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NYT Op-Ed on Tel Aviv-Jerusalem train recycles sentiment for mythologized past

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“In the winter months the landscape is as lush as Ireland,” writes Matti Friedman of the train between Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in his October 18, 2018, New York Times opinion piece, “A Train Ride Back to the Old Israel.”  Gazing at the view from the train line, he continues, “but now, at the end of a long summer, it’s dry olive-green and limestone under a pale blue sky.”  This gorgeous travel log is a nostalgic exercise in Zionist revisionist history. Throughout the essay, Friedman fetishizes Palestinian history, ignoring the real human beings–and their point of view–at the center of this history to further his agenda of portraying Israel as a Zionist utopia.

The cause for Friedman’s sentimentality is the completion of the first section of the new high-speed electric train that opened in Israel last month, a symbol of what he calls the “new Israel.”  The train’s efficiency is impressive. The roughly 35-mile trip from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem will take less than 30 minutes and will cascade over high and long and new bridges, ultimately guiding passengers into a new station 260 feet underneath Jerusalem.

As he takes in the view from the older, sluggish train, Friedman wistfully longs for a slower Israel, the one from long before the plans for the new train began, “a small, inefficient but compelling place.”  “I’m writing these lines in the first carriage of the 10:57 a.m. from Jerusalem,” he writes, “winding down through the Sorek River Valley at the speed of a bicycle.” The journey between Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem on the old train can take up to four times longer than the new electric rail.  The old train has been running on and off since 1892 and is known to be an impractical way to commute. But Friedman prefers the low-speed lumbering of the old train; it represents the “old country”–what Israelis call the “good old land of Israel.”

Friedman paints a delightful scene, to be sure, but he picks and chooses when to ignore Palestinian history and when to mention Palestinians only as part of the ancient scenery–and it’s always self-serving.  He gets to create, and rewrite, a history that intentionally leaves out the Palestinian point of view.

For example, he describes a man he sees from the view of the old train, but he is merely a representation of Israel’s ancient ruins.  He only matters as part of the background scenery:

We pass near the homes of the Palestinian village Bittir, where an old man looks out from a stone terrace. Eucalyptus trees lean overhead, and at some of the sharper turns it feels like we might tip into the stream beside the track. After about 20 minutes without a sign of human habitation, the valley bottoms out, the train cuts through a rock quarry and a few miles of citrus orchards.

The man is in the Palestinian village, but we’re not told he is Palestinian, or anything else about him.  The man is part of the landscape but not its history; he remains anonymous–he’s from there but he’s not from there.  Friedman sentimentalizes the past, linking Palestinian life with Israel’s ancient history but in a way that ignores Palestinian history.

Friedman suggests that others on the train feel as he does, too–longing for the past while gazing at the landscape of ancient ruins:

‘I ride the old train because it lets me see landscapes that haven’t changed in thousands of years,’ Deborah Harris, a Jerusalem literary agent and another of the train’s aficionados, told me. ‘It feels like traveling through space and time.’  The train is a commute, a nature excursion and time travel, all for $5.60.

For Harris and Friedman, everything before 1948 is prehistoric.  Friedman’s time-travel narrative rewrites history so that 1948 becomes year zero.  It’s as though he draws a straight line from ancient Jewish history directly to 1948, and then only focuses on Israel’s Zionist triumphs since Israel became a state in 1948.  This tactic perpetuates the mythology that the land of Israel has always been Judaized.

Instead of giving a Palestinian history of Bittir, he provides an old Jewish one.  Bittir is “thought to be the site of ancient Beitar,” he writes, “where a Jewish revolt against Rome led by Shimon Bar Kochba ended in defeat in 135 C.E.”  Ancient Jewish history–and a Jewish revolt, no less!–is the only history that matters.

Of course, it doesn’t take much effort to learn about the Palestinian history of Bittir, and its connection to the old train.  Bittir was an ancient village, inhabited mostly by Muslims. In 1948, the village fell under Jordanian rule. Bittir was ultimately occupied by Israel in 1967, and remains occupied today.  Though Friedman hints that Bittir was occupied by Israel in 1967, he won’t use the word “occupation.” “In 1967 the land on the other side of the track, the West Bank, including Bittir,” he writes, “came under Israeli control.”  The notion of Palestinians living a daily reality under Israel’s military occupation is sanitized and watered down, reduced to “the other side.”

