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

January 02, 2009


Perhaps this is old news to some, but I've just read a 2004 Jerusalem Post interview with Haifa University demographer Arnon Soffer. Soffer is described as "widely seen as the originator of Ariel Sharon's separation plan"—ie, the "withdrawal" from Gaza, which happened in 2005, a year after the interview.

Given current events, this statement by Soffer seems worth recalling:

[W]hen 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it's going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It's going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.

In 2007, Soffer was again interviewed, and had this to say:

That statement caused a huge stir at the time, and it's amazing to see how many dozens of angry, ignorant responses I continue to receive from leftists in Israel and anti-Semites abroad, who took my words out of context. I didn't recommend that we kill Palestinians. I said we'll have to kill them.

Well, what can you do when such things are necessary? Other mideast leaders have known this. Here's a transcript from 60 Minutes in February, 2008:

PELLEY: Did you show [Saddam] pictures from the Anfal campaign [ie, Iraq's attempted genocide of the Kurds], those terrible, terrible pictures?


PELLEY: And his reaction?

FBI AGENT PIRO: Necessary.

BUT THERE'S MORE: The two Soffer interviews are very rich material.

1. Soffer brags about how many Israeli politicians listen to him, and claims Ehud Olmert said in 2003, "Professor Soffer convinced me; we can't escape this any more." To be fair to Olmert, I assume he meant "disengagement" per se, rather than Soffer's plans to "kill and kill and kill."

2. This is from the first interview:

In 1987, at a meeting organized by [former ambassador to the US] Zalman Shoval between myself, Shoval, [nuclear physicist and right-wing leader] Yuval Ne'eman and Ghandi [the late Rehavam Ze'evi], I began by presenting the demographic statistics. Ne'eman got up and said: "Don't believe a word of what Arnon Soffer is telling you: The Central Bureau of Statistics also belongs to the Left."

We see here that Israeli society works just like ours. Both countries' government agencies devote themselves to running their country's empire in a semi-rational way. And this infuriates the right-wing, because they at heart are two years old and loathe being told they can't have their every heart's desire. Hence the Israel Bureau of Statistics, like the CIA here, "belongs to the Left."

3. The original 2004 interview has disappeared from the Jerusalem Post site. I found it in the archives of a Yahoo group for residents of Efrat, a settlement outside Jerusalem, where it was being circulated approvingly.

4. In the second interview, Soffer speaks straightforwardly about Israel's collaboration with the Jordanian and Egyptian governments to subjugate Palestinians. This obviously is well known in the mideast, but is essentially never mentioned in the US media.

5. Soffer is obsessed with calibrating what the United States will allow Israel to do. Here he is describing Israel getting permission to permanently hold onto a strip of land along the West Bank's border with Jordan:

[President of the Council on Foreign Relations] Richard Haass, who was director of policy planning for the US State Department at the time, told me personally: "We'll allow Israel to establish a 'Philadelphi Corridor' in the Jordan Valley, to guarantee the neutralization and demilitarization of Judea and Samaria."

It's also interesting to see who Richard Haass hangs out with. I wonder if it would be hard to become President of the Council on Foreign Relations if you liked to have heart to heart conversations with a member of Hamas who proudly speaks of the need to "kill and kill and kill" Israelis.

6. Soffer describes himself as being "in the center" of the Israeli political spectrum. He also says he's "originally a Mapainik"—ie, a supporter of Mapai, the forerunner to today's Israeli Labor party.

7. Soffer doesn't believe Iran is a threat to Israel, calling it "so weak and vulnerable that it's unbelievable." However, he says America's "considerations are a different story. The world's superpower cannot accept that 2/3 of the world's oil is in the hands of a crazy person like Ahmadinejad."

8. In both interviews, the Jerusalem Post describes Soffer as a "geostrategist." I understand Saddam was quite the geostrategist too.

9. Help?

Posted at January 2, 2009 07:04 PM

OK, this guy is insofferable on all kinds of levels, but what evidence is there anyone listened to him?

Posted by: donescobar at January 2, 2009 07:15 PM

what evidence is there anyone listened to him?

Well, see the reference to "current events," above.

