October 02, 2002
Larry Summers Worries About Anti-Semitism

Larry Summers worries about anti-semitism. Now he's gotten me worried: this is not an issue on which I'd expect Larry to be needlessly alarmist or excessively sensitive.


Address at morning prayers

Memorial Church

Cambridge, Massachusetts

September 17, 2002

I speak with you today not as President of the University but as a concerned member of our community about something that I never thought I would become seriously worried about -- the issue of anti-Semitism.

I am Jewish, identified but hardly devout. In my lifetime, anti-Semitism has been remote from my experience. My family all left Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. The Holocaust is for me a matter of history, not personal memory. To be sure, there were country clubs where I grew up that had few if any Jewish members, but not ones that included people I knew. My experience in college and graduate school, as a faculty member, as a government official -- all involved little notice of my religion. Indeed, I was struck during my years in the Clinton administration that the existence of an economic leadership team with people like Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan, Charlene Barshefsky and many others that was very heavily Jewish passed without comment or notice -- it was something that would have been inconceivable a generation or two ago, as indeed it would have been inconceivable a generation or two ago that Harvard could have a Jewish President. Without thinking about it much, I attributed all of this to progress -- to an ascendancy of enlightenment and tolerance. A view that prejudice is increasingly put aside. A view that while the politics of the Middle East was enormously complex, and contentious, the question of the right of a Jewish state to exist had been settled in the affirmative by the world community.

But today, I am less complacent. Less complacent and comfortable because there is disturbing evidence of an upturn in anti-Semitism globally, and also because of some developments closer to home.

Consider some of the global events of the last year:

There have been synagogue burnings, physical assaults on Jews, or the painting of swastikas on Jewish memorials in every country in Europe. Observers in many countries have pointed to the worst outbreak of attacks against the Jews since the Second World War.

Candidates who denied the significance of the Holocaust reached the runoff stage of elections for the nation's highest office in France and Denmark. State-sponsored television stations in many nations of the world spew anti-Zionist propaganda.

The United Nations-sponsored World Conference on Racism -- while failing to mention human rights abuses in China, Rwanda, or anyplace in the Arab world -- spoke of Israel's policies prior to recent struggles under the Barak government as constituting ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The NGO declaration at the same conference was even more virulent.

I could go on. But I want to bring this closer to home. Of course academic communities should be and always will be places that allow any viewpoint to be expressed. And certainly there is much to be debated about the Middle East and much in Israel's foreign and defense policy that can be and should be vigorously challenged. But where anti-Semitism and views that are profoundly anti-Israeli have traditionally been the primary preserve of poorly educated right-wing populists, profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities. Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent. For example: Hundreds of European academics have called for an end to support for Israeli researchers, though not for an end to support for researchers from any other nation. Israeli scholars this past spring were forced off the board of an international literature journal. At the same rallies where protesters, many of them university students, condemn the IMF and global capitalism and raise questions about globalization, it is becoming increasingly common to also lash out at Israel. Indeed, at the anti-IMF rallies last spring, chants were heard equating Hitler and Sharon.

Events to raise funds for organizations of questionable political provenance that in some cases were later found to support terrorism have been held by student organizations on this and other campuses with at least modest success and very little criticism. And some here at Harvard and some at universities across the country have called for the University to single out Israel among all nations as the lone country where it is inappropriate for any part of the university's endowment to be invested. I hasten to say the University has categorically rejected this suggestion We should always respect the academic freedom of everyone to take any position. We should also recall that academic freedom does not include freedom from criticism. The only antidote to dangerous ideas is strong alternatives vigorously advocated.

I have always throughout my life been put off by those who heard the sound of breaking glass, in every insult or slight, and conjured up images of Hitler's Kristallnacht at any disagreement with Israel. Such views have always seemed to me alarmist if not slightly hysterical. But I have to say that while they still seem to me unwarranted, they seem rather less alarmist in the world of today than they did a year ago. I would like nothing more than to be wrong. It is my greatest hope and prayer that the idea of a rise of anti-Semitism proves to be a self-denying prophecy -- a prediction that carries the seeds of its own falsification.

Posted by DeLong at October 02, 2002 10:25 AM | Trackback

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Comments

Hmm. This seems like a toned-down version of "anti-Zionism=anti-Semitism=Nazism." If you advocated a boycott of South Africa in the 80s, does that make you Anti-White?

While European disapproval of Israel may be excessive, pretending their motivations are anti-Semitic is willful ignorance. Inasmuch as the critisisms of Israel are disproportional, I think is closer to reverse discrimination. Israel is a land of European émigrés behaving in a barbaric/colonial/anachronistic fashion.

Posted by: Patrick on October 2, 2002 11:06 AM

To prominently criticize Israel's imperfect human rights record while remaining much more quiet, or nearly silent, regarding the more abominable practices of Israel's enemies, along with Stalinist practices in Zimbabwe, and more hideous abuses elsewhere, quite reasonably raises the questions as to why Israel is the featured player in this morality play, and again, reasonably, leads to informed speculation that it may be due, in part, to anti-semitism.

Posted by: Will Allen on October 2, 2002 12:49 PM

"Now you tell me that Israel is not practicing ethnic cleansing and is not a racist state..." That of course wasn't Summers's point. Why are people picking on Israel in particular? (When push comes to shove, many nations including those great and good of the West, have done worse.) I'm not sure I agree that it's anti-Semitism, or just a way of expressing another anti-ism (anti-Americanism)?

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on October 2, 2002 12:52 PM

>But where anti-Semitism and views that are profoundly anti-Israeli have traditionally been the primary preserve of poorly educated right-wing populists, profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities. Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent.<

It seems to me there are and ought to be clear ethical and logical distinctions between being anti-semitic and being critical of the policies and actions of the governments of the state of Israel. By analogy, does anyone seriously suggest that all Iraqis should be condemned because of the policies and actions of the President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein?

In a recent press interview, Britain's chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, said Israel is adopting a stance "incompatible" with the deepest ideals of Judaism and that the current conflict with Palestine is "corrupting" Israeli culture - see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,781066,00.html

Gerald Kaufman, a member of Britain's Parliament, who happens to be an ethnic jew - I have no knowledge of his religious beliefs - described Ariel Sharon as a "right-wing thug" - see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1874459.stm

Avi Shlaim's book: The Iron Wall; Penguin Books (2001) reports and documents a somewhat different account of the founding of the state of Israel and the policies of successive Israeli governments from that often presented in the media by official spokesmen of Israeli governments.

Are we really being asked to conclude that these three are all anti-semitic in effect, if not intent?

Posted by: Bob Briant on October 2, 2002 01:15 PM

Isn't it obvious why we pay special attention to Israel? It really is a form of flattery. We expect more from them. They are US allies, and for the most part can be heavily influenced by us diplomatically.

Posted by: theCoach on October 2, 2002 01:16 PM

I agree with the Coach. Yes, we hold Israel to a higher standard than Arab or African countries, just as we hold the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan to higher standards. That is a kind of racism, but it isn't anti-Semitism. It is anti-Arab and anti-African. We are, in essence, saying "Well, what can you expect from those sorts of people? You can't seriously expect them to understand democracy and human rights."

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on October 2, 2002 01:32 PM

Until bien penseurs similarly condemn the egregious abuses of Arab regimes, demanding dis-investment therein, etc., the charge of anti-semitism will stick.

Posted by: George Zachar on October 2, 2002 01:45 PM

I don't understand the hostility that arises when someone worries openly about anti-Semitism. When people worried openly about anti-Semitism in 1930s Germany, what types of criticism did they receive, and was it similar to that today? This is a serious question. I ask because anti-Semitism seems to be a recurring theme throughout world history from which, in the long run, no lessons seem to be learned. I am wondering why.

