Commenter Profile

Total number of comments: 3773 (since 2009-11-18 22:41:33)

MHughes976

I'm retired after teaching philosophy for some decades. I am a secular Christian, very interested in biblical scholarship, with decent Greek but must learn some Hebrew. Rather obsessed with ancient multiculturalism and belief that Palestine was always multicultural and multiracial, while Jewish cultural influence in the wider ancient world was greater than is supposed.

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  • Al Aqsa mosque is closed off for first time in 47 years as tensions flare
    • 'The Quest for the Historical Israel' (Finkelstein and Mazar, 2007) is pretty good and exposes the current differences of opinion within respectable Israeli academia. There's a rather more 'conservative' view of the Temple in Galor and Bloedhorn 'Archaeology of Jerusalem' 2013. This book is praised for its 'neutrality' by an archaeologist from Birzeit.
      We can't deny that there was an ancient kingdom in Jerusalem, getting into trouble with the Assyrians around 700 BCE, or that that kingdom would, like all its counterparts, have had a temple or at least some kind of centre where the king would take part in sacrifice, though whether it would have had the magnificence described in the Books of Kings and important in royal (and later Christian) ideology is quite doubtful. Finkelstein is of the opinion, which others question, that the Jerusalem of those days was also the literary centre that produced the main substance of the prose and poetry on which the 'Abrahamic' religions are founded, which would have been enough to make it an important place.

    • There was a report recently that a bridge intended to facilitate non-Muslim entry to the area had been demolished on Netanyahu's personal instruction following an explicit protest by the Jordanian royal family. I certainly don't think that that would amount to real concern for the Palestinians, though!

  • 'Take your Ebola ass and get out': L.A. confrontation highlights relationship between Zionism and anti-black racism
    • I'm sure that some standard racist and generally highly abusive language gets used in these contexts but it seems to me that Jewish people who are Zionist are overwhelmingly inclined to recall the Jewish support that was so important, maybe even so crucial, to Martin Luther King and even, by more of a stretch perhaps, to Nelson Mandela and to claim that they are strongly in favour of maintaining that anti-racist tradition. This may not be so true of Christian Zionists, I suppose.
      I'm not sure that we can really show that Zionism is just another version of white-supremacy racism. That sort of racism is something which everyone in the West has been taught to despise but if we say 'That's what Zionism is!' we will find images like the one here on Mondoweiss going with the article about yet another journalist with offspring in the Israeli armed forces - we've all seen the jolly faces of the diverse military unit that was used in that context. Western public opinion will find that sort of image convincing. The angry, deeply religion-tinged contempt for things Islamic does draw on the well of fear for dark skin but does not feel exactly like it and is far more acceptable in these bad times. (I don't think R. Shalom Lewis will get into that much trouble.) It may be as dangerous and destructive as Jim Crow sentiments - or even more dangerous than those sentiments ever were - but it's a different thing.

  • University of Exeter students vote to boycott Israeli settlement products in a landslide
    • Ilan Pappe's influence must be quite significant at Exeter. Not that many UK universities have ME studies departments - Exeter has quite a significant one. Knowledge tends to spread when there is no force of ignorance or delusion sufficient to counter it, I suppose.

  • Kerry just snubbed a gov't minister who calls for segregated bus lines. And that's a bad thing?
    • Ain't we stinkers? How did we get like that? For my part I think that the decades-long, centuries-long influence of CZ is the real explanation.

  • There are some things about Gaza that I still can't wrap my head around
    • I had a quick look at the dialogue you mention. In fact the dialogue between Hillel and Shammai (about whom there should be at least as much scepticism as there is about Jesus), reported in the Tosefta Sabbath Tractate, concerns suggestions about cutting off relations with other nations supporting the Romans in time of tension building up to war. No general point, applicable in all situations, about Jewish separatism, 'misanthropy' or sense of superiority is made. If there is to be a comparison with the Islamic State crowd, it should be on the basis that people in situations of conflict tend to extreme belief in extreme distinctions between Us and Them. In a way this is common knowledge but each example tends to be horribly instructive. I just picked up a book about the rabble-rouser Noel Pemberton Billing in WW1 Britain and it's much the same really.

    • I see what greg means about no political organisation's being indestructible but I don't think there really were any dramatic mass expulsions of the followers of any religion from ancient Palestine, though the traumas of the Roman-Jewish wars did make the Jerusalem area non-Jewish for a while. It's true that 'Palestine' is by far the best attested name for ancient Palestine from at least 500 BCE, the Herodian 'Judaea' never being really appropriate. 'Canaan' was becoming obsolete from at least that time.

