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 12, 2009

Who Are The Dead?

By: John Caruso

The person in Gaza who said to me that "We are dead people who are still breathing" was Amjad Shawa, the director of PNGO.  I could see the truth of it in his eyes as he read about three young teenage boys who were shot and killed outside the Netzarim settlement.  The bodies had been crushed afterward by tanks or bulldozers (possibly as a precaution in case they were wearing bomb vests), and the pictures of the mutilated kids were circulating among the people in Gaza.

So horrors were never far away, at this time or any other.  But those weren't the only things the Palestinians in Gaza focused on, and despite the weight of their daily life I've never been among people who were more open, welcoming, joyful, or quick to laughter.  Despite the dark picture I've drawn of Amjad, he had a sly sense of humor and a mischievous smile that he flashed easily and often.  There was a real vitality in Gaza and the West Bank that seemed to come from putting the highest value on things that actually matter: family, friends (old and new), and time spent together.  My experiences were a bit self-selecting, especially given justly famous Arab hospitality; nonetheless I met dozens of people while I was there and had the chance to observe many more, and what I saw was always the same, whether it was directed at me or not.

(The horror and humor would often mix.  When I was in Rafah the Israelis shot in the direction of my group and some kids on bikes, and we asked Amjad about it later.  His response: "You never know with the Israelis...sometimes they shoot to say hello, sometimes they shoot to say goodbye."  And even now, under constant bombardment, they joke: "Look outside, F-16 jet fighters are smiling for you, missiles are dancing for you, zannana [the Palestinian name for pilotless drones] are singing for you. I requested them all to wish you a happy new year," and "While other people around the world celebrate, it seems the Israeli air force is trying to save us the cost of fireworks."  Palestinian humor rarely lacks a sting, but it's also rarely lacking.)

The one thing that moved me the most was the generosity of spirit.  The people I spoke with (human rights workers, doctors, shopkeepers, taxi drivers, people selling tea in checkpoint lines just to stay alive, and everyone in between) almost universally showed a deep level of understanding and compassion, even toward the Israelis and Americans who were causing them so much pain. They had every right to feel otherwise, but although I saw some anger the overwhelming message was that they just wanted to live in peace—a peace both for them and their neighbors.  It brought home for me that ignorance is a critical component of callousness, and that when people genuinely understand what it means to suffer it makes them more understanding rather than less, and they're far less likely to wish it on others.

The contrast couldn't have been greater when I came back here to the TV and mall culture—a country obsessed with trivialities, where so many people have tremendous privilege and endless opportunities and yet feel isolated and empty as they try to buy their way to happiness.  We're so divorced from basic human empathy that we get a vicarious frisson of power whenever our government is blowing the shit out of the latest ultimate evil threat to our very existence, with no consideration for the lives of those under the bombs.  And so I had to wonder: just who are the dead?

—John Caruso

Posted at January 12, 2009 02:17 AM

Great post, thanks for sharing it. Yeah, it always seems like the biggest thing in life for the U.S. is the anticipation of purchasing what ever the latest gizmo is like when they came out with the Blackberry. Then once the item is purchased it’s on to the next anticipated latest and greatest. And if you even bring up anything that isn’t trivial people just look right past you as if they don’t see you but they’re not the crazy ones, oh no, never them. And heaven forbid we should ever view the people we are murdering as actual human beings who if we weren’t killing them might actually have something of value to offer us. After all what can you offer a technologically advanced nation like our own magnificent selves when we already have Blackberries?

Posted by: Rob Payne at January 12, 2009 03:59 AM

"we're so divorced from basic human empathy..."

I agree, but how come?
Were we ever connected? If so, when and why did we lose or drop the connection?
How about other societies/cultures? Are some more connected or as divorced as we are, now or in the past?
Is it only the suffering of one's own people that uncovers this empathy? When it comes to the ME, that seems the case to me, on both sides of the fence? (Pun intended.) And here, or in Europe, who built our fence inside our minds and hearts?

