On not knowing what to say about Gaza

by Chris Armstrong on October 12, 2023

I was meant to write a post this week, but then Hamas’s horrific assault on Israel happened, and now the civilian inhabitants of Gaza are once again living in fear (some of them have put themselves in the firing line; many have not). Since I have Arab friends and family, and have fond memories of Gaza, it all feels horribly close to home, and yet also impossibly distant. But of course, it has never been easy to know what to say about Gaza.

In the meantime, for a good example of what *not* to say about Gaza, you could try this piece. (In a nutshell, Yuval Noah Harari’s solution seems to be that Israel hands the problem over to a coalition of the willing who will administer Gaza colonial-style. I can envisage a few problems).



Bob 10.12.23 at 1:35 pm

Here is a good example of what TO say about Gaza. Michelle Goldberg in this morning’s New York Times:



Patrick 10.12.23 at 2:07 pm

What is the benefit of having the international community administer Gaza as opposed to Israel administering Gaza? He throws the suggestion out there, but doesn’t really discuss the merits at all.


Seekonk 10.12.23 at 4:06 pm

I believe that it’s past time to resuscitate international arbitration. https://www.britannica.com/topic/arbitration/International-arbitration
The present requirement of a negotiated settlement has given a veto to rejectionists on both sides.

I think that the best (or least worst) arrangement is still a return to the 1967 borders per UN resolution 242 of November 1967. This outcome has been accepted by most Palestinians including Hamas. Iran and the Arab states have consistently said that they would agree to any settlement that the Palestinians accept. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-state_solution

The Israeli settlers in the West Bank should be bought out for a fair price that takes into account the cost of their relocation into Israel proper. The price in money is surely less than the cost of funding the continued use of force. Is it too late? The price in blood is incalculable.


Tm 10.12.23 at 6:48 pm

I found Harari‘s article worth reading but the suggestion in the last paragraph is useless. The „willing“ should disarm Hamas and take over control of the Gaza Strip. How? He doesn’t say.

I second the recommendation of Goldberg‘s article. The quoted statements by the DSA and other pseudoleftists are sickening, they apparently don’t give a damn about the civilian suffering on both sides as long as they get an opportunity to spew revolutionary rhetoric from the safety of the US.

“It is not just disgusting but self-defeating for vocal segments of the left to disavow those universal ideas about human rights, declaring instead that to those who are oppressed, even the most extreme violence is permitted. Their views are the mirror image of those who claim that, given what Israel has endured, the scale of its retaliation cannot be questioned.”

Gift link:



LFC 10.12.23 at 6:56 pm

Seekonk @3
Has Hamas ever accepted Res. 242? That wd be news to me.


engels 10.12.23 at 8:08 pm

the Need for a Decent Left

2002 called, they want their liberal imperialism back


Seekonk 10.12.23 at 8:33 pm

The third paragraph of the Wiki entry cited @3 above cites a May 2017 Al Jazeera article:
”Hamas has presented a new political document that accepts the formation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, without recognizing the statehood of Israel, and says that the conflict in Palestine is not a religious one.” https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/5/2/hamas-accepts-palestinian-state-with-1967-borders

The goal should be to recognize the validity of the Palestinian cause while rejecting the use of violence to impose or oppose it. The parties have not agreed to date, and they are not likely to agree. The international community must compel a settlement. (And, yes, that would imply the use of force as a last resort, after sanctions, etc.)


FDChief 10.12.23 at 9:16 pm

I can’t scale the NYT paywall, but let me guess; Goldberg is whatabouting some Columbia undergrad commons room tweet with EmptyG calling for bombing Gaza into a field of glass.

The “left” that has actual political influence in the corridors of federal power ends with Sanders and his ilk, none of whom are praising Hamas. That some schmoe who still has a Glenn Greenwald poster over his bed has done so says nothing about the actual “Left”. But since there has to be a bothsides, here’s Goldberg.


engels 10.12.23 at 9:42 pm

I’m not sure how to react to being gifted an NYT opinion column… not this Michelle Goldberg? “N.Y. Times columnist reportedly urged violence against pro-life students: ‘Kick them in the head'”


Tom 10.12.23 at 9:55 pm

I was concerned that nobody had yet tried to use the current situation in Gaza to dunk on the DSA, but fortunately Goldberg and the NYT are on the case. The DSA, which counts about 80,000 members, is the true source of the problem here, not the ones who have held power for decades in the US.

Goldberg touchingly proffers “But if humanist principles spur total revulsion toward the terrorist crimes in Israel, they also demand restraint in Gaza”, noting that Israel is imposing collective punishment on Gaza. Goldberg is however appalled that some members of the left are being insensitive to Israelis’ sufferings. I am appalled too but, after all, as Goldberg also reports, the most visible representative of the left in the US (Sanders and AOC) said all the right things about the issue. On the other hand, nothing is said about the President. You know, the one heading the decent progressives. The other day he said that “Israel has a right to defend itself and its people. The United States warns against any other party hostile to Israel seeking advantage in this situation. My Administration’s support for Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering.” One would think that a few words could be spent on how, maybe, just maybe, the President of the nation that is the closest ally to Israel, that President could also try to avert the collective punishment Israel is inflicting on Gaza. But, no, all eyes should be on the “disgusting left”. Then some wonder why a big part of the population ends up falling for the fake news of the right. With true news spun like these…


LFC 10.12.23 at 10:18 pm

engels @6

Did you even read the M. Goldberg column? it has nothing whatever to do w “liberal imperialism”.

DSA used to be a good organization. I don’t know precisely what’s happened to it but clearly something bad. The statement from B. Sanders reported in the M. Goldberg column is one I agree with.

But this:

New York’s chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America promoted a rally where speakers applauded the attacks, and the Connecticut D.S.A. enthused, “Yesterday, the Palestinian resistance launched an unprecedented anticolonial struggle.”

DSA had two predecessor organizations, which merged to form DSA in the early 1980s — 1982, I think. I joined one of those predecessor organizations when I was in high school. Although I haven’t been a dues-paying member of DSA for quite a long time, I find its transformation in this respect depressing.


Pittsburgh Mike 10.12.23 at 10:28 pm

I think it is pretty easy to condemn Hamas’s attacks on Israel as war crimes deliberately targeting civilians — when you walk up to a child and kill them, there’s no counter argument possible.

It’s a little grayer when Israel indiscriminately bombs Gaza, killing hundreds of civilians and, I’m guessing, way fewer combatants, but it seems to me to be quite likely to be criminal behavior as well.

The bigger problem is that right now, most Israelis don’t believe that Palestinian leadership will tolerate a Jewish Israel. Hamas, controlling Gaza, clearly wants Jews killed or evicted from Israel, and I’ve been unable to find any statement by Abbas tolerating a Jewish state either.

On the other side, around 2000-2001 time frame, Arafat started the 2nd Intifada, rejected the Tabas partial agreement, while Clinton left the White House and Ariel Sharon became PM of Israel. Since that time, Israelis decided that to avoid terrorist bombings, separating the populations, and simply building settlements in the West Bank, would be a good long term solution. Sharon essentially rejected the Two State solution, and Palestinian intransigence provided good cover.

Unfortunately, the long term plan of the Israeli right requires 5M Palestinians to live with no political rights, essentially forever. That can’t go on forever, and with Israeli settlement building in the West Bank along with impoverishment of people in Gaza under Hamas, the pressure just keeps building up.

Oslo in 1993 was supposed to be the start of a trust building process. Instead, the Palestinians kept using terror as a tool, and Israelis kept using the process as a cover to keep grabbing more land from Palestinians. Tragically bad leadership on both sides, and a wasted generation or two.

You know what economists always says: If something can’t go on forever, it will stop. The mathematician in me recognizes that this like a non-constructive “proof.” You know it will stop, you don’t know how or why. But it doesn’t take a genius to realize it will be ugly.


JW Mason 10.12.23 at 10:50 pm

I think this from Jeremy Corbyn says exactly what needs to be said.


J-D 10.13.23 at 12:45 am

The international community must compel a settlement.

You might just as well say ‘A host of angels must descend from heaven to compel a settlement’.


Adam Hammond 10.13.23 at 2:01 am

The world should be united in condemning the horrors committed by Hamas. Unfortunately, the condemnation is undercut by those countries that have not ratified the Rome Statute to join the International Criminal Court. We give credence to the people who perpetrate such horrendous crimes when we hold ourselves separate and immune to any criticism.


Peter Dorman 10.13.23 at 3:33 am

I find it difficult to think of what Hamas did as anything other than monstrous. Randomly murdering anyone in your path is about as low as you can get.

At the same time, I have no idea what alternative I would propose. Should Hamas just sit and wait? Nonviolent demonstration has proved futile. And if a military action is warranted, what form should it take. If we could rewrite the script, after the Hamas fighters poured into Israel, what would they do?


