Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How to (formerly) outrage a Zionist

It used to be that Zionists were outraged by the Palestinian practice of packing bombs with metal objects to cause maximum damage in suicide bombings. They would publish ghastly descriptions and pictures, like:


Front view of a pelvis imbedded with nails and metal fragments.

X-rays taken from victims of suicide bombings reveal pieces of metallic fragments embedded in their skin, muscles, organs and bones, says Dr. Michael Messing, who visited the victims of suicide bombings while at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. Suicide bombers pack their bombs with nails and other objects so even survivors of suicide bombings will suffer from the bomb's effects.

"They're trying to maximize the number of people they kill and injure," said Messing of the terrorists.

The accusation became an essential component of the demonization of Palestinians:

Those sadists who dip their hands in the blood of lynched reservists, who gouge out the eyes of two thirteen-year-old boys in a cave, who murder and mutilate an unarmed shepherd, who target a ten-month-old baby girl playing with her father, who fill their suicide bombs with flesh-tearing nails -or who cheer such abominations in the streets of Jenin or Ramallah are indeed egged on by words, and drunk on anti-Zionist venom.

That was the difference between them and civilized people; the Jews didn't do those things:

When have you last seen a Jew detonating bombs with nails blowimg gentiles to smithereens in the name of Moses?

Fast forward to 2009, the year that Argentinian Juan Martín del Potro won the US Tennis Open and South African Richard Goldstone wrote a damning report on the Israeli activities in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. While del Potro was crushing his rivals, Goldstone was busy finding facts. And among other things, he found what follows:


864. On 4 January 2009 the Israeli armed forces struck an ambulance in the Beit Lahia area with a flechette missile as it was attending a number of wounded persons who had been hit in an earlier attack. Those wounded in the first attack had also been hit by a flechette missile. As a result of the attack on the ambulance, one of the first-aid volunteers in the ambulance crew, Arafa Abd al-Dayem, suffered severe injuries. He died later the same afternoon.

865. The following day, as is the custom, the family set up condolence tents where family and friends would pay their respects and comfort the grieving relatives. The family home is in Izbat Beit Hanoun, a built-up area in the north-east corner of the Gaza strip. It is located between Jabaliyah and Beit Hanoun, about 3 kilometres from the border with Israel both to the north and to the east. Although the Israeli armed forces had entered Gaza at the time of the incident, in this area they remained on the Israeli side of the “Green Line” border. Two tents were set up – one for male visitors and one for female visitors. They were positioned at about ten metres from each other. The male tent was outside the house of IK/11. The tents were struck three times in two hours, again with flechette missiles.

866. The Mission spoke to several of the witnesses who had attended and survived the attacks on the condolence tents. The Mission noted the great pride Arafa Abd al-Dayem’s father had in his son and the deep sense of loss he clearly felt.

867. As regards the attacks on the condolence tents, witnesses stated that at around 7.30 a.m. on 5 January, the house of IK/11 was hit by a shell. The shell struck the fourth floor of the fivestorey building causing the roof to collapse.477 Three men at the gathering, including the father of the deceased, were slightly wounded and taken to the Kamal Idwan hospital in Beit Lahia for treatment. They returned to the house at around 8.15 a.m. where a decision was taken by the mourners to end the condolence ceremony for fear of further attacks.

868. The witness stated that at around 8.30 a.m. when the people were leaving the house of IK/11 and moving towards the women’s condolence tent, two flechette missiles struck within a few metres of the tent and less than half a minute apart. Around 20 to 30 persons assembled there were injured. The injured include a 13-year-old boy who received a flechette injury to the right side of his head and a 33-year-old man who sustained injuries to the chest and head, his body punctuated with little holes according to a witness who saw his corpse being prepared for burial. A 22-year-old man was wounded in the abdomen, the chest and the head. A 16-year-old boy sustained injuries to the head and the neck. A 26-year-old man sustained injuries to his chest, head and left leg. These five persons died of their injuries. Another 17 persons present at the scene, including 14 men, two children (aged 17 and 11) and one woman were injured.

869. RA/14, who survived the attack, still has several flechettes embedded in his body, including in his chest, and is unable to move freely without pain.(...)

877. The Mission notes that, during the condolence ceremony, flechette shells were fired in the vicinity of a large group of civilians, killing 5 and injuring more than 20. To consider the attacks indiscriminate would imply that there was a military objective underlying the attacks in the first place. The Mission has no information on which to base such a conclusion and notes the silence of the Israeli authorities on the incident.

Do you know what a flechette shell is? Here's some basic info:

A flechette shell is an antipersonnel weapon that contains ten to fourteen thousand 1 .5-inch steel darts which, as they are released from the canister, spread out in an arc that can reach a maximum width of about ninety-four yards.
Well, this looks dangerously close to a bomb packed with nails, doesn't it? If Israel uses it, it mustn't be illegal, God forbid. Now if this sadistic weapon is allowed by the laws of warfare, the only issue is whether it is used against combatants or not. Mourners at a tent that include a 13-year-old are not, in my book, combatants.

You will find thousands of refutations of the Goldstone report over the Internet, mostly hurling crude ad-hominem attacks at the author and calling into question his ability to investigate because he claimed someone was wearing a shirt when actually it was a T-shirt. When it comes to the war crimes themselves, however, the refuters suddenly go silent and point to the Israeli response, which in this case is

Recently, eight additional criminal investigations by the Military Police were ordered regarding matters more closely connected to "operational activities", including allegations of shooting towards civilians carrying white flags and directing flechette munitions towards civilians or civilian targets. Seven incidents that appear in the Goldstone report are currently under Military Police criminal investigation. In a typical Military Police investigation, evidence is taken from Palestinian and other complainants who may have witnessed the events. In such cases, the investigative office of the Military Police approaches the complainant to assist in contacting potential witnesses. For example, the investigative office of the Military Police has approached human rights NGO's for assistance regarding currently ongoing cases. Additionally, the investigative office of the Military Police has, via Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, approached the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to receive additional information regarding an incident where claims of use of human shields were raised. That incident remains under investigation.
Or, in plain English, "we're thinking out how to spin this, and we're having a hard time. We'll contact you when we come up with something."

