Commenter Profile

Total number of comments: 4145 (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 4145 - 4101

  • Pappé on apartheid, ideology, Chomsky, and the contradictions of "liberal Zionism"
    • If the idea of Zionism is to make claims to the Holy Land which are exclusively on behalf of people who are Jewish then there can be no variant or version of Zionism which accepts the partition of the Land because any partition would constitute an acceptance of the right, in some sense the equal right, of certain non-Jewish people to ecost there.
      If the idea of Zionism had been to put two equal rights into equal effect then nothing like what has actually happened could have been done
      in its name.

  • God is on Israel's side, but not the United States, says Israel's new U.N. ambassador
    • I probably can't bring myself to read such stuff but it just shows, if this appears even now, how the likes of us still have very little on our side within mainstream opinion. Except being right. That' always worth something.

    • Josephus, struggling with the ideas that Abraham was an exemplar of justice and that he appeared to have disinherited his sons other than Isaac, decided that it had been more of distribution than a disinheritance - the Hagarites were left Arabia in Abraham's will, the sons of Keturah were authorised to found colonies in Yemen, the land of the troglodytes, leaving the Holy Land for Isaac. (Birgit van der Lans in 'Abraham, the Nations and the Hagarites' edited by Martin Goodman.). This is part of a fundamental problem, as I see it (if a Christian may say such things), in Jewish theology, which sets the Jews the task, not shared with others, of leading humanity back to God, it being impossible that all the nations should 'be added to Yahweh' until the last days. So there must, in everyone's interest, be both kinship and alienation. Some very complicated theological narratives result!
      The initial Christian response was to change the timetable somewhat, with the nations being available for addition to the true religion, therefore into acknowledged kinship with Jews, when the last days were approaching, rather than arrived. There had to be an agonising reappraisal when the fall of the Temple did not provoke God to bring the last days on. Jewish colleagues may think that Christians began with a rash re-reading of scripture and that things got worse from there.
      You may think this fanciful, but in a sense I think of Zionism (like Sabatianism before it) as another move in the same theological game. This time human kinship was to be expressed in the generosity of the true heirs to the Holy Land, who would permit others to be around with all the grace and goodwill that was possibly consistent with their own security - and they cannot understand how this attitude to people who have, as God most literally knows, no right to be there, is treated with such brutish ingratitude.

    • There was a version of one of these slogans on a car, reading Obama is Antchrist. Someone remarked that this was good news for our insect friends.

  • Calling Herzog and liberal Zionism ‘racist,’ Gideon Levy instigates a reckoning
    • My view of Zionists is that they hold to an ideology which is very damaging to many people, therefore a serious matter, and above all morally mistaken, the mistake being demonstrable rationally from the best established and recognised principles - approximately those expounded in Locke's Second Treatise, for those interested in such things.
      By Zionism I mean the belief that Jewish people and they only have an inherent right - commonly called 'birthright' - to a share in sovereignty over the Holy Land. I'll work with other definitions if anyone proposes one, but that's the one I'm using for now. I believe it's fairly apt for the practice of Israeli governments and their defenders.
      Bornajoo may not share all my ideas but I imagine that he and I are not far apart. I cannot see that he can with the least reason be accused of even verging on prejudice for his remarks here, rational opposition to false ideas not being expressions of prejudice. If we oppose an idea we are at variance with all who uphold the idea, the whole relevant group. What else? I can't oppose Flat Earthism but not, in the relevant respects, oppose some whose beliefs place them in the Flat Earther category. Opposition means arguing that they are wrong in the relevant respects, not of course claiming that all members of the group are wrong about other matters, nor that they're all-round bad people all the time.
      However, to consider an idea false is to consider any idea which is a version of the first one false also. If the earth is not flat then all versions of the idea that it is flat are false also.

  • Abbas’s resignation from PLO could mean consolidation of power, ouster of rival
    • The headline might better have read 'alleged resignation' - he's never meant anything by these promises/threats before and it's not likely that he's about to start now. He's certainly in a situation where colleagues and protégés evolve into rivals but it does rather look as if no serious rival has emerged and that there's no alternative ideology or policy being debated. The same seems to be true in Israel, I suppose.

  • A year after Shipman lost his Yale job for speaking out on Israel's actions, some Jews say the same thing
    • In the UK there was a recent Guardian article, citing information from the Community Security Trust, which is certainly not prone to minimise the problems of Jewish people. It covers anti-Jewish incidents over Athe decade to, as I remember, 2014. It cites a few cases of what it calls extreme violence but it does not use phrases like lethal violence or homicide.
      There are about 600 homicides in the UK per year, thus 6000 per decade and our Jewish population is about 0.5% - I think both these figures are slight underestimates. If the risk to Jewish citizens were about average then there should have been about 30 homicides over the decade with British Jewish victims and even given a margin for uncertainty about who counts as British and Jewish the figure seems to be, even if we do not say it was zero, very significantly lower than 30 (I think that there was an Israeli Jewish victim of the 7/7 bombings in 2005.)
      I think that this is a reflection of the way that British Jews live in good areas, a result of their high status socially and in terms of education, a status of which they can legitimately be proud - though it also reflects somewhat well on the liberalism of British society in respect of racial monorities. I believe that things would not be too different elsewhere in Western Europe. Things would clearly be worse in terms of statistically predictable security in the Unitec States and in Israel, which has a very slightly higher himicide rate than France or the UK and where the percentage of homicide victims who are Jewish must be higher, considering the much greater Jewish proportion of the population.

  • One year later, Gaza is still in crisis
    • If you are ready to inflict a lot of suffering, why would that be? Advantage and profit could form a plausible reason. If you are ready to endure much by way of suffering and death, why would that be? That the people inflicting all that stuff are wicked oppressors who should be resisted at great cost is an explanation that deserves to be considered quite seriously.

  • Etgar Keret sometimes worries about what's happening to Palestinians
    • Good for Ms. McCollum! I don't know the exact provisions of the Leahy law, but it does seem, if the Times of Israel has it right, that proceedings have been started against the police officer responsible: does that mean that he has nor acted 'with impunity' and does that get Israel off the Leahy hook?

  • 51 Christian faith leaders urge Congress to vote for Iran Deal
    • There still seems to be some ambiguity about whether they are expressing the policy of their organisations or their personal views. I'm pretty sure that few Evangelicals share these views. The Catholic signatories seem on the whole to be rather marginal in their chuch - Mayknoll and suchlike honourable but hardly typical people - no bishops.

  • Hockenberry skewers Menendez for double standard on Israeli nukes and killings of civilians
    • Not a surprise, I suppose, that the Zionist claim to the whole of the Holy Land, which entails that there can be nowhere in that territory which is not under the sovereignty of a Jewish state or not available for ownership by Jewish individuals or organisations, should be ringingly reaffirmed. But where Rivlin really stands and what Cole calls paternalistic Zionism really amounts to is a complete mystery.

    • There is something to the argument that democracy, mass voting, is more likely to have rational results than theocracy, a form of oligarchy where religion has exceptional influence. However, that margin of difference is not very comforting when it comes to the terrifying question of nukes. It may even be that the religious principles of the theocrat cause some restraint. It may well be that democratic voters are prone to panic and rage or dangerous sullen anger in some circumstances. It may very well be that ideas based on religion or on a text commonly regarded as sacred have such influence, as they do in Israel and even in the United States, that democracy may be little different from theocracy in the rationality of its decisions.
      The NPT is highly flawed but worth keeping for now. It is viciously undermined if distinctions are drawn so that proliferation is permitted to regimes of which we approve.

  • End of lockstep US Jewish support for Israel is a triumph not a tragedy
    • The Wilipedia article on Gog includes - interestingly - copious references from Islamic literature (will theologians in Gaza argue that Netanyahu is the real Gog and Israel the genuine Magog?) and a terrifying speech by Ronald Reagan in 1971 that must be one of the sources for Bush's later pronouncements. Remarkable how these assonant names have captured so many imaginations.
      It's often regarded as a revision of the main text of Ezekiel, reflecting a phase when the main enemy was to the north - Maccabean times, perhaps. Whether it is particularly absurd among religious imaginings, as piotr suggests, I don't know. I would ask Bible readers to note that this is not the whole of Ezekiel, who at one point calls for acceptance of non-Jewish inhabitants of the Holy Land as what we might call fellow-citizens. Also,, if we are to take the text in a pretty literal spirit, how could we even think that it is being fulfilled when no leaders (or country with a leader, depending on how you read) with the (surely essential) assonant names have as yet appeared?

  • Over 1,000 Black activists, scholars and artists sign statement supporting freedom and equality for Palestinian people
    • Like just I worry about the condescending tone. Would Black (or other) activists who think it important to oppose oppression of the Palestinians (or anyone else) in public fashion decline to work with someone who has a) followed that very imperative for a long time b) made public statements sometimes through suspect media? The problem for the activists would be that these statements, though made in a good cause, may add legitimacy to bad people - bad precisely because they wish to damage the activists' own core supporters, on whose behalf they speak.
      They would, I think, not decline to work with that person if they were morally consistent. The imperative 'Speak!' does not naturally have an exception clause calling for silence when bad people are around, particularly not when you may suffer some damage for it: the whole idea of a moral imperative to help others is that you accept the risk of some damage to yourself.
      They should also reflect on the fact that the person concerned is ex hypothesi miles ahead of them morally, having been acting on the principle they have adopted long before they did. I too reflect that I was much slower than others in these things.

    • I was visiting my family in the United States at the time (back again today: great country!) and saw the incident unfold. Samantha Power of all people was heard to say that Clinton was a monster and I thought there was truth in it. I now suspect that Clinton calmed her own conscience by telling herself that she was resisting anti-Semitism. Both the sheer outrageous cynicism of the event and the terrifying way in which the ME issue lay just beneath the surface, not clearly faced, deeply shook me.
      If Wright had remained in touch with Obama then some legitimacy would have been given to those Black intellectuals who do not favour Zionism and progressive Jewish groups would have drawn close to them. This is the very force which we see rallying now, the subject of this article. We talk about the effect on Obama himself but we should think also of the effect on Wright and his cohorts, who were knocked into the middle of next week amid the general assumption that they were crazy irresponsible big mouths at very best. It's taken them all these years to come back.

    • I thought at the time that the Jeremiah Wright business was really the intrusion of the ME problem into the Clinton/Obama contest - it was the grand attempt to divide Obama from his Jewish supporters and donors. Obama had to reassure them with promises that he had to keep and that was the moment when he gained the world and lost a chunk of his soul. In return he received hollow assurances that Israel would be reasonable and make steady progress towards the half-mythical 2ss.

