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  • Extremist youth group storms French mosque after releasing anti-Arab manifesto
    • They are also selling items from their website - including a book called "1571 - Lépante". In 1571, an Ottoman sultan's flotilla was defeated in a battle in the Gulf of Lepanto, Greece. All of which confirms their "clash of civilizations"/Gates of Vienna narrative :

      The Battle of Lepanto took place on 7 October 1571 when a fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of southern European Catholic maritime states, decisively defeated the main fleet of the Ottoman Empire in five hours of fighting on the northern edge of the Gulf of Corinth, off western Greece. The Ottoman forces sailing westwards from their naval station in Lepanto (Turkish: İnebahtı; Greek: Ναύπακτος or Έπαχτος Naupaktos or Épahtos) met the Holy League forces, which had come from Messina.

      The victory of the Holy League prevented the Mediterranean Sea from becoming an uncontested highway for Muslim forces and helped to prevent the Ottomans from advancing further along the Mediterranean flank of Europe. Lepanto was the last major naval battle in the Mediterranean fought entirely between galleys, and has been assigned great symbolic importance.

    • I was unaware that was happening here, thanks for putting this up. Get them while they're young, I guess, they're easier to propagandize.
      The organization seems well-funded, and the website is rather slick. Clearly there's some real organizing going on behind this. The anti-68 rhetoric is an effort to roll back much of the progress which was made in French society in the late 60s, and a reaction to the general movement towards more liberal policies around the world since then.

      They're part of a larger effort, and were apparently formed as the "youth" wing of a far right wing group formed in 2003 called Bloc identitaire - who became known for their media stunts, and other activities, such as organizing "soupe identitaires" (soup kitchens for homeless -but with pork, for obvious reasons), and hors-d'oeuvres outside of mosques in Paris and the like. It looks rather like a French version of the islamophobic charades of members of the "clash of civilizations"/Muslim menace network, such as Pam Geller, Robert Spencer and Geert Wilders.

      All in all, though, it seems pretty small in numbers.

      Such proto-fascist ideologies will likely continue to gain strength across Europe if the economy continues to stagnate and scapegoats are identified. We can't say that we haven't had our share of these things in the US, however...

  • Estelle and the freedom of association
    • Excellent analysis. Also correct on the misuse of the "guilt by association" fallacy, as that's not really the issue.

      This is not, after all, about Wright, and she has no right to expect that the people on the Estelle jeopardize their mission in order to "prove" that they don't consider Wright an antisemite.

      What Wright should have done was to quietly bow out instead of making a story of it - but I suppose she wanted to clear her name and reputation, which is understandable.

      The only people who have the right to decide who goes on that boat are the participants themselves, and it is unfair to criticize them for excluding her without being familiar with all of the discussions engendered, and the circumstances and pressures to which the group was subjected. The ego of any one member is far less important than the overall guiding concept - when one's participation might be a detriment to the overall effort, even through no particular fault of one's own, the correct course of action is to remove oneself, if that's what the consensus has decided.

    • quod erat demonstrandum

  • Free Gaza's Col. Ann Wright disinvited from Swedish Boat to Gaza
    • there are whiffs of COINTELPRO

      Oooh, I spit my drink out on that one, Danaa. That's just an insult to the victims of this particularly pernicious and pervasive program. There are major differences between COINTELPRO and this, the main one being that COINTELPRO was a nation-wide espionage and infiltration program run by a federal agency, was very wide-ranging and even resulted in the death of a political dissident in at least one case.
      Just for the record:

      If this is COINTELPRO, then that time I slipped on the tiles in my bathroom and hit my dead was a holocaust.

      This does look like guilt by association, and it is - but only the people on that boat have the right to decide who participates in the voyage and who doesn't, and unless we are privy to the discussions around the decision to exclude Wright, and the particular tensions and problems they were forced to confront, I'm afraid we don't have much relevant to say about it.

  • No room for racism in a movement working for equality and freedom
    • Has it occurred to you that she may be so stunned and shocked by the viciousness with which she has been attacked that she can barely put two words together at the moment?

      Oh, come on now, Sean. They saw something and wanted to get to the bottom of it. That's not a "vicious attack". There is clearly some obfuscation around these Facebook groups, including the expression of some ugly sentiments (which do no service to Palestinians), as well as this Ofer, who may or may not have been using sockpuppets, impersonating Palestinians. Clearly somebody is not on the level, and people owe it to others to be as transparent and honest as possible, fostering an atmosphere of trust and openness, without having their privacy infringed upon.
      The same things have happened to me before, and I took the time to refute the attacks, calmly explain my positions, ideas, and tried to make myself as clear as possible - it's not demanding the heavens and the earth, for crying out loud.

      It has been explained already that it's not just the posting of the video. That's not what this is about.

    • Abbas, who garnered 60 percent of the vote for President, wrote his doctoral thesis on the topic of Zionist cooperation with the Nazis

      I've read about this, but don't know much about it.

      As for the interview with Haniyeh on Harry's Place, as smart as you are, I'm surprised you aren't more skeptical of the origins of this discussion, as HP is a known hotbed of Islamophobic and vulgar, insipid mindless discussion. I have seen no other links to this interview, nor on the Guardian website, so though I don't know for certain, I wouldn't be surprised if it were a fabrication originating over at Harry's Cesspool.

      There won’t ever be an end to the conflict if we wait around for leaders with perfectly spotless records or who never say stupid things

      Obviously. Real change usually comes from below, and not from leaders, who are quickly co-opted and are often invested in the status quo. That's why it isn't the end of the world when certain individuals are discredited or removed - they do not embody any movement entirely in and of themselves.

      Like Berlin, he is accused of not offering an acceptable explanation

      I think Berlin's explanation for this little event is, as I said, plausible. I don't think one should be ostracized from a movement for simply sharing a video on Facebook. However, I've seen little convincing discussion from her about this, and few real arguments - she just didn't really react in the way you'd think someone would who is trying to clear her name or reputation, it's pretty thin gruel. I also saw no approval on her part of the recent statement on anti-racism at EI - she could have said a word on it. If she wants to continue with her activities, though, I say more power to her. The problem of conspiracy-mongering and other forms of bigotry are much more subtle and coded to be simply attributed to one act by one person - as someone said, it's a pattern of activity.

      To err is human, to forgive is divine;-)

      Fully agree. Like I said, this isn't really about Greta Berlin, it's a broader refutation of racism, and a clarification of what the movement is about. That some commenters are trying to portray the whole episode as only about Berlin shows how much they're totally and utterly missing the point.

    • Anti-Zionists ARE Anti-Semites because most Jews are Zionists

      With all due respect, clearly you haven't been paying attention. After all this time, opportunities to read material from people running this site, and others, this is the conclusion you reach?

      This is not about Greta Berlin, and this is not about you - it's about Palestinians. It's unfortunate that some seem to have forgotten that. Those that remember might recall the Palestinian-led call for BDS, as well as the numerous statements made by Palestinians rejecting racism in all its forms.

      It's a shame to have to realize that, rather than being a victim of tribal and destructive "infighting", on the contrary, the solidarity movement is weakened much more by a lack of clear thinking. What's vital to understand is that the consequences of this lack of clear thinking will be suffered not by those of us not living in Palestine or in the diaspora, but by those whose rights some of us ostensibly support. Please think this through.

    • Chomsky refused to express an opinion on Faurisson’s Holocaust denial claims, but strongly vouched for Faurisson’s motives

      "strongly vouched for Faurisson’s motives" is somewhat of a fabrication. Whatever merits - or lack of merits - Faurisson's "scholarship" has, Chomsky's signing of the petition was motivated by a concern for free speech, and had absolutely nothing to do with endorsing the actual content of Faurisson's work. Faurisson was actually brought to trial. The simple core idea, which stems from the liberal Enlightenment tradition (reflected in the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution, and subsequent jurisprudence in criminal law over more than a century which made free speech a reality only relatively recently), is that the state should not have the power to silence or punish people for what they say, or expressing political ideas, unless their words are immediately connected somehow to and encourage the commission of a crime.

      It seems to me something of a scandal that it is even necessary to debate these issues two centuries after Voltaire defended the right of free expression for views he detested. It is a poor service to the memory of the victims of the holocaust to adopt a central doctrine of their murderers.

      Brandenburg v. Ohio is a landmark case in this regard:

      For those saying that this is a "free speech" issue, they are confusing the issues: no one is prohibiting Greta Berlin (or anyone around these particular Facebook groups) from saying anything at all, and obviously no one is bringing her to trial. Free speech is a restraint on the State to punish citizens, and not a guarantee to be free from criticism of one's statements. They're free to say whatever they like, and others are free to disagree with them, or rebut their statements. Characterizing this as a "witch hunt" is really an exaggeration.

      Regarding possible Zionist collusion with Nazis as to emigration to Palestine, this is a documented fact, even if a minor one, and there is nothing "antisemitic" about openly discussing it, and deciding on the merits and accuracy - or lack thereof - of the historical arguments.

      Regarding the accusations of Chomsky's supposed "liberal Zionist gatekeeping" from some commenters, I'm really not sure where this is coming from. Here is a talk he gave with Israel Shahak in 1994, in which he openly discusses the attitude of Israel and Zionists with regard to Palestinians as "racist", discusses the funneling to Israel of US tax-exempt money through the JNF, apartheid-like policies, along with other issues, and was generally far more virulent in his criticism of US and Israeli policy towards Palestinians than most others were at the time:

    • Well, if someone accused me of that, they'd have to be an utter fool, or not know anything about me, so I could dismiss their opinion, frankly. But if anyone wants to accuse me of being a "gatekeeper" or other such fatuous and shallow nonsense, go right ahead, it could provide some amusement.

      Maybe some people feel that it's impossible to be simultaneously aware of antisemitism (or any other bigotry) and anti-Zionist. Such people can't keep more than one thought in their heads at the same time.

    • Good statement, if I were Palestinian I'd fully endorse this, as a general statement, regardless of the specific story which sparked it. Anti-racism is, after all, one of the main reasons one should criticize Zionism and Israeli policy in the first place.

      Don't know Berlin at all, and it is always best to give the benefit of the doubt in these cases, but I trust people like Abunimah and Doherty. It is possible to watch antisemitic and bigoted videos or articles, to analyze the conspiracy mentality that goes along with it; I do this occasionally, as I'm truly interested in what makes these people tick. So it is plausible that she and this group were looking at for the reason she says they were. However, there seem to be too many inconsistencies in the story, and too many strange statements made by individuals affiliated with the FB group, if one has been following along.

      Just because antisemitism has been used and abused so long by Zionists and right-wingers as a way to silence debate, that isn't a reason to ignore it on those rare occasions when it does appear.

      People involved in Palestinian solidarity have to learn to have their radars better attuned to this sort of thing because it undermines the credibility of the movement. This actually does no service whatever to Palestinians, quite the opposite - that is, after all, what this is about.

  • Goldberg ignores decades of consistent Iranian statements on nuclear weapons for the sake of propaganda
  • The privileging of Jewish American voices on the issue is rooted in racism
    • Hostage, why must you insist on repressing and silencing us helpless and downtrodden gentiles of the world - who wouldn't know so much as how to invade, ethnically cleanse or bomb a country without the instructions of our Zionist overlords - with your strongly-worded comments?

