Commenter Profile

Total number of comments: 3556 (since 2009-11-18 22:41:33)


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.

Showing comments 3556 - 3501

  • U.S. casts lonely vote against establishing war crimes inquiry in Gaza
  • Gaza massacre is generating ideological crisis in American Zionists
  • 'Heartbreaking' is U.S. government's talking point for Gaza massacre
    • Mr. Fabius is of Jewish background though I understand his family has been Catholic for some time. He has been suspected of undue favouritism to Israel in the past. At the moment his remarks do credit to both the traditions with which he is associated.

  • The deafening silence around the Hamas proposal for a 10-year truce
    • Well, it seems plain from para.186 that Locke denies that consent resulting from force is valid, so I cannot see that he contemplates your 'second case'. I've seen some strange interpretations of Locke in my time! Perhaps the fact that I get my paragraph references right will show others here, who may not be as keen on Locke as you or I, that I am a reasonably careful reader.
      If you think that might is not right - and it isn't, is it? - then it does follow that all conquest should be negated to the extent necessary to substitute a system whereby everyone has their rights.
      You say that L contradicts himself by denying permanent racial entitlements. He does refer approvingly to 'the possession of them and their descendants through all generations' (184: you've read it). Your expression 'racial entitlement' suggests some sort of unfair discrimination on grounds of race but if we remove that suggestion it seems to me that these words show that he does not contradict himself in the way that you suggest. Of course there can be all sorts of legitimate property transfers: I've no reason to think that any ancestors of mine owned the land where I now reside.
      You may not accept my good faith in saying this, but I don't begin to see that the proposition that Zionism is mistaken implies that people who are Jewish ought to be slaves, lack civil rights or not own property.
      As to the right to trade, I don't think that any individual is compelled to buy what anyone else wants to sell. As I understand it, Hamas wants Palestinian individuals to be free to trade with such individuals everywhere, Israel included, as do wish to participate. That seems to be equivalent to saying that Palestinians should all have normal economic rights, and that was and is the topic of this rather complex thread. I did mention and deal, fairly I thought, with arguments in favour of the suspension of normal economic rights.

    • For some reason my reply seems to have appeared above rather than below yours, sorry.

    • Well as to Locke, I do not see a direct reference to defraying the costs of war in para.193, though it is there in paras.183-4, surely as a limited right. The first sentence of para.193 is quite complicated but also quite intelligible. 'Granting that the conqueror ...has a right to...estates...which, it is plain, he hath not...nothing... will follow from hence.' He means that the premise that the conqueror has a right to estates is a) false b) unable to imply anything about the long-term nature of government. I don't see that that paragraph is very helpful to you.
      I agree that he does not countenance, at least on the showing of this chapter, the permanent slavery, or exclusion from property rights, of anyone, Jewish, Palestinian, Turkish.
      While I think he does address the question of conquered people still living on the conquered land - he considers that they have the right to regain their freedom and to disregard property claims resting on the basis of conquest - I don't think he really addresses the question of people who have left and made lives elsewhere.
      My own view is that the most consistent application of the idea that rights may arise from consent but not from force implies that (say) Palestinians moving to the UK and taking citizenship there have all (and only) the rights and obligations common to UK citizens: this is a matter of consent on both sides, not of force. I think that they have to accept that this means laying down their right of return to Palestine as citizens, since we in the UK do not have that right and they are on equal terms with the rest of us. But where they have identifiable private property, it is still theirs, in the same way that property in Mexico would be mine had I legitimately inherited it.
      The first owners of Palestine that we (think we) know of, the Canaanites and proto-Philistines of Genesis, have descendants widely scattered. If someone could by some scientific tour de force prove that (s)he was descended from Canaanites of 3000 BCE no political rights would follow, since any such person must have citizenship elsewhere these days. Nor are there title deeds from those days, so individual property rights would not be in question. If the archaeologists discovered a clearly pre-Canaanite civilisation it would not be worth, at least not for political purposes, seeking out its heirs.
      The various other points I made, about trade as a human right etc., seem to stand and not to have been challenged.

