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Teaching students the conflict is ‘incredibly complicated’ is guiding them into an epistemological and moral void

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“Teaching the Arab-Israeli Conflict”

Edited by Rachel S. Harris

434 pp. Wayne State University Press, $39.99

Having for many years taught an elective history course dealing with the Zionist-Palestinian encounter to high-school seniors in a  New York City private school, I was naturally eager to read “Teaching the Arab-Israeli Conflict”, edited by Rachel S. Harris, associate professor of Israeli Literature and Culture at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

A hefty collection containing 40 essays, the volume describes undergraduate courses taught at institutions ranging from Northwestern, UMass-Amherst and Stanford to less familiar (to me, anyway) schools like the historically black North Carolina Central University, the University of Central Oklahoma, Eastern Michigan University and Istanbul Technical University. About half of the essays are written by professors of history, political science or international relations, and most of the rest by members of Jewish Studies, Israel Studies and literature departments. Relatively few of the courses described are historical surveys; quite a few approach the subject through fictional narratives, poems, films, and graphic novels.

Yet despite the intrinsic fascination of discovering how teachers are introducing students to the subject of Israel/Palestine, reading the essays in this volume is – with some notable exceptions – a decidedly unedifying experience.

If there’s a foundational assumption shared by almost all the authors in the collection it’s that the Zionist-Palestinian conflict is altogether exceptional in its complexity and that introducing students to the subject requires extraordinary sensitivity and caution. Rather than argue this questionable thesis, author after author simply takes it as self-evident, presenting their courses as virtuous specimens of balanced and politically neutral pedagogy.

“Teaching the Arab Israeli Conflict.” Edited by Rachel Harris.

An indispensable part of a teacher’s job is certainly to promote critical and independent thinking; to respect complexity and eschew crude moralizing; and to help students understand how historical actors have behaved and have justified their behaviors to themselves and to others. By adhering to these ethical and scholarly protocols teachers do justice to their own particular subjects and help students develop the competencies with which to intelligently and humanely approach a wide range of other subjects.

But the purpose of teaching a course about Israel-Palestine  is not, simply or even primarily, to promote and instill general intellectual virtues. It is to help students make coherent sense of a specific and unique sociopolitical process. To accomplish this, teachers must interpret and explicate social processes to the best of their abilities.

This is not, however, the primary message of “Teaching the Arab-Israeli Conflict.” Rather, the volume’s recurring catechism is: The history of Israel-Palestine is incredibly complicated. Rather than bring interpretive coherence to this complexity the teacher’s job is, first and foremost, to help students acknowledge it. Once an appreciation of complexity has been achieved, empathy and compassion will hopefully follow. And the teacher’s task will have been accomplished.

Reading “Teaching the Arab-Israeli Conflict” frequently feels like being trapped in a Hallmark compendium of liberal homilies. To wit:

  • “[M]y aim is to get students to wrestle with complexity through strategic juxtaposition…keeping competing, sometimes incommensurable narratives simultaneously present.” – Janice W. Fernheimer, director of Jewish Studies, University of Kentucky
  • “[The aim is to help students] to be able to have the courage to navigate the complexities and ambiguities of the conflict. … I am not interested in changing their beliefs or views on the conflict.” – Ashley Passmore, professor of German & International Studies at Texas A&M
  • “I help [the students] to appreciate the intricacies of multiple, competing narratives.” – Shayna Weiss, visiting scholar in Israel Studies at the U.S. Naval Academy, and associate director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, Brandeis University
  • “The program’s success is predicated on its commitment to a dual narrative approach and its steadfast refusal to engage in any type of advocacy, focusing instead on giving students the tools to critically analyze their perceptions of the conflict.” – Oren Kroll-Zeldin, assistant director of the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice, department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of San Francisco
  • “Can the lessons in the classroom facilitate an awareness of the region’s complexity…? Can we use education to help us build bridges and work toward compassion in an effort to tear down prejudice and aim for the higher ideals of empathy and tolerance?” – Rachel S. Harris, editor of the volume.
  • “At the start of my teaching career, my department received a number of complaints about my Israel-related courses. As one of the students put it, ‘Professor is not sufficiently pro-Israel.’…’What am I to do?’ I asked … my department chair… Teach them about competing narratives,’ he said. [He] was a good mentor. … . [T]hese words became my teaching mantra.” – Olga Gershenson, professor of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
  • “The final essay question I pose to my students is a seemingly simple one: ‘What have you learned about the conflict this semester?’ … I get a variety of answers, of course, but my favorites are those that recognize the ambiguity inherent in the conflict.” – Caitlin Carenen, professor of history at Eastern Connecticut State University
  • [A] student asked me just as the class was breaking up, ‘So who’s right?’ I said to myself; ‘My work here is done.’ – Peter C. Herman, professor of English literature at San Diego State (emphasis added)

