Monday, August 10, 2009

crushing space

Israel is imploding.
~Israeli jazz musician Gilad Atzmon

I can't seem to have a conversation with anyone concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without feeling like the person I'm talking to has ontologically prioritized one side's view of reality, that side's metaphysics, ideology, catalog of personal experiences, over the other. And once they've done that, they can calculate the lives of even innocent Israelis and Palestinians--even children--as means to an ultimate political end. Although I'm suspicious of universalizing ethics, my response to this conflict has always been a very specific insistence on solutions that view the ordinary people involved as ends in themselves rather than means to an end.

Viewing Israelis and Palestinians as ends in themselves also means viewing them as agents in themselves, not as extensions of their leadership--elected or otherwise. Elections are important, but those who cry "but Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East"* or "but Hamas was elected!" overestimate their importance in determining the character of a people, and underestimate the way in which elections are always already rigged by their containing systems.

So it is that I find myself compelled to write about Israel and Palestine again, but dreading doing so because I am likely to be smacked on both sides of my head, by friends, pundits, and anonymous strangers accusing me of preaching "moral equivalency," when in fact I am advocating a third perspective: that of the ordinary people on both sides of the conflict, who might find themselves dragged into it, or might have the prejudices you would expect them to have, but who also have the potential to search for solutions to the conflict outside of a paradigm of victory and defeat, and who are not only capable of, but seemingly eager to form personal and political bonds with their so-called "enemies."

Those who are absolutely certain that the best way to defeat extremism is to crush it in a vice grip, and who drone on about Palestinian intransigence, are unwitting generators of self-fulfilling prophesy.
Islamization is undoubtedly growing in the Strip. Government ministers are urging women to wear loose-fitting, modest clothing and asking shopkeepers to remove female mannequins from their windows. During my visit, I saw a warning given to adults and children not to wear T-shirts or sweaters with certain "inflammatory" English words and phrases, such as "Madonna," "pork," "kiss me," "I am ready for sexual affairs" and "vixen."
Journalist Fares Akram, whose father was murdered by the Israelis during the January war, told me that he feared the people of Gaza were too exhausted and preoccupied with daily life to worry about the creeping implementation of Sharia law."
Radical Islam grows where you try to squeeze the life and will out of its potential converts.

It's precisely because Israel is a partial democracy that we can question conservative Israelis' treatment of their critical-minded fellow citizens. Plumber and gay peace activist Ezra Nawi may be jailed for 18 months for opposing the demolition of Palestinian homes. “Being gay," he says, "has made me understand what it is like to be a despised minority." Of course, we are all familiar with the charges of "self-hating Jew" bandied about, particularly in the context of American Jews critical of Israeli aggression, but even levelled against undoubtedly establishment folks like Rahm Emmanuel.

But, as Gilad Atzmon speculates, Israel may be "imploding" under the implications of its own posturing and ethical license.

Breaking The Silence is an advocacy group made up of IDF reservists in Israel. BTS has been conducting investigations and soliciting testimony from IDF reservists. They have done so anonymously, and the testimonies have been damning; I've blogged about this before. Conservatives in Israel hate soldiers who document war crimes as much as conservatives here in America hate talkative, critical soldiers.

Now, in what is certainly cynical politics in its own right, we've learned that some European countries are funding BTS and other internal Israeli peace and human rights groups. This isn't illegal, and I won't even venture into its ethics. But it could probably be replaced or supplemented with something more constructive on the part of those governments. MuzzleWatch reports:
Netanyahu has asked Spain, Britain and The Netherlands to stop directly funding the Israeli human rights group Breaking the Silence (BTS). BTS has been releasing IDF soldier testimony on the invasion/massacre in Gaza. The accounts by the soldiers are harrowing and document war crimes. The Israeli government claims that governmental support of “politicized” NGOs undermines democracy in the Jewish state. Netanyahu is “contemplating legislation that would ban foreign government funding for groups such as Breaking the Silence.” The main argument is that foreign governmental funding of non-governmental institutions that are ostensibly working “against” the interests of the duly elected government are undemocratic. Ron Dermer, Netanyahu’s senior political adviser, was quoted as saying that funding from foreign embassies for the group amounted to “blatant and unacceptable” intervention in Israel’s internal affairs.
But the Moriah Fund's Don Futterman makes the following arguments: (1) That BTS verifies all its charges and won't go public with a charge without at least one other "reliable source;" (2) that it allows anonymous testimony because (3) soldiers are threatened with retribution; (4) that more and more soldiers are coming forward despite those threats, because of which (5) the Israeli government is in a panic. That last charge may be particularly true given the pressures being brought down from the United States concerning Israeli heavy-handedness and obstanance on settlements and so on.
BTS gathers and then publicizes testimony in both words and pictures from soldiers who are willing to come forward. The organization makes every effort to check the veracity of these testimonies, and will not publish any soldier's comments unless it has corroborating testimony from at least one other reliable source. BTS promises anonymity to these witnesses, to allow them to testify as openly and fully as possible, despite social norms urging them to keep silent, and the threat of possible retribution from within the IDF.
According to the organization, following the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead last January, soldiers were directly instructed not to speak of their experiences or the destruction they had witnessed. When reports of alleged misdeeds by soldiers during the war were publicized in March, BTS asserts that leading combat units received severe warnings against speaking out, and were told there would be serious repercussions if they did so.
The fact that soldiers have nonetheless testified to BTS about the Gaza operation appear to have caused panic within the government.
According to BTS's public statement: "the IDF has never denied the [validity of the] testimonies and it and the foreign ministry's virulent reaction... only strengthens the position of the testifying soldiers, who are not willing to be exposed..."

The conversation is only made more difficult by publications and groups that are so blindly "pro-Israel" that the mere existence of accusations against the IDF is evidence of BTS's intention to "undermine one of Israel's bedrock institutions." Really? Undermine? Not improve through criticism? Israeli Civil rights activist Gila Orkin writes:
Rather than engaging in meaningful analysis and debate of the disturbing contents of these testimonies, Israeli officials have chosen to try to silence and discredit the messenger while completely ignoring the message.

* ... but wait! I thought we brought democracy to Iraq...?


