It is therefore their home. They are practicing apartheid, so they should be pressured to stop and if they don't want to live in equality they should leave, but nobody said the whites had to leave South Africa.

      Also, on a pragmatic level if you want to win support from the outside world and from some Israeli Jews you would push for equal rights for everyone. If you prefer the supposed justice of a mass expulsion then you should oppose the BDS movement, because they call for equal rights for everyone and model themselves after the anti apartheid movement.

      https://bdsmovement.net/what-is-bds

  • ADL's Greenblatt is the one who needs to express 'contrition' for accusation of Keith Ellison
    • Well, it's a quip, not an analysis like what you do. But I took his underlying point to be that the ideology does funny things to people's thinking.

      The NYT did a story today about Muslims and Jews allying against possible persecution by Trump. So you'd have to ask various American Muslims what they think of Greenblatt. I think Greenblatt is probably sincere up to a point-- the point is precisely where Israel is involved. Then he joins the bigots. The need to defend his view of Israel outweighs his liberalism.

    • The interesting thing about Greenblatt is that he said he would register as a Muslim if Trump pushed that policy. So he's a good guy except when Israel come up and then he turns into a bigot. So that's what you call hasbara culture. Mooser calls it ziocaine.

      This has been a great series, Yakov. With more to come.

  • Deborah Lipstadt's double standard on white nationalism and Jewish nationalism
    • "Why on earth would White supremacists be antisemitic?"

      Gosh, yeah, why would idiotic hate-filled people with delusional beliefs about superiority based on skin color be illogical in other ways? I bet that this has never happened in human history, outside all the times when it has.

      Meanwhile, back in the real world, some people who are white supremacists are also Jew haters. These days in America Muslim hating and/or Arab hating is more mainstream and some of these people claim to love Jews and hate Muslims. But that doesn't mean that there aren't any of the old-fashioned variety of Jew haters around.

      "Kindly define exactly what you mean by “anti-Semites” first, or just answer: do you mean plain racism, i.e. directed at an inborn characteristic, or directed at anything acquired, like religion, that is perfectly OK to oppose?"

      It is fine for people to oppose religious beliefs, but people who hate Jews or Muslims and then claim it is because of the religion are still haters. Martin Luther wasn't a racist--he just hated Jews because they didn't convert to Christianity like he thought they would once he came along and presented them with a new and improved version of Christianity. There are people who hate Muslims, but lionize the ones that convert to Christianity.

      I usually see this "Islamophobia isn't racism because Islam isn't a race" coming from people defending Islamophobia. It's both true and misses the point. Bigots are people who hate members of group X. Racism is a subset of bigotry. Antisemites and Islamophobes are very similar in their thinking to racists.

  • Trump aide blows off Zionist gala, and Dershowitz warns that politicizing Israel means 'we could lose'
    • You're right, I think. I just read it and he seemed to be writing in an ironic tone-- he also mentioned what he called the embarrassing fact that Israel worked to prevent Soviet Jews from going to the US. Not exactly what I would expect from a cheerleader.

  • I'm not worried about anti-Semitism
    • On the Kishinev pogrom, I think you might be confusing Phil with one of the commenters, someone whose name I have forgotten. Anyway, I have a mainstream source, Orlando Figes's "A People's Tragedy"' which says on page 81 that contrary to popular belief none of the pogroms in the last years of the Czarist regime were instigated by the government. On the other hand he says the government were slow to restore order, rarely brought pogromists to trial and that this was in part because the government was hostile to Jews. Czar Nicholas II was an antisemite who thought the pogroms were an act of patriotism by the good and simple Russian folk and used widespread antisemitism to bolster his regime. I am paraphrasing from the book.

      Anyway, I don't recall Phil talking about this, but Kishinev came up in comments.

  • Trump is bad because Israeli Jews will love him and US Jews will see it -- NYT columnist
    • Neither of us thinks that it is okay to kill Arab adults. The fact that nearly a quarter of the deaths in Gaza were children, often killed in their homes or that famous beach incident while playing, shows that Israel targeted civilians and were therefore engaged in acts of state terrorism. Your next move-- show how this statement actually shows a devious commitment to Israel's right to use force, if only they would restrict it to Hamas fighters. Wrong again, so let me spare you the effort. Israel is the aggressor. You will therefore have to think of some other argument.

  • New York panel highlights fissures on the left over Syria
  • 'Ruling class' must regard Trump's rise as response to 'ill conceived wars' -- Matthews
    • The depressing thing is that in the mainstream the neocons have won. In DC circles they are back in the drivers seat and the only lesson learned from Iraq is that ordinary Americans have no patience for long wars in which tens of thousands of Americans are killed or wounded. (Wounded make a much higher percentage of American casualties because people who would have died in earlier wars now come back missing limbs or worse.)

      So now they favor air strikes, mercenaries, special forces and so on. They regret Iraq mainly because it made ordinary Americans so skittish about future wars. Vietnam had the same effect and the ruling elite hated this pacifism--they called it the Vietnam syndrome and the Gulf War was supposed to have ended it. They are itching for a way to put Iraq behind them. They see Syria as an opportunity and to some extent Yemen too--Michael Morell wants us to go after Iranian ships allegedly carrying weapons to the Houthis.

  • Jeffrey Goldberg is Jewish
    • If I remember the post you mention I wasn't crazy about it, but it is common for people who come from a given background to rebel against it and maybe say things that are over the top.. For Phil to say such things isn't the same as if I ( a Christian) said them. It would be like me making some derogatory comments about my own background, which in fact I've done and I haven't always been fair. This happens all the time-- during the current campaign people are arguing about whether liberals unfairly stereotype blue collar whites or dwellers in poor rural areas or conservative Christians, but nobody associates these kinds of comments with, say, the Nazis or the Holocaust or 2000 years of antisemitism. Well, probably some people do, but they are being melodramatic. I know I've heard ex Catholics and ex evangelicals and for that matter, ex secularists making broad negative generalizations about their group or former group.

      Rosenberg and presumably the ADL ( I haven't read their statement) aren't trying to give Phil constructive criticism or even doing what you are doing, which I take to be an expression of anger at what you see as Phil being insensitive--Rosenberg is trying to drive Phil out of polite society and utterly discredit this site and everyone associated with it. Do you want to do that?

