Friday, June 15, 2007

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The massive disincentive to blog about Israel/Palestine

The following is a typical e-mail I've received in the wake of posting about Norman Finkelstein:

Anyone questioning the intellectual scholarship of Mr. Finkelstein really needs help. to simply say that he is accomplished does not do service to his record of superior scholarship which is there for everyone to see. Were he not a critic of Zionism he would be feted from on high for his academic achievements. I was not surprised that a Catholic Priest made a mealy mouth decision not to grant tenure on such a political decision and then lied in my opinion making matters even more suspicious by saying that ouside influence had no...who makes up these lies? Father H.'s phone lines are still blazing with threats from ADL Mr. D., Foxman, considering the Blackmail that Zionism has put on the Catholic Church for their so-called non assistance to the Jews in peril and their perceived coziness with the Nazis during the second W.W. However the Zionist have no quarter from which to truly attack Finkelstein on and they are now in helter skelter mode drunkenly flailing at any thing that Finkelsteins, ala J. Carter. Finally for the record and for sometime now ANTI-SEMITISM has not intimidated the investigators or human beings from observing what Israel is doing in Palestine and condemning them for what it is, genocide. a legitimate personage has "pulled the covers" off that cat(Zionism/Racism)and Zionist apologist are schreeeching to high heaven at being exposed. Dan's bullshit piece about Finkelstein is just another attempt at cover. he admits that he dosen't know what he's talking about when it comes to Finkelstein. I suspect that he really does but has no response to the truth thats printable. If he believed that Finkelstein got a raw deal then he should have stated that instead of listing all the negatives in his text about Finkelstein which makes Dan suspect to the reader. Israels murderous policy of theft of land,lies,targeted killings,walls, racist highways,killing of international observers,and unjust occupation against the Palestinian(short list) People is an international crime in the exact same way that the German Administration under Adolph Hitler and what he did to European Jewry was a crime. Liars such as Dershowitz and loonies such as David Horowitz only expose the Israeli desperate attempt to promote transparent false propaganda. The arrogance of how one should criticize newish people what words one can say and not say is a first in the history of mankind and will not stand. And now comes Dan, with a kinder gentler "objective" detachment The People of the world are united in their condemnation of Zionist blackmail by accusatory designation and use of the term anti-semitism to try and stop the debate concerning the Palestinian genocide committed by Israel since 1948 and continuing. The truth will be told whether Zionist like the way it is told to them or not. The world must unite to bring all the mass killers from the U.S. and Israel to the world court of Justice for their mortal sins against humanity.

posted by Dan on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM


Well, the problem is that Israel is a racist and colonial state that have ethnically cleansed the local population and continues to imprison and oppress them.

Anger about the situation is often reflected through especially strong identification with those who suffer. Someone who writes this about Finklestein, in my opinion, is not very familiar with his work but is expressing their emotion toward the situation.

In this specific case, maybe this person has crossed the line. But the truth of the matter is that there is so much bias in the traditional western discourse that these words do help to balance things. The ignorance and denial in the western discourse of the conditions the Palestinians have been forced to experience is, in my opinion, a much more dubious problem then the anger expressed towards the destruction caused by the "Jewish State". While this person is simply venting frustration, Western governments have real POWER and continue to oppress and destroy the people of the Middle East.

Actually, the amazing this is that we ignore the injustice and act like having anger about it is crazy. It is like nightmare world that Foucault used to talk about. Where out anger is directed at those who are willing to rebel, rather then at those causing the injustice. Maybe if one American was killed for every Iraqi, Palestinian, Lebanese, Afghan, Congolese, Sudanese, Iranian, or Chechen that has been killed in the last few years, maybe then you would think your own anger was justified if you were mad as this person is. But because the Americans can fatten themselves up like disgusting pigs, and can suck the resources from the rest of the world while continuing to destroy the whole planet, well, it just makes it easy for you to ignore those who are angry as being nuts.