      You know in your heart of hearts the right thing to do is to drop these shenanigans and join the Animate Objects for Good Things in the Universe (AOGTU), where all are welcome to freely express their views without the heavy burden of this homo sapiens special interests politics which have been plaguing the movement for so long.

  • Brecht Forum event with Antony Loewenstein of 'After Zionism'
    • Phil, I think you're correct that at a certain point one has to realize that there are certain members of the Jewish (and Christian) community who simply aren't going to be convinced, no matter how long and how hard one engages them on this issue. The story about the woman at the party is illustrative. No matter how many Jews are actively organizing and fighting for Palestinian rights, and an end to the implacable and destructive US policy towards the Middle East, as you've recognized, and others, this must be considered outside of any purely intra-Jewish conversation if there is going to be any major progress, even if there has been some. Indeed, that's been one of the very positive aspects of this website.

      Having family members from a relatively conservative Christian background, I know, and surely almost everybody experiences this in their own way, how it's possible that otherwise rational, good people can seem to be irrational and incapable of incorporating new information on some subjects, being subject to dogma and years of education and indoctrination. The truth is that these otherwise rational, decent people aren't irrational at all on these issues, and it's a misunderstanding that they are incapable of apprehending them in an open, honest way. They are very capable of it, however, it's a conscious decision (or subconscious) to simply refuse to do so. This is what I would call an "irrational space", which many people create for such issues, where they decide they simply aren't going to engage in an objective way, in a way blocking this "space" off from rational discussion and empathy. In politics, especially American politics, we see this constantly, especially in the culture wars which have all but consumed electoral politics - everybody choosing her camp, positions, and sticking with them no matter what, etc...

      It is indeed an error and misconception to think that it's sufficient to sit down and discuss this with someone who is entirely convinced of their point of view and turn them around only by the force of well-crafted arguments, no matter how iron-clad, because it is precisely their position to not consider such arguments in the first place. To think it's possible to win everybody over in this way is just a total misunderstanding of the psychology behind their thinking.

      There are also other psychological mechanisms at work:
      The Backfire Effect
      How facts backfire

      The analogy with Catholics and abortion is good (if we had waited on Catholics to have an open, honest discussion about it, Roe vs. Wade would never have been decided), however not perfect, as there are real ethical, philosophical and scientific difficulties relating to abortion, it's a more ambiguous, less clear cut issue, in my opinion.

  • Iran lawmaker accuses IAEA chief Yukiya Amano of collaborating with Israel
    • There are precedents for Western intelligence agencies infiltrating UN bodies to spy on middle eastern countries - UNSCOM, for example, which was created to monitor and disarm Iraq during the 90's, was used by US intelligence agencies to gather intel on Saddam's weapons program (in which there was cooperation with Israel, through Scott Ritter) :

      Also see:

      But it was another case in which they were borrowing or making use of fairly sophisticated Western intelligence technology.
      Right. And it was a case that led to a lot of mutual discomfort between UNSCOM and the contributing governments, because UNSCOM, in effect, had in its hands information which in the U.S. system is called classified. And every other system is classified by their own standards. U2 imagery is typically classified "Secret," more sensitive than "Confidential," less than "Top Secret." UNSCOM had to get this stuff, and that also meant that foreign employees of UNSCOM in some cases had to get it. And so they came up with this sort of uncomfortable dodge of declassifying the photos. It would say "SECRET: RELEASE UNSCOM/IAEA ONLY," and they tried to establish procedures within UNSCOM to control who got to see it. But they were never quite sure who to trust.

      At a certain moment, people will realize that the intelligence is ultimately secondary, and that if Saudi Arabia, the US, Britain and Israel are dead set on weakening and destroying Iran as a viable, independent country, they will find any excuse to do it.

      Intelligence is completely irrelevant to major policy decisions. Such decisions are matters of judgment, and knowledgeable, ordinary citizens are just as capable of making these determinations as political leaders allegedly in possession of "secret information." Such "secret information" is almost always wrong -- and major decisions, including those pertaining to war and peace, are made entirely apart from such information in any case.

  • Pssst, Maureen Dowd-- Colin Powell said neoconservative 'ideologues' pushed Iraq war out of concern for Israel
  • Is this predictable, or what?
    • "frankly, i doubt it’s changing the minds of americans. people will double down on opinions they already hold"

      Yes, unfortunately I agree. And this kind of orientalist, tabloid trash unfortunately sells copies because it allows people to reinforce their already-held beliefs about "teh Muslims"...

      Another aspect to highlight is the different conceptions of free speech and government involvement between countries like the US and elsewhere. In this report, Ali Abdel Mohsen interviews several protesters, which is pretty revealing:

      Misguided as their efforts may be — like most protesters at the scene, Ibrahim believes “The Innocence of Muslims” is a Hollywood production that, like any local or international film released in Egypt, and presumably elsewhere, passes through several rounds of censorship and receives official state approval from its own government before seeing the light of day — there is little doubt over the severity of the situation, and its potential fallout.

      So, some people find it inconceivable that such a film was not officially sanctioned by the US government, or at least tacitly supported by it. Hence, the accusations of collective responsibility (US embassies, etc.). Just different conceptions on the government's role in regulating speech, which has resulted in a sort of culture shock.

    • Oh, and it should also be said that those protesting were really a small minority of each country's respective population. Most have not participated, and even have condemned the more violent aspects.
      This story has spread like wildfire mostly because Americans are not used to being victims of violence, more that not being the ones wreaking the havoc themselves, so it stands out like a sore thumb.

      "How could They do this to Us? It's not supposed to work that way!..."

    • The good news is that Google is displaying enough backbone to keep the video up

      Yes. It would be a shame if they backed down to administration pressure to remove it because of anti-American sentiment. It would be sad that the 1st Amendment were sacrificed for the faults of Washington's belligerence and policies.
      See the "Heckler's Veto" principle:
      Clearly the protests have to be situated in the context of decades of US foreign policy, even if the film was the ostensible reason for them for many people. So, ultimately it was in certain respects the last straw after decades of bombing, sanctions and other humiliation.

      That said, it's clear that one goal of disseminating this, ahem, "film", was to provoke.

  • Netanyahu goes after Obama: 'Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel'
    • OK. Perhaps more stern measures are in order.
      Can someone over there just stuff a sock in this clown's mouth? Maybe some ether to put him down and ship him off to the Negev or something?
      This is getting ridiculous. Dagan, Pardo, Gantz, Cohen whoever - you know what to do...

  • Iran/Palestine (keep your eye on the ball)
    • "If necessary Israel will strike Iran as it did the Oserik facility in Iraq."

      Because that went so well, right?...
      And you presumably don't mind if Hizballah sends hundreds of rockets to Tel Aviv? Really? And you don't mind if the Iranian nuclear program is driven underground after ousting the IAEA inspectors, and they really start developing nuclear weapons? Are you sure that's what you want?

      The Osiraq Myth and the Track Record of Preventive Military Attacks [PDF]

    • Spot on, Annie.

  • Baltzer, Finkelstein and Chomsky to speak on state of American Jews re Jewish state
    • I’d never take anything in if I attended. I’d just fawn over Anna Baltzer.

      Ha, points for being honest. (and i quite agree, by the way) - I have a similar opinion on Diana Buttu, but we're getting off topic here...

    • I think Chomsky rejects the Apartheid definition being applied to Israel

      Not exactly, he has said that in some ways it's better than SA apartheid, and in other ways it's worse. I think he's right.
      It depends on how broad your definition of "apartheid" is, though.

      While we're on the subject, as far as the "legitimacy" of any state, I'm pretty sure that Chomsky has said that no states are inherently legitimate. So, this is really a red herring. Israel has no more or less "legitimacy" than any other state because such a thing doesn't really exist. But these are details.

  • Iran hysteria show is closing down now, sequel due in spring -- Time
    • The Stennis will be relieving the CVN-65 Enterprise, apparently, so I honestly don't think this means much. There were also reports earlier this year of the new Joint Special Operations Task Force-Gulf Cooperation Council operating in the Gulf, but it has more to do with training the various GCC militaries. They've been showing their muscle to deter any Iranian threats to close the Strait, but probably have some contingency plans too.

    • Surprise! Barak has now suddenly come out against military action:
      Barak now opposes Israeli strike on Iran, sources say
      Like I said, mind games.
      It's become increasingly clear - from the statements of members of the Israel military/security establishment, as well as clear refusals from members of the US military, leaks to the media intended to counter Israeli government propaganda - that this just isn't going to happen right now. In any event, without the US cooperating, Israel won't and can't do it; if they do, they're just totally off their rockers, and we're in a lot more trouble than we thought.

  • Influential Israeli org 'Regavim' focused on expelling Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line
    • Wow. Just a caricature, amazing. It's really spoon feeding the information to people, with almost no nuance at all.
      Anybody taken in by this propaganda is already on board anyway though, and needs no convincing of anything, hence the lack of factual information and the non-existence of any real arguments and the couching of everything in this shallow, vague rhetoric of "the great nation", "our people", etc. Always this fear of being overrun by a nefarious group usurping the "rightful owners" of their property and rights. Anything considered not part of the "nation" (however it's defined) is a malignant foreign influence to be eradicated, but they can't come out and say it openly, so they're forced to go through legal channels. In other words, a typical extreme right-wing movement, with fascist tendencies.
      I'm reminded of the same hollow rhetoric in interviews with members of the US Nazi party, for example.

      Such ideologies are sometimes derided as "anti-government" by liberals, but quite the contrary; they're very pro-government, they just don't think the government is doing its job - keeping out the "rabble".

  • Sam Harris in full: court intellectual, mystic, and supporter of the Iraq war
    • Fair enough, but do you have anything to say about the quotes here, which are clearly his words? If they are actually his statements, they can't really be misconstrued... Are you saying the passages others and I have quoted here are inaccurate?

    • Three things:
      1) Harris' point about collateral damage is correct, in that any warfare, especially bombing campaigns, will invariably kill civilians. This is uncontroversial, and anyone who pushes for war and intervention simultaneously calls for collateral damage, casualties, displacements, etc., you can't have one without the other. Such nonsense as "surgical bombing" and other fantasies are just that - fantasies concocted to sell the war to the public. In that sense, Harris is right to highlight the inconsistency of those who criticize torture but support war and invasions (such as Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia) - it is no doubt somewhat hypocritical, and he does have a point about the dubious morality of such a position.
      2) However, Harris puts this argument in a context of someone who supports both, when circumstances require. There is no other way to interpret this statement:

      We cannot let our qualms over collateral damage paralyze us because our enemies know no such qualms.

      He does not unequivocally reject torture, does not unequivocally reject the collateral damage resulting from warfare, and it's false to say so.
      3) This makes Harris' position actually worse, as he recognizes the need for and inevitability of both. Recognizing the inevitability of collateral damage, instead of rejecting the military campaigns, he raises torture to the same level, and argues that it too is an inevitable practice in extreme circumstances. If one argues that it is inevitable or useful in certain rare extreme circumstances - even if it should as a rule be avoided, similar to Dershowitz's position - then one does indeed accept torture. I'm sorry, there seems to be no other way to spin this.

      Aside from the moral issue, it seems strange to me that someone touting his "rational" credentials can even support torture on tactical grounds, as such CIA tactics (there is a long history) have been shown inconclusively to be rather ineffective by people such as Ali Soufan and others. Someone being tortured will eventually tell you anything to make it stop, this is really common sense. So, on a purely logical level, it just makes no sense either. One generally does not procure reliable information from torture, full stop.