In any event, please notice how the outrage at bombs filled with nails is quietly being dropped from Zionist discourse. If that army uses them, they can't be all that bad.

64 comments:

Anonymous said...

In the immortal words of Cllr. Kelly:

“Force them to act as they once did; when their treatment under the Nazis won them the respect and affection of most of the world…”

Gert said...

Look, there's no comparison between nails and flechettes. Nails are used by underdeveloped darkish untermenschen who basically still live in the Iron Age, the bombs being assembled in cellars and other underground places. Flechettes are made from exquisitely sophisticated alloys by scientific Supermen (Overmen, if you prefer) in state-of-the-art laboratories and workshops, using scarce and exotic materials (alloying components) bought cheaply from former colonies once owned by the Supermen.

Gert said...

What's more, your blatant inability/unwillingness to appreciate the craftmanship that goes into making such weapons makes you antisemitic.

Sean said...

In addition to what Gert said, you failed to mention that every shell fired by Israel at schools, hospitals and funerals it purely defensive in nature, killing only those who deserve to die except where "unfortunate incidents that Israel deeply regrets" occur. Any civilians who die when weapons are fired at them constitute "collateral damage" by definition and therefore do not count.

Look, I'm not saying that Israel is perfect. No, really I'm not. I am humble and honest and reasonable enough to admit that Israel has not achieved perfection, therefore you can trust what I say, unlike people like you who seem to think terrorists can do no wrong, so long as they are killing Jews. Israel does make its fair share of "mistakes, miscalculations and errors," just like everyone else. But they are still the bestest, most humane army in the whole wide world. How would the Waffen SS have dealt with Gaza?

I rest my case.

It is anti-Semitic not to recognize the fundamental difference between a nail bomb and a flechette round. The sole purpose of a nail bomb is to kill as many Jews as possible, while a flechette round is designed to defend them. This fact is obvious to anyone not brainwashed by pro-Arab propaganda.

Gotta love this kind of thinking.

Anonymous said...

I love it how the goyim comes on pathetic little threads like these to rant about the Jews and simultaneously complain about charges of antisemitism. Best keep the useful idiots on their computers ranting about Israel -- gives 'em a feeling of accomplishment and righteousness -- while the Mossad continues to prove that the Jews are the best at just about anything they set their minds to.

Bill said...

Including the slaughter of innocents, Anonymous?

Yitzchak Goodman said...

In any event, please notice how the outrage at bombs filled with nails is quietly being dropped from Zionist discourse.

Your assumption here seems to be that defenders of Israel agree with you that flechettes are the exact equivalent of nail-loaded bomb belts and that this agreement is motivating them to drop references to nails. Are the flechettes ever dipped in rat-poison?

Ernie Halfdram said...

As I never tire of repeating, embarrassing a hasbarista with accusations of hypocrisy is like embarrassing a dog with accusations that he licks his own balls. It's just what they do and they're not in the least self conscious about it.

But they're not the audience and it's important to keep hammering these little inconsistencies home. Who knows? Maybe somebody who is on he verge of swallowing the hasbara bullshit will come along and realise that they can't do it without adopting the grossest double standards and come around?

Last week Lawrence of Cyberia caught up with last year's news about the discovery of the Hagannah's use of synagogues as weapons caches, which seems to conflict with the drivel justifying bombing mosques in Gaza because Hamas might store weapons there. She also makes some other useful comparisons.

Needless to say, your comparison between shrapnel in suicide bombs and flechette shells is spot on. If the flechettes are poisoned, I'm confident they are poisoned with something much more sophisticated than rat poison, as if that mattered. The point, which should be sufficiently obvious to anyone, is that they are specifically antipersonnel weapons designed to spread lethal metal barbs over a wide area. The only way to justify the use of flechettes while condemning nail bombs is, as Sean points out, to adopt the hypocritical and downright racist position that the nails kill real people, while the flechettes only kill Arabs.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

The only way to justify the use of flechettes while condemning nail bombs is, as Sean points out, to adopt the hypocritical and downright racist position that the nails kill real people, while the flechettes only kill Arabs.

Let us leave aside the question of who was motivated by what for a moment. Do you agree that there is a difference between trying to increase the sheer lethality of a weapon and trying to increase the horror and suffering of the people hit by the weapon? Is that a meaningful distinction? And there is, I believe, material available on the development and use of flechettes by various armies. We don't have to speculate on why they were developed and used (by the US among others). I agree that the suffering of a person with a bunch of flechettes in his body could be as horrible as anything else you can imagine. For that matter, very conventional bombs and bullets can inflict horrors.

Gert said...

Yitzchak:

"Do you agree that there is a difference between trying to increase the sheer lethality of a weapon and trying to increase the horror and suffering of the people hit by the weapon?"

I think it's called a 'distinction without a difference'.

Where's the proof for the rat poison? I believe it was Jerkowitz who first came up with that one. He was also the first to come up with the idea of giving US torture 'a legal framework'. The man's morals are clearly impeccable.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

I think it's called a 'distinction without a difference'.

You'll have to develop the thought a bit before I'll have anything to respond to.

Where's the proof for the rat poison? I believe it was Jerkowitz who first came up with that one.

You may have in mind a post by Finkelstein responding to Dershowitz. It seems, however, that forensic examinations by the relevant Israeli officials following suicide attacks discovered the rat poison and then it got reported in Israeli newspapers. Has the forensic evidence been preserved so that anyone can examine it now? I don't know.

Gert said...

'distinction without a difference'

Ernie Halfdram said...

Well we can certainly count on the relevant Israeli officials. As for meaningful differences, in combat, wounding an enemy can take at least two or three out of action as they treat and evacuate the casualty. In contrast, a dead soldier is just dead.

