Commenter Profile

Total number of comments: 3584 (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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  • Fordham retaliates against student for protesting SJP ban
    • Well, Moser, I was talking about normal student society activities - hiring venues, importing speakers, distributing leaflets. I wouldn't want to impose spending limits on these and would have some confidence that the better argument would prevail over the worse in conditions of free speech. I think this is actually happening in the slightly closed world of academia as it not happening in the world of politics and power. I don't think that Firdham's exception regarding national disputes holds water - I doubt if even they think it does. I do think that there might well be restrictions on having academic staff subsidised by vested interests, national or other. An eye should be kept on jaunts, junkets and freebies in every walk of life.

    • You're quite right, JJ. Pro-Israel groups at Western universities should not be censored or impeded in making their case.

    • Yet national disputes can be of great importance and can raise important questions. I wouldn't want a group seeking to advocate Ukrainian complaints against Russia or the other way round banned. The issues may be as important and as urgent and as much in need of discussion without censorship as those raised at any moment between, say, mainstream political parties. So why make that difference? If one is free to advocate opinion A and organise meetings, invite speakers etc. to spread A-ism but free to advocate opinion B only personally, without the option of spreading B-ism through the same means then B is subject to some degree of censorship, meaning that speech about B is not entirely free. That would still be true if both sides of the B debate were subject to these severe restrictions.

  • Poll: Canada's politicians drastically out of touch with public on Israel
    • It's not enough, for the purpose of justifying one's treatment of others, that one acts better than some and respects some rights. It has to be that all rights are accorded, otherwise there must be injustice and there must always be some cruelty in the tender mercies or rights conceded here and there - as was revealed to a distinguished Jewish thinker.

    • There has been a country called Palestine since about 1100 BCE, though its boundaries have been variable. Over the next few centuries the two names Canaan and Phoenicia, linked in meaning but slightly confusing to apply, gave way to Palestine as the generally and internationally accepted name, sometimes used without sense of problem by Jewish writers, for what has been called Palestine in every century since. The name 'Israel'/Land of Israel never became generally accepted, not even for a short time, for that whole territory. The Kingdom of Israel in part of it soon became known, quite likely with its own encouragement, after Omri, one of its founders, but that Kingdom was not of extremely long duration. The Bible claims, in revealing words, that there was an inheritance of the children of Israel in (what was still) the land of Canaan. This theological claim is still asserted, God knows, to this day and hour, but it deserves some challenge and re-evaluation.
      It is sometimes said that Palestine doesn't count because it was normally a province of a larger entity. I would think that therefull do seem to have been occasions when there were Palestinians/Philistines acting with a reasonable show of independence. Omri broke off his campaign against the Philistines, which suggests that these two were reasonably equal powers. The Israelite and Jewish kingdoms for their part rarely had what we might call absolute independence - think of Jehoiakim having to accept foreign instruction even about his own name. And then the poor guy had to be threatened with 'the burial of an ass'. But why should the status of various entities and royal personages within the (to us rather alien) international system of long ago affect people's rights now?
      'Judaea and Samaria' is a name which does violence to biblical authority, the two components being always contrasted, not linked in the scriptures.
      All this is very easily and freely available information. Why do such false things keep on and on being said by so many and treated as if they determined people's rights?

    • I would want to see confirmation from other polls before I set too much store by this one, but it's undeniable that there has been some noticeable movement in public opinion throughout the West in the Palestinians' favour - that is why so much effort is going into counteracting BDS. On the other hand the surface of the massive support for Israel within the political class has barely been scratched. When a problem is of minor concern to the mass of people a movement in public opinion takes time to have political effect, and in this case may take for ever and a few weeks. There are many counteracting forces, including the lack of major public figures who might link political to public opinion in this regard and above all the near universally accepted, though rarely deeply believed, pro-Israel version of anti-anti-Semitism.

  • Trump says he's 'happy' with one-state outcome, ringing in a new era
    • I agree that '2 states' has never been more than a fiction but it's still a best-sellling fiction even if removed from Trump's shelves or put into a dusty corner where Trump will never look. However, the UN Secretary General has, I think, just announced that it's the only possibility.

    • Quite true, business as usual. Maybe a little less 2 state talk from the United States, but I think that is only a cosmetic change.

  • Jewish groups battle over Trump's choice for Israel ambassador
  • 'We cannot divide the land': Israeli academic Yehouda Shenhav on bridging the gap between Israelis and Palestinians through Arabic literature
    • Most people have quite mixed ancestry. I'm sure that most people who now call themselves Jewish had at least some ancestors who lived in Judaea two thousand years ago, but of very few can it be true that all their ancestors alive 2,000 years ago were living in Judaea at that time. Of not many can it be true that most of their ancestors then alive were living there. Conversely, I'd be very surprised if none of the quite large set of my ancestors then alive were Judaeans. I like to think that they became Christians and emigrated to Britain with Joseph of Arimathaea, had prophetic powers and foresaw the glories of the Church of England. In any event, I can't see what difference all those things make to anyone's rights.
      As to being indigenous: in an obvious and important sense a family of Uzbeks all born in London are a group indigenous to Britain and have political rights here equivalent to mine even if they sing Uzbek songs every Friday night. Their melodious voices and deeply felt words might be very beautiful but would not be enough to give them rights in Uzbekistan.
      We have been sometimes offered the idea that 'indigenous' means 'belonging to a place where at least one important subset of one's ancestors first recognised themselves as a political unit'. It should be noted that several groups could be indigenous to the same place, both because different groups may have formed that idea at different times in the same place and also because the relevant places may overlap. One Group could be indigenous to many places through different sets of ancestors. It's not an easy basis for assigning political rights.

