Come in Agent Netanyahu, mission almost accomplished

by Chris Bertram on May 31, 2010

I’m sure I’m not capable of putting the point better than Flying Rodent:

Let’s say you were a cartoonish, Ahmadinejadesque lunatic fixated on destroying Israel. How would you go about achieving your goal?

Read the rest.

{ 390 comments }

1

Ray 05.31.10 at 9:20 pm

Except that this bit
Plus, you’d want to isolate the country from the United States
is impossible. Israel can start wars, occupy countries, develop WMDs, attack ships in neutral waters and ignore any international laws it feels are inconvenient.
Actually, reading back over that list, perhaps Israel is doing all of this in an attempt to get closer to the US?

2

y81 05.31.10 at 9:52 pm

I thought CT had a policy of not commenting on Israel-related issues, since the ensuing discussions are unpleasant and unproductive. Maybe I am misremembering. Let the fun begin.

3

Robin Green 05.31.10 at 10:27 pm

OK, here’s Mad Mel’s “contribution”: She says that the flotilla is an “islamist terror ambush”. No, I’m not misquoting her

4

christian h. 05.31.10 at 10:33 pm

US statement to the UNSC refuses to criticise Israel in any form, instead blames the peaceful activists and, of course, Hamas, for this act of terrorism and piracy. I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but somehow I still am.

5

Substance McGravitas 05.31.10 at 10:35 pm

Michael Rubin at the National Review:

One final note on proportionality: Fifteen “peace” activists dead is a tragedy, but they represent only one one-thousandth of the death toll of a French heatwave.

6

Cian 05.31.10 at 10:43 pm

There was something recently in the NYRB arguing that young Jews in the US mostly don’t support, or even have much interest in, Israel. The exceptions are the orthodox/fundamentalist Jews. If they turned against Israel, US support may weaken in coming decades.

7

Cian 05.31.10 at 10:43 pm

By ‘they’ I meant the young liberal Jews. Grr.

8

Clod Levi-Strauss 05.31.10 at 10:45 pm

“Jss fcplmng Chrst. mght s wll jst cncl my nwrttn rl f tryng t vd srl/Plstn s th twt-mgnt t s.”
Bgn by blmng bth sds. Nt gd strt.
” thght CT hd plcy f nt cmmntng n srl-rltd sss”
Tht’s bcs srl s t th mddlng lft wht brtn s t th mddlng rght.
1)”brtn s mrdr”
2)”Thn chrg th wmn wh hv thm wth mrdr”
1)”Ths s dffrnt.”

1)”Th Jws hv rght t Jwsh Stt”
2)”D th Grmns hv th rght t Grmn stt?”
1)”Jws r dffrnt”

< hrf="http://ngryrb.blgspt.cm/2010/05/s-wht-d-y-wnt-srl-t-b-lk.html" rl="nfllw">Ptr Bnrt
“‘m nt skng srl t b tpn. ‘m nt skng t t llw Plstnns wh wr frcd t (r fld) n 1948 t rtrn t thr hms. ‘m nt vn skng t t llw fll, ql ctznshp t rb srls, snc tht wld rqr srl n lngr bng Jwsh stt. ‘m ctlly prtty wllng t cmprms my lbrlsm fr srl’s scrty nd fr ts stts s Jwsh stt.”

Lbrl srl Jws wnt th Plstnns t lv. D y dfnd tht?: Ys r n.
t’s mddlng lbrl gntlgy. thr dfnd th ntn tht rc bsd stt cn b mdrn nd dmcrtc r dn’t. s t Hms, th fcts r wht thy r: Thy hv ffrd ngttns, th hv hld trcs srls hv brkn thm. Ggl “Nncy Knwshr hms” dn’t wnt t rsk th spm fltr. srl kdnps nd trtrs ppl fr < hrf="http://jstwrldnws.rg/rchvs/003999.html" rl="nfllw">nn-vlnt rsstnc.

cld pnd y wth fcts nd y cld nly rspnd wth dfns f Jwsh stt; n tht by ts vry ntr dscrmnts gnst ts mnrty ppltn, nvr mnd tht th stt s rngd by rfgs wh r trppd btwn cntrs, jst s Mxcn rfgs wld b pnnd n Gtml f thy wr drvn crss th brdr. Plstnns r Plstnns nd srl s Plstn.

hmd Tb, mmbr f srl’s prlmnt, n bng n rb lwmkr n srl:
Thr s cntns dlgtmztn cmpgn gnst s. W r dscrbd s btryrs. Bt cn’t btry smthng ‘m nt prt f. ‘m nt prt f th rmy. ‘m nt prt f th Znst dlgy. ‘m vctm f Znsm…. t’s nhmn t dmnd tht w b lyl t Znsm r ccpt srl s Jwsh stt. cn’t ccpt dfntn tht strngthns th dscrmntn gnst nn-Jws n srl.
Y dn’t ccpt srl s Jwsh stt?
wnt t t b stt f ts wn ntnlts,
nd th rb mnrty t b rcgnzd s ntnl mnrty. srl s, ccrdng t th lw, dfnd s Jwsh nd dmcrtc stt. Bt thr s cntrdctn btwn th tw vls. f y r dmcrtc, y shld blv n qlty. Bt f y dfn th ntn by Jwsh thncty, y r syng ny Jwsh prsn s sprr t nn-Jwsh prsn.
Hw y d dfn yrslf?
‘m Plstnn-rb ctzn f srl. W r prt f th Plstnn ppl bt ctzns f srl.
s mttr f lgc t’s prtty smpl, bt smthng gts n th wy. nd tht smthng <>s frm f nrsn.

9

kid bitzer 05.31.10 at 10:47 pm

#5–classy!

and i assume rubin made a similar comparison in order to give perspective to the 22 israelis actually killed by qassam rockets. i mean, hey–it’s a tragedy, but it represents only fourteen ten-thousandths of the death toll of a french heat-wave.

10

dsquared 05.31.10 at 10:48 pm

I thought CT had a policy of not commenting on Israel-related issues, since the ensuing discussions are unpleasant and unproductive

No, we have a policy of demanding that people taking part in such discussions remain civil and ontopic, and of ruthlessly enforcing said policy with deletions and bans. Let’s not have any “fun” beginning.

11

Akshay 05.31.10 at 11:03 pm

This might be a good time to cite the FAO report “Farming without land, fishing without water” on Gaza:

“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Food insecurity exists when people do not have adequate physical, social or economic access to food as defined above. 61% of people in the Gaza Strip are considered to be food insecure and are reliant on food assistance from humanitarian agencies for their health and well being…Of those food insecure, 65% are children under 18 years. For these children, long-term food insecurity is linked to rising levels of acute malnutrition and stunted growth. In addition, health conditions such as watery diarrhea and iron deficiency anemia result from the ongoing lack of access to clean water and balanced diet. In February 2009, the level of anemia in babies (9-12 months) was as high as 65.5%.”

About a year ago, the WHO noted that for over a million refugees, the UNRWA could only provide 60% of the daily calorie intake. About 30% of school children in Gaza show mental health problems.

The reason that discussions on CT are unproductive and unpleasant is that there is nothing pleasant to say about the Israeli siege of Gaza. Current events are simply a reminder of this fact. As for Netanyahu’s contribution to the destruction of Israel, that is a speculative, long term issue. The destruction of Gaza is now.

12

Neil 05.31.10 at 11:09 pm

Ontopic, says d2. Yet you published Clod L-S.

13

Darius Jedburgh 05.31.10 at 11:25 pm

Robin @ 3: Also don’t miss Mel’s Speccie blog post, “The truth about the Turkish terror convoy”:

http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/6045519/the-truth-about-the-turkish-terror-convoy.thtml

14

sg 05.31.10 at 11:32 pm

That article has William Hague on “the wrong side” in the “battle for civilization” because he deplores the loss of life.

I’m not sure that the word “civilization” means what Melanie thinks it means…

15

Bloix 06.01.10 at 12:09 am

Even before this catastrophic operation, intelligent Israelis recognized that the government’s response to the flotilla was a disaster in the making.
http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/gaza-flotilla-drives-israel-into-a-sea-of-stupidity-1.292959

And the result is recognized as a debacle and a threat to the continued existence of Israel:
http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/the-price-of-flawed-policy-1.293445

If the government does not fall over this, I am afraid that Israel may be doomed.

16

Clod Levi-Strauss 06.01.10 at 12:22 am

“ntpc, sys d2. Yt y pblshd Cld L-S.”
Nl ,
vry rfrnc ‘v hrd t Bnrt n th lbrl prss cncrns hw h hs bn nbly fghtng th Lkdnks. fnd tht qt lnkd n th wb pg f s’d bKhll, whm lbrls gnr. Fl fr t dfnd t r nt. Th thr s pl fr dmcrcy frm n srl lgsltr. Pls tll s hw y dfn mdrn dmcrtc stt.

nd f y wnt cttns n srls rgng fr tw stt sltn s tht th srl brn Plstnns cn lv, thn cn gt y ths t. Th tw stt sltn ws lwys lssr vl, bt t ws nd s prdctd n Jwsh thnc sprtsm whch <>ws nvr dfnsbl s lbrl. Yt t hs bn dfndd s sch gn nd gn. Nvr mnd tht Lkd hs dstryd ny hp fr t, t ws nvr nbl cs. Bt f t hd bn llwd, wld y wnt tht fr yr wn lvs? Whtvr yr thncty wld y wnt yr chldrn t grw p n sch n nvrnmnt? S why th dntfctn wth ths wh d? Why wld ppl wh lv hpply n mlt-thnc cntrs nd wh wld vt gnst rcl brrrs whr thy lv spprt thm n nthr cntry? Why shld nyn fnd thr chc wrthy f rspct?

Thr hs bn lmst n rspns frm lbrl Znsts t th scrt lttr f grmnt btwn Sth frc nd srl. < hrf="http://www.grdn.c.k/wrld/2010/my/23/srl-sth-frc-nclr-dcmnts" rl="nfllw">“n ths lttr, dtd 11 Nvmbr 1974,[!] Prs sys srl nd th Sth frcn prthd gvrnmnt shr ‘cmmn htrd f njstc’ nd rgs ‘cls dntty f sprtns nd ntrsts’ “. N n hs dnd th lttr’s thntcty.
m nt shtng, m nt rntng. m nt clmng snthd fr nyn. Bt gt th vry rl sns tht th strggl t gnr th bslt flr f srl s smthng kn t th lst hp f ths wh thght th Svt nn cld rfrm tslf. Thr s blndnss t th fcts, nn f whch r nw. S ys ths s crtq f th mypc drms f “gntlgy”.
Pwr ds nt crrpt thrs, t crrpts. W ll hv blnd spts. Ths n hs rsltd n mrcn lbrls gttng smckd. Wht’s trblng nd wht’s lwys bn trblng s tht s mny f thm prt s f tht wr nt vn pssbl.

srl hs bn llwd t prtnd t s mdrn dmcrtc stt. t nvr hs bn. Th nly ppl wh hv ndrstd ths flly r Jws nd rbs fghtng fr smthng bttr. Th wst hs bn prlyzd r wrs by th mmry f ts cmplcty th lst tm.

17

Tim Wilkinson 06.01.10 at 12:38 am

In short, you’d want to make Israel look like a paranoid, bloodthirsty and extremely belligerent nation of racist freaks, determined to murder fuck out of civilians with total impunity year-in, year-out, so that the entire planet disowns them by, for example, withdrawing their ambassadors and issuing a barrage of denuncations. is shit-scared of these implacably fanatical, highly disciplined and efficient murderers, including btw any dissenting Jews who are tempted to break ranks in any significant, active way.

That’s the game-theoretic reality of it. Setting back diplomacy is great if you like the status quo. Getting international comdemnation functions to up the ante and stimulate solidarity among Israelis and friends of Israel. Any temporary problems are well worth the long-term objective of ensuring that Israel is seen as utterly singleminded, ruthless, and preferably potentially suicidally irrational about it. Projecting that image is the holy grail of adversarial game theory (cf. doomsday machine, Kayser Sozhe, etc.)

At least since the raid on Entebbe, Israeli special forces have looked courageous and invincible – getting some good footage of them blowing away a load of civvies in a clusterfuck operation would be propaganda gold.

Bit of a non-sequitur there. Maybe for those who give a shit about touchy-feely propaganda, such footage is indeed gold. In the realm of hurty-killy propaganda though, the footage doesn’t damage Israel, and in particular it is not evidence that Israeli specials are either uncourageous or vincible. In fact quite the opposite, given that the footage shows some of them taking a beating to provide a modicum of cover for a successful mission to carry out the execution of civilians.

Does anyone seriously want to suggest that the outcome was sufficiently unpredictable for that not to be an accurate description? (The ‘cover’ in question, btw, is implausible deniability – just the kind you want when you are flexing your muscles while maintaining impunity.)

Latest on the dreaded diplomatic ‘crisis’ – I understand the US/UK are on ‘deplorable’ at the moment, ‘regrettable’ is pencilled in for tomorrow, ‘controversial’ by the weekend, should be adjective-free by July.

18

Substance McGravitas 06.01.10 at 12:43 am

(cf. doomsday machine, Kayser Sozhe, etc.)

The X-Files thread is underneath.

19

Tim Wilkinson 06.01.10 at 12:45 am

OK then mr snobby, try the Sybilline books then

20

Lemuel Pitkin 06.01.10 at 12:45 am

The question is, can the project of Israel as a Jewish state be sustained without escalating acts of state violence like this one? I agree with Clod Levi-Strauss that past attempts to maintain ethnically-exclusive states are relevant to the answer.

21

alphie 06.01.10 at 12:47 am

IIRC, Israel gets much of its oil from a pipeline that runs the length of Turkey.

22

kid bitzer 06.01.10 at 12:59 am

23

P O'Neill 06.01.10 at 1:01 am

Don’t forget the companion theory that Iran must have sleeper cells at the highest levels of the Republican party because there’s no other way to explain a bunch of policies going back to Reagan.

24

Bloix 06.01.10 at 1:05 am

“Jewish ethnic separatism which was never defensible as liberal. “

I really don’t understand this. The modern liberal state is founded on the concept of ethnic identity. That’s what Wilsonian liberalism was all about. And virtually every modern state has an ethnic identity. Those that don’t – e.g., Belgium – are in continuous danger of falling apart. Well, maybe Switzerland manages it. But it’s a very special case.

”Do the Germans have the right to a German state?”
Well, yes, they do, and no liberal contends to the contrary. That’s what the unification of Germany was about, wasn’t it? Remember Wir sind ein Volk?

“Why would people who live happily in multi-ethnic countries and who would vote against racial barriers where they live support them in another country? “

Almost no one “lives happily” in “multi-ethnic” countries. Every modern nation-state is modeled on the mono-ethnic creations of the early modern era, and the degree to which they work as states is closely correlated to the success of the imposition of mono-ethnicity. You can have a state with significant populations of minority cultures as long as the minorities recognize and accept minority status, but you can’t have a state with two ethnic groups of roughly equal population who don’t share religion, language, history, or culture. That’s a prescription for civil war.

“Israel has been allowed to pretend it is a modern democratic state. It never has been.”

Israel has more of the institutions of a modern democratic state than any other state outside of Europe and North America: honest courts, a free press, labor unions, free universities, freedom of religious practice, independent political parties that regularly alternate in power. And if there were to be a unified single state in Palestine, it would without any doubt be far less democratic than the current Israeli state.

I do agree with you that Israel has placed itself on a path to its own destruction. Where we differ is that you think that the destruction of Israel will be a good thing, whereas anyone who is paying attention realizes that the lives of real people, whether or Jewish or Palestinian, will be far worse after the destruction of Israel than they are now.

25

Neil Levy 06.01.10 at 1:09 am

Clod, as it happens I more or less agree with you on the substance. But it was still off topic rambling. Now the thread is beginning to make it look to the point in comparison.

26

politicalfootball 06.01.10 at 1:46 am

And if there were to be a unified single state in Palestine, it would without any doubt be far less democratic than the current Israeli state.

One of the most damaging things for the Israelis about the current incident is that it will remind people that the residents of Gaza exist. Or I should say, it will remind some people of this. Others will talk about how the residents of Gaza and the West Bank would have it so much worse were the blessings of Israeli democracy withdrawn.

anyone who is paying attention realizes that the lives of real people, whether or Jewish or Palestinian, will be far worse after the destruction of Israel than they are now.

You seem to have identified the problem here: Those Palestinians just aren’t paying attention.

27

Kaveh 06.01.10 at 1:47 am

@6 young Jews in the US mostly don’t support, or even have much interest in, Israel. The exceptions are the orthodox/fundamentalist Jews. If they turned against Israel, US support may weaken in coming decades.

This line of reasoning (in the NYRB article) simply scapegoats fundamentalists or the orthodox (or the ultra-orthodox), trying to relegate the problem to groups that are easily identifiable and thus easy to see oneself as fundamentally different from, and also is a little circular (was there any reason to call the “fundamentalists” that, before they did something particularly visible re Palestine/Israel?). It’s an attempt to politely introduce the uncomfortable topic of unconditional, absolute support for Israel being organized and enforced by major Jewish organizations, countenanced or condoned by many (otherwise-)liberal Jews, to readers who are thus comfortably absolved from any possible feeling of personal responsibility by said scapegoating.

I don’t think the argument flies, because orthodox and conservatives don’t hold the kind of sway, collectively, over public opinion that, collectively, the many accomplished, respected public figures among liberal Jews do. I don’t think we’re going to see Mortimer Zuckerman or Haim Saban turning on the Israel lobby anytime soon, but we don’t need to, or rather, if they do, it will be because the tide has completely turned against their point of view. When somebody like Terry Gross covers Israel-Palestine issues not by bringing it up as a facet of Tony Judt’s biography, but by inviting a Palestinian-American onto the show (Rashid Khalidi, maybe?) that would be a big change from the coverage the issue gets now in most of the American Press. Andrew Sullivan is still a relatively lonely voice.

@2 I had inferred it was an uncharacteristic (for CT) example of choosing Seriousness over substance and/or an example of the chilling effect that self-styled “supporters of Israel” exercise on discussion of Palestine-Israel issues.

@12 This is on-topic at least in the sense that posts on this blog are all part of an ongoing discussion, and it’s referring to recent posts. It’s also pertinent to the issue of why Israel hasn’t been discussed here much, and what that means. Or why it isn’t discussed much in the media, or how the chilling effect on balanced discussion of Israel in the media (an easy criterion for which is coverage including a number of Arab and Middle Eastern voices that’s at least a large fraction of Jewish voices), which tends to be the elephant in the room.

28

alphie 06.01.10 at 1:51 am

Perhaps the problem is that most Jewish Americans consider themselves, you know, Americans?

29

Bloix 06.01.10 at 2:04 am

“You seem to have identified the problem here: Those Palestinians just aren’t paying attention.”

Sarcasm isn’t a substitute for analysis. Obviously the present situation is untenable. But what route is there to a better future? There are two possibilities for a Palestinian state: a corrupt anti-democratic state under the PA, or a theocratic anti-democratic state under Hamas. Most likely there be will a civil war among the Palestinians, as there was in Gaza, and the most likely outcome is the victory of Hamas and the imposition of oppressive theocratic rule. If Israel is destroyed, the likelihood a peaceful transition to a democratic Palestine is nil.

This is assuming, of course, a counterfactual world in which the Israelis simply evacuate, which isn’t going to happen. How do you propose, politicalfootball, to get to a better future from where things are at present?

30

Marcus Pivato 06.01.10 at 2:23 am

Bloix @ 24:

“And virtually every modern state has an ethnic identity. Those that don’t – e.g., Belgium – are in continuous danger of falling apart. Well, maybe Switzerland manages it. But it’s a very special case….. ….Almost no one “lives happily” in “multi-ethnic” countries. Every modern nation-state is modeled on the mono-ethnic creations of the early modern era, and the degree to which they work as states is closely correlated to the success of the imposition of mono-ethnicity. You can have a state with significant populations of minority cultures as long as the minorities recognize and accept minority status, but you can’t have a state with two ethnic groups of roughly equal population who don’t share religion, language, history, or culture. That’s a prescription for civil war.”

If I recall correctly, there is this country called Canada, which was founded in the 1860s as a bilingual, bi-cultural country (English-Protestant and French Catholic) and which, in the intervening 150 years, has evolved into a widely admired example of a happily functioning multi-ethnic society. For the last forty years, Canada has had a policy of explicitly fostering and encouraging ethnic diversity. Toronto is proudly one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world. Aside from some separatist rabble-rousers in Quebec (who are comparable to similar ethnic-separatist rabble rousers in have a dozen other modern democracies), Canada has had impeccable political stability since its inception.

Actually, the United States, Australia, New Zealand are also crushing counterexamples to your assertion, because these are all happily multicultural countries which are populated by an ethnically heterogeneous mixture of immigrants from all over the planet. Of course, you could say that the US or Australia are really `mono-ethnic’, in the sense that these immigrants are assimilated into the dominant `American ethnicity’ or the `Australian ethnicity’. But if you define `ethnicity’ in this way, then your statement is totally vacuous as a defense of Israel. Israel aspires to be `mono-ethnic’ in the sense of being religiously homogeneous and `racially pure’. Countries like the US, and Australia are `mono-ethnic’ only in the sense that most people watch the same TV shows and participate in roughly the same mass-market culture.

By the way, your assertion that “Every modern nation-state is modeled on the mono-ethnic creations of the early modern era”’ might be correct, but it is also irrelevant. I might also observe that many modern nation states began as aggressively expansionist military dictatorships, or as the colonies or imperial holdings of such dictatorships. Fortunately, most `modern’ nation-states have evolved out this militaristic and mono-ethnic phase.

31

Bloix 06.01.10 at 2:24 am

“Perhaps the problem is that most Jewish Americans consider themselves, you know, Americans?”

Yes, indeed, that’s exactly the problem – for Israel, not for Jewish Americans. A majority of American Jews have now grown up in an America in which a Jew can be whole-heartedly an American without having had any personal experience at all of anti-Semitism. It’s ironic but true that the 67 War was the turning point, by creating a way to be Jewish without being a victim. Israel made it possible for American Jews to have no need of Israel.

32

Scott 06.01.10 at 2:34 am

I find it a little disturbing in itself how many posts focus on the impact of this attack on Israel, while hardly mentioning the impact of the ongoing blockade on the Palestinian inhabitants of Gaza. When was the last time a Jewish child in Israel died from malnutrition or lack of adequate medicine?

To me this is a PR disaster for Israel, but it is more than that. It illustrates what the nation of Israel has degenerated into: a xenophobic, racist, militaristic and paranoid State with the weapons of a military superpower. They are a nasty regional bully, propped up by United States politicians pandering to the Jewish vote. How can any American wonder why Arab terrorists target them when they don’t even have the moral courage to condemn this? The only winner today was Al Quaida. Their recruiting will soar.

For the record, I am an atheist with Finnish grandparents. I despair of both sides.

33

X 06.01.10 at 2:37 am

RE #24:

> The modern liberal state is founded on the concept of ethnic identity

The very dangerous concept of the nation-state was popular in the last two centuries with ideologues from all ends of the political spectrum (look at the internal structure of the USSR – that’s where all those ASSRs and autonomous regions and so forth came from). Wilson’s preference for it doesn’t make the idea of a state belonging to only part of its population any more liberal. States formerly based on monoethnic ideologies have tended to embrace multiculturalism as they liberalised – look at Spain – and cases like India or the US are rather encouraging for the prospects of non-monoethnic states.

> if there were to be a unified single state in Palestine, it would without any doubt be far less democratic than the current Israeli state.

In practice there is already a single state in Palestine, unified for a wide range of purposes, and this is it. It’s quite democratic for 7.5 million of its inhabitants, but not so democratic for the other 4 million – let alone the millions who, thanks to 1948, aren’t there. Of course, if Israel were to expel the rest of the Palestinians, then the remaining state would be even more democratic, and more respectful of its inhabitants’ human rights into the bargain. Would you consider that an improvement?

> the lives of real people, whether or Jewish or Palestinian, will be far worse after the destruction of Israel than they are now.

The lives of Jewish people in the region no doubt will be worse after the destruction of Israel, partly because of Israeli policy now. The lives of Palestinians will be better in any such outcome short of nuclear warfare. Who wouldn’t prefer life as a Syrian, or even as a Saudi, to life in the occupied territories?

34

PHB 06.01.10 at 2:57 am

@Bloix

The actions of Hamas are not consistent with attempting to create a Palestinian state. Each time there is an attempt to get a peace process under way they sabotage it with a series of suicide bombings.

That is entirely consistent with a strategy of waiting out the demographics till the number of non Jews living within the borders controlled by Israel outnumber the Jews. At that point I think it is going to be rather hard for the rest of the world to justify a ‘Jewish state’. What could such a state be but an oppression of non-Jews? Recourse to citizenship versus non-citizenship is going to be equally hard when the Palestinians are denied citizenship on the historically spurious grounds that they were the victims of ethnic cleansing.

It will all get really ugly and rather hard for the West to support. But the other challenge for Zionists is the one that Beinart identified in his New York Review of books piece: Young American Jews consider Israel to be ‘them’ not ‘us’. And why on earth should anyone who is younger than 40, whose memories post-date the ’73 war consider Israel to be the perpetual underdog? Most memories will begin with the invasion of Lebanon, the ever expanding settlements. Very few will remember the period when the PLO was a terrorist movement rather than the moderate faction.

It has been a very long time since I heard anyone attempt to make a positive case for Israel. The standard argument relies on the somewhat dubious claim that Israel is a more enlightened Liberal state than the others in the region. That may well be true on some measures – particularly so if you are a Jew. But lets face it, is there any particular reason that the US has to have a permanent alliance with the least shitty government in a region where all the governments are pretty nasty? And after the exercise in relativism fails to convince they call their opponents either a NAZI/anti-semite or ‘self-hater’ as if there really can be no possibility of any criticism of Israel being justified ever.

Netanyahu’s objective is to keep his government together for the next few years and kick every important decision down the road till there is a more favorable government in the US. But what happens in 10, 20 years time? By then the winds of change will be blowing through the rest of the gulf as the oil starts to run out. Iran was a democracy before the US and the CIA began their meddling.

Contrast Netanyahu’s strategy with that of Hamas which is clearly playing a long term game whatever their final strategy might be. The worst outcome for the Likudnicks would be if Hamas decided in the wake of their success that the current circumstances now favor non-violent resistance over their earlier tactics.

35

weaver 06.01.10 at 3:08 am

As responding directly to Bloix will be off-topic (this thread is to be about – what? maritime law?), perhaps we need a separate thread on the idiotic notion of ethnic self-determination (“Wilsonian liberalism”) and its moral high-grounding of what is, at the end of day, simply bigotry. And just to prove how non-controversial the whole question can be, here’s Michael Neumann.

36

Kaveh 06.01.10 at 3:11 am

@29:
The general idea makes sense to me, although I’m not convinced that Israel was necessary or even instrumental in killing off substantial anti-Semitism in the US. Isn’t this essentially a counterfactual argument–it’s hard to observe a mechanism at work here, and we can’t go back and see what the late 20th century would have been like w/o Israel.

@28
I would expect that liberal Jewish Americans are less interested in organizations like Hillel, the AJC, etc., and thus don’t find themselves in positions of leadership where they might exercise influence.

Perhaps the problem is that most Jewish Americans consider themselves, you know, Americans?

So do you mean, instead, that for the most part, liberal Jewish Americans have virtually no connection at all to these organizations–that seeing themselves simply as Americans amounts to having little or no involvement in organized Jewish life/Jewish community organizations? Do you think that growing up in a Jewish family/community has not, on average, shaped the outlook (e.g. towards Arabs, the Middle East) of Jews under 30 differently from how the outlook of Christian Americans of a similar age is shaped?

Just to clarify my point above, I meant that “pro-Israel” advocates include many (otherwise-) liberal Jewish Americans, with many more playing a less direct but not unimportant role (assuming organizations like the AJC, Hillel, and so on get some support from young and/or liberal Jewish Americans); thus, that a sea change in the attitude of liberal Jewish Americans would be enough to change things.

@31
Didn’t Hamas essentially stop using violent force against Israel around the time of Cast Lead (they adhered to a ceasefire for a few months before).

37

Bloix 06.01.10 at 3:19 am

PHB-I don’t believe that Hamas has engaged in suicide bombing for five years or so. But if you replace suicide bombing with rocket attacks, I generally speaking would agree with you.

38

PHB 06.01.10 at 3:24 am

@Clod Levi-Strauss

There are many contradictions in the ‘two-state’ ‘solution’. But one of the most glaring is the fact that there is neither constituency has the slightest interest in accepting one.

When Yassir Arafat and Rabin were alive there was a realistic possibility of some form of settlement. But that was in the wake of the first Iraq war when the US was still a trusted intermediary, the peace faction could command a majority in the Knesset and the PLO were the elected representatives of the Palestinians.

For the past ten years it has been abundantly clear that neither of the two belligerents has the slightest interest in a two -state solution. Hamas rejects it on principle as does Likud. The settlements continue to expand and the US is currently trusted by neither party.

The only reason that the two-state solution remains on the table is that the possibility that there might be a settlement in the future allows US Jews to continue to feel good about Israel existing as a Jewish State. Admit that Obama can no more get the parties to agree to a two state solution than he could stop the Deepwater Horizon spill and the props are pulled from an edifice already threatening to collapse under its own weight.

If the cost of the ‘Jewish State’ is the perpetual occupation of the territories it is much harder to justify. People might even start to think about what the phrase might actually mean in practice or ask awkward questions about some animals being more equal than others.

A good part of the Political Philosophy of the late 20th Century is also going to have to be rewritten. All those essays and treaties on fairness and peoples on such which have to dance around the elephant in the room. Mention it of course and you will end up like Juan Cole, denied tenure.

