Commenter Profile

Total number of comments: 3900 (since 2009-11-18 22:41:33)

MHughes976

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

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  • Leading NY institutions discuss the Nakba -- and there is not a Palestinian in sight
    • I don't see how Zionism could have or could ever have had any objective except to maximise both the absolute and the relative Jewish and correspondingly minimise the non-Jewish numbers - except that a small and harmless minority would actually, because of the reputational benefit, make the Zionist project more, not less secure. It was always the intention of Zionism to show generosity to non-Jews, though generosity and tender mercies do not always look the same to those on the receiving end. The whole idea of a Jewish State implies that non-Jewish people can't in the long term be there in enough numbers and with enough political rights to bring the Jewishness of the state into question: what else?
      On the other hand I would think that overt expulsion would, because of reputational damage, only ever be a last resort: induced departure far better. The inducement could be money. Or it could be making life so miserable that the others 'choose' to leave. In the event of 48 most of the Palestinians fled (entirely rationally) from the war zone in which they found themselves and were then excluded, their flight being preposterously interpreted as a kind of crime. Of course there is an obvious and inalienable right to come and go from one's home.
      The continuing reality is the continuing humiliation of the Palestinians amid talk of 'paying them to leave' - though as yet there has never been anything like enough money for that to be a practical proposition. A continuing programme whereby departure is induced or meant to be induced is not necessarily less cruel than a summary expulsion, only less dramatic.

  • Israel turns off power to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the dead of winter
    • One of the first things that led me, shamefully late, to see something of the enormity of what goes on in Gaza was an article in the Economist, maybe 8 years ago, noting that there was a certain number of deaths every month in Gaza because the system set up by Israel involved unpredictable power cuts. The number was perhaps a dozen. I'm sorry I didn't keep better record of what I read then - it may have been a one-sided story or I may now be misremembering it. But it struck me as an example of routine cruelty and contempt.

  • The importance of Palestinian recognition
    • This is all good in intention - but there aren't degrees of impossibility, are there?
      Also, can we speak of an England-Scotland model. Our country so far is still one sovereign state, not a conjunction of two states with an open border.

    • Zionism is a political principle referring to Jewish rights over the whole of the Biblical territory called 'the inheritance of the children of Israel in the land of Canaan' and by other famous names, applying to different parts, such as Judaea. Any of the solutions we talk of, 1ss, 2ss etc. would involve a serious modification of Zionism which makes all of them impossible unless or until the principles of Zionism become negotiable. I'm not too optimistic.

  • Hate in the aftermath of Chapel Hill
    • The Tammy Myers murder this month in ?Las Vegas suggests that crazy killing is quite possible without being 'explicable' by religious or racial feelings.
      The perpetrators in both events must in some sense have hated the victims - what other emotion - at least decisive emotion - could they possibly have felt? Mind you, I'm not sure that hatred is 'worse' if it's religious rather than egoistic. The horrible attack on George Galloway turned out not to be 'religiously aggravated' and therefore somehow not quite so bad. I wasn't thrilled about that.

  • My invitation to speak at Hebrew Union College
    • Heschel was the author of a book called 'Israel: echo of eternity' - I've only seen a very brief extract from it which says that though Israel is not exactly an 'answer to Auschwitz' Israel does permit a certain divine 'radiance' in history to be seen. It was published not long after the 67 war under ADL auspices.
      He also proclaimed that the opposite of good was not evil but indifference, a statement with a very King-like ring, also recalling his friend Buber's exaltation of personal interaction and response. I don't know enough about him to be sure but the first impression is of someone who looked at the ME through the strongest of theological lenses - not in itself a bad thing, but not so good if it resulted in seeing a divine radiance about Israel to which the Palestinians made no real difference, at least did not significantly blemish it in his admiring mind. There is suggestion, though I have not seen it backed up, that he called for kindness to the Palestinians. However there is surely something hinting at indifference to them if they do not make a difference to his theological estimate of Israel.
      I'm not sure if his influence on King was that good. Indeed I don't know if King ever encountered any Jewish thinker who had significant reservations about Zionism - would be interested to know more about that.
      There is a kind of academic atmosphere where the Buber-Niebuhr-Heschel-King system of thought, with Zionism utterly at its heart, is of unquestioned sanctity and perhaps that atmosphere prevailed at the session Bruce valiantly attended.

    • Thanks for the link to Ms. Peto's thesis, American: it's well worth reading and I hope we'll hear more from her.

    • Heschel's comment on the role of Christians in introducing the God of Abraham to the world seems unduly generous. Perhaps his view of history minimised Hellenistic Judaism, which was very much a part of the late BCE world, deriving ideas from it and held in some respect within it.
      He forgets God's plain statement according to Malachi that 'from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same my name is great among the Gentiles' - even if this is taken in the least exciting sense as simply a reference to Jewish synagogues in foreign lands (I think it's more than that) it does imply that pre-Christian non-Jews were at least taking an interest.

    • Every time MLK comes up here I look up his statements on the ME (which he had visited) and every time I end up more discouraged.
      On Sept.29, 1967, King wrote two letters in similar terms to Adolph Held, the Jewish labour leader, and to Rabbi Eisendrath. Both are in the King archive, are I think unquestionably genuine, and contain statements of Israel's right to exist in - famous and familiar word - security. No parallel right is ascribed to any other relevant party, the only call being for their economic development. These are unequivocal statements in favour of Zionism.
      King had taken a rather different view - or at least spoken in a rather different tone - in his 1959 Easter sermon about his ME visit. And it may be that all his Zionist statements are from late in his life and addressed privately (though not at all confidentially) to anxious Jewish enquirers, that he avoided very public statements. But this only seems to show that ideas among the likes of us that of course he would have moved our way can only be wishful thinking: his movement, if any, was in the opposite direction.
      It doesn't seem to me that the ME was a minor concern either to King or to other civil rights leaders. Even to the masses within the movement it was beginning to matter quite a lot and therefore must have been causing King acute anxiety. The occasion of his September letters was a chaotic 'Conference of New Politics' in which there had been a strong push to condemn Israel. Hosea Williams led 'spirited opposition' to the anti-Israel element, King himself not choosing to take a public lead. Stokely Carmichael was to become a spirited anti-Zionist, having sympathised with Zionism at an earlier point: I am not sure of the chronology of his changes of mind.
      Far from thinking that the subject was far from King's mind I think it was increasingly central. We think of the civil rights movement as an alliance between unjusty treated black people and white liberals but it was also an alliance between liberal theologians, Jewish and Protestant, which is where Heschel and Niebuhr come in. To them it was absolutely essential to create a realm of discussion where Jew and Christian could both feel entirely comfortable and respected - their liberalism meant above all 'answering Auschwitz' (a task Heschel mentions, though regards as in some sense impossible) and they could not conceive of an answer that did not include Zionism. King and Niebuhr were among 16 theologians who signed pro-Israel letters to the Press after the 67 war (I've seen many references to these but not managed to see a verbatim copy) and I think we just have to accept that the Zionist cause was integral to their worldview - one that is not so powerful at least in liberal Protestant circles now, though I'm sure not defunct.
      But I'm sure that the MLK who would have led protests in Palestinian streets is an imaginary, unrealistic figure: we have to reckon with him as he was.

  • One-state 'fantasy is very dangerous' because it cannot tell us what the military looks like -- Manekin
    • Well, I said that to regard the enforcement of Palestinian property rights by military means as an absurd fantasy and the negation of Palestinian property rights by those means as perfectly normal is not to show a helpful attitude: it does not express any belief in equality of rights. Your remarks are not in direct contradiction of mine.
      I think you are saying that it is indeed absurd to think that mutual antagonism could in the short term or indeed ever be overcome sufficiently to make a 1ss possible. I wasn't directly addressing the topic of 1ss, rather the topic of some attitudes brought to the discussion by people who seem to be liberal-minded.
      I don't know enough about the situation to have a firm opinion about short-term practicalities, though I do think that all current inhabitants of Palestine do have some common interests and could, at least to a small degree, develop a few more pretty quickly. I don't think that sufficient overcoming of antagonisms for a 1ss, however severe, is absurd (self-contradictory) in the long run or unimaginable in the light of experience. All relevant analogies, including the one Phil draws here, are inexact - but even inexact analogies show how difficult it is to declare anything truly inconceivable.
      'Conceivable' doesn't imply 'practical', I accept. But I don't think it's 'dangerous', as claimed by some of those quoted by Phil, to discuss ideas that may in truth be impractical, particularly when years and years of discussion and negotiation or pseud-negotiation have failed to start us on any practical path to 'peace'. The danger and what I called the unhelpfulness, both moral and practical, is in approaching the problem without a basic commitment to equality of rights regardless of race or religion.
      As for practical proposals for ending the dispute and managing any continuing antagonism, let's hear them. The proposal to 'negotiate' as before for another unspecified period is not a proposal for ending anything that is currently troublesome.
      I'm visiting family in far-flung places so may not return to this discussion very quickly.