    • I would be pleased and relieved to see Israel make way for a sovereign Palestine in WB/Gaza - in that event things would get better and there would be much less oppression. Perhaps it would be maximum compliance with international law, though it would still be screamingly unfair considered as a parcelling-out of traditional Palestine. However, this is rather like the pleasure of finding a gold hoard in my garden - it's not going to happen, at least not soon. That is because Plalestine, once given the strength that would come from sovereignty, would be able to, and would, undermine the screamingly unfair settlement here a little, there a little, precept upon precept, line upon line. Even more important, it is of the essence of Zionism to claim, as of absolute moral validity, special rights for people who are Jewish in the entirety, not just in part, of Palestine. People don't compromise on sacred things until they really have to, and that hour has not come.

  • Israeli govt and its supporters admit the fight to defeat BDS has failed
    • I share some of your scepticism, Atlanta, though the Forward article does indeed talk of .failure'. That does indeed seem to be good news but I think we should temper our joy because one source is the Reut Institute, regarded by the Forward journalist as hardline, which speaks of failure so far as a reason for more ruthless hostility against 'instigators'. They talk of failure in order to sell their recipe for success. But it is interesting to see the hesitation between tooth and claw hostility to the 'instigators' and a sort of embarrassed openness to the moderate critics, who are treated as if they have a point. But how can they have any kind of point if they are but dupes of the instigating anti-Semites?

  • Israel's efforts to erase Palestinian history reflect 'incremental genocide,' Ehrenreich says
    • Jewish people are a long-standing part of the population of what was once Canaan and became Palestine, never ever being generally known, not even for a short time, as the Land of Israel. It is quite right that no one should suffer any discrimination as to place of residence because of being Jewish, or because of not being Jewish - though I don't expect Zionists to agree with the latter point. Palestine was for a short time, about 150 years, the Kingdom of the Jews, even then having a substantial non-Jewish element. Subsets of it were Jewish and Samaritan for longer periods, though why these facts should be regarded as so important for determining rights here and now I cannot imagine. Twentieth century Zionists came from no one metropolis, that is true, and are not colonists in the same way as the British in Massachusetts 1630. But many came from many places where they had been born and where they had full rights as enfranchised subjects of a sovereign power, as everyone else in those places did and as the Palestinians now, to the shame and disgrace of many, very much including successive governments of my dear country, do not.

  • To oppose Trump, Jews must join the fight against fascism and Zionism
    • To my mind, everyone has a right to be an enfranchised citizen in a sovereign state and the right not to be expelled or excluded from his/ her home. Is that denied?
      I absolutely agree that these rights are not negated by the fact that one is Jewish.
      I deny that anyone has the right to insist on living in a state or polity where people of one's own race or religion are the majority, because that so-called right would imply that people of the 'Wrong' kind could and should, if necessary, be disfranchised or excluded.

  • Rand Paul warns neocons will 'scurry in' with Abrams, and Kristol says that's anti-Semitic
    • Cromwell wasn't that fanatical, in that he was prepared to fight the Protestant Dutch and to make an alliance with Catholic France against Catholic Spain, admittedly at a time when France was less harsh towards Protestants. The Mercantile System, whereby colonies were treated as part of a restricted trading nexus whose purpose was to accumulate silver and gold in government coffers, was close to accepted wisdom at the time. The Spanish version of this system was one of the reasons why there was so much hostility from other Euro powers.

  • British uproar at Trump policies doesn’t extend to Netanyahu, yet
    • The trivial nature of the offences, Jackie Walker's 'never having found a definition of anti-Semitism she was able to work with', Naz Shah's harmless witticism from Finkelstein etc., do suggest neurotic anxiety on Corbyn's part. There are two by-elections coming up which, if UKIP wins them both, will terminate his leadership, I think, possibly put the historic British Labour Party on the road to oblivion. Whatever replaces leader or party, should this road be taken, will not be an improvement when it comes to Palestinian rights. If anyone supposes that the accusation of anti-Semitism is losing its sting (s)he should think again.

  • Land Grab: Israeli Knesset passes law legalizing expropriation of privately-owned Palestinian land
    • There can surely only be one objective, that is to make Palestinian lives enough of a misery to persuade them to move out "with compensation'. There must be hope that Trump will regard a compensation deal as the crowning achievement of his deal-making career. There mustn't be extreme scandal that would not be forgotten and that would destroy morale. Indeed, it's very importsnt that a small, photogenic minority stay in place. If the big majority of Palestinians does not move out Zionism will fail in the end and they know it.

  • Jewless Holocaust. Israel first.
    • It is indeed a Greek word, but it was chosen by the Septuagint translators to interpret olah in Leviticus,, which I understand means 'that which ascends', so invokes both ascending to God and the flame and smoke of a fire. Wikipedia reminds me that another word (which my predictive text just won't accept) meaning 'entire', is associated with olah in Leviticus. So it seems reasonable for the LXX to use holocauston - it goes up to God entirely - rather than the standard Greek word thusia, which was understood as a sacrifice where the meat was shared around. You may think I should be ashamed of myself for relying on Wikipedia but it's early and I'm still in bed. The whole sacrifice was a special thing to indicate special dedication to God but Leviticus' use of 'from the herd' reminds us that the sacrifice may be while and entire in itself but is also seeking Gid's favour for the wider whole, the herd and the people. It is because the term is so theological (in my opinion verging on blasphemy) and because Wiesel's dark theology, suggesting God's mighty favour to the people after the sacrifice, had such power that the word Holocaust in common usage gained hooks which attach it to Jewish suffering and a surface which from which reference to other suffering slides away.