    • Weapons used to bombard people who have no weapons capable of replying are hardly 'tested in combat', are they? What's been tested is the ruthlessness of the users plus the permissiveness of the bystanders and (as Katie says) fund-providers. Has Grumpy Cat found a vantage point in Kerry's office?

  • Allegations of anti-Semitism used to cover up anti-Palestinian hate crime in Brooklyn
    • What's the difference between a crime of hate, a crime of anger and a crime of (non-erotic) passion?

  • An exciting night at the opera: 'Klinghoffer' opening dominated by protest and heavy police presence
    • I haven't seen the opera - but it does seem to refuse to make exactly the point that concerns Dersh, that there is something unique about Jewish suffering and that there is no comparison between the experience of exile on both sides. And the libretto is the work of someone, the Reverend Alice Goodman, brought up Jewish and Zionist, who has clearly changed in both respects, now being an Anglican vicar.

  • 'Settlement endorsement should be put on a par with racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism' --British pol
    • Well, let's go ahead with this at the venue suggested. If we gave ourselves three months to get over the Christmas/New Year break and generally to get organised, and to get a good idea of numbers, that would take us to (say) Saturday January 31st, 2015. Comments?

    • We can probably find a way. Could we tempt any of the MW leadership over to the UK?

    • If we were going to follow the New York model in London we would need a good ME-style restaurant. I don't have much knowledge of the London restaurant scene, perhaps someone here does.

    • I did make a donation of the appropriate amount and mentioned that if there were ever to be a Mondoweiss meeting in New England there would be a 5% chance of my being able to attend, since I have family in those parts. Even better, perhaps, if we had a session in London and had one of the MW team come to us.

    • You have a point, Eva, in that I suppose that without the settlements the whole Zionist project might unravel. On the other hand the implicit acceptance by Obama and by Duncan that Israel 48 is legitimate is an acceptance of Zionist principles and Zionist principles imply that all the Holy Land belongs to Israel - better, 'to the Jewish people'. The proclamation that 'there never was a Palestine and never will be' is just as much implied by Israel's 48 as by its 67 activities. The legitimacy still accorded to those activities endlessly saps the moral force behind efforts to roll back the settlements.
      Perhaps we could have a gathering of British Mondoweiss supporters some time.

  • 'I know how the brainwashing works'
    • I agree with you about the long-term plan - what else can it be? However, I don't think it can be carried out completely unless and until there is a massive re-settlement plan which the Western countries will have to pay for. Campaigns against 'terrorists' don't seem able to make people move en masse - there will have to be some, maybe rather pathetic, carrot as well as ferocious stick. The idea must be to bring the time around when Western and Middle East countries are ready to put up the money and the surviving Palestinians, or a small group that will act as trickle starting a flood, so desperate that they accept.

  • Anti-semitism charge is increasingly being leveled against Israel's mainstream critics
    • When you criticise Israel you are indeed criticising Jews. That is an undeniable implication of the fact that the policies pursued by the country known as Israel are determined almost entirely by people who consider themselves and are considered by others to be Jewish.
      What objection is there to criticising Jews? Someone might say 'Jews are not to be stereotyped' which is quite true. But the phrase 'criticising Jews' is ambiguous between 'some people who are Jewish' and 'all people who are Jewish' - and it is the latter that is in obvious danger of stereotyping. If it is obvious from the context that the critique applies to some Jewish people but not to others - and it is: there are plenty of Jewish people not involved in setting Israeli policies, obviously enough - then stereotyping is clearly avoided.
      Criticism of some but not of others is anti-stereotyping.
      By contrast, those who refuse to discriminate between (say) Hitler and Tutu - ie object equally to all whose attitudes to Jewish people are negative in any way and call all of them by the same term, 'anti-Semites' - are so plainly and crudely stereotyping all who disagree with Israeli policies that they should see that they are making the very mistake that they seem to condemn in others.
      It cannot be reasonable to say that no one who is Jewish is capable of any serious wrongdoing, any more, surely, than 'anyone who is English/Belgian'.

  • As Kerry scrambles to prevent Palestinian action at UN, Israeli govt makes clear it will never accept Palestinian state
    • Thanks walk...loose, very interesting.

    • Maybe it was not wise but it has been carried off with reasonable success, I suppose. Other fixed points include the Allon Plan - any arrangement must include Israeli strongpoints in any supposed Palestinian territory. I think it's Diane Mason who's been explaining this continuity from time to time. Another is the plain statement that Palestinians can have self-rule but not statehood - self-rule never ruling out, I suppose, gradual annexation of the territories in which the Palestinians have for a while survived. I remember that being a feature of the statements coming out of the negotiations between Begin and poor old Sadat ever so long ago. The latest statements are not much more than a repetition of these early ones, made not too long after the 67 war.