Posted by: donescobar at January 12, 2009 09:54 AM

AP reports this morning are that Hamas and other Palestinian groups in Damascus have refused to allow international observers into Gaza.

And they are continuing to fire rockets into Israel.

This reminds me of Georgia shelling South Ossetia. Did Georgia hold any responsibility that Russia reacted and kicked their asses? Since Israel's reaction to the Qassam attacks was predictable, and since the rocket attacks have absolutely no military purpose, why would Hamas continue to allow this? Because war is a very effective organizing tool. It allows a failed government to blame all of its failures on The Other. It produces martyrs, and invoking God (whether as the Great Real Estate Agent in the Sky or as the Avenging Angel or as Guarantor of a wonderful after-death retirement package) always gets people to do stupid things that gets themselves killed.

If your dance partner is stepping on your feet, maybe you shouldn't be dancing with him.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at January 12, 2009 10:11 AM

Very true, John. Whenever I give talks about the ME I always mention "family values," something "oh so dear" to American hearts -- how Palestinians could be teaching us a thing or two about family values. I've rarely seen families caring more about one another. And I contrast that with the racist rants of Golda Meir/ Tom Friedman about "Arabs hating their enemies more than they love their children."

What also struck me was their patience and fortitude. I still don't know how they can put up with that crap, and why they don't uniformly hate us. (Which they truly don't -- on the contrary -- that's the amazing part.)

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at January 12, 2009 10:28 AM

Ok,John and Bernard, please explain:
If at least some in Palestine and Arab nations don't "hate us," who were the people dancing in the streets and passing out candy after 9-11 and just about every time Israeli kids got blown to bits in a Jerusalem pizza parlor or bus?
They don't hate Americans, but just what our government(s) are doing to them by standing with Israel? And those receptionists who jumped to their death on 9-11? They were...?
They do/don't hate not just Israelis, but Jews in general, that's why Hamas has the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" in its Charter and why its head in Damascus speaks of "killing the Jews?"
Blind and stupid Islamophobia is not the answer, but neither is blind adoration. Suffering, most of the time, does not ennoble the soul. Look at your Israelis/Jews--Jewish suffering in Europe only turned them into an embodiment of the Auden line: "Those to whom evil is done, do evil to others."
But boy, they had help, and not just from the USA.
Neither of you acknowledges any of this. You know it, I think, but it doesn't fit into the current progressive alignment of heroes and villains.

Posted by: donescobar at January 12, 2009 10:56 AM

Breaking news: Israel's elections committee decided to ban the two Arab parties from running in the February elections.

The implications: the Palestinians inside of Israel, the ones who weren't displaced outside its border in '48 and spent 18 years under military administration (which was lifted in '66), are being disenfranchised. They can vote for anyone they want, as long as that person isn't Palestinian.

Denying political franchise to entire ethnic groups tends to raise the level of violence in a region. Expect more dead.

Posted by: Dena Shunra at January 12, 2009 11:28 AM

don escobar writes: "And here, or in Europe, who built our fence inside our minds and hearts?"

Paul Shepard offers an explanation: "The first folks to bring the animals inside the house."

The history of Western man has been a progressive peeling back of the psyche, as if the earliest agriculture may have addressed itself to extenuation of adolescent concerns while the most modern era seeks to evoke in society at large some of the fixations of early natality rationalized, symbolized, and disguised as need be. The individual growth curve, as described by Bruno Bettelheim, Jean Piaget, Erik Erikson, and others, is a biological heritage of the deep past. It is everyman's tree of life, now pruned by civic gardeners as the outer branches and twigs become incompatible with the landscaped order. The reader may extend that metaphor as he wishes, but I shall move to an animal image to suggest that the only society more frightful than one run by children, as in Golding's Lord of the Flies, might be one run by childish adults.

