Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The New York Times vs the Faggy Dissident


The New York Times is running an odd homophobic puff piece about Glenn Greenwald.

RIO DE JANEIRO — On approaching Glenn Greenwald’s home office high in the jungle-encrusted mountains above Rio de Janeiro, all is tranquil, bucolic even. A gurgling stream at the entrance frames the idyll.

And then the dogs notice the incursion. They bark, yap and yowl, and while it’s less “Heart of Darkness” than “101 Dalmatians,” the sheer volume is mind-erasing.

Should we be surprised that the house of Mr. Greenwald, the legendarily combative privacy and national security reporter, is surrounded by loud, barking defenders — or that they are actually pussycats once you get to know them, as is their rescuer?

People on Twitter are mocking the focus on Glenn Greenwald's dogs. But inside of this story's posture of levity in the face of serious business is a subtle character assassination.

In 2009, writing about school bullying Judith Warner looked at what calling a person gay means:

Being called a “fag,” you see, actually has almost nothing to do with being gay.

It’s really about showing any perceived weakness or femininity – by being emotional, seeming incompetent, caring too much about clothing, liking to dance or even having an interest in literature.



 In addition to implying he's a "pussycat" the story clearly supports this idea:

On television and in print, he comes across as the ultimate alpha, ferocious and unbending, but here the dogs refuse to obey him, looking for guidance from his husband, David, instead. The guy who issues face-melting rebukes on cable and Twitter is also the softy who keeps a pack of hot dogs in his car’s glove box to throw to the dogs wandering the favelas.

Of course, you might say an offhand comment or two is a gentle poke. But seeing dissidents as ironic threats has always been both a way to gloat and highlight them as threats.

The story picks up several paragraphs later, happy to trope on his poor technical skills by painting him as a dangerous virus engaging in immature, childish pleasure:

“I went to Google and typed in ‘create a pie chart’ and I ended up with an online pie-chart maker probably intended for first graders,” he said.



True to his intent, Mr. Greenwald’s first-grade pie charts entered the bloodstream of the web, coursing around Twitter and various blogs. Nothing — other than yet another dog rescue — pleases Mr. Greenwald more than lobbing in something from a great distance and watching it detonate. He was doing that long before he ever wrote for The Intercept, the name of the site that he works with at First Look.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

What is it good for?

 Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer:

DW: How has the current escalation in Gaza changed life in Israel?
Yehuda Bauer: It has changed it quite meaningfully, because over two-thirds of the country was under attack by rockets. Although the rockets have not caused a tremendous amount of damage, the whole country was decisively hampered in its economic, social, cultural and other activity.
Chinese intellectual Mozi from a little over 2,400 years ago:

When feudal lords entertain suspicion, enemies will be stirred up and cause anxiety, and the morale will be weakened. On the other hand, if every preparation is in good shape and the state goes out to engage in war, then the state will lose its men and the people will neglect their vocations. Have we not heard it said that, when a warring state goes on an expedition, of the officers there must be several hundred, of the common people there must be several thousand, and of the soldiers and prisoners there must be ten thousand, before the army can set out? It may last for several years, or, at the shortest, several months. So, the superior will have no time to attend to government, the officials will have no time to attend to their offices, the farmers will have no time to sow or reap, the women will have no time to weave or spin: that is, the state will lose its men and the people will neglect their vocations.

Human nature has changed so little that most of Mohist criticism of war still holds up today:

The rulers and lords of to-day are quite different. They all rank their warriors and arrange their boat and chariot forces; they make their armour strong and weapons sharp in order to attack some innocent state. Entering the state they cut down the grain fields and fell the trees and woods; they tear down the inner and outer walls of the city and fill up the ditches and ponds; they seize and kill the sacrificial animals and burn down the ancestral temple; they kill and murder the people and exterminate the aged and weak; they move away the treasures and valuables. The soldiers are encouraged to advance by being told: "To suffer death is the highest (service you can render), to kill many is the next, to be wounded is the lowest. But if you should drop out from your rank and attempt to sneak away, the penalty will be death without moderation." Thus the soldiers are put to fear. Now to capture a state and to destroy an army, to disturb and torture the people, and to set at naught the aspirations of the sages by confusion - is this intended to bless Heaven? But the people of Heaven are gathered together to besiege the towns belonging to Heaven. This is to murder men of Heaven and dispossess the spirits of their altars and to ruin the state and to kill the sacrificial animals. It is then not a blessing to Heaven on high. Is it intended to bless the spirits? But men of Heaven are murdered, spirits are deprived of their sacrifices, the earlier kings are neglected, the multitude are tortured and the people are scattered; it is then not a blessing to the spirits in the middle. Is it intended to bless the people? But the blessing of the people by killing them off must be very meagre. And when we calculate the expense, which is the root of the calamities to living, we find the property of innumerable people is exhausted. It is, then, not a blessing to the people below either.