Ray 10.13.23 at 4:27 am

Though any normal person would be paralyzed and outraged by the unfolding horror it still surprised me people in the media jumped so fast from ‘how did this happen’ to a more conflictual position where there are sweeping political pronouncements about all the other people and their political pronouncements. Though I guess it is an emergency so this is what happens. It seems so pointless though.

But even though these killings are so awful one cannot think maybe we can still stop and consider that we may not totally understand why this happened or what is really going on.

I am partly suspicious of this process that follows traumatic events because this happened after 9/11, and a similar reaction led to a very fuzzy understanding of the specifics of the situation. The Bush administration completely failed to heed warnings and then the response was simply to create a giant security state, wars, and torture. Nobody ever held them accountable. We did not get a clear account of why it was all Saudi nationals involved or the role of the Saudis or anything else. And of course there was nothing but a flood of lies after that. But the rush helped to keep people from asking questions, and to stun people into compliance with some of the most extreme stupidity that has ever been seen in the history of the USA. And maybe the wacky conspiracy theories that followed are one of the causes of the whole country coming unhinged that we see now. Maybe some people’s brains never came fully back online. Hating Muslims was a big winner for Trump both in the USA and with some people in Israel.

Though I also want to tear my hair out at some of the things being said on the left it seems so petty in the face of these horrors to immediately jump to use them to punch left. Do we need this concern trolling right now? Is that the important thing at the moment?

It’s surprising how fast everyone moved to leap on their social media enemies as well. Maybe it’s just how things are now.

The facts of the attack are still not understood well. For example, how the hell did they break though at so many points? Why didn’t Israel heed the warnings? Israel? The most security obsessed state on the planet just did an ‘oh, well but it’s a holiday?’ I look back at the news from the last 5 years and what the Israeli government is saying as an explanation is absurd. They trusted Hamas? What? That’s laughable. And in such a militarized country how would there be nothing at any of these points where they got through?

Where did the technology come from? How much surveillance could Hamas be doing that they could time this so perfectly?

News stories say that Hamas political wing did not know about this attack. Hezbollah wasn’t jumping in.

Are there factions in Hamas, some more extreme than others? Who were these specific attackers? Some people are even saying they weren’t all Hamas.

Why did this happen now? What role did previous events play in it? All we get is a flood of distorted propaganda.

It’s not even clear where we could look for alternative information that isn’t just political posturing. There are basic factual issues that are being reported incorrectly, such as the constant repetition that Hamas is the elected government of Gaza as if they’ve been having elections all this time.

About peace in the future, there is always a narrative about any group of people that they are impossible, and then often this turns out not to be true. In situations where there are extremists then the extremist on one side will depend on extremists on the other side to continue the conflict as long as they can. This happened with the IRA. Even if the conflict is over, people in politics won’t let it go as long as it is their political brand. It is always possible to make peace. It has happened many times before.

The extremists are having their day now and I suppose they have carte blanche at the moment to make things maximally terrible but what I can’t help but note is that rhetorically and conceptually they have succeeded over time at sucking the air out of any of the ideas that used to be proposed to give any possibility of peace. And there really isn’t any thinkable alternative to justice and peace in a situation like this. If it sounds stupid, oh, well. Everything else is way worse and much more stupid. If it is impossible then is what we’re seeing right now a possibility anyone would ever choose?


J. Bogart 10.13.23 at 4:38 am


J-D 10.13.23 at 5:20 am

I believe that it’s past time to resuscitate international arbitration. https://www.britannica.com/topic/arbitration/International-arbitration

From the source cited, with my emphasis added:

Controversies between sovereign states that are not settled by diplomatic negotiation or conciliation are often referred, by agreement of both parties, to the decision of a third disinterested party, who arbitrates the dispute with binding force upon the disputant parties.

There is no agreement of the parties to refer this dispute to arbitration, and there’s not going to be.


J-D 10.13.23 at 5:44 am

I was able to find the full text of Security Council Resolution 242 online here:
I was also able to find an English-language version of the declaration made by Hamas in 2017 here:

Taking each document as a whole, the two cannot be reconciled.


Tm 10.13.23 at 10:16 am

Engels quoting a Washington Times attack Job to discredit Michelle Goldberg is a new low.

FDChief, I hope I solved your paywall problem.

Tom 10: Nobody claims that the DSA is responsible for the horror now unfolding in Israel and Gaza. But their (and other supposedly leftist groups’) morally and politically corrupt announcements have repercussions. The DSA is not „the left“, but it isn’t irrelevant either. Statements celebrating massacres on festival-goers as anticolonial exploits discredit the Palestine Solidarity movement and help discredit the left in general. They give right-wingers cover to defame leftists critical of Israeli occupation as antisemitic terrorist sympathizers. All of this is blatantly obvious and should have been obvious to whoever drafted those proclamations. So they are not just morally corrupt, they are also stupid.

DSA has already discredited itself with their refusal to condemn Putin’s war against Ukraine as imperialist aggression. The armchair antiimperialism now deployed in reaction to the Hamas attacks betrays a disgusting indifference to the suffering of civilians on both sides. Prominent members like Ocasio Cortez have cut ties. DSA‘s demise is sad, they were sorely needed as a progressive force. Perhaps this doesn’t matter much because nobody cares about DSA anyway? Alas, experience shows that small leftist groups are capable of doing a lot of damage.


JBL 10.13.23 at 11:59 am

DSA has tens of thousands of members, has tense internal politics, and lacks a strong central organization. The condemnations here (based on … promoting in advance but not organizing a rally at which some speakers later said things you don’t like, and one twitter post) are, uh, not entirely convincing. (Did you know that people post stupid stuff on twitter? Even members of the largest left-wing organization in the US?)


Lee A. Arnold 10.13.23 at 12:26 pm

I fear these are the opening shots of world war. Imagine what geopolitical strategists might be saying about Gaza: It’s a premature mistake by Hamas that ought to be taken advantage of, in the fight against the China-Russia-Iran-N.Korea axis. If this is the talk, then after destroying Hamas, Israel will attack Hezbollah with US military support. The carrier group is already there. Under the justification that the dangers are only going to get worse. And because Netanyahu has political incentives to try to make his security failure right, by going all the way. So they will destroy Hezbollah to remove the immediate threat to Israel. And eliminating Iran’s largest proxy also changes the diplomatic terms with Iran. (It won’t matter if Iran didn’t know about this Hamas attack. Indeed you can imagine that if Iran knew about the attack they would have delayed it, as being precipitate and militarily ineffective however vicious and horrifying, or else they would have coordinated a simultaneous assault by Hezbollah to be more devastating.) Biden will steamroller right over Trumpublican intransigence on Ukraine while taking quick advantage of a pro-Israel uptick among the Democrats. A two-front opening against the axis, without major US troop involvement. Consequently the Left’s best instincts — to hold ourselves and others to the highest standards of the Enlightenment — could soon be swept up into larger public emotions about an incipient World War III.


Robert Weston 10.13.23 at 12:39 pm

Maybe I’m missing something, but I just can’t understand why so many on the Left find it so difficult to forcefully condemn both Hamas’ actions and Israel’s settler colonialism – as well as Putin’s war of aggression, which #21 references.


Robert Weston 10.13.23 at 12:54 pm

LFC @11: “Did you even read the M. Goldberg column? it has nothing whatever to do w “liberal imperialism.”

I agree and I wish she – or whoever edited the piece – hadn’t used that unfortunate “Decent Left” title because she gets it largely right, for the reasons you outlined.


engels 10.13.23 at 1:00 pm

So I if I understand correctly: the answer to the question of “what to say about Gaza” is to rant about the DSA.


Trader Joe 10.13.23 at 1:00 pm

Most all agree on what happened – obviously atrocious.

Most all understand why it happened – Policies toward Gaza on one side, Hamas stance on the other. Inevitable surely, although the escalation was remarkable.

If Israel knew, it wouldn’t have predicted the degree of terror exacted. They may have been “o.k.” with the usual small raid and the excuse it would provide for some customary retaliation. This has been a regular give and take for more than a decade and the new Right government may have been o.k. with a chance to flex its muscle a bit. They will now get that chance to a degree they hadn’t contemplated.

Hamas surely knew by doing what they did they would get the fight brought to them. It was a calculated escalation and they are finding they are getting far less than the usual support and far more condemnation. USS Gerald Ford wasn’t what they had in mind. Their own fault – yes. But they have been playing this game for a long time and decided to press their luck to see how the new government would react. They will find out.

There are no solutions here. There are no ‘less bad’ ways to see this unfold. It will be horrible and beneath what civilized societies should expect. The only thing that can be done is to make sure it stays reasonably contained. This conflict is 5000 years old, this only the latest chapter.

I hate to be defeatist, but the evidence is the evidence. Far better leaders than any of those on the playing field today have tried to resolve this, yet here we are.


engels 10.13.23 at 1:22 pm

The phrase “decent left” is the liberal imperialist klaxon; sorry that wasn’t clear. (Walzer’s original declaration of decency makes embarrassing reading twenty years on.)