    • Yes, Finkelstein exposed the Peters book as a hoax first. It wasn't really an issue of "less than exemplary" scholarship, it was actual falsifying of information, and other misleading tactics. In other words, a worthless brick of propaganda.
      Dershowitz's book, "The Case for Israel", written later, was found to have passages very similar or almost verbatim to the Peters book, and Finkelstein revealed that as well in his book "Beyond Chutzpah". That might be what helped end his career at DePaul, and it's too bad he went for the jugular on Dershowitz, he could have simply accused him of shoddy scholarship without the accusations of plagiarism.

      The fact remains, though, that Dershowitz not only probably plagiarized a book, but a worthless one at that - a real tour de force of dishonesty only an artist like himself could conjure up...

    • Those are fair points in my opinion. The fact is that such genetically-determined differences in "intelligence" (whatever that is) could more or less be determined in a scientific way, whereas the question of Jesus, etc. could not. It says nothing about whether such things are true, it's an important distinction.

    • Although I haven't read the book, this statement seems to me to be a clear endorsement of torture, not many other ways to interpret it:

      If there is even one chance in a million that he will tell us something under torture that will lead to the further dismantling of Al Qaeda, it seems that we should use every means at our disposal to get him talking.

      It should also be noted that this is almost always how those who condone torture proceed, that it is only in "extreme", "ticking time-bomb" cases - the relevant law, I think, says otherwise (signed and ratified by the US):

      Article 2
      1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
      2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

      The point about there being a certain hypocrisy with on the one hand:
      1) allowing the aggression and invasion of several countries
      and at the same time
      2) barring torture
      does have some validity in my opinion, and might be a fair point - if the statement could be interpreted in that light... Of course the way out of that conundrum would be to repudiate the invasions as well as the torture.

    • ouch...

    • A thorough and well-deserved spanking indeed.
      And yes, Europe and Canada have no notion whatever of free speech. That is one thing in which Americans should take pride (if not much else at this moment).

  • Obama talks to Iran and washes hands of Israeli attack, Ynet reports
  • Israel's nuclear arsenal is used to coerce the US on Middle East policy
    • Yes, and if true, I'm sure many Israelis consider this particular leverage over the US to be one of the crown jewels of Israeli military and foreign policy.
      I've quoted this here before, but others have been saying this for years:

      Thus started the subtle, opaque use of the Israeli bomb to ensure that the United States kept its pledge to maintain Israel's conventional weapons edge over its foes.[65] There is significant anecdotal evidence that Henry Kissinger told President of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, that the reason for the U.S. airlift was that the Israelis were close to “going nuclear.”[66]


      One other purpose of Israeli nuclear weapons, not often stated, but obvious, is their “use” on the United States. America does not want Israel's nuclear profile raised.[144] They have been used in the past to ensure America does not desert Israel under increased Arab, or oil embargo, pressure and have forced the United States to support Israeli diplomatically against the Soviet Union. Israel used their existence to guarantee a continuing supply of American conventional weapons, a policy likely to continue.


      This use of the threat of belligerence is also key to understanding what is happening with respect to Iran, and is related:

      A key element of the third way is the threat of a military attack against Iran. This threat is crucial for scaring the Iranians and for goading on the Americans and the Europeans. It is also crucial for spurring on the Chinese and the Russians. Israel must not behave like an insane country. Rather, it must create the fear that if it is pushed into a corner it will behave insanely. To ensure that Israel is not forced to bomb Iran, it must maintain the impression that it is about to bomb Iran.

      Israeli officials acknowledge that the widespread acceptance in the West that Iran is on the verge of building a nuclear weapon isn't based just on the findings of Israeli intelligence operatives, but relies in no small part on a steady media campaign that the Israelis have undertaken to persuade the world that Iran is bent on building a nuclear warhead.
      "The intelligence was half the battle in convincing the world," an Israeli Foreign Ministry official told McClatchy, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss the inner workings of Israel's outreach on the topic. "The other half was Israel's persistent approach and attitude that this was not something the world could continue to ignore."

      In other words, much psychological warfare on separate fronts.

  • American Jews who choose 'humanitarian values' over Zionism are tempting another Holocaust --Gordis's blackmail
    • Surely you have noticed the agitation for this war all around you

      Sean, Anthony Cordesman has made a detailed study of what an attack on Iran would entail. In case the media leaks haven't made it clear to Israel that the US has no intentions of attacking, this pretty much drives the last nail in the coffin for the moment:
      U.S. Attack on Iran Would Take Hundreds of Planes, Ships, and Missiles

      Leave aside the fact that if a member of the Iranian military put out and publicized a report like this targeting US or Israeli facilities and infrastructure, people would be calling to nuke Tehran...

    • It is ‘the ultimate devil’ that we here in the US support. There’s no component of our national policy that is morally more vile.

      The "ultimate devil" that Americans support is their own government. The death toll of the past several decades attests to that.

  • Trapped
    • Klaus Bloemker:

      You keep avoiding pointing at the obvious:
      Zionism’s racism is a secular version of traditional Judaism’s religious one.

      Please do elaborate. Cite sources, too - sources beside the voices in your head, that is...

    • Thank you for writing this, Phil. It's what I've always admired about you, your forthrightness, honesty, and refusal to simplify the situation into easily-digested slogans in favor of a more humanistic approach. It's clear from your writing that Zionism, the occupation and apartheid policies poison the well of personal relations and affect everyone right down to the little details of everyday life.
      Even though, as Avi says, Israelis (and Americans, I'd add) bear more responsibility for the situation, and possess more options and freedom to change it than do Palestinians, we also have to remember that they for the most part are subjected to a deep indoctrination, a kind of spell that apparently not everyone is able to break out of so easily.

  • Sam Harris, uncovered
    • Agreed. To call them atheist is, in the end, somewhat misleading. There is the belief in the traditional God, and there is, in a more general sense, an irrational belief system to which they both adhere - they're just unaware of it. This applies to a lot of ideologies, though.

  • US Embassy to American in trouble in Israel: 'You're not Jewish? Then we can't do anything to help you'
  • Establishment Jews attack Beinart over settlement boycott call
  • Afghan parliamentary team says many Americans were involved in massacre in which army accuses one
  • 'No amount of reading and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality' -- Remembering Rachel Corrie
    • I lived in the south of France for years, and occasionally I would go by a deserted lot where buildings had been torn down and new ones were to replace them. It was cordoned off by a yellow fence, which was, no doubt, to discourage people from entering the vacant lot. On that fence was spray painted the phrase :

      No justice, no peace

      I wasn't sure what it meant at the time, but I always knew it meant something that I should understand.

  • Video: IDF caught in a lie about Tristan Anderson
    • Thuggism 101 :

      "In the real world mistakes happen, in judgement and in how the canister may bounce."

      - "Nice activist you've got there... it'd be a shame if anything happened to him"

      They've learned their lessons well.

  • Israel will attack Iran-- and Obama gave tacit approval (Haaretz)
    • Incredible how we have a country surrounded…yet they have no one surrounded.

      CigarGod, they're hegemonizing their borders. This cannot be tolerated.

    • The biggest problem is, that Obama doesn’t declare to Netanjahu in the strongest terms that if Israel attacks, the US won’t lift a finger dealing with the inevitable backlash.

      The US won't have a choice, it would be drawn in no matter what. Picture a map of Iran, and then picture it basically being surrounded by islands of the US military base archipelago, and oil-transporting ships going through Hormuz, as well as US troops in Afghanistan, US embassies - all possible targets.

      Any Israeli attack, if followed by Iranian retaliation, would certainly eventually involve the US in some way.

    • All this talk about war has the happy side effect of knocking the Palestinians out of the media picture.

      True, that may be one of the goals of the campaign.

      With the world now scouring over every minutae and detail of every ounce of uranium in Iran and wondering if the IDF is actually crazy enough to attempt to lob enough bunker busters near anything resembling a large metal container, the public is surely paying less attention to ongoing house demolitions, settler land grabs and extra-judicial killings in Gaza.

      The IDF does not have the punch to knock out the Iran nuclear program.

      Also true. Without direct US involvement, there are several limitations on the IDF's ability to severely damage all of Iran's nuclear related sites, most importantly distance which requires refueling, and accuracy of the attacks - they would need to get it right on the first try, as turning around and reattempting to bomb sites would be problematic - and Iran actually has anti-aircraft capabilities, it's not a defenseless country, like Iraq.
      Some reading :,7340,L-4192055,00.html

      For discussion on the 1981 Osiraq reactor attack and the consequences :

      Now, the problems with all of this are :
      1) We can analyze all we want, but in the end policy is not always guided by knowledge and common sense. The facts that it would not be sufficient to cripple the nuclear program and that the result would probably actually spur on the very thing they ostensibly want to avoid (a nuclear weapons program) is not a definite guarantee that it will not actually be attempted. Which leads to point 2 :
      2) Israel has built up over the years its "credibility" - meaning its ability to convince its neighbors that it truly has the capacity and the will to wreak total havoc. Part of the strategy of targeted killings, bombings and administrative detention policies is to send a message to future would-be "perpetrators" that they'd better think twice before engaging in activity the Israeli government, security services and spooks deem questionable. It "sends a message". This was also one of the reasons for Cast Lead as well as the recent murders in Gaza.
      The Logic of Israel's Targeted Killing :
      That is, they have engaged in sufficient hoodlumery in the past that it is plausible for onlookers to think that they just might be crazy enough to actually go through with it (we're back to Moshé Dayan's "mad dog" idea).
      3) Even if it's an elaborate, orchestrated media campaign with Israel playing bad cop to the US's good cop (in which they would both be complicit, of course), there still is nothing to lose by keeping our eyes on this and diligently debunking the propagandists if they are actually trying to lie us into war yet again.

  • Palestinian and Palestine-solidarity activists issue critique and condemnation of Gilad Atzmon
    • Allegations that are injurious to a person in their trade, business, or profession are actionable and damages may be presumed unless they’re rebutted.

      Hostage, I hadn't thought of this, and you're right, this could have negative consequences on Atzmon's career, and shouldn't have been undertaken without serious thought. Perhaps it was rather insensitive and not well-timed. This doesn't change the substance of the argument, however. He's no doubt a perfectly decent and honorable fellow in his personal life, but his writings are public, open statements which indicate a clear point of view, and are open to discussion.

      You say the statement was given "without providing any real citations, quotes, or examples to substantiate those claims", in which case, I presume you mean the statement published by the EI - the second statement, however provides ample citations, as you surely read above :

      Zionism is a continuation of Jewish ideology.[4]
      The never-ending robbery of Palestine by Israel in the name of the Jewish people establishes a devastating spiritual, ideological, cultural and, obviously, practical continuum between the Judaic Bible and the Zionist project.

      These clearly establish his point of view on the matter : that in his inability to envisage "Jewishness" without Zionism and Palestinian dispossession, he seems to be somewhat of a Zionist himself. I'll repeat, he seems to believe that it is impossible to be Jewish without being a Zionist. It's rather unambiguous. His only solution to this problem is to renounce being Jewish. Now, if he says otherwise elsewhere in his writings, it's only proof that he's a bit confused, I'd say. It seems important to me to understand this, as it's not just a minor detail.