      Rosenberg himself is an apologist for Israeli war crimes, which I say based on this gushing endorsement of Clinton's apologetics for the Gaza War on Jon Stewart's show--

      http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/179536/watch-hillary-clinton-vs-jon-stewart-on-gaza

      And that's not an accident. The best way to defend the indefensible is to discredit the critics.

  • New statement calls on the movement to focus on Palestine, not divisive internal conflicts
    • Echino--

      Point one. Yes, some of the people in Assad's government who torture and murder dissidents might themselves have family members killed by jihadists. And some jihadists might have had family members killed by the security services. So your response makes no sense except as a blanket excuse for all torturers and murderers.

      Point two--your man, mouse gnat analogy is stupid on two levels. So point two part A--we are talking about humans, not gnats.

      Point two B-- You are just repeating the Keith argument. So the security forces in Syria have the right to torture people because of the greater powers outside.

      Defenders of Israeli atrocities use essentially the same arguments. The names change, but the logic is similar. There is always a set of designated Bad Guys, though of course people use the nice grown up sounding words to cover the essentially childish rationalizations. It boils down to saying that this group with the power to commit war crimes is justified in doing so, because there is this other group over there who are more powerful and are the real villains.

    • Sorry to disappoint again, but I read the Kinzer piece, I've read Beeley, I've read Max B ( who gets it from both sides)' I've read moonofalabama, I read consortiumnews,I listened to the recent interview with the Assad's wife and Ehsani's pieces at Josh Landis's site and another interesting article there about the Druze mobilizing against the rebels and you guys just can't stand the fact that I agree with much of what you say, so it has to be that I am pro liberal interventionist or whatever other horrible thing you can dream up.

      And Keith, you did it again. The Syrian people and the people actually responsible for the bombing of urban areas and the torturing of prisoners and whatever massacres have been conducted by the government side are not the same people. It's quite possible the majority of Syrians prefer Assad--I would take him over the jihadis myself. The natural tendency of all humans in that situation would be to pick the lesser evil. We all do it. It doesn' t mean that there aren't war crimes being committed by Assad's forces. This goes back to Assad senior, and yeah, a long time ago I read Seale's biography of him. He fought against the extremists of his day. But Seale agreed his security forces were ruthless and practiced torture and leveled Hama. The people who actually drop bombs on cities and torture or murder prisoners are not victims.

    • Summarizing, gamal's position appears to be that virtually all the killing of civilians is done by the rebels and Keith thinks that I am psychologicalky incapable of understanding that liberal interventionists are mass murderers and since I am not with Keith, I am really in support of the rebels.

      On point 1, I don't believe it. It goes against the evidence and common sense. The opposite view, which purports that the rebels killed 100,000 armed supporters of the Syrian government and almost no civilians is also extremely hard to believe. But go ahead and ignore that I said that. You always will. And go ahead and label Arabs on the other side as native informers.

      On point 2, Keith trots out a commonplace lefty observation like it's some deep truth lesser mortals can't grasp. Sorry, Keith, but it's obvious. I have noticed, for instance, that the liberal pundit interventionists on Syria have not written a word about the US supported Saudi atrocities in Yemen, where they bomb hospitals and schools and funerals and have created a famine where children die. Of course liberal interventionists are hypocrites. One doesn't need some giant IQ or your amazing ability to see what is invisible to lesser beings what is plain to anyone. And no, I don't support the rebels.

      It must be nice to live in a mental universe where everyone has to fall into one of two categories on any given issue. What do you do with people who don't fit? Why, force them to fit.

    • You guys always do this-- if I am not 100 percent in your corner I must be in the opposite corner. If you aren't with us you are against us. It's convenient but silly.

      I couldn't be plainer. The rebels should not be supported and I agree that there is a foreign goal to either install a pliant government or destroy Syria. Sorry to disappoint, but I also think you can't bomb urban areas and torture people and claim to be a victim. There are war criminals on both sides and it is normal for people involved to become polarized.

      Cockburn wrote an interesting piece

      http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/iraq-syria-aleppo-mosul-patrick-cockburn-propaganda-we-consume-a7373951.html
      I

    • I accept that the US, Turkey, the Saudis and Qatar and others wanted to topple Assad or failing that, use the Syrian War as a quagmire to weaken their enemies, The US apparently hopes Syria will weaken Russupia the way the Afghan conflict weakened the Soviet Union. It is a deeply cynical and immoral policy and the blame for all the deaths does fall heavily on the US and others.

      But blame is not a zero sum game and a government which bombs urban areas is not a "victim". Children killed by bombs are victims.

      "Ultimate blame" is a dodge. Context is absolutely necessary in exposing the hypocrisy of the West in its condemnations of the Syrian government, but it doesn't magically grant that government the right to use whatever tactics it wants to use.

      The Western press and the UN claim that most of the civilian dead were killed by the Syrian government. I suspect there is a massive undercount of civilians killed by the jihadists, but there is little reason to doubt many were killed by the Syrian government itself.

      BTW, is every Syrian or Palestinian who criticizes Assad and thinks he is a war criminal a deluded servant of the empire.?

    • You don't seem to have read the link and you use the tired old cliche that anyone who isn't with you must in fact be an apologist for Western imperialism. This is simply false. Western imperialism is bad for all the reasons you say and even the most naive person, one who imagined our government had humanitarian motives, would, if honest, be forced to admit tha our interventions in the Mideast have been catastrophic for the people involved and this includes Syria. Baroud says that. In fact he goes further and says the US and others want the Syrian war to drag on indefinitely and are not motivated by humanitarian goals at all. So what is your problem with it? Apparently it is the dreaded sin of moral equivalence. I don't think Baroud actually commits that sin, but anyway, I have never seen that phrase used except to downplay or whitewash the atrocities of some faction. Why do this? Why should people use some " overarching reality" as a reason for not noticing that both the Syrian government and its various armed opponents murder civilians? All this does is make it harder to understand what is actually happening.

    • There've been at least three articles about Syria in the past two days on lefty siites condemning the propaganda on both sides of the left. Here is one--

      http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/20/the-many-truths-on-syria-how-our-rivalry-has-destroyed-a-country/

      I suppose the petition avoided Syria for good reason--each left faction on Syria would expect the other left faction to admit it is wrong.

    • Agreed on all counts.