LFC 10.13.23 at 3:32 pm

Someone upthread mentions that DSA has 80,000 members. I’m no longer a member, but I remember the days when it had 8,000 members, or even fewer. (When I joined DSOC in the mid-1970s, it might have had around 5,000 dues-paying members.)

But of course, because DSA has “only” 80,000 members, the NYT should not deign to take notice when certain of its chapters or members go off the rails. Just as the Guardian or any other British paper should not deign to take notice when any British political grouping with fewer than, say, 100,000 members says something stupid, because such a small group is completely marginal and unimportant. Ditto for the Australian press, and the French, etc. etc. What utter BS.


LFC 10.13.23 at 5:34 pm

engels @28
I’m aware of the Walzer piece but you’re tarring the MG column on the basis of its title, which probably some editor chose.

And your comment about ranting is a bit hypocritical. As if, say, during the 2011 NATO mil. action in Libya, you never ranted about Spiked or parts of the Labour Party or whoever else might have been saying things you opposed.

I’m sorry this is harsh, I’m guessing we could have an amicable conversation in real life and might even be friends, but your comments here get to me sometimes.

P.s. I’m sorry I don’t have an instant complete solution for Gaza and everything else. I would think humanitarian corridors and perhaps a cease fire to set them up might be in order, but I’m not in a position to do much about it. In the meantime I reserve the right to “rant” about DSA or anything else.


Tm 10.13.23 at 6:02 pm

This is a left-leaning blog frequented mostly by people identifying as leftist. I suppose that as leftists, we have a special interest in the announcements and actions of organizations perceived as representing the left. I also assume (but may be wrong) that leftist organizations are responsive to criticism coming from within the left. It may be true that DSA is a small nonprofessional organization exerting very little political and ideological influence but it doesn’t follow that we shouldn’t care when they act morally and politically corrupt. To the contrary I think especially as leftists we have a responsibility to speak up.

And to preempt another objection: around here we take down rightwing and also centrist bullshit all the time. It’s not that DSA is somehow unfairly singled out.


Tm 10.13.23 at 6:05 pm

P.S. This applies to Goldberg as well. She’s a leftist spending most of her column space attacking the right.


Bob 10.13.23 at 6:33 pm

I find it interesting that this thread has been up for 24 hours or so and has only generated 30 comments, as of my writing this at 2:30 p.m. Eastern on Friday. Here we have a major event in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and yet very few comments. I am not criticising or lamenting that fact–I don’t have much to say either. But I can remember a time when the CT blog would have been ablaze with comments over what is going on now.


MPAVictoria 10.13.23 at 7:38 pm

@Bob 33

I used to have hope that some sort of long term peace could be found. I don’t anymore. There is nothing to say. I wish there was.


RobinM 10.13.23 at 7:42 pm

Watching, listening, and reading about what’s (been) going on in Palestine/Israel I can’t help thinking about the world of my early childhood. I suppose I’m not alone in that, though my age cohort is diminishing more rapidly day by day. But that aside, what do I think of?

I think of people locked into ghettoes and subject to brutality from those who put them there and kept them there.

I think of the Warsaw Ghetto rising and the images of a physically destroyed Warsaw.

I think of people who were denied a safe exit from a Europe descending into barbarism because no one would accept them.

And now I must think of Gaza.


JW Mason 10.13.23 at 9:00 pm

A god starting point is to call things by their names. What Israel is doing now is not defense. It is revenge.

The question is, will Israel murder 10 Palestinians for every Israeli who was murdered by Hamas? Or will it be 20, or 50, or 100, or more?

What is worth saying now is whatever makes the eventual number lower rather than higher. I was impressed that Leo Varadkar was willing to say that there are lines that even Israel cannot cross. Unfortunately, the message of most Western leaders (Biden very much included) is, in effect, “kill them all.”


afeman 10.13.23 at 10:54 pm

So Israel’s communications minister announced that the internet is going to get shut off in Gaza at around the 24h deadline that 1.1 million people have been generously granted to evacuate, the White House and DoS have disowned talk of “de-escalation/ceasefire,” “end to violence/bloodshed” and “restoring calm”, and the long arm of the DSA is what will be remembered. And you know, you’re right. You’re absolutely right.


Jack W 10.14.23 at 9:20 am

I can only echo the despair felt by many on this thread.

What seems clear to me is that the episode demonstrates how important a leader who can rise above the calls for revenge from a grieving population.

I also feel the appeals to respect international law though important come across as an external standard that Israel is being judged against. Perhaps a stronger case could be made by appealing to the Israeli Government to take the moral high ground: How your enemy treats you defines them, but how you treat your enemy defines you.

I found this article in Politico one of the more reflective I’ve read in the past few days: https://www.politico.com/news/2023/10/13/in-israel-theres-grief-anger-and-determination-but-whats-the-plan-00121366


J-D 10.14.23 at 10:30 am

… the long arm of the DSA is what will be remembered.

I doubt that. If people talk about these events three years, ten years, or thirty years from now, I think they will spend little or no time on the DSA.


Bob 10.14.23 at 1:02 pm

One thing that perhaps can be said that hasn’t been said so far is that Israel’s long-standing blockade of Gaza has been extraordinarily ineffective in preventing the entry of military equipment into Gaza. Guns, ammunition, paragliders, rockets, construction materials and eqipment to build tunnels: all seem to enter with little impediment. At the same time, all sorts of non-military goods seem to get “caught” in the net. If the Israelis want to prevent attacks coming from Gaza, while avoiding unneccessary suffering by civilians, why not put in place a true embargo that achieved its stated purpose? It is hard to believe that such a blockade would be more difficult than seizing total control of Gaza through a ground invasion.


Stephen 10.14.23 at 7:16 pm

To quote Auden, September 1 1939

“Those to whom evil is done do evil in return.”

Doesn’t get us much further with the Gaza catastrophe but may remind us that the underlying problem is not unique.


afeman 10.14.23 at 7:33 pm

This is a rejoinder to Michelle Goldberg and others, via Duncan Black, who headlined it with the quote “navel-gazing cranks”:



Bob 10.15.23 at 1:03 am

Re afeman @ 42

There is a lot of talk about “moral clarity” in this article. Hmmm. . . where have we heard that before? “Moral clarity” was the engine of the misguided war on terror. Remember “old Europe,” supposedly lacking in moral clarity, and the accusations that opponents of the Iraq war were “Munich appeasers”? No thanks.


bad Jim 10.15.23 at 5:05 am

Stephen, thanks; that line has been running through my head. But also these, worse:

The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Too mild, though not inapt, for the horrors in prospect at that moment.

As to this one, we may be confident that the idiots now in power in Israel, unlike a former American administration, will not respond by destroying an adjacent but not complicit nation.


Robert Weston 10.15.23 at 4:06 pm


A big part of the problem is that the Left cannot afford the kinds of own goals it produced in the immediate aftermath of the Hamas attacks. For one, the U.S. political system is set up to exclude said Left from power. The media elite is dead set against anything that would enable Social-Democrats and Democratic Socialists to be taken seriously. Anything they can use to keep Leftists firmly on the margins of American politics they will.

Like it or not, endorsing a rally that features signs saying “Resistance is not Terrorism” 24 hours after children were killed (some reports talk of babies burned alive) is not a good look – regardless of one’s very justified support for Palestinian rights. Is it lack of professionalism on DSA’s part, as someone alluded to in a previous comment? Is it cluelessness, or just plain stupidity? It might seem unfair to pick on DSA, still a very minor actor in the greater scheme of things. But that’s the hand the Left has been dealt. The deck is stacked against Leftists and they just don’t have the luxury of getting it wrong in the way we saw right after the attacks.

If anything, the stakes are even greater in Europe. As messed up as U.S. politics is on this issue, it’s still possible to hold rallies supporting Palestinian rights in American cities. That right has very much been called into question in the U.K., France, Germany, where the powers-that-be are trying to criminalize any expression of support whatsoever for the Palestinian cause.

The stakes are huge: A broad arc ranging from the far-right to the center (whether its more left-wing elements can be called center-left is another debate) is determined to destroy not the Left, but also anti-racist movements. Accusations of Anti-Semitism are a major part of their strategy. Netanyahu has essentially franchised the term Anti-Semitism for use by anyone who broadly supports, or at least fails to condemn, his policies. That includes Orban, Macron, and Starmer.

Again, it should be possible to condemn both the barbarity of the Hamas attacks and Netanyahu’s settler-colonialist policies. Any ambiguity in that regard is not an option.


Icastico 10.15.23 at 4:19 pm

Terrorist acts are aimed at getting the target to overreact. That is their goal. They aim to get the government to show their “true nature” as immoral oppressors and to garner support for the cause the terrorists believe is “righteous and undeniable.” The hope is that the government reaction will include atrocities that degrade their legitimacy and, ultimately, the support of their allies.

