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

Showing comments 300 - 201

  • One-State conference at Harvard - March 3 & 4, 2012
  • Adelson dumps Gingrich and Santorum's star is rising
    • I think that the principal idea of liberalism, ie belief in personal freedom compatible with equal liberty of others, is that everyone should be free to make what choices seem right for them given their circumstances with as little as possible in the way of social pressure. Liberals may be accused of making rather too blithe remarks, considering that 'circumstances' may include serious economic pressure - must do for many people in a world of scarce resources. But the point doesn't have to be blithe and unrealistic, and the fact that people are often under economic pressure does not by any means justify putting them under social pressure 'to conform' as well.
      Breadwinning and homemaking are both means of increasing family resources and it should be a matter of individual circumstances which path is chosen. Breadwinning by women is often the best choice. It has obviously been a popular choice among female voters and part of the resonance (and relevance to the ME debate) is the fact, implicit in annie's remarks (still find it hard to use the upper case for her), that those voters are unlikely to welcome Santo's message.
      This is not a site for debating every important issue, of course, but there are links between different manifestations of liberalism. The right of fathers, patria potestas, was a feature of Roman law that has been much reduced throughout the modern period and Locke's Treatises, the foundation of liberalism, can be used both to discredit Zionism and to see the first beginnings of a liberal theory of family.

  • Likud party members issue call to storm al-Aqsa mosque next Sunday
    • Absolutely, and their power will grow.

    • He does indeed fit right in, and for the reason I mentioned - that it is in the long run, one way or another, intolerable for a state that is Jewish to have its most important monument in the hands of the followers of a non-Jewish religion, with all the implications about the rights of non-Jewish people to share in the Holy Land. That is why at least some Israeli journalists took the report of an immediate onslaught on the site seriously, even though it was fairly obviously near incredible. Someone was testing the water, even if not planning to take an immediate plunge. Others are working on breeding a red heifer for the purification of priests, though white flecks keep appearing.
      Religions are always in their nature being reinterpreted and religious prohibitions on putting 'something Jewish' (seafoid's term) on the Temple Mount would not for ever stop attempts to 'force God's hand'. We see that the prohibition on going near the site for fear of setting foot on the Holy of Holies is already being eroded.
      There's extremely little chance of an immediate Ayodha-style demolition, I agree. However, I would expect pressure for archaeological investigations on the Temple Mount, which if they happened would be highly disruptive, to build up over the next few years.

    • It doesn't seem that the Temple Mount crisis is upon us yet but I don't think that the Jewish State can for ever tolerate a situation where the most important monument, overshadowing all the others, belongs to a non-Jewish religion. I guess that the final flashpoint will concern archaeology. Currently one of the bridges leading to the Mount is being declared, for all I know with good reason, unsafe. Something may be patched up this time but there'll come a day when repairs under Israeli control start somewhere on the site. Any repair would lead to digging and every act of digging would call for another until, no doubt after long delays and complications, the whole site was transformed.
      I don't deny that the treatment of the site by Muslim religious authorities has been problematic.

  • Asher Grunis discriminates his way to the top of the Israeli Supreme Court
    • Most importantly 'because God hath commanded it' or 'because it's essential for progress'.

    • What the judge is pointing out, backhandedly of course, is that genuine respect for the human rights of all individuals, all and each, logically contradict claims based on the supposed rights of some individuals based on their being members of a national group. His support for the national claim is so unconditional, of course, that he intends to contradict any idea of human rights for all individuals.

  • Sh*t the David Project says about Israel
    • Not often you get a good joke in this grim discussion, especially when Mooser is resting. Thanks, tree.
      I'll take this opportunity to add my voice to the thanks to Hostage for so many good words in the righteous cause. I can well understand that it's weary work but so much good is done.

    • People who are Jewish have been in the place for 3,000 years. Well, depends what you mean by Jewish. On any definition people who are not Jewish have from time immemorial been in the same place.

  • The Israel Lobby on campus in Illinois: A challenge for BDS
    • Lobbyists and members of institutions that are all too happy to be lobbied, thinking that they gain security of career in exchange for a few fulsome words and throwing around a bit of public money, are two sides of one coin, I think. Coin may be the right word.

    • We might have sought to secure our oil either by merely having good relations with those sitting on top of it or else by controlling them and promoting those factions ready to help us. The reason for the first policy might have been what Nasser used to say - the Arabs cannot drink the oil. It's as essential to them to sell the stuff as it is for us to buy it.
      Treating an intrusive and hostile power in the Arabs' midst as a strategic ally clearly tends to wreck that policy. But it isn't much more helpful when it comes to the second, since our increasing dedication to Israel has to some extent antagonised every faction that there is in the Arab and Islamic world. I can't think of any historical precedent that's even approximately close.
      I think that the need of the empire for oil goes hardly anywhere in explaining the empire's ME policy.

  • Hasbara PennBDS wrap-up: Pro-Israel students are ignorant
    • I'm in two minds about this. You're quite right that human rights do not spring from ancient history. They spring at any time from how things are at that time.
      On the other hand so much propaganda based on ancient history is around that, being interested in the subject, I think it can be constructive to prick the propaganda balloon here and there. I keep wanting to say that the non-Jewish link to Palestine is as historic and as valid as the Jewish one and that archaeology is seriously abused, at least rashly over-interpreted, for political purposes. If you say that all that is a distraction from the real subject I think you may have a point.

    • There's no doubt that Herod renovated the Temple and that the renovation, according to his design, was complete within his lifetime. So what did not exist within his lifetime was not part of his design.
      You know as well as I do that you can't discuss these things on the sole basis of newspaper articles, particularly not one that chooses words so misleadingly - 'may well have built other walls' is merely changing the subject. Herod did have the inner temple built by priests and added buildings other than those - but that is not a very imp0rtant point.
      I'd be glad to exchange ideas with you but I think you should read Josephus first. Perhaps you have - I've no right or wish to patronise you.
      Antiquities XX has, I think, been copied/edited rather too lovingly by Christians.

    • I'm not sure that the sovereignty of individual states and the related idea of non-intervention have been abolished. If they have been, there are either no governments any longer - and surely there are - or else there is a world government, which I don't see functioning or existing.
      I don't believe that there is a right of national self-determination. No such idea (nor even the idea of nation) has ever been defined, at least not with any coherence and plausibility.

