Commenter Profile

Total number of comments: 3650 (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 3650 - 3601

  • 'Lesson: The Jews will defend themselves even if it means killing children'
    • I do quail at the thought of the price paid in innocent lives, rapes and general acts of destruction in order 'to get rid of Nazism'. Both the end in view and the alternatives available need to be assessed with intense care, even with agony.
      If you make everything but everything depend on the end and purpose you cannot condemn any means or methods absolutely and in themselves - not even the much-condemned terrorism and massacre. If you remove that sort of condemnation the moral universe becomes very dark, somewhat infernal.
      I used the word 'demonic' yesterday in reference to Katie's cartoon exposing the horror of the 'human shield' argument and would use it again faced with that pulse of exultation in 'even if it means killing children'.

  • Amid fierce debate, members of German think tank take a stand on Gaza
    • In view of the report we have about 'some members' of the RLS coming out in support of Gaza, are things changing in Germany?
      A few months ago I was talking to an academic from Germany, living in England. She was saying how she couldn't stand nationalism. I asked her view of Zionism - she replied that as a German she could not comment, at least not negatively, on anything Jewish. I replied, rather too quickly, 'that's inverse racism', whereupon I got into a lot of trouble with English and American persons present. So I haven't been expecting things in Germany, or indeed here in England, to change that quickly.

    • Me too. Why are massive things not seen and obvious truths ignored?

    • Those with a sense of closeness to those who were responsible for something evil - and we all have that in some degree - should indeed take care not to support new evils.

  • More Orientalist insinuations in the New York Times
    • That is an interesting statement, thanks. I am not quite sure who is stating that the term 'hudna' indicates recognition of the other party's existence, Hamas or Associated Press. I rather think that the Ottoman Empire in its high days operated through a series of 'truces' with its Christian neighbours and that the intention to attack Vienna on that famous occasion was indicated by a renewal of the truce with Russia but not with Austria - in later times there were treaties of a more normal nature. Whether this is an encouraging precedent I don't know.

    • I am sure that all Palestinians think that they have a right which is not dependent on any special divine donation but on generally recognised principles of morality, to be, where they live, enfranchised citizens of a fully sovereign state whose borders are determined by tradition (history of peaceful recognition) or treaty. They're not wrong.

  • Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney dodges Gaza question (and how long can he get away with that?)
    • Cliche and paraonoia deserve a less kindly phrase than 'well-crafted' if you ask me.

    • I don't think Joan's ask was evaded, it was brushed aside with unambiguous scorn. Security is paramount, Israel promotes security, your views oppose Israel, therefore your views have to be disregarded. Quite tight logic, really.

  • HAMAS made me do it!
    • The shocking baby cartoon - there must be grandparents in Gaza, as affectionate as our Bumble colleagues (to whom all good wishes), who feel its force personally - will disturb my sleep. It captures the spurious, demonic idea of 'defending oneself against someone carrying a human shield' better than many words could.

    • It is not always wrong, surely, to respond to a crime by an action that would have been criminal in the absence of provocation. That's when the rule of proportion kicks in.

  • Witnessing Gaza
    • Well, what is this right of self-determination and how does it apply to all concerned?

    • As to real meanings - to me (for what that's worth) 'anti-Semitism' means 'significant prejudice (or worse) against at least some things Jewish'. To others, including most Zionists, it means 'significant opposition to at least some things strongly supported by Jewish people'. I keep saying a bit boringly that meanings are not real things and that we can all use words as we like provided we make ourselves clear and speak consistently.
      A Zionist would think that I am an anti-Semite even under my own definition, since to him/her only prejudice can explain rejection of Zionism: I would deny this and would claim that rejection of Zionism is rational. A Zionist would also claim that, since Zionism has strong Jewish support, I am certainly an anti-Semite under the Zionists' own definition - which is quite true: there's nothing I can do about it, except say that under this definition, unlike mine, there can be forms of anti-Semitism which are justified.