  • Aftermath of Iran Deal: a divided lobby, but Biden's camp says he has 'Jews'
    • A YouGov poll puts our support for the deal at 66:9. Mind you, it's even more true in Britain than in America that not many people are reLly aware of the matter. But the ability of Israel to influence the constitutional process has no parallel outside the United States.

  • Leading Israeli journalist says Israel is an Apartheid state
    • I think we know about this from certain clumsy interventions on Mondoweiss, designed to get us to say that we hate and despise Jewish people and celebrate Hitler"s birthday. I wonder if some of those sent to 'study' the likes of us will see that we are absolutely not what they were trained to think we were.

  • Meeting Jimmy Carter
    • The rhythms of Blaine's denunciation reminded me of Vachel Lindsay's 'Congo' - 'Listen to the yell of Leopold's ghost/burning in hell for his hand-maimed host!' I can't put President Carter quite on the same plane as King Leo, though his doomed effort to prop up the Shah was indeed a bad mistake morally and tactically. But the Cold War did dreadful things to all of us.
      I believe Italian ex-pat is expatriated in Boston. If you've time to recommend an Italian restaurant there suitable for a British visitor who honeymooned in Venice I'm sure Phil would forward a note.

  • Can Holocaust compensation agreements be a model for Nakba reparations?
    • They left, surely, because they were vicious anti-Semites who neglected their obvious duty to remain in a war zone in order to facilitate, by their absence, the destruction of the survivors of Hitler! And these very people are supposed to have some kind of rights? But then again, you're right, they never existed.

  • Roundtable on the Palestinian solidarity movement and Alison Weir
    • I don't think that it is supporters of the Palestinian cause who need to make an effort not to be racist. The Palestinians are deprived of their rights because of their race and ancestry. If we object to this kind and manner of deprivation as plainly immoral then we are committed to oppose the playing of the same trick against Jews. Opposition to all the works of anti-Semitism is in our logical DNA.
      Many, many efforts will of course be made to split Jewish from non-Jewish pro-Palestinians. Our noble Jewish friends would by themselves be an in-house heretical group to be slowly worn down by peer pressure. We non-Jewish non--Zionists would by ourselves be much more conveniently assailed and overwhelmed by accusations that we are junior Hitlers.

    • The most important point is that AW has never departed from universal principle by calling for inequality on grounds of race. The idea that we call for equal rights for Palestinians because we want some form of racist inequality is essentially grotesque. Policing each other in case we turn out to embody what we oppose is not resisting hostile rhetoric but facilitating it.

    • I think that helpful perspective on blood libel may be gained from M.R. James' magnificent, disturbing and distressing ghost story 'Lost Hearts', though that story has no Jewish dimension. The bad character is someone whose scholarly researches into the ancient world have drawn him into necromancy and have destroyed his moral balance in the process. The story is disturbing because it reminds us of the darker side of the early Western world which we have come to think of as the place where rational science and morality began to flourish.
      The children who are murdered are of course selected so as not to involve the magician with suspicious or vengeful families. One is a gypsy, wandering alone: though the story is short, it generates intense pathos around this character. The magician has forgotten that ghosts who have lost their hearts can grow claws and so he suffers their vengeance.
      It would not be surprising if medieval Jewish people had some involvement in necromancy, not because they were unlike non-Jews but because they inhabited much the same thought-world. If they needed victims they would look outside their own enclosed community. Quite likely non-Jewish necromancers would have looked with an evil eye on Jewish children, who would have been beyond all help once abducted from the ghetto.
      I presume that Toaff discovered some signs of the same people's having both an interest in necromancy and a desire for revenge after the murder of their families by crusaders. This might have been just another piece of historical research had Mr.Foxman not detected an insult. But of course both vengefulness and occultism are part of the human condition.

    • If the main justification for severing contact with an individual is that we need a defence against claims that we are anti-Semitic I would say that it won't work. We must expect these claims to be made often but almost never by someone who will explain what (s)he means by the word. The beginning of a right response is to ask for the meaning and take it from there: if the argument remains logical the claims, if made against rational objections to Zionism, are guaranteed to collapse in short order.
      The rhetoric of a anti-anti-Semitism in the Zionist cause is designed to transform accused into accuser: people emphasising the allegedly Jewish character of Israel claim, when there is complaint against injustice and cruelty to Palestinians, the prior right to accuse and judge those who complain. All defensive reactions - 'Of course I'm not anti-Semiitic! I can prove it!' - amount to accepting the rhetoric and permitting the change of subject at which it is aimed. You'll never prove it enough - and severances of contact with one individual will only lead to calls for more and more of the same against more and more people on the Zionists' ever-growing Little List.
      The tactical case for rejecting AW is not very strong.
      The moral case for rejecting anti-Jewish prejudice is always there, of course.

  • President Obama wants us to argue about the special relationship
    • For me, Tokyo is raising the question of common cause: if opposition to Zionism amounts to making common cause with a theocratic group - for the sake of argument an extremist and cruel one - can we still oppose Zionism? Similarly, could a reasonable person have opposed Tsarism if there was excellent reason to think that Stalinism would ensue?
      I would begin my reply by saying that the 'fundamental oppression' (Beinart's phrase, though he sees it only in the Territories) of Zionism does not cease to exist now because of other oppression that might exist in the future. So a degree of opposition to present oppression is necessary in all circumstances, even if the oppressors scorn us, at the level of morality. So that degree of common cause is inevitable.
      However, there is an equal moral duty to remind the theocratic opponents of Z, even if they're not listening, that we do not share their aims. At the level of practical politics there are a couple of principles that strike me. One is to be prepared for compromise and non-hasty transitions: there's never any point in trying to put everything right in one day. The other is to be careful about believing the propaganda of the existing regime about how awful its opponents actually are.

  • From Gaza to Oxford: persistence triumphs over tyranny
  • It's not bigoted to call out the Israel lobby over Iran Deal
    • Events like the panic against Japanese Americans in 41 may be in the past and may be regarded as shameful but certain restrictions on civil liberties are still very much with us. Your view is that back in the day the bad instincts were but ghosts and shadows of a half-forgotten past until the example and propaganda of Israel made them undead. Hophmi says they were part of a vigorous and authentic tradition. I'm not quite as confident as you are that Hophmi is wrong on that point, though I'm sure that in any event Israel's example is extremely powerful and effective. I have long thought that even the sunny America of back then had a deep streak of insecurity and that the rule of law and the power of common sense could not survive a sustained terrorist campaign, if one ever happened.
      That may sound as if I'm backhandedly praising the UK. That's not my intention. American politics can be frightening but that's not the whole story. We're setting out for Boston next week, that liberating place.

    • The claim that the United States has often restricted civil liberties is not a reason for excusing Israel or anyone for taking analogous action, if that is what they do - though the claim that the U.S. has done this kind of thing quite rightly (which I'm not sure that anyone is making) would be a reason. The important thing in the end is whether the examples actually set by the U.S., Israel or both are reasonable or not. If Israel is in fact following others down the primrose path that is not a good thing about Israel.

    • The question of who first acted in a certain way does not settle the question of who is setting the pace now; nor does the fact that we can identify the agent who acted first preclude the possibility that several agents are egging each other on, that one is exceptionally determined and that the other might pause if less strongly influenced.

  • Rightwing Israeli violence on the rise as leader calls for arson attacks on churches
    • Lev 18:22 is a bit puzzling, written in such strange language that what it forbids is rather uncertain, perhaps deliberately so. There is no biblical record of punishment's being exacted under this clause: perhaps it was not really meant to be actionable. However, we of the Christian persuasion have to reckon with the heavy echo of this verse in Epistle to the Romans 1:16 - 17. Liberal Jewish colleagues have my sympathy.

  • Shocker: 'NYT' runs front page press release for AIPAC warning Obama to cool his jets
    • I do take Shalev literally, though he uses literal statement for sarcastic effect. He's saying that some bigoted anti-Semitic statements are being made but that their importance is being grossly overstated and that far more horrible language is being used in the process, such as 'Jew-baiting dog whistle', which is indeed the most disgusting term I have seen recently used in what purports to be serious discourse. He quite rightly says that a politician should not be a) allowed to boast of an affiliation, b) allowed to protest when someone who opposes what he's doing draws attention to his boast. Perhaps he is a liberal Zionist and if so no doubt fails along with all the rest to make the L and the Z consistent, but that doesn't stop him from exposing the contradictions of others quite incisively.

  • University of Illinois Chancellor steps down as judge upholds Salaita lawsuit against school on 1st amendment grounds
    • Thanks, Echino. The meaning of my words, ivri, was that I wished views of which I disapprove, including Zionist views, to be expressed freely and without fear. Same for views of which I do approve, of course. I hope we're in agreement here.

    • I very much hope that all strongly held opinions will be voiced in classrooms without fear, Zionist ones not excepted. I rather think that this is indeed a victory over the forces of fear and that next time this kind of question arises it will the university authorities who have to pause and reflect rather than press the censorship button..

  • Leading US Jewish group opposes Iran deal, citing 'baseless hatred' of Jerusalem temple destruction 2000 years ago
    • I think that the JCRC is somewhat misrepresented. They're claiming to respect the views of those Jewish people who support Obama and to acknowledge their duty to avoid the baseless hatred = mutual hostility among Jewish people that led, in their view to the Temple's fall. They're not referring to hatreds in non-Jewish hearts. Mind you, I think that this degree of emphasis on Jewish solidarity - when after all they are American citizens discussing American policy - is disturbing.
      Johannesburg b Zakkai has been mentioned - he was a leader of the peace party and seems to have judged the Romans to have been more reasonable than the Jewish Zealots, which is a point of view worth recalling.
      The faction that took over Masada had, as well as I recall, been thrown out of Jerusalem before the Romans arrived. Josephus thought that they were exceptionally obnoxious.

  • AIPAC taking all but 3 freshmen Congresspeople to Israel in effort to sabotage Iran deal
    • I think that 'prejudice against Jews' is useful as a definition of anti-Semitism. It's a possible state of mind, heaven knows. At that rate all purported reasons and pretexts are compatible with the definition. People may use words as they like, but for my part I wouldn't add 'as an ethnic group' - there can be prejudice whose scope is religious or other. I wouldn't say 'prejudice or hatred', since hatred without prejudice would be (if it were to exist; I don't say it does) rational. I agree that anti-Jewish sentiment is a very weak force compared with liberal and pro-Jewish sentiment in the Western world these days.

