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Total number of comments: 490 (since 2009-08-09 15:40:46)


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  • Why does Uri Avnery know so little about Palestinian citizens of Israel?
    • I have a general feeling the matter of Palestinians inside Israel is treated as a side issue, partly for strategic reasons: the case for Gaza or the Westbank is easier to make and there are more people on your side. And they're suffering most.

      But I'd like there to be a strong focus on those Palestinians who are better off because they're inside Israel and they're not Bedouin. "Look, this is what it means even in the best cases."
      Jonathan Cook's 'Blood and Religion' did a good job there. Hatim Kanaaneh may be available for elaborating on the matter. His book is mostly about the eighties. I'm eager to read Kanaaneh's pieces. Also a bit apprehensive because he has a way of evading my defenses and sneaking up on me :)

    • Hasbara Buster says: Avnery’s analogy is the height of bad faith.

      I think there is no convincing base for such an unfriendly conclusion , and because proof is merely lack of imagination I have much more imagination than you. Cook puts it very well, not going too much into the motivations, just saying that Avnery should be treated as an unreliable mentor and guide on matters relating to Palestinians inside Israel .

      Gideon Levy gives a completely different assessment about the motivations of Oz and Grossmann that they mean well but they lack courage . . I wonder if the pun on Oz' name was intended.
      I could use a different angle: Avnery's too nice. He's not intellectually ruthless enough. But of course holding that opinion might make it harder to advocate things that go against the interests or convictions of nice people. Maybe you're just not ruthless enough for that so you prefer to look at it as bad faith.

  • Yeshiva U panel concludes Israel and Jews face destruction from: Iran, assimilation and occupation critics
    • To turn things upside down Iran is a serious threat to Israel because the US would find Iran to be a very good ally and just much better to work with than Israel.

  • Einstein letter, on sale at Ebay, blamed Jewish terrorists for risking 'catastrophe' in Palestine
    • The clever israeli reaction would be to buy this letter, and depending on how much attention it gets, hide it, or display it prominently as proof of how much they defend democracy and freedom of expression - and that they want to make Israel even better.

  • NY panel featuring Adelson asks whether Jews can exist without Israel
    • I wonder why made the font grey rather than a dark red. Red would definitely have made the point more clearly. The font must at least reach 6.4 on the Klotz-Markov scale of font threateningness, though a bit of barbed wire around it would have been an improvement.

  • Backlash against Netanyahu: He gets 2-1/2 hours with Obama during shutdown, trying to thwart Iran opening
  • Netanyahu's tale of Iranian deception debunked by British diplomat
    • Peter Jenkins is a former british diplomat actually. Or is that something you get for life. Anyway he's
      not wearing his ambassador hat.
      He also talks sense generally. Or maybe always..

  • Netanyahu returns to the U.N. -- now guess the drawing!
  • Updated: Iran's president urges Obama to ignore 'warmongering pressure groups'
    • @Dickerson: Iranians are sticking their neck out. The description 'costly signal' applies. Obama on the other hand has given a speech. The actual detente may be with Europe. Rouhani has met Hollande.

    • Quite awhile back the Leverett’s wrote a fair amount about I think it was Brazil and I forget what other country offered to supply Iran with enriched uranium for their medical programs and the U.S. and Israel stood in the way of this deal. What do people remember about this?

      It was Turkey, in 2010. And it was a bit similar to the current CW situation with Syria in the sense that the US makes an empty offer that they are certain will not be acceptable to the other side, and then the other side accepts it. In the case of Turkey and Brazil the US just cancelled their offer.

  • Video: Israeli soldiers maul European diplomats, block aid delivery to Palestinian village
    • The newspaper I'm subscribed to also has put this Gaza item online:
      "Israel is allowing building materials into Gaza for the first time in 6 years. They had blocked import of building materials because they feared Hamas would use them to build tunnels and other things they could use against Israel. "
      For clarity, they're not being sarcastic, it's just a fact for them.

      There is something odd about the timing though of these looser restrictions. Israel has a finely tuned 'water and bread' regime of import restrictions, and the crackdown on the egyptian side may upset the balance, so they have to loosen up some things in compensation. It's a matter of adjusting the tuning. But I'm just guessing.

  • Opening shots fired in federal lawsuit against NYPD spying on Muslims
    • The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), formerly known as the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

      B'nai Brith? That must be Brezhoneq.
      Breiz Atao!

  • Twenty years since Oslo, US leadership has yielded endless 'process' with no 'peace' in sight
  • 'AIPAC must be kept for consensus issues only': Israeli diplomat slams Israel lobby for engaging on Syria
    • Interesting article. How about this as a future business model: AIPAC as lobby for hire, with the main client the US government , itself becoming a gun for hire.
      The bills would be huge.

  • Was Obama bluffing on Syria all along?
    • Nice one , Dickerson. But I probably disagree about causes. The propaganda model suggests there's a big gap between the media and intellectuals in general. All too often I notice that is not the case. And I was much surprised that Chomsky himself also thought the propaganda model is a smaller factor than general conformism among intellectuals. The kind of conformism that Orwells article "The Freedom of the Press" was about.
      As such events often do, this renewed my appreciation of Chomksy.

  • The Russia-Syria deal: What it means and what now?
    • Giving up the chemicals does give the US a graceful way out of the bombing campaign, but it does not suit their goals, which is to neutralize or take over Iran's ally, and to maintain the ties with the Saudis and other oil monarchies. The Saudis are wondering what use the US is to them.

      Assad's chemical weapons are of no advantage to him in this war, and losing them does not weaken him. So he gets the US off his back(at least openly) and keeps the military advantage on the ground. So the US lose but get a nice trophy to hide it.