    • If there is a right to form social contracts, and it is the basis of most western political philosophy that there is such a right, then there can be no right of self-determination for individuals or groups. The social contract involves all who live in a territory - that's the whole idea. All contracts are nonsense if those involved - any individual, any collective - can tear them up for their own sole good.
      Self-determination by a group, ie withdrawal by them from a social contract, necessarily removes rights which the contract had given to others outside the group. If it's an ethnic matter and there are strong feelings then self-determination must (I take a different view from Chaos here) produce ethnic cleansing.

    • The templemount link you give, Hostage, seems to have been last updated in 02.
      In the last few months coins have been discovered under the Wall (there was a cistern - or a hole where a cistern had been - into which they had fallen) which date from 16/17 CE. This casts serious doubt upon - I'm inclined to say disproves - the idea that the wall was part of Herod's Temple, the last monument of Judaism in the area, since Josephus is so emphatic that this design, including the outer buildings, was completed on time and under budget 'within 8 years' by Herod. There's more to the discussion than that, as you know, but the proposition that the Wall is not a Jewish monument is not at all absurd.

  • MSNBC: Israel trains Iranian terror group to kill nuclear scientists
    • Thanks for the reference, Kathleen - I would understand Greenwald to be saying that there is currently an effort to de-list the MEK. Not surprising, really.
      'Doesn't look like a terrorist!' - Conrad's Secret Agent is quite a good read on the subject of how terrorists can have all sorts of outward appearances. Our life would be easier if they all went round with masks and sputtering bombs.

  • A lull on this site
    • The 'films' were said to show Judenrat members collecting up goods for delivery to the Nazis. I presumed that the films were made in order to convince the Ns that the J'rat members were obeying orders and not pocketing stuff for themselves.
      Anti-Judenratism is a feature, as I understand, of the accounts offered by Hilberg and by Arendt.
      For myself, with no expertise here, I tend to think that it's a bit facile to be angry with people who may have been unheroic but were under such barely imaginable pressure. Blankfort should perhaps have restrained his disgust on contemplating this banal, bureaucratic bit of evil. But I don't think it reflects terribly badly on him that he (if I'm right) slightly misjudged here.

  • Beinart to cast Obama as caped hero of two-state-solution in forthcoming book
    • It seems from previous discussions that Beinart is completely committed to the idea that liberalism is easily trumped by the needs of national, even ethnic, security. This seems to be endorse, for the wonderful second term, the same old fine words and the same old compromising inertia as we have seen in the first.

  • Bruising Judt, Fukuyama says Arabs aren't ready for liberalism
    • Yes indeed, those backward peoples who resist radical change or dislike those who impose it are trying to restart finished history. Not just monsters but dinosaurs. Sorry I forgot about that.

    • Fukuyama's idea seems to be that there is a risk of becoming a monster if you try to devise radical change but no risk worth mentioning if you set out to defend the status quo, which God knows many intellectual types have done. I'm sure F'yma is a very nice person but this massive moral privileging of conservative intellectuals vs. their radical cousins is itself an utterly monstrous idea.

  • Jewish substitution and the white gaze
    • Well, people are entitled to subject other people's religions, or their own, to a critique, even a harsh critique.
      The idea of Jesus as a militant Jewish patriot, which carries at least the hint that the Christian faith seriously misrepresents the person it claims as founder, isn't entirely new - for instance, it was advocated during my young days by SGF Brandon, then Professor at Manchester University, and had quite an effect on me.
      There is always the possibility that a polemical writer may say something true or at least interesting. A strictly defensive reaction - 'my lot aren't that bad!' - risks being unreasonable, ie an argument based on having fixed in my mind the very point that I'm trying to prove. That is what I'd say in reply to the fierce attacks made on Sand's view of Judaism, so I suppose I can't say different when it comes to Levine on Christianity.
      Which doesn't mean that every polemic is worth serious attention. We all have to make a judgement about whose arguments we're going to listen to.

    • Amy-Jill was entrusted with the highly sensitive chapter in the 1998 Oxford History of the Biblical World, which is on the whole a very fair statement of traditionalist views, covering the lifetime of Jesus and of Paul. She writes reasonably enough of the difficulties of the subject, remarks on the way that the New Testament reworks 'Old Testament' materials and identifies a vein of anti-Semitism, or at least of anti-Jewish caricature, in the New Testament. Maybe her more recent work emphasises Jewish-Christian continuity rather than discrepancy?
      Paul, a notorious stone of stumbling and scandal between Jewish and Christian readers, is treated, I think, as a bit of a hot potato by the OHBW.

    • There's a book called 'Towards One World: Ancient Persia and the West' by Warwick Ball, which I picked up in the SOAS bookshop in London, which is very humane and scholarly and deserves a wider audience. Ball shows incidentally how the pernicious Clash of Civilisations theory is making its way into popular ancient history writing.
      Mind you, I tend to think that religions are too important to be left entirely to their own adherents.

  • How Sarah Schulman managed to get 'Pinkwashing' into the New York Times
    • Almost all the western world was thinking about something else, looking the other way etc. until recently. I for one was to my shame blinded by (among other things) the Oslo agreement and the promises of 2ss just round the corner. Why bother too much about a problem that was just about to be solved?

  • Would you buy a used metaphor from this warmonger? (Niall Ferguson's 'creative destruction' echoes Rice's 'birth-pangs')
    • I don't suppose Netanyahu was talking in English, but in English a blabbermouth is not one who speaks misleadingly but one who speaks incautiously and lets cats out of bags. For more than a decade we've had a procession of journalists and academics who dislike Iran and just love the thought of being the chosen messenger of mighty Israel. Their activities are valued surely not because they actually put pressure on Iran, which must by now be thinking that the threats are empty, but because the political reaction in the west is panicky and subservient. The continuation of these activities obviously requires encouraging nods and winks from Israeli politicians and military men, letting these wonderful and intelligent friends in on their secret. Netanyahu may be calling for more subtlety and ambiguity but I don't think that the whole show could be called off without an unwelcome questioning in the west of Israel's effortless superiority over all comers.