  • Understanding the Partition plan
    • I agree absolutely with tree that no Israeli government will accept Palestinians as equal beings, in that the whole idea of Zionism is exclusive rights for Jewish people in the whole of the Holy Land. That is to say that all varieties of Zionism prohibit all solutions except the departure of the Palestinians for ever.
      If things changed to the point where there was an agreement signed and genuinely accepted one evening, with green-line Israel as one party, genuinely accepting the right of Palestinians to exist in Palestine, there would the next morning be two states. But it would not be the last word, since the screaming unfairness of the partition could not defended once the Palestinian right had been agreed. That is why it will not be agreed for a long time and why the road ahead is so long, dark, tedious and stony - for the Palestinians horrifically painful, for likes of us in the West dismaying, maddening and sad.

  • The burning of a Palestinian child: not an exception, but a result of Zionism
    • The current 'front-runner' for Labour Party leadership, Jeremy Corbyn, has long advocated the Palestinian cause, for which of course I admire him though I'm not a socialist and don't share his economic outlook. If he is elected he will face a coup from the Blairites and I'm sure that accusations of anti-Semitism will play their dire part. I suspect that the coup will succeed but that the Palestine issue will be brought into our mainstream more than before.

  • Did the BBC cover up the anti-Semitism of Gaza's children?
    • I think that anti-Semitism is a reasonable term for prejudice against Jews - not the same as rational objection to the actions of people who are in fact Jewish.
      If people whose families have been eliminated by people who are in fact Jewish identify those responsible as Jewish people their statement is not untrue: that it results from prejudice rather than rational observation of fact is quite hard to argue.
      Which is not to deny that prejudice against Jewish people sadly exists and should be rebutted wherever it is found.
      That this choice of words somehow makes the children of Gaza guilty people, with no good reason to object to what has been done to them or their relatives, is a preposterous and monstrous idea.

  • The extremism of the center in Israel
    • I would think that the proclaimed resort to administrative detention is mostly an admission that they will not be able to identify and convict the perpetrators by normal legal means - and we all know that the difficulty resides in the quasi-independence of the settlements and their iron code of omerta in these circumstances. How useless law is when governments give fundamental approval to people who fundamentally despise the law. So a few people, who may or may not include the real perps, will be detained for what will have to be a short time, since they will have good legal representation and good political support, and will then return gloating to their homes to the hero's welcome that we will watch - they will see to it that television screen worldwide display the spectacle - with horror and stupefaction, however well we knew that it was coming.
      Obama will praise the sincerity and effectiveness of Israeli efforts against terrorism from all sides.

  • Leading American writer Abulhawa is denied entry to Palestine
    • What are the responsibilities of embassies and consulates in respect of citizens denied entry to a foreign country?

    • I too don't want to replace one form of ethnic nationalism or racism with another but I think that Susan's implication - that there is something not only objectively wrong with the situation but also (somehow) subjectively on the conscience of the interrogator and exposed by consideration of who has 'roots' in what soil - was fully justified. The bluster and bravado of some, like Mr. Shavit's 'standing with the damned', is scar tissue over a troubled conscience. (Were the interrogator's thick layers of makeup an admission that she knows there's something wrong when she looks at her own naked face?)
      Sovereign states have the legal right to exclude people but it would still be morally wrong to exclude people on the ground that they were, say, Jewish. What's happening here I think is that someone well known as a writer was kept out because negative reports would have resulted from her visit. She's been limited to writing about her own ill-treatment and that is not as powerful as writing about the ill-treatment of others. Sovereign exclusion of people on the ground that they will say bad things about you is morally very questionable, like exclusion on grounds of race, and is itself the sign of a wounded conscience. Goading and provoking people into being rude and uncooperative so as to have an excuse to exclude them is also a mean and miserable thing.
      If Germans had been treated like Palestinians by Turks and you were trying to get in and being fairly firmly humiliated then you would not do wrong by exaggerating the number of your cousins. I have only three. Mind you, if you start counting second cousins numbers can escalate.

  • Amnesty: Israel committed war crimes in retaliation for capture of Israeli soldier
    • I thought that Finkelstein showed that the Amnesty report should be treated with some caution but not that it was worthless. If Amnesty is about to condemn Palestinian self-defence, ie I suppose argue to the effect that there is nothing that they can do which is legitimate, then I think we should consider that argument very carefully.

  • In wake of January attacks, French Muslims have been demonized in manufactured 'clash of civilizations'
    • Just to say that I believe in freedom of speech for everyone, meaning that the laws of every society should see to it, as well as they are able, that no one should be punished as a criminal or subject to private violence or vengeance because of the content of their ideas. I think that there may be limitation on the choice of times and places where ideas are to be expressed, so as to preserve public peace, relationships in the workplace and so on.
      There may well be restrictions on the use of megaphones and such like: no one should be compelled to listen. The other side of this is that if I don't like what I hear I can walk away or if I wish to I can answer back, myself having free speech too.
      I have sometimes had bad things said about me and I have wanted the people concerned to shut up and wanted this quite badly. This doesn't give me the right to destroy or disturb public peace by using force. In very extreme circumstances there are laws about libel etc.m but these can be very damaging themselves.
      I note with great concern that the UK government is moving towards prohibition of 'extremism without violence' and I can see that the proposition that Zionism is morally illegitimate, which I consider to be true, could in some circumstances be regarded as extremist. But then I want the likes of Pamela Geller to be allowed her say too, even though I have little intention of listening to such, meaning that I want the option of showing impatience or even contempt by ignoring her remarks or the opportunity to answer them should I choose. I can neither ignore or answer what has been kept from me by censors.

  • Israeli general likens attack on Gaza towers to 9/11 attack, as 'symbol'
    • 'What is significant is the significance' - well, yes. The falling tower is indeed a great symbol of death - functions as such in the Tarot pack, I think - a reminder even to survivors that they are surrounded by an annihilating power and have no future.

  • It's time for American Jews to recognize they have been duped
    • I agree with rosross that colonies were sometimes a constructive thing. There's no moral obligation to stay where you are. Perhaps the Sicilians gained in the end from the Greek foundation of Syracuse: they weren't expelled from Sicily as a result. 'Nomads' may gain from having cities to trade with. However, I think that everyone in the ancient world knew as well as we do that dispossession and seizure for yourself are wrong, even if quite widely practised. The Bible's elaborate justifications of Joshua's conquest as the result of an absolutely unique divine decree demonstrates how conquest has always shocked normal morality for as far back as we know.

    • Page: 41
    • 'Jews pointing out the evil behaviour of other Jews' is a major Biblical, prophetic theme., as Marc Ellis could remind us. Some may say that this theme has encouraged non-Jews to be a anti-Semitic but it is much more Importamt to my mind that it has made many people admire, even if they do not entirely share the moral position from which the prophets speak - the self-critical, morally objective tone that these denunciations have imparted to Hebrew literature. Avigail rather beautifully combines the style of prophet and therapist.

    • Ahab certainly existed and might in some ways be regarded as a hero of Israel. The rather beautiful Kurkh Monolith in the British Museum records his participation in 'the Alliance of Twelve Kings' which stopped the Assyrian westward advance in 853 BCE. He made one of the largest military contributions, including 2000 chariots. He is portrayed in Kings as an oppressive ruler, particularly in respect of Naboth's Vineyard!

    • Thanks for kind word, Avigail. Sibiriak is absolutely right about liberal imperialism - the idea that empire is justified as a huge improvement on local despotism. Perhaps this idea is echoed whenever anyone says 'Only democracy in ME', though even then it's a distorted sort of echo since any idea that democracy has come to the ME in general under Israel's influence is not being affirmed but very emphatically denied. There may be many better fates than subjection to a local despot but it's hard to argue that being driven out and dispossessed is one of them.

    • England had been settled and colonised many times before we decided to do it to everyone else. An origin in colonialism, even in dispossession and oppression, is not quite the same thing as continuing practice of oppression: no one descended from the Welsh who resisted English colonists is now subject to a sovereign power that disfranchises him/her, the condition of the mass of Palestinians now. Still, it's indeed true that the origins are not forgotten and that many people in the West sympathise with Israel for 'imperialist' reasons, sensing that it is a continuation of their own actions as the more powerful and superior (at least in its own self-image) civilisation. They may not be duped into thinking this - the continuity, alongside many very special features, is objectively there.
      The real duping/self-deception has lain in treating the Zionist project as a genuine continuation not of the imperialist but of the liberal and socialist traditions of the West, traditions often developed and advocated by Jewish thinkers and poliiticians. Israel was to be the model progressive society that we all should follow,though the element of dispossession and oppression was so obvious from the very beginning. Perhaps there had always been more inconsistency and self-deception in Western statements of idealism than we like to admit.

  • Israeli forces kill West Bank man, 53, when he rushes to aid of sons during night raid
    • That's very interesting, Bumblebye, thanks for info! A few years ago Livni was unable to enter because of 'private prosecution' threats a la Pinochet and as I remember the government legislated to make all such prosecutions subject to its own seal of approval. Were they afraid of the publicity around vetoing prosecution of war criminals and for that reason 'deported' the high level Israelis concerned? Or were they on a spying mission as abc suggests?

  • Christian Zionists expose their anti-Semitism at conservative summit in Iowa
    • I think of anti-Semitism as prejudice (ie not rational argument) against at least some things characteristically Jewish. This would make way for prejudice based on religion rather than race to be regarded as anti-Semitic alongside its more racist counterpart. I don't share the problems that some here have with terms referring to racial or religious prejudice by mentioning its victims. There is reason to distinguish anti-Semitism from Anglophobia.
      You may think that it is characteristic of Jews, people who are of another religion or descended from those who were of that religion, not to be Christian: even if that characteristic does not apply to all individuals within the Jewish category.
      It's clearly debatable whether the opinion that God intends to reject or punish the generality of human beings, Jews not excepted, unless they embrace the Christian faith, is in itself rational enough to be the basis for a properly argued view: if it is, the inclusion of Jews with humanity in general is not anti-Semitic.
      If that opinion is itself too absurd to be accepted as the basis for an argument which is rational overall (some would say this of all theology) then it represents prejudice in all its applications, not less anti-Semitic because it is equally prejudiced against a lot of others. After all, if I can't stand Jews, Muslims and bridge-players then I'm not less prejudiced against one group because I'm against the others too.
      There's no logical difficulty in anti-Semite's being a Zionist: if one thinks 'Jews don't belong here' then it's quite possible to think that they should be encouraged to take possession elsewhere.