On who is allowed to get rich

One way to know when people are corrupt is what kind of transportation they use. For example, the Sandanistas in Nicaragua who resisted US terrorism were easy to recognize as horrible people:

Most important, the U.S. is continuing to provide covert support to thousands of Nicaraguan insurgents, known as contras (counterrevolutionaries), whose hit-and-run attacks along Nicaragua's northern and southern borders have, according to the Sandinistas, claimed more than 700 lives. President Reagan has justified U.S. support for the contras by accusing the Sandinistas of having "betrayed" their countrymen, calling the junta members "counterfeit revolutionaries who wear fatigues and drive around in Mercedes sedans." (Source: Time.com subscription required)

But this doesn't just hold true for Hispanics. As Karin Brulliard of the Washington Post pointed out it generalizes to Arabs as well.

Hamas has hired more than 40,000 civil servants, and analysts say the top tiers are filled by loyalists. Members of the Hamas elite are widely thought to have enriched themselves through investment in the dusty labyrinth of smuggling tunnels beneath the border with Egypt and taxes on the imported goods. That money has been channeled into flashy cars and Hamas-owned businesses that only stalwarts get a stake in, critics say.

You can bring this up about US elites of course, but there's a very good answer "What is this Russia? We're not allowed to get rich anymore?" When Americans make money it's because of "the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work." Unfortunately, despite their flashy cars, we're still waiting for Arab creativity to solve the problem of decades of deliberate attacks on their infrastructure. Maybe it's time they upgraded to private jets that creative American businessmen use to visit tropical islands?




Friday, July 18, 2014

Response to Jeffrey Goldberg

Response to Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic:

Jeffery Goldberg's psychoanalysis begins with the idea of  "Palestinian self-destructiveness" then switches to Hamas. Well, which is it?  What Palestinians -- in fact Hamas -- were proposing, and did last week again at the height of Israeli hysteria, was simply enforcing international law. Goldberg doesn't come right out and say it, but has his reasons not to call for an end to the collective punishment and a release of prisoners held without fair trial. Of course, the most serious issue is the dead civilians. But people often put their lives on the line when fighting for what they want.  Goldberg appears to admit this is a problem with a single sentence fragment: It's

Entirely, miserably, true.

that Israel is killing Palestinians. But he tempers this in the way many in the US press have been taught to do so, in the passive voice. Innocents "get killed" from "that country." If anything, they're being lured into the "self murder" strategy of Hamas. By projecting responsibility for these crimes onto others, Goldberg shows more humanity in this dithering than he does saying he's concerned about them. If he were a true psychopath he would simply say "kill them all, and be proud." His facade of quiet rational analysis when push comes to shove supports war and brutality in a way the fanatical terrorists on his side cannot.

I'm not one to assume Hamas doesn't have its legitimate critics.I know that powerful people can influence the masses and for that reason ordinary people are  less responsible. But ordinary Americans and Israelis do not face the same pressure of Palestinians. They have working electricity, internet, regular elections and so on.

So keeping to the issue of myopia. The true "enemy of compromise and progress" in the situation is the whole concept of military domination. It would only be myopic to limit this criticism to the weakest party in the conflict. Yet most pundits even on the left when confronted with the notion of political Islam put their fingers in their ears and go la-la-la it's all about religion. One exception to this is Noam Chomsky who frequently tests ideas by taking examples from the past, or from another country in order to short-circuit our temptation to see ourselves as The Good. He also helped create the warning of genocide, a fear of his resulting from a combination of Israel's undeclared nuclear weapons and its tendency of to defend a Jewish majority at all costs. Goldberg either ignores the context of this warning by the left or simply doesn't know about it.