    • While I don't much like the idea of secession and regard the underlying idea of 'self-determination' as pretty garbled (as I often say here) I have left-wing friends who are as English as I am and hope that Scotland's breaking away will happen because they think it will revitalise English political life.

    • The army of Israstine would presumably be committed to defending Israstinian territory and to maintaining the authority of the government, presumably elected without racial prejudice, against anarchists and fascists. The idea of the army being needed to enforce property rights is in a way a vision of a society without peace or justice. The idea that an army enforcing Palestinian rights seems absurd, evil, grotesque while the idea of a huge military barrier between the Palestinians and any property that any of them might consider theirs seems utterly reasonable is an indication of how far from helpful that liberal Zionist mindset is. Mind you, we knew that already.
      The emphasis on what the army would 'look like' is interesting in itself, suggesting an absurdity in a shoulder to shoulder relationship between those of different race.

  • Netanyahu calls on Jews to leave Europe en masse in wake of Copenhagen synagogue attack
    • I stayed in a quayside hotel in Copenhagen - one of the little ships that saved the Danish Jews is moored outside, quite poignant. As I understand it the Danish government resigned making the Germans set up an occupation regime, which they would probably rather have avoided doing. This implied anti-Jewish actions and transport to Sweden was organised by the resistance movement generally known as Holger Dansk.

  • Lawrence Summers says BDS movement is 'persecuting' Israel
    • The Oxford History of the Biblical World, for instance, is written with great respect to Zionist sensitivities. But I don't think that there is even the hint of the suggestion that there were centuries of uninterrupted rule over Palestine by people who were 'Jews' in any sense. There's a question of course about how we apply the term 'Jewish' to people of that time. The nearest we come is the Hasmonean-Herodian period of a century or so. At almost all time the Palestinian kingdoms were clients of greater powers - even the Hasmoneans were always to some extent dependent on Roman support.
      And it is quite false that people sharing a certain ancestry, religion or culture have a right to mark off certain territories as theirs. On the contrary, the rulers of all territories have a duty to extend the fullest political rights to people of all races, religions and cultures.

  • 'NYT' perpetuates myth Israel was 'fighting for its very survival' during 1967 war
    • I suppose, RoHa, that if I intercept a letter from the San Marino militarists saying 'We attack on the day of the Grand Prix!' there might be reason to start blasting away on the day before. But these ideas are rather fantastic and I'm sure that your rule of thumb is in all but fantastic circumstances something like a sacred duty. We should, that is, set the standard for Hobbes's 'sufficient knowledge' almost insuperably high. Our own self-interested interpretation of someone else's intentions is not sufficient knowledge - I think you made that point in a comment on Rashomon recently.
      And I guess, talknic, that lying in aggressive war in almost as essential as shooting.

    • Casus belli - a bringing-on of war. Casus is of the 4th declension, where the nominative plural is spelled the same as the singular, though the final syllable is long, so spelled 'casus' and maybe pronounced 'casoose' by Caesar and Cicero, who lived through a few of them. If you wanted to make it 'of wars' the plural of the genitive belli is bellorum.

    • Just to add that Hobbes' view that war exists in any 'tract of time when the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known' seems reasonable - but the problem is distinguishing the will to contend from mere displays of emotion and rhetoric, which are not acts of will. Hobbes implies that the one who starts the war is not necessarily the one who shoots first but the one who decides first. Did Nasser decide on war before Eshkol and Dayan? Unless he was a complete idiot - which few who rise to leadership of major countries really are - he cannot have done. He was of course driven to displays of emotion and rhetoric in order to preserve his precarious political position. I think he played with fire but that is very much not the same as making a decision.

    • Whether Israel 'was fighting for its very survival' (FVS) depends in great part on what these words are taken a) to mean factually and b) to imply ethically.
      Stephen RS understands FVS as 'fighting in circumstances where there was a serious chance of its dismantlement' - and he is absolutely right, given all the evidence he cites and given common knowledge, that in this meaning the statement is untrue.
      Others might mean 'fighting in circumstances where the unpredictable just might have happened and where rhetoric about Israel's dismantlement was heard' - in this meaning the statement is true. There was beyond doubt or denial a lot of angry rhetoric - of course angry rhetoric is often used by people who have every intention of compromise. But underlying this rhetoric, whatever the readiness for compromise, was the belief that the Palestinians excluded in 48 had every right to return to their homes as full citizens, the procedure that would have dismantled Israel, and that it would be just for military means to be used for that end. Who could doubt that almost everyone in the Middle East at the time held to this belief?
      On the other side stood the Zionist belief in prior and overriding Jewish rights in the Holy Land, not in some of it but in all of it - again, subject to such compromise as might be practically necessary.
      In the meanwhile, many in the wider ME have defected from the Palestinian cause as it was understood then: the Saudi peace plan, which concedes all the 48 conquests, is the plainest example of this. On the other side, the Zionists have seen less and less necessity for compromise: as we have seen lately from the Kerry Dealings, there is no final settlement - on the table and being proposed as just and reasonable - coming from Israel, which prefers 'to live without a solution'.
      FVS in the sense where it is true does not imply that Israel's cause was just. They were fighting, with only minimal immediate risk to themselves, to sweep aside, divide, shatter and render powerless any force, even any idea, that 48 could be reversed. To a very great extent they succeeded. The question would be how just that objective was.

  • Shit dead rabbis say about gentiles
    • What does the remark mean? Taken literally, wouldn't the English translation mean that non-Jews are always contented with their lot in life and only wish to make Jewish people happy? To me that is not so much insulting as ridiculous in an odd sort of way and I can't imagine that any Jewish person of any political persuasion would be believe it.

  • Finkelstein on Joan Peters's legacy (and Dershowitz's legal troubles)
    • I agree that we are beyond the point where population figures for the 1800s could form the premise of a relevant moral argument. I don't even think we ever reached that point. In any event, opposing immigration is something people are allowed to do without consequent loss of political rights.

  • Phila Inquirer publishes a lie: 'Anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are one and the same'
    • I don't think that definitions are true or false: that is what descriptions are, or normally are. Definitions are about words not about the world.
      I was giving the definitions under which I classify people like myself as anti-Zionists but not as anti-Semites. No one, as I often say here, is the owner of words and if other definitions are put forward I'm happy to work with them. Under some definitions I will find myself an 'anti-Semite', though I would (have to) claim that under those definitions (not under mine) justifiable forms of anti-Semitism exist. Under some definitions I might even find myself a 'Zionist', if (say) a Zionist is one who thinks Jewish people should be treated fairly and equally. I noted a few years ago that I was 'Jewish' under a definition advanced by Richard Falk, which concerned belief in certain ideals: my Christianity didn't seem to exclude me. I mightn't have qualified if living up to those ideals had been an added requirement.

    • My response to Vera would be that I understand Zionism as the belief that Jewish people and they only have an inherent right, these days commonly called a birthright, to a share of sovereignty over the Holy Land - so that others have a share only by the grace and generosity of the true heirs. I think that this is and always has been a mistaken belief. I oppose it. I think this makes me an anti-Zionist.
      I'll be happy to work with another definition if anyone cares to suggest one.
      I understand anti-Semitism as prejudice against at least some things that are characteristically Jewish. I consider that anti-Zionism is rational, therefore never in itself an expression of anti-Semitism, in my understanding of that term, or of any kind of prejudice. I object to Israel as a political system not because it is Jewish but because it claims rights for Jewish people in an exclusive form which I consider morally mistaken. I can't deny that this puts me at variance on a serious moral question with majority Jewish opinion of these days. But moral questions are not to be settled - here I would expect most Jewish people to agree - either by consideration of numbers or by consideration of race.
      Anti-Semitism and Zionism are fully compatible in their logic. One expression of prejudice against Jewish manners and morals would be to say that Jewish people should live with each other, not as a distinct and troubling element in larger societies: therefore any project for maintaining a distinct Jewish polity is good for humanity in general.

  • 'NYT' and Matthews warn that Netanyahu speech to Congress could lead US to war
    • High risks on all sides, I think. But I don't think Obama will allow himself to be humiliated by being the first President to be pushed into a war by a foreign leader and I don't think that his supporters in Congress will desert him completely and I don't think that public opinion would welcome another war. So this time Netanyahu does not hold all the high cards.

