Commenter Profile

Total number of comments: 109 (since 2009-08-30 18:30:00)

Jerome Slater

Jerome Slater is a professor (emeritus) of political science and now a University Research Scholar at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has taught and written about U.S. foreign policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for nearly 50 years, both for professional journals (such as International Security, Security Studies, and Political Science Quarterly) and for many general periodicals. He writes foreign policy columns for the Sunday Viewpoints section of the Buffalo News. And his website it www.jeromeslater.com.

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  • Nicholas Kristof on how to end the Israel/Palestine conflict
    • Donald,
      I also noticed the editorial. For as long as I remember, the editorials in the NY Times have been inept, and not just those on the I-P conflict. It's exactly as you say, if you want to understand an issue, NY Times editorials are not where you would look. Who takes them seriously? In that case, why bother to take them on?

      JS

  • Simon Schama's Israel whitewash
    • W. Jones: You are right in questioning the ratio figures. Assuming that the figures are right--other estimates appear to differ somewhat--in order to assure an 80% Jewish majority, it would have been necessary to "transfer" about 300,000 Palestinians, not 220,000. Of course, there is nothing sacrosanct about 80%--I chose that number because that's what Ben-Gurion thought had to be the goal. The larger point is that if violence had been avoided and the "transfer" done by generous recompensation, the injustice to the Palestinians would have been far less, and there would no longer be a "right of return" issue that has bedeviled the conflict since 1948.

      And just to drive home my larger point: regardless of the justification for the creation of a Jewish state in 1948, if massive violence had been the only way to do it, then the creation of Israel could not be justified.

      As for achieving the same ratio by Jewish immigration into the original boundaries as established by the UN, that possibility was no longer feasible after the expansion of Israel in the 1948 war. Also, note that the 80% Jewish majority that resulted from the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians has essentially not changed, despite the later immigration into Israel of millions (? I don't know the exact number) of Jews. I'm not sure why this has been the case--it might simply be that the Palestinian birthrate was higher than the Jewish birthrate, thus cancelling out the Jewish immigration.

    • W. Jones says: "I am also seeing if I can get J.Slater to reconsider his views about transferring the native population out of their homeland if I can solve his “demographic” dilemma."

      I've addressed this issue a number of times, in various places, including in some version on Mondoweiss. It takes some space to develop the argument, so here I will give a very brief summary. Non or anti-Zionists need read no further, for there is only a "dilemma" if you accept the Zionist argument--as I do--that there was a genuine need for a Jewish state at the time Israel was established, but it could only be justified if the harm done to the Palestinians had been minimized.

      I also accept the premise that for there to be a secure Jewish state there had to be a substantial Jewish majority. The figures that I've seen is that in early 1948 there were some 500,000 Jews and 400,000 Palestinians in the area alloted by the UN partition plan to create a Jewish state--which was the language, not so incidentally, of the partition resolution. (There was also supposed to be an Arab state in the rest of Palestine, of course).

      If you take as a further premise, as did Ben-Gurion and other Zionist leaders, that a secure Jewish state needed something like an 80% majority--a premise I accept--then the math follows that some 220,000 Palestinians would have to "transferred" by some means or other to the proposed Palestinian state.

      Where I get off the Zionist train, however, is that if I believed that the only way that could occur was the way it did occur--the Nakba--then my position--as I've stated a number of times--IS THAT THE JEWISH STATE SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN CREATED.

      Thus, the central issue becomes--in my argument--if a stable Jewish majority could have been accomplished, not by the violent expulsion of some 750,000 Palestinians but by generously buying out 220,000 Palestinians, then that was justified. Could it have been? Who knows--it wasn't tried.

      That's the argument. To repeat the obvious--if you think that Zionism has no justification at all, now or in the past, even after the Holocaust, which is the position of most of those who comment on this website, many of whom appear to believe that Zionism, per se, was one of the worst crimes of the 20th century, then this argument is obviously irrelevant.

      In sum, it applies only to those who think that there was a good moral case for the establishment of Israel in part of Palestine but no moral case at all for the Nakba, and who therefore have a moral dilemma.

  • On John Judis's 'Genesis,' and its critics
    • Naftush: You don't think that "transfer" was part of Zionist ideology--and implemented mercilessly in 1947-48? You might try learning a bit about the history of your country (I assume it is Israel). Your position is not a serious one.

    • Seafoid: Sure Europe would have better, and in many ways. But that wasn't being offered. Nor did they choose Palestine because they thought the Arabs would be a walkover, as opposed to ideological, religious, and even practical reasons. The fact of the matter is that by 1947 there was no possibility of establishing a Jewish state anywhere but Palestine.

      Indeed, even large-scale emigration to the U.S. was not possible, given American attitudes.

    • A general comment on the problem of "kinder and gentler ethnic cleansing":

      If one rejects--even in principle--the argument that the Jews needed and were justified in having a state of their own, especially in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust, it obviously follows that there was no moral dilemma inherent in the creation of that state in a partitioned Palestine--it wouldn't matter how many or how few Palestinians were displaced, nor how that was done.

      If, however, one accepts the principle of a justified Jewish state, then there clearly was a tragic moral dilemma: justice (and for many, sheer survival) for the Jews clashed with justice for the Palestinians. To consider highly compensated relocation, even compulsory for some, of a relatively small number of Palestinians as merely "a kinder and gentler" form of "ethnic cleansing," apparently morally barely distinguishable from the Zionists' resort to terrorism, massacres, and forced marches to drive out 750,000 Palestinians--that is, REAL ethnic cleansing--is to deny the possibility of moral distinctions.

      Put differently, if one rejects the bedrock principle of Zionism in its entirety, then no further discussion is necessary or even possible. But if one accepts this principle--like we "liberal Zionists" do--but detest not only the Nakba and all other Israeli crimes since, then one has to consider whether there was another way. That's what I have tried to do.

      Here's a thought experiment: suppose, as I have suggested, that the Israelis, the international community, and others offered to buy out the some 220,000 Palestinians that would have to be relocated to neighboring Arab states in order to create a large Jewish majority within the boundaries of the Jewish state. Suppose the offer was quite generous--say, $1,000,000 per family--and that all or nearly all the affected Palestinians were happy to accept it, and move (in most cases) just a few miles into the Palestinian state that was supposed to have been created by the UN partition resolution of 1947, or perhaps into another Arab state?

      In that case, the whole process would not only have been nonviolent, it would have been a negotiated settlement acceptable to all the Palestinians that accepted the terms. Would that also have been merely a "kinder and gentler" ethnic cleansing?

      It won't do any good to say, well, some of them wouldn't accept, so they would have to be forced to leave--though still compensated generously, in my proposal.
      How many wouldn't accept, even though highly compensated? Who knows? Out of the total of 220,000, maybe 5000, 10,000, 20,000? The numbers, together with the economic compensation, become critical, for if it is illegitimate to compulsorily transfer any Palestinians at all, then you are denying justice to hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of Jews who need a Jewish state as a refuge against future murderous anti-Semitism.

      To repeat, those who reject the very notion of a necessitated Jewish state will have no problem with this thought experiment--an injustice to a single displaced Palestinian outweighs the moral claims of the Jewish people. But for the rest of us who see a moral dilemma, both numbers and methods become morally critical.

  • 'NYT' casts Israelis as victims of Palestinians who complain bitterly about oppression
    • Well done, Phil and Donald. I would add this: Rudoren prints without comment the statement of a Netanyahu govt. official who claims that Israeli incitement can't be compared with that of the Palestinians, because Israeli nastiness comes from "rogue individuals," whereas the Palestinian "incitement" comes from govt. sources. Rudoren fails to note that the Palestinians, the victims, mostly throw words at the Israelism, whereas the Israeli "rogue individuals" shoot, beat, and destroy Palestinian homes and orchards. And since the police and army--the oppressors-- do next to nothing to stop the rampages of the settlers, that means the violence is de facto government policy.

  • Israel's endless enemies -- the dangerous myth in Ari Shavit's book
    • "Short summary of the Zionist case: Israel is the only place where Jews are safe. Israel is in the most dangerous place on Earth."

      Pretty good! Not quite fair, but witty. The way "we" Zionists would put it--I barely qualify today--is that there was once a good reason to believe that the safety of the Jews couldn't be certain (given history, past and recent) to be safe except in a Jewish state. To which I would add that Israel's own behavior has played a major role--perhaps THE major role--in making that a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    • dbroncos: I agree with most of your understanding, except perhaps your characterization of the Israeli-Jordanian conflict at the time. While I don't remember the details off the top of my head, the leading authority on this period is Avi Shlaim, especially in his book (the title of which tells you the argument), "Collusion across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement and the Partition of Palestine." There was some limited fighting, as you say, near Jerusalem, but for the most part there was a secret deal between Ben-Gurion and Abdullah, which mostly prevented fighting between their armies. Other scholars have essentially confirmed this, and to my knowledge no one has successfully challenged Shlaim's evidence.

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  • Preaching to the choir: reflections on Max Blumenthal's 'Goliath'
    • I wrote about the real problem of anti-Semitism in America in the past, but not the remote past. Citizen evidently wishes to challenge my argument, for he cites a review of Philip Roth's book, The Plot Against America, which imagines a severe worsening of the problem if Charles Lindbergh had been elected in the 1940 presidential elections.

      I went to the review, written in 2004. This is what it says: "Roth writes in sodden clichés… There is not a felicitous sentence in this book; nor is there a spark of wit…. Roth’s book is especially odious. ….The Plot Against America is the sort of novel a bootlicking author might write to curry favor with a totalitarian government....Suffice to say that Roth, in his dotage,…[has written] a repellent novel."

      The review's main purpose is to simply deny that there was a problem of anti-Semitism in the America First movement, or even with Lindbergh himself. “Preposterous” is almost insufficient to describe such an argument. Even Anne Morrow Lindbergh and the Lindbergh’s daughter Reeve were angered and embarrassed by Lindbergh’s undeniable and major role in promoting anti-Semitism. In her recent and much acclaimed book on this period, 1940, Susan Dunn writes: “Even Lindbergh’s wife, Anne, admitted to a ‘profound feeling of grief….It is very terrible for me to have him made the symbol of anti-Semitism in this country….there is no hatred in him, and yet he rouses it and spreads it.’” Years later, Dunn continues, daughter Reeve remarked on “the chilling distinction in his mind between Jews and other Americans.”

      Roth writes in sodden clichés… There is not a felicitous sentence in this book; nor is there a spark of wit…. Roth’s book is especially odious. ….The Plot Against America is the sort of novel a bootlicking author might write to curry favor with a totalitarian government. . Suffice to say that Roth, in his dotage,…[has written] is a repellent novel.
      The author’s main purpose or theme is to simply deny that there was a problem of anti-Semitism in the America First movement, or even with Lindbergh himself. “Preposterous” is almost insufficient to describe such an argument. Even Anne Morrow Lindbergh and the Lindbergh’s daughter Reeve were angered and embarrassed by Lindbergh’s role in promoting anti-Semitism. In her recent and much acclaimed book on this period, 1940, Susan Dunn writes: “Even Lindbergh’s wife, Anne, admitted to a ‘profound feeling of grief….It is very terrible for me to have made the symbol of anti-Semitism in this country….there is no hatred in him, and yet he rouses it and spreads it.’” Years later, Dunn continues, Reeve read one of Lindbergh’s speeches and remarked on “the chilling distinction in his mind between Jews and other Americans.”

    • George Smith writes: "the real-world consequence of pinning hopes for justice on the two-state idea would be that the Israeli occupation and repression of the Palestinians will continue.," --paraphrasing my statement that abandoning the 2ss for a binational state would have that effect.

      I agree that the most likely outcome is that any proposed solution, two state or one state, is remote, so long as the U.S. refuses to pressure Israel. However, I can imagine circumstances in which the 2ss is revived, but none in which a binational state will occur. Moreover, a binational state, given 100 years of unresolved conflict, is a bad idea on the merits--take a look around the world and see how many bi or multinational states descend into binational conflict. Yes, there are a few exceptions, but there is no reason to believe that the circumstances that made them workable are present in the I-P context.

      Another general comment: my argument that there will be no change in US support of Israel unless the American Jewish community supports it is usually criticized on this cite on the grounds that I believe in "Jewish supremacy." Not so--I didn't say I approve of the key role of this (our) group on this issue, I said it was a reality that must be reckoned with, given the facts of life in the American political system concerning Israel and the I-P conflict.

      In sum, even though it is true that Judah Magnes, Martin Buber and others advocated a binational state before Israel was created, that course was rejected by the overwhelming majority of the Jews--and for perfectly understandable reasons. And even if it were a good idea then, it is completely unworkable now.

      That is the reasoning that leads to the argument that only a two-state settlement could work, that there's no chance of that without serious US pressures on Israel, and there's no chance of THAT without American Jewish agreement to it. If you want to counter this argument, please keep in mind that I am not arguing that this is a good thing, the way it should be--I claim that these are the facts of life.

      The same applies to the common response (on this cite) to my arguments that this or that solution won't work because Israel would never accept it. Again, I'm claiming that such are the facts of life, which don't go away if you disapprove of them--which I certainly do.

    • RoHa writes: "It was still wrong to create a “haven” by taking over Palestine and driving out the Palestinians. The safety of Jews is not so important that it outweighs the rights of the Palestinians."

      I agree that this is a crucial question, and I've tried to address it in a number of my writings--including, though in abbreviated form, in the parts of my review essay on jeromeslater.com that space prevented Phil from including. In brief, my argument is that in 1948 there was a tragic dilemma, namely that the Zionist argument that the Jews needed a state of their own was a very persuasive one, but their various arguments that such a state must be in Palestine and nowhere else were very weak. In particular, the argument that they had a right to displace the Palestinians because they had lived there 2000 years ago is an embarrassingly bad one.