Anyway, they discuss Summers' speech in the Notebook section of this week's New Republic

Posted by: Bobby on October 2, 2002 01:49 PM

I have spent most of my youth in Belgium. I have never heard any anti-semitic comment during all those years. But I have surely heard a lot of anti-Arab racism.

I do not intend to mean that there isn't any anti-semitism in Europe. But, it's marginal in my opinion (but I have to add that I haven't been living there for a few years and things change).

I find the most worrying forms of anti-semitism here in the United States. The idea of a Jewish cabal against the US is dangerously taking root in some weak minds.

I believe, however, that denials about the very strong Israeli lobbying of Washington and of some inacceptable human rights violation by the Israeli government, are not very helpful. It helps reinforce the impression that there is a hidden agenda.

Let there light and what will shine out is the incredible contribution of the Jewish people to the world civilization (besides the better known Jewish courage in the face of persecution). Something also often understaded and misunderstood.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 2, 2002 01:58 PM

I hereby and henceforth (you're getting a preview here; I intend to announce it on my own weblog tomorrow), as a lover of the English language, suggest the use of the term "Likudism" for left-wing critics of Israel as a substitute for "Zionism", and for the general use of "Likud" as a substitute for "Israeli" in all contexts where confusion between the current government of the State of Israel on the one hand and the Jewish peoples on the other might be possible. I doubt it will have any practical effect on anything, but it will help to protect the language from further Orwellian distortions of which this is a prime example. Obviously this usage will only save us until Labour get in and turn out to be just as bad, but hell, even a temporary respite would be a victory compared to where we are now.

In related news, Brad, I know this guy's a friend and I respect that, but hell ... this is really very bad, isn't it.

Posted by: DD on October 2, 2002 02:51 PM

I am living in Europe right now, and I haven't seen any sign of meaningful anti-semitism. There are Arabs whose opinions of the Middle East lead into unnecessary generalisations about Jews in general, but I recall plenty of Americans having made comparable generalisations about other ethnic and religious groups over the years. Anti-semitism is a pretty marginal force here as far as I can tell. Even the most neolithic conservatives don't seem to feel a need to have any opinion of local Jewish communities.

The reasons people vote for bluntly racist political parties in Europe have far more to with anti-Arab and anti-African sentiments. Even the likes of Jean-Marie Le Pen has never -to the best of my knowlege - advocated the expulsion of France's Jews. He has advocated the expulsion of Arabs and Africans, including those with French citizenship. I have met a minority - but not an insignificant number - of Americans with similar views about Mexicans. Nor are all of those right-wing candidates Holocaust deniers, as Summers' remarks might lead you to believe. Actually, I'm not sure any of the well known ones are. The Vlaams Blok isn't, nor was Pim Fortuyn. Le Pen has retreated from making statements about Jews at all, except to say that he sees France neither as Israel's ally nor the Arab world's. I am unaware of any important far-right party in Europe that could be viewed as more anti-semitic than, say, Pat Buchanan.

Is there racism in Europe? Yes, of course there is. Is it different then in the US? Yes. Europe has a different history and a different demographic situation. Is it worse than in the US? Not as far as I can tell. I do live in a college town with a better history of tolerance than most. The climate may be different down the road in Brussels and it is certainly different in Antwerp, but then Berkeley's political climate is quite different from Fresno's.

Is anti-semitism a real threat to Jews in Europe? I don't think so. Arab youth seem to be the major perpetrators of the anti-semitic acts that have had so much publicity lately, and their anger seems overwhelmingly directed towards Israel, and misdirected towards synagogues and extra-Israeli Jewish communities primarily because there are always a few idiots who can't make simple distinctions. Whatever upsurge in blatently anti-semitic acts has taken place in the last year, the absolute number is still quite small, and it is far more likely to do with the growing amount of trouble in the Middle East rather then in any particular upswing in anti-semitism as a social force.

Is there much political support in Europe for Israeli policy? No. So what? Europe has a free trade agreement with Israel. Israel is a member of a surprising number of pan-European organisations, including the rather cheezy Eurovision song contest. I don't think Israelis even qualify for visa waivers in the US. Europe is hardly the monolithic anti-Israeli block it gets made out to be in America.

So, I do think Larry Summers is being needlessly alarmist and excessively sensitive. But, I think the American mainstream press has egged a lot of people into seeing Nazis on the brink of power every time a swastika gets painted on the side of a European synagogue.

As for why Israel is held to a higher standard than Zimbabwe or Syria, I certainly don't hold it to a different standard. However, Zimbabwe, Syria and most of those other nations with comparably bad records on human right don't enjoy the direct political support of western countries. Israel does. I am expected to bear the consequences of those policy descisions, and the people who make them claim to represent me. That is why Israel is different.

If the US levied sanctions against Israel and called it a supporter of terrorism or claimed that its leaders kill their own people and demanded "regime change," then I would agree that giving it special attention as a human rights violator is probably unjustified.

Posted by: Scott Martens on October 2, 2002 03:41 PM

Scott, Egypt receives nearly as much aid from the U.S. as Israel, Israel grants more rights to Arabs (some even get to vote in genuine elections) than Egypt, yet Israel's imperfections are railed against, while, in comparison, Egypt's trangressions recieve very little attention.

Posted by: Will Allen on October 2, 2002 04:08 PM

As an anti-Likudnik of long standing,I applaud Daniel Davies's suggested change of vocabulary.

One the one hand, I am more hopeful than he: I think an Israeli Labour government would be considerably better than the current Likud government.

On the other hand, Israel's Labour Party bet its future on Oslo--on the belief that Arafat would keep his promise to move the contest from blood and iron to speeches and majority votes, and that any fringe groups that kept blowing people up would be contained if not eliminated by the Palestinian Authority. Because this has proven false, I fear that pigs will fly before Israel next has a Labour government.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on October 2, 2002 04:26 PM

The reason people react "strongly" to being called anti-Semitic for being critical of Israeli policy is that people don't like being called bigots for taking reasonable political positions. Doubtless Summers would react strongly to being called a racist for his run-in with Cornel West. Wasn't he the guy who said that it would be efficient for Africa to import hazardous waste since the value of a statistical life is lower there? I'd defend his right to say these things without being labelled a racist. But for some reason, political correctness in defence of Ariel Sharon is no vice.

Posted by: Gareth on October 2, 2002 04:45 PM

It's good to remind ourselves that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 in Tel Aviv not by a Palestinian but by a fanatic Likudist. It is important to acknowledge that there are strong and long-standing anti-peace forces in Israel (alongside strong long-standing pro-peace forces.) The spread of settlements in Palestinian territories (that only accelerated under "Saint" Barak), only increases the number of voters who are likely to oppose by all means a reasonable solution, independently of Arafat's failures.

It is about time progressive Jews have the courrage to voice their "not in my name" positions in spite of their fears of rejection (and worse) from their very own people. I do NOT expect all Jews nor even a majority of Jews to do so, but that those who have such convictions (and there are actually many) make their voice heard for the greater sake of the Jewish people. Our common ground should be the desire to offer a sustainably safe home for all Jewish people who desire to emigrate to, workship their religion and live in Israel.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 2, 2002 05:12 PM

Again, Gareth, it would be useful to explain the disparity in treatment between Israel's human rights violations, and those of other actors' more (usually) egregious violations, even those that receive a similar amount of Western or U.S. aid, such as Egypt. It is not unreasonable to think that the disparity is either due to anti-semitism, bigotry in regards to other actors (they aren't thought to be capable of adhering to the standards demanded of Israel), or a combination of both. I tend to think it is the last conjecture. Your analogy would be more apt if there were a continent in worse shape than Africa, yet Summers were only advocating the course of action for Africa, while remaining silent about the other continent.

Posted by: Will Allen on October 2, 2002 05:12 PM

'Wasn't he the guy who said that it would be efficient for Africa to import hazardous waste since the value of a statistical life is lower there?'