Incendiary weapons can be used to destroy infrastructure. WP can illuminate the battlefield or provide cover. Flechettes can only kill and injure living beings. So Israel can make lame excuses for their use of other weapons, but the use of flechettes in one of the most densely populated areas on the planet leaves no room for any doubt about their intent.

Is that clear enough?

Anonymous said...

Bill said...

Including the slaughter of innocents, Anonymous?

February 17, 2010 1:51 PM

As Auschwitz, proved an "innocent goy" is an oxymoron. You have millions of murdered Jewish children on your conscience.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

'distinction without a difference'

I know what the expression means. Why isn't there a difference? Why isn't it legitimate for an army to want efficient weapons? Why is it legitimate to modify weapons simply so that the person killed will suffer more?

Yitzchak Goodman said...

Well we can certainly count on the relevant Israeli officials.

That's who investigates in the aftermath of suicide bombings in Israel. The sources that report that rat-poison was found often add that it wasn't used in an effective way--too much burned up in the blast, whatever. It still gives you a glimpse into the thinking of the bomb-makers.

Flechettes can only kill and injure living beings. So Israel can make lame excuses for their use of other weapons, but the use of flechettes in one of the most densely populated areas on the planet leaves no room for any doubt about their intent.

People have gone so far as to argue that the population density in Gaza makes any military operation at all illegitimate. Flechettes are an "anti-personnel" weapon and Gaza is densely populated. Is that your whole argument? And the claim is being made that flechettes are exactly like nail-packed suicide bombs.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

Yitzchak:

The rat poison story has been widely discredited. There's no forensic evidence for it. In one case in which the poison was found at a suicide bombing site, further research showed that the samples had actually been contaminated from rat poison the municipality had spread earlier. See here.

But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that poison was indeed added to the nails. This would reveal a lack of knowledge of the laws of chemistry on the terrorist's part, since organic liquids are instantly consumed at the temperatures generated by a bomb exposion. But even if we focus on the terrorists' intentions, it's clear that adding rat poison, an anti-coagulant, would have the effect of making the person hit by the nails bleed to death. And killing the maximum number of civilians possible is the objective of all terror attacks, be it in Hiroshima or in Jerusalem. There would be nothing especially wicked about it.

I agree with Ernie that the use of flechettes, a clearly imprecise weapon that can hit people at a distance of hundreds of meters from the target, can't be justified in an urban context, especially when all people killed by the weapon seem to have been civilians.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

There's no forensic evidence for it. In one case in which the poison was found at a suicide bombing site, further research showed that the samples had actually been contaminated from rat poison the municipality had spread earlier. See here.

That's interesting. I had not seen the Slate article. OK, there is more doubt about the rat-poison part than I thought previously.

And killing the maximum number of civilians possible is the objective of all terror attacks, be it in Hiroshima or in Jerusalem. There would be nothing especially wicked about it.

How do you know the terrorist doesn't wickedly relish the prospect of a suffering, not completely killed victim? Wouldn't that add to the terror? I think we can rule that out in evaluating Truman's motive in deciding to bomb Hiroshima. Flechettes evidently can result in a gruesomely wounded person also, but the aims in their development involves goals like piercing armor and so forth, not, as far as I've seen, attempts to produce weapons that cause untreatable wounds.

I agree with Ernie that the use of flechettes, a clearly imprecise weapon that can hit people at a distance of hundreds of meters from the target, can't be justified in an urban context

Which is not to say that they are exactly the same thing as nail-packed bomb belts. Do you still claim that defenders of Israel think they are and that therefore "the outrage at bombs filled with nails is quietly being dropped from Zionist discourse"?
It seems very unlikely that this is true to me.

Sean said...

You mean, terrorists actually design their weapons to...KILL PEOPLE? Oh my God, now that's a shock.

This is clearly in sharp contrast to the IDF, which only uses non-lethal, humanitarian cluster bombs, white phosphorous, flechettes, dime munitions and other assorted goodies, non of which is actually designed to be as lethal as possible. When a piece of shrapnel from an Israeli 500lb bomb bores a tunnel through a Palestinian kid's head at a velocity of 9,000 feet a second, you can rest assured nothing has been done to make that shrapnel any more lethal than necessary to get the job done.

Only a terrorist lacking the moral clarity of the Israeli army would do such a thing.

Ernie Halfdram said...

Nobody is claiming that aything is exactly the same as anything else. Israeli apartheid is not exactly the same as South African apartheid. The Gaza ghetto is not exactly the same as the Warsaw ghetto. The keyboard I'm typing on is not exactly the same as the one you're typing on, and yet we still cal them both 'keyboards'. I think Ibrahim's point is that the parallel between the use of these two kinds of antipersonnel weapons is sufficiently close that you can't take a consistent position against one without condemning the other. That said, I'm not entirely confident that Ibrahim is right to think that it's caused anyone to rethink their racist and hypocritical condemnation of suicide bombs while justifying flechette shell use.

If there were real cause to have to engage in combat in built up areas, yes, as far as I'm concerned, an ethical approach requires eschewing a wide range of types of weapons and being prepared to take losses in close fighting. But as I insist on taking the side of the oppressed, there is no justification for the IOF to carry out any violence against those who are resisting their oppression. If they were really concerned to stop the resistance, all they have to do is refrain from the oppression that provokes it in the first place.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

If they were really concerned to stop the resistance, all they have to do is refrain from the oppression that provokes it in the first place.

It is easy to make this kind of statement when you throw around abstractions like "oppression" and "resistance." If Israel lifted the blockade on Gaza, the threat from Hamas, which obviously wants to upgrade its rocketry, would get worse. Hamas has made it clear on numerous occasions--Haniyeh in the Washington Post, Meshaal recently in the New York Times, Yassin and Rantisi in their interviews before that--that all Israel would get in return for a full return to the 1967 borders is a 10 or 20 year cease-fire. A cease-fire means firing has stopped for the time being but the war is still on.

Gert said...