      Therefore (in my view), there was only one acceptable argument, namely that by 1948 there was no other place to put a Jewish state except for Palestine. Other alternatives should have been considered, and in fact a handful of people did so: Israel should have been carved out of the defeated Germany. Under such circumstances, who would have argued that this was very unfair to the Germans? Tragically, no serious consideration was given to this solution--neither by the US and other Allies, nor by the Zionists.

      What then of the Nakba? My view is that if the Nakba had truly been the only way to create a Jewish state, then a Jewish state should not have been created, regardless of the need--and, to repeat, it was a real need--for a Jewish state. Then, the crucial question becomes: was the Nakba really the only way? I don't think so. I think there might well have been alternatives, and I have discussed what those alternatives might have been--see my long article a year ago in the journal, "Zionism, the Jewish State Issue, and an Israeli-Palestinian Settlement." For a shorter outline of my argument, go to my essay on Goliath in jeromeslater.com.

      Of course, I am under no illusions that this argument will persuade those who find no justification at all for Zionism, ever. So I suppose that argument is really aimed at liberal Zionists.

    • Those are very good questions, Sibiriak. Only Max Blumenthal can answer them. Maybe he will; I hope so.

    • Incidentally, George Smith implies that I think that Goliath is merely "technically accurate." But I was quoting Eric Alterman's fatuous words. My words were these:
      "On the one hand, it is a powerful and impressive work by one of America’s most astute and courageous young journalists"

      and these: "Given Blumenthal’s overall argument, however justified by the facts and evidence he presents..."

      and these: "Blumenthal is right that Israel’s behavior towards the Palestinians is indefensible....Thus, I fully understand why he has chosen to bluntly express his (mostly) justifiable rage and contempt"

      I don't think this qualifies as faint or backhanded praise. My criticism of Goliath is that in some cases (e.g, comparisons with Nazi Germany) he overstates and, more importantly, that the tone and language is off-putting to those people who are the most important to convince of the need for US pressures against Israel.

    • Smith writes: "As indispensable as Jerome Slater and other liberal Zionists have been for the freedom movement in Palestine, they undermine that movement when they frame it as a territorial dispute rather than a struggle for equal human rights in all of Palestine."

      Three comments:
      First, the great majority (there are polls and surveys to prove it) of Palestinians are not struggling "for equal rights in all of Palestine" but for the equal right to have a state of their own in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

      Second, it is a false dichotomy to suggest that the I-P conflict is merely a "territorial dispute" rather than one for human rights. The right to end foreign oppression and win a nation-state is, in fact, a very important human right, both at the collective and individual level.

      Third, if I understand Smith correctly, he prefers a single binational state to two separate states, one (mainly) Jewish and the other Palestinian. However, even if I agreed with him (which I don't) that a binational state would have the consequence of producing equal rights for all its inhabitants, it has no chance of coming into existence. That being the case, the real-world consequence of abandoning the two-state idea in favor of a binational single state would be that the Israeli occupation and repression of the Palestinians will continue.

      Apropos that last comment, a number of other comments here argue (not Smith) that it is irrelevant that the Israelis are overwhelmingly opposed to binationalism. If by that one means MORALLY irrelevant, I entirely agree. But it is certainly not PRACTICALLY irrelevant, since the world is not going to force Israel even to end the occupation, let alone agree to a binational state in which they are likely soon to become a minority.

    • Stephen Shenfield writes:

      "The best way to show people what you think is the right way to do something is simply to DO IT. Let Jerome Slater write a book of his own in which he presents the facts about the situation in Israel-Palestine or (if that is too big a task) about just one significant aspect of the situation in exactly the way he thinks the facts should be presented. Let him then try to get his book published and promoted to the “mainstream.” His success or failure in that endeavor will then prove to everyone (including himself) whether his argument against Blumenthal is correct or not."

      Comment: I intend to do exactly that. Meanwhile, however, dozens and probably hundreds of books have been published and widely reviewed--usually but not always negatively--that are highly critical of Israel. Even Mearsheimer/Walt were reviewed in almost all the mainstream media, and their book is highly critical not only of the Israel Lobby, but of Israel. The demonstrable fact that this is so is one of the reasons I surmised--I have no proof--that the tone of Max's book put it into special category, so far as the mainstream media is concerned.

      Shenfield: "On the substance, it never ceases to astonish me that presumably educated people can argue that early Zionism was not colonial."

      Comment: I assume that is directed at what I wrote. But here is what I actually wrote: "at least at the level of motivation ('CONSEQUENCES ARE A DIFFERENT MATTER), anyone describing Israel in terms of colonialism must also acknowledge that the driving force behind early Zionism was the felt urgent necessity (I would say, objective urgent necessity) to create a haven from murderous anti-Semitism. That must be distinguished from the obvious motives and complete lack of objective necessity that drove Western colonialism– power for its own sake, economic gain or simple greed, or “the white man’s burden,” none of which had the slightest thing to do with early Zionism…"

      Sure, Shenfield adds: "(It can reasonably be argued that it was not colonial in quite the same way as other colonial movements, but that is hardly the same thing: colonialism took a wide variety of forms)"-- but which of the other "wide variety of forms" of colonialism were not motivated by some combination of either power, greed, or the white man's burden? Or are you claiming that one or all of those were also the driving force behind Zionism?

  • What Comes Next: If the goal is to change U.S. policy, American Jewish opinion can't be ignored
  • Deconstructing Ian Lustick's 'two-state illusion'
    • Shmuel:
      You are right that my reference to the "international consensus" plan is too vague: I think the Geneva Initiative is the most detailed, and the fairest, and it provides for East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state and at least by implication, full access to it.

      If by "significant redress for the consequences of '48" you mean a full right of return, in practice as well as in secret agreements (no longer so secret, thanks to the Palestine papers), both Arafat and Abbas and the PA have agreed to a much more limited, and as I say in my critique of Lustick, largely symbolic return. In the negotiations between Olmert and Abbas, I think the disagreements about how limited a return had been narrowed down to a manageable amount. Also, every serious plan involves significant compensation for Palestinian refugees (and many of their descendants) for those who either choose not to return or are not allowed to by Israel, whether for political reasons or because they don't make it under the quota system.

    • A few comments on Shmuel's comments:
      1. As bleak as are the prospects for 2ss, the reasons the 1ss is virtually impossible are that (a) it has little chance of succeeding as a genuinely democratic binational state, based on majority rule, with full and equal rights for the Palestinians (b) there is even less chance that the Israelis will accept it than a 2ss.
      2. You ask why the criteria has to be its acceptability to the Israelis rather than to the Palestinians. The answer is that it is the Israelis who have the power to block any settlement that they don't like. That's a plain fact of life--that both of us deplore that fact is irrelevant to an analysis that seeks to explain reality.
      3. In any case, you are probably wrong in your implication that a 2ss solution is not acceptable to the Palestinians. In fact, there is a great deal of evidence that the international consensus 2ss plan is acceptable to most Pal. leaders and a majority of its people--not necessarily even excluding Hamas, in practice though not in rhetoric or ideology. Not that the Palestinians think that the standard 2ss plan is fair, but rather that it is better than the occupation and no state.

  • The 'double standards' issue and moral judgment of Israeli policies
    • Oleg R:
      Addendum: Anyway, it is hardly a "double standard" t0 hold Israel to its own standards.

    • Oleg R:

      Evidently you accept what I write about the factual issues but contend that they prove rather than refute the contention that Israel is being held to double standards. That's a rather idiosyncratic understanding of the term "double standards"; in any case, by the logic of your argument it must also follow that such a "double standard" is not evidence of unfairness or anti-Semitism but, as I wrote, a high compliment, or philo-Semitism.

    • " by the same yardstick the boycott against South Africa was also based on a double standard (China or Mozambique were worse human-rights violators), yet it ended Apartheid."

      Excellent point.

  • Two social critics who used Nazi analogy-- Mark Rudd, Betty Friedan
    • Annie wonders--in all seriousness, I am sure--why I think I made the tactical mistake I admitted to above, namely arguing that the Holocaust was, in several important ways, the epitome of evil, therefore even worse than the other horrible genocides. Here's my explanation:

      First, I conceded a tactical mistake, not necessarily a substantive one. That is, there is an extensive body of serious, informed, and scholarly literature that considers the Holocaust to be in a special category, the very epitome of evil--even as compared with other horrible genocides. And it is important to note that not all of this literature has been the work merely of Jews, "Zio-supremicists," or racists who consider genocides in the non-white world to be unimportant.

      Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that this literature is convincing, for it is clear that there are serious counterarguments. However, I don't wish to take a position in this debate--especially since, as I've said, my argument in no way depends on any rank ordering of genocides. Thus, it was a tactical mistake to have waded into that thicket.

      The second explanation is this: in serious writing before you publish anything you review and rewrite your draft many times, and then when you think it is more or less ready, you circulate it as widely as possible to people whose judgment you respect. Inevitably, there will be criticisms, some of which you think are justified, so you revise. And then you revise again. And then you revise, yet again. Only then do you publish.

      Needless to say, that's not what happens in blogs, and even less so in commentaries on blogs.

      So yes, it was certainly a tactical mistake, and possibly--I admit I'm not sure--even a substantive one. But even if it was, it is irrelevant to the real issue, which--to repeat--is whether Israeli policies should be compared to those of real genocides.

    • A general comment, in response to a number of participants in this discussion. On further thought, it was not necessary to my argument that I rank-order the various undoubted genocides in the 20th century, with the Holocaust at the top. That was entirely irrelevant to my main argument and served only to obscure it: which is that the Israeli crimes are not comparable to the Holocaust or to other true genocides, that it was factually wrong to make such a comparison--even when made by a Shin Bet Director who is now apparently "clarifying" it--and that it caused people who otherwise might be amenable to persuasion to tune out.

    • Donald writes: "I suspect that one of the reasons Westerners of European descent often believe the Holocaust was worse is because both the victims and the perpetrators were people much like ourselves."

      Agreed, except I would emphasize that it was just one of the reasons. The others have to do with careful planning of a cold-blooded slaughter; the creation of a bureaucracy to carry it out, like any other routinized state function; the fact that the obsession with killing as many Jews as possible actually undercut Nazi Germany's own war effort (assuming I understand the history correctly); and the sheer numbers of the murdered.

      Maybe the Cambodian genocide--which comes close to being self-genocide--had some or all of the same characteristics. But as Donald and I agree (I think), to dwell on the comparisons is to risk obscuring the much more important point--that comparing
      the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians to ANY of the other 20th century genocides is wrong on the facts and counterproductive in terms of its consequences.

    • southern observer: "I disagree only with your suggestion that the crimes of the Nazi’s was unique. The true h0rror of the 20th Century was the sheer numbers of awful mass crimes, each systematically organised and ruthless carried out, in everycase by people who thought that they were the good guys. I won’t repeat it; everybody here is familiar with the list."

      Thanks for your comment. The argument that the Holocaust was unique--even as compared with the Turkish and Rwandan genocides--is well-known and hardly original, so I won't go into detail here.

      A similar point: others (not southernobserver) here and elsewhere have used the word "genocide" to describe Israeli policies--not a good idea.The word "genocide" means a deliberate policy of exterminating an entire class of people. Is there a responsible argument that Israel has been trying to exterminate all the Palestinian people? The truth about Israeli policies is awful enough, and will suffice.

      Making necessary distinctions, especially on such emotionally explosive issues, is not a trivial matter. We are trying to persuade Israelis and their "pro-Israel" supporters in the US to end the occupation and repression of the Palestinians. Extremism and fighting words, especially when they are clearly inaccurate, sets back that cause. And persuasion is the only weapon we have.

    • southernobserver: "I disagree only with your suggestion that the crimes of the Nazi’s was unique. The true h0rror of the 20th Century was the sheer numbers of awful mass crimes, each systematically organised and ruthless carried out, in everycase by people who thought that they were the good guys. I won’t repeat it; everybody here is familiar with the list."

      Thanks for your comment. Of course I don't disagree with your general point about the awful massacres of the 20th century; I was making a more limited argument, which I will hold to: that the Holocaust was in a special category of evil, even as compared to the Armenian and Rwandan massacres, which are obviously the closest 20th century comparisons. I won't go into detail, as the argument I'm making is widely known and hardly original.

      Along the same lines--and this comment is not in the least directed to southernobserver--it is also unconvincing and offputting to describe Israeli policies as "genocidal," as some do. The Holocaust, the Turkish massacres of the Armenians, and the Rwandan massacres were genocidal, since they were intended to murder an entire class of people--that's what the word "genocide" means.

      Is there a responsible argument that Israel intends to massacre all or most Palestinians? The truth about Israeli policies is bad enough, and is really quite sufficient. To repeat my argument: loose language and contempt for important distinctions (again, not in the least directed to southernobserver but to unnamed others) on such an explosive matter is more likely to set back rather than advance the cause of persuading the Israelis and their "pro-Israel" supporters in the US to end the occupation and repression of the Palestinians.

      And persuasion is our only weapon.

    • Phil asked me to comment on this post. Actually, the post he links to above was meant to be a satire, the point of which was that while it is true that Israeli crimes don't approach those of the Nazis, that is not even slightly comforting.