      As for "Jewish Marxism", thank you for the info (of which you seem to have an inexhaustible supply) but you seem to precisely illustrate my point :

      the conflicts between Marxism and Jewish nationalism were reconciled and rationalized away using elements of Judaism by its Socialist party.

      There were inherent conflicts which had to be reconciled, and so we see this was a concerted effort to synthesize two separate schools of thought. There was nothing necessarily inherent in "Jewishness" which predisposed it towards Marxist, or socialist thought in the first place. This is confusing
      1) the use of ideologies to support and give substance to a certain project (establishing a Jewish ethnocratic state)
      2) inherent and necessary properties of certain cultural or ethnic identities

      That is, there may be such a thing as a Jewish form of Marxism, but it was not a law of nature, or something inherent in "Jewish thought" which made it so, it was partly created - much like 19th century Zionism.

    • It is the worldwide organized Jewish establishment, officially speaking for the worldwide Jewish community, that has made this claim.

      Understood Sean, but where I don't agree is in accepting these individuals speaking for Jews worldwide, who are for the most part Zionists, as the only legitimate exponents and perfect realizations of "Jewish thought" (if such a thing does exist), nor do I think all Jews do either.

      It is one interpretation, and just because it has become the dominant one - through bullying, better organization, aggressiveness - doesn't mean it is the correct and only one. This type of "essentialist" thinking posits that there is something in the DNA, or seed, of a particular mindset any cultural group subscribes to which invariably destines it for a particular behavior - which, if we apply the same elsewhere, can also lead one to the conclusion that there is something inherently poisonous about "Catholic" ideology because of the Inquisitions and crusades, "Anglo-Saxon" ideology because of brutal British and American colonialism [are we to believe that this is what drove Europeans to ethnically cleanse and exterminate the AmerIndians? Are all Europeans condemned to wander the Earth colonizing and slaughtering because it's in their "ideology"?], "Islamic" ideology which leads one to become an irrational suicidal martyr, "Germanic" ideology which leads one to be disciplined and subservient to authority... - you see where this can go. Such mental constructions are mostly fictional, cultural constructions, and are subject to modification ; there's nothing inherently fixed in stone about any of them, they are to be situated in their historical contexts.

      I'm all for stripping away such labels and simply living according to purely humanistic ideals, but this does not necessarily preclude anyone feeling affinity for of belonging to any cultural or ethnic group or particular tradition. We shouldn't have to obliterate all of our differences or particularities in order to do that.

      I haven't read Shahak or Harkabi, nor do I say that there is nothing of worth in their writings, as obviously there must be. Of course there are good reasons to critique Judaism and its proponents throughout its history (as much as there can even be said to be a consistent, main current of it). Nor do I think that any cultural institution or religion is beyond reproach - nothing should be banned from discussion (and, for what it's worth, I wouldn't have banned Blankfort from commenting, if it were up to me, either). However, having an open, frank discussion doesn't mean that we get to turn our brains off. And I don't think that we should feel forced to reflexively support someone simply because he labels himself "anti-Zionist".

      Here is a recent exchange between Atzmon and Noel Ignatiev, in which Atzmon seems to not really have a handle on what's going on :

      Atzmon is also published on and supported by Veterans Today - I hate guilt-by-association accusations myself, and one shouldn't be judged by whatever groups choose to make use of one's statements, but even according to Blankfort (see above exchange), Dean is a "white supremacist". This isn't a charge one makes lightly, and it does make the VT suspect - indeed, Israel Shamir, in a hissy-fit of utter pseudo-intellectual rubbish, recently accused Ali Abunimah of being manipulated by Zionists (!!!), Ingrid R. Zundel, who repeatedly refers to the "Holocaust" (w/ the scare quotes), etc., etc. - which all should really disqualify them from any serious discussion. They consistently portray themselves as an "avant-guard" of "victims" of intellectual MacCarthyism instead of seriously considering critiques.

      In the end, just because someone exhibits some antisemitic tendencies (in my opinion), it doesn't mean he is necessarily a despicable, evil and irredeemable person, either - and like I said, it doesn't mean that he is systematically wrong on everything, nor does it mean he has nothing relevant to say.

    • Atzmon seems to me to be a Zionist, to put it simply.

      Read through some of this, and I haven't read much of Atzmon's writings, nor do I have time to, but from the little I've seen, he seems to have a lot in common with them. He also doesn't seem to understand the implications of the arguments he's making, but maybe he's incapable of it.

      I wouldn't put him in the same category of people like Shahak or Gurvitz, his writing seems to be less scholarly and lucid. Honestly, I can't understand why so many here are obsessed with defending him as if he were some helpless animal. If his writings stand on their own, there should be no problem.

      The central problem seems to me this attempt to define some mysterious "Jewish essence" which is unique, attempts to separate itself from the rest of humanity, and is responsible in some way for gentile reactions to it, although not necessarily equivalent to any real "guilt". He insinuates that one cannot be a Jew without somehow being a Zionist, or that Zionism is a natural and necessary outgrowth of being Jewish, all of which implies that one would have to renounce being Jewish in order to live in harmony with Palestinians or anyone else - but this is strikingly similar to Zionism, and why I say he is at heart a Zionist, or hasn't been able to throw that part of his education off.

      The constant references to "Jewish Marxism" (whatever that is) are rather strange, as if "Marxism" could not exist without Judaism, which is totally absurd. Marx wrote about it, yes, but that doesn't mean that "Jewishness" is a defining and necessary characteristic of Marxist thought. He also insinuates that being Jewish implies a rather unique form of tribalism, which completely ignores that just about any identity on Earth, whether it be religious, ethnic or nationalist, exhibits some form of tribalism. We see it everywhere. Jewish tribalism presents no more barriers to enjoying the "brotherhood of man" than any others do, that I can tell.

      It also seems to me some very smart people are confusing facts with ideology - ideology and philosophy are not simply a collection of facts, but rather methods of thinking and constructing ways of understanding the world. You cannot simply point to one phrase and say "This - is an example of antisemitism, behold!". There are patterns, tendencies, and they add up to a clear picture once everything is assembled. I think Atzmon is very clever and knows how to change the subject to deflect attention from his central theses.

      Does all this make him an antisemite? In my opinion, yes. Does this mean everything he says is wrong? Of course not.

    • His harsh criticism is directed toward ‘Jewish-ness’, not ‘Jewishness’.

      Is this like the distinction between "blah" and "black"?
      If so, then I'm entirely convinced...

  • 'New Republic' says Obama 'detests' Netanyahu and treats him shabbily
    • Worth reading :
      Israel push on Iran included a steady dose of media leaks :

      In the year after U.S. intelligence agencies published a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that downplayed the Iranian nuclear threat, an unprecedented number of leaks over Iran's alleged progress on nuclear weapons was released to the press. They culminated in reports published in Israeli newspapers that Iran had secret uranium enrichment facilities. In 2009, world leaders caught up at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh, where Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy revealed a yet-undisclosed facility at Qom.

      Israeli officials also said it was no coincidence that a flurry of reports on Israel's imminent strike on Iran filled the press last fall just ahead of a report from the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

      Guzansky said the possible Israeli strike leaks to the media were "an important tool" for the government.

      "It is psychological warfare. You leak to get the enemy or your friend to think X or Y," he said.

      What was that about Jeffrey Goldberg being "played like a violin"?

  • Why young Palestinians chant the word 'thawra'
    • I have a feeling that Phil was being more cautious than frank.

      Totally agree.
      There are good reasons too to be cautious of creeping violence during uprisings, as it is sometimes hijacked by the more ruthless elements, which are not necessarily representative of most of the population.

      Nobody is saying "be violent", or "categorically reject violence", but just to see it in its proper context and to understand exactly what it is and why it's there.

    • Thank you Phil for doing some excellent reporting from that media blind spot called Palestine.

      This post is not an endorsement of revolution.

      But it might happen, whether you endorse it or not. Relinquishing some control over the course of events and the narrative of what is acceptable or unacceptable is difficult, but it's essential. In any popular uprising there is going to be what we would call "violence" on the part of those resisting, who are facing much the much greater violence and control of the state apparatus - it doesn't make it illegitimate. If we're going to advocate for a peaceful uprising, we should first take aim at dismantling or weakening the forces at the top who consistently, through their much greater power, resist change and make such a peaceful transformation to a better society impossible in the first place.

      Some thoughts on violence/non-violence, and controlling the debate :
      Concerning the Violent Peace-Police :
      Two Kinds of Non-Violence :
      Who Is the Subject of Palestinian Liberation? :

      So, What Exactly Are We Talking About? Some Preliminary Observations :

      ...we can identify one other factor common to the different usages of "violence," including when physical harm is not involved (at least, in the beginning): when we employ violence, we seek to restrict or direct the range of choices available to the person(s) against whom the violence is aimed. As the Milk Street Cafe example demonstrates, those who are affected by the violence involved may not be immediately apparent.

      In this last general sense, violence is a means of compelling obedience :

      Informed, voluntary agreement occurs when a person is presented with a reason(s) to act in a certain manner; he understands and is ultimately convinced of the validity of the reason(s), and therefore acts in the manner suggested.

      Obedience is the opposite of voluntary, uncoerced agreement: the understanding and agreement of the person in the inferior position are not required, and are often not sought at all.

  • Israeli spokesman Mark Regev grilled on CNN International over Khader Adnan
    • Shorter Mark Regev: “He’s been labeled a terrorist, therefore the rule of law is unnecessary.”

      But this IS "the rule of law", as you imply - well, sort of :

      Three pieces of legislation enable Israel to hold Palestinians in administrative detention:

      1) The Administrative Detention Order, which is part of the military legislation in the West Bank. Most administrative detainees are held under individual detention orders issued pursuant to this order. A similar order regarding the Gaza Strip was repealed upon implementation of the “disengagement” plan, in September 2005.
      2)The Emergency Powers (Detentions) Law, which applies in Israel and replaced the administrative-detention arrangement established in the Emergency Regulations of the Mandate period. It is rare for residents of the Occupied Territories to be administratively detained under this law.
      3) The Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law, which came into force in 2002. Originally, the law was intended to enable the holding of Lebanese citizens who were being held in Israel at the time as “bargaining chips” for the return of captives and bodies. Now, Israel uses the law to detain Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip without trial.

      B'Tselem's position is that the government of Israel must release all administrative detainees or prosecute them, in accordance with due process, for the offenses they allegedly committed. As long as Israel continues to use administrative detention, it must do so in a way that comports with international law - only in the most exceptional cases, when there is no other alternative, and in a proportionate manner.

      Of course, the jailers can always fall back on classic authoritarian principles to defend their policy. One can always claim, as the US does in the "war on terror", and the Israelis are now, that :
      1) This is an "exceptional case" (like "enemy combatant")
      2) He's a really bad buy, we have secret information you don't have access to, and if you knew what we know, you'd understand why we are holding him, trust us
      3) Make sh*t up as you go along

      "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."

  • Israeli government sending 100 Israelis abroad to 'defend the state' during Israel Apartheid Week
  • In Jerusalem, the Nakba is a fresh memory
  • BDS interview fallout: Finkelstein 'showed his own fear of the paradigm shift in discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict'
    • [A Palestinian state] will provide the ideal opportunity for people like Clive Wolman to implement another ‘transfer’– this time of the bulk of Israel’s 1.5 million Arab citizens

      This is possible, and I think it's part of Illan Pappé's argument too.