To be fair, I don't think he was seriously suggesting it, and someone else actually wrote the memo with his name on it. The web doesn't give much useful information; Brad?

Posted by: Jason McCullough on October 2, 2002 05:14 PM

It is about time progressive Jews have the courrage to voice their "not in my name" positions in spite of their fears of rejection (and worse) from their very own people.

This statement proves one of two things:

1) You are unaware of the enormous, vocal and long-standing Jewish "peace" movements in Israel [including military service evaders] and the diaspora, or

2) You are aware of those movements, and wish to act as if it is cowardice that prevents large numbers of Jews from speaking out.

Both of these statements remind me of something you said elsewhere here:

It helps reinforce the impression that there is a hidden agenda.

Posted by: George Zachar on October 2, 2002 05:34 PM

I sense a Godwin's Law event approaching this thread.

http://www.godwinslaw.com/index.html

Posted by: George Zachar on October 2, 2002 05:36 PM

There is no solution available at this time to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that does not involve the annihilation of one of the parties to the conflict. Even if Israel could be convinced or made to retreat to the pre 1967 borders, and even more difficult agreements could be made regarding water rights, which would take a miracle in and of itself, the current alignment of forces in the Arab world means that the very substantial Palestinian element which sees any solution that involves Jews living in the region as an abomination will continue to receive sufficient political, cultural, and financial support to remain powerful, and thus render any agreement impossible. Ideas have consequences, and even if the poisonous ideas that exist on the extremes of Israeli society were sufficiently marginalized, without wholesale change in the Arab world, the poisonous ideas that have been widely disseminated in Palestinian and Arab schools, books, and propaganda for decades will continue to be disseminated, making it impossible for civil societies to develop. A society in which "Mein Kampf" is widely popular, and "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" is widely thought to be credible, is not a society that is even remotely close to being ready for peace. The United States often has an innate desire to pursue stability in foreign policy, and sometimes that is quite wise. In this instance, however, the status quo (which the U.S. has tried to maintain in the Arab world for decades) has become such a large, toxic, swamp that further pursuit of stability is pointless.

Posted by: Will Allen on October 2, 2002 05:43 PM

>>Both of these statements remind me of something you said elsewhere here: It helps reinforce the impression that there is a hidden agenda.<<

George, would you please be specific about what you mean? This is a sensitive and difficult issue and we should start out with strong trust in each other's sincerity. I stand ready to clarify, expand, and learn. For example, I am not sure what to make of your suggestion that I ignore or want to ignore existing efforts on behalf of pro-peace Jews and Israelis since I myself mention these movements and provided links to them.

But, I have read many articles by pro-peace Jewish people complaining about all different kinds of pressure from their peers not to voice their views. That's why I think it takes courrage to speak out. I don't take courrage for granted.

It is also hard for me to speak out at times. And just to let you know a little bit more about the kind of person I am, I walk for Peace every month with a group of mostly Jewish people in Ohlone Park in Berkeley, CA.

The ennemy is not always where it looks like it is, George...

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 2, 2002 05:48 PM

P.S. By the way, thanks for the Godwin's Law, it's both funny and relevant.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 2, 2002 05:53 PM

Might I be informed why my reply was erased?
Thanks,
Bordon,
concerned with Israel's apartheid state

Posted by: Bordon on October 2, 2002 05:57 PM

Given the long history and high profile of the Jewish "Peace Now" and parallel "peace" movements both in Israel and the diaspora, it is just nonsense for someone to assert that viewpoint is being suppressed.

Folks nattering about anti-peace intimidation are busy patting themselves on the back for the courage to take a popular stance.

Barak's substantial concessions, refused by Arafat, are a testimony to the power of the land-for-peace/peace forces in Israel.

Barak's offer, and Arafat's bloody reply, reveal much about the state-of-play for peace.

Flipping the coin over, we all know what happens to Palestinians who don't support their "government".

Posted by: George Zachar on October 2, 2002 06:10 PM

Thanks, George. This is useful.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 2, 2002 06:15 PM

I am behind Israel 100% while disagreeing with some of its policies in the same way that I am behind the US 100% while being utterly disgusted at the amoral Bush administration. There's no question that Ariel Sharon is the Pat Buchanan of Israel, but also no question that he is responding to real terrorism.

Meanwhile, Israel is still one of the few places in the Middle East where a Muslim woman can vote. In some countries, they can't even drive. They are a democracy, and are struggling with their conscience; at least they have one.

All criticism of Israel is not anti-semitic... but much of it is. Too much, and too much is allowed to break through the real discussion.

Posted by: Dave Romm on October 2, 2002 06:15 PM

Muslim women!? Heck, Muslim men can't vote in real, substantive, elections anywhere in the region besides Israel. If an Egyptian man vocally demands that he have the freedom of some Arab men in Israel, he quickly becomes acquainted with a rather dank prison cell. In the Israeli Knesset, there are Arab members that openly heckle Sharon when he speaks. Whattaya suppose happens if somebody tries to do the same to Mubarak?

Posted by: Will Allen on October 2, 2002 06:31 PM

Please, please, let's not generalize about Muslims. How about the traditonally pro-Israel stance of Turkey, for example? Besides, I recall reading an outraged article in the FT written by the Turkish PM calling on Westerners to understand that Arabs (Turks don't consider themselves Arabs) generally enjoy democracy to when they are given a chance at it...

I can understand the general Jewish anger at Arab people, but I have no more respect for it than the general Arab despise of Jewish people. Finally, it should be understood that giving up a part of one's land, even for the noblest and rightest reasons, is beyond the moral capacity of most human beings, Muslim or otherwise. I don't need to remind the circumstances, I assume.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 2, 2002 06:42 PM

I meant to subsitute "Arab" for "Muslim", given Turkey's substantially, if flawed, democratic processes. Look, I sometimes fantasize we could turn back the clock to 1948, convince all the Zionists to emigrate to the U.S., and not have to face this insoluble mess for the nest century, and I say this as someone who has substantial disagreement with the far more statist affiliation of most Zionists. Unfortunately, as with many things in the Vale of Tears, the best we can do is to try to muddle through. The Israelis, for all there flaws, are far more amenable as a group to seeking a peaceful settlement, in that their culture is not been nearly as widely imbued with the idea that the Palestinians or Arabs are an abomination to God or Allah Himself, and therefore fit only for slaughter or annihilation. The existence of such a large element within Palestinian culture, and the fact that that element receives widespread support from the larger Arab world, forecloses any realistic chance for settlement, until fundamantal, even revolutionary, changes occur in the Arab world. How to bring that about is something that no person has expertise at, which isn't to say that it is impossible. I think, however, we are doomed to live in interesting times.

Posted by: Will Allen on October 2, 2002 07:28 PM

>>Even the likes of Jean-Marie Le Pen has never -to the best of my knowlege - advocated the expulsion of France's Jews.<<

True but to complete the picture, one should mention that this jerk does make revisonist statements every other year. That's anti-semitic enough!

But the weirdest thing is that in the aftermath of 9/11 and of the burning by Arab youths of synagogs in France, a non-negligible share of the French Jewish vote seem to have benefited LePen. Now, that's crazy. What despair and fear will bring one to do...

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 2, 2002 07:29 PM

Re:

>>Might I be informed why my reply was erased?<<

Because it seemed to me to be over the line separating "reasonable debate" from "fighting words" that I want to maintain here.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on October 2, 2002 09:15 PM

Bordon, Israel is a Torahic state for good reasons, like it or not. I know of only one country, namely Iran, that still insists officially on a single country sollution. Not a country, you want to side with... (at least at this stage of their history, and even though many Persian people are wonderful and interesting people.) Not even the Palestinians themselves illusion themselves with this kind of parallel reality (at least when they look at themselves in the mirror.)

