Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Gaza greenhouse effect

Every now and then the subject of the greenhouses left behind by Israeli settlers eradicated from Gaza is brought up by Israel apologists as proof of several things. It is claimed that Gazans don't suffer from malnutrition: if they did, they wouldn't have destroyed the greenhouses when the Israelis left. Therefore, there's nothing wrong with Israel's blockade of Gaza, because it doesn't actually harm them. It is also claimed that the destruction of the greenhouses proves how hateful Gazans are: they prioritized wiping out every vestige of Jewish presence over keeping a valuable source of nutrients and income. Finally, it is asserted that a people that got the result of heavy investment and destroyed it can't be trusted ro run anything, much less a state.

Much of this is bullshit, and the part that isn't is highly distorted.

When Israel decided its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, the settlers expected to be paid handosmely for the productive infrastructure they had created. Of course this was a display of chutzpah, because it had been heavy state subsidizing that had allowed them to create that infrastructure in the first place. As Haaretz noted:

The Gaza settlers had been inundated by perks from all directions. They received subsidized lands, subsidized water, assured wages from the public sector, "risk bonuses" and lower tax on their higher wages, subsidized daycare, cheap Arab labor, what didn't they get. The benefits they received touched on every area of their lives and they became accustomed to higher standards they can't forgo even now.
As the date of the withdrawal approached with no deal in sight, however, the settlers began to destroy the greenhouses. The New York Times reported:

About half the greenhouses in the Israeli settlements in Gaza have already been dismantled by their owners, who have given up waiting to see if the government was going to come up with extra payment as an inducement to leave them behind, say senior officials working on the coordination of this summer's Israeli pullout from Gaza.(...)

Of the roughly 1,000 acres of agricultural land that were under greenhouses in the 21 Israeli settlements in Gaza, only 500 acres remain - creating significant doubts that the greenhouses could be handed over to the Palestinians as "a living business," the goal cited by the Israeli coordinator of the pullout, Eival Giladi.
Finally, a last-minute effort by American Jewish philantropists raised $14 million and the remainder of the greenhouses was bought and turned over to the Palestinians.

However, since there had been no coordination with the Palestinians, there was no security plan to protect the greenhouses from looters. AP reported:

Palestinians looted dozens of greenhouses on Tuesday, walking off with irrigation hoses, water pumps and plastic sheeting in a blow to fledgling efforts to reconstruct the Gaza Strip.(...)

Palestinian police stood by helplessly Tuesday as looters carted off materials from greenhouses in several settlements, and commanders complained they did not have enough manpower to protect the prized assets. In some instances, there was no security and in others, police even joined the looters, witnesses said.

“We need at least another 70 soldiers. This is just a joke,” said Taysir Haddad, one of 22 security guards assigned to Neve Dekalim, formerly the largest Jewish settlement in Gaza. “We’ve tried to stop as many people as we can, but they’re like locusts.”
As can be seen, the theft was carried out by individuals, and in no way was it encouraged by the Palestinian Authority. Quite on the contrary, there was a conscious PA effort to prevent the lootings, which was however hindered by lack of resources.

Two reflections arise from the stories above.

On the one hand, it's true that some of the greenhouses were destroyed by Palestinian individuals. There's nothing remarkable about that. Beggars can't be choosers, as the saying goes, and looting is what normally happens when two conditions are met: 1) an impoverished populace; and 2) a situation of lack of control by an established authority. Gazans stole the hardware and materials contained in the greenhouses not in a drive to erase the Jews' memory from the territory, but to satisfy their personal needs. There was a rationale to their theft.

The destruction of part of the greenhouses by the settlers, however, can only be explained by animosity. They spent time, effort and probably even money to dismantle the facilities so that the Palestinians wouldn't be able to use them. There's a big difference between he who damages property in order to derive a benefit and he who damages it only to harm another person.

Many other related points could be made. For instance, that even in the Zionists' twisted logic the looting of the facilities would justify the ban on vegetable imports into Gaza, but not that on livestock (cows can't be raised in greenhouses). Or that the 350 Arab villages that disappeared from Israel's map were not looted by vandals; they were razed by the State in a clear drive to eliminate any trace of Arabness from their respective landscapes. But without getting into those intricacies, and just focusing on the destruction of the greenhouses by both Jews and Palestinians, it's clear who was moved by necessity and who by hate.

157 comments:

Anonymous said...

Does it ever occur to anyone that the corruption and poverty in the Gaza Srip and the West Bank (especially before the intifadah and even before Israel's existence) have an organic, cultural foundation? The tribalism, religious dogmatism, and misogyny that have long characterized Arab and Islamic culture have produced low quality of life in many Arab countries that are not under Israeli occupation. In fact, I believe quality of life in the West Bank is better than in Egypt. So can't we look at this looting of greenhouses with just a bit more nuance? Sure, they did it because they were impoverished. But were they impoverished simply because Israel was occupying them? Would the Gaza Strip have been Singapore were it not for Israel? Can we see an example of this in any Arab country whose wealth is not inflated by oil revenues?

For the record, I find the Israeli occupation sickening, but I've traveled through Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq (though quite some time ago), and what I saw led me to believe that, simply put, culture matters.

Ernie Halfdram said...

Very nice post, Ibrahim, a very elegant and if I may say so, nuanced, point.

If anyone is seeking racist blame the victim tripe about the organic, cultural foundation of Palestinian oppression, they need look no further than the mainstream media any day of the week. If anyone seeks tribalism, religious dogmatism, and misogyny, they need look no further than the No. 418 Egged bus. If anyone thinks nuance consists in pretending that culture trumps history and is not indeed a product of history, they would be well advised to keep quiet about it. If anyone thinks the benevolent occupiers have munificently provided Palestinians with a higher standard of living than the Egyptian dictatorship, as if the occupation wasn't really all that bad after all, they can fucking well kiss my ass.

andrew r said...

This is semi-related as it's very similar to the greenhouse saga. It's from an article in the first issue of Journal of Palestine Studies by Sabri Jiryis.

---

"A few typical incidents which have taken place in the last seventy years suffice to illustrate the reality behind this belief [Hebrew labour]. Zionist historians, for example, speak with great pride of what happened in 1908 at Ben Shemen (Bait Arif) near Lydda when the Zionist movement decided to plant a wood to perpetuate the name of Herzl. The Jewish labourers in the area uprooted the trees and replanted them because Arab labourers had planted them in the first place"

He cites three Hebrew books: B. Dinur, ed., History Book of the Haganah, vol. I p. 144; Alex Bein, History of Zionist Settlement, p. 43; Yitshak Greenbaum, The Zionist Movement, part III p. 121.

Next paragraph:

"Indeed Dr. Ruppin, the first head of the Zionist Bureau in Palestine, says frankly in his memoirs that he tried to build Tel Aviv with Hebrew labour but that he soon had to replace it by Arab labourers because of their experience (and low wages), when the first house to be erected by Jewish labourers collapsed while it was being built." (Ruppin, Chapters of My Life, part II, p. 147 (Hebrew) )

Doesn't that last bit really tempt you to post an obnoxious, smug laugh in onomatopoeia?

Ernie Halfdram said...

Speaking of Ruppin, btw, I hope to get around to Etan Bloom's thesis when I get some time off: http://www.tau.ac.il/tarbut/tezot/bloom/EtanBloom-PhD-ArthurRuppin.pdf

Anonymous said...

Ernie, you perfectly resemble the hysterical Zionists you accuse of silencing debate by throwing around the term "anti-Semitism." Don't shut me out. Engage my points.

First of all, I didn't say anything racist. I referred to Arab and Islamic culture. My understanding is that American Muslims are some of the most affluent citizens here in the United States. Clearly, it's not a race issue. I don't subscribe to that thinking. I do, however, recognize the differences among cultures and the societies they produce.