  • When discussing Islam, which Islam and whose rationality? 
    • I went to a very 'traditional' - traditions being well-regarded on this thread! - Church of England school and I am a committed member of the CofE to this day in my oldish age. My mother, on being widowed, even went so far as to marry the school Chaplain. It was extremely valuable that we had a non-CofE presence among us both as students and teachers. I learned a lot from a Catholic in my class - though I'm still very Protestant and in this context am very disturbed by the Pope's self-serving and indefensible pronouncements. We had to the best of my memory a Quaker teacher who made an amiable impression - more importantly we had a few atheists who were distinctly outspoken.
      It is vital if there is to be rational discussion that we recognise that our religions are the least rationally defensible element commonly in our public thoughts, though it seems (to me, if not to Professor Dawkins) that human nature cannot resist religion altogether. Since religion must always be in danger of falling into irrationality it must be subject to at least as much critique as anything else we think and therefore it cannot be totally protected from mockery, ie from exposure of its absurdities if it becomes absurd.
      Note that everyone thinks that everyone else's views on religious matters (to include atheism), even if nominally the same as their own, include absurd elements. This connects with the extreme difficulty of explaining which forms of religion are authentic and the frustration that people feel on being told that their religion demands something that they find completely alien or spurns something that they love (Judaism/Zionism/Islam/Islamism/Anglicanism/Evangelicalism etc. etc.).

    • To think that all who are commonly called Muslims think the same is a factual error, indeed a screamingly manifest one. Those who are so angry with those Muslims who are here and now committed to terrorism must, if they are not to overlook the obvious, notice a contrast with those who are very much not so committed. The same is true of ever so many idea-based human groups.
      That said, I do not share the philosophical views expressed by Sadith here. There is nothing ignorant or naive, still less dangerous, in saying, if you participate in a discussion, what you mean by an important term. If I say 'by "Muslim" I mean anyone who finds the Quran inspiring' then you know, even from those few words, something of what I mean when I say that there is absolutely no reason to expect that a Muslim will be a terrorist. You can still disagree, of course.
      In traditional logical wording - nothing, I agree, wrong with traditions!! - normal descriptive terms have and need both an extension, a set of things to which they apply, and an intension, a criterion for applying the term.
      And what would a 'tradition' be if not something handed on in recognisable shape over longish periods of time?

  • Letter from a Texas Maximum Security Prison: A personal reflection on Martin Luther King Day
    • We have to remember that Martin Luther King was, or at least ended his days as, a Zionist: someone who believed that 'the right of Israel to exist as a state of security' is unquestionable. as he said in his letter to Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath of Sept.29 1967. He was not wildly keen to make his views known on the subject but when pressed he always, at least in that last phase, told the Zionists what they wanted to hear.
      His reason seems to be something about identifying the opposition to Israel with 'feudal' oil interests, which was perhaps a typical left-wing idea of the time, though how someone who had actually been to Palestine could have decided to treat Palestinian people thrown off their poor land as if they were Saudi princes rolling in gold is beyond me.
      However we do perhaps need to recall the great and continuing ability of Zionism to present itself as a progressive cause, more specifically as the progressive cause of giving all traditionally non-dominant groups in the West their various places of honour.

  • Diaspora Jews are not in 'exile,' they are at home
    • I still think that there is, and cannot be for a long time while our societies function normally, no rationally identifiable difference in safety and security prospects, therefore nothing objective to make the relevant decision in any way pressing. What makes it pressing is the rhetoric of the Israeli leader, which surely has quite a lot to do with the atmosphere in which the decision is being made currently.
      I accept that there are people trying to change the situation radically and ot make the position of Jewish people in the West intolerable. Some of them, no doubt some more pairs of brothers sharing each other's misery and humiliation, are plotting as I write. Very few will get anywhere beyond talk, though.
      Of course this is a problem for all of us and all of us should unite against plots and conspiracies against the social contract on which we all depend. The idea that our Jewish fellow-citizens should give up on us and remove the problem, or even a part of the problem, by leaving our shores, is demoralising for all of us.
      Jewish people are part of the social contract of the country where they live and are citizens. They have like the rest of us accepted the protection of the laws of the country where they live and have the same, absolutely the same, obligations as the rest of us to act in defence of our societies.
      You may say that that is all theory - the immediate practical question of danger and safety must be paramount. However, I come back to saying that as things stand there is no significant difference in levels of safety. Moreover the integrity of the social contract is a very practical thing.

    • The chances of being subject to violence or serious injury, given that one is a Euro resident and Jewish, and the chances of the same, given that one is an Israeli resident and Jewish, can surely differ only trivially. Consideration of these chances cannot, therefore, be the basis for any rational decision.
      There is no serious movement - nothing which should affect anyone's calculation of life-chances - anywhere in Europe to disfranchise Jewish citizens or restrict the rights that they have in comparison with others.
      However, we face a massive victory for Netanyahu and Lapid after their studied and gross insults to the French state were met with the headlong decision of all the families of the supermarket victims to bury them in Jerusalem. We know that there were many in the French Jewish leadership with very different ideas but they have been for now swept away - chaff in wind, snow in spring.
      To this we tend to reply that Netanyahu is handing the anti-Semites, even Hitler, a belated success. The Zionist counter-argument is that there is every difference between Jewish people's leaving because they are scorned and rejected and their leaving because they scorn and reject Europe for the way that anti-Semitism here never, ever dies. Passivity vs. activity, humiliation vs. pride. There even seems to be a better class of scorn: no rage, no rampages but a quiet and dignified turning away.
      How do we meet that argument/attitude?

  • Avraham Burg's Israeli vision, and French passport
    • The Law of Return was in part what Burg says, ie a way of offering a refuge to persecuted Jewish people, but it was also something else, a way of affirming the basic principle of Zionism, that the Holy Land is the place where Jewish people have overriding rights, eclipsing the idea that the main reason for citizenship is birth in the relevant place.
      Whether the need for a refuge still exists would be disputed between Burg and (not only) Netanyahu, who would laugh loudly and refer Burg to Mr. Coulibaly. But in any event the Zionist principle is vibrantly alive. I think that Burg deceives himself - yet again they tell themselves, yet again they believe themselves - into thinking that Zionism in itself and the resistance to are not and have not always formed the reason why there has been an intractable problem in the HL for so long.

  • #JeSuisUnJuifBritannique
    • There is now a dispute breaking out because Government ministers have written to the Muslim Council of GB asking about Muslims and British identity, as if (say the recipients) there were some question about it.

    • Montagu must have been well aware that anti-Semitism, in the sense of prejudice against Jewish people, is perfectly compatible in its logic with Zionism. If you think that Jews are a kind of foreigner, not altogether to be trusted by the majority of 'us', you may well think that the best thing is the formation of a polity where Jewish people are the only citizens or form the dominant part of the citizen body.
      If by contrast you think that British Jewish people are as British as you are, spirit of the same spirit, you will not sympathise with the claim that they have, each and all, rights in another part of the world that British people in general do not have and a vital or 'existential' interest in protecting those rights. The thing about being one citizen body is that existential interests are the same.
      Before getting too worried about the actual state of British opinion, we should note that the Labour Party still has a reasonable chance of a plurality in the forthcoming election and its leader, who is Jewish by origin though an atheist by belief, a reasonable chance of being Prime Minister entrusted with the defence of our existential interests.

  • The legacy of Joan Peters and 'From Time Immemorial'
    • Yes, as far as I could see the last time this quote came up, it appears in one of Spurgeon's sermons as if it were already a well-known phrase, but no previous occurrence of it has been found. It's rather a good image, I think - with truth as a respectable mid-nineteenth century gentleman pulling on his cumbersome boots.

    • I think that 'truth with boots on' came from the mid-Victorian preacher Charles Spurgeon.

  • Netanyahu crashes Paris unity march, French gov't fumes
    • I've been away for a couple days, Pamela - hope you've now heard from me via gmail - Martin

    • Thanks to seafoid for the Besson essay. I miss out on some things by being an Independent rather than a Guardian reader.
      It's eloquent and moving, though maybe the 1789 style fraternity - 'et demain L'Internationale sera le genre humain' - that he offers is not something that his addressees could really accept. It's very Deist, don't you think? Progressive thought since 1789 has always feared that organised religion was an opiate causing people to love irrational authority and sometimes to hate other people who are really victims of the same oppression as themselves.

    • If the BBC report yesterday is true Netanyahu's suggestion that the Jewish dead in the recent massacre be buried in Jerusalem has been accepted - and accepted pell-mell - by their families, which I would have thought was a major PR triumph, a smash-hit victory in the battle of symbolism. It shows that his siren song is being accepted increasingly by Euro Jewish people, no doubt despite the reservations of established Jewish leaders here.
      On cue this morning's Independent cites a poll showing (in the familiar terminology of these things) increasing Jewish insecurity here in the UK justified by findings that '45% of British people accept' at least one of four anti-Semitic propositions put to them. These concern financial greed, dual loyalty and too much holocaust talk.
      Netanyahu knows that the Euro political class doesn't like him, Sarkozy's inadvertently recorded conversation with Obama being particularly clear evidence. Nor is he very like those Jewish leaders and intellectuals who have a Euro cast of mind. But to his own constituencies, very much including the American exceptionalists whose credo is that they are morally superior to the effete characters of the eastern Atlantic seabord, he has played extraordinarily well.