 Either way, what he's demanding is actually more myopia. He takes the standard partisan approach, and parrots Bill Clinton into assigning all this blame outside the tribe, and the Israeli/Obama mantra of rockets, rockets rockets. Obama gives canned speeches about his love for little dead children who aren't his own -- granted they're from the right country. Does Obama's sympathy include the Palestinians who do resist lawfully? What about Goldberg's? They are not asked to compromise but are instead thrown into jails, tortured and assassinated. Goldberg himself whitewashed the humanitarian flotilla incident a few years back as "a project of pro-Hamas Turkish activists" basically mirroring the Israeli and US government lines that it was "engineered" by the sinister Turks. If one looked, one could probably find humanitarians in Gaza being called agents of Israel, and a dutiful journalist shaking his fist at them as they're shot. It wouldn't be a stretch to expect this from a Palestinian ex-prison guard, Goldberg's twin.

Being supporters of crime, the elites the US media prefer are naturally liars, saying the US influence in the region is something to cautiously praise. These people live in more security than Hamas elites do. And thanks to US policies, they have much more say in their governments than their restive populations (the majority of Egyptians view the government's court system and the police as a total sham.) Egypt and Israel are both in the US orbit that was instituted as soon as Truman was told how much oil there was in the region. US military cooperation with Egypt was cemented following the 1973 war. On the freedom of information act section of the CIA website is an interview President Sadat gave wherein he explained something interesting. He wanted a "miracle" similar to Vietnam, and Israel knew it was coming days before. Publicly it was claimed to be a surprise. This is right out of one of Kissinger's favorite books "The Prince" on how to acquire a new territory, namely showing overwhelming force. Sound familiar? Or is looking at official Israeli policy without help from Gulf commentators too myopic?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Two experts on peace

I know this is not representative of all the ins and outs of the ceasefire proposals, or even this particular one. But this similarity was so striking I wanted to point it out:

Palestinian representative from the Hamas party today:

Israel accepted the truce in a surprise move Tuesday morning, after Hamas categorically rejected the notion of a ceasefire Monday night.
"A ceasefire without reaching an agreement is rejected. In times of war, you don't cease fire and then negotiate," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told AFP.
Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zahri reiterated this Tuesday morning.


President Shimon Peres, 2007:

NS: Well, you say you were acting under legal constraint but this is all territory which under the 1948 partition of the UN was not part of the land of Israel.
SP: All right, but they refused to take it. Look, would they take the whole partition of the Israel as the legal foundation? Ben Gurion was ready. They rejected it. Look, you cannot say: I don't take it, I attack you. If I shall win OK, if I shall lose I win too. You cannot do it.
NS: But are you suggesting that the fact that the Arab armies attacked in 1948 means that the Palestinians living in the West Bank forfeited for all time their legal rights to that territory.
SP: No, the problem was: what is the West Bank, not the people. But what is the West Bank? Because you see the Arabs too agreed, they agree to 1967 not to 1948 they understand it. They changed the concept of the borders. Look, you cannot go to war, lose the war and then say pay me a price. Why should you pay a price? If you go to war once, twice, three times, the next time you say Just a moment, next borders should be defensible, and that's according with UN 242 and 238.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Response to the Tired Cliches in the Jewish Daily Forward

 This is a response to a recent article by J J Goldberg in the Forward newspaper.

What first appears to be an indictment of Israeli Machiavellian politics is instead an endorsement of them. Taking an approach similar to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on Iraq, J J Goldberg laments in his new article that Israel is "stumbling into" a "war that nobody wanted," yet, on balance, this blood feud might just teach the Palestinian "crime family" a "lesson," creating a few more years of peace. Overall, he has written a stale portrait of Netanyahu's complex "pragmatism" which he claims is heading off a push in the Israeli right for a full-scale land invasion.

But we are not on the edge of the cliff as the Forward and the Israeli branding allege. Rather we have been at the bottom of the canyon for some time thanks in no small part to the perpetual fog of war and cult of personality. Such a miserable depth has blinded Goldberg and many others to the dignity of the Palestinian people (see this rundown for what I have in mind). A favorite of his colleague Mira Sucharov (who does not deny the nationalism of Palestinians), Max Nordau, was absolutely repulsed when he heard Israel was conquering already settled land, "we are committing an injustice," he said. If these are the reactions of people invested in the Zionist program, it's hard to be surprised when those living under occupation their whole life don't agree in principle. Yet Goldberg manages to be affronted by this.