Governments should know this. They should react to terrorist acts accordingly. This would include mourning, condemnation of the terrorists, attempts to capture and hold those terrorists accountable, and public and absolute refusal to overreact in the way the terrorists hope. The US after 9/11 failed this test. Israel is currently failing this test.


Chris Bertram 10.15.23 at 6:46 pm

We do seem to be back in 2002, with ‘moral equivalence’ and ‘will you condemn!’ being part of the rhetoric.

When I first heard the news of the Hamas breakout from Gaza my reaction was admiration at its audacity, but that was very swiftly followed by disgust at the murders and kidnappings they then committed and the Breivik-style mentality that must have been required for such cruelty. The victims and their families are entitled to all our compassion and solidarity. Now it looks like Israel will invade Gaza and large parts of the Israeli population just want revenge, and if they don’t actually intend the deaths of children, civilians, they are pretty reckless about bringing them about and all too ready to utter the stock clichés about “human shields” and the like to shift the blame. Being reckless about civilian deaths is wrong and deliberately killing them is worse, quite independently of what the “other side” does, but there is no way that morally inflamed people are going to hold back from the conclusion that they are entitled to cast off restraints in getting their own back on the “monsters” who confront them. But the world is watching, and if Israel gets a pass for the very worst, then it will be hard for the “West” to deliver lectures about Russia’s conduct in Ukraine to Africans, Latin Americans and so forth. So the branch we sit on gets sawn through, just as it does with the drowned in the Med and the pervasive indifference of our leaders to suffering and abuse wherever the perpetrators are aligned with Europe and the US.


Daragh 10.15.23 at 6:56 pm

JW Mason @13 – Corbyn named Seumas Milne one of his chief aides, had plenty of warm words for Hamas in the past and, despite the dishonest headline, has been historically very, very selective about what civilian deaths he gets upset about. Unless his article unexpectedly just consists of a short statement acknowledging that he is hopelessly compromised on this issue and cannot make a positive contribution, and so will be remaining silent at this time, I cannot imagine anything he could say that needs to be said, or would be productive to be said, or anything other than mind-blowingly idiotic to be said. The fact that the very opening of the article is on how “I, Jeremey Corbyn, have righteously condemned this violence once again. Sadly my oracular utterances were not heeded before” should remind us that Corbyn is a vain ignoramus, whose politics are solely about building up a cadre of worshippers for his cult of personality without inadvertently doing anything that might actually result in positive change to people’s lives.

And this is why I’m so frustrated in this moment – for all of my adult life every Israeli government has seemed to be committed to brutalising the Palestinians, and the Netanyahu government is a gaggle of incompetent fascists and eliminationist lunatics, that was so focused on gutting the state and keeping Bibi out of jail it basically let HAMAS walk in. Israeli society is pissed with him, and rightly so, and I’m guessing he’ll be ousted soon. The horrific pogrom of 7 October didn’t occur in a vacuum. Hadley Freeman is upset people aren’t flying Israeli flags in solidarity the way they flew Ukrainian flags? Maybe she should consider what those flags have come to mean, through the actions of their respective states over the years. There’s a reason the Ukrainian far right uses its own flags.

And as Pittsburgh Mike @5 eloquently puts it “Unfortunately, the long term plan of the Israeli right requires 5M Palestinians to live with no political rights, essentially forever. That can’t go on forever, and with Israeli settlement building in the West Bank along with impoverishment of people in Gaza under Hamas, the pressure just keeps building up.” Indeed, I’d go further and say this isn’t the Israeli right, its a hegemonic position of the Israeli political establishment.

None of these things should be controversial to say. None of these things should be outside the realm of legitimate debate.

And yet, the most vocal opposition to Israeli war crimes has been led by dipshit narcissists like Corbyn and associated cosplaying radicals. Here in London we had immediate Palestinian solidarity campaigns after the attack. The timing was dubious enough, but the cherry on top were the idiots showing up with paraglider badges shouting Khaybar! If the people organising the protest don’t want to look like terrorist sympathisers they need to police their ranks and exclude the people openly sympathising with terrorists. If your political organisation can’t, or won’t, do that, then its not a serious political organisation and it should be regarded with contempt. Simple as.

Ultimately I think the US and EU have played a pretty smart game in their public communications. They recognised in a way that the Corbyns of this world don’t that everyone in Israel is currently dealing with the aftermath of an extremely traumatic event and are emotionally raw. It will be hard for anyone to think straight through the red mist. By signalling maximum solidarity publicly at this point in time, it is much more likely an Israeli government (either Netanyahu’s or his successor) will listen to private entreaties to show restraint and have some form of defensible long term plan for stability. We’ve already seen the Americans move in this direction, and Brussels is starting to as well (the fag-end Tory government in the UK is barely functional at this point so I’m more or less disregarding them at this point).

That said I don’t have high hopes for that plan working – I think this is going to be several months of bloody carnage. There’s too much poison in the Israeli political discourse. But there is at least an effort underway to avoid it, being undertaken by people (like Starmer) who are calibrating their message to gain as much influence over events in future, who are being criticised by people (like Corbyn) who want to burnish their ‘radical’ cred.

TLDR – there are some on the left who are trying to stop the creation of a mountain of corpses, and some on the ‘left’ looking forward to being very publicly upset about the mountain so that people can see how good and empathetic they are.


Daragh 10.15.23 at 7:16 pm

Chris @47 – this seems to be a reference to Corbyn’s latest snotty interactions with various journalists at the Labour conference, so here’s a couple of questions –

1) Corbyn and his political allies have been very happy to condemn all manner of organisations, policies, individuals and vague moods. Why is it out of line to ask him to specifically, and without qualification, condemn a terrorist organisation in the immediate aftermath of it committing appalling crimes?

2) As mentioned above, Corbyn and many of the people he has chosen to make part of his inner political circle have a long, long history of expressing sympathy with HAMAS and in the case of Milne, outright praising them. Given that fact don’t you think Corbyn maybe has a bit more responsibility here to call them out and disavow them?

And as to “Latin Americans, Africans and so forth”, the governments of the global south have been pretty indifferent to Russia’s rampage through Ukraine even before October 7. Notably the governments of Venezuela and Cuba, bastions of resistance to imperialism, have for some inexplicable reason found themselves enthusiastic imperialists! I’m sure that the intersection of the personal financial wellbeing of Maduro and Diaz-Canel have nothing to do with it. And call me cynical but I think Cyril Ramaphosa suddenly finding solidarity with the people of Gaza might be a bit more to do with his own, multiple, domestic political issues than it is about political principle. Notably, in areas of Africa where Russia is VERY involved through Wagner, the Ukrainians have found there are lots of locals sympathetic to their cause and eager to join forces. Funny that.


Robert Weston 10.15.23 at 7:46 pm

“But the world is watching, and if Israel gets a pass for the very worst, then it will be hard for the “West” to deliver lectures about Russia’s conduct in Ukraine to Africans, Latin Americans and so forth.”

Not that that would stop the West.


Chris Bertram 10.15.23 at 7:55 pm

I was making no reference to Corbyn and have been paying no attention to his utterances on the subject. I find the impulse to look at this through the lens of British domestic politics deplorable and depressing.


Daragh 10.15.23 at 8:11 pm

Chris @51

Apologies – there was an incident at conference where Corbyn was asked to condemn Hamas and did one of his trademark tantrums at the journalist who had the temerity to ask. I thought your opening line was a clear reference to that (as we’re both in the UK) but I can accept I was mistaken.

FWIW – I’m not ‘looking’ at this through the lens of domestic UK politics, but for better or for worse the UK is a P5 state and the domestic political context matters, both for the UK and the world. Two weeks ago Suella Braverman looked like a deranged fascist – she still is, but when you have mass demonstrations in London implicitly celebrating a horrific pogrom she’s going to look a lot more reasonable to a lot more people. Secondly, in terms of whatever influence the UK has over Israel’s response, the unhelpful interventions of Corbyn and his fellow paragliding enthusiasts are likely to be negative. Demonstrably, and publicly, marginalising and excluding them from the political conversation gives London more credibility with Tel Aviv.

And since I wrote I’ve seen that US pressure has gotten Israel to turn the water back on in Gaza after pressure from the US. The IDF seems to have paused after indications that it would roll in on Saturday. This could be for operational reasons (weather etc.), but the Americans have also been quietly asking the Israelis what their plan is and warning them that international solidarity will evaporate if they turn Gaza into a charnel house. I’m still very pessimistic about a positive outcome here, but it does demonstrate that as much as the usual suspects have been upset by Biden and von der Leyen expressing maximum solidarity with Tel Aviv, its been a vastly more effective tactic for influencing Israeli behaviour than chanting ‘from the river to the sea’ in Trafalgar square.


MPAVictoria 10.15.23 at 10:20 pm

Always just amazes me how some people will try and make everything an opportunity to attack Corbyn. Like you won. The Labour Party is completely captured by the Right and no longer even pretends to care about refugees, minorities or the LGTBQ community. Can’t you give it a rest?

