Commenter Profile

Total number of comments: 142 (since 2010-05-16 14:25:53)

Matthew Taylor

Matthew A. Taylor is co-founder of PeacePower magazine, and author of "The Road to Nonviolent Coexistence in Palestine/Israel," a chapter in the book Nonviolent Coexistence.


Showing comments 142 - 101

  • Calling Herzog and liberal Zionism ‘racist,’ Gideon Levy instigates a reckoning
    • HI Bornajoo -- Although I understand the reasons for your comments, I caution against descending from an honest critique of an ideology -- and specific adherents of the ideology -- into broad generalizations about people.
      You wrote, "Levy ripped this fool to shreds and exposes just how delusional and racist (and scary) they all really are."
      In my experience, comments about "they," especially "they all," are unhelpful at the least, and can be heard as attacks on a group of people and a form of prejudice. Our goal should not be to attack Zionists as a group, but instead to point out the moral flaws in the ideology of Zionism while simultaneously showing a new, just path forward, and a way to gracefully let go of anachronistic forms of Zionism and instead embrace equality. It is fine to assert that a public figure like Herzog is a racist when he makes clearly racist statements; it's a hard truth, and it's backed up by facts and his statements in writing. But, "all ____ are delusional and racist"? Not kosher, in my book, and not welcome as a comment under this article.

  • Now that Israel has killed the two-state solution, will liberal Zionists support equality or ethnocracy?
    • Hey Larry, thanks for jumping into this and I appreciate your argument. I think the only way the dead 2SS could be resurrected as a legitimate option is, if (ironically enough), there is enormous pressure for one person, one vote, equal rights. When forced to choose between that and resurrecting the 2SS/partition, I think then Israel's extreme right, in a last gasp to protect a part of the 60+ years of land conquest, could suddenly become serious about partition. However, I think advocacy of a 2SS is self-defeating for those who genuinely favor it because it plays into the Israeli regime's talking points.

  • In historic interviews, US officials blame end of talks on Israeli land theft
  • BBC lampoons view that criticizing settlements is 'anti-Semitic, mate'
  • Israel apologists attempted to discredit Mandela with false Israel apartheid quote
    • Hostage, when you say "It’s very possible that Arafat was simply repeating and approving exactly what Mandela had said the day before," this is just speculation. If you can find a legitimate, reliable source that Mandela ever used the word 'apartheid' to describe Israel -- or, that the "same trench... apartheid" quote was ever uttered by Mandela -- please share it! However, I think it's important that we be thorough in our research when we quote anyone, especially a leader of Mandela's caliber, and at this point I can't find a single reliable source showing Mandela ever said 'apartheid' to describe Israel. Mandela's comments about 'colonialism' and so forth are more than enough to make the point, no need for anyone to embellish his already righteous and accurate remarks.

    • Annie, I'm sorry if my story makes you feel uncomfortable. If you can find facts that contradict any of what I've presented, please share them.

      Yes, I paid to access the behind-firewall Newsday reports I mentioned from February/March 1990.

      Here is a precise quote from "African Summit Rallies to Mandela" by Les Payne (Newsday, March 1, 1990):

      Most of the discussions held to regional concerns African states are facing in a rapidly changing world. However, one diversion arose Tuesday when, during a news conference, Mandela was asked if he was "frightened" that his statement comparing his fight with that of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat would "alienate the powerful Jewish community in South Africa."

      "If the truth alienates the Jewish community in South Africa, too bad," Mandela said. "I sincerely believe that there are many similarities between our situation and that of the PLO."

      He also said, "We live under a unique form of colonialism in South Africa, as well as in Israel and a lot flows from that fact."

      Asked about Mandela's remark, Arafat said, "We are in the same trench, struggling against the same enemies, against apartheid, racism, colonialism and neocolonialism."

      So far as I know, this is the first place that the "same trench...apartheid" quote appeared, and this indicates that it was Arafat's quote, not Mandela's.

    • Hostage - While Muravchik's Commentary piece does indeed reference remarks Mandela made on television, Muravchik does *not* specifically say that the "same trench...apartheid" quote was made on television. In fact, Muravchik offers NO reference of any kind for that quote. I stand by my analysis I gave in the above article.

  • Obama's Mandela eulogy -- moving, and hypocritical
    • NickJOCW, all good. Whether or not Obama wrote the words, he spoke them, and thus he's accountable for them. Interesting that you knew Ben Gurion, did he ever comment to you about his desire to expel the Arabs, plan Dalet, or anything else related to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine?

    • Tom, I too am extremely grateful for how President Obama is handling the Iran situation. Thus far, he's been quite politically astute, managing to thread the needle of striking a workable deal (so far) with Iran and sidelining Netanyahu's demands for a military strike. However, this does not excuse him backing down (for example) on opposing Israeli settlements, as he has done since the days of the Cairo speech. Put another way, one right does not right another wrong. If Obama's plan is to first complete a final diplomatic deal with Iran (to remove that from the global agenda, if not Israel's) and THEN focus on pressuring Israel as he appeared ready to do early in his term, then he'll be a more ingenious politician than I've given him credit for. However, I'm not holding my breath; I think in the wake of the Israel Lobby's full court press he's given up on taking any kind of righteous stance against Israel's colonial occupation/apartheid, if he ever intended to.

    • Annie - Yup, found that too, thanks! I'm doing some news archiving digging and will have more to report soon.

    • Hi Hostage, have you found/seen any corroborating sources? I paid and downloaded the article in Commentary, and the author fails to cite where he got that quote. Doesn't mean it's not true -- why would he fabricate such a quote, and it certainly is believable -- however, would be nice to get a second reference.

    • Dear Hostage,
      In researching this piece I looked around on the internet for a reliable resource indicating Mandela had specifically used the word "apartheid" to describe Israel policies, and was unable to find one, so instead I just quoted his remarks about injustice and human rights violations. Thank you so much for this link to Commentary piece. Unfortunately it's behind a firewall! I wish this important document was available freely to all.
      With gratitude,

  • Paul Ryan describes Israel as issue of 'Homeland Security'
    • "Real peace will require Palestinians to recognize that Israel has a right to exist, even as it will require two states for the two peoples. Introduced by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on May 13, 2011, H. Res. 268 reaffirms the United States’ commitment to a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through direct negotiations."

      In this context, I'm pretty sure "two states for two peoples" = Israel and Jordan. The Revisionists say that "Jordan is Palestine."

  • Romney visits Western Wall, ignores question, Does Israel have a right to annex West Bank
  • By nearly 9-to-1, Americans believe our support for Israel could lead to terrorist attacks
    • "Could lead to terrorist attacks" is one thing, but what about recent history? Bin Laden repeatedly said U.S. support for Israeli oppression of Palestinians was his primary motivation for orchestrating the September 11, 2001 attacks. What percentage of Americans know this? What percentage of Americans know anything about the blowback U.S. support for Israeli apartheid has already caused? What would happen if all the data/tapes/files that the U.S. took possession of from Bin Laden's compound were to be released to the public?

  • The future of Zionism
    • Okay, I think I get it now: "you" being Ethan Bronner. Spiking the football a bit are we, Phil?

    • Phil, my apologies for possibly being thick, but what's your point? I don't really get what you're trying to say here.

      Glad to see Ethan Bronner covering an issue where his Zionist bias does not distort his reporting. If only the Times assigned unbiased reports to Israel/Palestine we'd be getting somewhere. Jodi Rudoren doesn't qualify as unbiased; her cultural background means there's a built-in bias. Why doesn't the Times send atheist Korean reporters with no cultural, religious, or ethnic ties to cover Israel/Palestine?

  • Circumcision deaths are a legalized non-scandal
    • Hophmi - It would be oppression if we banned consenting adults from choosing to be circumcised.

      However, it is oppression when children are circumcised, because children cannot consent. I and other men object to our circumcisions.

      We were oppressed by a knife, amputation, unnecessary surgery. Do our opinions and rights matter to you?

      Or is the only person who matters the one who holds the knife and performs the amputation?

    • Hophmi-
      Wow, you said it all:

      I’ve been to a bris as well. No one thought it was terrible.

      Watch the video of the bris circumcision that's linked to in the post above, and tell me: what does the baby think?
      Oh, wait: for you, the baby is no one.
      What about the men in this thread who have said we object to our circumcisions -- are we also no ones?

    • Phil -- Thank you as well. I appreciate you seeing the ambition.
      You say you are more conventional intellectually. Within the Jewish world, on Israel/Palestine, you are relatively unconventional to the point of being radical, and your intellectual barbs are fired by moral outrage and a passionate stand for equality.
      I'm asking you and others like you to come over to my side of the pool on a similar issue. Come on in man, the water's fine over here were there's equality between baby boys and baby girls.
      I want you to critically think about this: what would you say if someone strapped down a newborn girl and sliced off part of her genitalia? Would you be outraged? Would you say this is worthy of legal accountability? Well the law agrees with that response, it's illegal.
      So what do you think about the fact that ONLY a part of a baby boy's genitals may be legally amputated without his consent but a girl's may not be? Doesn't equality apply?
      Here's another way to look at it. When the social justice protests happened in Israel last year, didn't you (as I did) find it kind of ridiculous that there was this widespread outrage about apartment rental prices, which was primarily a concern of Israeli Jews, but nothing, to my recollection, about house demolitions, which primarily affects Palestinians and Bedouins?
      So reading you criticize the ultra-Orthodox sex abuse scandal is similar for me, how can someone get indignant about the one thing when there's this other thing going on that's at least as harmful and probably more harmful in broad daylight? And at least there are laws against the first form of abuse but it's perfectly legal to do the other form of abuse?
      For me circumcision is an emperor wears no clothes campaign, not meaning those who circumcise are emperors, but meaning it's something many people are unable/unwilling to see and criticize whereas a vocal and growing minority is speaking up and trying to change it and the majority is resistant to that voice and experiencing cognitive dissonance. (Really? The emperor wears no clothes? Screw you, you must be anti-emperor/self-hating!)

      The cognitive dissonance of the majority, I believe, is tied up in all sorts of identity issues, and confronting unacknowledged personal injury is unsettling, disturbing, and hard for most.

    • eejay -- what precisely is antisemitic about daylighting and criticizing a ritualized practice that results in the death of infants?

    • Phil,

      I understand entirely. I get that taking on Israel/Palestine is a huge task, and circumcision may be just too much for the basket to carry.

      My one tweak for you to keep in mind going forward, and where you might hear from me in the future, is if you start criticizing certain forms of sexual abuse of children within the Jewish community as you did previously, it's hard for me to hear that without *also* daylighting circ. I'd been meaning to write this piece since May when I saw your posts about the ultra-Orthodox sex abuse scandal.

      So, if you want your site's mandate to include criticism of sexual abuse of children within the Jewish world, then I believe this has to be part of it. Only talking about one form of child abuse and not another is a way of perpetuating the myth that abuse A is not okay but abuse B is okay/not to be questioned/morally righteous.

      Just food for thought for you.

      Maybe this won't be relevant again, but, I wanted you to know my position.

      Thanks for the generous words re: prophetic.

      Let's get back to rebuilding Jerusalem.

    • MJ - I'd like to respond to your criticisms....

      You rightly bring up the concern that those of us who make the case for peace and justice in the Middle East are frequently smeared as being anti-Semitic. I know it's happened to both of us many times over.

      So why do you do the same to me? In your previous comment, you said:

      The anti-circumcision movement is ugly, and suffused with anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

      This clearly implies that my post is anti-Semitic. Can you point to anything specific in my post as being anti-Semitic?

      As you make clear in your comment above, being inappropriately smeared as anti-Semitic sucks.

      I previously addressed your concern (and others' concerns) that this post is off-topic. See this comment I wrote:
      link to

      To my understanding, Phil's mandate for this site is that it broadly engages with issues of concern to the American Jewish community, not only Israel/Palestine, for the purpose of bettering the community. If you have a bone to pick with that mandate, you should address it to Phil and Adam. However, my article fulfills Phil's mandate by criticizing a harmful practice for the sake of making our community better.

