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Stephen Shenfield

Stephen Shenfield is a British-born writer. After several years as a government statistician, he entered the field of Soviet Studies. He was active in the nuclear disarmament movement. Later he came to the U.S. and taught International Relations at Brown University. He is the author of Russian Fascism: Traditions, Tendencies, Movements (M.E. Sharpe, 2001). He now works as an independent researcher and translator. He is a member of the World Socialist Movement. A collection of his writings is on his new website at stephenshenfield.net.

Website: http://stephenshenfield.net/

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  • Gaza protests are where we say 'NO' to Trump's decision to move embassy -- demonstrator explains
    • "Trump’s senior Middle East envoys met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects, after holding separate talks with Arab leaders."

      It means they are cooking up a new deal agreed in advance between the US, Israel, and 'Arab leaders' (i.e, the Egyptian generals and the Saudi king) to be imposed on the Palestinians, take it or leave it. A deal that will offer the Palestinians much less than in the past. They may even have agreed on how to punish the Palestinians if they say no.

  • 'Ali is on the grill!' Israeli settlers celebrate burning of Palestinian baby
  • Mr. Lansman comes to Tel Aviv: Jeremy Corbyn's senior ally wants to restrict free speech on Israel
    • Wherever possible secular Zionists adapted traditional Jewish festivals to their own requirements, replacing religious by nationalist content. So atheists who consider themselves Jews in the 'national' sense happily celebrate Chanukah, Purim, Pesach etc. to commemorate episodes in the history of the Jewish nation.

  • Killings shouldn't be necessary for world to hear Gaza voices
    • 'Would this kind of high-profile attention have resulted from the March if Palestinians had not exposed Israel’s brutality by provoking its soldiers to shoot unarmed protesters?'

      Even if the march had been conducted in a totally non-confrontational manner, as its original organizers had wanted, Israeli soldiers would still have shot unarmed protesters. They shot people at long distances from the fence and set tents on fire. According to the report on the B'Tselem site, defense minister Lieberman defined the march in advance as violent and a provocation. That is, he was going to treat it as violent even if it was non-violent. He urged Gazans not to keep the march peaceful but to stay away and 'get on with their lives.'

      So there was never any 'danger' of non-violence on the part of the IDF. At most a completely non-confrontational approach would have reduced casualties. That may well have been worth doing though, because the numbers killed and maimed were surely greater than necessary to attract media attention.

  • IDF snipers: choosing who to shoot
    • Thank you for your encouragement, Annie.

    • And therefore if she remembers enough she will stop serving the state. If someone can identify her and find out how to contact her we can remind her about Musawi's son. The URL for this video is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piwIaXXPS48&t=97s

    • I quoted Weiman because he is the only credible witness so far available on the Israeli side. I hope that Breaking the Silence will bring us more such witnesses and then we shall not have to rely so much on this guy. He deserves some credit for 'breaking the silence' but I don't ask anyone to admire him. I noticed that he shows no contrition for the murders and maimings he has committed. Evidently he does not feel that it was really he who did these things: he was just performing certain technical functions.

      Weiman takes part in another TV talk show (not the one shown in the video above) where a young women reflects on her own IDF service as follows:

      'When I was in the army I served in Intelligence 9702 in the drone unit... Everybody remembers the targeted assassination of Musawi, who was the secretary general of Hezbollah. It was a huge event, we recorded it with a drone and his car was bombed. And all of us in the drone wagon yelled with joy. Great, great, the assassination was successful. While many innocent bystanders were hurt -- there were cars there and people who ran. And there's no doubt that innocent civilians were killed in that event, but so was the secretary general of Hezbollah. 19-year-old kids, happy with their success. On our way back to the base we accidentally ran over a hedgehog. And we were all completely shattered by it. How could we have harmed such a helpless creature? And I admit that's when I realized something was very strange. Why were we sad for a hedgehog but not for human beings who did nothing?'

      She too is a murderer and she too shows no sign of contrition -- only a sense of unease. Let's remember -- these are young kids straight out of school, brought up in a closed society. They have had very little if any personal contact with Palestinians. They are only just starting to question what they have been taught. We hope they will progress further on that path.

      My purpose in doing this sort of research is to produce intellectual ammunition for arguing with people who still believe or half-believe the Israeli propaganda. There are a lot of those people out there and we should try to get through to them, not just preach to the converted.

  • Organizer of the Great March of Return says protests in Gaza 'must go on'
    • And how do you obtain his book? Is it available in English?

    • Yes! This is the voice of the original organizers of the march, before the political factions elbowed their way in and distorted its intended character.

      To get a fuller picture of the original conception of the march see the statement of principles of the International Committee for Coordination of the Great Return March. You can find it on the Facebook page of that committee and on the site of the American Friends Service Committee (afsc.org).