Yitzchak:

What's abstract about 'oppression' and 'resistance'? You saying that the 725,000 expulsed in 1948 and the additional 250,000 refugees from the 1967 land grab are 'abstractions'? That the misery suffered by about 4.6 million refugees in camps all over the ME (including Palestine) is an 'abstraction'? And that the resistance to this 'misery' and 'oppression' really is just 'resistance' (another abstraction)?

And from the latter part of your statement we can safely deduce that you're not interested in a cease fire, let alone peace. But that should come as no surprise: as Efraim Inbar said in an interview not long ago: 'Hamas is good for the Jews' (he meant Israeli Jews or Zionists, of course - the whole thing is well worth reading).

Ernie is correct of course, unless you want to self-servingly believe that Hamas is an innately Jew-hating group, with no other motive than blind hatred of Jews, remove the motives for resistance and you remove the resistance, tout court. It doesn't arise out of a vacuum...

As long as Israel is unwilling to contemplate that, the only 'logical' course is an endless string of Operation Cast Leads until each and every Hamasnik is killed or captured (and by then perhaps up to 50,000 non-combatants will have been slain too). It's a Conservative's wet dream...

And why on Earth would you want peace, when this 'war' is a mere thorn in Israel's side, an irritation at worst and at best a 'motive' to maintain the status quo. This war costs your side very little but peace would involve considerable costs: the cost of rehousing settlers, the political cost to Bibi's career, to name but two. Like Olmert (and more recently also Barak) suggested: you're all sleepwalking into a de facto one state solution. Good.

andrew r said...

You've got a double-edged sword there, Yitzchak. Past oppression justifies further oppression. Israel can not stop its own violence, which emphatically includes the blockade, until all Palestinians make themselves helpless as a new born calf. You want they should wander the desert for 40 years while we're at it?

The contradiction is stark: Hamas must renounce violence and recognize Israel, yet if that causes Israel to relent what's to stop them from stockpiling weapons just the same? Oh right, the Palestinian state must be demilitarized. Another reason not to take the two-state solution seriously.

Hamas can renounce violence in thought and practice and the only result will be another faction taking up arms, which will now have to do the same before there can be peace, an end to the blockade, etc. Plus Hamas will be blamed for what anyone else does, even if they had nothing to do with it. Zionism started the war and aimed at all non-Jews in Palestine, no matter what they think or do. It's up to the Zionists to stop the war, or something else to defeat them.

FWIW, on the off chance there is a two-state solution, I doubt Hamas even knows what they're going to do when the ceasefire is up. If Israel lives up to it, attacking it won't be popular. Hamas has honored unilateral ceasefires in 2005-06 and 2008. Imagine what it can do when Israel reciprocates.

Gert said...

Andrew:

"I doubt Hamas even knows what they're going to do when the ceasefire is up"

According to Azzam Tamimi, the Palestinian Hebron born British scholar and Hamas expert, such a truce would be automatically renewable: it would be a way of de facto recognising Israel's existence (it does that now) without legitimising the crimes of 1948 and 1967, personally I cannot find fault with that logic (certainly in light of the futility of previous de jure recognition of Israel by PLO/Fatah). But all bets would be off if Israel actually formally recognised these crimes: then de jure recognition of Israel by Hamas would probably forthcoming. Ah, these silly 'madmen'!

andrew r said...

I've been meaning to read Tamimi's lengthy tomb on Hamas. He's an active supporter of them (in a lecture he said he'd join them if invited) but I read scholarly work by Zionists so what the hell.

Hamas does not want a one-state solution and can not defeat Israel single-handedly. They've shown time and again they aren't irrational fanatics who put ideology above practical concerns. That image will persist because their past behavior is a convenient scapegoat. The manifestations and excuses may be different but the nakba, Sinai campaign and 'Peace for Galilee' tell us Israel will find a reason with no Hamas.

BTW: Ibrahim, every so often you're confronted on Dr. Lozowick's blog with the junta's disappearing 30,000 people. Why don't you show them this or this?

I'm following a self-imposed ban there so it can't be done by me.

Gert said...

Andrew:

It doesn't make one iota of sense that Hamas is the reason why peace could not be achieved. Completely eliminating it (impossible of course, that's the nature of resistance movements) would lead Israel to find other reasons to postpone any meaningful talks, let alone make 'concessions'. There's so many 'enemies' to choose from: Hizb'allah, Iran etc.

Finkelstein claims Israel supported the embryonic Hamas movement as a way of countering what he calls 'the PLO's peace offensive'. Drive a wedge into PLO/Fatah and Bob's your uncle. Considering the situation today, I find that reasoning hard to counter.

andrew r said...

The 'peace offensive' line was cited from Avner Yaniv in 'Dilemmas of Security' (1987). Later editions of 'Fateful Triangle' by Chomsky also quote him.

Ernie Halfdram said...

Let me try an make oppression more concrete for you, Yitzchak. Apart from the siege of Gaza, there's the exrajudicial executions, home demolitions, checkpoints and roadblocks, refusal of building permits, control of land, permanent exile...

Lifting the siege would be a nice gesture and provide real relief for a million and half desperate people, but to end oppression,Israel would have to extend truly equal rights not only to the Palestinian Israelis, but to those in the West Bank, Gaza, and the diaspora, along with serious reparations. At least that would be a start.

BTW, by conventional chronology, Israel had murdered Yassin and Rantisi before the 'disengagement' and long before the blockade.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

Let me try an make oppression more concrete for you, Yitzchak

I didn't mean that abstractions aren't sometimes useful, or that I don't know what concrete realities you are construing as "oppression"--abstractions just shouldn't be used to make glib prescriptions, that's all. Let's see, you want "truly equal rights," if I am reading you correctly, for Palestinians in "the diaspora." You are demanding immediate implementation of the one-state solution? "At least that would be a start"--? It sounds as if you have whole list of things for the king to do after he first abolishes the monarchy.

Ernie Halfdram said...