  • Responding to Gershom Gorenberg's 'Atticus Finch principle of Israeli history'
    • It's quite true, as Gorenberg would have it, that Israel was regarded as a wonderful progressive experiment in social democracy, leading the world to a better future. The popular Western reaction to 68 proves that - only later did doubts emerge. At the same time right-wingers could value Israel as a bulwark against Stalinism. Zionism has always had a remarkable ability to appeal right across the political spectrum and across the religious spectrum, from evangelical to atheist.
      Even more remarkable since the basic principle of Zionism, exclusive rights for people who are Jewish in Palestine, has not even the slightest foundation in commonly accepted moral ideas.

  • If Americans support Iran deal, 56-37, what gives Israel the power to 'croak' it?
    • I suppose that most Jewish people in the United States still have a Democratic loyalty. It's interesting that most Jewish people in the United Kingdom seem to be quite committed to the Conservative Party.

    • Definition in Aristotle's tradition is 'per genus et differentiam' . In one famous example, you take a larger group - animals- and mention that some members of this group have a special characteristic or 'specific difference', ie they normally have two legs and no feathers. This specific group or subset is called 'human'. There's no problem at all, no silliness, in thinking of 'the rest of the animal kingdom': in this system, the definition of each species automatically defines, though it does not necessarily label or name, the 'complementary' species, the rest of the genus, as well.

  • How long will I have to convince liberals that Palestinians matter?
    • Which illustrates the problem of forming alliances. If people do not respond to the moral power of the cause they are uncertain allies. If we have to convince them that there's something in it for them we may find it hard to make the argument: for whom in the western world would a free Palestine bring tangible benefits in short order? If we have to convince them that they will face no short-term inconvenience - 'divisiveness' etc. - the job looks all but impossible. Our road ahead looks very long.

  • St. Louis Jews call on ADL to cancel honor to police
    • Thanks, WJ! My idea was that in any event there isn't much 'guilt by association' with Lazare because he was not on any reasonable understanding an anti-Semite.
      Ms.Weir also says - I think in her own voice! - that she dislikes the Marxist-Abunimahist idea of explaining everything as 'settler-colonialism'. There too I sympathise with her.

    • That's a very fair summary of many of the issues about Alison Weir, Annie.
      In the unlikely event of my being asked to speak for Palestine on an anti-Semitic show I would decline. However I would not shun someone who took the view that getting out the message is everything - but Mooser's also right to say that it's up to the various organisations concerned to make rules about the coalitions they'll accept.
      On the Bernard Lazare question: if Ms.Weir puts herself beyond the pale by quoting Lazare c.1890 there must be something beyond-pale about Lazare himself. I would be sorry if that view were taken. Lazare had something of Alison Weir's ability to fall out with former allies but he was not at all inclined to let the anti-Semites get away with it. He joined the Dreyfus fray when many others, including many Jewish people, were still hanging back. His view that Jewish culture based on Shammaism and the Talmud rather than on the Bible was understandably alienating to others is certainly questionable at every point but I don't think it is outrageous.

  • Press can't justify red carpet for Oren tract and blackout for Blumenthal's 'definitive account' of Gaza
    • Thanks, Kris!

    • If it's being suggested that Giles is an undercover Zionist I must say that I do not have that impression - and I'm not entirely unsuspicious (I expressed scepticism about Princess a few days ago) in these things.
      We do have some evidence from the UK in the form of two polls by Survation, which is one of the recognised polling firms surely following all the professional standards, one conducted in March and one in April, first measuring Brit Jewish attitudes to the Israeli election and then to our own election. Survation states that they approached people likely to be Jewish on demographic indicators agreed with Jewish leaders and academics and conducted the survey only among those who self-identified as Jewish.
      This method is certainly rather hit and miss but then the objective basis for classifying someone as Jewish or not is always open to dispute. It does seem to create a research group where practising religious Jews are likely to be overrepresented. I doubt if Mr. Luntz can do better: still, I would think that the method is not completely untrustworthy.
      The results (I make the horrible confession that I don't know how to provide links! eek! I must get my son to tell me) were a distinct majority first for Likud and then for the Conservatives, with 73% in the column where Israel mattered much or at least somewhat.
      I would say - and would be interested if other British contributors differed - that these results look reasonably convincing to common sense, given what happens and who speaks up when ME matters are debated in the British press or airwaves.
      We do not have a measure of how far people would go in promoting Likudism in the UK, but I think that anyone who has seen the controversy here would expect there to be lively and well-funded political activity of all kinds by our Jewish fellow-citizens in favour of Israel in the event of any further violent conflict in the ME. Any demonstration against Israel is likely to be countered. The last pro-Israel demo I saw on television showed placards in which the Jewish identity of many of the demonstrators was made clear.
      Luntz-style inflamed language was not used by Survation, as far as I can see. But then we know that Jewish opinion in the United States is whipped up more systematically than it is here.
      I am resigned to thinking that in being anti-Zionist I am in serious disagreement with opinions that are held quite widely and quite strongly, with a definite but comparatively much weaker counter-current, among Jewish people around me. I would expect things, given the greater engagement in these things among American Jews, to be worse in that respect for my American counterparts, such as most of you respected friends and colleagues on Mondoweiss. Maybe Giles' 'overwhelming' is a bit strong, but I certainly find the situation daunting in the same way maybe he does. It is why Mondoweiss people, the true anti-racists, are still vulnerable to the catcalls of 'anti-Semitism'.

    • There was a survey of opinion among British Jewish people carried out by Survation, a respected firm. It was conducted in April and showed continuing (from the 2010 election) solid Jewish support for the Conservatives. 73% of respondents said that the parties' attitudes to Israel were at least fairly important to them, and it seemed that David Cameron's unreserved Zionism was winning him credit in comparison to Ed Miliband's critical attitude to the Gaza campaign.

  • Israel's real fear about the Iran deal: It puts pressure on the occupation
    • Obama and many other leaders may have decided that Iran, 'the devil we know', is the only force capable of containing the barely-known and very frightening devil called Islamic State. Public opinion will be very much influenced by the prospect of increased Iranian oil exports and so of lower prices. It is perhaps not a very creditable feature of us in the West that there are few things we would not do to keep oil flowing and to keep it cheap.
      Israel is not going to be nuked by Iran in any circumstances we can even dimly foresee by the light of reason. However, if Iran becomes respectable, an ally against IS, then Iran's proclaimed concerns about Palestine (even if there is a distinct element of cynicism, as well as an element of truth, about these proclamations) will gain respectability too and that will change the rhetorical balance in the West, maybe quite significantly.

  • Et tu, Michael Oren?
    • I notice that the word 'retaliation' is used, as if uncontroversial, by the Nizkor Project, which describes itself as against Holocaust denial, in its (seemingly quite useful) introduction to the Nuremberg prosecutor's speech about Lidice.
      However it was not retaliation in the true sense of like for like. The Czech Resistance had dealt a very humiliating blow: the famed and feared Nazi security system had failed to protect one of its own most important representatives. The response had to be based on much more than like for like in order to restore required levels of fear. Reprisal is a better word. The Israeli attack on Gaza had the same aspect of disproportion as the essential means and high levels of fear as the desired result.
      I concede to Yonah that Israel does not use Lidice-style firing squads and does not take young girls with a Semitic look away to be Judaised. But the toehold this gives Israel on the higher moral ground does seem, in view of the whole swollen global mass of suffering we contemplate, quite tenous.

  • Why the Charleston massacre isn't terrorism, and Palestinian resistance always will be
    • Maybe I shall have to join you in the sin bin, abc. The change in the direction of the discussion from the politically loaded use of 'terrorism' (Heike's theme) to stone-throwing looks a bit like a thread-jack: on the other hand, Princess's other comments don't engender suspicion.
      I am one who, from a safe distance, would commend to the Palestinians, in all the circumstances as best I understand them, a pacifist method of resistance as morally the best. Advice given in that tone does not really lead to 'condemnation', rather than to regret, when the advice is ignored, at least in such minor degrees as Princess mentions. I well know the limitations of my so-called understanding of circumstances; I well know, as does everyone here for their own part, what I would feel were I subjected to the awful things visited on the Palestinians so relentlessly.
      As for terrorism under the definition of which Heike does well to remind us, the Palestinians are a civil population and they are put in fear and coerced by great violence every day of their lives.

    • I do think it worthwhile to point out that we adopt definitions which are applied politically to far fewer people than those to whom they apply logically. There can't be too much logical thinking or speaking.
      If one word, like 'terrorist', fell out of use another word, which would be subject to the same illogical manipulation, would take its place.

  • 'If you challenge Israel’s security, you challenge America’s security. Plain and simple' -- Clinton
    • There is something about her that inspires mistrust. As I've probably said too often, I was visiting my family in the United States while she was attempting to undo Obama over Jeremiah Wright, which seemed extraordinarily devious. I took against her! Mind you, she is extremely intelligent and I'm sure that the Israelis trust her no further than you could throw a Moabite Stone.

  • Michael Oren misrepresents 1971 synagogue bombing that changed his life
    • You're right of couse, lysias (my predictive text keeps making you Lydia!)
      I did once look into automobile casualty rates, since I have a certain impatience with our speed limit system in the UK (my wife gets done, though I'm sure she's no danger to anyone) and a certain attraction to your more libertarian approach, though it does seem to be true that your casualty rate is higher. Once again the gross figures could be broken down into something more informative.
      Still, it's true that if all, very strictly all, we know of Mr. X is that he lived in the United States in 1971 but for some reason had the option to move elsewhere in the West or to Israel, always chose rationally and had an intense and overriding concern with avoiding death by homicide or on the roads we would conclude that he must have considered his option very seriously, though Israel would not have been on the top of the list.

    • I did specify a time frame. If you reckoned the life chances until 2015 of Mr..X, given that he lived in a Western country in 1971 - his chances of high income and status; his chances of escaping physical violence - you would state certain probabilities, assuming he will not change dwelling If you re-assess the same probabilities with the added information that Mr.X is Jewish, I think that the probabilities would grow better for Mr,X, given his probable levels of education, family background, residence in 'good' areas etc.: even if set against such risks as he may run from the forces of anti-Semitism, themselves to be set against the protection yielded to him by the strong opposition to anti-Semitism to be found in many quarters in the West during the relevant years. Is that mistaken?.
      I think that much the same probability projection would apply if we think of a Mr.X in 2015 considering his life chances until 2050.
      The first set of probabilities were what should have been taken as relevant by by the young Oren in71, the second set by someone considering relevant options now. At least if they were coldly rational.
      Anyone to whom personal security, especially avoidance of homicide, was of overwhelming concern would have looked in 1971 and would look now for alternatives to the United States. Israel would not be a bad bet, even if you were not Jewish (different in the lamentable territories!), but not the best.