    • Telford Taylor's 'Munich' offers quite full documentation and argues that a decision for war should have been made. However his account makes me sympathise with Chamberlain to some extent. Chamberlain was at the head of an unwieldy coalition. His French partners were hesitant, his Dominion partners unwilling, his own military advisers discouraging, the predictions of quick victory in 1914 a bitter memory. There were great uncertainties over Romania, Poland and above all the Soviet Union.

    • But if on Monday one lot of people are being dragged along into war according to Goering's formula - by lies - some other lot will by Tuesday have a genuine reason, with no need for government lies, to believe that they are being attacked and thus to defend themselves. By Wednesday the first lot will have a valid reason of their very own: the lie will have become truth.

    • My bank branch kindly provides copies of the FT which I sometimes read for a few minutes. There was a report last week that the good old Saudis had announced a policy of raising the oil price from $75 to $100 per barrel. The FT contributor said that this would be in vain, since the western world would respond by greater efficiency.
      Well, we can all have our plans and predictions but it surely doesn't look as if the Saudis are planning on saving our oil-price bacon in the near future. They might try to halt a panic caused by a war in the Gulf but they might not succeed all that well. If Iran was really smashed up and its oil exports lost for a few years the Saudis and their plans for a higher price would face no obstacle. They'd have us - just to compete for cliche of the day - over a barrel.

  • 'Romeo and Juliet' and the politics of occupation
    • I think RJ is Tudor propaganda against aristocratic factions given too much scope by sovereigns who should find the courage to be absolute rulers within the law, the same message conveyed by the History plays. Contending peoples are not the same thing as contending factions and I don't think Shakespeare gives too much attention to the 'contending peoples' theme, except perhaps in his treatment of the Welsh, who played something of the Palestinian part in our history. They seem usually to be treated with some mockery, especially when, like Glendower, they are seeking to regain some independence, though they are allowed to make an important contribution once they have, like Fluellen, accepted the sacred English monarchy and its international aspirations.

  • Both sides are wrong in the ‘Israel Firsters’ debate
    • Horrible corruption and shocking betrayal of trust.

    • 'Hate the sin, love the sinner' and all that. They told me in Sunday school. But we don't have to love anyone, saint or sinner, on grounds of nationality or race, only on grounds of shared humanity. Opponents of Zionism shouldn't be asked to prove that they love or admire people who are Israeli by nationality or Jewish by race, but that they respond to all individuals as fairly as they can and especially without regard to race one way or another.
      No one increases their entitlement to hugs and kisses by repeated acts of injustice and cruelty or by hideous words in defence of these things.

    • Overlong philosophical essays are one of my specialities, must admit. I would say that the 'mainly Jews' remark, being so clearly present in the punchline, means that there's only a fine shade of difference between Shmuel's interpretation and mine. On neither interpretation is Stein-Weiner holding to the middle course: he is against the term 'Israel Firster' and says that those who use it approach viciousness, a very strong condemnation. His strongest critique of the other side is that they are not necessarily right in the main reason that they give, a very mild condemnation of what they say.
      None of this proves that he's wrong in his main opinion, of course.
      But I also think that there's some inconsistency in saying that 'My country first!' is not a valid moral principle and in saying that it's rather vicious to accuse someone of sometimes putting another country first, ie of not living by a false principle. That might be rather a good thing.
      No more politically correct philosophy for at least three minutes!

    • I think that the first thing you should do when confronted with a term you don't like is ask the other person what (s)he means by it.
      There can't be an absolute ban on attributing to people motives that they do not acknowledge. You ought to have some reason for doing so, of course.
      The motive of advancing the interests of another country is not in all circumstances wrong. 'As far as we're concerned we always come first!' is not in fact a very attractive principle.
      So there is perhaps some room for some 'mistakes on both sides' rhetoric here but I think that the Mr.Stern-Weiner's argument is a little off-centre, since it is really strongly on one side. 'May not be anti-Semitic but may well be vicious'
      means 'close enough to anti-Semitism to be vicious'.

  • In interview of Muslim Brotherhood leader, NPR repeatedly asks about Israel's security
    • Football supporters often do attack each other. I was in Liverpool last Saturday pm and watched ManU supporters being led from the stadium to the railway station in a huge crocodile flanked by police on horseback, evidently with the intention of making sure that there could be even one stray missile or even an exchange of insults. The usual reason why things erupt seems, from UK experience, to be incompetent policing. As seafoid mentions, this often leads to a stampede. Our bad experience recently was at Hillsborough in the 80s. I'm hearing a radio news bulletin as I write saying that there was a stampede at Port Said leading to some people being squashed into a tunnel.

  • 'NYT' gives Israelis its magazine to make an attack on Iran 'normal'
    • If it is said that people with a significant role in the armaments/munitions industry are in effect members of the armed forces then it becomes legitimate to attack them whenever it is legitimate to attack the armed forces. But then it is never legitimate, indeed always terrorism, to pick off members of a potential enemy's armed forces, without a declaration of war, through the agency of people who are not themselves identifiable as combatants. That sort of attack really eliminates the distinction between peace and war and the distinction between combatants and others.
      You could resort to the 'All's fair; no rules' position but that has logical consequences of its own.

    • I share the 'hopeful' view here and pray that it's right. Obama must hope to be able to say that his campaign, using means short of war, are 'working' - at any rate to keep saying this throughout the election period. I think that the Iranians will probably let him get away with this even if they are sorely provoked, but the danger is that the borderline between 'means short of war' and 'war' will get so blurred that we find ourselves in a war anyway. The terrorist campaign on Iranian soil is surely not over.
      As for a overt Israeli attack on Iran - what has changed since the Battle of the Tree a couple of years ago when both sides had a pretext for going at it hammer and tongs but showed no interest in doing so? That was an indication, surely, of an approximate balance of power. Has Israeli re-armament under Obama's regime tilted that power decisively? On the face of it the continuation of the same old political tactics, with sympathetic journalists and academics - oh that analytical tone! - breathing fire and brimstone, that has been used for a dozen years suggests that there has been no decisive change. These tactics certainly work in keeping us Westerners quivering but in the wider world it must have given Israel a reputation for empty threats which would make the real threats, should they ever come, hard to recognise.