Alternatively, the Palestine Remembered website chronicles Bittir’s (also spelled Battir) history:

Battir used to be known to all visitors to the Holy Land, but that was back in the days when people took the train to Jerusalem, and when the train stopped at Battir for passengers and water.  Battir was then part of a unified Palestine, not just a West Bank village.

The old train was essential to the village’s livelihood.  The Palestinian villagers took the train to Jerusalem to sell their crops of fresh mint.  “For six generations, the villagers had been commuting by rail to Jerusalem,” Palestine Remembered states.  “They grew the mint with spring water that had been tapped at Battir even before the Roman era.”

The train was an integral part of the village in later years, too.  “In modern times, Battir’s development since 1890 was linked to its location alongside the railroad to Jerusalem,” Palestine Remembered reports, “which provided both access to the city’s opportunities as well as direct income from passengers who would disembark when the locomotives stopped to take on water.”  Today, Bittir overlooks the old railroad tracks. Friedman prefers this view, even though he reminisces about a Zionist past that bypasses this Palestinian history.

When Friedman does mention politics and the old train, he makes both sides appear equal, and he uses trees (!) instead of people to make his point.  “The train traveled through years of political turbulence,” he writes, “by the Jewish trees and the Arab trees and the trees that don’t belong to anyone.”  Friedman also conveniently uses the word “Arab” rather than “Palestinian,” further delegitimizing Palestinian history.

The only history of the old train Friedman provides involves its Zionist history.  He connects it directly to Theodor Herzl:

An early account of the train was written by Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, who rode it in 1898 from the port of Jaffa, adjacent to modern-day Tel Aviv. At the time, the train was the only one in this remote and impoverished corner of the Ottoman Empire…One day, Herzl thought, there would be a modern Jewish state here, and a wonderful network of electric rails. (The new train is, 120 years later, Israel’s first electric line.)

Friedman seamlessly ties the old (“Ottoman Empire”) to the new (“modern Jewish state,” “Israel’s first electric line”) thereby joining Israel’s Jewish past to its Zionist present.  He doesn’t mention that the train was a vital part of Bittir’s village life.

Friedman writes about the new train in a seemingly apolitical way, too.  The shiny fire-engine red train represents the “new Israel,” he writes, one of progress and efficiency, “a place that can look any Western country in the eye.”  It is estimated that the project will cost two billion dollars and has been in the works for the last decade, but here again, Friedman ignores the effects the new train–and, by extension, the “new Israel” has had on Palestinian life.

Friedman doesn’t say that the path of the new train actually cuts through Palestinian land in the West Bank.  On September 25, 2018, Reuters stated that the train’s path “runs through sections of land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war near the Palestinian village of Beit Surik, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and in the Latrun Valley.”  In the same article, Saeb Erekat, former Palestinian chief negotiator and Secretary General of the PLO, says that Israel is “illegally making use of occupied Palestinian land” and that the train is part of Israel’s larger “agenda of turning its occupation into annexation.”

To be sure, one could argue that Friedman’s essay isn’t about politics.  It’s about the dangers of progress and a longing for a time when life was slower. I can relate to this part of his essay.  I’d much rather take in a view on the slow train than the speedy commute I have to take to work. So many of us have been forced into a more efficient lifestyle than we’d like.  But the evasions in Friedman’s piece are dangerous because they perpetuate the idea that Zionist history is the only history that matters. In presenting only one point of view, Friedman contributes to the Zionist mythology that demands Palestinian history be ignored.

When I read the section about the man on the stone terrace in Bittir in Friedman’s piece, I remembered one day in 1992, when I had just moved to Jerusalem.  An ardent Zionist, I was on the number 23 bus with other American classmates going up to Mt. Scopus for one of my graduate seminars. On all other days, the bus would curve around the Idelson graduate dorms and then speed up on the straight shot into the university bus terminal.  But on this day, the bus turned the corner and then came to a dead stop. In the middle of the road were about 20 sheep and a shepherd. The man was trying to get the sheep to cross the street. He looked old and tired. The sheep looked thin and tired, too. It was hot outside. The man was sweating.  The bus driver honked at him, scaring many of the sheep, who had started to scatter. From the inside of the air conditioned bus, many of us Americans laughed. We would be late to class. What an excuse we’d have, we joked.