I don't agree with everything this person said, and i am not nearly as fond of Finklestein as this person is, but they are right to be mad, it is insane that so few people are mad.

posted by: Joe M. on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

Dan, you are clearly not very familiar with the ways of Middle East studies in the US. There's no way of avoiding politicisation on the issues of Israel/Palestine and Islamism. Finkelstein is far from the first or last academic to have embraced and suffered from this politicisation. You have tenured professors ranting in classes about the idiocy of Arab nationalism and asking rhetorical questions about whether people who believe in virgins in heaven can be understood by the rational tools of political inquiry (I wish I were joking), and people judge their peers very much according to whether they are seen as Saidian or US foreign policy types and so on. This was only to be expected, sad as it is.

posted by: SP on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

Sweet, suffering cheeses, Dan. What a bunch of loons. You can almost feel the spittle spray ....

posted by: mojohand on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

Sweet, suffering cheeses, Dan. What a bunch of loons. You can almost feel the spittle spray ....

posted by: mojohand on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

Yeah, It is discouraging. But please dont stop blogging about anything. Im eyn ani li, mi li? If I am not for me, who will be?

posted by: jaim klein on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

Joe M, I disagree about "balance". It doesn't help us to balance a lie with an opposite lie. It doesn't help to balance crazy people against crazy people with opposite delusions.

What is needed is sanity and clear communication. As the american people turns away from political zionism, this travesty will slowly dissipate. Jewish americans will increasingly say that the zionist lobby doesn't represent them, and it will turn into an obviously bogus lobby -- funded by a few rich people and by a small fraction of US government donations to israel. That will be bad enough -- look at the sugar lobby, working against americans for 80+ years and still going strong -- but things are already improving some.

When we reach the point we're ready to look for a sane policy then we can search for ways to help israelis safely get off the tiger they're riding. In terms of "justice" it might seem appropriate to have a big disaster with lots of killing, but that doesn't really do anybody any good.

What can be done to diffuse tensions to the point israel can become a democratic nation on the south african model? Or is there some better solution?

posted by: J Thomas on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

Well, Dan, I'm not Jewish, but I fully support Israel, not to mention American foreign policy in support of the survival of the Israeli people. I would think that e-mails like this one, particularly the views represented by the writer, would be all the more reason to blog about the Israeli/Palestine conflict -- especially for a professor of international politics! I haven't looked over the Finkelstein post, although obviously you know of what you speak when it comes to being denied tenure at Chicago. Just keep on pumping out the interesting posts, and don't neglect developments in the Middle East. If you haven't read it already, by the way, check out Hillel Halkin's Commentary piece, "If Israel Ceased to Exist." It's not just the regional interstate threat to the survival of the Israeli state, the article argues, but the undeniable demographics leading to a collapse of Zionist ideology (combined with the indifference of the global and especially American Jewish Diaspora to the original raison d’etre of the Jewish homeland):

Take care,

posted by: Donald Douglas on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

First, in reference to Donald Douglas' link to commentary magazine, I will just paraphrase a quote from Woody Allen's movie Annie Hall, "if you put commentary and dissent magazines together, you get dysentery."

In terms of the post by J Thomas, I don't disagree with anything you have said. And there is no doubt that a single democratic state, including both Israel and Palestine, would be the best solution. I prefer a slightly federated version, in the shorter-term with a less federated one in the longer-term. But generally, this is the only real possible solution to the problem. Actually, i have become increasingly pessimistic about the prospects for the Jewish people in the region. At this point i think they basically have 2 choices: 1) they can agree to forming a single state with equal civil and political rights for all people in that state, or 2) they can leave. They simply have created too much suffering and anger against themselves to continue to oppress the people of the region in this way for much longer. Unless they seek peace in justice and equality, there is no prospect for less war or more security. I hope they will decide to form a single state because i think it is best for everyone. otherwise, they simply have no place in the region. Avraham Burg, the former Israeli Knesset speaker, makes this point extremely well:

Also, I agree with your views about the type of information that used. I do not think that a lie should be matched with a lie, and i was not saying that. I was simply pointing out that this person's anger is understandable, and that the real insanity is not that someone like this emailer is angry, but that people are considered crazy for being angry about war and the like... my point about "balance" was more that i think this email is more accurate (even though i don't think it is all that accurate) then all the ignorance and disinformation that dominates the traditional discourse. In that sense, i don't think it is good, but i am more tolerant of it.

posted by: Joe M. on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

I notice the more emotional and hyperbolic the comments and emails become, the less clear and grammatical they also become.

Maybe the problem is not the tenure of Mr. Finkelstein. Maybe the tenure problem has been a definciency in English composition professors.

mojohand: "spittle spray" indeed! I almost did a spit take onto my keyboard when I read your comment;-)

posted by: Useless Sam Grant on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

Joe M.
It is a sign of "anti-semitism/self hating" to link to Haaretz in the United States. The only acceptable newspaper from Israel is the Jerulsalem Post! We do not want people to understand that all Israelis do not think like AIPAC!

posted by: centrist on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

_"but that people are considered crazy for being angry about war and the like..."_

Yet very very few see, to get as emotional about Darfur or Rwanda or a dozen other places with genocide and ethnic cleansing many orders of magnitude worse than anything that has happened in Israel/Palestine.