I also made it clear that the Israeli occupation is sickening, simply because it involves settling citizens among non-citizens, which does indeed fit the format of apartheid. Israel should either give all the Arabs there citizenship or withdraw. Your accusation that I said the Israeli occupation isn't all that bad is meaningless and evasive.

I simply doubt that the Israeli occupation is the cause of the poverty and lack of collective spirit that led those Palestinians to loot those greenhouses.

By the way, you're right, we see plenty of dogmatism and misogyny among the ultra-orthodox in Israel.

andrew r said...

Anon, if your outlook isn't racist, it's definitely shallow. Do you explain Nazism by looking at German culture? Does European culture lead to capitalism, fascism and imperialism? There are other implications in your remarks that display some ignorance. Does everyone in a developed western country have a high standard of living? There's no tribalism, religious dogmatism or misogyny in the USA? We just had a president who thought he was divinly sanctioned to invade Iraq.

andrew r said...

Ah forget it, we're just being subjected to a new and interesting method of trolling.

Ernie Halfdram said...

First of all, Anonymous, if you can provide an example of me ever accusing anyone ‘of silencing debate by throwing around the term "anti-Semitism"’ anywhere, I’ll be very surprised. When I bother responding to, or even discussing, Zionist trolls, it’s to point out that they waste time by trying to divert serious discussions into meaningless debate about long since refuted propaganda. You should probably be flattered that I’m intersecting with you at all.

Second, if my ‘accusation that I said the Israeli occupation isn't all that bad is meaningless and evasive’, then what did you mean when you wrote, ‘I believe quality of life in the West Bank is better than in Egypt’?

When you ‘refer to Arab and Islamic culture’ you conflate so many radically different things that it immediately becomes obvious that, for one thing, you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about, and for another, you are using culture in a perfectly familiar and conventional way as a proxy for race. You may be able to get away with that sort of thing on Mondoweiss or some Eustonite blog or somewhere, but however sincerely you may believe your spade is a rake, I’m going to call it for what it is. Sincere beliefs don’t impress me.

As if to underscore your cluelessness, you write that you ‘recognize the differences among cultures and the societies they produce’ when little could be more obvious than that it is societies, with all the baggage of their histories, including histories of occupation and oppression, that produce cultures. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to you that oppression can exert an influence on individual behaviour quite independent of culture – that people in desperate situations may take desperate measures. Oppression can also enhance group solidarity regardless of the culture of the group. I don’t think how these responses play out and interact is well understood, but I’m not aware of any evidence that it’s culture specific.

When you ‘simply doubt that the Israeli occupation is the cause of the poverty and lack of collective spirit that led those Palestinians to loot those greenhouses’, presumably because it was actually ‘Arab and Islamic culture’ what made them do it, you reveal that you think that culture – a culture, I hasten to remind you, that is a figment – is based on and encourages repugnant, greedy, antisocial sabotage. It should go without saying, but apparently doesn’t, that if there were such a culture, it would be utterly dysfunctional and would be lucky to survive more than a generation or two. Granted, American culture has survived a few more generations than that, but it only really encourages that kind of behaviour among the rich, and anyway, it won’t last much longer.

Ernie Halfdram said...

[continued]


But I digress. The point is that your position is that there is something inherent in ‘Arab and Islamic culture’ that makes members of that culture into selfish looters, given the opportunity, without a thought for the common good. If someone told you there was something inherent in Black culture that makes members smoke crack and do drive by shootings, or something inherent in Jewish culture that makes members create humungous Ponzi schemes, I suspect you’d recognise it immediately as racist.

Furthermore, if you were right, then upon the evacuation of the settlers, every man, woman, and child in Gaza would have been out looting, and I think we know that that wasn’t the case, indeed, I doubt it was even a majority. Nor is it the case in Mindanao, Java, Pakistan, Iran, or anywhere else that participates in ‘Arab and Islamic culture’. Not only that, in the absence of any evidence, you have chosen to conclude that the ‘looting’ was in fact for personal gain out of ‘lack of collective spirit’. That might be the case, or it might not. For instance, is it possible that people needed that equipment for some community project elsewhere in the strip and didn’t trust the terminally corrupt PA to use it in the common interest? Bear in mind this was before the January 2006 elections that brought Hamas to ‘power’.

Gert said...

@Anon:

"Does it ever occur to anyone that the corruption and poverty in the Gaza Srip and the West Bank (especially before the intifadah and even before Israel's existence) have an organic, cultural foundation?"

Your subsequent and feeble denial that such a statement isn't racist really had me in stitches. It reminds me of those bloggers that blame the extremist behaviour of a few members on the entire religion and then deny that this is effectively anti-religious bigotry.

You turn a 'culture' into 'race' by attributing universal traits to that culture, as a racist does to a 'race', then act all indignant when others call your position racist.

"In fact, I believe quality of life in the West Bank is better than in Egypt"

You believe it. Now please provide some evidence to that effect. Bear in mind that comparing cultures/countries/nations on the basis of some 'recognised economic markers' is deeply flawed: the US may be one of the most affluent countries in the world but on my trip to NY I saw abject poverty like you don't get to see too often. I didn't take the guided tour, you see...

@Ernie:

Perhaps intersecting with this particular troll was useful after all?

@Ibrahim:

Excellent post. Perhaps you could do some research in the related and alleged vandalisation/destruction of abandoned synagogues in Gaza that created a small storm in a teacup at the time? 'They destroy, we build', analogous to 'they love death, we love live' kind of racist chant, so popular with the Eustonites (e.g. at Harry's Place). The latter is something Anonymous could easily buy into.

Ernie Halfdram said...

Gert, with the benefit of hindsight, probably not. Perhaps, if I had expressed myself as succinctly as you in the first place. I guess I'm just a sucker for faux sincerity, after all.

Gert said...

@Ibrahim:

Thanks for the tip on the Coteret site. Their current top post is very revealing indeed.

@Ernie:

Far too much praise.

The Hasbara Buster Buster said...

“It is claimed that Gazans don't suffer from malnutrition” It's claimed they don't suffer from malnutrition because they don't.

“if they did, they wouldn't have destroyed the greenhouses when the Israelis left.“
if they weren't barbaric and stupid they wouldn't have.

“the destruction of the greenhouses proves how hateful Gazans are:“ No it proves how stupid they are sort of like you dumbass.

“Much of this is bullshit“ So then you agree much of it isn't then.

“the settlers expected to be paid handsomely for the productive infrastructure they had created.“ What proof do you have of this or are you just talking out of your ass? And allah forbid someone should actually be paid for their labour. I know this is a foreign concept to PalArabs but it's kind of the norm for most civilized people.

“The Gaza settlers had been inundated by perks from all directions.“ Sort of like the Gaza terrorist sort of balances the scales doesn't it.

“cheap Arab labor“ how well do those Arab's get paid for blowing themselves up etc? Is that cheap? They could also choose not to work at all and have nothing.

“only 500 acres remain“ oh my they only left their sworn enemies 500 measly acres of land they turned into terror tunnels which they then let be reclaimed by the desert.

“Jewish philantropists raised $14 million and the remainder of the greenhouses was bought and turned over to the Palestinians.” Do you have any examples of Arab philanthropists do anything to support Jews? Just wondering

The Hasbara Buster Buster said...

...cont
However, since there had been no coordination with the Palestinians, there was no security plan to protect the greenhouses from looters.“ BWAHAHAHA!!! How much many do Muslims pass to Jews for the betterment of Jewish lives? And Jews are supposed to risk their own lives to give this gift to the people that want to kill them. Man Hasby you have got to be one of the stupidest racist jerks on the face of the earth.