Eliminating all the cofms of racist and national oppression would remove the motivation for resistance against those forms of oppression. But even in the improbable scenario I described, economic and other forms of oppression would persist and people would have to resist them.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

But even in the improbable scenario I described, economic and other forms of oppression would persist and people would have to resist them.

You can probably guess what I think of this. Ibrahim's thoughts at this point might be more interesting than mine.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

@Andrew

Even though I'm perfectly aware that Israel provided weapons to the murderous Argentinian junta, I don't think I should bring it up on Yaacov's blog. The fact that a dictatorship in my country committed mass murder doesn't preclude my right to criticize Israel.

@Yitzchak

Please check out this story. A large house in Jaffa was built in the 1920s by Salim Khoury Shaya, a Christian Arab man who had seven children. Three of them went to live in Lebanon before the Independence War broke out (i.e., they were expats, not "Arabs who fled"). The other four remained in Jaffa. When Israel enacted the Absentee Property Law, the State claimed ownership of 40% of the house, and forced the remaining siblings to pay rent for it. That rent hasn't been paid for a few years now, and the State wants to force the grandchildren of Salim Khoury Shaya to sell their part to pay back the accumulated debt. The rightful owners of a house will be left homeless.

That is wrong. That is wicked. That is evil.

My question to you is: what do you propose for this family to do? When a state acts (based on clearly arbitrary laws) in a ruthless and perverse way against you, what recourse do you have?

Gert said...

Yitchzak:

Even if the I/P conflict was solved by magic wand tomorrow and the Palestinians gained equality in terms political power, the wealth divide between the two peoples would still be a serious gulf and continue to be a cause of friction: neoliberal induced economic inequality has a knack of setting people up against each other. The new South Africa is a good example: the economic divide between black and white is tremendous and continues to feed high crime rates and other social problems.

I know in your world 'the poor should just get of their lazy backsides' but in the real world the poverty trap isn't so easy to avoid. I never saw such abject poverty in the West as during my last trip to New York (admittedly some twenty years ago)...

Yitzchak Goodman said...

My question to you is: what do you propose for this family to do?

See what the Human Rights Clinic lawyer can accomplish.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

Even if the I/P conflict was solved by magic wand tomorrow and the Palestinians gained equality in terms political power, the wealth divide between the two peoples would still be a serious gulf and continue to be a cause of friction . . .

So why don't you imagine a better magic wand? You are being too vague about what you are actually envisioning.

I know in your world 'the poor should just get of their lazy backsides' but in the real world the poverty trap isn't so easy to avoid.

If I voted in 1984--and I think I did--it was for Mondale. Just thought I'd point that out.

Gert said...

Yitzchak:

Ha'aretz has a thought provoking interview with Yehouda Shenhav: One space for two peoples. I find it hard to argue with.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

See what the Human Rights Clinic lawyer can accomplish.

And what if he can accomplish nothing?

Yitzchak Goodman said...

And what if he can accomplish nothing?

Let's imagine that it isn't Israel and a court case ends in a decision that you feel is really the wrong one. Justice is decidedly not served. What do you advise the people on the losing side to do?

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

If injustice was systematically done against a definite ethnic group, I would advise them to launch a PR campaign to create awareness of the issue.

Unfortunately, the world media wouldn't pay attention unless some violence were involved. In such a situation, the discriminated-against ethnic group might decide to commit acts of terror.

Of course, I would oppose those acts. I live in a city where a police bus was once blown up killing 9 policemen and 2 bystanders in the name of social justice. The scenes were horrifying. I know better than to support terrorism.

That said, however, I would never claim that the country against which the terror was directed "did everything within its power to achieve a peaceful solution." Nor would I dismiss the terror acts as "blind violence that only seeks to kill, maim and cause unsufferable pain." I would admit that the situation is much more complicated than that.

Would you?

Yitzchak Goodman said...

I would admit that the situation is much more complicated than that.

There are Pro-Palestinian over-simplifications to be avoided also. There is a great deal of organized Palestinian political activity which is not exactly aimed at achieving a liberal utopia where equality reigns.

andrew r said...

@Ibrahim: Understood. In fact, it may not be relevant to any serious criticism of Israel, if only because there's so little information in English (the JCPA article is pathetic but still damning). Like Ernie might say, throwing all the mud you can is the trolls' forte.

Ernie Halfdram said...

If the Palestinians should ever find themselves in a position to run their own society, it will be up to them to determine how to run it, whether it appeals to anyone else or not. But this never occurs to western 'liberals', who know what's best for everyone, after doing such a brilliant job of organising their own societies, pillaging the whole world for the benefit of their own ruling classes, and wrecking the planet.

Gert said...

Ernie:

How can you be so confused about who the 'good guys' and the 'bad guys' are? Sheesh, with the US pouring billions of dollars into preaching that gospel through every possible outlet, from mainstream media to Hollywood, you still resist indoctrination! I'm guessing the Hegemon will have to resort putting something in the global water supply (Soma?)...

Ib:

That was rather exquisitely put...

Yitzchak Goodman said...

If the Palestinians should ever find themselves in a position to run their own society, it will be up to them to determine how to run it, whether it appeals to anyone else or not. But this never occurs to western 'liberals', who know what's best for everyone . . .

Isn't progressivism supposed to mean promoting certain values? In your solidarity with the Palestinians you aren't just choosing sides and favoring one people over another, are you? So let's parse what you just said in terms of universal values, not just ethnic partisanship. You seem to be saying (correct me if I'm wrong) that self-determination trumps matters such as freedom, democracy, equality--all those things we know-it-all westerners promote. So why is self-determination such an unworthy thing for Israelis to strive for and maintain once they have it?

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

There is a great deal of organized Palestinian political activity which is not exactly aimed at achieving a liberal utopia where equality reigns.

This is true, but in my case I'm not a Palestinian advocate. Rather than justifying the Palestinians' use of human shields, for instance, I tend to stress the fact that Israel also uses human shields.