Anonymous said...


Because you know I love you I feel entitled to express my vehement disagreement (again) with your take on this situation; disagreement relative to the implications of your false balancing (more in other posts than here).

I wrote a long and angry response but thought better of posting it in favor of several questions. Maybe later I post the more detailed and polemical response. We may just have different views about how to proceed on this issue because I think the endstate we mutually support: Justice, dignity, respect, peace.

What is the point of this post? What good does it do? How does a facile call to respect both Israelis and Palestinians as means not ends (fair enough on the surface, to be sure) further the cause of peace on the ground?

Not make you feel better about yourself in all your nuanced reasonableness, but what is the connection you see between your "third way" and stopping the slow genocide of Palestinians at the hands of the state of Israel and the IDF? (Notice: no critique of Israeli civilians but of the state. It is really not that hard to understand this). Despite the charged framing, this is a sincere question.

Stop the genocide. Stop the humiliation. Stop the land and water grabs. Stop regional IDF saber-rattling. Denuclearize the region

Then wring our hands about Palestinian kids throwing rocks and the handful of Israeli military and civilian deaths caused by Hamas and others.

I guess I have "ontologically prioritized one side's view of reality, that side's metaphysics, ideology, catalog of personal experiences, over the other". That priority is to stop the larger injustice that is the proximate cause of the cycle of attack and counterattack. That priority is that stealing someone's land, water, and dignity while slaughtering them and confining them to cesspool conditions without adequate services or medical care is more wrong than those who receive this mistreatment responding with mostly ineffective and low-lethality counter-measures. That is a better prioritization, in my view, than "can't we all just get along" which is the caricature I have of the pablum (maybe banalities is better) I see from you on this issue.

Final question. It is 1973 and the traditionals and AIM meet in a church to discuss how to improve conditions. They wake up to find themselves besieged by the USNG and FBI. Over the next two months, using tanks and high-powered rifles and machine guns, armored personnel carrier, the feds and their allies unload 130000 rounds while AIM folks use their half dozen guns. AIM and it's allies argue that the history justifies their acts of self defense, which are largely ineffective in any case. They proclaim to the media how violent and unjust the feds are. Matt blogs that the demonization on both sides is unfortunate and counterproductive and calls for a 3rd way in which everyone celebrates the agency and dignity of everyone involved. So enlightened.

Sorry, the anger bled back in but I strongly disagree with the posture (not the noble platitudes, of course) you take on this issue and see no gain in sugar-coating that opposition.

Your friend in Detroit without tenure and afraid of JDL/ADL attacks which are real and often effective. I am not anonymous to you and was not anonymous to you I trust when I leveled the false balancing charger earlier. If you were talking about me in your snide "anonymous" charge that is untrue. You knew who I was, argument strength is not a function of authority, anonymity is only a problem as an excuse for belligerence, and negative consequences to public identification are potentially very real.

matt said...

What good does your anger do, and what vision, or blueprint, for a genuine attainable strategy do you have, friend in Detroit?

matt said...

And no, I wasn't talking about you, Detroit. Read some anonymous posts from a MILITANT pro-Israel reader who accuses me, Islam in general, and the Palestinians of all manner of falsehoods and crimes. I had hoped someone besides me would answer those attacks. I hope I'm not a more convenient target for you because of my naivete.

Will said...

excellent post.

Anonymous said...

Anger at injustice is no sin.

A blueprint is much more than I asked for. Only looking for some discussion of the nature of the contribution from this ritual I am provocatively characterizing, and surely unfairly, as something of a naïve approach. I see soap-boxing about mutual understanding but not even the pretense of reasoned discussion about the objective of that effort or how it might help. I also charge, and this is the crux of my argument right or wrong, that for progressives to frame the current conflict as one driven by extremists on both sides where fault, more or less, is found on both sides is obfuscatory, at best.

Blueprint for progressives?

Consistently and without equivocation in the name of “even handedness” verbally condemning the Israeli occupation in all its various manifestations, including drawing attention to its scale, longevity, systematicity, and (most crucially) tight connection to US policy. That is foundational public position, if you will, the invariant framing. Among the reasons it is needed is to help counteract a strong pro-Israel bias in media, culture, and policy discussion. (Where “pro-Israel” = support of Israeli Palestinian policy).

In this context, while specific acts are worthy of condemnation, the violence of some Palestinians is, in the aggregate, an inevitable and unavoidable consequence of the first point. That, too, needs to the be a key feature in public discourse to counteract demonization, to demystify Israeli foreign policy, and, really, to accurately describe the core dynamic.

A reason these rhetorical choices are an important piece of any viable blueprint is that among many, including progressives, there is a large measure of self-deception and denial and ignorance (that’s not, however, the naivety of which I accuse you) about the basic facts. Not only is a more balanced appreciation of the reality important in its own right, it is crucial, I believe, in helping to change the political dialogue such that established patterns become challengeable and new paths tending toward justice become more likely.

Specific policy actions progressive should insist on include:

Reducing and perhaps eliminating US military sales and assistance to Israel at least until a resolution of the occupation. Perhaps conditioning.

Eliminate US obstructionism in the United Nations and, at least, joining the international consensus by insisting on Israeli adherence to UNSC Res 242.

Instead of further arming Israel and others in the region, the US should support denuclearization in the Middle East. Doing so requires publically acknowledging Israel’s at least 200+ nukes and insisting on their inclusion in regional denuclearization efforts the US will support.

Leading international efforts to war crimes by the IDF against the Palestinian people when they occur.

These are the types of things progressives should spend their time fighting and writing and speaking about.

The anger comes from dissatisfaction with the move to position your advocacy as some kind of 3rd space, free of the moral quandaries that arise from the bloody hands of the extremistsonbothsidesoftheconflict ritual. I believe there is a massively disproportionate character in scale, in harm, in duration, in level of forethought and planning, and in successful control of media and public discussion between the “two sides”. I believe for progressives this perception should be the starting point for any sensible and just discussion about the Palestinian situation.

That’s my view. You know I believe you are entitled to whatever you want to believe and say whatever you wish, especially on your own damn blog. And despite my stridency I am not claiming either moral highground or some kind of better insight into the problem. I just have a view, a strong one, it is germane, at least somewhat so, to your argument. I share it.