“complained they did not have enough manpower to protect the prized assets.” They were probably too busy smoking and loading their cars themselves with the loot. “In some instances, there was no security and in others, police even joined the looters, witnesses said.“ There it is. I knew that must have happened. Somehow it's the Jews fault that Arabs act like animals right?

“it's true that some of the greenhouses were destroyed by Palestinian individuals“ some being all.

“There's nothing remarkable about that.“ true enough. Nothing remarkable about Arabs taking an opportunity to make their lives better and turning it into trash.

“looting is what normally happens when two conditions are met: 1) an impoverished populace; and 2) a situation of lack of control by an established authority. “ or you could say looting happens when 1) people act like animals. 2) the authorities are themselves doing the looting.

“Gazans stole the hardware and materials contained in the greenhouses not in a drive to erase the Jews' memory from the territory, but to satisfy their personal needs.” I thought they were malnourished. Wouldn't food have met their personal needs were that the case? Also the Gazans stole the hardware because they are selfish idiots that expect the world to support their stupidity know matter how ridiculous. That and they don't think of the community at large only of themselves and the moment not the future.

“the settlers, however, can only be explained by animosity.” the settlers left them 500 acres of ready to use land they turned into nothing all on their own and you give the people that destroyed a chance at a livelyhood a free pass. They might as well just kill their own kids and expect people like you to support them. Oh wait they do and so do you my bad.

“There's a big difference between he who damages property in order to derive a benefit and he who damages it only to harm another person.” I would say not leaving your sworn enemy infrastructure is a benefit in itself. Again I'm not surprised you don't see the common sense of that. But then maybe you're right and the settlers thought I should leave my hard work behind for terrorist loving douche bags who will benefit from my hard work free of charge making it easier for them to kill me.

Another post BUSTED !!!

David L said...

Hi, one of your best posts, in that it provides really useful, factually based arguments for people engaged in solidarity work. I've encountered the greenhouse argument a few times, and always countered it with the obvious fact that Israel cut off water and power to Gaza, so obviously the greenhouses weren't going to be let function. Nor - as we know - would Israel let Gaza develop its economy. However, it's very useful to know that Israeli settlers themselves vandalised half the greenhouses.

If we rate the effectiveness of your articles by the amount of hatred they generate among Zionists, this also scores pretty highly!

Anonymous said...

Ernie and andrew,

Sorry about that. I posted a reponse a while ago, but I guess it never showed up.

Anyway, here I go again.

Of course, "Islamic culture" and "Arab culture" are not monolithic, but there are a few constants we can isolate and examine. For example, there is a widespread taboo in many countries with lots of Muslims about women working (especially working alongside men). This fits into a larger patriarchal tradition that has resulted in lower quality of life for women as measured by, for example, literacy.

These things need to be considered. They cannot be dismissed as just racist. As an American, I always find it funny how good-intentioned liberals are so quick to dismiss my comments on culture as racist, but then find no fault in pointing to all those "red states" and lamenting the cultural stratification in the United States...often speaking quite negatively of those "rednecks" and "hicks" who live in Jesusland.

Here's an example that hits closer to home. Check out the Hasbara Buster's entry titled "The Arab conspiracy to take Arab land away from Jews." In it, he says the following:

"But just tell me: don't you love these Sephardim? They're so outspoken, so lacking in hypocrisy, so unconstrained by political correctness, so... so... so Arab! Self-hating, but Arab, at least in this key cultural aspect."

What Ibrahim (or whatever his name is) has done is identified an observable cultural nuance among Sephardi Jews...and that's perfectly valid. It's not racist.

Andrew, please see the CIA World Factbook. You'll find that Egypt measures up to the West Bank in interesting ways. There are exceptions of course...such as unemployment. The problem is that the latest figures are from 2007...after the intifadah.

Before the intifadah, many thousands of West Bank Arabs worked in Israel, and the economy was quite good by Arab standards. And, as has been observed, it's beginning to improve now that there's been a measurable drop in militancy.

Sorry about anything I left unaddressed. I'm too tired.

Gert said...

Anonymous:

"Does it ever occur to anyone that the corruption and poverty in the Gaza Srip and the West Bank (especially before the intifadah and even before Israel's existence) have an organic, cultural foundation? The tribalism, religious dogmatism, and misogyny that have long characterized Arab and Islamic culture have produced low quality of life in many Arab countries that are not under Israeli occupation."

This was your opening shot. You are now desperately trying to backpedal by watering down your initial statement.

But Ernie's point still stands:

"If anyone thinks nuance consists in pretending that culture trumps history and is not indeed a product of history, they would be well advised to keep quiet about it. If anyone thinks the benevolent occupiers have munificently provided Palestinians with a higher standard of living than the Egyptian dictatorship, as if the occupation wasn't really all that bad after all, they can fucking well kiss my ass." And mine too.

The moment you opened your mouth here I knew you were American and not a Liberal one either: your opinion reeks of cultural supremacism and a belief that one is fully in control of one's destiny. That may (or not) be so for large swathes of US society but the history of your country is decidedly shorter and very different than that of the ME countries you proclaim to be an expert on.

You'll also forgive most of us here for not immediately consulting the 'CIA World Factbook'. The CIA has started collecting facts? That must be a steep learning curve...

As regards the quote you lifted from one of Ibrahim's posts:

"But just tell me: don't you love these Sephardim? They're so outspoken, so lacking in hypocrisy, so unconstrained by political correctness, so... so... so Arab! Self-hating, but Arab, at least in this key cultural aspect."

I'm almost 100 % convinced that it's satirically intended.

Last but not least, what actually is your point? Assume even for argument sake that you're 100 % correct with your initial point. This makes the occupation less damaging? Morally more defendable? No? What then is significant about your point according to you?

andrew r said...

I wish jhrhv (aka Hasbara Buster Buster) knew of the Mooser Theory of Ziocaine. His tolerance level is so far gone he can't get through one line of a critical post without shooting up. It's not too late for anonymous, though. Hey dude, you just admitted Palestinians work for a living like everyone else. This is a huge step over the other patients. When you can bring yourself to admit what keeps them from working, namely Israeli bombs, blockades and land confiscations, that should kick your ziocaine addiction. Hopefully you don't flashback and start telling us Israel built their economy.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gert,

"The moment you opened your mouth here I knew you were American..."

Strange thing to say. Are you suggesting there's something unifying about us Americans? A culture, perhaps? If it weren't for the fact that Americans are so ethnically diverse, I'd call you a racist, but clearly that's not the case. So I'll just call you a culturist, or whatever.

Anyway, point is that you've demonstrated my point for me. You identified me as an American because of what you perceive to be common American characteristics. If you can do it, I should be allowed to do it without being attacked.

Now to your points...

I wasn't trying to backpedal from anything. I was simply trying to clarify the ideas behind my points. Ernie responded (a bit hysterically) by attacking the very notion that culture could play a role in all of this, so I had to go back to that issue and clarify it to him.

He said something about "culture trumping history." See, here there's just confusion. Did I ever say culture trumps history? I happen to think culture results from history (and geography and a bunch of other stuff...and no, not genetics and the outdated construct of "race").

He also said "If anyone thinks the benevolent occupiers have munificently provided Palestinians with a higher standard of living than the Egyptian dictatorship..."

As I said, the occupation is sickening, but I do see it as true that the occupation (the earlier form of it, at least) did boost a lot of quality-of-life markers for the Palestinians. These are weird things to think, indeed, but they're worth considering. You feel bad when you're traveling through Jordan and see Palestinians in refugee camps. You want to emote for them. But it's just harder to do when you realize that they were largely uneducated peasants laboring away in stony fields and subsisting on a bland diet. Now the UNRWA provides three guaranteed meals per day (varied diet) and education for their children. That doesn't mean the Nakba was good (as Ernie seems to want me to believe so he can dismiss me), but these are not things that can be disregarded.