Later, I called my parents in Chicago from a pay phone.  “Can you believe there were sheep and a shepherd crossing the road?” I exclaimed.  “This would never happen in Chicago,” I laughed. “Only in Israel!” Then they laughed, too.  I had regarded the shepherd as nothing more than part of Israel’s background scenery. His point of view–his history–didn’t matter to me.

Ultimately, Friedman’s piece does nothing but recycle Zionist blind spots.  He doesn’t say anything new, and the New York Times loves it.  Friedman’s commitment, above all else, is to preserving a myth, rewriting history, and then mystifying the whole experience until it becomes nothing but sentiment for a mythologized past.  To do anything else would require a shift in mindset. And why would he ever change? From where he sits in the old train car, looking out at the “Jewish trees and the Arab trees and the trees that don’t belong to anyone,” his view is already perfect.

Liz Rose

Liz Rose is a Chicago teacher.

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48 Responses

  1. eljay on October 26, 2018, 11:24 am

    In addition to being a tribe, a collective, a culture, a people, a nation, a civilization and a religion, Jewish is now a tree. Huh.

    So…if a forest fire burns down (“wipes off the map”) a grove of “Jewish trees”, does that mean it’s anti-Semitic?

    • Mooser on October 26, 2018, 1:29 pm

      ” Jewish is now a tree.”

      Where the heck do you think the floor wax comes from?

      • eljay on October 26, 2018, 5:36 pm

        || Mooser: … Where the heck do you think the floor wax comes from? ||


      • Citizen on October 27, 2018, 1:42 am

        Definition of floor wax. : a preparation made typically of a mixture of beeswax and vegetable waxes in a suitable vehicle and used for polishing and preserving the finish of floors.

      • eljay on October 27, 2018, 8:52 am

        || Citizen: Definition of floor wax. : a preparation made typically of a mixture of beeswax and vegetable waxes in a suitable vehicle and used for polishing and preserving the finish of floors. ||

        Regular floor wax is different from Jewish floor wax. (Just as regular dessert toppings are different from Jewish dessert toppings.)

      • Keith on October 27, 2018, 11:24 am

        ELJAY- “Regular floor wax is different from Jewish floor wax.”

        Indeed, by tradition genuine Jewish floor wax contains no less that 50% chutzpah.

      • Mooser on October 27, 2018, 1:58 pm

        “Indeed, by tradition genuine Jewish floor wax contains no less that 50% chutzpah.”

        That was merely the traditional wax. Back when we used to wax Roth. But retirement accounts aside, the new Zionist wax has been tested and produced a new shine which goes “Beyond Chutzpah”

    • CigarGod on October 27, 2018, 10:39 am

      I can only speak for everyone when I say: I am everything and nothing…and whatever falls in between.

  2. Ossinev on October 26, 2018, 1:55 pm

    In the UK a multi billion pound project is underway to create a high speed rail link between London and the Midlands. The line of the route will cut through various old villages,church and graveyard sites which are being carefully excavated and catalogued by dedicated teams of archeologists as part of the project. For example a huge excavation is currently under way at the beginning of the projected line near Euston station in London involving the careful and respectful disenterrment and reinterrment of an estimated 40,000 buried in the graveyard there. Generally speaking modern civilised Western people respect the dead and their history be they those murdered in the Holocaust and other genocides or the fallen in two World Wars.

    Happy to be corrected but I suspect that this Zioproject , leaving aside the simple unalterable historical fact that it involves stolen land , has simply ploughed through ancient Palestinian villages and graveyards only pausing for thought , archeology and most importantly respect for the dead when there is some remote connection to “ancient Israeli” history in biblical fairytales.

    • John O on October 26, 2018, 3:35 pm


      The village where I live is about three kilometres away from where the high-speed rail link (HS2) will cross the Oxford to Cambridge rail line now under construction. My favourite nature reserve, where yesterday I saw one of the UK’s rarest birds – the Bittern – fly in to roost in the reed-beds, will be cut in two. We’ve had years of consultations, not to mention compensation payments for those most affected (and, no, I don’t think the process was honest and above board). So, on reading this article, I immediately wondered what – if any – steps were taken to consider the interests of those who would be affected by the construction of the new rail line.

      PS – If regular contributor Tom Suarez is reading this, I’d be interested to know how often the Tel-Aviv–Jerusalem line was bombed by Zionist terrorists and how many people were killed.