My guess is that the reason your previous post was deleted is that on this website people will equate the denial of the right for Israel is exist as Torahic state with anti-semitism, and I cannot blame them for that. Is anybody arguing that the Vatican should become a secular state? This is not say that Israel could not do a better job at treating is Israeli Arab as citizens of Israel in full right.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 2, 2002 09:17 PM

P.S. Professor DeLong, your reply crossed mine, and it looks like I should apologize for wrongly guessing the reason behind your delete.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 2, 2002 09:20 PM

Jean-Phillipe:

True, Jean-Marie Le Pen remains a slippery guy who says all kinds of things. But I'll stick to the basic point that it is not anti-semitism that gives him whatever popularity he has. He does not constitute a sign of growing anti-semitic forces in Europe, just of anti-immigrant ones. That's bad enough.

Will Allen:

I'm not exactly overjoyed with American support for Egypt either, but US aid to Egypt is intended to buy a regime that won't attack Israel. If Israel didn't exist, Egypt wouldn't see a dime. Once again, it is Israeli policy that lies at the root of American support for Egypt.

Still, as far as I know, Egypt has no real defenders. You can say Egypt has a horrible human rights record without having people up in arms to tell you that it's wrong. People don't rail against Egypt's human rights record because no one rails back. Israel, however, has - in your words - only little imperfections. I'll probably get into a lot of trouble for suggesting that for a Palestinian under occupation, living with Israel is probably worse than living in Egypt is for Egyptian citizens.

Posted by: Scott Martens on October 2, 2002 11:19 PM

I didn't notice this last night because I was drunk, but it's pretty funny to think that there might have been a danger of Larry Summers being considered "excessively sensitive"!

Posted by: Daniel Davies on October 2, 2002 11:24 PM

Surely the reason Israel is treated more harshly than other countries in the region is because it is a 'westernised' democracy. If the French government treated people in the same way I imagine academics would boycott Frencch academics.

The other puzzling thing, and one I see a lot on websites, is this criticism by Americans of anti-semitism in Europe. One I saw said they were afraid to travel to London -- London of all places-- because of anti-semitism. I used to think this is because the internet is still dominated by right-wing Americans who hate Europe (itself a form of racism), but seeing Larry Summers, a man whose views I respect, mention it makes it more peculiar.

The peculiarity is not that anti-semitism in Europe does not exist or should not be criticised, and hopefully stamped out. The reason it is odd is because it HAPPENS IN THE US TOO. I saw a poll conducted this year showing that 17% of Americans are anti-semitic, and that attacks against jews are up by 11% in 2002, including arson on synagogues, attempted murder by throwing rocks in New York, and a shooting in Tennesse. Daubing of swastikas doesn't only happen in every country in Europe, Larry, it happened this year in Nevada and Nebraska.

Posted by: MJ Turner on October 3, 2002 02:18 AM

At http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2293701.stm the BBC reports, "Israeli cabinet ministers have expressed concern at a speech by British Prime Minister Tony Blair in which he said that the obligation to observe United Nations resolutions applies to Israel 'as much as it does to Iraq'."

Posted by: Bob Briant on October 3, 2002 04:29 AM

Scott, that is a very interesting conjecture; that Egyptians living under Arab rule are better off than Palestinians living under joint PA and Israeli rule. I think it is likely to be incorrect, however (it must be noted that is extremely difficult for us to fully evaluate). Egyptians only have one tyrant to deal with, so that is to their advantage, but Israel can't be held responsible for the PA's tyranny. The question is, however, is Israel's government more tyrannical to non-citizen Palestinians than Mubarak's rule over his subjects (the word "citizen" is not accurate in this case)? I think it doubtful. If Mubarak's subjects were to engage in stone-throwing riots in defiance of tyranny, Mubarak likely would simply have them all mown down with machine guns. A Gaza or West Bank Palestinian can send their children to school where their tyrant is openly denounced in the most visceral terms, and mass media outlets do the same. Anyone trying the same in regards to Mubarak's tyranny is locked up very quickly. Also, Egypt isn't the only Arab tyrant in the region receiving support from the U.S. while the world remains largely silent. The House of Saud has benefited from the American defense umbrella for decades, in fact, American arms is the only reason the House of Saud is in power, and this aid has nothing to do with their stance toward Israel, which is actually quite hostile. Are you going to try to make the case that a typical female, or, God forbid, non-Muslim, is less tyrannized by the House of Saud than those same people who live in Gaza or the West Bank? Where are the cries of outrage regarding Saudi tyranny? They are dwarfed, of course, by those who think Israel's tyranny is intolerable, but for some reason seem to be much less concerned when Arab school girls are forced to suffer death by burning for the offense of inappropriate attire.

Posted by: Will Allen on October 3, 2002 05:34 AM

Are you suggesting that the present US administration should arrange for a regime change in Egypt as well as Iraq?

Posted by: Bob Briant on October 3, 2002 05:44 AM

Perhaps not in the same manner as Iraq, but eventually the U.S. is going to have to break with ALL the Arab thugocracies. The maintenance of the status quo, or even a slow, gradual, change in the status quo, nearly certainly means that tens of thousands, if not more, American civilians will be murdered as a result of the toxic ideologies that fester in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and elsewhere. If Mubarak and the House of Saud were to fall, even more dangerous thugs may initially take power, but sometimes thing have to get worse before they can get better, as may be happening in Iran now. This isn't to say that formenting rapid change is not an extremely risky startegy in and of itself, but given that the status quo is completely untenable and guarantees disaster, there really are no good choices. As I stated above, I fear we are doomed to live in interesting times.

Posted by: Will Allen on October 3, 2002 06:29 AM

Indeed, Bob. Surely the first step toward such a "regime change" would be to set things up so that Mubarak was not such a vital kingpin of the USA's Middle East policy ... which in turn, would involve doing something about Israel! Anyone who really believes that the current regime in Egypt is a separate problem from that of Israel is kidding themselves.

Will; if Israel really is the Paradise On Earth for Palestinians that you describe, why don't more Palestinians think so?

Posted by: Daniel Davies on October 3, 2002 06:30 AM

Daniel, you again appear to have misread what I wrote; whether deliberately or not I cannot tell. I clearly referred to to Israel's tyranny over those Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, and then made remarks regarding degrees of tyranny, so your attribution to me of alleged comments regarding Paradise are pointless. Of course, one reason that the Palestinians behave in the manner they do is because Israel, in all it's tyrannical ways, is still insufficiently bloodthirsty to prevent them from doing so. When the Assads, Mubaraks, Husseins, and Saudi thugs of the region are faced with the slightest chance of real resistance, they tend to surround the potential offenders with artillery and then murder ALL of them, down to the last man, women, and child. You may want to read about it; it has been reported in newspapers.

Posted by: Will Allen on October 3, 2002 07:00 AM

I didn't notice this last night because I was drunk, but it's pretty funny to think that there might have been a danger of Larry Summers being considered "excessively sensitive"! -- Daniel Davies

1) BWI - Blogging While under the Influence!

2) What are we to infer from the famously acerbic and thick-skinned Summers being accused of (gasp) sensitivity?

Posted by: George Zachar on October 3, 2002 07:33 AM

Will Allen writes: "There is no solution available at this time to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that does not involve the annihilation of one of the parties to the conflict."

Perhaps I'm being naive, but I don't accept that as the truth. Yes, there may be a sizeable number, perhaps even a majority, of Palestinians who hate Israel and the Jews so much that they will never rest until Israel is destroyed. But surely there is also a large number of Palestinians who don't feel that way---who want peace. If Israel and the rest of the world would actively try to support and encourage that group, how can you say that they couldn't succeed? It seems to me that the current Likud government has done nothing to win allies among the peace-loving Palestinians. Every action they've taken has strengthened the control of the radicals on the discourse.

To start with, Israel should remove all settlements from the West Bank and Gaza strip. Those settlements do nothing to further the security of Israel and serve only as a barrier to peace.

