A Response to Michael Kazin on BDS and Campus Activism (Updated)

by Corey Robin on December 13, 2013

Writing in The New Republic today, Michael Kazin issues a sharp attack on the BDS movement, particularly the recent vote of the American Studies Association (ASA) to boycott Israeli academic institutions. (That decision is now being voted upon by the wider membership of the ASA.)

Kazin levels two charges against the boycott movement. First, it is inconsistent: why single out Israel when there are other human rights violators like China and Russia that could just as easily be targeted for an academic boycott? Second, it is ineffective: the boycott movement is “quite unlikely to change anyone’s minds or, for that matter, Israeli policy.” It is a form of theater, professors playing politics.

Kazin contrasts the boycott movement of self-righteous, divisive, “flashy” poseurs with what he calls “a larger and more practical academic left.” That left is engaged in movements for economic justice on campuses across the country. It campaigns for a living wage for university workers and union rights for adjuncts; it works against sweatshop labor in Bangladesh and high student debt at home.

Beyond the justice of their cause, what attracts Kazin to this academic left is that it practices a version of what Michael Walzer calls connected criticism. “They ‘challenge the leaders, the conventions, the ritual practices of a particular society…in the name of values recognized and shared in the same society.’” While “one left talks about something it calls ‘American Studies’; the other actually practices it.”

Kazin’s first charge—inconsistency and double-standards—puzzles me. As a long-time activist, Kazin knows that campaigns against injustice inevitably single out one target, while ignoring others. The farm workers’ grape boycott of the 1960s and 1970s didn’t go after every workplace (or fruit) in the country; it shone a spotlight on one particular set of working conditions. The antiwar movement of Kazin’s youth didn’t go after all wars (or even all unjust wars) being fought around the globe; it targeted the war in Vietnam. The civil rights movement didn’t fix on every racial injustice on the planet; it went after American apartheid.

Nor do these movements necessarily target the worst injustices. Working conditions in the fields of California were awful, but God knows there were far worse elsewhere. American sexism wasn’t the most terrible on offer. South African apartheid wasn’t the most oppressive regime, and the death squads in El Salvador were hardly grislier than the killing fields of Cambodia. Yet the leaders of the domestic movements against California agribusiness, American patriarchy, South African apartheid, and the Salvadoran death squads chose their targets as they did, without burdening themselves with the charge of fighting even worse injustices elsewhere. Many people—including, I’m sure, Michael Kazin—supported them, and the world is better for that.

When Kazin invokes consistency, he reminds me of nothing so much as those rigid and abstract ideologues he so often denounces elsewhere. Indeed, what would Kazin say about a movement that, acting on some cockamamie notion of consistency, decided that it could only go after injustice somewhere if it simultaneously went after injustice everywhere? He’d call it foolish and dogmatic, and he’d be right. Those campus living wage movements he supports, after all, aren’t fighting for living wages everywhere, are they? And what would Kazin say to someone who refuses to support a living wage for workers—or a union for adjuncts—at Georgetown, where Kazin teaches, because workers in Guatemala have it so much worse? (If he hasn’t heard such criticisms, he should go to more meetings. Or read Matt Yglesias.) He’d think they were nuts—or insufficiently connected critics. (I’ll come back to that latter point in a second.)

It is in the very nature of a campaign for social justice that it be selective, focusing on targets that it can mobilize against and perhaps even defeat. And it is in the very nature of such targets that they can be mobilized against and defeated in part because they are not necessarily the most egregious, or oppressive, instances of their kinds. That’s what makes such movements practical, the very virtue Kazin espouses.

Which brings me to Kazin’s second point: he thinks the boycott movement is impractical. What in the world can a group of American Studies professors or campus activists do about the policies of the Israeli government?

According to the Israeli media, quite a bit. Unlike the detractors of the boycott movement in the US, voices in Israel seem genuinely alarmed about the growing power of the boycott movement. Not just in academia or in the US, but throughout the world.

Just yesterday, a piece in Haaretz opened with the following two grafs:

This has happened in recent days: The Dutch water company Vitens severed its ties with Israeli counterpart Mekorot; Canada’s largest Protestant church decided to boycott three Israeli companies; the Romanian government refused to send any more construction workers; and American Studies Association academics are voting on a measure to sever links with Israeli universities.


Coming so shortly after the Israeli government effectively succumbed to a boycott of settlements in order to be eligible for the EU’s Horizon 2020 scientific cooperation agreement, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement is picking up speed. And the writing on the wall, if anyone missed it, only got clearer and sharper in the wake of the death of Nelson Mandela.


As Michelle Goldberg, no friend of the BDS movement, recently reported in the Nation:

Indeed, one of the strongest arguments in favor of BDS is the degree to which it seems to be shaking the Israeli establishment. As Haaretz editor in chief Aluf Benn wrote in June, “Netanyahu is worried about the growing international boycott against Israel….He hears warnings in the business community about the damage the diplomatic impasse is causing….If he thought it was harmless noise, he would ignore or minimize the problem. But Netanyahu apparently fears being remembered as the leader during whose time Israel was distanced from the family of nations.”


Many in Israel were shocked earlier this year when Stephen Hawking, acceding to the boycotters, pulled out of Israel’s prestigious President’s Conference. Discussing the reaction of Israel’s leadership, former Jerusalem Post columnist Larry Derfner wrote, “Behind closed doors they’re laughing at Kerry’s peace mission; they’re not laughing at Stephen Hawking or BDS, are they?”

It’s not just Israel that’s worried about the boycott movement. So is the White House, as that Haaretz article I quoted above goes onto say:

In recent days, American statesmen seem to be more alarmed about the looming danger of delegitimization than Israelis are. In remarks to both the Saban Forum and the American Joint Distribution Committee this week, Secretary of State John Kerry described delegitimization as “an existential danger.” Vice President Joe Biden, speaking to the same JDC forum, went one step further: “The wholesale effort to delegitimize Israel is the most concentrated that I have seen in the 40 years I have served. It is the most serious threat in my view to Israel’s long-term security.


Whatever one thinks about the BDS movement, it’s clearly having an impact. Its opponents take it seriously, so much so that they have devoted considerable resources to fighting it. Kazin is no doubt right that the BDS movement has chosen a high wall to scale, but what’s most amazing about the movement is how quickly it has not only shifted the discourse but how shaken the most seemingly intransigent defenders of Israel have become. That’s not victory by any stretch—and a shaken Israel can easily respond by drifting even further to the right. But the BDS movement is still in its earliest years, and increasing intransigence in response to a social movement is hardly peculiar to the Israeli government. Indeed, it is a feature of virtually all regimes that come under attack, only to give way years later.

But it’s Kazin’s final point about the “flashy” politics of the BDS movement as against the connected criticism of economic justice movements that I find hardest to understand. For starters, most of the activists around BDS that I know are also involved in economic justice campaigns. Take the activist I know best: me. I first got involved in the left through my work with a TA union in the 1990s, and I’ve continued to be involved in various campus labor activities since then. I also support BDS. And I know lots of people like me. While I think Kazin is right that Israel-Palestine is a line of cleavage on the left, the larger distinction he draws between economic justice campaigns and BDS is not one I see in my everyday world.

And what about this connected critic business? Is there any other country on the planet that the United States is more connected to than the State of Israel? There’s the obvious fact that Israel is the highest recipient of US foreign aid. More than that, there is the deep ideological and cultural connection to the issue of Israel-Palestine felt by American Jews—as well as Christians, Muslims, and Arabs (not to mention other American citizens). While Israel is hardly the only country to be the object of intense interest from a diaspora community in the US, it has the distinctive feature of being the object of intense interest from multiple diasporic and non-diasporic communities in the US. Who happen to stand on opposite sides of the issue. What’s more, many of those individuals happen to be on American campuses.

When Kazin describes connected criticism by citing Walzer—challenging “the leaders, the conventions, the ritual practices of a particular society…in the name of values recognized and shared in the same society’”—I think he’s actually describing the BDS movement quite well.  Most BDS activists I know speak on behalf of the most minimal norms of a liberal democracy, which are widely shared in the US: namely, that Israel should be the state of its citizens (and not some far-flung community of an ancient diaspora), and that it should govern itself according to the norms of one person/one vote, as opposed to the hard facts of ethnic privilege and military occupation. When I talk to BDS activists, that’s what they tell me.

It is not the underlying principles or ideals of the BDS movement that make it controversial; it is the application of those ideals to the State of Israel and its patrons in the United States that make it controversial. To that extent BDS activists look like no one so much as those connected critics whom Walzer celebrated in his book: Camus, Silone, Orwell, and the Hebrew prophets.

If Kazin were to hone in even closer, he’d see that many members of the BDS movement are, like myself, Jewish. And while they speak in a variety of registers, they often invoke Jewish norms and traditions against the State of Israel and its defenders. Indeed, just this week, Jewish students at Swarthmore made international headlines when they sought to retrieve the figure of Hillel from the campus institution that bears its name. While the Swarthmore Hillel did not come out against the State of Israel—all it wants is the right to work with non-Zionist and anti-Zionist groups and speakers, a right the international Hillel organization proscribes—it explicitly invoked a Jewish tradition in taking this stance (and I suspect many of the people in the Swarthmore Hillel who are pushing this line are themselves sympathetic to BDS):

…Rabbi Hillel valued Jewish debate and difference – it was at the core of his practice. We do the same. For us, that is what the name Hillel symbolizes.


Therefore, we choose to depart from the Israel guidelines of Hillel International. We believe these guidelines, and the actions that have stemmed from them, are antithetical to the Jewish values that the name “Hillel” should invoke. We seek to reclaim this name. We seek to turn Hillel – at Swarthmore, in the Greater Philadelphia region, nationally, and internationally – into a place that has a reputation for constructive discourse and free speech. We refuse to surrender the name of this Rabbi who encouraged dialogue to those who seek to limit it.


To that end, Swarthmore Hillel hereby declares itself to be an Open Hillel. All are welcome to walk through our doors and speak with our name and under our roof, be they Zionist, anti-Zionist, post-Zionist, or non-Zionist. We are an institution that seeks to foster spirited debate, constructive dialogue, and a safe space for all, in keeping with the Jewish tradition. We are an Open Hillel.


Again, connected critics.

Let me end on a more personal note. I know Michael Kazin. We’ve spoken at conferences together, I’ve written for his magazine, we email each other. I know him to be a good guy. A very good guy. He’s decent, and he’s a genuinely nice person (rare in academia and even rarer on the left).

But something about this issue—like certain other conflicts with the left—brings out a different Michael Kazin. A less measured, less grounded Michael Kazin. (The New Republic emailer accompanying his piece calls BDS “the worst cause in campus activism.” I’m sure Kazin didn’t write that, but it captures the tone of his piece. I guess the folks at TNR don’t know just how bad campus causes can get.)  A contemptuous, teeth-on-edge Michael Kazin emerges. He starts to sound like a disconnected critic, someone who doesn’t recognize—because he cannot even see—his opponents. Even though they are, on virtually every other issue, his comrades.

I should know. I’m one of them.

Update (December 14, 11: 30 pm)

It occurs to me that there is one other problem with the selectivity argument—and the insinuation, which often follows from that argument, that there is something anti-Semitic about that selectivity. It does too much work. It applies not merely to an academic boycott of Israel but to any statement or action against the State of Israel.

Think about this way. If a bunch of students on campus decide to organize a rally to protest Israel’s bombing of Gaza—and don’t organize (or haven’t organized) rallies to protest every other similar instance of bombing—they are being selective. And —in the eyes of many of Israel’s defenders or critics of the BDS movement—anti-Semitic. Therefore, their rally is illegitimate and shouldn’t be supported. If Peter Beinart criticizes the bombing of Gaza, the same argument applies. If Congress passes a resolution—work with me—condemning the bombing, the same argument applies. If the UN passes a resolution, the same.

In the end, the real function of the selectivity argument, particularly when it’s paired with the claim of anti-Semitism (and, let’s be frank, that’s really the point that’s being made), is to make impossible any criticism of or action against the State of Israel.

{ 218 comments }

1

Gareth Wilson 12.13.13 at 10:26 pm

I’m interested to see what happens when there’s an academic who would be affected by a BDS boycott, but he happens to be an Israeli Arab.

2

Ed Herdman 12.13.13 at 10:40 pm

The most unfortunate thing about Mr. Kazin’s argument is that it confuses the vote for Israel, implicit in the choice of many people to view the problem as one that can be influenced by typical pressure tactics, with an attempt to call into question the legitimacy of the nation. Certainly there are some people who are making opportunistic shots at the legitimacy of Israel in here, but – it would definitely be a mistake to fail to distinguish some from the rest.

Granted, some of this is to be expected, given some of the corners from which criticism has come. But I don’t think that a complete resolution of Nazi-era injustices are a prerequisite to having a discussion about policies today.

Who would call Aung San Suu Kyi a traitor for promoting boycotts of her own country to shake up its antidemocratic former government? That certainly wouldn’t have been in the interests of productive change.

3

Ed Herdman 12.13.13 at 10:45 pm

@ Gareth Wilson: Aung San Suu Kyi, again. Or even black South Africans during apartheid (though this is a comparison too far for many, there certainly are a few mild comparisons to be made, given the structure of religious democracy in Israel, and the nature of Arab life in Israel).

If your question is rhetorical, what would you like us to gain from it? That there’s a third rail in politics where if you aren’t a member of the right group or don’t say exactly the right things you get disproportionate pushback – this can’t be too controversial.

4

Gareth Wilson 12.13.13 at 11:20 pm

I’d hope and expect that an Israeli Arab would get exactly the same treatment as an Israeli Jew under this sort of boycott. It’s just that if some kind of loophole was found for him, it would be very revealing.

5

Josh Whitford 12.13.13 at 11:37 pm

@ Gareth Wilson (4) — revealing of what? Obviously, you are suggesting that boycotters should be cognizant of the views of The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and that they should thus recognize that “Arab citizens of Israel face entrenched discrimination in all fields of life” and make allowances for that in their own considerations? I mean, that’s what you’re getting at right, that where possible one should think about differential effects while at the same time doing what one can to “challenge the leaders, the conventions, the ritual practices of a particular society…in the name of values recognized and shared in the same society”? Right?

6

Ed Herdman 12.13.13 at 11:45 pm

Well, there’s a lot of the personal history of Arabs in Israel involved, which complicates things enough that I don’t see how it could be particularly “revealing” in a simple way.

But more to the point, I think we’re losing sight of the original intent of the piece here. If you want to make the hypothetical clearer, how would it accommodate the goals of a pressure group to refuse contact or discussion with a peaceful Arab Israeli academic, even one who is a citizen and not a resident (which history may be the result of an almost coin-toss decision or even pure unintentional accident), when they actively support changing Israel’s policy?

The entire point of the original piece here is that pressure groups choose winners and losers. That implies using different tactics with different groups. It is too easy to demand “universal” procedures and tactics that effectively throw up roadblocks to change.

In practical terms, again, Aung San Suu Kyi, and others – clearly many Arabs living in Israel today would like not to live within the state of Israel, or to be considered Israeli.

Even if the pressure groups prefer to have a separate state of Palestine within areas that are annexed by Israel, and take the attitude that Arabs living there have made the wrong choice, this is just one of many possible attitudes they can take. And I don’t see many of the possible attitudes as being particularly awful or anti-Israel (or anti-Israeli).

7

novakant 12.13.13 at 11:51 pm

Funny how nobody ever considers boycotting US/UK/AUS academic institutions even though the record of these countries in the past decade has been far worse than Israel’s.

8

Ed Herdman 12.13.13 at 11:54 pm

You first – really, that’s the point! (I don’t think it’s worthwhile to try to get into some kind of tortured balancing of US vs. Israel vs. The Rest – again, that is missing the point of the original commentary.)

9

Phil 12.14.13 at 12:12 am

The charge of ineffectuality is interesting – it taps into a lot of ready-made imagery about pampered campus radicals playing at politics, but what it implies is that the person making the charge would actually support the cause if only it weren’t so ineffectual.

Which is often debatable, to say the least. Years ago I was in a joint union/management meeting where a strike call was being discussed. One of my fellow shop stewards was subjected to a long lecture from somebody on the management side about how this was just the wrong time for a strike, for a variety of reasons; if you were going to call a strike at all, you just wouldn’t call it now. Maybe next month, or the month after; three months from now would be even better. My colleague perked up at this point and said, “What, and then you’d support the strike?” The manager laughed out loud and said, Of course not – I’m management.

Would Kazin support BDS if it had more of an effect – or if he were persuaded by the evidence in this post that it is having an effect? Or would he answer like that manager?

10

Bernard Yomtov 12.14.13 at 12:15 am

The defense against the charge of inconsistency is weak.

Things like the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements involved time, effort, and risk. Passing resolutions is cheap, easy, and safe. The ASA can pass as many as it likes without using up its resolution-passing resources.