    • Trade - in the sense of the ability to sell what is legitimately yours in system not marked by coercion, ie to work without any element of slavery - is clearly a human right. We see this by deduction by the most obvious means from one of the most obvious of moral principles, ie that what you would not wish others to do to you you should not do to them.
      The suspension of rights in the course of war may be mentioned. This can be done in two ways - an absolute dismissal of restraint, roughly in the Hobbesian manner: anyone may do anything to anyone. This may not be as cruel as it looks at first sight: however, it does require the dropping of moral objections to terrorism, by Us or by Them.
      The second way is to claim that normal rights of Them are suspended or modified to the extent that desperate necessity requires, therefore not for the whole duration of the conflict but only for those phases where things are desperate for Us. This involves some continuing respect for proportionality and therefore would be far more available currently to the Gazans than to the Israelis.
      Locke has been mentioned and I would strongly recommend chapter 16 of his Second Treatise, which makes it clear that no rights come from force alone. He thinks that just war gives conquerors rights over war criminals only - though these may be 'despotic' rights - and very much not over their descendants or over those guilty of no personal crime. He does not suggest for a minute that taking over and cultivating the land gives conquerors rights to that land over inhabitants who have been dispossessed. He mentions (para.192, last sentence) the right of the Greeks to free themselves from the Turks. I don't think that anyone could think from the tone of his comments that he believed that a free Greek government would be obliged simply to accept the claimed rights of Turkish landowners, even if they had improved the land's yield. He does, I think, envisage final settlements after war and conquest in which all parties reach consensus - and I think that all this is consistent with his first principles. He was a great thinker and we are all in his debt.

  • 'Telegenically Dead': Israel’s crumbling media war
    • Farrow says that we can condemn passionately what is going on in Gaza without descending into the abyss of anti-Semitism. This is very true, but still offers a way to change the subject to the moral security of Farrow's right to speak and therefore away from the passion with which she speaks. If you're so mindful of the possibility that the subject may quickly change your mind is not full of passion but slightly defensive.

    • I'm glad to hear about Lucy Aharish - the voice, hitherto highly muted, of Palestinian citizens of Israel would be able, if only it would grow a bit louder, to make a very positive contribution. Likewise with the large, but also hitherto muted, voice of Palestinians in the West. I presume that the appearance of Rula J with Chris H was her second relevant one, after the first that cost her several cancelled appearances? That too suggests a slight break in the ice.
      I suppose that there are some inhibiting internal tensions among Palestinians in Israel and abroad?

  • Finally, Israel is alienating the US mainstream media
    • I'd noticed that - also that though some have reported on her remarks no one of any significance in the good old mainstream has even begun to back her up. Meanwhile Ed Miliband (springing from a respected Jewish family) does seem to have become the first mainstream Euro or Anglo leader - perhaps my vision is narrow - to say clearly that he opposes the incursion into Gaza in a statement to Huffington Post UK yesterday.

    • The changes in media attitudes seem to me to be genuine but so far rather marginal. There's a long, long way to go. But the road is not infinitely long.

  • Heathcote Williams: 'An Old Man and a Young Man in Gaza'
    • Quite so, just. I'd only add that there's the same uneasy apathy in the UK. The years of our prime responsibility are further back in time but still very important, maybe one reason why we so much prefer to look the other way and think about something else.

  • In Photos: Worldwide protest against Israeli attack on Gaza (Updated)
    • I have never seen a definition of self-determination, at least as a right which is both political and absolute, which makes much sense - but I'm open to ideas! However, I do know (none of what follows is meant to be ironical or satirical) what the borders of Israel are for those who think of s-d in Zionist style, since a minimalist version of those borders is fairly well delineated in Ezekiel 48. They involve current so-called 'Palestine' plus large chunks of land beyond the Jordan, the territories called Jordan and Syria by some. The Herodian Kingdom encompassed most of them. The kingdom of those times was destroyed by tyrants and marauders and every inch should be restored, all doubtful matters being settled in ways that most undo what those tyrants did. All other arrangements are merely temporary.
      There is some talk of a maximum version, extending from Nile to Euphrates, but these territories were never really secured by the ancient Israelites so their loss cannot be so clearly treated as tyranny and theft, therefore as a violation of s-d. People should just be on notice that if a divine manifestation calling for the restoration of those lands occurs it will have to obeyed, but that is a very long term thing.