    • I've often mentioned Richard Ben Cramer's book, How Israel Lost, and its message that Israeli policy has all along been 'to live without a solution' - nothing changes, does it?

  • The Missing Context: 'Islamic State' sectarianism is not coincidental 
    • The UK's best-known and respected liberal Muslim columnist, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, has I think mentioned that she has been a little excluded from some Muslim activities because of her Shia identity. I do hope I don't misrepresent her. Her article in the Independent drew a comment from an Ahmadi mentioning a more bitter degree of exclusion. Odium theologicum does exist in every religious group even without outside pressure and is always pretty dangerous.
      I remember talking to an ex-Yugoslav as ex-Yugo was falling apart. He said that everyone in Belgrade had forgotten whether they were Serb or Croat but that they had suddenly started to remember: people were friends or enemies according to where their grandmothers had gone to church. Ex-Yugo was under some pressure from the West, to put it mildly, but I don't think that the sectarian divisions were entirely of our making. When things get really bad people desperately seek out others to trust and very small differences can sow doubt about whether a particular other person can be trusted. That really is human nature I think.

  • Israel's Dead Soul: Steven Salaita's critical scholarship explains his dismissal from the University of Illinois
    • Pb's last question in particular is a very good one. Salaita seems to have attended the same School of Complicated Utterance as some other cultural theorists have. He's at his best when he puts his books on the shelf and just complains about awful people in plain words.
      Salaita's idea that a civil rights group and a hate group could be quite similar is interesting, though his reasoning - that civil rights groups are too interested in legality - seems to me to be utterly unconvincing. It is true that the main motivation for demanding civil rights for Xs could well be not belief in universal rights but hatred and detestation of some non-X group and a desire to do that group down. In this context I'd think interest in law, which does tend to be framed in universal terms, is rather a good sign.
      I can maybe see the sense of saying 'Why use multi-cultural ideas, which by their nature include all without discrimination, in the service of Israel, which is based on a claim that excludes many people in many ways and senses?' But then multi-culturalism can be suspected of welcoming and including all cultures provided they turn out all to be the same.

  • Clintonite turns on Netanyahu for trying to bend US 'to his will'
    • Mind you, someone who swallows the Gaza massacre whole but whose stomach is turned by a few more settlements has a rather funny digestive system.
      Should Mr. Ginsberg be reckoned close enough to the militaristic Clinton, all but elected next President, for the words to be coming from his gullet but her stomach?

  • Islamophobia, liberalism and the dangers of Interfaith ignorance
    • I would reckon Maher a 'New Atheist' - his 'Religulous' film seemed to be setting the pattern for NA theology by praising Judaism with faint damns. In that theology Islam is, as is now being made so starkly clear, by far the most condemned.
      Atheist theology - consideration of what an ideal being would be like, if there were one; not that there is - isn't entirely a paradoxical thing.
      NA has a strong affinity with Darwinism and is particularly against forms of theology that resist modernity in the sense of being opposed to scientific modes of thought. I think we have to concede that Judaism has done better than others on these terms. We on MW consider Zionism as an inauthentic form of Jewish culture and/or religion but Zionism is undeniably modern, permitting people who proclaim themselves atheists to remain involved in a culture still in many ways involved with religious tradition.

    • I cannot see how the question of 'authenticity' is escaped here. If some forms of some religions are radical, extreme and barbaric then we either have to join with the 'new atheist' attack on those religions in totality or we have to explain that the bad forms are inauthentic.
      'Venal' means 'for sale'. 'The most venal forms' of religion would be those that are most influenced by money. These may be very unpleasant but that's not the main issue here.

  • British Parliament sends a message to Obama: the people see Israel as a 'bully'
    • Jewish enthusiasm for Zionism was quite muted at that point. However, I don't that the Balfour Declaration was an honest attempt to form a new Palestine, though that attempt is certainly implied in any reasonable understanding of what a mandate could be - the creation of a sovereign power which does not originate from the territory concerned and therefore, so as not to be a conqueror or exploiter, has every manner of obligation to the actual inhabitants of that territory. The whole dynasty of documents from the Declaration onwards pays some lip service to that understanding - the rights of all are to be preserved. However, Balfour's real intention all along was to introduce a Jewish population and never mind the Arabs. He more or less tipped off the Press to that effect immediately. He was a committed Christian Zionist of the Scottish school, which (as I mentioned a few days ago) gave the world the idea of a Land Without a People via the questionable visionary Dr. Rev. Alexander Keith in the 1840s. Even more important was the Christian Zionism of his boss, Lloyd George, who was surely and sorely troubled by his sinful life and wanted to make something that would carry God's will into effect.
      The Declaration was a trick and a lie (well, it made a pair of inconsistent promises of which only one was meant) and it was recognised to some degree for what it was by many at the time. There's a lot of good information in Margaret MacMillan's 'Peacemakers' which is a very powerful presentation of the tragedy of Versailles.