  • Why I am not Charlie
    • To criminalise holocaust denial is a restriction on free speech. Perhaps it's a justified restriction but it's not consistent to say that free speech must be absolute while imposing restrictions on it. If there are justified restrictions we need to know what the justification is. For what it's worth I wouldn't accept a justification based on the need to protect religious belief or operated by the 'I know what's unacceptable when I see it' criterion.

    • I second your sentiments, GL, though I think it's perhaps a bit excessive to demand that everyone uses a prescribed form of words.
      Scorn directed at weak and deprived members of society because of their deprivation is distasteful but there is no simple distinction between the weak and the strong in this matter. We may say that Voltaire was helpful in satirising the Church because the Church was strong and powerful and the Pope rich and 'impervious'. But the same religion linked the Pope, Louis XV and many rich men with millions of deprived people who held its message in the utmost affection and to whom it was the core of their identity in this heartless world: much the same is true now. Even the rich and powerful have human feelings so that there may sometimes be an element of unfairness and cruelty in mocking them. Even the poor and deprived may have profoundly mistaken beliefs, even beliefs which contribute to their own oppression, which need to be challenged.

    • The people who say that France reaped a whirlwind of its own sowing would doubtless emit a whirlwind of steam from their ears if anything similar were said about attacks on the United States.

    • I have some reservations about this essay.
      Scott considers that silence cannot be terrorism. I think that silence, even just by itself, can be a terrifying thing: to say nothing and to walk away from someone in danger or distress can be a shocking act and in some circumstances a very hostile one. So 'Break your silence!' can be a morally justified demand. However, Scott is quite right to say 'Break your silence in terms dictated by me!' is not a defence of free speech but an assault on it.
      'Agglutinative thinking' about Muslims or Danes is surely dangerous and misleading but I don't think it can be dismissed so entirely out of hand. It's appropriate for me, as what Aamer Rahman would call a random British person, to show some cultural gluten by saying that the Balfour Declaration, from many years before my birth, distresses me and causes some painful, or at least sad, reflections on the British and Christian culture that gave rise to it.
      I was at a meeting in a Church of England stronghold yesterday and mentioned that people of Muslim religion were being killed on something like a daily basis by others. I was afraid of getting into a real row but didn't. However, we can't begin to address all these problems if we don't sometimes say what others find painful to the core of their beings.

  • Don't let's go to the war of civilizations again
    • By faith I must regard Jesus as one who came from heaven and whose consciousness must have transcended any group belonging. By such reason as I can muster, I'd say that if Yonah means that Jesus is presented in the New Testament as somehow deeply committed to the Tanakh and deeply involved with the religion centred on the Jerusalem Temple he's quite right. He is also shown as in some ways a dissident who believed that his rejection by the Temple's representatives would lead to the destruction of the Temple, city and polity of the Jews - ie those commonly called Jews then and now.
      This presentation must reflect a theological split in Tanakh interpretation between those who would as Jews 'by themselves' await 'the adding of many nations to Yahweh' in the last days and those who wanted to make the addition happen a bit quicker: 'I will go to the Gentiles, they will listen!'. The latter group claimed Jesus as their principal thinker and authority and shortly added that the otherwise inexplicable (in Tanakh terms) destruction of the Temple was due to the rejection of Jesus by the Temple authorities. They were regarded by many others as betraying Jewish tradition: whether this sort of ambiguous status, Jewish but not Jewish, had existed in Pilate's Palestine and been exemplified by the elusive historical Jesus I think we cannot say.
      One reason to think that Jesus was actually like that - an early version of an early Christian - is the very negative view of him taken in the Talmud, which reports for instance that he had tattoos. This might well indicate sympathy with the dreaded Egyptian tradition of sacred writing. Or was that just part of third century literary sniping between two (now) rather different faiths?
      First century Jews would have had no problem in saying 'I live in Palestine' - the strong and continuing usage of that name is unquestionable. Thanks to Zofia and American.
      But I think that Yonah would be right again to say that 'Palestinian/Philistine' had fallen on days of neglect. This was partly because the Septuagint had all but abolished the word and substituted 'allophyloi' - 'assorted foreigners' (perhaps an ingenious play on the 'phil' element in 'Philistine'). We see that when Mark wants to refer to a Palestinian he has to invent the complicated 'Syrophoenician', a word which contrasts her with Jesus. But it is significant in the Christian presentation of Jesus that this is the only character who defeats Jesus in argument: quite a dramatic way of showing openness to non-Jewish influences.
      The moral of all this to me? - Well, I'd like this little pointer to the permanent non-Jewish presence in Palestine to be recalled sometimes.
      The likes of Phil and Shlomo Sand are not Christians but are in the authentic Jewish tradition of critique of Jewish tradition. Also, we Christians owe our existence to the Tanakh-debating Jewish people of the first century.

  • Anti-Semitism at Fordham?
    • Much depends, as ever, on what you mean by 'anti-Semitism'. I am pretty sure that that Professors Ben-Atar and Robbins do not mean the same by the word - and they're talking past each other until their uses of the word are clearly stated.
      I accept that some people define 'anti-Semite' in such a way that it applies to all who consider Zionism to be a mistaken moral belief, including me. There's nothing I can do about that, since people can use words as they wish. I could, if I wanted tit for tat, define some word commonly taken to be insulting so that it applies to them.

  • 'NYT' reporter says Palestinians must make 'concessions... they have long avoided'
    • I see no sign of any consensus in the ancient world that the territory commonly called Palestine was one where 'the Jews' (meaning those whose religion centred on a Temple in Jerusalem?) had prior claim. How could there be? Throughout almost all that time Palestine was sparsely inhabited, at least by comparison with Egypt and Iraq, and ruled by kings who were to some degree clients of greater powers based in the more populated regions.
      These must have regarded themselves and been in many ways accepted as the legitimate 'kings of kings' and protectors of all the religious groups within their purview. Perhaps because many different groups had some sort of political protection, religious consensus within Palestine were rare. The Bible is sometimes questioned as history but it makes at least these points abundantly clear. The writers regret, but do not disguise, the fact that there was no religious uniformity most of the time.
      There were always people around who were clearly not classified as Jewish. Zionists might like to follow the fashion of the Greek-speaking Jews who transformed the Palestinians into 'a mixed bunch of foreigners' and in a sense that term, though somewhat contemptuous, must be realistic. Palestine has always and for ever, from the first time we glimpse it until now, been a place of more than one culture and all the residents all the time must have regarded themselves as legitimately present.
      We do not have a moral sense completely different from that of our ancestors in the dawning years of civilisation. They knew as well as we do that there is a certain right to good government and that it is wrong in all normal circumstances to turn people out of or keep people from their accustomed homes - not because of alleged rights from the distant past but because they are the living people of the present. That is why the Israelite conquest is presented in the Bible as receiving - and of course as needing - special divine dispensation. But we cannot be asked to believe either that this divine dispensation is still in force or that a new one has been granted.

    • I thank you for the reference to a book about the Wall symbolism - I'm working on that problem at the moment and will maybe see if I can get Phil to publish something.
      I tried in the article of mine that appeared here in June 2013 to argue that Palestine is the only properly attested pre-Roman name for Palestine and that over the whole sweep of ancient history it was a remarkably multicultural place.
      If you wish to restore one particular past situation you need to argue, surely, that that situation was, among all that have occurred, exceptionally legitimate. I see no one even beginning on that task, let alone defining terms like 'historic homeland' and (above all) 'self-determination'. I think that everyone has, utterly regardless of what happened in ancient times, the right to enfranchised existence as the subject of a sovereign power in the place where (s)he exists, unless there is special reason to regard that person's presence as temporary or contrary to established law or the result of invasion and marauding. There is no international committee that has or ever had the right to change that.
      Invasion and marauding did happen in ancient times - RoHa mentions the English and the Welsh. (I was born in Wallasey, 'little Wales beyond England'. I sometimes imagine the horror that some of my ancestors on both sides of the fifth century conflict would feel if they had foreseen my mongrel ancestry, partly from the hated alien race.) I would think that the Kingdom of England did not gain full legitimacy until all Welsh individuals had full rights within all the former kingdoms of Britain.
      At any event, Zofia, thank you for all the learning you bring to this discussion. You take up arms against the sea of unreason. The dark waves still rise but let good prevail.

  • Dershowitz story is also an Israel story
    • Terrorism, I'd say, involves attack on those who are neither combatants nor criminals (except in the judgement of an illegitimate or kangaroo court) nor marauders or plunderers on the loose. In most intelligible moral systems, involvement in terrorism in this sense could not be justified if there were any reasonably practical alternative and if those involved are not, whatever they do, in extreme danger. But if I were in that sort of danger and if on any objective view I had no other hope I would, as I think would everyone, give terrorism serious consideration. I would also have to consider absolute concession, withdrawal from the scene and acceptance that there is no future for people of my kind.

