You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

March 31, 2007

Not The Right Time: In Their Own Words

Back in April, 2003, the Arab League proposed a ban on WMD in the mideast. Here's Colin Powell speaking in Damascus soon afterward:

SECRETARY POWELL: It has always been a United States goal that conditions could be created in this part of the world where no nation would have a need for any weapons of mass destruction. And, so that remains a long-standing United States goal. I think it is a goal that we have to pursue over time, and I am not supportive at the moment of a particular declaration that might be put forward for political purposes or to highlight the issue, but it remains an overall US objective that we would like to see the region free of weapons of mass destruction.

Oh, how we yearn for a mideast free of WMD! It is our dearest dream! But—darn it—we just can't get into it at the moment.

Now, here's Ehud Olmert talking about the revived Arab League peace plan:

I am very interested to understand how are they going to build a Palestinian state - we want it [the state], and this is not something that we have ever concealed from anyone. We want to know how the legal system will be built, how the economic system will be established, how the government administration will be operating and so on. These are serious questions that can come under the cover of political horizons which are of great consequence for the future, but which do not relate to [the final status] issues that I don't think can be resolved at this time.

Oh, how Israel yearns for a Palestinian state! It is their dearest dream! But—darn it—they just can't discuss any specifics at this time.

But as I said yesterday, you better believe the U.S. and Israel will JUMP on these things the second the time is right, which is the year 3478 A.D.

Posted at March 31, 2007 01:33 PM | TrackBack

"Time. Time. What is time? Swiss manufacture it. French hoard it. Italians squander it. Americans say it is money. Hindus say it does not exist. Do you know what I say? I say time is a crook."
-- peter lorre, in beat the devil

Posted by: hibiscus at March 31, 2007 02:35 PM

Just so we know exactly what we are talking about I strongly urge everyone to view this very revealing map posted by Jonathan Versen which depicts the metamorphosis of Palestinian land to Israeli land from 1940 to 2006. Personally I found it quite revealing and after looking at it I find I have a much better understanding of what Ehud Olmert is talking about exactly.

I also would note that the maps bear a strong resemblance to similar maps depicting the metamorphosis of American Indian land to white American land in a certain country I know about. We were born from empire and we will go out through empire. And no doubt white America has the same strong desire to return the land back from whence it came as the Israeli do, surely.

Say, I have just had an epiphany! Since our government and the Israeli government are so sincere in making the Mid – East a WMD free zone, so to speak, why don’t we get the Israeli to give up their nukes? Should be a winner and a nice way to start the peace process.

Posted by: rob payne at March 31, 2007 07:57 PM

Peace in the Middle East- A sweet dream.
Pax Americana- A bitter nightmare.
The only ones who want peace are civilians getting shot at.
( This ain't no party, this ain't disco, this ain't no foolin' around--Talking Heads)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 1, 2007 02:25 PM

As we contemplate the horror of Israeli empire and nuclear weapons, it's worth remember these things: Israel is a small, free country surrounded by oppressive regimes that are quite public about their desire to destroy Israel. Israel's neighbors allow guerrilla warriors to wage war against Israel from within their borders. And Israel has had nukes for a couple of decades and has not used them.

The barrier to peace in the middle east is not Israel, which wants only to survive. The barrier to peace is that Arab nations which will not reform themselves so that peace is a viable option. The Arab states will not allow representative government, peaceful political dissent, free economic activity or the full participation of women in society. The governments that exist are, by and large, dedicated to the eradication not only of Israel, but of Jews.

The time for peace in the middle east has not, alas, arrived. You can discuss all the specifics you want, but if the governments around Israel are unwilling or unable to bring peace within their borders they are equally unwilling and unable to affect peace with Israel.

Posted by: Tom at April 2, 2007 08:19 AM


Thanks for pointing that out. It's a good thing the Arab governments are covering up their unwavering commitment to eradicate Israel by getting together and offering Israel a full peace treaty with all of them. The only question that remains is: is this type of sneakiness genetically encoded in the Arab DNA, or is it simply due to their benighted culture?

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at April 2, 2007 08:44 AM

It is time to recognize that it is Israel, not the "Arab" states(which are all actually puppets of BOTH the US AND Israel) that have failed their people and the world. It is Israel that craves war, just ask anyone there, they'll tell you what sub-humans the Arabs are. Make no mistake, Jews are blood-soaked hypocrites just like everyone else, except they are the only ones left who haven't taken responsibility for it. REMEBER: these are the people God "chose"... According to them... In hindsight, Hitler might not have been so crazy after all.