Paul Shepard, Nature and Madness

Posted by: woody at January 12, 2009 11:30 AM

fascinating--will order book

Posted by: donescobar at January 12, 2009 11:35 AM

What can one say and do when 25,000 Gazans are looking for shelters in UNRWA schools (,7340,L-3654368,00.html ), there is no WATER to drink ( ) children are being slaughtered and burnt by chemical bombs, 100 people are living in an apt, crossings were closed on Saturday because of Sabbath when there is humanitarian catastrophe going on, when Gazans are trying not to be death statstic
( ), when a physican has to say "When they brought the bodies in, I found myself standing there saying: this one to the morgue, this one to the intensive care unit, this one the morgue ... It was very hard." ( ), when the IDF troops pose as Hamas ( Gaza resident S. told Haaretz he heard several people say they saw armed men wearing the uniforms and symbols of the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, who "called out to each other in Arabic, as if they had caught a collaborator, and then, with the element of surprise..after people had come out of their homes, went into the houses." is by Amira hass.. the link has been changed ), when dead men are bulldozed into piles and covered with sand (,,2-10-1462_2451104,00.html )?

Keep Gazans in our thoughts, weep for them and

"Things one sees from The Hague"
Gideon Levy.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at January 12, 2009 12:16 PM

donescobar: more of the "it is complicated and there is a lot a hatred on all sides" argument. This is a completely useless point. One could have used the same argument about apartheid South Africa and folks did. Being against the Nationalist Party and in favor of overthrowing the state didn't mean supporting "one settler, one bullet." Of course there is hatred.

Bob in Pacifica: perhaps little military purpose, but the rockets have political purposes. In addition to the ones you've mentioned there is the purpose of making Israel less appealing to tourists and less liveable for Israelis thus encouraging emigration. Yes, they are terrorism. There are so few options available to the Palestinians, however, I see little use in discussing/debating the strategy of rockets. As an American anti-zionist, I see a lot more use in trying to change my country's support of Israel and supporting economic and academic boycotts. If we are seriously against the homemade rockets but pressuring Israel or cutting funding to that state is off the table, then they way to stop homemade rockets is to supply the Palestinians with much more accurate long-range missiles and an air force.

PS re candies: taking joy in the suffering of others is common to many. Whenever the US bombs a country there are the guys in my old hometown in California who would put on camo and strut around in glee.

Posted by: pulaski at January 12, 2009 12:54 PM

StO: You have my admiration for being willing to whip yourself through the details. Still, I blame the human agents.

donescobar: I'm disappointed that you've embraced the most ham-handed anti-Palestinian propaganda, though it's no surprise based on your other comments here. You might ask yourself why you and I and just about everyone else in America have seen that cherry-picked video of Palestinians celebrating on 9/11.

Regarding "blind adoration", please note: "almost universally", "some anger". There are no absolutes. But although I saw anger, it was the exception, not the rule—and I ask you to take a moment to consider just how extraordinary that is. Really.

pulaski: Excellent points all.

Posted by: John Caruso at January 12, 2009 01:21 PM

You are probably right, pulaski, it is probably pointless by now. Still, both sides have been driven crazy by what the rest of the world (and each side) did and didn't do to the other and to the land they both want.
1. 1939: Get out of Europe, Jew boy
2. 1941-45: A few do, many more die; nobody
wanted those who might have escaped
3. In brief moment of remorse, Euro-America
gives Jews "Palestine," and screw those living
there--instead of giving them the a piece of
land of their killers and tormentors
4. The Jews in Palestine, with minority
of decent Zionist losing, engage in the us-or them war with the Palestininans
5. The results are the human disaster we have now
6. For 60 years, the Arab states don't take in
Palestinians--let 'em languish in the camps--
remind you of anything?
7. So now, 2009, the Europeans shout : Get out of
Palestine, Jew boy (see #1)

So it is complicated by how and why we got here.
Both sides are crazy by now.
The Israel supporters blame only the Palestinians.
The Israel bashers blame only Israel.
Keep it that simple, then, and keep bashing.
It is pointless, given the bloodshed now, to point out that the history wasn't that simple.
In 1896, the Zionist dream-with pogroms and Dreyfus--didn't seem crazy.
In 1947, ditto. But why Palestine? Because it wasn't civilized, cultured European land.
Should the Jews have turned down the offer after WWI and the Holocaust? Yes, but look at their status, their history and psychlogy at that time.