    • Justice over centuries is justice only in a rather transcendental sense.

    • Well, I've had experience of a feeling arising from justified indignation moving in a direction where I suddenly recognised an impulse to do something quite excessive and vandal-like towards something symbolic, even quite obliquely symbolic, of 'the other side'. But that was not a life and death matter and the feeling subsided as quickly as it had come. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators at this highly charged moment will be thinking of life and death and if they encounter a symbol of the religion which is used by many people from 'the other side' to justify what is done to them their feelings may escape all the normal restraints. That wouldn't be surprising. Righteous indignation, if continually and violently re-provoked by ever more extreme actions, doesn't stay righteous. Provocateurs may become involved but provocateurs are naturally attracted to situations where feelings already run high and deep. Righteous indignation that doesn't stay righteous in expression does not, of course, cease to be righteous or just in its cause.

    • Occpation is a temporary form of government operated by the winning side in a conflict based on acceptance that the occupier will withdraw completely as soon as there is no hostile army for it to face and as soon as a peaceful restoration of a government based either on the ante-bellum sovereign power, if it still exists, or on representatives elected in the territory concerned, can be arranged. Beyond these limits occupation becomes conquest.

    • I am horribly conscious of the depressing slightness of what I can do by way of words only here in the heedless West. I am not very hopeful of positive change among the Arab regimes, though I am merely an outsider. As to Theodore Wright's 'arc of the moral universe' it suggests a smooth, stately line, like a rainbow. But is it like that? To me the line of moral history has all sorts of sudden and disturbing diversions and switchbacks.

  • Kristof says Stephen Hawking and American Studies Association support Hamas
  • Video: 'It's a hell of a pinpoint operation' -- John Kerry caught criticizing Israel on hot mic during Sunday news show
    • Lots of apoplectic demands for apologies will follow, I suppose, plus lots of insincere offers of same. Everyone knows that the western political leadership doesn't mean what it says but cannot say what it means. To a certain degree I sympathise with the leaders of the violent things going on in the ME in that they keep on demanding forgiveness, admiration and more - 'Say you really love me!!' - keep on being reassured, keep on knowing that these reassurances are hollow at the core, keep on ever more frantically demanding that it all be said again.

  • Israel is in a pickle
    • A ceasefire is a term for an agreement between two sides, whether or not one is overwhelmingly victorious or whether or not they are equally balanced. If one side is, or indeed if both sides are, totally annihilated then hostilities stop but you wouldn't call it a ceasefire.

  • Why I, a Palestinian-American Muslim, went to the White House Iftar and what I learned
    • Yes, it's because there is a political cost in annoying Israeli sympathisers even a little, no political cost in annoying Palestinian sympathisers even a lot. When his memoirs appear he will explain that he didn't really mean it.

  • 'Heartbroken' at 'horrifying' killing of boys, State Dep't says Israel must do more to prevent civilian deaths
    • Perhaps I'm a bit of a defeatist, Krauss, but I don't give up. Well, not a complete defeatist. They will not conquer for ever, but everything will take a long time.

    • I've just said in reply to Citizen that nothing much changes. Here we have a little mousy squeak of distress in the face of a terrible, disproportionate slaughter. Perhaps even that would not have happened last time round but the changes and developments we see are so slight, so transient.

  • And now a word from our Democratic Party standard bearer
    • We keep thinking that something's got to change, to give. But it never much does, not even with this grotesque spectacle unfolding before our eyes.