      On Annie's point, I initially thought this was about Max B and Syria. Syria, whatever one's stance, is a massively important issue and people who agree on Palestine disagree on Syria in sometimes complicated ways and get heated over it, just as people get heated over antisemitism, real or alleged. People can sign petitions pledging to put issue X over issue Y-- the issue Z will come along and some will change their minds. Plus every individual case is different. On Syria, for instance, Max B gets it from both sides and he doesn't want to be attacked unfairly as pro Assad, but he gets labeled that by one side and I've seen one person on the other attack him for being dismissive of "marginal websites". Maybe people should play nice because they agree on Palestine even if they disagree on Syria, but they won't, because both issues matter. The same with antisemitism. People will draw lines differently.

      People are now going to argue about the petition and how you regard it will be seen as indicative of whether you are good or bad.

  • 'Beholden to AIPAC' -- progressive senators Warren, Murphy, Brown sign letter seeking to limit Obama's actions
    • That's disappointing, but not surprising, It's an interesting test of the relative strengths of the Israel vs Saudi lobby. The Saudi lobby is strong, but Israel's is stronger.

      Not that I would expect anything good from Obama anyway. The likelihood is that his ideas for peace would be less favorable than what they ought to get even if they were willing to settle for a 2ss. And his parameters would be treated as the ones Palestinians would have to support or be called the enemies of peace, not serious, blah, blah, blah. The US can't be an honest mediator and in a way the Senators accidentally did the Palestinians a favor with this stunt, just by making our bias very plain.

      Not that anyone in the mainstream is paying attention. We are helping the Saudis create mass famine in Yeen and even with 27 senators they can barely get any attention. It's a back page story. Just babies dying in a war conducted with with American weapons-- nothing to see here.

  • Marc Lynch warns against the U.S. escalation in Syria
    • If you google this subject you do find evidence Assad is more popular than any rebel faction.
      I don't know how accurate such polls will be for the reasons you mention-- civil war, torture chambers, etc.... But if people perceive it as a choice between a secular regime that leaves you alone if you don't protest vs. a group consisting of murderous fanatics then it seems plausible many people would see Assad as the less bad choice.

      Also, as one article I read pointed out, obviously Assad bombs the rebel areas, not the areas he controls. People in the government held areas would have less reason to hate him and would fear the jihadis,who shell their towns, while people in the rebel areas who are starved or bombed or shelled by the Syrian military are more likely to hate him, or leave the country if they can.

      The ORB poll Annie cited sounds like the sort of thing you'd see in a civil war as opposed to a war where it is the regime vs all the people. According to that poll, the people are split.

    • " The violence in Syria is a direct consequence of imperial interference, period."

      Correct except for the period.

      What you are doing there is forcing the world into an ideological box. In this case, yes, the Syrian civil war is a direct consequence of Western interference. The box is where you say " period". It evidently upsets you and many others when people acknowledge the extreme brutality of the Syrian government. They are the lesser evil compared to jihadists, but they torture and murder civilians and anyone with even a drop of common sense knows this is bound to create some support for the rebels. There is no reason why people can't acknowledge this.

      On a purely pragmatic level,you hurt your own case. People who have read news accounts of how various groups condemn the Syrian government's bombing and shelling of civilian areas, their attacks on medical facilities, and their use of torture and disappearances are likely to dismiss your legitimate points if they read someone defending these tactics as necessary, or not acknowledging that they happen. The Western left has a history of doing this sort of thing, discrediting the legitimate critique of Western violence with apologetics for some other group's atrocities. The debate then becomes one of competing atrocity deniers.

      Call my view liberalism if you want. It's not a view you commonly find in mainstream liberal publications these days.

    • Thanks. We need but won't get a press corps that could be this straightforward in its analysis of the situation. You acknowledge the brutality of the regime while also pointing out the obvious-- outside forces have kept this war going.

      In fairness to Coll's New Yorker piece, he did have a sentence or two about the rebels shelling civilian areas, obviously meaning to sow terror, plus he also mentions the alliance between the " moderates" and Al Qaeda. But several paragraphs later Coll seems to have forgotten what he had written and regrets that we haven't supplied the rebels with more weapons in the passage you cited.

      As for the foreign policy establishment, they make their living advocating for war. At one time I thought that was a bit simpleminded but that was faux sophistication. There are enthusiastic partisans amongst ordinary people who might swallow the liberal humanitarian argument, but the think tank world provides cushy jobs for people who say we need to spend billions bringing democracy to benighted foreigners.

  • Syrian death tolls and the kinder gentler jihadists
    • I can't shut up. I'll take one more shot.

      The post was largely about the sins of intervention. Actually, more about the lack of analysis by the press, but both. And now you are reduced to complaining that I mentioned Assad but not Clinton or Obama by name, knowing full well I agree that the US has the blood of countless people on its hands.

      The individuals are secondary. It's the state and the forces which support it which tend to behave the same way with some variations depending on who is in charge. I use Assad's name as shorthand for the Syrian government.

      I don't trust the mainstream press to tell the full truth about Syria, but I also don't trust those on the left who have some ideological need to whitewash the crimes of whoever the US opposes. It'd be better if everyone just told the truth as best as we can determine it and in Syria, the evidence is that all factions are committing war crimes.

    • Phil complained that Clinton didn't protest when Bahrain crushed its dissenters. In your universe " protest" must mean air strikes and supplying weapons to rebels to overthrow the government.

      Alternatively, you are trolling and you know it.

    • Obama and Clinton are war criminals. That was implied when I mentioned how liberal humanitarians talk about Syria, but not about Yemen.

      Incapable of understanding? This stuff is extremely easy to understand-- two wrongs don't make a right. I have no idea how many times I have talked about US war crimes just at this blog. And responsibility falls on more than one group here. The US is responsible for sowing chaos across the region and the various actors are responsible for whatever crimes they commit.

      And when governments torture prisoners they aren't doing it for survival, any more than the US is doing it to save lives when it tortures. Again, the Syrian government is helping recruit for the rebels when they massacre civilians and torture people. And when you say the rebels are all imperial mercenaries, how do you know this? All of them? There aren't any Syrians filled with rage because the government torture or killed members of their family?

      What drove me to write this piece is that I think most of what I read about Syria is propaganda from the liberal humanitarian impulse to bomb our enemies and ignore our own guilt. But there is no obligation to pretend the Syrian government is innocent, because it isn't.

      I imagine you'll have a response. I probably won't.