      Actually, I don't think that the use of Nazi analogies is a good idea, whether applied to American society (Frieden), the Vietnam war (Rudd), or to the Israeli occupation and repression of the Palestinians. (I may be wrong, but I don't think Phil does either.) First, there is no analogy: even among evils, the Holocaust is in a class by itself, as absolute and unimaginable form of evil as the world has ever known. I don't say this because its victims were mostly Jewish, like me; it would be just as absolutely and unimaginably evil if the victims of a carefully planned, systematic, and cold-blooded campaign of the literal extermination of millions of people had been any other group. (Needless to say, I trust)

      Aside from its inaccuracy--to say the least--the analogy is counterproductive. It's supposed to shock readers into recognizing that something evil is occurring, but my guess is that most readers will be put off by it--at least, they should be--and it will have the opposite effect. Meaning that those who employ the analogy will be discredited and so the overall message they seek to deliver may be dismissed. (I even think that applies to the Shin Bet director who, amazingly, suggested the analogy)

      The central point: the Israel crimes of occupation and repression are sufficiently terrible, and they can be described and condemned without the need of any analogy, let alone to Hitler and the Holocaust. Or, if analogies are irresistible, compare them to something like the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe and the crushing of the anticommunist resistance movements, the Hungarian and Czech uprisings, and the like.

  • Comparisons to Nazi Germany are exaggerated
    • "When the question is how much a state resembles Nazi Germany, that state has already lost the game."

      Which was precisely my point. Hard to imagine that the state that was supposed to be a light unto the nations now defends its behavior on the ground that nobody complains about, say, Syria. From "a light unto the Nations" to "Not as bad as Nazi Germany."

    • Several comments cite this quote: "Israel does not kill its opponents or prevent them from expressing their views." I'm not sure who was supposed to have said that, but it certainly wasn't me.

      On the contrary, I did say this: "Israel has killed only, say, fifty thousand innocent Palestinians, Lebanese, and Egyptians--tops." The word "tops" was to supposed to be satirical, as was the whole piece: obviously if you kill fifty thousand innocent people, the word "only" is preposterous, even though the Nazis killed millions.

  • Israel's choice to inflict violence on civilians and ignore political offers violates 'just war morality'
    • Clarification: All the Arab peace plans since 1982, all of which have been unanimously reaffirmed by the Arab League, give Israel an effective veto on the right of Palestinians to return, and how many of them. Abbas has accepted these terms, and even Arafat before him strongly indicated, including in messages to Clinton and in opeds, that the Palestinians understood and accepted that there could be no large-scale right of return. In various secret negotiations, especially under Olmert, the discussion focused on some 10,000-20,000 returnng to Israel, as part of a "family reunification" plan.

      In short, possibly accepting the most extremist Palestinians, well to the left of Hamas, the Palestinians understand and accept that there will never be a return of the 3-5 million Palestinian refugees. They won't publicly abandon their rhetorical demand now, because they rightly believe that Israel will find many other reasons to refuse a two-state settlement. However, if all the other pieces fell into place, no serious Israeli negotiator or observer believes that the r-of-r would torpedo a settlement, which would probably take the form of the Palestinians maintaining their symbolic "right," and the Israelis admitting some few Palestinians, even while claiming it was based on humanitarian reasons ("family reunfication"), rather than a Palestinian right. In this way, each side will maintain its symbolic position, but the issue will be finessed and it will not be allowed to disrupt a final settlement.

      Hamas' position is not so clearcut, but the weight of the evidence is that they will be prepared to accept a two-state settlement, which entails the end of a right of return.

  • Walt, Munayyer, and Mearsheimer offer one state scenarios, and my response
    • Sean:

      Very good questions and difficult issues; as I said in my response to Woody Tanaka's similar points, I wrestle with them as best as I can in a forthcoming article.

      However, I guess it won't do any harm if I paraphrase here my conclusion in that article: While in principle the Jews have a right to their own state, in practice it is increasingly difficult to separate the issue of whether Israel should continue as a Jewish state from the kind of Jewish state it has become.

    • Tanaka's question is a very good and necessary one. My answer is complicated. In late December the journal Political Science Quarterly is publishing a long article of mine, entitled "Zionism, the Jewish State Issue, and an Israeli-Palestinian Peace Settlement." In that article I try to answer that question. I'm not ducking the issue, but I don't want to go into it here. Sorry.

    • David:

      I certainly accept everything you say about the difficulty--maybe the impossibility--of getting the settlers back into Israel, which should be defined to mean Israel within the pre-1967 territory. The main difference in our views is that you think that the settler problem would be resolved in the framework of a binational single state, because they could remain in place, but I think you are underestimating the full dimensions of the settler problem. Whether or not they could remain in place would be less important to them than whether they could continue to live in a state dominated by Jews. After all, these are people who are precisely the most racist, most fanatical, most religiously fundamentalist (medieval) and most violent sector within Israeli society--ergo the least likely to be willing to live in a state in which the Palestinians, with equal political rights, would soon become a majority.

      In any case, as we both know, putting all this on the settlers is a great oversimplification--there are many other factors that account for the Israeli attitudes. Those attitudes, I argued, completely preclude the establishment of a genuinely democratic binational state, whereas they might not quite so completely preclude, in the future, the removal of the settlers and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

      I realize that some propose a third alternative: forget about the state issue, and work for the full and equal rights of all inhabitants of the area. But this also strikes me as unrealistic: full and equal rights must include political rights, and in any case it is hard to see how rights can be granted and protected except within a democratic state framework.

    • Sin Nombre:

      Could you spell out what you think I'm disguising about my views? I certainly haven't intended to disguise anything. My overall views are that the case for the establishment of a Jewish state was a strong one, and even the case for the maintenance of a Jewish state today, while not as nearly as strong, is still substantial. I suppose that makes me a "liberal Zionist," but in view of the nature of this Jewish state, I'm just barely hanging on by my finger tips.

      Undoubtedly one reason--besides the overall historical case for a Jewish state--that I haven't been quite ready to abandon liberal Zionism is that there are great many wonderful Israelis who are also in despair of what their country has become, but who still think the case for the maintenance of a Jewish state, provided there are full and equal rights for all minorities, is a strong one. To be sure, there are also a number of wonderful Israelis who are perfectly willing to join with the Palestinians in a binational state; even so, for reasons I have argued, I think that is a chimera.

    • "What I am suggesting is that neither the two-state solution nor the democratic one-state solution is going to come to pass. Deal with it."

      That's probably right. But "deal with it" how?

  • Maureen Dowd accuses the neocons of fomenting war -- and is promptly tarred as an anti-Semite
  • Israel's version of the two-state 'solution' is anything but dead
  • My correspondence with NYT's Rudoren
    • "My impression was that she thought him a dear old fuddy-duddy..." Quite right, too--she hit the nail on the head!

    • Lobewyper: As you surmise, my purpose in publishing my exchange with Rudoren was to focus attention on her arguments and her apparent journalistic philosophy. While her understanding of the purpose of journalism is perfectly respectable in most cases, you can't be neutral and removed if the rights and wrongs of the situation are so overwhelmingly obvious.

      That said, I don't disagree with your assessment that the Times is unlikely to undergo a major change in how it deals with I-P; on the other hand, the possibility can't be dismissed out of hand--especially if Rudoren is open to a reassessment of her position and responsibilities.

      For that reason (and that's another reason why I published our exchange) I am hoping that she hears from others--like you, for example.

      Let's call this the Educating Rudoren project.

    • Donald: "If she does equally favorable portrayals of Palestinians in the near future (say within the next few months) then much or most of the criticism here will be wrong."

      While I almost always agree with Donald, in this case I have reservations with his point of view. I don't think a favorable portrayal of a Palestinian leader would balance out Rudoren's favorable portrait of Dayan. There is no equivalence: the Palestinians are the victims and the Israelis the oppressors, it is the Palestinian "narrative" that is far more in accord with history and the observable facts, and the mainstream Israeli narrative--let alone the narrative of settlers--that is demonstrably false in almost all of its major beliefs and arguments.

      Yes, Hophmi: "demonstrably false." It is not a matter of ideology or "advocacy," it's a matter of caring about truth as well as right and wrong. The failure of Israelis like you to understand this--and you seem to be quite representative, unfortunately, of most Israelis--is precisely why Israel has gone from being one of the states most admired in the world, or least the west, to being a pariah.

  • Congressman Joe Pitts: 'It is incumbent on Ariel Sharon and Yasir Arafat to restart a peace process'
  • Israel is trying to hook us into a war with Iran-- Matthews and Baer speculate
    • eee and Shingo

      A rare agreement between Slater and Shingo, point by point. Except I would have put the point about Clinton differently. Clinton had little or no independent knowledge about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so he relied heavily on Dennis Ross. Need I say more? When he blamed the end of the Camp David negotiations on Arafat, he was wrong about the facts, not to mention that he broke his promise to Arafat not to blame him if the talks broke down, a promise that was necessary to persuade Arafat to come to Camp David in the first place, since Arafat feared--correctly--that no agreement would be reached.

      As Shingo points out, Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former Israeli foreign minister no less, has written a book which takes on the Clinton-Ross argument directly, and so have a number of other Israelis who actively participated in the negotiations.

      In short, it was primarily Barak who was responsible for the breakdown. He since has boasted--boasted, mind you--that "he didn't give a thing" in the negotiations; if anything, he actually hardened the Israeli position on Jerusalem and any shared sovereignty over the Temple Mount/Haram.

      That's not just my opinion--it is that of scholars who have closely examined what actually happened, as well as, to repeat, a number of Israeli officials or diplomats who know what really happened.

      Further, as Shingo says, the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators at the Taba conference, six months after Camp David, were on the verge of an agreement, including mutual compromises over the two most difficult issues, Jerusalem and the right of return. But Barak pulled the rug out from Yossi Beilin, the head of the Israeli delegation. If you don't believe me, read Beilin's memoir.

    • eee and Shingo

      A rare agreement between Slater and Shingo, point by point. Except I would have put the point about Clinton differently. Clinton had little or no independent knowledge about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so he relied heavily on Dennis Ross. Need I say more? When Clinton blamed the end of the Camp David negotiations on Arafat, he was wrong about the facts--thanks to the disingenuous Ross--not to mention that he broke his promise to Arafat not to blame him if the talks broke down, a promise that was necessary to persuade Arafat to come to Camp David in the first place, since Arafat feared--correctly--that no agreement would be reached.

      As Shingo points out, Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former Israeli foreign minister no less, has written a book which takes on the Clinton-Ross argument directly, and so have a number of other Israelis who actively participated in the negotiations.

      In short, it was primarily Barak who was responsible for the breakdown. He since has boasted--boasted, mind you--that "I didn't give a thing" in the negotiations; if anything, he actually hardened the Israeli position on Jerusalem and any shared sovereignty over the Temple Mount/Haram--much to the dismay of many of the Israeli negotiators and foreign policy officials.

      That's not just my opinion--it is that of scholars who have closely examined what actually happened, as well as, to repeat, a number of Israeli officials or diplomats who know what really happened.

      Further, as Shingo says, the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators at the Taba conference, six months after Camp David, were on the verge of an agreement, including mutual compromises over the two most difficult issues, Jerusalem and the right of return. But Barak pulled the rug out from Yossi Beilin, the head of the Israeli delegation. If you don't believe me, read Beilin's memoir.

      Two months after Taba, the Israelis elected Ariel Sharon. End of story.

    • eee" "All Israel can provoke is an attack against itself. If the Iranians attack the US, it is not Israel’s fault whatsoever. Do you really think that if the Iranians attack a US ship and kill American soldiers people will blame Israel? ....There is no reason for them to attack Americans because of what Israel does."

      Of course there is (although I doubt they will, given the certain consequences). The U.S. has backed Israel more or less unconditionally, everyone knows that there is very close US-Israeli coordination about what to do about the Iranian nuclear program, and Obama and other high officials have repeatedly said that "we" will not allow the Iranians to get nuclear weapons. Therefore, if Israel attacks Iran, the U.S. will get a good part of the blame, and rightly so.

      On the other hand, suppose the U.S. told Israel in no uncertain terms that we disapprove of a military attack, and if you go ahead we will end all diplomatic, military, and economic aid to you? I would think that there would be practically no chance that Israel would attack, and if it was sufficiently suicidal to do so anyway, at least the U.S. would be blamed a lot less, if at all.

      As for the question of whether the American people will blame Israel for the consequences to U.S. national interests, Israel has been playing with fire on this matter for decades, and--to my great amazement--has gotten away with it until now. The Israeli occupation and repression of the Palestinians, from the very beginning, has not only been a moral crime, it has always been antithetical to the U.S. national interest.

      One of these days the chickens are going to come home to roost. To slightly paraphrase your last sentence: And if they do, Israel will pay the price. And possibly even American Jews, though I doubt it.

    • Annie says to eee: "you’re gruesome."

      I've publicly apologized to Mondoweissers for my (private) email blast to her a few days ago, and I'll take this opportunity to apologize directly to her.

      That out of the way, let me call your attention to what you've called eee. I don't like his comment either, not one bit, but isn't it a significant escalation to say that someone--not even merely the comment itself--but the person making it, is "gruesome?"

      I would say an apology is in order.

  • Just wars-- and civilian casualties
    • "From all of this, I draw the conclusion that the dropping of the A-bombs was not only right, but necessary to save further bloodshed."

      Perhaps, but only because of the insistence on unconditional surrender. Why even insist on any surrender at all? Did anyone even consider a different course, that would have averted the awful choice of destroying cities or invading the Japanese home islands? Japan's capacity for aggression was non-existent by the summer of 1945. Why not just unilaterally stop the war, so long as Japanese troops were withdrawn from the rest of Asia? Japan could then have been told that they were free to do whatever they wanted within Japan, under any government they wanted--but that if they sought to rebuild their military forces capable of resuming expansion, those forces would immediately be destroyed.

      The purpose of the war, as I see it, should have been limited to reversing Japanese expansionism and making sure it couldn't be resumed--easily accomplished by the summer of 1945, requiring NEITHER the invasion of Japan or the dropping of the A-bombs.

      Werdine and Tanaka know a lot more about this period than I do: were such options even considered?

      Incidentally, I think the insistence on German unconditional surrender was right--Nazism was in a different category, it did have to be totally destroyed and Germany occupied.