  • Chomsky: Israel and US enjoying the spectacle as Syria descends into suicide
    • and everyone knows it

      I don't know it. Which confirms that I'm not everyone. I'm sure the Saudis and Qatar were ready to pounce though, and that the regime anticipated that and reacted violently because of the external interference that they thought was already there or would be there soon enough.
      But I don't like to dismiss the sincerity of people inside Syria wanting serious reform. I remember this video at JSF a year and a half ago and thought Simon Assaf was pretty sharp

    • @Kalithea : the picture is actually already much clearer than that. The intel people are leaking information through different channels. The CIA is fairly certain Assad did nothing because they monitor the CW and nothing had been moved to their knowledge. It's always possible, but there is lack of motive and there are no indications. Therefore there's no real reason for suspicion.
      The thing that is very doubtful however is whether sarin was used. If it was used, it was only a small part of the gas attack. 10% of the people with symptoms died. With sarin either you don't have symptoms or you're dead.
      Gareth Porter has a good report at antiwar. and

    • Congress is reading The Hill now, re Syrian offer to give up its chemical weapons: link to

      The Russians proposed it, and it might actually be a russian idea.

      The attractive thing about that offer is, the US needs a way out, and this offer would give them that. The alternative way out would be a very brief attack.

  • 'There's no stupider reason to go to war than fear that people will think you are weak' -- Chris Hayes
    • Thanks Hostage, thoroughly documented as usual :) I thought maybe the report was confidential. Interesting to see that the Assad regime was the first to file a request march 20.

      In any case the impression I got was that the russians did a good job but nothing came of it, so they now push the report publicly. They're also claiming their input is not taken seriously. Well , ironically all this was reported concisely in my newspaper as "the russians insinuate that rebels used chemical weapons and they also say that their input is being ignored".

    • Does anyone know where to find the actual report the Russians gave the UN about the Khan al-Assal attack in march? Russia now released details about it ( but the report was delivered in july.

  • AIPAC comes out for strike on Syria-- and mentions Iran more often than Syria
    • I want to add something about the Saudis. There's an important interview with Chas Freeman at lobelog about the tensions between Us and saudis:

      Now it's interesting that the US is more or less in support of democratic movements, especially in Egypt. I think that is because they think the major polarisation is Sunni/Shia while a more important polarisation is autocratic/democratic. Iran is in the democratic camp, the oil monarchies are in the autocratic camp. Let's say the US is a bit confused.

    • It's worse. I think the chemical weapons incident was very likely a black flag operation by Al Nusra. But as with the Iraq case, even if the chemical weapons story was false, it turns out that for many pro-war groups that wasn't a major factor after all.

      (my hobby: ruining people's metaphors :)

    • Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) have prepared a joint resolution that is supposed to be a lot easier to swallow than Obama's proposal.
      A limit of 60 days of assaults with maximum 30 days extension. There's an awful lot that can be bombed in 60 days. Numbers like that are not about a punitive action, they're about seriously degrading the regime's power so that the balance tips in favor of rebel ground forces . It's a resolution stops just short of regime change - for now. Libya was 6 months in all. So maybe AIPAC doesn't want regime change, just that the fight goes on? The Saudi's are clear about regime change.

      This stuff is really worrying. It's Crocodile Dundee saying "You call this a mess? THIS is a mess!"
      And it bothers me that everyone is pointing at AIPAC. People don't pay enough attention to Saudi Arabia. The Taliban were a Saudi project too. They're propping up Salafis everywhere.

      What are the Saudi plans with the 'trusted' ground forces that are being prepared in Jordania. . Taking over the chemical weapons sites?

  • Kerry's rationale to attack Syria could have also justified attack on Israel over Gaza
    • [Dickerson:]TAKE ACTION! ! ! TAKE ACTION! ! ! TAKE ACTION! ! !

      Reminds me of Chas Freeman put it : "Don't just sit there, bomb something!
      But then this is "don't just bomb something!"

    • I saw Obama earlier use the approach of 'holding Assad responsible' (I don't have a link) which was surprising. It reminded me of how Israel holds Hamas responsible for anything that happens in Sinai. It doesn't mean they accuse Hamas of being behind attacks from Sinai or Gaza , although they can be vague about that.

      Since then Obama has become much more explicit. The highest estimate for the death toll is used. The highest responsibility for Assad is assumed. I don't think it means that's what Obama's team wanted to do all along, just that they now think they're better off by doing something. I call that damage control.

      Meanwhile there's a lot of people pushing for doing more. Either they're hoping for bringing more balance to the conflict so that it can drag on much longer.
      Or they're hoping to overthrow Assad. But even if things don't escalate, the idea that the US' standing will improve if they bomb Assad is doubtful. Assad may well decide to retaliate asymmetrically: by doing nothing and by just asserting his valiant resistance against the foreign attackers, including Obama who claimed Assad had to go.

  • No one knows what Obama stands for
    • I could give a more positive slant to that. He can also regard himself as a consensus figure. A facilitator rather than a leader. So that you get more a type of collective decisionmaking. He'll put his stamp on the decision process but it's more a group thing. Speculative.

  • Jeffrey Goldberg assails NYT's David Kirkpatrick for describing Israeli attitude as 'ugly'
    • Yeah, philosophers. Eeuuuww! Playing solemn word games and writing academical texts that discuss other texts that discuss other texts... Oh wait, that's not what you mean :)

  • Critics of Obama's narrow action cite Martin Dempsey's caution -- 'act of war'
    • I could divide the chemical weapons incident in two parts: who did it and how to react.

      Who did it:
      The argument for the rebels could be that after Assad got the upper hand in the conflict it became much more attractive to try and pull the US into the conflict. The US has put itself into a weak position by drawing red lines. Which leads to the obvious 'Al Nusra got their chemical weapons from Libya and/or from Saudi backers'.
      The point of view of Assad would then be that he's got the advantage anyway and doesn't want to upset outside players, neither the US nor Russia. He needs Russia.