The CIA World Factbook is widely recognized as being an authoritative resource for information about the world. But I understand if you don't like it. Which resource would you feel better about?

As for Ibrahim's comment being satirical--I don't think it is. I've seen him comment on Sephardi culture in that way in other places. Also, see his entry "Jewish terrorism: debunking three claims," where he says the following:

"Only when the impoverished Sephardi population, who didn't benefit from the Histadrut pork barrel, grew to outnumber the educated, well-to-do Ashkenazi sector did Begin's rightist, populist discourse take hold among the electorate."

Here he's making a claim about a country's political existence changing because of the influx and growth of a group of people. Why? Because there were cultural differences between European Jews and North African Jews.

Oh, and my point was simply in response to Ibrahim's suggestion that it's just the occupation that led to these people being impoverished and looting those greenhouses. This seems like a small, inconsequential point, but it's actually quite significant in other contexts...like when people talk about the prospects for Palestinian statehood.

No, I'm not saying "Stop Blaiming The Jews!!"

Ernie Halfdram said...

You know, Anonymous, it behoves those who want to be taken seriously to intersect with what their interlocutors are actually saying rather than to erect straw men. It’s not as if we don’t remember what we’ve said and can’t reread it if there’s any doubt. So for example, you asserted that I made accusations ‘of silencing debate by throwing around the term "anti-Semitism"’. When I suggested you substantiate it, you just went silent on the issue. A serious person would have acknowledged their error and refrained from repeating it. But now you assert that I attacked ‘the very notion that culture could play a role in all of this’. Of course, I did nothing of the sort. In case it’s not absolutely clear, I attacked the notion that there is such a thing as ‘Arab and Islamic culture’ and suggested that ‘tribalism, religious dogmatism, and misogyny’ were not the exclusive province of any particular culture. If you take the trouble to inform yourself, you will find that there’s nothing special about a sexual division of labour and that it indeed persists even in the US. You are elevating what’s really a matter of degree to a matter of principle. Furthermore, it won’t do to write, ‘Did I ever say culture trumps history?’ Adults take responsibility for what we imply.

Now to take up a couple of issues, you write of Ibrahim, ‘Here he's making a claim about a country's political existence changing because of the influx and growth of a group of people. Why? Because there were cultural differences between European Jews and North African Jews.’ In fact, it’s just you who thinks that culture is responsible for Sephardi poverty and exclusion from the Histadrut pork barrel. These are artifacts of Ashkenazi racism, a transparently political phenomenon. If you read the post you extracted the ‘don't you love these Sephardim’ quote from, you’ll find that it’s about ‘Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias’. Under the circumstances, it is almost certain that he was writing tongue in cheek.

The CIA World Factbook is not authoritative, but I have no serious problems with it. If you want statistics about different countries, it’s about as reliable as Wikipedia. The issue is how reliable the sources are. Since much of the data is expressed as a percentage, you need to ask, percentage of what? What’s the denominator? Where the denominator is the total population or some subset of it, you want to be confident that it’s actually known. And the sad fact is that in any country where there isn’t timely, consistent registration of births, deaths, and migration, we really don’t know. A census can help, but only if you trust the collection methods and so forth. If you want to talk about female literacy, there are additional problems, like who ‘literacy’ is defined and whether it means the same thing in one country as another. As a matter of fact, in the country whose literacy stats I’m most familiar with, Pakistan, the standard statistical sources use no fewer than six different definitions. When it comes to income stats, the principal poverty indicator, there is wide range of much more complex issues. Don’t get me started.

Make no mistake, there’s nothing you say that can’t very readily be dismembered, but I’d definitely want some evidence that I need to take you seriously before I’d go to the trouble.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ernie,

Thanks for intersecting with me again.

For starters, you're right. A quick review of your posts here on this blog reveal that you do, indeed, stay away from arguments about trying to silence debate by claiming "anti-Semitism," though I'd be surprised if you don't actually hold that belief, and if you haven't made the argument before. I noticed, for example, that you've posted on MuzzleWatch. Surely, your posting on both this blog and Muzzlewatch (two places that make a point to call out this absurd tactic) indicates that you have some sympathy for the notion.

Anyway, if not, my sincere apologies. I acknowledge my error and will refrain from repeating it.

Moving on...

I never said misogyny is the exclusive province of any particular culture. I simply said that there's enough of it in a particular region unified by certain cultural markers to consider it a trapping of that culture. I also made a point to say that Islamic culture is not monolithic. A Somali Muslim is not a clone of an Algerian Muslim, but there's enough to generalize. Of course I'm not suggesting that misogyny doesn't exist in Western Europe. Of course it's a matter of degree. All I'm saying is that the degree is high enough in Islamic countries to consider it a marker of that culture.

I never said culture trumps history. I think history produces culture (in addition to other factors, such as geography). It's been observed, for example, that Christians have done much better (in terms of affluence and education) than their Muslim counterparts in Arab lands. This trend has replicated itself in many places---Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine. Read "Zionism and Its Impact" by Anne M. Lesch. She describes how in the 1930s Palestinian Christians had a literacy rate of around 75%, while Muslims had a literacy rate or around 25%. There are structural, historical reasons for this difference. And no, it's not genetics. A lot of it has to do (or so I've heard and read) with European Christian-Arab Christian interaction in the 18th to 20th centuries. Stuff like that affects culture.

Something else about Arab Christians that's pretty consistent across geography... they're leaving.

www.nytimes.com/2009/05/13/world/middleeast/13christians.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=all

It is tempting, indeed, to label Ashkenazi absorption programs racist. I happen to think the issue is a bit more nuanced. But rather than get into this, perhaps we could have Ibrahim chime in on this matter if he catches wind of this exchange. I've seen him make similar comments elsewhere about Sephardi culture (and I'm perfectly fine with it...actually, I agree in large part). If he says that he was being tongue-in-cheek, then I'll get into the matter of impoverished Sephardim in Arab countries becoming impoverished Sephardim in Israel.

Can you recommend a source better than the CIA World Factbook? I'm genuinely interested.

Gert said...

Anonymous:

"You identified me as an American because of what you perceive to be common American characteristics. If you can do it, I should be allowed to do it without being attacked."

The traits I immediately recognised belong to an American subgroup, loosely defined. I don't think what you believe to be a universal American trait but rather prevalent among some American subgroups.

It's always telling when someone wants to point out that Gazan misery may in part be due to pre-occupation conditions (and that such conditions more or less prevail throughout the ME) when in reality that is neither here nor there: had the Gazans pre-occupation lived like cavemen the occupation would have been no less morally repugnant and settling Israeli Jewish colonists there no less illegal. The point is immaterial, whether it's true or not.

"It is tempting, indeed, to label Ashkenazi absorption programs racist. I happen to think the issue is a bit more nuanced."

Not quite sure what you mean by "Ashkenazi absorption programs". If you mean the more relevant and accurate term Right of Return to Israel for Jews (right to become Oleh and make Aliyah) then please explain how this couldn't possibly be the worst kind of racism. When that right is systematically refused to those who were expelled in 1948 and 1967 (and their legal descendants) then RoR for Jews only becomes the worst possible form of racism. What nuance is needed here?

Anonymous said...

Gert,

"The traits I immediately recognised belong to an American subgroup, loosely defined."

Oh, okay. I was led to believe otherwise from how you said it.

"Had the Gazans pre-occupation lived like cavemen the occupation would have been no less morally repugnant..."

You're right. As I've said, settling citizens among non-citizens is morally unsound. I wasn't making that point in order to claim that the occupation is okay.

And no, I wasn't talking about the right of return as a general immigration policy. I was talking about how the Sephardi Jews were naturalized. There's a lot of controversy over that.

Gert said...

Anonymous:

"I was talking about how the Sephardi Jews were naturalized."