    • For example, by labeling the situation in the occupied territories apartheid, while denying that the situation in Israel constitutes apartheid too.

      I've found this article by Ran Greenstein to be particularly useful :
      Israel/Palestine and the Apartheid Analogy:
      Critics, Apologists and Strategic lessons (Part 1) :
      Israel/Palestine and the Apartheid Analogy:
      Critics, Apologists and Strategic Lessons (Part 2)

    • I disagree with some of NF’s positions, e.g. with respect to equating political Zionism with racism

      Hostage, I believe the headline here was sarcastic (Soviet archives show Stalin behind Israel Apartheid Week), he does have a tendency to use parody when criticizing the hardcore ideologues.

    • Thanks for clarifying, Hostage.

    • yourstruly,
      It's my understanding of events that the hardliners in Israel are ginning up the threat of overt war with Iran in part to do just that -
      1) Divert the public's attention from crimes against Palestinians and settlement building by focusing on the "nemesis" - remember, these declarations of belligerent intent towards Iran and propaganda over the nuclear program are part of a narrative which has gone on for over a decade.
      2) If overt war breaks out (as opposed to the covert one), Bibi and co. will want to use the unrest and chaos in the region as a pretext and a cover to enact another ethnic cleansing program. It sounds outrageous, but anything is possible.
      It goes without saying that opposing a war with Iran is a good idea, whatever the motivations.

    • I agree with Annie, Greenstein makes a lot of excellent points in his article which I agree with, but he is overly dramatic in announcing the "Demise of Norman Finkelstein", it's too categorical.
      NF wants to implement a concrete solution which will benefit many Palestinians in the here and now rather than have everybody wrestle with the deeper ideological problems of Zionism and ethnic nationalism, and thinks a compromise is the only way to do it. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt, I don't think he's expressing himself in a way that people are understanding.
      At the same time, this follows a pattern, we saw his same concern for pragmatics during the Gaza freedom march several years ago in which he stated that tackling Zionism was needlessly divisive and weakened the overall impact of the movement in achieving its narrow goal. It seems to me to be an argument about strategy, not principles.
      Now, he may be WRONG about this strategy, as it's more of a short term solution rather than a long term one (the problem of Zionism will still have to be tackled down the road)...

    • "Which only reinforce the idea that placing one’s faith in international law is futile, which again undermines NF’s argument."

      I don't think his argument is so much that one should place one's faith in IL, but rather that arguing from that point of view will resonate more with the rest of the world community (whoever that is), and therefore have more of an immediate effect.

    • "No, Finkelstein is not only telling you that the Israeli public views the goals of the BDS movement as hypocritical"

      No, he explicitly states in one of his lectures, possibly this one :
      that there is a case for labeling those who only concentrate on Israel crimes can be seen as hypocritical - and I think there's some truth to it as well. The problem with the charge of hypocrisy is that it can almost always be leveled, no matter what your concern is, as there are invariably comparable cases of suffering elsewhere - this is a constant, and that is why the charge of hypocrisy is simply a weak one. If one is worried about being labeled a hypocrite, it pretty much precludes advocating for any cause at all - see discussion of R2P, foreign intervention, etc. That is, if you take this to its logical conclusion, either you advocate for suffering everywhere, or nowhere at all.

      The basic principle is that one should concentrate on those issues which one has the most possibility of affecting. This, however, brings up the question of : who exactly is it whose behavior you wish to modify? Those in power, or the broader general public? This is one of the questions Gabriel (Evildoer) raises, and it's a relevant one - that is, this "public" is very ill-defined. Who is it? The American public? It certainly doesn't mean : every person on Earth. Some matter more than others. According to this principle, Americans, Jews and Israelis are well-situated to force change and modify the behavior of those in power, as they are most directly implicated, and have more of a chance of gaining the ears of those guiding policy. Up until now, the fact of the matter is that nobody cared what Palestinians think, and Finkelstein and others believe that now we have entered a sort of sea change in public opinion which will enable an environment in which Palestinian voices are deemed to be of some importance, and therefore relevant, and therefore powerful. This remains to be seen, in my opinion, but there are some signs. But this sidesteps the more fundamental question Gabriel seems to be asking, which is not specifically about the Palestinians or Israel : Should we be modifying our demands to fit the realm of acceptability for those in power? This is not such an obvious statement.

      The RoR :
      The crux of the argument here is that, even if it should be affirmed as a matter of principle, one shouldn't insist on actually implementing it, as there would be too much opposition, and Israel would take it to the ICJ in order to block it (as it would basically reverse Zionism as we know it). But this is an argument of power, and not of strict adherence to legal principles - which beings up the still broader issue of how much the law is to be seen as some perfect machine which acts as a kind of codification of moral principles into which we can input certain situations or conflicts, and which will output a perfect solution - obviously this is not what the law is. It seems to me to be rather an extremely messy, complicated and contradictory collection of principles and precedents with no claim on some sort of absolute reality or truth. It is more like a tool, which can be used retroactively to serve best those who can manipulate it most to their advantage and have the might to enforce it. Finkelstein even concedes this point at the end of the Q and Q session during the Edinburgh lecture.

      "Those organs made the determination that all refugee communities have their refugee status passed through the generations while their plight remains unresolved. That determination is not grounded on any requirement of international law. In all likelihood Israel would challenge that in the ICJ as ultra vires to the powers and functions of the General Assembly if Palestinians ever attempted to enforce the right of return."

      Now you're confusing me. Are you saying that UNSC res 194 and 242, or any other requirement of IL are not necessarily to be construed as applying the RoR to descendants of the refugees, and only to the refugees themselves? Has this issue ever been clarified?
      Here's Mouin Rabbani addressing this issue, in the first video, starting at around 1:27:00 :

      "The Court instructed the victims to present their claims to the compensation commissions of the illegal occupying power. The ruling was grounded in the ipse dixit of the court, not in the language of international law. The Greek Cypriot victims did not have anything analogous to UN General Assembly resolutions 181(II) and 194(III) by way of support, but they did have the Geneva Conventions (which the ECHR ignored)"

      Part of the ECHR decision here :

      The issue arises to what extent the notion of legal title, and the expectation of enjoying the full benefits of that title, is realistic in practice. The losses thus claimed become increasingly speculative and hypothetical. There has, it may be recalled, always been a strong legal and factual link between ownership and possession… This is not to say that the applicants in these cases have lost their ownership in any formal sense; the Court would eschew any notion that military occupation should be regarded as a form of adverse possession by which title can be legally transferred to the invading power. Yet it would be unrealistic to expect that as a result of these cases the Court should, or could, directly order the Turkish Government to ensure that these applicants obtain access to, and full possession of, their properties, irrespective of who is now living there or whether the property is allegedly in a militarily sensitive zone or used for vital public purposes.

      The court seemed to believe that "it is still necessary to ensure that the redress applied to those old injuries does not create disproportionate new wrongs. " I can see how this could apply to I/P. In this case, the ECHR sees itself not as qualified to apply some ultimate justice stemming from moral principles, but rather as applying the least bad solution for all.
      Two observations :
      It seems to me that the overriding problems Finkelstein and others see in the BDS movement are that :
      1) It has not clearly enough articulated its goals as far as a final status.
      2) By not clearly enough articulating its goals, it is wasting precious time to come to some sort of least bad settlement and at least provide some comfort and alleviation of suffering.

    • Well, sorry for my oversight, posting comments from an email which were not cleared for public presentation, that's my fault, just didn't think it was that much of a problem...

      Here is another comment by "Evildoer" at the JSF site, which in my opinion makes the most sense of anything I've read about this :

      ...Because BDS demands a solution to the refugees in line with international law, people who think like NF can participate in BDS without compromising their position. There is nothing preventing them from saying "I agree that Israel's behavior is intolerable, and I will boycott Israel in conformity to MY INTERPRETATION of IL, but I will end my boycott even if the refugees are denied the right of physical return, provided they are accommodated within a comprehensive agreement sanctioned by international law." Obviously, if the majority of BDS supporters holds NF's position, than that is as far as BDS will go, regardless of what the initiators of BDS believe or wish. Furthermore, by using the language of IL, the framers of the call have intentionally opened the movement to people who may disagree with them of matters of substance. Thus, Finkelstein accuses the framers of BDS of being sectarian when it is he himself who is the sectarian here. He is conditioning his participation on everyone accepting his interpretation of IL, exactly the opposite of what the BDS call does.

      2. Since ND's claim that the public will see BDS activists as hypocrites is based on his argument that they ARE in fact hypocrites, and they aren't, then his "practical" argument falls flat. I don't see the difficulty of getting support form regular, non-political people for positions that are quite simple and in line with most people's moral intuitions. The problems that we are facing are 1. actually getting in hearing distance from people. 2. overcoming prejudice and racist attitudes that are ingrained in the culture, and 3. mobilizing passive support into effective power.

      NF's recommendation addresses only problem number one. To the extent that access to the media is decided by people who strongly reject equality for Palestinians, not explicitly adopting a 2ss framework IS a liability. But that has nothing to do with an imaginary public seeing through our alleged hypocrisy. It has to do with power. We can argue about how much of our platform should be directed by the need to placate Wolf Blitzer. And that can even be a serious argument worth having. There are certainly organizations such as the Palestine Task Force and J-Street that seek to influence politics strictly by lobbying the powerful, and if that is your idea of political work than of course you have to accept that adopting certain positions is the condition of access. But to pretend that the "public" will dismiss us unless we fit into Blitzer's mould is disingenuous....

    • tree :

      "Israel comes immediately to mind as a state that did just that. Not suggesting, of course, that it should ever be emulated."


    • I didn't post the whole conversation, as I didn't ask his permission, I just wanted to get his responses to David's main points. I posted it here because I know he doesn't, and because it just re-iterates much of what he's already said.
      On this point he may be referring to his response to my own statement which treated this question in my email :

      Briefly, the main disagreement, or crux of the debate, seems to me to be a disagreement on the definitions of certain words :
      1) "Israel"
      2) "destruction"
      That is to say that that some activists don't understand that for most Zionists, "Israel" = Jewish numerical majority over a certain geographical area - and obviously this definition makes some sense, otherwise, how could one call it the "Jewish state"? That is if you are calling for an end to this idea (which would be the logical outcome of a return of all the refugees - provided the majority in fact don't prefer to be compensated instead of returning), you are indeed calling for an end to a certain conception of the state of Israel. For them, "Israel" IS Zionism, and if you are calling for an end to Zionism, you are simultaneously calling for and end to Israel, as they are one and the same. Activists must take this argument to its logical conclusion, and come out and be honest enough to say it - whether the world is ready for anti/post-Zionism or not is another question.
      The second misunderstanding stems from a vague use of the word "destruction", where "transformation" would be a more appropriate term. Calling for an end to a certain conception of society CAN be understood to be in a certain sense a "destruction", yes, but it does not mean the destruction of a society, or of a state. After all a transformation of anything can be perceived as a kind of "destruction", if broadly interpreted, as the older form or forms no longer exist to make way for the new.