    • In the 20s and 30s it was possible for Jews to be disliked from the left as capitalists, therefore in many eyes responsible for the War, and disliked from the right as Bolsheviks. A force with support across the spectrum is hard to stop. That is the kind of support that Zionism now enjoys.

    • The problem both of defining Romani people and of counting their casualties is very difficult - even the Wikipedia article on Porajmos, which is what some Romani call the event, is enough to reveal that.

    • The shocking theological significance of the term 'holocaust', whole burnt offering appropriated completely by God, cannot extend to non-Jewish victims. The victim per Leviticus 1 was taken from the herd in the expectation of God's favour to the herd and its pastoralists. After WW2,there was no one else but for the Jews resuming the sovereignty of Palestine to whom God would show exemplary favour. The idea makes no sense in reference to a mass of individuals, however numerous and however deserving of sympathy. Even the Roma, victims en masse of injustice, are not a group united by religion or accorded, as a group, religious significance in common opinion. As long as theology clings to history in this fashion through this word the there can't be moral equivalence between the Jewish and the wider sets of suffering.

  • The legislation that will be used to intimidate and imprison members of the Muslim community has been introduced
    • Salus populi suprema lex. That may be true, Theo, but surely there has to be extreme caution about invoking this kind of supreme law. They knew that in Roman Republican times, where the chief magistrate had to obtain the Senatus Consultum Ultimum in order to take such action as he saw fit against a threat to the safety of the state defined by him, as Cicero did against the terrorist conspiracy, as he regarded it, of Catiline - and as Trump is doing now. Even then there was legal comeback. If you allow the magistrate to escape these restrictions there isn't a state, that is an entity defined by laws, to defend.

  • Dennis Ross's advice to Trump is 'bullshit, delusional or lying,' to gut two-state concept -- Peace Now
    • We have gone for years with talk of negotiation but with no proposals. If a proposal was there in all its hard detail we could begin, or hope to begin, to draw attention to the screaming unfairness of the classic 2ss and, no doubt, to the scream+ unfairness of anything coming from Mr. Ross.

    • But it will be a step forward if there is a real proposal on the table really open for discussion. As the details of the situation become exposed there will be a chance to for the injustices, both of the status quo and of anything that Mr. Ross and those of his school are likely to propose, to be made much plainer than they now are.

  • Jewish groups slamming Trump on refugees are hardhearted when it comes to Palestinian refugees
    • At least no one's said I'm full of Britpoop or on an Anglocaine high, though the temptation must have been there. Empires are indeed larger than eggs, moreover most human enterprises have many parts and aspects and are mixed, both good and bad. I was not saying that what the world gained through the British Empire was worth the cost or that the system was essentially fair. I wasn't offering an apologia or using the idea, which I regard as rather facile, of necessary evil. I was talking about the accursed legacy of slavery, the unsettled account.
      Keith is quite right to say that if the modern economy runs into disaster the causal nexus - and the blame nexus - will extend back to the days of the British Empire.
      This began from Yonah on regarding the Nakba as 'necessary'. It is important to distinguish 'If I do X it is necessary that I do Y as means or consequence' and 'It is necessary that I do both X and, as a consequence, also Y'. The Zionist proposition has been of the second kind, that the assertion of certain exclusively Jewish rights was necessary morally, therefore worth all the necessary means and consequences. Keith is again right to say that economic benefits all round have been used to support this claim from the days of Altneuland. If the Zionist programme had transformed the region, so that there was much mutual benefit and cooperation, perhaps it would be less terrifying than it is and resolution of the problem on a friendly basis would be much more easy. I don't think that this condition is met. I was reading in the Economist a few months ago about water, which in Israel is a pleasant matter of desalination and recycling, in the WB a depressing matter of rusting and leaking pipes: some mutual benefit and cooperation! Even if the condition were met, it would not confer the right - which the British Empire did not have either - to deny political rights when they are demanded by those over whom sovereign power is exercised, since to exchange political rights for economic benefits is to walk backwards towards slavery when we should be moving the other way.

    • Well, guys, I do think that the economic progress and the imperialism of that time were not separate realities but were closely connected. Both would have broken down without the other. The establishment of a kind of world trade system for the first time made production at many points in the system, even in India, possible because of imports and profitable because of exports, where it would not otherwise have been. Keith, I think, considers that there could have been another way, one in which everyone would have advanced together. With regret, I don't think that would have been possible for many reasons. The days of negotiated trade agreements between many independent agents had not yet come and even now they have come we see how difficult it is to sustain them. Previous phases of progress, as when the Middle East took the lead in developing agriculture rather than chasing animals every day, took a very long time to be manifest over the whole 'known world'. Then too there were migrations and empires as part of the process, and perhaps had to be.
      I claim that I am looking at real things and how they worked in reality and that though I may be getting things wrong I am not speculating contrary to fact. To my mind it is those who think that something different and better were possible who are, for good or ill, speculating about what did not exist. I don't say that there is no role for speculation.
      Empire as curate's egg, good in parts. Yes, I think good was done. I don't find much to agree with in the views of JA Hobson/Marxism-Leninism/ Chomsky. As to self-congratulation, I am not proclaiming 'It was all worth it!' As you see, my main point was to look in dismay on the legacy that comes from accepting terrible things, mentioning slavery, as part of the necessity of one's project, though I hope (fat chance?) that my view of the project is balanced. I meant not to be smug in responding to Yonah's perceptive question about the legacy of the Nakba.