Let me also gently suggest that the "what evidence is there anyone listened to him?" standard is not one you utilize when it comes to the Arab world.

That aside, I certainly give two thumbs up to "insofferable," whether it was on purpose or not.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at January 2, 2009 07:23 PM

or, "I'm not a monster, I've just said things that others have construed as monstrous. Sheesh."

The language is also comparable to 19th century discussions of the North American Indians, and Conrad's famous last line from Heart of Darkness, which I dimly recall you reviewed a few years back.

Come to think of it, the pattern of settlement of the West Bank seems like Israel means to create a system of discontiguous Palistinian reservations, suggesting that the Knesset has keener students of US history than our government does.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at January 2, 2009 08:06 PM

From my reading of the Hebrew press, Arnon Soffer is widely respected and listened to. He does not appear to have served in any cabinet position, but he has certainly been a consultant to the Israeli government, as well as its military.

As a loud proponent of what he calls "the demographic problem", Soffer's view of Palestinians seems to be that there are too many of them. He is emblematic of the idea that Palestinians should just up and disappear.

I actively wish that man ill.

Posted by: Dena Shunra at January 2, 2009 09:01 PM


In any case, there's not enough fresh water for the two populations, so it makes no difference. We understand now that we have no choice but to increase desalination.

Look, you probably drink coffee. How much does your cup of coffee cost you at your local cafe'? NIS 10. That's $2. Do you know how much water you can purify for $2? The Palestinians cannot afford this, but we can.

the arab league can afford it. iran can afford it. israel can afford to bomb what they build.

Posted by: hapa at January 2, 2009 10:02 PM

never let it be said global warming cannot be used as a weapon. never never never.

Posted by: hapa at January 2, 2009 10:18 PM


Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 2, 2009 11:17 PM

Poster Dena Shurna has instantly educated me as per the consultant information. I see now what IS happening, much like "what the meaning if IS IS". The Honored Professor doesn't mean him and somebody else when he says WE. He means U and somebody else. Since hes a 'military' adviser, he probably can't hit the side of a barn standing inside of the first stall. I CANNOT seem to be able to visualize the 'gentleman' standing the line behind a tank.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 2, 2009 11:42 PM

BUT should Mike Meyer be proved wrong, let me be the FIRST to congratulate the "gentleman" on his service to his country. (and, of course, Mazeltov)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 2, 2009 11:49 PM

BUT should Mike Meyer be proved wrong, let me be the FIRST to congratulate the "gentleman" on his service to his country. (and, of course, Mazeltov)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 2, 2009 11:51 PM

Sure it was intentional.
But, I dunno who listens to whom "in the Arab world," in Cairo or Damascus...A cleric or general may say something there, but who kinows who pays attention on the highest (aka lowest) levels. Not me.

Posted by: donescobar at January 3, 2009 01:59 AM

I mean only if he is BEHIND the tank because luck has run out on anything IN FRONT of the tank.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 3, 2009 02:52 AM

Along with the "disengagement" from Gaza, Sofer was also the first and leading proponent of the separation wall. He is highly influential in the Israeli establishment and has been spearheading a policy movement against Israel's looming "demographic threat" for about two decades. In a country that is increasingly obsessed with counting heads on an ethno-religious basis to ensure a Jewish majority, he is the top head counter. This article from Haaretz offers a decent profile of him and contains more lovely quotes from the man--such as his existential fear of the "Muslim womb." If anyone is interested, you can click on his name to get more info about him and articles that mention him:

Posted by: khawaga at January 3, 2009 09:01 AM

From AP:

n an escalation of the conflict in Gaza, Israel Defense Forces say that their ground troops are now moving into the Hamas-ruled territory, according to CNN.

"We have just a short while ago launched the second stage of the operation against Hamas infrastructure," IDF spokeswoman Maj. Avital Leibovich told the news network. Earlier Saturday, Israel began using ground artillery for the first time in the eight-day-old conflict when tanks fired into Gaza from the northern and eastern borders. Saturday morning, Israeli forces dropped thousands of leaflets signed by the commander of the Israeli military warning residents to "leave the area immediately" to ensure their safety.

Can't wait for that third stage!

Posted by: Baldie McEagle at January 3, 2009 05:02 PM