    • I would also commend once again Margaret MacMillan's 'Peacemakers' which gives a very full account of the Versailles Conference and all its works. That memo from Balfour, a Christian Zionist of the Scottish school (which had previously, three quarters of a century earlier, given us 'a Land without a People'), is cited and put in context.

  • British Parliament votes overwhelmingly to recognize Palestinian state
    • It is a start though only a first step and tied to a negotiated 2ss that isn't happening. The BBC reportage, still in a way the voice of the British Establishment, has been very muted. I've just looked at the website and it's easier to find the story of a parrot in California that used to speak with a British accent, was lost for four years has returned speaking Spanish - another stinging cultural defeat, I suppose. Much easier to find out about Oscar Pistorius.

  • In the last days of 'Operation Protective Edge' Israel focused on its final goal -- the destruction of Gaza's professional class
  • Has the 'NYT' editorial board finally decided to tell the truth about the conflict? (No)
    • How does anyone with any common sense expect to empower the moderates on one side by encouraging the other side to show no moderation at all? The obvious things that a moderate would do - like reduce the impact of the hateful blockade and make a definite proposal for a final settlement - are not done and no one minds. I scream with horror and frustration at the hypocrisy of it all. And if I scream what will they do in Gaza?

  • British Parliament to vote on recognition of Palestinian state on Monday
    • The House of Commons does not conduct British diplomacy - but this vote would mean that a future Labour Government. which would be led by Ed Miliband, who would be our first Jewish-background (though atheist) PM since Disraeli, would recognise Palestine, which would cause questions to be raised even in the United States. It would be quite hard to portray the Miliband family as 'anti-Semitic'.

  • Israel and the g-word
    • On what terms, then, should the 2ss be set up?

    • An interesting and sensitive comment (if I may say so) Yonah.

    • I see what you mean about words that get under the skin. Zionists try on many occasions to make pincushions of our skins by means of the term 'anti-Semitic'. I share your aversion to playing that game - on the other hand I'm reluctant to abstain from the term 'genocide' if by abstaining I concede that Israeli behaviour, based as it is on beliefs about rights related to race and ancestry, never touches the depths touched by atrocities against Jewish people when their race and ancestry were held against them. Israel has never killed so many in the short term but it has inflicted such extensive expulsion and humiliation in the long, the endless term that there is no serious moral gap.
      However, I am also troubled by the collectivist morality implied by making 'genocide' - an offence against the group rather than against the individuals in the group - the worst thing, just as I am troubled by the dark theology of sacrifice implied by 'holocaust'.

    • Anyone may use words as (s)he likes - the only obligation being to explain how the word is being used. However, a personal use of the word is not necessarily accepted by people in general.
      The generally accepted idea of 'genocide' is that it calls for the elimination, with great violence against a shocking number, of a group of people selected, at least in major part, on the basis of ancestry or heredity. I don't think people ask themselves whether there can be genocide if many individuals survive or if they still have descendants so long as the group is no longer really on the scene. What shocks people changes somewhat over time. I think that Israel's apologists have sensed that the scale of casualties in Gaza (which might have seemed 'ordinary' at an earlier, more callous time) is at least beginning to shock people, so they have rushed to provide excuses and exculpations. The shock moves opinion towards classifying Israeli campaigns in Gaza as 'genocide' in the commonly accepted sense. So does the fact that there is a racial division between the parties, ie it's a matter in part of ancestry and heredity. So does the increasingly stark recognition that Israel does not envisage a scene in which a Palestinian sovereign state exists: I think that the 'move to Sinai' stuff is just a way of saying in fantastic terms that Palestinian sovereignty will never exist.
      I'd keep the word 'genocide' in play, rather than try to use a word like 'politicide' that seems to come out of a seminar room with no emotional force.
      Not that I really like the morality which makes 'genocide' the supreme crime, ie interprets injustice as mattering more if inflicted on a group rather than on individuals.