      The case for Assad could be that while he has the advantage it's not as if he's going to win any time soon. Now if he can use chemical weapons and get away with it it would assert his dominance in the conflict, making clear to the rebels that they can't count on outside help so they'd better give up. The actual military advantage is doubtful, but there's the terror effect on the population. The next ultimatum on a city under rebel control would start sounding a lot more convincing.

      What to do about it. Is the aim to stop Assad from winning, is it to make him lose, or is it to stop him from using chemical weapons? It's been proven that Assad's side used chemical weapons , can you live with the idea that he'll be using them to conquer Aleppo ? I don't mean to convince people about intervening, just trying to avoid embellishing things.

  • Egyptians rally in DC for General Sisi, rattling off conspiracy theories recycled from Islamophobes
    • with Christians blaming Islamist mobs for the violence.

      Well that is pretty well plausible. No need to set up black flag operations there.
      I haven't read about any of the remaining MB leadership trying to stop or of the army protecting the Copts. But it might happen.

    • It's clear that these people are actually undercover Muslim Brotherhood people who infiltrated Pro-military demonstrators in DC in order to say stupid things and make them look silly ( ) .

      Now that I think about it, this site is also full of undercover antisemitic antizionists who masquerade as sociopathic zionists in order to make Israel look bad.

      To be a bit more fair... I'm sure there's plenty of stupid convictions to go around on all sides , and I'm not really tempted to judge people on it. But one can observe.

  • Chas Freeman: Kerry's talks leave out 4 of 5 Palestinians
    • Morocco did NOT expel its Jews.

      In fact Moroccan economy was doing badly at the time and everyone left, including the Jews. Many Moroccans came to Belgium and France.

      I don't think 'The Jews left Iraq against the will of the Iraqis' would describe the situation very well. It was more muddled and corrupt.

      One description that I never see mentioned in this context is that 1948 was a postwar situation. That means much better than during the war but generally still not safe and stable and suitable for migrating.

  • Egyptian massacre exposes US hypocrisy in Israel and Palestine
    • Jim Lobe has an interesting piece on the deterioration of US-Saudi ties

      There's an awareness now of an alarming deterioration of US influence.

      Now in Egypt the events are not only homegrown. The economy is in deep trouble and who controls the money is important. Who gets the foreign money gets to run the country - to some extent. The Saudis and other oil monarchies are putting up that money.

      There's another component and I mention it to contrast it to the models of religion-based tensions (in Belgium that's all there is). Compare Egypt to Venezuela: a large part of the community is very poor. As soon as they get one man-one vote the poor get to run the country, but without the money to match. You instantly get opposition from the rich, who tend to control the main media, and a lot of tension with the middle class. Also, the voices of the poor are invisible but the middle class is visible so you get an instant impression of a dictatorship: an impopular minority running the place.

      So in Egypt the islamist parties roughly represent the poor, and for the middleclass that is not a nice position to be in. If then the economy tanks, and with some good campaigning and sabotage(electricity and gasoline have been deliberately withheld), they can be tempted to choose for a dictatorship that gets good money from the outside.

  • British government forced Guardian to smash hard drives with Snowden files
  • Manning's attorney calls on Obama to pardon him
    • The biggest mistake the msm made was not them condemning Manning. It was shifting the attention from the leaks to the leaker. It's about managing focus.

      [edit] there's a recent post about NPR and trivia subjects. It's a similar message: what shall we be looking at.

    • I have to keep putting quotes around that word

      I wouldn't do that. It's like those other words with a positive bias that cause people to claim "he's not really intelligent," "it's not really art", "it's not really democratic" when they start finding faults. Better to accept these people as liberal without them having to conform to your standard of perfection, or without them having to be liberal in everything or in things that concern you most.

      Highly intelligent people can do very stupid things. Better to resist adapting the definition of intelligence in an attempt to keep its aura.

  • It's time for Obama to replay Nixon-to-China on Iran, says William Quandt
    • --The US is a bystander on Egypt. “Egypt is in full gear to revert to military rule and perhaps a harsh time for a while.” What does the U.S. have to say about that? "Maybe not much... The United States has by and large been a bystander for some very big changes. That’s one of the things we have to get used to…"

      That's sort of what one would expect to happen indeed. The MB doesn't have the clout. The other countries aren't objecting enough.

      Just one thing: contrary to reports, I believe the majority of the population feels robbed, not just the MB or the islamist parties. That's what the poll says that El-amin reports on here .
      But if money starts flowing back in (after being withheld before the coup I suspect)in their resistance could be managed.

    • Ah yes, democracy is not a switch that is on or off. South Africa was a democracy. That is not just disingenious, it's useful. Democracies have certain attributes and these attributes were present in Apartheid era South Africa: separation of powers, checks and balances, participation of the public. Democracy for white people' is a valid description if we can get over the positive, euphemistic load that the word has, and if we keep in mind that part of the population was excluded.

  • President Obama’s secret plan for Egypt
    • Obviously, since the secret is out the administration is technically correct. Aid has not secretly been frozen.

  • Mubarak is released while the Obama administration second guesses its second guess
    • Space aliens built the pyramids.

      Space aliens were very neurotic and even after the pyramids were built they kept fretting about them falling over. Not many people know that.

      Look , I'm absolutely certain they won't fall over but if you really want we can make them flatter.
      No, no, it'll be alright. But you're absolutely sure aren't you? Because it really would be annoying.

  • Roger Waters appeals to fellow musicians -- Endorse the cultural boycott of Israel
    • The situation in Belgium bothers me. If I look at comments on Syria and Egypt I get the impression anti-muslim propaganda is falling on a very fertile ground.
      First of all Belgium has many immigrants that aren't well integrated and there are a lot of tensions.
      There is also a general background of anticlerical and antireligious sentiments here. Belgium has a catholic history but the religion has mostly atrophied and the churches are empty. It's a commonly held opinion here that religion is the root of all evil, and Islam is religion squared.
      There's a lot of sincere support for Israel. There's considerable disgust as well, but the dominant opinion about mideast conflicts is that it's in their nature to fight. And whatever evil things Israel does, it's still mostly defending itself.