Pushing back against the authors’ high-minded bromides feels positively sacrilegious. After all, who can have a problem with combating prejudice and aiming “for the higher ideals of empathy and tolerance?” Who can find fault with the desire to demonstrate “complexity?” How can any honest scholar object to teaching “dueling narratives?”

Well…not so fast.

Rachel Harris. From the University of Illinois.

Let’s start with a question: Is it, in fact, the case that the subject of Palestine-Israel is more “complex” than other historical subjects? How come? Does understanding this subject entail digesting more information than is required by other subjects? Are the issues in dispute more esoteric or obscure? Does an exploration of events in Palestine/Israel over the past 150 years generate more ambiguity or complexity than studying the history of, say, France or Mexico or the U.S. during this period?

Maybe so, though I can’t for the life of me see why. But there’s certainly nothing self-evident about these propositions. They require demonstration, not mere assertion.

When the (overwhelmingly “liberal”) authors of “Teaching the Arab-Israeli Conflict” talk about the “complexity” of their subject, however, they’re not putting all their cards on the table. What they’re actually asserting is not that the history is especially complicated or ambiguous, but, rather, that, in their view, the ethical issues posed by the Zionist project in Palestine are especially knotty. Why? Because most of them understand and frame the conflict as one in which two, equally deserving “peoples,” each possessing a legitimate historical claim to the land and an equivalent right to national self-determination, have been unable (because of a failure of empathy?) to compromise their differences.

Again, such a way of understanding the subject is hardly self-evident. It’s an interpretation, a point of view. It’s neither politically nor ethically neutral, and it’s certainly not axiomatic. It’s a position which presumes that the “dueling Palestinian and Zionist narratives” (how many should count? only two? why not more?) are more-or-less equivalently compelling and more-or-less equivalently righteous. This is the way many liberal Zionists interpret the conflict. It’s not the way I interpret it. Nor, for that matter, is it the way many Jews and most Palestinians interpret it.

For all their talk of “complexity” and “ambiguity,” the contributors to “Teaching the Arab-Israeli Conflict” are in fact as politically and morally engaged as those putative classroom brainwashers and ideologues who serve as their whipping-boys. Instead of being more scrupulous and balanced in their pedagogy, these authors simply have a particular historical and ethical “take” on the subject. (This is assuming they have any sort of “take” at all: some of the contributors may have no coherent view and some may be preoccupied with being seen as fair-minded, unpartisan and “objective” in order to stay out of trouble).

Consider this thought experiment: How might the professors who foreground the so-called complexity and dueling narratives of the Zionist-Palestinian conflict go about teaching, say, the history of race in America, or the rise and evolution of the settler-colonial regime in Algeria, or the origins and triumph of Nazism in Germany, or the advent and “meaning” of Trumpism?

Are each of these subjects “complicated”? You bet. Have historians narrated them in various ways? Certainly. Have each of them generated heated controversies? Of course. But would the professors who present themselves in the classroom as opaque when the subject is Israel/Palestine likewise foreground complexity, ambiguity and neutrality in their teaching of these other subjects? Unlikely.

Sure, they’d work to eschew oversimplification and facile moralizing. They’d indicate where interpretive controversies exist. They’d express agnosticism about one or another contentious scholarly “problem” and, in certain instances, leave it to students to adjudicate among plausible narratives. Some might make a sustained effort to have  students understand the white American mindset (including that of the slave owner and the practitioner of Jim Crow), see things through the eyes of Algerian pieds-noirs, and help them get inside the heads of German kleine leute (the little people) and avid MAGA supporters.

But would they be satisfied if their students left their courses confused about “who’s right?” and focused on the “ambiguity inherent” in their various subjects? Doubtful.