The most important omission however in this article is what William Mardsen has called "the prime reason for the violent outbreaks," namely the occupation, the settlements, and the "daily humiliations and frequent outbursts of brutality." Mardsen further notes Obama's reminder of just which country pays billions to Israel, a very good reason for obeying US diktat on how to conduct the war. While Goldberg indulges himself in the spectacle of the violence he pretends to abhor, without worrying about repercussions, he totally misses what the cycle means politically. It was known in 1996 when Netanyahu was elected he was going to empower Hamas, not weaken them. Lisa Beyer of Time magazine noted "[t]he radicals of the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, along with the smaller Islamic Jihad, hope to provoke Israel into abrogating its agreements with Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization." To do this, "Hamas would love to see the Likkud come to power. It would mean the end of the peace agreement." Goldberg will be surely happy to learn that, on balance, Israel too provoked attacks, assassinating a Palestinian with a cell phone -- a murder Israelis I come into contact with often laud as ingenious. Ten years after the "slimmest of majorities was persuaded that [Netanyahu's] youthful energy and conservative caution hold the greater promise," Hamas won its first election. The peace negotiations under the guidance of the idea of giving Palestinians no more than "fried chicken" pretty much brought us to where we are now, with some warning of a new intifada. This was done with full support of many wealthy Americans who were enamored by his polished, TV-friendly image, as well as a 15 point bump in polls from terror attacks escalated under the government of Peres. Pragmatic indeed.

Goldberg makes no mention of these Palestinian victims, nor US responsibility. Instead he engages in celebration of breaking the will of the Palestinian Mafia which includes members of Parliament and political prisoners "crush[ed]... according to the law," as an Israeli interrogator threatened. Goldberg indeed forgets to mention aggression itself is a crime under international law, although he brings up the damning Goldstone report as an aside. In fact, not only is aggression a crime but the threat of one is as well. Robert Kagan warns that the result of this aid policy will, in effect mean "that there will never be another chance" as a new generation of vengeful, oppressed jihadis follow the money. What a ticklish predicament.

It's time to give up the tired cliches and put pressure on the US to give up its role as chief negotiator,  and to suspend enough aid to isolate the stern politicos looking for a fight (this also includes universities such as BGSU and Abilene Christian University which have intimate ties to the US military industrial complex). I propose it should amount to $25 billion, a proportionate response to the amount divested in 1960 from South Africa in protest of their white nationalism (coincidentally, this is also about the sum Israel received from Germany in reparations for the Holocaust).

And it's important we do this before things get out of control. But with that in mind, what does "control" look like? Looking at only 11 days in January of this year, Ray Hanania documented "racist graffiti, burning and uprooting trees, breaking car windows and puncturing tires, in addition to attacks against the [Palestinian] villagers themselves" -- acts Mira Sucharov presumably sees as "casual racism." Contrary to the sympathetic image the Forward paints, Netanyahu's government warned in February of this year, before the ISIS/Islamic Jihad kidnapping, that he was going to "teach Hamas a lesson very soon." Minister Uri Ariel echoed this recently, condemning the "terror government," and vowing "a clear Zionist answer" -- more illegal settlements. Far from spontaneous self-defense, following an end to "seven years" of "the most tranquil in Israel’s history" these are leading Israeli politicians endorsing "sickening and appalling" tactics months beforehand. They have too much support already in their political campaign against Palestinian independence.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

You are not allowed to tell me we're not great

Over at A Tiny Revolution you can catch a little drama on American commentator Christopher Hitchens and his obsession with American benevolence. He compares Hitchens' propaganda to the militant/terrorist group now taking over parts of Iraq.