The man’s statement on this deplorable situation is perfectly accurate and still people feel the need to attack him.


Not Trampis 10.15.23 at 10:32 pm

The major problem here is neither people on the whole recognise the humanity of the other.
It is very easy to kill people under those circumstances.
I do not know the solution to this.
We are at present witnessing revenge not a just solution.
surely one part of the solution is the recognition of Israelis stealing Palestinian property way back in 1948


Richard Aubrey 10.16.23 at 1:29 am

The Law of Land Warfare prohibits setting up to fight from among civilians. Thus, the Hamas is breaking the law.
Attackers are required to be precise and minimize area munitions and indirect fires. This requires, as a matter of reality, additional casualties among the attackers. See the Second Battle of Fallujah.
In Holland, my father’s division–104th ID–found that civilians did not get out of the way as they had/would in Belgium and Germany. The division reduced artillery preps. This caused more US casualties than otherwise would have been expected. Three towns; Zundert, Achtmaal, and Standaarbuiten, have renamed streets after the Division. Timberwolfstraat. It appears they understand the Law of Land Warfare and from whence came their deliverance.
Resulting civilian casualties are the legal fault of the defender which chooses to use them as human shields.
It’s been reported that Hamas is trying to thwart the evacuation of civilians as the IDF has suggested during.
This should tell you what, exactly, is going on.


TM 10.16.23 at 8:36 am

The massacres Hamas committed are calculated to provoke Israel into a disproportionate reaction that will kill many thousands of Palestinian civilians and make Israel look monstrous. And it’s impossible to act against Hamas without civilians suffering because Hamas is a terrorist organization that uses the civilian population. The civilian deaths on the Palestinian side are part of Hamas’ calculation, the more the better for them. This should be obvious to the Israeli leadership and their supporters and it should also be obvious to supporters of the Palestinian cause.

I’ll say one more thing about the DSA question. Perhaps it doesn’t matter what the DSA and similar groups say. What we write in this forum matters even less. The best thing is probably to not say anything any more. Give up the idea of trying to make even the smallest difference, give up the idea of trying to get something right and to call out what is wrong. None of it matters anyway. Give up the idea of an organized political left.


Richard Aubrey 10.16.23 at 12:02 pm

Israel believes, correctly, that returning to the status quo ante will allow Hamas to arrange another invasion of the kind we say on October 7.

The Tit for Tat, everything’s square on a monthly basis is what allowed Hamas to get this production together.


Tom 10.16.23 at 3:00 pm

For some non-DSA related posts of interest, I liked the following:

1) “Terror and counter-terror” on Substack, by Timothy Snyder. Basically, this is Israel’s 9/11 and Israel risks committing similar mistakes to what the US did after its 9/11.

2) “Why Hamas Attacked—and Why Israel Was Taken by Surprise, A Conversation With Martin Indyk” on Foreign Affairs. According to Indyk, Hamas attacked to disrupt the Abraham Accords. Hamas counted on Israel to overreact. This overreaction would then alienate the populations of Arab countries making it more difficult for their rulers to sign onto the Accords.

3) “Chartbook 245: Gaza, beyond de-development to disposability and destruction” on Substack, by Adam Tooze. Interesting history of Gaza’s political economy. Here an interesting paragraph: “Whereas the labour market for Israeli insiders was tightly regulated with strong rights for workers enforced by powerful trade unions, Palestinian labour functioned as a flexible and disenfranchised reserve army that could be hired and fired at will. The conditions of discrimination and low pay were compounded by Israel’s economic crisis in the early 1980s, the consequences of which fell most heavily on the Palestinian underclass. In 1987 these resentments exploded in the first Intifada.”


Tom 10.16.23 at 3:10 pm

@TM 21, re DSA. Some points for your consideration:

1) In Goldberg’s article there is only one mention of the DSA, regarding a statement at a DSA rally in Connecticut. There are also references about some other organizations that are not necessarily part of the left (the president of N.Y.U.’s student bar association, students for Palestine etc.). On this evidence, one could have written an article about how the vast majority of the left said the right things about the situation, and also notice that there were also some contemptible statements from some organizations. These statements are instead given prominence because the goal is to attack the left.

2) The unbalance in Goldberg’s presentation is particularly striking as she says “a decent and functional left has rarely been more necessary”. She then proceeds to speak about the dire situation in Gaza and the collective punishment that Israel was about to inflict on Gaza. This is quite an extraordinary charge: If only the left was more decent, then we would have a chance to avert this tragedy. The burden is then on the left rather than on those who have been in power in the US for decades. The NYT readers can breathe a sigh of relief: it is not their fault, it is the fault of those leftists.

3) Voices supporting Palestinians are very hard to hear in US political discourse. There is Ilhan Omar, yes, but pro-palestinian voices have usually a hard time to find representation. It is not surprising that they find refuge in fringe parties and it is not surprising that sometimes this results in extreme statements. By the way, as I said, I also dislike the statements made at the DSA rally in CT. I do not know who made those statements but in this regard I would like to add that I do not have family in Gaza and so I recognize that it is easier for me to express my opposition to such statements (analogously, I do not have family in Israel and so ditto for extreme statements on the other side).

4) I am not a DSA member either, but I find interesting your statements about their position on Putin. Online, I found this statement from the DSA on February 26, 2022: “The Democratic Socialists of America condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and demands immediate diplomacy and de-escalation to resolve this crisis.” But maybe they should have issued a stronger statement?

5) You say that “The armchair antiimperialism now deployed in reaction to the Hamas attacks betrays a disgusting indifference to the suffering of civilians on both sides.” I am not sure how comfortable your armchairs are but, following the attacks, some students organizations at Harvard signed on a statement made by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee that blamed Israel for the attacks by Hamas. In response, a billboard truck drove near Harvard’s campus on Wednesday showing the names and photos of the students whose organizations signed such statement. So, it is not true that these students’ activism (whether one agrees with it or not) carries no cost to them.

6) Similarly, billionaire hedge fund CEO Bill Ackman (who incidentally lives about 2 miles away from Goldberg’s employer and, also incidentally, is a long-time donor to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer), per CNN has demanded that “Harvard University release the names of students whose organizations signed on to a letter blaming solely Israel for the deadly attacks by Hamas” so that he could ensure that his company and others do not “inadvertently hire” any of the signatories. Also, a law firm rescinded a job offer it had made to the above-mentioned president of N.Y.U.’s student bar association because of the student’s statement on the attacks (this is mentioned only in passing, and neutrally, in Goldberg’s article). I am not sure I would like to be sitting in the armchairs of these students.


LFC 10.16.23 at 3:56 pm

TM @56 is right about Hamas’s use of civilians, but the IDF still has an obligation to minimize harm to civilians as much as possible under the circumstances. Easy for a distant observer to say, but worth noting.

Also, armies are not monolithic. In any conflict, some units will likely follow the rules of war more closely than others. A lot probably depends on the quality of individual officers. Not an original point, of course, but worth bearing in mind.


Tm 10.16.23 at 8:30 pm

Tom 59: Thanks for interesting comments. Regarding the DSA and Ukraine, here’s a reference:

I stand by what I said about the need to engage critically with certain tendencies within the left but efforts to intimidate pro-Palestinian activists are certainly not what I had in mind and I find these tactics you describe disgusting.

What I mean by armchair anti-imperialism from the safety of the West is this. It was always obvious that the attacks would provoke a devastating response from Israel, and that Palestinian civilians would suffer terribly as a result. By saying this, I’m not saying that everything Israel does in response is justified. Israel still, as LFC and others pointed out, has an obligation to minimize harm to civilians. But it was blatantly obvious that civilians will suffer and that this suffering is part of the cynical calculation Hamas is making. And I just don’t get this: how can anybody who cares about the well-being of Palestinians think, and publicly say, that what Hamas does is a good thing, that it contributes to progress and liberation?


Tom 10.17.23 at 12:11 am

Thanks for engaging, TM, I believe we are converging. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I do not know the answer to your question.

I will read the LGM link and maybe we will have a chance to revisit it in the future. But I will leave Ukraine out of this thread as there is already enough tragedy in it.


Peter T 10.17.23 at 1:57 am

Three observations:

Speculation on what Hamas planned to achieve likely misses the point. Any ‘plans’ they make are irrational, given the disparity of force, their lack of allies and inability to challenge Israeli control in any meaningful way at all (noting that demonstrations get Palestinians killed, knee-capped or beaten). Any plans are born of desperation, despair and pride, not calculation. This has enough parallels in history to be easily understandable. This does not excuse the behaviour – just puts it in context.

A related point is that much discussion glosses over the feelings and attitudes of the ordinary Gazan. They are not puppets, nor unwilling bystanders, nor necessarily supporters. They are people mired in a hopeless situation, frustrated and many (especially the young men) willing to lash out in some last act of defiance that at least preserves a sense of autonomy. Again, hardly unprecedented. No calculation needed beyond the immediate operational need.