You seem to be saying (correct me if I'm wrong) that self-determination trumps matters such as freedom, democracy, equality--all those things we know-it-all westerners promote.

You don't promote equality. You're fine with a country where Arabs are formally or informally banned from certain towns (although you would go ballistic if a country club in the United States adopted the same policy towards Jews).

Also, let's not lose sight of the fact that democracy is the desired final status we all fight for. However, certain countries choose nondemocratic ways to obtain economic development (which, once achieved, inexorably leads to democracy). The West is not so much about beautiful ethical ideas as about rational thinking applied to improve the lives of people. The rise of China as an enlightened autocracy is an example to be kept in mind in that regard.

Ernie Halfdram said...

Yitzchak, your impression of a clueless hasbarista nudnik has become so convincing that I'm beginning to entertain doubts that it's really just an act.

I don't know or much care what 'progressivism' is supposed to mean. Israel systematically oppresses the Palestinians as a national group. I am not 'just choosing sides and favoring one people over another'. As I articulated earlier in this very thread, I make point of siding with the oppressed.

If you want to parse something, try this. When you know-it-all westerners decide how it befits colonised people to comport themselves, and proceed to enforce your enlightened views, how does that evidence a commitment to promoting freedom, democracy, equality? You can only say that because you quite patently don't agree that the beneficieries of your concern are your equals and are free to make their own decisions and their own mistakes. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. When the US or some other self appointed humanitarian entity intervenes to promote these universal values, it inevitably entails the slaughter of many of the purported beneficiaries, leaving the survivors no better off than they were in the first place, at best.

Furthermore, in the enlightened societies of The West, the only real freedom is to make irrelavant consumer choices among commodities and candidates; equality of opportunity is restricted to the ruthless; and democracy is so meaningless that workers don't even get to elect our own bosses, much less exercise real collective control over production and distribution. Even the preposterous conceit that elected representatives execise the will of those who elect them doesn't hold water.

It seems to have slipped your mind that Jews were a minority in Palestine in 1947. If the UN in its infinite wisdom had seen fit to conduct a plebescite back then, I don't think it would be contentious to suggest that a Jewish ethnocracy would have been the choice of the majority. You write of self determination for Israelis, as if the 20% of the population of Israel who are not Jewish could enjoy such a thing in the Jewish state. Assuming that Jews are a 'people' of the kind that is supposed to enjoy the right to self determination, which is not at all obvious, it would still be impossible to justify exercising that right explicitly at the expense of another such people, even if it didn't entail wholesale ethnic cleansing, as it did.

Ernie Halfdram said...

Ibrahim, if we meant the same thing by 'democracy', I couldn't agree more that it 'is the desired final status we all fight for'. But when you write that economic development 'inexorably leads to democracy', I gather you mean something quite different. In any case, I'd be interested to learn how you arrived at this conclusion.

The West is certainly not 'about' ethical ideas or rational thinking, much less improving the lives of people. If it's 'about' anything in particular, it would have to be exploiting whatever human and material resources they can, using as much violence as they deem fit, in the short term interests of a small minority - in a word, greed.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

You're fine with a country where Arabs are formally or informally banned from certain towns (although you would go ballistic if a country club in the United States adopted the same policy towards Jews).

Don't put words into my mouth.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

Yitzchak, your impression of a clueless hasbarista nudnik has become so convincing that I'm beginning to entertain doubts that it's really just an act.

You're having difficulty maintaining your composure.

I make point of siding with the oppressed.

You think Palestinians have a right to self-determination but you don't think it is "at all obvious" "that Jews are a 'people' of the kind that is supposed to enjoy the right to self determination." Why not? It doesn't sound as if that is merely a matter of whether they are oppressing anyone or not at the moment. It seems from your wording that it has to do with being this or that "kind" of people. What "kinds" of people are there? I didn't address everything you wrote, but I am trying to give this exchange some focus.

Ernie Halfdram said...

Thanks for your concern,Yiıtzchak, but my composure is well under control.

For someone who doesn’t want words put in his mouth, you’re awfully quick to ascribe views to others. You’re the one who brought up the right to self determination. I just queried whether Jews were entitled to exercise it in terms of the usual instruments – the International covenants and such. As I understand it, and I don’t claim to be au fait with all the legalistic blather the topic of undefined ‘peoples’ has been subject to, these instruments envisaged self determination for peoples who occupied some contiguous area of land, or if not contiguous, an archipelago or the like. They may also have intended some commonalities within the people, like language. A Jew for the purposes of the Law of Return is defined to include those whose claim to ‘peoplehood’ is entirely on the basis of religion and a history of religious oppression.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

A Jew for the purposes of the Law of Return is defined to include those whose claim to ‘peoplehood’ is entirely on the basis of religion

The Palestinian National Charter states:

"Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong."


You and it are imposing a Western sense of what a religion is on Judaism. Judaism is the religion of a particular people in a particular place. That place is either Israel or, problematically, Golus--exile. Most people who express opinions on the Middle East conflict are somewhat aware of how the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel permeates almost every detail of the religion, but that awareness usually involves, in my opinion, three inadequacies:

1. Failure to realize how extensive the stress on the land-connection is. Not just "Next year in Jerusalem," but all the other observances which are geared to the land: trumah, tithe, first fruits, shemittah, yoveil, hakhel, aliyat haregel, etc. The bitter herbs on the Passover seder plate are a Rabbinic commemoration of the real bitter herbs of the seder, which are eaten with a Passover offering--except there is no Passover offering, etc.
2. Failure to realize that Judaism and Jewishness don't quite conform to Western notions of either religion or nationality. The Hebrew word for convert, "Ger," is sometimes rendered "stranger" in English. There are two types of Geirim: A Ger Toshav, or resident alien, a non-Jew, and a Ger Tzedek--or what we normally refer to when we use the word "convert" in English. Why is the same word, Ger, used for both? Because it means something like immigrant.
3. Failure to understand the meaning of the anti-Zionism of groups like the Satmar Chassidim. When classic Zionism presents secular nationalism as a replacement of sorts for the Jewish religion it profanes something very central and powerful in the religion: its land-connectedness.