    • A cold, slightly flippant, endorsement of terrorism.

  • Wait-- do you like Israel? (Jeffrey Goldberg's ultimate test)
    • It's a mistake to think that pro- or philo- attitude towards a certain group is inherently admirable just because anti- and miso- attitudes are awful. To be anti- or miso-X is unfair or worse to everyone who is X, to be pro- or philo-X risks unfairness, at least, towards everyone else.

  • Pamela Olson to speak in New York City tonight
  • Claptrap from Christian Israel lobby
    • Maybe E. Martin's theories do deserve more attention but surely the Antonia was according to Josephus the refurbished form of an older tower whose main purpose was as a store room for Temple vestments, so would not have been particularly big?
      Surely the 'Valerius Gratus' coin discovery showing the wall not constructed or not fully constructed as late as 16 CE goes against the Antonia theory as much as against the Herodian Temple theory? The Antonia was functional long before that and Herod's plan for the Temple was completed by around 12 BCE.
      The remote possibility that I thought grimly amusing, in the face of the horrible propaganda contained in this cartoon, would be the discovery that the wall was built by Muslims in the first place, rather than taken over by them. I fully accept that there's no reason to assign such a late date, but there is reason to think that it was not built or planned by Herod as part of the Temple or of its enclosure.

    • Since the elect (I hope to be one of them, you know) will rise to meet him in the air - a charming picture until the fanatics ruined it - will Jesus need actually to touch down at this point?
      It would be amusing if the western wall is eventually proved to be an Islamic religious structure.

    • According to Wilhelm Bousset's 'The Antichrist Legend', a monument to Victorian scholarship still readily available, the Antichrist will be born in Chorazin (where's that birth certificate??) and will be of the tribe of Dan, which was reckoned to have apostasised and probably migrated. Maybe to Kenya?

  • Quoting Israelis, 'NYT' front pager says Iran will take a military strike lying down (won't even raise oil prices!)
    • Yes indeed - Iran is an existential threat one minute, a negligible and contemptible weakling the next. My guess - and I pray I'm right - is that there is no intention of attacking Iran in the near future but it must not be said that the attackers were frightened off.

  • Bonanza for Bedouins (the visions of American-Israeli environmentalist Alon Tal)
    • We know who really got wiped off the map and who did the wiping - not the Iranians.
      As to holy sites, the very recently discovered evidence - I'm inclined to say proof from Roman coins - that the western wall was not part of the Herodian Temple could do with more airing.

  • New additions to the Mondoweiss comments policy
    • I think I'm sometimes a bit turgid but 20,000 words is nonsense. I certainly wouldn't mind if Phil operated a word limit.

    • If documents - what would they be? instructions to Arab officers from their superiors? observations by journalists? - were to show that there was advice to flee we would still have no reason to think that fleeing a conflict zone is foolish or bad behaviour for which someone should for ever suffer.

    • The Nakba gets excused rather than denied, either by some form of justification - existential necessities, etc. - or by 'let's move on' suggestions to the effect that hurling accusations is now a pointless activity. A discourse from which all Nakba excuses were excluded would be a new phenomenon for many of us.

  • Bad career move by Tilda Swinton
    • I agree about 'Taken'. Mind you, statements like 'I may convert' may or may not mean much.
      I failed to be edgy yesterday. I was on a train sitting next to a student with a stripy college scarf - he suggested a swap. I said I'd rather keep making my political point, with the key in the design suggesting 'Free the captive nation'. Though no more was said and we left the train at that point my wife suggested that this political sloganising on a sleepy train sounded odd rather than edgy.

  • Ynet manufactures new threat to promote Ben White book
    • But the idea that anti-Semitism is the truth is as alien from the morality of Mondoweiss as any idea could be.

    • Are you sure you're being fair to the Zombies? At least some are Zionists, I think, scattering undead accusations of anti-Semitism in all directions.

  • Why Christian Zionism is nothing short of outright heresy
    • I'm thinking, patm, that I may have looked as if I knew more than I really do about Scofield, but I think I may have been right in what I said! I understand Sco was a lawyer with a highly chequered career and with no real theological education, taking his ideas from others, mainly the fanatical JN Darby. I also understand that he encouraged his readers to believe in Archbishop Ussher's seventeenth century calculations of the age of the world. In the well-informed late nineteenth century that was pretty reactionary and a show of willful ignorance both of scientific and of literary knowledge as they existed at the time.
      There's the even more disturbing question of CZ among progressive thinkers, which I think you've mentioned before. I found Gabriel Piterberg's 'Returns of Zionism' helpful about this. I've a memory that Netanyahu once expressed the view that CZ had 'enabled' Jewish Z.
      Let us know what you think of Taibbi.

    • Very interesting, Galen. I went at your prompting and looked up Ge in my good old Liddell and Scott lexicon. I must say that I would have thought that the trad English translations are defensible. Isn't there a play on multiple meanings - this land, the whole world? Just as 'Galen Sword' suggests both healing and warfare.

    • One day I'll get my copy of Matt Taibbi's 'Great Derangement' back from the American priest to whom I've lent it and then I will again have access to the fullest - and in a way sympathetic - account of how CZ operates.

  • Israel is at the heart of Jewish identity, Gorenberg says
    • I would be interested to know whether you can have more than one identity in this sense, how you possess, acquire and divest yourself of them.

    • Judaism was an important international religion in the earlier centuries CE. Its relationship with the Romans was quite complex, with Jewish people in high positions and with yet another Jewish Revolt, this time entirely outside Palestine (indicating a strong Jewish presence in many places), around 115, not well reported but probably extremely bloody. And the Jewish forces east of Roman territory had their own stories.
      Still, since converts are regarded as fully Jewish it was presumably always the intention of Palestinian Jews to share their patrimony with any converts whom they had accepted and with those converts' descendants. So it would seem that the rights of a convert and their families are equal to the rights of Jewish people whose bloodline connects them to ancient Palestine with the fullest purity. Conversion may well bring with it a desire for and a sense of entitlement to the patrimony of very full strength.
      But of course you don't have a right to a thing because you want it, however strongly and totally, and you don't make any proposition true by wanting it to be true or by thinking that it is true, even with the greatest passion. And it is not right to assign political rights by reference to principles based on a religion that not everyone shares. Political rights in any polity arise equally for all because of, and only because of, genuinely peaceful residence in the appropriate place.