Now, suppose these scholars believed, as I do, that at the end of the day the Zionist-Palestinian conflict is not so very morally or politically ambiguous? Suppose they concluded  – not reflexively or “prejudicially,” but reflectively and honestly, based on historical evidence and analysis, that a great injustice has been, and continues to be, perpetrated on the Palestinians? Suppose they believed that the Zionist and Palestinian “narratives” were not “equivalent?” Would they pat themselves on the back for guiding their students into an epistemological and moral void? Wouldn’t they, on the contrary, strive to have their students come away with an understanding of the injustice?

A few of the contributors to “Teaching the Arab-Israeli Conflict” do, in fact, consider such vital questions, albeit haltingly and incompletely. To my mind, the most compelling and honest essays are those of Mira Sucharov, associate professor of political science at Carleton University in Ottawa, and Philip Metres, professor of English at John Carroll University.

Sucharov eloquently describes her own pedagogical evolution. When she first began teaching the subject of Israel-Palestine, she “attempted to shut out politics from the classroom altogether. . . We are not going to play the ‘blame game,’ [she told] students on the first day of the course. We are not going to discuss, in the context of analyzing Israeli and Palestinian actions, who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong.'”

With the passage of time, however, she came to repudiate her “fifteen years of teaching a strictly explanatory approach to Israeli-Palestinian relations” and to develop “a more rights-forward voice . . . that embraces discourses of human rights and justice” and which consistently “keep[s] in mind the fact that Israel is currently the occupying power.”  Though still a liberal Zionist, Sucharov concludes that “calling rights-forward discourse a ‘blame game’ was misguided from the start. Perhaps it revealed a lack of confidence in my own ability to guide students through those charged debates. Retreating to explanatory questions felt safer.”

In a similar vein, Metres writes that, “I found that I needed to foreground . . . the vast asymmetry of power between Israel and the Palestinians.”  Though his course continues to offer “more questions than answers,” he makes clear to his students “that a historical wrong was perpetrated against Palestinians and continues in the form of occupation and dispossession.”

Unfortunately, there are few other teaching voices in “Teaching the Arab-Israeli Conflict” that go as far as Sucharov and Metres in questioning the mantra of moral neutrality and “balance.” And most disturbing, none of the volume’s authors focuses attention on the elephant in today’s classroom: the well-organized and lavishly-funded assault on teachers and students critical of Israel and Zionism waged by the Israeli government and its American fellow-travelers. Ironically, the book’s most full-throated and extensive discussion of the current campus wars comes not from a critic of this assault but from one of its most avid supporters, Stanford professor of Humanities, Russell Berman. Indeed, Berman appears barely able keep his mind on the putative subject of his essay (the undergraduate course he teaches on “Zionism and the Novel”) so determined is he to vent his loathing of B.D.S (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions); to express the view that, “[c]ontemporary anti-Zionism has increasingly taken on antisemitic overtones;” to reargue a 2014 dispute with non-Zionist Stanford colleagues; and to fan the flames of McCarthyite vitriol against those who, unlike sober and fair-minded liberals like himself, believe that teachers should “impose their political opinions on their students.”

Philip Metres, from a poetry site.

Only Philip Metres explicitly calls attention to the concerted effort to stifle criticism of Zionism and Israel, though even his brief account is dated and provides no sense of the current threat to academic freedom. When, Metres recalls, “a member of the local Jewish community” sent a letter in 2007 to his university demanding that his course be cancelled because it was “preaching antisemitism, teaching propaganda, and brainwashing [the] students,” he was “heartened” that his department chair and dean supported his course. “Colleagues who teach similar courses have not always been so fortunate,” he writes.

No. They have not.

Joel Doerfler

Joel Doerfler is a long-time independent school teacher of history. He lives in New York.

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39 Responses

  1. eljay on November 25, 2019, 2:55 pm

    … If there’s a foundational assumption shared by almost all the authors in the collection it’s that the Zionist-Palestinian conflict is altogether exceptional in its complexity and that introducing students to the subject requires extraordinary sensitivity and caution. …

    The I-P conflict is “exceptional in its complexity” thanks to the highly-successful promotion of Zionist ideology and propaganda: The notion that the religion-based identity of Jewish grants to those who choose to embrace it the “right” to be supremacists, to have a supremacist state and to do “necessary evil” unto others.

    Introducing students to the I-P conflict doesn’t require “extraordinary sensitivity and caution” – it requires an honest discussion about justice, accountability and equality and how Zionism, Zionists and Israel have failed and continue to fail miserably on all counts.