  • Eight hours on Third Avenue
    • Well done, if I may say that as one who thinks that 48 and the Nakba, not 67 and the Occupation, is the continuing problem. Was there any reaction, sympathy or opposition?

  • Pogroms rage in Europe? Kidnaped Israeli teens were Freedom Riders? Liberal Zionists' desperate slogans
    • A white supremacist programme would, I suppose, imply that white people, without discrimination among themselves, should clearly dominate the Rest at every point. So maybe I would have been welcome, in a Whites Rights world, to join a settlement near Samaria on equal terms with Jewish residents and both of us would have been welcome to join in similar supremacist ventures in all sorts of places. We might be driving together on a whites-only road to Mandalay. That's to say that white supremacism does not imply any special status for those of our white brothers and sisters who are Jewish, while Zionism for its part does not imply any rights in Judaea and Samaria for those who are white enough to shine in the dark but not of Jewish religion or descent. It does accord rights to people with dark skins who are accepted as Jewish.
      I guess that Professor Gitlin's students, being steeped in American culture, are trying to express their disagreement with him in terms that every American readily understands. But they're not quite hitting the mark. They miss the idiosyncrasy of central Zionist ideas about God's gift and historic homeland.

    • If a bad thing is being done by members of a certain tribe the badness of the thing should be pointed out, surely? If you're very much against singling out your own tribe then it is you who are reacting, not to the moral quality of the events but to the identity of those involved, and are therefore the tribalist in the room.
      The hitchhiking victims are not to be specially compared to the victims of the civil rights struggle because they were not advocating civil rights. They do of course have the rights that all human beings have and for that reason their deaths should be pointed out as a bad act. However, the same rights of all human beings are possessed by the people of Gaza just as much.
      Advocacy of Zionism is not advocacy of white supremacy. Neither of these beliefs implies the other, though both have it common that they do not accord equal rights to everyone, regardless of race or religion. But they're not part and parcel of the same thing.

  • White House is now in open spat with Netanyahu over his 'American values' lecture
    • One of the friendliest spats I've seen, though the friendliness is a little one-sided. Obama seems to have perfected a technique for wrapping massive support in a film of rather willfully ineffectual protest.

  • Why must Gaza wait in the dark?
    • The photographs at the head of this article are beautiful and moving despite the horrible situation that they depict.

  • Read the genocidal sermon a notable Atlanta rabbi gave this Rosh Hashanah
    • I've been wondering about this - he certainly calls for extermination, mentions 50 million people specifically in the target group, and - by vigorously and explicitly denouncing (even denouncing as impious) the claim that genuine Muslims are not terrorists - declining to set up any clear boundary between Muslims in general and those Muslims who are radical extends his remarks, which are very clearly threatening and do very clearly imply violence, to at least some of those who are outside the 'radical' group. The degree of this extension - who is involved and how dire the threat - is a little vague but still unmistakably menacing.
      To my mind this goes beyond expressing highly negative views about some other members of the human race, which is a matter of free speech, and gets to the point of calling for violence against them.
      I would think that the figure of 5 million is a wild and crazy overestimate of the numbers actually involved in any violent activity or in planning such things. 'Embracing' them is a vague term but its very vagueness adds to the the menace of the speech by making it harder to see who might be exempt. If the entire population of Iran is included among the embracers then the 5 mil is an underestimate - and by that standard the threat extends well and far beyond 5 mil of his fellow human beings. Not that he thinks we have the same soul.
      Actually we do have the same souls. Religious fanaticism is a characteristic of human beings. They are what we are and we are what they are.

    • I would hate to be in your position, notawingnut, but if it is possible for you to rally some opposition to these excessive and misguided words you would have done a very good deed.

    • We often hear the word 'incitement' in the context of Palestinian remarks about Israel, We definitely have an incitement here and indeed an incitement to lethal violence. So if we are against incitements we should be against this oration.
      What does 'exterminate' mean? Does it require the physical vaporisation of millions of persons or would a bit of conversion do instead? I note that both extreme violence and forced conversion are condemned here, but it seems to be all right when 'we' do it. Is this consistent?
      If someone defines Islam, or authentic Islam, in a way that excludes violence their words are said to be impious. But who has the right to define words in the name of God?j I've half a mind to define this as 'blasphemy'.
      'How we disagree in America' now seems to have been re-defined too, to extend to calls for extermination. The release into mainstream American discourse of eliminationist or exterminationist rhetoric would be pretty damaging, I would say.
      There seems to be constant redefinition of the target 'Islam'/'radical Islam'/'Islamism'. Not a very impressive essay. And is it legal? Aren't there some restrictions on incitement?