Last point- the ‘laws of war’ were drawn up by states with professional armies. Demanding insurgents and amateurs follow them is asking them to commit suicide – to wave their pistols at tanks, and so these groups do not follow them. Sad, but not surprising.


TM 10.17.23 at 9:48 am

Since I shared the other one, I might as well share another gift link to Michelle Goldberg’s latest column. (Spoiler: No mention of DSA this time.)

Piling Horror Upon Horror

“In the face of massacres that for Jews around the world brought back memories of genocide, the language of some Israeli leaders has, in turn, become murderous.”



LFC 10.17.23 at 12:08 pm

Peter T @63

the ‘laws of war’ were drawn up by states with professional armies. Demanding insurgents and amateurs follow them is asking them to commit suicide – to wave their pistols at tanks, and so these groups do not follow them. Sad, but not surprising.

The al Qassem brigades, the military wing of Hamas, are not a professional army of a sovereign state, but they’re not usefully called amateurs, I don’t think, and I doubt that “insurgents” is the right word either though that’s a secondary point. The Oct. 7 attack overran three Israeli military bases or outposts and then went on to target civilians. Hamas was armed with a lot more than pistols. Whatever label one wants to put on the initial phase of the Oct. 7 attack, which targeted soldiers, terrorism is the only appropriate label for the phase of the Oct. 7 attack that targeted civilians. (On the more general point, I’d be surprised if the law of armed conflict did not have something specific to say about how non-state militaries should conduct themselves, but I’d have to research that.)


CityCalmDown 10.17.23 at 9:03 pm

We are past the tipping-point of the Seneca Cliff.

All of the vital trajectories of contemporary human and terrestrial history are headed towards the end-state conditions of a series of viciously morbid systemic and structural asymptotic fault lines and processes – ecocidal climate change; oligarchical capitalist class warfare; the continuing historical phenomena of military conflict without the existence of counteractive pacifist and peacemaking historical processes to act as a counterweight – that are ineluctably leading the human species to an extended period of great suffering in hell on earth.

(The following relies heavily upon Immanuel Wallerstein and his school of World-Systems Analysis. In particular it is an attempt to describe and to analyze the internal momentum of a set of world-systems from the perspective of the longue durée).

The nations which inhabit the core zones of the capitalist world system – the USA; the EU; Australia; the UK – have in recent decades been captured by rightist politics. This process has accelerated in recent years into the politics of arch-reaction and ultranationalism or, simply and succinctly put, Fascism.

To this must be now be added a full-blooded return and embrace of 19th/early 20th century Imperialism and Colonialism of the vintage of the blood-soaked Sykes-Picot Agreement and the hideous horrors wrought by the Balfour Declaration.

Why were a number of prominent buildings lit with the Israeli flag? Why was this to the exclusionof the Palestinian flag? Why weren’t both Palestinian and Israeli flags displayed in a manner that would accord with the Two-State Solution that these nations cannot even remember to pay lip-service to, despite it being their own purported policy position? Was this state of thoughtless absent-mindedness brought about due to these nations having done everything in their power to destroy the conditions necessary for the implementation of their ostensible policy position?





All the utter BS of these nations as being upholders of Human Rights and of an International rules-based legal order, promoters of Liberal Constructivism etc. has been fully exposed for all to see as being the smoke-screen for the geopolitics of power-hegemonic positioning that was always apparent to the victims of their rapine foreign misadventures.


We have returned full cycle. This cyclical return is not of the somewhat reassuring, or at least amusing, “first as tragedy, then as farce” variety. Searching for an illustration, we may need to turn to the infernal abyss of the Yuga Cycle.
“Who was ever ready to extricate dharma that had become sunk owing to the evil effects of Kaliyuga.”— Pikira grant of Pallava Simhavarman, line 10

France is an ultranationalist urinal that had not one but two Fascist candidates in the last election. Or were there three fascist candidates?

“When Emmanuel Macron, the French president, decided in October 2019 to share his views on immigration and Islamophobia, he chose the far-right magazine Valeurs Actuelles, declaring that “the failure of our (economic) model coincides with the crisis of Islam” and adding that this crisis leads to the emergence of more radical forms of political Islam. Macron criticized a demonstration in support of the right to wear veils as “non-aligned Third-Worldism with Marxist tendencies” (he used the word “relents,” which can be translated to hint or trace, but also to stink or stench). This interview was published a few days after a mosque shooting in Bayonne, in south-west France. No terrorism offenses were brought by the French government against the white shooter.”

“Eric Zemmour, (is) a former journalist with multiple convictions for hate speech. Zemmour owes much of his prominence to a news channel owned by media tycoon Vincent Bollore, whose influence increases with each news outlet he takes over.”


“Statement on France by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination”


“United Nations: France must ‘seriously address’ police racism
UN human rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani spoke out against ‘deep issues of racism and discrimination in law enforcement’ at a media briefing in Geneva.”


And the inbred provincials of that self- immolating, self-infantilizing, laughing stock backwater of brexit little england? Can we pin our pious hopes on an ardent prayer that surely a kingdom reigned over by such enlightened regal personages cannot possibly have learnt absolutely NOTHING from colonial history, can they?

“Israel Arms Trade (Prohibition) Bill”





Or are the power-elites of the core zones of the capitalist world-system as they ever were?
Genocidal criminals-against-humanity as always.



engels 10.18.23 at 8:40 am

Reading this thread alongside the news coming out of Gaza is depressing as hell.

“What to say about Gaza” 1 immediate ceasefire 2 address the causes of the conflict (as a ccertain cancelled left-wing politician said days ago).


engels 10.18.23 at 8:55 am

Today, Palestinian unions have called on trade unionists across the world to show their solidarity by refusing to continue with the provision of arms to Israel. They have asked that workers in relevant industries make the following commitments:

To refuse to build weapons destined for Israel.
To refuse to transport weapons to Israel.
To pass motions in their trade union to this effect.
To take action against complicit companies involved in implementing Israel’s brutal and illegal siege, especially if they have contracts with your institution.
Pressure governments to stop all military trade with Israel, and, in the case of the US, funding to it.



CityCalmDown 10.18.23 at 10:29 am

As a brief supplement to my previous post, the following are a few, roughly speaking, theoretical or meta-level reflections.

The basic thesis that the previous post attempted to the make case for was:

“Since before its founding in 1948 to the present day, the state of Israel has been conducting (and has nearly fully completed) a decades-long campaign of genocide against the original Palestinian inhabitants”.

Apart from the limited space available to argue such a strong, wide-sweeping and admittedly contentious proposition, resistance to the above thesis may consist of the following:

1/Anti-humanism and systems-theory. The insignificance of human(ist) intentions and concomitant diminution of any notion of human agency and morality.

Whilst I only mentioned Immanuel Wallerstein, the other major system-theorist in the social sciences is Niklas Luhmann. In contrast to Wallerstein, Luhmann is an anti-humanist. Or is perhaps more accurately described as a non-humanist.

See e.g. Hans-Georg Moeller’s “The Radical Luhmann”

Social-systems are to be studied as objects in themselves. Social-systems operate in accordance with their internal, functionally differentiated logics. Social-systems are not subject to the control, design and “steering” (as Luhmann puts it) that modern secular-humanist conceptions of societies, polities and economies consider to be the operational norm. Rather, social-systems contain an internal momentum which may be the strongest determinant in the manner in which historical events unfold. These systemic logics operate over and above the mess of human intentions. Moeller in his book on Luhmann calls this the “sociological insult” against human(ist) hubris.

2/Dismay, despair and other essentially religious or demiurgical forms of resistance.

If the thesis of Zionism as a historical program of military-colonial genocide is the empirical and conceptual truth, then the Palestinians are damned. Agents of Evil and anti-Reason do not usually escape unscathed either. Tel Aviv and, by imperialist extension, Washington are also likely to be hit with collateral damage as nemesis for their psychotic hubris. The USA (both domestically and as a geopolitical great power) is already riven by terminally morbid faultlines of decline, decay and potential collapse.

The difficulty of the facing up to a Truth that leads into a state of enervating hopelessness tends to excite a reaction of essentially religious objections. These could also be considered to be bio-instinctual reflexes in the face of danger. In any case, religious-type objections (“but if what you assert is true, then there is no Hope”) are not empirical refutations and hence leave the thesis unscathed.

3/There is also the obscenely immoral and desperately silly piece of military-colonial agit-prop which shouldn’t detain us except to note the profound anti-Rationality (Evil in its innate nature is anti-Rational) that prevails in the discourse around the Palestine-Israel conflict/genocide.

This is the widely circulated item of military-colonial agit-prop that asserts that the use of the word “genocide” except exclusively in reference to the Shoah “relativizes” “Jewish suffering” and is hence “anti-Semitic”.