Please explain a little more.

Anonymous said...

There's a lot of talk about how Ashkenazi programs designed to integrate Sephardi Jews into the nascent Israel amounted to "cultural genocide." Also, the fact that they were stuck in development towns like Ramle and Dimona instead of immediately integrated into the kibbutzim, for example, leads people to believe that the program was racist.

Gert said...

Anonymous:

Yes, intra-Jewish racism in Israel appears to exist, I have some first hand evidence (from Israeli friends) pointing to that. Also racism of the 'you weren't even born here' genre appears to exist... The Russians also got a rough deal, at least many of them, including of course those whose Jewish roots are in doubt (some 350,000, according to one source).

Anonymous said...

Sure does.

Anyway, I'm talking about the motivations behind an entire absorption and naturalization program.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

Hi Anonymous:

It would do no harm if you adopted a screen name, such as "Identifiably American," or some such.

With regard to my remarks about the Sephardim being Arabs, my intention was clearly ironical, the implication being that when Arabs say something outrageous there's a component of lack of awareness of political correctness, which the Sephardim also share.

But actually I don't think this is a trait of Arab culture, but of societies that lack democratic traditions. In the case of the Sephardim, the fact that up to a relatively recent time they did not massively participate in mainstream politics may have played a role. But surely that will be corrected with time and they will eventually become as hypocritical as the Ashkenazim.

jhrhv said...

If you judge the worth of a post by the amount of notice it generates from its detractors...then you would have to admit the only failure large enough to measure the worthlessness of this post would be to measure it by the worthlessness of this blog. This blog generates no real interest because the post are little more then some crap being spewed by some horrible creature of a human being being followed by a couple of other racist turds like itself.

The only thing Ibrahim does worse on the internet then create a horrible and stupid blog is to create stupid post on other peoples blogs that further prove he is the sort of person without enough sense to know the difference between his asshole and a hole in the ground.

What a stupid post saying it's all the Jews fault because his little pets in Hamasastan just couldn't be helped but to go ahead and destroy those green houses. But then you know how it is if Arabs do it that's okay but when Jews do it they are evil. Is that about it Hasby? BWAHAHAHA!!!

The Hasbara Buster indeed. You are just about one of the most stupid people I've ever read on the internet. Know wonder Gert found you.

Are there are any other blogs you post at beside EoZ HB or have you been band by all the people that are supposed to agree with you? Are we going to see any comments from your wife or son anytime soon?

Identifiably American said...

Well, I guess Ibrahim's response fits into Ernie's statement that "misogyny is not the exclusive province of Arab culture." But I never said it was.

What Ibrahim has said is that a lack of political awareness is widespread in Arab society (Arab culture) but also exists in other undemocratic societies (no argument here). Or were you being facetious about this?

Anyway, point is that it is possible to identify a culture without claiming that the trappings of that culture are exclusive to it...otherwise, does culture even exist?

McKeon said...

One thing that's certain...

The Palestinians have acted in accordance with the Phased Plan hatched in 1974, and Gaza demonstrates that pretty well.

I'm almost certain none of you knows anything about that.

andrew r said...

No McKeon, the plan was launched in a.d. 632. DEEEEEHUR.

McKeon said...

Andrew,

Don't be so dismissive. Does it exist or not? If it does, is it not worth discussing?

andrew r said...

If you're suggesting there's a central Palestinian command with a phased strategy for liberating Palestine, there isn't. There are Palestinian orgs and individuals who call for varying levels of BDS against Israel and a number of resistance orgs who do their level best to make ethnic cleansing more difficult.

It is clear that Israel only cedes territory when faced with more trouble than it's worth (c.f. Sinai, southern Lebanon, Gaza settlements though not the whole Gaza strip). That's no evidence of a phased plan, just that Israel's targets can fight back.

McKeon said...

But I'm talking about a plan to use the acquired territory as a launching pad for further armed struggle and the re-conquest of all of historic Palestine.

See this, for example: www.youtube.com/watch?v=wD_KQMJqPeA

And this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ol8FCf-wq_o


Yasser Arafat on Jordan Television Network (Amman), in Arabic, Sept. 13, 1993:

"Do not forget that our Palestine National Council accepted the decision in 1974. It called for the establishment of a national authority on any part of Palestinian land that is liberated or from which the Israelis withdrew. This is the fruit of your struggle, your sacrifices, and your jihad This is the moment of return, the moment of gaining a foothold on the first liberated Palestinian land Long live Palestine, liberated and Arab."

Faisal Husseini in an interview with Focus, Syrian television, Sept. 9, 1996:

"All Palestinians agree that the just boundaries of Palestine are the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Realistically, whatever can be obtained now should be accepted [in the hope that] subsequent events, perhaps in the next fifteen or twenty years, would present us with an opportunity to realize the just boundaries of Palestine."

Faisal Husseini in an interview publishedin As-Safir (Beirut newspaper), Mar. 21, 2001:

"One must draw a distinction between the strategic aspirations of the Palestinian people, who would not surrender one grain of Palestinian soil, and their political striving, based on the balance of power and the nature of the current international system Our eyes will continue to be focused on the strategic goal—a Palestine from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea—and nothing that we take today can make us forget this supreme truth."

Yasser Arafat in A-Datsur (Jordanian newspaper), Sept. 19, 1995:

"The Oslo II Agreement is a delayed realization of a stage in the PLO's 1974 phased plan."

Yasser Arafat said the following during a closed meeting with Arab diplomats in Stockholm. This was leaked by one person present and reported by Cal Thomas in the Washington Times, also by the Middle East Digest, March 7, 1996:

"Within five years we will have 6 to 7 million Arabs living on the West Bank and in Jerusalem.... We plan to eliminate the state of Israel and establish a Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion. Jews will not want to live among Arabs. I have no use for Jews....We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem."

Abdul Aziz Shaheen in Palestinian Authority newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Jan. 4, 1998:

"The Oslo accord was a preface for the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Authority will be a preface for the Palestinian state which, in its turn, will be a preface for the liberation of the entire Palestinian land."

Marwan Barghouti in interview with New Yorker, July 2, 2001:

"We may lose or win, but our eyes will continue to aspire to the strategic goal; namely, Palestine from the [Jordan] river to the sea."

McKeon said...

But I'm talking about a plan to use the acquired territory as a launching pad for further armed struggle and the re-conquest of all of historic Palestine.

See this, for example: www.youtube.com/watch?v=wD_KQMJqPeA

And this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ol8FCf-wq_o

McKeon said...

Sorry about the double post. Disregard the second one.

Ernie Halfdram said...

Seriously, Anonymous, don’t you think this is a bit of a stretch? ‘Surely, your posting on both this blog and Muzzlewatch (two places that make a point to call out this absurd tactic) indicates that you have some sympathy for the notion.’ Muzzlewatch, btw, has long since closed its comments facility, an irony to which Surasky is not oblivious. And yet, she remains decidedly self righteous in justifying the decision: http://www.muzzlewatch.com/why-this-blog-does-not-currently-allow-comments/

That said, as a matter of fact, I do agree that the hasbaristas seek to stifle debate about Palestine. It’s just not a particular concern of mine. It’s true that they have experienced some success in blocking tenured appointments and cancelling speaking engagements for mild critics of Israel. Politicians have reason to fear for their seats if they were to be so imprudent as to suggest any wrongdoing by Israel. But the fact is that the debate is constrained within such narrow limits anyway that it hardly matters. Outside the antizionist blogosphere, nobody is talking about Israel being a racist ethnocracy. Everyone accepts its ‘right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state’, as if that weren’t transparently an oxymoron. Jimmy Carter described it as a ‘wonderful democracy with equal treatment of all citizens whether Arab or Jew’. (http://bureauofcounterpropaganda.blogspot.com/2007/03/what-racism.html) Questioning that kind of stuff is no more likely than questioning the profit motive or any of the other in your face antihuman aspects of capitalism, with or without The Israel Lobby. (http://bureauofcounterpropaganda.blogspot.com/2007/11/dog-wags-tail.html)

As I said, the Factbook is not an original source. It compiles data from other sources. I don’t think it’s any more or less reliable than any other such compilation. I’m reasonably confident that they use the most reliable sources available, same as anyone else. The issue is the reliability of the original data. If you’re really interested in demographic stats, the best you can do is track down the original source, examine the definitions, the questionnaires, the interviewers’ instructions, the collection methodology... and decide for yourself what you think the data are worth and if you want to do comparisons, whether they are compatible with analogous data about some other population. Bear in mind that definitions often conflict with the questions, or whatever, designed to elicit the data, that interviewers don’t always ask the questions as worded, and so forth.