    • eee: If you are still on this thread, you might want to see my belated reply to your post of Jan. 10, 2:56pm. Unfortunately somehow my response didn't end up immediately following yours--you'll have to scroll down 37-38 comments to get to it.

    • Thanks Phil, in fact Mary Robinson is one my heroes.

    • eee: I just got around to answering your query, which sounds genuine to me. Even to learn only about Israel's past, Benny Morris is a good place to start, but you have to go much further. And, as I imagine know, Morris has recently become an extreme rightwinger. He doesn't repudiate what his factual research demonstrated about what happened in 1947-48; in fact he can't, because the facts are irrefutable and have been repeatedly verified by other Israeli historians. So, what he says now is that, yes, we massacred thousands of Palestinians and ruthlessly drove out hundreds of thousands, but the problem is that we weren't ruthless enough, it left too many Arabs within Israel. You think I'm exaggerating: read what he says today.

      And drop this comparison with what America did to its native population. Unlike the Israelis, hardly anyone today disputes the facts, or denies it was shameful.

      As I'm sure you know, Israel is already a pariah state in the world, and is in rapid descent to even worse. And don't try to blame it on anti-Semitism, because an increasing number of Jews around the world, and even in this country, regard what Israel has become as a betrayal of all that was valuable in Jewish tradition, culture, and values.

      As for post-1967 through today, the reading you should be doing is immense. However, if you wanted to read just one book that represents the Israeli liberal Zionist view, the one that I subscribe to, I would recommend Chaim Gans, A Just Zionism. Beyond that, just subscribe and read Haaretz daily--in a couple of weeks, your eyes will open.

      You are much too smart to be continued to be taken in with the standard Israeli narrative, which is factually, morally, and intellectually disreputable--it is increasingly recognized as such by the best Israelis, who regularly refute it in writing, and you don't have to go to non-Israeli writers and analysts to learn the moral and factual truth.

      I'd like to learn a little more about you and, if you like, exchange email comments. If you're interested, send an email message to Phil Weiss and ask him for my address.

    • Your interpretation of the goals and even the actions of Hamas is quite wrong, and the evidence that it is prepared to accept the same two-state solution as Fatah and the PA is overwhelming. You need to broaden your reading.

    • W. Jones: "I would like to suggest that someone write an article for Mondoweiss on the topic of whether a Nation State is necessary to protect the people. The idea that the people need a Nation State for security is the core of Professor Slater’s belief about the State, the I/P conflict, and even his relationship with others on M.W."

      Since you asked earlier, I would be perfectly happy to be addressed as Jerry Slater, or just Jerry. I don't need any titles, and even though--old fuddy-duddy that I am--in more formal settings I usually use my given name, Jerome, I am now prepared to drop it. After all if recent presidents can be named "Jimmy" or "Bill" (as undignified as I find that), I guess I should get rid of Jerome (now, now Mooser, resist the impulse)

      Ok, that out of the way, here's my answer to your question: In an anarchic world (remember Hobbes: life in a State of Nature is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short"), SOMETHING has to provide security. For hundreds of years, and probably for hundreds of years to come, all we've got is the armed national state. The very existence of wars demonstrates how flawed and shaky the nation-state system is, but the alternative, world government, is nowhere near in sight. For this reason, the burden of proof--to put it very gently--is on those who argue that the state is an anachronism and that mankind would be better off without it. In a world government, probably; in a state of nature--anarchy--not hardly.

      More particularly, I've not hidden my view that for historical reasons, the Jews have had one of the best arguments of any people that their security requires a state of their own. Whether or not it should have been in Palestine--an issue I've addressed at some length elsewhere--is another matter, but it is now an irrelevant matter. Does this mean that the Palestinians also have the right of a viable and independent state of their own, for security and, like Israel, for a lot of other reasons as well? Of course, it means precisely that. Which is why the two-state solution makes the most sense on the merits and for practical reasons remains the only game in town, bleak as the current prospects are.

    • "Do you really believe that Israel is too strong for the US to attack? Or was this a round about answer to our asking why you said a US intervention on Israel was unthinkable?"

      I thought it was obvious why a US military intervention against Israel was unthinkable. Others have also asked me to spell out the reasons. Very well:
      1. It is a political impossibility. There are no imaginable circumstances in which the American people, Congress, or the president would mount a military attack on Israel.
      I, for one, am overwhelmingly delighted at this political impossibility. The fact it is impossible tell us something wonderful about America, for all its faults. Military attacks, we're talking about. BDS and sanctions I support, military attacks not.
      I somehow get the feeling that there are others who regret this political impossibility. Bad as Israel has become, the level of hatred that would countenance a war between US and Israel is so extreme, so out of all proportion, that it would be legitimate to suspect that what lay behind it was not anti-"Zionism," but a hatred that would legitimately be suspected as being, at root, anti-Semitic.

      2. The second reason is that Israel is indeed so powerful that the casualties on all sides would be horrendous--even if we leave aside the possibility that an Israel on the verge of defeat would use nuclear weapons--which would be more likely to occur than not. Just war principles, not to mention common sense, rule out such a war--period--regardless of any other considerations.

      So, we are once again back at the central issue, which seems to be one of "unfairness." If 90% of the world's victims of massive human rights deprivation, including the right to life, either cannot or will not be saved--REGARDLESS OF THE REASONS--does it follow that the other 10% shouldn't be saved? To whom is this unfair--the hundreds of thousands of innocent people whose lives were probably saved in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Libya?

    • As I have said, I would make one final comment on Mondoweiss, and this is it. I regret that I have been drawn into a flame war with many of you, but neither am I going to be dishonest: I don't start out by making condescending remarks, but that doesn't prevent insults from raining down; only then, however unwisely, have I been drawn into the war. But this I can promise you: Never Again.

      That aside, my real purpose is to respond in a serious way to a number of comments around the "hypocrisy" issue, especially as raised by Donald. Here it is:

      Donald:

      You wrote: "international law, or so I understand it, also requires countries to enforce the law when broken by their own citizens, so if a democracy is led by war criminals, those war criminals should be impeached, tried, convicted, and sent to prison. All of this could be done with no collateral damage whatsoever, unlike a just war, and yet it never happens, except maybe to comparatively low-ranking scapegoats. This is my problem with liberal hawks and yes, it’s the hypocrisy charge, but no, it’s not something that I think you should just dismiss as naive. It’s fundamental. Go ahead and defend the Libyan intervention–I was a fencesitter on that because it was always murky to me, but maybe it was justified. But it is inexcusable that supposedly democratic countries can’t enforce the law on their own powerful citizens when they launch unjust wars, inflict torture, throw innocent people into prison for years on end, and supply weapons to murderous regimes knowing full well what those weapons will be used for. How is it that so many liberal intellectuals are willing to spend so much time talking about when it is justifiable to engage in war, knowing that war is at its best or most just a morally ambiguous enterprise when there is this obvious injustice staring them right in the face and they just shrug and talk about the politics? Shouldn’t it be our top priority to change opinions on this, if one sincerely believes in the “right to protect” and international law? It’s obvious that “responsibility to protect” is going to be invoked when it is in the interests of the US to intervene–it won’t be invoked when the US or one of its allies is the villain that innocent people need to be protected from. I agree that the US shouldn’t have intervened militarily against Israel in Gaza–for one thing, Israel has 200 nukes. And I don’t think other countries should be launching air strikes at American officials if we don’t call them to account. But this is where just war theorizing (which I agree with for the most part, including the part where you only intervene if you have a good chance of making the situation better) in practice conveniently works out to favor the interests of the powerful to intervene when they wish, and inflict injustice when they wish. It’s infuriating and outrageous and that’s why people are arguing against you.....What I haven’t seen, though in this long thread I might have missed it, is any sort of adequate answer to what I call the hypocrisy question. Quite a few of us have raised it in slightly different forms. Basically, what gives the US the right to do its real or alleged humanitarian interventions in some cases when our government is actually guilty of war crimes or of supporting war crimes in anothers? Even Jerry, who defends Obama, agrees that Bush was guilty of an unjust invasion of Iraq, and presumably condemns the torture and some other aspects of Bush’s “war on terror”, and then there are also Israel’s war crimes, which the Obama Administration denies were crimes. If there is a legal responsibility for US to intervene in some cases, a debatable point, but perhaps true, there is surely a much stronger and not debatable at all point that we have the obligation to investigate and punish our own war crimes and not support others who are committing them. Yet the liberal humanitarian interventionists don’t seem to think this issue is of any urgency, though our own unjust war in Iraq caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people."

      I want to address these issues, particularly the "hypocrisy" one, raised by you and many others, in the context of whether the U.S. has the right or even the duty to engage in humanitarian military interventions, where the purpose of the intervention is genuinely to save lives and protect basic human rights, as oppose to seizing oil, extending the American "Empire," making money for US businesses, or to serve any other narrow U.S. "interest," as opposed to the interest of the international community. In my view, the interventions in the Balkans in the 1990s and in Libya last year fit that description.

      Now, if you are others don't accept that description of U.S. motivations, nothing after this will be relevant. But let's say you do accept the description, if only for the sake of argument. That allows us to move into the discussion of the applicability of just war thinking to the cases, and whether states with unclean hands have the right to use military action on behalf of human rights. Let's limit the discussion here to the single case of Libya. I made the argument that the best way-- examined, tested, commented on by some of the world's best minds for thousands of years--is just war moral theory. Just war theory starts from the premise that wars are inevitable, human nature being what it is, and the absence of a global government to prevent war. It then tries to limit and constrain wars as much as possible, by setting up a series of criteria--which are actually hurdles--which wars must comply with if they are to be regarded as moral and, increasingly, legal under the Geneva conventions and other forms of international law.

      The first objection to this is: who gets to decide what is or isn't a just war? Well, international law and courts to enforce it would be the ideal answer, but we (we, the human race) are very far from having developed the institutions and habits to act in that manner, other than in a handful of individual cases where a few political leaders have been tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison for having committed war crimes. Pending, essentially, world government, the answer to who decides can only be: Everyone. That is, countries going to war always try to justify it as either crucial to the national interest or morally justified on humanitarian grounds. We, the people--including writers, philosophers, political scientists, historians, religious leaders, etc.--then decide whether we are convinced by those arguments. If not, we argue against that policy and do whatever we can to stop it--which is usually, but not always, not much. In my case, I was thoroughly unconvinced by the argument when it pertained to Vietnam and the 2003-2012 Iraq war, but was convinced by it in the Balkans and Libya.

      But won't nations going to war always claim they are just? Of course, but what follows? You can't just jettison relevant and morally persuasive principles because some will inevitably abuse them, because the alternative is to lift all constraints on war. After that, you have the law of the jungle. The best way to illustrate this is the self-defense principle. Everyone agrees that if you genuinely attacked in a war of aggression, you have the right to use violence to defend yourself, individually and collectively. But then why not make the same argument against self-defense as is made on the broader principles of just war moral philosophy? Every nation using force will try to justify it as self-defense, and in most cases it will be a lie, or at the least, unpersuasive. What then? Abandon the principle that you are allowed to use force only in self-defense (or, more recently, for genuinely humanitarian interventions), and you are back to the law of the jungle. The only thing left to do is to try to expose the lie and actively protest against it.

      Next objection: Why is it that the United States is the only state that gets to claim the right or necessity for military interventions? There are two answers. The first is that the premise is simplistic if not downright wrong: both in the Balkans and in Libya, the interventions were supported by many other western states, which also had genuine moral concerns, and some of them even actively participated in the wars. Then the objection becomes that the U.S. dominated it. That is essentially right in the Balkans, although many NATO nations did something, but basically wrong in Libya, where our participation may have been necessary, but in which the brunt of the actual fighting was by Britain and France, with symbolic contributions from others.
      The second answer is that it is a fact of life, maybe an unfortunate fact but a fact nonetheless, that the United States is the only country with both the military capability, and sometimes just the will, to use force--even in cases where the use of force is justified. This is not as it should be: there should be a global authority in which most military power is centralized, and in which the decision to use force to stop aggression or genocide is a genuinely collective one, and in which the armed forces available to this global authority--effectively, a world government--are also genuinely international. But we're not there yet, and probably will never be. So in the actual world in which we live, the choice is a second-best system to stop genocide or to fail to stop it at all.

      Next Objection: Aren't humanitarian interventions always highly selective, and therefore hypocritical? Why the Balkans, but not Rwanda? Where was U.S. military intervention against Israel in its unjust wars against Lebanon and Gaza? What about Russia, or China? Indeed, what about the United States itself? Hasn't it committed war crimes? Why was there no military intervention against the United States in Vietnam, for example, where (in my opinion) the war was a criminal one, both in its true cause (preventing an internal revolution from succeeding, because it was ideologically unacceptable to us) and its methods, indiscriminate civilian destruction, were also criminal. Shouldn't the architects of that war, from the president on down, been tried as war criminals, either in the U.S. or the International Court. Yes, they should have been. Please explain how.

      Just war theory is not naive about these issues, and contains within it efforts to deal with the practicality issues, especially in its principle that a war can be considered just only if it has a high probability of success at costs that are proportionate to the goal being sought. Among other things, that means that the use of force, even when genuinely intended to save lives, is prohibited if the intervention itself is going to cause far greater loss of lives, including on the part of the people being "rescued." An understanding of that obvious principle, if for no other reasons, means that humanitarian interventions can only be carried out against small and relatively weak nations, and immediately rules out intervention against Russia, China, Israel, and the United States.

      And even then, small and weak states sometimes get away with, literally, murder. The Rwandan genocide was not stopped, even though it was worse than what was happening in Bosnia at the same time. It should have been, and even Bill Clinton says that his failure to have intervened was the worst mistake of his presidency. Other examples can probably be found, where it may have been practicable to stop mass murder or genocide, but nobody did.
      Every serious student of this issue recognizes the problem, which is precisely why the Responsibility to Protect principle is becoming widely accepted as a rightful principle, and gradually being incorporated into international law.