So why not resolutions against China and Russia, say?

11

MPAVictoria 12.14.13 at 12:33 am

“So why not resolutions against China and Russia, say?”

China has a far worse record on human rights than Israel. So do Saudi Arabia and Hamas. So the question becomes why all the focus on Israel? No one has ever been able to answer that to my satisfaction.

12

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 12.14.13 at 12:44 am

“No one has ever been able to answer that to my satisfaction.”

And I’m certain that no one ever will.
~

13

Barry Freed 12.14.13 at 12:47 am

Because Israel is a democratic state and adheres to the values of liberal democracy including respect for human rights, the dignity of persons, etc. or at least claims to do so. China and Saudi Arabia not at all. And you pick your battles where you can win them. It’s not really that hard.

14

Ronan(rf) 12.14.13 at 12:53 am

“So the question becomes why all the focus on Israel? “

For a lot of the same reasons Israel receives such support from the US. Links between activist networks, much more direct US involvement in the politics of the Middle East recently, cultural, demographic and ideologial linkages etc etc
There are undoubtedly groups pushing for more US oppossition to Chinese etc human rights violations, so the question is why havent they succeeded? Or have they?

15

Watson Ladd 12.14.13 at 1:08 am

What this boycott is saying is the right of academics to freely meet and discuss is second to the occupation. Even the South African boycott movement exempted universities, which had a role in enforcing the economic segregation of apartheid. But when it comes to atrocious attacks upon academic freedom, the ASA does little to condemn them.

16

Ed Herdman 12.14.13 at 1:38 am

I’m not going to swing to the “consistency is good” issue (the attempt to frame emotional tactical decisions as properly situated in a barely human ruleset to “ensure equality” is crazy and maddening), but really, is there any special reason we should place the people who believe they are doing “real work,” i.e. the academics, ahead of all the other innocent people who get stiffed by a boycott? If you want to criticize boycotts for that, you might as well say they’re just terrible overall, because they’re ugly and things get smashed (and faces, sometimes). That’s nothing new – plenty of academics were disrupted in the ’60s and ’70s by student activism, while only a few really merited it (like William Shockley, but that’s just said with hindsight and because the stakes the critics – of his racial intelligence theories – were playing for were rather more important, i.e. civil rights).

We’re back to Napoleon’s omelet – was it tasty enough that we can justify the expense of a few eggs? The prospect of change is cold comfort for people who see their livelihoods ruined. In truth, Kazin himself says the ASA move is largely symbolic and cannot really constrain academic freedoms, which are already well enshrined and protected.

Light of truth to burn away all hypocrisies and all that – academics in good standing should be concerned little about all of this.

17

shah8 12.14.13 at 1:47 am

There’s just no convincing that needs to be done here.

Tho’ I still have the quibble in the sense that BDS is merely one locus of a number of tangents delegitimating Israel. It’s the easiest target for pro-Israel commentators, but the real issue is that Israel has been pissing off a great number of people for a great number of reasons, especially since the second era of Netanyahu. If it wasn’t BDS, then it would be some other anti-Israel movement that everything else coalesce around.

That last little recent news of Israel disposessing Beduins in the Negev and citing American Indian Removal as a reason why the US shouldn’t be all sensitive about it…well. I just don’t have anything but a cold lack of sympathy. And I suspect this is quite shared.

18

shah8 12.14.13 at 1:47 am

There’s just no convincing that needs to be done here.

Tho’ I still have the quibble in the sense that BDS is merely one locus of a number of tangents delegitimating Israel. It’s the easiest target for pro-Israel commentators, but the real issue is that Israel has been pissing off a great number of people for a great number of reasons, especially since the second era of Netanyahu. If it wasn’t BDS, then it would be some other anti-Israel movement that everything else coalesce around.

That last little recent news of Israel disposessing Beduins in the Negev and citing American Indian Removal as a reason why the US shouldn’t be all sensitive about it…well. I just don’t have anything but a cold lack of sympathy. And I suspect this is quite shared.

19

Corey Robin 12.14.13 at 1:52 am

“So the question becomes why all the focus on Israel?”

People who ask this question need to read the paper more. Like this item, from yesterday:

“The final version of the congressional defense budget triples the Obama administration’s request for funding for joint U.S.-Israel defense cooperation.

“Separately, the House on Wednesday passed a bill by a 399-0 vote that would enhance the U.S. commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region.”

Got that? 399-0.

I’ll stop focusing on Israel when the US government does the same.

http://www.jta.org/2013/12/12/news-opinion/united-states/house-energy-committee-approves-cooperation-bill#ixzz2nPTjaXRl

Read more: http://www.jta.org/2013/12/12/news-opinion/united-states/house-energy-committee-approves-cooperation-bill#ixzz2nPTUsVSN

20

Ed Herdman 12.14.13 at 1:55 am

That is all news to me – I fear you are right even on the last point. You are referring to this?
http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/MKs-learn-Beduin-were-in-the-dark-over-resettlement-plan-threatening-bills-Knesset-passage-334502

– specifically, the comment by Knesset member Miri Regev (from Likud) that they did intend to do the same thing “the Americans did to the Indians.” But reading the other comments suggests that there isn’t uniform support of the policy, let alone the off color remarks from the member from Likud.

21

Ed Herdman 12.14.13 at 1:56 am

(previous comment is @ #17-18)

22

shah8 12.14.13 at 2:01 am

Nobody really cares about distinctions, anymore, Mr. Herdman.

23

Donald Johnson 12.14.13 at 2:07 am

“China has a far worse record on human rights than Israel. So do Saudi Arabia and Hamas. So the question becomes why all the focus on Israel? No one has ever been able to answer that to my satisfaction.”

Hamas? Maybe we could put Gaza under some sort of, I don’t know, maybe a blockade or something. Or maybe the IDF could take random potshots at fishermen and farmers. It’s not like there’s any innocents living there.

What’s funny about this debate is that it’s really about image and hurt feelings–Westerners take for granted that far more stringent sanctions, sanctions which actually hurt people and possibly increase mortality rates, can be imposed on our enemies.

As for moral consistency, I agree that Israel is just another country with a crappy human rights record, but it’s one that is constantly referred to as sharing “our” values. That’s true, but probably not in the sense intended.

24

Ed Herdman 12.14.13 at 2:09 am

But you just called it into question. An’how:

‘MK Zahava Gal-On called on the Prime Minister not to support the bill, in the wake of Begin’s comments.

The bill is “contrary to the values of the state and basic morality,” she said.’

Distinctions or not, there’s still a sizable number of people within Israel who don’t support this kind of policy – so I thought.

25

William Berry 12.14.13 at 3:11 am

Phil @9: Exactly.

Excellent post, Professor Robin.

26

geo 12.14.13 at 3:51 am

Congratulations, Donald Johnson, for your excellent letter in the New York Times Book Review a week or two ago nailing Leon Wieseltier’s faux-anguished review of Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land. Almost fell out of my chair reading a well-written letter in the Times forcefully criticizing Israel and defending Chomsky. Could hardly believe they published it. You must be a very important person!

27

MPAVictoria 12.14.13 at 4:39 am

“I’ll stop focusing on Israel when the US government does the same.”
The US conducts Hundreds of billions of dollars of trade with China every year. That isn’t focusing?

28

Josh Whitford 12.14.13 at 5:36 am

@MPAVictoria: impressive logic. Quote a phrase that says “the US government” and then in your own question talk about “the US.” But hey, I’ll bite. Let’s see, which country is a bigger US trading partner per capita…. Why, it’s Israel, with 20% more in trade per capita last year.

Now, if we actually look at government…, what is the ratio of US aid to Israel vs US aid to China per capita? Well, the US gave $28 million in aid to China in 2012, or $0.02/capita, and a little more than $3 billion to Israel or $39k/per capita.

So yeah, the focus is pretty much the same.

29

Corey Robin 12.14.13 at 5:54 am

Also, on trade: You know who was one of Britain’s top three trading partners before WWI? Germany. There are connections. And then there are connections.

30

MPAVictoria 12.14.13 at 5:57 am

Josh: Why would per capita be the measure rather than absolute?

“Also, on trade: You know who was one of Britain’s top three trading partners before WWI? Germany. There are connections. And then there are connections.”

Not sure what your point is?

31

Corey Robin 12.14.13 at 6:07 am

Some ties are deeper than others.

32

Gareth Wilson 12.14.13 at 6:10 am

In practice, most of these boycotts are stopping short of discriminating against individual people on the basis of Israeli origin. Even the ASA resolution only applies to actual representatives of academic institutions. I suppose it’s to avoid the kind of issues that 5 and 6 bring up. There was a clearer example a couple of years back at a tennis match in New Zealand, with furious protests against the Israeli Jewish player Shahar Pe’er that were explicitly linked to the BDS campaign. I assume that they’d scream exactly as loud at Shahar Ba’ar, Pe’er’s Arab doppelganger.

33

Josh Whitford 12.14.13 at 6:30 am

MPAVictoria. Why would per cap be the measure rather than absolute? Are you trolling? Because when you are talking about trade, the size of the economy matters immensely. Otherwise, what you find is that — lo and behold — trade relationships with big countries are always later than trade relationships with small countries. You’d think that trade isn’t important to small open economies like Denmark because, you know, they don’t have as much trade as China (but of course, they have much more either per capita or as percentage of GDP). It’s a mechanical effect. Denominators matter.

(I typoed on the gov’t aid per cap US –>Israel — sorry, it’s $392, not $39k; but that’s still 20000 larger than the amt to China).

34

Roy 12.14.13 at 6:31 am

Why not boycott Russia?

The thing about boycotting Israel is that it is singling out a country whose nationality is based upon membership in a grouo than has been ritually scapegoated in the West for near to two thousand years. I can actually understand the value of singling a single target, but it is interesting that of all the single targets the one picked is the Jewish one.

35

Josh Whitford 12.14.13 at 6:44 am

@Gareth Wilson. Either impressively thick, or disingenuous. I’m guessing the latter.

But against my better judgment, here’s some food:

The point of Corey’s post is that one uses such boycotts strategically to right wrongs, and that one need not right all wrongs in order to try to right some of them. And since BDS supporters for the most part agree pretty strongly with, say, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (which has, though it should not matter, more jews than arabs on its board) when they point out that “Arab citizens of Israel face entrenched discrimination in all fields of life” an and that recent years have seen “the prevalent attitude of hostility and mistrust towards Arab citizens has become more pronounced, with large sections of the Israeli public viewing the Arab minority as both a fifth column and a demographic threat.”

So in light of that differential treatment in Israel, some may think that perhaps its not necessarily hypocritical to spare them such opprobrium when they travel.

But yeah, if your point is to “unmask” that BDS is in opposition to a particular vision of Zionism, I don’t think that’s really disputed by, um, anyone.

36

Gareth Wilson 12.14.13 at 7:10 am

I can be both, you know. Anyway, thanks for clarifying that you want to harass Jews in particular, not Israelis in general.

37

Roy 12.14.13 at 7:15 am

Also in your post you comment on how sure Cali agbusinness, American Sexism, Apartheid, and Salvadoran death squads weren’t the worst abuses going on in the world when they were singled out.

First Sexism is a totally different issue fought , and still fought, in a very different way then the others. For one it wasn’t, and isn’t, about boycottsUnless of course you went to SA to organize strikes or joined the FMLN, then I apologize.

But take the others the villains here were all on the right, cultural opponentsf those doing the boycotting. The Khmer Rouge was leftist so it didn’t get the same opprobrium, This is kind of interesting, isn’t it. I grew up with all those boycotts, along with quite a few others but mostly they were selected because these were comfortable targets, easy and conformed to existing predjudices.

Of course that the targets were, and are more culturally like the those boycotting them made these boycotts more effective. Boycotting SA, especially the sports ones, worked very well because white South Africans saw themselves as part of the industrial west. But it also worked because the ANC was not filled with people wanting to remove the whites from South Africa. The PAC was not telling whites they would be pushed into the sea. The anti apartheid movement won because it went to great efforts to show it was not anti white. It had whites in important positions. There are plenty of Jews, and even Israelis who oppose the occupation of the territories, but where is the PLO’s Joe Slovo? The anti apartheid movement worked because isolating white South Africans hurt them more than the they feared they would be hurt by ending Apartheid. If their was a South African Hamas I doubt things would have ended so peacefully.

38

Collin Street 12.14.13 at 7:26 am

So in light of that differential treatment in Israel, some may think that perhaps its not necessarily hypocritical to spare them such opprobrium when they travel.

Really, your opinion here should depend on your opinion of racial profiling more generally.

39

Josh Whitford 12.14.13 at 8:00 am

Gareth and Collin:

You are completely missing the point of Corey’s post. And you are arguing with some argument you made up.

His point is that BDS is a political act directed towards a state. It is the engagement in sanctions by privates. When one engages in sanctions, one hopes to avoid hurting those who are also hurt by that state. And I don’t, nor do most supporters of BDS, dispute that there are certainly Israelis in staunch opposition to the occupation who may get caught up in them too, for simple reasons of birth/passport. The point of such sanctioning is not to joyfully harass, or even to punish individuals. It aims at institutions (i.e. companies, universities) with the purpose of generating pressures on the state. It’s a strategic question, and it is therefore more effective when directed at those with power. And in Israel right now, there is a very strong case to be made that Arabs don’t have so much of that. Does it work to effect change for the better, at what cost, and to whom? That’s what you want to know.

When white me travels with my brown partner, we get profiled at TSA. She gets stopped. I don’t. The other way around, in the world in which we actually live, wouldn’t bother me nearly so much. Getting rid of racial profiling selectively (i.e. only when it sucks for people who look like me) is not the same as getting rid of it in all cases at all times. You can’t abstract away from power in this stuff. Or, well, you can. But you’re just saying “woohoo status quo, works for me!”

40

Z 12.14.13 at 8:24 am

Thank you for this post, Corey.

41

Collin Street 12.14.13 at 8:44 am

Really, my point is the fairly simple one that complaints from supporters of the israeli status-quo about their being racially profiled are, you know, pretty laughably hypocritical.

42

Mao Cheng Ji 12.14.13 at 8:53 am

Israel is not “just another country with a crappy human rights record”. Human beings and their ‘human rights’ don’t exist in a vacuum. Israel is unique. It’s the last episode of European settler-colonialism in the world. Denouncing Hamas for violation of ‘human rights’ – in this thread, of all places – is a perfect example of decontextualising.

43

hix 12.14.13 at 9:56 am

” Funny how nobody ever considers boycotting US/UK/AUS academic institutions even though the record of these countries in the past decade has been far worse than Israel’s.”

Im sure there will be a douzand other posts, pointing at more popular candidates for flawed two wrongs make it right arguments. Thing is, outside a small bubble, no one seems to think that those the fingers are pointed at are worse in the first place. When you look at global perception, Israel ranks pretty damn high on the evil-o-meter. Its the only country that manages to get condeming united nation votes with only 2 holdouts, US and Germany.

44

Phil 12.14.13 at 10:50 am

There’s only one answer I can think of to the “what about”ers, and it’s this: how dare you? How dare you presume that you have a free choice of issues to care about & campaign about, but I don’t?

MPAVictoria, Ray et al: if you’re against BDS, give us (or point us to) the arguments against BDS. If you’re in favour of a campaign against (say) links with China, tell us about how important that is. But don’t hang around “what about”ing and “wondering why” and “finding it interesting” – that’s not any kind of contribution to debate, it’s just delegitimation.

45

t.gracchus 12.14.13 at 11:23 am

“He’s decent, and he’s a genuinely nice person (rare in academia and even rarer on the left).”
Is this true? People on the left are not genuine or not nice or not genuinely nice? Or is it only rarely so?

46

faustusnotes 12.14.13 at 12:17 pm

It’s absolutely shocking that this should be published in the week of Mandela’s death. If supporters of sanctions had fallen for this “what about X?” bullshit Mandela would have died in prison and the sordid story of apartheid would have ended very differently. That this Kazin chap lacks the sense to see how tasteless such an article might be at this time is … hard to believe. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised though, given Israel and its supporters’ staunch hatred of Mandela.

Israel’s rhetoricians are one trick ponies, and generally pretty tone deaf, so I suppose this kind of tasteless crap was to be expected. Here’s hoping BDS gives way to general sanctions, sufficient to cripple the world’s last settler state. Then Kazin and his ilk can be shown up for the shallow and insensitive propagandists that they are.