Before you voice your disapproval for all this, let me remind you that you claim to stand for not forcing Western notions on non-Western peoples. You may object to the idea of of Jews and Judaism as non-Western, especially in reference to European Jews, and I admit that this distinction is not the whole story, but it adds a needed perspective and helps explain why the Zionist movement actually led to the founding of a nation with its own language. That language was kept alive until than as a language of literacy by a religion. That isn't the normal function of a religion in the mind of the average Westerner. So what.

Ernie Halfdram said...

So what, indeed. And so much for focusing the exchange. Talk about non sequiturs!

Religion is a notoriously intransigent concept to define, especially if you want to be able to capture the full range of social phenomena that people call ‘religion’. Even without considering practices typically denoted as religion in Australian Aboriginal, Native American, New Guinea, or other societies, Judaism and Buddhism are quite different kinds of systems. While it may not be as inherently cosmopolitan, if you will, as Christianity, in a global context, Judaism strikes me as pretty damn close to paradigmatic.

More to the point, Judaism, is not specific to just ‘a particular people in a particular place’, but also to a specific culture that happens, mercifully, to be long dead, involving, as it did, slavery and other social behaviours that most people nowadays consider atrocious, as well as polygyny and weird practices like the Levirate. If you want to insist that Judaism is so specific to a particular plot of land, I think it behoves you in all good conscience, to insist on all the other crap, as well.

Now I’m not about to buy into a discussion about the origin of the Jews or who are the true genetic descendants of the original Hebrew tribes – as far as I’m concerned, Sand notwithstanding, not all the evidence is in yet. One thing that I think is clear, however, is that modern Judaism is much less evangelistic than it has been in other periods, whatever you may think about the status of converts.

I have no idea how you come to your understanding of the mind of the average westerner, if there is such a thing, much less what it has to do with anything else. But while the deliberate reconstruction of Hebrew is rather unique in its success, if not in its intent, Hebrew is far from unique as a liturgical language that has been preserved – ‘kept alive’ is definitely an exaggeration, to say the least - through its use in ritual and associated pilpul. Latin and Sanskrit spring immediately to mind.

The point I was trying to make is that Ethnic Jews come by our ethnicity either through our own participation in a religious community or that of our forebears. We don’t live near each other, speak the same language, enjoy the same cuisine, or otherwise engage in the same cultural behaviours.

Yitzchak Goodman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yitzchak Goodman said...

[Reposted with a few words added for clarity]

. . . weird practices like the Levirate. If you want to insist that Judaism is so specific to a particular plot of land, I think it behoves you in all good conscience, to insist on all the other . . .

It is funny that you are trying to make this point. In the Synagogue I attend there is a family. Their son died tragically in the first year or so of his marriage without children. Their daughter-in-law had to wait a few years to get married again until their younger son reached Bar Mitzvah age and could perform the Chalitzah ceremony, which cancels the Levirite bond.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

Ernie:

In fact we mean different things. I believe in the democracy in which you vote for the guy who managed to get more cash donations from the corporations. Just kidding. Just kidding!

But I seriously hold the view on Western rationality. Even in its most obscure times the West had institutions (universities) that sought truth. The Enlightenment unleashed the creative forces of rational thinking. And yes, I think it eventually leads to democracy (government change; accountability) and atheism (I'm already there).

We've been wandering through quite a few topics lately.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

through its use in ritual and associated pilpul

It was used for more than "pilpul"--poetry, narrative works, philosophical works, correspondence. Latin, when it was the language of literacy in Europe, might actually be somewhat analogous to what I am talking about.

The point I was trying to make is that Ethnic Jews come by our ethnicity either through our own participation in a religious community or that of our forebears. We don’t live near each other, speak the same language, enjoy the same cuisine, or otherwise engage in the same cultural behaviours.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "Ethnic Jews." Ethnic but not observant? Some Jews are so assimilated that they do not stand out from the majority populations in the countries where they live, but the religion, when it is actually kept, has a very strong influence on things like language, cuisine, dress, and other matters we associate with nationality. Sefardic Jews have cholent although they call it "chamin" and put eggs in it.

Ernie Halfdram said...

Cholent, shmolent. I’m sure I read somewhere that Sephardim also drink water. But without venturing into the exotic and mysterious world of the Sephardim, I think you’ll find that even among observant American Ashkenazim, there are significant differences in language, dress, cuisine, and even ritual between reform Jews and Hassidim.

In any case, there’s no need to be disingenuous about ethnic Jews. The Law of Return follows halakha in defining a Jew as ‘a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion’. In other words, it is only if you are a ‘Jew by choice’ that religion comes into it. Ethnicity, as I deploy the term, is the construction of an identity based on perceived inherited essential traits by members of the group so identified. The only difference between an ethnicity and a race is who constructs the identity and whether their intent is to discriminate in favour of or against members of the identified group. In practice, races and ethnicities tend to be congruent.

Apart from a month or two when I was 7 or 8 and just starting Hebrew school, I have never been observant. My parents were never observant and neither were my father’s parents, although my mother’s were. But we all identify as Jews, we all meet the Law of Return definition, as well as, significantly, the Nuremburg Laws’ definition. More to the point, we have a Jewish surname and ‘look Jewish’. No self respecting antisemite would hesitate to target us for discrimination or attack. Note that conversion only confers religious identity, not ethnic/racial identity. Unless a convert makes a point of identifying themselves as Jewish, they are unlikely to suffer antisemitism.

BTW, in reviewing the thread, I noticed a typo in my comment of February 22, 2010 8:53 PM. What I meant to write was, ‘I don't think it would be contentious to suggest that a Jewish ethnocracy wouldn’t have been the choice of the majority.’