    (Let the Zionist whataboutism begin.)

    • Elizabeth Block on November 26, 2019, 5:49 pm

      When people say it’s complicated I say: No. It’s difficult. That’s different from complicated. It’s difficult, but simple. You don’t kick people out of their homes and steal their land.

      • eljay on November 27, 2019, 5:15 pm

        || Elizabeth Block: When people say it’s complicated I say: No. It’s difficult. That’s different from complicated. It’s difficult, but simple. You don’t kick people out of their homes and steal their land. ||

        Well said.

  2. JaapBo on November 25, 2019, 3:58 pm

    I’m not surprised! “It’s complicated” is a well known hypocritical excuse for Zionist racism!

  3. wondering jew on November 25, 2019, 6:45 pm

    Zionism is both a rational response to a historical challenge faced by the Jews and a colonialist movement that uprooted the Palestinians. Thus it is complicated.

    • RoHa on November 25, 2019, 9:39 pm

      What’s complicated about it?

      • Mooser on November 26, 2019, 11:14 pm

        Seems to me that if something is a “rational response” it should be very simple to explain it.

    • eljay on November 25, 2019, 9:44 pm

      || wondering jew: Zionism is both a rational response to a historical challenge faced by the Jews and a colonialist movement that uprooted the Palestinians. Thus it is complicated. ||

      Zionism is both an unjust and immoral response to acts of injustice and immorality committed against Jews and a colonialist and supremacist movement that did and continues to do evil to the indigenous population of geographic Palestine. Thus it is pretty straightforward.

      But I suppose there’s no need for Zionists to bother with justice, accountability and equality in I-P when they can keep doing what they’re doing under the guise of “complicated” and – when that’s not enough – destructive accusations of anti-Semitism.

      • JulianaFarha on November 26, 2019, 12:02 pm

        very well put.

    • oldgeezer on November 25, 2019, 10:01 pm

      It’s not rational reponse in the first place. More like a poor choice made at a time of massive distress. And it’s not complicated either. Philosophies and rationale no longer matter. Zionism is both racist and criminal. Ever increasing racism and criminality. Not complicated one little tiny bit. That excuse is just another attempt to deflect while further crimes are perpetrated.

      • Mooser on November 26, 2019, 4:58 pm

        “Zionism is both a rational response to a historical challenge faced by the Jews” “wj”

        You bet “Yonah”. It’s a rational certainty that reducing the Palestinians and making a “Jewish State” will erase the trauma of Jewish history, and make a new people out of us.
        It’s a well known effect, and it’s only rational to count on it.

    • Misterioso on November 26, 2019, 8:58 am

      @wondering jew

      “Zionism is…a rational response….”

      Bull crap!! Given its predicted and inevitable consequences, it was and remains an ever growing utterly irrational response based on racism and fascism.

      Then Secretary of State for India and the British cabinet’s only Jewish member, Lord Edwin Montagu’s response to Prime Minister Lloyd George following his issuance of the illegal 1917 Balfour Declaration: “All my life I have been trying to get out of the ghetto. You want to force me back there.”

      Henry Morgenthau Sr., former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, 1919: “Zionism is the most stupendous fallacy in Jewish history…. The very fervour of my feeling for the oppressed of every race and every land, especially for the Jews, those of my own blood and faith, to whom I am bound by every tender tie, impels me to fight with all the greater force against this scheme, which my intelligence tells me can only lead them deeper into the mire of the past, while it professes to be leading them to the heights. Zionism is… a retrogression into the blackest error, and not progress toward the light.” (Quoted by Frank Epp, Whose Land is Palestine? p. 261)

      Asked to sign a petition supporting settlement of Jews in Palestine, Sigmund Freud declined: “I cannot…I do not think that Palestine could ever become a Jewish state….It would have seemed more sensible to me to establish a Jewish homeland on a less historically-burdened land….I can raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of the natives.” (Letter to Dr. Chaim Koffler Keren Ha Yassod, Vienna: 2/26/30)

      Albert Einstein, 1939: “There could be no greater calamity than a permanent discord between us and the Arab people…. Let us recall that in former times no people lived in greater friendship with us than the ancestors of these Arabs.” (Einstein and Zionism by Banesh Hoffmann, in General Relativity and Gravitation, eds. G. Shaviv and J. Rosen, Wiley, 1975, p. 242)

      Lessing J. Rosenwald, president of the American Council for Judaism, 1944: “The concept of a racial state – the Hitlerian concept- is repugnant to the civilized world, as witness the fearful global war in which we are involved. . . , I urge that we do nothing to set us back on the road to the past. To project at this time the creation of a Jewish state or commonwealth is to launch a singular innovation in world affairs which might well have incalculable consequences.”