On the Palestinian side, the world should withdraw any financial aid to any Palestinian group that does not unequivocally denounce violence against Israeli civilians. The US has to take a strong stand against the Arab countries that are financing Palestinian terrorism.

I am optimistic that the two steps---(1) removal of Israeli settlements, and (2) rejection of violence against civilians by Palestinians---are both possible, and would be the beginning of true peace in Israel and Palestine.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on October 3, 2002 08:27 AM

Daryl: Yes, there may be a sizeable number, perhaps even a majority, of Palestinians who hate Israel and the Jews so much that they will never rest until Israel is destroyed. But surely there is also a large number of Palestinians who don't feel that way---who want peace.

I have seen many opinion polls of Palestinians, all of which show substantial majorities favoring the elimination of Israel and continued use of terror. Someone please post a counter-example, as I hope to be proven wrong.

The removal of settlements you propose was at the center of the Barak 2000 proposal, along with Palestinian control over parts of East Jerusalem. The offer was not 100% of what the Palestinians wanted, but it was clearly in the realm of 90%. We all know what the "counteroffer" was.

Posted by: George Zachar on October 3, 2002 08:48 AM

Daryl, it is of course your perogative to be more optimistic than I, and please note my use of the phrase "at this time"; nothing in this world is permenant, but my point was that for a settlement to be possible, extraordinary change would be required first. If this were merely a conflict between Palestinians and Israelis I would be more hopeful, but unfortunately it is far more complex than that, with despots and theocratic fascists in the region having a vested interest in seeing the conflict continue, and they will continue to support those entities that keep the conflict going.

Posted by: Will Allen on October 3, 2002 08:50 AM

Jean-Philippe Stijns:"...Israel is a Torahic state...

As the commercial says, not exactly:


Orthodox Jews appalled as first openly gay legislator to enter parliament
Wed Oct 2, 8:16 PM ETBy JACK KATZENELL, Associated Press Writer


JERUSALEM - For the first time, a declared homosexual is about to become a member of Israel's parliament, and except for predictable outrage from Orthodox Jewish legislators, the prospect has attracted little attention. Gay activists say this reflects growing acceptance of homosexuality in Israeli society.

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20021003/ap_wo_en_po/israel_gay_lawmaker_1

Posted by: George Zachar on October 3, 2002 09:07 AM

George:


  • Barak DID NOT have a mandate to seriously negotiate over East Jerusalem (although it seems retrospectively that he might have had a partial mandate on the Jordan Valley). Please take a look at a map of Barak's "generous" mostly non-negotiable offer. Let's not fall into selective memory among intelligent people: simulatenously Sharon was visiting, with armed guards and with Barak's benediction, what Muslims consider as their second holiest site. Now, if that's not a step to derail peace talks on behalf of Sharon, and a completely unrealistic and unhelpful endorsement on behalf on Saint Barak, what is? To Barak's defense, elections were right around the corner, and he simply did not have the material time to negociate, especially at the pace at which Arabs negociate (have you ever shopped in a souk? If you're ready to buy at the price tag, you're insulting the vendor...)

  • I surely wouldn't compare Israel's Torahic state with the Saudis' Coranic state in terms of its tolerance. But the fact is that I cannot emmigrate to Israel. Even if I were to convert to Judaism, and my wife was Jewish, I'd have to affiliate myself with a quite conservative religious group just to be considered, and then how many times (7+?) would I have to know on the door even after having completed a complete set of classes on the Talmud? Unless of course, I was to tell the Israeli government that I am ready to live in a settlement (like those Peruvian Inca convert Jews whose story came up in the news a little while ago.)

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 3, 2002 12:46 PM

P.S.


  • The last poll I saw regarding Israelis' opinion about the conflict concluded that 49 percent of Israelis think that forced exhile of Palestians to neighbouring Arab states should be considered... With that in mind, what's our guess about the percentage that would oppose giving up on settlements?

  • Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 3, 2002 12:56 PM

P.P.S. Let's close Bordon's Italic tag here and now. The rule should be that if we use HTML tags, we do so responsibly.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 3, 2002 12:58 PM

Or was it George's tag? :-) One more attempt before I leave this up to our host.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 3, 2002 12:59 PM

George,

You say "I have seen many opinion polls of Palestinians, all of which show substantial majorities favoring the elimination of Israel and continued use of terror."

Well, I didn't say that the pro-peace Palestinians were in a majority. But opinions change. A minority who is in the right can, in time, become a majority.

"The removal of settlements you propose was at the center of the Barak 2000 proposal."

I don't think that's true. The Barak proposal did not eliminate the settlements, it simply drew a gerrymandered border around them. At least, that's what is said by "Gush Shalom" in this presentation (http://www.gush-shalom.org/media/barak_eng.swf).

Maybe Gush Shalom is lying?

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on October 3, 2002 01:05 PM

If folks want to quibble with my characterizations of the Barak proposal, that's fine.

Anyone want to pipe-bomb stroller-borne toddlers?

I didn't think so.

Posted by: George Zachar on October 3, 2002 02:03 PM

uh?

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 3, 2002 02:07 PM

Two points--


1. There is a lot of disagreement about who was to blame for the events of August/September 2000.
I think everyone agrees that Israel came closer to the Palestinian position at Taba in December 2000, so evidently the Camp David offer wasn't the best possible. And my impression is that the Taba offer was taken off the table by the Israelis--the deal was that Arafat had to agree before the election. Arafat dithered (his fault) and the Israelis chose a known war criminal, someone who should have been in jail since at least 1953, to be their leader. Arafat shouldn't have taken Taba, I think, but it relieves the Israelis of human agency to claim that it was all his fault. Sharon has free will--he could have said to Arafat "Are you sure you don't want Taba?"

2. It's a little hard to take the portrayal of St. Barak too seriously, especially after the blatantly racist things he said about Arabs in the New York Review of Books.

Oops, I said two things. My bad. To continue--

3. People tend to talk about the intifada as though it were just suicide bombers on one side vs. Israeli self-defense on the other. But as Amnesty International and NYT reporter Chris Hedges and others have pointed out, the Israeli army has often fired directly at children in situations where there was no justification for the use of deadly force. Which helps explain why the relative death toll is 3 to 1.

4. I think some of the criticism of Israel does stem from antisemitism. But by the standards used by the people who scream "antisemitism", I see anti-Arab racism in letters to the NYT on a regular basis.

5. Anti-Zionism isn't anti-semitism. They can be linked in some individuals, of course. But the fact is that Zionism was an ideology that involved sending Jews into a land already populated with mostly Arabs and some Jews (who were there all along) with the idea of turning into real estate controlled by the Jewish population. There was even an ignorant or perhaps deliberately dishonest slogan "A land without a people for the people without a land." There were people (the binationalists) who wanted a land with equal rights for Jews and Arabs, but they were outside mainstream Zionism. And according to Tom Segev, most of the Arabs also rejected them, seeing it as just another way for Jews to take over. So both sides, mainstream Zionists and the Palestinians, had a basically racist outlook. But the Arabs (and a small Jewish community) were there first. I have trouble imagining any place on earth where the people would have welcomed outsiders coming in who had the intention of taking over.

The binationalist dream is dead for the forseeable future and the best one can hope for is a two state solution, but I don't think we outsiders should be expected to pretend that this is some sort of ideal. Zionism wasn't as bad an ideology as the crackpot racist notions that European Americans used to justify the murder or expulsion of the native American population. And Zionism doesn't have as bad a record as Islamic fundamentalism. But as a chauvinistic American I still think separation of ethnicity and religious beliefs from one's rights as a citizen is a good idea for everyone, even if it might be another hundred years before people in the Middle East come to realize it.

Posted by: Donald Johnson on October 3, 2002 02:10 PM

Donald, a couple of points;
Rearding the infitada vs. Israeli actions, will you concede that it is only one side that has expressly chosen a strategy that makes the most efficient slaughter of unarmed civilians to be the primary tactic? What would happen if both sides adopted that strategy? Does unequal military might provide a legitimate rationale for adopting such a tactic?