      Well, I guess I'm generalizing too much here. pessimistic mood.

  • Spock visits the holy land
  • 'US had as much a hand in Egypt as in Chile' -- leftwing perspectives on the massacre
    • And Arafat conceded privately 40 years ago that the Palestinians would have to accept Israel w/in 1967 borders.

      Privately? It was formalized in 88 I think, which usually means it's informally accepted many years earlier

    • [Annie:] ‘my israeli sources’? is that what the nyt’s is? ha! yeah, phil reported that earlier:

      It sounds important but Bob Somersby from he Daily Howler used to write "my analists tell me" which is at least as good. I never got around to using it myself but I should.

    • This idea is a bit speculative but I think after the fall of the Soviet Union the US has gone overboard on the hegemony game. They took out Iraq and partly took out Iran and eliminated natural counterbalances for countries like Saudi Arabia, thinking the US could handle it all by themselves. And now they've got no control at all anymore and there are no countries that can keep the Saudis in check.

    • The US is not rudderless no, and it's been involved, but it's not in control. It decided could do business with the MB and stability was preferable to a coup that goes bad. And this is a coup that goes bad. No way the US would condone freeing Mubarak (which is reportedly about to happen). The Saudis have a much larger share in the events. They're also providing a lot more money than the US is. I think the Egyptian military-economic powers have decided the US hasn't put up strong enough counterarguments to stop them from doing what they feel like doing, and for which they have Saudi and Israeli backing. So the US isn't leading, but it isn't too hard to get them to accept things as long as things calm down quickly.

      I think there's a leftist tendency to endow the US with too much power. I think the US is also failing to control the oil monarchies who are funding the rebels in Syria. It was fine as long as they didn't empower the extremists too much, but when that did happen after all, the US couldn't stop it.

      On the other hand the US doesn't talk with one voice. Some will be very conscious of the damage the current coup can do to the US, others don't care. Hagel would be careful enough. The Pentagon is full of people who don't care. And the pro-Israel officials won't care.

      [note- i made a post a few days ago in the JJ Goldberg thread that's related but it went down the memory hole].

  • US aid to Egypt is not for Egypt but Israel, JJ Goldberg explains
    • I was not thinking about Suez but it's an element. Egypt is a significant player and therefore it's in the interest of the US to keep them well aligned. And the Mubarak regime was and is much better suited for that than a democratic system. That general argument is valid whatever the background is. I think this CFR article gives a nice list of why the US thinks Egypt is strategically interesting . Now one can always trace back the whys and say in the end it's about Israel, and there are good reasons to say that, but I think that's an ugly style of thinking. It's like those reasonings where whatever you do in the end it's all about getting laid. It simplifies the world into a caricature.
      Obviously the US aid to Egypt was part of the Camp David agreement. Also obvious is that the US thought Egypt was worth it. They thought Egypt was a player to be reckoned with.

    • I think so too. The US actions are guided by more than just Israel, and certainly in Egypt. This is a case of overstretching the model. Egypt's military (or military economic complex) are aligned with the US so it makes sense to choose their side.

  • 'Jewish narratives' panel in Prague turned into angry argument over Israel and Palestine
    • Sadly, Tarrentino has affirmed that it is nothing more than the first.

      Sounds like him alright. But that doesn't mean it's just a fantasy for the other people involved in the movie.

  • Jodi Rudoren intentionally obscured reality in her recent piece on Beit Ommar
    • in defense of Rudoren I'd refer to the reporting of Taghreed El-Khodary. She knew her reporting was heavily compromised but she settled for the small bits that got through. Rudoren will have a much larger say in what finally ends up in print but there too there will be a mixture of putting something in the article that is later removed, not putting in because you know it will not get published, and picking your fights carefully. Well maybe it's not in defense of Rudoren, but the lack of context is a shared responsibility with the NYTimes editors. It's also something one adapts to until it's forgotten.

      Apart from the lack of context another subject of the comments to her article is what a vicious violent deadly thing these rocks are. Cue Abe Foxman. And that's a bit the trap of unarmed/nonviolent protest: it's never nonviolent enough. The bar is raised higher and higher and every failure to reach that bar is seen as proof that Palestinians are not a legitimate party. At first it is absolutely impossible to get along with Palestinians because they're natural haters and suicidebombers. Now it's just as impossible to get along with them because they're natural stonethrowers. The comments have a lot of sincere indignation about those dangerous stones and I recall well the slideshows on the NYTimes with just kids throwing stones, as if this captured the whole West Bank situation. One does wonder how far one can extrapolate that kind of thinking. These demonstrations have not been approved. All these people walking around at random in the streets could cause really dangerous traffic situations. Irresponsible really.

  • Do Israelis want a real Palestinian state? The polls say no
    • I think the main distinction is a very common one: it's between the general and the specific. As a general vague idea many Israeli Jews will approve. It sounds good. But as soon as it becomes specific what 'viable' means if it's taken seriously, support drops.
      I don't know if polls like this are very meaningful. How important is the matter for Israelis? Is it more than some annoying background issue?

  • D.C. thinktank pushing Iran war got $19 million in one year from Israel supporters
    • “Emet” also means ant in English, though it’s a fairly archaic term, used mostly by dialect speakers.

      emmet in cornish. Related to the german word 'ameise' apparently.

    • Not to be confused with the Endowment for Middle East Truth I suppose. That one still exists.

  • Obama seems to think the road to Tehran runs through Jerusalem
    • I’m for one in total agreement with Obama on this one. I believe that entire Iran kerfuffle is nothing more than a giant squid ink cloud to keep the world’s attention away from colonization of Palestine.

      Rabin also believed there was a connexion between the two issues, but one was not a distraction for the other. Rather, Calming down the Palestinian front with Oslo ment calming down the relations with its direct neighbors, and this allowed him take on Iran which had surfaced as a new regional competitor after the demise of the USSR and (sort of demise of)Iraq.