    • wondering jew on November 26, 2019, 10:13 pm

      Maybe it is not complicated. It is simple. The search for a homeland was one of the rational choices that Jews faced between 1881 and 1945. The choice of Palestine or The Land was a natural choice if one was trying to pick a spot that could achieve a critical mass of immigration. Of course, more people chose not to build a homeland but to go to established countries, that was also a rational choice, but in fact the choice of a homeland led to the survival of hundreds of thousands of European Jews who had they stayed put in Europe would have ended up dead (when the escape route to the west was closed to all but a trickle in the aftermath of WWI ) and so in fact hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives were saved by this rational lifesaving project.

      In the aftermath of that debacle and the relatively minor salvation of a few hundred thousand Jews, the establishment of that place as a sovereign state was the natural next step.

      The inability to compromise in the aftermath of 67, (or even beforehand under the leadership of Sharett) is indeed an irrational response, so the fact that Zionism was a rational choice in 1917 or 1939 or 1945 or 1947, does not mean that everything that was done afterwards was rational as well. The dynamics of the establishment of a state founded upon the exiling of masses of population promised and promises a perilous journey in many ways and there is much in the history of Israel that does not follow rational thought. But the urge towards survival included in a significant group an urge towards sovereignty and self emancipation. And that was a rational choice.

      • Mooser on November 26, 2019, 11:09 pm

        “Maybe it is not complicated. It is simple. The search for a homeland was one of the rational choices that Jews faced between 1881 and 1945”

        “Yonah” before you go on about “rational choices” shouldn’t you explain that our Jewish ability to see into the future enables us to make “rational” choices about it?

      • Mooser on November 26, 2019, 11:31 pm

        ” Of course, more people chose not to build a homeland but to go to established countries”

        Palestine was not an “established country”? And stop with this “build a homeland” crap. It was built, and the Zionists stole it.

      • RoHa on November 27, 2019, 1:53 am

        “The search for a homeland was one of the rational choices that Jews faced between 1881 and 1945. The choice of Palestine … ”

        If the aim is to create a Jewish state as a homeland, it is not rational to choose a country that already has an established population.

        “the choice of a homeland led to the survival of hundreds of thousands of European Jews ”

        The decision to go to Palestine saved their lives, but once there they could have acted like the Jews who went to other established countries did, and integrated with the established society.

        “the establishment of that place as a sovereign state was the natural next step.”

        Natural? Certainly not moral. But it had been planned long before the refugees from Europe arrived.

        “But the urge towards survival included in a significant group an urge towards sovereignty and self emancipation. And that was a rational choice.”

        Not all urges are rational, and not all should be followed.

      • Peter in SF on November 27, 2019, 2:34 am

        wondering:

        The search for a homeland was one of the rational choices that Jews faced between 1881 and 1945. The choice of Palestine or The Land was a natural choice if one was trying to pick a spot that could achieve a critical mass of immigration. Of course, more people chose not to build a homeland but to go to established countries, that was also a rational choice, but in fact the choice of a homeland led to the survival of hundreds of thousands of European Jews …

        A homeland is a place where you or your ancestors came from. It is not something you “search for“, a place where you “pick a spot” to settle down! Unless you’re talking about the South African Apartheid government, which set aside certain areas they called “homelands“, each one assigned to a different native ethnic group, and made them nominally independent countries, encouraging the people belonging to those respective ethnic groups to move to their group’s “homeland” and give up their South African citizenship, as a way of dealing with South Africa’s demographic problem of not having enough white people.

      • eljay on November 27, 2019, 7:44 am

        || wondering jew: Maybe it is not complicated. It is simple. The search for a homeland was one of the rational choices that Jews faced between 1881 and 1945. … ||

        Jewish citizens left or were driven from their homelands in various countries and, by your own admission, many of them found new homelands in other countries.

        Zionism wasn’t about find a homeland – it was and still is about promoting and defending Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of geographic Palestine and the expense of the region’s indigenous population.

        || … But the urge towards survival included in a significant group an urge towards sovereignty and self emancipation. And that was a rational choice. ||

        There is no rational – or just or moral – connection between survival and supremacism.