As to your comments about Zionism, well yes, emmigration has had a long history of being the source of much bloodshed, from Europeans into North and South America, Ottomans into the Balkans, or even Apaches moving into territory where various Pueblo tribes resided. Funny, nobody talks about that, no doubt due to the tendency to lump all aboriginal tribes into one group. Go talk to a member of the Acoma tribe, for instance, and you'll often find thay have no better opinion of the Apaches' behavior than of the Europeans'. The question is, what to do about it now? Unfortunately, I don't even think a two state solution is possible at this time, given that there are so many outside entities that have it in their interest to see the conflict continue.

Posted by: Will Allen on October 3, 2002 03:13 PM

>>What would happen if both sides adopted that strategy?<<

Sabra and Shatila. Same Sharon, yes. Even Israel courts found him guilty and recommended he be bared from taking any political position thereafter. With restrospect, Sharon has surely understood his fault since in his own words he regrets not killing Arafat back then...

On a more contemporary note, the reason Israel has not completely annihilated the Palestinians yet is simply because it takes in military power largely from the US who wouldn't want to jeopardize their other key interest in the Middle-East and beyong...

And here is a little shot of Ramallah just for the road, courtesy of BBC:

P.S. Yes, we just broke out of George's Italic tags :-D

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 3, 2002 03:33 PM

Look. You can call me a cypto-fascist if you want, but don't ever EVER accuse me of not closing my tags!

Check the source code for this page, and you can determine the REAL culprit.

:)

Posted by: George Zachar on October 3, 2002 03:39 PM

Jean-Philippe, I will take that as a concession that only one side has expressly adopted those tactics, and no, I was not assertng that Israel had never committed any atrocity. Guess what? No nation has completely refrained from atrocities. In this conflict, however, one side is committed to an ongoing strategy that has the deliberate slaughter of unarmed civilians by the most efficient means available as a central tactic. Since neither one of us has a crystal ball fortelling contra-factual scenarios, to speculate what Israeli behavior would be absent U.S. aid is without much use. If we are going to speculate, however, I can do so by saying that if the Palestinians had adopted a Ghandi-style program of peaceful civil disobediance 40 years ago, they would enjoy much freedom today, perhaps as much as Arab Israeli citizens do (although without Israeli citizenship), and would be well on their way to buiding prosperity today. Of course, the scenario is ridiculous, given the utility of the conflict to surrounding Arab despots, and the cultural change required in an Arab society to embark on such a strategy. It is entirely racist to judge the deliberate slaughter of unarmed civilians as a central tactic differently because of the identity of the slaughterer or the slaughtered. Should the Israelis be judged strictly according to their acts? Of course, as should the Palestinians, and it is entirely reasonable to make attempts to discern which acts are worse.

Posted by: Will Allen on October 3, 2002 04:10 PM

I have checked the code and, as far as I can tell, neither George nor Bordon nor anybody else included myself failed to close their tags. Weirdly, it looks like MovableType has been automatically tagging every paragraphs in italic ever since George's post. That's apparently why forced attempts to close the italic tag wouldn't work and don't even appear in the HTML code. This is way beyong my technical expertise. Sorry for mistakenly holding one of you guys as the 'culprit'. Or is Gold playing scrabble with us? ;-)

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 3, 2002 04:18 PM

Anyway, I think in can live in an italic world after all ;-)

I aggree with your general point, Will, except that in reply to...

>>Should the Israelis be judged strictly according to their acts? Of course, as should the Palestinians, and it is entirely reasonable to make attempts to discern which acts are worse.<<

I would say that if you use a simple indicator, i.e. the slaughter ratio, Israelis are roughly 3 times as 'bad' as Palestinians these days. Of course, we could turn these into % of population indicators, in which case things would look different. But, personally I cannot attribute different weights to different people's lifes based on arbitrary criteria like nationality, ethnicity, religion etc.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 3, 2002 04:32 PM

a simple indicator, i.e. the slaughter ratio

If you make that an Intentionally-Targeted Civilian Slaughter Ratio, we can make some progress.

And yes, the tag above is closed.

Posted by: George Zachar on October 3, 2002 04:53 PM

I must confess that I was expecting this one:

Let me assume that half of killed Palestinians can be considered as combattants. I think it's a lot less in truth but since I have such a wide margin here I can afford to widly overstate things here to make my point. On the other hand, let me assume that _all_ Israeli victims are civilians... Well, Israelis are still 50% 'worse' than Palestinians.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 3, 2002 05:02 PM

I can describe different weights based upon what activity people were engaged in while killed, and whether the killed were intentionally targeted. This isn't to say that a military entity can legitimately target any combatant and be entirely thoughtless as to how many civilians may be killed, but to deliberately target unarmed civilians without military value is on another level of atrocity altogether.

Posted by: Will Allen on October 3, 2002 05:06 PM

B. Intentions? I see what you mean, but I can't think that buldozing people alive or bombing civilian houses is any less inentional than a suicide bombing. Suicide bombing is more explicit in its intentions though... But terrorism with a tank is still terrorism. Because otherwise we're going to soon find ourselves defining terrorism as resistance struggle in which case my grand-father was a terrorist during WWII...

Don't get me wrong, when I see the victims of suicide bombers, I just want to puke. I find that (as well as the corresponding Israeli actions) abobinable AND plain dumb of behalf of palestinians.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 3, 2002 05:10 PM

If someone is throwing rocks with the intent of doing bodily harm, would you consider that person a combatant? I would. When one party to a conflict deliberately mixes with unarmed civilians (a war crime, according to the Geneva Conventions) in an attempt to protect themselves, who holds the majority of the responsibility for the resultant civilian deaths?

Posted by: Will Allen on October 3, 2002 05:12 PM

Is there a single Oslo War case where the Israel's military planned and carried out a mission whose sole purpose was the unprovoked slaughter of innocents?

If the answer is yes, you have a case for symmetry.

Posted by: George Zachar on October 3, 2002 05:23 PM

>>Is there a single Oslo War case where the Israel's military planned and carried out a mission whose sole purpose was the unprovoked slaughter of innocents?<<

Does mere declaring there is a "fight against terrorism" official purpose count? If not, then I bet I can pull out many cases where there are really no other way than intent of bloodshed of innocent people that can explain Israeli soldiers' actions. Like opening fire on women and children at cross points without any physical provocation.

And talking about bodily injuries to civilians, what do you think happens to a human body if you let it sunburn, at gunpoint, for a whole day in a place like Israel / Palestine? That's common military practice at checkpoints in Israel.

What what am I to think of the systematic cattle numbering of Palestinian youths in Ramallah when the tanks first pulled in? I recall that a Knesset member and Holocaust survivor made an outraged speach in response to that. But it was mostly too late. What kind of hope and good manners do you think these Israeli soldiers burned into these young Palestinian arms that day? (And I could go on and on...)

Your argument relies on an assumption of general decency on behalf of the Israeli army. That assumption is not as false as it apparently used to be... But yet, you have to make an incredible amount of backward bending and hand walking to be able to justify so many Palestinian victims as a mere retaliation to terrorism. No, I'm not expecting Israeli soldiers to act as angels in the face of violence. But we are WAY beyong this point.

And this is why, Ladies and Gentlemen, Europeans feel they have not only the right but the duty to oppose themselves openly to the current Likud government of arch-fascist Sharon. This guy makes a point to systematically retaliate in the midst of fragile truce. I sincerely believe he enjoys killing Palestinians (yes, litteraly), civilians and otherwise.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 3, 2002 05:52 PM

Jean-Phillippe, you still avoid the issue. If Israel were to adopt Palestinian tactics tomorrow, and simply make it their goal to slaughter Palestinians as rapidly as possible, only then would it be accurate to state that Israeli tactics had descended to the the level chosen by the Palestinians. If you would respond to my question above, I would appreciate it. When one party to an armed conflict deliberately hides among civilians in order to protect themselves, which party holds more responsibility for the resulting civilian deaths?