  • 'You are part of the problem, not the solution': Open letter to the editors of The New York Times
    • I share NIck's impression. 'Is nowhere' doesn't mean 'just doesn't matter' but 'is treated in innumerable ways as if it didn't matter'. Not that Cohen is as ashamed of this as he should be.

    • Cohen's remarks do show some human sympathy with the people of Gaza, to whom no one will 'offer decency'. He is right in a way to say that Gaza has been edited out of most people's mental map of the world - the likes of us, who think about the place every day, are eccentrics and misfits, or have been until recently. His omission is to express shame at our willed amnesia.

  • The 'bait & switch' politics of liberal Zionism
    • Re the biblical motherlode - I'm not surprised that it exists and I'm sure that your research on the matter is both useful and depressing.
      Someone, maybe Gideon Levy, has remarked that if (or when) Israel conquers Jordan the name 'Jordan' will be abolished and replaced by 'Gilead and Moab', ie that there is great power in names and that Bible names (Judaea and Samaria! - not that this conjunction has much biblical authority) have an extraordinary effect by way of making Israeli conquests look legitimate. But this is an effect to which proclaimed atheists are fully subject. This is not, or is not necessarily, religion in the sense of admitted belief in supernatural powers but 'only' of religion in the sense of secular ideology that makes powerful use of religious language.

    • Hope I've pressed the right Reply button.
      The question of the massive literary power and traditional popularity of both Testaments of the Bible, the most important influence on Euro-language culture for centuries, is one thing and is pretty clearly far from specific to any race or ethnicity. Nor is the problem of modernity, where we seek to reconcile moral and spiritual tradition with science and scientific history, different between ethic groups.
      The question of how Israel has created a 'rock of existence' from the Bible is another thing. To me this Zionist creation amounts, to my great sadness, to by far the most successful response to the 'problem of modernity' - which is one reason why so many Jewish religious thinkers have embraced it with such passion. Religion can free itself completely from God and become science, more precisely become the wonderful key, made from pre-scientific national tradition, which has the power to make dry and dusty scientific results both meaningful and lively. Once this power is recognised it seems to make national tradition sacred and intense nationalism rational. So you can keep belief in God if you want or you can adopt Ben-Gurion's atheist bible-thumping.
      The specific thing is the way that the Hebrew Bible contains many prosaic historical elements and the way that Palestine seemed to offer a treasure-house of prosaic things like clay tablets and stone walls that could be used 'to prove the Bible': and Zionism was born, to its great good fortune, into the same world as scientific archaeology. Furthermore massive resources could be and were, as Avnery says, pumped into deeply prejudiced readings of both the archaeological and the literary record and into giving massive publicity to those readings. Christianity was left way behind the curve. People do try 'to prove the New Testament' but resources are differently balanced and the sceptical voice is powerful: moreover we are much more committed to miracles that science can hardly begin to verify, so our problems with modernity are very painful and acute.
      Everything was right, or at least opportune, for the Zionists to carve the Bible into a rock of existence for the modern scientific world. For Christians in that world the Biblical narratives can seem more like a stone of stumbling.

    • Uri Avnery describes 'the Rock of our Existence' (title of an essay in the current Counterpunch) as the fake archaeology and historical fabrication promoted by Ben-Gurion.

      link to dissidentvoice.org

  • A Gazan’s wishes for 2015
    • It's hard to find words, even foul ones, for this detestable business. Think how steamed up we got over the Berlin Wall.

  • Leading rabbi tells Arab ambassador not to 'shlep' Kerry's view of Palestine into discussion of religion and terrorism
    • Already 2015 in the UK. Another year in which I find myself, like Sean, in disagreement - as one who thinks Zionism morally indefensible - with what seems to be majority opinion within Judaism. For a Christian, even a rather sceptical Christian like me, that degree of religious difference is a bit of a pain. However let me not, in 2015 or ever, forget concerning Jewish people the testimony of the Christian text that to them were entrusted the oracles of God. Happy New Year to all on Mondoweiss. Let better things come to Palestine.
      2014 was bad, but I really believe that Mondoweiss has done something to make another onslaught on Palestine more difficult.

  • Israel's upcoming elections and the false nostalgia of Liberal Zionism
    • Absolutely agree about the half-racist, half plain inhuman indifference to the security and dignity of the Palestinians.
      I see the logic of the situation slightly differently. On Zionist views there is no occupation, there is simply redemption of Jewish land regrettably full of people with no right to be there. Zionism is a claim to the whole Holy Land: any redefinition of Zionism that permitted sharing in any sense, ie accepted that some other claim had validity equal to the Jewish one would destroy the whole moral (supposedly moral) case for everything Israel has done. How could the Palestinians have been excluded in the first place if they had as much right to be there as Jewish people have?
      Belief in rights which exist specifically on grounds of ancestry or religion is very difficult to reconcile with liberalism in the sense of belief that all political rights arise from having the human endowment of senses, emotions and reason.

  • Caroline Glick says there were no Palestinian refugees
    • Hope I'm choosing the right place to join in the discussion amid the threads and sub-threads. I think it's clear enough that very few of those on the ground of any group or faction see a real moral reason for partition. I think that's because there isn't one. The vast majority of outsiders yearn for partition or 2ss, but that's not because they can justify it in terms of morality or justice but because they badly want the problem to go away and stop bothering them or pricking our unquiet, fickle Western consciences.
      The desire to be rid of the whole accursed conflict is not confined to the West. of course, and many on the ground on all sides would take it in negotiation if they could get it.
      Meshaal's brief remarks in Turkey do seem, 'in plain English' to show openness to a 2ss and to no significant RoR. That would be because he did not, unless the report is slightly misleading, say 'all Palestine' and because he did not seem to mention RoR. I don't think some of the harsher remarks made about him here, that he is a buffoon spouting hot air, are justified: he is a politician raising support by rhetoric. They all - in a sense we all - do that.
      In any event, extremist rhetoric and proclaimed refusal to compromise by any leader never furnish logically valid reason tor refusing to offer such a person compromise that would objectively meet many of the needs of his/her supporters. In fact the signature that you really want on the Great Compromise, if there is to be one, is that of the most intransigent of former enemies.
      Extremist, anti-compromise rhetoric provokes counter-rhetoric of just the same kind, of course. We often notice extreme rhetoric from the Zionist side, as here with Ms. Glick, which for all its faults does not provide a valid reason for Palestinian leaders not to negotiate.
      However, I'm afraid that it's also true that the rhetoric of compromise, when it breaks out in its turn, does not in itself provide a reason for trusting the other side. The current balance of forces and the basic imperatives of Zionism must make the Palestinians think that any apparent compromise would be viewed by Israel merely as offering a pause, after which some excuse for further population transfer would be found.
      From the Israeli side there must (I'm sadly agreeing with some of our Zionist colleagues here) be objective suspicion that even if RoR recedes in Palestinian rhetoric (even to the point of 'think of it always, speak of it never') it will always be there as a moral imperative in every Palestinian heart and that once the Palestinians gain the advantages of international status, recognition, investment etc. - ie change the current balance of forces - they will nibble away at the settlement until the real objective is obtained.

    • You're in good company, RoHa - Locke (2nd Treatise, ch.16) asserts that same right. Almost as if he could see the Palestine problem coming.

    • 'Only I think that this piece of land should exist by itself, neither divided nor expanded, therefore this piece of land belongs only to me and always has'. A strange implication indeed.

  • 'Go to Auschwitz!: Extremist settler confronts injured ISM volunteer in Hebron
    • Can only suppose that the settlers say what liberal Zionists won't say but still think. Yes, it's been a bad year, hasn't it?

  • Chris Hedges is blackballed by Penn after likening ISIS to Israel
    • Another interesting feature of Islamic State, aggressively Sunni as it is, is that it seems to render the presumed, much discussed plans of Shia Iran to assemble a grand Islamic coalition against Israel highly impractical and highly unlikely, amid all the schismatic feeling that has been aroused within Islam, to get anywhere at all.

    • Hedges, as I read him, is saying that an Islamic State and a Jewish State, both 'infected by fundamentalism', would be (not are or have been) a dangerous combination. He is referring to his fears for the future, where he sees religious influence growing, rather than making a judgement about the past. His attitude to the Israeli past is quite - indeed unduly - mild, as breakingthesilence remarks below.
      However, it is true that Ben Gurion in particular cultivated an ideology in which Bible and archaeology - both interpreted uncritically or with great prejudice - were mingled amid a kind of religious intensity. Gabriel Piterberg, Returns of Zionism, is good on this point.