  • If I had to live in Israel again, 'it would actually drive me insane' -- Shaul Magid
    • Don't go overboard. He's still trying to "recalibrate" Zionism -- not fight it. And he is still defensive about leaving Israel, he worries about what Israelis will think of him. And he doesn't seem to regret serving in the IDF.

  • 'The Israeli military said,' the New York Times reports
    • Putting together the quotes from the Israeli military, we get 8 attempts to place explosives, only one of which succeeded (and some of the 'attempts' may have been imaginary), 2 gunmen, one vehicle fired on, etc. It doesn't add up to much even if it's all more or less true. How many Palestinians engaged in these acts (not counting stone throwers)? A dozen? Two dozen? As compared with tens and hundreds of thousands of peaceful demonstrators. A minuscule proportion. Yet the Israelis frame it as though the demonstrations are just a cover for the 'terrorists'.

      The Israelis are disseminating propaganda videos that purport to 'expose' the violent intentions of Hamas. For instance, one shows an Arabic-language document that supposedly provides guidance to Hamas supporters, with highlighted passages telling them to carry concealed weapons and (if the barrier is breached) kidnap Israelis. But even if such documents are not fabricated, which they well may be, their significance depends on the accuracy of the translation. I don't read Arabic so how can I judge? These videos circulate widely and do considerable harm. Would anyone who does read Arabic be prepared to help me assess a few of these videos and see what distortions and errors they contain?

  • The Knesset officially declares that Israeli democracy is for Jews only
    • "The bill would have declared that Israel belongs not to its Jews but to all its residents."

      This is not quite accurate. Israel is considered to belong not just to Jews who are its citizens but to the "Jewish Nation," which includes "Jews" (however defined) living anywhere in the world.

  • 'Every bullet has a precise address' – another Israeli journalist justifies the massacre
    • Jonathan Ofir has distorted what Margolit says about the hypothesized 'temporary Palestinian outpost'. He says that such an outpost would consist of 'terrorists and children and handicapped' but Ofir omits 'terrorists'. The fear among many Israelis is that if the barrier is breached lots of Palestinians would enter Israel and though most of them might be harmless a few may be armed militants intent upon killing and/or kidnapping Israelis. In that situation the IDF would massacre all of them, as even a slight danger to a single Jew is held to justify killing any number of Gentiles.

    • I don't believe the claim that every shot is fired by order of a senior commander. There are not enough senior commanders there to exercise such close control. It is an utterly implausible claim. It is also inconsistent with accounts given in two TV interviews by former sniper Nadav Weiman (now working for Breaking the Silence). I think the claim is made to reassure Israelis who though they do not care about Palestinian lives do want the IDF to be disciplined and professional -- a force effectively controlled by its senior commanders and ultimately by the 'political echelon'. There is abundant evidence that at present the IDF is not such a force, and this is especially true of operations in Gaza.

    • The open fire regulations are classified as secret -- to publish them would be a criminal offense -- but many Israelis are familiar with them from their service in the IDF and some information about their content can be gleaned from the Israeli media, e.g. from TV and radio interviews with officers and former snipers. From such sources we know that 'inciters' can be killed (even if unarmed). There is no clear indication of how to identify an 'inciter' -- he is someone who is 'inflaming' others. Many -- perhaps most -- of those killed in the recent protests, especially those killed at a long distance from the fence, were killed as 'inciters'. This is one of the main points in the regulations that the human rights organizations were trying to get changed at the Supreme Court.

  • Literary hero Yossi Klein Halevi says anti-Zionist Jews aren't Jewish
    • I'm in the middle of Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro's expose of Zionism from the point of view of traditional Judaism. He considers Zionism to be an anti-Judaic religion that disguises itself as Judaism. So for him it's Zionists who are not Jewish. In fact, he regards Christians and Moslems as closer to Judaism than Zionists are, because at least Christians and Moslems worship God while Zionists are idolators (they worship their state).

  • 'I'm targeted by the Israeli army,' Razan al-Najjar said before she was killed
    • I didn't say she was lazy or uncaring. Obviously not. But those snipers apparently had it in for her and were going to get her sooner or later. Her best bet may have been to move to another site and continue her work there, and then move on again when she started to attract too much attention. Because it wasn't the whole Israeli army that was targeting her but a particular team of snipers.

    • Whether I am pleased doesn't matter, but I am sure it is necessary to think through the likely consequences, positive and negative, of alternative strategies. I believe that such discussions are going on among Palestinians themselves but they are not publicized for fear of undermining the facade of national unity and also because open criticism of the dominant faction is dangerous in both Gaza and the West Bank. Websites like The Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss could serve a useful function by airing these matters in public but they don't. Going on endlessly about how horrible the Zionists are gets boring after a while. (I'm not denying that they are horrible -- far from it.)

    • Yes. This was one of the proposals of the Coordination Committee of the public associations that originally planned the march (not the committee of the political factions that supplanted it). (see their statement of principles on their Facebook page and at afsc.org). Their idea was to have people from the foreign media and from international and human rights organizations present as monitors to ensure that the march remained peaceful and deter IDF attack. The trouble is that Israel controls who enters Gaza. A more favorable location for a march might have been along the Lebanese border.