      Meanwhile, isn't it better to stop some grievous human rights abuses, even though most others can't or won't be?

      Finally, the dirty hands problem, that you particularly raise. Is it hypocritical for the United States, itself guilty of war crimes that for a variety of reasons can't or won't be prosecuted, to take the lead in humanitarian interventions? It may or may not be? For example, Obama is not guilty for the crimes of Vietnam or the torturing that took place under Bush, so it was not hypocritical of him to push for the Libyan intervention. I'm aware of the rejoinder: but Obama is guilty of the various crimes supposedly being committed in Afghanistan and Iraq under his watch, such as the drone attacks.

      I am not convinced, at least on the evidence currently before us, that accurate drone attacks against true terrorists who can eventually threaten the U.S. itself, should be considered wrongful, let alone criminal. Nonetheless, for the sake of arguing the principle, let's assume these really are war crimes. Does that mean there is no moral case for the U.S. to stop other war crimes? No, it does not mean that. The best thinking on this problem, the dirty hands problem, has been provided in a famous article with something like that title, by Michael Walzer. Yes, the very same Michael Walzer who has supported Israel--though a lot less in the last couple of years. I not only agree that he has failed to apply his own moral analysis to Israel, but he and I have had some very strongly worded published disagreements about his position on Israel. Nonetheless, his thinking on this and related just war issues is widely (not unanimously) and in my opinion justifiably regarded as the most authoritative and persuasive account of modern just war principles and the issues that they raise. If you want to learn more, I suggest you read his dirty hands article.

      I hope this answers the questions you and others raised.

    • "You want them for yourself and your fellow Jews." Please Woody, on this site, with all its baggage, it's better to say "fellow Israelis." Yes, Jews is just as accurate--you could even say more accurate, since not all Israelis are Jews--but just the same, a little euphemism here is warranted.

    • eee: "What do you mean? Israel and Gaza are at war, albeit a low intensity one. I guess either side think they are justified. Clearly the Palestinians aren’t justified in using violence against Israel because violence has been proven to be a losing strategy for them."

      Very bad, eee. Israel and Gaza are not "at war," Israel is waging a war of aggression against the Gazans, who not only can barely fight back, but have effectively stopped doing so since Cast Lead.

      Secondly, since the Palestinians are the victims of Israeli aggression and colonialism, they have every RIGHT to fight back, so long as they don't deliberately strike at civilians. Yes, because of their powerlessness against Israel, and Israel's cruelty, brutality, and heartlessness in crushing even non-violent resistance, let alone armed resistance, violence has been shown to be a losing STRATEGY. What you have a right to do is entirely separate from whether it is feasible to act on that right.

      Israel is in the very opposite position. It has not a single right to use violence against the Palestinians, even in so-called defense against rockets, since the reason an occasional and futile rocket is fired against it is precisely because it occupies and represses the Palestinians. On the other hand, I guess one has to admit that so far the Israeli strategy is working--the Palestinians are losing. Similarly, Stalin's strategy in Russia also worked--he killed or starved to death millions of people, and otherwise effectively terrorized all opposition, and it worked.

      Wake up, eee. You have the brain power--start using it.

    • Donald: I agree, some of you know all of his arguments and positions better than I do, which is exactly why I asked him to elaborate. Now that he has, it's obvious that we have fundamental disagreements. As I'm sure you know, I am on record--not merely on this and my own blog, but in articles and, indeed, in the Weiss-Ratner edited book on the Goldstone Report--as a bitter critic of Cast Lead and all other Israeli crimes against morality and international law.

      Incidentally, at present I am working on a long article for a professional journal, in which I set out all the just war criteria, and argue that in Cast Lead Israel violated every one of them, making it a perfectly unjust war.

      All that said, being wrong on some issues, no matter how important, does not make you wrong on all of them. The really depressing thing is that it is obvious that eee is quite intelligent, so that if even he can't see through the Israeli lies and mythology, it's hard to have much hope for Israel's--and the Palestinians'--future.

    • Shingo: "he offers no argument to support his belief."

      I've often been chastised here for answering some posts, but not others. Here are three possible explanations:

      1. I answer only those comments or criticisms that are both intelligent and civil in tone. If the question is unintelligent, I know the answer won't be understood.

      2. Even in this thread, my last after it plays itself out, my time and energy are limited, so I have to pick and choose, and sometimes, unfortunately, I may not respond even to the good comments and questions.

      3. Or, sometimes I find that the criticism is so powerful, so unanswerable, that I am struck dumb and can only retreat into stunned silence.

      Everyone gets to choose which explanation is applicable in their case.

      2.

    • Cliff, on eee and me: "You are in good company, Slater."

      Oh, it is just so HARD to make distinctions, especially the real tough ones, like between the arguments you agree with and the arguments you disagree with. I don't know what eee's position is on the key issues--elsewhere I've asked him to state them--but I sure do know an intelligent argument from a bad one, and in everyone of them on this thread he thoroughly outclasses his opponents.

      I have to admit one thing I'm worried about. Eee is obviously very bright: suppose he clarifies his position, and it is the standard rightwing Israeli one. Will I then be struck with a severe case of cognitive dissonance?

      No, my worries are groundless--whew. In that circumstance I will wonder how some one so intelligent can believe in the preposterous Israeli mythology and can fail to recognize its criminal behavior and stupidity? But then it will remain necessary to distinguish between good arguments and bad ones, even if they are coming from the same person.

      Distinctions, distinctions, distinctions--the hell with them, why get a headache?

    • Eee: Ok, so let's issue a challenge to eee--he likes challenges, so I'm sure he will respond. What, exactly, is your position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general, and on the occupation, Cast Lead, Netanyahu, and what would be a fair settlement of the conflict, in particular? You don't have to write a book--a paragraph, or even a few sentences, for each question will suffice

    • W. Jones: Excellent questions. There are answers to all of them. Some of them I've dealt with on my own blog (jeromeslater.com), in one form or another. However, I doubt that I will be writing a new article--especially since it would to be a long one--that directly address your questions.

      But I do appreciate the invitation and the spirit behind it.

    • Anonymous: I appreciate the spirit of your comments and questions. But I have to pick and choose which ones to respond to--surely you understand that--and yours would require a great deal of time. I've made a judgment about the morality and intentions of the US in the Gulf War and Libya; you disagree. I'd have to write two new articles to explain my position; sorry, can't do it.

    • "Your logic is the following I guess: If you you’re going to plan a genocide, make sure you’re armed well enough to ward off any dogooders."

      In a contest to determine the dumbest argument ever to appear on Mondoweiss--and the competition for the honor is fierce--this may be the winner.

    • eee: "rephrase your question to Jerry perhaps and ask if the US should have threatened sanctions on Israel. I am sure he would answer yes."

      Right again on, on all points.

      One suggestion: only in Israel is it necessary to resort to cute wording in discussing Israel's nuclear weapons. Since everyone knows it has them, you can just say "since Israel is a nuclear power." Unless you are a government official, in which case I suppose you are bound by the official language--I take it you are not such an official.

    • eee: "One of the criteria of a just war is that you have a good chance of winning it. Otherwise, the war is not just."

      Once again, eee's point is absolutely correct. In fact, that is built directly into just war philosophy, though I neglected to mention it in my discussion of it: even if a war meets all other moral criteria, it cannot be just unless the prospects for success, at a proportional cost to both sides, is high. That principle alone is sufficient to prevent most wars designed to protect human rights in other countries. It also explains why, in most cases, only states or groups (the U.S,, NATO) will dominate most wars of humanitarian intervention.

      In other words--and please note the distinction--whether or not a U.S. intervention can be considered just must be evaluated on its merits, and cannot be defeated by arguments such as, how come only the U.S. gets to do it, as if it were benefit rather than an unpleasant duty. Or by charges that every use of force by the U.S. can only be explained by "imperialism," "American exceptionalism," and the like.

      And there is still more, though until now I've forgotten to mention it. International law is increasingly incorporating the principle that humanitarian military intervention is not only a right, but actually a DUTY of those who have the military capabilities, when the facts of the case warrant it. This principle is called the Responsibility to Protect, and is now so widely understood and discussed that it has even acquired a shortcut: R2P. In other words, the international legal consensus no longer is that only individual or collective self-defense justifies the use of force; depending on a whole series of circumstances and judgments, in some cases--note, SOME--the principle of R2P also justifies going to war.

    • Like I said above, note this exchange between eee and Mooser. Eee makes an undeniable point, disposing of the "argument"--if one can even call it that--that a war must be unjust if you don't want to send your children to fight it. Whereupon, Mooser, a local hero on this site, regarded as a great wit, either can't comprehend the argument or, because he knows he has no answer to it, resorts to a non-sequitur, followed by an insult.

    • Woody Tanaka: "And I am so very sorry that you haven’t had the honor."

      Not good, Woody. Not up to your usual standards.

    • “So the job of the US is to save foreign Jews, even at the expense of the lives of its own citizens?” So you want to have it both ways I see. Who’s job is it then if you also deny the Jews a country? You either accept the notion that the leading countries of the world need to protect minorities from genocide or you accept the notion that minorities need to have a way to protect themselves by having countries and armies."

      I find these exchanges between eee and his opponents to be very interesting. On the one hand, I suspect eee and I are quite far apart in our judgment of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians--he can correct me if I'm wrong, but I really doubt that he agrees with me that those policies are criminal, not to mention completely irrational to the goal of preserving Israel, whether as a Jewish state, or a state of all its citizens.

      On the other hand, eee consistently makes better arguments--here and in many other past exchanges--than his opp0nents. The one I've quoted is one of them, but by no means the only one. If one is to be taken seriously, these arguments must be answered; venting outrage that you know will be immediately praised as "brilliant" or "superb" by most regulars will hardly do.

    • That is not correct. You certainly can argue that Walzer's positions on Israel are inconsistent with his philosophical principles, but that tells you nothing whatever about the validity of those principles. In any case, Walzer's work on just war philosophy is built on, as I've said before, two thousand years of religious and philosophical thought--meaning, it's hardly merely Walzer's thinking that guides just war analysis. Moreover, as I stated above, most of the just war principles, in one form or another, either have been directly incorporated or underlie the international law that governs the use of force.

    • Simply: Yes and No. Cast Lead was a totally unjustified war, as I have repeatedly argued--you hardly need to make that argument to me, of all people. You seem to think you have caught me in an inconsistency--or "'hypocrisy"-- if I don't agree that the U.S. should have intervened militarily to stop it. No, I don't agree there should have been such an intervention--it would have been unthinkable for any number of obvious reasons.

      Humanitarian intervention can only be extremely rare, for what should be obvious reasons. Millions of Russians and Chinese people were killed by Stalin and Mao--orders of magnitude greater than Libyans killed by Quaddafi, or Muslims killed by the Serbs--but it would not have even occurred to anyone that there was an inconsistency or "hypocrisy" because we didn't go to war against Russia and China.

    • CloakAndDagger : Most of just war morality has been incorporated into international law. I am not an expert on international law, but to my knowledge there are few if any cases in which international law and just war morality have been in conflict with each other.

      If I'm wrong on the facts, I imagine a true expert will correct me.

    • and who did choose the charles manson as sgt. pepper photo of gadaffi?

      Not me

    • Phil, and others, urged me not to leave Mondoweiss. And he was kind enough to suggest that I first publish my general reply on my own blog, which he would then pick up, so as to spare me the obvious jokes about my saying I quit, then not quitting. However, I didn't think that would be appropriate--or fool anyone--so I decided to grit my teeth and take my lumps.
      So yes, I've been inconsistent; then again, as they say, "consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Moreover, I did say, several times, that I will stick around to play out this string, and that's what I'm doing, both here and in the January 6th post. But to exchange insults with the Moosers et al of this world is a total waste of time and energy, so once this thread has disappeared into its black hole, I will distinguish between letting Phil post those of my blogs that he wishes to--which I may or may not do--and responding to the stupid or nasty comments.

      Hear Me, Oh Lord! Give me the strength to resist temptation, or strike me down if I fail!

    • "Oh, a “proper” evaluation, I see. Who gets to evaluate that?"

      Can the efforts at sarcasm. The answer to your question is: Everyone--though of course it's better when done in a sophisticated and honest manner. Your argument contains a common fallacy: the principle is ok, but who says it will be done honestly and in a sophisticated manner? Won't it be abused? What about people, or politicians, who can't be trusted to act on the principle, but who distort or lie about it because they have an axe to grind?

      If you want to see where this train of thought leads you, consider the principle of self-defense. I take it that just about everyone considers self-defense--when GENUINELY a matter of self-defense--to be a just cause to use force. Slight qualification--other than true and entirely consistent pacifists, who hold to their positions in every possible case, no matter what the consequences.

      But the "self defense" argument can also be disingenuous and abused--in fact, it routinely is. What follows: jettison the principle? Have no constraints at all on war, to make sure the constraints won't be abused?

      So, the bottom line answer to your question is that the just war argument is exactly that--an argument. One is either convinced by it, or not. In my case, I'm convinced by the just war argument as applied to Libya, but not as applied to Iraq.

      Actually, I understate the case for just war principles. Many of them are embodied in international law, so that, in theory at least, the international court gets to evaluate arguments over the law, though not necessarily arguments over the moral issues.

  • Ron Paul's foreign policy should be embraced
    • "BIOC, take a chill pill and courses on reading comprehension and logic."

      Hmm. Could that be read as patronizing? Insulting? A comment on the intellectual weaknesses of BIOC? David's sign of annoyance at the inability or unwillingness of BIOC to understand or fairly state David's argument?

      Of course, on the merits David is absolutely right. On the other hand, in some cases I could name, being right on the merits, annoyed at inanities, and allowing yourself to express this annoyance is irrelevant, but in David's case there's no problem: He's One of Us.