    • http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/IICISyria/Pages/IndependentInternationalCommission.aspx

      The abduction and torture and murder of people are not legitimate tactics. If anything, it has probably contributed to support for the rebels or the eagerness of people not to fight for the government, but to leave. Are we really supposed to dismiss all the claims of Syrian victims of the government? If you or a family member were abducted by the government and taken away to be tortured or killed, would you accept that it was all in a good cause?

      As for propaganda, you have it backwards. It's always the propagandists who get agitated and upset when someone talks about the atrocities of both sides ( or all sides in the case of Syria, since there are more than two). A propagandist knows that only one side commits crimes-- the other side, the good guys, chose not to be bound by some prissy set of rules.

      I've never understood this. There is no logical reason whatsoever why in condemning Western violence you have to pick some opposing side and defend their atrocities instead. There's no rule anywhere that says you gotta pick some faction and pretend their sh-t doesn't stink.

    • This is just trolling. Link to someone urging that the US intervene in Bahrain with air strikes or by training and arming rebels.

    • Yes, whataboutery. Part of my post is about how intervention has made the Syrian war drag on and therefore made the death toll skyrocket, but since I also criticized Assad this makes me an apologist for empire in your eyes. Nobody has a right to torture or murder civilians even if the other side started the war.

    • Btw, apart from moral comparisons , I had another reason for mentioning Gaza. Afaik in the modern era when conventional militaries go up against lightly armed guerillas the guerillas usually lose more men. Lots more. Qualifying everything I say because I am not an expert, but this is largely due to the difference in firepower. Conventional forces have tanks, heavy artillery, and planes. This was true, I think, with the US in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Soviets in Afghanistan, the French in Algeria, and the IDF in Gaza. The guerilla side lost more armed combatants in all those cases. If they win, it's because the conventional force is an occupier and occupiers often lose the will to maintain the occupation for whatever reason. ( In Gaza, Israel wasn't planning to stay and mostly maintains the blockade from the outside.)

      In Syria, if you believe the numbers, this hasn't been happening. Which is strange and suggests either the numbers are wrong or the rebels have massive amounts of aid or both.

      Getting back to morality, on the Saudis and Yemen, I agree. It's disgraceful that the US is helping the Saudis commit war crimes there.

    • The US supports tyrants which are on its side. Nobody who was critical of Clinton suggested bombing Bahrain or supplying weapons to insurgents, so your comparison is silly.

      Now otoh in Yemen we are supplying weapons to the Saudis as they work hard at bombing hospitals and creating a gigantic humanitarian crisis, which shows how hypocritical the liberal humanitarians like Clinton, Kristof, and Cohen are, but you say nothing about that.

    • I agree the I/P death toll is much lower, but it is still valid to compare tactics. The Gaza War only lasted several weeks and in a population of 2 million they killed over 2000 people while leveling I forget how many buildings.

      If Israel were facing a genuine threat to its survival do you honestly think they'd fight any cleaner than Assad? I think the Gaza War gives the answer-- faced with a vastly smaller threat ( largely their fault, but set the blame question aside) they bombed and shelled and fired at civilians. If outside forces supplied Islamic jihad with weapons and men and the war dragged on for years, what do you think the toll would be on both sides?

    • Massacring civilians and torturing people is a war crime. And whataboutery is as stupid in this context as in every other.

      One other point-- if you actually read the piece you'll notice that it's not a defense of intervention. Part of the point which was, surprisingly enough, made in the NYT, is outside intervention is precisely why the war has lasted so long and been so bloody.

    • Thanks. That's interesting. I haven't read much ( if anything at all) from that pov.

    • Your comment has no bearing on anything I wrote. Bahrain wasn't mentioned-- you should have whatever argument you wish to have on that someplace else. And while Assad is a war criminal, the Max Fisher piece in the NYT made it clear that outside intervention on both sides is why the war drags on and why the death toll is so high.

  • 'NYT' and Sen. Murphy have a double standard on Yemen and Gaza slaughters
    • This is true-- the NYT has a double standard. But I am glad somebody somewhere in the US is saying something about Yemen, because it is arguably the worst thing the US is doing right now-- supporting Saudi Arabia as it commits war crimes and brings millions to the brink of famine.

      http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/yemen-the-worst-humanitarian-crisis-in-the-world/

      Larison has been writing about this for a year or so now and virtually no one else says anything about it. Yeah, Murphy and Paul have condemned it and now the NYT, but since this is Obama's own crime and can't be blamed on Republicans the Democrats basically say nothing.

      This is one of the rare times in its generally worthless existence where the NYT editorial section did something right.

  • Chosen indeed: all 7 letters run by 'NYT' on Mideast article are by Jews
    • I wasn't talking about how it is seen on campuses--I was talking about how the NYT frames the issue. For the NYT, anti-semitism is the only kind of bigotry that exists on this subject or the only type worth writing about. I probably could have been clearer, but obviously I wasn't talking about campus activists in general. (Though pro-Israel activists who see BDS as anti-Semitic would fit the description.)

    • Part of what is happening here is that Overton window thing. On this subject, the campus debates are always framed in terms of anti- semitism being the only conceivable form of bigotry that matters. The notion that supporters of Israel might be manifesting anti- Palestinian bigotry is nowhere in this frame. So you start the discussion by completely wiping out any mention of pro- Israeli anti-Palestinian racism and then you talk about the pro- Palestinian side as guilty until proven innocent of anti- semitism. And then to top it off you only have Jews discussing whether anyone is being anti- Semitic. But that's after the issue has been carefully framed.

      I am trying to imagine a NYT piece about this exact issue with the opposite bias, where anti- Arab or anti- Palestinian or anti-Muslim bigotry were the only forms of bigotry being discussed, and where the only letters published were written by Palestinian-Americans with one from a PA official. It wouldn't happen. The very notion that the pro- Israel side might have a bigotry problem would be incomprehensible to a NYT editor.

      Or anyway, they seem to act like it.

  • Israeli settler leader, rejected by Brazil, gets warm welcome in New York
    • That argument would work better if Hamas officials could visit the US and talk with people with whom they disagree.

      And anyway, the disagreement is all kabuki theater. Israel will continue to get billions in aid, so why should they care if Jane Eisner politely disagrees with settlement building?

    • This doesn't seem over the top to me. I agree that over the top rhetoric can backfire, but even liberal Zionist supporters of a 2ss would have to agree the settlements are a violation of international law and a huge obstacle to the 2ss.