    • I agree with Anas. I am not against sacrificing one's life when it achieves something worthwhile, but if Razan had taken greater care and lived longer (I know there was no guarantee of that) she could have looked after more people and perhaps survived to do other things for her cause. In Germany she could not only have raised her qualifications. She could have been an effective spokesperson for the Palestinians in a country where such are sorely needed.

      It was of course extremely courageous of her to behave as she did, but I wonder whether it also reflected an undervaluation of her own life. I wonder whether admiration and approval of such behavior is altogether healthy. Does it accord with the motto "Palestinian lives matter"? Is it only the Israelis and their allies who believe that individual Palestinian lives do not matter?

  • Jewish Israeli activists call for Palestinian right of return, hang portraits of protesters murdered in Gaza on Apartheid Wall
    • On the Breaking the Silence website I found an interview with Major General Haim Cohen, who commands the southernmost sector of the Gaza border. The interview was originally broadcast on the Galatz military radio station. He talks about relying primarily on "Alpha" means, which means supposedly non-lethal weapons for "riot control". That includes tear gas but he also mentions using sonic weapons. These weapons, also called acoustic weapons, use sound to injure, incapacitate, or kill opponents. For example, the LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device) Sound Cannon, developed by the San Diego-based LRAD Corporation, blasts pain-inducing tones at various volumes. It can be hand-held or mounted on a vehicle. I reckon that the Gaza border confrontation provides the Israelis with a heaven-sent opportunity to field test such new weapons.

    • I saw a video of an Israeli woman driving toward the fence and being stopped by soldiers and blocked from going any further. She was told that she was in a closed military zone. Perhaps the zone is not always enforced and/or does not extend the entire length of the border.

  • The unwarranted presumption of Israeli soldier innocence in the killing of Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar
    • Could you please explain what the rules of engagement for these snipers are? Who are they instructed to kill, who to injure, who to leave unharmed? That is, if there are clear rules of engagement at all. Perhaps there are not and the decisions are all left to the individual snipers? Or perhaps there are rules but the snipers do not follow them and that is tolerated?

  • 'Disappearing Palestine' maps must spotlight Jaffa
  • The way to the 'occupied lands'
    • I was not looking for any particular answer. I was not implying there is anything illegitimate in this means of struggle or in her aspiration to return to her land. I was not trying to catch her out. I read her story. I do not feel threatened by her (and hope she does not feel threatened by me). I have always seen 'Arabs' as human beings.

      I asked the question to encourage her to think more concretely about what she intends to do. I would like her to achieve something toward her goal and I think that her chance of doing so depends on having a carefully devised plan for what she will do if by some lucky chance she manages to enter Israel -- in whatever time she may have there before being detained (or, God forbid, worse).

      I do not consider asking a question to be a form of aggression! Should I? Unless there is duress, as when police call someone in for questioning. I am not in the police nor am I in Israel. Why does simply asking a question bring forth such a flood of imagined implications? Who do you imagine I am, Gamal?

    • "I really want to be part of this if we succeeded to return."

      I would like to know what she envisioned doing and happening in this event.

  • Joyless in Zion
    • A survey in 2006-7 found 1.5 million Israelis living in poverty (about a quarter of the population). Poverty is especially widespread among Palestinian citizens of Israel and also among haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews), both groups wtth high rates of unemployment.

  • Portman and Perlman, and the liberal Zionist awakening
  • 'Our stones are stronger than their weapons': thousands in Gaza demonstrate for the ninth straight Friday
    • "Palestinians will be vilified no matter what they do except die."

      By Israel, yes. But that is not the point. I am talking about the impact on world opinion. So long as Israel can make even halfway plausible excuses, presenting Palestinians as a threat to border security, many people will avoid condemning Israel unreservedly. For example, Israel may be criticized for 'disproportionate use of force', implying that proportionate use would be justified. If Palestinians posed no threat that could be believed by rational people Israel would still vilify them but they would have to expose their true attitude, i.e., Palestinians are subhuman and we have the right to kill them, and that could be accepted only by the most racist section of world opinion.

    • This article is about stone throwing. Fire kites are also mentioned. Arguably these actions should not be called violence in view of their ineffectiveness. They might be called symbolic violence or simulated violence or pseudo-violence or quasi-violence. Whatever they are called, their political effect is very harmful to the Palestinian cause. They make it easy for Israeli propaganda to confuse and mislead people and divert attention from the shootings.

    • I was not aware that any of Gandhi's followers were violent. I think he would have repudiated them. At least the violence was not widespread or salient enough to undermine his strategy. Please give a reference.