  • 'We are moving from Iron Dome to an iron fist': Israel launches ground invasion of Gaza
    • If the basic principle is that damage to non-combatants should be limited then it is necessary to maintain some idea a) of abstaining from attacks on normally non-military targets b) of keeping things in proportion. If one side cannot inflict damage anything like in proportion to what it suffers without attacking enemy bases 'disguised' as hospitals and schools then it may perhaps take that terrible step as a 'desperate measure', though even then there must surely be severe restrictions if the basic principle is not to be abandoned altogether. Those restrictions should surely include leaving a large supply of medical facilities etc. intact, even if some are targeted and not acting (as Shingo rightly says) on mere suspicion - which would justify almost anything, ie destroy the basic principle.
      But this whole discussion hardly gets off the ground if the damage you are inflicting is already way greater and out of proportion to what the other side does or can do: the case for any sort of desperate or even abnormal measure is then at its weakest.
      To say that the principle of keeping hospitals etc. out of combat may be set aside in certain circumstances, these circumstances applying least when you are already inflicting destruction over the odds, is also to say that there is more reason to set the principle aside when you are able to inflict destruction far less than the other side is. If anything justifies desperate measures than desperate situations do.
      'Stay put' orders to the civil population were issued, in a very restricted way, by the UK Government in 1940 when faced with invasion. There was a lot of moral ambiguity about that, but then the situation did appear to be desperate.

  • What would you do?
    • As to your reference, Mooser, to 'Mr. Price Tag' - I suppose many people have been victimised by price-taggers but to be patronised by them is rather more rare.

    • I often say that I'm probably descended from both sides in the Welsh-English conflicts of fifth century England, whether they amounted to bloody genocide or merely to peaceful infiltration. Quite likely both sets of ancestors would think my blood shamefully polluted by that of the enemy. On my English side I may well be descended from people who behaved like Israelis (or worse, who knows) but at least the minimum that needed to be done to put things right has been done, that is to say that universal enfranchisement and equal right to hold property and to participate in political life have been conceded. That is surely the very minimum that should be done in Palestine now.
      Modern Americans are descended from those who dispossessed the people they found but they have the right and the duty to ask modern Jewish Israelis to take the steps they have now taken towards putting things right. I concede that the cost to modern white Americans of putting things right for the 'first families' of America was very slight because the survivors of those families were so few, but I don't think that that fact eliminates the duty to call on Israelis to do likewise.

    • The full idea of Zionism is that only Jewish people have 'birthright' in Palestine but others may have a certain right as a result of the generosity of the true heirs. So there is a substantial enfranchised minority of non-Jewish people in the Israeli polity. On Zionist principles, this is remarkable generosity, hardly paralleled in the world - where else are people with no basic entitlement permitted to be full citizens? On other principles, it is making a maddening display of offering people, as if it were a gift, what was always theirs.

  • Jet Blue incident shifts from anti-Semitic story to anti-Palestinian one
    • Maybe these two protagonists, probably both highly educated, could now be drawn into a more temperate discussion.

  • Israeli strike kills four Palestinian children playing soccer on Gaza beach
    • The BBC internet report is now leading with a distressing video whose first image is a dead or injured Gazan child. They do have a reporter on the spot. Everything else in what seems to me to be in very determinedly neutral language. Another inch forward but I suppose another yard or ell backward as the bloody mess on the ground in Gaza continues. As Jenin Y remarks, these individual moments don't mean much without a public campaign to back them up - who now remembers the Pope's isolated gesture beside the Wall of Suffering? People in the West just hate to focus their minds on this matter.

    • But keep contributing to the comments here!

  • The trojan horse of liberal Zionism
    • Still it had, for a long time, almost uncontested popularity in liberal and progressive circles, among the very people who though Blut ideology such a terribly bad idea.
      Actually it's quite hard to think of a Laocoon who tried to warn the left-thinking people of my young days that they were going wrong. Or of a Sinon who sold the Zionist idea to leftish or liberal-minded people knowing full well how utterly contrary to liberalism it was. None was needed. We deceived ourselves.