Isn’t that the point?


matt said...

I have never excused Israel from the charge of being on the side of imperialism and delivering vastly disproportionate damage to the Palestinians, in violation of international law and with the help of all sorts of incipient fascists in the United States. I have publicly embraced the work of Carlos Latuff and defended his claim that Israel replicates many of the actions and techniques of Nazi Germany in their war against the Palestinians, a position for which I have been charged with anti-Semitism. Latuff also has a beautiful picture of an Arab and Israeli embracing, tears streaming down their eyes, as well as one of a little Jewish boy asleep on a Palestinian grandmother's lap. The hope of dissidents _all across Israel_ bears a certain distance from your condemnations of me for seeking a transcendent position (not a third side in the sense in which you derisively use it). My post supported peace organizations inside of Israel, organizations composed of victims' families on both sides of the conflict, fact-finding organizations, incluiding one made up of anonymous IDF members wanting to speak out against crimes against humanity.

Indeed in this morning's post, I hardly criticized the other side or sought justifications for various Israeli actions or attitudes.

But that's not good enough for you, is it?

Let me put it in starker terms for you: I support, and will campaign for, each and every U.S. policy change you speak of. I will defend anyone, including myself, against charges of anti-Semitism for our arguments. But while you reduce the Palestinians to a passive singularity capable of nothing more than ejactulating in response to Israeli aggression, I am willing to see that there is no more a "Palestine" then there is an "Israel" when you get right down to it--instead there are classes and factions vying for power, some of whom claim to speak in the interests of the oppressed and are clearly not doing so, and who are, to a large extent, willing to externalize their own ideological pissing matches with the blood of other people. And the Palestinian leaders who aren't religious fanatics tend to simply be petty gangsters. For you and others on the left who singularly blame Israeli belligerance or colonialism, it's as if class divisions don't exist under the P.A. Maybe if anyone on the left could acknowledge this even once, I wouldn't feel the need to do so as much as I do.

You say I am acting aloof. I think I'm acting the opposite of aloof. I think I am risking getting my hands doubly dirty, trying to feel what ordinary people feel, rather than taking the easy way out. And I am one of few, very few, American progressive bloggers doing so. So if you're looking for your anti-Israel fix, there are probably 10,000 blogs you could turn to. But you, like the rest of my core readers, keep coming back here. That must be because I'm saying something different--something that needs to be said--something whose acknowledgement requires a lot of honesty and self-reflection about the kind of society we want to fight for, and that honesty comes off as naivete, but you know it's not. So you're frustrated. But you'll keep reading, and not just because we're friends.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Douchnozzle here:

I have an egotistical suspicion that you were talking about me when you wrote "a MILITANT pro-Israel reader who accuses me, Islam in general, and the Palestinians of all manner of falsehoods and crimes."

If I am correct in my suspicion, where have I posted falsehoods, and where did you prove me wrong?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Douchnozzle again

Your friend in Detroit is woefully misinformed of the facts on the ground.

-If the Israelis are committing "genocide" it is one of the most ineffectual and idiotically-managed genocides in history. The fact is that between 1967 and 1993 the Arab population of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip TRIPLED! Maybe "Detroit" doesn't know the meaning of genocide.

As for UNSC resolution 242: Israel was willing to trade land captured in a defensive war for peace, as it eventually did with the Egyptians and Jordanians, but neither the Palestinians or Syrians have been willing to offer peace in exchange for land. Israel immediately accepted the principles of Res. 242. The major Arab states rejected them.

Although this may be repetetive, I also find morally reprehensible the claim that simply because Gazan rocket are ineffectual that they should only be condemned after Israel's behavior. They should be categorically condemned, as I have said again and again, because they purposefully, intentionally target civilians. The fact that only a handful have died is immaterial.

Also, Israel DID withdraw from Gaza!! That did nothing to stop the deliberate targeting of civilians by Hamas militants.

Finally, if anything, there is an overwhelming pro-Palestinian bias in the press, and in international organizations as well. How many stories have been published about how brutal the Israeli "Cast Lead" was, and how the Palestinians have suffered, and how many about how the Gazan rockets have continued to fall? The mainstream press is biased in almost exactly the opposite direction of what "Detroit" claimed.

The UN itself, because of the voting block that is the OIC, continually passes resolutions condemning Israel, but very little is said about the human rights abuses of other nations like China, Cuba, Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Belarus, the Philippines and other nations that have a much poorer record of compliance with the rule of law than Israel.

And lest this get lost in the shuffle, Israel's Arab citizens have better lives--in terms of income, health, longevity, etc--than the Arabs of any neighboring country.

And "Detroit's" comparison of Palestinians vs. Israel with AIM vs the FBI is specious. Hamas wasn't just meeting to discuss how to change things. They, and Fatah, and the PLO before them, were targeting and murdering Israeli civilians while turning down, repeatedly, offers of statehood.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Douchnozzle again:

Just to add to the list of crimes I accuse Palestinians of perpetrating:

"Gaza Regime Prepares Children For Death"

"Israeli planes bomb Gaza tunnel"

Only in the 6th paragraph do we see why this bombing by Israel occurred:

"Yesterday, two mortar rounds were fired near Israel's fortified Erez border crossing as a number of medical patients going for treatment in Israel were being ferried out by ambulance."

They shot at patients going to the hospital! Maybe it's just my one-sidedness, but that seems WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!

Just a question, why is that Gazans seem to be able to smuggle in lots of weapons, but can't seem to smuggle in food or medicine? Could it be a matter of priorities?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Douchnozzle again,

One more thing while I'm on a roll.

To compare one unfortunate incident where a gunman walked into a gay club in Tel Aviv and opened fire to Islamic anti-gay practices, as Gilad Atzmon did is moronic at best.

Iran actually EXECUTES gays for the "crime" of homosexuality!

As unfortunate and tragic as one shooting is, the fact is that Tel Aviv actually has gay clubs! In Iran in particular and the Islamic world in general, homosexuality is punished, with state sanction by EXECUTION.

While religious extremists might be intolerant all over the world, only in the Islamic world is it STATE POLICY to KILL THEM!!! Several were EXECUTED this year.