39

Bloix 06.01.10 at 3:41 am

“the idiotic notion of ethnic self-determination”

Is it really necessary to point out that the goal of the Palestinian Liberation Organization is ethnic self-determination? It’s very progressive of some people to tell other people that they should live in multi-ethnic states, but the actual fact is that they don’t want to.

Kaveh – Operation Cast Lead was a response to Hamas rocket attacks on Sderot. I personally believe that Hamas continued these attacks for the purpose of persuading the Israeli public to vote Likud into office. Cast Lead was Olmert’s effort to show the Israeli public that Kadimah could be just as tough as Likud. With Sharon in a coma, Olmert believed he needed to do something really brutal in order to give Kadimah the credibility to make peace. Olmert really didn’t want to do it – he went on TV to beg Hamas to stop shooting off the rockets or else he’d have to invade – but Hamas responded by continuing the attacks. This is by the way no justification of Olmert or of the invasion of Gaza. In effect Hamas said, “Go ahead, kill us,” and Olmert said, “okay, I will.” That doesn’t change the fact that Olmert, being stupid and cruel, did the killing. The fact that he allowed himself to be manipulated by Hamas doesn’t make what he did any more defensible. And Kadimah lost the election anyway.

Hamas’s long-term strategy is the destruction of Israel and the creation of a theocratic state, but its short-term strategy is the destruction of the PA and the de-legitimation of any secular Palestinian leadership, which is why they engineered Netanyahu’s electoral victory. But Netanyahu is better for Hamas than they could ever have imagined.

40

alphie 06.01.10 at 3:44 am

“So do you mean, instead, that for the most part, liberal Jewish Americans have virtually no connection at all to these organizations…”

I mean the Jewish Americans I know view Israel as a Bizarro Disneyland for religious fanatics.

41

Clod Levi-Strauss 06.01.10 at 3:46 am

PHB [nnyms]”Th ctns f Hms r nt cnsstnt wth ttmptng t crt Plstnn stt. ch tm thr s n ttmpt t gt pc prcss ndr wy thy sbtg t wth srs f scd bmbngs.”

Nncy Knwshr MT : < hrf="http://www.hffngtnpst.cm/nncy-knwshr/rgntng-vlnc-hw-d_b_155611.html" rl="nfllw">Rgntng Vlnc: Hw D Csfrs nd?Th cnclsn: Ths, systmtc pttrn ds xst: t s vrwhlmngly srl, nt Plstn, tht klls frst fllwng lll. ndd, t s vrtlly lwys srl tht klls frst ftr lll lstng mr thn wk.
Th lssns frm ths dt r clr:
Frst, Hms cn ndd cntrl th rckts, whn t s n thr ntrst. Th dt shws tht csfrs cn wrk, rdcng th vlnc t nrly zr fr mnths t tm.
Scnd, f srl wnts t rdc rckt fr frm Gz, t shld chrsh nd prsrv th pc whn t strts t brk t, nt b th frst t kll.
Sh’s mmbr f th Ntnl cdmy f Scncs, nd sh nclds grphs.

PHB gn: “Th wrst tcm fr th Lkdncks wld b f Hms dcdd n th wk f thr sccss tht th crrnt crcmstncs nw fvr nn-vlnt rsstnc vr thr rlr tctcs.”

S my lnk “nn-vlnt rsstnc” n #8. Bttr yt d lttl rsrch. Dd y knw tht Hms trd t ncld nn-lgnd Plstnns n t’s gvrnmnt ftr t wn th Plstnn lctns, nd tht th ppl t pprchd wr thrtnd wth ssssntn by srl? sk th Qkr ldy wh ws tskd t dlvr ths thrts. [jstwrldnws.rg/rchvs/002819.html]
Y wnt mr? t’s sy.

Jsh Mrshll [Th fndng f srl ws “ncssry crm”] lnks t Strtfr whch rfrs t “Trksh Fltll” < hrf="http://www.frgz.rg/n/bt-s/wh-w-r/721-stff" rl="nfllw">Ths s th ldrshp f Fr Gz. t s ntrntnl. rlr n th dy Mrshll lnkd t rprt tht rfrrd t th “Pr Hms Fltll.” D w s pttrn hr?

Blx. Th Frnch cnstttn ds nt rcgnz Frnch thncty. Grmny jst rcntly, 50 yrs t lt, chngd t’s lws s tht chldrn brn n Grmny wh r thnc Trks r Grmn ctzns. D y pps tht? D y pps Dvrs Brtn? [dwnlds.bbc.c.k/rw/pdf/rds/dvrsbrtn.pdf] D y pps m? mlt-thnc ctzn f th mlt-thnc S?
ll f ths s by th nmbrs. ll f ths ss nmbrs nd dt, nd th lgc f bsc cvcs nd cvl rghts.
Hmn shlds by Hms s cllng ppl t g p n rf s tht th srls hv t cll ff rstrks. Hmn Shlds by srl s gn t th hd nd th rdr t wlk n frnt. gn, cn g n. t s sy f y d lttl wrk.

42

sg 06.01.10 at 3:54 am

Is it really necessary to point out that the goal of the Palestinian Liberation Organization is ethnic self-determination?

no it’s not, because it’s not. The goal of the PLO is the existence of Palestine, which includes Jewish, Christian and Muslim Palestinians, and the right of return, which also extends to Palestinians of all ethnicity. Their goal specifically is national self-determination, which is often ethnically-based but not so much in a country whose political leaders come from 2 different religious traditions (you might recall, for example, a certain Hanan Ashrawi).

Israel made it possible for American Jews to have no need of Israel.

This is not true, stated as if there were never a world war 2 or any kind of immigration policy in the US, or a cultural history of Jewish people and their own struggle, within the US. It’s a massive over-simplification.

There are actually quite a few multi-ethnic or multi-religious states in the world, which manage to hold together, or which fall apart for very non-ethnically related reasons. And there are democracies outside of America and Europe functioning relatively well, thank you very much, despite in some cases having up to 40% of their population born overseas, or having strong religious groups with strong historical grievances who seem to, mostly, get along. If South Africa can do it, presumably Israel can – especially since apparently they share the same “opposition to historical injustice” (hahahahahahaha).

43

Lemuel Pitkin 06.01.10 at 3:56 am

This line of reasoning (in the NYRB article) simply scapegoats fundamentalists or the orthodox (or the ultra-orthodox), trying to relegate the problem to groups that are easily identifiable

This is an important point. Look at this, from Jim Sleeper:

At the Tel Aviv University, scholars and students who embody the best of everything most of us once admired about Israel are wringing their hands about the high birth-rate of anti-Enlightenment orthodox Jews and the virtual takeover pf their once-social-democratic country by hundreds of thousands of smart, cynical Russian Jews. … The manipulative contempt with which these two powerful groups are gaming the just, ecumenical society that stronger, more noble people risked their lives to advance is heart-breaking.

It’s striking, isn’t it?, how even liberals discussing political divisions among Israeli Jews fall back on these ethnic terms.

44

PHB 06.01.10 at 3:56 am

@Kaveh, Bliox

My point was that Hamas has been fairly consistent in using particular types of violence as a means to disrupt meaningful peace negotiations.

There is a general tendency to present all violence aimed at the US or US allies as being irrational, the work of insane madmen. You see the same thing in the history of the British Empire as well. Gordon of Khartoum didn’t just fight any old Mahdi, he fought the ‘Mad Mahdi’. The fact that the Mahdi’s military tactics were a lot sounder than Gordon’s seem to have escaped the imperial reporters.

Insanity is used to explain motives that are incompatible with the governing ideology.

If the Mahdi does not want the benefits of colonial rule, the only explanation must be insanity. If people are blowing themselves up in opposition to a generous peace proposal, the only explanation is insanity.

Although there is currently a ceasefire, I don’t think it would last very long if Obama tried to duplicate Bush’s tactic of ignoring Hamas and trying to cut a deal with Fatah. Nor is that very likely to be attempted with Abbas having no real legitimacy at this point and there being no real prospect of elections.

45

Clod Levi-Strauss 06.01.10 at 4:17 am

‘m gng t dbl dwn: Dlng wth sss f srl nd th Plstnns th bsc prlll sn’t brtn t’s glbl wrmng. t’s nt trght dnl t’s smthng sqshr, nd mr vsv.
Bt ‘m nt cllng t rrtnlsm n thr cs, t’s jst smlr rspns t nfrmtn tht dsn’t jb wth ssmptn, tht mks ppl f n grp ncmfrtbl. t’s ml rspns t fml ngr, t’s whts wth blcks, gntl wth Jws. t’s s nd Thm.

Thr’s lgcl pttrn t dnlsm, f bth glbl wrmng nd th Plstnn xprnc (nd dn’t prtnd th fll hmn ctstrph s cmmn knwldg)
Th Hlcst s r xprnc. Th Nkb s nt, r t ws nt. Th chng hs tkn dcds. Tht’s nt gd sgn fr th plnt.

46

PHB 06.01.10 at 4:28 am

@Clod Levi-Strauss

One of the conditions for a non-violent resistance approach to work is the existence of a media willing to report its activities.

Which is precisely why I have spent the better part of my life working to create a media that would. The Web was from the start a political project in my view. I was in contact with people running Web Servers in Sarajevo during the siege.

We are not quite there yet. Note that the establishment media report the flotilla crew attacking the soldiers. Which given the fact that the soldiers were the ones initiating the attack is a rather contentious point of view if we accept the claims of the Israeli government as true. Which given their past history of prevarication is rather unlikely.

@ someone
Israel made it possible for American Jews to have no need of Israel.

Where is the Irish Catholic Israel? Where is the Black Israel? What wars have they fought and won?

I think the idea that the ’67 war ended anti-semitism in the US to be rather difficult to credit. The election of Kennedy in ’60 and the civil rights act had already happened before the ’67 war.

A more accurate statement would be that anti-semitism ceased to be an acceptable, let alone a fashionable position in the wake of WWII and the holocaust, that is a quarter century before the six day war.

47

Bloix 06.01.10 at 4:37 am

Diverse Britain? Diverse Britain? Britain is 92 percent white, 1.3 percent Pakistani, 1 percent Black. Britain is so mono-ethnic that the Scots and Welsh qualify as separate ethnicities instead of just people with regional accents.

And France! 80 percent French origin, and most of the rest are second-generation Italians and Spaniards. Maybe 6 percent are non-European.

And Lemuel Pitkin, Israeli liberals fall back on ethnic terms because the ethnic terms describe the reality.

48

Bloix 06.01.10 at 4:39 am

“Where is the Irish Catholic Israel?”
Umm, in Ireland?

49

Bloix 06.01.10 at 4:48 am

“A more accurate statement would be that anti-semitism ceased to be an acceptable, let alone a fashionable position in the wake of WWII and the holocaust, that is a quarter century before the six day war.”

No, it would not be more accurate. It would be entirely incorrect. Anti-semitism was rife after WWII and “the Holocaust” was a term that was unknown to non-Jews. WWII did nothing to end anti-Semitism. Of course, everyone knew about the death camps and Eichmann and the Nuremberg trials, but WWII was not “about” the Holocaust until the 1970’s. Before 1967, being Jewish was something to be ashamed of. It was a condition of weakness. The 67 war made it fashionable to be Jewish, and that spelled the beginning of the end of anti-Semitism in the United States.

50

Neil Levy 06.01.10 at 5:16 am

Bloix, the association between the Holocaust and weakness was certainly true in Israel, but I’d like to see any evidence of its being true in the United States. The reflexive use of the descriptor Judeo-Christian (“our Judeo-Christian values”) seems to have come in by the 50s.

51

Josh 06.01.10 at 5:19 am

Apologies if it’s been cited upthread and I missed it, but Henley’s reply to Dr. Rodent is interesting: This is Israel winning.

52

Chris Bertram 06.01.10 at 5:32 am

One can only assume that Mr Henley is not a regular reader of Mr Rodent.

53

sg 06.01.10 at 5:40 am

Bloix, Britain may not be diverse enough to qualify (though I do hope dsquared turns up soon to point out that the Welsh actually have their own language), but there are lots of other multi-ethnic states in the world. South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, most of Latin America… States like Nigeria and Zaire, which have significant ethnic diversity, could not even exist in a meaningful sense if they followed your prescription on the ethnic properties of a nation-state. And in many of these cases, their problems have a lot to do with poverty and aren’t necessarily linked directly to their ethnic make-up at all. In fact, compared to Africa or India, Israel and Palestine have a pretty straightforward ethnic mix and their problems really don’t have to be cast in those terms.

If South Africa can move to a multi-ethnic democratic state after apartheid, Israel can at least move to a functioning two-party state.

It’s also worth pointing out that Hamas were democratically elected, and Israeli democracy is pretty crappy – they’ve had the same little coterie of psychos running the show forever, whereas countries like NZ with smaller populations seem to have found a way to refresh their political classes occasionally.

54

Donald Johnson 06.01.10 at 5:46 am

“Operation Cast Lead was a response to Hamas rocket attacks on Sderot.”

That leaves out so many details it’s wildly misleading. It makes Hamas out to be the villain and Israel the victim which overreacted, and this is false.

link

55

Bloix 06.01.10 at 5:53 am

Josh – Henley says that Israel chose “militarism.” If you read what seems to have happened, it appears that the reason the Israeli SEALS wound up killing so many people is that they were entirely unprepared to take control. They were lowered on a rope from a helicopter, one at a time, onto the deck of the ship, where they were immediately set upon by flotilla members. Apparently they expected, for some inane reason, that the flotilla participants would allow them to gather on deck. Why they thought that the flotilla members would be passive and non-violent is completely beyond comprehension. It should have been obvious that there was a great risk that the flotilla members would fight to maintain control of their ship.

So the Israeli SEALS were placed on a boat filled with determined adversaries, in full view, under-armed and undermanned to bring the boat under control without using force, and they wound up shooting in order to take control.

This was amateurish, feckless, catastrophic bungling.

56

Kaveh 06.01.10 at 6:12 am

Bloix @36
I personally believe that Hamas continued these attacks for the purpose of persuading the Israeli public to vote Likud into office. …Hamas’s long-term strategy is the destruction of Israel and the creation of a theocratic state

In general, I think this kind of cycle of mutual provocation happens more often than people realize–Bush and Ahmadinejad for example, or Ahmadinejad and Bibi–each provoking the other side so they can unite their constituents around conflict with an external threat.

I’m skeptical that this is what’s motivating Hamas. Apart from the contrary evidence that Clod cited, your explanation would be giving them credit for an incredibly patient, long-term outlook and willingness to disregard very real threats to the safety of most Hamas officials. Ahmadinejad and Bush aren’t likely to be bombed in their own capitals. Maybe the Hamas leadership have an outlook (based on belief in afterlife or whatever) that makes this kind of patience possible, but I think there’s a better explanation for their Islamic state platform: the big danger posed by any Palestinian political force to Palestinians is that they can be coopted by Israel. The Islamic state platform and “maximalist” rhetoric is not an unexpected response to these circumstances.

57

john b 06.01.10 at 6:13 am

Not sure what Australia’s doing in #53 – it’s 90% white-European. Extermination-of-the-indigenous-people was done just as thoroughly as in North America, and they didn’t feel the need to import slave labour after failing to enslave the locals…

58

sg 06.01.10 at 6:17 am

Further to that Bloix, the Guardian is putting together an account from international (mainly Middle Eastern?) sources which strongly suggests that there was some kind of military act before the helicopters dropped their payload of paintball skirmishers:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/31/israeli-attacks-gaza-flotilla-activists

It appears that the “action” began some time before the video we saw, and so for example we have this:

Reporting for Press TV, an Iranian state-run channel, one said: “We are being hit by tear gas, stun grenades. We have navy ships on every side and helicopters ahead. We are being attacked on every side.”

which suggests that the ships were under attack “on every side” before the helicopters reached them. There were quite a few journalists on that ship whose accounts we aren’t going to get for a few days, and I suspect what we hear is not going to support the claim that these people were terrorists who attacked first.

I am waiting for the Australians on the Turkish ship to be released. Paul McGeough and Kate Geraghty have done some okay coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan, and I would expect their accounts to be quite balanced (for journalists!) Currently they’re being denied consular access by the Israelis (because, you know, attacking an unarmed ship in international waters isn’t good enough; holding 500 people without charge and attacking journalists is important too), which I suspect will happen just long enough for them to get the worst of the publicity out of the way.

59

sg 06.01.10 at 6:20 am

john b, 40% of Australians were born or have parents who were born overseas. Australia has the largest Greek city outside of Athens (Melbourne). Canada and Australia aren’t exactly the same as India, but they aren’t exactly Bloix’s uni-ethnic state too, and they have state policies (multiculturalism) which explicitly recognise that and are intended to manage inter-ethnic differences.

60

Bloix 06.01.10 at 6:23 am

“the Welsh actually have their own language”
Yes, and 20% of the Welsh can speak a bit of it! If they want to read the news, though, they have to read it in English, as there are no Welsh language newspapers (a pretty good gauge of demand, unlike radio and TV, which are tax-funded). Which is not a problem, because there are no Welsh speakers under 90 who don’t also speak English.

And my God, you’re recommending Nigeria and Zaire as models of multi-ethnicity? Hell. why not Rwanda and Yugoslavia? Or Afghanistan?

“countries like NZ with smaller populations seem to have found a way to refresh their political classes occasionally” – ie countries that are mono-ethnic can have such narrow divisions between their political parties that it doesn’t much matter which one is in power, since everyone agrees on almost everything of importance anyway.

Donald Johnson – this is not a melodrama with villains and victims. But my point was that Operation Cast Lead was a PR exercise that the Israeli administration engaged in for political, not security purposes. Olmert could not be seen to be passive if Kadimah was to have a chance to win the election. Certainly the fact that innocents would die didn’t bother him, just as it did not bother Hamas. In the end his party lost the election and Hamas was strengthened. I don’t view Israel as a victim in the context of Gaza.

61

Bloix 06.01.10 at 6:37 am

Ah, yes, multi-cultural Australia. 92% white European. How many Asians? Less than 7%. Australia and Canada, like the US, have historically managed immigration to make sure that immigrants will learn the language and assimilate rapidly – within a generation or two. There’s no commitment to the indefinite maintenance of true ethnic separatism. When too many immigrants threaten to create culturally sustainable minorities, the doors are closed for a spell. And the US seems to be handling the assimilation of Hispanics reasonably well, but time will tell. Canada has the problem of the unassimilable French minority, but for historical reasons – primarily the shared desire of Anglophones and Francophones not to be gobbled up by the US – the Canadian federation has survived. But the point is that Palestinians don’t want to assimilate into Israeli culture, and Israelis don’t want to assimilate into Palestinian culture.

62

sg 06.01.10 at 6:39 am

That’s why I put it in brackets, Bloix.

I wasn’t recommending Nigeria and Zaire as models of multi-ethnicity, just pointing out to you that, contra your own assumptions about the nature of states, they can’t exist without finding such models. Also, again, just because a state with diverse ethnic populations has big social problems doesn’t mean that the problems are the fault of the ethnic divide.

Your claim that multi-ethnic states are “a recipe for civil war” or that most successful states are monocultural just doesn’t wash, and there’s no reason why it should apply to a supposedly robustly democratic state like Israel.

Finally, NZ isn’t mono-ethnic – it has two languages and a significant minority of its population is Maori or Islander. Your argument, in any case, doesn’t seem to match the mono-ethnicity claim. Surely a stable mono-ethnic country the size of NZ (half the population of Israel) would be prone to recycling its political classes, but it doesn’t – it has a democratic tradition of refreshing political parties’ leaderships after they lose power. Israel, on the other hand, bastion of democracy that it is, seems to keep cycling the same small coterie of psychotic lunatics through the halls of power and has done since what, the 80s? There’s a very small military-political establishment controlling things in Israel, and it may be superficially democratic but the continuous reappearance of old faces gives me cause to question the vitality of their democracy.

63

sg 06.01.10 at 6:40 am

Australia and Canada, like the US, have historically managed immigration to make sure that immigrants will learn the language and assimilate rapidly – within a generation or two. There’s no commitment to the indefinite maintenance of true ethnic separatism.

This is ignorant horseshit, Bloix.

64

weaver 06.01.10 at 6:53 am

Ah, yes, multi-cultural Australia. 92% white European.

Speaking as an Australian, I hadn’t realised that “white European” was a culture, let alone a “mono-ethnic” one. My understanding was such adjectives were grouped under a different taxonomic label – a less euphemistic one.

65

Clod Levi-Strauss 06.01.10 at 7:22 am

pdts
< hrf="http://jstwrldnws.rg/" rl="nfllw">Hln Cbbn
< hrf="http://www.rbst.nt/" rl="nfllw">ssndr l mrn

66

Marc 06.01.10 at 7:31 am

In practice people in the US have redefined white to include a steadily expanding cast of people: non-British Europeans, for example. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see basically the same thing for immigrants from Mexico and South/Central America. And it is true that there is a nationalist culture, at least in the USA, which is neither ethnic nor religious. Israel is much more explicitly religious and problematic.

67

Alex 06.01.10 at 8:39 am

FR missed an important point: another element of the Iranian sleeper plan would be to stage a succession of wildly overambitious intelligence/special forces direct actions in the full glare of global TV and botch them deliberately, thus destroying the reputation and deterrent value of Mossad.

68

Alex 06.01.10 at 8:40 am

You do realise there’s another ship out there, that was delayed leaving port, and which has basically got away?

69

daelm 06.01.10 at 8:46 am

if there were to be a unified single state in Palestine, it would without any doubt be far less democratic than the current Israeli state.

AND WE SHOULD NEVER ACTUALLY FIND OUT!!!!! IT’S TOO EEEEEVIL.

if there were to be a unified single state in Palestine, it would without any doubt be far less democratic than the current Israeli state.

as opposed to the highly democratic starvation, degradation, murder and coercion by an immeasurably stronger force that’s their current experience.

if there were to be a unified single state in Palestine, it would without any doubt be far less democratic than the current Israeli state.

because you know what they’re like, right?

if there were to be a unified single state in Palestine, it would without any doubt be far less democratic than the current Israeli state.

which israeli state imposes forced starvation on people who actually voted democratically – FOR VOTING DEMOCRATICALLY – and supported this violation of their humanity by conducting illegal attacks in international waters, and murdering civilians….again.

…..this stuff writes itself.

d

70

maidhc 06.01.10 at 8:58 am

“the Welsh actually have their own language”

Not only do the Welsh have their own language, the Scots have two: Gaelic and Scots. And the Scots now have their own Parliament again, so I think they haven’t yet assimilated into being English.

India and South Africa have already been cited as examples of multi-ethnic democracies. I suggest Indonesia as another potential candidate. The Philippines might be on the list too, although some recent developments are worrisome.

If you consider religion as part of ethnicity, which is not unconnected to the Israel/Palestine issue, then Germany is also a multi-ethnic state, having a Protestant part and a Catholic part, that speak related but not exactly the same languages.

Pre-WWI there were a lot of relatively stable multi-ethnic empires: Russia, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire. They were not democracies, of course.

I think it’s interesting how much of the modern world was created at the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Wilson wanted to break up the multi-ethnic empires into ethnic nation-states. That left the Sudeten Germans as an issue for the next war, among other things. Of course the principle didn’t apply to the winners of WWI, so the Irish, Vietnamese, etc., were left out in the cold, despite sending delegations to the conference. They had to deal with these issues on their own.

Initially the Zionists and the Arab Nationalists worked together to influence what would happen to the Ottoman Empire. However, the Sykes–Picot Agreement (revealed by the Bolsheviks) turned out to be a stumbling block. The Zionists decided to dump the Arabs and cut a deal with the British, leading to the Balfour Declaration. (This was in the run-up to Versailles, in 1917.)

The Ottoman Empire contained Arab, Greek and other Christians, Jews and Arab Muslims. I don’t want to say that the Ottoman Empire was an example of good governance. All of these groups were united only by their hatred of the Turks. The Greeks were mostly ethnically cleansed right after the end of WWI, but the Zionists had entered the picture and became increasingly influential, all the more so after the Holocaust.

Modern countries like Iraq, Syria and Jordan were created by the Sykes–Picot Agreement. In the longer run, going back as far as the Crusades, through WWI, you can look at cities as power centres in the region: Damascus, Baghdad and Jerusalem. (Plus Istanbul/Constantinople, of course, but that is fairly solidly Turkish now.)

Taking a longer-term viewpoint, patterns emerge. But in the short term there is jockeying for immediate advantage.

Since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, there have been two basic parties in Arab politics. One is a secular socialist party, the other is a more religious party. The Baathists and the Muslim Brotherhood, although the names vary. The West has usually reluctantly supported the socialists over the other bunch. “Reluctantly” because otherwise they would look to the Communists for aid. Saddam Hussein for one example.

A real resolution starts with sitting all interested parties at the table. Interested parties are those who can claim a certain level of popular support. Right now we are at the stage of “So and so doesn’t deserve to be at the table because of blah blah blah.”

The Bush administration said “we are going to have elections in Palestine, isn’t that wonderful?”. But when the democratic result was “PLO have not gotten us anywhere, we will try the other guys”, all of a sudden it was “you voted for the wrong side, we are cutting you off”.

I’m not saying that Hamas is so wonderful, but if you lived there you have a restricted set of choices to go with.

I see everyone jockeying for short-term advantage at the expense of the big picture. There needs to be a Gandhi or a Mandela.

I didn’t check any references, so I welcome clarifications.

71

daelm 06.01.10 at 8:58 am

bloix:
“So the Israeli SEALS were placed on a boat filled with determined adversaries, in full view, under-armed and undermanned to bring the boat under control without using force, and they wound up shooting in order to take control.”

nope. the Israeli seals INVADED a boat IN INTERNATIONAL WATERS, THAT THEY HAD NO RIGHT TO, by lowering TRAINED SPECIALIST SOLDIERS, ARMED AND PROTECTED WITH SPECIALISED GEAR, with the intention of TAKING OVER A VESSEL BY PIRACY, and these hired killers OPENED FIRE ON THE LEGITIMATE OCCUPANTS OF THAT BOAT when they resisted the israeli ATTEMPTED PIRACY.

corrected for you. don’t thank me – it’s no problem.

d

72

novakant 06.01.10 at 9:07 am

Diverse Britain? Diverse Britain? Britain is 92 percent white, 1.3 percent Pakistani, 1 percent Black.

Are you a racist? Or else how are we to interpret your claim that diversity is only due to race? The UK is full of white people who are very diverse culturally and yet for the most part people get along just fine. And London, which is incredibly diverse, hasn’t descended into chaos yet, in fact its diversity is its major strength.

Also, people might want to add Iran as an example of a very diverse nation (yeah, I know the current government sucks, but the country has been around for a while before that…).

73

Iorwerth Thomas 06.01.10 at 9:25 am

“Which is not a problem, because there are no Welsh speakers under 90 who don’t also speak English.”

Which shows a fair bit of ignorance of the difficulties first-language Welsh speakers in North Wales had accessing things such as in-patient paediatric mental health services which (until recently) were run across the border in England. Just because one can speak fluent English doesn’t mean that there aren’t problems in accessing English-only public services.

74

Iorwerth Thomas 06.01.10 at 9:31 am

In fact, I’m not actually sure that talking about the Welsh, Scottish, English etc. as some form of unified cultural bloc actually makes much sense in the first place.

75

Tim Wilkinson 06.01.10 at 10:14 am

Bloix @55 Henley says that Israel chose “militarism.” If you read what seems to have happened, it appears that the reason the Israeli SEALS wound up killing so many people is that they were entirely unprepared to take control.

OK so the probandum is that the killings were unplanned, unexpected, a mistake. So what’s the evidence for that?

They were lowered on a rope from a helicopter, one at a time, onto the deck of the ship, where they were immediately set upon by flotilla members. Apparently they expected, for some inane reason, that the flotilla participants would allow them to gather on deck. Why they thought that the flotilla members would be passive and non-violent is completely beyond comprehension. It should have been obvious that there was a great risk that the flotilla members would fight to maintain control of their ship.

The trajectory of the argument has gone awry. The above paragraph is arguing for the mistake’s being very stupid if it had been a mistake. But an extremely stupid mistake is less plausible, not more plausible.

The method seems to be: presuppose the conclusion (it was a mistake), cover up by launching into a different argument (it would be a very stupid mistake), and hope the audience will mistake assent to the latter, easy, point for acceptance of the former, main, one. After all, you definitely make a convincing argument for something or other, and it’s clear what you are trying to argue for, so that must be right then.

In fact the actual conclusion argued for – any mistake would be completely beyond comprehension – not only doesn’t support the mistake thesis but provides good reason to reject it.

This is implausible deniability in action. Meanwhile the dogwhistle sounds loud and clear for the vast majority who can hear it: “fuck with us and we’ll kill you”.

Latest on that diplomatic crisis – er, regret is being expressed. The ‘loss of life’ – not any concrete entity, and not even ‘killing’ – is being condemned. The one-line message from Tel Aviv is, guess what? ‘The mission was not a success.’ Got that? Not a success. (It’s just very lucky that all the deaths were on the Turkey/Hamas/Al-Qaida side.)

76

X 06.01.10 at 10:36 am

Bloix: whether or not it’s advantageous for a state to be monoethnic is totally beside the point when you’re speaking of an area that, unless huge numbers of people are forcibly expelled (again), cannot plausibly be divided into neat monoethnic enclaves. You build democracy with the people you have, not the people you want to have.

77

salacious 06.01.10 at 10:49 am

@75–Tim Wilkinson.

The dogwhistle theory isn’t especially consistent with the facts we have right now. If Israel was trying to send a sotto voce signal of ruthlessness, then why would they A. raid the boat in international waters, rather than waiting for them to enter territorial waters where their shield of deniability would be much stronger and B. conduct the raid in a way that makes their supposedly highly skilled and ruthless killers look like a troupe of hapless incompetents. If you want to convey an image of amoral badassery, releasing video showing your elite soldiers getting harried by a disorganized mob is hardly the way to do it.