    • Just to revert to the question of the Trojan Horse. The Troy in question might be left-wing opinion in the West.
      Zionism, to me, is belief in an exclusive right in the Holy Land for people who are Jewish, liberalism or moderate leftism a belief that rights are equal, maybe with minor or temporary exceptions, for all. These are pretty obviously contradictory ideas, so the suggestion that they can be combined is and always has been self-delusive at best, maybe approaching hypocritical - and anything very powerful yet slightly hypocritical is extremely dangerous. Unless, that is, we can appeal to the 'temporary exception' clause.
      The postwar left, of which Chomsky is most distinguished survivor, did believe that creating Israel would be a step, therefore in a way by nature temporary, towards a socialist world. It is hard now to think that this was a seriously and passionately held belief, but I'm sure it was. So much respected were its advocates, so massive was the sympathy with Jewish people, that this idea was warmly welcomed into the citadel, with first a very illiberal and then a very right-wing idea nestling in its belly. Anyone who tried to play the part of Lacoon and warn of danger would find it very hard to avoid being strangled by accusations of anti-Semitism.

    • We're talking, I think, about actions taken without sure knowledge as to effect and consequence, and therefore with a certain probability of hitting an intended or legitimate target and a certain probability of hitting an undesired, ethically forbidden or 'innocent' one. The moral requirement must be that of the three outcomes, legitimate casualties, no casualties and innocent casualties, the first probability be reasonably high and the last be reasonably low. Over the campaign in general it is clear that Israel's policies make it absolutely certain that 'innocents' will die in conspicuously large numbers, and a conspicuously large casualty list is incompatible (on normal assumptions) with a reasonably low probability, in the average incident, that these regrettable casualties will occur. That is to say that the campaign has a reckless aspect.
      Therefore we have to expect each incident to be somewhat reckless unless there is special reason to think it 'reasonable but unfortunate'. It is hard in all the circumstances, including the broad daylight mentioned by lysias, to see a special reason here. Therefore the death-dealing on the Gaza beach seems to be pretty reckless.
      The moral problem with the Hamas rockets is the extremely low probability of their hitting a legitimate target, tempered by the low probability of any casualties at all.

  • Sullivan and Leveretts throw in the towel on two-state solution
    • In spite of all these wise words I still think that a 2ss will at some point - or through a confused process going through many points - arrive, even though it will be very unstable and of course thoroughly unjust. I cannot see any way of getting either to the Israeli or the Palestinian goal - or the Western goal, whatever that is - without a 2s stage.

  • Ceasefire. Tightening the Gordian Knot?
    • Absolutely, Kay, well said. As to what we in the West, with our elastic consciences, really want, I think it's not to be bothered by these people from the East. Just shut up and send us oil, maybe plus a few Jaffa oranges and cherry tomatoes. There is a thin but visible vein of anti-Semitism in our attitudes plus a thicker, coarser vein of anti-Islamism. We're not all bad, of course, but we're not as nice as we think.

  • 'We’re Like Toys for Them': Young Gazans speak about Operation Protective Edge
    • Think what you can conceal under a barrel of coffee, Basilio! There is no end to the sneakiness of some people.

  • Understanding Hamas
    • As to underground things, I've read somewhere recently that Bill Clinton is claiming that he nearly had everything sewn up between Barak and Arafat but that while there were numerous unsolved points the one that really mattered was Arafat's refusal to agree to Israeli sovereignty underneath the Temple Mount. Barak would have let Arafat have the surface, but Arafat wanted the first 16m. down below. Clinton thinks that Barak was right: from somewhere 16m. down the Palestinians could have disrupted 'the Temples'.

  • Not In Our Name: The Jewish duty to stand with the people of Gaza
    • That too is true. I'm not optimistic, though I think that the Palestinian side of the story is no longer completely silenced in the West. It's still little more than a small voice, though.