    • I think that the world economy was much more productive in 1900 than in 1700 and that the British Empire was the driving force. I'm not an anti-imperialist in the sense of thinking that the imperial regimes did nothing but harm. They sometimes produced peace where there had been war. I don't share the Leninist view of imperialism and war and I don't find the 'settler colonialist' analysis of Zionism persuasive. But my point was that the use of slaves as a necessity of the project, which turned racial sentiment into what we call racism, has left a legacy which still troubles all of us. There was of course some repentance and there were attempts to stop the slave trade by naval power, but that was not enough to settle the account. This tied in with my reply to Yonah about 'necessity'.

    • That is a perceptive question, Yonah, in my view. It is hard to think that Israel, living daily with the effects and memory of the Nakba - which was indeed necessary for the Zionist project - could ever offer more to the Palestinians than a sort of separate, subordinate development with a degree of kindness, that is tender mercies that are cruel. And offering even that is difficult, as Mondo readers know full well. The past dies hard. The British Empire transformed the world economy much for the better, I think, but accepted for a time the necessity of slavery. That account has never been fully settled.

  • What would Anne Frank do?
    • No indeed, we won't ever know how a person who died so young would have developed. But Katie is presenting her as a symbol of moral integrity and activism, which is surely acceptable even if not verifiable, and drawing inferences from that. She's drawing on her own moral sense to support these inferences but that's legitimate too.

    • I made no comment on the real Anne Frank. The portrait is indeed, as marc says, a beautiful one but the impression on me is also slightly disturbing, mainly because the hair looks unreal. The photos etc don't really look like that.

    • There is a moving warmth about the eyes, a tribute to Katie's skill in these things. But there's something disturbing about the almost impossibly crisp hair, as if this is a kind of synthetic person.

    • That bad, Yonah? For my part I think AF is important for historical study, but it's surely not morally indecent to regard the book as other than great literature or even to question how it took its present form?

  • Trump's anti-interventionism helped him win, says Obama's former Middle East adviser
    • Those who believe in the right of private property (I'm one) might well be appalled by the degree of politically motivated expropriation not for the general good - theft - that Zionism has brought with it. Zionism has had wonderful success in drawing support from all the way across the political spectrum, which suggests that there is logical space for an equally broad opposition. Currently it is rather easy to portray suppprt for the Palestinians as a lefty fad, as if only extremists and eccentrics disliked seeing people excluded from their homes, disfranchised and subjected to rituals of humiliation.

  • Signs you may be a 'normalizer'
    • 'Gilt' off the lily, not guilt!

    • Compare Christopher Neumaier in the Journal of Contemporary History 06, responding in part to Robert Gildea's book 'Marianne in Chains', on the development of German reprisals policy. I think maybe Norman is stripping too much guilt off the French lily. No one now denies that only a small minority resisted, but small, even Norman's 10%, isn't the same as negligible. The mass reprisals policy was not the simple answer to everything. Many Germans thought it counterproductive - these came to include the SS commandant Carl Oberg who tried to restrict it, presumably not out of human sympathy. This means that the resistants did achieve something, weren't just a joke.

  • Leading Clintonite worries that Trump will sell out Israel in forging deal with Russia
    • There's some limit to the Trump-Flournoy convergence. I don't really think Trump is concerned with asserting his will in Syria itself so much as with excluding refugees from the United States and giving himself some sort of humanitarian cover in the process by saying that they can go to safe areas in and around Syria. It will not be too important to him that these areas actually do a humanitarian job or whether they assist in toppling Assad. That is why he's not giving the sort of attention to Israel that Flournoy would wish, at least in this matter at this moment. He could still do a lot of damage, I must admit.

  • More and more people see 'one state only' but Remnick fears it will be like Bosnia
    • No dispute, I think, RoHa. When I said of 'Uruguay has RTE' that this is at best problematic I was thinking that it's perhaps a way of saying, though rather misleadingly, that Uruguayans, like everyone else, have the right, each and every one of them, to be spared the horrors of invasion by landgrabbers and marauders, which is true. However, I think that any attempt to set up a system of group rights somehow cutting across individual rights would lead to chaos.
      I think it follows that no individual rights, so no rights at all, are violated, just by the fact that a frontier is moved, though there may be very strong objection to the means used to get it moved. It's never morally imperative that the frontier between X and Y should run along this or that line of rivers or mountains.
      There are some who respond to Israel's RTE claims by saying that of course they recognise it just as they recognise RTE for every other country - no big deal. In fact it's quite a big deal and quite a bad one.

    • The claim that 'Israel has a right to exist' is actually false, though it's easy to sound monstrous by saying this. Part of the true basis of any theory of human rights, which otherwise would not be a theory of human rights at all, is that these rights are the same regardless of whether one is or is not of any particular race or religion, Jewish very much included. Israel exists on the basis of claiming for people who are Jewish certain rights in the Holy Land on an exclusive and overriding basis, therefore exists in essential conflict with human rights, therefore cannot have a right to exist, much as it would be nice to calm the situation by saying that all that is agreed. The Palestinians, having daily and hourly experience of the cruelty which the Israeli project had no chance of avoiding, though much of disguising, must know without much abstract argument that the 'right to exist' claim is morally false, really somewhat grotesque.
      It's not just a somewhat trivial parallel, as some suppose, to 'France/Uruguay has a right to exist', since the existence of these countries does not raise the same problems - though even then even these claims are at best problematic.
      If some Palestinians do claim to recognise the RTE in full in the full Israeli sense then the Israelis have some perverse justification for saying 'You don't mean it' or 'You've never really, really said it'.
      The question of compromise for the utility of all, equally considered, is another matter, of course. But that is not Israeli language. They don't believe in the utility of all, equally considered. They can't, because they have this belief in exclusive rights and the utter conviction that those of us who disagree are motivated by hatred, religious perversity or total lack of human feeling. They're wrong, though.