I guess that is the sticking point with many of us. Sudanese die by the thousands and the identical people calling for Israeli and US politicians to be tried at the world court call for reconciliation and understanding in Darfur. Why does Israel have more UN condemnation than every other nation of the world combined? It is _not_ a smokescreen or a dodge to note the level of disproportionate outrage at Israel by a certain idealogy. Its impossible to ignore and maintain any semblance of intellectual honesty.

If we really want to have this conversation- lets talk about why Israel is held to so much a higher standard than virtually any other nation on earth (and most certainly in the region).

posted by: Mark Buehner on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

Well, Dan, what can you expect from random nutjobs out there when among your regular commenters are hate-filled anti-American bigots who come up with gems like this:

"Maybe if one American was killed for every Iraqi, Palestinian, Lebanese, Afghan, Congolese, Sudanese, Iranian, or Chechen that has been killed in the last few years, maybe then you would think your own anger was justified if you were mad as this person is. But because the Americans can fatten themselves up like disgusting pigs, and can suck the resources from the rest of the world while continuing to destroy the whole planet, well, it just makes it easy for you to ignore those who are angry as being nuts."

Not even the Hamas-Fatah civil/gang war can shake these people into realizing that the Palestinian problem is a...Palestinian problem. Particularly humorous (in a mordant way) is the idea of bringing Palestinians into a liberal democratic polity such as Israel through a "one-state" solution. Yeah, that'll bring sweetness and light to the area.

This unwillingness to distinguish civilization from barbarism while pretending to uphold standards of civilization, this love of skirting anti-Semitism as closesly as possible without getting caught, should not be confused with sincere concern for the well-being of Palestinians or anyone else. These folks are motivated by all sorts of resentments having nothing to do with the substance of whatever you are discussing. Don't let them bother you. Just blog about whatever you want and ignore their ranting.

posted by: srp on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

Let me just quote you the conclusion of the Dugard report of 2007 (in case you forgot, John Dugard is?/was Special Rapporteur for both the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the International Law Commission, and he wrote a recent report for the UN on Israel/Palestine.) and just so you know, even ignoring the points that Dugard makes, Israel is most condemned because it has been attacking the Palestinians for 60 years. Not 4 years like in darfur. Imagine if nothing had changed for the people of Darfur and it was 2067. And, as sad as Rwanda was, it is not continuing today. Those of us like myself were/are outraged that clinton did nothing to stop the killing in Rwanda (notice this was inactive), just as he caused the deaths hundreds of thousands of Iraqis via sanctions (while this was proactive). and you can hold Israel to the standard of Mubarak or of Abdullah of Saudi or of Saddam if you want, but i don't think that does much to absolve it of its crimes. I will remind you that every arab regime is absolutely despised by its people (with the slight exceptions possibly being Syria, Tunisia and maybe Morocco, they might not be hated), so there is no double standard there. An American double standard, true, for supporting the extremely radical Saudi while attacking the less radical Iran, for example. But it is not a double standard of the people.

And SRP, if by "civilization" you mean a place where the only discourse is(quoting former Knesset speaker Burg) "We will smash them, we will erase them..." or "We will destroy and kill and expel." then fine, you can have that "civilization". You have to face it, Israel is doomed as a country. It has no choice but either to have a reformation into a single state for all its people (palestinian, jew, immigrant...), or the Jews will have to leave. Israel is killing the Jewish people, turning them into monsters. if that is the "civilization" you want, you can keep it.

anyway, here is the conclusion of the Dugard report. You can claim that he has a double standard too if you want, but that doesn't take away from the truth of what he says.

63. The Occupied Palestinian Territory is of special importance to the future of human rights in the world. Human rights in Palestine have been on the agenda of the United Nations for 60 years; and more particularly for the past 40 years since the occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967. For years the occupation of Palestine and apartheid in South Africa vied for attention from the international community. In 1994, apartheid came to an end and Palestine became the only developing country in the world under the subjugation of a Western-affiliated regime. Herein lies its significance to the future of human rights. There are other regimes, particularly in the developing world, that suppress human rights, but there is no other case of a Western-affiliated regime that denies self-determination and human rights to a
developing people and that has done so for so long. This explains why the OPT has become a test for the West, a test by which its commitment to human rights is to be judged. If the West fails this test, it can hardly expect the developing world to address human rights violations seriously in its own countries, and the West appears to be failing this test. The EU pays conscience money to the Palestinian people through the Temporary
International Mechanism but nevertheless joins the United States and other Western countries, such as Australia and Canada, in failing to put pressure on Israel to accept Palestinian self-determination and to discontinue its violations of human rights.
The Quartet, comprising the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and the Russian Federation, is a party to this failure. If the West, which has hitherto led the promotion of human rights throughout the world, cannot demonstrate a real commitment to the human rights of the Palestinian people, the international human rights movement, which can claim to be the greatest achievement of the international community of the past 60 years, will be endangered and placed in jeopardy.

posted by: Joe M. on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

If we really want to have this conversation- lets talk about why Israel is held to so much a higher standard than virtually any other nation on earth (and most certainly in the region).