      To which he responded :

      I agree with most of this. Except that, in the case of South Africa, it was a clear case of wanting to transform--i.e., democratize--a state, whereas in the case of the BDS one-staters, they are clearly not saying, "We want to transform (democratize) Israel," because they won't even mention Israel. So, it must mean that in some sense, however you want to interpret it, they want to eliminate Israel. I am not aware of any movement for self-determination in the post-WWII era that successfully achieved its independence and statehood by eliminating or at the expense of another state, and I don't believe it's possible--leaving aside questions of morality, which are not trivial--that you can win a broad public to such an agenda.

      Let me just say that I understand his thinking, and I think that it's being somewhat misinterpreted, and that's why I forwarded this to him in the first place, so as to get a response. He's not saying that elimination of Zionism is or is not a good/moral position to have, or even if it's HIS position - that's all irrelevant. He clearly seems to think that 1-state advocates are not proposing a rights-based approach within Israel, but that they are being rather vague in spreading it over the entire territory. He seems to think :
      1) If you're going to invoke the law, you have to accept all of the law, otherwise there's no point.
      2) This rights-based position will not gain traction with the general public if you don't acknowledge Israel (one can agree or disagree with that), and therefore will ultimately not be successful.
      3) If you tack on the demand for equal rights in Israel proper, you will kill any pro-Palestinian motion in any international venue (like the UN), as most nation-states abuse certain ethnic minorities of their own (think Turkey and the Kurdish population) and will not want to support this plan of action, as it will force them to confront their own internal problems, which they will refuse to do - so, it will be dead in the water.
      4) You have to separate "Palestine" from "Israel" in terms of international law if you want public support, because that's what the law says (that Israel exists, right or wrong) - and if you're going to advocate for a rights based solution, having a Palestinian state would not preclude this rights-based approach being applied to Israel itself at the same time. They're just two different questions.
      It seems to me that either you decide to go outside the law and simply appeal to the morality of the general public with a grass roots movement (which I don't think Finkelstein objects to at all), OR you push to apply already existing law, in which case you have to accept the bad with the good. The whole thing seems like a debate on tactics to me ; I don't know what to think about all that, and I'm not endorsing all his views, but I do think it's important to understand what he's saying, and what he's not saying.

  • Norman Finkelstein slams the BDS movement calling it 'a cult'
    • In the interest of avoiding misrepresenting NF's views on the matter and having an open discussion, I'll post Finkelstein's response to David Samel's comments here point by point and slightly edited, I don't think he'd mind (I passed on Samel's comments to him unsolicited) :

      1) I never said Israel has a "right to exist as a state." I said that under international law Israel is a state, like every other member State of the United Nations, with rights as well as obligations. I have also repeatedly argued in print and in every lecture I give that there is no legal, moral, historical or prudential basis for recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, and in fact repeatedly stated that Palestinians should, in my opinion, reject such a demand, because, in the hands of someone like Lieberman, such a recognition would become a justification for ethnic cleansing. I also fully recognize that there is an inherent contradiction between a Jewish State and a state of equal rights. In fact most Israeli liberals recognize such a contradiction, which is why historically they have avoided writing a constitution.
      2) In every talk I give, I go through the settlements issue very carefully, using maps prepared by the Palestinian negotiators during meetings with Israel in 2008. There's no point in going through all this here. You can listen to any of the lecture posted on my web site. But I do think it is irresponsible to hurl claims born of immaculate ignorance.
      3) The terms for settling the conflict have been set forth in multiple forums, ranging from the U.N. General Assembly to the International Court of Justice to the positions of human rights organizations. The status of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel never comes up for an obvious reason. Were China to start speaking about the second-class citizens in Israel, Israel will say, rightly, what about the second-class (and worse) status of Tibetans in China,and down the line for every other member State of the U.N. Even Canada would be taken to task by the Quebecois. It is for this reason that the status of the Palestinians in Israel will almost certainly not be part of a final settlement--no state in the international community will endorse it. I would also add that this issue has never been part of the Palestinian political agenda. Look at Arafat's declaration of statehood and accompanying political document in November 1988. Of course, he mentions the refugees, which have always been part of the international agenda, but not a word about the Palestinian Arabs in Israel. Why has this demand suddenly been tacked on? Is it to make a settlement impossible?
      4) I already addressed this point.
      5) I have spoken on this point a thousand times, so pointless to go over it again.
      6) Already addressed.
      7) The very same lop-sided majority in the international community that repeatedly condemned Apartheid and refused to recognize the independence of the Bantustans has also recognized Israel as a state and called for a two-state settlement on the June 1967 border.
      8) Personally, I support BDS, so again I haven't a clue who he is addressing.
      9) Of course the situation has changed in terms of public awareness of Israeli injustices and crimes, but the consensus has hardened over the years in terms of supporting a two-state settlement.
      10) Answered already.

    • David, I e-mailed this comment to him, with some comments of my own, as I think it expresses well what many people wanted to say. I hope you don't mind...

    • He's right, and he's wrong. I don't agree with everything he says, but I can understand his arguments.
      He's right to say that activists should follow their arguments to their logical conclusions, which too often doesn't happen - sometimes they are more concerned with expressing their belonging to a particular community than they are with engaging with and grappling with the actual arguments.
      He's wrong to discourage activists, implying that their idealistic, pie-in-the-sky principles will never be understood by the larger public and will therefore never have a real impact. In this case, we could scrap just about every social justice movement which ever existed at its conception, as it was always those who continued against all odds to educate the public with direct actions who eventually paved the way for the rights and ideas which others took for granted when those ideas eventually became mainstream and acceptable in polite company.

      1) Those who refuse to acknowledge the argument that :
      - Right of Return and equal rights under a more secular regime would signal the "destruction" of Israel -
      are being willfully ignorant - for those whose conception of Israel is basically the Zionist conception of a majority of Jews over a given geographical area, a non-Jewish majority and equal rights WOULD signal the end of the state of Israel AS THEY CONCEIVE OF IT. To ignore this is to misunderstand their argument, and it is being dishonest. The question is : are there different ways of conceiving of the state of Israel, other than the Zionist one, and if so what are they? Could the demise of the current conception of the state of Israel in fact be a good thing? To not engage in this conversation is to gloss over the fact that it isn't only what Israel DOES which is objectionable, but more importantly what Israel IS. If you ignore this question, you are dodging a vital and central issue.
      Briefly, bring your arguments to their logical conclusion, wherever that may lead. If that means the "destruction of the Zionist conception of Israel", then just say it instead of beating around the bush.
      2) Finkelstein is correct that it is too easy for activists to become intellectual solipsists by exclusively engaging with other sympathetic activists with the same objectives and views - this can create a kind of echo chamber in which opinions are only continually reinforced, and not challenged from the outside. The fact is, that most people know little of the history of Israel/Palestine, are in thrall to deeply irrational fairy tales, and the easiest way in which to garner sympathy is through the evocation of the legal paradigm, international law, etc.
      3) Finkelstein is wrong to think that the only path to justice and transformation is through the law. We shouldn't become slaves to the law, as if it were the sole and unique yardstick by which to judge actions. Briefly, "legal" does not necessarily equal "just". After all, there are a myriad of ways for any talented lawyer to justify all sorts of spurious activities provided he/she is talented enough, and the fact that an act is legal is not a guarantee that it is the wisest, or the best course of action. There are other ways of changing the rules, including direct action, and "grass roots", citizen-led efforts, and these shouldn't be demeaned.

  • New book explores the history of 'New Jewish Agenda'
  • Khader Adnan on his 59th day, when Francis Hughes died
    • Khader Adnan is being tortured by the state of Israel.
      Henri Alleg, a journalist in Algeria during the war of independence, wrote a book called "La Question" (the question), relating the various instances of torture inflicted on those resisting the aggression of the French paratroopers on Algerian soil.
      1) Torture is above all about control - that is, they are asserting total control over the body of Mr. Adnan.
      2) Torture is also a means of extending this control to the rest of the population, for whom the victim is meant to serve as an example - "This could be you if you're not careful".
      Alleg :

      “…above all, what the authorities were attempting to hide were the methods employed to bring an entire people to its knees…”

      This is the ultimate act of resistance.

  • Praying while Shi'a: the NYPD's latest religious profiling scandal
    • Call it the transitive property of Islamophobic profiling.

      Remember : Muslims, like oil, are fungible.

  • Should Alan Dershowitz refuse to take himself seriously?
    • Actually, now that I think of it, reversing some of the letters wouldn't really change the meaning of the phrase, which contains the same words no matter what order you put them in, so it is a minor thing, really.
      At the same time, it may be a sign that BDS is having a real effect, as Dersh actually made the effort to go out of his way to denigrate it by showing a kind of disdain, as in : "I'm not even going to bother to spell this thing correctly, it's so insignificant".
      But I do believe it's indicative of a far deeper problem, and that is a psychological mechanism to refuse to acknowledge certain realities which are difficult to cope with - certain facts which are unpleasant, a way of pretending they don't exist. I've seen the same phenomenon regarding Rachel Corrie, where commenters would spell it as "Korrie". It's a detail, but it definitely indicates something.

    • Another thing which struck me about the Dersh as I watched his keynote speech barbarism in Pennsylvania was that he insisted on pronouncing "BDS", incorrectly as "DBS" - every time - he couldn't even bring himself to say it correctly (whether by design or subconsciously). Just in case this hasn't already been pointed out by others, I haven't read through all the commentary here yet...

  • Both sides are wrong in the ‘Israel Firsters’ debate
    • Still somewhat alive and kicking, I see.

      @ seanmcbride :

      Let me just state that we have few disagreements as to the facts, and our differences lie in our respective interpretations of those facts, and the ideological frameworks we use to think about this issue. The historical record is not in dispute, really, and you will never find me defending Israel's policies in the region because they're for the most part indefensible (as is the existence of a "Jewish state", or an "Islamic state", or any ethnocratic nation-state, for that matter). The discussion I'm having isn't about that, in a sense, it is more about going back and questioning some very basic assumptions that are generally taken for granted when addressing this, and it really isn't about Israel at all. It's about trying to reformulate the more fundamental questions so that we can in turn find the right answers - or get as close as possible - and I think this is more or less what JSW was doing as well (unless I misinterpreted his article).

      1) I reject outright the notion of a "national interest". Period. I think it is a notion that is problematic for several reasons, and therefore evaporates under any kind of real scrutiny. So, it is even impossible for me to engage with you on the subject using that notion as building block for analyzing the situation. It's not that I disagree with you, it's just that for me there's really nothing to talk about (if that's at all clear). In my view, nations do not have interests, OR rights - people, human beings do, and nations can only have rights by virtue of the individuals who make up this "nation". Nations only have "interests" in the sense that they tend to coincide with the interests of powerful individuals or groups which are dictating policy. Nations can only have "interests" in the realm of foreign policy, as they are a type of elemental particle, or compound, in the larger "universe" of nation states, and therefore can be seen as a "unit" making its wishes known, either by diplomacy, ruse, or force. In this model, however, ordinary citizens rarely have a say in how policy is created or implemented, and therefore the "interests" are again, the interests of powerful factions within that nation-state. That is, the "interests" are whatever those powerful factions say that they are, and by definition cannot be "hijacked", or "corrupted" from within. If the US supports Israel's right-wing, intractable and belligerent policies, in a certain sense it is by definition in its interests to do so, otherwise it wouldn't be doing it. This may all be detrimental to most of us, and indeed, even to most Israelis (and obviously to Palestinians, Iranians, Lebanese, and whoever else has the misfortune of crossing the Middle East mad dog), but that is just an irrelevant question if one understands "national interests" in this way. I do think JSW is correct in implying that "Israel-firster" has some unfortunate undertones, and if you scour the internet you will find that the themes of white supremacism, monetary policy, fear of a global Zionist conspiracy, and New World Order snake-oil salesmen catastrophe theories often tend to go together with the sense of a "non-white" demographic threat (much like the Israeli one), a sense of urgency at a "pure" and "uncorrupted" way of life disappearing under "foreign" and "corrupt" influences, and other such nonsense. There are people who think like this, and while that doesn't invalidate the argument, one should be aware that it exists. And I don't like the idea of professing "loyalty" to any state, it's something which is an anathema to freedom and clear thinking in my opinion.