The quote is as follows:

Someone Please Dig Up Christopher Hitchens and Show Him This Blog Post

Christopher Hitchens on Iraq, 2005:
The welcome that I've seen American and British forces get in parts of Iraq...I want to mention first because there are people who say that that never happened...where were the sweets and where were the flowers? Well I saw it happen with my own eyes and no one's going to tell me that I didn't...it was like this is the nearest I'll get to taking part in the liberation of the country, to ride in with the liberating army...I will not allow it not to be said that that did not happen.
What jumped to my mind was not Iraq however but the war in the Philippines over a hundred years ago (see this blog post of mine for why). Once again the path to war looks eerily similar:
On the surface, most of the changes taking place in the American pacification campaign appeared to increase its severity and to abandon the policy of benevolent pacification, but this was not the case. Provost-Marshal-General Bell's comments to the officers serving under him placed the policy changes in their proper perspective. Bell began by stating that he had "frequently heard the opinion expressed that no good has been accomplished" by the old policy. He continued:

I cannot concur in that opinion, for I feel convinced that this policy has had a good effect. Had we been building for a day only or solely in order to put an end to hostilities, a different policy might have been indicated but ... we have got to continue to live among these people. We have got to govern them

He goes on to say:

"This policy has earned for us the respect and approval of a large majority of the more intelligent and influential portion of the community. We cannot lose their support by now adopting such measures as may be necessary to suppress the irreconcilable and disorderly.

The historian who gathered this testimony goes on to quite dryly mourn this general's soldiers not living up to his professed ideals:

"Unfortunately, some Americans did not have as good an understanding of the new policy as General Bell, and for them it represented the inauguration of a campaign of severity. Consequently, some enlisted men could interpret the new policy as one of "taking no prisoners" with MacArthur "sweeping everything as he goes," and officers could write of substituting "the effective noose for the futile school-book"(28) The cruelties and abuses that appeared in increasing numbers during 1900 continued, and those men who so desired could interpret the new pacification policy as a sanction for such action.
Here's an inscription from the Achaemenid Empire:

[4.11] Says Darius the king: If thou shalt conceal this record (and) not tell (it) to the people, may Auramazda be a smiter unto thee and may there not be unto thee a family.
[4.12] Says Darius the king: This (is) what I did in every way; by the grace of Auramazda I did (it); Auramazda bore me aid and the other gods which are.
[4.13] Says Darius the king: For this reason Auramazda bore me aid and the other gods which are, because I was not an enemy, I was not a deceiver, I was not a wrong-doer, neither I nor my family; according to rectitude [I ruled] nor made I my power(?) an oppression to [those who praise me]; the man (who) helped my house, him who should be well esteemed, I esteemed; (the man) who would destroy it, him who should deserve punishment, I punished.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Response to Mira Sucharov

Sucharov's essay can be read here. You can watch the video of her debate with Max Blumenthal at CPAC or read my transcription of it here.

 "They heard the gentle remonstrance of a kindly king with an erring but much-loved minister." -- J.R.R. Tolkien

The responsibility of liberal Zionists is not just to defend Zionism from anti-Zionists but to police its own excess, and honestly admit its failings. This is what you are asking of anti-Zionists. It's fair to assume you ought to practice it yourself. Take one example from the debate, the right of return. It may be unrealistic and therefore unfair (as Noam Chomsky has pointed out) to tempt Palestinians with the right of return but just on an academic note, if Israel is to return to Zionist ideals, it would have to return the property it took from Palestinians. Theodor Herzl said if Arabs refused to give up their property you should simply build where you face no objection.

Another thing liberal Zionists must face in order to be taken seriously, however uncomfortable it may be, is Israel already is an apartheid state (EDIT 8/1/2014: or ready to become one). Between 1949 and 1959 the Afrikaner government passed the the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (1949), Suppression of Communism Act (1950), The Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act (1951), The Riotous Assemblies Act (1956), and the Promotion of Bantu Self-government Act (1959). These all are parallel with proposed and many enacted laws in Israel including banning of Arab parties in the last 20 years, mostly under the governments by the current ruling party Likud. None of these do you mention by name, either in the debate or in this essay. It was notably Max Blumenthal, the "anti-Zionist," who brought up the Bedouins facing eviction, not you. I think this is because it does not fit your endgame. This is a sign of degrading democracy, not a sign of hope or a defect in Israel. So you find it hard to face it.