Putting aside the question of why the UN would hold israel to a higher standard than sudan, let's consider why americans might hold israel to a higher standard.

Americans pay a lot of dollars to support israel. We give israel defense secrets -- some of them got traded to the USSR, maybe some of them are getting traded to china now. We give israel a whole lot of support, and it has a great big affect on our relationship with the rest of the world, particularly with arab and muslim nations.

If you were to agree that israel is no better than sudan and deserves no better relations with the US than sudan has, then I would have no particular objection to just let israel go its own way, and not intervene unless the atrocities got bad enough to demand humanitarian intervention.

Well, but wait. Israel has nukes. We wouldn't begin to trust sudan with nukes. If israel is only a little better than the dozen worst atrocity-sites in the world, then we can't let israel keep nukes any more than we can iran. Also israel would have to give up the poison gas and the smallpox stocks and other biological weapons. No WMDs for a nation that's no better than average for the middle east. Whyever should we let israel export everything to us duty-free? Why should we give israel all the oil they need for free?

My nation has a special relationship with israel on the assumption that israel is a whole lot better than the other problem nations. If israelis want to be just as bad as their neighbors and they don't ask any favors from us, then I'm not going to be mad at them for it. A bit disappointed, but not outraged. What gets me a little steamed is when they're no better than the rest but they're getting a lot of funding out of my national debt. I'm going to be paying that money to china in a few years, at a bad interest rate. I don't want it wasted.

posted by: J Thomas on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

Joe M. certainly has the pro-Hamas/hate Israel
down pat. His continual recitation of mindless
propaganda is quite humorous.

Until Palestinians such as Joe M. take
responsibility for their own actions there
cannot be peace.

The problem is that when the Israelis extend
their hand in peace it is met by missles and
suicide bombers.

Everyone notices that Joe M. says not a word
about the war crimes committed by his fellow
Palestinians almost daily against innocent Israelis.

He, and J. Thomas too, can dream all they
want about Americans turning away from
"political Zionism". It simply will not

We all remember the video that Reuters
shot on 9/11 showing the Palestinians
dancing in the street when they heard
about the thousands of Americans murdered
by their fellow Muslims. That particular
footage is seared into the memory of all
but the most bigoted anti-Semite. Along
with the image of Joe M.'s terrorist
heroes pushing a wheel-chair Leon Klinghofer
off of the Achille Larual. Add that to
the NSA intercepts of Araft approving the
murders of two American diplomats and there
is no way Americans will ever feel any sort
of friendship to the so-called Palestinians.

Go peddle your hate in some tottering state
but not here!

posted by: LordActon on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

A moment of logic, please.

In the arab world, the two major movements over the last 60 or so years have been arab nationalism, followed by political Islam. Fatah was heavily influenced by the former. Hamas by the latter.

Joe M & J. Thomas -- why would either political tendency be comfortable with a co-equal, or close to co-equal Jewish population? If there is a middle eastern leader, who is influential with the Palestinians, who has made a habit of advocating the benefits of pluralism or multiculturalism, I have not heard of him? Is there anyone? Does anyone in Palestine listen to him?

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

Appalled Moderate, at this point we don't know what palestinians would do if they could do something effective. There's no data, all we see is what the media shows us that their most extreme extremists do when there are no effective choices. We simply don't know.

There are similar extremists in israel. There are israelis who make bombs to blow up palestinian schools etc -- even israeli-arab schools inside israel. The israeli government catches some of them and prosecutes them. There is no palestinian government strong enough to catch palestinian extremists, though. Israel has not allowed any strong palestinian government to start up. Back when the PA tried to set up a strong police force the israelis attacked the palestinian police, killed a lot of them and destroyed their jails, that kind of thing. So we just don't know.

We can hope that palestinians are capable of an honest peaceful settlement, and in that case israel can have peace. That's a good thing if it works.

Or we can assume that no peace is possible. Then the question americans should have for israelis, is "What's it all about, Alfie?"