      Your most revealing comment:

      Right or wrong, the perception of anti-Semitism is created and to what end: to rail against a practice that is infinitely less dangerous than riding a bicycle.

      How can you possibly make a statement like that in the face of the evidence?

      When I ride a bicycle, part of my body is not amputated against my will and without my consent.

      Have you watched the video that's linked to in this article? Does it look like the infant baby is riding a bicycle?

      Are the deaths of infants irrelevant to you?

      Should not baby boys receive the same legal protections that baby girls enjoy in the United States?

    • ColinWright-
      You say the practice is 'weird and mildly disgusting.' Do you really find the death of baby boys as a result of these practices only weird and mildly disgusting? How do you feel about other forms of child abuse that result in the death of children?
      Currently, it is illegalto do any of the things described in this post to infant females, while it is legal to do these things to a male. You say the government should keep it snout out. Does that mean you think all forms of child abuse should be legalized? Do you think it should be legal to amputate part of a newborn female's genitalia and then use oral-genital contact to suck the blood out of the wound? Or do you think the status quo should remain: illegal to be done to females, and legal to be done to males? Why in your mind are male babies deserving of this kind of activity whereas females are not? Are females better than males? Does equality not apply when it comes to amputating male genitalia and then exposing them to death?
      What exactly would have to be done to a newborn baby for the act to rise to the level of "utter and complete outrage," if exposing the baby unnecessarily to death does not qualify?

    • To tokyobk, and others who question why I posted this piece:

      Co-editor Philip Weiss opened the door to critical commentary about the American Jewish community broadly, on topics other than just Israel/Palestine. For example, please see his post about the ultra-Orthodox sex scandal:

      link to

      Phil wrote:

      It struck me that night that because of the Catholic church scandal and its sequels, our society is experiencing an awakening. We are uncovering important new terrain of man's inhumanity to man. The truth is that sexual abuse has gone on everywhere, in countless institutions where children and power intersect. The discovery of these horrors is now widespread and imperative, and it will make society better. That is why I jumped on the Ultra Orthodox story yesterday.

      Couldn't have said it better. Discovering the horrors of circumcision, and outlawing this shameful and destructive practice, will benefit society.

      Why I'm focusing on the Jewish angle:
      As a Jew, I feel responsible to challenge Jewish practices that are harmful. As I wrote in the article - and as the Canadian Children Right's Council has stated - circumcision of non-consenting minors is wrong no matter what religious or cultural context. If I was a Muslim, I would be posting this article to a Muslim-originated blog, and I would link it to a video of a Muslim circumcision. But since I am a Jew, I am posting it here, on a site that criticizes aspects of the American Jewish community for the sake of bettering it!

      To all commenters
      As of 2:11AM PST on June 25th, not one of the seven comments thus far has expressed a drop of shock, moral outrage, or indignation at the practice of exposing infant males to death, as documented in my post. Again, the question: why is this obvious scandal such a non-scandal, not only in the American Jewish community and the mainstream media, but for readers of this blog? Are the lives of male babies truly that worthless? Why are the practices cited in this article legalized when performed on male infants, whereas these practices are illegal when performed on female infants? Shouldn't that change, so that both males and females are protected by the law?

  • Beinart's spiritual errors
  • 'NYT' exposes pattern of Ultra Orthodox community covering up sexual abuse, punishing accusers
    • Thank you Citizen for your several comments about circumcision. I appreciate knowing I'm not the only one on this thread who feels outrage about this.

    • Fredblogs,

      See the Doctors Opposing Circumcision website at link to -- they say that there is no clear evidence that circumcision prevents STDs, and in fact, there is evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, see the Canadian Children's Rights Council -- link to -- they say that circumcision of both males and females is an "assault" that should be outlawed.

      For sake of discussion, if cutting off part of a baby girl's genitals were *conclusively proven* to lower the risk of STDS, would we do it in this country? Heck no! Feminists would be up in arms about such an atrocity, and rightly demand that grown women be able to make such a choice for themselves. Why don't we protect baby boys too?

      It's in fact illegal to circumcise a newborn girl. Why should it be legal to circumcise a newborn boy (whose choice is taken away), when it's illegal to do the same to a girl? Don't boys deserve equal rights? Don't men of the age of consent deserve the right to make this choice for themselves?

      Condoms and responsible sexual choices prevent STDs, not cutting off body parts!

      My point is: circumcision is child abuse; it's in fact a form, arguably, of sexual child abuse; and why is there no outrage here on this discussion thread about this form of abuse? It's disgusting that this practice goes on in broad daylight and so few are speaking out against it. Yes, religious-shieled sexually molestation of children deserves condemnation, but so does cutting off body parts!

      A half century from now, most of humanity will see infant circumcision for what it is: barbaric, abusive genital mutilation, that must be stopped.

    • Sexual molestation of children is horrific. But cutting off parts of their genitals at birth *is* okay? We should be at least as outraged about the latter as the former. Genital mutilation is taking place in broad daylight in Jewish congregations, and in mainstream secular American medical settings. Where's the outrage, the accountability, the demand for justice? Why do parents and Rabbis think they have the "right" to take away this choice from infants who can't speak for themselves; infants who, if they were left intact, would be highly unlikely to get circumcised as adults? The overwhelming majority of intact men I know say circumcision is madness and they are very glad it wasn't done to them, as they enjoy having intact genitals and the natural sexual pleasure provided by the foreskin. It bothers me to see all this outrage over Rabbincal molesters but no outrage about forced genital cutting of infants!

  • Beinart's Blindspot: Israel has always been a non-democratic apartheid state
    • Kathleen, yes brave. The territory Beinart staked out was far to the left of the American Jewish Establishment. Good on him for pushing the envelope. I believe that Phil said Beinart's book won't ultimately make a difference and I agree. But even though his book is a decade and a half late (it might have made a difference during Netanyahu's first term) it's still brave. He knowingly exposed himself to a mountain of vitriol, and he got it.

  • 'Struggle is now for equal rights for everyone in Greater Israel' --Gideon Levy
  • With 'last ink,' Gunter Grass breaks silence on Israeli nuclear program threatening world peace
  • 'The Crisis of Zionism' and the contradictions of Israel as a liberal democratic fantasy
    • Austin -- you hit it out of the park. Thanks mucho! I was planning to write a similar riposte, and I am grateful that now I don't have to do so. Although, I have other parallel criticisms of Beinart's book to offer, maybe I'll chime in with those soon.

  • My spirit is American (a religious manifesto)
  • For Hanukkah this year, our chefs prepare a special dish: their own words
  • How to avoid war with Iran
    • kalithea - if your blanket condemnation of all zionism is true, than what do you make of Martin Buber and Judah Magnes? I think the problem is not *all zionism,* but rather, *forms of zionism* based on conquest, ethnic cleansing, racism, and colonization... we could sum all that up and call it *militarized zionism*. yes, the majority of zionism in some way or other is based on this - even much of "liberal zionism." however, i think the exceptions of Buber and Magnes are an important part of the historical legacy and should be remembered as a redeeming path forward.
      self identified zionists need not abandon their zionism, however, they should redefine their zionism it into an equality-embracing zionism based on the Buberian model. That would create real opportunities for Israeli-Palestinian equality. Go to Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, and tell me, do you believe that the "Zionists" who live there are part of the problem? I believe they are in fact part of the solution.

    • Lysias - irrelevant to the point of my story. Read Kinzer's book. The United States, as a sovereign state and as a nation, owes a huge debt of apology and reparations to the Iranian people (along with many other peoples around the world, including the Palestinians, who our foreign policy has oppressed).

    • thanx American. great contributions to this discussion! the historical context re: diplomacy is crucial.

  • Vetoing Palestinian bid will damage US relationship w/ Muslim world for years to come --former ambassador
  • Michael Lerner says We need a Jewish state b/c Jews continue to face vulnerability, hatred
    • The problem with Lerner's argument for a special Jewish state is he makes no mention whatsoever of the impact this had had on the indigenous Palestinian population. Imagine if he were to take a Buberian stance, like, "Israel should be a safe homeland for Jews in addition to being the equal-rights homeland for the Palestinians." Then we'd be talking. Without acknowledging the impact of the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine -- and the rights of Palestinians today -- Lerner's statement strikes me as blinkered and ethnocentric, to say the least.

  • We've learned nothing since 9/11
    • One other thing... in an October 2004 audio tape, Bin Laden admits to 9/11:

      "While I was looking at those destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me to punish the unjust one in a similar manner by destroying towers in the United States so that it would feel some of what we felt and to be deterred from killing our children and women..."

      link to

    • Robert Fisk agrees with my analysis:
      "All the evidence ... indicates that Palestine was the factor that united the conspirators – at every level," Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan write. One of the organisers of the attack believed it would make Americans concentrate on "the atrocities that America is committing by supporting Israel."...
      The motivation for the attacks was "ducked" even by the official 9/11 report, say the authors....
      We still haven't told the truth about the crime which – we are supposed to believe – "changed the world for ever". Mind you, after watching Obama on his knees before Netanyahu last May, I'm really not surprised.
      When the Israeli Prime Minister gets even the US Congress to grovel to him, the American people are not going to be told the answer to the most important and "sensitive" question of 9/11: why?

      link to

  • 9/11 saved my life
    • Phil,

      Very nice post! Well said. I especially loved:
      "My own journalism before that seems trivial to me. I have boxes of it in the basement, the pages moldy and fused and from someone else's life. I had looked for deep meaning in my work and not found it."
      Precisely true of me. I built a publishing empire (video game strategy guide books), but about a year before 9/11 -- at the outbreak of the second Intifada, actually -- I knew what I was doing was meaningless in the grand scheme.
      I wish I could share your optimism of an American spring. I'm hoping more for an American retreat - let's get the hell off the world imperial stage and let others chart the course.


  • Amazing grace-- Mpls Lutheran forum will put Zionist Jews, JVP and IJAN on same stage!
    • This is cool, but it's missing an important voice: the Kahanists, who play a big part in Israeli politics. The JCRC is not right wing enough to cover the entire spectrum.

  • Read the post for which Derfner was fired: 'The awful, necessary truth about Palestinian terror'
    • Posted this to Derfner's blog:


      I read the original version of your post as well as your apology, and I must say that the overall sentiment (that the occupation provokes Palestinian resistance, violent and otherwise) was correct, while as you stated in your apology, the choice of words was quite ill considered in places. No one has the legal or moral "right" to attack civilians even if they live under occupation. Your apology did a good job of correcting the wording, and *incentivize* and *provoke* I think are perfect phrases to characterize what the occupation does to foment Palestinian resistance. Violent Palestinian resistance that targets civilians is both immoral and terrible strategy, however, it's high time that Israel woke up and recognized its role in provoking that violence. Israel could end this violence not with more bombs, but with a policy of Israeli-Palestinian equality and an end to occupation, colonization, and land theft.

      I'm very sorry the J Post fired you. Your post was brave and important, and the editors should have given you a chance to amend, update, redact, etc. the phrasing instead of just dumping you. This is a national conversation Israel desperately needs to have. Shame on them for censoring it from the public sphere.


  • The Refugees of Zone A
  • Weprin ought to read Hamlet
  • The case against circumcision
    • Genital mutilation is genital mutilation, whether practiced on males or females.
      You should watch this video:
      link to
      Also check out this article:
      link to

      There are many different types of circumcision, some more damaging than others, but all of them are genital mutilation.

      The only reason you think FGM is in a category by itself, and not comparable to MGM, is because of cultural and religious brainwashing. Europeans recognize the truth because they haven't been brainwashed into believing male circumcision should get a free pass while female circumcision should be condemned.

      Finally, even if you haven't noticed a difference, there are plenty of women who have. see:

    • The majority of Swedish Jews intact info can be found here:

      link to

      "Europe has had a very high incidence of genital integrity, however, the increasing immigration of Muslim minorities is lowering the incidence of genital integrity in Europe. Sweden, like other Scandinavian nations, does not usually practice male circumcision. Even among Jews, the incidence of circumcision is relatively low. Hofvander (2002) reports only about 40 percent of Swedish Jews practice ritual circumcision, leaving 60 percent with intact genitals."