Naw, better to keep it simple.
Back to Palin and the class war and Obama and faux change. There conversation is possible, isn't it?

Posted by: donescobar at January 12, 2009 01:43 PM

John Caruso (and Bernard, I suppose)
I see a much great similarity or parallel in the histories of both peoples, something you feel compelled to ignore or trivialize.
I think the Jews in Israel are doomed, and while they will have contributed substantially to their own demise fifty or ninenty years from now, others have a hand in this scenario.
This you and other progressives do not choose to acknowledge.
So be it. On other topics, we can still talk.

Posted by: donescobar at January 12, 2009 02:15 PM

donescobar: Yes, yes indeed all the above 1-7 BUT TODAY'S PARTY is brought out for OUR entertainment, bought by U&I at the low, low rate of 3 billion per year for X number of years. EZ payment plan=no financial pain. LOOK at it as 'layaway' and TODAY is 'pick-up-my-goody-saturday'. YOU PAID TO PLAY, game's on, ball's rollin'. AND YOU will throw a little more cash out of TODAY'S 350 billion give-a-way, just to be sure that ball KEEPS rollin' on. Its nice that YOU feel sorry for the Palestinians, but when one LOOKS AT THE BOOKS, I mean, really.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 12, 2009 02:23 PM

great (sic) = greater

Posted by: donescobar at January 12, 2009 02:24 PM

Much like Iraq, the problem IS George Bush not the Iraqis, again, in Afghanistan, the problem IS George Bush not the Afghanis. The same with Israel/Palestine the peoblem IS George Bush. (and WE PAY him)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 12, 2009 02:47 PM

As an American anti-zionist, I see a lot more use in trying to change my country's support of Israel and supporting economic and academic boycotts.

Exactly. Even if there was some parity between the two sides (which there isn't) the sensible course of action would be to use what little influence you have on the side your government is supporting.

And aside from the practical argument, those of us who are tax-paying Americans have a moral obligation to speak out against an application of our tax money that ends up killing hundreds of innocent people.

It's amazing how some people can't grasp this elementary point. It's the same when right-wingers accuse us of paying more attention to the crimes of our own government than to the crimes of Saddam Hussein or whatever bogeyman they happen to be terrified of at the moment.

Posted by: SteveB at January 12, 2009 04:22 PM

donescobar, your history of Zionism is a bit truncated and selective. I don't have time to take it apart just now, but I did want to notice this:

"I think the Jews in Israel are doomed ..." Well, as apologists for Israel have said for a long time (except when they said the opposite), Israel does not equal "the Jews." There are millions of Jews in the rest of the world, and if the earth were to open and swallow up the entire population of Israel, it wouldn't be the end of world Jewry. (And you've heard of the Samson option, haven't you -- the ultimate suicide bombing?)

As things are, a lot of Israeli Jews could emigrate -- quite a few of them could simply return to the US where they came from. (Given how many of the most vicious of the settlers came from the US, I'm not sure we should let them back in, but that's another question.) This isn't the 1930s. In what sense do you mean "doomed"? Israel is not in any real danger of being swamped with "Arabs." I haven't heard anything, even from Israeli propagandists, that really indicates that Israel is in danger of being attacked and destroyed from outside -- yet. For all of Hamas' rhetoric, they do not have the military power to do anything of the kind. This sort of apocalyptic yammering does no good to anyone.