    • I can see that an attack on an institution you regularly attend would be upsetting. It's also true that there has never, then or later or now, been a rational or statistical basis for thinking that being Jewish in the Western world gives you worse individual chances in terms of personal security or career success or being held in general public respect and esteem than anyone, whether Jewish or not, would have in that same place.
      I remember Kahane as one whose rhetoric cut quite sharply through the sentimentality of (what we didn't then call) liberal Zionism. He presented himself as a man of the streets who was identified with Jewish self-defence, which would imply that he had local enemies. If Oren's synagogue had some Kahanist connections then the attentions of these people - a vulgar anti-Semitic rabble, perhaps - were called to it. Did Oren really think that these people represented the western world? Or that he should let them in an important sense win by his leaving for the Middle East?
      I would think that there's something misleading or incomplete in his account of things. If he decided that only in Israel could he, as a Jewish person, have the kind of general respect and esteem that he deserved, that would be credible. But it would raise the question of whether he was and is still looking for respect and esteem in a form not really deserved by anyone.

  • Report from Ramallah: How Palestine is today
  • Episcopal Church rejects BDS resolutions citing fears divestment would hamper church in Jerusalem
    • I understand that Dawani's papers are by some legal fiddle not quite in order and that he could be exiled tomorrow if anyone important so chose. Charitable activities like the Gaza hospital might indeed suffer as part of the same process. This is really the same moral argument as that often used in World War II - '"speaking out" might both induce the bad guys to get worse and also draw their wrath down specifically on those we most care about'.

    • The Church of England, the Episcopal mother church and my religious gang, has tended to behave as if the ME problem didn't exist and I guess this tendency will be reinforced by the example of our American cousins. I suppose it's hard not to take our cue from our man on the spot in Jerusalem. We're people of the status quo.

  • 'Why this bullsh-t?' Video of Israeli navy flotilla takeover
    • My reading of the San Remo materials is that blockaders do not breach international law by enforcing a blockade in international waters as far as they are able. This does not create a duty on others to respect the blockade: they do not breach international law if they, as far as they for their part are able, attempt to evade it. When enforcement is attempted only pre-defined contraband can be denied free passage. There is a breach of international law if, following a search, free passage is not allowed to vessels not carrying contraband. Contraband cannot be defined in a way that would, in all the circumstances, impose starvation. Beyond that there seem to be several doubtful points. I cannot see that Israel is respecting the free passage provision or coming close to it.
      Law isn't really my scene but the San Remo stuff is close to what I would expect morally if blockade is to be permitted at all, which is of course in dispute.

  • New report details UK complicity in Israeli human rights abuses, calls for arms embargo
  • 'We are you and you are us' -- Netanyahu has tons of American friends
    • If all Americans are of the same family as Jewish Israelis will they all have the same rights of immigration to Israel that are currently available to those recognised as Jewish?

  • In rebuke to Israel, State Dep't says it has no objection to BDS aimed at occupation
    • Mind you, the EU is a little distracted at the moment by all this Greek salad we're having to chew on.
      I agree with amigo that it would be rather troublesome for consumers to ask whether this or that product comes from nice Israel or from suspect Israel. Still I suppose that labelling which draws attention to settlements will force some people to reflect on what Israel is really about. I believe that careful reflection will always reveal the fact that there can be no difference in moral standing between a place where what Beinart calls 'fundamental oppression' is exercised and a place where it is organised. To that extent AIPAC maybe has a point.

  • Netanyahu issues 'welcome letter' as Gaza flotilla is seized by Israeli navy
    • Do we know what happened next? There seems to be an obligation under any reading of blockade law to allow free passage to non-contraband goods after a search. Opinions about whetherbthe goods are really needed are not relevant.

  • 'A traumatized society is dangerous'
    • Can of worms, if I understand him/her, considers that only moral language should be used in this context and that medical language has the air of exculpation. I see the concern though don't entirely share it.
      My comment about Spartan fear of the Inferiors - 'they want to eat us raw' - was meant to suggest that this rather shocking phrase captures something of what long-term trauma, wounds and insults, is like. I know that if I had had to suffer what Palestinians suffer there would be something vicious in my soul by now. I might dislike and try to control it but it would be there. So the Israeli response of fear to (as you in effect remarked) every man, woman and 'little serpent' is in part rational.
      Responses to fear are many and what might be called managed trauma is one of them, helping to turn fear and guilt into contempt. This is creating something that feels just like trauma from wound and insult but is really from contemptuous and angry official discourse, dwelling much on the past but current among individuals who in their real lives inflict wound and insult more than they suffer such. The elements of truth in this discourse - Jewish people have indeed been outrageously treated - do not remove its overall inflammatory and self-deceiving nature.
      This is an area where moral and medical language do become entwined with each other.

    • Avigail has a modern scientific education, whereas my head is full old things. My model for Israel is Sparta, which has often astonished observers, at the time and later, by its ability to survive on astonishing terms - militarised as no one else could quite be, ruling extensive occupied territories at a time when freedom and autonomy were supposed to be the norm, always seeming to overreach, incessantly successful against expectations yet always somehow insecure. Not that the Spartans tried to survive by threatening all their neighbours with nukes.
      Xenophon tells the story of a conspiracy revealed by extremely bad omens - the seer tells the King in the heart of the City that 'it is as if we are amid our enemies'. An informer then reveals that an 'Inferior', Cinadon, trusted enough to have recently been sent to arrest a woman whose beauty was undermining public morals, is organising a conspiracy, saying that he sees in the eyes of a whole mass of apparently reasonable and submissive people 'the desire to eat the ruling class raw'.
      The romantic details of this story by a pro-Spartan author are no doubt a little improved for effect but Xenophon must have picked up something of the paranoia among the Spartans which had made the story popular. Which illustrates the fact that political paranoia, traumatic fear induced solely by official discourse and not by recent experience,, is hard to distinguish from fear that has a rational element. People who have been oppressed, frightened and humiliated over decades may seem, even to themselves, to be patiently reasonable but may have certain furies within them, which fact disturbs the dreams of the oppressors and makes them tell scare stories to each other.

  • Leading NY writer likens Edward Said to monster in a horror movie
    • The Enlightenment period did see some progress for Jewish people - I've visited the atea of Prague where many Jews lived and which was named by them after Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor, and quintessential Enlightened monarch.

    • During our recent election campaign in the UK there was a survey of Jewish opinion, giving a 2 to 1 Conservative lead.

  • Interview with a suicide bomber
    • We've just had some more terrorist attacks with Euro (including British) victims in Tunisia and France. The accounts of both are so far worse than garbled. In the French incident the possibly suicidal bombing had limited effect. But the bomber, a delivery man, had killed his employer and cut his head off IS-style. I could be very wrong but I have an awful, awful feeling that the victim will turn out to be Jewish,

  • US journal 'Biography''s special issue on Occupied Palestine is launched in Gaza
  • 'Obama coffee' is black and weak -- racist tweet from wife of Israel's vice premier
    • Lysias rightly mentions the Athenians - rather cursory research takes me to M. Clark, Exploring Greek Myth, p. 88, where it is pointed out that like many ideological words 'autochthonous' could have different connotations: for the Arcadiana it meant primitive', for the Athenians it meant 'authentic' - most Greek of all Greeks. Neither of them got into debt with the Germans, as I recall.
      Still, our ancestors in those times knew as well as we do that violent dispossession is a wicked act in normal circumstances and that a special divine or equivalent commission- as to Danaus, Perseus and the children of Heracles, resulting in the domination of Sparta - is needed to justify such a terrible thing.

    • On autochthony: I don't think you can attain or achieve it in order to found a city or a religion - you have to be 'of the earth itself' in the region where you live, ie (at very least) your earliest ancestors must not have been immigrants. The Arcadians and Canaanites were or were sort-of autochthonous, the Spartans and Israelites were immigrants with divine commission.

    • Moral principles in on way go without saying but in another way do gain currency from memorable statements. There has been so much oppression of strangers in human history that finding an ancient prohibition of it seems quite welcome. I thought that there was some interest in the way that Exodus makes empathy - you were strangers in Egypt and 'know the heart of a stranger' - the basis for its claim on the stranger's behalf. I think that Shmuel was drawing attention to the way that claim goes on to be the basis for a wider conception of liberation and redemption.

    • I agree that there is no evidence outside the Bible for Hebrew slavery in Egypt but there is an ethical principle 'not to oppress a stranger' in Exodus, explained by empathy with strangers in Egypt. The historical bit may be questioned but the ethical bit, an early formulation of a kind of Golden Rule, deserves to be remembered.

    • The racist sneer is indeed hateful. Yet it is true that Obama has shown some weakness and that Israel has been the main beneficiary. His international authority has never fully recovered from his early retreat over the settlement freeze. I think he probably found himself in an impossible bind with Clinton threatening to resign. Maybe no one could have done better within the coils and knots of Western politics. One moral is that if you show any weakness to people who are already inclined to despise you they will despise you some more.

  • Journey through a fractured landscape
    • Things cannot go on like this for ever: maybe not. But I think that they can endure for a very long time and that they can end in two different ways, both possible. One is the end of the Israeli domination, the other is the final transfer to somewhere - we know not where - of the Palestinian population, hitherto prevented (only) by the lack of resources to pay for it. Among the objectives of all the daily humiliation is the reduction of the price of transfer by making the victims more willing to be paid a sum, affordable by the conquerors, to leave the scene for ever rather than maintain their desperately expensive Sumud. I wish I could think that this objective is unobtainable, so crazy that only a convention of March Hares, Hatters and Dormice in teapots would even think about it, but I'm not entirely sure.

  • Ending memoricide-- the Nakba Museum project
    • A small exhibition lasting 2 weeks, which I expect no political leader will visit! A whistle among trumpets.

  • Jewish community must 'welcome' anti-Zionist, pro-BDS Jews, Beinart says-- but Shavit says, Excommunicate them
    • Let me think about what you say, Lysias. Yonah, you're absolutely right.