    • What's "worst" about this post. What's "crazy" about it? What's so "hilarious" about criticizing routine genital mutilation? Whenever this topic comes up, a bunch of people make a bunch of dick jokes, which is really offensive, because it distracts from the very serious nature of this issue. (Would you crack jokes about female genital mutilation? No? Then why is it okay to joke about male genital mutilation?)

      Dan, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I would appreciate knowing more about your criticisms. (Maybe you wouldn't find this so funny if you weren't intact!)

    • Reading all the comments, I'm glad to see most readers of this site have the common sense to know a human rights violation when they see one. Of course, I imagine being able to see clearly on Israel/Palestine is an asset to spotting other injustices.

      I find it really funny, weird, and disturbing when I meet people in my community (Jews, especially) who take strident, righteous positions on the correct side of one of those issues, but not the other. I know right-wing Jabotinsky-worshipping Zionists who hate circumcision, and I know left-wing, Jewish, Palestinian solidarity activists who tell me stuff like, "I can't promise you I won't circumcise my son." I find both positions repulsive and full of contradictions and cognitive dissonance.

      Solidarity means something deep to me, and I draw the line on having any kind of professional association with someone who's in favor of the oppression of the Palestinians, or in favor of the mutilation of babies. These are my two litmus test questions.

    • Yaniv,

      Your comment is full of junk science and flawed reasoning.

      The Royal Dutch Medical Association in 2010 released the world's most up-to-date policy statement on circumcision. Here's the report:

      "The Royal Dutch Medical Association on Thursday (May 2010) suggested a possible ban on elective circumcisions for young boys, saying they were medically unnecessary and violated children's rights. The 161-year-old organization, which represents more than 46,000 doctors and students, called the procedure 'a violation of the integrity of the body.'"

      link to

      Medically unnecessary. Violation of the integrity of the body. Violates children's rights. Do these words mean anything to you?

      I'm sure you're well aware that 1 out of 10 women in the U.S. will contract breast cancer sometime in her life. So does that mean we should slice off the breast buds of newborn infant girls?

      Circumcision has been a solution in search of a problem for decades in this country, but it started for one reason and one reason only in the U.S. gentile population: not to solve a medical problem, but in an effort to diminish male sexual pleasure.

      You may not realize this, but speaking as a victim of this barbaric procedure, I find circumcision advocacy to be a form of hate speech against me personally and men everywhere who've had their choice stolen. And that includes your words above.

    • eherns,
      I'm not arguing that circumcision is a "minor, unnecessary practice for Jews" (where in my piece do I use those words)? I'm arguing that Jews can and should give it up, because it's a human rights violation, and the choice should be left to the boy/man whose body it is. Were not my human and religious rights violated when this was forced upon me without my consent? The Swedish example shows that you can be Jewish without being circumcised.

  • Avnery says Israel's 'immense influence' over US suggests 'Protocols' forgery has come true
    • I was wondering if/when someone would make this shocking connection. I'm glad Avnery did it so I don't have to. If someone were to author a book called "The Protocols of the Elders of Zionism" and fill it with a real-life (not forged) exposé of the thinking and and policies of leading Zionists from Ben-Gurion to Jabotinsky to Shamir to Kahane to Netanyahu to Lieberman, it wouldn't be a pretty picture. As I've said before: Israel is doing a ton to foment anti-Semitism and make Jews worldwide unsafe.

  • Boycott law is crossroads for U.S.'s liberal Zionists
  • Eric Alterman on his dual loyalty and the U.S. pressuring Palestinians to accept 'their historic position'
    • "I think that bin Laden and 9/11 were to some degree inspired by U.S. support of Israel. I think a great deal of the terrorist attacks and the sort of pool of potential terrorists who want to attack the United States are inspired by the United States support for Israel. I’m not saying we shouldn’t support Israel for that reason. I’m saying, Dammit if that’s the price we have to pay, then I'm willing to pay it."

      Wow. That's quite a statement.

      If on September 12, 2001, every reporter said these words -- "We were attacked in part because of our support for Israel" (instead of literally not one reporter stating this fact) -- what would have been the response from the American public?

  • What is the living ethos in Jewish communal politics other than Zionism? (More dialogue about David Simon)
  • Our demands (designing placards for a demonstration)
  • Mr. Spock says 'beam up the two state solution,' but ignore the asymmetry
    • Richard - Israel/Palestine is primarily an oppression and secondarily a conflict. It was not always so; it was primarily a conflict in the 1930s and early to mid 1940s. When the Zionist conquerors gained the upper hand, and began ethnically cleansing Palestine, and then instituting a system of Apartheid laws, it became primarily an oppression. But the liberal Zionists keep speaking in terms of conflict because they don't want the inherent racism of Zionist conquest to be challenged, racism that runs not only through the Revisionist (Jabotinsky) strain we see dominant today, but also the Laborite strain lead by Ben-Gurion who, after all, lead the efforts to ethnically cleanse Palestine in 1948.
      Asymmetry implies a significant power differential that must be confronted and redressed. It doesn't mean there aren't Palestinian and Israeli victims.

    • Hey Chaos, I've never seen those episodes, thanks for the reference. I'm a little young for TOS, I grew up with Next Gen and loved it.

  • The assault on Netanyahu's heckler, Rae Abileah
  • Jewish man, 62 y.o. but vital, seeks unh... world domination
  • An angry Obama warns the lobby that the 'world is moving too fast' (to preserve a Jewish state)
    • Just watched the part of the speech about the conflict. Yup, Phil, you're right. It comes across as a mini-intervention, as much of one as Obama could do within the Israel Lobby straitjacket. I could feel the anger, and also, somewhere down there, the love.

      Closing Time. It's the Last Call for the Two-State Solution. The lights are flickering in the bar.

    • Wow Phil, I'm going to rush off and watch the speech but quick reaction is this is one of the most important things you've ever written on this blog. Maybe just for me personally. I go through these waves of illusion and disillusion with Obama, as many of us do, and at heart I want to believe he is sincere and loving, not cynical and a political game player. It seems like he plays politics (goodbye Public Health Care Option, kowtowing to Israel Lobby) because he thinks he has to, but you're saying actually his heart is in the right place. That I want to believe, because if it's not true, he's a shell and all the inspiration of his campaign was an empty shell.
      So thanks for sharing the positive take because it's easy to view his role in all this with near despair.

  • Praise for Obama
  • Picking apart the New York Times Zionist narrative on the Nakba . . . using the New York Times
  • Liberal Tomasky's advice to Obama: do whatever AIPAC wants
    • Phil,

      I disagree. Tomasky's commentary, warning Democrats not to "become cocky," is hardly a policy recommendation nor a a call to carry AIPAC's water. You're right that he should make clear that the Israel Lobby owns democrats and republicans alike, that attacks on the President, if he challenges Israel, will come not only from conservatives, but from his own party as well.

      But your charge that Tomasky is pushing Obama to tow the AIPAC line just isn't backed up by what he wrote here, from my reading of it. I read Tomasky for years, sporadically, when he was with the Guardian (where he should have stayed!), and never saw him cheerlead for Israel.

  • NYT's Bronner says Netanyahu demonstrates 'territorial flexibility' on the basis of no evidence
  • The New York Times's shameless Nakba distortion
  • The community of fear and the community of hope (Choose)
    • Phil,
      Well written, you captured that event well. Perfect.
      And I'm glad you're using the boot on the neck analogy, it's so apt to describe the situation of Israeli/international Jewry in relation to the Palestinians.

  • 'Geronimo EKIA'-- as Indian wars continue in Palestine
    • Keith,

      Thanks for your input, I think you understood the intent of this post quite well. I appreciate you weighing in.

    • Bob,

      I experienced your emails as both browbeating and bullying in tone and content. You accused me in those emails, at least indirectly if not directly, of arguing a racist viewpoint. If that's something you want to assert, I am willing to have it be debated in public where others who are more expert than I am can analyze the claims, but I'm unwilling to have that discussion in private.

      Here's the deal: when you email something like to that someone, you cannot expect them to keep the email private unless they have agreed to do so, which I did not.

      Do not in the future email me anything you expect to remain private, unless I agree that it will be private. Got it? Try it out next time: *Ask* if I'm willing to keep your emails private. Don't *assume* it will be kept private without asking first.

      I have no expectation of privacy around my conversations unless the other party explicitly agrees to keep it private.

      I took your email public because I wanted others to have a chance to dissect it. I'm glad I did, I stand by it, and I consider this conversation with you, in all aspects, to be complete.

      Good night and good luck.

    • Bob,

      I never agreed to have a private conversation with you, period.

      You emailed me. I told you I didn't want to have a private conversation. I told you I wanted it out in public. I asked you to take it public. You refused. I took it public. Now there's a public debate.

      If you want to have a private conversation with someone, ask them first if they agree to have it private. You cannot force someone to have a private conversation when they do not want to.

      If you think what I did was rude, tough. I made the right call here by taking this public. The end.

    • Bob,
      I am not an expert on Native American history, but I've learned enough to know that all of the factors that resulted in their decimation - including the issue you bring up, the spread of disease, along with many other factors, such as intentional and willful murder of their people, their forced relocation, killing of the Bison, etc. - cumulatively is considered both genocide and ethnic cleansing by many reputable scholars.
      One small detail: I live in California, where the State paid a bounty on the head of every Native American killed by a settler. From my perspective, that's genocide.
      You want me to "Address the previous and current academic consensus on the unintentional virgin field epidemic of disease that you omit from your article."
      Here's the thing you aren't getting, Bob, that I keep saying again and again: I believe those who describe what happened to the Native Americans as genocide and ethnic cleansing, and I'm not interested in doing a literature review on the topic.
      My view is that denial of the Genocide against Native Americans is extremely misguided.
      As for your comment: "Now, when this particular topic is raised, it is often commented that a caveat noting the brutal and egregious treatment of the native populations should be listed." Clearly, my view is that what was done to the Native Americans is far, far worse than your statement implies.
      As I said previously, I am not an expert on this topic, so therefore, I will not engage with you in an in-depth debate on this topic, as you seem to want me to do.
      I don't need to be an expert on Native American history to assert that the U.S. and Europeans in general committed genocide against them; this is widely understood, and although you may have read literature that disputes this, there's plenty of literature that supports the claim.
      Furthermore, I don't have an obligation to spend a ton of time backing this statement up, as the genocide of Native Americans is widely held viewpoint among many historians - just as the genocide of Jews in the Holocaust is a widely held viewpoint. Go debate the scholars that assert the genocide if you wish.

    • NimaShirazi wrote:
      "If you think that I (or Matthew Taylor, for that matter, though I should really let him speak for himself) mean to suggest that the founding ideology and subsequent history of America, including ethnic cleansing, genocide, Westward expansion, railroad track laying, slave labor economy, and everything else is solely based on the “chosen people” concept, you are mistaken. I have not argued that this concept is the only inspiration for the American project. It is but one aspect of a fascinating and bloody narrative"

      Exactly. And a very important analogy between the U.S. and Israel for the purposes of the central arguments of my post.

    • BG, I am unwilling to debate you in private on this topic, as it's an utter waste of time because it contributes nothing to the conversation taking place here. That's why I suggested the conversation move here, and that's why I've moved it here. Now that it's here, I hope others, who are more academically versed than I can and will respond to your claims.

      Put another way: if someone said the Holocaust didn't happen, I wouldn't be the one to rebut the obviously wrong statement with academic references, as I am not a World War II scholar. But someone else would do so.

      I look fwd to seeing others, who are in fact experts on this topic, rebut your apparent claim that the destruction of the Native Americans was not genocide.

    • Debonnaire,

      From where I sit, honest fact-based rebuttals are in order, not name-calling and personal/ad hominem attacks. It debases the movement for equality and justice when those of who are in solidarity with the human rights of the Palestinians engage in such behavior.