Posted by: at April 2, 2007 09:49 AM


Just as with Tom, I appreciate you pointing that out. I will certainly do my best to REMEBER it.

There really is nothing like a post mentioning Israel to bring out the bloodthirsty lunatics of all varieties.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at April 2, 2007 10:19 AM

Now wait just a second. "Blood-thirsty lunatics"? I'm on a par with your anonymous commenter who calls Jews "blood-soaked hypocrites" because I think the Arab regimes are unlikely candidates for peace with Israel? Seriously?

I won't bother to defend myself, because you can go to my blog and judge for yourself how blood-thirsty I might be. But how you can look at the problems of the mid-east and absolve the Arab states of responsibility for the woes of their own people defies logical -- even rational -- explanation.

The Arab offers of peace are fine; I'm all for them. But before Israel pulls back and disarms, isn't it realistic to expect the Arab states to show a little good faith by, for example, figuring out a way to disarm the private militia that export violence to Israel? I mean, here's a good challenge: How about two years without a terrorist attack against Israel, just for starters? How about a criminal justice system that locates, arrests, and punishes the people who fire missiles into Israel's cities in purposeful attempt to kill innocents? That ought to be easy enough for such peace-loving people, right?

If the Palestinians had a Ghandi they'd have had their own state 40 years ago. The radical elements in Israel would not have been able to stand against the moral force of non-violent resistance. Instead, the Palestinians had Arafat, a liar, embezzler and murderer who promised one thing and delivered something else entirely.

You can pretend that the Palestinians have no responsibility for their miserable fate. You can tolerate the thinly-veiled antisemitism that informs much of the anti-Israel argument -- and the not-so-thinly-veiled antisemitism that Arab dictators use to distract their populations from their real problems.

But you can't do that and sound even a little bit coherent.

Posted by: Tom at April 2, 2007 09:35 PM
I'm on a par with your anonymous commenter who calls Jews "blood-soaked hypocrites" because I think the Arab regimes are unlikely candidates for peace with Israel?

Yup. (Though of course what you wrote was not "I think the Arab regimes are unlikely candidates for peace with Israel.")

I'm sorry you don't like the comparison. But I've really lost any patience I might once have had for the type of spectacular, comprehensive, smug ignorance you've demonstrated so vividly here -- particularly when it originates from Americans. The time when this could possibly be excused or indulged is long past.

For instance, one thing I can tell for certain about you is that you don't have the slightest idea what the ratio of Palestinian/Israeli or Arab/Israeli casualties over the past sixty years is. What could possibly lead anyone to opine about this situation without knowing such an incredibly basic fact? Even as their government pays for the infliction of so many of the casualties? There are many historical comparisons I could make here, and comparing you to Mr. Anonymous is actually one of the more generous.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at April 3, 2007 04:37 AM

I don't' know the ratio of Israelis to Palestinians killed, you're right. I'd bet the ratio is significantly heavy on the Palestinian side. How about ten to one? A hundred to one? You're keeping score; I'm not. One unnecessary death is too many, no matter what the nationality of the person killed.

A relevant point that you choose to ignore is the manner in which the casualties are inflicted. There is a difference between sending a suicide bomber into a pizza restaurant to blow up civilians on purpose and sending an army into a neighborhood to clear out those planning suicide bombings who have deliberately hidden themselves among civilians. One is deliberate damage and one is collateral damage. Both are tragic and should be avoided, but they're not moral equivalents.

Since you're so good with statistics, help me with this one: How many citizens of each population group have been killed by other members of that same population group? That is, how many Israelis have been killed by Israelis and how many Palestinians have been killed by Palestinians? I ask because it's a good indicator of the political culture of each society. When was the last time members of different Israeli political parties engaged in a gun battle with each other? How many Israeli political parties maintain standing armies of their own? It seems to me Hamas and Fatah are killing each other -- and innocent civilians -- fairly regularly.

Again, the obvious: Given that Palestinian political culture is so fractured that political arguments are routinely settled with guns and bombs, how can you blame the state of the Palestinians on Israel? (Unless, of course, you fault Israel simply for existing.) Who should the Israelis negotiate with? Which opposing faction -- each dedicated to the destruction of both Israel and the other faction -- do you make peace with, only to enrage the other?