    • I have been arguing about Gaza with a number of correspondents. When they agree to view the situation as Israel facing non=violent demonstrations they have to admit that the Israeli reaction deserves condemnation. However, the sort of actions celebrated in this article, however ineffective and atypical they may be, allow people to define the situation as war. This triggers such cliches as "war is war" and "there are always innocent victims in war". The condemnation of Israel is softened, it become relative or nuanced, if it does not disappear altogether. On the one hand, on the other hand...

      I can still argue. I can say that this is not war in any meaningful sense. It is play-acting at war. When one side suffers all the casualties and the other not so much as a scratch that is not war. But the picture is muddled. I am no longer on such firm ground, it becomes harder to convince people.

      World opinion is moving in the right direction. More and more people in the world sympathize with the Palestinians. But there is still a long way to go to the tipping point at which governments will have to change their policies, especially here in the US. The movement would be faster without this play-acting at war.

      I think that this is a microcosm of the harmful political effect that these antics are having.

    • Israel will be vanished at the end, as we say: ‘Injustice cannot last.'

      Does this mean "Israel will be vanquished" or "Israel will vanish"?

      Nothing lasts forever, but there is ample historical evidence that injustice can last for millennia.

      If the demonstrations did indeed include a lot of stone throwing then they cannot be described as non-violent, even if none of the stones hit their targets. The political benefits of nonviolence are thereby jettisoned. It's a free gift to Israeli propaganda.

      In some mystical sense pebbles thrown by hand or slingshot may be stronger than bullets fired by guns, but what purpose do they serve in the world of mundane reality? Beyond expressing anger? What is the strategy to which they contribute?

  • Being Palestinian
    • A beautiful piece. I'd like to meditate on this sentence:

      "This global dehumanising and oppressive machine that violates us constantly is a threat to all those who are more privileged, even if being locked in their comfort zones doesn’t allow them to see it."

      Indeed. Through export of the physical instruments that it uses to violate you. Through the training of police forces in other countries. Through the bullying tone of its ubiquitous propaganda.

      And why do people lock themselves in their comfort zones if not out of a deep fear of the machine and the harm it could do them?

  • Gaza killings are rending the Jewish community
    • The amount of attention given to Jewish opinion on Mondoweiss is disproportionate to its importance, but I suppose that is the purpose of the site. I would like to see some analysis of the response to the Gaza atrocities among Christian Zionists, who are at least as important as the Jewish kind -- certainly there are many more of them. I suspect that their relative importance as a base of support for Israel is growing, because in contrast to Jewish Zionists, many of whom are for Israel but against Netanyahu and the Israeli 'right', Christian Zionists are aligned overwhelmingly with the most extreme Israelis (especially ideological settlers). Still, even they must surely find the latest events hard to swallow -- or are they even aware of them?

  • When it comes to Facebook 'incitement,' only Palestinians are arrested, not Jewish Israelis
  • Video: Israeli police attack Gaza protest in Haifa
    • The second news item above says "21 Israeli Arabs arrested" but the list of 20 detainees on another page of this site, Statement by Mondoweiss Editors, includes two recognizably Jewish names -- Yoram Bar Chaim and Oz Marinov. The first of these is a software developer, the second an actor. The first item says "at least 21 Arab and Israeli peace activists" but this too is incorrect in implying that the arrested Arabs are not Israelis.

  • Statement: Israeli police using brutality and unnecessary force against peaceful protesters
    • If only for the sake of completeness, let me mention that in recent days there have also been at least two protests by 'left'-Zionist peaceniks -- one opposite the Likud office in Tel Aviv, which according to Uri Avnery drew about 500 protestors, and another, of similarly modest size, at Yad Mordechai Junction, a few miles to the east of the Gaza 'border', organized by Other Voice (Kol Acher), an organization of peace activists in the border area.

      I also came across a video about a woman who drove closer to the 'border' and berated soldiers she encountered there ('Aren't you ashamed when you visit your families?'). A soldier calmly informed her that she was in a closed military zone and her movement was blocked until she turned back. Comments to the video were along lines like: 'What an idiot! The soldiers are there to protect YOU, you stupid woman!'

    • No. 18 in the list of detainees above is indeed one Marinov, clearly a Russian name! He must be the Russian agent who organized the provocation!

  • Donald Trump is a hero to Jewish Israelis
    • For how many generations do 'invader offspring' remain invaders? Isn't this a sort of racism? And isn't fear of expulsion one of the factors that lock most Jewish Israelis into Zionist ideology? And as most Palestinians no longer demand the expulsion of 'invader offspring' -- understanding the harm that such a demand does to their cause -- what kind of help do you imagine you are giving them by being 'more Catholic than the Pope'?

  • Peace begins with Israel ending the Nakba
  • Murder as a way to make a political point
    • From our perspective here in the US it seems remarkable that such an article should appear in a mainstream newspaper. It shows what a chasm has opened up between the US and world opinion.

      Exchanges of comments on articles in The Forward have brought out some remarkable statements of opinion from Israeli readers. One admitted that most of the Gaza demonstrators were non-violent but thought that a few of them might be trying to break through into Israel in order to kill any Israeli they meet, and It is justified to kill a few dozen Palestinians if it saves the life of a single Israeli. Another regretted that 'we did not expel all of them' (in 1948).