    • Meanwhile, it is interesting to ask how King in his own mind, or his many resolute Jewish supporters in theirs, could have reconciled the Dream whereby everyone 'is judged by the content of character' - rather than by ethnic characteristics - with a Zionist system in which an ethnic characteristic, ie the religion of ancestors, is a very important determinant of the rights someone is judged to have.
      I conjecture that King and those who influenced him saw universal rights only or mainly within a local frame, or at any rate a frame defined by the culture of the place: American Blacks were entitled to all the rights established for Americans. (If you had asked King 'who are your people?' I'm pretty sure he would have replied 'Americans, of course'.) American culture is celebrated as an improved or sacred version of the failing, demonic culture of Europe, hence has an especial duty to correct the anti-Semitism of European Christendom. So 'Jews and Gentiles' receive an especial mention in the Dream speech, wholly referring to the sufferings of Jews under Hitler and not by one blink of eye or tremor of voice referring to the sufferings of Palestinians: they are just too different. Imagine the impact if King had, inconceivably, referred not to 'Jews and Gentiles' but to 'Jews and Palestinians'.

    • MLK wrote two letters on Sept.29, 1967 - the recipients being Cook and Eisendrath, I think - making unequivocal commitment to Zionism. It depressed me to read them. I think that he also signed, along with a dozen other Protestant clergymen, a letter congratulating Israel on its military success. I'm not sure that he had always had that sort of opinion: his Easter Sermon of 1959, written not long after his visit to the ME, seems much more neutral in tone. The key influence was surely Reinhold Niebuhr, to whom Zionism was an essential component in rescuing the Protestant faith from the deadly embrace of Hitler.
      MLK left a terrible legacy in this respect. The whole Received Idea of the Civil Rights Movement has been built around 'King good, Carmichael bad'.

    • It would be very, very hard to regard all passages in the Hebrew Bible as Judaic if the 'definition' is support for Israel.

  • Netanyahu likens BDS to Nazi Germany
    • As I remember, the Vogons of the Hitchhiker's Guide were evil only in the banal, bureaucratic sort of way - the Earthlings hadn't submitted an objection to the bypass to the appropriate galactic authority in time for the deadline.

  • Palestinian youth dies after being left 3 hours under Israeli jeep that hit him
    • 'Banality of evil' means evil perpetrated through relentless but boring routine, nothing to set the pulse racing, within a system where all feeling is suppressed and alien. This seems, as reported, to be something quite different - theatre of cruelty in the Gothic manner, with feeling expressed all too fully.

  • Divestment with a bite
    • Perhaps it's not just that there weren't many like Romero but that there was no one like him. Bergoglio made no very audible protest - I presume that the case that many would make on his behalf is a version of Pius and Hitler - to protest would have worsened and extended the suffering. But there is also a case against him and at a word from Netanyahu that case would be made vigorously - made by some of the most incisive journalists in the world and reviewed kindly by some of the most respected historians. I imagine the drafts are ready on several memory sticks.

    • I've forgotten to which Pope Netanyahu gave a copy of his father's book on the Spanish Inquisition, which (as I think was said by someone on Mondoweiss at the time) meant 'You still owe us and owe us quite a lot'. I've no doubt that the involvement of many Jewish people in left-wing and progressive causes throughout the 20th century means that a very barbed, not necessarily very balanced, story could be written and publicised worldwide about Jewish victimisation by Catholics both in and after the Spanish Civil War and, more pointedly, in the days of the Argentine dictatorship.

    • I've always believed that Pope F shared the liberal Zionism of almost everyone else in the Euro-American upper crust - he moves in circles where hardly anything else is imaginable. I don't doubt that he prays sincerely for a 2ss every day, just like Obama and many others: they are all caught up in the endless inability of the 2ss to happen. That one picture by the Wall did not really mean much without context, renewed emphasis from time to time as part of sustained engagement with the problem. 'Leading in silent prayer for the Middle East' which F did on one occasion, as I recall, is not really a way of leading but a way of keeping silent.
      Did Pope B really go so far as to say that Palestine remains promised and committed to Jewish people - ie commit himself fully and unmistakably to Zionism? I had not appreciated that.
      Not to forget sins nearer home for me. The Church of England is much committed to the Council of Christians and Jews, with the Archbishop of Canterbury as joint President (or some such thing) and the Queen as patron. That organisation (very strong and honoured in my diocese, Oxford) advocates, when you look closely (which many members of the clergy seem not to do), a version of lib Zi which is one of the most illiberal around: Jewish statehood is a certain right, Palestinian statehood is a right 'probably': ugh. (Well, I really ought to double check before I report the opinion I formed a few years ago on reading its public statements in order to remonstrate with a prominent clergyperson who was singing its praises and had, it turned out, had a lovely time on an early version of a para-birthright trip. I may not be able to bear looking at such stuff again just before teatime.) The CCJ was prominent in the hounding of Sizer, which in some sense makes the Archbish 'a judge in his own cause'.

    • Quite agree, Lysias. The discipline of the Church should be about the doctrines of the Church and about the standards of moral behaviour required of ministers and it should have an element of due process. Extreme suspicions of Mossad (the organisation that I think the article mentioned) are not immoral or heretical - secret organisations invite suspicion in any rational mind, though it's the way of suspicions to go beyond reason and become 'paranoid': I for one do not share the specific suspicions of Mossad that Mr. Sizer mentioned. Treating a link, even one provided in a way that suggests a certain sympathy, as a statement of agreement is indeed a kind of internet-age Mccarthyism.
      But it's all an indication of how long and hard the road ahead is.

    • I agree that selling stocks, shares and property - a one-off thing that will not be remembered for long and which actually makes money for you to some extent - seems half-hearted by itself. It works only if accompanied by a sustained campaign of moral pressure, which means enduring the answering cries of 'anti-Semitism', remembering that these cries will be raised very loudly by many Christians, not just in the ultra-Evangelical fringe. The Vatican will stick to its diplomatic traditions.
      The Church of England, my lot, is not known for decisiveness, but Archbishop Welby has recently backed the Bishop of Guildford in crushing the vocal, perhaps eccentric Reverend Stephen Sizer who has long opposed Zionism and had ventured fatally into the jungle of 9/11 conspiracy theories - not a topic on which Christian theology has implications. I mean really crushed.
      Not that any authentic Christianity can forget that it was to Jewish people that, as the Epistle to the Romans remarks, the oracles of God were committed.

  • The peace process is 'a savior for war' -- Ari Shavit
    • If the tiny steps of stopping some settlement expansion and of offering Gaza clean water (available for destruction at a minute's notice) are enough to make Israel look fully committed to peace we must be gullible indeed - well, I suppose we are. What can constitute a full commitment to peace except, as a minimum, a fully developed proposal for what the peace should be? I am sceptical about 2 states but I still ask those who advocate the idea to specify what they envisage.

  • It's the borders, stupid (forget the BDS hysteria)
    • You know me well enough to be aware that I don't in my own heart believe that the Bible validates Zionism. I was referring to a mindset other mine which is very much in existence. When generation after generation has been told that this book is a kind of supreme moral authority it is less easy than one might think (though I didn't use words like 'eternal') to make its influence inoperative.
      Mind you, I didn't say that there is no doubt, but on the contrary that there actually is a little doubt, about the meaning of Genesis 15 - what exactly is the River of Egypt? The customary word for the Nile is not used. The 'supporting' texts, which attribute to King David a kind of empire over rather the same territory, might be taken to mean that God does not intend all the territory to be Israelite but only that the inhabitants should pay a bit of tribute. But of course if you are fevered with the heady belief that this gift of territory represents God's most special commitment and most solemn command you probably won't want to fuss around with restrictive or narrow interpretations. Responsible Bible editing with consultation of manuscript witnesses sometimes helps but I don't think that there is much prospect of re-editing Genesis 15.

    • International so-called laws come and go but the Bible is for ever. There is a little doubt about the exact meaning of 'from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates' but there's no removing the text.

    • I'm sure that some Zionists are very nice people. But the absolutely basic idea of Zionism, that non-Jewish people have no'birthright' in the land of Israel, implies, even to the nicest and kindliest person who understands and believes it, that they have to be eliminated as a political force, though a small and harmless remnant, the manifest beneficiaries of a generosity to which they were not really entitled, would be fine. The land of Israel cannot be renounced even in part because that would be stepping back from putting right the greatest injustice of history, which should be the moral objective of everyone. It's a shame that the Palestinians cannot recognise their own duty to leave as soon as practical and a shame that European anti-Semites raise smokescreens and kick up fusses.
      Apart from that small remnant group, what indeed could the objective for Palestinians be except their departure? However, I'm still of the view that departure would, on any terms at all, be very expensive - so that what is needed is not just a President who would tolerate it but one who would pay for it and that is still a bit uncertain. Even the propaganda effort - saying that it was really in everyone's interests and the most humane available option - would have to be one of the biggest in history.

  • Orange CEO flies to Jerusalem to apologize personally to Netanyahu: Israel is ‘fantastic’
    • You bet, Walid!

    • I too wondered about personal blackmail but I think that this could be explained adequately by the general need of the French establishment to repel the accusations of anti-Semitism that have swirled around them since Chirac opposed the Iraq War. I think Walid wisely remarked that the 'Freedom Fries' experience taught the French a very serious lesson and somehow they have been on the wrong foot ever since. The shocking Charlie massacre ended up, despite the efforts of some Jewish citizens of France, not so much with French self-assertion and solidarity as with an air of French apology, slightly abject and demeaning, to Israel. Everyone knows, of course, that the Chirac sentiment is still alive somewhere, so what is called anti-Semitism can also be called 'endemic', leaving the French leadership even more embarrassed. There is an especially French debate on free speech whose opposite poles are the Charlie victims and the holocaust-questioning comedian Dieudonne, which all adds to the tension. So I'm sure that everyone who is anyone in France came down like a ton of bricks on the poor squashy Orange.

  • Untold Stories: First-ever US Nakba Museum opens in Washington DC
    • Yes indeed, Mooser - colonising space is colonising time. And thanks for kind words, ritzl. - Martin

    • Yes indeed, abc, the museum game is a very important part of the political process. A museum can be presented in a spirit of pride or anger, crying 'Never forget!' or in a spirit of wistful antiquarianism 'It's all in the past!' Those controlling the game can assign the roles as suits them.
      I'm a member of the British Museum, which says with pride but amid some disagreement 'Never forget that the British Empire, whatever else you think of it, played a mighty part in bringing the ancient world to light'.
      The Zionist plan for Palestinian culture is to make it a museum piece of the second kind amid much gentle musing and a few quiet tears on the harsh necessities of history.