      • Misterioso on November 29, 2019, 10:23 am

        @wondering jew

        More nonsense!! You have no case! There was and is no justification whatsoever for Zionist Jews from foreign lands (beginning in the late 19th century) to carefully plan and eventually carry out the brutal dispossession and expulsion of essentially defenseless indigenous Palestinians by means of armed might, mass rape, intimidation and several massacres in order to create a racist, fascistic, expansionist so-called “Jewish state.”

    • edwardm on November 27, 2019, 10:11 pm

      “Zionism is both a rational response to a historical challenge faced by the Jews”….
      Rational? Based on or in accordance with reason or logic? (11/06/1948)
      “In Safsaf, after the inhabitants had raised a white flag, the soldiers collected and separated the men and women, tied the hands of fifty-sixty fellahin and shot and killed them and buried them in a pit. Also, they raped several women.” – Yosef Nachmani, Director of the JNF 1935-65
      Break this down for me will you please? Which part of rape and murder is in accordance with reason or logic?

      • wondering jew on November 28, 2019, 12:37 am

        I feel fortunate to never have participated in the brutalities towards the Palestinians in 1948 and the mass exile that was imposed upon the Palestinians was/is quite a burden of pain placed in this world by the actions of those who followed the orders of Ben Gurion and the others. I call it rational because it stemmed from a very real need and was a response to a very real historical moment. One can idealize some hypothetical mindset as a fictional idealistic alternative to the mindset of the Zionists and that’s fine, but that’s not what it was about. It was about an army and territory in a place where many would be willing to gather and make a stand. It was about asserting the primacy of survival and we will do for ourselves the utmost and not depend on others, but the strength in our hands and in our will and in our weapons.

        I do not believe that this set of mind is healthy now, but it was necessary then. It is this philosophy that saved a branch of my family. (of my four grandparents’ families: one and a half got wiped out, one and a half survived in america and one survived in The Land.)

        Very few Zionists in 2019 are concerned about how long it will take until reconciliation with the exiled Palestinians can occur, before the people of Gaza can have a modicum of freedom, but that is a pain that this movement of self emancipation brought into the world.

      • eljay on November 28, 2019, 7:32 am

        || edwardm: … Which part of rape and murder is in accordance with reason or logic? ||

        If a Zionist considers it to be “necessary evil”, it is in accordance with Zionist reason and logic…sorry, with Zionist “reason” and “logic”.

        And, of course, it is only valid if Jews do it unto others. One of the core tenets of Zionism is the “right” of people who have chosen to embrace the religion-based identity of Jewish to do unto others acts of injustice and immorality they would not have others do unto them.

      • eljay on November 28, 2019, 8:51 am

        || wondering jew: I feel fortunate to never have participated in the brutalities towards the Palestinians in 1948 and the mass exile that was imposed upon the Palestinians was/is quite a burden of pain placed in this world by the actions of those who followed the orders of Ben Gurion and the others. … ||

        The rapist’s friends feel fortunate to never have participated in his brutalities but they have always supported and defended and made excuses for his “movement of self emancipation”, and despite knowing full well how much pain it has brought into this world they have no intention of seeing justice done and the rapist held accountable for his past and on-going actions.

        Do you ever get tired of wringing your hands and hypocritically defending evil, y.f.?

      • Mooser on November 28, 2019, 1:23 pm

        “Do you ever get tired of wringing your hands and hypocritically defending evil, y.f.?”

        No, he never does, and let me tell you why: It is because when “wj” defends Zionist evil, his ‘defense’ is predicated on “the Jews” (another one of his favorite fantasies) having and keeping the power to do these things and get away with it, even benefit from it!

        Castigating him for endorsing Zionist evils is like complimenting him, it means accepting his central premise, that “the Jews” through Zionism, have the power to do these things and avoid any consequences. Beyond the

        “Wj’s” outsize fantasy of Jewish power, resources and unity, is the center of all his musings about Zionism.

        Notice; “wj” never even considers the consequences of Zionist failure. That’s some kind of process, but I’d hardly call it “rational”.

  4. JWalters on November 25, 2019, 8:54 pm

    The “complexity” cover story is the only way people today can discuss the I/P conflict without losing their careers to the wrath of the Israelis.