Imagine that a bunch of americans who lived in East LA back when it was a nice place decided they were going to go back there and run the city. They move in and have trouble with the Crips and Bloods and such, and they get the city government to give them body armor and police weapons, and they start fighting. They herd the previous citizens into barbed-wire ghettos where they can't find work, and require the city to supply welfare to all of them. The new people treat their prisoners rather badly but point out the awful way the bad guys behave -- they keep rioting and every now and then somebody escapes and rapes and kills until they're tracked down. And there's no indication that the situation will ever change, the new guys plan to keep them in that ghetto until there's proof that they won't be dangerous, and they want to keep getting the body armor and armored cars and barbed wire and keep the bad guys on welfare (which they sometimes don't let through) and it's just going to stay that way.

Why would we pay for that? If people want to live a good life in east LA and they can't get along with the people who're already there, why should we pay? Let them live somewhere better.

I'm fine with letting all the israelis live in the USA. I think they'd probably make good citizens. If they want their own country I'd consider giving them, say, alabama. A green and pleasant land, fine mineral resources, wooded hills, lots of great flat farmland, Mobile is an OK port and the Tenn-Tom gives access to the mississippi river bypassing new orleans. We'd only have to clear out a couple million americans, not so bad. Not nearly like clearing out palestine or east LA.

It used to be a lot of people thought that south africa had no alternative to apartheid, that whites would be massacred if the blacks ever took over. There was no way to tell if they were right. As it turned out, while south africa under black-majority government is not a nice place it hasn't been all that bad for whites. Maybe israel would be like that. But if that isn't in the cards what should the USA do? Support genocide of palestinians? Additional ethnic cleansing? The status quo? All unacceptable for us, though maybe OK for israel.

Arguing that palestinians are inherently bad people is not an argument in favor of US support for israel. It's an argument against US support for israelis to stay in the middle east.

posted by: J Thomas on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

Appalled Moderate, let me just point out that the population of Israel is already 20% Palestinian and the vast majority of those people support a one-state solution of some kind. Also, that 20% of the population has lived in general peace with the Jewish people of Israel for as long as there has been an Israel. They live in peace with them even though they are systematically and personally discriminated against by the racist nature of the state and a very racist trend that exists and is getting stronger within the Jewish citizens.

Of those 20% of Israeli citizens, there are many voices which have been calling for coexistence. There are very prominent voices like Azmi Bishara (and his entire political trend) who, for example, has been on AlJazeera practically every day for the last few months. Further, even the Islamists in Israel typically argue for coexistence (though, i am not saying there is love for Israel). But other then the prominent figures, there is a general understanding among the people that only a one-state solution will work.

You might not believe this, but Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are fairly well connected to the rest of the Arab world, and they are generally respected by other Arabs because we realize that they have had access to Israel is a unique way. The Palestinians with Israeli citizenship have a particularly troublesome position to be in, with many of their family members behind the wall or under the gun (literally) while also being subjects of the State that is responsible for that. As that, often they are not as vocal as you would expect, but they are scared and they know the dangers.

Anyway, that said, my point is that there are many prominent voices out there (and i was just pointing to a small portion of the people who support coexistence, there are many others throughout the rest Arab world. Qaddaffi for one has always supported a one-state solution. he even wrote a book on it (though, it's not a particularly good book)). Just because you don't know any doesn't mean they don't exist.

posted by: Joe M. on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

JThomas's "we don't know" and "no data" kind of ignore the results of actual elections held by the Palestinians.

posted by: David Nieporent on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

David, your assumptions about the meaning of palestinian elections are worth considerably less than media assumptions about US elections. When we re-elected Bush it could be argued that we were voting for him to do more of what he'd already done. When palestinians elect a palestinian it says nothing about what they'd accept if they had the power to do something significant.

When israel gets a Likud government it displays their intentions toward palestinians. Likud can do what they say, within limits. But palestinian governments can't actually do anything significant except surrender. A palestinian government could get a peace treaty by agreeing to recognise israel's right to the 1967 borders plus everything west of the wall plus all settlements and roads, and israel's right to control palestinian airspace and right to control palestinian borders and right to raid palestine whenever they liked. Agree that palestinians are not owed anything by israel for any reason, etc. They could have a peace treaty very quickly and easily if they announced ahead of time they'd agree to the right things and would ask nothing in return. It says a little bit that palestine has not yet has a government ready to do that. When there's essentially nothing else they *can* do, it means very little what they say they'd like to do.

posted by: J Thomas on 06.15.07 at 09:37 PM [permalink]

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