I can't understand the mindset that looks at the Islamic world where gays are criminals who deserve to die and are routinely killed by the state, and think somehow that's worse than a society where gay clubs are allowed and gay parades are publicly held.

What kind of upside down world is that?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Douchnozzle here:

Matt, you wrote: "Radical Islam grows where you try to squeeze the life and will out of its potential converts."

The only problem with this is that radical Islam grows wherever Islam is found. The "oppression causes radicalism" is just plain false, and in any case, the quote you provided does nothing to prove your assertion.

Radical Islam has grown across the globe, regardless of political conditions.

And I will continue to read, not because I think you have anything to add, but because you don't.

matt said...

So, Detroit, you have my back against this enthusiastic supporter of Israel? Or, having attacked the naive moderate guy, are you just going to disappear into the shadows?

matt said...

By the way, anonymous Israel supporter person: Did you ever ask Steve Zunes about the human shields report?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Douchenozzle here:

Some more "falsehoods and crimes" this time from the West Bank. Enjoy!

"Terror cells recruit West Bank students"

"Fatah: We'll sacrifice victims until Jerusalem is ours "

And here's (finally) some recognition of Hamas' criminal tactics:

"Human Rights Watch Says Hamas Rocket Attacks Are War Crime"

Yep, I asked Zunes. He said he still wanted to see what official investigations concluded, but that really was the last I heard.

Anonymous said...

One more comment from anonymous douchnozzle, re: radical Islam.

Why have Sunnis been killing Shias in Iraq? Is it because of the evil American occupation? Is that what motivates the rise of extremist, radical Islamists to kill other Muslims?

Anonymous said...

Since I, anonymous douchnozzle am on a roll here, here's one more about "Breaking the Silence" from CAMERA-Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting In America:

"That is, [Breaking the Silence's] mission is not really about “demanding accountability,” as its Web site states, but about publicly demonizing Israel's military before allegations are investigated, as the group's co-director reveals.** And in this respect they have been hugely successful, thanks to an obliging foreign media willing to overlook the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics — which calls for “test[ing] the accuracy of information from all sources” — so that they can deliver a sensational story vilifying Israel."

Lots more and link in the article, found at:

Anonymous said...

What the hell? One more from a militant pro-Israeli on journalistic bias toward Palestinians, this one from

"A six month study of the New York Times shows a bias toward the Palestinian narrative."

Anonymous said...

Hey Matt,

There is no need to argue with Douche. Our breath and energy should be saved for persuadables.

And why should I have your back? You argue well enough on your own and had plenty of time and energy to respond to me; presumably you have some time and energy to respond to Douche if you so desire.

When I have some time perhaps I will do my best to respond out of respect for your efforts here, but truly I have no interest in engaging those who are rabidly pro-Israeli oppression (their advocacy does not merit description as "pro-Israel" because a continuation of Israeli policy unfortunately augurs the end of the state of Israel at some point). About a 1000 exchanges (you perhaps had the similar experiences) convinces me that every minute wasted with such people arguing about these issues is a minute not spent convincing people whose views can be influenced.

Besides, if I am to ever receive tenure, I need to finish the dissertation.

The short list:

Douche doesn't understand the meanings of genocide under international law if he thinks high birth rates in cesspools is an answer.

Douche is wrong about 242 for about these last 30 years.

Douche is wrong about '67 being a defensive war. All partisans describe their aggression as defense. In a technical sense then, the claim by one side their war efforts are defensive is devoid of informational value; it is entirely predictable regardless of circumstances or facts. It may be justified, it may be reasonable, but claims of defense are on their own literally meaningless. More to the point, even if defensive in origins, occupation after the end of the shooting war is a crime.

Moral reasoning requires precisely the kind of discernment that recognizes differences between high-impact planned military and other assaults on whole populations and largely ineffectual counter-responses by a subject population. That's ethics 101. Douche does not appear to appreciate the concepts of scale, systematicity, or proximate causes.

The notion of pro-Palestinian bias in the news is laughable and hardly demonstrated by a Voice of America study Douche uses. NYT is not the whole media and a six-month study is too short for a longitudinal assessment. CAMERA is a bunch of tools.

Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, Sharon argued, would permit more effective oppression at lower cost to Israel via blockades and routine air and ground incursion. It was not a move expressing concern with humanity.

Executing gays in Iran is a crime. Why it justifies Israeli oppression in Palestine is a mystery to me.

matt said...

I'm sure our pro-Israel anonymous will have answers to the points raised from the Motor City, and has every right to express them here. I am asking that he or she avoid the appearance of trolling and refrain from posting several things in a row in such a manic, reactionary fashion. And I want to cool off myself; comment discussions always threaten to bring out my already short temper (made shorter these days by not having enough time in my life to develop good points in comprehensive political discussions).

It's not my intention to "false balance" but rather to clarify why no political program seems to have worked for the Palestinians. On the other hand, myopic supporters of Israel are guilty of the charge of ontological privileging I level in the original post; their treatment of Jewish dissidents, peace advocates, and their own IDF reservists demonstrates this, as does the continuing tendency to use the fact of Islamic extremism and the oppressive nature of fundamentalist interpretations of that religion as an excuse to shrug off international law and basic ethics. Behind all of this, of course, is class rule, and interclass conflict, like we see in internal Israeli politics and the U.S., but also in divisions within Palestinian rule itself.

But the last thing I'll say is this: Aside from whatever else I might find wrong with the rabidly pro-Israel, essentialist anti-Islamic point of view, it simply doesn't work. It doesn't solve anything. It guarantees more violence, not less. It serves the interests of the military industrial complex and corporate arms manufacturers and hate-spewing spinmeisters, but it only guarantees more violence in the long run. The look in the eyes of children in Gaza, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and elsewhere compels me to reject that solution, that thinking. The search for alternatives to that kind of thinking is why I write, blog and podcast.

Anonymous said...

Douche here. I haven't read what Detroit has written yet, but wanted to add this:


You wrote, "I have publicly embraced the work of Carlos Latuff and defended his claim that Israel replicates many of the actions and techniques of Nazi Germany in their war against the Palestinians, a position for which I have been charged with anti-Semitism."