The tragedy of the Palestinians is enormous and and unjust and should make the world cry out in anguish. And, if you look at the last fifty years or so, the world has cried out in anguish. But even one so blinded by anguish as you must be able to see that the Palestinian tragedy is at least partly of the Palestinians' own making. You can see that, right, even if you're not intellectually honest enough to admit it?

The power to fix the problem remains, as it always has, with the Palestinians and their pan-Arab sponsors. Again: If the Palestinians had a Ghandi, they'd have a nation. As long as they choose to support and harbor those who blow up Jews because they are Jews, Israeli will return fire without regard for innocents and Palestinians will continue to suffer the social and economic consequences of living in a war zone.

You can call me all the names you want. Infantilizing the Palestinians into hapless victims does nothing to improve their lot, no matter how morally righteous it makes you feel.

Posted by: Tom at April 3, 2007 07:52 AM

Nothing Tom wrote approaches "Hitler might not have been so crazy after all." We know what the author means by that. Did he even suggest anything akin to that for Arabs? He may be a bigot, but where does he endorse "bloodthirsty" genocide?

Posted by: anon at April 3, 2007 08:57 AM

Tom, perhaps you'll eventually be reincarnated as something other than a rich man from the most powerful country that's ever existed. If so, you'll be hideously embarrassed by your previous staggering arrogance and ignorance.

But until then, you're clearly determined to cling to a self-justifying fairy tale. This is something I can't help you with. But I wish you luck with your next several lifetimes.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at April 3, 2007 09:01 AM

Bemoaning my supposed, wealth-induced lack of empathy is not exactly engaging with my argument, is it? If I'm so obviously wrong -- bigoted, even -- you could certainly refute my assertion that the Palestinians are not now capable of making peace with Israel because their political culture is not now capable of making peace with itself. That ought to be easy; have at it.

Or you could call me names and ooze self-gratifying pity -- which in its own way says a lot about the quality of your argument.

My bet is that you'll simply ignore me, sure that you've demonstrated your own superiority to everyone who matters -- you.

Posted by: Tom at April 3, 2007 09:23 AM

Okay, Tom. Since you're certain you want to discuss this, I'll do so -- on the condition you demonstrate you understand the subject you have such strong opinions about. To make this demonstration, write 600 words about the various factions within Palestinian society from 1970 onwards and the efforts by the U.S. and Israel to back or weaken different factions. In particular, be sure to touch upon these subjects:

• the main disagreements within Fateh and the PLO during the seventies
• the rise of Hamas during the eighties, and the specifics of Israel's involvement with it
• how the first intifada rearranged power within Palestinian society
• which Palestinian factions approved of the Oslo Accords, and why
• the involvement of the US and Israel in the establishment of the PA security forces during the nineties
• the rationale behind the Israeli attacks on the PA government apparatus during the second intifada
• the effects of the current blockade on Palestinian society
• the specifics of the unity government just negotiated
• a brief comparison with the internal politics of another occupied country of your choice

For extra credit, write about violence between the different factions of the Zionist movement during the pre-state period.

Obviously, I'll be surprised if you do this. But if you do, you'll also be surprised at how much your mind changes once you actually have some idea of what you're talking about.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at April 3, 2007 10:52 AM

So you're going with ignoring the issue rather than using this opportunity to better inform me and your audience.

Nicely done. I bet you're self-image is entirely intact.

Posted by: Tom at April 3, 2007 11:28 AM

How about the fact that Arabs are semites too and that the Jews just hate them because well.. they're not Jews. Arabs and the many peoples of the middle east who are mostly semetic as well, not only tolerated the jews but very much appreciated them because well, they weren't smelly gentiles. Do you see where I am going with this Tom? Of course Israel will portray the Arabs that way here so they can get away with it there. It's not like they ever really liked anyone anyway(even themselvs apparently)... To put it from their perspective: "let's just killem', use our intellectuals to justify it, and with the unquestioned support we have from Rome/Persia/ Britain/USA/USSR you name it/whatever, no one with power will care enough to do anything REAL about the fighting form both sides. The profits will be endless. MMMM ". Everyone has done it and will do it again... Even Israel. Like I said: BLOOD. SOAKED. HYPOCRITES. ALL.