    • The fundamental tenet of nationalist/Romantic pre-Zionism, perhaps? I'm not that familiar with the Wandering Jew story and its variations but isn't there one where the wandering Ahasuerus starts old and grows steadily younger, his beard blacker by the day? A stranger everywhere and therefore stronger and more independent than anyone? You could accept the dignity of this position, if that was how you saw things, or else exchange it for a return to what nationalists conceive as normality, taking the Zionist horn of the dilemma.

    • I think that Locke had worked out a theory of individual rights 100 years before the French revolution. A theory of individual rights was the necessary alternative to a theory of compulsory conformity in the aftermath of the Reformation.

    • Your remark about the Palestinian stranger points out just how extraordinary, convoluted and horrible this pseudo-moralistic essay is.
      It's a Christian principle that those who, like Jesus on Good Friday, have no power over their lives can still act morally. I would have thought that it was a principle of Judaism too. That doesn't prove it true, of course - but there is a good conceptual argument that even in extremely bad situations there can still be a possibility of making morally significant choices.
      Collective power isn't a high degree of individual power but a limitation on what an individual can do. Intense nationalist pressure on an individual to conform isn't a liberating force.

  • Obama begins push for Jewish support in 2012 by touting the 'unbreakable bond' between Israel and the US
    • I was quite pleased to read what you say. I had read on BBC teletext around 8 am our time that Gingrich won 'convincingly' and that the Republican winner in SC has always gone on to win the nomination. My whole morning was ruined.

  • Publisher of the 'Atlanta Jewish Times' suggests Mossad should assassinate Obama
    • Perhaps the interesting thing in Adler's remarks is his claim that if this thought about assassination/terrorism has occurred to little old him it must also have occurred to those in the highest positions in Israel. So that is the degree of stop-at-nothing ruthlessness that some of Israel's supporters attribute to Israel or at least to its leadership. And is it only 'some'? There are many Zionist voices denouncing Adler and saying that they would not contemplate such a horrible thing themselves. I'm sure they're sincere in what they say. But we should notice what they don't say. They aren't really able to add 'Israeli governments are not like that. They set themselves moral limits, they respect the rule of law' perhaps because they scarcely believe it in their own hearts.

  • 'Israel Firster' gets at an inconvenient truth
    • Dreyfus was convicted in December 1894 and Picquart's suspicions over the verdict were not aroused until July 1896, the public protests starting later. So there was quite a long interval in which everything was quiet, except for poor Dreyfus himself on Devil's Island. Herzl had not used his position as correspondent in Paris for a leading Vienna newspaper to raise any immediate queries - so the only conclusion seems to be that he too was convinced at the time by the conspirators and their forged evidence.

    • That might be to say that 'Israel first!' means that supporting Israel is the most important thing that can be done to preserve the world supremacy of the United States - or, slightly differently, of the West. One step back, and the barbarians will be all over us.
      I think that this is a mistake, since I don't think we Westerners (or you Americans) can base supremacy, or even a lasting position of strength, on endless provocation in one of the world's most sensitive regions.
      I suppose I am a Palestine-Firster in the sense of thinking that a just solution to the Palestine problem is the most imporant medium-term thing that can be done to preserve my dear country and maintain its long-term interests, which in this case are roughly the same as the interests of humanity overall, Jewish people not excepted. I would accept some short-term inconvenience to the UK in the process.

  • 'Tablet' calls 'The Israel Lobby' 'an intellectual landmark'
    • I think you're quite right, Krauss, about the sheer difficulty of all this. It's a far deeper problem than SA was. Thanks for the link to the Guardian - useful for an Independent reader.
      The screeds by Kirsch and by Gold seemed to take exactly the same tone, one of profound and bitter anger, one against Mearsheimer, one against various British targets. Kirsch is saying that Mearsheimer is no better than the mysterious authors of the Protocols, since they too made a kind of anti-Semitic discourse acceptable within an important non-Jewish group.
      Kirsch does, as Phil says, credit Mearsheimer with changing the intellectual climate and he alludes to Freedman's 'bought Congress' sally as a stormcloud which this climate produces. I would only ask Kirsch to ask himself whether the section of the American public of which he is thinking would have been so much influenced if there had been nothing worth considering in the argument put before it. Are these people, his own fellow-citizens, really so shallow or so casually malevolent as not just to believe something groundless but to let it change everything? Would there not be a case for at least looking critically at the undignified behaviour of Congress about which Freedman is so scornful?
      I don't think Mearsheimer in any way regrets the full participation of Jewish people in American political life, which a 'standard' anti-Semite would.

  • UK's deputy PM says Israel is 'vandal'-izing the two-state solution. Israel accuses him of 'gratuitous bashing'
  • A regular commenter on this site seeks a more temperate comment board
    • Her soul and mine might be third cousins, perhaps, if I was lucky. Arendt certainly did raise the question of the origins of anti-Semitism without presupposing that Jewish people had made no significant mistakes. There was quite a good review by Avineri in Haaretz in 2010 when 'Totalitarianism' was published in Hebrew.
      I think that the question of the mistakes of the victims of totalitarianism is a legitimate one, one that does have to be faced, but it does have to be handled with care, since it can of course be exploited malevolently.

    • Is it possible to define, rather than simply give examples of, the boundary between sane and crazy discourse on this topic?

    • I must say that I have never felt suspect or subject to disapproval here, except for the Professor Slaters of this world. I fully fit his description, as the police would say, of an anti-Zionist, but I don't call myself Jewish and indeed think that there is no scientific test for being Jewish or not. Though there was one definition, which rather pleased me, offered by Professor Falk, which seemed to make no problem about including an active member of the Church of England under his big Jewish umbrella.
      Despite not sharing your uneasiness in this respect I'm very glad to see you back.

    • You'd be missed.

    • Comments are what has made websites the vitally important and democratic thing they are. The quasi-priesthood (I think I took that term from Phil) of journalists and academics who once sang all the hymns now have to let the laity get close to the sanctuary.