      2) The fact that the Israel lobby is so loosely defined and so misunderstood as to whom it truly benefits also are problematic for me, even though I know it exists, and wields considerable power on US Middle East legislation and policy towards Israel. The fact is, not all groups in this loose constellation of "pro-Israel" groups are advocating on behalf of Israeli policy for the same reasons, and some have even quite divergent interests. Briefly, my problem is not with recognizing its power, or its considerable negative influence (which has been recognized since at least the 70s, far before Walt and Mearsheimer's book) :

      "The third myth ... was the tendency to believe - with an incredible arrogance that showed through in every domain - that we could force the Palestinians, all the Arabs and the whole world to accept a territorial status quo for the next 30 or 40 years. After all, weren't we superior, infallible, unbeatable? And didn't we have Washington in our pocket thanks to a powerful Zionist lobby in the United States? Weren't we containing the Soviet Union and the communist bloc? What did it matter that Africa, Asia, and the Third World were hostile to us, since Mr. Nixon's veto at the United Nations had succeeded in taking the stuffing out of their anti-Israel resolutions? In short, General Dayan and his cronies thought we were the undisputed masters of the Middle East and of history."
      - Reserve General Mattityahu Peled, 1974

      - but it is, in fact, with defining exactly what it is.

      3) Regarding the "lobby", there is no doubt that most of the elite American Jewish community has strongly drifted toward the right over the years, as they are reflexively supporting and mirroring Israel's policies, which are also drifting toward the right (one could say more accurately that their true nature is just being expressed more openly and honestly, but this is another debate). In a certain sense, they really have no choice, as being part of the elite, they must reflexively support state policy, both in the US and Israel - otherwise, they would not really be part of the elite. This has put them in a difficult position both emotionally and intellectually, as it has forced them more and more to support policies which they would normally reject, hence a lot of cognitive dissonance, and the cracks we are seeing in the edifice. The main culprit here, however, is slavish adherence to state policy and personal identification with state power, without which much of this confusion and contradictions fall away. This philosophy of marching in lockstep with state power is also one reason we see that most Jewish Zionists in America are also without much exception reflexive defenders of aggressive US foreign policy and militarism in general, as in the neoconservative movement. Of course, for Jews, the culprit is Zionism, and without it, that part of the lobby all but disappears. The arms and petroleum industries and imperial grand strategy are another story.

      4) This is the most important part for me : none of what I say has really anything to with defending or critiquing Zionism, Israeli or US policy toward the Palestinians - this is just another subject altogether.

      @ iamuglow :

      I've read through those quotes, and am aware of the fact that US unconditional support for Israeli aggression and terror is one of the main motives for al-Qaeda aggression and terror. No one has ever disputed this. The point I was trying to make is that there is a reason they flew those jets into New York, and not elsewhere. Much of Israeli policy in the region is indeed seen as US-Israeli policy, and there is no shortage atrocities brought upon the region by US - and Western - foreign policy over the decades from which to draw grievances which have little to do with Israel. If you subtract Israeli influence, there really is still plenty to go on.

      @ Hostage :

      I just wanted you to know that I have many of your comments bookmarked as references to international law (and whatever else) regarding I/P, just in case I need it...

    • The truth is that Israel is a huge strategic liability for the United States

      This is true, if you define "The United States" as the bulk of the citizens - and the greater part of US foreign policy has also been a strategic liability. In fact, most of America's extremely belligerent and murderous foreign policy since 1945 has been extremely harmful to the image of the US and the interests of US citizens. So has the internal, domestic policy, since the 1970s. This much seems obvious.
      Al-Qaeda explicitly listed three motives for attacking on 9/11, and those were :
      1) Presence of US troops in KSA (bin Laden released a "fatwa" and several letters regarding this)
      2) Blind support for Israel (bin Laden claimed the idea for attacking the towers came from the Israeli invasion of Lebanon)
      3) The Clinton-era UNSC (US) sanctions against Iraq (responsible for the deaths of 100s of thousands of children)
      To pretend that resentment in the Arab world towards the US is solely a result of support for Israel, and not a result of some over-arching policy towards the Middle-East is just completely off the mark. The truth is that Muslims in the Middle East have seen the US as at war with them for some time (and evidence is there to support that view, frankly), and support for Israel and oppression of the Palestinians just fits in with these extremely destructive tendencies. See Chalmers Johnson's "Blowback".
      Also see the longstanding US and British support for and cooperation with Islamic fundamentalists, here :
      Your observations on the various right wing lobbying organizations, think tanks and other assorted D.C. acronyms pushing militaristic policy in the Middle East for Israel are totally correct (has been happening since the 90s), and it would be good for everyone if the US actually cared about Palestinian self-determination and civic and political rights. What I can't seem to figure out is how some insinuate that normal US policy WITHOUT Israel would somehow be seen as Arab-friendly, or in the interests of citizens of the Middle East, or Americans, for that matter. America cares nothing for citizens of the Middle East, SW Asia, and it never has.

    • Excellent response.
      I'm responding to a lot of people, but to simplify I'll just put it all here :
      This has been a good discussion, and also useful for airing out what different persons' reasons are for being interested in this movement, and how they think about. There's a lot of confusion as to how to define the Lobby, and what "interests" are, and for whom. Suffice it to say that most people here are critical of Israeli policy and support Palestinians in some way, but may not all have exactly the same motivations for doing so. The practical question is whether or not those possessing different motivations can come to the same desired result (Palestinian liberation), or if, on the contrary, having different motivations will somehow be translated into different policies on the ground. Briefly, do we all need to have the same motivations for doing what it is we do, or can the narrow goal of Palestinian liberation afford divergent opinions (and even wrong, or misguided ones) and still achieve the desired effect? That is, if someone's advocacy for Palestinian rights and criticisms stem partly from nationalistic resentment of a foreign power and "disloyal" individuals rather than genuine concern for human rights, can the result still be positive for Palestinians and Israelis - can we somehow totally divorce motivations from concrete results?
      1) The basic moral principle which should hold is that it makes more sense to criticize those power centers which we have the greatest possibility to influence - that is, generally, our own communities and our own governments. I would be suspicious of Americans, for example, who go out of their way to criticize Israeli crimes if they were consistently silent on the far bloodier record of the various parts of the US Executive branch and Dept. of Defense over the last century. The historical record is so clear on this that it's undebatable. It one's true concern is human rights and ending state terrorism and aggression, then this is where one should direct one's energies. This, however, does not invalidate any other struggles, and if some advantages can be gained for Palestinians through attacking groups like AIPAC, then it is all for the better.
      2) The various lobbying interests in Washington all act in the interests of their constituents, and not in the interests of any abstract "national interest", or the greater good. Was it in the "national interest" to invade Vietnam and bomb Cambodia and Laos, killing over 2 million people, helping to bring the Khmer Rouge into power, to starve Iraqis with sanctions, to overthrow Mossadegh, to destroy Haiti and E. Timor, to piss on the corpses of dead Afghans? To grant monopoly patents to certain drugs, putting them out of reach of certain sectors of the population? To ask this question is to ask the question :
      Is there indeed ANYONE at all acting in the "national interests" in Washington? You'll be hard-pressed to identify them. Health care, civil rights, 1st amendment organizations, perhaps. It is helpful to see Washington as a sort of musical instrument, machine, or orchestra which responds to the moneyed interests that will act as an input - the output will be the policy, or the particular tune being played...
      So, we can now differentiate between those who work to further their own interests representing various domestic or international trade organizations and other large financial interests, and those who work to further the interests of certain nation states. This is a qualitative difference, and one which many seem to respond to for some reason - even though the reality is that the old men in Congress and the Pentagon are just as happy to send your kids off to die for no good reason as Netanyahu is.
      3) The idea that Western governments will not resort to armed conflict in order to secure their interests, or secure control over oil and the profits from it is just wrong. They have done this continually. Think Central America, South America. That was one of the main reasons for MI6 and CIA to instigate the overthrow of Mossadegh in the first place. The "Carter Doctrine" explicitly states that the US should have military control over the region, as it contains the main energy resources. The oldest ally in the region is the KSA, and most of their "terrorism" intel comes from the CIA. The State Dept regularly lobbies for major corporations around the world, as evidenced by certain wikileaks cables (think Monsanto). The idea that Western oil companies did not benefit from the Iraq invasion is just false, even though they didn't get everything they wanted. Things are still unstable there, and playing out. Exxon/Mobil has signed recent contracts, and will apparently exploit Kurdish oil fields, according to this :
      BP has access to the enormous Rumaila field. Remember, this was a US/British invasion, not just US.
      Remember also that Saddam Hussein was first brought to power with the help of the Americans, and was lavishly aided during the Iran-Iraq war (which helped secure the money for the arms to send to the Contras, for which Israel helped play middle-man). This was US policy, not Israeli. Tel Aviv did not force Colin Powell to humiliate himself in front of the UN with his baggie of Anthrax and lies about WMD.
      The question is whether your interests are the same as Exxon and BP's, or Admiral McRaven's, or Leon Panetta's - of course they aren't. The other question is whether or not Israel is an asset for these imperial adventures - would it make you happy if it WAS? If the Israelis prove useful in helping us smash the Arabs, are they OK then?
      4) It is clear that those with ties to Israel and the Likud in the press, the D.C. think-tank Archipelago and in Congress are the ones most vehemently agitating for military action against Iran. This is obvious. The question should be :
      Are these people motivated by a real concern for Israelis, or is their professed motivation a camouflage for other interests which prefer to fly the "pro-Israel" flag? I think we should drop the term "pro-Israel" altogether, as it pretty meaningless. It confuses the people of a particular state with the state itself, and many of those professing their loyalties to Israel care no more for the people inhabiting the region than for anyone else. It's an abstraction. The only thing which unites them seems to be their utter disdain for human rights and democracy. In this, they are no different from any of the other factions of power which haunt the halls of Washington, and should be dealt with accordingly - by dismantling them as far as possible.