    • It is true that these admirable people are outnumbered and out-monied. But in every situation of injustice and oppression there are some who are in some way privileged, or insiders, whose role it is to show, in case anyone thought otherwise, that there is nothing wrong with being a member of that group.

  • Out to Kill: Israel’s assault on Gaza is not to stop rocket fire 
    • Well, they've not given up. The authors of the new book are Rubin and Schwanitz. It was mentioned by Robert Fisk in the Independent last week.

    • I think that a book has just been published saying that the Holocaust was all (or at least to a significant degree) the idea of the notorious Mufti, presumably fully authorised by the brutish cohorts of his pretended homeland.

  • Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder says Israel is using our taxes to 'drop bombs on children' and take land
    • Thanks, Walid. The Reuters report talks of 'the EU', though I suppose that really means Germany. Egypt is apparently involved.
      If Gaza gets a major port under Gazan control we will at last have a piece of Palestine which has frontiers rather than a ring of Israeli control points. The nucleus of a 2ss?

  • Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer gives pro-war pep talk to Christian Zionists
  • Palestinian rockets: The conversation no one is having
    • I hope that we will hear much more from you, Pam. People with direct experience are invaluable.

  • Relentless bombing on Gaza continues: Israel kills media worker, 9 people watching World Cup on beach
    • In reply to Donald - to my mind the ethic of Mondoweiss is based, rather admirably, first on rejection of racism and of privilege or exclusion based on race, second on the balance between 'no denial/trivialisation of the Holocaust' and 'no denial/trivialisation of the Nakba'. This would imply rejection, indeed horrified rejection, of any 'name' like 'No more Jews' or 'No more Palestine'.

    • About 'trying to avoid' - no one can be making attempts to ensure that something does not happen when that something is a certain outcome of an intentional activity on that person's part. 'Trying to keep within limits' perhaps, but then the limits set have to be reasonable and likelihood of staying within them fairly high. 'Reasonable limits' are part of the idea of 'proportionate response' which our Zionist contributors tend to disparage.

    • Not sure it was that bad - seemed to be saying that despite the puny nature of the military resources of Gaza 'the Israeli military' was not certain to have everything its own way. I suppose there is bias in the contrast between a regular army and an irregular militia, people seeming to think that the former is always morally superior, but we're used to that, I suppose.

  • Terrifying tweets of pre-Army Israeli teens
    • I don't live in a conflict zone either, though I did experience the IRA years in England. However, I do think moral comment from outside is of value. Many conflicts have a 'war of ideas' international aspect, the Palestine conflict more than most.

  • State Dep't says Israel has a right to defend itself, but can't say the same of Palestinians
    • The more ruthless philosophies may say that annihilation of the enemy - physical annihilation or annihilation as a political force - is a legitimate aim of military operations if it can be achieved. Even that logic, though, implies that if you cannot achieve that level of success you will have to live with the present enemy in the future and therefore should not give indefinite reason for revenge to be taken on you, meaning that you should to some significant degree be slow to anger and choose de-escalation - some chance will always arise - rather than ratcheting-up.

  • Why is Mohammed Abu Khdeir's death different from all other Palestinian deaths?
    • Law that is merely international is not worth much, I suppose, compared with law that is solemnly laid upon humanity by God Almighty. The astonishing thing is that people who make a big point of not believing in God Almighty seem to believe that this solemn law exists.

    • I've just been suggesting on another thread that whatever evil is in killing is compounded if the killing is preceded by abduction, there then being something horrifying intimate about the infliction of death. So, as you suggest, is relentless taking of lethal action in which real children, those in a state of dependence and unable to take decisions for themselves, are all but certain to be caught up.

  • The Israeli culture of vengeance on full display
    • I often bore you by saying that Occupation is not morally wrong, provided that there is from the beginning a clear intention to return the territory in question either to its former government or to a new one representing the inhabitants who were there when the occupation occurred. What we have here is not really occupation but conquest.

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