    • I don't want to insult liberal Zionists but I do want to make clear the extent of my disagreement with them, which means using disparaging terms (like 'preposterous', even 'grotesque') about their arguments, though not about them. I don't think Zionism can take a genuinely liberal form, so discussion based on the idea that it can is misleading, even dangerous, from the start.
      I am pickled in academic seminar language, which does have its place, I suppose. But we are talking about horrible injustice and suffering and sometimes I feel restrained to a rather shameful point. I think many Palestinian readers would share that view of the likes of me.
      Self-examination such as Donald has promoted here is good but I don't want to see it becoming self-doubt. Just to be more emotional I would like to say that though of course there are lapses, some by me, the people critical of Zionism whom I've met here are overwhelmingly people I'm proud to know even in this electronic sense: you mean a lot to me. Good people, humane people, sometimes very sensible, sometimes courageous, sometimes devastatingly well informed, sometimes powerfully analytic, anti-racist to their cores and roots. If ever there's a Mondoweiss congress it would be fun.

  • Sundance Film Festival to feature doc on system of control in longest-running occupation
    • The most ingenious and important, Hans Globke, remained in high honour after the war in the Adenauer regime. One of my early memories is of sitting in a library reading a journalist in a (moderately) conservative magazine attempting to rubbish Betrand Russell, to whom we should have listened more, for pointing this out.

    • I think they also have respectability, which we still lack. Preposterous arguments from respectable people get taken seriously. Still, better be right than respectable.

    • A particular action is wrong if a true universal principle logically implies that it is. So what happens if we say that some action is wrong and another action, genuinely very like the first, is then mentioned?
      The likeness of the two actions supports, does not weaken, the view taken of the first one. If the second action is brought into the debate as something already known to be wrong and as a clear parallel to the first, it merely proves that the argument against the first action was all along right, not that it was all along questionable.
      No one at any stage of a debate is obliged to mention everything relevant before saying anything at all.

  • 'I better not call Betty' -- My long path to unreasonable optimism about the conflict
    • I can quite easily imagine being a Zionist of 1897, 1948 or 2012, feeling what they feel and doing what they have done. In the 'feeling' department fear would play a part. Since we're all touched by fear empathy shouldn't be that difficult. I could also manage empathy for Germans feeling humiliated and disoriented after WW1. We're all human.
      Empathy should be mentioned because we're not dealing in alienating anger and contempt but in something better.
      However, empathy shouldn't slide into sympathy, ie some form of belief in the moral rightness of what people do just because we can imagine doing it ourselves. Zionism - at any rate the 1905 version of Zionism which is the only one to have real existence - couldn't have happened without that terrifying idea of entitlement to Palestine, still operating and still providing the reason why outrages against the Palestinians are commonly excused, that Cliff mentions. The really important thing is that this idea has always been thoroughly mistaken. Fear partly, along with other emotions, caused but did not justify or begin to justify belief in it.

  • Bombshell: Israeli intelligence posed as CIA to recruit terror group for covert war on Iran
    • One problem, I think, is that 'all means short of war' really amount to war, or at least to hostility so intense, so active, so relentless that the other side can in the end see no difference between this campaign of hostility and a plainly military campaign.

    • My sense is that Obama sees this as a problem within American politics: the election, the election! A war would be disruptive and unpredictable. He doesn't want one, though he also has to avoid offending pro-Israel opinion. So he has resolved on a plan to use any means short of war and boast that these means are working. The target - too tempting to miss, surely - has to be the next round of Iranian elections, which I think are due in March. There has been a terrific assault on the Iranian currency and international oil companies are beginning to sever ties with Iran until the excitement is over (the Financial Times yesterday, Friday). It's quite likely that there will be widespread disruption and that people in Tehran will get killed.
      I don't want to idealise the Iranians. I'm sure there are a lot of deep divisions and quite a few people ready to use force.
      It would be sufficient for the plan to work if Iran becomes demonstrably unstable and unable to take much action even for a few months. Obama would have freedom of action after the election and be much less subject to Israeli pressure. He probably thinks the Iranians should be grateful. Whether the plans would work to this extent I don't know. Kalithea made the point the other day that rather obvious foreign malevolence tends to unite a people, which is indeed a good point. But I don't know how deep the fractures in Iranian society run.
      The Israelis don't trust Obama and so can't be happy with his plan. So they probe and provoke. So it seems to me that the two governments are not hand in glove.
      I sort of guess that the Iranians will not retaliate for now.

  • Beinart and the crisis of liberal Zionism
    • Among us Brits you would be regarded as really or nearly in the sphere of the British National Party or the English Defence League if you referred to people from Pakistan as 'Pakis'.

    • I can't see much moral merit in denying people their rights until they accept, as a whole group, some status which they have not even been offered and which will bear several marks of dependency and inferiority. This is not treating rights as inalienable or even taking them very seriously. I can't see much intelligence, unless it's in mere wordplay, in endlessly failing to see that this position is not only illiberal but indefensible and endlessly making noisy accusations of intellectual failure against other people.

    • The first full statement in English of the phrase 'you can't make omelettes...' seems to be found in Robert Louis Stevenson's 1897 novel 'St.Ives' - a French prisoner, escaping from Edinburgh Castle, seriously injures his hands and uses the phrase ruefully. The 'brutalist' use is attested for Walter Duranty, reporting to the NYT on March 31, 1933 and seeming to excuse the Soviet famines. At least since then the phrase has not had a good reputation.

  • Adelson is giving Gingrich $5 million because of fear of Ron Paul -- Chris Matthews
    • I have family in NH but they're not noted for conservatism. Just to annoy Dan I'll mention a trio of points picked up from Brit commentary on the Republican process - that only Romney and Paul have a genuine nationwide network, built up in previous campaigns; Romney seems to be spending a massive fortune for less response than you might expect; still, if Romney gets South Carolina in the bag he will more or less have the nomination in the bag as well.

  • A Jewish voice left silent: Trying to articulate 'The Levantine Option'
    • The most famous medieval warrior, Charlton Heston, sometimes known as El Cid, was certainly ready to offer his services to rulers of both religions. Some borderlines of identity became blurred. The Catholic King Ferdinand was reputed to have Jewish blood and raised some Jewish support for this reason, later lapsing into a harshly anti-Jewish policy lest anyone think he was not really a Christian, a suspicion which the Inquisition was to direct against many of his subjects. These close relationships can be very ambiguous, which I think we should remember when the more idyllic scenes come before us.