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Ronan(rf) 12.14.13 at 1:31 pm

MPAVictoria
Didn’t you say vis a vis Mandela how proud you were of the stance the AFL-CIO took? How is this different?
You’re also largely arguing a strawman. There *are* sanctions on Hamas, ie you can’t legally (afaik) give money to them (ie anti terror laws) There *have* been consistent calls over the last decade to reconsider the relationship with Saudi.
I’m sure there are opposition groups looking for boycotts on China. The question of why these havent been as successful as BDS (perhaps they have been but we’re not aware of them?) is probably a relatively interesting Q to ask, but it’s different than saying you ‘shouldnt boycott X unless you’re willing to do the same to Z and Y’.
Why are there norms against certain weapons (chemical weapons, landmines etc) and not other ones that are equally or even more destructive? It’s a fair question, but it doesnt follow that these norms should be ignored because there are worse ones out there.
Activists choose targets, some campaigns become more successful than others for a complex set of reasons, who cares?

On a personal level I tend to agree with you. I probably wouldnt boycott Israel (personally) But if others do, I dont see why it matters.

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faustusnotes 12.14.13 at 2:34 pm

what silliness. One of Israel and Hamas are in the wrong. Jeez I wonder who? But let’s all sit around in the rich west postulating about how it’s okay, we can all respect each other for picking sides, when one side is the invading slaughterer and one is not. This kind of weak relativism isn’t going to improve anyone’s lives. A group of people are stealing another group’s land, water and freedom. Fix that, or shut up.

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stevenjohnson 12.14.13 at 3:13 pm

I’m sorry Mr. Robin but there is no reason to take Mr. Kazin’s arguments seriously, except to conclude that Mr. Kazin is in the end a supporter of the Zionist project. If he has criticisms evidently he believes reforms are not to be imposed on the Israeli state but must be self-reforms, taken only under persuasion. Maybe he admits the possibility of outsiders contributing to that process, maybe not. Hardly seems to make much difference.

Could it be that the real question is whether it is possible to be a supporter of Zionism while still upholding what are dubbed left politics? Isn’t it possible that the Zionist project is in fact just another imperialist/colonialist project, one that if there weren’t Jews involved might be widely acknowledged to have affinities to fascism? What should people think of “leftists” who were soft on a particular fascist state?

50

Ronan(rf) 12.14.13 at 3:14 pm

“what silliness…..”

??
What’s your point, that Hamas’ objectives (Palestinian self determination) are more legitimate than Israels ? Fine, I agree. Or is it that Hamas have been successful in realising this aspiration through violence. I don’t think that’s particularly supportable. Is it that one should support, willy nilly, all opposition without any thought ? That doesnt strike me as particularly sensible (or effective) (that’s about ‘supporting’ Hamas, not BDS) and ignores the deep cleavages within Palestinian society itself, and hostility towards Hamas, (and towards armed struggle), from people who have to live with the consequences.

“Fix that, or shut up.”

I don’t have a clue what this means. Is this the equivalent of asking someone to decrease their carbon emissions to zero before they can have an opinion on global warming?
Equally, you could quite easily move to the West Bank and commit your time and money to the cause. I assume you don’t ?

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faustusnotes 12.14.13 at 3:17 pm

yes ronan, hamas’s demands are more legitimate, because they wouldn’t exist if their land hadn’t been stolen. Look up “national self-determination.” It’s not a difficult question, really.

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Ronan(rf) 12.14.13 at 3:21 pm

Well, then we agree. I guess

53

Ben Alpers 12.14.13 at 3:22 pm

faustusnotes@48: One of Israel and Hamas are in the wrong. Jeez I wonder who? … This kind of weak relativism isn’t going to improve anyone’s lives. A group of people are stealing another group’s land, water and freedom. Fix that, or shut up.

It’s exactly this framing that makes me despair of good solutions to the problems of Israel / Palestine. It is certainly the case that Israel is stealing land, water, and freedom from Palestinians in the occupied territories. But it’s no more fair to describe Israel inside the Green Line this way than it is to describe the US, Australia, or New Zealand this way. The world is full of settler countries and places whose current population is where it is because of acts of war, theft, or genocide. Kaliningrad was populated with German speakers before the mid-1940s. Should all its Russians, there because of acts of war, now be expelled as thieves? The same is true of countless Eastern European shtetls.

Indeed, many of the problems of Israel / Palestine flow from groups claiming eternal rights to the land. The only way to win that game is not to play.

Our focus ought to be on the human rights of people in the present. faustusnotes is right in one sense: one group’s rights in I/P are currently being violated; the other group’s rights are not. In that sense there is no symmetry there. But a solution has to be symmetrical and ought to aim for creating a country (or two countries) which allow the rights and aspirations of all the residents of Israel / Palestine to be realized.

The problem is, as Roy notes @37, there is no ANC in I/P, no powerful and prominent group committed to the creation of a democratic, multiethnic Israel/Palestine. The most just solution, in some abstract sense, is a real, democratic, multiethnic one-state solution. But it seems as if very few Israelis or Palestinians want to live in such a place. So, in all likelihood, a two-state solution is the best conceivable outcome. But support even for that seems to be waning on both sides.

Both Israel and Hamas are in the wrong. And that’s the problem.

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Mao Cheng Ji 12.14.13 at 3:41 pm

“But it’s no more fair to describe Israel inside the Green Line this way than it is to describe the US, Australia, or New Zealand this way.”

Except for the timing. When ~400 years ago a persecuted ethno-religious European group traveled to North America and established a colony, settler-colonialism wasn’t a universally condemned practice. But in the 20th c, when another European group came to this part of the middle east, kicked out 80% of the local population, and established a colony – it already was. Doesn’t it make a difference? The White House was built by slaves, does it mean that I can enslave a few people to build my house?

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Ben Alpers 12.14.13 at 4:02 pm

Zionism began in the 19th century. The population of Palestine was more than 30% Jewish by the end of the 1930s (when settler colonialism was hardly universally condemned). The State of Israel was created over more than sixty years ago. Since then generations of people have been born in Israel. I agree that acts of colonialism that take place in the present shouldn’t be treated the same way as acts of colonialism that took place in the past. But the creation of the state of Israel (unlike the illegal settlement activities currently taking place in the occupied territories, e.g.) took place in the past.

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hix 12.14.13 at 4:07 pm

When one side has nukes and the other stone throwing kids, the question wheater the 15 year old stone throwers have similar bad intentions becomes pointless.

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Ben Alpers 12.14.13 at 4:16 pm

When one side has nukes and the other stone throwing kids, the question wheater the 15 year old stone throwers have similar bad intentions becomes pointless.

I guess I just disagree. The world is full of oppressive regimes that were the result of entirely justified revolutions (e.g. Iran and Zimbabwe). If the goal is to bring peace, prosperity, and justice to Israel / Palestine, the intentions of the people one works to empower are very important.

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Mao Cheng Ji 12.14.13 at 4:23 pm

“The State of Israel was created over more than sixty years ago. Since then generations of people have been born in Israel.”

More than sixty years ago it was already universally condemned. The first UN resolution confirming the right of return and compensation for the refugees was adopted in 1948. Time for the statute of limitation doesn’t move while criminal is defying the law.

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Ben Alpers 12.14.13 at 4:47 pm

The UN partitioned Palestine in 1947 and admitted Israel as a member in 1949. That’s hardly condemning the creation or existence of Israel. The notion that the creation of Israel was universally condemned in the 1940s is simply false. The compensation of refugees and the right of return are of course other matters.

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Ronan(rf) 12.14.13 at 4:48 pm

Well this seems a reasonably decent idea, and a good use of trade policy ?

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.563254

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novakant 12.14.13 at 6:31 pm

The USACBI FAQ is quite revealing:

Only small, vulnerable nations will ever be boycotted, the US can do whatever they want, since its too big and powerful. Israeli citizens should be collectively punished for not protesting enough, while US citizens are morally pure because they elected Obama.

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Donald Johnson 12.14.13 at 6:34 pm

Geo–for some reason I get lucky with the Book Review. I’ve had a couple of letters over the years there and in the Magazine. Never once in the paper itself, so I stopped trying.

“But it also worked because the ANC was not filled with people wanting to remove the whites from South Africa. The PAC was not telling whites they would be pushed into the sea. The anti apartheid movement won because it went to great efforts to show it was not anti white. It had whites in important positions. There are plenty of Jews, and even Israelis who oppose the occupation of the territories, but where is the PLO’s Joe Slovo? The anti apartheid movement worked because isolating white South Africans hurt them more than the they feared they would be hurt by ending Apartheid. If their was a South African Hamas I doubt things would have ended so peacefully.”

First, you seem to forget that the ANC wasn’t composed of Gandhian pacifists. I suppose the fact that much of the ANC violence consisted of street battles between the ANC and the (government backed) Inkatha Party–in other words, black on black– somehow made them more cuddly from a white POV, but necklacing was seen as barbaric then as suicide bombing is today (I almost added “dropping white phosphorus or cluster bombs on civilians”, but since that’s done by the West I guess it’s okay.) The ANC also tortured prisoners it held in camps in Namibia. I’m old enough to remember people arguing against the ANC because of the necklacing and other atrocities and there was this phrase “one man, one vote,one time” which was supposed to mean that equal rights for blacks meant a black dictator (which sort of happened with Mugabe in Zimbabwe, but not in South Africa). It’s only long after the fact that people conveniently forget both what the ANC actually did and what its critics were saying at the time.

A Jewish Slovo in this context would be someone calling for a one state solution where both Jews and Palestinians live in one state with equal rights for all. Is that what you’re calling for?

Also, are we supposed to assume that all Palestinians want to drive Israeli Jews into the sea? So they’re all reverse ethnic cleansers and because of that, it’s therefore okay to just keep building settlements until they reconcile themselves to the Nakba and show that they are willing to settle for some fraction of the 22 percent of the land left to them?

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Donald Johnson 12.14.13 at 6:48 pm

From a US perspective, novakant, Israel is practically the 51st state. There’s hardly a violation they’ve committed in the past few decades that isn’t also the fault of the US in some indirect fashion. We share values, or so our politicians tell us, and I think they’re right. We certainly share weaponry and attitudes. No high-ranking Israeli official will be held to account in a court for war crimes or jailed for exactly the same reason that no American official will be held to account–it would set a very bad precedent as far as Westerners are concerned, because Israel is considered a member of the club. There’s not a chance in hell that serious sanctions against Israel would get through Congress–you can do that sort of thing to Iraqis and Iranians and Gazans, but not to real Western-type people. I wouldn’t support sanctions on Israel that would crush their economy, but then, I don’t support what we do to Iran or did to Iraq or what Israel and Egypt do to Gaza. But anyway, it won’t happen. We’re discussing what amounts to symbolic gestures against Israeli academics, when real sanctions which hurt millions of ordinary people are considered a standard tool of both American and Israeli policy. If BDS has any effect, it’s on the public relations level. Personally, I think that if you don’t like double standards you should be glad to see American citizens criticizing a close American ally for its human rights violations. It’s an implicit criticism of the US government, which considers Hamas a terrorist organization (which is true) and then denies that there is any evidence of Israeli war crimes in the Gaza War of 2009.

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Donald Johnson 12.14.13 at 6:53 pm

Novakant–I agree though, that the passage I pasted below from your link is pretty weak, much weaker than the rest. Unfortunately a fair number of Obama voters turned into supporters of militarism when it was a Democrat running the drone program.

“If Americans are appalled at injustice and violence toward another people and by military occupation, should they not first and foremost boycott themselves, in light of the actions of the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Self-boycott would be a hard thing to achieve. But that aside, the situation is in fact different in the United States (and in Britain, for example). Not only those active in this campaign, but millions of US citizens vigorously protested US militarism in the Middle East. Those protests evidently contributed to the election of Obama, a fact often interpreted as meaning that the US population has desired and voted for a change of approach.”

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Ronan(rf) 12.14.13 at 7:12 pm

Does anyone know what the context is behind the two paras in the OP that follow:

“Just yesterday, a piece in Haaretz opened with the following two grafs..”

I can’t access Haaretz or find much online – are the actions of the European governments directly related to BDS? Or is it just they won’t work (specifically) in the West Bank?
It seems to be tied in to the trade diplomay linked at 60 and a new EU policy (?)

http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/israel/documents/news/20130719_guidelines_on_eligibility_of_israeli_entities_en.pdf

whih prevents companies working in ocupied territory. (I think, frowm what I can tell) Anyone know anything about this ?

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Ed Herdman 12.14.13 at 7:40 pm

@ Ronan:

“Equally, you could quite easily move to the West Bank and commit your time and money to the cause. I assume you don’t ?”

I wonder what you’d do if somebody here actually says “yes, I have sailed with the flotillas” – think of the old attorney’s adage, “never ask a question you don’t know the answer to.” Beyond that, this is clearly a futile and idle statement which seeks to impose a burden on the other party to demonstrate its sincerity to you, or something. Here’s the truth: Sincerity isn’t what matters in political pressure.

I think Ben Alpers raises an important point – eternal claims aren’t helpful in this case or (arguably) generally. Demographics change and not always necessarily due to acts of war. In theory it’s nice to believe that you can put aside a collection or trust in perpetuity, or to provide for your descendants in the far future, but in practice we don’t know what the future will demand. In the case of I/P it just invites recourse to might as the arbitrator.

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Mr Punch 12.14.13 at 8:03 pm

Setting aside the issue of whether or not I want to pay any attention to anything about Israel in TNR … I think the “consistency” point has more to it than many comments suggest. What confuses matters, on both sides, is the question of whether Israel is “us” or “them.” TNR, of course, generally tends towards “us”; but so does anyone who directly compares opposition to Israeli policy to opposition to the Vietnam war or support of the (US) civil rights movement.

As to colonialism – if Zionism is colonialism, it’s settler colonialism, and therefore very different from the 19th-century colonialism to which it’s usually compared.

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Ronan(rf) 12.14.13 at 8:31 pm

Ed

That was only said in the context of fa notes last sentence. I wasn’t generalizing and agree it’s a futile and idle statement. That was my point, though badly made

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adam.smith 12.14.13 at 11:21 pm

I’m not a big fan of BDS, but Corey’s right that Kazin’s article is very much unconvincing. What I’m a bit puzzled about, though, is the last bit of the post.

A contemptuous, teeth-on-edge Michael Kazin emerges.

really? As far as discussions about P/I goes, Kazin’s piece really seems quite tame. I’m not quite sure how much room that leaves for a fair critique of ones political position.

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roy belmont 12.14.13 at 11:31 pm

Corey Robin, Josh Whitford, Ed Herdman, and Donald Johnson – thanks for steady-minded coherence and exemplary sane rational argument.

Ben Alpers at 4:16 pm
The world is full of oppressive regimes that were the result of entirely justified revolutions (e.g. Iran and Zimbabwe)
Something that’s persistently elided is the long-term damage injustice causes. It makes therapeutic sense to ignore it, like not letting someone who’s been violently traumatized know you think it’ll probably fuck them up permanently. Give them room to heal and overcome, don’t make it permanent in speech, even if it probably is in fact.
There’s also this childish assumption that broad injustice, once struck down, is over and done with, and all its effects cease with its toppling. This idiotic idea still infects American racial discourse.
Another ready example is the to me increasingly bizarre fact of the ahistoric view of women’s sufferage. That it wasn’t there, then it was, still is, so let’s all go on about our business, because it’s over and we won.
But wait, what the hell was that?
Were women too stupid to vote until 1920? Too flighty? Too periodically irrational? Was there something inherently generically wrong with women until 1920? And if not, then clearly, provably, the control of political franchise was in the hands of deranged fools.
When did they step down? I missed that part.
You can’t separate Zimbabwe’s failures from the harm done previously to black so-called Rhodesians, and to the even more obscure tribal cultures that existed before the illustrious Cecil Rhodes & Co. appeared. Want to, but can’t.
People were harmed and at least some of the harm endures.
This is one of the inviolable premises of the Zionists’ efforts. The prior harm done justifying so much consequent harm in reaction, because the damage persists.
If injustice had no lasting negative effect it wouldn’t be such a serious problem would it?
Also the threat of further injustice creates an armored rigidity that’s easily condemned if there’s no context behind it.
This is, again, the Zionists’ rationale, and defense.
Iran post-revolution (and pre-) has been pitted against a devious imperial power that has shown itself to be consistently ruthless, dishonest at will, and morally ungoverned to the point of sociopathy. What’s the politically acceptable response to being jacked around by something like that? How can you even begin to judge anyone’s behavior under those circumstances, without resort to delusion and fantasy?

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Mao Cheng Ji 12.15.13 at 12:16 am

“The notion that the creation of Israel was universally condemned in the 1940s is simply false.”

The notion of settler colonialism was universally condemned. Expulsion of 80% of the local population certainly wasn’t a part of the UN partition plan.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Arab_towns_and_villages_depopulated_during_the_1948_Palestinian_exodus

If my father expelled you from your farm and then held it by force, defying the courts, for 60 years, then saying “oh, but I was born on this land and therefore you can’t kick me out” is not a convincing argument. You have the deed, and you want your farm back, and I have to move out and compensate you for all those years. That’s how the system works, and that’s all there is to it.

For Puritans in America the statute of limitation had run out long time ago, but for Zionists it hasn’t even started running and it never will. Bad timing. Sooner or later the law will catch up with them. It’s just a matter of time.