  3. John O on October 26, 2018, 2:34 pm

    “the Jewish trees and the Arab trees and the trees that don’t belong to anyone”

    An idea so weird I have trouble focusing on what it might mean. Possibly, somewhere in Northern Ireland, someone is talking about Catholic trees and Protestant trees, but I have a feeling that such a person would be shunned in polite society and possibly sectioned under the Mental Health Act. But then, in a society where everything is defined by the differences between human beings, who knows what madness may ensue?

  4. JLewisDickerson on October 26, 2018, 3:06 pm

    RE: “NYT Op-Ed on Tel Aviv-Jerusalem train recycles sentiment for mythologized past”

    MY COMMENT: Superbly written, Ms. Rose. Much thanks!

    P.S. Speaking of a mythologized past:

  5. RoHa on October 27, 2018, 3:14 am

    “‘I ride the old train because it lets me see landscapes that haven’t changed in thousands of years,’ Deborah Harris… told me.”

    How does she know they haven’t changed?

  6. Ossinev on October 27, 2018, 9:02 am

    “Who lived in Ireland before the Irish went there?”

    I doubt it was remotely habitable then. No Guinness , Whisky ,Potatoes or Craick.

  7. gamal on October 27, 2018, 10:36 am

    “No….. Craick.

    but recent research indicates that as

    “Landed up in the Douglas jail, until the Dublin boat did sail,
    Deported every man, The Crack was Ninety in the Isle of Man”

    the irish were deported from Douglas, for flirting with a Liverpool girl and getting knocked out by her boyfriend, the Craic in modern times has been refined and thus

    By the time Eiblin Dhubh Ni Chonaill wrote Caioneadh Airt ui Laoghaire (Lament for Arthur O’leary) the Craic was perfected

    “Your hearts blood was still flowing
    I did not stay to wipe it
    But filled my hands and drank it”…..

    “I would have saved you
    Smooth handed rider”

  8. Misterioso on October 27, 2018, 10:52 am

    “Throughout the essay, Friedman fetishizes Palestinian history, ignoring the real human beings–and their point of view–at the center of this history to further his agenda of portraying Israel as a Zionist utopia.”

    Well said!!

    A mere slice of ugly reality:

    What happened in Palestine between late 1947 and early 1949 was described by eye-witness Nathan Chofshi, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, who arrived in Palestine in 1908 in the same group as Polish born David Ben-Gurion, nee David Gruen: “…we old Jewish settlers in Palestine who witnessed the flight know how and in what manner we, Jews, forced the Arabs to leave cities and villages…some of them were driven out by force of arms; others were made to leave by deceit, lying and false promises. It is enough to cite the cities of Jaffa, Lydda, Ramle, Beersheba, Acre from among numberless others.” (Jewish Newsletter, New York, February 9, 1959)

    Chofshi was deeply ashamed of what his fellow Jews did to the Palestinians: “We came and turned the native Arabs into tragic refugees. And still we dare to slander and malign them, to besmirch their name. Instead of being deeply ashamed of what we did and of trying to undo some of the evil we committed…we justify our terrible acts and even attempt to glorify them.” (ibid)

    In 2004, when asked by Ha’aretz journalist, Ari Shavit, what new information his just completed revised version of The Birth of the Palestinian Problem 1947-1949 would provide, Israeli historian Benny Morris replied: “It is based on many documents that were not available to me when I wrote the original book, most of them from the Israel Defense Forces Archives. What the new material shows is that there were far more Israeli acts of massacre than I had previously thought. To my surprise, there were also many cases of rape. In the months of April-May 1948, units of the Haganah were given operational orders that stated explicitly that they were to uproot the villagers, expel them and destroy the villages themselves.” (Haaretz, January 9, 2004)

    During the war Israel seized 78% of Palestine (22% more than the recommendatory only UNGA Partition Plan, Resolution 181, suggested, including large portions of the proposed Palestinian state, e.g., Jaffa and Acre.) After driving out about 400,000 between late 1947 and 15 May 1948, Jewish Zionists of foreign origin expelled 400,000 more Palestinians for a total of about 800,000 (according to Walter Eytan, then Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry) and went on to destroy over 500 of their towns and villages, including churches, mosques and cemeteries. It was only the beginning of the Zionist’s conquest of Palestine and the expulsion of its indigenous Arab inhabitants. By June, 1967, about 1,250,000 were dispossessed and driven out.

  9. Stephen Shenfield on October 27, 2018, 11:22 am

    “He (Friedman) draws a straight line from ancient Jewish history directly to 1948.”