Posted by: Will Allen on October 3, 2002 06:22 PM

>>If Israel were to adopt Palestinian tactics tomorrow, and simply make it their goal to slaughter Palestinians as rapidly as possible, only then would it be accurate to state that Israeli tactics had descended to the the level chosen by the Palestinians.<<

True, Palestinian tactics are at face value plain abject, but one can only use the tactics one can afford. Problem is, these tactics are not only abject, they're also the counter-productive product of Palestinian despair.

>>When one party to an armed conflict deliberately hides among civilians in order to protect themselves, which party holds more responsibility for the resulting civilian deaths?<<

True at face value too, but I am sure Palestians wouldn't turn down an offer to put together some sort of traditional military force. In fact, they regularly attempt to do so, and get even more blame and retiliation for that than for suicide bombings...

Was David to blame for using his frond? No. But he would have been wrong to target Goliath's family instead of confronting him...

Look, it's not my purpose to claim Palestians don't do abject and stupid things. If they didn't, they perhaps would have secured their state already. But, my point is that the Israelis aren't far behind in terms of the "abjectness" of their tactics and given the genesis of all this, it just doesn't make any sense to me to endorse Sharon's rhetorics.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 3, 2002 06:39 PM

'True, Palestinian tactics are at face value plain abject, but one can only use the tactics one can afford. Problem is, these tactics are not only abject, they're also the counter-productive product of Palestinian despair.'

They can also "afford" to use non-violent civil disobediance. Whatever the merits of their compliants, the tactics they use are inexcusable.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on October 3, 2002 06:49 PM

>>They can also "afford" to use non-violent civil disobediance. Whatever the merits of their compliants, the tactics they use are inexcusable.<<

True, but if we turn a deaf hear to their numerous attempts at civil disobediance, we are also to be blamed (no, not bombed!) for giving them all the incentives to use bloody tactics as a (stupid and abject) way to get their voices finally heard.

I need to return to real life. :-) Here is some homework for you guys: how would you act and think if you had been for more than half a century a refugee in what you consider to be your own country?

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 3, 2002 06:58 PM

Here is some homework for you guys: how would you act and think if you had been for more than half a century a refugee in what you consider to be your own country?

Timothy McVeigh allegedly felt a "refugee" in his land, and famously slaughtered innocents. I've not seen any intellectuals spinning nuanced webs of justification for him.

Situational rationalization is what makes the charge of anti-semitism easy to make. It becomes the only explanation that conforms to the rhetorical fabric.

Posted by: George Zachar on October 4, 2002 06:53 AM

Europeans feel they have not only the right but the duty to oppose themselves openly to the current Likud government of arch-fascist Sharon.


No such animosity or clarity of purpose to the crimes of Saddam against his own people? Or those of the Syrians on their own and the Lebanese? Or for the Saudis against their women?

This guy makes a point to systematically retaliate in the midst of fragile truce.

Here's a rhetoric test. Can you find the logical flaw in the previous sentence?

I sincerely believe he enjoys killing Palestinians (yes, litteraly), civilians and otherwise.

You'd think having the largest WMD stockpile in the region, Sharon would be busier. Is there a logic problem here too?

And is there any explanation that would account for the inconsistencies and logical fallacies?

Posted by: George Zachar on October 4, 2002 07:02 AM

George,

I don't consider it quibbling to say that Barak never offered to remove the settlements. It's my main point. Israel should unilaterally offer to dismantle the settlements (and so far, they haven't, as I understand it), and the Palestinians should unilaterally renounce violence against civilians.
The US and Europe and good people everywhere should dedicate themselves to bringing about these two milestones.

I am not going to argue that there is "symmetry" between the two sides. There definitely isn't. The Palestinians have both suffered the worst and committed the worst atrocities. I think that the Israelis are justified in using force to stop the suicide bombings.

But I don't think that anything justifies the settlements. The settlements don't make Israel more secure---they make her less secure. They are bad for the Palestinians and they are bad for Israel.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on October 4, 2002 07:41 AM

The Palestinians have both suffered the worst and committed the worst atrocities.

That's a logical fallacy.

Anyway, read the Arab press, even casually, and it is transparently obvious that "the settlements" are simply the news hook du jour.

Yes, Barak did not offer the Palestinians 100% of what they wanted. No one denies that.

But to come as far as he did, and for the reply to be not, well let's keep talking, but instead the deliberate willful slaughter of children in a pizzaria...

If people want to look at that and find any symmetry - moral, intellectual, military, historical - well, they're entitled to their opinions, but don't be shocked if others interpret that stance in an unflattering light.

Posted by: George Zachar on October 4, 2002 08:20 AM

Not that anyone reads my posts that closely, but I made a typo--I think Arafat should have accepted the Taba offer. As the least bad achievable deal.

Okay, on to Will Allen.

1. I think Hamas would kill many more Israelis if they had the power. Suicide bombing is, as Amnesty International put it, a crime against humanity.

2. I think Sharon and the Likud party would probably drive the Palestinians out of the West Bank and Gaza, killing as many as necessary to do it, if they weren't constrained by political realities. The US wouldn't let them do it (though Rumsfeld might). And fellow Israelis wouldn't let them do it, some for humanitarian reasons and others for because such an action would probably generate an enormous increase in terrorism.

3. I don't know much about the Apaches, but I once got into an argument with a Native American about the history of Christian atrocities. As a Christian I willingly admitted them all, citing as an example the Puritan atrocities against the Pequots. I then replied that original sin wasn't a European import--the native Americans were happily slaughtering each other before and after Columbus and I cited the propensity the Iroquois had for torturing their captives to death. The claim that "Why don't we ever hear about non-white, non-European, non-American atrocities" is basically silly. The problem is that Americans will admit atrocities we committed centuries in the past (though usually adding that those darn Apache or Iroquois were just as bad) and never the ones we're committing now. Which makes us just like everyone else.

4. Getting back to Zionism, for all the whining about leftwing political correctness it's frankly amusing to see people avoid stating the obvious--Zionism was about one ethnic group walking into an already populated area and taking it over as though most of the original inhabitants had no say in the matter. It's not the worst crime in human history--it's merely another one in a very long list.

Posted by: Donald Johnson on October 4, 2002 08:24 AM

In response to "The Palestinians have both suffered the worst and committed the worst atrocities.", George writes: "That's a logical fallacy.

How is that a logical fallacy? It is the conjunction of two statements, both true.

"Anyway, read the Arab press, even casually, and it is transparently obvious that 'the settlements' are simply the news hook du jour."

I couldn't care less what the Arab press believes or says. I'm telling you what *I* believe, which is that the settlements are an obstacle to peace.

"Yes, Barak did not offer the Palestinians 100% of what they wanted. No one denies that."

In particular, Barak did not offer to remove the settlements.

"But to come as far as he did, and for the reply to be not, well let's keep talking, but instead the deliberate willful slaughter of children in a pizzaria..."

I think you're misunderstanding me. I'm not at all justifying any actions on the part of Palestinians or on the part of Arafat. I'm just making two independent observations: (1) The Israeli settlements must be dismantled, and (2) Palestinian terrorism must stop.

"If people want to look at that and find any symmetry"

What difference does it make whether the situation is symmetrical or not? Dismantling the settlements is the right thing for Israel to do, regardless of what the Palestinians do. Stopping the suicide bombings is the right thing for Palestinians to do, regardless of what Israel does.

"- moral, intellectual, military, historical - well, they're entitled to their opinions, but don't be shocked if others interpret that stance in an unflattering light."