  • Jewish organizations' response to Black Lives Matter platform demonstrates inability to engage with reality in Israel
    • So I got my copy of Figes's book on Russia from 1891-1924 "A People's Tragedy" and on page81 he agrees that contrary to popular myth, the Russian government never organized pogroms. He just says the authorities rarely brought pogromists to trial,because of their hostility to Jews. On page 197, regarding the pogrom in Odessa in 1905, he says,citing an investigation by Witte that the police were heavily involved and when Witte tried to prosecute the police chief, the Tsar intervened. The Tsar was pleased with the pogroms and thought they were the result of the people's righteous anger with troublemakers who he thought were mostly Jews. Figes also mentions how the police headquarters in St. Petersburg was putting out pamphlets blaming Jews for ruining the country and calling on the people to kill them. The Minister of the Interior subsidized these pamphlets.

      I don't read Russian. Maybe Figes made all this up.

    • From what I've read, it does seem like the Russian pogroms ought to qualify as genocide in the legal definition, since sometimes officials participated and the pogromists were treated very lightly by the government. I remember reading that after the 1905 pogroms the Tsar thought they were the result of honest citizen outrage. He didn't plan the pogroms, but approved of them. Mob violence by Arabs against Jews might also qualify if there is some government sympathy or support for the violence. But I'm not a lawyer. Still, morally speaking to me the Russian treatment of Jews in the Czarist era is on a similar moral level to Israeli treatment of Palestinians and maybe that's an analogy people should use more often.

      I also agree that there is a legal and a " street" definition of genocide, the latter restricting it to acts of mass murder intended to wipe out much or all of some group. As for whether it does good or harm using the word in the I-P case, I don't know. It depends on how it comes across to people not yet committed to one side or the other. Personally I stick to words like " apartheid", " war crimes", and " ethnic cleansing" because the street definition fits Israel's behavior.

  • The 'New York Times' is dead set on marginalizing Jewish anti-Zionism
    • There are such things as secular Jews, seeing that there are people who identify as Jewish and are secular.

      People have all kinds of identities and don't have to fit into categories that others approve.

  • Democratic Party consultant asked about Palestinian rights: 'Not my problem'
    • Actually, I don't want to make fun of Stein voters. I was just annoyed by echino. People should vote in whatever way they think will do the most good or least harm.

    • All choices are bad here. Trump is a maniac. Stein can't win, not without an army of magic voters transported to the polls by chariots pulled by unicorns.

      I'm snarking here because you have said precisely nothing useful. You are ranting online under an anonymous name, which should bring the evil empire down any day.

      This is fun. Useless, but fun.

    • Personally I think we can do more than one thing at a time. I hope Trump loses and will vote accordingly, but will continue to point out Clinton's flaws. ( I could put it much more harshly, but am trying not to go into full rant mode.)

      One problem with politics is that people often think you have to toss rationality out , join a team, and engage in nothing but propaganda for the team until victory is won. I'm not sure how well this works with people who aren't yet on one side or the other. It seems more like a way of rousing the faithful.

      There are at least some people who get turned off by this behavior. They don't trust the cheerleaders because they know the cheerleaders are only telling as much of the truth as helps their side. It might actually be more effective to say one supports a candidate because of issues A,B, and C, but the candidate is bad on these other issues. Others could urge voting for a third party and give those reasons. The point being that it would be better if as many people as possible were as honest as they can manage to be and acknowledged the flaws in whatever candidate they choose to support.

      A few people do this to some degree, but mostly what we have is a lot of what I am politely calling cheerleading. And consequently we all have our favorite sources of information and we automatically dismiss what others are saying. This election worries me because I think the country as a whole is getting more and more tribal. The Trump side is worse, IMO, but the Clintonites scares me too ( centrist liberals are not nearly as connected to reality as they seem to think) and I don't think third party voting does much good, though given where I live I might do a protest vote, depending on what the polls say.

    • It obviously is our problem since our politicians treat Israel as the 51st state and we fund a lot of this crap.

  • The sensitive Zionist -- a review of Natalie Portman's new film
    • Jon s, you just endorsed a one state solution with equal rights for both sides when you say that you are living in your homeland, which is also the Palestinian homeland. I assume you did that inadvertently , but if you really meant it, great.

  • 'Does he believe in a God'? -- DNC leaders wanted to undermine Sanders
    • Having Trump's first name is a bit of an annoyance. I sometimes see someone say something nasty about "Donald " in a thread and ( usually) after a second realize they weren't talking about me. It's not that common a name. I used to get Melanie Griffiths references.

      As for the comment section, most of them at most blogs are pretty tribal. Even if you are in agreement on most things, step outside the box and you will be attacked. Someone lashed out at me at another blog recently. It's irritating. You either develop a thick skin or you do a lot of lurking.

      I'm slightly puzzled at Clinton's popularity with so many black voters , though I have read it's partly a generational thing. I sort of maybe understand it, but am not sure. So much of what goes on under the name of analysis online and in the press is just partisan character assassination, so it's hard to sift out what makes sense and what doesn't.

    • "So grow up" has a kind of sputtering sound to it. Let me try. So grow up, Yonah. See? Now there's saliva all over my IPad.

      Okay, on to substance. One thing I learned from the Internet is that there are people who take party loyalty seriously, for reasons that seem more connected to the iron law of institutions ( google it) than for any sensible reason. Politics should matter to people because of the issues, not because of when someone joined a party. Sanders did exactly what all the Nader bashers said people should do if they want to pull the party to the left. He ran as a Democrat and pledged to support the winner and is doing so and yet he was still treated as a pariah.

      I would actually have more respect for the DNC people if they favored Clinton because they preferred her stance on issues, repulsive as some of those stances are. If it was based on how long she was part of the party compared to Sanders, that's got a high school flavor to it. Anyway, Sanders is trying to start a movement to get progressive Dems in office, which party types should welcome unless they are conservative DLC types.

      Agreed about Trump. I hope he loses, but things are going to get real interesting if he wins.

  • The iron law of institutions versus Bernie Sanders
    • Nothing to disagree with there. I have seen someone somewhere mention that Sunday voting idea, but it doesn't seem to have caught on. No doubt the Republicans would find some way to say it's unamerican, though I'm not imaginative enough to predict how. But it does seem like an easy way to increase turnout.