    • NimaShirazi,
      Thank you so much for this insightful, well referenced, brilliantly stated contribution. I knew I had accurate history on this but didn't have the references at hand. Thanks for bringing it to the conversation.

    • have you read The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine?

    • American, where's your evidence that my statement about promised land for a chosen people is wrong? I remember hearing lectures at UC Berkeley saying this, from credible professors. In any case, although the phrasing is slightly different, "Manifest Destiny" is quite similar tonally and in the actual content of the prophetic vision.

      What can you point to fact-wise to back up your rebuttal?

    • "The right side of history" is an expression that can be interpreted in different ways. I use it here in the way that Martin Luther King said, "The moral arc of the Universe is long, but it it bends toward justice." There is such as a thing as The Truth (capital T), and Right and Wrong.

      Funding ethnic cleansing, conquest, and colonization - U.S. current foreign policy - is Wrong. Nothing subjective about it. Gandhi would have said the same.

      Funding equality is Right. That is what we should be doing.

  • 9/11 and western prejudice fostered the Arab revolutions --Abdelkader Benali
    • Phil this is a very important piece. Somebody should write a book about the Arab Spring and its implications to the Western discourse on Arabs/Muslims and Israel/Palestine. Maybe you.

  • Women at the seder
    • Wow really you refrained yourself and didn't bring up Palestine? I'm going to a Seder tonight with some friends, and it's a nice one, but last time a haugthy Israeli shouted me down for bringing up "politics." They have the audacity to call it a "Freedom Seder" but Palestine is verbotten, it's all about hippy dippy woo woo "personal freedom" and internal liberation. Which makes me seethe. Why am I even going?

  • 'Washington Post' admits lobby has Obama by short 'n curlies
    • Check out Aaron David Miller's outrageously patronizing language in that piece:

      "The notion Palestinians are cooking up, for U.N. action on Palestinian statehood this fall, takes dumb to a new level...

      Palestinians have convinced themselves that it’s time to determine their own future..."

      Also, do you notice how these Zionist bloviators refer to Israeli "responses" to Palestinian actions as if we should just de facto accept them?

      "The Palestinian campaign will also prompt intensified Israeli settlement activity in an effort to remind Palestinians that Israeli actions are real, not virtual."

      Actually, isn't the point to steal as much land as possible?

      Barf. Just barf.

  • This website is 5 years old
  • My journey to BDS
    • Dear Roger,

      I saw you perform The Wall in San Jose, Calif. a few months ago. The sounds and images of Goodbye Blue Sky, Vera, Bring the Boys Back Home, and others moved me to tears. Your contribution to the Palestinian justice movement is quite substantial and don't you forget it or back down, you are doing the right thing by embracing BDS. Keep it up.



  • "Our policies are almost criminal" - Israeli MK Ben-Simon
  • Saddam is captured --Baghdad Youth Movement claims
    • Phil:

      1) Why not President Kucinich?

      2) You ascribe much more violence to this movement than is the case -- "Saddam's two sons were killed last week in a showdown outside Mosul" - okay that's what U.S. forces did but nonviolent protesters (generally!) don't do that.

      Otherwise... HA! I love it.

  • Mubarak is out! Hands power to military as Egyptians hit the streets on ‘Farewell Friday’
  • Whoa. Friedman drops the A-Bomb... five years too late
    • pabelmont, I beg to differ. "Apartheid" is full of meaning:

      link to

      The crime of apartheid is defined by the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as inhumane acts of a character similar to other crimes against humanity "committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime."

      South Africa's statutory research agency the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) stated in a 2009 report that "the State of Israel exercises control in the [Occupied Palestinian Territories] with the purpose of maintaining a system of domination by Jews over Palestinians and that this system constitutes a breach of the prohibition of apartheid."[21] Based on these findings, Richard Falk, the successor of John Dugard as UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine has detailled some of the indicators of apartheid in the occupied territories [22]:
      preferential citizenship, visitation and residence laws and practices that prevent Palestinians who reside in the West Bank or Gaza from reclaiming their property or from acquiring Israeli citizenship, as contrasted to a Jewish right of return that entitles Jews anywhere in the world with no prior tie to Israel to visit, reside and become Israeli citizens;
      differential laws in the West Bank and East Jerusalem favouring Jewish settlers who are subject to Israeli civilian law and constitutional protection, as opposed to Palestinian residents, who are governed by military administration;
      dual and discriminatory arrangements for movement in the West Bank and to and from Jerusalem; discriminatory policies on land ownership, tenure and use; extensive burdening of Palestinian movement, including checkpoints applying differential limitations on Palestinians and on Israeli settlers, and onerous permit and identification requirements imposed only on Palestinians;
      punitive house demolitions, expulsions and restrictions on entry and exit from all three parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
      The Special Rapporteur concludes that this "general structure of apartheid that exists in the Occupied Palestinian Territories ... makes the allegation increasingly credible despite the differences between the specific characteristics of South African apartheid and that of the Occupied Palestinian Territories regime".[23]

  • Through the Looking Glass – Five years in Students for Justice in Palestine
    • Thanks for the fantastic post Tom! Participation in SJP has meant so much to me, and I feel I've grown tremendously in consciousness since the chapter was restarted. I remember that first day, and feeling a lot of trepidation... And what SJP turned into was just brilliant. In substantial part because of you! Great work.

  • Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and the silence of friends
    • Several people who personally know Barbara Lee have told me she is scared out of her mind of the pro-Israel lobby, and that is why she does not do anything to oppose our military aid to Israel, and Israel's illegal abuses of said aid. As another member of Congress told me, aid to Israel is "the third rail of U.S. politics... No, it's its OWN rail. Touch it and you die."

  • The first fight was, I'm sick of lecturing Arab women on how they dress
    • Jon-
      I am a Jew, and I have a right to criticize this custom, just as I have a right to criticize Zionist militarism. Furthermore in my generation circumcision was performed on 80% of baby boys, regardless of the religion of the parents, Jews are a small percentage (3%?) of the total U.S. population. I was circ'ed in a non-religious, secular, hospital setting. It is sexual mutilation, torture, and a human rights violation. Why should anyone "respect" that tradition? It should be ended. It is as loathsome as slavery, ritualistic rape of women, or any other form of violent oppression of the defenseless.
      Go read here for the truth:
      link to
      For Jewish perspectives:
      link to
      From their website: "We are a group of educated and enlightened Jews who realize that the barbaric, primitive, torturous, and mutilating practice of circumcision has no place in modern Judaism."

    • Annie dear,

      What's to argue about? Well, I agree, but have you never heard the garbage and nonsense people spout in defending their right to mutilate their baby son's body? I've heard this stuff even from Jewish, pro-Palestinian human rights activists! It's really horrifying and sickening. I'm glad to hear you had the common sense (really, it's a matter of common sense) not to do such a thing to your son.

      BTW I have a page of links on the topic:
      link to

      Please kindly refers others to it if they are looking for info on the topic.


    • Hey Phil, I've been down that road quite a few times and I empathize. It's hard being the guy who speaks the truth...well, his truth anyway...and then experiencing social alienation as a consequence.

      Two things I can't stand people spouting bs about: Palestine and circumcision. Get me started on either of those and, well, often it ain't a pretty picture for the rest of the partygoers.

  • J Street asks: 'What if Israel Ceases to be a Democracy?' ( never was)
    • You know, I should clarify: the big problem with J Street's position is not whether or not they oppose the existence with the ads. The problem is that J Street is spinning on behalf of Israel, implying that Israel does not commit war crimes with U.S. armaments, when in fact Israel does. Isn't that a legitimate issue to bring up? Not according to J Street.

  • Gaza youth breaks out with a 'manifesto for change'
  • Only Jews get to say it
  • Tony Blair's lips are moving. But he's saying...nothing.
    • Thanks Sue! Very kind of you. I also hope the tide is turning. But what I think is more true is the equality/justice tide is swelling at the same time the colonization tide is swelling. The clash between these tides has already started and will only continue to accelerate. And let us not get so hubristic as to assume a positive outcome. It will happen only if we, and the rest of the conscientious world, creates it.

  • A long Palestinian struggle has ended Partition, maybe?
    • "The Palestinians have won and partition is over"? Wow Phil, the tone of this post strikes me as just a bit glib, and easy for you to say from where you sit. I think the story here is more about the blowback (and potential blowback) from Israel's actions and how Israel has painted itself into a corner, more so than any real victories on the Palestinian side. We should not assume that the occupation is not sustainable, that apartheid is not sustainable. There are many in Israel that will fight tooth and nail to maintain and worsen the status quo for years to come. Occupation and apartheid will only end if people make it happen (nonviolently, I believe, is the only path), and we should not make any assumptions about this outcome.
      We will know when the Palestinians (and Israelis who favor Equality!) have won. We aren't there yet, or even close, I believe.

  • As a lame duck, Grayson, do you think you could just quack once for Corrie, Henochowicz and Dogan?
  • Attention progressives for Palestine: Rep. Alan Grayson wants to hear from you
    • After I heard Grayson spout his pro-settlement, Israel-enabling comments on Democracy Now, I wrote two extensive notes to his people via email, through his website, and never received a response. As he claims to be, Grayson's a "congressman with guts" on just about every issue except this one. Actually, I get the sense that his support for Israel is not coming from a place of cowardice, but distorted ideology. It's sad that so many so-called progressives are so misguided on this topic.

  • The Middle East's only pretend democracy
    • sure = share. pesky typo at the end there.

    • Richard,

      What is the evidentiary basis for the claim that Israel has ever been a true democracy, and as you say, democracy "is the most important feature of Israel's existence?" The factual reality that I am familiar with is that Israel has, as a fundamental feature of its existence, consistently oppressed and dispossessed its Palestinian population since the first day of the state's founding. If you have specific factual evidence to counter this statement, by all means, please sure.


  • Can a mythic figure called 'Doctor Delegitimizer' save Israel's image in the eyes of young American Jews?
  • In Haaretz: Young Jews tell Bibi, "Israel is delegitimizing itself"
    • Thanks everyone for reading, commenting, and commenting on the Haaretz page. Your words are very encouraging! Even if I didn't respond to your comments, rest assured I read every single on and this positive feedback is very nice to hear.

      P.S.- I'm glad to see Mr. Witty, at the end there, shows some openness to the possibility that our action was necessary, effective, and helpful.

    • Nothing wrong at Haaretz web page. The comments are moderated, so comments that are submitted can sit for a few hours before they run. I just checked and over 30 comments have appeared. Another thing you can do is vote for the comments you like by clicking on the little thumbs up icon. Thanks everyone for your supportive words!

  • Why I disrupted Bibi's speech - A response to Ben Sales at New Voices
    • I'd like to add two clarifications to this post...

      1) Although we jokingly called ourselves "The Bibi 5," there were over a dozen young Jews who collaborated together for several days working on the Young Leadership Institute -- see for more info the organizing efforts. Everyone who was part of that group contributed to the dissent expressed vocally by us five, and everyone's efforts were deeply important.

      2) Although I noted that the majority of GA attendees seemed to be enthralled in the pro-Israel propaganda, a powerful minority of folks we spoke to, including a few Hillel students, expressed major objection to Netanyahu's continued insistence on building settlements and the occupation. Rabbi Melissa Weintraub delivered a powerful JVP message at one of the panels. Even those with right tendencies said, "The occupation must end, it's a problem." The big disconnect I think is that while a lot of the attendees want the occupation to end, a smaller number have taken action in that direction, or are willing to directly challenge the Israel/American Jewish establishment. More will, as Peter Beinart said in his Tweet.

  • Can you support the Palestinians when you live on their stolen land?
    • Oh one other thought.... What is the responsibility of American homeowners? To turn over the deeds to Native American communities? Just asking, and it's a serious question, not a flippant or dismissive remark as it might sound! The U.S. social sphere hasn't even begun to consider what justice would look like for the genocide of this continent's indigenous population and descendants.