Israel could have peace, could have had peace for the past couple of decades. Instead they've preferred to squash the Palestinians. The reason why Israel is getting so little sympathy is that they are the aggressors.

Posted by: Duncan at January 12, 2009 04:22 PM

1. Yes, it is necessary to focus on the "now," and I since 1982 it's been impossible for me to reconcile what Israeli governments have embarked on with the Israel I had hoped to see evolve after 1948.
2. That does not mean I don't try to understand how and why it happened, and what players and forces outside Israel played a role and what role Jewish history played and continues to play in this horror of today.
3. Understanding is understanding, it does not compel you to issue apologies.
4. But it seems to me, without history, and without looking at what the West, the USSR, the Arab nations and Palestinian leadership contributed, you get the shouting matches carried out on left and right blogs every time someone not with you makes an appearance.
5. Who suffers? The Palestinian people.
6. Who will suffer? The Jews of Israel (Duncan, pls. read: not all Jews, of which Israel has about 40+%, the USA another 40+%).
7. My point, again: their histories (the Jews very long, the Palestinians relatively short) have made both sides crazy. I cannot blame either side for that. But if you ignore that, all you get to do is hate one side or the other. And that's pretty much where we are. Ain't history grand?
8. I had hopes in the twenty years prior to 1967.
Who killed that and paved the way for the bloodbaths since? Well, wasn't a lone gunman, as best as I read history of the ME. But that's me looking at, with my own history and bent.
9. I've been screamed at, called a "antisemitic and self-hating Jew" by one side, an Israeli apologist by the other.
So, what will Michelle wear at the Inauguration?
Should the NY Gov appoint Caroline?
Heck, those swarthy Semites will just go on killing each other. They're not like us, are they?

Posted by: donescobar at January 12, 2009 05:09 PM

A few things to keep in mind are that the missiles fired into Israel by Hamas are not the reason for the Israeli aggression. The reason for the aggression is that Israel is committed to preventing a two-state solution. The invasion of Gaza was planned six months ahead of time and the cease fire was agreed to by Israel to give them time to prepare for the invasion. The U.S., the Quartet, and Israel do not want the Palestinians to have a legitimate state of their own as that would give the Palestinians bargaining powers that they don’t have now. So having an argument based on if Israel has a right to protect itself falls apart with the above considerations. Of course Israel has a right to protect itself but that is simply not what is happening here.

Posted by: Rob Payne at January 12, 2009 07:10 PM

My point, again: their histories (the Jews very long, the Palestinians relatively short) have made both sides crazy. I cannot blame either side for that. But if you ignore that, all you get to do is hate one side or the other.

This seems like a false choice (e.g. "Both sides are crazy" or "I hate one side.")

I think both Israeli officials and Hamas officials are acting in a perfectly rational non-crazy manner, if you remember that the main goal of most government officials is to increase their own political power. So Ehud Olmert decides, quite rationally, that an attack on Gaza will benefit his party in the upcoming elections, while the Hamas leadership quite rationally calculates that firing rockets at Israel will help strengthen their claim to be the sole legitimate representative of resistance to the occupation.
Does that mean that "all I get to do" is hate one side or the other? Of course not. Just as I can oppose my own government's actions without hating Americans, I can oppose the actions of the Israeli government without hating Israelis.

Posted by: SteveB at January 12, 2009 07:26 PM

Well, did Israel ever act to protect itself in the past? If so, when and why did such a stance--self-protection--turn into aggression? Or, was Israel only and always the aggressor in this bloody drama?
The answer(s) don't change what is happening here (as you say), but the "how come" of any answers matters, at least to some of us.
Is Israel the only player that, at least now, does not want a two-state solution?

Posted by: donescobar at January 12, 2009 07:27 PM

Yes, you can, but you don't live in Tel Aviv or in Gaza. I'm not sure you could, if you lived in either place.