As it should be! This charge is the worst kind of double-think. Why is it always that Israelis are compared to Nazis and not, say, Soviet Communists?

How, exactly, are Israelis like Nazis?

Have they constructed extermination camps, filled them with Palestinians, and murdered them? NO!

Have they taken Palestinians from their homes, packed them onto trains and transported them hundreds of miles to extermination camps? NO!

Have they designed special clothing, and made Palestinians wear it, so they can be identified on sight? NO!

Have they publicly declared that Palestinians should be obliterated? NO! (But Palestinians have said this about Israel and the Jews. "'Annihilating' Jews by Palestinians becoming suicide bombers and 'detonating' themselves in their midst, and by saving 'a bullet is order to stick it in a Jew's head,' are examples of the many calls for killing Jews in Palestinian sermons."

Have they published political cartoons with the worst kind of stereotyping and racist caricature of Palestinians? NO! (But Palestinians have and do publish such cartoons about Jews.

In fact, if anyone can be compared to Nazis, it is the Palestinians. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem met and collaborated with Hitler, applauded his goal of extermination of Jews and wanted extermination camps built in Palestine; at Nablus. Furthermore, the old saw "All Nazis were German, but all Germans weren't Nazis" isn't completely true; some Nazis were Arab (there was an SS unit of Arabs.)

So, based on this, the comparison of Israelis to Nazis is shaky at best, and offensive Anti-Semitism at worst. If the label fits, wear it!

Anonymous said...

Douche here:

(Matt, I would love to honor your request, but my single massive rebuttal to "Detroit" is too long, so I have to break it up into more manageable chunks.)

"Detroit" seems to think that naked assertions and name-calling are valid substitutes for evidence and proof. About my claim of bias toward Palestinians, at least I actually quoted a study showing bias in a media outlet. "Detroit" merely denied it, calling it "laughable" and the people who ran the study as "tools." This may pass for argumentation in the academic world, but I like to see evidence, facts, studies, etc. Can "Detroit" prove the claim of pro-Israeli bias in the media, or am I simply to accept "Detroit"'s assertion as fact?

sinking to one-tenth of what it was under Israeli control.

(These inconvenient truths are backed up by, among others, the Arab Human Development reports of 2002 and 2005.)

For a "occupier" engaging in "genocide", Israel certainly went about it ass-backwards!

And just one last thing, Palestinian leadership has explicitly called, through their very charters as well as speeches and sermons, for the destruction of Israel. This undeniably meets the mental criteria for "genocide"; meaning the "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such". They just haven't been in a militarily capable position to follow through.

So, would "Detroit" be as willing to condemn the Palestinian authorities for these "genocidal" statements, as he/she apparently is to do in the case of Israel? If not, why not?

Anonymous said...

"Detroit" is in error or engaging in distortion on every point where we disagree:


I know the definition of "genocide" according to int'l law. There are 5 parts, and they must be "committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such" Of which part(s) is Israel guilty? Surely not the one about Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; considering the population tripling as I previously stated..

I bet "Detroit" mainly means "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part", and I bet it's mainly about Gaza.

First of all, my question is about the intentions of Israel. Are they imposing the blockade, etc, with the intention of "bringing about [Gaza]'s physical destruction"? Basic humanitarian supplies have been let in, and Israel supplies electrical power to Gaza, two things that seem to at least make me question whether Israel is truly trying to bring about it's physical destruction.

Secondly, and I have posed this question to Matt: What about Egypt? They control Gaza's southern border, and therefore would be equally guilty of genocide, if the blockade is what "Detroit" meant. Would "Detroit" be equally willing to accuse Egypt of "genocide"? And if not, why not? (And why have no Gazan rockets been launched at Egypt, if Gazans were mainly upset about the blockade?

Thirdly, how much of this is Hamas' fault? I mean, the blockade might not have happened in it's current form, if Hamas actually did stop shooting rockets at Israeli civilians. And how much deprivation is also due to Hamas' seemingly preferring to smuggle in weapons instead of food and medicine? Additionally, how much of Gazans' suffering is due to murderous clashes between Hamas and Fatah, and Hamas' imposition of strict sharia law?

Finally, directly contradicting the claims of "genocide" are these inconvenient truths:

-From late 1967 on, Israel invested in roads, sewage treatment plants, telephones, electricity, water, radio, sanitation, medical facilities and other infrastructure that brought the West Bank up to 20th century standards.

-The GNP of the West Bank grew 7-13% every year over the next 25 years.

-Under the Israelis, the Palestinians had the highest standard of living of any Arab country, except the oil states.

-7 Universities grew up in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where only 3 small teacher-training colleges had existed before.

-Perhaps most telling, under the Palestinian Authority from 1994 to present, these living standards eroded precipitously, with GNP sinking to one-tenth of what it was under Israeli control.

(These inconvenient truths are backed up by, among others, the Arab Human Development reports of 2002 and 2005.)

For a "occupier" engaging in "genocide", Israel certainly went about it ass-backwards!

And just one last thing, Palestinian leadership has explicitly called, through their very charters as well as speeches and sermons, for the destruction of Israel. This undeniably meets the mental criteria for "genocide"; meaning the "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such". They just haven't been in a militarily capable position to follow through.

So, would "Detroit" be as willing to condemn the Palestinian authorities for these "genocidal" statements, as he/she apparently is to do in the case of Israel? If not, why not?

Anonymous said...


Here again, we see "Detroit" substitute bare assertions for anything resembling evidence. While I concur with "Detroit" that merely saying a war is defensive doesn't make it so, I firmly believe that the circumstances behind a war might actually make it defensive.

A nice summary is found on Wikipedia: "In 1966-67, Egypt's leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, began a pan-Arab campaign seeking unified support to conquer Israel and expel the Jews. Freshly armed with the latest in Soviet supplied planes, tanks, and other military stocks, Egypt felt, for the first time since 1948, that they were in a position to overrun Israel. Egyptian media began a relentless and supportive jingoist campaign whipping up a fervor of popular support for war. This enthusiasm spilled over to the other Arab capitals.