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MPAVictoria 12.15.13 at 12:18 am

“How can you even begin to judge anyone’s behavior under those circumstances, without resort to delusion and fantasy?”

You know you could make a similar argument using the Jews and the holocaust.

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MPAVictoria 12.15.13 at 12:24 am

“MPAVictoria. Why would per cap be the measure rather than absolute? Are you trolling”

No. I really don’t see your point. Sorry.

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Roy 12.15.13 at 12:25 am

Donald Johnson.

No I did not forget the ANC had a violent wing, why do you think I mentioned the PAC. And for their to be a Jewish Joe Slovo they would have to have some leadership role. The communism of the ANC was far more conducive to peace than anything Hamas has. In the communist dream of the future there is true equality, Hamas’s dream has no place for Jews living in equality with Muslims, it has no place for Palestinian Christians either. No significant anti-Apartheid faction was calling for what Hamas wants.

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MPAVictoria 12.15.13 at 12:36 am

“No significant anti-Apartheid faction was calling for what Hamas wants.”
Pretty much this. You can be appalled with the situation without thinking the Jews should commit suicide. A two state solutions seems to me to be the only way this ever ends.

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Mao Cheng Ji 12.15.13 at 1:16 am

Without Zionists in Palestine there is no Hamas, no Hezbollah, no Islamic Jihad, no PLO, no al-Qassam brigades, no nothing. Just olive farmers. All these things are a product of Zionism. It doesn’t make sense to talk about “what Hamas wants” without the context. What Hamas wants is that Hamas didn’t have to exist in the first place.

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SoU 12.15.13 at 2:21 am

somehow i am always left with an odd taste in my mouth whenever i hear a zionist bring up Hamas. on the one hand, they deplore them – deploy their obvious barbarity as a sort of trump card in the debate, ‘obviously the other side isnt serious here’. yet, on the other hand – there is that element of smug satisfaction there, ‘yeah, these are the guys you are supporting right now’. they (Hamas) are so perfectly distasteful to western lefty types, and those zionist types know this very well and craft arguments around it.

what is wholly absent, of course, is any notion of the social totality – the ways in which the platform and appeal of Hamas is conditioned by the socio-political environment they operate in, an environment which is tightly regulated by the Israeli state. granted, that is asking far too much out of those individuals, but still betrays their un-seriousness about the issue, that they never really go on to look at Hamas as a social formation, instead preferring to take their existence for granted as the obvious result of anti-Zionism and try to brand all their opponents as their allies. it also shows a limited understanding of the Palestinian struggle, which has a number of different facets and cannot be reduced to this single entity.

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Ben Alpers 12.15.13 at 4:08 am

There are currently something like 5 million Palestinians and 6 million Jews in Israel / Palestine. Any just solution to the problems of the region will seek to secure the basic human rights of those 11 million people. “Solutions” that begin by constructing reasons why the rights of either those 5 million Palestinians or those 6 million Jews can be ignored should be taken as seriously as calls for genocide are usually taken.

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Ronan(rf) 12.15.13 at 4:43 am

“betrays their un-seriousness about the issue”

Yeah, thats a great comment, and particularly that point.
The amount of times I’ve heard people on the left refuse to accept that Hamas might just be organisationally and ideologically complex, that their behaviour is shaped by the enviornment they operate in and so are open (more or less) to the same incentives as other militant groups, is astounding.
I can write off Israeli nationalists, who are either ideologically blinkered or just don’t want any genuine resolution to the conflict. But for some on the left there’s an obvious problem there. Here’s a national liberation movement (which they like) that happens to subscribe to a reactionary form of politics (which they dont)
Any rational solution would just suggest that you invest (in money and time and space) in building the institutions of a future Palestinian state that would allow the PA and Hamas become the semi corrupt largely incompetent administrators they aspire to be, like all national liberation movements, eventually weeding out the bad apples, becoming responsive to their constituents, building the infrastructure to govern the country and in the last phase actually delivering services and opportunities to ordinary people.

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Nancy Lebovitz 12.15.13 at 5:13 am

It’s interesting that “a living wage for university workers and union rights for adjuncts; it works against sweatshop labor in Bangladesh and high student debt at home” fell out of the discussion in favor of talking about Israel vs. Hamas/China/America etc.

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Bruce Baugh 12.15.13 at 5:26 am

Nancy: Of course that’s often a bog-standard derailing tactic. You know, I think, that Corey is quite active on one of those causes and a vocal supporter of people focusing on the others. But we can’t talk about everything simultaneously, even though we can do many things in the course of a day/week/month/year. What’s interesting about the fact that in a post about a particular topic, at least some people actually want to talk about the topic, as opposed to everything else that might hypothetically come up?

82

Mao Cheng Ji 12.15.13 at 5:37 am

Ben Alpers, I argued against your points as you stated them. From your 78 I take it that you don’t defend them anymore. The US/Australia analogy, the 1947 partition, the pox on both their houses “both Israel and Hamas”. That’s good. You have now switched to the logistics of a solution. To discuss the logistics we need to know where we stand conceptually. “Human rights” in abstract is bullshit. If you razed a village to build a villa with a swimming pool for yourself, your human rights get you a jail cell. If your father did that, you still don’t get to keep the villa and may have to move to the other side of tracks. But you’d probably prefer to emigrate.

I don’t actually see much of a point in stating the numbers of Arabs, Jews, Russians, or Filipinos; this is not a conflict of ethnic identities. Zionists want it to be that, but it doesn’t have to. Although unfortunately they’ve done a lot to make it stick.

83

MPAVictoria 12.15.13 at 7:01 am

“this is not a conflict of ethnic identities”
you can’t possibly believe that.

84

Z 12.15.13 at 7:53 am

“this is not a conflict of ethnic identities”
you can’t possibly believe that.

Well, the quintessential ethnic conflict of the 80s took place in South Africa, and honestly you couldn’t get more clear cut than that: blacks against whites. Make a sincere effort to give every human beings there equal rights and equal access to justice and basic needs, and 30 years later, it is called the rainbow nation. While of course being aware that two situations are never identical, I would expect the same remedy to produce the same effects, myself.

85

Nancy Lebovitz 12.15.13 at 7:59 am

Bruce, actually I didn’t know Corey was active on one of the causes and supporting others.

Damned if I know whether I’m irresponsibly derailing, or whether it means something that a major point in the top level post got ignored by a large number of commenters.

86

Ed Herdman 12.15.13 at 8:58 am

I think that you just go back to “we can focus on one thing at a time,” again, which is a point that many commenters have definitely been ignoring on the thread.

Exactly what this is supposed to do for the topic at hand is beyond me, other than serve to derail it.

BTW, the only thing I’d say in response to Mao above is that certainly some members of Hamas have been able to make hay out of the “conflict of ethnic identities,” but I agree anyway that Israel seems better situated to produce a sincere effort (of the kind that Z references).

87

Phil 12.15.13 at 9:23 am

This is a conflict in which only one side – Israel – is consistently proposing ethnic identification as part of the solution; most of those on the other side see it as part of the problem.

88

Mao Cheng Ji 12.15.13 at 9:30 am

“Well, the quintessential ethnic conflict of the 80s took place in South Africa, and honestly you couldn’t get more clear cut than that: blacks against whites. “

It can’t be blacks against whites, not to us. To us it’s a matter of justice, so why frame it in the most counterproductive way possible. Blacks, whites, they take sides, and not necessarily along the racial lines.

89

Ed Herdman 12.15.13 at 9:34 am

I don’t know enough to disagree with that assessment.

Even if that weren’t true, though, I think it’s clear that if Israel’s propositions change, then any incentive on the other side to make it a political issue dries up. (Not trying to sneak through my reading of the issue.)

(Sidelight – It looks like my impression that Jewish religious codes could have any impact on issues of the character of Israel was mistaken; can anybody comment on whether this complicates rights for all Israeli citizens and residents?)

Incidentally:
http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/1.563537

90

hix 12.15.13 at 10:31 am

In Hamas territory, 4000 ppl per square meter average age 15 are trapped with no access to outside trade. How is the political discourse in such a context in any way an excuse to keep imprisoning 1.5 million people, most of them kids like that. No one in that context could possibly be some moderate, dreaming of one big democratic staate, or like Christians that by large work for Israel….

91

Tim Dymond 12.15.13 at 12:37 pm

Would Ilan Halevi qualify as the PLO’s Joe Slovo? http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilan_Halevi

For people who ask ‘why not boycott universities in US, UK & Aus’? The BDS campaign has a set of specific demands of Israel (e.g end the occupation; recognise the right of return). Do you have specific demands for a UK/US/AUS boycott? If so you should start a campaign.

92

Barry 12.15.13 at 1:17 pm

Tim, IMHO there will never be a ‘Joe Slovo’, from the viewpoint of those people.

And remember that most of these people didn’t support the ANC back in the day, Joe Slovo or not. They’re in the position of right-wingers trying to appropriate Mandela, trying to appropriate Martin Luther King.

93

Barry 12.15.13 at 1:21 pm

Roy 12.15.13 at 12:25 am

” No I did not forget the ANC had a violent wing, why do you think I mentioned the PAC. And for their to be a Jewish Joe Slovo they would have to have some leadership role. The communism of the ANC was far more conducive to peace than anything Hamas has. In the communist dream of the future there is true equality, …”

That’s odd. Back in the 80’s, when I was voting Republican, and sucking down TNR and the Wall St Journal, I didn’t see a single such sentiment expressed.

You’re making up history.

94

Ben Alpers 12.15.13 at 1:55 pm

MCJ@82: Ben Alpers, I argued against your points as you stated them. From your 78 I take it that you don’t defend them anymore. The US/Australia analogy, the 1947 partition, the pox on both their houses “both Israel and Hamas”. That’s good. You have now switched to the logistics of a solution.

Nope. I haven’t changed my argument at all. My point above, in all of that, is that history cannot be the basis of a solution. Back @53, my first post on this thread, with all the matters you cite here, I wrote:

Our focus ought to be on the human rights of people in the present. faustusnotes is right in one sense: one group’s rights in I/P are currently being violated; the other group’s rights are not. In that sense there is no symmetry there. But a solution has to be symmetrical and ought to aim for creating a country (or two countries) which allow the rights and aspirations of all the residents of Israel / Palestine to be realized.

I know you disagree with me, but it is all about solutions and all about human rights. And those rights cannot be discounted by wrongs in the past, as you seem to want to do. For better or for worse, both sides in I/P can claim histories of oppression and disposession. We need to move on. As Z says @84, the best solution is the South African solution. As I’ve said @53, the problem is that, unlike in SA, there seems to be next to no support on either side in I/P for a single, multiethnic state. So a solution will probably end up looking more like the former Yugoslavia.

95

Ronan(rf) 12.15.13 at 3:25 pm

I still think the best outcome is the 2 state solution, demanded at the international level, enforced by a *huge* peacekeeping presence in the country, (Jerusalem becoming basically a UN mandate), and threats to isolate any side that violates the terms of the agreement from the international economy, with a regional/international response (and some gesture by the Israeli’s) on the refugee crisis. (Also a lot of nice stuff to smooth the transition)
Ideally you would also have some sort of weapons decommissioning regime, where for every 20 rockets Hamas put out of use the Israeli’s got rid of a nuke. Or something along those lines.

96

eddie 12.15.13 at 4:15 pm

Hasn’t he just copy/pasted a ’70s grump about the anti-apartheid movement?

97

Barry 12.15.13 at 4:23 pm

Yes, with the names changed. The usual.

98

Hektor Bim 12.15.13 at 4:41 pm

Several points:

@61 is absolutely right on this. Israel is targeted because it is small, wants to be in the Western club, and won’t require deep sacrifice from anyone to go after. Targeting Israel allows an organized, educated group of Jews (like Corey Robin) to get involved internationally on a cause they believe in. The anti-Semites are for it as well, as well as the Muslim diaspora because it costs them nothing to oppose Israel. Since it is run by right-wingers and left-wingers have decided it is Western imperialist and colonialist now, as opposed to building socialism like in the 50s and 60s, it is cost-free for left-wingers to oppose it. Since Israel is deeply resented/hated by all its neighbors, it doesn’t have friends in the neighborhood.

South Africa was similar, being a small country with limited economic power, no friends in the neighborhood (eventually), run by right-wingers with harsh Germanic accents. (The left wingers tended to be English speakers.) It was cost-free from a left-wing perspective.

Lots of people were fine with settler colonialism in the 40s. The Brits were fine with it, the Soviet Union justified the expulsion of the Eastern European Germans (many Russians, Poles and Czechs still do). They were fine with expelling Poles and Finns too, and shipping large numbers of Caucasians and Koreans to Uzbekistan as well. The admission of Israel into the UN seems to be pretty clear evidence of this.

In the OP, I feel like there is a little elision going on.

“Is there any other country on the planet that the United States is more connected to than the State of Israel?” I’d say Canada, for instance. Mostly the same language, same culture, even the same TV shows. Our entertainment industry is half-run by Canadians.

“Most BDS activists I know speak on behalf of the most minimal norms of a liberal democracy, which are widely shared in the US: namely, that Israel should be the state of its citizens (and not some far-flung community of an ancient diaspora), and that it should govern itself according to the norms of one person/one vote, as opposed to the hard facts of ethnic privilege and military occupation.”

But that is not what Corey Robin thinks, right? He wants an end to the state of Israel, a one-state solution where he expects Jews to be a minority with limited political and cultural power. It isn’t clear to me that the BDS movement is actually run by people who would accept a two-state solution, for example. That seems like rather a big problem for people who do believe a two-state solution is the right outcome. Take the Iranian revolution as an example. The Iranian communists thought they could cooperate with the theocrats to take down the state, but they ended up being liquidated themselves in the end.

99

Watson Ladd 12.15.13 at 5:00 pm

The BDS movement demands Israel stop occupying Arab lands. But this just raises a question: which lands? It can get very tricky with a place like Mount Scopus: in the Mandate period Hebrew University was there, but post 1948 it wasn’t. Is it occupied Arab territory? BDS doesn’t demand a negotiated solution, but a particular solution which in effect undoes the partition plan.

South Africa didn’t have these questions: the blacks owned certain things, the whites did to, and the only question was ending a system of racist laws akin to Jim Crow. There wasn’t the issue of deciding who got to live where, or what to do with people unambiguously guilty of war crimes in the struggle against apartheid. (The ANC didn’t bash babies heads with rocks, to name one particularly egregious example)

100

Roy 12.15.13 at 5:08 pm

Barry,

I am not making up history, in the 80s I was pretty left wing, in the ’70s I don’t know what I was, mostly into Star Wars (which my Mom thought was reactionary propaganda). but since she gave me the name of someone buried in the Kremilin Wall and my parents had a friend who was an official in the Norwegian-Albanian Friendship committee, I was probably not what you were. When I was a kid South African Communists were heroes. And the ANC were the vanguard of revolution in Africa just like the FMLN and Sandanistas were in the Americas. Of course I am just asserting this, but you are just asserting I am making up history.

The history I am explaining is a history of what actually happened, positing an explanation of why White South Africans were willing to give up Apartheid. It has nothing to do with the attitudes of William. F Buckley. It has to do with the justice and even more importantly the actual possible result of BDS.

In South Africa fear could be oversome, in Israel I do not see how if can. I honestly believe that if the Israelis were offered a real non violent opposition that was willing to welcome Jews as citizens of the same country they might take it, but that has never been on offer. I can give you all sorts of Marxist explanations to explain why this is, but this is not about theory. Jews have settled in large numbers in what is now Israel for near to a century, aside from blood and soil issues most Israeli Jews have no where else to go. The Jews have been cast out of the Islamic wotld and they won’t be invited back, the reasons for that are now irrelevent, unless you believe in taint of blood. When the pied noirs were driven from Algeria after the Algerian war they had some place to go, even if an awful lot of them had no blood ties to France., but if they had controlled tjeir own destiny the way the Israelis do they would not have given up. The Israeli Jews can look at a world in which they are isolated and villainized, they can see what has happened to the Jews who were not in Israel in the past century, and they may try and soothe things, but they can’t actually give Hamas, Fatah, and even what I think the Palestinian people will agree to without being cast out like the pied noirs, and I don’t know where their douce France would be.

101

MPAVictoria 12.15.13 at 5:14 pm

“I don’t know where their douce France would be.”
Alaska!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Yiddish_Policemen's_Union

102

bt 12.15.13 at 6:38 pm

The reason why Israel is subjected to criticism is that they purport themselves to be a modern democracy. China does not.

The double-standard is not the we poke at the Israelis and not the Chinese. It is that Israelis themselves have a double-standard within their own nation, and are not entirely a democracy, as they say are. And they are occupying confiscated land, etc. etc.

So the Israelis are very vulnerable to these criticisms in a way that they Chinese are not. And the Israelis totally understand this.