  • Israel's national theater to bring 'Merchant' to World Shakespeare Fest in May
    • Well, I think that's an optimistic reading. Shylock does not say that he would not have sold the ring 'at any price' but 'for a wilderness of monkeys', which brings any pathos to the border of the grotesque and thus deflects any sympathy. And he does not transcend but rather reinforces the theme of greed, revealing (in the final note of the scene) that his motive for wanting Antonio out of the way is a mercenary one.
      I'd be surprised if an audience from the Protestant professional class would have recognised any reference to the Exsultet, but if they did they would have seen these references made rather pagan and rather frivolous. And a 'Marcionite' contrast between justice, based on the Hebrew scriptures and turning into self-interested vengefulness versus a Christian emphasis on mercy is quite challenging.

  • Just wars-- and civilian casualties
    • Is the United States forbidden to make promises that other countries can trust?

    • By calling it terrorism I meant to convey that it was unjustified and very dangerous.
      I accept that some people want to stop all the talk about the justification of this and the morality of that and the legality of the other thing, which they regard as insincere or deluded cant, and say 'All's fair in love and war: and I mean all'. I'm not myself happy with this approach but of course there are reasons for it. However it would, as you very rightly noted, cut both ways and would ruin the massive structure of rhetoric about 'terrorism vs. civilisation' that has been used to discredit and crush the Palestinian cause.

    • I'd say it was - if words are to be used in normal ways - a terrorist act, the killers not being recognised members of a recognised military force. If it was promoted by another country it was an act of international terrorism and of war, intended to call forth reprisals that would be called 'terrorist' in a big international campaign of rhetoric and then of worse.

    • Moral colourblindness is an interesting idea. My eye has developed a skill of skipping over some contributions here - but the sheer awfulness is somehow conveyed if you catch even a few words.
      If there has been some rancor I think Professor Slater himself has to take some of the responsibility. He calls a discussion which is perfectly sane, morally serious and well informed 'hysterical'. He calls 'dumbest among the dumb' (paraphrase) an argument which may have been hotly stated but is quite defensible.

    • How to answer Slater's bad and illogical arguments except with better philosophy? Maybe I can't provide that. But I always thought that there was quite a lot of philosophy in what you say, and good stuff too.
      I don't think that there's any getting away from philosophy so long as people either really act or pretend to act for idealistic reasons in war or peace. And there aren't always easy answers, not even over WW2.

    • Shingo - It seems like common sense, not only among criminals, to fight the battles you can win and avoid those you expect to lose.
      Still, if it's true that resistance must, if it is to be justified morally, have some prospect of success it follows that overwhelming power and might cannot be resisted with moral justification. This in turn implies that to possess overwhelming might is to possess not just the ability to get what you want but the actual right to be obeyed, since anyone resisting you would be doing wrong. It's often been remarked that these theories have come out of the great imperial civilisations and you're correct to say that the right of the powerful is not cancelled, on this theory, by the fact that the powerful may be planning outrages and atrocities.
      Hobbes uses these considerations, with some scriptural justification, to argue that there can be no moral justification for resisting or resenting God, who has all power. He is then able to add the idea that no mortal power can claim that its might gives it absolute right because all powers are responsible to God. Not everyone would want to build this theological clause into the system, of course.
      I agree that the clause 'you must have some chance of success' does, particularly with the theological element removed from the apparatus, have some very disturbing implications. But as I mentioned it hardly seems to be right to call on people to get themselves killed or tormented in hopeless causes. These are very difficult problems, I think. No easy or obvious solutions.

    • The battle against Sennacherib, (II Kings 19) which Byron made even more famous, would seem, as presented, to be just, in that Sennacherib acts aggressively, Hezekiah is a legitimate ruler with a right to command resistance for the purpose of self-defence (at least after formal procedures in the Temple that he duly enacts and reasonable attempts to negotiate that he has made), there is some chance of success and there is no violence against Assyrian civilians. There are no adverse consequences in the immediate aftermath. The only unusual feature is the fighting is in the end done directly only by the Angel of the Lord. But if the defenders of Jerusalem had loosed off a few arrows we would think that this was just war.
      At least I think that that would be the judgement of common sense - and in these cases the traditional Just War theory gives a fairly articulate form to common sense. The danger with common sense - and thus with theories close to common sense - is that it is prone to overconfidence about our side and our cause. I would say that even in cases rather like IIK 19 we should always pause and pause again to ask what the set of consequences really is likely to be. It's not always that easy to identify or to evaluate them, even much later. Are all the consequences of the decision for war in 1914 fully recognised, even now, let alone the consequences of the Iraq invasion? Even IIK 20 refers to unintended consequences in that Hezekiah's policy encourages the Babylonians rather too much.
      The first battle of the Bible, in Genesis 14, shows us some of the ambiguities that surround the idea of 'defence' and 'alliance'. Abram intervenes to rescue his kinsman Lot, and this was a world that valued kinship - but he had parted from Lot not quite on the best of terms and without promising to defend him. His action is approved by Melchizedek, the highest available religious authority and so the UN of his time, but only in retrospect - is that enough?
      The conclusion I would draw is that the decision for war should always be attended by doubt and never (not even WW2) regarded as obviously right, with no room for doubt, in present or in past.
      I think there should be more weight on reasonably predictable rather than simply on intended consequences.

  • Ynet: Support for Israel on American campuses is kerplunking
  • Is Paul a precursor of a more presentable candidate in 2016?
    • For the moment, all this seems to me to be sabre-rattling rather than sabre-swinging. Obama isn't a complete idiot and though I think Cameron is lightweight by comparison with his peers he isn't a complete idiot either. The cunning plan is to create tension, division and violence around the Iranian elections which I think, subject to correction, are due in March. That should shut them up until Obama is re-elected - well, I think that's the theory.