  • Ilan Pappé on Israel’s 'post-Zionist moment' and the triumph of 'neo-Zionism'
    • To me Zionism means belief in an exclusive Jewish right to the Holy Land. That cannot be given up without radical change, notably an acknowledgement of the rival claim of Palestinians to a right of return. No one living in Israel can pass beyond Zionism in the sense of no longer being interested in what right (s)he and others have to be there. No one anywhere can completely lose interest in or become completely neutral about what possessions are deserved. The idea of post-Zionism is in a sense yet another smokescreen.
      Someone might use 'Zionism' in a sense different from mine, of course, but without being a belief in some kind of entitlement for Jewish people it would not have any great relevance to the actual situation in the ME.
      The change from Nakba denial to Nakba justification is not in any way a promising one: I'm not sure it's even that new, except perhaps in choice of words. It seems odd to say that no one now can defend ethnic supremacism when that is exactly what is being defended, at least in local form, when the Nakba is justified.
      I've just read Nathan Thrall's review of Shavit in the London Review of Books, which makes several interesting points, almost all strongly contrary to Shavit's, though from the point of view of a legalistic Zionism which supports a 2ss on the basis of international law expressed through UN resolutions. I'd say that even this is genuinely Zionism, with rights for Jewish people in the Land which no other right matches.

  • 'Ethnic cleansing for a better world' -- Richard Cohen says Palestinians brought the Nakba on themselves
    • I would question the idea that there was a duty, by way of accepting the rule of law or constitutional government, to accept the UN partition plan. If the UN was not the sovereign it had no right to demand or impose partition and if the plan was merely a suggestion, not a demand, no one had a duty to obey it. If the UN was the sovereign it had the normal and basic duty of sovereigns to make arrangements for the whole territory in the interests of all concerned: and these interests are not normally identified by a decision that clearly overrides the will of the majority. If the UN used its constitutional powers so as massively to favour a minority, it abused its powers grievously and once again we find no duty to accept.
      If Cohen thinks that the situation has been for decades a clash between one party committed to the rule of law and one opposed to it, in some sense anarchist, he has to ask which party this could be: surely not the one that bases its apparent rights on heredity and ancestry rather than on residence.

  • Over 250 anthropologists join the call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions
    • Replying to myself: I mentioned on another thread that there is a review Shavit by Thrall in the newly published London Review of Books - Shavit's play on left-wing themes of Israeli socialism and equality is noted.

    • The left-wing phase of Zionism is still very significant even it is now pretty much completely over. I don't think that Israel would have come into existence without the strong support of people both in the Middle East and in the West who thought that an essential step towards world socialism was being taken.

  • NYT's opening to a 'fringe voice' excites rage from Israeli army, journalism, business leaders
    • The first two of the items on this list, shocking and potentially lethal attacks that received almost no sympathetic comment for the victims, could be described as marking an 'uptick in philo-Semitic violence' in the UK. People mistakenly these words paradoxical because they cannot see that all-forgiving pro - or philo- attitudes, which on a superficial view are simply friendly and benign, are in reality almost as dangerous, unfair and morally distorting as anti- or miso- ones.

  • The Greater Gaza Plan: Is Israel trying to force Palestinians into Sinai?
  • Netanyahu heads to New York to ‘refute all the lies’ and praise ‘the most moral army in the world’
    • He will surely rebut the so-called lies but whether he will succeed in refuting them we will see. He will certainly face a lot of ridicule and anger but of course all that will be balanced by the ridicule and anger directed at his opponents by a chorus of American and Western politicians, journalists and academics. But then he and Abbas will settle down to yet another and another round of talks where no one proposes anything definite and nothing can even be identified as 'the gap between the two sides'. I expect they quite like each other really.

  • When Rouhani says blaming ISIS on Islam is Islamophobic, is anyone listening?
    • I suppose that there can be an ideology of terrorism - it's attributed to the Russian nihilists - things are so bad we just have to be as violent as possible - 'let the heavens fall'. That said, perhaps it is indeed more often a tactic in the sense of a semi-calculated means to a definable end. I lived through the years when the IRA was targeting places in my country. There was a major terrorist campaign in Sri Lanka by and perhaps against the LTTE and one continues in the Naxalite regions of India. There was a grand calamity in Rwanda, marked by extreme violence among neighbours. And there was Yugoslavia, that very former place. These conflicts did not have major ME roots.
      Not sure that the ME, considering its size, is all that prone to terrorist campaigns in the Naxalite or LTTE style. It is true that the Palestine conflict, with all the suffering it has engendered for such a fantastically long time and with all the links it has to religious sentiment all around the world, all the connections it has to other conflicts and all the influence it has on vital oil resources, is the worst thing in the world at the moment and outbreaks of extreme and dehumanising violence continue horribly.