On May 30, 1967, Jordan entered into the mutual defense pact between Egypt and Syria. Egypt mobilized Sinai units, crossing UN lines (after having expelled the UN border monitors) and mobilized and massed on Israel's southern border. Likewise, armies in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan also mobilized, encircling Israel for an imminent coordinated attack. "

I know Wikipedia has it's problems, but further evidence can be found in "Six Day War" by Michael Oren and the work of Bennie Morris.


242 calls for "belligerent parties" to "work for a just and lasting peace in which every state can live in security".

To that end, Israel gave up every inch of land sought by Egypt when Egypt renounced belligerency, and Jordan has abandoned almost all of the claims to land now occupied by Israel. At the Camp David Accord, Israel offered to give up about 95% of the disputed land on the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip and to accept a Palestinian state. That offer surely constituted full compliance with the language of 242. But there has been no compliance with 242 by the rejectionist Arab states and organizations, which continue to hold states of belligerency against Israel.

Is "Detroit" equally willing to call for these Arab states and organizations to comply with 242? If not, why not?

According to Eugene Rostow, one of the drafters of 242, the plain meaning of this resolution is that Israel's administration of the West Bank and Gaza is completely legal until a just and lasting peace is achieved.

That should be enough for now (and considering the preponderance of evidence on my "side", the paucity on "Detroit's", for quite awhile).

Anonymous said...

(OOPS! Just for the record, obviously I messed up, and my first comment in response to "Detroit" contained the end of my post about genocide. My apologies.)

chancelot said...

This seems like a relatively civil discussion. The problem is that this issue is unsolvable politically until two things happen: Stop the settlements and stop the violence aimed at the state of Israel. Neither of things will happen in this generation because both sides are held hostage by the hardliners. This isn't politics it's a staring contest between idiots.

Anonymous said...

What a messy and sad turn to a discussion that held promise…
Make no mistake – I am not an expert, and I have no firsthand account in the regions being discussed. From some of the information gathered in this discussion, however, I would be willing to bet that some of the other participants are as ill informed as I – garnering news from their favorite locals without having been an actual participant. And there is the heart of the matter.
Matt is not incorrect in his assertion that many have chosen sides, for a variety of reasons. Many of those who have taken up arms (verbally) in this debate have gathered their munitions from reports which are tainted by one’s political philosophy. This type of news gathering is necessary, to be sure, but it also allows people to otherizer the individuals to whom Matt is initially referring – the individuals who live in the middle of the conflict. Once we otherize the side we are not taking, it’s quite easy to find all sorts of journalism – both quality and not – to support the “side” one has chosen.
For instance, while Mr. Dousche (I’m assuming it’s a man – no woman would liken herself to the product or the name) argues that Israel should never be compared to Nazi Germany because (paraphrasing here) “they have not constructed extermination camps, taken Palestinians from their homes, transported them, or forced them to wear special clothing”, others might contend that the curfews, fences constructed to keep individuals in and out, identification documents and articles of clothing, and even the “murders” that Mr. Dousche talks about, have taken place. Additionally, one might argue that the Nazis didn’t start out with death camps – they started with segregation and verbal propaganda. This does have a familiar ring to it, especially in light of the posts by Mr. Dousche.
In fact, the militant (yes, you are militant) propaganda does more to lend sympathy to the group of people that Mr. Dousche seems so bent on accusing of wrong doing. This type of propaganda lends itself to martyring, which might defeat the purpose of the propaganda in the first place. It also makes him seem less and less intelligent with every random web link he may post.
Overall, the intent of Matt’s post is a good one – we should support people. We should try to see the perspectives of people. However, the notion that we should solve the plight of all of the peoples in the world is dangerous at worst, and (in your own words Matt) naive at best. The problem/solution mindset hasn’t proven effective in the past, and I don’t see how it can prove effective in this situation, which is riddled with religious overtones, political overtones, and cultural undertones. All three are human constructs, which lend themselves to ethnocentric policies and practices. In the end, those individuals you are trying to care for are the ones who will have to change the practices they dislike. As long as we look to political “solvency”, even from a third party, we give control over the individuals to that political party, and new “problems” arise (I know, how very Foucault of me…).
Finally (and it is an actual finally for me – I’ll not continue to engage), trying to “solve” from a third perspective doesn’t mean the solutions are without bias. It simply brings in a new set of biases – and if those biases are Western in nature, then sides have already been chosen to some degree. Helping people and seeing people doesn’t always call for policy change, intervention on an international scale, or providing for a particular group of people – that may be how this conflict started in the first place… Just a thought.

matt said...

Thanks, above anonymous. It's precisely the way that anti-Palestinians* fail to recognize the dehumanizing nature of their language, or are smugly satisfied with it, that makes it difficult for this conversation to get to a higher level.

I don't think I'm trying to impose a totalistic, Western-biased formula onto this conflict or its history. The only thing I've done thus far is (a) call for listening to peace groups and particularly peace groups containing both Israelis and Palestinians; and (b) suggested that there are class divisions on both sides that (certainly in their own unique way) "problematize" the identities of both sides. I suppose I am guilty of a "problem-solution" mindset, but I'm not going to pretend to try and escape that.

*The only _real_ anti-semitism on this thread...

Anonymous said...

Mr. Douche here: (Yep, I'm a man, and Matt cleverly gave me this handle, when he responded to a comment of mine by addressing me as "anonymous douchebag").

Believe it or not, I do support the Palestinian people. It's their leaders who have betrayed them and their cause, especially Arafat who turned down the best offer Israel will probably ever make.

I also support the claims to statehood and independence of the Tibetans, the Kurds, the Basques, the Chechens and the Turkish Armenians. Several of these stateless groups have far stronger claims than the Palestinians, yet, for whatever reason, these groups do not enjoy anywhere near the scale of positive international attention that the Palestinians have garnered.

Just to focus on two of these groups, there are more stateless Kurds and Tibetans than Palestinians, and they have been treated far more brutally by their occupiers than the Palestinians have. There's even a state already that has a majority Palestinian population, but neither the Kurds nor Tibetans have any state of their own.

Tibetans always have, and the Kurds primarily have, relied on lawful and legitimate means of seeking redress, whereas from the beginning Palestinians have committed crimes against humanity, targeting the most vulnerable civilians.