  • Jews are smarter, and funnier too
    • There is a difference between mentioning an achievement and bragging. But being proud of it should be enough.

      There is a lot of freedom in how to perceive the bragging(pejorative word choice). When kids mention their achievements this is not treated as competition and it's accepted. When grownups do the same it is much more tolerated in the US than in the UK. In the UK nothing is ever perceived as "just mentioning an achievement". It's always bragging. There's no room for people airing their satisfaction about their achievements. That in itself leads to all kinds of false humility practices. I think the ability not to perceive it as a threat is healthier.

    • Is there to be no end to the commas after subject clauses?

      I know it's a subversive thought but there's a valid reason why people always want to put them there. Because they think it's helpful to emphasize the end of the subject clause.

    • Civilized people in most parts of the world regard bragging as shocking bad manners.

      Which is a bit unfortunate because all kinds of bragging are considered as a form of competitive behaviour. If people are proud of something and they like to mention that, that should be fine.

    • This thread isn't very funny is it? It should be replete with links to good humor and with quotes and be drifting completely OT.
      Where I live, the american sitcoms and movies are of course well known but the reference for interesting humor always was Great Britain, so my frame of reference is a bit different.
      Here. Mel Smith just died and he isn't mentioned often.

      Mooser's gone btw? I've seen him pop up at JSF now and then but not here anymore. You'd think I bought Leo Rosten's Joys of Yiddish because I'm so philosemitic? Nope. Mooser said it was funny. Ok, that and me collecting odd dictionaries. Still not sure what the first edition had extra though, I thought it had some dirty bits that were cleaned up afterwards. Maybe the bit about the Falashas got thrown out later.

  • Netanyahu may require DNA tests to prove immigrants have a Jewish 'bloodline'
    • there is no such thing as a Jewish bloodline. Geneticists have not found a definitive “Jewish gene,

      There's no common bloodline tying it all together over 20 centuries. But finding links to people who come from the same location and who who have been accepted as being fully jewish is a very different job. In theory that's feasible.

  • Iranian president's description of occupation as a 'wound' echoes Obama's description of conflict
    • Jeffrey Goldberg will not backpedal, but he may "add nuance". Like this guy does.

      –Why did two Iranian government-tied news agencies so egregiously misrepresent what he said? This might be a a situation of one lazy reporter’s screw up, followed by another even lazier reporter plagiarizing the screw-up. But it begs the question: How pervasive is the notion of “removing” Israel in Iran that a reporter can walk away and think, “Well that’s what he probably meant.” (Notably, Press TV, another government-run agency, quickly reported the misreporting.)

      The fact that the quote was mistranslated in the first place is treated as significant. The mistranslation wouldn't have happened if Iran hadn't been hellbent on destroying Israel in the first place.

      To which my main reaction is: look how robust beliefsystems are. How good they are at survival. What to one person is a debunking, to the other person actually becomes extra reinforcement.

  • AIPAC flexes its muscle on Iran and Egypt
    • So the new bill means the US has to teach China a lesson if China dares to keep importing Iranian oil. If you just forget about Iran for a moment, I think the US is building up a really bad reputation for itself. The fact that congress doesn't seem to mind pissing of other countries is not just a lobby thing, it's an imperialistic attitude thing.

  • House passes AIPAC's 'strangle Iran' sanctions, 400-20
    • A new president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, takes office in a few days. He was elected as a moderate, the un-Ahmedinejad. Since his election he has made clear that his goal is to resolve the US-Iran stalemate over Iranian nuclear development through negotiations.

      Of course, at this point, who knows? Maybe he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

      We will know soon but not until after he takes office on Sunday, which is why AIPAC’s preemptive strike is so appalling.

      After all, there is not one reason for passing this punitive bill before the new president takes office, unless, of course, AIPAC’s goal is to insult Rouhani and the Iranian nation in order to push him toward becoming another Ahmedinejad.

      Nothing pleased the lobby more than having an Iranian president who spouted obscene nonsense about the Holocaust and Israel, all the easier to convince the United States to go to war with him. But this guy is trouble. If he is a real moderate, AIPAC won’t get its war.

      I think Rosenberg's understanding of Iran is lacking. Iran's policy with Ahmadinehjad was fairly reasonable. The general approach was to be less accommodating upfront, and insist more on principles. What Ahmadinehjad made in terms of noises for public consumption is not that important when you're negotiating. People who pounce on the public noises generally have bad faith.

      The idea that in order to move forward you need "a real moderate" on the Iranian side, is , well, weak.

  • Snowden's privacy warning is borne out by NY family's creepy experience -- Updated
    • If I summarize it for myself, I think I have two main arguments against the current approach to snooping

      1. On principle. People's data should be respected and left alone as much as possible, even if it means terrorist attacks will happen that wouldn't have happened otherwise. The main reason I see for supporting the principle is not privacy. Part of the information that's being gathered is not really private. But I see a threat that free speech is stifled. So for me it threatens political active citizens.

      2. Then there is an argument of effectiveness and I think that the more data they gather the worse the result is. The signal to noise ratio deteriorates.

      - It bears repeating that the 9/11 attacks did not occur due to lack of information. The actionable information was there but there was -for whatever reason- a lack of interest in the information that was harvested with the system as it existed.

      - Gathering more data indiscriminitely will mean you have to search for the needle in a bigger haystack. A lot more things will appear interesting, and a lot of resources will go into these things. Major events will be less likely to surface in time because the they are drowned out by the overload. But in hindsight you can see it's all there. Probably the NSA has found that the buildup to the Boston bombings was obvious from the data in hindsight.