103

Hektor Bim 12.15.13 at 6:51 pm

Re China it is more than that. Opposing China is harder because China is large and important. Also, China has some residual left-wing sympathy as a non-Western, poor, ostensibly left-wing country. Its anti-American posture is a clear bonus.

104

Donald Johnson 12.15.13 at 7:34 pm

“There wasn’t the issue of deciding who got to live where, or what to do with people unambiguously guilty of war crimes in the struggle against apartheid. (The ANC didn’t bash babies heads with rocks, to name one particularly egregious example)”

So putting gasoline-soaked tires around someone’s neck and lighting it isn’t an unambiguous war crime? So when Winnie Mandela praised necklacing everyone applauded? Um, sure. And apartheid wasn’t in part about who got to live where? So there were no such things as bantustans?

And Roy–maybe in your circles Joe Slovo’s communist associations were seen as a positive, but maybe if you ever stuck your head outside your ideological closet you’d have noticed that the argument that was constantly made by critics of the ANC was that communist links were a bad thing, and that when blacks got the vote it would be one man one vote one time. I didn’t live in South Africa, but I did know a fairly liberal white South African who was then living in America and that was one of his fears. You (and Watson) must have been living in some parallel universe, one where Palestinians fighting their oppressors are uniquely barbaric in ways that simply have no parallel to the sorts of atrocities committed by countless other liberation and resistance groups, and in your case, one where Westerners living in the 1980’s would have found communist ties to be comforting.

On the one state solution, there are some that support it and I favor it in theory while being doubtful that it will ever happen, but pretending that Israel Jews would embrace it if only the Palestinians were led by people like Nelson Mandela (who never renounced violence) or communists like Joe Slovo seems delusional. One is constantly hearing from the pro-Israel side, including those who sincerely want a two state solution, that Palestinians have to renounce the right of return. Their failure to do so is considered indicative of a lack of a desire for peace, or of anti-semitism — in other words, Palestinians who show the normal human desire to return home must really be guilty of Jew hatred.

105

Z 12.15.13 at 8:25 pm

When the pied noirs were driven from Algeria after the Algerian war they had some place to go, even if an awful lot of them had no blood ties to France., but if they had controlled their own destiny the way the Israelis do they would not have given up.

This is interesting to me, because I think the analogy is very apt, only you seem to think about the whole population of Israel whereas the correct analogy is of course with the settlers. Yes, when the settlers will have to pack up and leave their settlements to move into the borders of Israel as recognized by international justice (more or less those of 1967), it will be very painful for them. Yes, most of them will mostly be victims rather than perpetrators of the injustice of the conflict (born there, or forced to move there out of economic necessity). Yes, resentment will last for decades. All this happened (in spades) with the Pieds Noirs. And yet this seems to be more or less the only possible moderately just outcome (a single state solution would be another one, but I rule it out for pragmatic reasons, as it seems to lack the support of just about any of the key players involved; just as full, complete and sincere integration of Algeria into France with complete citizenships rights given to Arab Algerians could theoretically have been one circa 1950).

A courageous and principled Israeli statesman would understand this, and a cunning one would convince the US to pay the bill of the relocation of the settlers and the EU to compensate financially the Palestinian refugees denied the right of return (it’s a win/win for the US and the EU really; you pay a couple of billion dollars and you get handed a Nobel Peace Prize). I don’t know israeli politics very well, but unfortunately it seems that its political class has been perhaps lacking in courage, principle and cunning these last years.

106

Hektor Bim 12.15.13 at 8:30 pm

Donald Johnston,

I don’t understand your read of the right of return issue. Why should the great grandchildren of people who left Palestine in 1948 automatically get citizenship in Israel? The US doesn’t allow Canadians to automatically settle in the US as citizens, even though many of them are the descendants of loyalists from the American Revolution. Unless refugee status is a heritable condition, for almost all people involved in these discussions, they were not born and have never resided in Israel and there is no way that it could be called home.

107

Ed Herdman 12.15.13 at 8:34 pm

@ Hektor Bim #98:

“Lots of people were fine with settler colonialism in the 40s. The Brits were fine with it”

They were not so fine with it as Irgun wanted even as late as 1946, when that militant group bombed the King David Hotel. At a cursory glance this appears to be just a matter of degree, but familiarity with the British position shows that they did not want disruptions in the area due to the potential for massive Jewish immigration.

In 1939 the British government sought to cap Jewish immigration into Palestine at 75000 (to 1944); in 1946 the Anglo-American Inquiry’s recommendations loosened this restriction slightly but still made clear the position that Palestine was not thought able to accommodate all emigrant European Jews, and also stated the importance of setting up a state where “Jew shall not dominate Arab and Arab shall not dominate Jew in Palestine” and that Palestine would not be a Jewish state or an Arab one.

Even in the most restricted sense, I cannot reconcile these statements with the argument that Britain was “fine with settler colonialism.” Settler colonialism came about in spite of the attempts of the British, not because of them. Of course, the Administration of President Truman cannot be counted in the same way.

108

js. 12.15.13 at 8:35 pm

when the settlers will have to pack up and leave their settlements to move into the borders of Israel as recognized by international justice (more or less those of 1967)

I don’t know—I for one can’t imagine how this is _any_ more pragmatic sounding than the transformation of Israel/Palestine into a single bi-national state. It might have been a generation ago, but at this point the latter seems like the only possibility, practically speaking.

Unrelatedly, SoU’s comment @77 is really excellent.

109

Hektor Bim 12.15.13 at 8:35 pm

Z,

Agree 100 percent. The settlers already have the equivalent of the military cabals of the pied noirs, but they managed to get Rabin (de Gaulle).

110

Hektor Bim 12.15.13 at 8:38 pm

Ed,

They were fine with settler colonialism in Africa (see Kenya, Rhodesia). They weren’t fine with it in Palestine, because it involved people they did not identify with.

111

Ronan(rf) 12.15.13 at 8:40 pm

I think you’re misunderstanding/exaggerating the importance of the ‘right of return’. It’s largely a symbolic issue at this stage and *won’t* lead to the grandchildren of the 48 refugees returning. Any serious resolution won’t fall apart on the right of return; Israel could offer the surviving refugees the opportunity to return, an apology and some compensation and the rest of the world could either absorb those remaining in refugee camps or invest in a regional resolution.

112

Ronan(rf) 12.15.13 at 8:40 pm

that was to 106

113

Ronan(rf) 12.15.13 at 8:44 pm

On the Palestinian Mandela thing, there has been a long tradition of non violent opposition to Israel (and there still is). The demand for a ‘Palestinian Mandela’ is just a bit of empty rhetoric and a sleight of hand, imo

114

Ed Herdman 12.15.13 at 8:46 pm

re your latest point, Hektor Bim, could you explain how it is that people of the first generation should not have a right of return (let alone people who were wrongly evicted and as of yet have not received any recompense)?

Comparing Arab right of return with that of loyalists in the Americas is an equivalence in name only. I will not condemn it wholly, because I have wondered about how and why generational changes matter in apportioning blame. There certainly are some obvious potential answers: There is a difference in the time period, and there is also a difference in the structure of each system. Any loyalist descendant who arrives in America today will find that it is not an issue held against them, just as in Britain a person cannot expect discrimination because their ancestors sympathized with Roundheads or Cavaliers, or a person in France fearing persecution because of Protestant faith.

Israel today is of course not practicing persecution remotely equivalent with those times, but neither is it on a level with the progress of these other states. In part the simple fact of time explains this and so this is not a question of trying to apportion responsibility to Israel, but rather of recognizing that there is some distance to go in search of responsible government.

115

Ed Herdman 12.15.13 at 8:58 pm

(My last post is in response to Hektor Bim #106; this is a response to #110)

About the British “not identify[ing] with” Zionism, understanding the stance of successive British governments, this is nonsensical. There was clearly a desire for a state that was just to all interests.

It is important not to let you confuse the situation with references to Kenya and Rhodesia – where self-interest obviously was at play. You mistakenly try to place this fact in simple opposition to the idea of racism in regard to only one party, in the case of Israel/Palestine, when in fact the relative independence of action on the part of the British allowed a more progressive stance. Their freedom of action did not lead to a motive for a racist agenda against one party. What’s clear is that the British had become resigned to the idea of pulling out of Palestine – so for your suggestion to make any sense (which it doesn’t) the British would have had to be biased against only the Israelis and preferred the Jews. And I think even from what you have said you have to agree that this was not the case.

As terrorism on the one side, and the ANC’s reconcilliation program in the middle, the presence of racist or unsympathetic attitudes amongst the British does not matter if you can change the situation overnight. Had the British succeeded in preventing Jewish domination of Palestine, they might have created a new set of “facts on the ground.” That they failed speaks of the organization and tenacity of the leaders of the movement for the state of Israel, but not obviously at all about the supposed racism or disinterest of the British occupation.

116

roy belmont 12.15.13 at 9:22 pm

I’m still out on the brink of the margin applauding sane reasonable discourse, here and everywhere else I can hear it. But elsewhere it’s not as highly valued, maybe.

“The Anti-Semitic Stench of Pink Floyd”
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
column in the NYObserver
https://tinyurl.com/qfb67h2

Wikipedia:
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, an American Orthodox rabbi, author, TV host and public speaker […]His outspokenness has earned him praise and criticism; Newsweek magazine named him one of the 50 most influential rabbis in the United States three years in a row, including sixth in 2010

Emphasis mine.
The trick is to not allow the rabid nastiness and irrationality to infect and pollute the discourse, yes?
When Watson Ladd says, at 5:00 pm:The BDS movement demands Israel stop occupying Arab lands, my response, as someone watching the BDS movement who is fully supportive of its organizers and aims, but not otherwise active within it, is “I don’t think that’s it, Watson.”
Technically, in a political context of demands and offers, “1) ending the occupation of all Arab lands; 2) achieving equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and 3) realizing the right of return for Palestinian refugees” yes.
But the realization of those demands, especially equal rights, would entail the cessation of the following activities and more and worse, which are a lot of people’s primary objections to the present behavior of Israel:
People want Israel to stop killing and imprisoning Palestinian children, stop shitting in Palestinian drinking water, stop building walls of enclosure that are designed to create suffering and degradation, stop indiscriminately bombing Palestinian homes, stop illegally destroying Palestinian homes, stop wrecking their businesses and orchards and community centers, stop arbitrarily impeding the necessary travel of Palestinians with far too often serious medical and financial impact on the lives of the impeded, not to mention the impact on their hearts and minds, stop lying to the world and to heaven about what they’re doing and have been doing to the Palestinians for years, just stop.
And for the rest of the world’s Jews and their friends to stop supporting that madness out of fear and arrogance and the hunger for revenge.
And me, personally, I’d like to see a campaign to get deranged lunatics like Boteach to shut the hell up.

117

Hektor Bim 12.15.13 at 9:24 pm

Ed,

I have to admit I don’t understand your point in 115. Britain actively supported settler colonialism in Kenya and Rhodesia in the 40s by British people and those aligned with British interests. Palestine did not have settlers aligned with British interests. Britain certainly was fine with settler colonialism as long as British people were doing the colonizing.

118

Ben Alpers 12.15.13 at 9:31 pm

On the Palestinian Mandela thing, there has been a long tradition of non violent opposition to Israel (and there still is). The demand for a ‘Palestinian Mandela’ is just a bit of empty rhetoric and a sleight of hand, imo

The issue is not so much nonviolent opposition (Mandela, for his part, supported armed struggle), but rather the question of support for a multiethnic Israel / Palestine that recognizes the rights of both Jews and Palestinians. Unlike in South Africa, where the ANC’s goal was a rainbow nation, there is precious little support in either community for such a vision of I/P, which is precisely why a two-state solution is more likely than a one-state solution.

119

godoggo 12.15.13 at 9:56 pm

I dunno, it’d be interesting to see a poll of U.S. Jews to see how many have heard of that guy. I think in a previous thread we saw references to polls which would give an idea of ow many might agree with him. Be that as it may, some Jews are right wing, so you’d expect that to be true of some of the most “influencial” ones.

120

godoggo 12.15.13 at 10:00 pm

Here’s a page from a self-professed “Zionist” site that quite candidly discusses some of the nasty ideology of some ultra-orthodox Jews (although the views of orthodox are quite diverse; for example there are anti-Zionist ultra-orthodox):

http://www.jafi.org.il/JewishAgency/English/Jewish+Education/Compelling+Content/Jewish+History/Cultural+History/week+8.htm

121

godoggo 12.15.13 at 10:01 pm

…above to #116. You people are fast.

122

Ed Herdman 12.15.13 at 10:13 pm

@ Hektor #117:

Exactly. Rhodesia and Kenya having prominent British interests, the point is simply that “settler colonialism” should not be taken as equivalent to saying that Britain was hostile to Jewish interests in Palestine in the ’40s.

I think your earlier undifferentiated statement that Britain was “fine with settler colonialism in the ’40s,” which you have retreated from now by admitting this wasn’t true for British Administrated Palestine, was confusing the discussion, so I felt the need to correct that.

I apologize where I’ve lost sight of your aims in making these points. However I do have to ask what exactly the references to Rhodesia and Kenya were meant to achieve, given that they do not serve to inform knowledge of what Britain was actually doing in Palestine – it’s not hard to look it up and actually find it out directly.

123

Hektor Bim 12.15.13 at 10:16 pm

Ed,

Palestinian refugees have received financial compensation (from the UN refugee agency), who support them financially and continue to support them. They also, in many countries, are prevented from gaining citizenship and restricted from pursuing specific occupations, which consigns many of them to poverty.

As to first generation Palestinian refugees, there aren’t very many of them. As Ronan says above, something can be worked out as part of an overall deal. Compared to other refugee groups at the same time, they are both worse off and better off in such a deal. There was no compensation for the refugees from Indian partition, or the German expelled, for example.

124

Hektor Bim 12.15.13 at 10:18 pm

Ed.

The earlier claim was by Mao Cheng Ji, who claimed that everyone was opposed to settler colonialism in the 40s. That was the point. Many nations were just fine with it and practiced it themselves.

125

Ed Herdman 12.15.13 at 10:27 pm

When I read his statement originally, I thought he was referring only to views on I/P (universally condemned – in that instance) – and I still think that. I have no problem with your argument that this might reflect some hypocrisy on the part of the Western nations trying to call the shots – though I still resist any attempt to draw the conclusion that they were not right in the case of I/P.

126

Barry 12.15.13 at 10:46 pm

Ben: ” Unlike in South Africa, where the ANC’s goal was a rainbow nation, …”

That’s not what the right was saying back in the day (‘one man, one vote, once’). IIRC, it wasn’t what some others were saying, as well.

Why do you keep trying to persuade us that you guys supported the ANC back then?

127

roy belmont 12.15.13 at 10:52 pm

godoggo at 9:56 pm:
Very small sample of Boteach’s presence bouncing off the anti-Zionist Jewish community:
https://tinyurl.com/kx74gkh
Dude. Newsweek. Sixth most influential US rabbi, 2010.
It’s a bizarre world, no doubt. But I try my best to live in it as much and as often as I can.
I think we all should make the effort.

128

godoggo 12.15.13 at 10:56 pm

Dude, I’m Jewish. I never heard of him. I assure you that most Jews I know never heard of him. I’m not surprised that a site like Mondoweiss would cite him a lot. However, Judaism is not a top-down organization.

129

Ed Herdman 12.15.13 at 10:57 pm

@ roy: That tinyurl doesn’t resolve into something usable for me :(

I did find this, though:
http://mondoweiss.net/2013/11/stephens-nothing-adelson.html

130

godoggo 12.15.13 at 11:00 pm

Just paste everything after “https://tinyurl.com/” into google

131

adam.smith 12.15.13 at 11:02 pm

Why do you keep trying to persuade us that you guys supported the ANC back then?

you guys? seriously? which guys are those, pray tell?

132

Bernard Yomtov 12.15.13 at 11:46 pm

It does too much work. It applies not merely to an academic boycott of Israel but to any statement or action against the State of Israel.

I think you misunderstand my point, at least.

Rallies, for example, require time and energy and organizational effort. Thus there is a practical limit to how many rallies one can organize. Choices can be questioned, but not on selectivity grounds.

But it takes very little for an organization like the ASA to pass a resolution. It would not, I think, be difficult or expensive or burdensome to pass resolutions condemning lots of human rights abuses. So singling out one case becomes dubious.

Nor is it correct to say that resolutions are costly in the sense that passing four or five waters down the effect. I’d argue the opposite. A consistent concern for human rights is more persuasive than a selective one.

133

godoggo 12.16.13 at 12:49 am

One more comment about the link I provided above. I think the author assumes its readers are aware that the Talmud is comprised to a great extent of debates, totaling I think something like 6000 pages. This is why you find so many contradictory statements. Just for anybody who didn’t know. Carry on.