The Palestinians have backed the losing side in virtually every war of the 20th Century, whereas the Tibetans and Kurds have not.

Polls show the majority of Palestinians support the destruction of a UN member state, whereas neither the Kurds or Tibetans seek the destruction of any state.

Yet despite the significantly more compelling claims by the Tibetans and the Kurds, neither group has ever received any recognition from the UN, the European community, the Vatican, or any other official body, and they have been largely ignored by "intellectuals" of both extreme left and right.

Why is that?

Finally, I do not believe the links I have posted thus far are "random"; and here's another one:

matt said...

Distasteful, embarassing, self-effacing, most likely non-Jewish anonymous and unconditional defender of Israel:

You're always already wasting your time with your approach, just as the equivalent version of you on the other side would be doing so (and I actually don't think Detroit has done so), at least on _this blog._ My kingdom is not of your paradigm.

Yes, I called you a douchebag once. I've used the word more than I should, and I'll try to stop, folks, sorry!...and certainly I had no idea you'd adopt it as a title. Clever? Or obsessive?

The fact that a people's leaders have betrayed them should invite you to examine, through whatever framework you wish, the appropriateness of another set of leaders' tactics towards innocents. The difference between intentional versus collatoral violence is _not_ a difference to the innocent. Your side has come to functionally, if not explicitly, believe there are no innocent Palestinians.

Are you implying there's an anti-semitic conspiracy to prop up the Palestinians in the international media? I don't discount such barbarism outright, but why hasn't it worked? Why have the ruling classes of other Arab nations often turned their backs on the cause? The arms industry exists, and benefits from, exacerbating this conflict (perhaps you should invoice them). Hey I have an idea: do a comparative analysis of the so-called "Israel lobby" and the so-called "Palestinian lobby" and come back in six months with a full report.

As far as all your "Tibetans have done this, Kurds have done that, while them dumb ol' Palestinians have done that" talk, well, there you go again with your essentialism. You just love judging people and making little hierarchies between nationalities, religions, etc. Do you have any clue what a useless, destructive form of political engagement that is?

In the next couple of weeks I hope to have a couple of members of Parents' Circle, or a similar group composed of Israelis and Palestinians, on the show. The existence of such groups, and the frameworks that they co-construct, scares the crap out of your side. The possibility of sub-state solidarity threatens your entire endeavor, an endeavor which, as I've repeatedly said, will never, ever result in peace.

If you had any real political life, though, you'd open a blog of your own.

matt said...

P.S. The fact that the Vatican, the U.N., and the E.U. are incapable of the kind of policies and philosophies that could achieve peace in the Middle East is the most politically useful thing you've ever said. Pity you don't seem to know why.

Anonymous said...

Douche -

Take you at your word that you want to support the Palestinian people (despite their views about destroying Israel, if your poll is believed). Couple of thoughts and then I am out. As I said, I have been over the Israel-Palestine debate with those taking an opposing view with such frequency that I have concluded my time is better spent in other ways.

Palestinian leadership could/should be much better, less corrupt, more farsighted, more effective, and I believe less violent. I suppose it is more difficult for reasonable leaders to emerge while under siege and where almost anyone promising is assassinated or imprisoned.

Unless one subscribes to conqueror's "justice", who a people back in a war, particularly in the context where the losers may have supported the Palestinian cause, seems an irrelevant issue to me; all the more so when diplomatic postures are not the result of a plebiscite. The Israeli state essentially created the Hamas movement, but that does not mean I think innocent Israelis deserve to die at the hands of their rockets.

There a many national groups subject to state oppression who merit freedom. You mention several very strong cases that I too support. And always have. I would extend the same logic to many, many, other nations, including potentially many within the territory of the US, natives of Diego Garcia, etc., etc. Glen Morris estimated in the early 90s that fully 85% of the conflicts then underway in the world were of the nation vs. state variety.

While I support their independence, you may underestimate the role of violence in the Kurdish struggle, especially in Turkey. Many, many, many, many more Turks have died at the hands of the PKK and like groups than Israelis at the hands of Fatah/PLO or Hamas. That is true, I suspect, even if we throw the body count from Israeli-Arab conflicts into the calculation. I haven't actually researched the issue but am rather confident of these conclusions.

Why does the Palestinian cause receive more attention? Many possible reasons come to mind, including potentially a measure of anti-Semitism globally, a very real problem. But many others suggest themselves. Perhaps some of the support today is residue from the Cold War dynamic. Among the various comparable subject populations, the Palestinians have many very educated and accomplished and creative individuals. Despite their horrific circumstances, they remain the most educated of all Arabic peoples. They also have regional allies who (for their own reasons) have some global standing to make their case. Another possible explanation you should consider is that Palestinian violence is effective, however much we may choose to criticize it.

Do you devote your time and advocacy to the causes of these other groups, or have you none left after your defense of Israeli policy? I mean, there is no shortage of people to defend Israeli policy, yet by your own description these other deserving folks lack an effective presence on the global stage. Why don't you let other pro-Israeli policy folks cover that beat for a spell while you labor to raise the profile of these neglected causes?

Ask yourself this: Why does the US ignore the plight of these other peoples?

A majority of Palestinians may support the destruction of a UN member state but that same state is actively destroying a non-state member of that same body. And there is no small number of Israelis who wish to kick out Israeli Arabs and occupy the entirety of the Gaza and West Bank. Doesn't mean I think Israel should be destroyed.

Whatever else they are your links are most assuredly not random. They could not be less random.


Anonymous said...


You wrote "Distasteful, embarassing, self-effacing, most likely non-Jewish anonymous and unconditional defender of Israel:"

I'm not sure if you think this is an improvement over "Douchbag", but considering you also added "anti-Semitic", I'll just stick with "Douche".

I'm not sure how I've been distasteful, but I have noticed an interesting, if frustrating phenomenon:

You support comparing the Israeli government to the Nazi regime, and think that's not anti-Semitic.

However, when I point out where (the most prominent) Palestinian befriended and actually collaborated with Hitler, and expressed a desire to erect extermination camps in Palestine, I'm the one who gets labeled "anti-Semitic".