  • Ron Paul's antiwar position is simpleminded
    • I don't think that underdogs and victims are necessarily against war or have no formulated ideas about the rights and wrongs of war. Afghan Muslims and Vietnamese Marxists have complex theories to call on. And I agree with Slater that it's very difficult to be against all war in all circumstances. Yet almost all human beings have a horror of mere slaughter. Let's have some ideas, theories even, to resolve this tension.
      The ingredients of the theory were first, I think, an emphasis on law and procedure which was developed in the Roman Republic and stated by Cicero. As a matter of common sense you can see the point of this. Slater simply abandons this whole tradition (and substitutes no alternative from his own apparatus of ideas) when he applauds the allegedly 'unconstitutional' entry of the US into WW2. In other words he insists on an example and on a theory where the theory does not support the example.
      The second main ingredient turned out to be an emphasis - characteristic of, though not found only in, Catholic theology - on purity of intention. Slater has many sources for his own considerable emphasis on intentions. For what it's worth I think that this emphasis is misleading. It permits massive, indeed unlimited casualties so long as all of them can be represented as regrettable side-effects - 'I didn't really intend this; I wouldn't have killed them if it wasn't the only way to destroy a military target'. Furthermore the emphasis on the inwardly pure fighting the inwardly impure does seem to imply that the wars will continue until pure morality and religion prevail everywhere - ie we have a theory which easily lapses into one of perpetual war, as Mooser mentioned long since.
      I don't know if Ron Paul takes part in philosophical discussions. Perhaps he is simple in his mentality. But on the other hand things are not as simple and obvious as Pollitt and Slater would have it.

    • You patronise me a bit. Perhaps I deserve it. Philosophers have indeed debated the topic though without, I think, reaching consensus supported by good reasons on all important matters.
      You seem to limit non-combatant casualties not by their scale exactly but by their relationship to the purposes of the war and by the intention of the attacker. I think that there are difficulties in this approach.
      If the purpose is to eliminate a terrible evil the limits on the suffering I can inflict - the evil is so bad; victory is so imperative - are reduced, perhaps to a disturbing degree.
      The purpose not just of winning the war but of hastening its end seems to become highly legitimate, so that 'the war is already won' becomes correspondingly less important.
      If I know that the only available way to attack an urgently menacing military target is a way which will kill thousands of non-combatants and I go ahead and press the button then my action was not what I wished, but it was what I willed. Intention becomes an ambiguous and therefore not a decisive concept here, I'd suggest.
      Your treatment of the Legitimate Authority criterion and of how it can be set aside is quite original, as far as I know - to my mind too subjective. On your showing the United States participated in WW2 unjustly by most traditional standards.
      The whole relationship between idealistic and legalistic speech and violent action is a very difficult one, as was demonstrated long ago. 'Law is the ruler of all things and it drives on, justifying with its high hand whatever is more violent'. You probably know who wrote that and what great wars he knew. I guess it can also be googled.

    • The things that were said about 9/11 - letting it happen and even making it happen on purpose, so that a pretended defensive element can be brought into the situation - have also been said about Pearl. I don't say whether the claims about Pearl are right. But 'false defence' is a wicked act by the standards of traditional Just War theory. So if it can be right in some cases we need to argue for different standards of justice. What might these be?

    • It's not that easy either to identify or to evaluate the set of consequences resulting from a decision for war or for peace. Did WW1 more or less cause the Russian Revolution? If WW2 hastened the end of the British Empire, was that a bad thing? There's no black box into which we can look and see the world as it would have been if the southern states had been allowed to secede or had there been a French intervention in the Spanish Civil War or...or...or. But the most obvious consequence, the loss of life and the loss of 'treasure' - economic resources - surely deserve some sort of place in the forefront of minds. WW2 had absolutely enormous costs of both sorts.
      I must admit that I don't look back on all decisions for war with total regret. I even think that the decisions for war in 1914 are more understandable than many people think. Still, I want to know a bit more about what makes wars 'just'. Concentration on a few agreed examples may be a bit misleading if we never ask on what points our agreement rests.
      The standard theory is that self-defence is acceptable and just, aggression not. How then can we interpret humanitarian war, in defence of others not of ourselves, as just?
      The standard theory is that non-combatants must be reasonably immune. Slater is right, I suppose, that this could not mean total immunity or even rule out some quite serious acts of destruction: perhaps the British bombing of Dresden was, though I grieve over it, somewhere within the moral limits. But it must mean at very least that there is some limit to the non-combatant casualties that we can accept. In respect of humanitarian war we should, I'd think, oppose a war that we predict will fill the growing years of a person being born near the beginning of the conflict with far more death and danger than the continuation of peace, even under a tyrant, would have done - otherwise I think there is paradox. I don't see anything in Slater's apparatus that would enable to set limits at all and therefore there is something that points, as Mooser indicates, to the perpetual war syndrome, where there is never enough war until the human race is purified - another paradox.

  • Jewish power + Jewish hubris = 'moral catastrophe of epic proportions'
    • Happy Epiphany! One of things symbolised is the close relationship between Iranian and Jewish people.

    • Much, maybe not total, agreement with Danaa from me too. I would be worried if someone avowed anti-Semitism for himself overtly or by clear implication. Danaa has got to the point where (s)he doesn't take the external accusations of anti-Semitism that now fly around too seriously. If reasonable and humane people, who believe in fairness to all regardless of 'race', could in general get to the same point that would be an improvement.

  • F. W. de Klerk on why apartheid will fail in Israel/Palestine
    • Thanks, that's very interesting.
      There was a scene - this is not academic-grade information, I grant you - in the American version of the television series The Killing in which a Native American area figured, with the inevitable casino and with an unhelpful, alienated management who didn't seem to care very much about catching a murderer. It seemed that they were independent of the municipal and state governments but subject to US federal law, which maintained as much remoteness as it could manage. An interesting portrait of a legally ambiguous situation. But I suppose these people are still basically subjects, not sovereigns.
      Is there any movement for native American sovereignty in some form, with UN membership and so on? Or claim that that sovereignty already exists?

    • No one is currently seeking to carve out a sovereign area or areas - a 2ss - for all or some of the 500 tribes. But those who think that a 2ss is the natural solution for a conflict between racial or national groups should in logic turn their attention to the idea of a North American 2ss for the long term. In some circumstances, depending on the size of the areas and populations concerned over time, non-native Americans might think it the best outcome. But it would be breaking a social contract, a 1ss, to which all races are party.

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