  • Ron Paul's antiwar position is simpleminded
    • W. Jones.

      A very reasonable comment. A minor point first: I have already conceded, several times, that I have been inconsistent about leaving Mondoweiss. I'll try to be more consistent in the future, though clearly, at one level, I can't seem to resist combat. In any case, I did grant myself a temporary injunction against silence, until this thread has closed.

      Now to your important point, in your last sentence. Here, in a nutshell is my position: I accept the description--which on this site is considered a grievous moral crime--that I tend to be a liberal Zionist. What that means, certainly in my case and I believe in most others who accept that description, is that I (or we) reject all the traditional Zionist arguments for the right of the Jews to have a state in Palestine, save one: existential necessity. So it seems to me to have been overwhelmingly obvious that the Holocaust demonstrated the need of the Jews to have an armed nation state for protection. Yet, at the same time, the only good argument for that need to be fulfilled in Palestine was that there was no other practical place to put it.

      It is perfectly possible to accept the argument that tragic necessity required the creation of Israel, but to say that the Jews no longer need an armed state in which they are a large majority. In fact, that is exactly the position of most "post-Zionists." However, I can't agree: the history of murderous anti-Semitism does not allow us to conclude that it is wholly a thing of the past, and that therefore there is no longer any need for a Jewish state.

      Having said that, it is absolutely also the case that much of the hostility towards Israel in the Middle East is not a consequence of some purely ideological anti-Semitism, but of Israel's behavior--much, I said, not all. Anyway, even if the dangers, or potential dangers, to Israeli security were ENTIRELY a consequence of its own misbehavior, if I were an Israeli, believing what I do, I would be very worried about abandoning an armed Jewish state, at least at this point in history.

      That's a paradox, to be sure. Israel has created what is largely--but not entirely--a self-fulfilling prophecy. Its stupidity and its crimes against the Palestinians--not to mention, on all too many occasions in the past, against Lebanese, Egyptian, and Jordanian citizens as well--need to end, and just about everything I've ever written has that as its main focus.

      Meanwhile, however, the Israelis, like every other people--and possibly other Jews elsewhere in the world whose security if not existence might be endangered in the future--have the right to live. At this point in history, I am not prepared to say that they (Israelis, and possibly other Jews) have neither the right nor the need to maintain, as you say, "an armed nation for protection."

    • "And I mean that to sting, Slater."

      No! Say it isn't so. You meant that to sting? How very uncharacteristic.

      Anyway, as you suggested earlier, how can you be sure my name is really Slater. You're right to be skeptical. After all, I could be a coward who hides behind a pseudonym as he slings his mud.

    • "what’s decisive isn’t determined solely by american jewish community."

      Annie STILL doesn't get it. I didn't say that US policy SHOULD be determined solely by the American Jews, or that in a democracy that's the way it should be. I said it was a fact--a very sad fact, I obviously implied--that there was little chance of a change of US policy so long as Congress and the executive branch were unwilling to risk offending the majority of American Jews. Why is that the case: in part because of the power and influence of the Israel Lobby, as described by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, and in part for other reasons, too complicated to go into here.

      Annie then reminds me that this is a democracy. The obvious implication is a nonsequitur; it would only make sense if I was arguing that it was right and proper for the Jewish community to have so much power over U.S. policy in Israel.

      As I have already responded to Annie, if she thinks I am factually wrong when I describe the power of the Jews, or if you prefer, the Israel lobby, then by all means discuss the evidence which disproves it.

      Let me remind you of what my argument was: if you want to change U.S. policy towards Israel, you need to change the attitudes of the American Jewish community, and to that end what so often appears on Mondoweiss is surely likely to have the opposite result.
      But no, she goes right on being unable to make the distinction between an argument about the facts and an opinion of whether the facts are desirable.

      One more time: if you (generic you) want to be taken seriously, you must have the ability to understand the argument, the willingness to answer it rather than strawmen, and the intellectual ability to understand quite elementary distinctions.

    • Have your adolescent fun, little Mouser. For saying that I would never again respond to your repulsive little sallies, I guess I asked for it. For those interested, I have provided a longer reply to the same stuff from Mouser and others on my more recent Jan. 8 statement:

      Phil, and others, urged me not to leave Mondoweiss. And he was kind enough to suggest that I first publish my general reply on my own blog, which he would then pick up, so as to spare me the obvious jokes about my saying I quit, then not quitting. However, I didn’t think that would be appropriate–or fool anyone–so I decided to grit my teeth and take my lumps.
      So yes, I’ve been inconsistent; then again, as they say, “consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Moreover, I did say, several times, that I will stick around to play out this string, and that’s what I’m doing, both here and in the January 6th post. But to exchange insults with the Moosers et al of this world is a total waste of time and energy, so once this thread has disappeared into its black hole, I will distinguish between letting Phil post those of my blogs that he wishes to–which I may or may not do–and responding to the stupid or nasty comments.

      Hear Me, Oh Lord! Give me the strength to resist temptation, or strike me down if I fail!

    • Annie:

      Ok, continuing to play out this string. Since your statement was so badly written, it is hard to know exactly what you objected to, but I think the underlying message--and its confusion--was decipherable. I was stating that as a matter of FACT, the views of the American Jewish community were decisive in determining US policy towards Israel--just as Mearsheimer and Walt have argued. I most certainly was not saying that I APPROVED of the fact--again, just as M/W didn't approve of the fact--so what you said there, and yet again here ("what's decisive isn't determined solely by the American Jewish community") is a non-sequitur.

      Now, I agree that I ASSERTED, as opposed to demonstrated, that the influence of American Jews on this issue was decisive. I wasn't writing a book, I was making a statement that I assumed would not be challenged on the facts, in support of my argument that if you wished to change this fact, you would have to proceed in an entirely different manner.

      Of course, you may disagree that I have stated a fact. In that case, what you must do is say something like this: "I think it is factually incorrect that American Jews are decisive, and here is the evidence that shows they aren't: etc."

      To restate what should be obvious, from everything that I've written: I deplore, not approve, the decisive influence of my community on Israeli issues, because I think they are wrong, with terrible moral and security consequences for all concerned, first and foremost the oppressed Palestinians, but also Israel and the United States itself.

      Your inability to understand this elementary distinction--or perhaps, if you prefer, your dishonesty in characterizing my argument, is precisely what disqualifies you from being taken seriously--no matter how much you are adored by others on this site.

    • "I am gobsmacked by this private email."

      Correct--PRIVATE email. Silly me--I just assumed that when you send a private email to someone, they won't publish it without your consent. Under that assumption, I decided to say exactly what I believed; obviously, if I intended to go public, I wouldn't have said EXACTLY what I meant. Lesson learned.

      However, now that Annie has gone public, I will reiterate that she embodies all that is wrong with Mondoweiss--which is not to say that there aren't many things that are right with Mondoweiss.

      A lot of people here are "shocked" by all sorts of things. Well, what I am most shocked about is Phil's actually promoting Annie to a regular staff member: is this the face he wishes to present to the world? It's a bad error on his part--and I have communicated my opinion to him.

      Aside from Annie's sophomoric and vulgar rhetoric and her often incoherent writing--take a look at her earlier attempt to rebut my argument about the crucial importance of the American Jewish community if US policy is to change--she has no qualifications to be taken seriously as an analyst of important issues. Strong opinions, typically accompanied by venom, sarcasm and profanities--presumably designed to show that you are one tough broad, a woman of the people, as opposed to some ivory-tower elitist professor--are not a substitute for knowledge, balance, and experience in serious analysis of vitally important matters.

      Finally, Annie is the embodiment of so many others on this site, who seem incapable of either honesty or comprehension in stating fairly the argument you wish to oppose. That alone disqualifies her from being taken seriously by serious people.

      A closing word. I know that I have said, more than once, that I've had enough, and won't respond any further to comments. Yet I can't keep my mouth shut; I'm laughing at me as well. Nobody is perfect, not even me. However, after this string is played out, I'm pretty sure I mean what I say.

    • With this final remark, I am departing not only this thread, but Mondoweiss itself. Over the last few years Phil Weiss has published a number of my commentaries, and the pattern is invariable: when I write some very severe criticism of Israel, I am applauded, but whenever I write something that departs from the radical left, knee-jerk consensus on Mondoweiss, I am subject to a torrent of abuse, junior high school sarcasm, sputtering hatred, and so on. Not to mention the most ludicrous charge of them all--that I'm an apologist for Israel, or that I think that anyone who criticizes Israel, or me personally, is an anti-Semite.

      Now, it is true that sometimes I have lost my temper, and responded with some acerbity. I plead guilty, but offer in mitigation the fact that I'm only human, that when I'm subject to attacks that reveal that little or nothing of my argument has been understood, and that this lack of comprehension is accompanied by insults, sometimes my combative instincts take over and I can't resist striking back.

      Because I've finally had it, and knew that this would be my last appearance, in this instance I decided to go out with a bang, not only knowing full well what the response would be, but actually anticipating with some perverse glee watching the wolf pack go into a frenzy. Here I am referring particularly to my warning against entering the approaching brain-free zone, which I deliberately inserted between comments by some of the worst offenders, American, Mooser, and Keith.

      My final criticism of Mondoweiss in the one I regard as by far the most important. For a number of years Phil Weiss has performed an invaluable service, providing information about Israel's policies and a platform for serious criticism of them. Even after other blogs along the same lines began to appear, Mondoweiss remained the most important, the most often quoted and, I believe, the most widely read.

      However, in the last year the flaws in Mondoweiss have become more intrusive. I refer partly to the excessively one-sided and sometimes analytically unsophisticated nature of some of its postings. The more important problem, though, is the disastrous quality of most of the regular commenters--with honorable exceptions, of course, including several on this particular thread.

      Why "disastrous?" There is no serious prospect of any change in Israeli policies, or of US support of them, unless the American Jewish community can finally grasp that those policies are irrational, self-defeating, dangerous, and immoral. Without the support of the Jewish community, there is no chance that any US government will adopt the strong measures that are the only chance of reversing Israel's course: BDS, and making US aid conditional on such reversals.

      Therefore, the most important audience for Mondoweiss and other blogs, including mine, is the American Jewish community. How many American Jews who might be open to reasoned criticism of Israel are likely to be convinced by the hysterical, hate-filled, ignorant, and imbalanced denunciations that now characterize far too many of the regular Mondoweiss participants, especially in their total rejections of any form of Zionism, no matter how self-critical and moderate, and the numerous--yes, numerous--attacks that verge on, or unmistakably go over, the red line of anti-Semitism.

    • Warning! You are about to enter another brain-free zone. Proceed at your own risk: it seems to be contagious.

    • While worded moderately, Donald's statement is far from "excellent," for it entirely ignores the case for measures that in normal circumstances can, should, and would be prohibited: drone attacks, indefinite detentions, unaccountable and secret presidential orders for military action, and others. OF COURSE these are troublesome matters, but a real dilemma exists: there are in fact, real-life terrorists, they had safe havens in Afghanistan, are seeking them elsewhere, make no bones about their intentions to attack the U.S. and other western allies whenever they can.

      9/11 wasn't a myth, in happened. A future attack means the definite possibility--and if they aren't stopped, the probability--of eventual attacks by nuclear weapons. Osama bin-Laden frequently explicitly said he was seeking nuclear weapons, and so have other similar groups.

      Stopping the spread of nuclear and possible biological weapons to fanatics who are very hard to deter is, by far, the most serious challenge to US and international security--in our history. In those circumstances, it is perfectly plausible that extraordinary measures to prevent the worst catastrophes in human history may be justified.
      To consider such measures as evidence of U.S. "imperialism" is off the charts.

      You might also ask yourself this question. Bush took measures in the war on terrorism--and I have no serious problem with that name-- that were widely deplored, especially by us liberals. Yet, when Obama continued most of them, he was derided for "selling out," etc. Try turning the question around: When Obama, and his highest appointees, most of whom are far more liberal, thoughtful, and intelligent than Bush and his bunch, continued much the same policies, shouldn't one possible explanation be that once in office, faced with the realities, they concluded that they had no other choice? Defined, as Peter Viereck once memorably said: "Reality is that which, when you don't believe in it, doesn't go away."

      Donald's and similar statements would be far more acceptable if they at least acknowledged the realities, for example by arguing that Yes, the issues and dangers are real; nonetheless, on balance I prefer running the risks of massive terrorist attacks to the measures the U.S. government has adopted to prevent them. While I would vigorously disagree with that conclusion, at least it would be within the realm of serious discourse.

      But not to recognize and address the obvious counterarguments is to remove yourself from the realm of serious debate.

    • Blankfort here changes the subject. The issue is not whether the Zionist leadership gave a higher priority to bringing endangered German and other European Jews to Palestine than to saving their lives in other ways--though it is hard to see how they could have done that, in light of their impotence against German military might and the unwillingness of most of the world's countries to allow massive Jewish immigration. This history is well known, the world doesn't need Blankfort to tell us about it.

      Once again, however, distinctions need to be made, and in Blankfort's case the distinctions are not difficult: Arguing that the Zionists should have done more to save the victims of the Holocaust is not the same as saying they were responsible for bringing it on. That is the clear, unmistakable implication of your earlier post, as well as others you have submitted: Hitler was angry at the Zionists for their activism, you pointedly note that Mein Kampf was written after he had read Herzl, and the like.
      Any sensible person immediately understands the innuendo here, and it is not in the slightest mitigated by saying "Of course, I don't mean that the Jews brought anti-Semitism or the Holocaust on themselves," when that is precisely the implication. Especially when you keep saying the same thing.
      Just to check my own reading, I sent your comment that set off this discussion to ten colleagues and friends, eight of them non-Jewish, and one of whom is regularly celebrated on this site by Phil Weiss and others. I didn't tell them what I thought of it, so as not to prejudice their responses.
      The essence of their unanimous responses was that while the writing was a mess, the unmistakable implication was that the Zionists were to blame for German anti-Semitism. Several were even a little annoyed at me for asking, considering it so obvious that why was I wasting their time.
      One of classic tropes of genuine anti-Semitism, throughout history, is to blame it on the behavior of the Jews. That said, it can hardly be denied that Muslim anti-Semitism today is at least partly a consequence of Israeli behavior. But Nazi Germany is an entirely different matter.