Like I said before, these are "inconvenient truths", and it is absolutely true that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Hitler had a mutual appreciation society going and both supported the"Final Solution", and both men thought that Islam and National Socialism shared many ideological similarities and were working toward the same goal.

If pointing out such "distasteful" facts actually makes me distasteful, then so be it.

Anonymous said...


Mr. Douche here. Thank you for agreeing that Israeli civilians do not deserve to die at the hands of Hamas' rockets.

And thanks for acknowledging that anti-Semitism is a very real global problem. And, just so you know, I fully acknowledge that Palestinian terrorism is very effective; it evokes responses from Israeli, and every Palestinian death works as Palestinian propaganda against the "evil occupier".

But, I find it very telling that you uttered not one word about the evidence I presented against your assertions. I mean, you said Israel is engaged in "genocide" and is "actively destroying" the Palestinians.

However, if Israel was really engaged in "genocide" would they do the things I listed as "inconvenient truths"; such as invest in infrastructure, and raise the Palestinian's standards of living to some of the highest in the Arab world under their watch? Does that actually make sense to you?

I wanted to hear your reaction to these "inconvenient truths", but you chose to ignore them utterly.

As much as my statements here have been categorized as only "militant Pro-Israel"; I feel my first militant loyalty is to the truth, and so many falsehoods have become "received truths" about Israel and the Palestinians, by their constant repetition, in the press, in academia, and even in bodies such as the UN, that I feel I need to correct such misunderstandings, and that I am outnumbered significantly in this effort.

So, to that end, I vehemently disagree with the comparison of Israel to Nazi Germany, the word "genocide" to describe Israeli policy, the idea that deliberately targeting civilians is legitimate resistance and feel that the Palestinian leadership have betrayed the people over and over by refusing offers of statehood, and responding with terrorism.

Finally, I am critical of some Israeli policies, and firmly believe they should have withdrawn from Palestinian population centers after the 6-Day war, and should now end their settlements in the West Bank. But, at the same time, the Palestinians must give up the violence, accept not only the fact of, but the right of Israel to exist, without threats to its existence, give up the right of return, and stop once and for all any calls to destroy the nation.

I remain skeptical it can ever come to pass, considering the powerful strain of Anti-Jew sentiment that runs thru Islam, from the Qu'ran itself onward, and, yes, even ideas on the Israeli side, such as that of "Greater Israel".

Perhaps the groups Matt keeps on about are the best hope for peace. But, I can't help wonder what the area would be like today if Arafat had said "yes" at the Camp David negotiations in 2000-2001.

Anonymous said...

Douche -

I believe I have made it plain that I am very selective in I-P debates. They are messy, as you know. I have many obligations. There are other issues I believe merit my attention. When I choose to engage in I-P debates, I have very specific audiences and objectives in mind. Going around the mulberry bush for a 1001st time with you just is not that appealing. Sorry that disappoints.

It is obvious you disagree with my arguments, fine, but I believe they are not beyond the pale; my rhetorically strongest argument is genocide. I do believe that claim based on the meaning of the word under international law. I also characterized this case as a form of slow genocide, which is precisely what it is, in my view. Please note I have not made and never make facile Nazi comparisons. You have been on the Mufti argument for years now without explaining why it justifies leaving some poor Palestinian child motherless.

Fortunately for you, I guess, is the fact you are a lone wolf of sanity and truth beset on all sides by argument opponents. By your own description, you confront a target-rich environment. Work with them not me.

Or take up the cause of the Tibetans, Kurds, or Armenians. The public sphere needs only one Regev.

Best of luck.


Anonymous said...


Douche here. You wrote: "Please note I have not made and never make facile Nazi comparisons. You have been on the Mufti argument for years now without explaining why it justifies leaving some poor Palestinian child motherless."

Noted. (Matt supported some other guy's comparison. And I said that it was way more valid to compare Palestinians--or at least that one--to Nazis; considering he was a Nazi collaborator, than the facile comparison to the Israeli gov't.

Please note I never said that the Mufti's nasty associations justify "leaving some poor Palestinian child motherless."

But about the evidence I presented, I was mainly curious for answers to the questions I asked:

-Are you equally willing to include Egypt in your accusation of "slow genocide"?

-Are you equally willing to condemn Palestinian "genocidal" statements?

-Are you equally willing to call for the Arab states and organizations to follow UNSC 242?

If you are, then we have actually found common ground!

If not, why not?

Anonymous said...

What do the Mufti revelations prove that is relevant to the situation today; that's the question I was getting at with my hyperbole.

Your questions are easily answered.

-Are you equally willing to include Egypt in your accusation of "slow genocide"?

Not without a firmer grasp of what you see as Egypt's actions contributing to slow genocide (and I assume you mean of the Palestinian people). Murbarak is a tyrant.

-Are you equally willing to condemn Palestinian "genocidal" statements?

Sure, but with the caveat that statements are not as weighty as acts and that there are, as I have labored to describe, questions of scale, premeditation, and effectiveness that differentiate Palestinian and Israeli acts.

-Are you equally willing to call for the Arab states and organizations to follow UNSC 242?

Arabs states should follow 242 and other UNSC resolutions as should Israel. I understand your point, via Rostow, that "land for peace" is the exchange at the heart of 242. I think of 'no territory acquired by force' as the heart of 242 (and of international law more generally). Also, I believe that Israel has often rejected progress toward peace in exchange for land in preference for keeping the land and water.

Anonymous said...


Douche here.

To clarify re: Egypt. I mean, are you willing to condemn Egypt for it's role in the "slow genocide" of the Gaza strip; considering they have a border with Gaza and are part of the infamous blockade?

Glad to hear you condemn genocidal statements. This is good common ground. And, as I pointed out; the int'l law definition of "genocide" definitely includes the mental "intent" aspect.

As far as Israel "reject[ing] progress toward peace in exchange for land in preference for keeping the land and water." Please provide examples.

I have provided examples where they actually did give land for peace with Egypt and Jordan, and offered it in 2000-2001, and their withdrawl from Gaza in 2005, though seen by many as inadequate, seems to me like "progress toward peace in exchange for land."

Anonymous said...

Douche here:

Detroit? Hello?