      - The large haystack generates a lot of events. Things that might happen.
      I wouldn't say all these events are innocent, because a lot of things happen that aren't really innocent. But they're not what the system was claimed to be set up for. And this is used as justification for the approach. There is the claim that hundreds of terrorist attacks have been foiled this way. That implies that these were attacks that would actually would have happened if nobody would have interfered. Note that there are always many more than hundreds of people who can be convinced to participate in planting a bomb somewhere. And it implies that the new system spotted things that the pre2000 could no spot.
      So you have a system that generates a lot of noise, and the noise is then used to justify the system.

      - The people who are actually planning attacks and are competent enough to do something significant, will be more motivated to stay off the official channels. Something may well pop up eventually, but this means the indiscriminate datamining is biased towards random people. And towards political active people.

      Finally there's a distinction between effectiveness and efficiency.
      One can argue about there being too many false positives. That makes me uneasy because natural reply arguing about efficiency is that of course that is there are always false positives and that should be acceptable, but everything should be done to reduce the false positives. You just get "we should make it even better". Which is working at the wrong end.

  • The peace process meets Einstein's definition of insanity, says Josh Ruebner
    • The title is catchy but not very insightful. There's nothing crazy about what the US is doing. The peace process has the same value it always had, it buys time. It's a better situation for the US to be in than no process at all. It's better than nothing. The insanity would be on the part of the press and the public who see it as more than a charade. It becomes especially weird when the Israelis are blunt enough to insist that the peace process should not in any way slow down the colonization, and when this only results in mild confusion.

  • Theodor Meron's '67 memo provided legal rationale for settlements
    • Gorenberg's interpretation just doesn't make sense to me, while Hostage's interpretation fits. Meron played the role of the legal adviser who lays out your options, the legal problems your actions can run into, and how to possibly circumvent the laws. I recall that the word choice "administered territories" was also a result of legal discussions. Something about being able to say you didn't really annex them. Annexation is such an ugly word and people can use it against you. Later they started to use 'Liberated'.

  • Police kill Israeli-Jew near Western Wall after mistaking him for a Palestinian
    • Actually I was thinking about the followup scene where he kills the waiter , to the dismay of everyone else, including De Niro.

      To be a little more fair, if someone has had it drilled into him/her that every Palestinian can be a terrorist and when a terrorist intends to blow himself up you have to be very fast to stop that from happening, then you'll also have incidents like this. You still need the kind of person who has a very low threshold for shooting though.

    • Incidentally, when I read about the shooting I instantly thought of a scene from the movie Goodfellas. But Joe Pesci was doing the shooting there.

  • 'No consequences... ad finitum' -- Reporters reject State Dep't explanation of US policy on settlements
    • The reference to Mondo Weiss top right of the screen seems a bit improvised. But it's nice of them.

  • Israel stirs the pot in Syria
    • The 'optimal scenario' appears to be still the same idea as found in the 1982 Oded Yinon article that you can find here

      The Western front, which on the surface appears more problematic, is in fact less complicated than the Eastern front, in which most of the events that make the headlines have been taking place recently. Lebanon's total dissolution into five provinces serves as a precendent for the entire Arab world including Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Arabian peninsula and is already following that track. The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unqiue areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel's primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short term target. Syria will fall apart, in accordance with its ethnic and religious structure, into several states such as in present day Lebanon, so that there will be a Shi'ite Alawi state along its coast, a Sunni state in the Aleppo area, another Sunni state in Damascus hostile to its northern neighbor, and the Druzes who will set up a state, maybe even in our Golan, and certainly in the Hauran and in northern Jordan. This state of affairs will be the guarantee for peace and security in the area in the long run, and that aim is already within our reach today.14

  • Looking for 'a new devil,' Israeli leaders and supporters left scrambling after election of moderate Rouhani
    • So how will the roleplay play out? I suppose it's obligatory to be pleasantly surprised and hopeful and full of goodwill, but skeptical at Rouhani's election. This should then be followed by a certain eagerness to conclude after a while that either Rouhani wasn't the nice guy he appeared to be, or he was the best of the lot but obviously didn't make much difference.

      So let's look what David Sanger makes from it (disclosure: I don't like Sanger, but I sorta know he's going to deliver)

      From the start of the article:

      Hassan Rowhani, a former nuclear negotiator who is considered a moderate compared with the other candidates, was greeted by some administration officials as the best of all likely outcomes, they said it did not change the fact that only the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would make the final decision about any concessions to the West.

      Even so, they said they wanted to test Mr. Rowhani quickly, noting that although he argued for a moderate tone in dealing with the United States and its allies when he was a negotiator, he also boasted in 2006 that Iran had used a previous suspension of nuclear enrichment to make major strides in building its nuclear infrastructure.

      That's plan one and two, at the start of the article. I really should do a decent job and read the whole article now but I'm feeling too smug now.

      In any case, Rouhani must have noticed the same things from that unilateral suspension of nuclear enrichment than Ahmadinejad: the West became more aggressive, not less, and the initiative made him impopular in his own country as well.

      I don't see how the west will change course. As for the IAEA , I'd like to get the chance to point out to Yukiya Amano from that judging from the NIE and James Clapper's comments the IAEA must appear a bit overzealous in the eyes of the National Intelligence crowd.

  • Fmr French foreign minister reportedly says Israel seeks to 'destroy' Syria (and any other neighbor it can't get along with)
  • Four months later, did Hagel's confirmation make any difference at all?
    • My question is whether Hagel can make a large difference as Secretary of Defense anyhow in foreign policy and would it have been different if he had filled John Kerry's job, that of Secretary of State.
      Kerry is the one who's talking to all the foreign leaders.

  • Despairing of his Israel fantasies, Leonard Fein says racism goes 'unimpeded'
    • The whole society is built around the occupation. The occupation is brutal. Israelis can’t switch it off at 5. Of course it insinuates itself into how they behave .