    • I agree with Krauss that we must beware the temptation to idealise people who are anti-Zionist. Some of them aren't that nice.
      As for the 'germination' of terrorism amid poverty and injustice - these two soils are rather different. Being poor in a society that is making a reasonable effort to help with the problems of poverty or at least has clear provision for constitutional reform is neither a moral justification nor a likely cause of violent resistance. Being poor or being conspicuously victimised in a society that is in some very marked sense uncaring, oppressive, unjust and unconstitutional is a reason, if nothing else seems to have any prospect of working, to consider violent resistance - but even then the very poor record of resistance and revolution in putting things right should be remembered.
      If Rouhani means that poverty, resentment and desperation tend to erode the restraints imposed by most religions it is hard to gainsay him. It's also true that people in desperate moments, or when they think that the tide is turning in their favour and the advantage must be pressed home, tend to cry 'God is on our side!' at the moment when desperate or horrible measures are taken. In fact we have to be very careful whenever this cry is raised - at this point I think Rouhani, who raises this cry himself, might part company with me.

  • The name games
  • The summer of small Jewish thinking
    • Is big thinking for the good of all and small thinking for the good of self? Mind you, I think that Zionism would claim to be big, and for the good of all, if only people could see what benefits it would bring to the whole ME - and then to the whole of humanity - once the Palestinians had just agreed to move on, in all senses of that term. Why will this small group, thinking small and only of itself, stand in the way of the great redemptive project which always but always promised good things not only to Jewish but to non-Jewish people of the area?
      Maybe they've read Micah's disturbing book and think that the verse 'Rejoice not against me, though I fall I will rise again' applies to them. Why can't they see that it doesn't? Why do foolish outsiders actually encourage them?

  • Why is the United Nations doing business with G4S, notorious prison supplier?
    • Ed Miliband, possibly our next Prime Minister, waxed eloquent against G4S at one point, only to find that it had the contract for security at his very own Party Conference - so I read last week. Also that G4S is the largest company in terms of employee numbers - was it 600,000 worldwide? maybe I'm getting delirious - registered on the London Stock Exchange.

  • Anti-Zionist train makes stop at Washington Post
    • To put it another way - there is no good reason for depriving anyone on grounds of race or religion of the normal right to be a fully enfranchised citizen in a fully sovereign state and no good reason for denying the right of return to refugees who have not become settled citizens elsewhere.

  • Another scholar cancels at U of Illinois, saying school doesn't 'protect faculty from donors'
    • Thanks very much for that reference, seafoid, I may well buy it. An irony, perhaps, that it is published by Yale. Perhaps Mr. Shipman should be asked to review it.

  • 'Civility' is for dancing classes, not universities, and is tool of pro-Israel political operatives -- Franke
    • Well, I do think civility is a good thing in all places of discussion. Sneering insinuations that someone is 'anti-Semitic' tend to incivility and should stop.

  • Goldberg tries to police view that Israel's actions fuel anti-Semitism
    • 'Prejudice' means judgement without reason, so if I have a negative opinion of someone based solely on prejudice it is an unfairly formed opinion and could be justified only by accident. It's equally true that negative opinion based on reason comes from a fair process and could be mistaken only by accident, if there is some vital piece of information that was not available to me.
      It is possible for a reasoned judgement at one point - anti-German feeling in the war years, see Balfour's remark above - to be part of the causation of prejudice later on. One of my very first political lessons, very true thought taught to me by the British Government for reasons of its own, was that it was wrong to be prejudiced against Germans in the post-war years. That sort of prejudice - an exaggeration of sentiments originally based on reason - is still prejudice and still dangerously misleading - but it's not quite true to say that actual and regrettable behaviour by Germans was no part at all of its causation.
      Hope not to sound insufferably smug. I am well aware that there was regrettable behaviour on our part too.
      The idea that to be the victim of prejudice at one point is never to do wrong later on or never to be the target of reasonable objection or anger, which Mr. Goldberg seems to suggest, is of course quite untrue.
      It is also untrue that negative prejudices are the only dangerous ones. Positive prejudice, in which I will forgive X anything, is a terrible menace because it looks benign.