    • It sounds a bit timid to me - how could politics and religion be outside the scope of the discussion? 'Victimhood' has perhaps come to mean 'excessive moaning' but victimisation is absolutely inherent in the story, as even Mr. Shavit agrees in some moods. This seems to be an enterprise struggling rather pathetically not to offend those who identify with the perpetrators of the events in question: rather different from its utterly confident, relentlessly accusing Holocaust counterpart.

  • 'You have dual citizenship with Israel' -- NPR host hits Sanders with internet canard
    • There seems something Mccarthyite - and a hint of prejudice - about moving from 'someone suggest we ask the question' to 'your name is on a list in our possession' - unless, that is, the list can be produced and authenticated.

  • The Peter Beinart Double Standard: Why is this boycott different from all other boycotts?
    • It's true, I presume, that Professor Beinart's mum is in fact denied RoR to Alexandria by the dodgy Egyptian government or by inflamed public opinion in Egypt. But can he possibly think that this treatment of her, which is damaging to her interests and insulting to her personally, is justified and should not be changed?

  • Response to Dan Cohen's Gaza article from a 'Forward' editor
    • It's very helpful to have information from someone with so much experience of the reality. I recently encountered someone who had worked as a doctor in Gaza - he remarked that you can't be there and not see the truth. So I wonder what the impact on Naomi's consciousness will be.

  • Soldiers expel 200 Palestinians from pool to allow settlers to bathe
    • Have there in fact been claims from the Israeli armed forces or the Susiya organisation or anyone else involved that the story is fictional or that the event was seriously misrepresented by B'Tselem?

  • Is BDS practicing a double standard with respect to Arab countries?
    • The more I think about it the more astonishing it seems that someone should argue with serious intent that it's OK to take measures affecting a place where 'fundamental oppression' is practised but not OK to take the very same measures so that they also affect the place where the very same fundamental oppression is being organised.
      My idea about the survival of groups would be that it cannot in itself be a moral objective to ensure (say) that in future generations someone is practising the rituals and preaching the theology of the Assyrian Nestorian Church, much as I sympathise with the Assyrians now that they are being, it appears, horribly victimised. They deserve a fair chance to recover, so I wouldn't mind donating to the repair of their churches but that is about their having a fair chance in the world's debates, not about ensuring that they survive regardless without how they fare in discussion and argument. It doesn't make sense to object to the possibility that more people will, rather than stick to the opinions they have now, come to share the opinions that I consider to be true.
      Freedom of religion (if it is a coherent idea) surely means that nothing considered to be a religious commandment by one group overrides the laws agreed in a process open to all groups: otherwise in some circumstances and to some degree the state is controlled by the relevant 'church' and the freedom of every individual to stand out against the teachings of that 'church' implies some conflict with the state, ie certain a lack of freedom (since the state has coercive powers) in religious matters.

    • I think that Zionism in the totality of its ideas and effects is one of the worst things in the world, inflicting cruel and humiliating suffering in its own region, causing morally mistaken, even crazy, ideas - religious and other - to be accepted in the Western world, making stability in the main oil-producing region almost impossible. This is bad enough to call for some counteraction. There doesn't seem to me to be a moral imperative to respond to every bad (or indeed to every good) thing in exactly the same way, except to ask yourself what the situation permits you to do and to do it. Sometimes there can be no more than words, though words become more important if the people who are, in your opinion, going wrong are also defending themselves amid a great barrage of words and arguments of their own. Sometimes boycotts have a chance of working and then - though I think that they always produce anomalies - they should be given a try.
      Sometimes good things should be supported in one way (say with donations of money) sometimes in another, say only with praise, perhaps sometimes only by joining in creating a quiet atmosphere of approval.
      Beinart's argument that boycotts are morally appropriate beyond but not within the Green Line is very strange. The fundamental oppression that exists beyond it is organised behind it: there cannot be a serious moral difference.

  • From Germany, With Hypocrisy: Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visits the Gaza Strip
    • It would be interesting to hear more of that career destruction, Theo. I had a really bad experience with a German visitor who expressed dislike of all forms of nationalism but couldn't (when asked about Zionism) 'as a German, say anything against Jews' - not that any anti-Jewish sentiment was under discussion.

  • What I Was Told: Arabs hate Jews
    • Well, Mooser, there actually were occasional, throwaway family remarks, which I remember from my early years, that some of our forebears were Jewish despite our hardcore Anglicanism. There were mentions of an ancestor 'who did not know the Lord's Prayer' - aha! Hohum! So maybe we're distant cousins, which I would consider an honour.
      I wouldn't share the view of those who told you that people who beat up on others regardless of age or sex were the best of their race, but I dare say it is widely believed.
      I think I meant that it still does not make sense to treat individuals who are Jewish as, for that reason, in some degree responsible for the vicious behaviour concerned and therefore the proper targets of negative sentiments, such as hatred.
      But when you're involved in these things every day and the humiliation imposed on 'people like you' must constantly strike you, what can we suppose that you will feel? We have evidence in this article that negative sentiments do not normally extend to defenceless, plainly well-intententioned people who happen to be Jewish, which is good, but maybe it is not the whole story.

    • I've just been reading our report by Kate via Charlotte Silver about the attack on two Palestinian families. At our sort of distance we can react to these things with a degree of calm and reflection and recognise that people who do these things in the name of the Zionist enterprise are not typical of Jewish people in any morally significant sense, not even perhaps typical of all self-proclaimed Zionists. But for those in the midst of it, could we really expect all violent and unbalancing emotions, such as hatred, to be avoided?

  • 'Heart-wrenching, harrowing, transfixing' -- NYT needs to end blackout on Blumenthal
    • I see that Tolan has a new book 'Children of the Stone' about a very talented Palestinian musician. I found my way to a recent report by him about the same musician's life under the checkpoint system and about the falsity of the American view of these things, derived from Paul Newman and Leon Uris. As far as it went, this could have appeared on Mondoweiss, though maybe the underlying attitudes were indecisive.

    • You could be right, abc. I was maybe having one of my moments of optimistic naïveté. I try to fight them.

    • If that is so I would think that the Palestinians have gained something and indeed rather more than I thought they would.

  • 'This land is ours. All of it is ours': Meet the Netanyahu cabinet members focused on fighting BDS & annexing the West Bank
    • Well, I think that if I have only as much right to live in the place where I was born as is compatible with the achievement by immigrants of not only a refuge but of a refuge under their own control, accepted by them as adequate, then my relevant right is nil.
      So if I do have a relevant right the immigrants' claims are mistaken.
      That's my reason for thinking that Zionism would have paralysed itself if it had accepted that the Jewish right to Palestine was in any way at all limited by any Palestinian right to a place of their own anywhere. I have not read Oz, I admit, but I rather suspect he's a self-deceiver.

    • I never thougt that could be a form of Zionism that wasn't about all the land but only about some of it. This would imply some equality of rights and on that basis it is hard to. see how Zionism could ever have become a programme of action. On the other hand most Zionists believe in generosity (I expect Ms. H does) giving the Palestinians some things they don't actually deserve, though this is generosity in menacing and maddening form.

  • Corey Robin revisits Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem
    • The questions raised by Arendt at the Eichmann trial seemed to be:
      1. Is it possible for someone to become involved in major crimes not because of what they think but of what they don't think: ie not because they mean to harm the victims but because they don't give any thought to the victims while furthering - out of ambition, careerism or conformism - the policies of some organisation?
      2. Was Eichmann like that?
      3. Is anti-Semitism of its nature bound to be responsible for more evil and extreme results than any other ideology?
      Bev-Gurion was anxious to answer 3. affirmatively with Eichmann as his prize exhibit - Arendt, by answering the first two questions affirmatively, attempted to show that he had no rational proof of his claims.
      I think that the first question does have a pretty obvious 'Yes' answer, but that does not mean as much as Arendt thinks: it may still be true that that oppressive organisations will trust with a degree of discretion and responsibility only those who to some extent sympathise actively with their aims. Indeed I feel pretty sure that Eichmann, though he was never a policy maker, must have been promoted in part because of his obvious readiness to treat people badly if they were Jewish: ie he took a prejudiced and negative attitude to Jewish rights. What other kind of person would the machine for which he worked have been looking?
      On the other hand the Ben-Gurionists never showed that other political machines with equal ruthlessness but different aims could not have found Eichmanns of their own.

  • Like it or not, Obama is a liberal Zionist
    • I think that difference of opinion with you guys is that I think that a Palestine able to assert itself even within narrow boundaries would slowly nibble away at Israeli power and would necessarily have the objective of reunification and increasing means to achieve it. The nukes would not be the trump they are supposed to be now. This is just the opposite of Israeli plans to nibble away at a nominally independent Palestine.

    • It cannot be assumed of any rational person that (s)he will honour an agreement accepted under extreme duress and perpetuating suffering and radical unfairness.
      I didn't say that I sympathised with the Israeli hard men: they speak for cruelty and injustice. I just think that they are right to say that there is no easy way out based on an agreement extracted from the Palestinians under extreme duress, permitting the fruits of injustice (or at least what must seem to the Palestinians to be injustice) to be enjoyed for ever and sanctifying permanent inequality of rights. Do you for your part really see this as a foundation of peace?

    • I think that it will take a lot more than another UN resolution to enforce a 2ss. Obama is certainly a liberal Zionist and 2ss believer.
      We do see clearly how O-style Zionism is absolutely not based on equal rights, despite its sentimentalism over sweet little children of all races and religions. The Israeli children have the right to the protection of a sovereign state, the Palestinian children have not: this is not spelled out by O, I accept, but it is surely conveyed. The Netanyahu conditions of no defence, control of airspace (he would surely add no effective control of borders) and no alliances are not challenged.
      A State in this degree of vassalage would not really be a State, since it would by design open at every point of space and time to the violent attentions of a neighbour. In this condition it could not speak freely on the international scene, could not apply educational policies of its own choosing and could not in any serious degree dissociate itself economically from the people who constantly have them and their sweet little children under the gun. Perhaps there would be fewer checkpoints but in a sense even they could not go away. There would have, one way and another, have to be as much security as there is now against militants and malcontents. You may say that all these problems would be swept away by a wave of prosperity, but that is quite a gamble.
      I do in a sense see the point made by the Israeli hardliners. Without all these restrictions an independent Palestine would start and would continue, little by little, to erode the current Israeli military superiority and to render the much-cherished nukes useless, since you can't use the things at close quarters. A period of calm produced by economic growth, even it really happened, would in the longer term be as dangerous as immediately fierce antagonism. It would give the Palestinians self-confidence, money to bargain with and an ever- increasing sense of entitlement to be there, ie to scorn the Zionist claim to unique rights in the Holy Land. And that is simply not compatible with Israeli security. The only acceptable Palestine is one formed of enclaves (what George Bush called Swiss cheese) which could, if there was serious trouble, be cleared.
      I would even accept the Israeli hardline claims that they have not withheld 2ss out of malice - it's not that they positively want anyone to suffer - but out of the logic of the situation. As a long-term arrangement the 2ss is hardly possible - it is an illusion based on distance from the situation and on mere sentimentality. The short term is another matter.