    He is following a well-worn track that goes back to the origin of Zionism, if not before. I recall hearing a lecture on “the history of the country” at a mathematics conference in Israel and noticing with astonishment that the speaker had just left out some 18 centuries. I was also astonished that no one else seemed to notice.

  10. Ossinev on October 27, 2018, 12:54 pm

    “No . Craick”
    It certainly had arrived and had been exported in plenty to London and elsewhere throughout the world by the mid 20th century.

    Just as well there was no Irish emigration to Palestine . No doubt if that had been the case the Zios may well have claimed it all – the Craick,the Poetry , the refrains/the music – as their own.

    As it is their pride and joy is the passionate inspiring and uplifting “Chicken Song”.

    To be fair though that really does crack me up.

  11. Maghlawatan on October 27, 2018, 12:54 pm

    « I ride the old train because it lets me see landscapes that haven’t changed in thousands of years,’ Deborah Harris, a Jerusalem literary agent and another of the train’s aficionados, told me. « 

    They lie to us and they lie to themselves about lying to
    us – «  Trudell

    The landscape in reality is testament to the trauma that drives Israel and its fucked up psyche

    « In Palestine the violence has targeted the entire landscape. A trail of devastation stretches as far as the eye can see: a jumble of demolished buildings, levelled hillsides and flattened forests. This barrage of concentrated damage has been wrought not only by the bombs and tanks of traditional warfare, but by industrious, vigorous destruction that has toppled properties like a violent tax assessor.
    A concrete-and-asphalt ugliness now mars some of the most beautiful views in the world. Hillsides have been carved up for bypass roads to Israeli settlements. On either side of the road Palestinian homes have been destroyed, olive trees uprooted and orange orchards razed, on behalf of enhanced visibility. All that remains is a no-man’s land topped by watchtowers. In the hostilities, the omnipresent bulldozers have as much strategic importance as the tanks. Never before has such an innocuous piece of equipment augured such violence and brutality. »

  12. Boomer on October 27, 2018, 1:44 pm

    Eloquent, Ms. Rose. The NYT should be proud to publish your essay.

  13. John O on October 27, 2018, 2:12 pm

    @Citizen “Who lived in Ireland before he Irish went there?”

    It depends, I suppose, on what the place was called back then. Not to mention who went there and when.

    There are some Irish, like a number of my cousins, with jet black hair and dark skin. Legend has it that they are descended from shipwrecked crewmen from the Spanish Armada of 1588. My hunch is that this trait may go back to the very origins of the Celts, who (it seems) originated in eastern and southern Europe and moved gradually west until they reached the Atlantic. My mother had red hair, known to be an indicator of Viking lineage.

    Another example of this mishmash is Vindolanda, the fort on Hadrian’s Wall in the north of England famous for the intimate letters found there written by the soldiers guarding it and their families. They are written in Latin, and refer to the “Brittunculi” (“Little Brits”). But we know the soldiers were from the 9th Batavian cohort – in other words ancestors of the modern Dutch. When they weren’t being posh, and writing in Latin, they probably spoke at home something not unlike the language spoken there today.

    I guess my point is – there are always more layers to the onion than are visible from the surface.

    • gamal on October 27, 2018, 3:23 pm

      “there are always more layers to the onion than are visible from the surface.”

      Bob Quinn finds the Irish alluringly Arab amongst other things,

      “Over the past twenty years Bob Quinn has traced archaeological, linguistic, religious and economic connections from Egypt to Arann, from Morocco to Newgrange, from Cairo and Compostela to Carraroe. Taking Conamara sean-nos singing and its Arabic equivalents, and a North African linguistic stratum under the Irish tongue, Quinn marshalls evidence from field archaeology, boat-types, manuscript illuminations, weaving patterns, mythology, literature, art and artefacts to support a challenging thesis that cites, among other recent studies of the Irish genome, new mitochondrial DNA analysis in the Atlantic zone from north Iberia to west Scandinavia”

      or perhaps Africa is Celtic

      “Bob Quinn’s Atlantean project was sparked by the unmissably Arab dynamic in the cadences of Connemara’s sean-nós singing. The peninsula’s intimate connection with the sea and the odd identity of the púcán’s lateen sail with that of the Arab dhow launched him on a four-year exploration, reading, researching and filming as he went.