It is also a feature of the society, not an accident. Israel has brought itself into this situation by creating a country of Western ideals (including the nation-state and the Fascism it entails) and Western trade interest, as Theodor Herzl intended. By aligning itself with the US, its main military supplier, as well as many dictators and opressive governments in the region, as well as Latin America, the idea that Israel means well loses credibility. We should also remember that in US history, the pretext of the war on terrorism overtook the pretext of communism specifically in relation to South Africa. When Reagan was in office he was advised to make a distinction between "authoritarian" and "totalitarian" governments and attacked, with undemocratic support, the helpless Latinos in his way under the pretext Israel's military hides behind today. This policy also included support of apartheid South Africa and the peaceful yet illegal annexation of Western Sahara by King Hussein II of Morocco. These are crimes concealed by nationalist fervor and a totally biased vocabulary (read the speeches of Hussein if you doubt me). That a state can be a benevolent force is an illusion, which is the point.

So what must be countered in Israel is not just specific laws. What should be discouraged is superstitious coveting of the power and credibility of nationhood, and the propaganda you write in its defense. Israelis and Zionists naturally recognize this about Iran and Gaza, but not themselves. While  it may not be necessary to abolish it -- Leftists do not support violent overthrow of Iran for example -- we certainly shouldn't encourage their propaganda either. For whatever reason, I don't know exactly the cause (human nature perhaps), the ability to make historical analogies is limited by the so called liberal Zionists to countries like Finland and Canada.

But the important history here is the US', Israel's main supporter. When the US oppressed the "Indians" we heard what we wanted: "Come over and help us." This goes right through American history, notably Vietnam which we wanted "spared" from the scourge of communism, and Iraq which we "liberated" into a country of sectarian warfare, its oil sold to the highest bidder. You hear this pop up in relation to the "myth" that Palestinian water is under Israeli control, and the crocodile tears shed for the women living under the government of the Hamas party. This mentality is also repsonsible for domestic and military pressure in Israel that is preventing the two state solution, a major step in resolving the conflict. Even if Arabs tomorrow went on TV and renounced terrorism, we would not see peace. Al-Jazeera reporter Clayton Swisher reports that Bill Clinton "falsely told the world that Arafat had rejected his parameters" out of fear of upsetting internal Israeli politics. That's not about laws, it's about political demographics which would be made impossible with a stronger check on military excess and Zionist nationalism. Israel currently has sitting in a jail cell a popular Palestinian politician who supports the two state solution. He is imprisoned thanks to the myth created in the wake of Kissinger's bad faith UN negotiations that Israel's security should be equally weighed with the national borders. He was tried in a military court in occupied West Bank for signing checks to "terrorists" -- namely Palestinian militants who have resisted the Israeli soldiers and need money for lawyers.

Even putting propaganda aside and going to concrete proposals, this is not contradicted by the two-state solution simply because it has Arab support. Mondoweiss writer Phan Nguyen pointed out we should remember that during apartheid in South Africa there were two-state solutions proposed (this was Abraham Lincoln's idea as well for African-Americans). It may be the best of the rotten ideas around but it does not mean apartheid doesn't exist. Rather, as US and South Africa illustrate, it is an idea very compatible with apartheid and an out of control state (remember, Lincoln also suspended Habeus Corpus). Much like other instances of US power and US involved powers, we understate the evils of the Israeli strategy. The rest is a red herring.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Response to Magnes Zionist

"Stop bringing meaningless offerings!    Your incense is detestable to me."
-- Isaiah 1:13 

This is in part a response to the Magnes Zionist blog who has criticized J Street for voting down a BDS resolution:
 Just like their parents and their grandparents generations, the progressive Zionists of J Street U wimped out, preferring tribal loyalty to fighting for justice, preferring it even to their own principles. Or perhaps tribal loyalty is their principle.  Like a long line of liberal Zionists before them, the negotiations took place not between Jews and Arabs  but  between Jews and Jews. They complained that the other side was not interested in dialogue.  What the other side wanted was not dialogue but joint action. That’s the way the oppressed operate.  
 [...]
They learned their lesson well -- criticize the tribe, but only from within the tribe. Call for boycott, but only the token “Zionist BDS”  of the settlements.  Oppose the Occupation, but never, never, even begin to punish Israel for the Occupation.  Call for peace now, but make sure that the playing field for the negotiations is skewed in favor of Israel.