  • Kim Philby's last straw
    • He may indeed have had pro-'Arab' sympathies inculcated, though I think his dad was actalally a convert to Islam and he never was, which indicates some significant father-son divergence. But he was a master of disguise and evasion and I would be surprised if he would have given himself away by writing unmistakably pro-Soviet propaganda. I suspect he just reported with a certain amount of objectivity and that many journalists and diplomats did exactly the same for decades. For the same length of time Zionist fanatics like Margaret Thatcher, sitting in London, saw this as anti-Semitism.

    • The main ideas of the Protos about allegedly nefarious tecniques of influencing public opinion through the press come, almost verbatim I understand, from a pamphlet called Dialogue in Hell written to discredit not Jews but Napoleon III, who had magically converted an idealistic Republic into a cynical Empire. It was the proof of verbatim copying, and of non-Jewish origin, that got the Protos discredited in their turn. They may still be a cogent analysis of how cynical manipulation of opinion works. Be that as it may they also certainly stand as proof that protest against manipulation can be horrendously manipulative.

    • It would be surprising if Philby, a great deceiver, would have given himself away by writing reports that would reveal Soviet sympathies. He must have been aware to some degree of the shift in left wing Jewish opinion towards Israel. In 45 Jewish voters were responsible for giving us our last Commie MP, Phil Piratin (Phil the Pirate, as I like to think of him) - by 59 they were responsible for unseating Maurice Orbach, a Labour critic of Israel's participation in the Suez venture, even though he was a proclaimed Zionist.
      Philby must have been aware of the danger of antagonising former friends, aware of (at least) incautious remarks in the very different world of the anti-fascist 30s.
      It would be interesting to compare his reports with those of other British journalists at the time: my suspicion is that you wouldn't find that much difference, though perhaps I'm wrong.
      Perhaps it's less a case of one crucial denunciation motivated by politics than a case of a career of deception whose time was over, everyone who knew him coming to see him for what he was.

    • The anti-fascist alliances of the 1930s created many strange bedfellows, I think.

  • The grotesque injustice of Obama's speech at the Washington synagogue
    • I guess - just a guess pending the evidence, memoirs and all that; well, I suppose they'll not settle anything either - that Obama went through three stages. In the first he sympathised with the Palestinians rather as we do now.
      In the second, as he advanced in the political world, he met and became friendly with the main supporters of Zionism, many of them Jewish, and saw in them people of highly progressive mind and genuine humanity: I don't say this with any kind of sneer. He determined that the way forward was to fix things up with these reasonable forces and he received many assurances that it would be done from people who mentioned Netanyahu's name with a kind of fastidious shudder. Obama is the kind of person who believes above all in civilised dialogue and reasonable compromise. The problem is that no reasonable compromise has ever been found in the ME except for the 2ss which resists even approximately agreed definition.
      Then came the campaign against Hillary Clinton and the Jeremiah Wright issue, ie the issue of those who say plainly that no reasonable compromise is in sight and therefore use disturbing language. This was the moment of truth: sympathy for the Palestinians at the cost of disturbing words or reassuring words at the cost of distance from a cause he had long considered to be just? Obama manoeuvred brilliantly, left Clinton flat-footed, gained the world and lost his soul -the breach with Wright, the once-beloved pastor, being a kind of religious disillusion and mutation of worldview. At the time I thought he was being clever.
      However the fact that this latest speech is detested by the likes of us while seeming, I'm sure, perfectly sensible and all in a day's statesmanlike work to the huge majority of people, just shows what a bunch of misfits and moral oddballs we still are, making visible progress only in universities, which aren't normal places.

  • Pro-Israel wealthy Jews feature in 'Forward,' Christie roast, and U of Michigan censorship
    • I've perhaps said this so often as to be boring: no one has authority in matters of definition. There's no such thing as 'the definition' that everyone ought to accept. There may be commonly accepted definitions but there is no obligation to use them: you may think they are confusing or self-contradictory. The only obligation is to make oneself clear.
      For my part, Anti-Semitism is prejudice against at least some things characteristically Jewish. Being a form of prejudice, it is irrational. I claim that anti-Zionism is rational, therefore not in itself an expression of prejudice, therefore not (other things being equal) anti-Semitic in my terms. My terms are of course 'loaded' - ie an evaluation (negative) of anti-S is built in (which is quite legitimate).
      If anti-Semitism is defined as hostility to some things done by people who are Jewish it follows that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic since many Jewish people are involved in putting Zionism into effect. But then anti-Semitism may on this definition be, if some Jewish people are in fact doing something wrong, quite rational. That is to say that this a non-loaded or neutral definition, also legitimate.
      On the ADL definition anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism unless it is 'because they are Jewish', not solely because they act unjustly or cause great suffering, that Zionists are opposed.
      The main rhetorical trick is to slip unnoticed between neutral and loaded definitions. The main sign of honesty in such matters is to say what you mean, stick to it and not import value-judgements half way through the discussion that were not there at the beginning.
      Description of people as 'anti-Semites' is almost never, in my experience, accompanied by a statement of what the word means to the person using it.

  • Besieged in Gaza from birth to death
    • That's really good question: my idea would be that the resources for a huge population transfer don't exist and that there is little point in minor transfers, since the departing population might get replaced by newborns and the problem continue. All forms of transfer, from the most unthinkably brutal to the most compensatory and consensual - though you do hear 'pay them to leave' from time to time - would cost staggering heaps of gold. Receiving countries too would have to be paid off. Even the accompanying propaganda effort would have to be on the grandest and most expensive and most prolonged scale. The costs of 'continuing negotiations' are probably trivial in comparison.

  • Obama equates Israel's creation to African-Americans gaining right to vote
    • Quite so, can. The mind boggles at the idea of a Black State in America where the remaining whites had to go to work through checkpoints.
      Some have noted that O is sending a gentle (indeed cloyingly sentimental: 'care about kids'; O mi God!) message to people who pride themselves on not being gentle with those who question their proudly asserted rights and hard as nails security system.There's a sort of wilful ineffectuality here. And he's the most powerful man in the mondo.
      O is of course the heir of the postwar Protestant theology which did enfold Zionism and Civil Rights into one wildly inconsistent but proudly proclaimed package. The main leader was Reinhold Niebuhr, the main practical exponent Martin Luther King - they had pale shadows in the UK who misled me in my youth. I am sure that this is the theology that tells Obama that he is the good servant of Almighty God.

    • How we define 'levels of anti-S' depends in part on how we understand anti-S itself, something that those who make these complaints hardly ever tell us.
      To me it means 'prejudice (irrational sentiment) against at least some things characteristically Jewish'.
      We have just had an election where one of the main party leaders was Jewish in background - the loser admittedly, the winner being vaguely Christian and very emphatically Zionist. The re-elected Speaker of the House of Commons is (I think) also of Jewish family. The Father of the House, who presides over the election of the Speaker, is Jewish.
      There was a survey of Jewish voters during the campaign showing that they offer 2:1 support to the Conservative Party, an indication of a reasonably favourable position in the class system. These are not straws in an anti-S wind.
      I do not think that there is any statistical or rational argument for the idea that our fellow citizens who are Jewish are in an endangered or even a difficult position in respect of crime or in respect of general life-chances.

  • Israeli military attacks Nakba Day protests with live fire
    • Like abc I don't think Fifa could possibly have the integrity to give a moral lead.

  • What if the Times had sent Rudoren to Selma in 1965?
    • I'm sure you're right, Donald, that distraction and change of subject is a standard part of rhetoric in unjust causes. I haven't got the fortitude to bandy words with some of the bad rhetoricians here but I do sometimes want to say something to back up those like yourself or Andrew R whose fortitude exceeds mine.

    • Acts in the distant past are not necessarily excluded from the category of crimes. I grew up with the idea, right or wrong, that the 'barbarian' invasions of the fifth and sixth centuries were criminal and the 'Viking' invasions of later days even more so. King Alfred, who led the resistance to the Vikings, is still our only monarch customarily called 'Great' - my English ancestors probably thought this title deserved, though I suspect that my Welsh ancestors by contrast considered the Vikings to be liberators. The English-Welsh conflict took near a thousand years to settle.
      I believe that it is quite important to think through some of the moral problems which arose in the distant past: the past is most definitely not another country where moral categories do not apply.
      The true contrast is not between the conflicts of old time and the conflicts of recent days but between conflicts that have been settled over time, in the sense that there are now no armies in the field and no one is now a refugee or a disfranchised person or one excluded from claimed property because of them, and by contrast conflicts where people are still in these horrible conditions.
      Our ancestors were not so different from us as not to know that marauding, invasion and slaughter were hideous crimes though like us they thought that there were exceptions based on self-defence and ideology, usually special divine decree.

    • I think that Donald is right that the likes of us will continually be described as anti-Semites but very rarely will that remark be accompanied by a statement of what 'anti-Semite' means to the person who uses the term. Under certain definitions we are anti-Semites, as under the morally trivial 'opposed to certain activities of certain people who are Jewish'. The triviality of this can be seen by the fact that Israel must be solidly anti-Semitic in this sense, in that all Israelis must find themselves opposed to some activity by some of the Jewish people around them - in the same way England would have to be the capital of Anglophobia.

  • Adelson primary heats up -- fawning George Bush gives him a painting of his casino
    • I must congratulate the Pope on annoying the craziest among my fellow-Protestants. Mind you, I don't think that he has extended full diplomatic recognition to Palestine.

  • Bulldozers demolish a mosque in 'unrecognized' village of 14,000 near Beersheba
    • Obama's remarks cast a chill, don't they - we 'have worked over the years'! Nothing to show for it. The chariots of wrath rumble on. We have to find ways to keep going and keep going down the long road.

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