      The Berber and Tuareg heritage now showing up in Scottish genes is just another support for the abundant “Celtic” associations he found and filmed in north Africa, in song and singers, archaeological monuments, manuscript decoration and jewellery design. Such treasures as the Ardagh Chalice and Book of Durrow show intricate affinity with Islamic decorative motifs and crafts, and Coptic Christianity from Egypt left material traces well ahead of St Patrick.

      Bob Quinn’s splendid quest echoes those of many Anglo-Irish antiquarians in 19th-century Ireland. They were no less intrigued by the mysterious origins of Gaelic, the voyaging from Carthage and Phoenicia, and the parallels of tombs and stone circles on the Berber hills. But Britain’s academia took little interest. Even George Bernard Shaw disdained “the commercially imported North Spanish strain which passes for aboriginal Irish”.”

    • RoHa on October 28, 2018, 12:57 am

      Not really “being posh”. There was probably no way of writing whatever language they spoke at home.

      If I remember rightly, quite a few of those letters were requests for socks and thick underpants. Not surprising. If you were standing on guard on Hadrian’s Wall in a winter night, you’d want something more than a tunic and a flimsy loincloth between the North wind and your essentials. Even if it was the Roman Warm Period.

      • John O on October 29, 2018, 12:36 pm

        The name Vindolanda amuses me – is it a Latinized form of Germanic words meaning “Windy Land”?

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius on October 28, 2018, 7:29 am

      “There are some Irish, like a number of my cousins, with jet black hair and dark skin. Legend has it that they are descended from shipwrecked crewmen from the Spanish Armada of 1588. My hunch is that this trait may go back to the very origins of the Celts, who (it seems) originated in eastern and southern Europe and moved gradually west until they reached the Atlantic. ”

      We’re getting a tad off topic here, but DNA tests have shown that the genetic make up of most of the Irish population hasn’t much changed in thousands of years – ie, since long before the Spanish Armada and the putative arrival of the ‘Celts’. In any case, most recent research suggests that the Celts originated in what is now France and Spain, and that there was no great migration of ‘Celtic’ people to Ireland – it was a linguistic and cultural influence, not a genetic one.

      Anyway, back to Palestine…..

  14. Maghlawatan on October 27, 2018, 2:43 pm

    4 people murdered in a synagogue in PA

    Zionism in bed with Trump. Good for the community?
    « the violence used to keep down groups who threaten the social and political order. This is the violence of strikebreakers and the KKK. It is the violence that killed Emmett Till, an African-American teenager who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after allegedly wolf-whistling at a white woman.

    A key feature of the second type of violence is that it has often been perpetrated by private individuals while serving the interests of public authorities. This is why the authorities encourage it. Till’s killers walked free because Mississippi’s court system would not convict them, understanding that their act reinforced white supremacy at a time when it was under threat from desegregation. This was violence of the people, by the people, for the government.

    Trump and his supporters see themselves as engaged in an apocalyptic struggle to defend America against a coalition of liberal whites and ethnic minorities who seek to degrade it. They are fueled by a conservative media machine which simply invents lies and outlandish conspiracy theories if they serve the needs of the movement – such as that the recent spate of attempted bombings was carried out by liberals seeking to embarrass President Trump.
    It is no surprise that this febrile atmosphere, in which any lie can be justified if it paints the president’s opponents as traitors, would lead to violence. But what is particularly disturbing is that the propaganda that inspires this violence has been outsourced to private organizations, meaning no simple change of government by election can end it. Nowadays, even the president himself gets his daily talking points by parroting Fox News, which he believes over his own government officials. The rot is pernicious and deep, and it will inevitably lead to more violence.

    other times and places, groups of private individuals willing to deploy violence on behalf of a particular vision of the state have been instrumental in the rise of fascism. America, because it still has strong institutions despite the damage of the Trump era, is not there yet. But parts of the foundation are sinking into place, and it is unlikely they can be uprooted without a concerted effort.

    The question of whether the conservative movement will play with fire in order to gain power is no longer in doubt; they will and they are. « 

    Edward Luce


    Trump owns this. Whether it’s applauding thugs for beating up an illegal immigrant, retweeting memes of Mrs Clinton in a marksman’s crosshairs, or offering to pay the bills of anyone who beats up protestors, Trump has normalized the language of violence in US politics.

    Bill Kristol


    Beyond all the whataboutism and both-sides-ism and learned sociologizing, we shouldn’t lose sight of one core fact: The president’s behavior is an utter and total disgrace.