    • Not quite:

      1. I was strongly and unqualifiedly and actively against the Vietnam War. I opposed the Gulf War. I thought we should have withdrawn from Afghanistan shortly after the initial attack in response to 9/11. I am overwhelmingly against an attack on Iran. Except in these quarters, I am known for my unqualified disapproval--fury, would be more accurate--at Israel's behavior in the I-P conflict. Pretty tame hawk, I would think.
      2. It's true that I sound very much like Walzer when discussing just war theory, since Walzer has written the most authoritative and widely cited work on modern just war theory, and like just about every other scholar of just war theory, I have been strongly influenced by it.
      On the other hand, we don't sound a bit alike when it comes to Israel.
      3. It is true that I don't think that most American military interventions are motivated by bad-intentioned imperialism. Bush, yes; Obama, no way.

    • Flyod says...etc

      A perfect example of the quality and monomania of most comments on this site:
      1. Apparently Flyod has never heard of just war theory, just like so many others, which he/she thinks does not disqualify him/her from joining in a discussion of it.
      2. The subject of this discussion is not Israel--it's just that the level of hatred of Israel on Mondoweiss is so strong and so extreme that everything seems to come back to it.
      3. One of the last people writing about Israel that needs to be lectured about Israeli crimes is me. Yet, it happens over and over. It just shows how preposterous such lecturers are.
      4. And that said, the answer to your last query is a definite, unqualified Yes: Israel's crimes (and as I said, crimes they are) are"not quite the same" as those of Japan or Germany.

    • "Slater's" just war theory? What an honor! Hilarious. Poor Thomas Aquinas, he must be spinning in his grave.

    • Crowther: "I never made a qualitative judgement about a veterans opinions – I know a lot of veterans whose opinions on war are to the right of Atilla the Hun."

      Really? Would those be the very same war veterans about whom you earlier said--at least twice--"The point I am trying to make, is there doesn’t seem to be many war veterans out there running around talking about how “good” some wars are."

      These same war veterans, I take it, are those who are to the right of Atilla the Hun, but still to the left of me? I claim that as a proud liberal I'm definitely to the left of Atilla the Hun. Incidentally, despite your quotes, I never said, and would never under any circumstances say, that some wars are "good." What I said was that some wars are justified. Oh well--somehow I've gotten the impression that meaningful distinctions, let alone subtleties and nuance, perish the thought, are not your strongest suit.

    • Libra: Oh, Obama for sure. And not just particularly from a foreign policy perspective,--not even mainly so--but because every one of his domestic policies is orders of magnitude better, both morally and consequentially, than those of the benighted neanderthals of the Republican party.

      That is not to say that he is my ideal candidate, far from it, nor to deny that he has been awful on Israel (though he would risk losing a close election if he said and did the right things), nor that he has been unaccountably weak vis-a-vis the Republicans until now. It's just that there is no other practical choice but Obama. Anyway, it looks like he's decided to come out swinging, and about damned time.

    • Donald: A legitimate question. Off the top of my head, I have two responses. The first is the one I've already given to Phil Weiss's making of the same point that you, Greenwald, and others are also making: I have a different prediction than you folks on the consequences of his campaign: I think it is more likely that no one running for president, especially on the Republican side, will move towards Paul positions on war, even when they are legitimate (I also oppose an attack on Iran, aid to Israel, and others)--rather, it is more likely, in my view, that his foreign policy positions will be ignored, but that his domestic imbelicities will force Republican candidates who probably know better--Romney, and certainly Huntsman--to move to the right. Indeed, I shouldn't call it a "prediction," it has already happened.

      The second point, and I haven't articulated this even to myself until your question required me to do so, is that I don't share the underlying premise of a lot of those in this discussion, including Greenwald, who I almost always admire: namely that the "prowar" disposition is so strong in this country that we need Ron Paul to make the counterarguments. Obama inherited the Afghan War and the Iraq War, and the bottom line is that he's getting out, even though we will probably, in some sense, end up losing those wars-- and I don't detect vociferous opposition to that from any quarter--not even from most of the Republican candidates. And why not? Because the mood of the country is hardly prowar. You no longer get elected in this country by promising imperial ventures overseas.

      Any good liberal can--and has--made the legitimate antiwar arguments, for example, against an attack on Iran, we don't need an extremist and a crackpot to make them. In this connection, I will not resist adding that the steaming, vociferous, howling hatred of liberals of a lot of people on this site is just awful. Ironically, it is just like the Bolsheviks in Russia, and communist parties in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s: it wasn't the rightwingers that they hated the most, it was the democratic socialists.

    • A general comment. A good deal of the commentary here, especially the most poorly reasoned and vituperative, essentially consists of this argument: all wars kill innocent people, therefore no war can be justified. The first part is factually correct--all wars do kill innocent peoples. The conclusion, however, does not follow, because many other matters must be considered, and many distinctions made. This is not "Slater's position," it is the outcome (as I have said) of two thousand years of moral thought by the world's greatest religious and secular thinkers, to which I have made no additional contributions.

      The beginning, the sine qua non, of intelligent thought is the ability to make relevant distinctions. Many of you don't make the cut.

    • Bandolero, and others who have pointed out that Paul says he would have voted to go to war against Germany and Japan after they declared war on us, and supported the authorization to attack Afghanistan after 9/11.

      Paul is a politician, running for office. Would you expect him to say he would have voted against a declaration of war on Germany and Japan, after they declared war on us? In fact, I believe him when he says he would have. But that isn't the point. The point is that an isolationist Congress, then having a majority, tried to stop Roosevelt from aiding the victims of Nazi aggression, even if it meant, as it certainly appeared at the time, that Germany would have conquered all of Western Europe, including England. On the basis of Ron Paul's philosophy, it is a reasonable inference that he would have supported that Congress.

      9/11. Same point. Would you expect a politician to vote against the use of force against Afghanistan after 9/11? The test is not how you vote after we've been attacked, but what the consequences are of an indiscriminately isolationist position, before such attacks.

    • M. Hughes: "I don’t see anything in Slater’s apparatus that would enable to set limits at all and therefore there is something that points, as Mooser indicates, to the perpetual war syndrome, where there is never enough war until the human race is purified – another paradox."

      No, that's not right. We're not talking about "Slater's apparatus" here, or at least we shouldn't be, as my "apparatus" is based on two thousand years of moral and religious philosophy that has seriously examined the problem of war. That apparatus is known as "Just war philosophy," and I can assure you that it doesn't lead to a perpetual war syndrome. On the contrary, the purpose is to make war as rare as possible, given (a) the impossibility of eliminating war altogether and (b) the problem that while all war is evil in some sense, it sometimes is less evil than the consequences of refusing to go to war.

      Just war theory starts from the premise that no war can be considered just unless it meets all the following criteria (and some others that are too complicated to go into here):

      1. The cause must be just. Primarily, but not exclusively, self-defense. Sometimes humanitarian intervention--saving not yourselves, but others--is justified. Sometimes, I said. Libya may end up being a good example, but it is much too soon to tell.
      2. War can only be chosen as a last resort, when all other methods of reaching a peaceful solution or a just goal have been tried, but failed.
      3. The war must be authorized by legitimate authority. In the context of the U.S. govt, that means that Congress has to authorize it. This criterion was not met in WWII, Vietnam, or Libya. Still, we judge these wars to be different. In WWII there was no sensible or moral choice but to ignore Congress, that is, the law of the land. In Vietnam, NONE of the criteria were met, so it was an overwhelmingly unjust war. In Libya, a harder case. So far, the end may have justified the means--meaning that despite the fact that Obama followed in the paths of nearly all his predecessors since Roosevelt in ignoring the constitutional separation of powers and the War Powers Act,so far the evidence is that two morally legitimate and just goals may have been attained: (1) saving far more innocent lives than were lost (2) ridding a people of a bizarre tyranny. So far, I said: the balance might shift, and it might not.

      4. The methods by which wars are fought--even just wars--must also be just. This means several things. First, it means that damage caused by war cannot be disproportionate to the purpose of the war, no matter how just that purpose might be. Second, every effort must be made to distinguish between legitimate military targets and noncombatants. Third, and most sweepingly, it means that noncombatants can never be intentionally attacked.

      Most wars throughout history cannot meet these demanding criteria--but some can--so far, cross your fingers, Libya. And Afghanistan also would have, if the goals had been limited, as they should have been, to destroying the al-Qaeda bases and getting Osama bin Laden.

      Incidentally, the bombing of Dresden--and also of other German and Japanese cities at the end of WWII,
      do NOT meet the moral criteria of just war philosophy--they were deliberately intended to kill civilians and, worse yet, they could not be justified as necessary to win the war, since there was no longer any doubt about the war's outcome.

      Finally, if you want a very brief but good introduction to just war theory, put that into Google and read the Wikipedia article.

    • That link reports on a book about the Zionist agreement with Hitler in 1933, the Transfer Agreement, under which Hitler allowed German Jews to go to Palestine--I guess the Holocaust had not occurred to him as an even better way to make Germany Judenfrei. The Zionists, in other words, were trying to save the Jews from Hitler.

      Now, if anyone thinks that is remotely like what Blankfort keeps saying, no matter how much he denies it, that Hitler, having read Herzl and being annoyed at the German Zionists for trying to convince their brethren to get out of Germany and go to Palestine, decided to kill them all. Therefore, the wholly unmistakable implication of Blankfort, no matter how incoherently he writes, is that Jewish behavior -or, if you prefer, Zionist behavior--was to blame for the Holocaust. If that isn't anti-Semitic, nothing is. And he's said it more than once, so it can't be written off as an aberration.

    • "America did not “join the fight for moral and strategic reasons”. Japan and Germany formally and openly declared war to America."

      Not good history. The only reason that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor was because Roosevelt decided, at least for strategic reasons, that the U.S. would have to oppose Japanese expansionism in Asia, even if it meant war. Consequently, the US imposed increasingly stringent economic sanctions against Japan, culminating with an oil embargo imposed in July 1941, which he knew would probably lead to war. That led the Japanese to conclude that if they wanted a free hand in Asia, they would have to attack Pearl Harbor, in a foolish attempt to persuade the U.S. to back off.

      In other words, there would have been no Japanese attack on the US if Roosevelt had decided that Japanese expansionism in Asia was not a matter that was worth a war to stop. That doesn't mean Roosevelt was wrong to have acted as he did, but it does make the history a lot more complex than the simplistic view that it was purely a defensive war.

      Germany. Well before Germany declared war on the U.S. following Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt set about deliberately provoking Germany to attack us first, so he could claim we reacted only in self-defense. Roosevelt had reached the absolutely correct decision that for both moral and strategic reasons, we could not allow German expansionism to continue and, in particular, allow the downfall of Britain. However, he was stymied by an isolationist Congress--the Ron Pauls of their day--which prohibited, by law, the U.S. from helping Britain with American warships. Roosevelt broke that law, began using US destroyers to convoy British ships and attack German submarines. US destroyers on at least two occasions then attacked German subs, and only then were they targeted by those subs.

      When an American destroyer was sunk, Roosevelt lied and said it was an unprovoked attack. And this was months before Germany declared war.
      Was Roosevelt's clearly illegal and I would say unconstitutional usurpation of Congress's warmaking powers wrong? Absolutely not, it was imperative to stop Hitler, and the only way it could be done was to provoke Germany to attack first. Tragically, Roosevelt's actions set terrible precedents which have been repeated by many US presidents since then, to get us into wars which were NOT necessary or just--the most notable example being Johnson's lies about the Tonkin Gulf incident in 1964, in which he deliberately provoked a North Vietnam attack--and maybe not even an attack--in order to give him an excuse to send US ground forces into South Vietnam.

      So, though in the largest sense certainly WWII was defensive, why we ended up in wars against Japan and Germany is a lot more complicated then saying "We had no choice, they attacked us first."

      Whatever Ron Paul now says about WWII in retrospect, do you think that if he had been in Congress in the 1930s he would have voted AGAINST the isolationist majority who sought to tie Roosevelt's hands?

      Finally--not addressed to Koshiro--unless you know how to distinguish between clearly just wars (WWII) and clearly unjust ones (Vietnam), you are not part of the intelligent debate--as opposed to hateful and ignorant screaming--about the appropriate and inappropriate uses of force in an anarchic world.

    • Thanks Woody, you've saved me from having to make what one would think is the obvious argument, namely that whether or not I served in the military, or went to war, was utterly irrelevant to my argument.

      Even so, let me set the record straight: I voluntarily joined the Navy (the draft had ended) in 1957, in part because of my quaint notion that one should serve in one's country, and in part because I was outraged at the Soviet crushing of the Hungarian revolution in 1956.

      Still, I must apologize to Crowther that there were no wars in my three years of service. I did my best, but I wasn't successful in starting one. Still, I claim that it was a little harder bouncing around in a tin can in the North Atlantic for three years than serving as a drone "pilot" today.

      Incidentally, Ron Paul served as a flight surgeon in the air force, which almost certainly meant that his medical schooling was paid for by the air force. I served as a deck officer on a destroyer, and didn't get a penny for college or graduate school.

    • For the very first time, anonymous little Mouser, you have squeaked something useful. Here I had thought the point of my article was that distinctions had to be made when thinking about war, something that is clearly beyond the intellectual capacity of Ron Paul, you, and a number of other commentators here.