  • The antiwar movement must rise again. Now
    • Well, if you accept the fact that there is a "left" and a "right", then by definition there is an "antiwar left" and an "antiwar right", but yes, I understand your point. My quibble is with associating the Democrats with any sort of real "left", and Republicans as "conservatives", which is pretty thin gruel. It's just not what they are. Progressives have generally been more active on human and civil rights (war being basically the total abdication of any humanity), whereas conservatives tend to object to centralized, federal power and prodigious government spending (as we all know the phrase "War is the health of the state"). In all, it doesn't matter as long as the result is that people stop being killed.
      "Ron Paul’s supporters are more anti-war than any Democrats."
      That's the way it seems, but I'm not so sure. I think it's better not to get duped about this. I suspect that there would be far less antiwar criticisms from conservatives if G.W. Bush were still in office. Part of my point was that many people are not inherently anti-war or pro-war as much as they identify with their various tribes (Rep, Dem, Lib, Anar, etc), and the fact that a Democratic administration is in power right now makes them de facto pro-war because they are willing to accept much more havoc being wreaked by their guy (because, after all, he's a good guy and must have very good reasons for doing it, etc.). That is, I think the tribal affiliation often takes precedence over any principled objection to war (which, I think, is part of your point too). True libertarians and anarchists are a different story, though.
      The central point is that power is inherently going to be more pro-war. I do remain astonished at how many people are disappointed by Obama, as if they really expected something from him.

    • Sadly, you're partly right ; many Americans will not react to policy unless it directly affects their pocketbooks, so these arguments need to be driven home. The fact that Afghan and Iraqi societies have been partly destroyed over the last two decades is a matter of little importance to them, unfortunately.
      There is a problem with this logic, though, and that is that it presupposes that these military interventions would somehow be acceptable IF there were a way to make them financially "sound" for Westerners. It is possible to wage war more covertly and at a lower cost and troop footprint by driving foreign policy underground and using proxy forces, as in the Reagan years in Central America - that is what we're seeing more and more with Obama, partly because of public dissatisfaction with the wars. It doesn't make it any more acceptable. That is, a cost/benefit analysis is faulty and wrong-headed if it only takes into account the interests of the aggressors.

    • The anti-war left disappeared with the election of Obama. This shows leftism is bankrupt.

      There's some truth to this, but in general it's a pretty shallow observation, it depends on how you define "leftism", especially in the US. Remember that war has almost always been a bi-partisan preference, with only minor details to differentiate the two major parties (the two-headed war/business party), and that Democratic presidents have begun or sustained more wars that Republican ones. The real question is : To what extent does the Democratic party really represent any kind of "progressive left"? You'll find that it has about as much claim to the label as the Republicans have to the label "conservative" - that is, not much.
      There always has been an anti war left, but it has been tainted with partisan tribal politics, and now that there is a Democratic president, we see how much of that anti war sentiment was feigned and how much was genuine - both sides are equally guilty of this (you saw very little rejection of the Iraq monstrosity from US "conservatives"). The paradox is that in order to be able to change power in Washington, you have to be able to influence it - and in order to do that, you have to somewhat acquiesce to it to have some access to it, in which case you aren't really going to question power because you're an integral part of it. The only answer is popular uprising and discontent, I think.

    • This has been brewing for years, and some put out warning signals as early as last year. It's good that people are finally coming to the realization that overt war with Iran (as opposed to the covert one, which has been taking place since the Bush administration) is a very distinct and real possibility.
      Americans have a short attention span, and if you think Washington elites won't try to get away with it, you're underestimating them.

  • Contextualizing the Holocaust
    • Some good points from both of you, and I do agree that this can get into disagreements about semantics and spiral out of control discussing trivial details, and that the actual results of any actions should be of paramount interest, and not the intentions. More generally, though, ou cannot totally divorce any intentions from the consequences of any act, and in criminal law there is a reason that intent matters.

      Think of someone who drives down a one way street the wrong way, and accidentally kills a pedestrian - he/she is breaking the law, and the result is that the person ceases to live, but the intention was not to kill the pedestrian - should we give this the same name as someone who purposefully mows down someone in the street? They probably won't receive the same sentence.

      It's also true that ANY genocide (or criminal, terror, state terror, war, etc;) can be justified in some way as being "necessary" for carrying out certain plans, and this is indeed what the perpetrators always do, invoking some higher purpose, some sort of grand plan which sets wheels in motion and necessitates the "breaking of some eggs to make an omelette" (think Arendt's "banality of evil", or Benny Morris' justification of ethnic cleansing).

      RoHa :
      As far as confusing the 'metaphorical' and the 'literal', well, yes, but this is what language does. Words can never completely describe any physical reality, it's always approximative. The problem with words is that if you dig deep enough, their meanings can become pretty unclear and ambiguous. This seems to me to be one of the primary difficulties in the legal sphere. Agree with much of what you said, though.

      jayn0t :
      Yes, you're right.

    • One of the problems I have with this definition of genocide is that, by using the “-cide” ending, it implies that destruction of a “group” or “community” is a form of killing. Clearly it isn’t.

      Well, actually, it is a form of killing if you define "killing" as an "end" of an ethnic group - it ceases to exist. Homicide would be something different altogether, as it is the "end" of a human being, and not an ethnic group - i.e., murder. I think you have distinguish between a group of people and an individual, and how their "end" implies two very different things.

      Whether the West Brisbane Cheesecake Photography club disbands voluntarily or under pressure from the Lord Mayor, no-one necessarily dies.

      And no-one necessarily cares either...
      There is another distinction to make, and that is between what is considered a voluntarily cohesive group (the West Brisbane Cheesecake Photography club), which was brought about by the active choice of several individuals, and which can cease to exist by their own volition, and the involuntarily cohesive group, which exists by virtue of birth into a certain cultural, language environment, etc. One can simply choose to no longer be a part of the cheesecake Photography club, but a cultural, lingustic group can't simply be disowned so easily because one is born into it. One cannot "choose" to simply cease being a member of the Basque community, for example - so, the destruction of this community has to be brought about by an outside, hostile, force, as there is no other way to really do it.

      I want to take over a chunk of land for a uranium mine, and so carry out those sort of activities to get control of the land. My intention is not to destroy the tribes, even though I do. My neighbour does the same sort of thing, with the intention of destroying the tribes. We both deliberately carried out those sort of activitites. We both had evil motives. Why is he worse than me?

      I'm not sure one is "worse" than the other. You say "we both had evil motives" - but your motives were not at all the same - one was to simply kill, and the other was to gain control of mines, or a certain territory, or to flesh out some kind of grand strategy at the expense of the local population (as in the American Manifest Destiny, Nazi planned expansion to the east [lebensraum], South African colonization, Zionist appropriation of territory, etc.).
      In one case, outright murder is the goal, with no other pretense, and in the other case, one might do without murdering the indigenous population if they would simply "comply and get out of the way"...

      It could be argued that no indigenous population is simply going to "get out of the way" without a fight, and therefore to seize any land or rescources is going to involve some kind of struggle, violence, and therefore murder, so, the distinction is purely academic.

      Think of the scenario in which there is a nuclear war initiated by either the United States, Israel, or Russia... in which 1 billion die in "collateral damage" but were not the intended targets. Is this a genocide or not? Does the random destruction of 1 billion individuals comport with genocide?

      In the end, if you look at the definition above, every part of it does actually specify some kind of physical, bodily harm to individuals of some specified group, or preventing its physical continuation.

    • Well, yes. I'm taking the definition as spelled out in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide at the UNGA, 1948. Raphael Lemkin (lawyer) was instrumental in getting this to happen, and is named in the video I posted above.

      You're right that the definition doesn't necessarily involve murder, but I don't think that's a reason for totally invalidating it. Taking the logic to its extreme, if you think about it, a national or ethnic group can indeed be destroyed by other means - that is, if its language, customs, territory, history are eliminated, it effectively ceases to exist, even if there is no outright killing involved, though I do agree this is a stretch.

      If you look closely, though, every part of this definition does in fact involve some kind of disruption of family ties or hereditary lines (ex. "transferring children of the group to another group"), or destruction of a community - it's possible to do this without murdering everyone. So, mass murder could be a form of genocide, but genocide does NOT have to be a form of mass murder (correction of what I said above).

      This does make sense if you look at the definition of geno-, "people" - and the many ways there are to define "people" - as far as attributing any kind of intention to murderous acts, and that's why intention is important, at least in my mind. Mass murder without any systematic plan is not necessarily genocide, as genocide implies some kind of targeting of a specifically defined group of people, therefore an intention, a plan is a prerequisite.

      But maybe this is like asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin...

    • American Holocaust: The Destruction of America's Native Peoples :

    • So is there an ‘extra’ appropriate word for the Rwandan, Cambodian, Armenian and etc. genocides also?

      Why not ? The Roma have "Porrajmos", like I said above, "the devouring" - Jews have "HaShoah", "catastrophe" - Palestinians have the "nakba" ; every nation or ethnic/cultural/language group can have its own name for the particular events.
      The question as to why one word or narrative becomes dominant over the others is a separate question altogether.
      For example, you would have a hard time getting Americans to admit that the destruction of rural Cambodia was a genocide, even though that is what it essentially was. Likewise with Native Americans.
      There's a good video by the author of "American Holocaust", I'll put it up here when I find it.

    • Good initiative.

      Several things :
      1 ) "mass murder" and "genocide" are not mutually exclusive categories. Obviously, a genocide IS a particular form of mass murder. So, to call the Rwandan (or Congo, or whatever else) massacre a "mass murder" does not preclude it from being a genocide. Simple, but...

      "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

      There is no ambiguity as to whether or not this applies in the Rwandan case as well.

      2 ) There is nothing wrong with using words such as "Holocaust" and "Shoah", and the words do conjure up the horror of the events quite well (burnt offering, great devourer, etc.), but they tend to amplify the religious nature of the systematic massacres, giving it an almost supernatural or mystical origin, as if humans were incapable of committing such acts, and needed some sort of outside intervention in order to accomplish their grisly goals. But the simple fact is that we are, indeed, capable of such things if certain conditions are met. This is an observation about human nature that we need to confront, and not explain it away with some kind of irrational, larger than life, divine (or devilish) logic. This is why I think that Raul Hilberg's title, "The Destruction of the European Jews" is apt, as it puts the focus back on the actual events and the banal, and not so banal, human agency.
      The conclusion - and this is why it's so important - is that if THEY were capable of doing such things, WE ARE TOO.

      "Judeocide" could be another appropriate word.

  • Did Fox and Werritty meet 6 times with ambassador to Israel to plan 'secret agenda for war' with Iran?
    • You're absolutely right, but how on Earth could any of Washington's activity be described as in the "national interests", any more than Tel Aviv's is? This confuses me.

    • Excellent, I was wondering when you were going to pick up on this, Craig needs all the help he can get.
      A commenter on his website has expressed concern that the article was picking up momentum on far-right circles - as is inevitable with any article which can be construed as laying out a vision of some kind of "Zionist world cabal" for anyone with a questionable agenda.
      This should not get in the way of examining the facts, however, especially when there is an obvious effort on the part of powerful individuals to pave the way to an open war with Iran (the covert one has been underway for some time, obviously).

  • Kristallnacht is memorialized w shattered mirrors
    • I think this is entirely appropriate, even if it is a bit aggressive. Maybe some children who may know little about history will be provoked to ask questions this way. The problem seems to me to be not so much that events involving the Shoah are ritualized and constantly discussed, but more that OTHER events (even if far less in scope and disaster) are NOT.

      Maybe someone should do the same thing with Armenian, Native American graves, Palestinian mosques, etc. I don't know.

  • A weekend of violence in Gaza
    • THIS :
      Potsherd2 October 30, 2011 at 2:25 pm :
      "Of course Israeli spokesmen are liars. That’s their job. It’s the job of all government spokesmen, everywhere, but particularly in Israel where they have so much to cover up."

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