I'm not shocked, just sad.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on October 4, 2002 08:49 AM

I have to say the arguments made from about post 10 downwards are some of the least interesting I have ever seen on this website. They're not about the original topic and they're just going over old ground.

Brad, would it be possible to limit (or at least ask people) to limit posts to the topic that you have blogged, and only (at most) two per person?

Posted by: George H on October 4, 2002 09:05 AM

the arguments made from about post 10 downwards are some of the least interesting I have ever seen on this website

Hey Brad, are those fighting words? :)

Posted by: George Zachar on October 4, 2002 09:16 AM

Brad writes:

"On the other hand, Israel's Labour Party bet its future on Oslo--on the belief that Arafat would keep his promise to move the contest from blood and iron to speeches and majority votes, and that any fringe groups that kept blowing people up would be contained if not eliminated by the Palestinian Authority. Because this has proven false, I fear that pigs will fly before Israel next has a Labour government."

Yes, well, maybe if Israel had not continued to increase settlements ....

Let's just say that until Israel ends its settlement policy I will have little time for them. Not that Israel's enemies don't act bloodily, but I'm not so smug as to assume that if I had grown up under foreign occupation I might not be a bloodthirsty bastard too. (Take a look at a demographic chart by age of the Palestinian population - most of them have never known anything but occupation.)

However arguments about the Arab-Israeli situation never go anywhere and inevitably disintegrate into "you're an anti-semite" and "you're a colonial bastard".

Posted by: Ian Welsh on October 4, 2002 09:29 AM

However arguments about the Arab-Israeli situation never go anywhere and inevitably disintegrate into "you're an anti- semite" and "you're a colonial bastard".

Though unflattering, this is usually the case.

Intelligent people look at the same sets of facts and draw opposite conclusions based on fundamentally different analytical frameworks, which are then artlessly labelled.

Posted by: George Zachar on October 4, 2002 09:44 AM

Just going over old ground? Good grief, as if accusations of anti-Semitism directed at critics of Israel were something fresh and new.

Posted by: Donald Johnson on October 4, 2002 10:30 AM

'True, but if we turn a deaf hear to their numerous attempts at civil disobediance, we are also to be blamed (no, not bombed!) for giving them all the incentives to use bloody tactics as a (stupid and abject) way to get their voices finally heard.'

Dang it, they haven't made any attempts at civil disobediance! Actually, I'm not sure of this; what were Palestinians doing pre-1987? I can't find anything online.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on October 4, 2002 01:35 PM

Jason,

A recent article in The American Prospect discusses the (hopefully growing) nonviolence movement among the Palestinians. In a recent poll, 80% of the Palestinians surveyed said that they would support a civil disobediance campaign. Of course, that doesn't mean that violence has been rejected in principle, only that they are willing to give nonviolence a try. But surely stopping the violence is a necessary first step towards peace and should be welcomed.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on October 4, 2002 02:16 PM

Here is an Israli, and not a bozo, who holds views that some extremists would label as anti-semite if they were expressed by a non-Jewish person. By the way, George, do you realize your effective denial Palestinian suffering, can give an extremist from the other side of spectrum the "right" to label you as anti-Arab? Why double standards here? Anti-semitism is just as unacceptable and reprehensible as "anti-Arabism". If not, yes, there something I am missing, George.

Come on, actual anti-semites aren't hanging around Professor Delong's blog... Your paranoia, as excusable as it is in the context of the history of persecution of Jewish people, is just totally off target. See, I use context in "judging" people regardless of their origins.

This doesn't mean however that people cannot be intoxicated, sometimes even against their own will, by ideas that are distant relatives to anti-semite ideology. Thus, the great merit of exchanging views. I recall vividly having a pretty harsh exchange with an Israeli friend of mine. At some point somebody who actually was generally holding on my friend's side asked him, "By the way, have you ever talked to an Arab?" Guess what was his honest (that's to his merit) answer to this question... A plain 'Never'.

Jason, Palestinians have tried pretty much every conceivable strategy, albeit inconsistently. But Israel is not any more consistent (although Likudists are perhaps internaly consistent, just as Hamas is...) Israelis have also tried a whole range of strategies. It is my strong belief both sides are making a terrible mistake every time they err away from peace negociations.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 4, 2002 02:29 PM

George, do you realize your effective denial Palestinian suffering, can give an extremist from the other side of spectrum the "right" to label you as anti-Arab?

1) Define "effective denial" in the context of this thread. I have no clue what you mean.

2) Extremists have the right to say, or label, anything they please. So do you. So do I.

Posted by: George Zachar on October 4, 2002 04:10 PM

I just realized that maybe my own (European) background is playing tricks on me. I have felt from the beginning that George fundamentally and sytematically distrustd my accounts and logic. Yet, that does not necessarility imply that he thinks I am being anti-semite...

Just chiping in my own necessary amount of contrition and self-criticism since I have put this demand on other contributors to this thread... Gee, we don't like to admit our logical or factual mistakes, do we, George? ;-)

I personally feel like I have gone even farther than the range of dimishing returns to my posts and now into the realm of negative returns. I'm out, I think I have everything meaningful I could contribute. Thanks everyone for the frank exchange. It's always good to learn...

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 4, 2002 04:16 PM

P.S. I wouldn't want to leave before answering your legitimate question, George, by 'effective denial', I meant 'failure to truly acknowledge' (right or wrong.)

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 4, 2002 04:26 PM

Gee, we don't like to admit our logical or factual mistakes, do we, George? ;-)

In "The Maltese Falcon", Humphrey Bogart/Sam Spade says, "You want me to learn to stutter?"

by 'effective denial', I meant 'failure to truly acknowledge'...[Palestinian suffering]

I hereby "truly acknowledge" Palestinian suffering. We'll save the causes and cures for another thread.

Posted by: George Zachar on October 4, 2002 04:47 PM

Let's leave the final word to Tom Tomorrow.

Posted by: on October 5, 2002 01:15 AM

Posted by: on October 5, 2002 07:15 AM

Hopefully back to the realm of positive marginal contributions... I have emailed this thread to the editors of BitterLemons (Palestinian-Israeli cross-fire), and here is what I think is the result of their thinking about these same issues (look for the October 7 issue, 2002 Edition 36, entitled "Violence and non-violence by Palestinians and Israelis"). I must admit that one can argue equivalently that these issues are just "up in the air" (and as a matter of fact, they are); but there is no reason to believe these experts don't read their emails, don't surf the web, and are not, just like us, on the look-out for pertinent food for thought.

This reinforces my belief that intelligent and reasonable online (and offline) exchanges are very far from useless. Indeed one of the two editors is Ghassan Khatib, minister of labor in the new Palestinian Authority cabinet. Many thanks to Professor DeLong for allowing these exchanges! We may disaggree fundamentally but we can't say no to hope. (All right, deep down I am a hopeless optimist...)

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on October 7, 2002 01:44 PM

I want to thank Will Allen for his message about this issue. I am Pro Israel and watches the world criticize Israel for its "injustices " even though over 500 innocent Israelis have died from suicide bombings. They ignore what went out Riwanda when 1.2 million people were killed. They ignore what is going on in Tywan sudan and Syria and yet they criticize Israel for defending itself. Ironically Israel l takes more steps then any other army in the world to prevent civilian casulties. There is no conclusion to draw except nothing but anti-semites who are using what is going on Israel as a cover for their anti-semitsm. You guys are Berkley are the real haters and racists

Posted by: bob scmidt on October 11, 2002 02:08 PM

I suspect that anti-Semitism takes second place to the politically correct mindset that asserts one must not criticize people of color. The Palestinians are mostly olive skinned and Liberals feel that is somehow wrong to take such individuals to task. I am utterly convinced that the Palestinians would be perceived far differently if they possessed white skin and blond hair. A form of reverse racism has seduced those of the far Left.

Posted by: David Thomson on October 16, 2002 05:38 AM
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