      In a way. In another way I think the opposite may be true. Everything has been done to move the occupation to the background so you can ignore it. I've called it 'minimizing the Palestinian footprint' before. Minimize the social, economical, political demographical and real estate presence so it's almost as if they're absent. In effect, it means you can go about your life ignoring the occupation.

      From this follows that it becomes easy to hold the opinion that Israel is a democracy with a few defects, you can acknowledge the defects, but those defects are relatively small. They have to be, since they're hardly noticeable in daily life..

    • Framing it as an issue of self interest for Zionists is just one more way of ignoring Palestinians.

      I partly agree. In terms of what works to convince people, both appealing to self interest and to values and identity are useful . Take the subject of torture and Guantanamo. Obama can use both tracks to defend getting rid of both. One is self image: we don't do it because that is not who we are. We have to be able to be proud of what we are.

      A second track is, it is in our self-interest to have moral authority on the world stage. It is counterproductive if we're seen as immoral torturers and we're going to be creating many more enemies than we manage to kill or capture. We need to have moral authority.

      George Lakoff used to claim(and still does I suppose) that the conservatives had been very successful in winning votes because they had a strategy of appealing to values and identity instead of self interest while progressives tried to appeal to self interest only.

      That doesn't mean someone should put all their money on values and identity , or on self interest. Just that both matter and do have an effect.

  • Obama will never pressure Israel to end occupation, because his only goal is No war with Iran
    • It's a plausible explanation. But just think what this says about strategy in foreign policy: there's nothing! No strategy. Just getting by.

  • Obama told friends he reneged on progressive promises out of fear of assassination -- former CIA analyst
    • Even if Obama really said that he worried about being killed, it would only give an explanation for not going all out on some projects.

      More generally it's well possible that he's very aware of being the first black president and feeling responsible for his role and determined not to have it end in disaster. Don't leave a bad impression.Don't be radical, don't upset too many people, don't get killed, don't give black presidents a bad name . Pave the way for more black presidents.

      Don't take risks. Be a weak president...

  • Exile and the prophetic: Hannah Arendt's Israel moment
    • Hello Citizen. When I visited Auschwitz, the polish guide emphasized the allies' inaction and disinterest, even suggesting the allies quietly approved of the operation.

      I think that goes too far but I would agree that saving the Jews in the camps was not the thing foremost in the minds of the allies, and that this was not that strange. The priority was winning the war.

      I have one resource that is little known, an old interview on dutch television with Physicist Freeman Dyson. He served in Bomber Command at the time and he said he never encountered the subject coming up. He also thought there was very little that could have been done to save the people in the camps apart from sending in soldiers on the ground.

      In other words the priority of winning the war was right. The issue comes up between minutes 59 and 1h02 . The whole interview is worthwile, he's got a sharp intellect.

  • 'Look at the world through their eyes' -- Obama should take his own advice
    • Obama should take his own advice

      I tend towards the opinion that Obama's weakness is less a lack of understanding, and more his interpretation of pragmatism. Pragmatism means measuring actions in terms of their cash value, in terms of what their real world effect will be. When Obama says politicians won't move out of themselves, they need to be forced by the public ,then he's not only right. It should also be said out that politicians have good reasons to act like this. They're acting pragmatically.
      But there is wiggle room. One person will be much more aggressive in making things happen, will be willing to take more risks and upset more people than the next person. And I feel Obama will not make things happen. He'll exhort other people to make things happen. I don't expect results from him.

  • Settlers' new tactic: Building wooden benches Palestinians can't sit on
    • Re:wooden benches

      Just to spell out what everyone's thinking(but of course, shouldn't): I'd take a pot of paint , a brush, and pictures of a basic gothic font and start painting 'Nicht fur arabieren' on all of them.

  • Chuck Hagel said idea of going to war with Iran is 'Alice in Wonderland'
    • Well there's this from jpost, so I think there are good reasons to apply the realist label.

      Hagel prefers engagement.

      “Distasteful as we may find that country’s rulers, the absence of any formal governmental relations with Iran ensures that we will continue to conduct this delicate international relationship through the press and speeches, as well as through surrogates and third parties, on issues of vital strategic importance to our national interests. Such a course can only result in diplomatic blind spots that will lead to misunderstandings, miscalculation and, ultimately, conflict.”

      In that book, he also raises the idea of living with a nuclear Iran, an idea Obama has on many occasions roundly rejected.

      “The genie of nuclear armaments is already out of the bottle, no matter what Iran does,” he wrote.

      “In this imperfect world, sovereign nation-states possessing nuclear weapons capability (as opposed to stateless terrorist groups) will often respond with some degree of responsible, or at least sane, behavior. These governments, however hostile they may be toward us, have some appreciation of the horrific results of a nuclear war and the consequences they would suffer.”

      In a May interview with Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin, Hagel said, “The two options – attack Iran or live with a nuclear-armed Iran – may be eventually where we are. But I believe most people in both Israel and the United States think there’s a ways to go before we get to those. I think Obama is handling this exactly the right way. I can understand differences between Obama and the Israeli prime minister, but we have differences with all our allies.”

    • I'm struggling to find where it's made clear that Hagel should be called a realist. His opposition to war with Iran doesn't say much. He does go a bit further saying that you shouldn't make threats that you're not willing to follow through on. How's his position on rapprochement with Iran?

      It's also good to keep in mind there are large differences between progressives and realists. Kissinger is a realist. Stephen Walt and the Leveretts are. I appreciate the Leveretts a lot but their positions are often not as nice as people think. They wouldn't have overthrown Qaddhafi and they are in no hurry to overthrow Assad.

  • 'New Yorker' launches Netanyahu caption contest: 'The ridiculous deserves ridicule'
  • In front of global audience, Netanyahu draws his red line (on his ridiculous bomb cartoon)
    • Maybe I should put it this way: Ahmadinejad puts a lot of effort in raising goodwill from the arab world, and badmouthing Zionism is part of that. The purpose it not to incite people against Israel.