  • Stars — They’re Just Like Us: Celebs outraged over Gaza are speaking out
    • Zionists say that onlookers did nothing to save Jews from the Holocaust, but as a generalization this is not true. Many people risked their own lives to hide Jews. In certain countries there was mass resistance to the Holocaust. In Denmark the resistance was led by the king himself, who wore the yellow star and urged his subjects to do likewise. The Resistance organized the evacuation of Danish Jews to Sweden. Another example is Bulgaria, where nationwide resistance compelled the pro-Nazi government to halt deportations. Resistance to the Holocaust was also strong in Belarus and Protestant regions of France. Zionists play down all such facts in order to inculcate indiscriminate fear and resentment of Gentiles as at best indifferent to Jewish suffering: the whole world is against us, we must rely solely on our own military might, etc.

      Nor do all Israelis today do nothing. I get frequent reports from Adam Keller of the protest actions undertaken by decent Israelis who are willing to risk getting beaten up by vigilantes. It seems to you that no Israelis are doing anything because these protests are not covered by the media. Even Mondoweiss is not covering them -- I would like to know why.

  • Nikki Haley blames Iran, Hamas for deaths of Palestinian protesters, as UN officials call to investigate Israel
  • My March of Return
  • 1918, 1948, 2018: World War I, the Nakba, and the rise of ethnic nationalism
    • Let me draw attention to two other Judaic critiques of Zionism as ethnic nationalism.

      1) The prominent Russian-Jewish philosopher and liberal public figure Mikhail Gershenzon wrote a long essay entitled "The Fate of the Jewish People' that first appeared in 1922. He identifies Zionism as a nationalist movement of the German type and predicts that a Jewish state will be constantly at war with its neighbors. An English translation of the work was published in the journal Telos in December 1983.

      2) A work by the Neturei Karta rabbi Yaakov Shapiro that has just appeared has the intriguing title 'The Empty Wagon: Zionism's Journey from Identity Crisis to Identity Theft'. Unfortunately it is available only in an expensive hardback edition.

  • Live Blog: Massacre in Gaza as US and Israel celebrate embassy move to Jerusalem
    • I pointed out in one of these exchanges that in order to carry out its diabolical strategy Hamas had to act through the IDF and this means the IDF must be honeycombed with undercover Hamas agents.

  • Busailah's 'In the Land of My Birth' conveys the Palestinian literary culture wiped out by the Nakba
  • Mahmoud Abbas seals his intellectually impoverished legacy
    • Complex and interesting, yes. The Bardi and Peruzzi families were Florentines and Florence and other Italian city states were outside the direct control of the Catholic Church. They were islands of emergent mercantile capitalism in the feudal sea. I was talking more about the pure feudal model, from which reality diverged more or less in different places and at different times. The "robber bands" were another example. There were even Jewish mercenaries and Jews who joined the Cossacks (hough they had to convert to Christianity first).

    • Yes, there are Jews in Crimea and elsewhere in the Khazar heartland who trace their ancestry back to the Khazars. I met one myself. I would never deny the Khazar element in the genes of Ashkenazi Jewry. But recent research shows that it is far from the dominant element and in that sense the Khazar hypothesis is not supported. At the same time the Levantine element is also far from dominant, so if Abbas wants to argue that Ashkenazi Jews are not native to the region he can stress that point.

    • Abbas should be given a little credit where it is due, because he is now refusing to finish the job for which the Israelis appointed him. He is refusing to enter into negotiations that given the balance of forces can only result in a total sellout (or, if he refuses to take the final step, in more accusations of sabotaging peace). He is refusing demands to stop seeking support at the UN, stop taking Israeli war crimes to the ICC, and accept the continued mediation of the US. If he keeps it up he will at least have left open the possibility of others continuing the struggle and that is not an insignificant axhievement.

    • President Rouhani handled the issue of the Holocaust in a very sensible and honest way. He distanced himself from the Holocaust denial of his predecessor Ahmadinejad and asserted that the Holocaust really had happened and was a terrible thing, but refused to say anything further on the subject on the grounds that this was a matter for historians and he was not a historian. Abbas too is not a historian. He has come across a few books that impressed him but he lacks the extensive knowledge needed to assess these books properly. For instance, he has read Arthur Koestler's book The Thirteenth Tribel, which argues the appealing hypothesis of the Khazar descent of most Ashkenazi Jews, but is unaware of the latest genetic research that fails to support this hypothesis. Nor does he understand the feudal society of medieval Europe within which Jews were compelled to take up such occupations as moneylending, which were prohibited for Christians. He would do better to avoid historical controversies and concentrate his energy on his proper tasks.