Given these inconsistencies, I think we should presume that this debacle, at least at the tactical level, was the product of rank incompetence rather than something more deliberate.

78

herr doktor bimler 06.01.10 at 11:54 am

“countries like NZ with smaller populations seem to have found a way to refresh their political classes occasionally” – ie countries that are mono-ethnic can have such narrow divisions between their political parties that it doesn’t much matter which one is in power, since everyone agrees on almost everything of importance anyway.

Just going out on a limb here to speculate that Bloix is not well-acquainted with New Zealand political history.

NZ isn’t mono-ethnic – it has two languages
Ahem. Three. Everyone forgets the official status of Sign.

79

Alex 06.01.10 at 12:10 pm

If they really wanted to signal their willingness to use extreme violence, wouldn’t it have been easier to have the air force bomb the ship or the navy torpedo it? We ordered them to stop and they refused. Bang. Obviously we called out the search and rescue people. What, do you think we are Nazis or something?

Trying to visit-and-search a ship with paintball guns at 0430 (eh? were they trying to surprise them, or to get them to comply with a show of strength?) and ending up with a dozen dead protestors, a man overboard, and a target ship still out there on the high seas that may turn up at any moment with 4 Turkish MEKO frigates as an escort is really only explicable by a combination of ruthlessness and incompetence.

I propose the term “Ledeen Martini” for this cocktail.

80

Earnest O'Nest 06.01.10 at 12:40 pm

“But the point is that Palestinians don’t want to assimilate into Israeli culture, and Israelis don’t want to assimilate into Palestinian culture.”, and the problem is that many of both believe that’s really the point and that they do not share for instance the common culture of hoping their kids are all right. But full marks for the P-I-I-P schema.

81

Tom 06.01.10 at 12:40 pm

@Tim Wilkinson, 75:

I’ve never tried to board a ship moving at tens of knots in the middle of the night, especially not from a helicopter, so I’m no expert. You seem to think it should be easy to drop a few soldiers down and subdue an angry mob of 60 or so people who hat your and your country without any risk to the lives of those soldiers. Have I interpreted you correctly?

That’s not to suggest that I think the decision to halt the convoy was the correct one[1], just that it must be exceptionally hard to do such a think without loss of life.

[1] although I do actually think that

82

Tom 06.01.10 at 12:55 pm

Actually I take my footnote back. Although I think the blockade on Hamas is justified, I think the decision to intercept these ships looks like a poor one (particularly with hindsight).

83

NomadUK 06.01.10 at 1:10 pm

Actually I take my footnote back. Although I think the blockade on Hamas is justified, I think the decision to intercept these ships looks like a poor one (particularly with hindsight).

Well, then you’re only half the idiot you first appeared to be. That’s progress.

84

Tim Wilkinson 06.01.10 at 1:10 pm

If Israel was trying to send a sotto voce signal of ruthlessness, then why would they A. raid the boat in international waters, rather than waiting for them to enter territorial waters where their shield of deniability would be much stronger and B. conduct the raid in a way that makes their supposedly highly skilled and ruthless killers look like a troupe of hapless incompetents.

The argument presented is that the image projected was, looked at from vari0us angles: A. ruthless but not deniable enough; B. deniable but not ruthless enough? That’s not a very conclusive argument, is it. Image of ruthlessness/plausibility of denial is pretty much a trade-off, and I’m saying that Israel are willing to go pretty far toward the ruthlessness end of the scale.

Getting the soldiers attacked is enough for a bit of (implausible) deniability. Gunning down a load of civilians gets you the ruthlessness.

The error, if any, might have been in looking incompetent (to the extent that they did). But that’s almost always a cost of deniabilityin less than entirely covert ops (i.e. it’s cock-up rather than conspiracy) – and the aim of projecting ruthlessness means it couldn’t possibly be entirely covert.

(And this appeal to fear of appearing incompetent involves a kind of bootstrapping of the error thesis – it depends on the Israelis having expected those to whom the message is being sent to accept that this was a manifestation of incompetence rather than a deliberate provocation of violence to provide a pretext for massacre.)

In any case, some slight appearance of incompetence is not a big problem. Anyone who might come into contact with the IDF or specials is not going to be thinking about how silly they looked being beaten with sticks. They are going to be thinking about who ended up dead. If a known killer is pointing a gun at you, the fact that it’s a type that tends to jam is not going to figure very highly in your calculations.

we should presume that this debacle, at least at the tactical level, was the product of rank incompetence If you say so. More importantly, we should conclude that the mission, at least at a strategic level, was successful.

It’s pretty simple. Tactical instructions: killing civilians is better than backing down. So never back down and kill civilians in preference to doing so.

Strategic awareness: killing civilians from time to time projects fearsome power. It can be arranged with a modicum of deniability/impunity by issuing the above rules of engagement in whatever informal terms seems appropriate.

In this case, it beggars belief (pace Bloix) that the likelihood of resistance didn’t occur to planners, and thus that the lethal response wasn’t expected to a highish degree, which means this outcome was in the contemplation of those who planned the action and decided to go ahead.

Just seen Tom’s comment: You seem to think it should be easy to drop a few soldiers down and subdue an angry mob of 60 or so people who hat your and your country without any risk to the lives of those soldiers. Have I interpreted you correctly?I think I’ve probably answered your question. Just to be clear: no, I don’t think that. Quite the opposite – I’m saying the cock-up thesis supposes that Israeli planners thought that. I’m pretty sure a blockade (if blockacould have been maintained without loss of life, though, if it is to be maintained at all.

85

Barry 06.01.10 at 1:14 pm

sg 06.01.10 at 5:40 am

“Bloix, Britain may not be diverse enough to qualify (though I do hope dsquared turns up soon to point out that the Welsh actually have their own language),..”

No they don’t; they’re merely to poor to afford vowels :)

86

Tom 06.01.10 at 1:18 pm

@Tim: Starting from the assumption that that Israel must search all shipments to Gaza because of threat of Iran and Syria arming them (you may not agree with this but please accept it as a hypothesis for a though experiment) how should the Israeli command have dealt with the flotilla?

87

mds 06.01.10 at 1:20 pm

It’s striking, isn’t it?, how even liberals discussing political divisions among Israeli Jews fall back on these ethnic terms.

Well, some of the adjectives might be questionable, but based on the newsletters of the United Fellowship of US Evangelical Patsies and Jews—sorry, Christians and Jews—provided to me by my more whackaloon relatives, there does seem to be an ongoing effort by far-right Israeli Orthodox Jewish groups to beef up their political power by relocating nominal Jews from the former USSR to act as their clients. Sure, many of them proceed to open pork-laden butcher shops in their new communities, but that’s a small price to pay for votes. The newsletters in question are also full of blatant propaganda about Palestinians, Muslims in general, and the imminent Iranian nuclear threat. So there is a reasonable approximate mapping of these ethnic and religious classifications onto political divisions. But I certainly wouldn’t classify the Russian arrivals as “cynical.” They’ve been given a chance to relocate to a prosperous country with a solid safety net, and not forced to convert to Orthodox Judaism in the process. Naturally they’re grateful to their patrons, and view their new home country with rose-tinted glasses. I would suggest that it is those relocating them who are behaving cynically, given how huffy many Israeli Orthodox get over who really should qualify as Jewish.

really only explicable by a combination of ruthlessness and incompetence.

Indeed. If nothing else, “Come into my web, said the spider to the fly” would have been much more effective than “Aaaack! Scary boats approaching! Get them before they come too close!” If they wanted to make it clear that no one is safe, not even in international waters, then they needed to avoid playing up the angle of helpless IDF soldiers caught flat-footed by civilians, aka “determined adversaries.” It’s almost as if there are elements of the current Israeli government secretly working for the enemy, trying to undo the success of the Six-Day War in securing the freedoms of American Jews.

88

Ray 06.01.10 at 1:21 pm

If Israel searched all shipments to Gaza – and let through everything that wasn’t a weapon – this situation wouldn’t have arisen. But when Israel refuses to let chocolate, concrete, jam and coriander through, they are operating a system of collective punishment.
The convoy was not carrying weapons, but they were carrying things that Israel has refused to allow into Gaza.

89

Barry 06.01.10 at 1:22 pm

Alex :
“If they really wanted to signal their willingness to use extreme violence, wouldn’t it have been easier to have the air force bomb the ship or the navy torpedo it? We ordered them to stop and they refused. Bang. Obviously we called out the search and rescue people. What, do you think we are Nazis or something?”

What part of ‘international waters’ do you not understand?

90

Marcus Pivato 06.01.10 at 1:26 pm

Bloix @ 61

Ah, yes, multi-cultural Australia. 92% white European. How many Asians? Less than 7%.

Since you are interested in throwing around statistics, I will point out that over 30% of the population of Vancouver is East Asian (mostly Chinese), and almost 50% is `non-white’ (see this chart).
Likewise, almost 50% of Toronto’s citizens are `non-white’ (chart), although the ethnic mixture is more uniformly drawn from around the whole world. And this doesn’t even include the very large proportions of white ethnic minorities (Poles, Italians, Greeks, Ukranians, etc.).

Australia and Canada, like the US, have historically managed immigration to make sure that immigrants will learn the language and assimilate rapidly – within a generation or two.

You seem to be confusing some issues here. Clearly, it is in the best interests of everyone (including the immigrants themselves) for them to learn (one of) the official languages of the country (Canada has two official languages, BTW). Otherwise these people will be unable to participate economically or politically. However, Canada does not force its immigrant populations to `assimilate’ in any way. To the contrary, our government spends a great deal of money subsidizing various multicultural organizations explicitly designed to preserve people’s ethnic identities.

There’s no commitment to the indefinite maintenance of true ethnic separatism.

Why don’t you just remove the word `ethnic’ from that sentence? Last time I checked, there was no country on Earth which encouraged `separatist’ groups of any kind, for obvious reasons. However, `ethnic’ is not the same as `separatist’.

When too many immigrants threaten to create culturally sustainable minorities, the doors are closed for a spell.

False.

Canada has the problem of the unassimilable French minority, but for historical reasons – primarily the shared desire of Anglophones and Francophones not to be gobbled up by the US – the Canadian federation has survived.

You know, it’s funny, but we in Canada do not regard the `unassimilable French Minority’ as a `problem’. In fact, our laws and constitution explicitly recognize and protect this minority. Indeed, for most of the last 40 years, the Prime Minister of Canada has been a member of this problematic unassimilable French minority (first Trudeau, then Chretien). For some reason, this did not lead to the destruction of the country.

91

sg 06.01.10 at 1:31 pm

Tom @81, they managed to not drop anyone in the water, so I don’t think it can be so hard for them. If they didn’t want to endanger the lives of their soldiers by undertaking a risky move in dead of night in international waters, then shooting a bunch of people carrying deck chairs, they could have, you know, waited until daylight and stopped them in Israeli waters.

I don’t suppose that occurred to you though did it? Why do you think they decided to take the approach with maximum risk of casualties and/or deaths to everyone involved?

Actually, I just read your “hate you and your country line,” so how about you do me a favour and don’t bother answering that question? Think of it as rhetorical or something.

92

mds 06.01.10 at 1:32 pm

What part of ‘international waters’ do you not understand?

Well, but Israel ignored that part anyway, didn’t they? In for a penny … And it’s not as if international waters stopped Israel from attacking the USS Liberty and murdering American sailors, with the dire consequences to US-Israeli reactions that we all no doubt remember.

93

sg 06.01.10 at 1:33 pm

thankyou Marcus for taking the time to answer “arguments” I really couldn’t be bothered with. Patience of saints!

94

Tom 06.01.10 at 1:41 pm

@sg, 91:

Could you please answer my question in post 86 and describe to me how the Israelis should have conducted the operation? I suspect whatever they did you would have criticised them, but I’d like to be proved wrong.

Would boarding in Gaza’s territorial waters during the day have been acceptable, perhaps?

I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean about my “hate you and your country” line.

95

ajay 06.01.10 at 1:52 pm

Starting from the assumption that that Israel must search all shipments to Gaza because of threat of Iran and Syria arming them (you may not agree with this but please accept it as a hypothesis for a though experiment) how should the Israeli command have dealt with the flotilla?

The problem of “stopping people from bringing ships full of contraband into your country” is not a new one. Generally accepted solutions are:
1) wait for it to dock and then search it
2) halt and board it, by force if necessary, once it’s in your territorial waters
3) board it in international waters with the consent of its master and/or of the nation whose flag it flies

None of these were done.

96

Tom 06.01.10 at 1:57 pm

@ajay, 95:

1. It was going to dock in Gaza. Israel has not occupied Gaza since 2005:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel%27s_unilateral_disengagement_plan

2. The ship was not intending to enter Israeli waters, only Gazan, i.e. enemy, waters.

3. The flotilla refused to give consent.

Do you have a 4. to suggest?

97

Glen Tomkins 06.01.10 at 1:58 pm

The opposite of Holocaust Denial

Is the elevation of what the Jews suffered at the hands of the Third Reich to something qualitatively, not just quantitatively, different from the long history of ethnic and religious conflict in this world. The Holocaust assumes an almost cosmological status, and comes to stand outside of the back-and-forth of history.

Looking out from that status, of course, “Never Again”, comes to be reduced to, “They will never do this to Us again”. The inevitable corrollary is that “We must always do unto Them first, with overwhelming and unanswerable force.”

They should change the inscription on all those Holocaust Memorials to, “Ever Again”. It would be more realistic, less exalted, the maxim of a wiser, more humane religion than the cult of The Holocaust.

98

ajay 06.01.10 at 2:08 pm

Gaza isn’t a sovereign state. Particularly relevant to this issue: under the Oslo Accords, Israel retains interim control over its airspace and its territorial waters (there is in fact no such thing as “Gazan waters”) and maintains a naval patrol 6 nm off the Gazan coast. So 2) is in fact perfectly feasible.

A blockade against a sovereign state is an act of war. The blockade against Gaza doesn’t quite fall into this category, Gaza not being a sovereign state, but, as documented above, it’s still an act of unnecessary and arbitrary cruelty that has gone far beyond the need to stop importation of weapons.
Forcible boarding of a ship flying a foreign flag in international waters is an act either of war or of piracy.

99

PHB 06.01.10 at 2:13 pm

@Tom

The action was a political blunder ordered by blind ideologues who assumed that they could take any action without consequences.

Well the first consequence is that the blockade is now over. Egypt is no longer able to maintain its end of the blockade. The Raffa crossing is now open and will remain open no matter what little hissy fit Netanyahu and cronies throw.

After eight years of watching George W. Bush, do we really need to ask whether an action is incompetent or morally wrong as if these are mutually exclusive conditions. Bush gave plenty of examples of both: Hint, the modern prohibition on torture arose because enemy troops are much less likely to surrender if they expect to be tortured. The US torture policy directly led to the unnecessary deaths of US troops and prolonged the conflict. It was both incompetent AND wrong.

The Israeli troops were clearly and unambiguously the aggressors in this case. They had no legal right to board any ship in international waters. Their actions were thus piracy and the passengers and crews of the vessels had the right of self defense. If someone is rappelling down a rope carrying a gun the people on deck have the right to whack him on the head, and no , they are not the instigators of the violence, the person rappelling onto the deck is the aggressor.

The Israelis might have had a stronger claim if the incident took place nearer the shore. But that would have shown the hollowness of the claim that Israel has withdrawn from Gaza in a meaningfuyl sense.

100

praisegod barebones 06.01.10 at 2:15 pm

Starting from the assumption that that Israel must search all shipments to Gaza …. please accept it as a hypothesis for a though experiment)

Why should we engage in this thought experiment?

Why not engage in the following thought experiment:

Suppose for the sake of argument that there’s a humanitarian obligation to help people who are in dire strits like many of the Palestinians are. What should someone do who wants to fulfil this obligation, given that the IDF are prepared to use armed force in order to maintain a blockade that is at least partly punitive and economic and not merely a matter of preventing arms from getting in to the country?

101

Tom 06.01.10 at 2:18 pm

@ajay, 98: Thanks for the facts. I didn’t know that. So, I guess my final question would be, to you and everyone else, especially sg and Tim:

If yesterday’s events had happened exactly the same, except in Israeli territorial waters (or Gazan territorial waters, if such a thing exists), how would your reaction have differed?

Would you have criticised less? Would you actually have supported the action?

102

Alex 06.01.10 at 2:23 pm

Strictly speaking, a state operating an effective blockade can visit-and-search ships in international waters if this is necessary and proportionate, and the visit-and-search can involve diverting the ship to a port of their choice. And you can use proportionate force to stop the ship if they refuse to be visited and searched.

However, this brings with it a whole lot of implied statements.

Implication 1) Israel is operating a formal blockade – this implies that a) there is a state of war, b) war legally exists among nations, so this kinda implies that the other party to this war is a state, c) and further that Israel has a responsibility to permit necessary humanitarian supplies to pass (the San Remo manual is quite clear on this point)

Implication 2) A blockade needs to be effective to have legal force – I believe they’ve tolerated a runner in the past at least once, so this is arguable at best.

Implication 3) The legitimacy of their claim to a legal blockade is affected by whether or not they are acting in good faith in processing cargoes they detain for visit-and-search. You can’t just declare blockade on the world and seize every ship you can catch, like a Barbary pirate king of old.

Implication 4) there is no international sovereign and therefore the recourse in international law is often “self help” – if you think they’re just ripping off all the searched cargo, you can invoke the International Court of Arbitration, but you may also decide to make a run for it.

Implication 5) Their action was necessary and proportionate. They were 12 hours’ sail from land; couldn’t they have waited for daylight and brought a ship alongside?

If any of the 5 implications doesn’t hold together, their action was illegal.

I should probably do a post about this…

103

Bloix 06.01.10 at 2:25 pm

New Zealand is a monoglot country with three official languages, two of them for symbolic political purposes. And I’m familiar with the tumultuous political history of New Zealand – the horrific NZ Civil War, and the brutally suppressed Southern Rebellion. Oh, wait — I made those up. Actually the tumultuous bits of NZ history consist of bog-standard suppression of the native people and then some play-acting of the echoes of European class conflict among the British settlers – for example, the great General Strike of 1912, which lasted 8 days and didn’t get beyond Auckland.

“it’s funny, but we in Canada do not regard the `unassimilable French Minority’ as a `problem’.”
You don’t? You must not be paying attention. Every significant political crisis you’ve ever had has been over the status of Quebec in your jury-rigged confederation. You do a very good job of managing it most of the time, but to say it’s it not a problem is to ignore reality.

“Ever Again”. Since there’s no sign that you’re criminally insane, I can only assume that you’re an idiot.

104

Clod Levi-Strauss 06.01.10 at 2:27 pm

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nd Grmny frcd t dsrm.

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grdn.c.k/wrld/2002/g/07/srl1
Hw 90 Prvns bcm th ltst Jwsh sttlrs
“Whn dlgtn f rbbs trvlld t Lm t cnvrt grp f Sth mrcn ndns t Jdsm, thy ddd jst n cndtn: cm nd lv wth s n srl. s sn s ths nw Jws rrvd n th cntry, thy wr bssd strght t sttlmnts n th dsptd trrtrs.”

Th vrs dfnss f srl plcy r jst sd. srl ws rcst stt n ts ncptn.
Strt wth tht fct nd thr thngs bcm mr clr. f tht hd bn th cmmn ssmptn 50 yrs g ths sttn wld nt hv gttn s lmst t f hnd.

105

Ray 06.01.10 at 2:32 pm

Tom, does your argument boil down to, “if Israel is going to break six international laws, why shouldn’t they break seven? People are going to criticise them anyway.”
Can you spot the problem?

106

Barry 06.01.10 at 3:07 pm

Tom 06.01.10 at 1:57 pm

“1. It was going to dock in Gaza. Israel has not occupied Gaza since 2005:”

If we don’t count shooting into it, bombing it, or maintaining a siege.

107

chris 06.01.10 at 3:28 pm

@Tom 96: under those conditions, interfering with shipping between Turkey and Gaza is an act of war against Turkey, Gaza, or both. The traditional solution is that you don’t get to decide what other people can ship to each other; they decide that.

ajay 95: The problem of “stopping people from bringing ships full of contraband into your country” is not a new one.

Except that only holds if Gaza is Israel’s country. The problem of “stopping people from bringing ships full of contraband into someone else’s country” is also not a new one, but you have to ask the country that is receiving the shipment to police it (including the possibility that their definition of “contraband” will be different from yours); interfering as a third party is an act of war.

The real problem is not finding a new way for A to interfere in a shipment from B to C, but finding a new *excuse* to justify that interference.

108

Scott Martens 06.01.10 at 4:26 pm

Re #103: Bloix, please! Don’t use Canada as an example of how multi-ethnic states fail. And please don’t use it to justify Israeli actions — it’s personally offensive to those of us whose multi-ethnic countries manage to get through whole weeks without sectarian violence.

If Israel’s cultural divide was like Canada’s, Israeli Jews would be putting their children on waiting lists at birth to enrol in Arabic immersion schools as a sign of loyalty to the ideal of a multi-cultural Israel (and because it’s a prerequisite for government jobs), while the Palestinians would use every legal dodge they could find to get their children a solid Jewish education that would give them a financial leg up. Fluent Arabic would be a tacit requirement to be the leader of Likud even if no Arab would be caught dead voting for them. Israeli Jews would be publicly aghast at the notion that race, ethnicity or religion have anything to do with their country. Palestinians would complain about how Arab children don’t know anything about Islam. Israel’s principal form of patriotism would be a smug self-assurance that they’re not as barbaric as Americans. And it would be very fashionable for Arab men to take their Jewish girlfriends to the bars in Ramallah, which would be open for four hours later on Saturday nights than the ones in Tel Aviv.

Oh, and Israel’s greatest existential crisis would end with 50% of Palestinian voters chosing to remain Israelis in a referendum dominated by Jews pleading with them to consider Israel their country while Palestinian politicians tell them that they could retain Israeli citizenship even after declaring their own state. Militant nationalism would be something people associate with the Druze and the Bedouins, who would complain constantly that the whole area belonged to them until the Crusades; while the most nationalist, ethnocentric, racist position any Israeli Jew would *dare* to publicly express would be a desire for the Palestinians to declare independence and take all the West Bank colonies with them, simply so that they wouldn’t have to hear about it anymore.

I think if that was the worst thing Israel was facing, you’d say something very different about it. The degree to which the above sounds like a utopian fairy-tale compared to the actual state of the region is a sign of how much the kind of blood-and-soil nationalism that Israel — admittedly among others — uses to justify its policies has no basis in comparisons with other multi-ethnic states.

It’s true: We regard our French minority as a “problem” less often than Americans do their own minorities. One of the major reasons is *because* the francophones have enough power not to take that kind of crap, and with some exceptions pretty much always did. And over the course of the 20th century, under no conditions, not even when Quebec nationalism was at its strongest, not even when the FLQ was running around Montreal kidnapping people, did Canada’s inter-ethnic problems come close to the level of violence of the non-ethnic, non-sectarian political unrest of more demographically uniform nations, including the US and *all* the American nations to its south. And you know why? Because even the most braindead redneck from the most backwards corner of Alberta acknowledges that the French are as much a part of Canada as long winters. People hate those too, but if you can’t take it, you should move somewhere else. It’s only in Israel where people seem to think living in the Middle East doesn’t mean having to live with Arabs.

109

Anderson 06.01.10 at 4:29 pm

Marcus @ 30: “Actually, the United States is a crushing counterexample to your assertion, because these are all happily multicultural countries “

… ??? Have you *been* to the United States? Or at least read about it?

Welfare, immigration, tax policy, healthcare, are all Giant Flashing Signals of Non-Happy Multiculturalism. Racial issues permeate all of those, and more.

Bloix’s remarks, which parallel those of Tony Judt in his recent little pamphlet, are dispiriting but not obviously incorrect, by a long shot. A democracy where large ethnic components of the population fundamentally mistrust each other is not a happy place.

110

y81 06.01.10 at 4:39 pm

Well, the discussion has certainly been unpleasant and unproductive, as I anticipated, and only someone with a strong will to believe could describe it as civil or on topic. Not that it isn’t fun to read the spewing venom.

111

Bloix 06.01.10 at 4:42 pm

You know, on a blog hosted by academics it would be nice if people made an effort not to say things that are obviously wrong. Being really, really angry is not a justification for making shit up.

“Their actions were thus piracy …”
“Forcible boarding of a ship flying a foreign flag in international waters is an act either of war or of piracy.”

First of all, it’s not piracy. Piracy cannot be committed by a state actor. Piracy is defined in
Article 101 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS):
“1. any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed: (i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;
2. any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;
3. any act inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in sub-paragraph (a) or (b).” It could certainly be considered a casus belli.

“interfering with shipping between Turkey and Gaza is an act of war against Turkey, Gaza, or both. “

Whether it’s an act of war is a different question. “Act of war” is a term that has little or no modern legal meaning. Its historical meaning was an act that brought into play the international law of war as the governing law between two states and neutral powers. Since the founding of the UN, it hasn’t had much play. But there’s no possibility here that the boarding of a civilian vessel under Turkish colors, and the killing of Turkish civilians, by itself brings about a state of war between Turkey and Israel. Turkey could invoke the attack under the historic law of war as a casus belli, but it’s not going to do so and I doubt that under the modern law of war it would be justified in doing so.

What Israel did, I suspect, is a violation of international law, but to throw around “piracy” and “act of war” as if these terms had any application is just silly.

112

Tom 06.01.10 at 4:53 pm

@Ray, 105: I’m not trying to construct an argument, I’m trying to understand the situation. One way of doing this is testing hypothesis on people who are more knowledgeable than myself.

Fundamentally I’d like to know why international condemnation of this incident has been so strong. One way of understanding that is to ask people how they would have responded if the boarding had been done withing the territorial waters of Israel or Gaza.

So, what would have been the difference?

113

Bloix 06.01.10 at 4:59 pm

Scott Martens – I didn’t bring up Canada as an example of a failed multi-ethnic state. I brought it up as an example of a successful multi-ethnic state – one of a very few. I mentioned it in the context of how controlled immigration (as in the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada) can be used over time to assimilate ethnically distinct minorities, an option that is not open to Israel and Palestine because there is no interest on either side in assimilating. Of those countries, only Canada has a large and politically powerful minority that does not wish to assimilate, and so the entire political structure of the country has been devised to manage the ethnic divide – which has been done successfully, for the most part, with the occasional crisis. And Canada has managed it because the alternative – an independent Quebec with the maritimes split off from the West – has been unpalatable for the English-speaking majority – so the majority has gone very far in accommodating the minority.

Note that we are talking here about two ethnic groups that both descend from Christian European settler communities, with very similar cultures, values and histories – and still, elaborate mechanical devices are required to constitute the state.

An Israel-Palestine state wouldn’t look like Canada. It would look like Lebanon, or even like Bosnia. It would be a design for failure and civil war. You say yourself what would be required for a unified state to have the stability of Canada. That, unfortunately, is not going to happen.

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subdoxastic 06.01.10 at 5:00 pm

Hold on a minute, declaring an attack on citizens of your country and private organizations as being an “act of war” by agents of another state is making shit up or otherwise being silly?

Don’t tell my cousing who’s on his third tour of Afghanistan (or any of his platoon buddies, some of them who’ve been there from the start 10 years ago). They might get a little miffed.

Oh wait, I get it. Much like the piracy argument, we should seek refuge in the semantics of law.

To quibble about someone’s use of these terms and to do so not based on commonly understood conventions or meanings is to give pride of place to a particular viewpoint that only undermines the acknowledgement that such actions are more than “illegal” or “regrettable”. But hey why not use the language of international law to examine the situation. It’s not like said language has ever come up short before in attempting to reconcile the problem.

115

PHB 06.01.10 at 5:06 pm

@Anderson,

Yes, but Bloix’s argument is essentially that the risk that there might be discrimination justifies discrimination.

This is Israel’s Katrina.

The importance of Katrina had very little to do with the immediate consequences of the botched relief effort. Katrina destroyed the Bush presidency because it prompted a large number of people who still held favorable opinions of Bush to re-evaluate them and reconsider previous events where they had given the administration the benefit of the doubt. Once the process of re-evaluation began it really didn’t matter if Katrina was or was not Bush’s fault. Bush was finished the moment people stopped evaluating him as the hero who stood tall in the face of 9/11 and instead started remembering that he had actually shat his pants reading My Pet Goat for eleven minutes and then run round the country scared for the remainder of the day.

Israel is now facing a similar period of re-evaluation on its own merits and not as it generally prefers in comparison to NAZI Germany, Iran or Saudi Arabia. State sponsored piracy is the sort of behavior expected of countries like North Korea and France.

Take away the excuse of what happened 60 years ago and evaluate Israel on the basis of what it is doing today and it really does not do very well. It is an ugly, brutal apartheid system born of ethnic cleansing. It is now impossible to avoid the fact that the concept of a Jewish state is illegitimate, a racist, bigoted concept.

Which was fairly plain from the start. Isaiah Berlin himself could not defend the idea either. Instead he attacked those who questioned it. For years Zionism has been a fashionable form of bigotry that could defend itself from challenge by shroud waving and crying ‘anti-semitism’ or ‘self-hater’.

116

ajay 06.01.10 at 5:17 pm

we are talking here about two ethnic groups that both descend from Christian European settler communities, with very similar cultures, values and histories

In other words, “Catholic? Protestant? All those white guys look the same anyway…”

117

SansS 06.01.10 at 5:20 pm

How deep is Zionism embedded into the American Experiment? google “Antiboycott”.