The abyssal anti-Rationality of this wildly illogical assertion, which is a nonetheless a widely held belief, attests to the abyssal Evil and to the great necropolitical power (Achille Mbembe) of the genocidal forces that are central historical drivers of events.

Similarly anti-Rational beliefs (QAnon; Nazi great lies; Machiavellian great lies; Stalinist great lies; imperialist delusions of hubris; humanist delusions of promethean omnipotence) have powered other major events of mass-killing and great destruction.


Chris Bertram 10.18.23 at 10:31 am

@engels, I for one am glad that NLR/Sidecar is against genocide. TBH, they seem to have been a bit on the fence on that one in recent conflicts.


TM 10.18.23 at 1:22 pm

The “sidecar” article has nothing to say about the massacres commited by Hamas (which is hardly mentioned at all) and assigns responsibility exclusively to Israel. This fits a pattern often found in purportedly anti-imperialist circles of denying the agency of everybody except the US and Israel and their allies.

I think denying the agency of non-Western actors is also a kind of imperialism.


Glau 10.18.23 at 1:52 pm

“And yet, the most vocal opposition to Israeli war crimes has been led by dipshit narcissists like Corbyn and associated cosplaying radicals.”

I’d note that a very, very large reason Corbyn is regarded as a dipshit is because he supports Palestinian causes. Pretty impossible to disentangle the idea that he’s an idiot for being a ‘terrorist supporter’ from the idea that he’s both on the side the mainstream hates and is separately an idiot.


RobinM 10.18.23 at 4:52 pm

Copied from elsewhere:

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also strongly defended international law:

‘I utterly condemn the attacks on civilians, Israeli and Palestinian. And I plead with politicians across the globe to do all they can to stop any further loss of human life.’

He added:

‘I wonder, if Gaza is wiped off the face of the earth, whether our politicians will look back and reflect on the reality of their unwavering support. If they had any integrity, they would mourn the innocent Palestinian lives that have been erased in the name of self-defence. They should be ashamed of their cowardice, knowing that others will pay the price for the war crimes they refuse to oppose.’

Corbyn concluded with these moving words:

‘“Gaza has casualties…mothers who cry… let’s use this emotion, we are two nations from one father, let’s make peace, a real peace.”’

‘Those were the words of an Israeli father whose daughter had been so cruelly taken hostage by Hamas. I cannot fathom the agony he must be feeling. Yet in the depths of unimaginable darkness, he found the courage to call for peace. Why can’t we?’


CityCalmDown 10.18.23 at 5:33 pm

@TM 71
When considering the Palestine Israel conflict/genocide the massive preponderance of power is with the two nuclear armed states – Israel and the USA.

We are (or should be) looking for an account of historical causality. Naturally, historical causality is located in the most powerful historical currents. Colonialism is driven by the wielding of the necropolitical power as a means of inflicting violence to maintain control and exert domination. (see Achille Mbembe)

Your pathetic attempts to play lawyer for Tel Aviv and for Washington is a sickening example of the most damnable Lady Macbeth handwashing.
What liberal-bourgeois fantasy of “agency” are you talking about? Are there any activities that the Palestinians engage in that Zionists like you, in your nightmarish opium clouds of bloodletting, do not immediately stamp your iron boots upon?

It is impossible to display the Palestinian flag on Instagram, unaccompanied by any reference whatsoever to the Jewish people, without a barrage of Israeli airstrikes hitting the poor unfortunate who stepped out of line. Is this the sort of thing you mean when you speaking empowering people so that they may have “agency” or “freedom of speech”??


What about Palestinians simply living their lives? Is that ok with you? The answer is a violent, bloodthirsty NO!

“A Threshold Crossed
Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution”
“About 6.8 million Jewish Israelis and 6.8 million Palestinians live today between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River, an area encompassing Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), the latter made up of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Throughout most of this area, Israel is the sole governing power; in the remainder, it exercises primary authority alongside limited Palestinian self-rule. Across these areas and in most aspects of life, Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. Laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and land has long guided government policy. In pursuit of this goal, authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity. In certain areas, as described in this report, these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”


“Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: a cruel system of domination and a crime against humanity
The comprehensive report, Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime against Humanity, sets out how massive seizures of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, forcible transfer, drastic movement restrictions, and the denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinians are all components of a system which amounts to apartheid under international law. This system is maintained by violations which Amnesty International found to constitute apartheid as a crime against humanity, as defined in the Rome Statute and Apartheid Convention.
Amnesty International is calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to consider the crime of apartheid in its current investigation in the OPT and calls on all states to exercise universal jurisdiction to bring perpetrators of apartheid crimes to justice.

“There is no possible justification for a system built around the institutionalized and prolonged racist oppression of millions of people. Apartheid has no place in our world, and states which choose to make allowances for Israel will find themselves on the wrong side of history. Governments who continue to supply Israel with arms and shield it from accountability at the UN are supporting a system of apartheid, undermining the international legal order, and exacerbating the suffering of the Palestinian people. The international community must face up to the reality of Israel’s apartheid, and pursue the many avenues to justice which remain shamefully unexplored.”
Amnesty International’s findings build on a growing body of work by Palestinian, Israeli and international NGOs, who have increasingly applied the apartheid framework to the situation in Israel and/or the OPT.
Identifying apartheid
A system of apartheid is an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination by one racial group over another. It is a serious human rights violation which is prohibited in public international law. Amnesty International’s extensive research and legal analysis, carried out in consultation with external experts, demonstrates that Israel enforces such a system against Palestinians through laws, policies and practices which ensure their prolonged and cruel discriminatory treatment.
In international criminal law, specific unlawful acts which are committed within a system of oppression and domination, with the intention of maintaining it, constitute the crime against humanity of apartheid. These acts are set out in the Apartheid Convention and the Rome Statute, and include unlawful killing, torture, forcible transfer, and the denial of basic rights and freedoms.
Amnesty International documented acts proscribed in the Apartheid Convention and Rome Statute in all the areas Israel controls, although they occur more frequently and violently in the OPT than in Israel. Israeli authorities enact multiple measures to deliberately deny Palestinians their basic rights and freedoms, including draconian movement restrictions in the OPT, chronic discriminatory underinvestment in Palestinian communities in Israel, and the denial of refugees’ right to return. The report also documents forcible transfer, administrative detention, torture, and unlawful killings, in both Israel and the OPT.
Amnesty International found that these acts form part of a systematic and widespread attack directed against the Palestinian population, and are committed with the intent to maintain the system of oppression and domination. They therefore constitute the crime against humanity of apartheid.



J-D 10.18.23 at 10:08 pm

We are (or should be) looking for an account of historical causality.

Why is that what we should be doing?


KT2 10.18.23 at 11:00 pm

Two days ago, Hamas senior leader Dr Naim said; “It doesn’t mean that we lost control … there was a chaos in the area.”. (^1.)

Soon, my intuition tells me, Isreal (and Bkinken and Biden et al) will be quoted regarding civilians, saying…
… It doesn’t mean that we lost control … there was a chaos in the area.

As JQ says in “No true war is bad?”, “obvious anthropic fallacy problem”.

Any talk of “… not targeting civilians” by the IDF is, unfortunately, correct. 
But: words.
Any talk of civilians being in the target zone is correct.
But: reality.
Or reality?

“No true war is bad?

“After that, the argument descends into Pinker-style nonsense. While repeating the usual stats about the decline in violent deaths, Morris mentions in passing that a nuclear war could cause billions of deaths. He doesn’t consider the obvious anthropic fallacy problem – if such a war had happened, there would not be any op-eds in the Washington Post discussing the implications for life expectancy.”
by JOHN Q on OCTOBER 13, 2019

Chris Bertram @47 said “… and if they don’t actually intend the deaths of children, civilians, they are pretty reckless about bringing them about and all too ready to utter the stock clichés about “human shields” and the like to shift the blame. Being reckless about civilian deaths is wrong and deliberately killing them is worse, quite independently of what the “other side” does, but there is no way that morally inflamed people are going to hold back from the conclusion that they are entitled to cast off restraints in getting their own back on the “monsters” who confront them.”

Which monsters?
How many children and carers?
??% are women in caring roles for the 2nd largest demographics of young people. The Gaza Strip is the youngest population with only Uganda having a younger population. 

The West Bank compared to Gaza Strip is Looxury! Gaza has the highest unemployment and the lowest wages and the densest population.

50% in the last Gaza election voted for Hamas. Did the other 50% vote for nefarious splinter groups listed below? Or are they just stuck in Gaza?

This ABC article quotes “Hamas senior leader” saying Hamas had no plans to target civilians. It was “.   others had infiltrated the Hamas operation”. 

ABC Australia says;
“Hamas senior leader says there were no plans to target civilians in Israel attack
Pressed on whether he was claiming the terrorist group had lost control of its fighters, Dr Naim told 7.30 that others had infiltrated the Hamas operation.

“There are other Palestinian groups who became part of the operation, even ordinary people when they see the prison around Gaza Strip was broken, and the siege was open,” he said.