All you’re saying ‘is that the degree [of misogyny] is high enough in Islamic countries to consider it a marker of that culture’. But you don’t reveal where you draw the line. How sexist does a society have to be before it becomes a ‘marker’? Furthermore, when you write of ‘Islamic countries’, I gather you can’t mean one of the four Islamic republics — Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and Mauritania (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_republic) — none of which is Arab. So you must mean countries with a high Islamic, by which I surmise you mean Muslim, population. But if you look at such countries, I think you’ll find the degree of misogyny varies as much as it does between, say, Saudi Arabia and New Zealand.
[continued]

Ernie Halfdram said...

[continued]
You ‘never said culture trumps history’. What you said was:

‘Does it ever occur to anyone that the corruption and poverty in the Gaza Srip and the West Bank (especially before the intifadah and even before Israel's existence) have an organic, cultural foundation? The tribalism, religious dogmatism, and misogyny that have long characterized Arab and Islamic culture have produced low quality of life in many Arab countries that are not under Israeli occupation. In fact, I believe quality of life in the West Bank is better than in Egypt. So can't we look at this looting of greenhouses with just a bit more nuance? Sure, they did it because they were impoverished. But were they impoverished simply because Israel was occupying them?’

Now I assumed that when you wrote of the nonsensical concept of ‘Arab and Islamic culture’ you meant that there was a culture common to all Arabs AND all Muslims. Now you seem to be excluding Arab Christians, as if you meant ‘Arab Muslim culture’, that is, excluding Arab Druzes, Jews, et al., as if that were just one thing. But that can’t be it either, unless you mean something pretty unintelligible by ‘Islamic countries’.

Anyway, if what you were trying to say in your original comment was something other than that these cultural traits you ascribe to somebody or other are the principal cause of ‘corruption and poverty’ and that the historical fact of occupation is at best secondary, then what were you trying to say? That’s what I mean when I attribute to you the view that culture trumps history. And that’s what I mean when I say you have to take responsibility for what you imply.

In case you were wondering why I identify this as racist, when cops go out to round up ‘persons of Middle Eastern appearance’, when employers dismiss applications from people with names like Mohammed, they don’t go to a lot of trouble to determine where the person was born, what language they speak, or how imbued with ‘Arab and Islamic culture’ they may be. They make assumptions based on appearances. Just as when the Nazis defined a Jew as someone three of whose grandparents ‘belonged to the Jewish religious community’, they didn’t probe deeply into how many of your grandparents participated in what rituals before loading you onto the cattle cars. (cf. http://bureauofcounterpropaganda.blogspot.com/2007/06/how-many-states.html) You may protest ‘it's not genetics’, but racism never really is. It’s about the perception of genetics, it’s about the biologisation and essentialisation of traits believed to be inherited. Even if you’re one of the handful of people who really interrogates people closely before you decide to blame their ‘culture’ for what you consider their defects, and there’s no evidence of that, your rhetoric nourishes those who would victimise those who look like towelheads or have the wrong names, or whatever.

Sorry about the shameless self promotion.

Ernie Halfdram said...

So, McKeon, it seems you have some problem with and majority rule. Obviously, it's hard to agree with Arafat when he says, 'We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare', but considering that the Zionist objective has always been to inflict 'transfer' by hook or by crook, I can understand the sentiment.

jhrhv said...

hahaha someone actually quoted Yesir Arabfat. what a joke. he is the top lying Arab of all time and that's no small feat as i'm sure you know. That anyone would quote that liar as a source for anything proves the truth means nothing to that person.

andrew r said...

McKeon, those quotes might embarass a believer in the Oslo process but for someone who doesn't see Israel as a legitimate state... In any case Arafat gave up fighting Israel after 1982 and spent more time arresting and torturing Palestinians.

I have to say though, I love it when zios make the case that wily Arafat pulled a fast one over Rabin, someone whose career of expulsions, demolitions and bone-breaking spanned 45 years.

Identifiably American said...

Wow, I have nothing but regret. I didn't realize this would turn into such a back-and-forth. I'm ready to agree to disagree when you are (I'll assume we both have jobs and family lives).

How was it a stretch? My original comment was:

"Ernie, you perfectly resemble the hysterical Zionists you accuse of silencing debate by throwing around the term 'anti-Semitism.'"

You've just demonstrated that you do, indeed, believe that Zionists try to silence debate. If you want to insist that you've never actually made the accusation and just kept it as a private thought, fine. But I think that would be splitting hairs.

When I say Islamic countries, I'm referring to all countries that have adopted Sharia as legal foundation (Afghanistan, Bahrain, Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Oman, Pakistan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia) and (to expand it out a bit more) all those countries that have endorsed Islam as official state religion (Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Morocco, Qatar, Tunisia, UAE).

In addition to cuisine and language (also important facets of culture), I would count Islam as a tentpole of these nations' culture. Yes, there is fluctuation as far as gender segregation, voting rights, literacy, etc., but this doesn't stop me from identifying these countries (unified by the emphasis they place on Islam) as sharing an Islamic culture. Please share which country matches in New Zealand in level of misogyny (I'll assume New Zealanders are pretty tame). I'd find that very interesting.

And no, I didn't say there's a culture common to all Arabs and all Muslims. I've said that it's not a monolith. But there are majorities and trends that we can use to generalize, even if it's unpalatable. I know about those determined Arab socialists, but I also recognize that they're fighting an uphill battle.

Arab Christians are a significant subgroup. When you observe that Palestinian Christians had 75% literacy while the Muslim majority had 25% literacy, you're allowed to identify the subgroup as an exception. Again, I'm talking about significant majorities here. Lebanon, for example, is nearly 1/2 non-Muslim. Notably, Lebanon is not an Islamic country by the critera I've set forth.

Rather than continue to argue about the principle cause of corruption and poverty, I'd be interested in knowing what you think causes the high level of corruption in most Islamic countries. Also, I'd be interested in knowing what you think caused the Islamic Golden Age and then the decline in GDP, literacy, etc. in most Islamic countries.

Forgiven.

Gert said...

Identifiably American:

"Arab Christians are a significant subgroup. When you observe that Palestinian Christians had 75% literacy while the Muslim majority had 25% literacy, you're allowed to identify the subgroup as an exception."

Where do you get those data from? This smacks seriously of a highly biased source... Palestinians were quite a secular group from what I understand.

Inquirer said...

Hi Ernie,

I have a question for you. I understand that Zionism was a wrong turn in history, but I've been wondering something lately.

Given the fact that Zionism was a wrong turn in history, what should the European Jews have done?

Should they have just assimilated and stop being "tribal?" But what about the fact that Nazism was a largely race-based ideology? And what does deicide and "trying to take over the world with abstractions" have to do with tribalism? Could they have really avoided the Holocaust even while staying in Europe?

Should they have just stayed in Europe and died? Doesn't seem too appealing...