  • Trump's vow to move embassy to Jerusalem is now a 'decision-making process'
    • It's interesting to see how this is the first matter over which Trump, so much at least in image the decision maker and man of strong will, hesitates. I wish Beinart had said 'get many people killed, many of them Jewish'.

  • Palestinian teen in Gaza dies after refusing to serve as a collaborator for Israel in exchange for medical care
  • Despite international pressure, Finkelstein gives talk on Gaza's 'martyrdom' at German institute
    • What is obviously true is not necessarily uncontroversial if some are determined to controvert it. I had a rather shocking experience with a German, now risen to dizzy heights in UK academia, who was saying how terrible nationalism is. I asked how those remarks applied to Z. The reply was 'As a German, I can't say anything about that'. I said that that was inverse racism, which was perhaps unduly fighting talk for a social occasion. It just slipped out. Within seconds I was being accused by a young graduate student of picking on Germans and picking on Jews. Uncomfortable. A reminder of how dufficult it can be to keep within normal discourse and speak of Z in a sceptical tone. I still think it's inverse racism if you treat members of a certain race as beyond critique.

  • Ellison assures Dems he has made up with Haim Saban despite 'anti-Semite' accusation
    • Is the reason for wanting 'free Palestine', as Davis calls it, weakened or reduced, or weakened if you are a woman, by the existence of 'Muslim misogynism', as you call it?

  • By their bulldozers you will know them
    • 'Autonomy' does not seem to give much freedom to make decisions, since there is no sovereignty in international affairs, little practical alternative to economic cooperation with Israel and no control of borders. Not much auto.

  • Obama 'betrayed' American Jews and Trump is a 'swineherd' -- Bernard-Henri Levy
    • We're taking about the Jerusalem Talmud, which is much less accessible than its Babylonian counterpart, so I may be getting some things wrong. Does Diocletian really summon Judah ha Nasi to the rather obscure Caesarea Philippi rather than to C Maritima, the capital of Palestine? The appended moral is 'never insult a Roman, since he might become Emperor', which is certainly a bit shocking. Obliquely it shows that Jewish inhabitants of the Empire were not particularly downtrodden or servile in their self-image. They do not see any reason to apologise but instead think fit, though it is they who have wronged him, to tell him to become 'a new man.'. The analogy with Saul, who seems to have suffered moral degeneration when moving from animal husbandry to political power, might be regarded as a bit insulting in its own way, but all this Levi admires.
      Levi seems to think that Diocletian's advancement was a demonstration mainly of the nihilism of Roman, implicitly of Western, society, though a person who joined the army without a privileged background when his country, for all its faults a great custodian of the arts and sciences, was falling apart and who was one of those who brought back stability and morale, must have had some impressive qualities.
      My suspicion is that Levi is misreading the story's tone and that the rabbis' remarks are to be understood as tactful in implicit comparison with Christian manners towards this pagan patriot. How carefully has he read his original? Why is this insulting, boastful man the grandest public intellectual of a whole continent? Maybe Richard Dawkins has the same sort of fame, but at least he knows his Darwin and puts together some reasonable arguments.

    • Diocletian was, if I understand the story, impressed by the magical powers which surrounded the Jews - underemphasised by Levi - and therefore offered them privileges and protection. Jewish good sense is contrasted implicitly with Christian behaviour which provoked - there is some truth in that, I think - the persecution for which D is famous. I don't see much indication that Jews should keep their distance from the powerful. It does suggest both a) that people who gain power will themselves respect power and that an arrangement based on a degree of mutual respect, rather than strident opposition, should usually be offered and b) that one should not insult the humble who may become powerful.. Of these a) seems like a reasonable point of view, b) seems morally inadequate.

    • What will the force be that overcomes Israeli reluctance? The human rights based claims and arguments that we know so well, mediated by international opinion?

    • Rabbi Hanan Balk of Cincinnati has an essay on 'The Jewish and the non-Jewish Soul' (?2016) arguing that the idea that they are of distinct kinds is really post-Talmudic - and (I would think) rather disconcertingly dependent on non-Jewish (Neoplatonist) ideas in order to be rather sniffy about non-Jews. Balk mentions Talmudic passages according a share in the Age to Come to non-Jews. Balk at one point uses the phrase 'the Talmud concludes that...'.
      I haven't got a thousandth of Balk's Talmudic learning but I had thought that the idea of a Talmudic 'conclusion' is to be avoided, since the T is a record of civilised debates among rather lovable rabbis, contrasting and meant to contrast sharply with what contemporaries would have seen as the increasingly ferocious temper of the Christian bishops and their dogmatic pronouncements. The figure of Hillel is a character in the spiritual drama, standing for the most reasonable and gentle - though at the same time elliptical, puzzling and mysterious - interpretations of the Law. In my ignorant opinion he represents the spirit of the Talmud a little more than anyone else, though he is really a fictional character.

  • Palestinians react to the Trump inauguration
    • It's surely not news to the Palestinian that the Western governments attribute to them only a very slight and subordinate role in determining their future.

  • Trump 'promise' to move US embassy to Jerusalem stirs international furor
    • Statistics on refugee behaviour might indeed be useful. Being a refugee must be extremely disorienting and demoralising and not all will react to the receiving society with gratitude. But the probability of anyone in any group's being a terrorist is extremely low and there is a difficulty in understanding probability increments at this low level. Is it foolish to do something that raises a significant risk from 0.002 to 0.2%, the figure Ikeda suggests, if it's something you want to do on other grounds?