118

Kaveh 06.01.10 at 5:34 pm

@100 I agree, the implication (which starts with the original post and the linked article) that the issue of greatest consequence here is whether Israel should have handled the PR situation differently is bizarre, to say the least!

So, on to more pertinent things:

Suppose for the sake of argument that there’s a humanitarian obligation to help people who are in dire strits like many of the Palestinians are. What should someone do who wants to fulfil this obligation, given that the IDF are prepared to use armed force in order to maintain a blockade that is at least partly punitive and economic and not merely a matter of preventing arms from getting in to the country?

The point of running the blockade is mainly political–to draw attention to the existence of the blockade, the existence of Gaza. Getting a few wheelchairs and bags of cement through is good but not the ultimate goal. What is striking to me about how things have played out in the last couple days is how much of it seems to be driven by countries other than the US. The fact that the American media and political classes (along with the BBC–their coverage… yuck!) are still totally ossified (with still only small exceptions, limited to “high brow” papers, to the complete shut-out of Palestinian views), but Things are Happening, like the (first-ever?) UNSC condemnation of Israel.

Turkish democracy in action matters a lot more here than I think most people realize.

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chris 06.01.10 at 5:43 pm

@Bloix: I assumed it could be taken for granted that the vast majority of commenters are not international lawyers and, therefore, use terms in their ordinary meanings, which may differ from their technical meanings, and that that did not have to be explicitly added to every post in the thread. I think most people would understand what “state-sponsored piracy” means, whether or not it is technically a contradiction in terms. (Cf. “state-sponsored murder” used to describe war or execution, both of which are not legally “murder”. Hairsplitting analogous to what you are doing on this thread would not get far in a discussion of either of those issues.)

On the other hand, if you’re going to say that “act of war” doesn’t really even *have* a modern legal meaning, then how can use of it to describe this incident be “obviously wrong”? It certainly involved violent action by an organized military force, which is what most people mean by “war” AFAIK. The military force in question was even aligned with a state, for those who think that makes a difference between war and something else (as opposed to those who think it’s a difference between two kinds of war).

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Kaveh 06.01.10 at 5:49 pm

@113 Wasn’t the civil war in Lebanon to a great extent incited by foreign powers (esp. Syria)? Whether a binational Israeli-Palestinian state could avoid serious conflict like civil war would depend a lot on what kind of outside interference happens. Also, it matters that there will surely be a lot of international interest in keeping things sane, the Holy Land is not a place where Americans, Europeans, and Middle Easterners can just ignore serious problems the way they do in Africa (not without a very determined campaign of disinformation designed to force them to ignore the problems).

Shorter y81 @110: “Nothing to see here, move along please!”

121

Henri Vieuxtemps 06.01.10 at 5:54 pm

Another example of a successful multi-ethnic society: Palestine, for hundreds of years. Until about 1920s, when a bunch of aggressive unassimilable Europeans moved in to play their ethnic games.

122

Chris Bertram 06.01.10 at 5:55 pm

_the implication (which starts with the original post and the linked article) that the issue of greatest consequence here is whether Israel should have handled the PR situation differently is bizarre, to say the least!_

The fact that an aspect of a situation is the occasion of blog post, shouldn’t lead a reader to think that the writer considers it the most important aspect. (I’m not the BBC, and neither is Mr Rodent.)

123

Tom 06.01.10 at 6:06 pm

What I’m trying to get at is the following:

Many condemnations have specified that this action happened in “international waters”, as if Israel had done it in Israeli or Gazan waters they wouldn’t have condemned.

However, I believe this is false. I believe whatever action Israel took towards stopping this ship, they would have found something to criticise[1]. So, the conclusion I draw is that these comments actually stem from dislike of Israel for other reasons. Fair enough. It’s allowed to dislike a country.

But let’s be honest with each other here. What is dislked? The blockade on Gaza per se? In which case they have to explain how Israel can ensure Syria and Iran do not supply arms to Hamas.

[1] that’s not to suggest that the operation wasn’t actually a disaster, which it was

124

Substance McGravitas 06.01.10 at 6:09 pm

What is dislked? The blockade on Gaza per se?

Yes.

Israel’s policy was summed up by Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, earlier this year. ‘The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger,’ he said. The hunger pangs are supposed to encourage the Palestinians to force Hamas to change its attitude towards Israel or force Hamas out of government.

That’s not about weaponry.

125

Tom 06.01.10 at 6:20 pm

@Substance, 123:

Ah thanks. Something concrete to think about.

126

Marc 06.01.10 at 6:26 pm

#122: the problem is pretty simple Tom. You’re assuming that people critical of this action are operating in bad faith, hate Israel no matter what, and so on. It’s impossible to disprove something like this, and it’s pretty insulting to ask it. I could construct all sorts of counterfactuals about ways that Israel could have come out of this looking good, or at least less terrible. The fact that they boarded a boat in the open sea and killed a lot of people is a reflection of what actually happened in the real world.

What’s really stunning to me, to paraphrase Tallyrand, is that it is a perfect example of something which is worse than a crime. It’s a mistake. I’m not surprised by tribal brutality in the Israeli-Palestine cage match. But doing something so incredibly self-destructive is more rare. (Losing a long-term ally, Turkey, permanently is something that a sane country might consider unwise even if they lacked morals.)

127

Tom 06.01.10 at 6:32 pm

@Marc, 125.

Not quite Marc. I’m coming to the conclusion, not that they hate Israel no matter what, but that the condemnation of this incident has been so severe because they hate Israel for another reason.

I’d like to know what that reason is. @123 gave a good one: that the Israeli policy in 2006 was to reduce the food supply to the Gazans in order to encourage them to rebel against Hamas. If true, cruel and idiotic I’d say.

But probably there are more reasons.

128

Marc 06.01.10 at 6:38 pm

It’s pretty stunning to board ships of a *military ally*, on a humanitarian mission, in the open sea, and kill people. You really don’t need much more information than that to find it shocking and very hard to defend. Add in the absurdity of “his face got in the way of my fist” sort of defences as a sort of cherry on top.

129

Tom 06.01.10 at 6:41 pm

I strongly disagree. The flotilla’s stated intention was to head to Gaza. Which nation’s flag they flew and where they were boarded seems to be irrelevant to me.

What does seem completely incomprehensible is why they couldn’t disable the ships’ propellers with a metal net or something. Is this possible? If so I can’t understand why they didn’t do it.

On the topic of incomprehensible things, why did Turkey let a ship fly its flag when they knew that ship was going to attempt to run a blockade of its ally?

130

PHB 06.01.10 at 6:55 pm

Tom,

Turkey is a democracy. Democracies don’t prohibit their citizens from doing acts that are legal under their law for the public relations convenience of an ally. If a ship is registered in Turkey, it flys the Turkish flag, end of story.

What your comments amount to is ‘why didn’t someone stop us damaging ourselves’.

And now Turkey is no longer an Israeli ally, the problem no longer arises.

And I think you are probably right that there are other motives at work. But not actually the one that you thing. Many people have been utterly disgusted by Israeli behavior for decades. The government has lied and repeatedly broken its word, it has committed acts that have been used as a pretext by Islamic terrorists attacking the West.

Throughout all of this many people felt that they had to avoid being too strenuously critical of Israel lest they be called an anti-semite. Well now Israel has officially declared itself a lawless aggressive bully. And its payback time.

131

Bloix 06.01.10 at 6:56 pm

Chris @ 18 and subdoxastic@114 – If people want to use words because words show how they feel, that’s also a perfectly reasonable use of words, but it gets in the way of understanding things, which is another perfectly reasonable use of words. People like to say “piracy,” “act of war,” war crime,” etc. which are all legal terms, without understanding what they mean, because it’s a way of saying, “this is really, really bad! I’m really, really pissed!” Which is fine, I suppose, but it doesn’t communicate anything other than your own emotional state. It’s my humble suggestion, being only an anonymous commenter, that it’s a good idea to use words in a way that communicates actual information, not just feelings.

“Another example of a successful multi-ethnic society: Palestine, for hundreds of years.”

Again with the jokes. Unless you really mean that empire is the right solution. There are many in Israel would agree with you, unfortunately.

132

Marc 06.01.10 at 6:59 pm

Because popular sentiment in the Turkish democracy is overwhelmingly on the side of a humanitarian mission? You know, one where the President’s wife helped raise the money? As far as blockages go, this one is not recognized as legitimate by anyone except the US and Israel, so it’s hardly surprising that Turkey allowed the boats to leave.

133

Tom 06.01.10 at 6:59 pm

To answer my own question:

“An Israeli official said that the navy was planning to stop five of the six vessels of the flotilla with large nets that interfere with propellers, but that the sixth was too large for that.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/02/world/middleeast/02flotilla.html?pagewanted=2

In which case, predicated on the assumption the the blockade is justified, I can’t see anything wrong with boarding the ship. (The botched way they boarded the ship is another matter).

134

Bloix 06.01.10 at 7:03 pm

Marc, your “fist” comment brings to mind this (via Josh Marshall):
“the flotilla achieved its strategic mission. It got Israel to take violent action against it. In doing so, Israel ran into its own fist.”
http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20100531_flotillas_and_wars_public_opinion

135

Uncle Kvetch 06.01.10 at 7:03 pm

Well, if you can’t trust an Israeli official to tell it like it is…

136

Mitchell Rowe 06.01.10 at 7:07 pm

“And you know why? Because even the most braindead redneck from the most backwards corner of Alberta acknowledges that the French are as much a part of Canada as long winters.”
One as an Albertan I am offended by your comment. Two, you obviously have never been to Alberta. at least half of the population would be happy to see Quebec leave.

137

mds 06.01.10 at 7:34 pm

But doing something so incredibly self-destructive is more rare. (Losing a long-term ally, Turkey, permanently is something that a sane country might consider unwise even if they lacked morals.)

Turkey doesn’t send them $3 billion in annual aid, veto any attempts to call them to account at the UN, and have a legislature that repeatedly declares its thunderous approval of any action Israel engages in. So Israel still has the only long-term ally that matters. And as Mr. Henley notes at Unqualified Offerings, what’s really self-destructive about this? Sufficiently-informed people of conscience the world over deplore something Israel has been doing, because they should be better than this? This just in: sky now blue.

One as an Albertan I am offended by your comment.

Note that the statement didn’t assert that everyone from Alberta is a braindead redneck. Just that they apparently exist in the most backwards corner of Alberta at the very least. But perhaps Mr. Martens should have selected Okanagan—Coquihalla riding in BC as an example instead.

Two, you obviously have never been to Alberta. at least half of the population would be happy to see Quebec leave.

So … you’re saying there’s a bunch of braindead rednecks in Alberta?

(All this banter proves Bloix’s point only if Alberta actually starts rounding up Francophones, or itself secedes, or something along those lines.)

138

Anderson 06.01.10 at 7:49 pm

Which nation’s flag they flew and where they were boarded seems to be irrelevant to me.

And plainly it seemed irrelevant to the IDF as well. But I beg to submit that you should not find it surprising that the nation whose flag they flew, may well have a different measure of “relevance.”

… Re: int’l waters, I Am Not An Admiralty Lawyer, but my impression of the relevant law is that it’s deliberately kept fuzzy by countries with big navies, who are least likely to approve of any restrictions on their doing whatever the hell they want.

Since Israel, like the U.S. and many other nations, does not consider itself bound by any laws in practice, talking about “illegality” etc. is fun but not terribly pertinent. Did Israel act in such a manner that it will be forced to change its practices materially, or not? The answer to that question is not going to have much to do with any treaty provisions.

139

hix 06.01.10 at 7:53 pm

If you consider religion as part of ethnicity, which is not unconnected to the Israel/Palestine issue, then Germany is also a multi-ethnic state, having a Protestant part and a Catholic part, that speak related but not exactly the same languages.

No not at all . Theres just as much lingual difference within majority protestant or catholic or atheist regions. No one would define ethnicity based on religion in Germany )-:. Regional identities are rather based on historical independent regions which dont overlap 100% with the modern Länder. Bavaria where i life and which is often seen as one monolithic block, has a very diverse dialect spectrum for example thats not just reduced to protestant Franken vs catholic rest.

Also, please ethnicity based on “white”, thats a joke.

140

Glen Tomkins 06.01.10 at 8:04 pm

Bloix,

Fortunately for you and the rest of this wide world, the question of whether or not Glen Tomkins is criminally insane, or just an idiot, is one of those unpleasant little matters that you are at leisure to ignore. I’m not politically successful. I don’t have the IDF at my disposal.

We don’t have this luxury of ataraxia over the question of whether the state of Israel is criminally insane, or just overtaken by idiocy. A whole country, especially one with an IDF at its disposal, doesn’t get to be considered merely idiotic, because the consequences of even mere idiocy rapidly reach to criminal insanity.

Of course, a death toll of just 15 suggests that this affair hardly can compete with the Holocaust in terms of criminal insanity. But in terms of sheer idiocy, I don’t think it’s wrong to compare the thinking behind this action of Israel’s with the Dolchstosslegende. No monumental atrocities, yet, but belief in some pretty monumental absurdities.

People who believe absurdities tend to commit atrocities, but belief in the absurdities has to come first. The acceptance of the absurd beliefs is the rest of the world’s warning sign of impending atrocities of matching size to the absurdities.

If all those Holocaust memorials are supposed to help insure that “Never Again” should the same thing happen, you can’t wait until there is criminal insanity reaching Holocaust proportions. That’s too late. You haven’t prevented anything. You have to do something when you see beliefs of the level of absurdity of the Dolchstosslegende gain currency, when you see the trend lines on a nation’s understandable tendency to see itself as the perpetual martyr going the wrong way, when you see people as idiotic as the present leadership of Israel winning elections that put them in charge of a Wehrmacht or an IDF.

141

Anderson 06.01.10 at 8:17 pm

Of course, a death toll of just 15 suggests that this affair hardly can compete with the Holocaust in terms of criminal insanity.

I hope this is the most pointless sentence I will read in 2010.

142

Bloix 06.01.10 at 8:29 pm

“This just in: sky now blue.”

Actually, this is different, I think. Under this government, the Israelis have been absolutely contemptuous of countries whose good will they really do need – the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, using British, Irish and other states’ forged passports; the childish humiliation of the Turkish ambassador; the announcement of new construction in Jerusalem during George Mitchell’s visit in March; and now this. None of these countries give a fig for Palestine, but they cannot be expected to put up with repeated insults to their own dignity.

This sort of thing is new. Israel has never paid attention to the collective remonstrations of the international community, but it has not gone out of its way to poke specific allies and potential allies in the eye for no reason. Now that’s what it is doing.

To me, this style is what you might call Putinesque, and I put it down not just to Netanyahu, but also to foreign minister Avigdor Leiberman.

143

Martin Bento 06.01.10 at 8:48 pm

Tom, the objections to what Israel has done are many, not one. Hence, it is objectionable that it happened in international waters, but that doesn’t mean that it would have been acceptable in Israeli waters; it just removes one layer from the objection. Substance spoke to the illegitimacy of the blockade itself, Beyond that, there is the question of whether Israel has a right to hold the Palestians of Gaza in a sort of limbo granting them neither independence nor control of their own destinies nor citizenship in Israel. So, yes, there are other objections beyond the front line ones, but that does not invalidate the front line ones.

144

Bloix 06.01.10 at 8:57 pm

Glen Tomkins- you seem to be a decent fellow, so I won’t call you names again. I’ll just say that, in terms of deployment of persuasive rhetoric, it’s not productive to tell Jews that they’re acting like Nazis or thinking like Nazis or doing anything like Nazis. Fascist, yes. You can say that Liebermann is a fascist or that revisionist Zionism has fascist tendencies, and you can legitimately expect a reasoned response. But Nazi, no. Not okay.

145

bianca steele 06.01.10 at 9:25 pm

It’s almost as if there are elements of the current Israeli government secretly working for the enemy, trying to undo the success of the Six-Day War in securing the freedoms of American Jews.

I was going to respond to this but when I looked at it again I discovered it made no sense. Those of you to whom it makes sense are welcome to explain it to those to whom it does it.

146

bianca steele 06.01.10 at 9:42 pm

But re. Kaveh’s post:
I am 43 years old. I agree with Beinart, who is a little younger than me, about almost nothing when it comes to specifics. Unlike him, apparently, I am old enough to remember the period before 1979 and the period before 1992. Beinart ought to be old enough to remember 1995. Maybe it is possible to explain his observations by the fact that those he’s identifying as “young Jewish Americans” are really non-Jews of Jewish descent, but I am embarrassed to have been a member of Young Judaea when I was sixteen.

147

Bloix 06.01.10 at 9:44 pm

Bianca Steele – he’s ridiculing me. If you haven’t been following along, it’s much too late in the day to try to make sense of it. I get it, which will perhaps be enough for mds.

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Marcus Pivato 06.01.10 at 9:47 pm

Anderson @109

… ??? Have you been to the United States? Or at least read about it?

Actually, I lived in the US for more than two years, in three different states.

( BTW, those kinds of snarky personal remarks are so classy.)

Welfare, immigration, tax policy, healthcare, are all Giant Flashing Signals of Non-Happy Multiculturalism. Racial issues permeate all of those, and more.

First of all, describing `immigration’ as a `signal of non-happy multiculturalism’ is wrong on so many levels that I’m not even sure how to respond. I will give you credit and assume that, by `immigration’, what you really meant is `the heated debate over US immigration policy’. However, I wouldn’t describe this heated debate as a problem with `multiculturalism’. I would describe it as a problem with racist yahoos who don’t like multiculturalism. In Canada, we do not consider immigration to be a `problem’, and it is not a subject of heated national debate.

Welfare, tax policy, and healthcare are also not problems of `multiculturalism’. They are problems of economics and public policy. In the US, the debate on these issues may have racial overtones, but this is probably due to the baleful legacy of slavery and segregation, and the fact that the American right often uses libertarian rhetoric as a `dog whistle’ to appeal to racist voters. Canada has a very well-functioning welfare state and public health care system, and we have never seen a contradiction between these things and our official multiculturalism.

149

Clod Levi-Strauss 06.01.10 at 10:26 pm

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150

Kaveh 06.01.10 at 10:37 pm

Chris @121: Fair enough.

mds @136: So Israel still has the only long-term ally that matters.

I’m not so sure that it’s the only one that matters. I think US hyperpowerness is waning significantly, and I think people mostly haven’t really appreciated yet the extent to which this is happening. Turkey has grown economically and looks increasingly to be a stable democracy whose gov’t will act in a way that’s roughly in accord with domestic popular opinion. I don’t think we can simply count on the generals to maintain the special relationship with Israel, not even a military relationship.

Tom @122, 126: It really seems like you’re fishing for something in particular here.

In which case they have to explain how Israel can ensure Syria and Iran do not supply arms to Hamas.

No, I don’t think they/we do. What should be considered is making sure that Hamas doesn’t make unprovoked attacks on Israeli civilians, but this is different from keeping them completely unarmed. Just for starters, it requires that Hamas have access to small arms and police facilities that it can use to effectively police territory under its political authority. That you make this statement suggests a very simplistic, cartoonish understanding of the situation. (Obvious objections being, why isn’t it also an imperative to keep Likud et al unarmed? …and so on…)

151

EWI 06.01.10 at 11:32 pm

@ Bloix

“Where is the Irish Catholic Israel?”
Umm, in Ireland?

I must have missed the part where we (the Irish Republic) were best of buddies and indeed identified with Apartheid South Africa and Zionist Israel over the past forty or so years. I am well aware, however, of Ulster Unionism’s past mutual attraction with such evils.

152

Doctor Science 06.01.10 at 11:59 pm

bianca steele:

Maybe it is possible to explain his observations by the fact that those he’s identifying as “young Jewish Americans” are really non-Jews of Jewish descent

No. They–we–are non-Orthodox Jews who are sick and tired of being treated as second-class Jews by Israel (and by the Orthodox in America). I would say that the majority of the younger people I know who have a halachically Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother consider themselves Jewish, at least to some degree. They are, in my admittedly anecdotal experience, more likely to attend Jewish services than Christian ones. They are people who can be Jewish in America, but aren’t Jewish in Israel — so for them, the *religious* practice of Judaism actively pushes them away from Zionism. “Reform” does not mean “secular”, and you can raise that to an exponent for Jewish Renewal and Reconstructionism.

153

sg 06.02.10 at 12:09 am

Tom, part of the reason you might be having difficulty understanding why people have prior reasons to disapprove of Israeli behaviour might be hinted at in this comment of yours:

You seem to think it should be easy to drop a few soldiers down and subdue an angry mob of 60 or so people who hat your and your country without any risk to the lives of those soldiers. Have I interpreted you correctly

I’m pretty confident that part of the reason you didn’t know about Israel’s tactics in Gaza could be that you think anyone who criticizes Israel hates Israel and Israelis (which is what you’re saying here). Unless the quoted opinion isn’t a typo, and you have some strange theory about boats and boaters?

Bloix, you’re really not covering yourself with glory with the ignorant crap you’re spouting about every country you know nothing about. Here’s a hint for you: Australian multicultural policy doesn’t use the word “assimilate,” and hasn’t done so for at least 30 years. Another hint: NZ’s second language isn’t tokenistic, and if you visit NZ you’ll see why – the people speaking it on the street, and the television station broadcast entirely using it, are the clues you’ll be looking for.

I wonder if the Israeli state’s strange recent behaviour is connected at all to the ascension of a black man to the presidency? After all, they do share the same commitment to “universal principles of justice” as apartheid South Africa…

154

Bloix 06.02.10 at 12:34 am

Sg- multicultural Australia. Hilarious. It’s like bright beige.

155

Bloix 06.02.10 at 1:16 am

And do you think people should be allowed to marry whoever they want? Well, then, you’re for assimilation. I’m not talking melting pot here= people don’t have to change their names and be ashamed of their parents’ funny accents – but in two generations people come to resemble their neighbors, not their ancestors.

As for NZ, about 4% of New Zealanders speak some Maori – not that they’re fluent, but they speak some. This is not a genuine national language. If you’re monoglot Maori (not that anyone is) you are SOL. Yes, there’s a TV station – government funded, for political and symbolic purposes. Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s a good thing. Source of pride, national identity, all that. But NZ is a monoglot, mono-culture with a native minority that poses no political threat to the dominant European settler culture. You want real multi-culture in the South Pacific, try Fiji. See what that gets you.

156

Substance McGravitas 06.02.10 at 1:31 am

And do you think people should be allowed to marry whoever they want? Well, then, you’re for assimilation.

Do you think people should eat whatever they want? Well, then, you’re for cancer.

157

Emma 06.02.10 at 1:37 am

Bloix, find out something about Australia before you spout off. Honestly. Google is your friend — try Australian Bureau of Statistics Census figures. Or find an example that actually supports your ‘argument’.

158

sg 06.02.10 at 1:44 am

There you go again Bloix, sneering at stuff you know nothing about.

How can you argue that Belgium is in danger of falling apart due to its three competing ethnicities (which are all white European), then argue that Australia is not a multi-ethnic state because it is 92% white European? There are more Greeks in Melbourne than Flemish in Brussels, yet strangely you argue Melbourne is not “multi-ethnic” and in danger of falling apart, while Belgium is? In fact, there are more Vietnamese or Lebanese in Melbourne than there are Flemish in Brussels.

Your arguments of course also ignore the fact that the Israeli Jewish population is very multi-ethnic (one of the most multicultural in the world, by some accounts) and there is as much cultural distance between Israeli ethnic and Jewish groups as in any other modern multicultural state.

And tour statistics about Australia are wrong, in any case. There is no online source (including the ABS and wikipedia) that matches them, and any kind of nuanced investigation of ABS data will show that you’re talking about a non-existent country.

159

weaver 06.02.10 at 1:53 am

Sg- multicultural Australia. Hilarious. It’s like bright beige.

Once again, Bloix, what you know about my country would fit on the edge of a 5 cent coin. (They’re the very little ones.)

The English, the Irish, the Greeks, the Germans, the Hungarians, the Balts. All the same culture, don’t you know, but different from, say, the Chinese, or the Lebanese, or the Indo-Fijians. It’s interesting at what point Bloix’s concept of “cultural” difference kicks in.

160

Map Maker 06.02.10 at 2:06 am

“The English, the Irish, the Greeks, the Germans, the Hungarians, the Balts. All the same culture, don’t you know, but different from, say, the Chinese, or the Lebanese, or the Indo-Fijians.”

well, as a white protestant right winger from America, Aussie-christian lebs are a-ok, it is the Muslim-Araaabh ones that we here have a problem with. Aussie-Greeks aren’t clear cut – orthordox sounds jewish to us …

But, yes, your point is taken – Australia is a unique multicultural society and a bastion of the south pacific. South is the mississippi delta, but if you just separate us hicks as “white” or “black” to do you analysis, you’re missing a lot

161

Clod Levi-Strauss 06.02.10 at 2:17 am

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JG: vntl b-ntnlsm.
MW: Ys.
Rl Prgrss

162

mds 06.02.10 at 2:19 am

I get it, which will perhaps be enough for mds.

Oh, definitely. [NOTCHES KEYBOARD]

In my tepid defense:

(1) It was fairly gentle ridicule, just barely beyond tweaking. Many commenters have been far grouchier, particularly about the Antipodes.

(2) I actually (vainly?) desire Israel’s continued existence in a more enlightened form, but “It’s ironic but true that the 67 War was the turning point, by creating a way to be Jewish without being a victim. Israel made it possible for American Jews to have no need of Israel” is more hyperbolic than an escaping comet. And internet hyperbole must be met with the fury of a thousand exploding suns.

163

Landru 06.02.10 at 2:20 am

Those who — like me — are from a country which explicitly engages in pre-emptive warfare and reflexively treats anyone to whom the word “terrorist” can be pinned as manifestly inhuman, don’t really have a leg to stand on when criticizing the Israelis for this kind of action.

For those who think the US should venture some kind of public criticism or condemnation: what, exactly, has Israel done here that we haven’t explicitly allowed for ourselves? What can we possibly say while keeping a straight face?

164

djw 06.02.10 at 2:21 am

It’s fascinating to watch Bloix move seamlessly between ethnicity, race, and language as necessary, in defense of the proposition that a misguided, romantic, and sentimental early 20th century notion of ‘nation-states’ defines 21st century statecraft.

165

Substance McGravitas 06.02.10 at 2:39 am

Those who—like me—are from a country which explicitly engages in pre-emptive warfare and reflexively treats anyone to whom the word “terrorist” can be pinned as manifestly inhuman, don’t really have a leg to stand on when criticizing the Israelis for this kind of action.

The monoculture works!

166

Donald Johnson 06.02.10 at 2:56 am

“For those who think the US should venture some kind of public criticism or condemnation: what, exactly, has Israel done here that we haven’t explicitly allowed for ourselves? What can we possibly say while keeping a straight face?”

That misses the point. The US government is Israel’s biggest cheerleader and supporter–their sins are also our sins. And I don’t expect the US government to condemn Israeli war crimes precisely because our government commits the same sorts of crimes–the US isn’t going to support a war crimes trial for a high ranking Israeli official because of the precedent it would set.

Now as a private citizen I don’t see any reason why I can’t criticize both Israel and the US.

167

Bloix 06.02.10 at 5:18 am

djw, the PLO is the national liberation movement of the Palestinian people. It’s not my misguided notion of nation-state. It’s the notion of the actual participants. The PLO doesn’t want a multi-ethnic state. It wants a Palestinian state. Now, if you want to argue that the concept of a Palestinian people is a misguided, romantic and early twentieth century notion and the PLO project is a mistake, you’ll get plenty of takers among Israelis. But somehow I don’t think that’s where you’re going. Perhaps you think that in the 21st century fundamentalist religion is the true basis for nation-building and Hamas has it right? No, I don’t think that’s where you’re headed, either. So where are you headed?

168

Bloix 06.02.10 at 5:34 am

“In fact, there are more Vietnamese or Lebanese in Melbourne than there are Flemish in Brussels.”
God, how touchy about two centuries of race-based immigration policy. Australia is 92 percent white and 7 percent Asian, by the design of its Anglo-Saxon founders, who set something up that works pretty well. It’s great that you can get pho in Melbourne, but the accommodation that the ordinary Australian has to make in his or daily life due to the presence of Asians in the country is non-existent. I’m not sneering at Australia, but I am sneering at anyone who thinks that some pleasant multi-culturalism is a model for a genuinely multi-ethnic state.

169

sg 06.02.10 at 6:42 am

Oh Bloix, you really don’t get it do you? Australia doesn’t have “two centuries of race-based immigration policy,” having only existed for 110, and having had a White Australia Policy for 40 of those years, a policy which by your own definition allowed in upwards of a million “multi-ethnic” people. That “92 percent white” that you quote is not what you think it is, and by your definition of Anglo-Saxon, Australia is at most 68% ethnically homogeneous. By your definition of “multi-ethnic” as applied to Belgium, more than 30% of Australia should be at each others’ throats. You can characterise that as “it’s nice that you can get pho in Melbourne” but you just further show your misunderstanding with those sorts of sneers, and the silly idea that a multi-ethnic state inherently requires people “accomodate” each other.

Regarding the PLO, have you read their charter?

The liberation of Palestine, from a spiritual point of view, will provide the Holy Land with an atmosphere of safety and tranquility, which in turn will safeguard the country’s religious sanctuaries and guarantee freedom of worship and of visit to all, without discrimination of race, color, language, or religion. Accordingly, the people of Palestine look to all spiritual forces in the world for support.

Their campaign has been for a democratic, secular and multi-religious Palestine, and the charter explicitly includes the Jews of Palestine in it. Since they made the charter they have of course recognised the right of Israel to exist, so the Jews who came after the foundation of Israel will always have somewhere to go.

Perhaps your problem is in recognising that the primarily Arab make-up of the refugees who left Palestine in 1948 was not an accident, and not something determined by the PLO?