Should they have gone to the U.S.? From what I know, in the 1920s the Ku Klux Klan was the civil society organization with the highest membership in America. There were still Jewish quotas at American universities. Country clubs had "no Jews" policies. Plus, there was McCarthyism and all that. I can't imagine that the influx of several million (largely socialist) Jews would have been OK considering these historical realities.

Should they have gone to Palestine and just worked towards binationalism? Are there any examples of effective binationalism between two people of such vastly different culture (religious, linguistic, etc.)?

Or should they have just colonized the Crimean Peninsula?

Thoughts?

andrew r said...

Inquirer - I don't see how Israel in 1939 could've saved Jews from extermination without protection from the allies. It was not going to succeed where Poland failed and the USSR suffered 20 million deaths. And the Nazi conquest would have extended to the region unabated. A Jewish state could only prevent the holocaust if located well out of reach.

It strikes me as a facile question because whatever the Jews did, virtually the whole of E. Europe would have to do the same thing. That war didn't spare anyone and the Nazi extermination machine claimed millions who weren't Jewish.

This is before questioning the idea that Zionism was strictly speaking concerned with saving Jews from anti-semites. Israel has a bonafide record of working with anti-semites who are actively persecuting Jews because the arms economy is more important. Tony Greenstein has a few lengthy and well-sourced posts on the subject.

Jewish survivors of the Holocaust were also forced to join the war in Palestine: "Indeed, the drive to bring Jewish DPs to Palestine reached its peak in 1948, when the end of the British Mandate over Palestine, and the subsequent declaration of statehood, led to a full-scale war. Serious manpower shortages led the Israelis to look for volunteers for the IDF in the DP camps. Survivors were reluctant: "We have already smelled fire," said many "let others smell it now." The failure to recruit volunteers led to a forced conscription, officially enacted on April 11th, 1948. It brought 7,800 new draftees to Palestine, a significant addition to the fighting army. I recognize that the thought of a Zionist forced conscription in the U.S. controlled zone of Germany sounds insane. Yet it actually happened, as massive documentation I discovered in the Jewish DP archives in New York and Tel Aviv indicates: The American military government quite generously let the DPs run their camps as almost fully autonomous localities; Zionist survivors, together with envoys from Palestine, organized and took control of these camps early on, as I detail in the book."
http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/6101

And early in the Nazi regime there was a widespread attempt to organize a boycott which the mainstream Zionist movement broke with the Ha'avara agreement. "The Third Reich and the Palestine Question" by Francis R. Nicosia, p. 46: "At a meeting in Berlin on Aug. 7, attended by representatives of the Ministry of Economics, Sam Cohen of Hanotaiah Ltd., Mr. Hoofien of the Anglo-Palestine Bank of Tel Aviv, Dr. Arthur Ruppin of the Jewish Agency for Palestine and representatives of the Zionist Federation of Germany, it was agreed that a public trust company would be created in Palestine under Hoofien, which would take over from Hanotaiah Ltd. the sale of German goods and the capital disbursements to the immigrants upon arrival in Palestine. The Economics Ministry favored this approach as an even more effective way of neutralizing the anti-German boycott and, at the same time, compensating Jews emigrating to Palestine without loss to the German economy."

---

That's two examples of Zionist leaders working with anti-Jewish racists and one of directly forcing Jews into a conflict they wanted no part of. I know it's not fair to avoid answering, "what should they have done," but I don't think an answer exists. The only thing we can do is bury the racist ideologies that led to the holocaust, and Zionism is counterproductive to this goal.

andrew r said...

Argentina-Proof that Israel is no refuge from anti-semitism

The murder of 3000 Argentinian Jews and the silence of Israel's leaders

Inquirer said...

Andrew, in case you didn't notice, I wasn't implying that Israel was the solution to anti-Semitism. I was asking what the Jews should have done. I understand that the Holocaust targeted many groups of people, but I'm not sure if those other groups of people were actively considering relocating in order to get themselves out of harm's way. It's of course true that Zionism was largely motivated by recreating/preserving Jewish identity, but it was also largely motivated by the belief that the Jew would never be able to escape anti-Semitism in Europe.

So, again, what should they have done?

Ernie Halfdram said...

Andrew seems to me to have hit the nail more or less on the head, ‘I don't think an answer exists. The only thing we can do is bury the racist ideologies that led to the holocaust, and Zionism is counterproductive to this goal.’ It’s not so much that there’s no answer as that it’s not really a question – more of some kind of gotcha point. As I was about to say, the answer to racism is not more racism.

But taking you at face value, there are lots of more meaningful questions you could have asked: What could have averted the rise of the Nazis? How could the Jews have evaded the Holocaust if they’d seen it coming? Could the existence of a Jewish state in Palestine in, say, 1939, have saved millions of European Jews? Etc.

In terms of emigration, yes, there was widespread antisemitism in the US at the time, and more importantly, strict immigration quotas. But Palestine was not really an option under the Mandate, either, as the immigration quotas were even stricter and the indigenous Palestinians were justifiably averse to an inundation by millions of European Jews who had made no secret of their intentions. And every country that could have provided asylum presented similar obstacles, quite apart from the difficulties of escape and travel once the Holocaust was under way. Emigration was no more a realistic option for the Jews than for the Rom or German communists.

It’s not at all obvious that binationalism is relevant to this, unless the real question is: Could the Holocaust have been averted if the either the Peel or Woodhead Commission plans had been adopted? But they weren’t about binationalism – they were about partition. In any case, there are those who think binationalism hasn’t worked out too badly in Canada or Belgium. More importantly, there are many multiethnic countries where you don’t find one ethnic group dominating the others and trying to force them out.

If you really want to know, the only way to defeat racism decisively once and for all is to uproot the capitalist system that spawned it. The Holocaust could have been averted if the revolution of 1918-19 had not failed. More immediately, Stalin’s ‘Third Period’ ideology, which led to the division of the German communists and social democrats, created the space for Hitler’s rise to power. Had the German working class united against fascism in the early Thirties, that threat might well have been nipped in the bud. Once the Nazis were in control it would have been very difficult to organise the kind of resistance that could defeat them. The Jews at that point had no good options. For those who could manage to get out and find refuge, emigration would be attractive, but Palestine was no more welcoming than anywhere else.

Ernie Halfdram said...

Identifiable Septic, even you should be able to figure out that posting comments on a blog is not evidence ‘that you have some sympathy for the notion’. That’s what’s a stretch. You’ve posted comments here, too. Should I leap to the conclusion therefore that you endorse everything Ibrahim has ever posted? How does it get to be splitting hairs to reject your assertion that I ‘accuse of silencing debate by throwing around the term “anti-Semitism”’ to say that I don’t, when I don’t. I don’t do it because I consider it a distraction. There are much more important factors that stifle debate.

You have a very superficial understanding of culture. Most cultural traits are completely below the radar, and therefore are what I think you must mean by ‘monolithic’. The reason most people don’t go to work naked is not because they fear they’ll feel chilly, or be arrested for ‘indecent exposure’, or ostracised by their colleagues. It’s because the thought would never enter their heads. You don’t think about whether lifting your eyebrows means ‘Huh?’ or ‘No’. You just do it to mean whatever it means in your culture.

The high level of corruption ‘in most Islamic countries’ is the same as it is anywhere else. People seek out or find themselves in positions of more or less authority where opportunities arise to improve their families’ standard of living through corrupt practices. The less accountable they are, the greater the temptation. Yes, where that kind of unaccountability persists, corruption can become a cultural trait, but the corruption doesn’t arise out of the culture. Now why don’t you explain the cultural basis for the high level of corruption in Israel?