    • Joseph I think there are many ways to truly being in solidarity with the Palestinians of Palestine, and you have outlined one way, not the only way. I caution you about the broad and emphatic sweep of your prescription. Take for example an Israeli anarchist against the wall, who lives in pre-67 Israel and who literally risks her or his life to go to weekly demos in Bil'in. Is that person not being in solidarity enough with the Palestinians, because they are not living with the Palestinians every day? (Did anyone from Bil'in actually invite her/him to move in?)

      Taking on major hardship is an individual choice. Where an individual chooses cooperation and non-cooperation is an individual choice. I think you offer an option that can feel inspiring, and if it's phrased (as it seems to me) to be an all-encompassing prescription that if not followed automatically renders the reader as a sell-out, then it feels too overwhelming.

      Can you make these ideas more powerful and inspiring and heartfelt without the broad sweeping judgments about those who don't necessarily follow them?

  • Don't forget 'The Atlantic''s pieties about who destroyed Palestine
    • Jim,

      The currently-unfolding death of mainstream media is a disaster. As much as I hate the ignorance and inanity that pervades the MSM, I don't think this loss is good for society. I'd rather see these publications reform than die. The other problem is that a lot of good publications (not to mention good journalists) are going down with the sinking ship. In my hometown, one example is the Berkeley Daily Planet - losing Richard Brenneman as a paid reporter sucked big time.

  • Where is the Gandhi of India?
    • Phil,

      At the risk of oversimplifying (always a risk in these complex situations), there are two ways to criticize/analyze the use of stonethrowing in struggle:

      - Self-righteous, privileged, blind, Eurocentric (Kristof, at least to some extent)

      - Honest analysis of what succeeds and what doesn't, what works and what doesn't (you remember the definitions of success and work from nonviolence, yes?)

      Would the Kashmir protests be more likely to succeed/work with or without stones? That's a real, honest question, worth asking.

      So that aside, yes it's interesting that the mainstream media lectures Palestinians but not Kashmiris.

  • Updated comments policy
  • Few Palestinians are listening to the western debate over non-violence
    • The definition of nonviolence is not "mine" per se (I didn't write it), but one I quoted from the Metta Center for Nonviolence Education ( For those with no background in nonviolence, I'm sure it sounds like babble. It would have sounded like babble to me eight years ago, before I took any classes on the subject. It took me a year of studying the material to really get it. I recommend you check out Metta Center's online classes.

      I agree with you Max, Palestinians are likely not paying any attention to this back-and-forth. I have asked Phil no less than four times to agree to invite a Palestinian grassroots organizer in the nonviolent struggle to post. So far Phil has not agreed. I have told him I think this debate is preposterous and becoming a total waste of time without Palestinian voices. Why even have the debate without Palestinian inclusion?

      This whole thing started with a much more appropriate subject - the Mavi Marmara, and its passengers' actions. Debate within the international community, about what internationals should and should not do to help the Palestinian people, is legitimate, even if no Palestinians are part of the debate (although, OBVIOUSLY, it's much better with Palestinian voices). But to debate Palestinian struggle without Palestinian voices is just lame.

      What “principled non-violence” mainly means in practice is the refusal to use bodily-harming force except when confronted with a deadly threat against which there is no other way to resist.

      Max, you call yourself an academic. I've given you the links to the definition of principled nonviolence, and real world examples, such as the Dharasana Satyagraha. There's just no excuse, at this point, for this level of ignorance about what principled nonviolence is all about. Well perhaps there is, my guess is you've never read any serious literature on the topic. Why else would you be so ignorant?

      Regarding the problems of defining violence, I offered a serious argument about how non-violence and violence aren’t a binary but compose a spectrum, and moreover one upon which it is quite difficult to place any particular conjuncture of resistance, so long as we are concerned with real-world effects, citing examples from Palestinian history—for example, the women pushing soldiers at Budrus. (That was violence, and it worked, at least a little.) High-technology rockets that can blow Merkavas to smithereens are embodied violence. Nuclear proliferation threatens world-killing violence. There hasn’t been an offensive nuclear detonation since 1945. Violence works in complicated ways. Violence can counter or deter greater violence, and fewer people die or are occupied or raped or tortured, and that is what we’re talking about, that’s the only reason this discussion can possibly matter. The response to that argument was silence.

      I didn't respond to this because as a starting point, you have absolutely no idea at all what principled nonviolence is. You've made that clear, repeatedly, in all of your posts, including this one. Once you have an accurate understanding of both the definition of principled nonviolence and real-world historical examples of it being utilized in struggle, then we have a basis of discussion for what might or might not constitute nonviolence, violence, or a gray area in-between. (As I've said before, Palestinian scholar Mohammed Abu-Nimer says stone-throwing, as an example, falls into such a gray area, and I agree with his take). But as it is, you're trying to establish a spectrum based on the false premise. So I'm choosing not to waste my time by engaging with your false premise.

      No mention of decapitated mosques, or of the Samouni family, no talk of Cast Lead, a massacre carried out by armed forces headed by men promising to bring Shoah upon Palestinian heads.

      If you've taken any time to read the archive of writings on my website - - you would see in fact I have written about such things, repeatedly, in various forums. I discussed the Samouni case at length.

      The country that committed those crimes is in a state of advanced moral corruption... The question is how to arrest that moral corruption before it is too late.


      , and no amount of citing mis-interpreted polling information will make that untrue.

      But perhaps the polls can give us some measure of understanding into the psychology of the oppressors, and strategically how to change that psychology.

      The first task is to end our society’s violence. Having failed to do that, we have no standing to enter a purely academic debate about the relevance of Gandhi to the Palestinian fight against politicide. Why are we going on and on about non-violence when we are enabling violence?

      Agreed. This debate is a thoroughly unhelpful waste of time for all parties, that I doubt has contributed anything meaningful to anyone. Had it involved Palestinians, as I repeatedly suggested to Phil, I think this debate would have been worthwhile. As it is, it's just a lot of words in an echo chamber. It was more relevant when it stuck with the Mavi Marmara. Anyway, yes, let's get back to figuring out what we can do to support the Palestinian freedom struggle.

      It’s the peak of racist thoughtlessness, reaching its misogynistic apotheosis when Kristof urges Palestinian women to allow “themselves to be tear-gassed, beaten and arrested without a single rock being thrown.”

      I have no quarrel with your assessment of Kristof's writing, although I would have preferred Phil had invited Palestinian nonviolent resistance organizers to share their views.

      Taylor’s words literally will have no positive effect on the Palestinian struggle, because Palestinians actively resisting in Palestine are generally (a) increasingly agreed on the utility of non-violence at the present moment (b) are not quite so eager to give up their right to self-defense and (c) probably not reading this exchange.

      I agree. Perhaps it may come as a shock to you that my words were never intended as a dictate to Palestinians. On the other hand, my comments about the Mavi Marmara were in fact a firm suggestion to future Gaza Flotillas. The international community is my peer group, and I have a right to offer fellow international activists suggestions (they can listen to it or not). My comments on the Palestinian struggle are analysis. I'm sure you won't see the fine point difference, and you will continue to excoriate me if you keep this going.

      They could convince people that condemning Palestinian violence, and issuing hypocritical demands for Palestinian non-violent resistance, is OK.

      I agree this is a very real danger, and I keep it in mind when I choose both what to say and where to say it. If I could get 50 words of my choosing into the New Zionist Times, believe me it would not be about Palestinian stone-throwing. It would be about Israel's worse-than-Apartheid policies. I can't recall how many letters and op-eds I've written to the NZT on this topic, none which were ever published.

      The corollary of enshrining Israeli aggression rights is erasing Palestinian self-defense rights. To carry out that robbery without incurring condemnation, power needs scribes who will justify its crimes.

      Palestinians have a right to self-defense. What forms of defense are most helpful to the struggle? That is an analytical question that can be discussed and has been discussed, repeatedly, at great length, in many academic forums, and by Palesitnians. I'm not the first nor the last to tackle this subject.

      Juxtapose the considered erudition of non-violent theorists with coarse passionate idiots who oddly think that the people under occupation are capable of choosing the course of their resistance on their own

      I fully agree, the Palestinians are more than capable to choosing their course of resistance, have done so for decades, and will continue to do so, regardless of anything you or I say!

      and that they may need the same sort of tools the Jewish people used in the Warsaw Ghetto—guns and firebombs.

      So from an analytical standpoint, what did the Palestinian suicide bombing campaign -- and the Gaza rockets -- achieve for Palestinian freedom, justice, equality, and reconciliation? Nothing. Palestinians say this too.
      Speaking of which:

      Rockets definitely worked. Violence not only works, it may be the only thing that can work against a hysterical Sparta in the grip of collective nationalist fervor.

      Remember the definitions of success and work from my previous post -- success is the short term goal, work is long term changes for equality, reconciliation, establishing peaceful relationships. (Unless perpetual hostility is the goal?)
      Violence sometimes succeeds and never works, nonviolence sometimes succeeds and always works.
      So yes the Lebanese rockets succeeded in driving out the IDF, but did they work? No. And what about the Palestinian rockets from Gaza? Answer: no success, no work. Did the Palestinian rockets from Gaza (and suicide bombing, for that matter) "work" [eg succeed?], as you say, "against a hysterical Sparta in the grip of collective nationalist fervor" -- or did the rockets make the hysteria worse?

      I am sorry to have to say this but the debate about Palestinian violence versus non-violence is a scoundrels’ debate: tiring, cheap, empty. It feels disgusting.

      I agree wholeheartedly.

      Should Taylor wish to continue this debate, that is his business.

      The only way I'd wish to see any discussion proceed on this topic is if Palestinian nonviolent struggle leaders are invited to speak. Otherwise, I think this debate is dead and has been for quite some time.

      He has shown an overt willingness to mis-quote, mis-understand, manipulate, mis-read, and lie, and he’s done so in public.

      Entirely projection, Max. Quite a few of your comments about Gandhi and principled nonviolence amount to nothing less than academic fraud. I'm not the only one who thinks you're entirely off on these topics, as you should by now realize, even if most of the Mondoweiss readers are on your side.
      My summary conclusion of this whole debate is it's been a thorough waste of time because it's like debating physics with someone who's highly familiar with genetics but knows nothing about physics. You're not the first sociology scholar to eviscerate the entire field of nonviolence scholarship and historical studies, and vastly misrepresent Gandhi, with little to no apparent education on the topic.

      He could also elect to produce acid to dissolve the machine…. There is work to do. Let’s get on it.

      Agreed. The sad thing here is it seems we are allies, in that our goals are probably more compatible than not in the struggle to overcome Israel's oppression machine. Perhaps we have different ideas about what acid is to be used, but certainly we both want to dissolve the machine.
      I hope we will someday meet at the rendezvous of victory. But if you're not willing to meet me there because I've demonstrated myself, in your mind at least, to be an agent of the Zionist machine, I won't expend any effort to persuade you otherwise.

  • Dialogue re Kristof, non-violence, and stones
    • Burston's piece on nonviolence is here, I can't figure out how to make a link work properly:

      link to

      Trying that again, test:

    • I wish I'd thrown this into the post before it ran, but ya just gotta check out Bradley Burston's latest piece on Palestinian (and Israeli!) nonviolence.

      So it is, that dyed-in-the-wool anti-Palestinians have long delighted in denouncing the Palestinian movement for having failed to produce a home-grown Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King.

      Of course, the criticism is as disingenuous as it is self-serving, since over the years the pro-settlement right has been the primary, perhaps the sole, political beneficiary of Palestinian attacks against Israelis.

      But the denunciation also tends to obscure a revolution gaining traction among Palestinians...

      What actually happened was a march in which settlers stared in wonderment and a certain anxiety at a large and unified force of Jews and Arabs taking a powerful stand against occupation.

      When one Palestinian youth picked up a rock to throw at the settlers, Arabs and Jews alike stopped him and distanced him from the march.