“It doesn’t mean that we lost control … there was a chaos in the area.”

“Dr Naim would not identify who the other groups were.”…


Other groups (known) are;
“The Gaza Strip’s security is mainly handled by Hamas through its military wing, the
– Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades,
– internal security service, and
– civil police force.
The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades have an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 operatives.[172]

“Other Palestinian militant factions operate in the Gaza Strip alongside, and sometimes opposed to Hamas.
– The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, also known as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is the second largest militant faction operating in the Gaza Strip. Its military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, has an estimated 8,000 fighters.[173][174][175][176]

“In June 2013,
-the Islamic Jihad broke ties with Hamas leaders after Hamas police fatally shot the commander of Islamic Jihad’s military wing.[174] The third largest faction is the
– Popular Resistance Committees. Its military wing is known as the Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades.

Other factions include
– the Army of Islam (an Islamist faction of the Doghmush clan),
 the Nidal Al-Amoudi Battalion (an offshoot of the West Bank-based Fatah-linked al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades),
– the Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades (armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine),
– the Sheikh Omar Hadid Brigade (ISIL offshoot),
– Humat al-Aqsa,
– Jaysh al-Ummah,
– Katibat al-Sheikh al-Emireen,
 the Mujahideen Brigades, and
 the Abdul al-Qadir al-Husseini Brigades.[177]

“… to the Gaza Strip having an unusually high proportion of children in the population, with 43.5% of the population being 14 or younger and a median age in 2014 of 18, compared to a world average of 28, and 30 in Israel. The only countries with a lower median age are countries in Africa such as Uganda where it was 15.[293]”
Wikipedia / Gaza strip

Population pyramid of the State of Palestine in 2020

Population pyramid of the United States as of July 1, 2022

Talking Heads sums up this latest folly. “We’re on a road to nowhere, Come on inside, Takin’ that ride to nowhere, We’ll take that ride”

We are being taken for a ride. 


David in Tokyo 10.19.23 at 7:11 am

These may be wrong, but they don’t seem to have been discussed here yet:


A lot of folks unhappy about Hamas are desperately trying to blame Iran. Whereas it’s actually blokes who are sworn enemies of Shia Islam and Iran that are supporting Hamas.

There’s also this (I may be being naive here; I don’t know anything about the Times of Israel; feel free to yell at me if this is problematic BS):



engels 10.19.23 at 7:44 am

Meanwhile in the more elevated setting of the UN, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield is fighting for moral clarity in mostly the same way TM is here:

But the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the resolution, carefully crafted by Brazilian diplomats, was unacceptable because it made no mention of Israel’s right to self-defence. The UK abstained, saying the resolution lacked mention of the way Hamas was using ordinary Palestinians as human shields. The US ambassador said she was horrified and saddened by the loss of life, but that the actions of Hamas had brought about the humanitarian crisis…

“US vetoes UN’s call for ‘humanitarian pause’ and corridors into Gaza”


RobinM 10.19.23 at 8:28 pm

Very interesting analysis mentioned on another site:



engels 10.19.23 at 8:45 pm

Hundreds arrested at Israel-Gaza protest near US Capitol


engels 10.20.23 at 11:46 am

The return of sensible politics:

“A HUGE majority of Brits support a ceasefire in Israel and Palestine, putting them at odds with the UK Government and Labour according to a new poll.”


LFC 10.20.23 at 2:54 pm

David in Tokyo @77

Hamas has a political wing, so to speak, and a military wing. The political leadership lives in Doha, Qatar, but the military leadership does not.

Iran has long funded Hamas, and supported Hezbollah as well. There is, last I heard, no hard evidence linking Iran directly to the Oct. 7 attacks however. But it does back Hamas.

I agree w engels on one pt at any rate — there should be a (temporary at least) ceasefire in Gaza. Seems unlikely to happen.


Stephen 10.20.23 at 9:10 pm


Well indeed, if I had been asked whether I supported a ceasefire in Gaza I would have said yes in principle, there is always a great deal to be said for an end to violence. But on what terms? The link you give to the National’s article doesn’t say. I can imagine terms I would approve of, but think unlikely, and also other terms that could in the long run be disastrous.

I confess I am rather sceptical of the National, a paper with 110% support for the present SNP government of Huzma Yousaf, who has family members in Gaza, and rather less than 100% tolerance for the majority of Scots who do not support the SNP. No newspaper is unbiassed but the National does not aspire to any sort of balance.


Suzanne 10.22.23 at 6:48 pm

Not often you hear an American president celebrating the military-industrial complex so baldly:


“We send Ukraine equipment sitting in our stockpiles. And when we use the money allocated by Congress, we use it to replenish our own stores, our own stockpiles, with new equipment. Equipment that defends America and is made in America. Patriot missiles for air defense batteries, made in Arizona. Artillery shells manufactured in 12 states across the country, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas. And so much more.

You know, just as in World War II, today patriotic American workers are building the arsenal of democracy and serving the cause of freedom.”

So the US will be funding two regional wars simultaneously. What could go wrong?


engels 10.23.23 at 1:15 pm


Seekonk 10.23.23 at 3:12 pm

Nation states are an extremely flawed system of social-political organization, not least because they are principally based on ethnicity. There are 1000s of ethnic groups but only 200 nation states. (What of the Tamils, Kurds, Uighurs?)
Nonetheless, as long as we have nation states, if any ethnic group should have its own nation, it is Jews, who are constantly scapegoated, and who have been subject to a genocide within living memory.
This is a reason to roll back the West Bank settlements and adopt a two-state solution, one for Jews and one for Palestinians.


engels 10.23.23 at 4:21 pm

This is a reason to roll back the West Bank settlements and adopt a two-state solution

Unfortunately the reverse is happening:



KT2 10.23.23 at 11:18 pm

In a Gaza lounge room, soon:
“Walking through walls” thus becomes a kind of militarized parkour.”

“”Imagine it—you’re sitting in your living room, which you know so well; this is the room where the family watches television together after the evening meal. . . . And, suddenly, that wall disappears with a deafening roar, the room fills with dust and debris, and through the wall pours one soldier after the other, screaming orders. You have no idea if they’re after you, if they’ve come to take over your home, or if your house just lies on their route to somewhere else. The children are screaming, panicking. . . . Is it possible to even begin to imagine the horror experienced by a five-year-old child as four, six, eight, twelve soldiers, their faces painted black, submachine guns pointed everywhere, antennas protruding from their backpacks, making them look like giant alien bugs, blast their way through that wall?”

…”In it, Weizman—an Israeli architect and prominent critic of that nation’s territorial policy—documents many of the emerging spatial techniques used by the Israeli Defense Forces in their high-tech, legally dubious 2002 invasion of Nablus. During that battle, Weizman writes, “soldiers moved within the city across hundred-meter-long ‘overground-tunnels’ carved through a dense and contiguous urban fabric.” Their movements were thus almost entirely camouflaged, with troop movements hidden from above by virtue of always remaining inside buildings”.


“Lethal Theory”
Eyal Weizman
November 1, 2009

“Rather than submit to the authority of conventional spatial boundaries and logic, movement became constitutive of space. The three-dimensional progression through walls, ceilings and floors across the urban mass reinterpreted, short-circuited and recomposed both architectural and urban syntax. The IDF’s strategy of ‘walking-through-walls’ involved a conception of the city as not just the site, but the very medium of warfare – a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux.

“At stake are the underlying concepts, assumptions and principles that determine military strategies and tactics.”



Seekonk 10.24.23 at 3:15 pm

Soviet-born Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman has never struck me as particularly enlightened, and he’s certainly not warm-and-fuzzy. But according to Wikipedia, he has stated that he would be willing to give up his home in a West Bank settlement as part of a two-state arrangement. There is a two-state plan that bears his name: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lieberman_Plan


Tom Slee 10.24.23 at 7:24 pm

I’ve found myself thinking about the title of this post repeatedly.
I have a neighbour who is visiting family in Tel Aviv, so when talking to her husband it is clear what to say: “I hope she is well and you have my best wishes”.
I also have a Palestinian colleague at work, and so I say “I hope your family are well and you have my best wishes”.
So “On not knowing what to say about Gaza” seems perhaps incomplete. Some comments seem to assume a context of speaking “publicly” to an unspecified audience. And while this matter of course, it is perhaps not the only context.


Suzanne 10.25.23 at 9:28 pm

The positions my country’s government are taking become more and more….worrisome. We have the US State Department acknowledging openly that more dead Palestinian civilian corpses are going to pile up and such is life, war is hell, etc.:


‘Mr. Kirby added, “A cease-fire, right now, really only benefits Hamas.”

“It is ugly and it’s going to be messy, and innocent civilians are going to be hurt going forward,” he said. The United States, he added, had not discussed any red lines with Israel.’

I thought a cease-fire would benefit the hostages and the civilians getting bombed, but I lack the sophistication and tough-mindedness of our foreign policy elite.

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