  • New York Times's breathless story on landing interview with Netanyahu reads like 'the Onion' on crack
    • You captured this perfectly. I'd like to say you're a comedic genius, but honestly, Jeffrey Gettleman did virtually all the work here. I wasn't laughing out loud, as we denizens of the internet are often found doing, but there was a big smile on my face the whole way through the original article. Who could possibly write this crap and mean it?

      This guy is wasted at the NYT. As you say, the Onion is where this stuff belongs--you'd hardly have to change a word.

  • Hillary Clinton has a decision to make
    • Good idea.

    • So much for silamcuz the alleged hater of Western imperialism, here the defender of Clinton, the friend of Kissinger, defender of Israeli war crimes, supporter of the invasion of Iraq.

      Some of your posts make sense and others, like this one, are incoherent nonsense. I'd wonder if this was intentional except I don't really care that much.

      Yakov's post was great. If anything he's a bit too generous to Clinton, who in my opinion supports Israel because she genuinely thinks the way many Israel defenders think--we should be bombing the Other because we are the good guys, they are the bad guys and if innocents die it's all their fault.

  • Ozick says Obama needs 6-volume history of Jews on his bedside table
    • I'm not a fan of Wiesel, but people are complicated. He was a Holocaust survivor, so, yeah, I think he really did care about antisemitism. You have to imagine him as some sort of demon to think he didn't. It was wrong that he became a tribalist and said horrible racist things about Palestinians and he wasn't a saint or conscience of the world, but " gilded cage" is something I'd use about some jackass born in the US who has never experienced one second of actual oppression, not someone who lived through the Holocaust.

    • Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor and Ozick's family immigrated to America to escape pogroms, so if I want to use understatement I'd say it would be natural for them to be concerned about antisemitism. I can't see how one could blame them for that. ( More understatement). The problem is their bigotry towards Palestinians and their unwillingness to recognize that any oppressed group can become oppressors.

      But the bigger problem is that people like Wiesel and Ozick are held up as moral gurus when they were/ are bigoted against Palestinians.

  • Mainstream obits for Wiesel offer barely an asterisk for his intolerant views of Palestinians
  • Israel-splaining
    • I'm late to commenting on my own post (I was out of town), but your comment captures exactly the main points we are trying to make. The anti-Palestinian rights movement is implicitly racist and it's long past time for people to be pointing this out. You said it better than we did.

  • Clinton's 'infatuation with war' and neoconservatism stirs misgivings on the left
    • Yes. It was in emails. All of my pieces here start out as rants emailed to Phil. They start off along the lines of " Can you believe this crap I just read? " and then argue for why I think it sucks.

  • Netanyahu agonistes
    • "Stay tuned..."

      That sounds good. Someone needs to do it.

    • That's what is interesting about this-- even the war criminals are getting worried. Of course that doesn't mean that if the centrist war criminals get back in power things will end happily. Up till now when centrist or " liberal" Israelis were in power it put a kinder gentler face on apartheid, but with the younger liberal generation in the US maybe that will stop working.

      I'm hedging because I don't know.

    • Funny because it's the literal truth.

  • American Jewish identity: Moving beyond 'love for Israel' and the Holocaust
    • "American support for Israel isn't just about Jews..."

      Among Christians it's two things. First a lot of Christians after WWII finally acknowledged the harm done by centuries of Christian antisemitism and atoned for their sins ( or the sins of their ancestors) by throwing the Palestinians under the bus. It's more complicated than that, but that'll do as a summary. Tied in with this is the fear of being called antisemitic if you criticize Israel.

      Second, the believers in an imminent Second Coming usually also think that God wants them to support Israel no matter what, so guess who gets thrown under the bus?

      Actually, I should mention a third-- Islamophobia and/or prejudice against Arabs. But that's implied in the first two.

  • 'Boycott' Israel over J'lem prayer rules, but 'work' against occupation -- Forward's double standard
    • She knows her audience. The commenters ( I think there were one or two exceptions) either rejected option 5 or thought it not worth mentioning.

  • Dennis Ross tells American Jews, 'We need to be advocates for Israel' -- and not for Palestinians
    • I don't know much about Yaalon and maybe he is a cynical jerk or even a war criminal, but if so, it is all the more significant that someone like that is taking this position. It doesn't mean he can be trusted, but it does show that people in the Israeli mainstream are scared of where things are heading. Even if he is a total cynic he realizes that what he is saying now may well resonate with some Israelis.

      If there is going to be change there it's going to involve Israeli equivalents to DeClerk ( I probably misspelled the name).

    • Blaming Clinton first seems fair, but that doesn't mean Ross didn't play a secondary role. Clearly Miller was blaming himself and other American diplomats.

  • Michael Lerner brings down the house at Muhammad Ali funeral by standing up for Palestinians and against Netanyahu
    • I've always liked Lerner-- he's obviously a decent guy who really does want a fair and just solution for everyone. He genuinely hates violence. I can say this without necessarily agreeing with him about everything. If Palestinians are willing to support a 2ss, that's fine with me, but it isn't my choice or Lerner's to make.

  • Please boycott us, Governor Cuomo
    • Hophm, like other people who say BDS is antisemitic, is a bigot without knowing it. He thinks that a standard nonviolent method that people use to fight for basic human rights is bigoted when used to fight for Palestinian rights. Hophmi only sees the Israelis as fully deserving of human rights and not Palestinians. He would probably defend Israel's draconian blockade on Gaza, but not a much less stringent boycott of Israeli companies.

  • PEN director praises Charlie Hebdo's courage, then suggests BDS makes students feel 'isolated, vulnerable, threatened'
    • I think you're right. She was asked about BDS and dodged the question by changing the subject.

  • Huffpo writer expresses bigotry against Palestinians by equating battle for equal rights and anti-Semitism
    • Phil and I both signed the piece.

      The three demands of the BDS movement are for an end to the occupation, equal rights for Palestinians and the right of return. That doesn't sound like some zero sum solution where one side wins and one side loses. Zionists hear a demand for equality as a demand for their subordination and/or expulsion. I don't think it is helpful to say this is correct, because it isn't.