Posted by: at April 3, 2007 11:49 AM

Are we discussing respective governments or their civilian populations themselves. There is a difference, in goals, ideology, day to day existance, recieving money from foreign governments to perform said foreign government goals, and of course, as always, who gets SHOT or not. Some people just get caught up in the moment and REALLY have no opinion of themselves or the other side(s) except what their authorities tell them. (little kids) Some people ARE lied to, constantly, over their lifetime, by their leadership, and so end up down a bad road. (Saddam has WMDs)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 3, 2007 12:25 PM

here's a list someone gave me a few years ago.

left-wing myths

-- The Israeli military actions are the cause of the Palestinian suicide bombings
-- The suicide bombings are acts of desperation
-- The suicide bombings are the only way available to the Palestinians to resist the occupation
-- The Israeli occupation of the West bank and Gaza is the reason for the conflict
-- All the Palestinians want is to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza
-- All the Palestinians want is to have their own state
-- There was no hostility between Israel and the Arabs prior to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza
-- There was no violence in Palestine prior to 1948
-- Israel has attacked and occupied the state of Palestine

right-wing myths

-- There is a military solution to the terrorist problem
-- All Arabs want is the destruction of the western civilization
-- Arabs are all the same
-- Arabs are a bunch of bloodthirsty rascals; violence is in their genes
-- Arabs interpret any peaceful gesture as a sign of weakness
-- There is no such a thing as the Palestinian people
-- There is already a Palestinian state: it's Jordan
-- Israel has never engaged in expulsions of Arab population
-- The Israeli settlers are peaceful folk who never harmed anyone
-- All the settlers want is to live in peace and harmony with their Arab neighbors
-- Occupation of the Golan Heights was a strategic necessity
-- Israel holds on the West Bank and Gaza exclusively for security reasons

i can't really assess it. i think it ticks a little rightward in implying that "right of return" is a security threat.

Posted by: hibiscus at April 3, 2007 01:19 PM

Actually, my second line of dialogue would have been to point out that it doesn't matter the degree to which Palestinian political culture has degraded. Once a government passes a certain point of disfunction -- and I think gun battles between political parties is past that point -- that government is no longer a viable international negotiating partner. Your admiration for how relatively functional Palestinian politics remains is thus irrelevant. It isn't functional enough for Israel to trust with the lives of its citizens.

If you cared at all about the Palestinians, you'd be looking for ways to fix that disfunction. Instead, you're looking only to fix plame. How like Palestinian leadership you are!

You imagine Palestinians to be helpless, childlike in the way they are tossed by tides beyond their control. I think they have the ability to write their own epic, to be capable of seizing and influencing their own destiny. Who is it, again, who's a bigot?

As to your incredible, condescending pedantry...well, I've never seen anything like it. You've completely lost sight of why political argument is valuable: To win people over to your point-of-view and, ultimately, your cause. You have perverted argument into a kind of priesthood of belief. Your beliefs are so pure, so well informed and wise, that you refuse even to defend them unless the person who challenges you demonstrates his worthiness.

You remind me of those right-wing nuts who would sacrifice the Bill of Rights to fight Islamic fundamentalism. Their argument is like yours: If you don't believe as we do, you must not know what we know. For them salvation lies in more viewings of the beheading of Daniel Pearl or deeper considering of the horrors of 9/11. For you, it's thousands of hours immersed in the unjust history of factionalism in the Middle East. Like the rightwing nutjobs, your conceit is that anyone who disagrees with you simply can't know what you know.

I'm intrigued. Do you find refusing to argue your case an effective way of advancing your cause? Do you find people attracted to sneering condescention?

Or do you, perhaps, not care as much about winning converts as you profess. Could it be that the most important thing for you is simply demonstrating your own rigteousness?

Maybe it's not about the Palestinians after all.

Posted by: Tom at April 3, 2007 04:56 PM
Once a government passes a certain point of disfunction -- and I think gun battles between political parties is past that point -- that government is no longer a viable international negotiating partner.

Tom, it's generally considered bad manners to cluck over such things at the very moment your own government is arming one faction and demanding they engage in gun battles with the other. But if you want to do so, while simulaneously writing stirring paens to the Palestinian ability to "write their own epic," knock yourself out.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at April 3, 2007 05:42 PM

Ah, discerning THE TRUTH from the lies, but then THAT'S politics, isn't it.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 3, 2007 06:18 PM

noun: _______________
noun: _______________
(1) noun: _______________
(2) a place: _______________
noun: _______________
(3) plural noun + plural verb: _______________
(4) adjective: _______________
(7) verb: _______________
(8) plural noun: _______________
plural noun: _______________
(10) verb: _______________
plural noun: _______________
(11) noun: _______________
noun: _______________
(12) noun: _______________
(13) fraction: _______________
(14) noun: _______________

Posted by: hibiscus at April 3, 2007 06:19 PM

You(J.S.)seem to have a kind of Kantian(or Capraesque?)idealism which leads you to believe that everyone is reachable, and if they know how to use big(or at least medium-sized) words and know how to properly connect dependent clauses, etc, then they must be smart enough to see the truth. (Have you read any Christopher Lasch?)