As for ‘the decline in GDP, literacy, etc. in most Islamic countries’, you’re going to have to present evidence that there’s something to explain, specifically statistics that I am confident provide a reasonably accurate picture of changes over time in specific countries. Frankly, I expect that in gathering that information, the explanations will present themselves, and are likely to be different in different countries. And they will revolve around economic and political rather than cultural factors.

When you have a chance, you might also address yourself to how what you’ve been saying is different from ‘culture trumps history’ and why you reckon that view isn’t racist.

andrew r said...

Inquirer - I'll humor you and reach a bit: move the Jewish state to South America. Some Zionist figures were interested in that location, most weren't.

It might be helpful if you told us why the question must be answered on its face. You seem to think it's valid because Jews, unlike Roma and Sinti, were trying to leave. Doesn't the question answer itself in that case? Yet we come back to the above-mentioned obstacles making the result unsatisfactory.

Gert said...

Andrew r and Ernie:

Great answers to Inquirer's faux question.

I wouldn't have gotten much further than: 'we can all see in Zionism what results when we try and fight racism with racism' and that more or less sums it up, IMHO.

Apart from Canada and Belgium, there are other states that can be considered successful binational models: Switzerland for instance. Or Czechoslovakia, before they decided to go their own ways on spurious grounds, most regretted by the Slovaks (or so I've been told). In any case if we can't live together segregations aren't going to change that.

It seems that Identifiably American ultimately intended to go on as he started off. When in a hole, stop digging...

Identifiable Septic said...

Ernie,

The post I found on Muzzle Watch was one in which you called out Michael Lerner on backing off during a debate with Alan Dershowitz, in which Dershowitz claimed that comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is anti-semitic. You though it was unfortunate that Lerner backed off and pointed out that this is just a scare tactic. Furthermore, you have just told me that you do have sympathy for the notion that Zionists use the accusation of anti-semitism as a scare tactic. I wasn't claiming that you endorse everything that's said on that blog. I believe this issue is closed.

Returning to the more important matter of culture...

I realize that there are various strains of Islam and that it is possible to interpret a religion in many different ways. That said, I expect that when numerous countries either adopt a religious doctrine as the legal foundation of their political system or enshrine it as THE state religion, then there are certain consistences to be found among those cultures. I happen to believe that religion--especially one as rich as Islam--is a substantial cultural wellspring. I see no problem in labeling these countries Islamic (they also happen to describe themselves in that way), and I therefore have no problem identifying their cultures as Islamic. Again, I'm not claiming that what we find in these cultures is the exclusive domain of those cultures, but I still consider it fair to say that much of their social nuances emanate from the significant cultural wellspring they've decided to use to characterize their countries.

I'll present evidence once you substantiate your claim about significant discrepency in levels of misogyny across Islamic countries. You said there's as much variation as there is between Saudi Arabia and New Zealand. That claim might have been illustrative, but I'd still be interested in a little bit of proof. After all, I can't do all the grunt work.

For clarification, I consider misogyny to be the exclusion of a gender from participating fully in society. An Iranian might say that gender segregation emanates from respect for women and a desire to protect their virtue. I understand it's subjective. For the purpose of our discourse, I'm just going to use the word misogny.

I think you'll find that there are high levels of gender separation and exclusion in Islamic countries. Furthermore, I'd say that this societal feature comes, in large part, from the religion these countries have decided to put at the center of their cultural makeup.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but I've said that culture does not trump history. Culture results in large part from history and other factors. I hold by Jared Diamond that geography also has much to do with culture. Europeans with access to large numbers of domesticable animals and nutritious grains were able to spend less time gathering food, leading to the opportunity to develop "specialists," leading to the ability to experiment with new technologies and philosophize. Village-dwellers in New Guinea had access to only nutrient-poor vegetation and largely undomesticable animals, leading them to spend much more time gathering food and not being able to develop specialists.

That's a very oversimplified view, but it encapsulates how cultures develop and, furthermore, how there's no racial component.

Ernie Halfdram said...

If anyone is interested in whether you have accurately summarised my March 2007 comment on Muzzlewatch, and in particular, whether it constitutes evidence that I ‘accuse [Zionists] of silencing debate by throwing around the term “anti-Semitism”’, here’s the link:
http://www.muzzlewatch.com/2007/03/03/the-whole-megillah-on-youtube/

You’re right, though – my New Zealand remark was intended as hyperbole. I thought that was obvious, since we hadn’t, after all, agreed on a measure of misogyny. What I had in mind was Indonesia, not that I know a great deal about the ‘level’ of misogyny in Indonesia, and it didn’t make it into your list of ‘Islamic countries’, anyway.

Now it turns out that you conflate countries with cultures and rely on a physiologist’s speculations about cultural evolution for your understanding of culture and have somehow formed the belief that you’re ready to engage in a serious discussion of the subject? I can’t even be bothered explaining the division of labour in the New Guinea society I studied and how it contradicts Diamond’s generalisations. Maybe you should consider doing SOME of the grunt work? If anyone is interested in Diamond’s antics, btw, http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/category/jared-diamond/ and here’s his defence of Wal-mart: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/06/opinion/06diamond.html.

If you want to return to something, how about the point?

You accused Ibrahim of lacking nuance because he failed to recognise that ‘the corruption and poverty in the Gaza Srip and the West Bank (especially before the intifadah and even before Israel's existence) have an organic, cultural foundation’. You claimed to ‘recognize the differences among cultures and the societies they produce’, presupposing that cultures produce societies. You fail to recognise the contradiction between this and most of what you say and saying ‘culture does not trump history’. You apparently reject a simpler, more general, material explanation for ‘corruption and poverty’ and refuse to address how these might arise outside ‘Arab and Islamic culture’. And of course you think nobody will notice that you’re evading the question of why you think it’s acceptable to be an apologist for racism, if not a racist.

My bad. I knew better, but persuaded myself you might be amenable to serious thought.

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I would say it does. You attribute Lerner's inability to refute Dershowitz to his staying within the oppressive parameters set up by the anti-semitism charge.

Anyway, issue is closed.

You're right, let's get back to the point. Yes, I made the claim that impoverished Palestinians are impoverished for reasons of culture. I brought as evidence that Christians, a unique subculture within Palestinian (and other Arab societies), were and still are (those that are left) more highly educated and affluent than their Muslim counterparts, which form the majority.

To boil it down even more, I'll just say it like this...Palestinian Arabs were impoverished before Zionism and they're impoverished now, and at pretty much the same levels as their Arab neighbors not under occupation. In fact, they were less impoverished before the intifadahs.

The occupation didn't cause the poverty. It certainly exacerbates it now because of the restrictions and sieges, and I've said that it needs to end.

I just don't see how Palestine was destined to be the Singapore of the Middle East...had it not been for those meddling Zionists.

So Diamond's wrong. What's your explanation for the lack of "cargo" in New Guinea? Again, genuinely curious.

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http://leninology.blogspot.com/2009/12/aspects-of-racist-diatribe.html

Indentifiable American said...

As I said...

My understanding is that American Muslims are some of the most affluent citizens here in the United States.

There's no endowment here.

Putting the culture issue aside, are we to assume that the Palestinians would have been prosperous had they not become uprooted and occupied?

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I haven't been closely reading the back-and-forth between Ernie and ID'd American and the latest post is a good enough reason. The latter is just bringing up time-wasting inanity that doesn't merit discussion. Even Inquirer's bit was worth a considered response.

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First of all, we think we know that, 2 months before the pull-out, half the greenhouses had already been taken (these would have been all the best ones).

Second, we know that the settlers are malicious vandals, destroying everything they can that will be used by Palestinians.

And third, the NYT story says that 1000s of Gazans were working in the greenhouses. There is no way that such large numbers of people would have allowed their livelihoods to be destroyed as described. Those workers would have very quickly heard if there was looting going on, and camped out to protect the future of themselves and their families, wielding sticks if necessary.

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