  5. Peter in SF on November 25, 2019, 10:23 pm

    I’ll bet that the word “nuanced” is used a lot in this book.

    • Peter in SF on November 27, 2019, 2:58 am

      A Look Inside! at the book’s preview available on amazon.com doesn’t disappoint:

      “I was looking for a way to make difficult and nuanced content more accessible.”

      “If students come away from a writing course focused on graphic narratives of Israel/Palestine with a deeper appreciation of complexity and the importance of acknowledging what may at times seem like incommensurable narratives and with more questions than answers, then perhaps that is the best kind of introduction one can hope for, given such nuanced topics and limited time.”

      “Providing a method to wrestle with complexity and a means to translate that nuanced knowledge into action are two of the main things I try to do in all the courses I teach, but especially in the courses about Israel/Palestine that I have been offering since the early 2000s.”

    • edwardm on November 27, 2019, 10:15 pm

      Of course the whole thing is such a “delicate” topic. Just check out all the nuances!
      https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/06/the-shame-of-shuhada-street-hebron/372639/

  6. brent on November 26, 2019, 12:02 am

    Most Americans have been persuaded “the issue is so complicated” and besides “they have been fighting all down through time”. These propaganda points have persuaded many that it doesn’t justify their time to read and follow the subject. Besides, in the final analysis, it’s known some Jews can be hard-hearted and arrogant but we are not going to oppose them because they are “chosen” and the ingathering of Israel is “God’s will unfolding”.

    When I hear such, I point out that after the crusades, for 500 years, nowhere had Jews enjoyed as positive neighborly relations as with the people of Palestine. Problems started with the massive influx of European immigrants asserting they were a people without a land coming to a land without a people. A self-serving, self-deception. No people, no rights, no respect.

    Herein lies the power of campaigning for civil and human rights with equality under the law. Also, it would stimulate alignment with humanists, especially Jewish humanists, who were so determined and effective in straightening out America and South Africa along these lines.

    Such a campaign eventually drives a political decision, one secular state with equality under the law or two independent states.

    “Equality or Independence.”

    • Peter in SF on November 27, 2019, 3:46 am

      brent, I don’t think most Americans think “the issue is so complicated”. Most Americans think it is a simple matter of one or more of:
      – God gave the land of Israel to the Jews, so there’s nothing wrong with Jews moving there and expelling non-Jews. It is even the right thing to do.
      – Jews are people with Western values, “shared values”, as Nancy Pelosi loves to talk about, and Palestinians are people without those values, so we should side with Israeli Jews. This is the view that there is no moral equivalence between Jewish Israeli people and Palestinian people. It surprises me to hear people who live in my “liberal” area saying that domestic violence among Palestinians — honor killings — has led them to conclude that we should support Israeli actions against Palestinians.
      – We White people treated the Jews in Europe so horribly 75 years ago, with our anti-Semitism (meaning treating Jews as if they were not White people), that we should give them land to compensate, and it doesn’t matter if this comes at the expense of other people considered non-White. In this view, the response to seeing anti-Semitism carried way too far is to acknowledge European Jews as White people rather than as non-European Semites — and then, ironically, to use that to justify harming other Semites, which is OK because we don’t acknowledge those other Semites as Whites (although, in a further irony, the U.S. census does count Palestinians in the U.S. as being officially White).

      • MHughes976 on November 27, 2019, 4:38 pm

        Very true. I’m not at all sure that these beliefs are losing any of their deathly grip.

  7. echinococcus on November 26, 2019, 12:43 am

    At the “street” or daily politics level there is of course no “complexity”, none at all: all is as black and white as Felix the Cat, and the “two sides” are none other than aggressor and victim.

    At the scholarship level, though (where it seems this story is taking place), a starting assumption of complexity is certainly a welcome thing. The job being that of teasing out and certifying facts from under the huge mountain of Zio-bullshit they are buried under. Provided some, at least, of the scholars mentioned practice scholarship at all.

  8. RoHa on November 26, 2019, 1:19 am

    “The program’s success is predicated on its commitment to a dual narrative approach and its steadfast refusal to engage in any type of advocacy, focusing instead on giving students the tools to critically analyze their perceptions of the conflict.”

    So no attempt to have the students try to find the truth of what really happened and is happening. They are to just analyze their own perceptions. Phenomenology instead of history.