    • As to the 'Islamic terrorism' that Trump promises to dismiss from existence there are serious problems in defining and applying both terms. There's an article by Sandy Ikeda of SUNY, published by a libertarian group, which acknowledges these problems but suggests,,with some attention to the logic of probability, that it is reasonable to suppose that the probability that an American Muslim is a terrorist is around 0.2%. He cites a note by William Easterly (was it Easterley?) ) which puts the probability even lower and mentions, very sensibly, the related dangers which come from ignorant and brutal antagonism directed at some social groups. Ikeda considers that the chances of an American non-Muslim's being a terrorist are around 0.002%. He does not consider the probability that an American may be involved in state terrorism, which would once again raise questions of definition.

  • I have been looking for a home since I came to this world
    • Trying to catch up with you this afternoon, Jon. Greetings. I think you're right about the general logic of negotiation. However, I doubt that the Palestinians consider themselves in a reasonable position, but in a deep bad situation where both the status quo and the available alternatives are all awful. The Israelis find the sq pretty good and so don't suggest any alternatives. In this position those in the deep bad mire have a permanent incentive to compromise if a better offer appears, those in the pretty good situation an incentive not to compromise, since that means giving up something they like having. So it is to them that we look for an act of will overcoming their reluctance. I accept that they don't have to run 'autonegotiations' or keep up a public dialogue about what the terms should be, but they do have to say 'We've made proposals before and they're still there' or else 'Times have changed; if you want to know our current thinking come and ask - we'll tell you'.

    • Capitulation and compromise are very different things.
      If it is indeed true that a compromise leading to a degree of peace and prosperity was once available that must have been because Israel had a genuine will to compromise and made an offer accordingly. But a genuine will to compromise is not shown by making one offer and offering or proposing nothing more if that offer is rejected, but by keeping the same offer or a modified one on the table or at very least assuring the other side that a proposal will be made on request. I do not see Israel doing that: if I'm wrong, what is the proposal or assurance? So I don't see any will to compromise on the Israeli side. I agree that the situation is, to put it mildly, sad. But to note sadness whilst attributing no blame to anyone but those in the saddest situation is to shed a crocodile tear.

  • Letter to Fordham: 'Have you ever seen an instance where a university gains in the long run from speech suppression?'
    • I think we must expect a wave of petty repression, maybe not too effective, across much of the English-speaking world. I can't speak for ACLU but I wouldn't be surprised if they expect to find the highly politicised court system unfriendly on this matter.

  • The immaculate conception of Louis Brandeis
    • A token of his progressive language, certainly, but the talk about national homes never made sense logically and in practice was just flimflam and perhaps self-deception.

    • Meant to add that to find a conspicuous public figure working through a secret society, even if it was a very nice secret society, is remarkably disturbing. Also that Zionism presented in humanist and progressive terms, as in Altneuland and even Daniel Deronda, was not unusual. Brandeis may not have sounded like someone from Russia but he did, according to M Macmillan's peacemakers, argue that self-determination in Palestine meant treating Jewish people worldwide as Palestinian 'voters' - that is to say he was an early exponent, and an exponent taken seriously, of the Burthright ideology in all its preposterousness. At the level of basic belief, which drives everything else, Brandeis and the man from Eastern Europe were at one.

    • Thanks for the reference to Grose's article, which seems sensible enough. I would think that if Brandeis considered that he had been, for all his success, a victim of anti-Semitism in high places and wanted, in response, to celebrate his Jewishness, that would have been an honourable thing, even if he was also thinking about advancing his career. We can't expect idealistic people to be completely detached from self-interest.

  • To be successful the French Peace Initiative must be based on international law and human rights
    • Just to add that Weizmann's remark was seriously prejudiced. The legend that London around 1000 BCE was already the capital of a kingdom founded by Trojan refugees is not far removed in credibility from the claim that Jerusalem became the capital of a United Monarchy at around the same time. Both must be strongly doubted - both may reflect a certain memory or reality, though a Trojan prince called Brutus is a bit of a stretch. The Bronze Age London area was an active economic centre, losing importance (was there a Bronze Brexit?) like many Bronze Age centres as the Iron Age dawned: so we learn from the lecture by Dr.J.D. Hill of the British Museum delivered to the City of London Archaeological Society in Oct. 2011.

    • This particular verbal sally - 'London swamp' - comes from Chaim Weizmann at the beginning of his bromance with Arthur Balfour in 1906. Balfour, according to Weizmann, laid it to heart and remembered it at their next meeting a decade later.

  • Why Israel wants us to say 'terror'
    • In reply to Yoni's 'mechanical application' (you're entitled to a less unflattering word) and to remarks by ros elsewhere - Jeff McMahan, now Professor of Moral Philosophy at Oxford, wrote an article a few years ago in the Loyola Journal of International Law, Vol. 31, in which he argues with no ifs or buts that members, military or civilian, of an organisation enforcing an unjust occupation can be attacked without injustice (so I think without 'terrorism') by any of those occupied. He mentions Palestine as something he clearly regards as an example of unjust occupation but restricts the Palestinian right of resistance by suggesting, in line with much Just War theory, that it is too unlikely to improve the situation of the occupied people. His statement of the sheer nastiness of unjust occupation is good, I think. His example of just occupation, while admitting its many faults. is Germany 45.

    • Well,Yoni, I echo RoHa's applause. I once knew a veteran of the Royal Navy in WW2 who slowly revealed among friends that he considered himself a war criminal because of a massacre in which he had taken part. He was tormented in his dreams. Yet he was or had become, I still think, a good person. You have achieved more than he did both by breaking out of an iron ring of indoctrination from educational and military sources, far more than most of us have ever done, and by going in public with your new moral insights, which is a way of making such amends as you can. However, I think that Israelis, being human, still have some rights.