134

GiT 12.16.13 at 1:46 am

“Unlike in South Africa, where the ANC’s goal was a rainbow nation”

This is from the Hamas charter, 1988. It looks to me like an appeal to a more or less Ottoman Empire style arrangement:

“Hamas is a humane movement, which cares for human rights and is committed to the tolerance inherent in Islam as regards attitudes towards other religions. It is only hostile to those who are hostile towards it, or stand in its way in order to disturb its moves or to frustrate its efforts. Under the shadow of Islam it is possible for the members of the three religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism to coexist in safety and security. Safety and security can only prevail under the shadow of Islam, and recent and ancient history is the best witness to that effect. The members of other religions must desist from struggling against Islam over sovereignty in this region. For if they were to gain the upper hand, fighting, torture and uprooting would follow; they would be fed up with each other, to say nothing of members of other religions. The past and the present are full of evidence to that effect.”

135

roy belmont 12.16.13 at 4:56 am

godoggo:

“The Times of London named Boteach the 1988 runner-up for its ‘Preacher of the Year’ award.”
ABC news

“More than two years ago, influential rabbi-to-the-stars Shmuley Boteach sharply criticized Power for “troubling statements” she had made nearly a decade earlier “
Foreign Policy.org

“Boteach, whom Newsweek and The Washington Post call ‘the most famous Rabbi in America’, is the international best-selling …”
Times of Israel blog

“To understand why Shmuley Boteach is one of the world’s most prominent rabbis”
Slate

“But nothing he has done in a career as one of America’s best-known rabbis has caused quite the stir of his latest book.”
LATimes

Those are just specific references to his celebrity, took about ten minutes max to compile.
It’s kind of you to make an effort to fill in some of the gaping holes in my awareness of things Jewish, but on Boteach I think I’ll stick with duckduckgo.

136

Watson Ladd 12.16.13 at 5:17 am

GiT, what part of that sounds like ensuring freedom of religion, democratic control of government, and individual liberties? Hamas, in its infinite respect for human rights, tolerates honor killings, calls women to act as human shields for its fighters, executes followers of the rival Fatah party, indiscriminately bombards civilian areas, and sponsors terrorist attacks. That sameself charter you quote makes clear that they desire a theocracy across all of the historical caliphate: no boundary adjustments ever.

137

adam.smith 12.16.13 at 5:33 am

roy b – godoggo:
while I don’t think “Rabbi to the Stars” and “Preacher of the Year” says much about his actual influence or role in the Jewish community, I’m pretty confident that large parts of the US Jewish community in the US (far beyond orthodox Jews or people on the right, though obviously not everyone) would agree that comparing Israel to Nazi Germany crosses a line.
Do you actually think it fulfils any purpose beyond being outrageous and hurtful?

138

godoggo 12.16.13 at 5:38 am

OK, obviously I’m not up on my celebrity rabbis who used to hang out with Michael Jackson and gained attention by saying things that pissed off other Jewish leaders. Now I’m a little more so. But the point is that even one of the most influential rabbis in America isn’t really all that influential. Anyway, what was your original point in bringing up that article about Pink Floyd?

139

godoggo 12.16.13 at 5:43 am

Above written before I saw adam smith’s comment. Personally I don’t care about comparing Zionists to Nazis although is always seems a bit cute to me.

140

godoggo 12.16.13 at 5:57 am

What am I doing here? I was planning on going out to hear some music tonight.

141

GiT 12.16.13 at 8:23 am

Watson, I presume you know what the Ottoman Empire was. Perhaps there is a reason I did not write, “sounds like an anglo saxon secular democracy”

142

Mao Cheng Ji 12.16.13 at 9:07 am

Ben Alpers 94 ” As Z says @84, the best solution is the South African solution.”

I don’t know what you (or Z) mean by “the South African solution”. It may vary from some feel-good proclamation that leaves the power structure intact (a different mechanism but no real change at all, just like SA), or it could mean taking down the power structure (hasn’t happened in SA yet). I suspect you probably mean the former.

143

Z 12.16.13 at 9:55 am

Dear Mao,
To be clear, I didn’t advocate the South African solution nor did I outline what I meant by this, I mentioned SA in support of your point at 82 (disputed by MPAVictoria) that the Israel/Palestine conflict need not be framed in term of ethnic conflict. For a century, the situation in SA has been described as an ethnic or cultural conflict (involving at least 4 or 5 supposed cultural or ethnic identities). Nowadays, it is recognized as a (much more tractable, though still quite formidable) economic and social conflict. My expectation is that the same will happen with respect to Israel/Palestine when equal human rights are granted to everyone living there: what is now described (by some) as an insurmountable conflict between religions and cultures will be recognized as a social and economical conflict; still a hard one by the way, but much more amenable to rational solutions.

@js. I don’t know—I for one can’t imagine how this is _any_ more pragmatic sounding than the transformation of Israel/Palestine into a single bi-national state.

Though the transformation of I/P into a single bi (ou multi)-national state might be desirable for a number of reasons, it seems to lack the support of the key players involved and certainly lacks support in the international community, in that sense it does not seem very pragmatic (but if I am wrong in this lack of support, then the opposite conclusion follows). According to Wiki, there are about 300,000 settlers in the occupied territories, amounting to about 3/3,5% of the Israeli population. This means that the relocation of the settlers would be comparable to the relocation of the French pieds noirs from Algeria: unthinkable 10 years before it happened and a source of immense resentment and personal suffering when it did, but ultimately probably inevitable and completely manageable by a modern state. From a purely financial point of view, again, a principled and cunning Israeli statesman could probably get the US to foot the bill.

144

Mao Cheng Ji 12.16.13 at 10:46 am

“will be recognized as a social and economical conflict; still a hard one by the way, but much more amenable to rational solutions”

Here I disagree. I don’t think socioeconomic conflicts are viewed as conflicts anymore, certainly not as conflicts in need of a solution. They are to be managed and maintained. It would make more sense, I think, to try to address the socioeconomic basis together with the ethnoreligious delusion, since it’s the latter that makes most people oppose this thing. Otherwise, once they decide that the ethnoreligious crap is bad for business they’ll just paint a crescent on the flag and be done with it.

145

Ronan(rf) 12.16.13 at 12:44 pm

“According to Wiki, there are about 300,000 settlers in the occupied territories, amounting to about 3/3,5% of the Israeli population. This means that the relocation of the settlers would be comparable to the relocation of the French pieds noirs from Algeria”

I’m not sure about the specifics of the settlements in Algeria, but there’s considerable difference in the size of the settlements in the West Bank

http://www.fmep.org/settlement_info/settlement-info-and-tables/stats-data/settlements-in-the-west-bank-1

with the larger ones bordering the armistice line so could probably be incorporated into a future Israel state. The politics of it would be difficult for sure, but I think the practicalities of moving them out would probably be easier than claimed.

146

Eric Feinblatt 12.16.13 at 1:00 pm

As far as I know, no one has brought into this discussion, which has inevitably veered down the anti-semitic accusation track, Judith Butler’s ‘No, it’s not anti-semetic’ article in the 2002 LRB: No, it’s not anti-semetic. It’s worth a re-read to help ward off the accusers.
And Michael Taussig’s recent Critical Inquiry article about two weeks spent in Palestine, puts a human face on the effects of Israeli and, by complicity, US policy:
Two weeks in Palestine.

147

Donald Johnson 12.16.13 at 1:17 pm

Hektor–It’s not just great grandchildren for one thing, and for another, you’ve just undercut the whole rationale for a Jewish state in Palestine, not to mention the weirdness of the notion that someone born in Brooklyn has more right to live in Israel than a Palestinian born there.

But you’re right–if Israel plays out the clock for long enough, sooner or later the Palestinian right of return will be as ridiculous as the Zionist claim to Palestine was in the first place.

148

Hektor Bim 12.16.13 at 5:59 pm

Donald Johnson,

The case for Israel was that no one else would take in the Jewish refugees of Europe and post WWII, including the countries they came from. Which was largely true. The symmetry with the Palestinians is there, to an extent. When people talk about Palestinian refugees, they tend to count everyone, stateless and citizen indiscriminately. Palestinians who have Jordanian or Armerican or EU citizenship don’t need the right of return. The people in refugee camps do, and they should get citizenship in a Palestinian state. But it does not follow that that must be a single binational state, or that they must gain access to pre-1967 Israel. Why should the international community support efforts to resettle Palestinian refugees in pre-1967 Israel when the local community is adamantly against it?

149

Kaveh 12.16.13 at 6:20 pm

Not a single one of the people making the “singling out Israel” objection has ever once objected to any other state/entity being “singled out”.

Q.E.D.

150

roy belmont 12.16.13 at 10:56 pm

adam.smith
while I don’t think “Rabbi to the Stars” and “Preacher of the Year” says much about his actual influence or role in the Jewish community…
It’s difficult to see how you can just ignore entirely the somewhat larger community in which this Boteach person’s voice is being broadcast enthusiastically, as far more pertinent, and as part of the tiresome and steadily more ineffective accusational reflex, which Waters is the undeserving recipient of in the cited article.
I personally could not care less how famous or influential Boteach is within his own community, however he or anyone defines it. I care about the damage and insult of his charges against someone I think is being honest, genuine, courageous, and by his own lights, actively moral. Boteach’s toxic crap is harming someone in my community, and it’s because his voice is loud.
He’s definitely been celebrated and given platform in venues of information that supposedly serve all communities whether godoggo has heard of him or not. People rely on those sites for information about the world. He has a voice, and a column at, evidently among other prominent outlets, Huffington Post.
I don’t care whether he represents the thoughts and feelings of all, most, or even any Jews in America. He’s a cartoon? And therefore trivial? A lot of the virulent anti-Semitic propaganda of 30’s Germany was cartoon.
You said:
…large parts of the US Jewish community in the US … would agree that comparing Israel to Nazi Germany crosses a line. Do you actually think it fulfils any purpose beyond being outrageous and hurtful?
I have to confess to being tired beyond bearing of vague innuendo. Do I also think it “crosses a line”? Of course I do. But what line? There are lines everywhere, getting crossed all the time.
It’s probably the single most damning accusation that can be made against the “Jewish state” of Israel, and by extension the supporting communities of Jews outside Israel. That they have internalized the harm done to them, and are now projecting it back into the world. That they are acting in important ways like the Nazis, with the same ethnic claim to superiority and consequent moral permissions of the Nazis, and the brutally inhuman, often sadistic, and ultimately doomed violent eugenic practices of the Nazis.

Waters, in counterpunch:
The parallels with what went on in the 30’s in Germany are so crushingly obvious
Listing those parallels specifically here wouldn’t serve any real purpose, but he didn’t say that off-handedly, or out of some well of inherent bigotry. That’s a man speaking from his conscience.
And the response, not just from our busy rabbi, is accusations of anti-Semitism.
An accusation, which, in its immediate knee-jerk lock-down of compassionate regard and open-mindedness toward the accused, has come far too close to paralleling the Nazi accusation of Sie sind Juden.

151

Ronan(rf) 12.16.13 at 11:06 pm

Come on roy belmont, it’s pretty obvious why people shouldn’t compare the actions of the Israeli state to Nazi Germany. Context is important here. So what if *some* very specific tactics the Israeli’s have used have ‘parallels with Nazi Germany’? They are also similar to tactics used in *numerous* conflicts, where a powerful state has responded to an internal security threat.
Israel is quite obviously not Nazi Germany. Any listing of ‘parallels’ is simply hyperbole or anti semitism. I can’t think of a third reason someone would.
People really shouldnt need this spelled out to them.

152

godoggo 12.16.13 at 11:16 pm

Whatever. Anyways, when somebody quotes Paul Krugman or Roger Waters, they don’t have to quote Wikipedia to tell us how famous they are.

153

SoU 12.16.13 at 11:22 pm

@146 thanks for the Taussig link that was a great read

154

godoggo 12.16.13 at 11:26 pm

And Roy, I’ll tell you what, there’s a pattern to your comments – the “reasons” for antisemitism, influential Rabbis, the antisemitism smear – that cumulatively make me a bit queasy. I hope you work your way through it.

155

ChrisB 12.16.13 at 11:40 pm

In this discussion on this site both critics and defenders of Israel seem to be almost identically not giving the Israeli government what it’s asking for. Both sides here tend to analyse the situation in terms of utilitarian calculus, or Western moral values, or socialist aims, or any number of what to the people who actually rule Israel and set its policies are simply irrelevancies. If the population was 1% Jewish (however defined) and 99% Arab, if the number of Arabs evicted from their homes in the past week were 3,000,000 rather than 300, if Israel was a proudly fascist state rather than an imperfect democracy, Zionists (insofar as that isolates a particular tendency among the elite) would still believe that Jews should rule greater Israel for eternity because that is what God (or History, or Fate) has decreed. I’m a secularist and I don’t believe that, and I’d like to argue about these things in terms of utilitarianism or political possibility or a number of other secular modes, but arguing about the legitimacy of the state of Israel without recognizing the only argument that the state of Israel cares about does seem an exercise in futility.

156

roy belmont 12.17.13 at 12:45 am

godoggo:
Okay.
the “reasons” for antisemitism, influential Rabbis, the antisemitism smear
No, not “‘reasons’ for” – “causes of” – as distinct from “justifications for” some instances of what are dismissed entirely out of hand as bigoted pathology, without analysis, without discussion.
The only reason Waters is even visible on this is because he’s famous, and wealthy, and well-regarded enough to withstand the toxicities of accusation without a large group around him.
You need Wikipedia for Boteach, Samantha Power, currently one of the 3 or 4 most prominent figures in American foreign policy, certainly doesn’t.
I can’t figure out what the third term in that quoted phrase signifies for you.

Ronan:
Context is important here
Yep. I think you’re underestimating my awareness of how serious that charge is, as you probably are also underestimating Waters’ and others’ use of the parallel.
They are also similar to tactics used in *numerous* conflicts…
And as well also similar to tactics and practices used in South Africa until 1994 and the election of Nelson Mandela – Apartheid.
Pointing that out got such nasty racist personages as Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter, among many others, branded anti-Semitic.
Good company, in my book.

157

Ronan(rf) 12.17.13 at 12:53 am

Roger Waters from Pink Floyd? Who cares?
Has Justin Bieber weighed in yet?

158

Hektor Bim 12.17.13 at 1:26 am

ChrisB,

You are exaggerating. Plenty of people were fine with a circumscribed Israeli state in 1948. They ended up with more land then expected, and then were fine with that level. The people who weren’t were out of power. Even after the 1967 war, many Israelis did not want to rule over the West Bank and still don’t. Some religious types do see religious sanction for Greater Israel but it isn’t the majority by a long shot.

159

rilkefan 12.17.13 at 3:01 am

Re 155/158, shortly after the war the Israeli cabinet voted to trade land for peace, and Eshkol tried to find people on the West Bank to give the territory to. Unsurprisingly the locals weren’t organized enough to decide to start a new country and the Arab states were for various reasons not interested in allowing it or dealing with Israel concerning Sinai and Golan.

And the idea of Zionists being motivated by some idea of God just has the sign wrong.

160

LFC 12.17.13 at 3:21 am

Haven’t been following every twist of this thread but thought I’d mention that I had occasion today to look quickly at the Wikipedia article on the famous UN Sec Council Res. 242, dating from not long after the ’67 war. A large part of the article is a badly disorganized mess. When I see something like that — badly written and badly organized — it’s depressing. However, I did learn the exact wording of 242, which I don’t think I knew before. (It’s open to more than one reading/interpretation. What a surprise.)

161

adam.smith 12.17.13 at 4:09 am

Wikipedia is useless for almost any topic that’s politically controversial. Bad writing is the consequence of too many editing wars – I doubt it’s lack of attention to that page…

162

Mao Cheng Ji 12.17.13 at 8:28 am

@146 “And Michael Taussig’s recent Critical Inquiry article about two weeks spent in Palestine, puts a human face on the effects of Israeli and, by complicity, US policy”

Seems to me, this article makes a strong case for declaring the West Bank occupation an ongoing genocide. Which is, of course, and old news, and a typical story of almost any settler-colonialist enterprise.

Too bad we can’t do anything about it on account of our grave concern about an unspecified scenario of potential violation of human rights of the perpetrators.

163

Tim Wilkinson 12.17.13 at 2:38 pm

Ronan(rf): Context is important here. So what if *some* very specific tactics the Israeli’s have used have ‘parallels with Nazi Germany’? They are also similar to tactics used in *numerous* conflicts, where a powerful state has responded to an internal security threat. Israel is quite obviously not Nazi Germany. Any listing of ‘parallels’ is simply hyperbole or anti semitism. I can’t think of a third reason someone would.

Well, I can: the cycle of abuse. One of the collateral atrocities committed by the Nazis was to traumatise and brutalise a certain portion of what remained of the Jewish community. Context, as you say, is indeed important.