  15. edwardm on October 27, 2018, 6:56 pm

    I have to admit I find it easy to miss the “Arab Dynamics” in unaccompanied Irish song which is relentlessly modal. No maqams. Dynamics in music means “volume” so I’m not even sure he knows where he’s going with that. Tuaregs ARE Berbers. And the so called “black” Irish are most Irish. I do think Berber culture might give us clues as to what ancient Celts may have been like – eg. the clans, or tattoos or the modal quality that much Kabyle music has. But it’s pretty speculative. Rome destroyed the Celts so we will never know.

  16. edwardm on October 27, 2018, 8:55 pm

    but yes we can still have fun hunting clues. just because we can’t find what we want doesn’t mean we can’t find beautiful things like the music you shared – thanks BTW! Tanemmirt-ik

  17. gamal on October 27, 2018, 10:45 pm

    that made me think, you know if i had to think of the equivalent of the casual ease and authority of a Qari in an European environment it would have to be the great Joe Heaney, I discovered a whole dying culture out in the fields with farmers some of whom would just sing a song, they were fine well wrought songs the farm work was very hard but it opened a whole new world to me,

    Joe Heaney has that Qari way about him, in English, the rocks of bawn

    • Maghlawatan on October 28, 2018, 7:11 am

      One of the tragedies of England is that it has lost contact with its past. The old people knew that life is not linear. Every so often English society goes mad. Cromwell is related to Brexit.

  18. edwardm on October 27, 2018, 11:50 pm

    Beautiful. Maybe “Griot” would be a closer analogy.

  19. Maghlawatan on October 28, 2018, 7:25 am

    Zionism does not have a past. All
    the links were cut when people were shunted onto Hebrew. One of the reasons Israelis are so easy to brainwash.

    • Rashers2 on October 29, 2018, 1:39 am

      An interesting observation, @Maghlwatan. Another reason that Arabic – which is both an ancient and a modern, dynamic language – was demoted this year and is no longer an official language in Zioland? I think of the concept of “modern Hebrew” then compare it with that of “modern Latin” – which neither exists nor needs to be created because it evolved over the centuries; it’s called “Italian”.

      • Maghlawatan on October 29, 2018, 11:47 am

        Good point about Arabic. It has poetry from the 11th century or psychological insights from chaotic periods of the past similar to now. Hebrew has no cultural depth outside the holy books. The national dance style was based on what they used to do in Germany. Israelis have literally cut themselves off from their own cultural engines and are too ignorant to realise There are only a few honorable exceptions.

  20. Mooser on October 28, 2018, 2:36 pm

    “Drivin’ that train…”

  21. Mayhem on October 28, 2018, 5:30 pm

    The alleged Zionist process of theft and usurpation espoused by the author of this inverted mythology is precisely the official Palestinian policy toward Jewish history that has evolved into this charade of the Palestinian narrative, which is revisionist history designed to address the political needs of a relatively new Arab nationalistic entity .
    The paradoxical fact is that Palestinian nationalism effectively owes its creation to Zionism, the Jewish national movement. Stimulated partially by the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the search for Arab national identities, the main lines of Palestinian nationalism developed during the 1920s and 1930s in reaction to and in contrast with Zionism.
    Though Palestinians claim descent from Canaanites (a fabrication of convenience), the fact is that there has never been any historical Palestinian state, nor any indigenous political system and institutions. The Land of Israel witnessed many conquerors over the course of its history, but in the last two thousand years since most of the people of Israel went into exile—albeit not without leaving an uninterrupted presence in the land—it was not the home of any indigenous political entity. Not only has there never been a Palestinian state and a Palestinian people, but there were no other political entities besides those established by invading forces, such as the crusading statelets or district capitals created by Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs.
    Most of the population now known as Palestinian descended from migrants originating from the surrounding Arab countries and from local Bedouins. Many migrated in waves from the middle of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century. Others were imported by the Ottoman Empire and by the British for infrastructure and agricultural projects, or migrated to the region following Zionist economic success, which produced a staggering population growth. Palestinians are perhaps the newest of all peoples, comprising many scattered groups. In fact, in origin they are more Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, Lebanese, and mainly Bedouin, than Palestinian.
    Perhaps the most conspicuous fact regarding the novelty of the Palestinian nation is that when it was within their power, the Arab leaders never seriously sought to create a Palestinian state during the 1940s, and after the establishment of the State of Israel, from 1948 until 1967, when the West Bank and Gaza were under Egyptian and Jordanian direct rule. Moreover, during that time all Arab leaders referred to the Palestinian issue as a refugee problem. They did not call for the creation of a Palestinian state for the Palestinian nation. Even after the 1967 Six-Day War, United Nations Resolution 242 of November 22, 1967, mentions only “refugees,” not even “Arab refugees”—let alone a Palestinian people and a Palestinian state. Calls in earnest for a Palestinian state did not begin in the United Nations or elsewhere until the late 1960s or the early 1970s.
    To attack Friedman for overlooking Palestinian“elements” is to be giving succour to an invented Palestinian history that has no real roots other than the denial of the Jewish connection to Palestine that goes much much deeper.
    Refer Founding National Myths.