    • The problem with her piece is that she is mixing up different things ranging from clear cut examples of antisemitism on the one hand and support for a 1ss on the other. In the latter case she is revealing her own unconscious bigotry. In- between you have college students allegedly being crude and uncivil, which is wrong, but without more detail I don't know if it is antisemitism. It's not unusual for college activists to use overheated rhetoric on all sorts of issues-- a friend of mine was telling me just the other day what some student speakers said about their own college president during a graduation ceremony and it wasn't pretty. ( In that case the administration was allegedly sexist and racist). And if the people being yelled at actually defend Israeli policies then it's not that overheated, though personally I wish people on both sides would stop using Nazi references.

  • Clinton forces dig in against changes to Democratic platform on Israel
  • Top donor to Clinton super PAC is Haim Saban
    • "When an Arab regime kills 300,000 people"

      Look, I know you don't mean it this way, but that's apologetics for Islamic jihadists. The fact is that the regime isn't doing all the killing--the rebels are also killing a massive number of people. It's a civil war with outsiders supplying help and/ or weapons to both sides-- the death toll is extremely high precisely because of the outside help for the rebels. On the rebel side you have the Saudis and others, including the US and evidently Israel's interests are a big factor. No, that doesn't mean it is all Israel's fault, as obviously quite a few outside groups have an interest in this war.

  • 'NYT' blames Hamas for civilian deaths in front-page article that sounds like Hillary Clinton
    • It's possible that people in Gaza don't like Hamas. My impression was they stood behind them during the 2014 slaughter, hoping that the Israelis would lift the blockade. They might be tired of them now-- do you have links to any sort of poll?

      Personally I have no stake in any Palestinian group-- I just want the NYT to stop writing apologetics for the Israelis. And I know one of the reporters used to be an activist. It's irrelevant. The NYT has a fairly consistent bias-- how Hadid reconciles her convictions with her job is her problem.

    • I read the link, but I need to read it again, as there is a lot there. I "approve" of the paragraph you quote. It doesn't matter, though, as I mentioned my personal feelings mainly because many people seem to think that facts should only be reported if they support their views.

      The NYT and others should report what Hamas is doing and what various Palestinians think about it because that's what a newspaper should do. If most Palestinians support the tunnel building they should report this. If some don't they should report that as well. .They should also report what Israel does, but for the most part they don't. They choose to highlight those facts which in their mind justify Israel when it kills civilians. That's what I wrote about.

      You clearly want to have an argument with me about Hamas, resistance and so forth. I don't, but I will write a few lines. Palestinians are the victims here and the Israelis are the aggressors, so Palestinians have the right to use violence to overthrow their oppressors. However, it hasn't worked for them. Frankly, if they could win their freedom with tunnels and rockets then they will do it and criticism would be silly. There's not a people on earth that wouldn't fire rockets and build tunnels if it would enable them to win their freedom. Since they are unlikely to win this way, it seems like a waste of effort and lives. Nonviolent protest hasn't worked either, which is why I don't feel like arguing about this.

    • I am responding in advance to someone who might accuse me of only being angry because I must allegedly support Hamas. The point is that if the NYT wishes to write about the plight of Palestinian civilians in an objective way, they would write about Gazan fishermen being shot, protestors being shot, hundreds of children killed in their homes and yes, if Hamas digs tunnels in densely populated neighborhoods then they should write about that too. They don't do this. The only time I can remember them reporting an Israeli action in harsh unalloyed terms was when the boys were killed on the beach, and that piece was written by a photographer who was there, not one of their usual reporters.

      What they generally do is report some fraction of Israeli brutality when it happens, usually closely accompanied by Israeli rationalizations and then when referring to the war later on they adopt the Israeli viewpoint as a summary of what happened. So the message is that Israeli actions are justified. This piece went on the front page because it had the right message.

  • Clinton campaign is 'nervous' Sanders will push 'divisive' battle over Democratic platform on Israel
    • It's moronic to hold the position that public criticism of Israel is counterproductive. Unless the Israelis are such pathetic narcissists one shouldn't say one word in public that might upset them, a rule we do not follow for other countries. And anyone who is serious about a 2ss should have been criticizing the Israelis for decades now. If, of course, someone only pretends to support a2ss as a kind of fig leaf than that's different. You say you support it, give Israel everything it wants, and settlements continue to grow. it's worked so far.

  • Michael Ratner was dedicated to radical social change, with humor and humility
    • Rather was a great man.

      I am also puzzled by that Syria article yesterday. So far as I can tell, both Assad and the various rebel factions are murderers. The idea as proposed by those writers that if only the US had given more support to the FSA then things would have been over in months is so stupid I can't imagine how anyone could really believe it. Do people just not pay any attention at all to the actual record of these proxy wars? Anyway, the rebels of all factions have received a lot of aid, and the jihadists have successfully killed tens of thousands of Syrian soldiers. So obviously killing that many wasn't enough to win. How many more would need to be killed? How many more civilians would die? What are the jihadis doing when our fantasy super rebels have defeated Assad and now try to usher in a magical world of human rights and puppies for everyone?

  • 'Either Assad or we'll burn the country' - An excerpt from 'Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War' (Update)
    • I mostly agree with this, but I was also disturbed by the one sided nature of this article. That is, I accept that the Syrian government is guilty of massive war crimes and so is the opposition. I don't believe in the fairy tale that if only we had intervened more the war would have only lasted months-- in fact, this seems insane. It is the sort of thing Clinton would say.

      It would be good to read a piece which told the truth about the war crimes of all factions, but not another one of these Clinton style pro- intervention pieces. In this case, MW actually sank below the level of the NYT which recently ran an honest piece by Declan Walsh describing the war crimes in Aleppo by all sides.

  • Calling Israel a 'modern day miracle' and 'vibrant bloom in desert,' Clinton says BDS is anti-Semitic
    • Phil, it's not just absurd and wrong-- it's racist. A blanket accusation of racism against BDS is nakedly racist. This has to be said over and over again until people get the point. Currently we have the Orwellian situation where an utterly cynical liberal politician panders to bigots by making a racist charge of antisemitism and we allow them to frame the issue, where BDS advocates have to defend themselves. .

  • A new proposal for confederated states (without any idea of how to get Israel to comply)
    • Without necessarily agreeing with every word, that was a very good comment. Really more the kind of thing that should be a front page article, to stir discussion.

  • Anti-Semitism is considered a serious moral failing. But no one calls out anti-Palestinian bigotry
    • Clinton characterized the entire BDS movement as antisemitic. Which is nonsense, except on the assumption that Palestinians are inferior beings and so the only motivation for boycotts must be antisemitism.