  • Israel should pay 1.4 million Palestinians to leave Gaza, Moshe Feiglin says
    • I think, Yonah, that that was the year when the Zionist Congress, meeting in Switzerland, voted against a Jewish National Home anywhere but in Palestine, dismissing talk of other supposedly vacant territories - Uganda is usually mentioned. The 'territorialists' were thereafter an inconsiderable rump within Zionism - I believe that the distinguished novelist Israel Zangwill was their last well-known supporter. So post-1905 Zionism was unequivocally a claim to Palestine for Jewish people as the place to which they had a unique and overriding right.
      In case we don't correspond again over the next few days, a very happy New Year.

    • I wonder why we should be outraged as if taken by shocking surprise. All Zionists think, and have always thought since Zionism became its fully defined self in 1905, that the whole Holy Land is a place where only Jews have certain rights pertaining to sovereignty. It would be hard to think of a way of stating the Zionist position in a way that made either division of the land or equal birthright for non-Jewish people thinkable.
      Of course most Zionists accept that Palestinians have right to gracious and generous treatment if only they would accept that they are in the wrong place - according to God's law or according to scientific analysis of history by dispassionate atheists or whatever: but at any rate in a place where they have no inherent right to be. Some few may actually be granted permission to remain: paid relocation is the obvious humane recourse for the majority.
      The obvious problem is that any means of achieving mass relocation, from the most consensual to the most utterly brutal, where it would verge on sheer elimination, would be very expensive and nothing like this can happen until the West, currently not in possession of enough up-front cash, is ready to pay for it. For this reason only a few Israeli politicians will talk about it.

  • Next U.S. elections threaten Israel's 'total isolation' -- and the Israeli public is worried
    • That all seems very true, Citizen, from what we find in opinion polls etc.. I get the feeling that Hillary's real running mate will, if her plans work out, not be whoever she puts on her formal election ticket, but Livni, the new, slightly bogus, standard bearer of liberal Zionism.

    • 'Changed everything' still seems very optimistic to me. Pro-Palestinian sentiment has emerged from the holes and corners where it was once confined and is noticeable, though still not powerful, in mainstream debate - it is very nearly a powerful force in student politics and though student politics are a bit unreal there is a warning for the future as I'm sure Israeli politicians very well understand. However, things have not changed within the political class in any really noticeable way. In the UK we had Alan Duncan protesting openly, which again would have been near unthinkable in a Conservative a few years ago, at Israeli interventions in our political system but we're a good way from doing anything about it. The 'Friends of Israel' organisations, the main visible vehicles of that intervention, remain very powerfully placed in the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat systems. And in the United States, the one country that really matters, things change with the pace of a glacier rather than of a tsunami.
      I think Pfaff might be right in saying that a process has started and that a way to stop it has not been found as yet. But his talk of imminent climax makes him seem like a very wishful-thinking lover of justice.

  • John Mearsheimer: What Mondoweiss Means To Me
    • The remark I noticed was that 'the United States is in deep trouble in the Middle East and has a serious terrorism problem in good part because of its unconditional support for Israel's policies in the occupied territories' - I was not drawing a conclusion but more or less quoting what had been said. I agree that this is not in the least an endorsement of Israel's legitimacy at any time. It's about the trouble we have in the West - and it's true that we do have serious trouble because of the way we support outrages in the OT. There is, I further agree, no strict implication - though there is a hint - that we could have avoided all or much of the trouble if we had confined ourselves to endorsing the 48 Nakba or that those events are so much a fait accompli that no realistic question about them arises. That is the hint I would wish to question, while fully acknowledging that John, unlike me, is an internationally renowned expert and is also one who has suffered somewhat in the cause.
      It's December 25th! Have a great day, everyone.

    • I'm interested to see such an extremely distinguished scholar say that the trouble arises because of support of Israeli policy in the O-Territories, ie because of Israel 67 and not because, as I am convinced, of Israel 48.

  • Roger Cohen recites Livni talking points in 'NYT' column to blame Palestinians for peace process failure
    • I guess that this is part of the increasing positioning of Livni as the great hope of liberal Zionism under plans that envisage her as the Israeli counterpart to Clinton, forming a stern warrior duo with the piercing intelligence necessary to make peace.

  • 'We want Christmas without occupation': Israel attacks Bethlehem protesters dressed as Santa with tear gas
    • RoHa is absolutely right both about the extreme difficulty of identifying 'the Jesus of history' by rational analysis of the texts and about the fact that many have argued for a nationalist, almost Zionist, Jesus. The most high-profile exponent of this view at the moment is Reza Aslan. His work 'Zealot' draws title and theme from 'Jesus and the Zealots' by SGF Brandon, whose exciting, though not quite convincing, portrait of an almost Zionist Jesus, itself drawing on German theological sources, I read in the 60s.
      Brandon still signed himself, at least sometimes, as the Reverend Professor SGF Brandon but he had, I later read, decided while serving as an Army chaplain on the beaches of Dunkirk that no one religious dogma could ever again satisfy him or seem adequate to the whole human condition. I may be getting him completely wrong but I wonder if this partial loss of faith resulted in the decision, not uncommon among Christians of that time, that Zionism was as rational and liberal a development of the religious impulse as one could hope to get. George Eliot had come to a similar conclusion seven decades before. We talk of liberal Jewish Zionists but liberal Christian Zionists have also had their effect.

    • Jesus is never represented, to put things mildly, as bound by majority opinion among Jews or non-Jews. The originally royal title 'Christ', bestowed upon Jesus by Christian theology, is generally conceived as meaning that he was the true desire of all the nations and represents all humanity before God. 'Even so come, Lord Jesus!' - perhaps I can say that with my rather threadbare faith on the evening of Christmas Day.

    • Palestine was partitioned between Herodian princes and Roman governors, who were there by popular demand because of the unpopularity of Herod's son Archelaus. All this was a consequence of Herod the Great's ability to make himself acceptable both to the Jewish majority and the non-Jewish minority (substantial) of first century Palestine and surrounding areas. He had proclaimed that the Romans were his friends and allies. The resulting regime was legitimate enough by the standards of the time, which is more than I would say of the current Israeli regime.

  • Report from Bethlehem: An American moment
    • The 2SS can't really be 'dead' in the sense of 'formerly alive' or 'once possible, but now impossible' - it can't be quite inconceivable that Palestine should be effectively partitioned. One problem is that it has always been incompatible with Zionism, which denies a) that the Palestinians have a right to be there which is in any sense comparable with the claimed Jewish right b) never thinks in terms of the division of the Holy Land, so often proclaimed to be one historic and biblical thing. Zionism could not have got off the ground without either of these features: how could any Zionist at any time say to any Palestinian, while seriously pursuing Z policies, 'Your right to be here is absolutely as good as ours'?
      Problem no.2 is that partition without general consent is and always has been incompatible with justice. What can sovereignty mean if an international committee can abolish it or tear territory away? A mandate territory might be considered a special case, but if it is special in any way it must be by an especially pressing obligation for the sovereign to call for the trust of the people so governed and not to betray that trust.

  • On eve of University of California honor, Bill Maher defends anti-Muslim hate speech in Vanity Fair interview
    • Maher's point, I think, is that it's undeniable that some Muslims are involved in bloody oppression and that their involvement springs in part from an angry consciousness, resenting and rejecting Western actions and ideas. On this basis he speaks against THE Muslims or Muslims in general, treating the oppressive ideas as authentically Islamic. But the greater part of the bloody oppression and terrorism is directed against other Muslims, who are its victims - why is the religious mindset of the victims, rather than of the oppressors, not the authentic one? Why is this question hardly raised or even noticed?
      Armstrong is reminded of the heyday of anti-Jewish propaganda in the 20s and 30s. Maher replies scornfully that 'the Jews weren't oppressing anyone' - note the definite article. It is quite true that the Jews, not in any sense a group acting under central direction or by clear majority decisions, weren't in the least oppressing anyone. But it is also true that some Jewish people were deeply involved in the oppressive Soviet, increasingly Stalinist, system - and they were expressing the angry, revolutionary Jewish consciousness arising from horrible mistreatment in Tsarist Russia, frightening many in the West - particularly, of course, when the illogical leap from some Jewish people to THE Jews, or to Jewish people in general, was made or if was argued that the truly authentic form of Jewish culture was Bolshevik. Which was of course to sweep aside the culture and attitudes of the mass of Jewish people, including those who were threatened rather than enthused by Bolshevik ideas.
      So I think that Maher is indeed keeping the company where Armstrong places him.

    • Armstrong says that anti-Semitic propaganda in the 30s was a) false and b) lethally dangerous: and so are Maher's polemical anti-Muslim statements now. Maher's retort is that his statements are different simply because they are not false. It's true that he does not face the possibility that true statements - I'm not engaging with the question whether they are actually true - can be lethally dangerous. I agree with David and oldgeezer that this possibility does not really occur to him and might indeed be brushed aside by most people, though it is in truth a more real and alarming possibility than most people admit. Accordingly he has no problem with letting the results of his rhetoric take their course. This is not 'warrant for genocide' but it is somewhat irresponsible.