  • Hillary Clinton's 11th-hour diplomacy
    • That a war with Iran is not in Western interests is probably true and probably the majority opinion in the West. Lysias is reminding us that war has a way of not really working out for anyone, never really being in anyone's 'best interests'. That doesn't mean it isn't ever the only remotely bearable option available - I was brought up on the interpretation (of course, questionable) of UK history where we should have found a way to avoid WW1 altogether but should actually have started WW2 sooner, rather than disgrace ourselves at Munich. Israel's embattled, militarised existence may make alternatives to war unbearable at some junctures of events and may make wars fought by someone else, eg United States v. Iran, highly advantageous. I'm being a bit wordy but I suppose that it is indeed arguable that that sort of war was in Israel's interests at the relevant time.

    • I don't know how far what you say contradicts what I said, though I'm always ready to accept clarification! I would have supposed that there is a certain chance that the Republican candidate will be superlatively pro-Israel and will hope for Romney-style Israeli support and that Clinton, who is I think famous for acting with great calculation, wishes to foreclose that possibility even at this early stage. If you ask me to accept that there she may also, for all the calculation, be completely sincere in what she specifically says, I cannot deny that she may be. I'm sure you're right to say that she has a long relevant record. She does come from a generation of progressive (maybe 'progressive') thinkers for whom Israel was a good example of much-desired social progress. Whether she is entirely what she seems I don't know.

    • So who will be Caesar?

    • I was mentioning on another thread that Clinton seems, per the polls, to be all but nominated before the nomination and elected before the election. I suppose she fears that the one thing that could destabilise her is a powerful rhetorician from the right able to secure Israeli backing, so readily offered to Romney last time. There may be a quiet smile on Netanyahu's face at the thought of this militaristic ultra-Zionist in the White House - even so, I don't think he can trust her.

  • Gov. Cuomo annexes Jerusalem to Israel -- and 'NYT' echoes him
    • I've just looked at the Real Clear Politics presidential polls, giving Clinton a massive lead over all comers. She does look very like the future - also very like the past as far as the ME is concerned.

  • Knight in shining armor?
    • Not sure that the victory would be unalloyed. There will be a nagging sense that the siege was at least partially broken by resistance.

    • It will not be unalloyed victory for Abbas if the ending of the blockade was in significant part due to resistance rather than negotiation.
      We who call for Palestinian rights have hoped that the day was coming when the futility and hypocrisy of all the 2ss negotiations hitherto would become too obvious to deny and that this clearance of the air would force the liberal Zionists off that comfortable fence of theirs. But I think that Obama and Kerry are now in a strong position not to solve the ME problem but to polish their reputations by insisting on a resumption of the 2ss roadshow with the same old songs and dances.

  • Social worker, 45, among 3 killed by Israeli soldiers at one protest in Beit Ummar last month
    • An even more interesting compilation than usual, Kate. I was suggesting on another thread that the calculation in Gaza, just as it was in countries subjected to bombing campaigns in WW2, must have been that political unity would probably just about survive the onslaught. The cautious critique of Hamas that you mention indicates that this calculation is open to question. The Independent today reports that in the negotiations are moving towards lifting some of the blockade restrictions, which would be a great Hamas triumph, plus giving the Abbas crowd a greater role in policing Gaza's borders, which would be a serious Hamas setback.
      I was also interested to see the endless little niggles and provocations surrounding the Temple Mount, but it is interesting that they seem to stay at the level of niggles and pinpricks.

  • Rabbi slams 'militarization' in St. Louis but when it comes to Gaza-- the press 'loves underdog and suffering'
    • It would indeed be nice to know that the Press loves underdogs and sufferers! In fact it has taken suffering on a gross scale to penetrate the defences of the Western information machine. The routine suffering caused by the blockade - one of the things that got me involved years ago in this argument was an article in the Economist (which does not have mass readership) claiming, as well as I remember, that there were deaths in Gaza, at least one a week, caused by various blockade related pressures - has never received mass attention.
      'Israel would have to respond': even if you grant this point exactly as stated, the necessity for the mighty response that came is not demonstrated. The dilemma for Israel was that a near-proportionate response would certainly not end the rocket fire, therefore not end disruption to normal life - a serious danger to political unity, whereas an extreme response (actually chosen) might (maybe it didn't) suppress the rockets but would cause worldwide horror. The position in Gaza, I suppose, was that normal life has already been disrupted so hideously and for so long that more desperate suffering could probably be endured without breaking political unity.
      Neither side was unconditionally determined that those telegenic deaths should occur, both were ready to take the risk (which rapidly approached certainty) that they would.
      It should be obvious - but I suppose it's not, given what I think of as our underdog-hating and underdog-fearing media - that in these circumstances those ready to inflict the deaths (and use the horrible term 'telegenic' for them) are on a worse moral plane than those ready to endure them.