      The fact is that Israel may need a Gandhi more than the Palestinians do. As the Jewish state begins to examine its own actions and decision-making in the flotilla disaster, it is becoming that much clearer that Israelis need, for their own sake, to begin to study non-violence.

  • It's not India
    • DONALD-

      Oh, wonderful, another person who criticizes a post without bothering to read it. I was hoping one was enough. What part of the following did you not understand–

      Oh I read it all right. Michael is on one hand saying he agrees that nonviolence is the way to go, but on the other hand, he's saying that nonviolence has no chance of getting the Palestinians anywhere because Israel isn't India (Ho Chi Minh and all that). So in that highly contradictory position, I'm noting that Michael is, in a very backhanded sense, dismissing the philosophy and work of people like Morrar and Barghouti who are explicitly calling for a Gandhi-like struggle.

      As for Kristof's condescension, no doubt about it - Kristof's use of "dabbling" to describe the Pal. NV struggle seems quite a minimization.

      But Michael's post is at best quite muddy, and he mixes his disdain for Kristof with a dismissal of the Gandhian approach. If he wants to take down Kristof for being a privileged liberal, fine, do it separately. As is, he's slathering his skepticism of nonviolence and Gandhi all over Palestinians who are risking their lives in nonviolent struggle.

      And by the way, there are plenty of Palestinians who criticize the stone throwing and say it's highly counterproductive and unhelpful to the struggle. Maybe Kristof comes across like the privileged elite he is, but that doesn't change the fact that a lot of what he's written, Palestinians agree with completely.

    • Michael, One other thing...

      Re: your premise that according to Ho Chi Minh, Gandhi wouldn't have gotten anywhere against the French in Indochina... Numerous problems:

      1) Unreliable Historical speculation;
      2) From what little I know of him, Ho Chi Minh hardly strikes me as an expert on nonviolence;
      3) "Nonviolence would never have succeeded against X Y Z adversary" is a common claim of the skeptics -- read Ralph Summy's article, "Nonviolence and the case of the extremely ruthless opponent", which details cases where nonviolence has succeeded against ruthless oppressors (for instance, the overthrow of the murderous Shah's regime in the Iranian Revolution). An abstract:

      A common criticism of nonviolent action is its ineffectiveness against an extremely ruthless ruler. In this article I attempt to examine critically, both in terms of a theory of power and the empirical evidence, this standard view of nonviolence's limitation. Are the critics, it is asked, posing the right question in assessing whether or not nonviolence 'works'? If not, in place of the ruthlessness factor, is there any question or series of questions highlighting other factors that might prove cogently sound in predicting the outcome of a nonviolent strategy? My investigation discloses that questions about the establishment of a dependency relationship - based on either the opponent's self interest or his/her sense of 'self in the other' - are the crucial ones to address in order to determine the efficacy of nonviolence. The outer limits of nonviolent action are not set by brutal tyrants, as realists would maintain. Despite the difficulties (which should not be minimised), a nonviolent strategy can be devised and succeed against the cruelest of oppressors. It is doomed to failure, however, if a dependency interest or 'co-human' relationship cannot be established, either directly or through third parties.

    • Trying again, I did the HTML tags wrong in the previous comment...


      It sounds like you think Palestinians like Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi are wrong?

      “This is what Israel is most afraid of,” said Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, a prominent Palestinian who is calling for a nonviolent mass movement. He says Palestinians need to create their own version of Gandhi’s famous 1930 salt march.

      Or Ayed Morrar:

      “With nonviolent struggle, we can win the media battle,” Mr. Morrar told me, speaking in English. “They always used to say that Palestinians are killers. With nonviolence, we can show that we are victims, that we are not against Jews but are against occupation.”

      The problem with your assertion is that it is not just “well-meaning liberals” as you write who say that Gandhi’s approach would both succeed in achieving Palestinian freedom, and work to create conditions for reconciliation. It is Palestinians like Barghouti and Morrar who are calling for — and organizing — Palestinian nonviolence. So are you telling them to stop? Are you telling Barghouti he's wrong when he calls for Palestinians to organize an event like Gandhi's Salt March?

      Most (the majority, as stated in opinion polls) of Israelis are not attached to settlements, but support them because of the rhetoric of security and fear. Morrar’s comments show a clear focus on the strategy of changing public opinion.

    • Michael,

      It sounds like you think Palestinians like Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi are wrong?

      Or Ayed Morrar:

      The problem with your assertion is that it is not just "well-meaning liberals" as you write who say that Gandhi's approach would both succeed in achieving Palestinian freedom, and work to create conditions for reconciliation. It is Palestinians like Barghouti and Morrar who are calling for -- and organizing -- Palestinian nonviolence. So are you telling them to stop?

      Most (the majority, as stated in opinion polls) of Israelis are not attached to settlements, but support them because of the rhetoric of security and fear. Morrar's comments show a clear focus on the strategy of changing public opinion.

  • Nonviolence and the struggle for Palestinian-Israeli equality
    • Max,

      We've unleashed a lot of words, and we gotta wrap this up sometime and move on. I'd like this to be the closing exchange. I'll keep it purely to responses to your post.

      "You fundamentally mis-read my remark about the position of the Western commenter for the same reason a Zionist literally cannot comprehend the original sin of 1948: you are a racist. Admit it, and this will be easier."

      Like essentially all white American men, I grew up in a culture suffused with racism, sexism, homophobia, and countless other forms of bigotry, discrimination, and oppression. Unlearning racism is a lifelong process, and while I've done a fair amount of work on it, I would never claim to be fully rid of these infectious cultural diseases -- I don't think any of us ever truly are.

      But I maintain that whatever racism I've grown up with and inherited from this culture does not automatically and necessarily mean I know nothing about Gandhi or what he'd have to say about the Mavi Marmara. I'd happily submit my analysis of Gandhi against yours to an independent panel of acknowledged and respected experts on Gandhi's life and legacy and see what they have to say.

      "You 'condemn any form of violence/terrorism that targets civilians, perpetrated by any party (state or non-state), on moral grounds,' so you condemn Palestinian terrorism and especially Palestinian rockets out of Gaza. This is racist."

      So is International Law -- which as you know, condemns targeting of civilians -- racist and illegitimate? Is the UN Goldstone Report, that condemned the Hamas War Crimes, racist and illegitimate? (Goldstone of course also and much more prominently condemned Israel's far larger War Crimes.) On your blog, I recall you linked to Finkelstein's analysis of Gandhi, with at least some approving words. As you must know, Finkelstein specifically said that Gandhi would never have approved targeting of civilians. Is Finkelstein's comment about Gandhi racist and illegitimate?

      International law is very clear on this point. Any targeting of civilians is illegitimate. That means Israel's oppressive civilian-targeting violence is illegitimate, and Palestinian violent resistance targeting civilians is illegitimate. I stand by my blanket condemnation, which is consistent with international law. If you don't like it, what are you doing screaming at me? Why don't you take it up with the UN and The International Criminal Court and the authors of the Geneva Conventions and Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, all of whom -- so far as I know -- not only agree with me, but are in fact the authorities from which this universal standard originates (more like I agree with them than the other way around)?

      "Understand that responsibility rests in the hands of those who have choices, and Palestinians in Gaza have few choices and so little responsibility."

      To my understanding, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has unambiguously condemned the Second Intifada's suicide bombing (so have many other grassroots Palestinian organizers). So is he and the others racist, lecturing and condemning fellow Palestinians who have no choice?

      "You fetishize martial violence and ignore structural, institutional, or bio-political violence, and the way they are constantly defended, at the end of the day, by a man with a gun, and by a man with a pen legitimating the actions of the man with a gun. Your refusal to see that you are that man with a pen is saddening."

      I despise and am embarrassed by the way my country stole its land from the Native Americans. While I realize I benefit from the privilege of being an American amidst Empire, this is not a privilege for which I rejoice.

      "You are quite eager to write the Palestinian right to violent resistance out of the tablet of moral laws issued by the Peace and Conflict Studies Community,"

      See above re: international law. Go take it up with the UN.

      "They could convince people that condemning Palestinian violence, no less by the people who pay for it, who live in states with borders protected by violence, is OK. It is not."

      See above re: international law. Go take it up with the UN.

      "The second definition excludes coercive BDS from the spectrum of non-violence,'"

      I can see why you'd conclude that, but after a lot of time questioning the line between coercion and persuasion, I think BDS can fall into something like "highly assertive persuasion" and "non-cooperation." But it's a fine point, and let's not debate it here. Suffice it say that many of those who subscribe to nonviolence consider BDS to fall within the realm of nonviolence. It's a legitimate topic of debate, but I think it's outside of the main areas in which we disagree -- we both support BDS, right? So let's move on.

      "If this is the distillate of how my (unrebutted) ideas about the spectrum and melding of violence and non-violence have 'been so thoroughly rebutted by other scholars,'"

      Max, there are times when certain actions fall into a grey area between nonviolence and violence, and you can argue it both ways. No doubt. But many actions I think can be clearly put into one box or the other. And other statements you have made or implied: "Nonviolence is not a principle," "Gandhi would have approved of Palestinian violence" are highly rebutted by the scholars. I've addressed that in the post above.

      "On the academic literature. I have read enough of it not to read anymore. It’s a mélange of racist ethical thought, 3rd-rate political science, theology, and historical sociology for the mentally retarded."

      There's really no basis for us to have a discussion if you aren't willing to read those who disagree with you.

      I would refer you to "Nonviolence is Who? Gene Sharp and Gandhi" by T Weber:
      link to

      Unfortunately it's behind a firewall, but you can read the abstract:

      "There appear to be two approaches to nonviolence. They have been termed "principled," where emphasis is on human harmony and a moral rejection of violence and coercion, and "pragmatic," where conflict is seen as normal and the rejection of violence as an effective way of challenging power. Failure to distinguish between the two strands can lead to a diminution in the effectiveness of nonviolent action and can cause confusion among the audience. The acknowledged leading figures representing these approaches are Mahatma Gandhi and Gene Sharp. Sharp was once an idealistic seeker after Gandhi, yet his later work is characterized by hard-bitten realism. He now champions a "technique approach" to nonviolent action, arguing that it should be used for pragmatic rather than for religious or ethical reasons. Depending on how one looks at it, Sharp either has gone beyond Gandhi, making nonviolence a more practically available method of struggle, or has ditched key elements of Gandhi's philosophy in action in a way that diminishes nonviolence. Perhaps rather than debating the merits of each approach, they can be seen as indicating alternative paths to the traveler who does not want to use violence."

      My point here is many people have argued that nonviolence is indeed a principle, Weber among them. When you make a claim like "nonviolence is not a principle, it is a tactic" (the entire premise of your first post) I can only take it seriously if you read and directly rebut those who have already written in opposition to your views. But if you refuse to read that stuff, where do we go from there? There's just no common ground to have the debate as we're operating with different sets of information. It's like you're saying "just because it's from academia, automatically it's fraudulent and I'm not interested."

      "India now is a neo-liberal hellhole where peasants kill themselves with pesticides."

      Yes and it's a tragedy. Some would say part of the reason was the abandonment of Gandhi's program. I'm guessing you'd disagree. The causes of India's dysfunction are numerous. That's a huge discussion, and one I'm not knowledgeable enough to get into, nor do I have the time or desire.

      "What were the effects of Gandhi’s refusal to braid economic doctrines into his non-violence?"

      Google Gandhian Economics. It was a well developed part of his philosophy and on-the-ground organizing and practice.

      "Violence is not simply the flash-point of confrontation between oppressor and oppressed but the threat of that flash-point and what it means for those who living under a regime of structural violence. "

      Galtung talks about direct violence, structural violence, and cultural violence. All must be considered and confronted and overcome and changed. I expect you'd agree, even if we disagree about methods.

      "Violence isn’t just soldiers shooting civilians. It’s also children dying when a generator in Rafah explodes because the Israelis don’t let enough gas in for the main grid."

      Yup, that's structural violence. "God ordered us to ethnically cleanse this land of its inhabitants" is what Galtung calls cultural violence.