170

weaver 06.02.10 at 6:52 am

Well, sg covers it, so I needn’t bother, though I will say it’s nice to see Bloix is as paralysingly ignorant of Australian history as he is of Australian demographics.

A useful illustration of the inherent meaningless of the concept of ethno-nationalism is found in the weird tendency of those Oz commentators who subscribe to said mental pathology to talk about a mythical ethnicity known as “Anglo-Celtic”. Coz, y’know, they decided the Irish were white folks after all.

171

Ian Whitchurch 06.02.10 at 7:25 am

Bloix,

*collapses in laughter*

Mate, *within living memory* if the NSW Commissioner of Police was an Irish Catholic, his deputy was a Freemason, and vice-versa. PMG was for Micks, Foreign Affairs wasnt, and so on and so forth.

See, for people like you, Australia used to be a country for Englishmen. Then it was British people (excluding the Irish). Then it was for British people (including the Irish). Then it was for White Europeans. Then it was for Europeans. And wider and wider do you blood-and-folk types throw the net.

Now you’re counting even Lebs as not-Asians – and I’m not even going to get to the point that ‘Leb’ isnt really an operative concept in Lebannon itself.

Hell, I could talk about Mitchell Johnson being stacked into his seat with votes from Hong Kong, or I could talk about Tamil-speaking branches of the Victorian ALP, but I’m just not going to bother, because if there’s one constant, it’s that folk-and-blood types do not live in a reality that facts or history can change.

Swinging this back on topic … I’d certainly start with pissing off my only regional ally, through which some of my major oil flows.

172

Tom 06.02.10 at 7:55 am

I just do not get why people’s instinctive reaction is to criticise Israel for lowering soldiers onto a boat whilst at the same time giving a bunch of thugs the benefit of the doubt.

Have you all seen the video of the “peace activists” clubbing the soldiers and throwing them off the balcony? Would Ghandi or MLK be proud of what they did there?

173

Ian Whitchurch 06.02.10 at 8:00 am

Tom,

Because (a) some of us get shirty about piracy on the high seas, and (b) some of us remember when Israel had a competent IDF.

174

Henri Vieuxtemps 06.02.10 at 8:04 am

The PLO doesn’t want a multi-ethnic state. It wants a Palestinian state.

Palestinian state would be a state of, by, and for the population of Palestine; people who happen to be born in Palestine, and those whose parents were born there and expelled from there. Regardless of how ethnocentric weirdos may want to classify parts or the whole of this population.

175

yx 06.02.10 at 8:05 am

While there are definitely examples of successful multiethnic states, it’s difficult to think of any which serve as models for building one in Palestine. What about the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinean situation suggest that a multiethnic state would look more like Canada than Yugoslavia? Or does that not matter–ethnic nationalism is racist, so we should force peoples together even if they have no desire to live in a unified political entity?

176

Tom 06.02.10 at 8:10 am

Getting shirty is a little bit different from worldwide condemnation.

It’s a tragedy that the operation was so poorly planned that people lost their lives, but the impression I’m getting is one of anger rather than one of grief. This suggests that the international community places the blame solely at the feet of Israel, whilst at the same time avoiding criticism of an extremely naive collection of true peace lovers who gave legitimacy to a bunch of violent thugs by sailing on the same boat as them.

How can anyone watch the videos of the soldiers being beaten by people who clearly want to beat them within an inch of their lives, whilst at the same time refusing to criticise those hooligans and also the well-meaning idiots who supported them.

This is not to suggest Israel doesn’t deserve condemnation for a botched operation, and it’s not to say Israel’s Gaza policy is correct, but for the criticism of Israel to be credible the criticisers need to show they do not support those extremist thugs.

177

Ray 06.02.10 at 8:35 am

I just do not get why people’s instinctive reaction is to criticise Israel for lowering armed soldiers onto an aid convoy in international waters in the middle of the night, where they killed 10-15 people and injured over 30, whilst at the same time giving a bunch of unarmed thugs defending their cargo of food, medicine, toys, and building materials against an illegal attack the benefit of the doubt.

I guess anti-semitism is the only possible explanation.

178

sg 06.02.10 at 8:37 am

Tom, have you perhaps not been following the news? I posted links to accounts way up thread and there are more out now. The facts as they are being presented by the people on the boat (you know, the ones whose camera footage was confiscated and destroyed by your “honest” soldiers) are:
– the IDF opened fire from other boats before landing commandos on the boats
– one person was killed before anyone landed on the boats
– “Human shield” type tactics were broken up with rubber bullets, tazers and possibly live ammunition
– the Captain of the 8000 was shot, even though there is no evidence of resistance on that boat
– at least some activists were tortured after being removed from the boats
– some journalists were denied consular assistance for at least a day

Now you can continue to pretend that it was just a “botched operation,” but opening fire from navy ships on boats that the navy itself admits had no projectile weapons is not a sign that the IDF ever intended to deal with the situation peacefully, nor that the deaths that occurred were a mistake. So perhaps you should do a little more investigating of what actually happened before concluding that these people were thugs. Also, you might like to consider this quote from Obama about the Captain of the Maersk Alabama when it repelled pirates a year ago:

“I share the country’s admiration for the bravery of Captain Phillips and his selfless concern for his crew. His courage is a model for all Americans.”

When Americans do it it’s a model of courage, but when Turks do it they are “thugs”?

179

Tom 06.02.10 at 8:44 am

Yes I’ve been following the news very carefully.

There are two groups of eyewitness reports. I just don’t understand why you are willing to take at face value those from a group of people who clearly support brutal thugs and whose initial aim was clearly to humiliate Israel internationally, whilst at the same time rejecting out of hand the official Israeli story of events.

I’m not claiming that either presentation of events is correct, but in trying to understand this situation I’m coming to the conclusion that the knee-jerk condemnation says more about the condemners than it does about Israel.

180

Tom 06.02.10 at 8:50 am

I’m coming to the conclusion that the knee-jerk condemnation says more about the condemners than it does about Israel.

Well Ray’s post 177 is a perfect example of that. Thanks Ray!

181

Earnest O'Nest 06.02.10 at 8:51 am

Maybe a bit like the knee-jerk reaction to unarmed people says more about Israël than about a bunch of unarmed people?

182

sg 06.02.10 at 8:53 am

No Tom, currently there is a single set of eyewitness reports – from a large number of activists, and some journalists who broadcast during the attack – and a single grainy video released by the IDF that shows only a very very small section of the action. Conveniently the IDF have confiscated all other videos – why do you think they have done that?

183

Tom 06.02.10 at 8:56 am

@182, sg: Please answer two questions, and I’ll leave it at that.

1. do you think the reports of the IDF soldiers count for nothing?
2. why do you think you do not need to wait for more facts to arrive before passing judgement?

184

alex 06.02.10 at 9:06 am

“to humiliate Israel internationally”. Oh, hohoho. I think we have pretty conclusive evidence from the last 45 years or so that the State of Israel doesn’t give a flying fuck what anyone else thinks of it, especially when it comes to the smiting. That the Israeli right manages to take that stance, while at the same time having a chip on its shoulder big enough to bridge the Jordan with, is just one of those crazy things, I guess.

Anyway, as this thread went ballistic about 175 comments ago, will enough be enough soon?

185

Tom 06.02.10 at 9:12 am

@alex:

Good grief! For a supposedly academic blog, the inability of some of the commenters here to discuss rationally and lack of desire to share knowledge and understanding is astounding.

186

Ray 06.02.10 at 9:23 am

1. do you think the reports of the IDF soldiers count for nothing?

They report that some of them were attacked when they landed on the ships. Those reports do count for something, I am quite ready to believe them. But where is the context?

Why did they land on the ships? To stop aid from getting to Gaza.
How did they land on the ships? Rappeling down from helicopters.
When did they land on the ships? In the middle of the night.
Where did they land on the ships? In international waters.
Who were they attacked by? People using the ‘weapons’ that came to hand, while the IDF were armed.
What was the result of their landing on the ships? At least ten dead – none of them Israeli soldiers.

What more should the reports of the IDF soldiers count for?

2. why do you think you do not need to wait for more facts to arrive before passing judgement?

What other facts are the IDF going to release that could make a better case for their actions? They have searched the ships, they found no weapons, no contraband, just the aid that was declared. They have released the footage that presents their actions in the best light, they have given their side of the story. What else are thy going to say?

On the other hand, the people that were attacked – all of their recording equipment was confiscated, and many of them are still in Israeli prisons. There are eyewitness accounts already that contradict the IDF account, and no doubt there will be many more, but the IDF themselves have ensured that no other video footage will come to light.

187

Tom 06.02.10 at 9:32 am

@Ray, 186: That’s all fine. I know the Israelis deserve criticism.

What I fail to understand is why there’s been so little criticism of the flotilla whose leaders were obviously sailing innocents into danger, and particularly of the thugs on the top of the boat who tried to beat the lights out of the soldiers.

188

Tom 06.02.10 at 9:33 am

I guess the question is (regardless of the ethical status of the Israeli operation):

Was the behavior of the leaders of the flotilla, and particularly the behaviour of the club-armed thugs the kind of behaviour the free world should be proud of? If not, does it in fact deserve condemnation?

189

Ray 06.02.10 at 9:57 am

What kind of criticism?
If you want to bracket the whole question of the legality and morality of the blockade, then you are putting the raison d’etre of the aid flotilla beyond discussion too.
Taking the incident in isolation – one ship, one boarding party – doesn’t seem to improve matters for the IDF though. Why did they choose to board in the middle of the night? Don’t armed attackers bear most of the responsibility when things go wrong? Especially since they killed people? Don’t people have a right to defend themselves when under attack?
Why do you insist on calling people who were armed with clubs ‘thugs’, when they were attacked in the middle of the night by people armed with guns? Does that choice of words not depend on you assuming that the boarding party was justified? If a campsite in the woods was attacked by a group of people armed with guns, and some of the campers fought back with ‘clubs’, would you describe them as thugs?

190

X 06.02.10 at 10:05 am

Tom@188: Yes – it’s called self-defense. It may in some cases be stupid to resist criminals illegally attacking you who happen to be stronger than you are, but it’s always legitimate. Israel certainly accepts that principle, judging by the justifications it gives for its own attacks on Gaza; oddly enough, the moment Palestinians or their supporters are doing the self-defending, pro-Israelis suddenly start insisting that only passive resistance is acceptable.

yx@175:
Or does that not matter—ethnic nationalism is racist, so we should force peoples together even if they have no desire to live in a unified political entity?

For a unified political entity, all you need to “force” people to do is not attack their neighbours. Most people tend to regard this as a legitimate use of force. But if you want an ethnic nationalist solution, you are going to have to force a lot of people to move (at best, hundreds of thousands of settlers who should have known better; at worst, millions of Palestinians) – and you are going to have to endorse the results of having forced a whole lot of people to move in 1948. “Peoples” don’t get forced – individuals do.

191

Map Maker 06.02.10 at 10:36 am

“… ethnic nationalist solution, you are going to have to force a lot of people to move (at best, hundreds of thousands of settlers who should have known better; at worst, millions of Palestinians) – and you are going to have to endorse the results of having forced a whole lot of people to move in 1948.”

Great – there are literally hundreds of german and austrian organizations today that have cultural and historical links to the “lost” territories of the east from 1945-1948. Perhaps now that the cold war is over, they should move to a campaign of blowing up schools, hospitals and killing “innocent” Poles, Ukrainians, etc. who should have known better than to move into German lands where millions of germans lived for hundreds of years before being wholesale ejected.

Or after 190 posts, have we reached Godwin’s law?

192

X 06.02.10 at 10:53 am

Map Maker @ 191: You want German comparisons? OK: suppose that the Poles had spent decades before WWII openly attempting to take over Germany, rather than vice versa; and that they hadn’t had 10% of their population killed by Germans; and that now, 60+ years later, Germany was still ruled by Poland, with the partial exception of some tiny enclaves isolated from each other and with no control over their borders or natural resources. In such circumstances, would you seriously be urging the refugees of 1945 to forget about their claims to the land they were forced out of?

193

Map Maker 06.02.10 at 11:04 am

X –

Well, it was the Soviets who spent decades before and after WWII trying (and succeeding!) in taking over Germany, they did kill about 10% of Germany’s population (with some helps from the Aussies), and even 60 years later, the Russians still occupy parts of historic Germany with an area that they have limited control over their overland routes. So are you joining the neos in pushing to take east prussia back from the russians? The Poles are like the Jordians in our situation, more victims of geography than commission.

WWII is so icky, may be we should look at the current middle east crisis in the eyes of Argentina and the “Falklands”?

194

Earnest O'Nest 06.02.10 at 11:07 am

187- sounds a little bit like the defense of the rapist saying he was provoked into the deed, does it not?

195

Ian Whitchurch 06.02.10 at 11:19 am

Tom,

Before you get too far up on your high horse, you may want to read this

http://www.smh.com.au/world/photographer-hit-by-stun-gun-20100602-wzdh.html

Note that footage is not available, as, well, the journalists were kidnapped on the high seas by armed men before being taken into internment.

The journalists involved do not yet appear to have received consular support.

196

praisegod barebones 06.02.10 at 11:38 am

Tom, if you want to engage in intellectual debate, why not go back to post 100 and answer the question that I asked you there.

The question wasn’t : ‘Why engage in thought experiments? ‘ The question was ‘Why engage in the thought experiment you propose rather than this other thought experiment?’

If you’d rather not answer that precise question, perhaps you should engage in the other thought experiment.

Done that?

OK, now a quick thought, and another question for you. Here’s the thought.

Both thought experiments involve abstracting away from elements of the situation which are controversial. (In the thought experiment you asked us to perform , you asked us, explicitly, to abstract away from questions of whether the blockade was justified. In your discussion with substance mcgravitas you seemed to acknowledge that this was something which one could doubt in good faith. You can decide for yourself which controversial aspects of the situation the second thought experiment involves abstracting away from)

Here’s the question:

Why do you think that it comes more naturally to some people here to see the second thought experiment as capturing as much, if not more, of what is important in this situation as the first?

If the first – or worse still – the only answer to that question which occurs to you is ‘anti-semitism’, then you may be mislocating the source of the failure to have an honest discussion.

197

floopmeister 06.02.10 at 12:04 pm

Actually a fairly calm and interesting thread on such a controversial topic!

With an honourable exception for Bloix’ ignorance with regard to Melbourne and Australia, of course.

198

Steve LaBonne 06.02.10 at 12:32 pm

Tom@188:

Was the behavior of the leaders of the flotilla, and particularly the behaviour of the club-armed thugs the kind of behaviour the free world should be proud of?

Fuck yes. The Gaza embargo is a CRIME, and it is to the lasting shame of the supposedly civilized world that nothing has been done about it. All honor to the people who attempted to right a glaring wrong and help people in dire need.

199

Tom 06.02.10 at 12:38 pm

@praisegod barebones, 196:

The answer to your question “why should we engage in this thought experiment?” is: it would help my understanding. If you don’t want to spend your time helping me, that’s fine. I’m not going to be offended. But that’s the reason I’m asking.

You seem to be suggesting in that question that an individual’s belief in whether the flotilla had the right to sail to Gaza, and whether the IDF had a right to intercept them using force comes down to how acceptable the situation in Gaza is.

Suppose for the sake of argument that there’s a humanitarian obligation to help people who are in dire strits like many of the Palestinians are. What should someone do who wants to fulfil this obligation, given that the IDF are prepared to use armed force in order to maintain a blockade that is at least partly punitive and economic and not merely a matter of preventing arms from getting in to the country?

It depends how dire the straits are. I can certainly imagine straits so dire that every right thinking person should support the convoy, and I can imagine straits that are dire but not very dire and no right thinking person should consider any pressure other than diplomatic.

It also depends what is the cause of the dire straits. Particularly whether the cause is Israel policy, or the policy of the arab world, or, as I suspect is the reality, a very complicated interaction between the two.

What I’m trying to do is understand the situation and indeed how dire the straits are. But the knee-jerk criticism I’ve read here and elsewhere isn’t helping me see it from the Palestinian point of view. It’s simply easier to assign that criticism it to knee-jerk anti Israel bias, and thus my understanding is clouded.

200

Tom 06.02.10 at 12:41 pm

@198, Steve LaBonne:

Well I suppose your comment takes us to the root of the matter. Many people see Israel’s behaviour towards Gaza as a crime that must be ended immediately. I’m not prepared to accept that because I can see that the whole situation is hugely complex and has evolved over the last 60 years. I find it very hard to assign the blame solely to Israel.

201

PHB 06.02.10 at 12:43 pm

I really can’t remember a situation like this where the government looked better as additional information came to light. By far the more common case is that the government story falls apart as additional information leaks out.

The IDF has been used to being able to perform any atrocity against Palestinians without rebuke. The most likely explanation of the events is that the planners failed to see that attacking foreign ships packed with journalists and nobel prize winners in international waters was going to be reported rather differently than a similar massacre in Gaza or the West Bank.

Turkey is or rather was a critical ally for Israel.

202

Tom 06.02.10 at 12:44 pm

@Ian Whitchurch, 195:

Sorry Ian, I can’t understand how be hit with non-lethal force, that made the recipient “feel unwell” is anything to write home about. There are important issue to address about how the operation was carried out. Deaths are important. Talking about tasering is just clouding the issue.

203

Ray 06.02.10 at 12:46 pm

Tom, you’ve repeatedly said that you think the blockade is justified, your characterisation of the IDF/flotilla action is… one-sided…, and the thought experiment you proposed was “suppose the blockade is justified, what then?”

There are two possibilities here. One is that you are a neutral, right-thinking observer battling against a sea of kneejerk anti-Israel bias.

204

Tom 06.02.10 at 12:53 pm

@Ray, 123:

I suspect the blockade is justified, based on what I know about the situation. That being said, it’s not all about facts, it’s also about interpretation, and whether one believes that Israel being surrounded by a sea of arab states who do not accept its existence allows that country a bit of leeway to defend itself that we don’t grant states who do not have existential threats.

I may be wrong.

I’d like to know if my thinking differs from other people here on anything other than the justification for the blockade. If it does, I’ll consider my position on those things. If it doesn’t, I’ll save time and just consider the blockade.

So, if Israel had boarded in their territorial waters and/or the blockade was entirely justified, how would thoughful people here respond? I’d like to know.

205

Tom 06.02.10 at 12:54 pm

Oh and Ray, there are a lot more than two possibilities!

206

sg 06.02.10 at 12:55 pm

Tom, I am collecting more information – witness accounts, and they aren’t supporting the IDF story, so unless the IDF can come up with a counter-explanation for why they opened fire on a peaceful ship in international waters, it’s case closed.

It’s consistent with so many other situations, you really don’t need much intelligence to work out which way the chips are going to fall in a situation like this. Only the wilfully ignorant are doing otherwise.

207

Tom 06.02.10 at 12:58 pm

The other thing that I’d like someone to address is “international waters”, which I think is a red herring.

It’s a red herring because I believe if they supported the blockade on Gaza they wouldn’t have minded where the incident had taken place.

208

Ray 06.02.10 at 1:00 pm

If the blockade was entirely justified, it should have been handled differently. It should have taken place during daylight. Neutral observers should have been allowed. Independent media on the ships should not have had their recording equipment confiscated. Soldiers should not have rappelled down from helicopters.
Do you agree?

Do you accept that the IDF are blocking humanitarian aid – not just arms – in the blockade? How do you justify it?

If the blockade is unjustified because it is a collective punishment that blocks genuine humanitarian aid, then what?

209

Tom 06.02.10 at 1:02 pm

@sg, 206:

The IDF claim that passengers stole their pistols and started shooting at them. The IDF then returned live fire.

If that story is true, what is wrong with what the individual soldiers did?

210

ajay 06.02.10 at 1:04 pm

Israel being surrounded by a sea of arab states who do not accept its existence

Tom has recently arrived here from the early 1970s. Say hi, everyone.

ARAB STATES AND ENTITIES SURROUNDING ISRAEL
Syria
Lebanon
Jordan
Egypt
West Bank
Gaza

ARAB STATES AND ENTITIES THAT HAVE ACCEPTED ISRAEL’S RIGHT TO EXIST
Egypt (1979)
Jordan (1994)
West Bank (1993)

PERCENTAGE OF ISRAEL’S TOTAL LAND BORDERS WHICH ABUTS ARAB COUNTRIES THAT HAVE ACCEPTED ITS RIGHT TO EXIST
80%

DEGREE TO WHICH ISRAEL “SURROUNDED”
20%

CAN YOU EVEN BE 20% SURROUNDED?
No, don’t be silly

211

djw 06.02.10 at 1:05 pm

I’m not going anywhere with regard to the PLO. I didn’t mention the PLO, their aspirations and self conception are neither germaine to my comment or the subject of the post itself. Others have commented on the PLO’s self-conception with regards to ethnicity and religion above, so I’ll leave it at that. But I will add that the simple existence of self-determination movements for ethnic nationalist groups around the world, often minorities context of other ethnic nationalist states, doesn’t work particularly well as a defense of the sentimentalist notion of the nation-state you espouse. Rather, it’s demonstrative of the problem. The idea of the ethnic nationalist state is, in essence, a lie, and if it’s not a lie today, it will be one tomorrow (states fancy themselves in control of immigation, and in the short term they can sort of do it some of the time, but long term this will be driven by forces beyond their control).

But that’s all beside the point. What I posted about, and what you have yet to deliver, is an explanation of your vacillations between various identity markers: particularly regarding ethnic nationality and race. In Belgium, we have a (troubled) multicultural state, but in Australia, white is white. I suspect this is a set of on the fly innovations necessary to get the conclusions you’re looking for, but I was hoping for an attempt to actually defend/explain it.

212

Tom 06.02.10 at 1:10 pm

@Ray, 208:

I think it would have been better from a PR point of view if the incident had happened as you suggest. But I do not see why you cannot give the IDF the benefit of the doubt on this one and assign their choice of conditions to a desire to protect their troops and the get the incident over with asap, and protect non-combatants, including the media by not encouraging them to enter a combat zone.

How would you propose they stopped the ship without sending troops onto it? Is there a better way than deploying by helicopter?

I do not agree that Israel is blocking humanitarian aid. Do you have an independent and reliable source for that? As I have no reason to think otherwise, and am not anti Israel I will give Israel the benefit of the doubt until someone provides me with evidence. When the evidence is supplied, I shall change my mind. However, dual use supplies such as concrete do not count. I hope you can see that Hamas should not be permitted to reinforce bunkers.

If the blockade is unjustified because it is a collective punishment that blocks genuine humanitarian aid, then what?

Then I support the flotilla and I’ll donate money to the next one.

213

Tim Wilkinson 06.02.10 at 1:15 pm

Bloix: This sort of thing is new. Israel has never paid attention to the collective remonstrations of the international community, but it has not gone out of its way to poke specific allies and potential allies in the eye

Lavon? Liberty? I’ve truncated the quote to exclude ‘for no good reason’ since (1) any such qualification is too susceptible to special pleading to be useful in such a discussion; and further or alternatively (2) I don’t accept that those who planned this latest attack had no good reason. On the contrary I stand by my initial assessment, viz:

The killings were a feature, not a bug. They were intended for generalised intimidatory and deterrent purposes.

The beatings which the, er, elite Special Forces troops dangled themselves into were also expected/planned. That footage was selected as the only bit to be released. The obvious conclusion is that the exlcuded footage was incriminating or at least would vitiate the exculpatory appearance of the footage. It’s hard to see that footage as anything but highly misleading. As pointed out, these are IDF specials, right? That means they are hard as fuck, and very alert to things like a big hostile crowd grabbing the bottom of the rope they are clambering down. I’ve seen some footage of an Israeli soldier in a hospital bed – but no sign of any injuries.

The whole thing is fishy as hell, and there’s little reason to accept the carefully-managed agenda-shaping ‘news’ put out by Israel. It’s bollocks. Specifically, the testimony of stage-managed and unexamined IDF ‘witnesses’ is worthless. The basic facts cannot be ignored, specifically special forces attacking a vessel and shooting a load of civilians dead. Any excuses or justifications for that had better be cast-iron, backed with comprehensive evidence. Not a stage-managed trickle of dubious info.

As regards whether the mission was a failure/a mistake, there are two questions: 1. did it go to plan, and 2. was it a good plan.

1. is not really in question. In any case I answer yes to it: in other words, this is a case of conspiracy rather than cockup, in other words business as usual (many things succeed as planned). It is hard to get a simpler situation in which to mount an assault. As Bloix and Tom have been unable to avoid observing, the tactics used are utterly baffling if viewed as directed toward peaceful ends.

2. is really the topic of the post. Abstracting from questions of subjectivity, and looking at the results with full hindsight, the question is: ‘has it turned out to be a bad plan?’. I say the answer is not obviously yes.

Two main reasons have been adduced for thinking that the plan (public execution with implausible deniability) turned out to be a bad one. First, Egypt has opened the border. I suppose this to be a bad thing from the POV of the Israeli government, though I can’t pretend to understand their strategy in full. But it’s not looking as though that situation will remain the case.

The second and main problem for Israel is pissing off Turkey, who control some oil supplies and had been the only Israeli ally (or non-enemy) in the region. Maybe that will be a problem for Israel, but I wouldn’t bank on it.

214

Tom 06.02.10 at 1:16 pm

(Sorry for the double post. I realised I’d included Syria and Lebanon by accident)

215

Tom 06.02.10 at 1:16 pm

Actually I’m not sure the double post appeared:

@ajay, 210:

I’m also talking about

Algeria, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, United Arab Emirates.

Are you going to tell me this is insignificant when it comes to a potential existential war between Israel on the one hand and Syria and Hezbollah on the other, perhaps with Egypt and Jordan reneging on weak peace treaties?

Israel’s position looks rather precarious to me.

216

Tom 06.02.10 at 1:19 pm

The killings were a feature, not a bug. They were intended for generalised intimidatory and deterrent purposes.

The beatings which the, er, elite Special Forces troops dangled themselves into were also expected/planned.

How on earth can you possibly know this? How about reserving judgement? I can see you might expect that to be the case, but it does make me rather suspicious of your motives.

217

Doctor Science 06.02.10 at 1:26 pm

Tom:

I do not agree that Israel is blocking humanitarian aid. Do you have an independent and reliable source for that? As I have no reason to think otherwise, and am not anti Israel I will give Israel the benefit of the doubt until someone provides me with evidence. When the evidence is supplied, I shall change my mind. However, dual use supplies such as concrete do not count. I hope you can see that Hamas should not be permitted to reinforce bunkers.

Per The Economist: Banned items include fishing rods and nets, chickens and other livestock, fresh meat, newspapers, canned and dried fruit (=needs no electricity to stay edible), wood for construction.

Pony up.

218

Tom 06.02.10 at 1:31 pm

@Doctor Science, 219:

That’s a good start, but an original source please, not a secondary one. I’m not sure I consider any of those things humanitarian supplies either. Perhaps I’m being naive. Is there an accepted definition of humanitarian supplies?

219

Tim Wilkinson 06.02.10 at 1:34 pm

Tom: as I made quite clear, that is my opinion, based on my assessment of the probabilities in light of the available evidence.

Remaining studiously polite, may I ask what exactly you suspect my motives to be?

220

ajay 06.02.10 at 1:34 pm

Tom, food is generally considered to count as humanitarian supplies.

As are medical supplies.

Have the Israelis been blocking medical supplies?
Yes.

Can I prove that with an original source?
Yes.
Hundreds of items of equipment have been waiting to enter Gaza for up to a year, procured by WHO and other organizations, says Mr Tony Laurance, head of WHO’s office for Gaza and the West Bank. These items include CT scanners, x-rays, fluoroscopes, infusion pumps, medical sterilization gasses, laboratory equipment, UPS (uninterrupted power supply) batteries, and spare parts for support systems like elevators. “It is impossible to maintain a safe and effective healthcare system under the conditions of siege that have been in place now since June 2007,” Mr Laurance says. “It is not enough to simply ensure supplies like drugs and consumables. Medical equipment and spare parts must be available and be properly maintained.”

Source: WHO statement. http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900SID/ASHU-85ZMVN?OpenDocument&RSS20=18-P

221

Tom 06.02.10 at 1:39 pm

@Tim Wilkinson, 221:

I suspect you have a profound dislike of Israel that you have (perhaps validly) developed over many years, and that your response to this incident is not based upon what actually took place but your pre-existing interpretation of what Israel stands for and how it behaves.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this. It’s all part of how people understand the world. It’s just that I’m trying to understand this incident itself, so it’s hard for me to untangle what you say about what happened here — events which we can both read about — from what you have internalised from your past experiences — which I have no access to.

222

Steve LaBonne 06.02.10 at 1:40 pm

Tom, if you’re going to be a troll, at least be an entertaining one for chrissakes. This stuff is just lame.

223

Tim Wilkinson 06.02.10 at 1:42 pm

Yes, the suspected motive please, Tom.

224

Tom 06.02.10 at 1:47 pm

@ajay, 222:

OK that’s fine. Perhaps I should have said that I think it’s permissible for Israel to block medical supplies and food as long as enough medical supplies and food get through. Some of those items, especially CT scanners and X-ray machines sound weaponisable.

What does enough mean? I don’t know. Good question. That’s a flaw in my reasoning.

Can Gaza get by without this aid? Will people die without this aid? I guess yes and no respectively, which is why I support the blockade, but I don’t have any solid evidence to prove that. I would welcome solid evidence the other way if you have any.

I don’t dispute the the situation in Gaza is appalling. I do dispute that it is solely Israel’s fault.

I also dispute that this is a collective punishment. Collective punishment means to me that the punisher is discouraging an individual from commiting and action by making him feel guilty for the suffering of his comrades. I highly doubt Hamas feel guilty for the suffering of their fellow Palestinians.