  • Question for the American Jewish Establishment: Where does Zionism end and Judaism begin?
    • Sorry, there is a reference by an earlier Assyrian king, Tiglath-Pileser III, to King Jehoahaz of Judah, which must come from around 740. I was momentarily misled, to attempt a thin excuse, by Pritchard's index, which omits that page reference (p.264). Main point stands, I think.

    • 3000 is plausible enough for the Kingdom in Jerusalem, though I suppose this thread is about the religion more than the polity of that place and time. Whether the religion(s) practised by the royal family in its temple and/or by the mass of people on its 'high places' would be recognisable as early forms of 'second Temple' Judaism is a very complex question.
      In the James B. Pritchard 'The Ancient Near East' anthology, the standard work at least for those who can't spend a fortune, the earliest references to 'Judah' come from the inscriptions of Sargon of Assyria around 700 BCE and it's interesting, slightly ironic now, how often they are paired with references to 'Palestine', a name which the Assyrians were using a century earlier.
      Pritchard himself uses 'Palestine' as a name in modern parlance for the relevant geographical area in ancient times. On that usage, the inhabitants of Jerusalem in 700 BCE belong among the Palestinians.
      The non-Judaic cultural legacy of ancient Palestine has been obscured, though that Tyre had some importance as a centre of religious thought is fairly clear even from the references, respectful or satirical, in the Bible. As to the real high antiquity, rather than convenience in modern usage, of the name 'Palestine' I hope my article here on MW last June might sometimes have a few readers.

    • There is no evidence of significant cultural discontinuity between Israelites en masse and other Palestinians at least before the Persian period, ie from around 540 BCE. The historical narrative of the Books of Kings makes a point of saying that the mass of people in earlier centuries had refused to differentiate themselves and that most of the kings at very least failed to insist strongly enough. Whether an early form of what was to become Judaism existed 7 or 8 centuries before, said to be the time of Moses, is very debatable!

    • I'd be interested to know what the basic terms mean to you. Does Judaism = belief in a divine being best understood through the Hebrew Bible and Talmud? Zionism = belief in exclusive Jewish rights to sovereignty in Palestine?
      I hope that your dissertation will become available soon - specifically well in advance of June 2015 when I'm to deliver a talk to my local Classical Association on the ancient name 'Palestine'.

  • How to respond to thoughtful people who can't help saying 'but Hamas'
    • Quite agree. I'm sure that one of the reasons for proposing the 'swiss cheese' model for Palestinian enclaves was that they could be cleared one by one at a gentle pace with relocation schemes that would be advertised as utterly unprecedented, barely imaginable generosity on the part of the conquerors but actually be paid for mostly by taxpayers further west.

    • British Fascists were interned (not interred!) in wartime under the famous Defence Regulation 18B. The novelist Nancy Mitford pressed the Goverment to intern her own sister Diana, saying that she was far cleverer and more dangerous than her husband, the nominal Fascist leader Oswald Mosley, also interned. They were released, I think, when the worst danger had passed: itself an indication that internment is at best a regrettable necessity in civilised countries - and expulsion would even more regrettable, therefore leaving something to be put right as soon as possible. I would certainly think that the descendants of Jewish people who left ME countries under pressure should have full restitution of identifiable property. I think that refugees who accept citizenship elsewhere lose their absolute and unconditional right of return - but it might still be fitting to offer restored citizenship to the people concerned in this case.