      Just to clarify the record, though I realize there is hardly any point to clarify anything with you or your ilk, here are the facts of my own antiwar position:

      1. I opposed the Vietnam war from its very start, essentially in 1963. I argued against the war in my Ohio State foreign policy classes, I marched with the Veterans Against the Vietnam War, and I participated in the national anti-war "teach ins" in April 1965, when Johnson escalated.
      My argument, unlike so many who came late to oppose the war, was not that we couldn't win the war, but that we had no business being there, whether or not we could win it.

      2. I opposed the Iraq war, and wrote articles making the argument.

      3. I have been strongly against Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, not just the military attacks, but all aspects of that policy and behavior, and have written widely about it since the 1980s.

      4. I strongly oppose any attack on Iran, and in effect said so in my 2nd paragraph, despite the illiteracy of someone who thinks I said I was in favor of it.

      However, now that you have clarified my real point for me, I now realize that I was wrong to oppose these wars, and from now on I will be in favor all wars.

  • Ron Paul and the left
    • Woody Tanaka's takedown of Paul's libertarianism

      Terrific! What makes it so brilliant is that very few of us commenting on Paul, on one side or another, have really looked closely at what libertarianism actually entails--it's sort of being given a free ride, with the debate focusing on his other positions. But as Woody shows, when you look at what Paul's "ten principles" actually mean, they are preposterous.

  • The Goldstone Report and Israeli criminality-- what the Israeli left (and the US left) refuses to get its head around
    • First, let me express my gratitude for the many words of praise for this posting--they are very much appreciated. On a minor point, I have been wrestling with the problem of "Professor" Slater, which makes me a bit uncomfortable, as my arguments should rest on their merits, not on my title--which in any case is probably no longer accurate--but "Professor Emeritus" is worse. I now have a solution: my supporters should address me as Jerry, but my critics should feel free to address me as Professor.

      Which brings me to Robert Werdine:

      While you write well and your tone is courteous, unfortunately you have wholly adopted the mythology--or the standard Israeli hasbara--about the I-P conflict. I cannot, here, offer a point-by-point refutation of your argument, but--along with many, many others--I have addressed these issues at length elsewhere.

      That said, the short response to your argument is that it is entirely untrue that the Israeli occupation and control of Gaza ended with its withdrawal of its settlements in 2005--in various ways the Israelis continued to control Gaza and repress its people, including not only repeated military attacks but a devastating economic siege that you somehow fail to mention.

      Your argument entirely ignores the obvious central point: for over sixty years, and especially since 1967, the Israelis have made life miserable for the Palestinians, contrary to international law and elementary morality. That some of them have chosen to fight back, unfortunately sometimes by terrorism, is a direct consequence of that state of affairs. As long as that continues, Israel has no right to claim "self-defense."

      Since you don't accept that, try this thought experiment: suppose during the Soviet occupation and repression of Eastern Europe that resistance groups, lacking the military capacity to dislodge the Soviets, in despair had set off bombs in Russian cities--surely acts of terrorism. Nonetheless, would the Soviets have had a convincing case that they had no choice but to respond with stepped-up military attacks, economic warfare, and other intensified measures of repression and control, all of which should be considered as legitimate acts of self--defense?

  • Weiner's progressive defenders blind themselves to the rightwing views that may now ensure his survival
    • Nice post, Scott. While you may be right that Weiner is "smart," both his sexual escapade and his amazing comments about Israel suggest he is downright mad.

  • A (half-hearted) defense of the Congressional Democrats
    • Many of the criticisms of my position are based on the belief that there's hardly any difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, so why worry if the Democrats get defeated, maybe in part because of Jewish defections? It's the same old Ralph Nader nonsense--both parties are tweedle-dee, tweedle dum, wouldn't have mattered if the U.S. president was Hubert Humphrey or Richard Nixon, or Al Gore or George Bush--or Obama and, say, Newt Gingrich or any of the other Republican neanderthals that are likely to get their party's nomination.

      Yes, there's not much difference between Obama and Bush on Israeli policy, and smaller differences than many of us hoped to see on foreign policy generally--but there are huge differences on US domestic policy, as well as on general intelligence and integrity. In any case, whether the differences between the parties are large or small, the election of a Republican president would make ALL policies much worse: on Israel, on foreign policy in general, and certainly on domestic politics.

      And my guess is that it probably wouldn't be the people who write on this site that would suffer the most from a Republican victory--merely the poor, the unemployed, the urban ghettos, cultural institutions, educational funding, and a lot more. It might help clarify your thoughts on such matters if you thought of them as America's Palestinians--but "Palestinians" who could actually be helped by rational policies, not the actual Palestinians whose lives we can barely effect because they are under the thumb of the Israelis whose policies we cannot control.

      Put differently, there are trade-offs and painful compromises that must be made, balances that must be struck, strategies which must be adapted to changing circumstances, and so on---modes of thought that are foreign to the more vociferous and single-minded of too many commentators on this site.

      A final word. I've said it before, but somehow it doesn't stick. I don't favor an end to criticism of Israeli and U.S. policies--just that, at this moment, close to a crucial election, Obama and the Democrats have good reason to be careful. But not the rest of us.

    • I want to write a general response to the criticisms of my post. My argument was based--as I said—on certain premises about what I take to be the crucial facts of the matter:

      First, that Democratic criticism of Israeli policies—or, for example, if the Democrats in Congress had sat on their hands during Netanyahu’s speech rather than join in the ovations—would lead to Jewish defections, and the loss of Jewish political contributions and votes could cost the Democrats to lose elections, including the presidential election.

      I haven’t noticed anyone challenging this assessment.

      Second, that symbolic gestures or even Democratic criticisms of Israel in general and Netanyahu in particular would not bring about the desired result: a wholesale change in Israeli policies.

      I haven’t noticed anyone challenging this assessment, either.

      Third, that the only US actions that might—or might not—lead to the desired changes in Israeli policies would be to make all US aid conditional upon such changes, but that there was no prospect in the foreseeable future that the U.S. will so act.

      This is bad news. I deplore it. However, I haven’t noticed anyone challenging this assessment, either.

      I could have stopped right there, because if you don't challenge what I claim are the relevant facts of the matter, it would seem to inexorably follow that the Democrats have nothing to gain and a great deal to lose by ignoring the realities, and that what they stand to lose is a disaster, not merely for the Democrats, but for all of us.

      However, I did add the issue of what Israel might do if it felt it was pushed to the wall. This is admittedly a terrible problem—do you allow yourself to be, in effect, blackmailed by potential Israeli nuclear craziness? In any case, as has been pointed out, that issue won’t go away after the 2012 elections. The dilemma is a real one—but it is, precisely, a dilemma, and dilemmas don’t disappear if you decide to ignore them.

      I have no solution to this dilemma, but I can tell you for sure that I didn't make it up--it has long troubled US policymakers and has been the subject of professional journal articles. To give one example: in the early days of the 1973 Israeli-Egyptian war, Golda Meir began preparations for the use of nuclear weapons if the initial Egyptian advance into the Sinai continued, and that led Henry Kissinger to tell Nixon that the U.S. had to start an emergency weapons airlift to Israel to avert such a catastrophe. I am not prepared to say that was a mistake.

      Obviously, this is a very bad dilemma, for the other side of the coin is that it might always be dangerous to really push Israel hard, even when that’s the only thing that might work. I suppose that if I were president, I would move in the direction of real pressures on Israel, but only very gradually. In the real world of state decision making—as opposed to the blogosphere—consequences must be considered. Or, as someone famously said, “Reality is that which, when you ignore it, it doesn’t go away.”

      Finally, the silliest criticism is one that purports to believe I am advocating the end of criticism of Israel—not merely by Democrats facing a crucially important election next year, but by everyone. I could scarcely believe that and write what I do, and what I will continue to do. On the contrary, the only hope to change the factual realities I describe above is precisely to tell the truth about Israel, in the hope that it will gradually shift public opinion sufficiently to lead to real changes in U.S, policies, and ones which will not result in harming America’s only rational political party.

      Let me go even further--not only should we all continue justified criticism of Israel, but I support the BDS movement. However, I don't think Obama should join us.

    • "Try harder next time."

      Ok, I'll give it a shot, though I don't have to try very hard to notice that you failed to cite a biblical reference for your term, "annointed race."
      In any case, regardless of the Biblical origins of "stiffnecked" and "murmering," the context in those terms are used are much more important than their origin. You were applying them to the Jewish "race," and not in a neutral manner.

    • Samel wonders why I can be so wrong-headed; I wonder why Samel's criticisms so often distort my arguments. Later I will present an overall defense of my argument. For now, in response to Samel, the following points:
      1. I did not suggest a "silver lining" in the congressional behavior--I said, in effect, that even worse would be a Republican sweep in 2012. But if Samel really believes--Bush the elder not withstanding--that any of the likely Republican presidential candidates or a tea-party driven Republican Congress would be better for the true interests of Israel than Obama--because then the Democrats could criticize the Republicans--then he and I are very far apart indeed.

      2. In any case, my argument includes an assessment of what is best for the U.S., not just for Israel. I care very much about what happens in Israel, but I also care at least equally about what happens in the U.S. Somehow, I suspect that Samel would not be indifferent to a Republican sweep in 2012, despite his suggestion that there would be his own, and genuine--silver lining: the Democrats could criticize them.

      3. I didn't propose a "collective chill pill," nor that now is not the "time to complain." My argument was not that critics of Israel should remain silent--I sure don't intend to--it was that for DEMOCRATIC OFFICE-HOLDERS the priority must be to stop the Republicans in 2012, an absolutely critical goal that would be undercut if either the Democrats or Obama were to take a more forceful position on Israel--which in any case would fail to move Israel, and therefore would be both quixotic and harmful to the values that both Samel and I share.

      I claim to be describing facts. I don't like these facts, I hate them. But facts have consequences. Or does Samel and other critics question whether there are dangers to the Democratic party from taking critical positions on Israel?

      4. What will change after 2012? For one very big thing, Obama will no longer face the need for reelection, which might free him up to be more forceful--and not only on Israel. For another, a general Democratic recovery in the 2012 elections might lessen the danger of a takeover of the American government by the worst elements of the Republican party, making the political risk of taking on Israel somewhat less. For yet another, maybe public opinion on Israel will become more critical, reducing the political risks of opposing it.
      Or maybe these changes won't occur. Either way, the Democrats can reassess the situation then.

    • One other thought. You would think that anyone familiar with my writing would find the charge that I am an apologist for Israel--or American Jewry--to be ludicrous. Yet, on each occasion that I depart from the most radical possible position, it is perfectly predictable that--on this site--it will be typically met (not by everyone, of course) with sophomoric sarcasm and howls of outrage, demonstrating an inability or unwillingness to accurately state the argument I'm making, and then making a counter-argument.

      The problem with this sort of thing is not merely that many of you are happy to continue preaching to the choir, it's that the choir is so tiny. It seems to me the task of critics of Israel is to try to persuade the vast majority of its defenders that they are wrong. Right now we are losing this battle, and badly. That is why I argued that, for now, the more important task was to stop the Republicans in the 2012 election, but the chances of Obama and the Democrats of doing so will diminish to the extent that the Democrats antagonize American Jewry.

      My claim is that those are the facts of life in America today--not, as some of you appear to think, that I approve of those facts. If you wish--like me--to change those facts, you'd better stick to reasoned discourse.

    • I really don't think I need to be lectured--attacked, is more like it--on the dangers of using the anti-Semitism gambit. In fact, I've often written exactly on this issue, in professional journals as well as for general audiences, repeatedly and forcefully rejecting the charge of anti-Semitism as leveled against most serious criticisms of Israel--for but one of many examples, though I partially disagreed with Mearsheimer and Walt, I have dismissed the charge that they are anti-Semitic.

      However, on occasion some criticism of Israel does tread close to the line of anti-Semitism. So here's my question: does anyone else here worry that the terms "annointed race" and "stiffnecked and murmering people"--raise that issue?

    • Holstun:

      "Annointed race?"
      "Stiffnecked and murmuring people?"

      That sounds awfully like anti-Semitism to me. Not a charge I ever like to make, but you are treading a very thin line here.

      And a professor of English should be capable of responding to the actual arguments I made, instead of resorting to sophomoric sarcasm: did you see anything that suggests I consider the Israeli occupation to be liberal and rational?

  • Even 'Haaretz' has moral blindness re Gaza
    • Concerning the question of whether has the right to keep arms out of the hands of Hamas. That's not an easy issue, but on balance my position is this: So long as Israel continues its occupation, repression, and its deliberate policies of inflicting economic--or direct--pain on civilians, the Palestinians have a right to resist, and when they do, Israel has no "right of self-defense." Such a right would exist only if Israel ended its occupation etc. and allowed a genuinely independent Palestinian state to come into being--but then, Hamas or others continued to attack Israelis. In these latter circumstances, then and only then would Israel be genuinely defending itself, instead of defending its "right" to continue repressing the Palestinians.

      If you doubt this, try a thought experiment. Did the Germans have a right of self-defense when the French resistance movement attacked them? Did they have a right to prevent arms from going to the resistance?

      What makes the issue admittedly complicated is that we are not really sure what operational goals Hamas is pursuing: to the extent they are resisting the occupation, that is their right, but to the extent that they wish to destroy Israel within its legitimate borders, obviously they have no such right. There is an extensive body of evidence that strongly suggests that Hamas, despite its rhetoric and its charter, understands it has no chance of destroying Israel, and will settle for a Palestinian state in most of the occupied territories.

      In light of the uncertainty, what would a rational and moral Israel do: it would end the occupation, and then see what happened: if Hamas or other extremists continued to attack Israel, they would reenter Gaza in overwhelming force, and crush the extremists. Not only would they have the right to do that, and the power to do it, but in those circumstances--and only those circumstances--they would have overwhelming international support. Including from me.

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