      "Frankly, we have no evidence that non-violence or non-violence can 'work,' least of all for leftists. "

      Okay, you can remain ignorant of history if you wish. I've listed numerous examples where nonviolence has succeeded, I'm assuming you know nothing about them. (Otpor in Serbia for example?)

      "Specifically, there is an immense misunderstanding of Gandhi as a categorical pacifist who totally disavowed violence and it is that sense of 'principle' that I was attacking. Correctly."

      Wow, we agree on something. "Gandhi was a pacifist who categorically disavowed violence" is absolutely wrong, a widespread misperception, and it's good to correct it. Gandhi himself eschewed the term 'pacifist' saying "There's nothing about nonviolence that is passive." And I think the oft cited quote where Gandhi says "Violence is superior to cowardice, whereas nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence" both clears up the idea that he always rejected violence, and also sets the record straight that he was an adherent to an advocate of nonviolence as a non-absolutist principle. The problem lies in your characterizations of Gandhi, and your lack of familiarity with (for example) the Weber article. I haven't read the Weber piece in about 5 years, but my recollection is its contents would be very informative in your arguments about whether nonviolence is/can be a principle, Gandhi's attitude toward nonviolence as a principle, and so on.

      If you were to agree, "Gandhi subscribed to nonviolence as a non-absolutist principle," we'd have finally found some common ground on Gandhi, after all these words spilt. But if you insist on maintaining that Gandhi did not subscribe to nonviolence as a principle (without having read the Weber article) there's really no further discussion to be had on the point.

      "I refuse to be another ninny invoking Gandhi when discussing how brown people should resist American violence. I reject the grounds of this scoundrels’ debate but you want to make it your life’s work."

      If you reject making Gandhi the focus, why did you post something about how "nonviolence is not a principle" (which is disproven most prominently and conspicuously by Gandhi's life and actions) and spend time trying to rebut the idea that Gandhi did not embrace nonviolence as a principle? Anyway, studying Gandhi is in fact a major component of my life's work.

      "I am not a skeptic of principled non-violence, especially from (aspiring) intellectuals. I think the correct response to urinate on them"

      And that doesn't make you a skeptic about the wisdom and practicality of embracing nonviolence as principle? In this case, I think your pee speaks louder than words.

      "principled non-violence is an ideology in the classic sense of the word"
      I agree.

      "a misunderstand of the actual world, because you are responsible for violence"

      Huh? I don't know what you're trying to say here. How was Gandhi's embrace of nonviolence as a (non-absolute) principle (see Weber), or for that matter King's subscription to nonviolence as a principle, a "misunderstand[ing] of the actual world]." What violence was Gandhi or King responsible for?

      "You cannot be a principled practitioner of non-violence and carry out violence, and Matthew, you are responsible for violence! Your privilege is the result of violence!"

      1) I don't think I ever claimed (dear God I hope I didn't) to be a practitioner of nonviolence. At least I hope I didn't. I think I said I believe in it. Belief is one thing, practice is another. Gandhi believed in it and practiced it. I refer you to his legacy, and the writings about his legacy, not to anything in my life.

      2) Yes my privilege is a result of violence. I agree. You are right. That doesn't change that I might possibly have something accurate to say about Gandhi and nonviolence. Well it does for you. So be it.

      "Knowing what Gandhi would have said is not possible with or without sticking your head in front of an Israeli gun. Gandhi’s dead."

      You can read his writings and draw reasonable inferences, as I and others have done, Norman Finkelstein among them, Gandhi's grandson too.

      "you can mis-represent what I said, lie, mis-read, refuse-to-read, refuse-to-understand,"

      After you read Thomas Weber's piece on nonviolence as a principle, surely you will post some comments about how he was wrong and you were right about your claim that nonviolence is not a principle? Or will you refuse to read it?

    • Lonso,

      In rereading my remarks, I realize I overreacted to your provocation ("All Israelis/Most Israelis are Nazis," stated or implied is a remark that bothers me quite a bit). I made a highly sloppy counter-generalization that went too far in the other direction. Here is the point I was trying to make, simply put: I've never encountered any serious argument in mainstream Zionism that explicitly and unambiguously calls for the genocide of Palestinians/Arabs. That's what I meant by "not one shred of evidence" -- language, in hindsight, I wish I hadn't used, because in fact certain individual Israelis have made remarks along those lines. My point is that it's not anything like a part of mainstream Zionism I've ever seen. Even Meir Kahane, the spiritual leader of Israel's most far right groups - who advocated for ethnic cleaning, never wrote in favor of genocide so far as I know (but perhaps he did and I'm not aware of it, if so, show me). The ideology of genocide is was what I think defined the Nazi attitude (and policy and practice, obviously) toward the Jews (and other oppressed groups, like the Roma). But I've never seen that as anything widespread among Israelis. Yes the Zionist militias engaged in horrific massacres like Deir Yassin. Yes certain extremist settlers write "gas the arabs" on the walls of Hebron. Yes one of Israel's defense ministers threatened "a bigger Shoah" on Palestinians. But does all that add up to a clearcut and straightforward analogy to the Nazi regime? Is it helpful to call Israelis Nazis?

      My problem is you calling Israelis Nazis or saying (or implying) that "all Israelis are Nazis" or "the state of Israeli is run by Nazis" just feels like a leap too far given what's happening in real life right now. The reality is horrific enough, why exaggerate?
      It seems a distraction from the more powerful use of more precise language.

      The photo gallery you reference on Finkelstein's page is very powerful. There's no doubt that certain of Israel's policies are, in effect, similar to certain actions perpetrated by Nazi Germany - but again, nothing that rises to the level of genocide. Today, anyway.

      Are we headed toward a genocide? If so, I think making that argument, backed up by supportive facts as relevant, is an important contribution to the discourse. Others have made that argument. But I think the argument would be more powerful and grounded if it's along the lines of: "Here's the evidence that the state of Israel is heading in a direction toward a Nazi-like genocide" as opposed to "It's already the case that Israeli a Nazi state."

      The reference you make about nuclear weapons is very important. I have no idea if it's true or not that Israel is on a course to use nuclear weapons as a way to cover up another ethnic cleansing of Palestine, but if it is, certainly that would leave Israel in the role of having unleashed a nuclear Holocaust on the world. In any case, we must do everything we can to stop such an atrocity before it happens. Israel's nuclear arsenal is a very real threat in any case. Mearsheimer has written that while another mass ethnic cleansing is not the most likely scenario, it's well possible.

    • Shingo - 100% agreed, we should take away the weapons Israel uses to oppress Palestinians and steal their land. My formula is instead of sending 3 billion in weapons to Israel, we should invest those funds in programs for reconciliation, equal, coexistence, rebuilding demolished homes, etc.
      AND... using the drug addict metaphor... psychotherapists can trace an addiction to the addict's formative childhood experience, where parents abused them and such. Similarly, Israel's addiction I believe traces not to its relationship with the Palestinians, but on a deeper level, the psychological scars from persecution in Europe/Russia.
      So we must BOTH cut off the supply of weapons AND help these traumatized Israelis to heal.

    • Lonso - This statement is pure, blatant, and unambiguous anti-Jewish oppression (others call it "anti-Semitism"):

      "full-flown Nazis, formed and drilled over a century of Zionism"

      There is not even one shred of factual evidence I've ever seen to justify the analogy that Israelis are in any legitimate sense generally comparable to Nazis, or that the past century of Zionism has been dominated by a Nazi-like ideology. To collapse the past century of highly diverse, heterogenous Zionism ideology into one alleged strain -- a strain with no evidentiary support for its existence -- is just as wrong as it gets. I've met the some of the most extreme right wing Zionists in Israel, and even their calls for a mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians cannot be compared to not just a call, but a successful campaign, of relentless and uncompromising genocide. Ethnic cleansing is bad. But it is not as bad as genocide. A 5th grader could tell you this.

      You say I haven't even "bother[ed] to address any of the observations made by different people here." I've responded to many comments on this page, and my post above is in part a lengthy response to numerous arguments about nonviolence and the Palestinian liberation movement. You can disagree with my responses if you want. But to say I haven't bothered to address these observations seems just... factually inaccurate. Like the rest of the garbage you've posted here.

      I'm not clicking on the "Report Abuse" section because I'd rather a "war of ideas" (as this site calls itself) unfold than for a censor to come in. But you're taking your arguments much too far. Your statements are out of line, inappropriate, and revolting. Your ideas will contribute not only ZERO to helping Palestinians achieve liberation, your ideology is in fact highly counter-productive to the cause.

      In fact, I wouldn't be surprised at all if you weren't an agent provocateur, intending to make sites like this look bad, a purveyor of anti-Jewish crap whose goal is to drag down the left and make the left look anti-Jewish. The more you convince others that Israelis are Nazis, the more you spread not only hatred, but help Israelis who are afraid of Palestinians and those who advocate for their human rights be even more afraid.

      It's comments like yours that make me wonder if it's even worth the time to wide into the comments at all.

    • I have no doubt, and all of my writing has made clear, repeatedly, again and again (are you not bothering to read what I write? go to my website, and read all of my op-eds about Palestine) that Israeli colonization/oppression/violence places Israel's military in the role of the "oppressor" and the Palestinian people in the role of "the oppressed." It's a completely asymetrical situation. The Israel military's violence against the Palestinian people is massive, out of control, horrific, etc etc.

      But the question is, what is the best way for the oppressed people to achieve liberation? Does suicide bombing help? No. It does not. Even President Abbas has said so. And what is the best way for internationals (such as the Gaza flotilla) to support and contribute positively to the struggle for Palestinian liberation?

      My website is here: Check out for example my reviews of Jimmy Carter's book, in which I excoriate Israel's colonial and apartheid policies, in depth.

    • Wasn't talking to you, Mr. God, but you're welcome!

    • Eljay,

      How do you explain the fact that 85% of Israelis thought the IDF used the right amount or enough enough force against the Mavi Marmara passengers? Shouldn't the Israelis have gotten the message, per your arguments?

      Yeah, I think we may have to just agree to disagree at this point. I think something loving and giving must be done to get Israeli Jews to stop feeling so scared. You don't, and you seem to think that purely negative and critical messages will succeed.

    • Everything you say is a lecture, a way of "talking at" the soldier. Why will he listen to you and suddenly change?

    • "Well, thank the American and British Zionist organizations for that! They fought tooth and nail to have both the US and Britain bar Jewish immigration from Nazi-occupied lands. The same applies to the several instances of Zionist collaboration with Nazis with the objective of limiting any emigration to Palestine, barring all other exits."

      Israeli psychology says:
      - Europe+Russia persecuted us for centuries
      - No one ever came to our aid
      - No one saved us from the pogroms
      - No one gave us a refuge to flee to during the Nazi Holocaust
      - Our only recourse is military force to create a Strong Israel with a Jewish majority
      - Pre-67 Israel is too small, indefensible borders

      So do you see how that would create a lot of fear and paranoia among the average Israeli Jew? Exasperated by the manipulation of that fear? Expasperated by being afraid of being blown up in a cafe, bus, rockets from overhead?

      How do you heal that trauma and change that ideology? Or do you not care or bother?

      Does that trauma/ideology in any way cause Israelis to oppress Palestinians?

    • Marc-- when I said that quote was borderline anti-Jewish, note I said "the comment you quoted," so it wasn't directed at you personally, as kylebisme says.

      Thanks for expanding the remark with the backup, I understand where you're going with it more and now it seems more thoughtful. It doesn't land to my experience, although certainly throughout Jewish history (both what we know to be true, and what has been handed down to us as myth), survival against impossible odds and an overwhelming foe is a common theme. Unfortunately we've also got genocidal myths running in the background, like the Torah stories where God commands the Israelites to drive out the Canaanites - an ideology that informs a not insignificant number of military Zionist/religious Israeli Jews and their attitude toward Palestinians.

      To whatever extent fear/oppression (two sides of the same coin) of "the other" or "the enemy" continues, we must transcend it.