    • I was saying on another thread, re A. Sullivan, that there's a question about what rights Palestinians have because of the wrongs done to them - rights which Hamas, being elected by them, may have the right to direct them in invoking. In what circumstances and to what extent are they allowed to resist as well as object? When objections and demonstrations of a non-violent nature have been attempted but met with a lethal response? When attacks are delivered only in ways that offer a reasonable chance (but what is that?) of hitting a military target?
      To stop people saying 'But Hamas...' I think we have to direct attention away from 'Hamas' to 'the Palestinians' and get people to think on Sullivan's claims that it is not vicious to resist violent dispossession without saying 'Those who resist can do no wrong'.

    • The main problem with usage of words like this, I think, is equivocation between neutral and value-laden forms. The neutral form permits relevant actions to be justified, at least in the extreme necessities where people claim to find themselves. The value-laden form forbids this, so is all but always used for the actions of the other side. People never say whether they are effectively leaving open, or effectively foreclosing, the possibility that the actions they discuss can sometimes be justified.

    • An interesting video! But I don't think that Voltaire, or anyone in the early modern period, when it was fairly obvious who had to be treated with respect, said that.

  • Israel's foundation in a 'terroristic campaign of expulsion, ethnic cleansing and murder' is the 'deep wound in that part of the world' -- Sullivan
    • If strong resentment of the imagined French conquest and colonisation of southern England - reasserting the rights established by William the Conqueror and betrayed by his successors, I presume - would not, per Sullivan, be bigoted anti-Frankism what would it be? An entirely justified foundation for violent resistance? Or only for a campaign of propaganda calling for equal rights for the English in England? Or for violent resistance when (but only when) that sort of campaign meets with a lethal response?

  • Liberal Zionism has lost its refuge-- a plausible two-state solution
    • The basic principle of Zionism as applied to Palestinians is that they just have no right to be there except by grace and favour, which can be granted only to the point where the security of the true heirs is not threatened. It's their misfortune, not shared with any other human beings, that they are so much in the wrong place: which calls for some humanity and discretion though in the end the basic principle, like all basic principles, simply has to be honoured. But a small, decorative remnant, with a museum of their very own, would be quite acceptable.

    • And perhaps the pro-slaughter crowd are, as ex-Professor Salaita might say, rather awful people. Perhaps just going through a rather awful phase and will grow out of it.

  • Accounts of Israeli war crimes in Khuza'a, Gaza pile up
    • Just to mention to James that I think that Nakba denial - or trivialisation that amounts to a kind of denial - is rife round here.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 1, ducks question on Gaza, 2, plans trip to Israel, and 3--
    • We have advanced in the last decade from a situation where the cause of justice in Palestine was negligible in the West - the Generous Offer story had full run, there was no other - to a situation where our lot are at least noticeable. The responses of the Zionist media representatives, with their offended tone, are sufficient indication of this. It must be said that enormous credit goes to a courageous handful of Jewish journalists and academics, not least Phil Weiss, for this change. What we need now are political people. Even one or two could create a body of opinion - those people who say something like the right thing in opinion polls must, at least quite a few of them must, be ready for joining in that opinion - that would move us from being noticeable to being significant. At that point the thing that has hitherto been our only advantage, that we're in the right, would become something very strong, and could not be negated by (if that's the word) machine politics with its loud reiteration of the same talking points. Loud talking points aren't the same once they're being loudly answered.
      Of course the personal attacks on anyone who tried to take a political lead on our side would be of the most incredible intensity. Anyone might quail.

    • Well, I suppose 'No comment' is better than 'No daylight between me and Netanyahu', though it's still a bit depressing. A considerable section of public opinion in the United States seems, on the poll evidence, not to be lapping up the Israeli story uncritically but things will hardly progress until someone with some prominence and a voice that is listened to is prepared to give a lead. I suppose that they know that if they do this early their nascent careers will be snuffed out and that if they think of doing it later they find that they're too committed to draw back without looking dishonest for what they said before.