I agree with this. But while I support BDS, I can't pretend to know what the playing field for the conflict should be except to get the West to stop involving itself in the negotiations and the Israeli military. So this essay is not about the settlements or what concessions to expect from which side, but about the propaganda in the conflict. After all, a debate and a negotiation are about human communication. Nobody is above a little slip in this now and then (remember Helen Thomas?).

As I see it, young Jews are still split into two camps, but it's not exactly Zionist, anti-Zionist, or even pro-BDS and anti-BDS. Rather it's those who have made an abstract association of justice, whose test is hypocrisy, and those who believe Israel's main problem is to defend the Zionist ideal, which is done by feeling passionate about a female rabbi and Arab MK's (I'm quoting the most recent debate which aired a few days ago on Canadian TV over whether Israel can be a democracy). This is the context for my impression of J Street:

We should take heart that the centrist heart of Israeli politics is alive and well, and the seemingly inexorable rise of the ultra-right has been halted. There remains a solid majority in Israel for a two-state solution. Netanyahu’s do-nothing policies were rejected by both the right and the left. Given the circumstances, this result is almost the best we could have hoped for and far better than expected.


Now, any student of oppressive government can see this for the cheap partisan propaganda that it is. And I agree with Magnes Zionist on J Street's indecency. But the left is also more tribal than he assumes (for proof of this check a blog called The Daily Howler).

Anyway, there was one thing about this debate at CPAC.ca that really stuck with me. Max Nordau came up. Remember, he's a Zionist who might have been the first to disapprove of a fanatic, religious passion for the project. Yet Mira Sucharov began her talk in the debate with a call for a stronger Jew, a rugged individual who lusts innocently for overalls and a shovel in her hand, the opening metaphor for her entire argument. Did her opponent, Max Blumenthal, call her on this? No. He did the best that he could, tracing the theft of Palestinian land under the deliberate terror of Jacobtinsky. As a historian, he seems to have succeeded. But as a deprogrammer, he has failed.

In a strategy of undoing the spiritual conditioning of the Zionist individual (which seems to have been Herzl's goal), we cannot only be experts at the reality on the ground, or of history, but of ourselves as messengers. Blumenthal took most of his time to inform the audience only of what Sucharov would not. He countered Sucharov's idolatry only a few times. Two that come to mind, which seem to have most provoked Sucharov: 1. He passionately defended the so-called blacklisting of student representatives given favors by AIPAC, and 2. asked her point blank how many Arabs are too many, in a passionate defense of the Right of Return, which clearly was successful in provoking her (you could tell in the tone in her begrudging admission of support for what is a pretty racist policy, however much it wears a fig-leaf of culture). Yet he had many more opportunities to counter the Fascist ideal of the Israelis as children of their loving state outside of these easy take-downs. (Maybe that it's easy should reflect poorly on us too!) This countering can be done not so much with history as with psychology and Orwell's look at the empty rhetoric of writers, although I will explain the sobering history too.

First, any time Sucharov needed to recover from a threat to her idol, she went back and forth between the post-modern religious spells of "ontology" and "narratives" designed to defend against emotional thought, and a cathartic, energetic praise for a state yet to come, with jokes and applause lines. The tradition of post-modernism is itself traceable to Martin Heidegger, a Nazi smuggled into respectable circles by French intellectuals, many of them Jews. Overall, Heidegger believed philosophy itself to be so complex that one should feel accomplished simply for arriving where he started. It's easy to see how this was appropriated by liberals. Everyone has something valid to offer, the truth is bigger than us, everyone is right.

But the best parallel isn't Hitler (as Blumenthal attempted in his book), but Mussolini, who took this exact attitude toward labor unions. Blumenthal, by focusing on the Jewish Fascist Jacobtinsky, did not even detect the much more obvious Fascism in the entire Zionist myth and its connection to Mussolini's manifesto:
Fascism wants man to be active and to engage in action with all his energies; it wants him to be manfully aware of the difficulties besetting him and ready to face them. It conceives of life as a struggle in which it behooves a man to win for himself a really worthy place, first of all by fitting himself (physically, morally, intellectually) to become the implement required for winning it. As for the individual, so for the nation, and so for mankind... The Fascist disdains an “easy" life 
which says yes some dirty work had to be done but hey, now we're improved.