225

Tom 06.02.10 at 1:49 pm

@Tim Wilkinson, 225:

Well I don’t know Tim, that’s something that only you can tell us, but like I said I suspect it comes from having observed the actions of Israel over years or decades and strongly disliking what you’ve seen.

226

djw 06.02.10 at 1:52 pm

Tom,

The state of affairs may render your request for an original, non-NGO documentation of Israeli blockade policy impossible to produce. This is, of course, by design. From the link in the economist piece to GISHA’s statement:

It is based on information from Palestinian traders and businesspersons, international organizations, and the Palestinian Coordination Committee, all of whom “deduce” what is permitted and what is banned based on their experience requesting permission to bring goods into Gaza and the answers they receive from the Israeli authorities (approved or denied). It is not possible to verify this list with the Israeli authorities because they refuse to disclose information regarding the restrictions on transferring goods into Gaza.

Now, in a narrow sense it’s correct that one could sustain bare life with a steady supply of items appearing only on the ‘permitted’ list. But when you stand between desperately impovershed people (who remain desperately impovershed in no small part because you’ve adopted a set of policies that prohibit them from having an economy) and needed supplies because they’re not on an arbitrary list, you’re denying humanitarian aid, full stop.

(By the way, using your stated policy of interpretive charity and assuming only the purest of motives regarding Israel, perhaps you can enlighten me as to how prohibiting the import of fishing rods and dried fruit is necessary for Israeli security. I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation, but my mind is evidently too clouded by irrational Israel-hate to figure it out.)

227

sg 06.02.10 at 1:53 pm

tom did you reserve judgement when you called the people on the boat “thugs?” No. what about when you observed that the Israelis were faced with a boat “full of people who hate israel and israelis”? Was that you studiously reserving judgement, or you being a wanker?

Whether the soldiers had their guns taken off them or not remains to be seen; probably the people who “did it” are dead and funnily enough all the video has been confiscated, so we’ll never know. But given we now know that they were firing on the boats before they attempted to land, i.e. before the video you saw, any action taken against them on that boat – up to and including killing them by whatever means was available (though I would draw the line at exposing them to your prose, they’re still human after all) would presumably constitute legitimate self defence – in fact I gave a quote of Obama supporting exactly that if the lunatics doing the boarding are Somali (ie Muslim). The soldiers always have a choice to tell their commanding officer “fuck off you nut job.” In fact, there are many Israelis languishing in prison right now for having committed that crime, and guess what? They aren’t killing protesters.

Though do these people even deserve the appelation “protester”? They might have if they were attacked in or near Gaza, but given the emails they were sending just 12 hours earlier were of the “oh what a lovely cruise” sort, I don’t know if they get to have their honour besmirched by the comparison, do you?

The basic facts: A bunch of hard-arsed thugs rocked up to their ships and started shooting them while they were enjoying a moonlit cruise, then rappelled onto their ship and started shooting them again, but a little closer. What do you think they should have done?

228

sg 06.02.10 at 1:54 pm

oops, I swore and now I’m in moderation – could take forever. I thought I was being polite! Oh well, here’s the key paragraph:

tom did you reserve judgement when you called the people on the boat “thugs?” No. what about when you observed that the Israelis were faced with a boat “full of people who hate israel and israelis”? Was that you studiously reserving judgement, or you being a w**&%r?

229

sg 06.02.10 at 1:56 pm

Steve Labonne! You ordered the Troll to become less lame, and immediately we get this:

CT scanners and X-ray machines sound weaponisable.

You are entirely to blame for this sorry state of affairs.

230

PHB 06.02.10 at 1:56 pm

@ajay

You don’t understand. It is not ‘Israel’s right to exist’ that is at stake here, it is ‘Israel’s right to exist as an apartheid state for Jews’.

Since none of the countries surrounding Israel accept the concept of a ‘Jewish state’ where non-Jews are second class citizens at best, Israel is ‘surrounded’ by states that reject the Likud world view.

That is why the apologia for Israel always have to start off with attempts to frame the argument in ways that exclude the grievances of the other side. The Israeli history we are allowed to consider ends in 50AD, has a 1900 year gap and then restarts in 1948.

Its a bit like the Israeli tape that begins after the soldiers have boarded the ships. CNN just played an interview with one who admitted firing his weapon after landing on the deck. Didn’t sound like it was a paint ball gun from the way he was talking (so thats one probable lie in the official account). So according to his own account he attacked first and shot first.

Putting on a uniform does not turn a thug into a soldier.

231

Tom 06.02.10 at 1:57 pm

Assuming the purest of motives regarding Israel (which I don’t, but for the sake of argument) I suggest that perhaps the fishing rods were in the same truck that a box of grenades was in, and the whole shipment got sent back, causing a Palestinian man who didn’t receive his fishing rods to tell the NGO that fishing rods are banned.

There are plenty of innocent explanations. What are you expecting me to say?

ajay’s post was about all sorts of medical supplies and the web page points out that Gazan health professionals are not allowed to leave for training. Now I think that does make a very strong argument.

232

ajay 06.02.10 at 1:58 pm

Perhaps I should have said that I think it’s permissible for Israel to block medical supplies and food as long as enough medical supplies and food get through.

In the opinion of the WHO not enough medical supplies are getting through. See the quoted statement: it is currently impossible to maintain a safe and effective health care system in Gaza.

Therefore you must either a) conclude that Israel’s actions are not permissible, even by your own lights, or b) conclude that the WHO is lying. I wonder which way

I think I know which way you’re going to jump. Leaving aside the horrible statement that it’s OK to block food supplies. Not even “it’s OK to intercept and search food supplies because they might be concealing weapons” but “it’s OK to stop people getting food supplies even if you know it’s nothing but food”.

233

Steve LaBonne 06.02.10 at 1:58 pm

Oh, come on, sg. Just break down and admit that stuff like that is a lot more fun than all that pseudo-reasonable “wondering” about people’s “motives”. ;)

234

ajay 06.02.10 at 2:00 pm

CT scanners and X-ray machines sound weaponisable.

Well, sure. You could use them to build an arc-reactor-powered repulsor ray. After all, TONY STARK DID IT IN A CAVE! WITH A BUNCH OF SCRAPS!

Not to mention the fact that a CT scanner is extremely heavy. If you dropped it on someone’s foot, you’d probably break a bone or two.

235

Tom 06.02.10 at 2:01 pm

@sg, 229:

I called them thugs when I saw with my own eyes that they had beaten the soldiers on arrival and thrown them off the deck. They clearly had more desire to commit violence than they had desire to protect their own wellbeing (and the wellbeing of others on the ship). Their actions weren’t defensive. The were patently aggressive and highly unpleasant. Would MLK or Ghandi have been proud to be part of that?

236

Tim Wilkinson 06.02.10 at 2:03 pm

-the suspected motive please

-Well I don’t know, that’s something that only you can tell us

Wow. Just wow.

(Well, not just wow. There is a mildly interesting point of semantics/rhetoric there (commonly seen in connection with ‘terrorist’): ‘alleged’ and ‘suspected’ create intensional contexts and are not ordinary modifying adjectives. E.g. an alleged terrorist is not a species of terrorist, but a species of accused person. But I think this fact is often overlooked, at least at a subconscious level.)

237

Tom 06.02.10 at 2:07 pm

@ajay, 233:

Thanks for the information. You’ve convinced me that Israel’s blockade of medical supplies is not permissable.

238

Ray 06.02.10 at 2:08 pm

I think it would have been better from a PR point of view if the incident had happened as you suggest.

Not from a moral point of view, or an ethical point of view, I notice. But it would have made better public relations.

I asked if you would still support the blockade if it was proven to block humanitarian aid. You said you wouldn’t, that you would donate to the next flotilla.

Now you say it is okay to block humanitarian aid, as long as some is allowed through, that it is okay to block medical equipment if it could possibly be repurposed into weapons. (How can an x-ray machine be made into a weapon? How can anything not be made into a weapon, by that logic?)

If you weren’t arguing against such biased knee-jerk anti-Israelis, one might almost think you had a prejudiced view of the situation that you were determined not to change.

239

sg 06.02.10 at 2:10 pm

haha Tom, so what actions are defensive when someone raids your ship, offering them tea and biscuits? Slapping them on the wrist? I’d say throwing someone off your ship is a pretty solid defensive action, and if the person who did it isn’t dead maybe there’s a rugby career waiting for them.

If the “thugs” on the boat had beaten up and failed to kill any soldiers, what does that make the soldiers who killed 10 passengers and injured another 60, tazered a journalist, denied food, water, medical aid or toilet breaks and beat some prisoners? All round good chaps?

240

Tom 06.02.10 at 2:11 pm

@Tim Wilkinson, 237:

What do you expect me to say Tim? The distinction I want to draw is whether your motive for criticism of the incident comes

1. solely from the details of the incident and the situation in Gaza, or
2. from a wider impression of Israel you’ve formed over a longer time.

I’m suspecting 2. That’s fine. I’m not criticising it. Just pointing out that for my understanding of this incident itself your point of view is unlikely to be revealing to me.

241

Ray 06.02.10 at 2:11 pm

ajay –
Not to mention the fact that a CT scanner is extremely heavy. If you dropped it on someone’s foot, you’d probably break a bone or two.

How could you have missed the fact that the people on the aid flotilla were armed with pocket catapults? Do I need to draw you a diagram?

242

ajay 06.02.10 at 2:11 pm

235: thank you.

243

Tom 06.02.10 at 2:14 pm

@Ray, 239:

Our exchange was as follows:

Ray: If the blockade is unjustified because it is a collective punishment that blocks genuine humanitarian aid, then what?

Tom: Then I support the flotilla and I’ll donate money to the next one.

ajay (see 238) has convinced me that Israel is blocking humanitarian aid (necessary medical supplies). I disagree (see post 226) that this is collective punishment.

244

Tim Wilkinson 06.02.10 at 2:17 pm

Leaving aside the creepy insinuations and back on topic:

For the benefit of the hard of understanding, may I just explain that it appears very likely that the clip of danglers being fed to an angry crowd does not depict the first interaction between the IDF and those on board. It also appears likely that at least one earlier interaction involved unarmed people being shot to death with bullets from a gun.

If that is the case (and my own assessment, from an imperfect epistemic position and drawing on all kinds of background knowledge, is that it very probably is), then the anger or panic of the crowd appears quite understandable, doesn’t it.

245

Tom 06.02.10 at 2:23 pm

@245, Tim:

I fully agree. If perhaps the IDF had already boarded the ship and killed a passenger in cold blood the behaviour of the protesters is warranted.

It’s interesting though, that you and I, in the absense of other information, go out looking for other information to feed our differing preconceptions.

You say it “appears very likely that the clip of danglers being fed to an angry crowd does not depict the first interaction between the IDF and those on board” because of your preconceptions (perhaps valid) about how Israelis behave. I suspect that either it was the first interaction or there was no violence aboard the boat from the IDF before the clip starts.

That’s *my* preconception, accurately pointed out by sg. Perhaps I’ll be proved wrong.

I know you think I’m a troll but I’m actually genuinely trying to understand the situation. One way I understand is to argue my position to find out where its weaknesses are and where my views need to be changed.

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Ray 06.02.10 at 2:23 pm

In what sense is blockading medical supplies not a collective punishment?

If these were super-special x-ray machines that would only work on Hamas members, okay. If you could demonstrate that the x-ray machines would be stolen by Hamas when they arrived, and would only ever be used by it’s members, you would have a case.

But if you stop an x-ray machine from being shipped to an open hospital, you are denying x-rays to the people in that hospital, for the crime of living in Gaza. Collective punishment.

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Tom 06.02.10 at 2:25 pm

@sg, 240:

If I was in charge of a ship being boarded by a state military, the orders to my crew would be to get the hell out of their way, and do nothing to provoke them.

248

Bloix 06.02.10 at 2:26 pm

Barton, Deakin, Watson, Reid, Fisher, Cook, Hughes, Bruce, Scullin, Lyons, Page, Menzies, Fadden, Curtin, Forde, Chifley, Holt, McEwen, Gorton, McMahon, Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Keating, Howard, Rudd.
Which one is the Vietnamese?

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Tom 06.02.10 at 2:28 pm

@247, Ray:

It’s not a punishment if it’s not intended to punish. For example, I would not say that the blitz was not a collective punishment of Britain, because it wasn’t intended to punish.

Am I misunderstanding what a collective punishment is?

250

mds 06.02.10 at 2:30 pm

If I had to guess: Menzies.

251

Ray 06.02.10 at 2:33 pm

Article 4.33 of the Geneva Conventions
No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed.

That is collective punishment. You are free to invent your own definitions, of course.

Re. the clip. It is not just that you are inclined to accept the IDF clip, someone else is inclined to accept another story, let us all wring our hands and despair over the impossibility of objective knowledge (or agreed definitions).

The IDF released a very short clip of video that supported their side of events. They destroyed the video recorded by other witnesses. They didn’t even release all of the video they recorded.

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Substance McGravitas 06.02.10 at 2:36 pm

Can Gaza get by without this aid? Will people die without this aid? I guess yes and no respectively

Given that this is for meanings of “get by” without hospitals having adequate equipment you should probably revise that second answer.

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sg 06.02.10 at 2:37 pm

I suspect that either it was the first interaction or there was no violence aboard the boat from the IDF before the clip starts

Tom, you suspect wrong. As I said before, you need to acquaint yourself with the facts.

Bloix, considering that the Vietnamese arrived in Australia from the 1970s on, it’s unlikely to be anyone before McMahon, is it? Or, for that matter, anyone from after, given the situation of the first arrivals and the ages of their children.

Why don’t you tell the rest of us which of those speaks very good Mandarin? Know any other leaders in the English speaking world who speak an Asian language?

254

Tom 06.02.10 at 2:37 pm

For what it’s worth, we’re arguing intricacies when actually I think we all mostly agree.

The situation in Gaza is terrible. I knew this before yesterday and before I joined this thread. Something must be done ASAP to ameliorate the situation, which includes pressuring Israel and Egypt to open the borders to more aid, and also pressing for a peace process.

What I was really trying to understand with this thread is why there’s so much anti-Israeli sentiment, and only anti-Israeli sentiment.

The whole situation is so messed up [I mean the situation since 1967 or before, not since 2005], yet I’ve heard no condemnation of Egypt, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. I know that Monday’s incident was down to Israel, but these very blunt, unsophisticated attacks on Israel seem very unhelpful.

If Israel is collectively punishing, then Egypt must be party to that too right, since they control some of the border? Where’s the outrage at Egypt’s collective punishment of Gaza? That is what I want to understand.

But I haven’t. And I don’t think I will here.

255

Tom 06.02.10 at 2:38 pm

They destroyed the video recorded by other witnesses

How do you know that? You’re jumping to conclusions again, giving Israel the detriment of the doubt, and knee-jerking, again!

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Ray 06.02.10 at 2:39 pm

What I was really trying to understand with this thread is why there’s so much anti-Israeli sentiment, and only anti-Israeli sentiment.

Because only Israeli forces boarded an aid flotilla and killed ten people.
Some things are not that complicated.

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Tom 06.02.10 at 2:40 pm

@254, sg:

Tom: I suspect that either it was the first interaction or there was no violence aboard the boat from the IDF before the clip starts

sg: Tom, you suspect wrong.

This is a matter of fact, either true or false. If you are telling me I suspect wrong you should be able to provide me with a simple link to a credible source. Please do.

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Ray 06.02.10 at 2:42 pm

How do I know they destroyed the video?

Are you denying that the IDF jammed communications and confiscated all video recording equipment, telephones, etc when they boarded?
Or do you think the IDF was only being careful that none of this got lost, and everything will be handed back intact to the rightful owners/a independent international investigation any day now?

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Tom 06.02.10 at 2:47 pm

@Ray, 259:

No, you said they *destroyed* the video. Not disabled communications, not confiscated recordings. *Destroyed* the video. I’m not saying they didn’t. I’m suggesting that at the time you made that statment you did not have decent evidence that it was true.

Which suggests it was a knee-jerk ant-Israeli comment.

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Tom 06.02.10 at 2:48 pm

Anyway, bye everyone.

Thanks for being sparring partners. I understand much more about the situation and the middle east in general than I did two days ago.

261

djw 06.02.10 at 2:51 pm

What are you expecting me to say?

Honestly, I had no idea. But as you’d stated earlier that you believe Israel’s blockade is possibly/probably justified, so I figured you’d have something to say.

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engels 06.02.10 at 2:54 pm

What I was really trying to understand with this thread is why there’s so much anti-Israeli sentiment, and only anti-Israeli sentiment.

As someone who only casually skimmed this thread, what puzzled me was the opposite: how little of it seems to be about Israel and how much of it, by comparison, is about Australia, New Zealand, Wales, and wherever else. I guess the world should be grateful for courageous commenters like Bloix and Tom who are prepared to shine a spotlight on the most pressing issue here: ethnic prejudice in Llangollen.

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Ray 06.02.10 at 2:55 pm

Before you go, have you decided how much you will be donating to the next flotilla, given that you accept that the Israel blockade is – by the standards of the Geneva Conventions – an act of collective punishment.

264

chris 06.02.10 at 3:18 pm

What I was really trying to understand with this thread is why there’s so much anti-Israeli sentiment, and only anti-Israeli sentiment.

Because this thread is not about the entire Israel/Palestine conflict, but about a specific incident in which (a) Israel initiated the incident and (b) many people on this thread believe Israel was in the wrong in the way they initiated, conducted, and/or attempted to control information regarding the incident.

Certainly, there are many issues related to the conflict in which parties other than Israel are in the wrong, but they’re not the subject of this thread.

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mds 06.02.10 at 3:18 pm

I guess the world should be grateful for courageous commenters like Bloix and Tom who are prepared to shine a spotlight on the most pressing issue here: ethnic prejudice in Llangollen.

Well, Butler and Ponsonby were Anglo-Irish, yet seemed to get all the attention.

266

Alice de Tocqueville 06.02.10 at 3:22 pm

I really wonder what planet Tom lives on, and I don’t like to make such a snarky comment, but Israeli brutality toward Palestinians is constant, and well documented by the UN and lots of other international entities. I recently heard that 400 Palestinians have died inside Gaza because of lack of medicine or medical care; (Care; there’s a word for you!) 60% of children in Gaza are malnourished, many are traumatised, (some bear wounds from white phosphorus and even more horrible wounds) unable to go to school. Scholarship winners were not allowed to leave the country to accept them, Israel legalized torture in its jails years ago, and has kept thousands of Palestinian children in them where they can’t be visited by their parents. Throughout their realm, if the Israeli government suspects you may have a relative who has fought to defend his homeland, they just bulldoze your entire home. Or if they want to build an apartheid wall where your house is, they do that, or just bulldoze part of it, along with anyone standing in front of the bulldozer, like Rachel Corrie. Have you not heard of any of these things being documented? There’s lots more, too, Tom, so much so that the burden of proof of anything it says is necessarily on the Israeli government.

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Donald Johnson 06.02.10 at 3:28 pm

Tom, you seemed mighty sure of yourself for someone who obviously didn’t know the first thing about the blockade. Maybe you should withhold judgment of other people’s motives when you know so little about the situation.

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Uncle Kvetch 06.02.10 at 4:07 pm

I really wonder what planet Tom lives on

It’s called “the United States.” If you limit your news intake to “mainstream” US sources, “Everybody just has it in for poor little Israel” is every bit as plausible as “They hate us for our freedom.”

They’re two sides of the same coin, really.

269

Hidari 06.02.10 at 4:12 pm

Sorry I haven’t been following this discussion due to work pressures, but a quick word search would seem that indicate that no one has raised the elephant in the room: that, as Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu put it: ‘ “Citizens of member states were attacked by a country that was not a member of NATO,” he said. “We think that should be discussed in NATO.”‘

Now, the NATO charter is very clear about this.

‘The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.’

So why aren’t we bombing Israel?

(Those who doubt whether the fact that it was only Turkish citizens, and not, say, Turkey itself who were attacked by the Israelis, makes any difference in terms of military action may wish to ask themselves what would happen if the Russians had attacked a plane transferring food and medicine to Berlin during the equally illegal* Berlin blockade. Believe me, in that case, whether the plane was military, privately owned, or whatever, would not have made any difference, especially if 10 Americans had been killed).

*that is,as illegal as the Gaza blockade.

http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_texts_17120.htm
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/01/AR2010060102934_2.html?hpid=topnews&sid=ST2010053101699

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Chris Bertram 06.02.10 at 4:17 pm

Perhaps because of the coast of Gaza doesn’t count as “in Europe or North America”?

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Hidari 06.02.10 at 4:27 pm

‘For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:
on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France (2), on the territory of or on the Islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer;
on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over these territories or any other area in Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force or the Mediterranean Sea or the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.’

The attack certainly took place north of the Tropic of Cancer, but I’m not sure if, under the Law of the Sea, the area of the Mavi Marmara counts as Turkish sovereign territory. Is anyone an expert on the Law of the Sea who can comment?

272

bianca steele 06.02.10 at 4:28 pm

engels@260
To be fair, the question of the multicultural nature or otherwise of Australia and Canada is intertwined with the question of Zionism, and Bloix was only repeating the standard line on what’s necessary to maintain a state. If multicultural states are possible, and in fact multicultural states exist, then one of the original arguments in favor of the establishment of the State of Israel becomes moot. If multicultural states are impossible, and there is no Jewish state, the question arises where the Jews are to go, given that the Holocaust (though it did occur) did not accomplish its goal, and given some other facts about the nature of antisemitism as it actually arose in mid-20th century Germany. As for that standard line, it is thus understandable why it has become the neoconservative line in particular, but I’m not confident about the direction of causation, and to the best of my knowledge it is still the standard line in academia and on most of the political spectrum (it was, for example, enshrined in the constitution of the USSR).

273

bianca steele 06.02.10 at 4:31 pm

Also, in my opinion, the fact that the Western intellectual tradition claims itself to be a specifically Christian and even more particularly Catholic tradition plays a role in the difficulty of answering how something called a Jewish state could even be run.

274

Hidari 06.02.10 at 4:34 pm

Sorry after having read over the charter carefully the bit I wrote about the Tropic of Cancer is irrelevant as it clearly states the ‘North Atlantic’. The key para is here (edited for clarity).

‘For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack….on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over …the Mediterranean Sea.’

If the Mavi Marmara counts, officially, as a ‘vessel’ of Turkey and if its location is, technically, in the Mediterranean, then NATO rules would seem to state that some response against Israel, possibly military, is not just optional but required, not just by Turkey but by NATO as a whole. However I’m not a legal expert and am willing to stand corrected on this matter (not that it matters because international law is whatever the United States says it is, but I’m a pedant).

275

JM 06.02.10 at 4:38 pm

Alice@264

Well, the US manages to dial up sanguine disregard for the humanity of just about any group, more or less on command. Just ask the Serbs.

The reason for this is that news coverage of the outside world in the US is so slight (and declining) that all one has to do is selectively report the eviltude (real or imagined) of any given group and PRESTO! Sub-humans, ready for slaughter/passive-aggressive neglect.

It really is that easy. Noreiga was our man. Then not so much. Milosovic ran the Yugo bank with our guys. Then he was evil. Saddam at least wasn’t a dirty Persian. Then he was Hitler come again.

276

JM 06.02.10 at 4:38 pm

Milosevic, dammit.

277

roac 06.02.10 at 4:45 pm

I’m not sure if, under the Law of the Sea, the area of the Mavi Marmara counts as Turkish sovereign territory.

I am NOT an expert, but given that all its shores are Turkish, I would be very very very surprised if the Mavi Marmara were not generally recognized as Turkish territory.

The historical definition of “territorial waters” was an operative one; a state was considered to control everything within the range of its coast artillery. While the Mavi Marmara may not fit, both the straits which give access to it certainly do.

I know that in the context of the melting of the Arctic pack ice and the anticipated opening of the Northwest Passage to maritime traffic, I saw a seemingly authoritative argument that from Hudson Strait and Lancaster Sound westward, it all belongs to Canada. I forget the terminology involved. Someone here must know.

278

Substance McGravitas 06.02.10 at 4:53 pm

I saw a seemingly authoritative argument that from Hudson Strait and Lancaster Sound westward, it all belongs to Canada.

Canada is more ambitious than the norm in its claims to the seas. Every once in a while the US will send a boat between some Arctic islands without asking permission and the super-patriots go bananas.

279

roac 06.02.10 at 4:54 pm

Oops. Disregard previous post. I thought the question was about the body of water and not the ship. (I was having trouble seeing why it was relevant, which should have tipped me off.)

280

roac 06.02.10 at 5:00 pm

Furthermore, my assumption that “Mavi Marmara” is Turkish for “Sea of Marmara” was wrong too (according to Wikipedia it’s “Marmara dinizi). Having a bad day here, sorry.

281

Kevin Donoghue 06.02.10 at 5:05 pm

“If the [ship] Mavi Marmara counts, officially, as a ‘vessel’ of Turkey….”

According to Wikipedia she is Comoros-flagged, but I’ve no idea whether that affects any claim the Turks may have to Nato support. Can they even count on their own armed forces? I don’t follow Turkish politics closely, but last I heard the military had its own ideas about the national interest.

282

Clod Levi-Strauss 06.02.10 at 5:15 pm

gss tht ws nthr n Brtrm’s srs f < hrf="http://crkdtmbr.rg/2009/11/22/-vgly-pssv-ggrssv-pst-n-cmmntrs/" rl="nfllw">vgly pssv-ggrssv ln f cmmnts; whch ctlly nclds ths pst snc t cntrs n th flr f cnqrng rmy t rn cmptnt cmpgn.

s thr n lbrl blg whr th cmmntrs rn’t hd f th mngmnt n th pltcs f srl, Gz nd th ccptn?

283

Bloix 06.02.10 at 5:31 pm

bianca steele @ 266 and engels@260:
Actually I brought up Australia only in passing but the shouts of rage that it provoked led me to do what in retrospect could be fairly described as a bit of trolling. Fairly successful trolling, and genuinely amusing, but still. It was wrong of me, and I apologize. (How do you do that tongue in cheek thing, : ,> is that it?)

But Bianca doesn’t quite get my argument right. As we’ve gone on I’ve tried to draw a distinction between “multi-cultural” nations (i.e. places with 90% white Christian English speakers with good ethnic restaurants in the big cities and state-sponsored radio stations in a language that 2 percent of the population actually speaks) and “multi-ethnic” societies (i.e. places that have well-organized, self-confident and self-aware ethnic minorities that have competing claims on political power and the willingness to use force if they don’t get it). And my argument is that democracy, which is fragile always and everywhere, is especially fragile in such multi-ethnic societies and more often than not fractures and degenerates into civil war, failed states, and enormous unnecessary suffering for real people. I think that the track record of post-WWII state formation bears this out. Perhaps someone wants to argue to the contrary.

In response to this I get an airy argument that my thoughts are bad thoughts and that the people of Palestine should live in accordance with 21st century ideology held by enlightened people who live in enlightened multi-cultural places like Australia, which in accordance with 19th century ideology had an immigration policy that made sure that it would never become a multi-ethnic country, but does nonetheless have some great pho. (Damn, I’m worse than Britney Spears, aren’t I?)

But seriously, in a world of real people who are willing to kill each other so that they are really dead, I submit that the way to provide real security and the prospect of genuine deveopment and democracy is to impose a two-state solution on Palestine. And I mean impose. It’s time for the US to tell Israel, You move to a two-state solution or you’re on your own, buddy. A one-state solution, I contend, is a prescription for death and destruction. I accept that there are people who support it in good faith. But I think they’re mistaken.

284

Steve LaBonne 06.02.10 at 5:40 pm

But seriously, in a world of real people who are willing to kill each other so that they are really dead, I submit that the way to provide real security and the prospect of genuine development and democracy is to impose a two-state solution on Palestine.

Which I agree with, provided it’s a REAL two-state solution and not a system of Bantustans governed by puppets of Israel and the US.

285

FlyingRodent 06.02.10 at 5:55 pm

You know, I really don’t have any ideas how to foster peace between Israel and the Palestinians. I have no idea how to help disarm nasty lunatics like Hamas nor do I know whether a one, two or fifty-seven state solution is the best prescription for resolving a horrible conflict.

There is one thing I can say with a fair degree of certainty, though: if you attack ships filled with hundreds of your allies’ citizens in the dead of night in international waters, shoot lots of them dead and kidnap the rest in an attempt to maintain your policy of intentionally imprisoning and immiserating one-and-a-half million human beings, you have no grounds at all to get snippy when people complain about it.

We’re talking about an insane and unbelievably inflammatory military operation mounted against civilians, on the orders of cretins and macho fuckheads, in defense of an utterly indefensible state policy of collective punishment of 1.5 million men, women and childen. If you think that’s reasonable, then you’re most probably a lunatic too.

See? I may not have a roadmap to peace sticking out of my back pocket, but I know bullshit when I see it.

286

mds 06.02.10 at 6:01 pm

Which I agree with, provided it’s a REAL two-state solution and not a system of Bantustans governed by puppets of Israel and the US.

Hence the problem with needing the US to “impose” it. First, the US is about as likely to do so as it is to replace its air force with flying unicorns. Second, even if we somehow got past the first point, the US has already squandered any claim to even-handed legitimacy that would avoid the impression that it’s all a Bantustan ploy. And impressions would matter.

287

Earnest O'Nest 06.02.10 at 6:01 pm

I’ll miss Tom, he is much more agreeable than most people here I actually agree with.

288

Henri Vieuxtemps 06.02.10 at 6:01 pm

@280. It seems unlikely, though, that an individual living in a refugee camp in Lebanon (or Gaza), whose parents were kicked out of their farm in 1948, is going to be convinced by arguments about stable democracy. He wants his farm back, and the usurpers punished; he wants justice. And as long as he is not satisfied, this is not going to end.