    • But no territory was ever offered on a sovereign basis, as far as I know. There was demilitarisation, incomplete control of frontiers and of foreign policy - no alliances, no improvement of the position in the future. Even the right to negotiate was to be negotiated away. The settlement blocs were symbols of subordination rather than the essence of it.

  • Against Israel, Hamas and Fatah
    • You are saying f-occupation but not, at least not explicitly, f-Israel, though Israel wearies you as do Fateh and Hamas. Is it your view that you and we all have to be resigned to Israel 48's existence or that the occupation is simply the worst feature of Israel, revealing the true nature of the whole?

  • The truck attack that killed four Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem was not 'terrorism'
    • The question whether the Jerusalem attack is to be condemned morally by use of the term 'terrorism', understood as a form of human rights violation, is not to be determined by whether those killed arouse human sympathy or even whether they deserve it. Thoroughly dislikable people have rights too. On the other hand theories of just or even permissible war all imply - more shockingly than people think - that in some circumstances perfectly nice and normal people forfeit their right to life. Then the question is determining what those circumstances are. The lawyers have struggled to find a consensus but have, I think, not succeeded. I don't withhold sympathy from the people killed in the Jerusalem attack but that is not enough to decide against Jonathan Os argument. One may feel sorry for the suffering of 'terrorists' who were driven to desperation by terrible experiences because suffering deserves sympathy even in that case, but their suffering does not prove that they were in the right.

    • The Government of Israel should certainly be held responsible for the bad activities of its low level agents unless, at a minimum, it repudiates the action and disciplines the agents. Azaria is a case in point. A repudiation which sounds hypocritical will not do much good at the Day of Judgement.

    • Well, Yoni, I can see ways in which these things could be argued back and forth according to the letter of the law. Is someone whose sole weapon is a truck showing himself to be armed simply by sitting in the truck? Was Jesus, if he made a heavy whip, a potentially lethal weapon, out of cords or strips of leather which were normally items of clothing or in civilian use, acting fairly? I don't think an attack of this sort, without anything conventionally regarded as a weapon, was directly envisaged in 77. The 'spirit of the law' is elusive, though in my view its spirit is not to give complete freedom of action and place no obligations at all on anyone engaged in any kind of military action or political violence.

    • But there's a problem, is there not, Yoni, about acting wrongly against wrongdoers or illegally against lawbreakers? I think that opposition to Nazism produced crimes and horrors as well as great deeds - Keith Lowe's Savage Continent and all that. I'm not very good on legal matters and I think law codes cannot really provide the last word. But I do note that the famous Additional Protocol of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions, often regarded as too lenient towards 'terrorists' does insist on some distinguishing mark to be worn or displayed during an attack, so I think hophmi has a point.
      Dab seems, if I understand him, to be disparaging the principle of proportionality, which seems to me essential to any kind of morality: how do you deal with any moral questions without an idea of Not Enough or Too Much.
      As to our advocacy for violence, I think most of us believe that enough people have been killed and would rather that there not be even one more.

  • There is no such thing as 'Progressive Except Palestine'
    • Not possible to be very pregnant or a little pregnant but possible to be fluent or halting in a second language or to have a slight or a raging fever. I don't think of progressives and reactionaries as completely agreed among themselves and I don't think that we should refuse to make common cause with those who do not agree with us totally, if that is being suggested. That said, I do think that the most obvious and normal moral principles are being violated by Zionism, cruelly and on a daily basis, and it is astonishing that people who seem to have a normal morality, even without being particularly progressive, look so readily the other way.

  • Netanyahu has isolated Israel and is driving the US 'off a cliff into chaos' -- Lloyd Doggett
    • Masot is clearly an intelligence officer - maybe he won't be promoted now he's let himself be recorded. The Conservative and Labour Fs of I seem to be toughing it out in full Nixonian mode and Ms. Strozzoli is most unapologetic. The Labour Party seems ready to press the matter a bit, and so they should after the disgraceful treatment of Naz Shah MP (now busy calming the situation after a police shooting incident in or around her constituency) for repeating a mere pleasantly from good old N. Finkelstein, I wonder what the LibDems will say: they too have a very influential F of I organisation. I rather think that the ex- Minister writing in the Mail on Sunday, and saying how fearful he is of revealing his identity will decide to reveal himself soon. That an MP should express such fear for doing his job and speaking on a matter of some political import is quite shocking - and I'm not that easily shocked politically.

  • The mainstreaming of Palestinian genocide
    • The Labour Party has called for further enquiries. We'll see. It will be interesting to see if Sir Alan Duncan, the man to be taken down - in this matter at least a most honourable man - takes the matter up. He has declined so far, but he's obviously the most effective critic of Israel in the UK political sphere and this is the time to renew his critique.
      The gathering seems to have been a very expensive lunch. I don't think that embassies fund expensive lunches for a mere chat among friends with no serious purpose, as is being claimed by the woman who was discussing plans with the Israeli intelligence operative.

  • Booker slams UN resolution as 'anti-Israel,' while Saban says it's anti-American
    • The Great Abstention was a message to the ME but also to a party whose election campaign, with Zionism as a core element, had just collapsed in a heap, suggesting something different for the future. Perhaps the money raised by supporting Zionism is not as essential as it seemed, perhaps there is something deadening about being so committed to an important element of the status quo. Booker and others are showing that the message is not that well received.