    • @quercus, I only read Ahmadinejad's speech just now and I think it's quite friendly. But when you say he always know precisely what to say to get Zionists shouting and screaming. I think that is often ment for Arab ears, not Zionist. (Different shapes I suppose.) I wouldn't draw parallels over all the line -for one thing he's not warmongering- but Ahmadinejad can be pretty populist.

      I listened to an interview with Hooman Majd last week and he pointed out that the Palestine issue is not a big issue inside Iran and when Ahmadinejad talks about it it's normally for foreign consumption.

    • I don't take serious the idea that because Netanyahu uses bombastic scaremongering it proves that is how he thinks. It's more a shameless populist communication strategy that is not unlike Ahmadinejad's. If it works on the target audience, use it. With Ahmadinejad, the target audience is international and often Sunni.

      Maybe Netanyahu found the imagery appealing because it reached two different audiences:
      - there was bombastic scaremongering for a public that's receptive to this type of message, meaning it works
      - and possibly to the west and very probably to himself there was a covert reference to the top of the bomb actually being Israel: the 'detonator' in Patrick Tyler's article in the LAtimes that was reviewed here today. This article focuses on the blackmailing aspect in relation to the west of the 'mad dog' policy, while usually it's interpreted in relation to the neighbors only.

  • Danish right-wing: ‘Made in settlement’ labels preempt Israel’s expanding borders
    • Another nitpick would be

      Belgium's Vlaams Belang party, which grew out of the Vlaams Blok nationalist party, many of whose members collaborated with the Nazis during World War II,

      In the beginning, that's in 1978, Vlaams Blok indeed was the natural home for flemish nationalists who had collaborated with the Nazis. I don't know what the fraction was at the beginning, but by 2004, when the party was renamed, there sure were very few of them left.

    • eGuard, it's just a nitpick but Holland is indeed only the coast part of the Netherlands. And England is only part of the state called the United Kingdom.

  • American's cartoon on Israeli site shows Netanyahu cannibalizing Obama and compelling him to service him sexually
    • Eli Valley just keeps hanging on, even if he is having to resort to rather desperate measures.
      I recall his Israel Man and Diaspora Boy and the reaction to it Captain Israel.
      This is definitely an assault on the very essence of Valley's profession. It is a determined effort to make parody impossible. Each time Valley tries to create a parody, his nemesis will ripost with something more outrageous, with the message "That's not parody, it's a weak imitation of reality! Get yourself a job kid".
      Barry's not going to sleep tonight.

  • More 'magnet than a mallet': RAND Corporation warns against striking Iran
    • I think that the unfriendly expression (the wolf of Tambov is your comrade) originates from the large peasant uprising in Tambov against the Bolsheviks in 1920. The wolf could be the rebels, or one of the leaders named Antonov who in soviet history became the symbol of the uprising because they could compile a good shit sheet against him.

      Russians obviously used this expression to assert their gullibility, which was a requirement for being a good citizen.

  • Al Jazeera exposes 2nd anti-Islam class taught to US military officers
    • A while back Seymour Hersh gave an "off the wall" speech in Qatar that couldn't have done his reputation any good. There's a report on it here . Hersh talked about some funny goings on with the JSOC, how important people there were involved with the Knights of Malta and Opus Dei, and perceiving themselves as crusaders. Hersh's story sounds a bit less whacky now.

  • Nobel Prize laureate J. M. Coetzee appears to boycott International Writers Festival in Jerusalem
    • Juxtaposition just happens, but it's also tool to make a point, and often a tool to deceive. In this case, the 'writers being pressured' is juxtaposed with Coetzee not coming leading to a spontaneous suggestion that Coetzee was under pressure. I can't tell if that's deliberate. It could even be my dirty mind!

  • I Want My NPT: A weekend review of Iran nuclear program propaganda
    • The mainstream press haven't been completely silent. I mentioned Amanpour on CNN here . I've seen a dutch program ( from the 'Tegenlicht' series) and there have been a few articles, notably in the NYTimes. This is not because the press was a driving force here, but because several players, including the intelligence people, were making enough noise about it, and then the press picked it up.

      At the NYTimes they are fully aware that the story changed and they adapted, but not in a way that the reader catches on. At the daily I'm reading (De Morgen) they aren't even fully aware, even though they read the NYTimes, and I told them. Maybe my mail was lost. Happens.

      The official comes from an IAEA member country that is severely critical of Iran's assertions that its nuclear activities are peaceful and asserts they are a springboard for making atomic arms.

      Note the shift from "they're working on a bomb" to "they're working on nuclear capability so they become able to make a bomb" all maintaining the same threatening feeling.

      The reader, who sometimes is editor for another paper, will hardly notice the shift on the information level, and even less on the perception level, the feeling of threat.

      For comparison I imagine a feedback system where the paper takes responsibility for some of the news the reader receives through the paper, and it polls the reader about the understanding on some issues, and then the paper communicates clearly where it thinks the reader's understanding is lacking. Eg there was a CNN poll a few years back, I think Annie reported on it, indicating that 70% of americans thought Iran already had a bomb. It would have made a fine pairing if the poll had been followed up right away with the kind of documentary Amanpour made recently.

      An odd example, considering the record of CNN.

  • Congressman Joe Pitts: 'It is incumbent on Ariel Sharon and Yasir Arafat to restart a peace process'
    • Well that was fun. It should be possible to pull more of this stuff out of him before he catches on :)

  • CNN's Amanpour interviews Kopty and Pollak on Palestinian prisoner strike
  • A portrait of a former Zionist (Part 1)
    • I can't find it on Haaretz but google cache still has the editorial recounting how Amos Malka declared that in the first weeks , the IDF fired 1.3 million bullets in the West Bank and Gaza.

  • 'Washington Post' cartoon mocking future Palestinian state signals crumbling of two-state paradigm
    • It would be more appropriate if the holes were the islands in the Archipelago, but the cartoon wouldn't work as well.

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