    • Lysias - Yes, the Irish were oppressed by the English, absolutely. But the Irish have not taken their victim status and used it to (in part) justify oppressing another people so far as I know.

      So here's the question. How do we get Israelis - scared, traumatized, feeling victimized by the past centuries - to change their psychology? Or is that not even worth an attempt? What will it take for israelis to stop oppressing palestinians?

    • "Perhaps the way to get the soldier to remove his boot and to stop feeling scared is to have the soldier stop carrying out his state’s brutal policies."

      How do you do that? How do you get the soldier to stop carrying out his state's brutal policies? He's been doing it for 60+ years already, how do you get him to stop? It's a serious question!

      "The solider has not endured centuries of anti-Jewish oppression"
      Remember the soldier is a metaphor for "all Israeli Jews." And yes he has, psychically, collectively, for centuries Europe and Russia oppressed Jews, that's what caused political Zionism to start in the first place. My argument is that this oppression is alive and well in the minds of Israeli Jews, stories passed down from generation to generation, visits to Concentration Camps in Germany/Poland, etc.

      Yes some of that fear is "manipulated" in that the state of Israel tries both covertly and overtly to turn the Arabs/Palestinians into enemies to be feared, enemies who are "going to commit another Shoah." So some of it is manipulated. But some of it is also fear being passed from generation to generation, fear based on real events that are part of real history.

      So how do you get the soldier to heal from the fear and that legacy? Or should we not even bother trying to help the soldier?

      "The Palestinian has very likely endured decades of anti-Palestinian oppression, and he has every reason to fear – because he sees it happening all around him – that a hug today won’t stop the bulldozing and demolitions and assassinations and confiscations tomorrow"

      Yes without question the Palestinian has endured the oppression. I argue the Hug is necessary but not sufficient to stop the oppression of the Palestinians. Also you need BDS (so Israelis know that Israel's legitimacy is on the line) and nonviolent resistance. All 3 together I think is a potential path to liberation.

    • Max,

      I respect deeply your actions in Gaza. I wish I had the courage you do to face down the IDF. (Perhaps someday I will find that courage and make that choice.... I've only done it once, in Bil'in, and it was scary as hell.) That makes you a hero for Palestinian liberation, and nothing I or anyone else can say can take away from your actions, nor is anything I say a criticism of your direct action work in Gaza (if you interpret it that way, that's your choice).

      But no amount of flinging oneself into bullets automatically makes one an authority or expert on Gandhi.

      Max, I'm curious about something. This is a real question, not rhetorical, and I hope you will answer it. Have you read any of the extensive and well-researched, well-referenced academic literature on principled nonviolence and pragmatic/tactical/strategic nonviolence? If so, how can you reconcile the arguments of Michael Nagler, Gene Sharpe, and many others who say there are two schools/fields/disciplines of nonviolence: 1) principled and 2) pragmatic (aka strategic/tactical)? If you'd read any of that material, I'd imagine you'd agree that their arguments are both normative and empirical. Your article postulating that nonviolence is not a principle holds little water for me, because it does not even begin to attempt to rebut these scholars' claims (normative, empirical, and otherwise) about nonviolence being a principle. Nor can I honestly imagine anyone coherently rebutting the decades of serious work that went into cultivating this distinction. I believe there's a consensus within the peace and conflict studies academic community about the two two schools of nonviolence, and the real questions that are up for debate are about efficacy, not whether the two schools exist.

      I didn't even bother to wade into your argument that there is no clear line between nonviolence and violence (I had to draw the line somewhere in length) because this idea has been so thoroughly rebutted by other scholars. I think the basic idea is (and this is a vast simplification): "if you hold in your heart love for the adversary and a desire to persuade instead of coerce him/her to see the Truth (you are always holding fast to Truth), and you seek to both achieve justice AND reconcile your relationship with the adversary so that all parties benefit, then your campaign is in fact driven by true nonviolence" whereas "if you wish to coerce or force the adversary to do what you want without care or regard to his well being or how your relationship will be affected or end up, then you are driven by violence." Much more has been said and written about this topic.

      In the early days of his nonviolent resistance "career" Gandhi in South Africa was once introduced to an audience as a passive/pacific resistor. He ripped up his prepared speech and gave a lecture about how Satyagraha was anything other than passive. I rejected your characterization of nonviolent resistance as pacific in that spirit. Certainly aspects of the dictionary definition of pacific do in fact apply to nonviolent resistance. The problem is that most people think "doing nothing" when they hear the word nonviolence, as opposed to "the most active and powerful force in the world for healing, social change, and reconciliation." So I tend to jump on the "passive" or "pacific" characterization whenever and wherever it appears.

      Okay, so some people will in the vernacular sense hear or (mis)understand the word "principle" as a strict absolute, as you apparently do. But if you'd read any of the academic literature on "principled nonviolence," you would know that it is specifically defined as NOT being an absolute. So given that you were seeking to characterize the word "principle" in the context of "nonviolence as (an alleged) principle," it seemed inappropriate for you to attempt to pigeonhole the word principle as necessarily an absolute, without so much as a mention of the fact that the academic literature has addressed and dealt with that misperception.

      Yes, you do indeed quote Bromwich's quote of Gandhi verbatim, but you do so selectively and out of context. By leaving out where Gandhi said: "But I believe that non-violence is infinitely superior to violence,
      forgiveness is more manly than punishment," you imply that Gandhi would have been an advocate of possible armed resistance as a better choice than nonviolence. I believe your representations of Gandhi are so far offbase that if you were to submit an article to a serious academic journal with such characterizations, and the journal was edited by anyone deeply familiar with Gandhi, your article would be rejected out of hand. It's easy to misunderstand Gandhi and quote him out of context, and I stand by my claim that you do that consistently in your posts.

      Your claim "Taylor has a bizarre journalistic approach to Gandhi, extracting what he likes, discarding what he does not. This is his business but not exactly sound intellectual practice" is entirely projection, and precisely what you are doing. I would be more than willing to have this question settled by an independent panel of Gandhian experts.

      Go back to your second post. You write, "Gandhi would have reluctantly approved" re: violent resistance. No. Gandhi would have said something like this, "According to society's moral standards I cannot condemn violent resistance against Israeli oppression (so long as it doesn't target civilians and conforms to today's societal moral standards), and this is far better than cowardice. But I would vastly prefer the resistors choose the infinitely superior method and spiritual commitment of nonviolence." So far as I know, virtually everything Gandhi ever said and wrote in his career backs up this claim.

      As for my claim that you are a skeptic about nonviolence, I refer to what I perceive (and I think accurately) to be your skepticism of nonviolence as either a moral principle, or at a minimum, forgetting morality, a consistent strategic commitment. I believe you wrote in your post that you see certain non-violent tactics as appropriate sometimes, and certain violent tactics as appropriate sometimes, depending on circumstances. True? If so, then you are in fact a skeptic of the idea that people who stick to a consistent and disciplined commitment to nonviolent resistance are more likely to have their campaign succeed (and work). Quite a few activists and scholars argue in favor of nonviolence as a consistent strategic commitment, including those who don't give necessarily give damn about the morality or about healing relationships. They see nonviolence as consistently superior to violence in succeeding (Gene Sharpe holds this view, also check out the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, link to, with many films and publications advancing this idea).

      The arguments about existence of structural constraints are valid, and indeed, the Palestinians are clearly suffering extreme structural constraints. But if you take the structural constraints argument too far (and I'm not necessarily saying you are, just that it's possible to take it too far), you can dismiss the idea of any form of agency at all, as if everything the resistor does is entirely determined by the oppressor. I don't think that holds water, and the fact that certain Palestinian grassroots leaders I've spoken to have expressed regrets (like: too bad we empowered Arafat instead of handling the negotiations ourselves, too bad we didn't get back to the 1st Intifada when the negotiations were being co-opted) shows there is a possibility of agency and choice. The danger is if all failures are absorbed under "structural constraints," you never learn anything for next time. Talk to Palestinians who say the 1st Intifada was the right path and the 2nd Intifada was the wrong path, I think they are arguing they did in fact have some agency despite the extreme oppression and structural constraints.

      As for the position of the Western commenter, you wrote a lot about it, and I have a simple and straightforward remark: I do not need to stick my head in front of an Israeli gun in order to accurately argue what Gandhi would have said about the Mavi Marmara and the struggle for Palestinian liberation. Nor does sticking one's head in front of the gun automatically impart such wisdom. Finally, the most important thing I can say is that many of my words are based on what I've heard from Palestinian nonviolent organizers, so are you dismissing them too?

      Max, I have no doubt that you are a strong and courageous person, your commitment to the cause of Palestinian liberation is true, and your words are passionate. I hope someday you will take the time to read about principled nonviolence and pragmatic (strategic/tactical) nonviolence, and gain a deeper and more accurate understanding of the true Gandhi.

    • Look at what happened during the Nazi Holocaust. Where were the Jews, fleeing from monstrous oppression, allowed to go? The doors of immigration were open nowhere.

      Eljay, here's the question. In advancing the cause of palestinian liberation, how do you get the soldier in the metaphor to remove the boot? If not The Hug (of some kind), how do you get that soldier to stop oppressing the palestinians? Is it relevant to try to get the soldier to stop feeling scared after enduring centuries of anti-Jewish oppression?

      And as for the "entire world" - that was overstated. Really, it Europe + Russia.

    • Richard,

      Thanks for your thoughtful remarks. And wow, I thought this opus was, if long, at least clear but it seems either I wasn't clear enough or you misunderstood some of my comments.

      You say:

      "I greatly disagree with your statement that non-violence as a worldview can confidently co-exist with violent approaches, except in very limited circumstances."

      I don't recall saying any such thing. Go back and read my remarks about how parallel violence tends to hinder, and does not help, a nonviolent movement. Nonviolent leaders cannot control if some other group decides to launch a violent campaign in a parallel time and/or space. But my argument is, that it doesn't help.

      As for this remark:

      "On the Mavi Marmara. I think you conflict with your thesis. They were heroes for undertaking the voyage. They were not heroes for beating Israeli commandos, or scaring them to the point that any live ammunition was deemed to be necessary on the part of the commandos."

      I think my use of hero was unclear. I see anyone brave enough to sail into such danger -- and use physical force in self-defense -- as heroic. Misguided to be sure, but heroic. You see? I think it's clear from my post that I disagree with the use of physical force to achieve the goal of Palestinian liberation, on both principled and strategic grounds, including and especially in a situation like the M.M.. But that doesn't take away from the reality that these were valiant and brave people who did this act.

    • Response to #1:
      There are many oppressed peoples who deserve a hug. Yes, the Roma. How about the indigenous Americans (North and South) and Australians who were genocided, disposessed, their entire way of life in most cases obliterated...
      I could write endlessly on this topic by my piece is NOT about who are the most oppressed peoples and most deserving of apologies, reparations, and hugs.
      My article IS about how to end Palestinian suffering. And paradoxically, the point: to end Palestinian suffering, you gotta help the Israelis relax and feel safe. Thus the Hug. Refer back to the analogy of the soldier with his boot on the old man's neck, mentioned many times in the article. How do you persuade the soldier to lift the boot?
      As for entitlement, yes yes the Hug could feed Israeli sense of superiority and entitlement. But only if it happens in isolation. If it's part of an overall campaign -- including BDS and nonviolent resistance -- Israelis learn basically 1) they are safe and respected *as Jews* AND 2) Israel cannot keep oppressing the Palestinians. Must do both.

      Respond to #2: I think the Jews who would be unreceptive to and unappreciative of "The Hug" are the distinct minority of Israelis. In all my time traveling Israel, I discovered that the trauma of the Nazi Holocaust, the Russian Pogroms, etc. is alive and well psychologically in the individual and group consciousness. Group psychotherapy is desperately needed to help these people. Thus The Hug.

      BTW, I think the comments you quote are borderline anti-Jewish oppression: "real jews will cease to exist without an external enemy" -- thank you very much, I am a real Jew and I do not depend on "an enemy" to exist.

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