  • Reading Salaita in Illinois—by Way of Cary Nelson (part 1)
    • While I understand that teachers should create an environment where no one feels scared to speak out that should not mean that they make people feel that they can be sure of leaving the discussion without any deep or uncomfortable disturbance to their existing ideas - and of course they should expose themselves to this risk also. Ideas are dangerous, can't not be.
      That said, I'd try not to use terms like 'awful person' - making the holder of the idea, rather than the idea itself, the subject of discussion - face to face or even in electronic communication. However, it's better in the very end to let arguments be stated in full if that seems necessary, with all their personal implications, than not to let them be stated at all. There are awful people in the world and there are arguments that claim to identify them - we sometimes need to look those arguments in the eye, I suppose. If the price of protesting against the murder of babies is serious discomfort in social situations or classroom situations far away then I suppose that price may have to be paid.
      I don't trivialise this matter: the entry of personal feeling into what could have been constructive discussion is not a trivial thing. I accept that the 'J'accuse!' style of rhetoric can be a little self-satisfied.

  • The Walzer Problem
    • O mi God, is it that bad, gracie? Are we not only not gaining but actually losing ground?

    • Very interesting! So he's moved from setting an almost impossibly high standard to setting an extremely permissive one, generously dependent on subjective assessment of military value of targets.
      The earlier standard would rule out the blockade, wouldn't it?

    • The examples you mention would qualify as 'asymmetric' in my book - that is they were fighting with fewer soldiers and fewer weapons yet able to make at least a serious impact for various reasons. The term 'asymmetric', coming as it does from mathematics, would in most people's usage be neutral on the level of morality, so we don't know whether there was a just cause or acceptable methods simply because of the lack of 'symmetry'. The most natural thought is that it's the bigger army that is morally suspect, other things being around equal - more likely to be working on the 'might is right' principle.

    • Yes, those are good words from Walzer and blow away, if read with any attention, a multitude of falsehoods.

    • You must inflict casualties, says Walzer, in proportion to the military value (eek, ugh) of the target. Surely this must mean in proportion to the ability of the people or objects to inflict damage on your side, so massive disproportion in casualties, which we have here, is massive disregard of the principle of proportionality even as Walzer states it. Everyone knows this, of course.

  • Have I failed to acknowledge Palestinian violence?
    • But let us not say 'In invasion or conquest you can do no right, in resistance you can do no wrong'. It is obviously natural for those subject to oppression and cruelty just to lash out but I suppose, facile as it seems for us at comfortable distance, we have to ask them to set limits.

  • US branch of the Jewish 'family' owes the homeland 'unconditional love' -- Rosner
    • The family analogy isn't as one-sided as Rosner makes it appear. It's natural for families to have disputes and for outsiders to have at least some awareness of the problem, though those caught up in disputes may well say that they love one another in spite of everything. At that rate, the love of Western Jewish people for their counterparts in Israel will not stop disputes and reproaches, though it may moderate them. By the same token, the love of Israeli Jewish people for their Western counterparts may moderate or limit, but will definitely not (contra Rosner) abolish their special concern for what the Westerners feel. They would also logically feel concern over the impression made on outsiders, since family disputes are not usually unknown and the fact that some objections are coming from within would add power to them.

  • Watch: Young Israeli Jew at Western Wall calls for 'another war and another war and another war and another war'
    • I keep mentioning Xenophon's portrayal of the Helots and Inferiors in Sparta, subject to relentless exploitation, restriction, contempt and even legalised murder - 'they want to eat the Spartans raw'. Oppressors too have a mindset which, though often very fastidious and self-consciously civilised, must lapse into some violent fantasies. Neither of these two are the same as - cannot mellow in the same way as - the normal bravado and occasional militarism of young males everywhere.
      We don't, as Kay says, have to 'find' that the natural reaction to cruel treatment is not idealistic yearning for justice but vengefulness, fury and fantasies of raging destruction. We do have to expect it.
      Of the two, I would think that the violent state of mind of the oppressors is the worse one: oppressed people are at least reacting against something bad, the others reinforcing and supporting the same bad thing.

  • A month of solidarity in London -- does the BBC get the message?
    • No Palestine or Gaza related item on BBC teletext news service as I write. We'll see how things go from here.
      I note the prominence given to the Mandela statue. Still, Mandela managed to spread something of a mist over his views of Zionism: he was not unequivocally on 'our' side. He never brandished the placards put into his statue's hands.

  • 'We are all Palestinian'

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