    • I think that Zionism is the belief that Jewish people, and they only, have an inherent right, now commonly called a birthright, to be enfranchised voters in a democratic Holy Land - others to share that right only by the grace and generosity of the true heirs. Only on this understanding could what has occurred be justified. The belief that 'Jews have a homeland' in Palestine is not a comparatively acceptable one: this was the idea invoked by Brandeis to explain why Mandate Palestine was not held in trust for the existing inhabitants. More important, the idea of a homeland, even a spiritual one, implies - as Brandeis was surely very well aware - full-scale political Zionism: the Holy Land cannot be a homeland or a safe haven for everyone Jewish if there is not either a Jewish majority or guaranteed power for a Jewish minority. An enfranchised majority which is not of group X could not, anywhere or in any circumstances, offer unlimited guarantees of entry and citizenship to those not of group X, ie make it possible at any time for the political balance of their country to be changed, even transformed, by the decisions of outsiders.

  • JVP offers bold universalist Hanukkah message in the wake of Gaza slaughter
    • The very fact that the message of Hanukkah, a popular event among people of Jewish faith, is traditionally regarded as nationalist makes it more, rather than less, impressive that some people of Jewish faith have chosen the occasion of Hanukkah to protest against injustice inflicted on Palestinians.

  • US feels the heat on Palestine vote at UN
    • Well, I think you may have that right, lysias. On the one hand cushy jobs and a Blair-millionaire lifestyle, on the other hand the slightly pale, disowned by successors, existence of a Jimmy Carter.

  • Memo to Sen. Warren: More young Dems want US to side with Palestine than Israel
    • This must be the result of information (Zionists would have another word for it, I know) circulating with ever increasing force at the student level. However, I'm sure it would still be total career suicide for some like Warren, presenting herself as a reformer but of course a safe and moderate one, to come out for the Palestinians - that situation will persist, unless there are some unexpected shocks to the system, for another decade at very least.

  • As Kerry and UN press on occupation, Netanyahu sees a 'diplomatic assault'
    • The BBC story seems to be that the gunman 'demanded an Islamic State flag' - so he wanted to associate himself with the current Islamist bogey - and that he fired the first shot. perhaps at an escaping hostage, causing the response that ended the siege with one hostage dead. What Ronald Reagan might have called a loony-tunes character but such people are part of the story now. In response the dark tide is flowing.

    • Bang on cue, talking of Australia, comes the seemingly Islamist cafe siege in Sydney, now prolonged for several terrifying hours. The dark anti-Islam tide is immediately starting to flow. Its waves will, I think, surmount by many metres, as they always do, the feeble ripples of indignation against Them that we manage to raise when torture by Us or mass killings by Israel, a department of Us, washes briefly through the news.

    • The truth is slow to be recognised and the liberty that the Bible assures us comes from truth often comes slowly. The Book of Proverbs has Wisdom crying in the streets, which may be a realistic image. I can't imagine that Obama is about to break the habits of a lifetime or at least of a presidency and vote for the occupation to end at a definite time, though perhaps he will try to get a more bland resolution accepted by his compliant allies. If they aren't compliant enough he could say that he's tried to be reasonable but he quite understands Israel's refusal to let terrorists into holy places and will use his veto. His highly compliant Anglophone allies will applaud.

  • Why Israel's Jewish nationality bill is a big deal
    • I regard the Nationality Proposal as a reaffirmation of what has always existed, not so much as a a change. I think it is a mistake to regard the likes of Aharon Barak as representing a more virtuous phase of Zionism: the likes of him, remarking blandly that Israel is Jewish in its immigration laws - thus skirting, rather outrageously, over the parallel fact that millions of non-Jewish people born in Israeli territory were excluded from it - were offering a misleading persona, not a better personality, for the Zionist system. Zionist judges, judicially reviewing the legislation of Zionist politicians, must in the end reinforce the basic mistake of Zionism, ie the claim to exclusive rights for people 'just because' they are Jewish and the denial of certain rights to certain others 'just because' they are not.
      Nails in the coffin of liberal Zionism have been mentioned - but I don't think that it will take long for judges and lawyers, sounding in almost every breath just like their liberal American counterparts, to become undead liberals - the state's Jewish character does not amount to discrimination against non-Jews but to an expression of generosity towards them in their displaced existence. living where they have no right to be. Where else are such people given so many basically undeserved rights, leading to so many material benefits? This is what liberal and not-so-liberal Zionists have always believed all the way back to Altneuland.

  • Liberal Zionists seek to strip Naftali Bennett of freedom to travel in hope of saving two-state solution
    • 'Supposedly' and 'we are told' are both normally expressions of scepticism. 'Supposedly' suggests that Israel's critics are not responding to real oppression. He seems about to say that 'we believe' that they are moved by anti-Semitism, but instead says 'we are told' which has rather the opposite effect. Very confusing overall.
      However, I'm pleased to see that even Walzer, as RoHa notes, is calling, even amid some confusing words, for sanctions so explicitly. I think that the likes of us would disagree with him because in his view only 'the occupation' is wrong and because the only source of wrongdoing is rotten apples in the Israeli barrel. Whereas the ongoing attempted conquest, misleadingly called 'occupation', of certain places is simply the logical expression of Zionism, which does not divide the Holy Land and so claims all places within it, and because it's whole Israeli apple harvest and the whole barrel with all planks and rivets that embodies the idea of Zionism, which is a moral mistake.

  • Our Year-End Campaign: What Mondoweiss Means To Me
    • I found Mondoweiss a day or so after picking up Sand's book on the Jewish People in a Boston (I would have been much less likely to come across it in the UK) store - I was looking for reviews and opinions and remember Phil's lively description of an appearance by Sand in (as I remember) New York. I immediately thought, having read that article and few comments - meeting annie and Mooser for the first time - that here were interesting and fair-minded people. I rapidly came to appreciate how much hard information as well as well-argued opinion about the ME problem is available here. Above all I find MW a representative of genuine anti-racism.

  • 'Our Liberation Will Not Be Complete Until Everyone’s Is': A report from the American Anthropological Association boycott debate
    • I fully understand why the anthropologists want not to make it personal. Mind you, I'd have thought that if the 1,000 anthropologists are right and that certain institutions are deeply complicit in oppression - they mean persistent, vicious oppression - then those who make their living from these institutions and draw respect from their membership of it deserve at least to be made uncomfortable and to sense that something is going wrong with their own plans and prospects - that might impel them both to examine their consciences and to press their institutions, hence their societies, for change. If they are personally opposed to the oppressive policy they should not say 'Change things by all means but not at the expense of my career'.
      An accusation against an institution is an accusation against some persons, including all those to whom the institution gives an honoured place. I know how difficult and unnatural it is to meet someone whose activities seem to be the same as mine and to make that person logically my companion yet to say that to some extent at least I do not want his company. Yet if there is this ongoing, terrible oppression what choice in the end do I have?

  • It's always been a holy war
    • Well, annie, the attack on the rabbis certainly was - who could doubt it, or demand words to confirm it? - an attack on Zionism and its overweening arrogance. But it had religious symbolism as well - are words really needed to confirm that?
      If attackers and victims in this sort of religious-political theatre are of the same religious culture (Romero, Becket) then the attack screams for a distinction to be made between authentic/inauthentic within the group. If the attack comes from outside, from people who have to strain their eyes to bursting point in order (it is not so difficult for us in the West) to see any form of the religion in question that stands up for them and moreover are stared in the face every day by forms that call for their suffering and humiliation, then nothing about their attack conveys that distinction.
      I should just say to American that I am trying to oppose, not foster, demonising people on theological grounds - God knows enough of that has been done to the Palestinians.
      If I haven't answered RoHa's question properly - intentions are slippery things in many ways and loads of words may not clarify them. I think I'm saying that the meaning of actions is sometimes absolutely clear when intentions are not.

    • My 'seven devils' was only way of saying 'mentally unbalanced fanaticism of your own', which is certainly a threat to other people as well to one's own immortal soul, should there be one.
      My previous comment crossed with RoHa's. I would think that when we say (truly) that actions speak louder than words - and we say this as a matter of common sense not because we have read Jacques Derrida - we must mean that some actions carry their meaning on their face and do not need words in any form - confessions, avowals and the like - to make their point to us, though of course that point can still be discussed, questioned and rejected in all sorts of ways.
      Legal proceedings are by no means the only way of getting an understanding of what actions mean - and when people start explaining themselves in court the result may be a repetitious rigmarole that tells us nothing (I thought this of Breivik - don't know why he was allowed so much grandstanding) or confuses us. Political theatre is to be understood as we would try to understand a drama.
      I think of other murders of religious figures. I don't know whether the people who murdered Oscar Romero were genuinely believing Catholics but they certainly came from a culture where priests are respected. That they chose to kill Romero in the course of a church service made the point that, in their interpretation of things, priests who make friends with communists and atheists cease to be priests. Their action said that louder than a thousand words. Even if they never articulated that point they still conveyed it and I'm sure Romero's death sent a certain shiver down the spines of every left-wing priest in Latin America.
      The knights who murdered Becket no doubt had several reasons for killing him in his cathedral rather than in the street but one reason must have been to make the point that this was an attack not just on an individual but on an overweening and arrogant Church - which had, in their view of things, no right to disrupt and near overthrow the political order for the sake of privileges and immunities for their own ministers: we might think of churches' protection of criminals in our own time. This is what their action meant and we can understand it even if they never made any verbal statement and even though more than 8 centuries have gone by. I mention this because it's an example of a good point unjustly and horrifyingly made.