  • The 'One Democratic State Campaign' program for a multicultural democratic state in Palestine/Israel
    • From the videos and other info I have seen it appears that the Gaza protests are being conducted under the slogan of the right to return. Perhaps they are also demanding an end to the blockade, but that is not the dominant theme. So although there is much to be said for focusing on the blockade -- Norman's argument is very sensible -- it is not the same thing as supporting the protests.

  • Gaza and the limits of American sympathy
    • One thing I did not realize until recently, when I heard it clearly explained on a video interview with a representative of Al-Haq on The Real News, is that the barbed wire fence some Palestinians have been trying to cut is not in fact the border fence but is 50 meters inside Gaza territory. Then there is the main fence, overlooked by Israeli snipers on top of sand dunes.

      When the IDF (and many other Israelis) say that the demonstrations are not peaceful they base this solely on claims about what the demonstrators are TRYING to do. They are not even claiming that the demonstrators are in a position to do any of these things, i.e., that they actually pose any threat. And how do they know that the demonstrators are "trying" to kill Israelis etc. when they deny any such intention? Telepathy? The only way to make sense of the IDF statement is to impute a firm racist belief that Palestinians are by nature violent and any appearance to the contrary is deceptive.

  • Welcome the doubting liberals
    • There is no longer a stable niche for the "liberal Zionist". Until quite recently there was. You could criticize Israeli policies and politicians and still be accepted in the mainstream (i.e., Zionist) Jewish community provided that the criticism was expressed in a restrained way and did not touch on fundamentals. No longer. Natalie Portman has distanced herself from Netanyahu but is still clearly loyal to Israel, and yet she is being denounced as a traitor. Now you have to approve of everything that Israel does. Zionism is becoming totalitarian. Loyal opposition is no longer an option.

      This creates a new situation in terms of incentives. As even restrained criticism entails excommunication there is no incentive to keep it restrained. You may as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb. The critic may need time to work things out but the conditions for going further are favorable. The first step is the crucial one. It will be very hard to take the first step, but having taken it further steps will be fairly easy.

      The price to be paid may be very high if one's personal and family life is lived wholly within the mainstream Jewish community. That is why Goldstone caved in. In the worst case protest may entail not only exclusion from the local Jewish community but also loss of livelihood and even divorce. The gain of a clear conscience may be adequate compensation for some, but in general it cannot be expected that many will take this path ('expect' in a probabilistic sense, not a moral one).

      What can help is assurances that the loss in relationships will be temporary. You will lose old fair-weather friends but find new and better ones. I suspect that the Goldstones do not realize this. If they did they would be less vulnerable to blackmail.

    • They might be spies for the FBI, AIPAC, or even Mossad. But then so might anyone. Even someone with the most militant anti-Zionist positions conceivable may be an agent provocateur. A Palestinian too can be an informer if (for instance) he/she has relatives in the OPT whose fate depends on his/her cooperation with Israeli security services.

  • Reclaiming Judaism from mystical nationalism
    • Is it significant here that in Kabbala the Shekhina is the feminine aspect of God? The Shekhina as 'mother' of the reborn nation? Perhaps -- the masculine aspect of God never forsook Zion, but before the advent of Zionism it was bereft of its feminine counterpart? Or am I reading too much into this?

  • Come in, Natalie, the water's fine
    • After making this comment I realized that Mondoweiss has published a review of the film by Roland Nikles (7/25/2016). A number of points made in the review further illustrate how the young Amos Oz is molded in accordance with the Zionist 'New Jew' social engineering project. The new surname Oz, which Amos adopts at age 14, itself means 'strength'. I also recovered a more detailed memory of the tree climbing incident, in which Oz goes with his parents to visit a Palestinian dignitary, is sent to play with the host's son and daughter, is challenged by the girl to climb a tree, climbs up, but then starts shaking a branch, leading to an accident with a swing that injures the boy wandering below (or kills him? -- the viewer never finds out). A relevant fact that Nikles overlooks is that Amos' antics follow his recital of a Zionist poem that celebrates the military prowess of the 'new Jew' -- a poem that he has evidently been taught at school.

    • Perhaps there is insight to be had from examining the film Tale of Love and Darkness, as Portman both directs the film and plays one of the central characters -- the mother of the young Amos Oz. The mother is 'sensitive' and cannot cope with the wartime conditions of 1948. When her husband joins a militia she has to force herself to express pride in him, as is expected of her. Clearly what she feels is quite different. She hardly eats and is reduced almost to a catatonic state.

      As for the young Amos, he seems excited to go out -- as the Jewish children are told to do by the militia commander -- and collect empty bottles from the wasteland to use for Molotov cocktails. When a relative says that he is a sensitive boy like his father, he explodes: 'I don't want to be sensitive' I can't remember exactly what he says after that, but it is in line with what a good Zionist Jew is expected to want to be. The Zionist social engineering project to create the 'new Jew' has succeeded with him and at least partly with his father. With his 'over-sensitive' mother it has failed.