    • eljay on October 28, 2018, 6:25 pm

      || Mayhem: The alleged Zionist process of theft and usurpation espoused by the author of this inverted mythology … ||

      …doesn’t hold a candle to the ugly reality that Zionists coveted geographic Palestine and deliberately set out to:
      – colonize it;
      – ethnically-cleanse from it what even they refer to as a “demographic threat” (of non-Jews);
      – establish in it a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” of Israel primarily of and for Jewish Israelis and non-Israeli Jews; and
      – expand their “Jewish State” by stealing, militarily-occupying and colonizing territory outside of its / Partition borders.

    • lyn117 on October 29, 2018, 12:42 pm

      David Bukay (the Founding National Myths author) is an out-and-out bigot, little he says can be trusted. Nevertheless, the “Palestinian narrative” even as characterized by its enemy, Bukay, more closely resembles the facts of the case than your denial that Palestinians are the descendants of Canaanites, and claim that modern Jews are “exiles” from ancient times and have a “connection to Palestine that goes much much deeper” (than the Palestinian one).

      The facts are, until 1948 conquerors of Palestine, including the Romans, didn’t commit mass ethnic cleansing. Most of these people of ancient Palestine (Jews, pagans) eventually adopted Christianity or Islam. It doesn’t matter whether or not people immigrated to Palestine from other parts of the Middle East or the Mediterranean, they didn’t displace the ancient Palestinians, they were absorbed into the population. Paragraph 3 of your above repaste from Bukay is largely non-facts.

      Also, since people traveled around in ancient times, for trade or proselytizing, it’s possible that modern Jews have a little bit of genetic heritage from Jews of ancient Palestine, but most their genetic heritage comes from people who converted outside ancient Palestine, much much later than the founding of Judaism.

      Well, I expect lies from Zionists. I recommend reading “Palestine: a four thousand year history” by Nur Masalha.

    • helen4yemen on November 5, 2018, 3:51 pm


      You face one major problem with your hasbara regurgitating: there are millions of Arabic speaking  indigenous Muslims and Christians in the world today but there have not been any indigenous Jews that anyone can remember going back centuries.  What language do you think the 13,000 Jews in 1850 were speaking? Those were the Yiddish-speaking migrants from Eastern Europe who were mostly sent on  haluka (Jewish charity) as a scheme to start planting Jewish prescience on that land ahead of the stampede that was to follow. Between 1851 and 1948 (less than one century), the Jews multiplied 50 times and the non-Jews only 4 times.  That was a well-planned and well-executed invasion of Palestine. 

      Palestine population

      Year ….. Non-Jews ………. Jews ………% Non-Jew/Jew

      1851 ……. 326,000 ………..13,000 …………. 96/4

      1948 …. 1,319,000 ………650,000 ………… 67/33

  22. jackal on October 29, 2018, 2:47 am

    To Mayhem:
    If the Palestinians are a myth, than perhaps the Jewish people are also a myth. Check out the two books written on the topic by Professor Shlomo Sand:
    The Invention of the Jewish People
    The Invention of the Land of Israel

    To top it off he wrote a third book:
    How I Stopped Being a Jew

    There is also evidence of a culture in that region, based in present day Egypt which may also have populated present day Palestine/Israel. Watch this video:

  23. edwardm on October 29, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Same diarrhea you get from Joan Peters thoroughly debunked “From Time Immemorial”.

  24. CHUCKMAN on October 31, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Did Friedman just close his eyes or look away when the train passed scenes of Palestinians being thrown out of their homes or “settlers” chopping down the trees and vines of others or the ugly omni-present Israeli military?

    A charming and idyllic place it is not.

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