  • Terrorism: How the Israeli state was won
    • The Theban Sacred Band, where being in an active gay relationship was a condition of membership, made a great impression on the Hellenistic and Roman world but had no clearly recognisable succcessor and was not regarded as the efficient model for the way forward. The success at Leuctra in 371 was balanced by total failure at Chaeronea in 338. Virgil's Aeneid Book IX, through the characters Nisus and Euryslus, who form a Sacred Band, makes us think, despite the very sympathetic prrsentation of these heroes, that a military unit based on passion will not be good at carrying out a rational plana and that passion may become bloodlust.
      I would have thought that a determination to defeat the Axis at all costs would have implied cooperating with the UK war effort - we were the leaders in that battle - on UK terms, those terms including our disinclination formally to segregate our armed forces, on the American model of the time, by race.

    • Well, we do still have a rule against Nakba denial, which I have always understood as a rule against Nakba justification, which I think is what's going on here..

    • Everyone in relevant ancient times knew that Jerusalem was not of Israelite or Jewish origins - and people thought origins important. Jewish theologians accepted that Jerusalem was first known as the capital of the non-Jewish priest-king Melchizedek (Gen.14), servant of God Most High, whose role descended to the priests who anointed the Kings of Judah, themselves not of pure Israelite blood but specially linked with the city by God's decree. There was always a sense in which non-Jews had a place in Jerusalem, which is recognised in the Temple"s role as house of prayer for all nations.

  • Resolution for 2017: Stop substituting 'the occupation' for 'Zionism'
    • Yes, supporting Israel as a Jewish state or as the polity it is possible in those who are not Zionist in my terms - or in other terms, I would think - by belief or ideology.
      I'd be interested to hear other definitions of Z.

    • Yes, if anyone believed that there are two absolutely genuine ways, neither superior to the other, of having a share of sovereignty over the Holy Land, being Jewish and being Palestinian, that person would not be a Zionist by my definition: a 'semi-Zionist', perhaps.
      A consistent semi-Zionist could not endorse partition without vote or the exclusions of 48 and would want to take all reasonable steps to put them right, would not accept that the security of the Jewish element took priority over the well being of the others and would not agree to the continuing disfranchisement of 'the Occupation' - would, I suppose, think that the Jewish element owed massive reparations to the others. I don't really think that semi-Zionists could have founded or sustained Israel or even encouraged Israeli policies at any stage. Perhaps Professor Beinart is indeed what I would call a semi-Zionist. Louis Brandeis was perhaps one such during the Balfour era - he certainly, according to Margaret Macmillan's 'Peacemakers', envisaged a Palestinian electorate of all Palestinians in Palestine plus all Jews everywhere. Mind you, that is such a paradoxical idea that it may be that semi-Zionism is always inconsistent.
      However, I would think it useful to use different terms for what I'm calling Z and semi-Z.

    • Zionism to my mind is the belief that people who are Jewish, and they only, have an inherent right to a share of sovereignty in the Holy Land, others only by the grace of the true heirs. The Occupation is the situation in the WB and Gaza post-67. Zionism is a false principle and the Occupation is a horrible thing. There are people who think Z is fine but the O wrong. This is not a bad linguistic habit but a mistaken idea, whose error needs to be explained. It's not that people who condemn O really already condemn Z and just need to be told to use the right words.

  • Netanyahu's holy war, and the coming Jewish schism
    • I think it's indeed interesting that the whiff of corruption is so strong. It will make it that bit more difficult for those in the know to think of Israel as a sacred cause. But 'that bit' may not be that much and those in the know may not be that many. The carbon corruption news is mainly about six months old and it is in a way remarkable that the impact has been so little. It has fed into the standard pattern whereby those who love Zionism but despise Netanyahu cooperate in the end quite effectively with those who echo N's angry rhetoric. A Jewish Reformation, meaning the emergence of a strong stream of Jewish opinion that did not merely oppose N's furious ways but regarded Zionism itself as a mistake - made Phil into a thoroughly mainstream figure - still seems a long way off. You never know with Reformations. I don't think Luther said anything that had never been said before but somehow the mixture that time went Bang.

    • Not as irrational as all that. The Zionist movement has taken so much with such a high hand and continue to take more every day. The proposition is that they should stop taking more and have their existing holdings legitimised. A charming diplomat speaks on behalf of governments whose democratic mandate is questionable and on behalf of public opinion whose major concern may not be Palestine but which must still be quite angry. I'm not sure I would take the diplomatic initiative at face value, especially since there is no intention to let even a foot's length of territory be non-Israeli but genuinely sovereign and when the other lot have not conceded that the Holy Land is rightfully Jewish and always has been, the idea on which Israel operates.

  • The NY Times attempts to isolate Kerry from Obama
    • Just back from a New Year party, maybe not thinking too straight, but happy 2017 to all the honourable electronic friends I have been privileged to make via Mondoweiss.

  • The formal end of the two-state solution
    • I too think that all this optimism is groundless. The agenda will be set by Trump. The rest of the world is not ready to make sacrifices to stop him.

  • Hear O Israel these parting truths -- John Kerry
    • There's truth in what you say, Dab. Of course you and I have not experienced the pressures of very high office from the inside.

    • You put your finger on the very important point, Sibi, that no one of any importance is prepared to grant the Palestinians any genuinely sovereign territory, 'not a foot's length'. Presumably Kerry has in mind some sort of collective security system embracing the Palestinian area, but there is no conceivable form of security that could deter the endlessly militarised, qualitatively edgy, Israeli military machine. All vain words. Yet not even this has ever been enough to secure Israel's cooperation. Even an unreal, completely dependent Palrstinian state is too much for them, too much of a thin end of the security wedge, too much of an affront to Zionism by making a non-Jewish presence look even remotely comparable in legitimacy to the Zionist one.

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