    • Your usual kneejerk response. But if you actually thought about it you'd realize you are being self contradictory. College campuses are hardly representative of what one hears in the mainstream press or from politicians and normally you'd be the first to point this out-- you would claim that what campus activists say is not representative of the larger society.

      And no, Islamophobia isn't the same. Clinton calls out Trump's Islamophobia. Most liberals and the remaining conservatives with some sense of decency do the same-- that is, they do not approve of bigotry against American Muslims. That's true of you too. But Palestinians are a different matter-- Clinton just assumes she can make a blanket antisemitic accusation against pro Palestinian activists and not be condemned as a bigot.

  • Advice to British leftwingers on kicking racism out of their anti-Israel rhetoric
    • I agree with most of this. Point 1 is right-- there are way too many Nazi comparisons in politics and on this issue by both sides. It isn't antisemitic, usually. It's just people in an argument going over the top.

      On point 2, I think people are getting stuck on his " it's both" statement and not reading his explanation. He clearly doesn't think Zionists had the right to expel Palestinians -- I don't think he is just saying that the impulse behind Zionism wasn't racist, but to establish a place where Jews could live in peace. Theoretically this could have been done in some peaceful way without expelling anyone. Maybe. But anyway, given the history of antisemitism I think Cohen is only arguing that Zionism was an understandable reaction, and not defending how it actually ended out working.

      On point 3 he seems to be saying that hard working lobbyists did have an effect in creating an anti- Palestinian bias, but we shouldn't use terms like Zionist conspiracy. Fine with me. I'd rather hear details about how the influence works than use nebulous paranoid sounding terms.

  • Jeffrey Goldberg terrorizes peers into silence over his daily intellectual and moral outrages
  • Norman Finkelstein on Sanders, the first intifada, BDS, and ten years of unemployment
    • I can understand part of what Norman is arguing within an American context. I don't think Palestinians need pay any attention to what Americans will be comfortable with regarding 1ss vs 2ss. But I suspect he is right that many (most?) Americans probably think a 2ss is fair. A friend of mine ,not a close one so I didn't know he was interested in this issue, was angrily denouncing the shooting of the wounded Palestinian--this was in a conversation a few weeks ago. He brought it up. He also despised Hillary's AIPAC speech. But he clearly supported a 2ss, so for people like him Norman might be right.

      OTOH, Norman's claim that we shouldn't emphasize the longer history seems wrong to me. You pretty much have to or it is used against Palestinians. I have repeatedly seen pro Israel types online claim that Palestinian hostility is caused by antisemitism and not by the occupation because the hostility and terrorist attacks occurred before 67. It is hard to believe that the people making these claims are this ignorant, but I think they are. I also know someone who thought herself well-informed who knew about the killings of Jews by Palestinians in the 20's, but clearly knew nothing about any Jewish massacre of Palestinians in the 40's besides Deir Yassin. So if you don't talk about the older history a lot of pro Israel half truths will be believed as whole truths.

    • I'm sure he'd be against corporate control as well-- he is a pal of Chomsky. He wasn't giving his full view on political philosophy, just making his " I'm a pragmatist" pitch by pointing out that his ideal world is very far away from current reality.

      Not disagreeing with what you said here-- I just don't think Finkelstein would disagree either.

      This was a reply to Keith, but I think I stuck it in the wrong spot.

  • When 'Broad City' Went On Birthright, and taught us all a lesson about American Jews and Israel
    • I read the script of the movie we argued about and as I expected its politics were accurately described by the numerous critics-- I was even familiar with many of the incidents in the film. And on the politics, Asad AbuKhalil was right. That's all I cared about. I could explain that ten more times and it wouldn't matter.

      In this case I've said nothing about the show except to point out the inane nature of your criticism of this post. This blog could be about all sorts of other things, but when we wander off the main purpose it is usually to talk about something related--US foreign policy or racism, Syria, etc... There is no reason to see it become a place where the characters in your favorite shows are given a deep analysis, but you seem to think you are scoring a point with this. You are sometimes unfairly attacked here, I think, but you also write some silly churlish comments.

    • He could up the ante by talking about complicated nuance. That would set us all back on our heels.

    • "fact that mw publishes a post that adds zero insight into the characters of abby and ilana and focuses on anti zionism is utterly predictable. "

      The fact that a blog which is about Israeli oppression of the Palestinians and is anti-Zionist would publish a piece about a sitcom episode in terms of its anti-zionism is utterly predictable because it is what the blog is about. This point you're making isn't as devastating as you seem to think. In fact, it's rather a head scratcher as to why you think it's a point at all.

      I'm sure there are other places online where you could read about the characters on your favorite TV shows.

  • Donna Edwards's campaign unsettles the Israel lobby inside the Democratic Party
    • I know people on both sides are using that Tea party comparison, but I'd be careful about accepting it. It's already being used by Clintonites to discredit people to their left as fanatics.

  • Clinton will hold fundraiser in Tel Aviv
  • Obama's November surprise
    • What Hophmi is trying to say is that Clinton won, so the Palestinians can go frack themselves. As far as American politics goes, he's right.

    • I don't pretend to know why so many black and hispanic voters like Clinton, but they've been her chief source of strength. And in general, there may not be that many voters who would vote against her and for Sanders on this issue, or rather, the people who would vote for Sanders on this issue were probably voting for him on others as well.

      In general, American elections don't seem to hinge very much on what terrible things we do to other people. Lots of Democrats claimed to be outraged by the Bush invasion of Iraq. War crime, crime against humanity, worst blunder in US foreign policy history, etc... And who is the likely Democratic nominee? The great foreign policy wonk who supported the Iraq War.

  • 'Forward' columnist and Emily's List leader relate 'gigantic,' 'shocking' role of Jewish Democratic donors
    • Hophmi is usually wrong, but in the last couple of days I've agreed with him on two things, not because of his basic position but because people go too far.

      I've sort of given up on this, but the Nazi/Holocaust analogies are over the top. And the problem is that they aren't the sort of comparisons that will get people to see how bad Israel is. Because they are exaggerated, they are more likely to chase people away. When I talk to friends in real life about Israel, I talk about the bombing of homes in Gaza and the shooting and indiscriminate firepower used and fishermen shot and so on and I know I can back it all up. If I started making Holocaust analogies I think they'd write me off as a lunatic.

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