To oversimplify (oversimplify) somewhat with a balanced pair of stereotypes: the humane, sensitive, affable, funny, insightful, questioning, beardy-artsy Euro-Jewish mensh has tended (tended) to give way to the new bitter, hard-boiled, brutal, intransigent, doctrinaire, paranoid, militaristic Ziono-Jewish warrior. (This view previously expressed here: http://aaronovitch.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/adam-roberts-on-finkler-question.html#c555108234948639766 )

Having a somewhat understandable tendency to project Nazi-style eliminationism on its adversaries, the latter type has a tendency to meet (imagined) fire with fire – thus is in danger of adopting many of the brutal methods, and even blood-soil-and-folk attitudes, of its erstwhile oppressor. This is (to me anyway) a very sad development, but understanding, sympathising with, and even sharing, the context that has given rise to Israeli and Zionist extremism obviously doesn’t mean it should simply be indulged.

Now – again – this view is rather oversimplified or stylised, but I think there is a kernel of truth in there, and such a view can certainly, in principle, provide the third reason you seek.

164

Kaveh 12.17.13 at 3:11 pm

Another good reason is that the Third Reich and other perpetrators of genocide represent the threat posed by extremist ethnonationalism, and it’s unreasonable to demand that nobody talk about this threat before genocide is actually happening. The point of Nazi comparisons isn’t to describe, it’s to warn.

I don’t think the cycle of violence explanation is necessarily without merit, but I would tend to see this more in the context of American racial politics: support/voicing apologetics for racialized violence against Arabs is a way of being white in America. Military violence directed mainly at non-whites for strategic/realpolitik purposes has been a major factor in white American identity since at least the Vietnam War, so anyone who is coming to identify with white American culture has to either find a way to embrace that violence and take part in it, or explicitly reject it. Or for those who really want to have it both ways, there is the ‘our struggle against brown people is virtuous, unlike some misguided American wars’.

165

Donald Johnson 12.17.13 at 3:33 pm

“The case for Israel was that no one else would take in the Jewish refugees of Europe and post WWII, including the countries they came from. Which was largely true”

I mostly agree with that, though with the caveat that it was also in the interests of Zionism that other countries not take in Jewish refugees. But yes, that’s the legitimate case for Israel, or rather, the legitimate case for refugees fleeing to whatever place they can find. It’s not a justification for ethnic cleansing of the place where they end up so that the refugees can have their own state. Also, you will sometimes find Israelis and Israeli supporters vehemently rejecting the notion that the Holocaust is the main justification for Israel–they talk in terms of having a right to a Jewish state and their historical connection to the land. I think Obama got in trouble for saying something about the Holocaust being a justification for Israel, but my memory may be off.

As for a 1SS where both Palestinians and Jews live in peace and equality in a democratic secular state, that’s what I’d favor, but the chances of that happening anytime soon are somewhere between zero and negligible. A fair 2SS seems almost as remote. The excuses people make for Israel’s behavior don’t make much sense. Nobody is forcing them to build settlements. They could maintain control of the WB (and they maintain a rather ugly blockade on Gaza) without settlements, until a solution is reached, but the idea seems to be that they can continue to take land until peace is achieved.

Now for my answer to the singling out argument. The ASA boycott should be lifted. Palestinians from the WB should be allowed to build settlements inside the 67 borders just as Israelis settle the WB. Israel itself should be placed under the sort of blockade that Gaza is under. F-16’s and cluster munitions and tear gas should be sold to the PA (using, presumably, money from some sympathetic Gulf State). Congresspeople and Presidents make speeches about how no country should be expected to be tolerant of rockets raining on their territory–therefore, both Israel and the Gazans should stop shooting at civilians on the other side. (Somehow the Israeli shooting never seems to get mentioned. You know what a ceasefire is in this context? A period of time when only Israel is shooting at people.)

This would solve the singling out problem that seems to have some people upset.

166

Barry 12.17.13 at 3:56 pm

Kaveh 12.16.13 at 6:20 pm

“Not a single one of the people making the “singling out Israel” objection has ever once objected to any other state/entity being “singled out”.”

And not a single one of those people have ever objected when Israel is singled out in a good way (generally through massive support from the US government).

167

Mao Cheng Ji 12.17.13 at 6:52 pm

There are many way to generate a cycle of violence. Ethnic essentialism, OTOH is a more specific and narrow phenomenon. It would be silly to try to avoid comparing its manifestations. Besides, according to my (limited) observations, hardcore Israeli Zionists don’t even mind the comparison. All the anguish associated with it is mostly fabricated for the consumption by American feel-good liberals, who also like to advocate a degree of ethnic essentialism, albeit in a different form.

168

Tim Wilkinson 12.17.13 at 7:53 pm

I didn’t say ‘cycle of violence’, but ‘cycle of abuse’, by analogy to the peculiar pathologies involved in domestic violence. One of those involves victims becoming perpetrators by emulating the behaviour of their own abuser. It’s a loose analogy for various fairly obvious reasons, but at some level and to some degree not entirely inapt here, I don’t think.

169

Mao Cheng Ji 12.17.13 at 8:34 pm

I dunno, with all due respect, this still involves generalizations about large groups of people who have little or nothing in common; treating several generation of them as one single-minded entity.

It’s true, something like this did happen, happened a lot, in the immediate aftermath of the WWII. But that was almost 70 years ago. How long can a cycle last? I mean, by itself, if it’s not deliberately amplified and propagated.

170

SoU 12.17.13 at 10:27 pm

@ Tim, ‘cycle of abuse’ –
i think there is something to that thought, Tim. a group of individuals can be said to have a ‘memory’, so long as that group remains salient over time. remember that the Nazi plan to depopulate the East was a consequence of their goal of turning Poland, etc., into German farmland, in a attempt to preclude the possibility of another hunger blockade from ravaging their population like it did in ww1. violence begets violence, and often the linkages are weird, given that they come from a position of trauma, victimhood, or what have you

171

Bernard Yomtov 12.18.13 at 2:25 am

#155

If the population was 1% Jewish (however defined) and 99% Arab, if the number of Arabs evicted from their homes in the past week were 3,000,000 rather than 300, if Israel was a proudly fascist state rather than an imperfect democracy, Zionists (insofar as that isolates a particular tendency among the elite) would still believe that Jews should rule greater Israel for eternity because that is what God (or History, or Fate) has decreed.

Do you have any support for this claim? Or is it just, as I suspect, a bunch of made-up BS?

172

Bernard Yomtov 12.18.13 at 2:35 am

Tim Wilkinson,

Having a somewhat understandable tendency to project Nazi-style eliminationism on its adversaries, the latter type has a tendency to meet (imagined) fire with fire – thus is in danger of adopting many of the brutal methods, and even blood-soil-and-folk attitudes, of its erstwhile oppressor.

Do you think that the “tendency to project Nazi-style eliminationism on its adversaries” is solely projection? Or is it just barely possible that rhetoric by foes of Israel have, just maybe, uttered a word or two that might lead someone to believe that “Nazi-style eliminationism” was not far from their goals?

173

Mao Cheng Ji 12.18.13 at 7:41 am

@SoU 170, but the mantle of victimhood has to be fomented, sustained, and maintained, otherwise it goes away quickly. This is done for a purpose, in Germany after the WWI and in Israel after the WWII. This is just a way to create support for someone’s political program, someone’s career.

174

Kaveh 12.18.13 at 8:51 am

@172 ““Nazi-style eliminationism” was not far from their goals?”>”

Who’s the ‘they’ in “their goals”? I guess you mean the ex-prez of Iran, but he’s kind of a marginal figure. Surely you don’t mean most Palestinians? Or do you think it’s fair to generalize to all Palestinians from whatever you believe about Hamas?

175

Ronan(rf) 12.18.13 at 9:01 am

Perhaps we settle on ‘The Israeli’s are not Nazi’s and neither are their opponents? ‘
Seems a reasonable starting point

176

Mao Cheng Ji 12.18.13 at 9:46 am

“The Israeli’s are not Nazi’s”

Your framing as a category error. The controversy is about the (alleged) parallels between the ideologies and methods of German Nazism and Israeli Zionism, not between Israelis and Nazis.

177

Ronan(rf) 12.18.13 at 9:50 am

It’s between the actions of the Israeli and Nazi state, no? I dont think people are arguing for substantial similiarities btw Zionism and Nazism, ideologically..?

178

Mao Cheng Ji 12.18.13 at 10:06 am

Of course people are arguing for substantial similarities:
http://www.google.com/search?q=zionism+nazism+similarities

I don’t want to get into this, I’m just saying there is no point comparing Israelis with Nazis, as you suggested. ‘Israeli’ is a nationality, ‘Nazi’ is a follower of political ideology.

179

Ronan(rf) 12.18.13 at 10:09 am

But of course none of us want to ‘get into it’, but here we are, in it. My only point is we should all stay away from it. Because it, is silly.

180

Mao Cheng Ji 12.18.13 at 11:04 am

I don’t think it’s silly, and you don’t explain why you think it is silly (unless I missed the explanation). Both are ethnicist ideologies and that seems to be a very reasonable ground for analyzing the parallels, if one chooses to do so. Preferably on one’s own blog, or some other blog more prone to controversy than this one. Try jewssansfrontieres.

181

Ronan(rf) 12.18.13 at 11:23 am

Well I guess if someone could spell out the parallels we could compare and contrast?
So far it’s been Roger Waters opinion and the idea that Israeli’s have intra generationally internalised the violence of Nazi Germany and are now visiting it upon the Palestinians.

Perhaps it’s true that all nationalist movements borrow from historical narratives to justify present day violence, but it doesnt go much further than that, I don’t think, and there’s nothing unique here to Zionism.
Is the argument that expansionism and anti Arab prejudice are built into Zionism to the same extent as anti Semitism was to Nazism? I don’t think that’s true either, at least not any more than with any other nationalist ideology. But I don’t know enough about it so am open to convincing.

Or is it just that some specific modes of violence the Israeli’s use against the Palestinians have comparisons to what happened in Nazi Germany. Again that’s a *much* more limited argument and is true in any number of counterinsurgencies or wars against seperatist groups, so what’s the point of making the comparison Nazi Germany except to be hyperbolic?

I genuinely have no idea why anyone would think Nazi Germany is a good comparison?

182

Mao Cheng Ji 12.18.13 at 12:54 pm

In the cultural realm, comparing something to the Nazis is a rhetorical equivalent of saying “it’s much worse than what it looks like”. Because the Nazis are the standard of evil, in this culture. Come to think of it, to me Israeli Zionism is bad enough so that it doesn’t need a rhetorical putdown. This putdown is easy to counter by claiming that it’s a hyperbola, and it tends to derail the discussion (as we see here). So, I kind of, in a sense, agree with you there.

But for a historian or sociologist I’m sure it could be very interesting to track and compare ethnicist (which is not at all the same as nationalist) political movements. It’s a relatively common sentiment, easy to appeal to, easy to foment, easy to exploit. It seems interesting.

183

Kaveh 12.18.13 at 3:50 pm

Unfortunately the Nazi-Zionist comparison seems to often lean too much on the irony that Jews were the Nazis’ victims and are too often needlessly hurtful. I’ve seen this done badly and I’ve seen it done well–for example there was some comparison made a while back between treatment of Palestinians at checkpoints, and the Jew who was forced to play violin at a Nazi checkpoint or something (I forget the names & details, but it’s a famous incident). People might think of the Israeli checkpoints as kind of their own unique thing, but it can be really striking to see how the very behaviors that symbolized Nazi hatred and oppression of Jews are showing up in Israeli checkpoints. This comparison doesn’t claim to equate Zionism to Nazism, or accuse Zionists of currently perpetrating genocide, but it’s still a meaningful and poignant comparison. In my experience, without a useful comparison to make like that, just tossing around similarities, no matter how tenuous, between Zionist and Nazi violence &c. really hurts discussion.

184

Kaveh 12.18.13 at 3:51 pm

s/b “that Jews were the Nazis’ victims, and such comparisons are too often needlessly hurtful”

185

roy belmont 12.18.13 at 7:24 pm

Kaveh:
It – the forced musicality of the condemned – is the text from which Leonard Cohen’s eerie majestic Halleluia is drawn.

Bernard Yomtov:
Rhetorical pronouns ahead.
We say:
“We want you to stop being an asshole.”
You hear:
“We want you to stop being.”
This forces us to have to figure out if you’re incapable of not being an asshole, and are thus correctly equating the elimination of your assholishness with the elimination of your entire self, or if you’re just refusing to even consider not being an asshole, and thus forcing us to accept your assholishness without dissent or move our intention toward the morally unacceptable elimination of you, in order to stop your asshole behavior.
This provides your assholishness the impregnable defense, behind the shield of your whole being, of having been unjustly targeted for elimination, and consequently becoming immune to criticism.
Mortal fear will do that, as well as will delusional arrogance. Very different conditions, calling for very different remedies.
The refusal to allow the discussion to proceed the way fruitful discussion must proceed, organically veering on and off course and permitting the possibly offensive and mistaken to at least have their say before refutation, means we don’t get to resolve these questions openly, with mutual assistance.
They then become resolvable only by the exertion of force.
Since what you’re hearing, however inaccurately, is “We want you to stop being.”, the use of force, deception, manipulation, and suppression of open discussion is entirely justified. Because your opponents are immoral, irrationally hateful, and out to get rid of you simply because you’re you.

186

nemerinys 12.18.13 at 9:56 pm

For those who are critical of the BDS movement and who believe Israel is being unfairly singled out, I recommend these two articles from
The American Conservativee
and The Nation. Both are quite short.

187

Mao Cheng Ji 12.19.13 at 8:04 am

“that Jews were the Nazis’ victims, and such comparisons are too often needlessly hurtful”

May I suggest that if someone has no emotional reaction to the Two Weeks in Palestine piece above, and A Gaza Diary by Chris Hedges, and a million other witness accounts (or, more likely, they deliberately suppress their reaction, and rationalize), but will fly off the handle because of the Zionist-Nazi comparison, then perhaps this is just another parallel in the comparison. Fuck them.

188

Tim Wilkinson 12.19.13 at 3:29 pm

Ronan – It turns out that there’s a substantial literature on ‘intergenerational transmission of Holocaust trauma’. My comments were meant to be about social and cultural phenomena though, not individual psychopathology.

According to AD Moses (‘Conceptual blockages and definitional dilemmas in the’racial century’: genocides of indigenous peoples and the Holocaust’, Patterns of Prejudice, 2002; pdf avail. via Google Scholar): the events of the Holocaust were experienced by members of the victim group as a trauma of virtually metaphysical proportions, a defining rupture in personal and collective identity with world-historical significance…it has become an important marker of collective Jewish identity…, fwiw.

It seems that similar ideas to that which I rather tentatively, and speculatively, introduced above also already exist on the net:

http://www.avigailabarbanel.me.uk/spirit-pub.html

http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/overcoming-the-trauma-of-the-holocaust-will-light-pierce-the-darkness

http://www.wrmea.org/wrmea-archives/141-washington-report-archives-1988-1993/july-1992/6853-linking-the-holocaust-and-israeli-abuse-of-the-palestinians.html

For those with Jstor access, there’s also some acad. literature. E.g., Omer Bartov (‘Defining Enemies, Making Victims: Germans, Jews, and the Holocaust’,
The American Historical Review, 103.3 (Jun., 1998), pp. 771-816) discusses

…the troubled relationship between enemies and victims within the Israeli discourse on national identity. Zionism had formed in Europe as a reaction to political anti-Semitism, the view that “the Jew” was European society’s most dangerous and yet elusive enemy. The Zionists, in turn, presented gentile European society as the greatest danger to Jewish existence and promoted the idea of a Jewish state, applying to it the very model of Central European nationalism that had increasingly viewed Jews as an alien race but combining it with traditional Jewish attitudes to their non-Jewish environment. Yet the new Jewish state was created in the Middle East, on the rim of an Arab and Islamic world, while the original vision of Zionism was to establish a political and social entity very much in line with liberal or socialist ideas brought over from Europe. This made for a great deal of ambivalence vis-a-vis Europe, seen as both the persecutor of the Jews and the model for an independent Jewish existence. Conversely, while Zionism aspired to create a “new Jew” closer to the ancient Israelites than to Diaspora ancestors, the only available example was the Arabs, who for their part increasingly resisted Jewish nationhood in Palestine. Hence the ambivalent attitude toward the Arab world, which was seen as both a model for a resurrected Hebrew culture and its worst enemy…
All this made for a complex process of inversion and denial, whereby anti-Semitic
stereotypes were employed by Zionism both in order to mold a new type of Israeli
Jew and to forge a negative image of the Arab, while the virtues of that very
European civilization from which the Zionists had emigrated were both appropriated
by the state and set against the “oriental” nature of its Arab environment…
The Israeli case presents only one important aspect of the discourse on persecution and victimhood that has become a central feature of our century. It is no coincidence that, while some Israelis have seen the Palestinians as the incarnation of Nazism, Palestinians have presented themselves as the Jews of the Middle East and some anti-Israeli speakers have compared the Israelis to the Nazis…
The Holocaust has been used to justify the unjustifiable; it has served as a
measuring rod for every other atrocity, trivializing and relativizing what would
otherwise be unacceptable…
The victim trope is a central feature of our time. In a century that produced more victims of war, genocide, and massacre than all of previous recorded history put together, it is both a trope and a reflection of reality. Yet, at the same time, it is a dangerous prism through which to view the world, for victims are produced by enemies, and enemies eventually make for more victims. Traditional societies often create elaborate rites of vengeance and pacification; modern, industrial societies have the capacity to wreak destruction on such a vast scale that ultimately everyone becomes its victim. This essay has attempted to examine only one case, that of German and Jewish views of enemies and victims, and the extent to which the legacy of the Holocaust has molded the fate and identity of these two peoples over the past fifty years.