That’s a very sad story about the young widow in your congregation. In societies that treat women as property, traditions like dowry, bride price, and the Levirate make a certain kind of sick sense. That people in an avowedly modern, democratic society feel obliged to adhere to such practices is a real travesty and anyone who finds the idea that a woman becomes the property of her husband’s family on marriage objectionable would be obliged to resign from such a synagogue.

Ernie Halfdram said...

I don’t want to challenge your expertise on the history of educational institutions, Ibrahim, but my understanding is that until barely a century ago, just about all European and American universities were principally involved in training for the clergy and other ‘professions’. The dispassionate quest for ‘truth’ was largely incidental. Meanwhile, similar institutions and similarly incidental scientific investigation was going on throughout the Hindu and Muslim ‘East’. Indeed, to this day, rationality, as I understand it, is not all that widespread in the West, with polls in the US and Australia, for instance, consistently showing frighteningly high levels of belief in the supernatural, life after death, astrology, creationism, etc.

We certainly have strayed a fair way from the topic of your original post, largely, I think, because Yitzchak is determined ‘to give this exchange some focus’.

Gert said...

Ernie:

I think you're off by a couple of centuries but there's little doubt that for most of European Christianity's history much of the scholarly centres' activities focused on Bible study and little else. Studying nature for instance really meant trying to figure out what place each animal had in God's creation (thank the Lord that they didn't have van Leeuwenhoek's microscope yet!) Hence wonderfully illustrated books that explain what God must have meant when He created lions, cats, dogs or even men with dog's heads. There was essentially no free enquiry with the exception of work carried out by 'heretics'.

During the Golden Age of Islam there were much less of such limitations and as a result much of Chemistry we still owe to the Alchemists and half the visible stars in the firmament have Arabic names. I think it's true to say that the first Western centres of learning that were more free to enquire into nature were modeled on early Islamic 'universities'. Contact between the two worlds also opened up the world of knowledge of Ancient Greece and the Orientals, already assimilated into Islam's knowledge base, to late Christianity.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

The fact that you can find dissonances, contradictions and inconsistencies in the history of Western universities doesn't detract from their contribution to truth-finding.

True, the Church jailed Galileo for life for defending Copernicus' heliocentric system. But Copernicus himself was educated at Catholic universities (including the Bologna University which is the first university in the modern sense of the term), and his research was supported by the Church until the end of his life. And Kepler was taught Copernican heliocentrism at Tübingen. It was only later that the dogmatic clergy (NOT the Catholic academia) condemned his theory.

Thus, it is true that the West's commitment to truth-seeking suffered many interruptions and jumpstarts. It was not a smooth and perfect process. But all over Europe there were universities with highly-qualified staffs that received salaries and budgets to do teaching and research on a systematic basis. Even in the Arab golden age there was never a comparable degree of systematicity in higher-learning institutions, even though it must be emphasized that European science borrowed a lot from them.

Although I don't like the site where it is hosted, see also this.

What does this have to do with hasbara? I don't know.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

That people in an avowedly modern, democratic society feel obliged to adhere to such practices is a real travesty

I thought being in a "modern, democratic society" means "pillaging the whole world" and "wrecking the planet."

Ernie Halfdram said...

Thanks for your erudite clarification of western scholastic history, lads. It’s interesting that you mention Copernicus, Ibrahim. A quick scan of the Wiki seems to reveal that the degree he eventually got in Bologna was actually in canon law. For obvious reasons, I find it unsurprising that he, or anyone, would venture well beyond what they were purportedly trained in. My own training in classics and linguistics has contributed little or nothing to my personal, political, or professional interests. That said, I gather he did study maths, astronomy, and the like back in Poland. While there was doubtless a technical element to those studies, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that it was largely the kind of drivel Gert mentions.

While this has little bearing on flechettes, I think the connection to hasbara is pretty clear. One of the typical hasbara conceits is precisely the amazing scientific and technological contributions Israel has made as a member in good standing of the enlightened European, western tradition. ‘The Arabs’, in contrast, are depicted as backward barbarians who have never accomplished anything worth writing home about, tolerate repressive autocratic regimes, and all like that, notwithstanding their vast wealth, arising from the petroleum deposits which they of course rely on western experts to locate, extract, refine, and market. I’m afraid that if your assertions about the rationality of western society is correct, it actually buttresses that aspect of hasbara.

In any case, the points I initially challenged were that economic development 'inexorably leads to democracy' and that the West is ‘about rational thinking applied to improve the lives of people’. I think you also suggest that ‘rational thinking applied to improve the lives of people’ underlies the economic development. If we accept for the sake of argument that you’ve established that Western universities pioneered a rational quest for truth that never developed elsewhere, although I don’t think you actually have, to address this, I think you still have to demonstrate that that rationality really has been applied to improving people’s lives; that it has actually engendered economic development; that it doesn’t matter that the rational quest for truth is largely restricted to the academy, while superstition continues to reign among well over half the population in the most advanced western societies; and that development leads inexorably to democracy. And of course, if by democracy you mean something other than occasional electoral extravaganzas, you’d also have to establish that it exists somewhere and results from economic development.

Gert said...

Sorry Ib, but your source really is a Catholic apologist.

In Medieval Europe the (Christian) Clergy ruled and controlled everything, including scholarly activity and very little of value in terms of open inquiry into nature came thereof. There are many cases of brutal suppression of information that didn't confirm Literal Scripture.

It's true that historians of science have a knack for exaggerating the number of cases. Galileo is a case in point: he wasn't jailed, he was given house arrest.

I have no doubts about the contribution of Christianity to Western Civilisation (although the way I view this civilisation this may not necessarily be a great compliment!) but note that it found itself on the wrong side of progress for much of its history. In that respect the early European theocracies were indistinguishable from modern totalitarian regimes. Under the rule of Elisabeth I, England was really a brutal police state, with absolute power residing in the Monarchy, courtesy of God!

And the author's examples of Christian scientists really made me laugh: up to Newton (and much beyond) everyone was religious, it proves very little. Today being religious and a scientist aren't mutually incompatible either (although believing in literal scripture has really become impossible).

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