      It is plausible though unprovable that the mother represents the real Portman. She has been loyal to Israel and may even remain so, but she has not become a 'new Jew'. Oldtimers unbellyfeel Ingsoc, as they say in Orwell's 1984. Managing such Jews is not easy for the Zionist bellyfeelers at Hasbara Central. They must be reconciled to the brutality of real Zionism with a constant stream of excuses, rationalizations and outright lies. What has happened with the shooting of peaceful demonstrators in Gaza is that these excuses, rationalizations and lies have become too farfetched for 'sensitive' dupes like Portman to swallow. Reality is starting to penetrate their consciousness and they will be forced to choose between their 'sensitivity' and their loyalty to Israel. (I put 'sensitivity' in quotes because it can be argued that sensitivity rooted in illusion is not genuine sensitivity.)

  • Natalie Portman's criticism of 'atrocities' leaves Israel's advocates silent
  • Leanne Gale's bold challenge to the Jewish community on BDS and anti-Zionism
    • The founders of Zionism imagined themselves to be 'fighting antisemitism' but in a very peculiar sense. They agreed with the antisemites that Jews were sick and repulsive people and considered it natural and inevitable that Gentiles should hate them. Their 'solution' was to reconstruct Jews into a 'healthy' or normal nation so that Gentiles would no longer feel repelled by them. Nowadays, however, Zionists tend to see the main threat as assimilation. The long-term decline in antisemitism facilitates assimilation. From this point of view the problem is not antisemitism but not enough antisemitism. While loudly complaining about real and fabricated manifestations of antisemitism they really welcome it.

  • The 'Jewish nation' is the central myth of Zionism. It needs to be dismantled.
    • In reply to echinococcus, I am not talking about 'a religious identity limited to the religiously observant' -- I am talking about a vague sort of cultural tie (not sure if cultural is the right word, but I can't think of a better one) with those having a similar religious background and upbringing. Citizen's question is a good one and my answer is that it does apply elsewhere. For example, 'lapsed Catholics' who are no longer believers have a similar rapport with one another based in shared experience. As for whether the link is pan-Jewish or specifically Ashkenazi, that depends on whether one is focusing on the religious component of the shared experience or other components. Of course, like many others in this position, I aspire to a broad human identity (or perhaps to an even broader identity -- one that encompasses other intelligent species on earth and elsewhere) but the old narrower identities are not thrown off so easily. "All one has to do is reject" some idea -- no, these things go deeper than ideas.

    • Even though I am against Zionism and now also against religion, my Jewish family background and early Judaic upbringing are bound to create some feeling of kinship with others who share that background and upbringing. In large part it is a matter of kinship in the literal sense. For example, the Israeli consul in Boston is (or was) a woman named Shein. That happens to be my late mother's maiden name. When I met her naturally I wondered whether she might be a distant relative. This feeling of kinship should not lead to any political solidarity or be conceptualized in 'national' terms. The Zionists are indeed criminals and we should regard them as enemies. To feel kinship with them at some level is therefore uncomfortable and distressing. Nevertheless it is there. Sorry, it can't be helped.

  • Jewish leader refuses to debate BDS with young Jew, at J Street conference
  • As Israel becomes a political liability it is time to challenge its enablers
  • The Gaza protests are challenging every facet of Israel's dispossession of the Palestinian people
    • I remember reading somewhere about a case during the Holocaust when a German soldier on the eastern front took photos of shootings of Jews and showed them to his friends and relatives at home while on leave, disturbing some of them. He was arrested and sentenced to a prison term for the unauthorized photography. Not an exact parallel, of course, but the same logic.

  • How Gaza came to be trapped 'from fence to fence'
    • I have been participating in discussion of justifications for shooting the Gaza demonstrators on the website of The Forward. Readers may be interested in the arguments put forward by Israeli Zionists in this discussion. Several claimed that the demonstrations are merely the first stage in an offensive Hamas strategy: unarmed demonstrators "swarm" the border, breaking through the fence under the protection of smoke from the burning tires, and they will then be followed by armed militants who will kidnap Israelis, commit terrorist acts, etc. I repeatedly asked what evidence they had for these claims. One eventually said that whatever their intentions Gaza Palestinians who break through, damage, or approach the fence should be killed because Gaza Palestinians constitute an "enemy population" -- i.e., none of them should be recognized as civilians. The Israelis' fear and hatred of Palestinians in Gaza seem to be fiercer even than their fear and hatred of other Palestinians.

  • 1948 and the Anglo–Saxim: on Western involvement in expulsion of the Palestinians
    • Zionism is to blame not only for the massacres of Palestinians but also for the massacres of Jews in Palestine and other Arab countries. In Palestine before the rise of Zionism Jews, Christians and Moslems lived together in peace, so there is no reason to suppose that any massacres would have occurred there in the absence of Zionism. In some other Arab countries there had been pogroms before the rise of Zionism, e.g. Damascus 1840. The rise of Zionism was nonetheless a significant exacerbating factor, so whether there would have been a program in Baghdad during WW2, for instance, in the absence of Zionism is a matter of judgment. So Zionism was wholly responsible for the uprooting of Palestinians and also responsible, at least in large measure, for the uprooting of Jews from other Arab countries. So the two phenomena do not "balance" one another out.