  • Homegrown jihadis and the limits of the Israel lobby
    • The power of Saudi influence is indeed fairly obvious: the Smith/Stoller arguments seem to me, for all my respect for Donald, to be rather more labyrinthine than is necessary.
      I don't think that either the existence of this power or its connection with money leads us to think that Israeli influence is, for its part, less than we might have supposed. We would think that only if Saudi influence was in opposition to Israel's, whereas in truth they are close allied.
      The fact that the Saudis have influence and dispose of a lot of money merely illustrates the power of money and logically should increase, not reduce, our readiness to believe that the money spent by the Israeli lobby, which (however it compares with the spending of others) is agreed to be quite a lot, is spent effectively. As far as it goes Saudi power illustrates Israeli power rather than overshadows it.

    • The Spanish Republic and the Islamic State are very different things. However, it may be that the returnees from Spain were regarded by UK police and intelligence services as a possible nucleus of a Stalinist revolutionary army in the UK, rather as IS returnees are regarded as potential terrorists. However, popular fears were directed against Hitler rather than Stalin and the divisions found in Spain between Stalinists, Trotskyites and liberals soon became rather obvious, making the likelihood that the Spain returnees could act as a coherent force much less. Here we can see a fairly obvious basis for some difference in treatment of these two groups of returnees, so the difference does not of itself reveal anything about the British state that 'we don't already know'.

    • Western governments do not raise panics about service in the Israeli armed forces because there is no open ideological tension between them and Israel. They raise panics about joining the IS crowd because there is plenty of open tension, plainly hostile sentiment, between them and IS.
      The Westerners may have suspicions, of a rational nature but at a quieter level, about Israeli spying and readiness to use force, as annie says, and maybe they keep more of a wary eye on Israeli-trained operatives than they openly proclaim.
      I'm not sure that Maggie for her part is 'putting things bluntly' - I suspect (would I make a good secret policeman?) that she's raising two questions at once, which could be confusing rather than blunt. Is it that the West has good and objective reason to fear IS-trained returnees? Is it that the flames of this fear are being fanned to support a deceitful and imperialist agenda? Both questions could be answered Yes without contradiction but they are still rather different questions.

  • Will the WCC finally break the interfaith ecumenical deal?
    • I too found that sentence about anti-Semitism all but impossible to follow. If we're working or even talking in ways that express solidarity with conscientious Jewish people we are not expressing 'anti-Semitism in altered form' surely?
      Mind you, our own consciences are hardly clear. We didn't say much about Gaza. The state of my own communion, Anglican/Episcopal, may be inferred from the Shipman business - that may be a rather extreme manifestation but it still tells you something. The Pope, in whom great hopes had been placed, lapsed into silence.

  • Senator Warren's progressive supporters demand accountability for her rightwing pro-Israel positioning
    • I would interpret this as a politician trying to sense what pressure is coming from the constituency. At Cape Cod she simply made the conventional remarks in support of Israel, presumably expecting that her mainstream audience would entirely sympathise. The response was enough to warn her that a university audience would not be quite so sympathetic to the same ideas, let's hope enough to prick her conscience. The remark by an assistant that she had been taken by surprise at Cape Cod is rather pathetic and frustrating, suggesting that she had scarcely thought about what is after all one of the world's most important problems and was not just expecting audience sympathy but expressing views that seem to her natural and beyond challenge. The tepid change is not enough to justify any hope. We are still in the wilderness. Some forces of public opinion are gathering but they will always melt away if no one gives a lead.
      Pew research reports, which I was looking at in connection with poor Mr. Shipman, seem to indicate no real change in American sympathies for Israel or Palestine - except perhaps for a bit of a shift towards being sorry for everyone - from April to August. Which would mean that the movement caused by the brutality of recent events in Gaza has melted almost literally like snow in summer.

  • ASA statement on Salaita: An 'assault against the Program in American Indian Studies at UIUC '
    • Mind you, the heart of the matter is not discrimination against Native American studies but against an individual and against his opinions on a matter rooted far from American shores. Had he entertained and expressed opinions of the most radical kind against the way in which America was colonised and conquered by people of Euro extraction, and stuck to that topic, he would be probably be admired and honoured, maybe invited to lecture in Israel.

  • Yale president's office was involved from the gitgo in blowup over Yale chaplain's letter
    • A good point from RoHa (below) - maybe my 'comparatively few' would just about survive those counterexamples?

    • You're a model of fairness - nice to meet someone who really lives up to his/her screen name! It will be interesting to see if the Episcopal Church can find another job for him.

    • The Episcopal/Anglican Church seems to have disgraced itself even more profoundly. I'm used to that but this episode may be touching new depths.

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