Fascism is likewise opposed to trade unionism as a class weapon. But when brought within the orbit of the State, Fascism recognizes the real needs which gave rise to socialism and trade unionism, giving them due weight in the guild or corporative system in which divergent interests are coordinated and harmonized in the unity of the State

The logic is circular. Fascism is good, so what has brought it into being is by definition good. Norman G Finkelstein (who is hissed at by some in the BDS crowd, particularly Electronic Intifada) traced this psychic strategy very well in his book Image and Reality in regards to selling your soul to what you call rationality in order to attempt something evil, to persuade yourself of a moral cause, and a limit on your evil tendency:

A canonical text of labor Zionism's distinctive ethos is The Seventh Day, an oral history of the June 1967 war based on the 'soldier's talk' of 'a group of young kibbutz members'. An overarching theme of the volume is that the Israeli soldier did not harbor any personal animus toward -- indeed, was tormented by the violence he inflicted on -- the Arabs. The appointed task was a dirty one but, alas had to be done. The book's moral anxiety is due not to the effects of the violence on the victim, however, but the victor: the corruption of the Jewish soul.
Sucharov clearly has absorbed this myth:

Really briefly as I said I do agree that the JNF's Jewish only land leasing policy is discriminatory. And because it discriminates among the state's citizens on the basis of ethnicity and religion. I do think it is antidemocratic. So I do think that those policies have to be changed. And that they are a historical relic. Let's remember where things come from. They're a historical relic when Israel was trying to create itself as a sovereign expression Jewish peoplehood. And it had it it had a purpose perhaps at the time and now it no longer does. [Applause]

This is how Zionism stands today, not in hatred of the left or of Arabs but by the idea that everyone is a little right and nobody is wrong (soccer hoodlums aside, does anyone wake up in the morning with a heart full of hate?). The battle being waged is over who gets to be "secure" from criticism (and bigotry), and the left plays into it just as unproductively as someone arguing with a racist. So instead, we need to challenge the Orwellian confusion between writing and thinking, between the state and the individual, and the cult of self-improvement.


Why isn't this happening? Max Nordau could not because he himself was deluded. Sucharov could not because she buys into the Fascist founding myth.  And Max Blumenthal could not because he is in the business of angels and demons, another delusion. It's not just enough to point out the seedy underbelly of nationalism, or even to disprove Nordau. By giving in to petty games of more-radical-than-thou, we give up a chance at education of history. We dull our criticisms of sharp, accurate context in favor of party line rebukes (would any Democrat attempt to criticize Clinton like Chomsky?), and the company of bigoted rhetoric on both sides, as punching bags or attaboys.  If we wish to stand as moral prophets in acknowledging justice and its test of hypocrisy, away from the temptation of tribal fervor, we hurt ourselves twice acting in a bad example with an incomplete message.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

We Are Victims of Victims

In a letter to the New York Times four years ago:

Regarding Roger Cohen’s “The captive Arab mind” (Globalist, Dec. 21): The advancement from eternal victimhood to self-empowerment that Mr. Cohen seeks for the Arab world is only to be found in one place in the Middle East: Israel. The Jewish people rose from the ashes of the Holocaust to build a modern, democratic and economically efficient state that continues to be at the forefront of innovation.

By contrast, the Arab world seems content with perpetually labeling the Palestinian people as victims, and to this day, Palestinian refugees and their descendants are treated as second-class citizens in Lebanon and Jordan.

From a blog called Uprooted Palestinians that purports to advocate for Palestinians, this year:

The Zionists’ militarist mindset is evidently motivated by the ethnocentric myths of Jewish victimhood. World-conquering Neocon-Zionist belligerence is driven in large part by the religious adherence to the official propaganda of the victors of World War II. Elite Jews played an important role in bringing about the Second World War as the final phase of their plan to establish the state of Israel. The First World War accomplished several things for the Zionists: it freed up Palestine from Ottoman control (the Ottomans previously rejected Zionist offers to purchase Palestine), it fractured the big empires of Europe who could then be manipulated into future conflicts, and lastly it delivered Russia to the Bolsheviks, a majority of whom were Jewish chauvinists hell-bent on the subjugation of that Christian Empire. With Russia now in the hands of Jewish communist extremists and Palestine falling under British dominion, the Zionist plan for Israel was well on its way.