I suspect, however, that in Tom's case he just enjoys verbal combat and attention, and couldn't really care less about essential truths, etc.

Of course he's intelligent enough to understand the concept that 1 billion people
can't possibly be monolithic. That's not the problem. The problem is he doesn't really care, and blithely smearing people doesn't bother him, the way it would bother you.

And, now that I've said all these things about how he looks at things, maybe he'll object that I'm making all sorts of sweeping assertions without knowing what I'm talking about.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at April 3, 2007 07:58 PM

"Quid autem vides festucam in oculo fratris et trabem in oculo tuo non vides."

Posted by: anon at April 3, 2007 09:25 PM

anon: My brother wears safety glasses. (he wouldn't trust me that close anyway)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 3, 2007 10:12 PM

The Soviets should've just invaded Israel and been allowed to invade Afghanistan. Then we aren't having any discussions about Bin Laden, the Arabs or Zionist Jews period.. The Cold War will end with the death of the West. Not that staged joke that happened in the late 80's. Pity the Russians were too disorganized, which led to their power structure to be thoroughly infiltrated and manipulated by the US. The best enemies are the ones you control, as Israel has astutely learned over the course of the last fifty years.

Posted by: at April 4, 2007 08:41 AM

OK, so: You've questioned my knowledge, called me names and explored my psychology. I'll stop by evey now and then to see if you ever engage my argument.

Posted by: Tom at April 4, 2007 09:51 AM

Please do, Tom. You can be sure I'll get on it the second I'm done engaging Mr. Anonymous' argument about why Hitler wasn't so crazy after all.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at April 4, 2007 11:39 AM

Don't bother. Hitler lost. There's no need to reach back and criticize and demonize an already well-done dead fool. I will say that I find it funny how the Zionist(one time Nazi collaboraters by the way) have recently begun to revise history as to almost come to the point of taking credit for his downfall. They just can't give credit to those godless commies, even when they saved almost a third of the world's jewish population. Even with the majority of their elite invasion forces compiled of the finest and bravest of the Russian Jewish community at hand. As with most imperialist movements, Zionism will not allow facts to put them into the marginal fringe where they belong. Kind of sounds familiar doesn't it Tom?

Posted by: at April 5, 2007 08:42 AM


One of the interesting things about this thread is that everyone wants to talk about something different, finding meaning in things (e.g., the Soviet contribution to victory in World War II) that seem, to me, less than relevant. This is apparently filling the vacuum created by our host, who declines to comment, apparently becuase he finds it insulting to have to argue his point.

For the record, I once produced a documentary series that gave full credit to the Soviets for their decisive contribution to victory over fascism.

This relates to Palestinian political discord exactly how?

Posted by: Tom at April 5, 2007 09:10 AM

It relates because it demonstrates how geopolitical roles are always changing. Israel realizes this and sees its power over the Arab people(which it needs to remain powerful at all)diminishing in real time unlike ever before. A weak Arab politcal process is the "Key to the Gates" if you will for Israel. Can you honestly say that Israel really even cares about what the Arabs are doing internally? Anyone with any sense knows that the US and Israel together could easily destroy the Arab power structure in the Western Middle East. It is of completely no consequnce what the Arabs do internally from Israel's perspective. It is however, important for those same Arabs to externally remain weak enough to be marganilized in any case. That's why Israel attempts manipulate them. Hezbollah is not a threat becasue they hate and want to kill Jews... They are a threat because they realistically can kill Jews with little or no reprisal. They can win. That's why they and not the Palestinian Arabs can negotiate with Israel. That is also the same reason the US and Israel payed attention to the Soviets. They had real EXTERNAL power... And if you ever suggest the History of the Soviet Union and Israel are not linked with a straight face again; you will have lost all credibilty with me my friend. They were and will always be enemies, that's why the US supported them in the first place. That's practically how this whole 21st Century mess got started.

Posted by: at April 7, 2007 02:29 PM

In life, the bad guy always wins because there are no good guys. The whole world knows it. You should as a civilized, educated adult human being know it too.

Posted by: at April 7, 2007 02:40 PM