    • Trials and legal proceedings may have brought some things out into the open but aren't indispensable for that purpose. We all knew what Breivik's actions meant before he told us at unnecessary length in court. Public actions are always a kind of performance and we can understand them, sometimes all too easily, in the way that we would understand something in a theatre.
      If you accept the idea that something is evil to an almost superhuman degree - demonic - then you will think of taking extraordinary steps, beyond ordinary moral law, to destroy that evil thing or at least to expose it for what it is. The well-known risk is that you invite seven devils into your own mind.
      It's said that the police chief of Braintree Massachusetts on arriving at the scene of murder supposedly perpetrated by Sacco and Vanzetti exclaimed 'Whoever did this knew no God!', so irreligion as well as religion can excite this kind of horror. And can lead to panic and abandonment of justice, which is what some people say was inflicted on S and V.
      The idea that we are dealing with a 'demonic' force should always be questioned very intensely.

    • Well, I think Ahmed is not directly arguing against, but somewhat deflecting attention from, the point being advocated stridently by those who complain that religious war has come. The murder of rabbis in a synagogue is not just a taking of lives but the making of a theological point - really, that Judaism, not just Zionism, is evil, indeed demonic. This is quite contrary to our view that real, authentic Judaism is a well that lies too deep for political taint and that when recruited to support Zionism it has always become inauthentic. I fear that it is the emergence of something new or at least something more starkly terrifying than it used to be. Of course theological representation of Islam as demonic is already commonplace in the West.

  • Israel has always been crazy
    • I think that Zionism has always - at least since it was fully defined in 1905, long before Hitler was heard of - been irrational in that its basic idea, that Jewish people, and they only. have an inherent right (birthright) to a share of sovereignty in the Holy Land, is indefensible and plainly contrary to all normal ideas of human right and never had any chance of being implemented without extreme violence. It's very rational, though, in that it has brought great successes and victories to which no short-term end is in sight.
      If I behave 'crazily' but am always rewarded and not only crazily but self-righteously and am usually praised then there's method in my madness.

  • Lieberman unveils racist peace plan: Pay Palestinians to leave Israel
    • It's quite important that all ways of winkling the Palestinians out of Palestine, even the most brutal ones, would be very expensive and can't really happen until the bill can be attached to the foot of a carrier pigeon flying west with some hope of payment. That time has not yet come.

  • Thanksgiving: The perfect holiday to ruin with politics
    • There have been all sorts of aggressions over time - perhaps Gildas' title 'De Excidio Britanniae', concerning late-antiquity events here, could be translated 'The British Nakba'.
      It's one thing to say that there have been many Nakbas - but has there been even one that was justified?
      One important step in making good some of the injustice of the American Nakba has been acceptance of Indigenes as full citizens. If that happened in all the territories under Israeli sovereign power the step forward would be a great one.

  • Israeli occupation stoking 'holy war' in Jerusalem
    • There has always been a religious element in this dreadful mix, in that political claims are often justified on the Israeli side by appeal to religious authority and by the claim to divine donation. This claim can be disowned with a quiet smile, treated as an optional extra to a case already made or asserted with passionate intensity but it is and always has been there. The other side does not so much say that Palestine is theirs by a special divine decree - and I can remember when stories of PLO hijackings might feature women who made a point of mocking Jewish religious symbols without showing any commitment to Islam. But increasingly, since the sharp decline of Nasserism and Marxism, religion has been important in creating - or in attempts to create - unity and activism in opposition to Israel. The importance of religion has not come by a sudden mutation but by a rather inexorable process.

  • Like an unrequited lover, 'NYT' confesses itself heartbroken over Israel's (latest) betrayal of democracy
    • I suppose it is a sop to the 'religious right' in Israel who would like to reclaim the Temple but have for the moment no chance of doing so, suggesting that their prospects might improve in the future.
      The NYT does have a problem in seeing what is before its and everyone's eyes. Israel does not accord equal rights in all respects to non-Jewish citizens - they do not have the same ability to promote the immigration of families and they do not have much access to the many privileges that come with military service. Still less does it accord equal rights - or anything approaching equal dignity or comparable standards of living - to all who live under its sovereign power or all who live on all the territory which it claims, subject to 'dispute' with other parties, as its own and very much not theirs.

  • Rightwing flamethrowers see a US role in the battle for Jerusalem
    • They responded favourably but rather passively. The speaker had visited B'lem under the auspices of Kairos Palestine and in his talk dwelt on hardships such as running water one day a week, home demolitions, endless teargas barrages etc.. He had actually met a settler walking around in B'lem - a rare but not unknown thing, he said - and had been invited to tea in the settlement, where he found them anxious for peace but not 'able to explain' why they have so much of everything, including water, in comparison. He dwelt on the friendliness and generosity of the Palestinians - I couldn't help recalling the American rabbi's 'human animal' language mentioned here recently. He said that the violence was treated as routine, people got used to it and it was rare for anyone to get seriously hurt, though of course by no means unknown. The family he stayed with hardly let light into their rooms because one of the local children had been shot from an Israeli vantage point when something that the Israeli in question thought was suspicious activity was taking place.
      He did mention that his departure had been eased because in that very week Israel had 'acceded to international pressure' to be less horrible to travellers at airports: which was interesting because it shows that pressure can work sometimes.
      Three questions: 'Did you ever feel in danger?' - 'No, except once (for reasons mentioned) when moving too quickly at a checkpoint'.
      'Do you realise that you will need a fresh passport to travel (as you sometimes do, presumably on business) to Dubai?' (odd: this was from our American colleague). 'Yes, quite possibly I will'.
      'What would you consider to be a just settlement?' (from me) - 'Everyone treated the same'. The Chair then said it had been very interesting and we should move on, since we (a Church of England local synod) had financial business (we had indeed) to consider.
      The CofE is not famous for strong or decisive opinions.

    • I've just returned from a meeting addressed by someone from a local church who had spent 2 months in Bethlehem, watching the Palestinians being vanquished - and denied a reasonable water supply - on a daily basis. He left me wondering at their patience.

  • 'Palestine is an anxiety' for Americans-- Salaita in New York
    • The outrageous WF Albright in 1957: 'From the impartial standpoint of a philosopher of history it often seems necessary that a people of markedly inferior type should vanish before a people of superior potentialities, since there is a point beyond which racial mixture cannot go without disaster. When such a process takes place - as at present in Australia - there is generally little that can be done by the humanitarian, though every deed of brutality and injustice is infallibly visited upon the aggressor.' (Cited by Piterberg, Returns of Zionism, p.263).
      Albright, like Salaita thinking of America and Australia as well as of Palestine, was very much a Zionist and the principal supporter of a sort of moderate fundamentalist reading of the scriptures - but the second sentence is interesting, where the anxiety is so plain that somehow those who exercise great power arrogantly don't get away with it for ever - God sees and remembers. WFA's attitude may seem rather superstitious but this kind of fear is very deep in human nature. That's the nagging anxiety and insecurity.
      I often mention that, what with my Welsh name and English culture, I must be descended from both sides, from people who detested each other amid the probably terrible events of Britain in the 500s. It took a thousand years and the fall of the English monarchy into the hands of a Welsh adventurer to bring all that to a kind of settlement.
      In refreshing memory about WFA I managed to remind myself painfully of how strong the support of Euro and English-speaking Protestants (my crowd) was both for Zionism and for the excesses of 67. The name that most leaps out is Martin Luther King.

  • South African activists reflect on parallels between life under apartheid and Israel/Palestine today
    • Not entirely opposite - the lines of their opinion could sometimes intersect. Mandela's remarks in Gaza were the remarks of a liberal Zionist. How close he had been in younger days to the SA Communist Party is debated but the SACP certainly had much influence on anti-apartheid thinking, whilst itself clearly being pro-Soviet. The Soviets supported Nasser and his Arab socialism but they never rejected Zionism, which has significant Marxist credentials, in principle.

    • I see that my computer is under attack from advertisers and that certain words have been highlighted without any intention on my part.

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