289

Steve LaBonne 06.02.10 at 6:06 pm

mds @ 283, if the Israelis ever truly wore out their welcome in Washington, I think it could actually be made to work. The spectacle of the US kicking Israel where it really hurts would do wonders for our credibility. The only real obstacle is US politics, and Bibi seems determined to work on that one so I have some, albeit very faint, hope.

290

yx 06.02.10 at 6:15 pm

For a unified political entity, all you need to “force” people to do is not attack their neighbors. Most people tend to regard this as a legitimate use of force. But if you want an ethnic nationalist solution, you are going to have to force a lot of people to move (at best, hundreds of thousands of settlers who should have known better; at worst, millions of Palestinians) – and you are going to have to endorse the results of having forced a whole lot of people to move in 1948. “Peoples” don’t get forced – individuals do.

Most of the hundreds of thousands of settlers would prefer to move than to live in a joint state (and the current situation is already the result of forced movements of millions of Palestinians). In any case, why do you think the settlers would be able to keep their land in a multiethnic state? Any just solution requires returning land to the Palestinians, and yes, that would require some of the current occupants to leave. That said, minority rights should be protected even in ethnic nationalist states, and if the settlers would prefer to stay and submit to Palestinian authority, we should encourage any Palestinian state to treat them humanely.

291

Clod Levi-Strauss 06.02.10 at 6:25 pm

Rdnt: ” hv n d hw t hlp dsrm nsty lntcs lk Hms”
Thn y dn’t knw nythng bt Hms, r tht vn ‘mdrt’ srls hv ccptd th nd t tlk wth thm nd th wllngnss f Hms t tlk.

sppld lnks twc, t ctl dlts wh r cknwldgd xprts nd y g n lk rdr f Jnk Scnc nd Clmt Skptc. Th fct tht tht rspns s stll s cmmn s mr f prblm thn th fltll dbcl, whch s jst nthr n lng chn f vnts.

292

Dan 06.02.10 at 6:42 pm

He wants his farm back, and the usurpers punished; he wants justice. And as long as he is not satisfied, this is not going to end.

The funny thing is that if you subscribe to views about justice which are pretty popular around here, the refugee getting his farm back has precisely nothing to do with justice.

293

Earnest O'Nest 06.02.10 at 7:20 pm

If refugees getting their farms back was a precondition of stable peace there would not be a single acre of land on the world that would not be the theatre of war. I am sure the majority of refugees are much more sensible about things than Henri is.

Then again, the predominant thesis of a 2-state solution is exactly in that logic – which is exactly why that solution is part of the problem. If a one-state solutions is not on, it may be better to go for a no-state solution (back to a protectorate).

294

Kaveh 06.02.10 at 7:23 pm

@279 Is there one liberal blog where the commenters aren’t ahead of the management on the politics of Israel, Gaza and the occupation?

Not that I’ve seen. Well, maaaaaaybe Huffpo. A good reminder that we shouldn’t be too cocky about the liberal blogosphere being on the bleeding edge, and not vulnerable to the same pitfalls as older, established media.

295

dr ngo 06.02.10 at 7:25 pm

This is a classic example of argument by definition: “multi-ethnic” societies (i.e. places that have well-organized, self-confident and self-aware ethnic minorities that have competing claims on political power and the willingness to use force if they don’t get it).

I.e., we *define* “multi-ethnic” to be unstable, composed of irreconcilable armed rivals. And then we turn around and say: “By golly, these ‘multi-ethnic’ states are unstable!” And if we find something like that that *looks* unstable but isn’t – where different ethnicities are managing to live side by side without killing each other (e.g., Belgium, France, Canada) – we say “Well, by our definition, this is not a ‘multi-ethnic’ society because they’re not killing each other, so it doesn’t count.”

This comment is contributed on the outside chance that Bloix really doesn’t understand why no one is buying his line of argument.

296

Henri Vieuxtemps 06.02.10 at 7:49 pm

I am sure the majority of refugees are much more sensible about things than Henri is.

Oh sure. Obviously it is impossible for me to know how the majority of refugees feel; you know, not having spent all my life in refugee camps, under military occupation, blockade, digging tunnels, occasionally being bombed, massacred, etc. All for the sake of a stable monoethnic democracy. I’m just guessing, of course.

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Earnest O'Nest 06.02.10 at 8:12 pm

It surely is not impossible for you to know but what you display is that you don’t know and that’s not my fault. I am all for multi-ethnic democracies by the way and I am sure you can dislike being bombed and at the same time settle for lots less than having your farm back. But, knock yourself out thinking that this can’t be solved and taking all this trouble of pointing it out to the rest of us.

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chris 06.02.10 at 8:17 pm

ISTM that by Bloix’s definitions (as well as by any reasonable meaning of “ethnic”), the US is multi-ethnic; and although we have certainly had problems with our multi-ethnic status and continuing arguments over whether our various groups are genuinely treated equally even today, I would still estimate that it would be a huge step up for most Palestinians to be treated only as badly as a black American. (I have a hard time imagining the U.S. military blockading Compton, let alone bombing it, and there would be a much bigger uproar *within the U.S.* if it did.)

299

Henri Vieuxtemps 06.02.10 at 8:34 pm

Anything can be solved, just not necessarily within the conditions you require, like the one that those who plundered the farm should be able to keep it.

And anyway, why are we talking about a majority? Suppose you’re right and, say, 99% of them are what you call “sensible”, pure angels. There are what – 6-7 million of them now? The 1%, those who won’t forgive and forget, that’s 70,000 people. That’s a whole lot of people. It’s going to take decades for rockets to stop flying over that 30-foot concrete wall encircling the perfect monoethnic democracy.

300

David 06.02.10 at 8:49 pm

Is there anything more detached from reality than the notion of creating another Yugoslavia in the eastern Mediterranean ?

The advocates make Herzl sound sane by comparison.

301

EWI 06.02.10 at 10:27 pm

@ Clod Levi-Strauss

Josh Marshall’s steady stream of pro-Israeli articles – and he’s not allowing comments on those posts, so he knows what he’s doing – doesn’t reflect well on him.

302

sg 06.02.10 at 10:49 pm

Bloix, your most recent comment is much more reasonable but it’s still question-begging, and the tautology has been pointed out above. You still haven’t addressed the disparity between your claims about “multi-ethnic” Belgium and “mono-ethnic” Australia, which is actually by your Belgian definition more “multi-ethnic” than anywhere in Western Europe. Your Yugoslavian example is interesting too, because I don’t think you could claim Serbs and Croats are different ethnicities (I wouldn’t think Bosnians were either, but then your slipperiness about religion and ethnicity gives you a pass there). Also aside from a few soccer riots, all 3 nationalities get along fine in Australia.

It might please you to know that Australia is multi-ethnic enough that 3 of the commandos doing the killing (and the roughing up of the Aussie journalists) on that ship were Australian-Israelis. As is the slippery spiv spokesman doing the rounds comparing the dead people to terrorists. Multiculturalism, it’s a gift that just keeps on giving!

303

Chris Bertram 06.02.10 at 10:51 pm

I must say, I’m impressed at Mr Levi-Strauss’s courage at being so far ahead of “the management”. To let you all into a secret, I save my most radical statements for comments on other blogs under a pseudonym.

304

mds 06.02.10 at 11:42 pm

To let you all into a secret, I save my most radical statements for comments on other blogs under a pseudonym.

Hang on, “Bert Marchris” is you?

305

X 06.03.10 at 12:47 am

David@300:

Israel at present seems no more likely to accept a viable Palestinian state (even just one with territorial contiguity and control of its own aquifers and borders, let alone issues like Jerusalem) than it is to accept a binational state. In all probability, this state of affairs will continue until moving the settlers in the West Bank is no easier than moving the ones living inside the pre-1967 borders of Israel – by which point the Palestinians will be a majority in Palestine taken as a whole, not just in the occupied territories. If you want Palestinians to have equal rights on their own land (I realise you may not), aiming for the one-state solution is in the long run both more realistic and more comprehensive than hoping that this time, against all precedent, a new round of Oslo will somehow work out. Moreover, setting that as the goal is good even for the two-statists – it’s the only prospect likely to scare Israel into making a halfway workable offer.

306

Bloix 06.03.10 at 1:01 am

sg- I define “ethnicity” in the way that the people who hold the ethnicity define it and the way that the people it’s being defined against define it. Croats don’t think that they are Serbs, and Serbs don’t think Croats are Serbs, so Croats aren’t Serbs. Neither Croats nor Serbs think that Bosniaks are Croats or Serbs, so they’re not Croats or Serbs. It’s the concept that’s slippery, not me.

Yugoslavia was a multi-ethnic state that by any measure should have been able to make a transition to democracy. A single language (some differences and different alphabets, but mutually intelligible), no visible differences between ethnicities (all the same color, etc), lots of intermarriage, many secular people with only weak ties to the their religious traditions, strong civil institutions, a reasonably free press, good economic development, a large, well-educated middle class, reasonably high standard of living overall, integrated cities, no meddling neighbors, good prospects for economic growth, nothing to gain and everything to lose from war, and located on the continent of Europe, where you’d have thought the Western nations would have been mortally embarrassed to permit ethnic warfare leading to genocide. And what happened?

307

Ian Whitchurch 06.03.10 at 1:20 am

Bloix,

Bluntly, people like you happened to them.

Blood-and-folk types who are prepared to use self-justifying, if logically inconsistent, definitions to give aid and comfort to evil, and to conveniently forget to mention history when it is iconvenient (the Ushtashi did exist, and 1941-45 in the Balkans did happen)

Remember, in Bloix’s world, a mono-ethnic state is the only one that works, so clearly we need to get rid of the Internal Other. Rev up the Ethnic Cleansing machine, its time to purify the State … after all, it is inconsistent for a good Frenchman to be RPR.

308

sg 06.03.10 at 1:33 am

That’s right Bloix, your description of Yugoslavia makes it sound almost as if ethnicity wasn’t the issue, until someone made it so…

309

Clod Levi-Strauss 06.03.10 at 1:51 am

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‘m trd f crtcsm f srl fr bng mr vlnt thn ncssry t gt th jb dn.
Wht xctly s th jb?
m trd f dfndng th bvs, nd lstng fcts nd fgrs frm ppl y rfs t rd bcs y mgn smhw tht thy mst b tntd, r lzy, r hpps. n rq n n qts ll crtcsm f plcy wth th ntcs f Cd Pnk; thr r rtclt ppl nvlvd n srs dbt. D y mgn smhw t’s nt th sm wth srl nd Plstn? Fr nyn wth ny knwldg r srsnss thr’s n rsn t trn Hms nt Bgb. Yt thr t s. Y mgn tht y r mmn t dlgcl blndnss nd tht mks y ll th mr sscptbl. Y’r nt ln.
m nnyms bt mk n clm t xprt knwldg. Ths lnk t g by thr wn nms nd thr CV’s r pblc rcrd.

310

Chris Bertram 06.03.10 at 6:46 am

Oh dear.

I note that Clod Levi-Strauss shares IP addresses with J.R.Ewing and
Joaquin Tamiroff. I note also that Tamiroff was an alias for Seth
Edenbaum and that a commenter has already guessed (on one of Holbo’s
conservatism threads) that Levi-Strauss might be Edenbaum (and
received a denial of that).

All comments by Levi-Strauss on this thread are therefore disemvowelled. Go away Seth.

311

Earnest O'Nest 06.03.10 at 7:36 am

299- How many rockets flying in Kosovo? How long ago that farmers got pressured out of their farms? You’re wrong. Mono-ethnic states are your obsession, not mine. I think the multi-ethnic states are the rule, not the exception; and most of them work fine. But hey, if cultural pessimism gives you a kick: knock yourself out (but don’t be too optimistic on hitting anything else).

312

quintin hoare 06.03.10 at 8:25 am

s.g.
‘I don’t think you could claim Serbs and Croats are different ethnicities’
The term ‘ethnicity’ is as misleading as ‘race’, especially in the light of recent genetic studies that show e.g. that Hungarians have more genes in common with Croats or Serbs than the ‘Slav’ Poles do. But Serbs and Croats certainly are distinct nations, just as English, Scots and Welsh are. This is why the post-1945 Yugoslavia was established as a multi-national – not ‘multi-ethnic’ – federation.

Bloix
The foregoing comment is a reply also to your post at l:01 a.m., which is undermined by treating Yugoslavia as a ‘multi-ethnic state’ rather than a ‘multi-national federation’.
Apart from the fact that some of your supposed facts are simply wrong (e.g. there was no single language, even if five out of eight federal units did have mutually comprehensible spoken tongues, though with different literary standards), the wars of the 1990s were not ‘ethnic warfare’ in origin or in essence, even though they sometimes degenerated into that locally. Those wars were about power and what political form the coming post-communist society should take.
A ‘transition to democracy’ was theoretically possible only if the model that Slovenia was beginning to explore in the late 1980s had been followed elsewhere in the federation. But the rise of Milosevic in Serbia represented a direct and anti-democratic challenge to that model, through war if necessary.
But you are right to express surprise that the Western nations were so ready to permit war and genocide on the continent of Europe.

313

quintin hoare 06.03.10 at 8:31 am

Apologies if my comment above is off-string. In fact, in all the discussion about one-state and two-state solutions for a future Palestine, I am surprised that federal forms of territorial and/or political organization never seem to figure.

314

X 06.03.10 at 8:33 am

Bloix @306:

Suppose for the sake of argument that, as you seem to believe, only mono-ethnic states could be functioning democracies (though that claim has been thoroughly taken apart here). What on earth would then make you think that it was better to turn a Tito-style multiethnic non-democracy into a post-Tito-esque bunch of monoethnic democracies? Democracy is nice, but do you really think it’s worth exiling and murdering hundreds of thousands of people for?

315

alex 06.03.10 at 9:12 am

@312 – can one really come up with a viable distinction between ‘nationality’ and ‘ethnicity’ that doesn’t involve vacating ‘nationality’ of any specific meaning apart from that of ‘state citizenship’? The very existence of a concept called ‘nationalism’ would be rendered problematic by such a distinction [which, on the whole, would be a good thing in practical terms, if rather troubling terminologically.]

316

Henri Vieuxtemps 06.03.10 at 10:21 am

How many rockets flying in Kosovo?

I don’t know the details, but I imagine not many, since the refugees had come back to their farms. Had they not been allowed to come back home (as it’s usually assumed in the west in regards to the Palestinian refugees/two-state solution), I’m sure the KLA would’ve been still shooting and blowing up shit all over the place.

And how can it be any different? Don’t you know that people hate being kicked out of their farms into refugee camps abroad? What is your point, can you state your thesis?

317

Bunbury 06.03.10 at 10:28 am

As far as I can see, even from Tom’s point of view, at best the incident is a re-enactment of Bloody Sunday. While to some people that might not seem worthy of international condemnation it is not going to win any peace prizes. It also only undermines the thesis that Israeli policy is so self defeating that it might have been arranged by an Iranian Israelophobe genius if you accept that it was a result of gross incompetence. Hardly reassuring.

Within my memory going to work on a kibbutz was something lefty gap year kids did. Now not so much. It is very hard to see how this can end well. I suppose Sri Lanka might offer hope but the regular two fingered salutes to previously close allies is more reminiscent of the Tigers than the Sri Lankan government. It might also be noted that the Sri Lankan government has hardly escaped criticism despite actually having a plan that has in some sense worked.

At best you can argue that people and their governments should think differently but if they did you wouldn’t have the problem in the first place. The whole situation looks like an exemplar of Einstein’s definition of insanity.

318

Earnest O'Nest 06.03.10 at 11:02 am

Henri, my thesis is – simply put – that you’re wrong. People can hate a thing and still move on, if the alternative is to become a miserable miser.

319

Henri Vieuxtemps 06.03.10 at 12:23 pm

Yes, I think it’s quite natural to feel that some Other who got shafted by Us would and should simply move on. Yes, it makes perfect sense. But not necessarily from Other’s point of view. I wonder why.

But I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

320

Earnest O'Nest 06.03.10 at 12:37 pm

Nobody got shafted by Me (not even You) and I am not a part of any Us – so keep on knocking.

321

Landru 06.03.10 at 1:11 pm

What really stands out, to me, from the pro-Israeli op-ed writing in the establishment press (see today’s and yesterday’s NYTimes, as leading examples) is the constant invocation of clairvoyance. People writing with soft hands from comfortable offices do not even slow down when they name the motivations of others as known quantities, beyond question: so-and-so is an extremist whose goal is to aid terrorism, etc. This, in turn, means there’s no error in shooting so-and-so on the spot, or imprisoning him indefinitely without trial, since after all we _know_ he’s a bad guy with the same certainty that we know the price of eggs or how a movie turns out. It’s Pre-Crime in action! working to make you safer.

It’s a sickening practice, that my own (US) government has now made bi-partisan. But not just there, the basic reflex shows up everywhere like a deadly weed. All through discussions on the Internets, across a wide range of subjects, I see the same pattern: people swerve away from talking about physical facts, which might be arguable or verifiable, to talking about presumed motivations, especially of people they’ve never met and which can never be pinned down. On a different day I might rally to blame the po-mo crowd, since after all they’re the ones who brought us the idea that physical facts are fungible while personal motivations are real; but, really, I’m just too sick and tired even to try today.

322

Henri Vieuxtemps 06.03.10 at 1:21 pm

What I meant is that westerners overwhelmingly identify with Israel, and view the Palestinian refugees as a nuisance; if only they disappeared somehow, got assimilated somewhere, moved on already…

But that’s exactly the opposite of what this same situation looks like from other parts of the world. They see the place being temporary conquered and colonized by westerners, who eventually are going to move on and disappear.

Your solutions don’t make sense to them; theirs to you.

323

Kaveh 06.03.10 at 1:31 pm

@310 That’s a pity, because I thought this comment @309 really hit the mark (though I think the pronoun “you” is much less apt on this blog than it is most other places):

I’m tired of defending the obvious, and listing facts and figures from people you refuse to read because you imagine somehow that they must be tainted, or lazy, or hippies. … no one equates all criticism of policy with the antics of Code Pink; there are articulate people involved in serious debate. Do you imagine somehow it’s not the same with Israel and Palestine? For anyone with any knowledge or seriousness there’s no reason to turn Hamas into a Bugaboo. Yet there it is.

324

Kaveh 06.03.10 at 1:41 pm

@313
In fact, in all the discussion about one-state and two-state solutions for a future Palestine, I am surprised that federal forms of territorial and/or political organization never seem to figure.

Yes. I’ve been wondering about that too. That *might* satisfy the apparently strong desire a lot of Israelis and some Palestinians have to live in a state where large accommodations are made for them to be able to live by confessional laws.

325

Uncle Kvetch 06.03.10 at 1:47 pm

I note that Clod Levi-Strauss shares IP addresses with J.R.Ewing and
Joaquin Tamiroff. I note also that Tamiroff was an alias for Seth
Edenbaum and that a commenter has already guessed (on one of Holbo’s
conservatism threads) that Levi-Strauss might be Edenbaum (and
received a denial of that).

That commenter was me…and now I’m kind of sorry I did that. On this particular topic, Clod/Seth was actually making a hell of a lot of sense.

326

Earnest O'Nest 06.03.10 at 1:50 pm

322- I don’t identify with Israël, at all. I think I am like most Westerners here. I do not think of Palestinians mainly as farmers that want to get their land back.

327

mds 06.03.10 at 1:53 pm

While to some people that might not seem worthy of international condemnation it is not going to win any peace prizes.

I dunno, the last one has turned out to have set the bar extremely low.

328

Kaveh 06.03.10 at 2:04 pm

@326 I do not think of Palestinians mainly as farmers that want to get their land back.

What are they, then?

Even if the refugees outside of historic Palestine had been offered, and accepted, citizenship in other countries ten years ago, that would leave the Palestinians under occupation in Gaza and the West Bank, who, together with Israeli Palestinians, are almost as numerous as Israeli Jews, and are living on land that Israelis want to take.

Many (more) of them are farmers who *don’t want to lose* their land to Israeli settlers.

329

Bunbury 06.03.10 at 2:08 pm

@mds: Oh dear, it doesn’t work at all does it? Hume, Trimble, Arafat, Rabin and Peres are beckoning. I just couldn’t come up with a better understatement of the extent to which Bloody Sunday was not a good moment.

330

Ray 06.03.10 at 2:10 pm

mds wins.

331

Earnest O'Nest 06.03.10 at 2:15 pm

328: people (unfortunate people).

332

chris 06.03.10 at 3:31 pm

Croats don’t think that they are Serbs, and Serbs don’t think Croats are Serbs, so Croats aren’t Serbs.

Scots don’t think that they are English, and English don’t think Scots are English, so Scots aren’t English. I can sort of see an argument for declaring the US a racially divided hellhole (but Israel is clearly worse; even improving to the US’s imperfect standard would be a huge step forward), but is the UK a failed state now too? In some respects the formal political system governing Scotland is like a bantustan with a higher standard of living, but in terms of actual outcomes for the people, ISTM that there is a substantial range of multiethnic outcomes from the UK to Yugoslavia or Israel, regardless of where you put the US on that continuum, and that movement in the UK-ward direction would be desirable, if possible. (And that if it is not possible, the reason must be something other than the bare fact of multiethnicity.)

ISTM that by your own definition, you’d have to conclude that as Earnest O’Nest put it, multiethnic states are the norm. At least four of the largest democracies in the world are multiethnic (US, UK, Canada, India), regardless of the argument about whether Australia is multiethnic “enough”.

P.S. I express no opinion on clod levi-strauss because (a) I don’t know who Seth Edenbaum is and why it might be significant that someone is a pseudonym of his, and (b) this isn’t my blog anyway.

333

Alice de Tocqueville 06.03.10 at 4:22 pm

I have to add a note about CodePink. They are actually quite astute about the issues, most of them are former teachers and other professionals. They use the clownish costumes to get press coverage. As a matter of fact they also spend lots of time trying to educate legislators on what’s in the laws they pass, since these wise ones are often much too busy raising money to do that for themselves.
Since they came up with the name as a spoof on those color-coded terror threat levels, I tried to convince them they should move to ‘CodePurple’ awhile ago, but for some reason they didn’t. (It never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t take my advice.) I’m afraid we’d be at ‘CodeBlack’ by now, then what? ‘CodeWhite’, for the ultimate mourning?

334

Lemuel Pitkin 06.03.10 at 5:06 pm

I also am sorry to see Clod Levi-Strauss disemvowelled. His comments on this thread were civil and on-topic (and often quite insightful, IMO.) Is sharing an IP address really dispositive?

335

alex 06.03.10 at 5:46 pm

westerners overwhelmingly identify with Israel

I think you are confusing “the American media” with “Westerners” [unless of course you are referring to west of the Mississippi…] Many people who are ardent supporters of Israel seem to view Western Europe, for example, as a hell-hole of antisemitism and dhimmitude. Much of Western Europe, I suspect, would not give a flying fuck if the area from Suez to Kuwait disappeared into an alternate dimension tomorrow. Some, indeed, might start to wish it would, were they to contemplate closely the decades across which bitterness and hatred has only become more entrenched on every side, and the apparent utter futility of trying to do anything to make either side see something approaching reason. But hey, YMMV.

336

Chris Bertram 06.03.10 at 5:59 pm

@lemuel – oh yes. You can check Edenbaum’s blog if you are in any doubt.

337

Bloix 06.03.10 at 6:25 pm

“federal forms of territorial and/or political organization”
But why bother? Federal forms are anti-democratic. That’s what they’re for – to palliate the effects of majority rule when by necessity or desire different groups are found in a single state.

But in this case, there’s nothing special about the territorial area now defined as “Palestine” and there’s no reason for it to be a single state. Contemporary Palestine is an arbitrarily formed rump of the mandate territory called Palestine that the League of Nations gave the British, which included what’s now Jordan. The borders were drawn by agreement of Britain and France. Before that it the entire mandate territory was more or less an administrative province of the Ottoman empire with borders that changed from time to time for the convenience of the Sublime Porte (I love that name). What we call Palestine existed with its current borders for about a quarter century, from 1922 to 1948, and then only as a British colony.

So why go out of your way to create a single state and then create anti-democratic federal rules to protect the component parts of the state that don’t want to be part of it in the first place?

338

roac 06.03.10 at 6:26 pm

Croats don’t think that they are Serbs, and Serbs don’t think Croats are Serbs, so Croats aren’t Serbs

And by the same token and for the same reasons — political separation over a period of time — Czechs and Slovaks really are different nations. Because they think so. (Or rather, because enough of them thought so, and because those who thought so had enough power of one kind or another to bring about a divorce.) Nothing to do with genes, nothing to do with mutual intelligibility of language.

What I wonder is whether 40 years was long enough for the same thing to happen in Germany. Are Ossies and Wessies going to turn out to be different nations? I have no personal basis for an opinion at all. I would be interested to hear from those who do.

339

Bloix 06.03.10 at 6:49 pm

“That’s right Bloix, your description of Yugoslavia makes it sound almost as if ethnicity wasn’t the issue, until someone made it so…”
@307 – “Bluntly, people like you happened to them.”

Right, the Serbs and Croats had bad leaders who magically mesmerized them. If they’d just had some mult-culti Australians and New Zealanders to enlighten them they would have been fine. In order to make sure that Palestine will be the new Switzerland, we’ll get some Melbourne cafe owners and Maori-language broadcasters to teach the Israelis and Palestinians how to live together in a single state.

340

Substance McGravitas 06.03.10 at 7:40 pm

I live in a city in which English has become a minority first-language very quickly. There are large populations of people from all over the world. Half the people I work with were not born here.

It’s understandable that some of the people I work with might want to kill me, but thus far I detect no animus between them towards each other and on a larger scale my city is not threatening to become a smoking ruin. There is no notable ethnic violence, and indeed one of the more dangerous bunches of criminals is called the UN gang. The area’s population is close to Gaza’s.

What has gone wrong for us?

341

X 06.03.10 at 8:06 pm

Bloix@337:

In Palestine, it is and always has been by necessity that “different groups are found in a single state”; without further ethnic cleansing, there is no conceivable partition of Palestine such that all Jews end up on one side of the border, and all non-Jews end up on the other side. And the effects of majority rule in Israel definitely need “palliating”, even excluding the occupied territories. So let me turn that around: why struggle to split Palestine into two states at least one of which will necessarily still contain a vulnerable minority, when you could be struggling to fix the one-state status quo by giving all inhabitants equal rights?

Also – as you point out, for nearly a millennium before 1948, Palestine has always been an undivided part of a larger region within a larger state. I could understand drawing the conclusion that it should consist of less than 1 state, but am at a loss to see how you deduce that it might as well consist of more than 1 state.

342

Lemuel Pitkin 06.03.10 at 8:21 pm

the Serbs and Croats had bad leaders who magically mesmerized them.

This is sarcasm but it’s not obvious to me why the idea that the quality and choices of political leadership matters is inherently silly. Certainly plenty of people have argued convincingly (e.g. Catharine Samary in Yugoslavia Dismembered) that the Yugoslav wars were not inevitable but the result of specific political decisions both in and outside of Yugoslavia.

On the flipside, if you go back and read Tocqueville on the American South, he is sure there’s no way the former slaveowners could ever live as equals with their former slaves. He says emphatically that the only possible outcomes post-slavery are mass emigration of the freedmen or else race war. And then you turn to someone like Woodward on the history of segregation in the South and you see how much the Jim Crow South was a deliberate political creation decades after the Civil War.

In general ISTM that the more you study the history of specific ethnic conflicts, the more you see that it’s a mistake to regard ethnic divisions as natural and immutable and pre-political. A single state of all its citizens between the Mediterranean and the Jordan is hard to imagine right now, but history is full of things that were hard to imagine until they did.

336- OK. No complaints, then, from me.

343

Bloix 06.03.10 at 9:06 pm

“there is no conceivable partition of Palestine such that all Jews end up on one side of the border, and all non-Jews end up on the other side. “

Of course that’s true. Although the Jews that presently live on the west bank will have to evacuate, the Arabs that live in Israel proper will continue to live there, as they’ve done for the last 60 years. So what?

“the more you study the history of specific ethnic conflicts, the more you see that it’s a mistake to regard ethnic divisions as natural and immutable”

I don’t view them as natural. I view them as real. We don’t live in the natural world, we live in a socially constructed world, and ethnic divisions are part of that world. And I don’t view them as immutable. I view them as persistent. Lots of bad things can happen as you wait around for persistent qualities to mutate.

As for Yugoslavia, of course political leadership mattered. And the political leadership sucked. It wasn’t up to the job of peaceful transition from dicatorship to democracy. Do you think that either the Palestinian and Israeli leadership is up to the transition to a single state? Why do you want to give people challenges that they will almost certainly fail?

And Tocqueville is truly horrible example. The South as a model of successful multi-ethnic society? Maybe after a gruesome civil war followed by a hundred and fifty years of hateful oppression people can learn to live together as equals, or maybe not? That’s a model for successful nation-building?

344

tom bach 06.03.10 at 9:24 pm

“That’s a model for successful nation-building?”
Despite the implication here, nation and state building were and are long term violent undertakings.

345

Lemuel Pitkin 06.03.10 at 9:47 pm

As for Yugoslavia, of course political leadership mattered. And the political leadership sucked. It wasn’t up to the job of peaceful transition from dicatorship to democracy. Do you think that either the Palestinian and Israeli leadership is up to the transition to a single state? Why do you want to give people challenges that they will almost certainly fail?

This is a valid point. I admit to being genuinely uncertain here. On the one hand, the state-of-its-citizens solution seems clearly morally and politically preferable. But on the other hand, there is no significant constituency or leadership for it on either side, AFAICT. Under the circumstances, the two-state solution, presumably involving some substantial population transfers, may be the only practical resolution. But practicality counts for more when practical progress seems to be being made. Right now I don’t see much cost to us Western leftists standing on principle.