I’ve only done a pretty cursory search for relevant texts, and the batch of quotes om Bartov is – obviously – highly selective, but still I think all this suggests, at least, that my theory shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand as describing one aspect of a complex reality.

189

Mao Cheng Ji 12.19.13 at 5:23 pm

I think the quote actually supports my view of deliberate manipulation, propaganda, and brainwashing, rather than some organic transformation of the abused identity-holders into abusers, which is how I understood your thesis. Gypsies were a part of it too, and yet nothing hasn’t happened to them.

190

hix 12.19.13 at 5:46 pm

Or sinti and roma are just to poor and powerless for anyone to give a shit what they think or want.

191

Tim Wilkinson 12.19.13 at 5:52 pm

Mao – Not organic; a matter of social psychology, perhaps, played out in a certain context (strong sense of group identity, pre-existing ambition on the part of, e.g. Ben Gurion to forge a ‘new jew’, etc. + what hix said). Or even a conscious determination to be ‘tougher’ than the Nazis.

Hence one aspect of a complex reality: there is certainly deliberate propagandising etc., too. At the risk of being overly ‘cute’, that too finds parallels in the 3rd Reich.

I’m not dogmatically committed to this rather vague thesis anyway; having proposed it, and thinking it didn’t deserve summary dismissal, I thought I should put in the effort to see if there’s any support for it from any other quarter. I think there is some; you’re not impressed, fine.

192

Mao Cheng Ji 12.19.13 at 6:19 pm

Fair enough. However, to manipulate someone into feeling victimized and abused, I don’t think any real history of abuse is even necessary. It helps to have real grievances but I don’t think it’s required.

The Gypsies in Europe, I think they were much better positioned to stage an ethnic revival. They were less assimilated and they already had the common language. It’s not the money, they were lacking in organization, concentrated effort. You really have to create a new conceptual framework, and instill it into people’s heads. Without it: there was a genocide, some people got killed, now it’s over, life goes on.

193

Ronan(rf) 12.19.13 at 6:57 pm

Tim, I wasnt trying to dismiss what you were saying. I agree that groups can borrow from historical narratives, or actors can utilise them for political ends.
My reading of you intitially (perhaps unfairly) was that you were arguing this might be some sort of society wide pathology. That might also be arguable to some degree, I’m just not sure how far it goes, is all. I didnt mean to dismiss your point, so sorry it read that way.

194

Ronan(rf) 12.19.13 at 6:57 pm

I guess I agree with Mao’s 189

195

Ronan(rf) 12.19.13 at 7:06 pm

I guess pathology wasnt the right word ..

196

Tim Wilkinson 12.19.13 at 8:44 pm

Yeah, not so much ‘society-wide [personal] pathology’ as ‘quasi-pathological social phenomenon’ – not so dissimilar, in its way, to the understandable pathologies of Palestinian society that have developed under occupation. (Although in that case, a. such Nazi salutes and swastikas as there are – I’ve seen one reproduced in MS media that looked photoshopped – seem more an attempt to offend for its own sake – venting impotent rage – than an expression of any ideological content, and b. there’s an element of perversely adopting the very image that has been carved out for them in militant-Israeli propaganda…but I digress, ramblingly.)

Recall, in any case, that the initial point was that 3rd Reich comparisons might be salient – rather than gratuitously offensive or whatever – because (some) Israelis (or Israeli officialdom) were or are tending to imitate the attitudes and methods of their erstwhile oppressors. That doesn’t depend on any particular mechanism being operative.

Anyway I think the idea now can’t complain that it hasn’t had a fair hearing, so I’ll leave it at that (probably).

197

Collin Street 12.19.13 at 9:22 pm

Recall, in any case, that the initial point was that 3rd Reich comparisons might be salient – rather than gratuitously offensive or whatever – because (some) Israelis (or Israeli officialdom) were or are tending to imitate the attitudes and methods of their erstwhile oppressors.

Not so much “imitate” as “resemble”: I’m reasonably sure that the number of zionists explicitly modelling their actions on the NSDAP is quite, quite quite small. It’s just that there aren’t that many different ways you can build a racially-exclusionary state, and — by chance and contingency — the model the zionists seem to want resembles nazi germany more than it does South Africa or the Confederacy or old-school northern ireland [or older-school ireland].

198

Mao Cheng Ji 12.19.13 at 9:36 pm

“In order to prepare properly for the next campaign, one of the Israeli officers in the territories said not long ago, it’s justified and in fact essential to learn from every possible source. If the mission will be to seize a densely populated refugee camp, or take over the casbah in Nablus, and if the commander’s obligation is to try to execute the mission without casualties on either side, then he must first analyze and internalize the lessons of earlier battles – even, however shocking it may sound, even how the German army fought in the Warsaw ghetto.”

http://www.haaretz.com/at-the-gates-of-yassergrad-1.54780

199

Tim Wilkinson 12.19.13 at 9:47 pm

I don’t necessarily disagree with that, but the point of the particular idea I was canvassing – the analogy with the cycle of abuse – was to posit that there might in fact be some form of imitation, emulation, reproduction involved – or more generally, some salient causal link underlying the resemblances you observe.

But I wasn’t contemplating the possibility of ‘zionists explicitly [consciously] modelling their actions on the NSDAP’ in relevant ways – i.e. beyond some vague idea of trying to be as ‘tough’ or ruthless as the (old) enemy.

200

Tim Wilkinson 12.19.13 at 9:48 pm

last in reply to Collin

201

Mao Cheng Ji 12.19.13 at 9:57 pm

There are (at least) two ways to condemn Nazism: one is, from the humanist perspective, to condemn it as a general concept. The other one is to condemn it because of the category (or one of the categories) of its victims, while accepting the concept of tribal antagonism/warfare as a perfectly normal phenomenon.

202

Ronan(rf) 12.19.13 at 10:09 pm

@ 197

That’s interesting. In what ways particularly are you thinking are they similar? (genuine question as Im curious)

203

Tim Wilkinson 12.19.13 at 10:30 pm

The 2nd link in my #188 – http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/overcoming-the-trauma-of-the-holocaust-will-light-pierce-the-darkness is a review of a book by former member and speaker of the Knesset Avraham Burg.

The NY times ( http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/20/world/middleeast/20burg.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 ) adds:

“I realized something about myself and Israel that frightened me,” he said recently, looking back over the past few years. “I realized that Israel had become an efficient kingdom with no prophecy. Where was it going? What is a Jewish democratic state? What does it mean that Jews define themselves by genetics 60 years after genetics were used against them?”

The English version does not have some of his more alarming assertions in the Hebrew one — for example, that the Israeli government would probably soon pass the equivalent of the Nuremberg laws, with provisions like a prohibition on marriage between Jews and Arabs.

204

LFC 12.19.13 at 11:22 pm

Mao Cheng Ji @167

There are many way to generate a cycle of violence. Ethnic essentialism, OTOH is a more specific and narrow phenomenon. It would be silly to try to avoid comparing its manifestations.

Tim Wilkinson @196

the initial point was that 3rd Reich comparisons might be salient – rather than gratuitously offensive or whatever – because (some) Israelis (or Israeli officialdom) were or are tending to imitate the attitudes and methods of their erstwhile oppressors.

There are some qualifications in the language of these comments. Still, reading comments such as the above, it’s somewhat hard for me to avoid the thought that there’s an inadequate or imperfect grasp here of what the Holocaust actually was, and also an imperfect grasp of the distinction between systematic oppression on the one hand, and systematic extermination on the other.

The sheer scale of the Holocaust and of the Nazi network of labor camps, ghettos, and extermination camps is worth noting (see quotes from NYT article below). As a historical matter one might examine the Holocaust together w Stalin’s crimes and the general orgy of killing that accompanied the German invasion of the USSR, as Timothy Snyder apparently does in Bloodlands (which I haven’t read, but I heard him give a talk on the book a while ago). But there he’s dealing with phenomena that were occurring roughly at the same time (and, to some extent, in the same general geography) and had some other interrelations.

On the question of scale, this piece from the NYT of last March (link in next box) is pertinent. Excerpts:

Thirteen years ago, researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum began the grim task of documenting all the ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories that the Nazis set up throughout Europe. What they have found so far has shocked even scholars steeped in the history of the Holocaust. The researchers have cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, spanning German-controlled areas from France to Russia and Germany itself….The figure is so staggering that even fellow Holocaust scholars had to make sure they had heard it correctly when the lead researchers previewed their findings at an academic forum in late January [2013] at the German Historical Institute in Washington.

The documented camps include not only “killing centers” but also thousands of forced labor camps, where prisoners manufactured war supplies; prisoner-of-war camps; sites euphemistically named “care” centers, where pregnant women were forced to have abortions or their babies were killed after birth; and brothels, where women were coerced into having sex with German military personnel. … The maps the researchers have created to identify the camps and ghettos turn wide sections of wartime Europe into black clusters of death, torture and slavery — centered in Germany and Poland, but reaching in all directions. The lead editors on the project, Geoffrey Megargee and Martin Dean, estimate that 15 million to 20 million people died or were imprisoned in the sites that they have identified as part of a multivolume encyclopedia.

This apparently counts in POW camps (including, e.g., those where v. large numbers of Soviet POWs died) and maybe POW camps should be in a different category — I don’t know. But I think the point about scale and actions stands regardless.

205

LFC 12.19.13 at 11:31 pm

206

hix 12.19.13 at 11:59 pm

But if labour and pow camps are in a different category, there is no chance to exploit morale outrage for a settlement with no legal basis of the 30% for lawyers, 70% for rich Americans 0% for everyone else kind.

207

Christopher W 12.20.13 at 1:02 am

I am beginning to appreciate (in this thread and the one on Brandeis) what John Meredith said here a few years ago…

http://crookedtimber.org/2008/03/09/the-department-of-huh-is-the-only-growth-industry-round-here/

208

Collin Street 12.20.13 at 1:24 am

That’s interesting. In what ways particularly are you thinking are they similar? (genuine question as Im curious)

I don’t have any expertise or special secret-sauce knowledge, you know. I don’t know anything you don’t know, so I can’t conclude anything you can’t conclude, if we’re both doing this right.

209

Mao Cheng Ji 12.20.13 at 7:36 am

LFC 204 “Still, reading comments such as the above, it’s somewhat hard for me to avoid the thought that there’s an inadequate or imperfect grasp here of what the Holocaust actually was, and also an imperfect grasp of the distinction between systematic oppression on the one hand, and systematic extermination on the other.”

That is true. But Nazism existed before 1941. The orgy of killing didn’t happen because of a temporary mass-insanity. It’s an ideology, a state of mind that led, step by step, to what you’re describing. It has certain essential characteristics. Ethnicity-based persecution complex. Essentialization of the ethnic identity. Demonization and dehumanization of other groups. Etc. These things can be analyzed, and in fact they are more interesting to analyze, without getting into the scale and mechanics.

210

Tim Wilkinson 12.20.13 at 8:44 am

it’s somewhat hard for me to avoid the thought that there’s an inadequate or imperfect grasp here of what the Holocaust actually was

I suggest you try a bit harder, then, because you are very badly mistaken if you think I need you or the NYT to start explaining it to me.

And There are some qualifications in the language??

Qualifications of what? Just ‘in the language’? As in ‘I’m not being offensive, but fuck you’?

211

Nathan 12.20.13 at 9:22 am

There seems to be a hint of snobbishness regarding the issue of Israel among American Jews— bigotry is what happens in Alabama, conducted by gun-toting hillbillies, not by nice Jewish boys with college educations (I’m thinking more of Eric Alterman than Kazin here). This is why I profoundly disagree with Robin’s own claim that Jewish separateness is pardonable because it is somehow more ”democratic” than other versions, which is illogical for starters.

212

Ronan(rf) 12.20.13 at 9:30 am

@207

Well I dont know why that should be self evident (ie I dont know much about Nazi Germany) but sure, whatevs

213

Kaveh 12.20.13 at 9:57 am

If one is to insist that nothing is in any way comparable to the Holocaust if it isn’t on the same scale, one might as well go whole hog and say that nothing is comparable to the Holocaust that didn’t happen in mid-20th century Europe. Israel is tiny compared to Germany, and the whole Arab world’s population is less than 1/2 of Europe’s, so of course nothing will be on quite the same scale.

214

LFC 12.20.13 at 2:41 pm

@Kaveh
If one is to insist that nothing is in any way comparable to the Holocaust if it isn’t on the same scale, one might as well go whole hog and say that nothing is comparable to the Holocaust that didn’t happen in mid-20th century Europe

I didn’t say that “nothing is in any way comparable to the Holocaust if it isn’t on the same scale.” I tend to agree w the gist of your earlier comment @183, so you can read mine in light of that.

215

roy belmont 12.21.13 at 3:05 am

I was 28 years old before I learned anything about the other, non-Jewish, victims of Nazi eugenic practices. It’s obvious why, now, but then it seemed strange, and it was disturbing.
I think many Americans still feel, if not think, that the Holocaust was motivated by German anti-Semitism exclusively.
But it wasn’t, it centered on the Aryan ideal, with the untermenschen necessarily disposed of to achieve that ideal. Not because of some irrational hatred, but because of a rational expectation, within an irrational belief in the genetic superiority of the prosecutors of the atrocity, that these grotesque practices would only be necessary for a while. And then an empire of the elect would reveal itself to the universe.
“Holocaust denial” is a pretty commonly heard term of accusation, putting a solid stop to any analysis and discussion. But there’s a strong element of denial in making what happened there primarily a campaign against Jews. It was against lots of people, groups of people, types, some relatively few in number, some whose persecution and annihilation are still looked on favorably by the otherwise outraged, or disregarded as relatively unimportant to “normal” folk.
The anatomical freaks, the queers, the insane, the criminal, the Roma, and don’t lets forget the communists. It’s a long sad list.
Especially the freaks for me, a small minority always, with often unspeakably difficult lives at the best of times, and always numerically insignificant against a calculation of millions. But these are rare creatures, and their loss is magnified by their rarity.
It was a gay man, actively campaigning for the recognition and legitimacy of his “tribe”, handing out buttons with a pink triangle and the phrase “Never Again” on them, who patiently and sincerely guided me through the first phases of disillusion with what I thought that was.
It is a form of Holocaust denial to allow the historical direction and purpose of the Nazi campaign to slip from eugenic mass destruction, with its goal centered on the dominance of one cleaned-up ethnic branch of the human tree, to a specific campaign against Jews, exclusively.

216

LFC 12.21.13 at 4:12 pm

@roy belmont 215
The term Holocaust is often used to refer specifically to the Nazis’ actions vs. Jews (though the article I quoted in 204 was prob. using the term more broadly).

However, no one here has said that the Nazis’ crimes were directed against Jews exclusively. You refer above to the killing of handicapped/disabled children and adults, which began in the summer of ’39; the killing of handicapped adults was largely stopped 2 years later, after public protests from Catholic bishops and one in particular named Galen. Galen’s protests were limited to the killing of the mentally handicapped and psychiatric patients; he said nothing about the persecution of other groups such as Jews and Gypsies. See R. Evans, The Third Reich at War, pp. 77-101.

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Ronan(rf) 12.21.13 at 4:22 pm

Roy b

Also,according to Adam tooze, antisemitism was much more central to Nazi ideology than you allow for here. Afaik he argues you can’t understand the Nazi regime without factoring in the role antisemitism played, particularly in driving the war against the US

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novakant 12.21.13 at 5:38 pm

It’s a matter of emphasis and I am sure there are many, many people like young Roy B who wouldn’t have any idea about the anti-slavic element of Nazi ideology, even though the slavs were the biggest victim group by far and one cannot understand WW2 without it. This is not to minimize Jewish suffering in any way and I find the psychopathology argument insulting and stupid – nobody ever traumatized Americans in this way and yet they were perfectly capable of fighting a race war in Vietnam and elsewhere.

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