Eamon Murphy


Eamon Murphy reviews Nathan Thrall’s new book The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine: “Just what should be done remains vague, in Thrall’s book and in discussion generally, in large part because the U.S. role is exempted from realistic analysis. If, as Thrall contends, only force—understood to include popular pressure and economic sanctions, as well as violence—has a record of drawing concessions from the parties, then the question is, who will force the U.S. to stop perpetuating the conflict, its policy for the last 50 years? Until some tectonic shift in global power, the only possible answer is us. But writing too polite to name the enemy, or too enmeshed in the establishment to recognize it, seems unlikely to bring about the necessary change in consciousness.”

Eamon Murphy reports a recent debate held in Brooklyn on “Syria and the Left” sponsored by Muftah Magazine and Verso Books. The expectation was that the event would be contentious and it didn’t disappoint. The speakers represented sides of a deepening divide over Syria: Max Blumenthal and Zein El-Amine represented skepticism of the opposition and emphasized the threat of regime change while Murtaza Hussain and Loubna Mrie, a Syrian exile who participated in the uprising’s early demonstrations, argued that Assad must go.

Samih al-Masri, a Palestinian resident of a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, has become suddenly aware of the substandard conditions in which he lives after logging on to Facebook, just as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned. Masri says, on account of the memes, he was reevaluating everything: “My family has loved Gaza ever since my my grandparents were driven here from Jaffa by Zionist forces in 1948. It’s the only home we know. But now that I realize not every place is enclosed by a fence, with only three highly restricted points of access, I’m pretty pissed off.”

Writing in 1967 on resistance to the Vietnam War, Noam Chomsky said, “It is axiomatic that no army ever loses a war, its brave soldiers and all-knowing generals are stabbed in the back by treacherous civilians. American withdrawal is likely, then, to bring to the surface the worst features of American culture.” Chomsky’s prognosis has relevance today as we confront the causes and meaning of the Donald Trump phenomenon. Trump’s popularity is commonly understood with reference to domestic factors, but the candidate himself tells a slightly different story, and close attention to his rhetoric and positions suggests that Trump’s appeal has a significant foreign policy component. Specifically, he has found a way to resolve the failure of the Iraq War.

Ha’aretz reports that right-wing advocacy group StandWithUs sent a “robot-spy” to a panel discussion on Israel/Palestine held last week at Brown University, featuring MK Haneen Zoabi. Strange as this episode is, in a sense it makes perfect sense. For some time, pro-Israel advocates have viewed college campuses, where understanding of the Palestinians’ plight has been on the rise, as key battlegrounds. And just as Israeli firms have been on the cutting-edge of robotics for the world’s literal battlefields, so StandWithUs has taken the first step of deploying an android in the war of ideas.

A new Wall Street Journal scoop details how a NSA wiretap trained on the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led to intercepts of conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American Jewish groups. While the possibility of illegal spying on Congress will dominate public discussion of the story, the monitoring of Netanyahu and his staff, and the blunt way American officials reportedly discuss it in private, completely belies the public presentation of a relationship based on “shared values.”

With one day left before the deadline for an agreement on the contours of an Iranian nuclear deal, negotiations look set to go “down to the wire”, in the White House’s phrase – or possibly past it. The possible deal’s most prominent critic is staying on the offensive. “The emerging agreement in Lausanne sends a message that there is no price to pay for aggression – on the contrary, Iran gets a prize for its aggression,” Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Monday.

With less than a week before the March 31 deadline to finalize the outlines of a nuclear deal, the relative positions of Iran and the Western powers are coming into focus. Israel sees its regional nuclear monopoly hanging in the balance and has sent a national security delegation to Paris to influence the negotiations. Meanwhile, the nascent U.S.-Israel breach continues to widen, as anonymous White House sources accuse Benjamin Netanyahu of using information obtained through espionage to lobby Congress against a deal.