The South as a model of successful multi-ethnic society? Maybe after a gruesome civil war followed by a hundred and fifty years of hateful oppression people can learn to live together as equals, or maybe not?

The whole point of Woodward is that is was not a hundred and fifty years of hateful oppression. More like 50 years of some kind of equality, which ended for concrete political reasons, followed by a hundred years of hateful oppression. The difference is important. It shows there was a fundamental indeterminacy to the post-slavery political arrangements in the South. Same goes for post-occupation arrangements in Israel-Palestine.

346

Kaveh 06.03.10 at 10:09 pm

@343
Of course that’s true. Although the Jews that presently live on the west bank will have to evacuate, the Arabs that live in Israel proper will continue to live there, as they’ve done for the last 60 years. So what?

This sounds less like an educated guess based about the future based on evidence and improve our understanding of the situation than a a way to repeat a mantra of “Jews are more tolerant than Arabs”.

First off, if this were true, why would it be true? Palestinian Israelis have been willing to live as an out-of-power minority in Israel, despite significant discrimination, without too-serious objections to their own situation (that is, they haven’t all just up and left, they’ve learned Hebrew and tried to build lives in Israel). If Jews in the West Bank aren’t willing to do that, why? Maybe because many of them are machine gun-toting settlers whose entire purpose in living in the W Bank is to drive the Palestinians living there out of their homes? Because they’re not now living among Arabs as neighbors and equals, but as a colonizing force in the purest possible sense, many of them armed to the teeth, many of them regularly abusing, dumping sewage and throwing garbage at their Arab neighbors, driving to and from Israel on Israeli-only roads?

Yet you present this as an off-hand remark about the prospects of cosmopolitanism.

347

Bloix 06.03.10 at 10:31 pm

@345 – When you “stand on principle,” what Israelis hear is that you’re in agreement with yx, at #290, who thinks that most Israelis should be forcibly expelled, and the few that remain should be treated “humanely.” No, not that they should be treated humanely – that the West should gently suggest that the Palestinians should treat them humanely.

One very strong unifying force among Israelis is that they or their immediate forebears have personal experience in being Jews among a hostile majority – not only during the Holocaust, but also more recently in places like Russia, Iraq, Poland, Yemen, and in Palestine itself. They’ve tried that already, it didn’t work out, and they’re not going to try it again to satisfy the principled beliefs of Australians. If you tell them that they should, they will tell you to go back to Melbourne, where no doubt you can get some great souvlaki.

If on the other hand you take the position that Israelis simply need to allow Palestinians the same right to statehood that they themselves enjoy, you have a chance of influencing events.

Now, when some people hear that Israelis don’t want to be sent into exile, they say, “serves them right!” Fine. Join yx in his fantasy of Jewish children forced into the streets of Tel Aviv at gunpoint with nothing but the clothes on their backs. But then, please, come back to reality and try to think constructively about how to solve real problems.

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Lemuel Pitkin 06.03.10 at 10:35 pm

If on the other hand you take the position that Israelis simply need to allow Palestinians the same right to statehood that they themselves enjoy, you have a chance of influencing events.

As I said, I am undecided on this question. But a lot depends on the statement you’ve made here. If the evidence of Israeli politics supported it, I’d be more sympathetic to your position. Unfortunately, in recent years, it does not.

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roac 06.03.10 at 10:44 pm

It seems very clear that yx at 290 was suggesting that most West Bank settlers would probably prefer to move back within the 1967 borders rather than live in a state dominated by Arabs. Bloix reads this as a wish for children in “Jewish children [to be] forced into the streets of Tel Aviv at gunpoint with nothing but the clothes on their backs.” The charitable interpretation is that Bloix is too worked up to see straight.

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bianca steele 06.03.10 at 10:49 pm

Bloix,
This series of comments is coming off as much more anti-Zionist than I really am (though on the other hand the attitude of the Israeli government since Obama was elected, not to mention the settlements policy, has been provoking). But I am tempted to reply to your @347 with the line I was given twenty years ago at those Young Judaea meetings: they have a democratically elected government, they live with the danger themselves on a daily basis, it is their decision how to deal with that, and we American Jews are outsiders and should stay out of it. Why should outsiders have a say in policy (unless, of course, the plan is to take money given for charity and send it to the Likud campaign fund), regardless of the outsiders’ religion or ethnicity?

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Lemuel Pitkin 06.03.10 at 11:05 pm

Why should outsiders have a say in policy (unless, of course, the plan is to take money given for charity and send it to the Likud campaign fund), regardless of the outsiders’ religion or ethnicity?

Thing is, condition in your parenthetical is satisfied simply by paying taxes in the US.

352

X 06.03.10 at 11:45 pm

Bloix@343:
“Although the Jews that presently live on the west bank will have to evacuate, the Arabs that live in Israel proper will continue to live there, as they’ve done for the last 60 years. “

Like Lemuel@348, if I thought the first half of this were at all likely, I might be more inclined to support settling for a two-state solution, even at the expense of all the Arabs that used to live in “Israel proper” (a distinctly ill-defined term.) It’s not. The best any foreseeable Israeli government is likely to offer is evacuating a couple of the worst-located settlements, and keeping pretty much everything outside the wall plus the Jordan Valley, and probably a few corridors to split the West Bank for good measure. Whatever piece of Swiss cheese is left over – with any international trade or tourism, not to speak of water supplies, at the mercy of Israel – is going to be no more than a reservation, whether or not they deign to call it a state. Might as well hoist them on the petard of their own non-stop expansionism, and say openly and loudly that a two-state solution is no longer feasible.

Lemuel@345:
“But practicality counts for more when practical progress seems to be being made. Right now I don’t see much cost to us Western leftists standing on principle.”

Well put – and, in fact, there is a cost to not standing on principle. It makes people tend to forget that the two-state solution is a rather besmirched practical compromise that leaves more than half the Palestinian population out in the cold, and start imagining that it represents some kind of ideal.

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Bloix 06.04.10 at 3:03 am

MDS@250- that’s a funny joke! I just got it! really! (How do I make clear that I’m not being sarcastic? :-) Does that do it?)

“Palestinian Israelis have been willing to live as an out-of-power minority in Israel, despite significant discrimination, without too-serious objections to their own situation (that is, they haven’t all just up and left, they’ve learned Hebrew and tried to build lives in Israel). “

Well, sure. That’s because they’re a minority that accepts that they’re a minority. Like the Greeks in Australia.

“If Jews in the West Bank aren’t willing to do that, why? Maybe because many of them are machine gun-toting settlers whose entire purpose in living in the W Bank is to drive the Palestinians living there out of their homes?”

This is right, too. The settlers are a Frankenstein’s monster. The average Israeli on the coastal plain hates them and knows that they need to be dealt with, but also understands that dealing with them will be terribly painful. So the Israelis in Tel Aviv and Haifa prefer to ignore them while going about their business of developing software. This is where J Street has a role – to tell Israelis that they can’t continue to ignore reality.

It’s certainly possible, as some people here think, that it’s too late for a two-state solution. But if it’s too late for a two-state solution, the alternative is not a magically peaceful transition to a single state. It’s war.

If you say you’re for a single state, and you can’t articulate a way to get there from here, then you’re not for a single state, you’re for war. Yes, you get to keep your principles unsullied by reality. How nice for you to have clean skirts.

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Martin Bento 06.04.10 at 3:39 am

So it’s back to two state solution. Which I’m fine with. I want the situation to stabilize with a minimum of further human misery, and that’s about it. Single-ethnic, multi-ethnic, I don’t care, I just want a solution, and two state will looks more viable than one, if one is to be achieved iwhtout genocide or ethnic cleansing (which would violate the “minimum of misery” requirement).

In terms of what is politically possible, though, we are now in uncharted waters. Egypt has lifted the embargo. Near as I can tell, completely lifted it, not just made it more reasonable by only excluding actual weapons. So I expect weapons to show up in Gaza real soon now, though they may not be used right away (never get in the way of an enemy destroying itself). And it will be very hard for Israel to find any friends.

Doesn’t Israel see that they cannot win this? I don’t just mean this event; I mean their whole recent policy. That’s what I don’t understand. Hamas and Hez don’t need to reach military equality with Israel; they just have to get exploding warheads and some targetability on those rockets. That’s certainly doable. I don’t understand what Netayahu sees as his end game. Genocide? Apartheid in a single state? I don’t see how Israel or even the US is powerful enough to force the world to accept those things, particularly how the world needs oil much more than Israel. Without the moral high ground, Israel has nothing. Well, the US. But we have just shown, in Iraq, our own limitations in imposing our will on this region. And, at some point, you would think the US would have to realize that both its cynical self-interest and high-minded moral claims point against simply backing Israel no matter what they do. Given how much Muslim money and oil there is to counterbalance Israel, I don’t even see why Israeli influence in the US is so hegemonic. Both countries appear to be mad.

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sg 06.04.10 at 3:44 am

Bloix, when I read this from you:

When you “stand on principle,” what Israelis hear is that you’re in agreement with yx, at #290, who thinks that most Israelis should be forcibly expelled, and the few that remain should be treated “humanely.

I also immediately think of the opposite, which is that when you present your immutable facts about the impossibility of multi-ethnic states or peaceful solutions, what Palestinians hear is far worse than this: that they will continue to starve until a ghetto until the Israeli government can forcibly expel them. Why should we privilege the definite facts arising from your (misguided) opinions on the possibilities of the modern state over putative outcomes of the alternatives?

Particularly when every argument you’ve given in defense of your claims about multi-ethnic states is wrong, wrong wrong.

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Kaveh 06.04.10 at 4:35 am

@353 If you say you’re for a single state, and you can’t articulate a way to get there from here, then you’re not for a single state, you’re for war.

We already have war. An on-again-off-again war, but it’s definitely war. Israel and Gaza are for all intents and purposes in a state of war. The West Bank is under occupation. And Lebanon was bombed, and Iran keeps getting threatened. What’s at stake is how the war is fought, who is at risk, and whether the battles being fought push us closer to a resolution we like, or one we don’t like. That is, to echo a previous comment, configuring states is a violent affair, but the choice isn’t between configuring states and not doing so, it’s between continuing to configure them indefinitely or configuring them with a clear, humane end-game in mind.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 06.04.10 at 6:16 am

The solution has been known since 1948, and fundamentally nothing has changed to make it invalid or obsolete. UN GA Resolution 194:

Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.

That country needs its population back. Once it’s done, the population will decide whether they want one state or two states or seventy five states.

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Martin Bento 06.04.10 at 7:35 am

Henri, perhaps that was viable in 1948. What is going to make the Israelis do it now? With all the bad blood under the bridge at this point, can Israelis and non-Israeli Palestinians live in peace? Not in principle, but in fact? Likely consequence if it somehow was tried: massive Israeli attacks on the repatriated populace and massive Arab attacks in retaliation or anticipation on Israeli and American interests, dwarfing any we have seen. Followed by failure of the repatriation; in extremis, failure through genocide. It’s one thing to say, this is how it should all work in principle, but the real world consequences of trying that do not look remotely promising. And if the Israelis want to commit genocide against the Palestinians within Israel, who is going to stop them? Who is going to make them accept these people in the first place? Perhaps the US could, but the US is not even strong enough to condemn this flotilla attack, which is utterly indefensible. Any proposed solution has to accept the status quo as given, because it is, and account for how the various players will or at least can be made to behave, not how they should behave. To paraphrase my granma “Go normative in one hand; sh1t in the other. See which one gets full first.”

That said, I think it is worth keeping in mind as a reference point that the “existence of Israel” as a specifically Jewish nation in Palestine is a very questionable normative commitment, especially in the face of how much violence and instability it has entailed. But Israel is there, the majority of its population evidently wants the refugees out and will support extreme measures, lubricated with transparent hypocrisy, to achieve this. OK,we can acknowledge the fundamental injustice that has been done to the Palestinians. But let’s not pretend that it can simply be undone.

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Earnest O'Nest 06.04.10 at 7:58 am

356- indeed!

358- So, in those 62 years there were no refugees that died, changed their mind or hat offspring that wanted to live and work in Manhattan as a transvestite?

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Henri Vieuxtemps 06.04.10 at 8:14 am

@358, what about South Africa, wasn’t there a lot of bad blood as well? And what would make them accept it is the same: economic sanctions and political/cultural isolation. It’s been done, done recently, it’s not some wild fantasy.

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ajay 06.04.10 at 8:18 am

That country needs its population back. Once it’s done, the population will decide whether they want one state or two states or seventy five states.

Is there, in fact, room for another six or seven million diasporan Palestinians to come back and live there?

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Alice de Tocqueville 06.04.10 at 9:25 am

I’m curious about Martin Bento’s statement that the US is not even strong enough to condemn the flotilla attack. Why is this? Is it because the US can’t survive without Middle Eastern oil? And somehow it needs Israel in order to buy that oil? Is it that the US can’t afford to buy oil, and so we have to invade the Middle East and take it?

General Petraeus told the White House he wanted his command expanded to include the Middle East because it’s making his job harder anyway. (That got hushed up pretty quick, I know.) Is there no strategic advantage for the US to be seen as fair to Palestine? Do US leaders really want to make war on Iran?

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Steve LaBonne 06.04.10 at 2:10 pm

Is there no strategic advantage for the US to be seen as fair to Palestine? Do US leaders really want to make war on Iran?

The question behind these questions is: for the benefit of which country- the US or Israel- has our Middle East policy actually been run, lo these many years?

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mds 06.04.10 at 2:16 pm

I’m curious about Martin Bento’s statement that the US is not even strong enough to condemn the flotilla attack. Why is this?

Partially because the US is a two-party state, where one party is beholden to actual right-wing Zionists, and the other is beholden to apocalyptic Christian right-wing Zionists. So if nothing else, it lacks the moral strength and political will to condemn the flotilla attack.

Is it that the US can’t afford to buy oil, and so we have to invade the Middle East and take it?

More that someday everyone will have a hard time buying oil, and so we have to invade the Middle East and secure it, because otherwise the Chinese will do it. Or something.

Is there no strategic advantage for the US to be seen as fair to Palestine?

Of course there is. Enormous advantage. But see the first point above.

Do US leaders really want to make war on Iran?

Yes, for certain subsets of “US leaders.” Most of the rest don’t really care strongly enough, whereupon see the first point above.

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chris 06.04.10 at 2:43 pm

It’s certainly possible, as some people here think, that it’s too late for a two-state solution. But if it’s too late for a two-state solution, the alternative is not a magically peaceful transition to a single state. It’s war.

If it’s too late for a two-state solution, then the alternative isn’t an alternative, it’s an inevitability.

I’m not sure that “too late” is an accurate description anyway. Has there been any time since the formation of Israel that either side would have agreed to a two-state solution? The Palestinians have always wanted the ethnic cleansing reversed, and the Israelis have always wanted to rule over whatever land they wanted and leave only nonviable scraps for the Palestinians, if that. Both demands seem incompatible with two-state solutions (not even counting gross overreaching like demanding that the Palestinian “state” be unarmed and have no control of its own water supplies).

Even if a third party did the border-drawing (again? didn’t they try that in 1948?) so as to try to give the Palestinians a viable state, ISTM that the best possible outcome down the road would be a cold war with occasional flareups like India-Pakistan, possibly with some parcel of doubly-sacred land playing the role of Kashmir. Although that seems like a step forward over the status quo, it would require displacing lots of Israeli settlers and therefore can’t be done without someone putting very substantial pressure on Israel. That would have to either be the US, or be someone who could ignore or outweigh the US’s Israel-right-or-wrong stance, or the US would have to back off from that stance and stand back while someone more neutral brokered a settlement. Currently no one qualifies for the second clause and the first and third both require very substantial shifts in US-Israel policy.

If a two-state solution is impossible and genocide is unacceptable, what is left? War is the status quo. Can it be improved upon?

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Kaveh 06.04.10 at 5:35 pm

More on-topic link with accounts from the passengers on the ship, detailing horrendous abuses by IDF soldiers.
… for anyone is still following this thread

http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/news-212103-100-israel-killed-more-than-9-threw-wounded-into-sea-witnesses-say.html

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Tim Wilkinson 06.05.10 at 2:23 pm

No, no-one is even following the original story. Hacks are not really trying to get useful interviews with witnesses; there has been no timeline that I know of. Conversation has turned to Belgium and Canada, or Turkey and the EU, or Israel and the Eurovision Song Contest, or the World Cup, or whatever by now.

The Israelis did well – they got their story out quickly with an arresting visual image, while suppressing alternative accounts long enough for the first draft of history to have been written.

The Western press and officialdom are not seriously questioning the routine-stop-meets-armed-thugs-with-regrettable-consequences line. The international law business will peter out – no-one imagines it will have any legal consequences anyway, the UNSC is set up in such a way that both the substantive content and the enforcement of international law is largely under political control, so no-one takes legal opinions seriously anyway.

The issue of what exactly actually happened has been kicked into the long grass, pending this independent inquiry run by, er, the Israeli state – maybe a bit like the Liberty inquiries (or countless other official inquiries). A cock-up theory is now entrenched, and people will gradually become less willing to assert conspiracy, or argue the toss over the nuances of quasi- (semi-, institutionalised-, silent-, self-deceiving-, routine-, etc) conspiracy, as the details fade from memory and the official version becomes ossified, to be quietly solemnised in a few years when the independent inquiry clears all Israeli personnel and officials of any culpability.

Utterly predictable, unless you insist on trying to understand this incident itself [in terms of] events which we can…read about — [in isolation from] what you have internalised from your past experiences, of course, in which case the video clip, the informational headstart and the assured performances of the Israeli propaganda machine will probably have done their job in maintaining the doubt and claiming the benefit of it in the all-important first few days.

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ejh 06.05.10 at 3:44 pm

You know this is a remarkably short comments section for an Israel/Palestine discussion.

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Guido Nius 06.05.10 at 3:55 pm

Once people bring up Belgium …

370

praisegod barebones 06.05.10 at 5:46 pm

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Martin Bento 06.05.10 at 9:31 pm

Earnest, I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Sure, some refugees will be uninterested in return, but we are, in fact, not talking mostly about the actual refugees anyway, because they are mostly dead. We are talking about their heirs, and no doubt many of these people have reproduced beyond replacement levels. I assume if the number of Palestinians interested in a right of return were not significant, it would not be such a hot point issue.

Henri, so you think international pressure could make Israel peacefully accept bringing the Palestinians back? Israel seems quite content to flip off the world, foolishly in my view.

The big difference with South Africa, though, is that Mandela was able to assure the apartheid regime that the white population would not be personally dispossessed. If you had a palatial house, olympic pool, second vacation home. etc., those would not be taken from you. How could a Palestinian right of return operate on this basis? The land taken from Palestinians, ultimately all of Israel, is currently used by someone, not necessarily the ones who took it.

Alice, yes, what I mean is not strong enough in will. Why is Israel’s influence so omnipotent? Yes. I know there is a strong lobby. but money talks too and the arab world has plenty, along with friends in high places. When both the moral high ground and self-interest lie in criticizing Israel, why can’t the US bring itself to do it?

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Kaveh 06.05.10 at 9:45 pm

@371 If you had a palatial house, olympic pool, second vacation home. etc., those would not be taken from you. How could a Palestinian right of return operate on this basis? The land taken from Palestinians, ultimately all of Israel, is currently used by someone, not necessarily the ones who took it.

This is virtually a non-sequiteur, in that I’ve never heard any advocate of Right of Return even suggest that Israelis should be thrown out of their homes. What RoR means is that Palestinians will have the right to settle–somewhere–in Israel and gain citizenship; that they will be able to return to old properties that aren’t now in use; that if the properties are in use, they would be compensated enough that they can buy some other property in Israel.

Pragmatists also argue that many refugees should be compensated and given citizenship somewhere else, and given that choice, many refugees would not go back to Palestine.

The big problem with granting Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, Jordanian, or Kuwaiti, or whatever citizenship to Palestinian refugees is that it gives Israel an incentive to create even more refugees, knowing that these refugees will cease to be a problem once they resettle and some time has passed.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 06.05.10 at 10:33 pm

Yes, compensation. But also, I imagine when the privileged minority (of Europeans) loses their privileges, most of them would emigrate anyway. They are not really interested in an ordinary middle-eastern country where they are a minority with equal rights. They want to rule; just listen to Bloix.

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Kaveh 06.05.10 at 11:51 pm

Israelis might think of themselves as more European than Middle Eastern (one Israeli told me as much, not great even for anecdotal evidence, but I think he wasn’t alone in feeling that way), even though about as many are of Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) descent as Ashkenazi. But S Africans can speak English, and most of them are still in S Africa, no? I don’t know how many Israelis speak English, maybe a good number, but I’d bet most of them don’t. And where else do people speak Hebrew?

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Bloix 06.06.10 at 12:21 am

“an ordinary middle eastern country where they are a minority with equal rights.”
I think everyone would be interested in such a thing. It would be like an ordinary horse with an ivory horn in its forehead. Or an ordinary lion with the head of a man. There are no Arab countries in which a Jewish minority is afforded equal rights.

“I’ve never heard any advocate of Right of Return even suggest that Israelis should be thrown out of their homes.”

Helen Thomas, last week:
Q: Any comments on Israel?
HT: Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine. Remember, these people are occupied and it’s their land. It’s not German, it’s not Polish.
Q: So where should they go, what should they do?
HT: Go home.
Q: Where is the home?
HT: Poland. Germany.
Q: So you’re saying Jews go back to Poland, Germany?
HT: And America and everywhere else.

So now you’ve heard someone.

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Martin Bento 06.06.10 at 1:08 am

If I have misunderstood what “right of return” advocates want, I apologize, but it seems to me my reading is the natural one of the UN language:

Res 194:

“Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”

Homes plural suggests to me specific residences, not just the general region. perhaps repossession is covered under “loss”, but then there is this:

Res 3236

“reaffirms also the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return”

Property in this context does suggest to me real estate among other things.

Compensation? By all means. That should be doable. I thought it was on the table in 2000, but could be mistaken.

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JanieM 06.06.10 at 1:32 am

In a written statement issued Friday, Thomas apologized, saying, “I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

She said the comments “do not reflect” her “heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance.”

“May that day come soon,” she added.

From here.

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JanieM 06.06.10 at 1:33 am

Ew. Everything through “added” should have been in italics.

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Bloix 06.06.10 at 2:07 am

JamieM- yes, that’s what she said. What she meant was, OMG, I’m about to lose my job.

Martin Bento – the UN doesn’t control what “right of return advocates” believe. Kaveh said he’d never heard one say that Israelis should be expelled from their homes. Well, now he has.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 06.06.10 at 8:10 am

Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine. Remember, these people are occupied and it’s their land.

As long as there’s occupation and refugees are prevented from returning, this is the most natural sentiment (as I said in 322).

But we were talking about a different situation, the situation where there is no occupation and right of return is accepted. At that point it becomes a technical problem. There is a precedent: the UN Compensation Commission (UNCC), established in 1991 to deal with the aftermath of Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait.

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Guido Nius 06.06.10 at 10:23 am

Martin, as you said yourself there is ground between complete return and something that would be in the direction of return. My point is that the latter will be impossible to settle in a two-state solution. I sincerely believe that the dogma of the two-state solution is exactly what prevents us from making any progress whatsoever. In a one-state solution (even if it is a minimal confederal solution) the obvious free movement of citizens will at least make it possible for refugees to get to see the their land (or that of their parents). With the walled garden two-state solution this will be forever problematic and anything less really is inhuman.

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Kaveh 06.06.10 at 2:51 pm

Why am I supposed to believe Helen Thomas saying creepy, anti-Semitic things is pertinent to whether a hypothetical Jewish minority can live in a hypothetical Arab state is relevant to this discussion at all?

There are no Arab countries in which a Jewish minority is afforded equal rights.

And that’s totally an inherent feature of Arabs, Arab countries, and Jewish minorities, and not a reversible consequence of recent history.

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LFC 06.06.10 at 3:48 pm

A. de Tocqueville @362:
General Petraeus told the White House he wanted his command expanded to include the Middle East because it’s making his job harder anyway. (That got hushed up pretty quick, I know.)

For operational purposes the US military divides the world (to put it crudely but not inaccurately) into various ‘commands’. Central Command (CENTCOM) includes the Middle East. Petraeus was promoted to be head of CENTCOM. (He might have told the White House — I seem to recall reading this — that he wanted the broader responsibility b/c the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan are in his view all connected, or something like that.) In any event his promotion to CENTCOM was extensively covered. It was not “hushed up.”

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ScentOfViolets 06.06.10 at 4:39 pm

The Israelis did well – they got their story out quickly with an arresting visual image, while suppressing alternative accounts long enough for the first draft of history to have been written.

A side comment – this is one of those irritating off-made assertions that Just Ain’t So. No, they didn’t do well – in fact most of the civilized world detests what this horrible little state has become (in fact, a few people even predicted this; kudos to them.)

This is like the narrative that ‘X is a genius’ for various propaganda values: no, Karl Rove is not a genius, he has a compliant and corporate-owned media apparatus to get his messaging out. No, the Israelis didn’t do well – they had a compliant and corporate-owned media to get their message out. And so on and so forth.

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PHB 06.06.10 at 5:46 pm

Very clever of Israel to send out the pictures of their crack commandos being disarmed and thrown overboard by unarmed protesters.

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ajay 06.06.10 at 5:51 pm

LFC: totally wrong in every way.

CENTCOM doesn’t include Israel, it’s part of EUCOM.

In January this year, “Petraeus sent a paper to the White House requesting that the West Bank and Gaza (which, with Israel, is a part of the European Command — or EUCOM), be made a part of his area of operations. Petraeus’s reason was straightforward: with U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military had to be perceived by Arab leaders as engaged in the region’s most troublesome conflict.”

When he sent that paper, he’d been head of CENTCOM for almost two years – he got the command in April 2008.

Source: http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/03/14/the_petraeus_briefing_biden_s_embarrassment_is_not_the_whole_story

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mike 06.06.10 at 6:37 pm

It’s interesting to watch how the anti-semitism distorts people’s views of reality. In the real world, Israel is stronger than ever, has more global support than ever, and is more secure than ever. People all around the world were truly shocked at the actions of the extremists. The people on the boats did Israel a great service by publicizing the dangers of anti-semitism, and making it clear, once and for all, that these are not “peaceful” protesters in any way, but very violent right-wing extremists there for the purpose of attacking and killing Jews. This very definitely strengthened Israel. A great deal. Note that global investment in Israel is way up in recent years. It will continue to grow, as more and more people stand up to do the right thing.

Israel doesn’t have a thing to worry about. But I feel sorry for the anti-semites. They are breaking all kinds of laws, and are digging a deep hole for themselves. A lot of them are going to face civil suits and end up in prison. But live and learn. But they are so narcissistic and self-centered they can’t even see that everyone is laughing at them. They even publicly post their views on the internet, not realizing that hate crimes are not permissible by law, and that by publicly posting their opinions they are creating evidence that can be used in a court of law.

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LFC 06.06.10 at 10:25 pm

ajay @386:
Thanks for the info and clarification. I did not know that Israel/West Bank/Gaza is part of EUCOM nor that Petreaus requested Israel be switched to his command, but given what A. de Tocqueville wrote — she referred not to Israel specifically but to “the Middle East” — I had no idea she was talking about Petraeus’s Jan. request re Israel.

I was correct btw that CENTCOM includes ‘the Middle East’ as loosely used — the first sentence of the FP post you link to says so. I was also correct that Petreaus’s elevation to CENTCOM in ’08 represented a promotion. That’s what I thought A. de Tocqueville, who referenced “the Middle East,” was referring to.

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Bloix 06.06.10 at 11:00 pm

Kaveh-
You said that no one ever says that the Jews should be expelled from Palestine. You were wrong. And many people believe what Helen Thomas believes and was incautious enough to say in a moment of anger.

And when Henri Vieuxtemps talks about “an ordinary middle eastern country” in which minorities have equal rights, he’s engaging in wishful thinking. From his lovely multi-culti perch in Australia or wherever, he’s committed to a world in which there can be a majority-Arab state in which Jews have equal rights, and so he imagines one –not just one, but a whole host of them, so that they’re “ordinary.” Well, they’re not ordinary. They’re non-existent. It’s perhaps a “reversible consequence of recent history,” but there’s no guarantee of that and there’s no one on the horizon who seem interested in doing the reversing.

It would be one thing if you could say to the Israelis, “you should be like Lebanon/Syria/Jordan/Iraq,” – but if all you can say is, “you should become something that has never yet been seen on the face of the earth,” well then, you should expect to be received with skepticism.

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sg 06.07.10 at 12:03 am

except that’s not true is it, Bloix? Jews have equal rights in Turkey, were excluded from Jordan by Churchill (and the Jordanian prime minister refused to aid Iraq in expelling Jews to Palestine in 1947), and had equal rights in Lebanon until the civil war (which Israel was involved in). The claim “never yet been seen on the face of the earth” is doubly false, since the middle eastern countries that expelled Jews all did so between 1947 and the 1960s, and they were getting on together before then, though not perfectly well. It’s almost as if something changed in the region around about that time, and nationalist dictatorships used it as an excuse for certain activities that nationalist dictatorships are fond of.

Your claims about the impossibility of races and religions living together, your constant slippery movement between ethnicity, language, culture and religion, and your unwillingness to believe that Jews and non-Jews can live together; they’re all hallmarks of classic racial essentialism, the key underpinnings of fascism; and we see repeatedly here that they rely on a heavy dose of historical revisionism, poisonous opinions about Muslims and Arabs, and sneering disregard for anywhere that isn’t Israel. If this is the toxic combination on which the justification of Israel as a Jewish state depends, no wonder it has a bit of a PR problem.

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