  9. John Douglas on November 26, 2019, 6:08 pm

    I spotted a couple of Facebook friends exchanging the view that the issues are very nuanced and one needed to be careful not to take a clear stand on it, as if it was simple. I barged in with the claim that there is nothing nuanced about it. A group of Europeans move to a ME land, claim God gave it to them and proceed to expel or kill the indigenous people. Unadulterated colonialism. Nothing complicated and also nothing very unusual. Magically, a discussion ensued and has continued with one of the two ( an Israeli emigre) that was serious and free of cant.

  10. Tuyzentfloot on November 27, 2019, 6:18 am

    My first encounter with the IP conflict consisted of an initial dismay discovering what was going on there, and being put into place by -mostly Jewish- people saying I didn’t know what I was talking about while they did, and there was the constant threat of saying something which could be perceived as antisemitic. This forced me to study the subject.
    The conclusion at the end was that the simple representation of the colonial settlers harassing, oppressing and expelling the natives is a pretty good summary.

    Every real conflict is complicated when you get into the details. The other issue, the Holocaust is also complicated when you get into the details (how many people were actually killed in gas chambers?). But you can still agree that the simplified version is a good summary.

    There has been a coup in Bolivia. I checked what wikipedia says about it. It’s complicated. It’s so complicated, there is so much detail in the pages that the reader cannot find out that it was a coup. In that respect “it’s complicated” overlaps with mainstream interpretations of good journalism, made to obfuscate and get in the way of understanding.

    • Eric Blair on November 27, 2019, 1:20 pm

      “In that respect “it’s complicated” overlaps with mainstream interpretations of good journalism, made to obfuscate and get in the way of understanding.”

      Which is why it is almost impossible to have an intelligent conversation with “liberals” these days about “contentious issues”, like “Israel-Palestine” and US foreign policy. The mainstream media with the aid of various lobby groups and “think tanks” is running a 24/7/365 psyop on the minds of Americans and citizens of other western countries to ensure the plebs and wannabe bourgies only parrot the “correct” (i.e. establishment friendly) point-of-view . It’s perception management disguised as journalism.

      The academics who drone on about nuance and how “complicated” the Israeli occupation of Palestine is are, I suspect, cool with deliberately watering down the issue at hand or they are cowards who are afraid of rocking the boat and getting Finkelsteined. It’s become much easier to shut down people who say things that challenge the status quo. Raise enough of a ruckus on “social media” and you can destroy almost anybody’s reputation and/or get them fired.

      Case in point: just recently, the Bernie Sanders campaign fired one of their most effective video ad guys after someone complained about a video he’d made in which he spliced “sexy language” in with MLK’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. The kicker is that he’d done this as part of a project to show how easy it is to manipulate people using words and images, and he clearly stated this in the video’s description blurb when he posted it on YouTube — a decade ago. Oh, and he’d used the word “retarded” (referring to himself) in an Internet comment he made when he was 18. That’s one hell of a nothing burger but in the home of the free and the land of the brave it is a firing offense. Ironically enough, this happened around the time when Bernie was complaining bitterly about the media unfairly ganging up on him and twisting his words out of context.

      The situation at present is grim. Democracy is just another word that’s been propagandized to death and increasingly means nothing. The “liberal left” is still clinging to the neoliberal Democrat nutsack…and the genuine left is even smaller and more isolated and demonized than before. The Palestinians have a long and hard struggle ahead of them still, and can expect no change of heart from the American government or their cowardly EU satraps.

      • eljay on November 27, 2019, 2:29 pm

        || Eric Blair: … The Palestinians have a long and hard struggle ahead of them still, and can expect no change of heart from the American government or their cowardly EU satraps. ||

        Too true.

  11. Liz on November 27, 2019, 12:40 pm

    This is such a great piece–thank you!

  12. edwardm on November 27, 2019, 10:00 pm

    Ah yes. It’s STILL “too complicated for our beautiful (young) minds”

    A sectarian state of America, existing in a land where many different kinds of people live, but granting the full benefits of citizenship to only one of them, would look just like this, and no American would find it difficult to understand why. If the great Zionist experiment were happening at our expense, we would not find this conflict to be complicated, nor would we be inventing silly stories about alleged ontological defects in non-Jewish Americans to explain why so many people are dead, why our conflict is seemingly endless, and why our homeland looks like a moonscape.
    https://lawrenceofcyberia.blogs.com/news/2008/12/what-if.html

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