    • There were two distinct periods in the war. First, the civil war between Zionists and Palestinians that began with the British withdrawal. At this stage fighting was sporadic and did not occur in all localities -- not total war. Second, a period of more intensive warfare following the declaration of Israel's independence, with the entry of armies from neighboring Arab states. The key point is that about half of the ethnic cleansing took place in the earlier period of less than total war and therefore cannot be attributed to a situation of total war. This follows from the unidirectional nature of time; what happens later cannot explain what happens earlier.

    • Naftash: Do you accept the testimony of Palestinian witnesses as evidence?

    • This intersects with my essay on this site "Perpetrators of the Nakba."

      It is important to point out not only that Diet Yassin was no isolated incident but also that massacres were perpetrated not only by the Stern Gang and Lehi but also by the Haganah, as at Tantura. This exposes the "liberal Zionist" myth that contrasts the barbarity of the Revisionist militias with the supposedly ethical record of the "mainstream" Zionist armed forces (Haganah and Palmach). Many people have fallen for this trick, including Einstein.

  • Jews and trauma
    • "My chief interest is my people" -- That is tribalist, but not as tribalist as Golda, for instance, whose ONLY interest is her people, so that she can view this website only as a product of Phil's desire for fame or as a personal vendetta. A person whose mind is so extremely narrow as to make it inconceivable to her that any Jew could really care about non-Jews.

      One thing that does not, in my view, explain Golda's reaction is trauma. Phil tries to explain too much in terms of trauma. Writers who have been through the Nazi or Stalinist camps or the Nakba (to broaden the discussion a bit) expound widely divergent philosophies. Some emerge as humanists, others as fanatical nationalists. Some are deeply pessimistic about human nature, others manage to stay optimistic despite their terrible experiences. As they have all been traumatized, trauma cannot explain their outlooks. I suspect that the pre-trauma outlook shapes how they interpret what happens to them. If trauma has any identifiable effect at all, perhaps it is to intensify the pre-trauma philosophy rather than change it. Changing one's outlook requires conditions conducive to systematic thought, but those who survive traumatic experiences do so by focusing solely on how to survive.

    • I would just add that before Nazi Germany there was tsarist Russia with its stigmatization of and discrimination against Jews and pogroms -- the impetus behind an earlier generation of Zionists. My grandmother and her sister were survivors of the 1915 pogrom in Smorgon -- one of the many pogroms along Russia's western border, motivated by the belief that Jews were pro-German. The town was burned and the column of refugees headed eastward into the forest. My grandmother was not a Zionist, however. She was a Bundist.

      The parallel with Israel's treatment of Palestinians is much closer for tsarist Russia than it is for Nazi Germany -- restriction to specified areas, complicated bureaucratic regulations, periodic ethnic cleansing, occasional massacres, but not outright genocide.

  • Thousands demand the right to return as smoke envelops Gaza on a new 'bloody Friday'
    • Being human they do have brains, but they are not in a mood to be sensible. It is more important to them to express the anger they feel at the injustice inflicted on them by people like you.

  • Jewish state, Jewish values, Jewish shame
    • I understand and to some extent share your feeling of shame for the misdeeds of those associated with you as kin or co-religionists. It is hard not to have that feeling. But I want to ask: is it justified? does it make sense? and -- does it help?

      Each of us is responsible only for what we ourselves do or fail to do. Over that at least we have some control. In doing what we can we relieve the weight of individual shame. But collective shame seems to me fraught with paralysis and despair, for it remains whatever we do.

  • B'Tselem calls on Israeli soldiers to defy shooting orders, lest they commit war crimes
    • That is fine, but soldiers also need advice concerning what to do about fellow soldiers who are committing war crimes. I suggest applying some means to disable them and thereby prevent them from committing further crimes, such as tear gas.

  • they use Palestine
    • I don't understand why God would cry. If He (She?) is upset about something then let Him get up off His backside and put it right. He is all-powerful, after all. It is only we mortals who need to cry when we feel especially powerless.

  • Saudi Arabia's crown prince says Israelis have a 'right to have their own land'
    • I suspect this means that the crown prince plans to give Israel part of Saudi Arabia -- probably the region around Mount Sinai (ancient historians think that the real Mount Sinai was in what is now Arabia, not in what is called the Sinai Peninsula).

  • 'We will not wait 70 years more': scenes from Gaza's March of Return
    • Do you think that it's the leaders who somehow force Palestinians to keep the keys to their old homes, most of which were destroyed long ago, and pass them down from one generation to the next? I think it's just the opposite. The leaders, even of Hamas, have a more realistic idea of what is attainable but dare not directly confront popular sentiment.

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