Posted by: donescobar at January 12, 2009 07:31 PM

Donescobar: you're fighting strawmen. Is there anyone here who does not find fault with the Palestinians? I condemn suicide bombings as being, first, immoral and, second, stupid. I don't believe anyone here idolizes Hamas. Perhaps it would fit your narrative better if we did (I am borrowing this line from you), but we don't. So what's this "blind adoration" you're talking about? Another strawman.

I appreciate your (rare) empathy for the Palestinians, but your effort to spread the blame around is historically groundless. I can take you through the whole history of the region since 67 and show you how Israel thwarted every effort toward a peace settlement (there were at least half a dozen serious ones). One has to be seriously ignorant or biased to come to any conclusion other than Israel's relentless aim of dominating the region and pushing the Palestinians into Jordan and Egypt.

Yes at times the Palestinians have not helped their case. But the point I've been making time again is that that fact is entirely irrelevant to Israel's historical aims. In other words, whether Palestinians had behaved like angels or like monsters, Israel's overall strategy would have been the same: complete domination. Only the tactics would have changed.

So what is there to discuss? Yes, some people are bad on both sides. But that's not the issue. The issue is that Israel's long-term strategy is to get rid of the Palestinians. It's not a hysterical rant (a la Meshaal) but a 40 year strategy (or 60 year depending on how you count).

Some (like you) want to bury Israel already. Fine. I can see why you take shit from both sides. Now, I too believe the 2-state solution is probably dead, and with it so is Zionism. Israel and the US were the only two real players against a 2-state solution. (Did Abbas get rewarded for being the good lapdog of Israel?) But that does not mean the people in the region -- all the people in the region -- cannot find a way to coexist semi-peacefully somehow.

If you have any constructive idea we'd like to hear it. But bitterness alone is a waste of time.

On the subject of the US, I don't subscribe to the theory of "shared moral destiny" between the two countries. The history of the relationship does not support that thesis. Support for Israel is driven primarily by imperial considerations.
(It's mostly a post 67 thing.) On top of that a whole nexus of emotional ties creates a positive feedback loop, sure, but support for Israel is part and parcel of US goals of domination in the Middle East, with Israel its "white" colonial outpost. The US empire is dying, so things will change. Not because Obama or his successor will "see the light" but because the balance of power will change.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at January 12, 2009 08:00 PM

donescobar: Why or when did such a stance -- self-protection -- turn into aggression?

Assuming you are actually asking the question, my answer would be: Gradually, with succeeding episodes of aggression. But decisively, with the decision to make settlements outside the 1967 borders. Another turn of the dial in 1982, one that seems to have crossed a line for you.

Posted by: Nell at January 12, 2009 08:09 PM

I'm not sure you could, if you lived in either place.

There are Israelis who live in Tel Aviv and oppose the actions of the Israeli government without hating Israelis. For that matter, there are Israelis who oppose the actions of their government in Ashkelon and Sderot. There are Israelis who have been able to overcome hatred of Palestinians despite the death of family members in terror attacks.

It would be much, much harder to live in Gaza now and not hate Israelis. I doubt that I could manage it. Thinking about that strengthens my commitment to do what I can to bring about a peace in which hatreds that have built up might be overcome.

Posted by: Nell at January 12, 2009 08:19 PM

it seems like these mass murders for territory are part of the divine plan for the Israelites

Those conquests are probably myths invented by the Maccabees. Archaeological evidence shows a cultural continuum: the Israelites were the Canaanites were the - etc etc. And the area was still an Egyptian province at the time Moses' people were supposedly arriving in their Promised Land.

And now, if you believe Shlomo Sand, the Palestinians are most likely the descendents of the Judeans. More likely to be so than anybody else, at least.

Not that religion really has much to do with it. Zionism is a colonial project born out of the 19th century obsession with nationalism.

Posted by: RobWeaver at January 12, 2009 08:55 PM

For a few minutes, please let us remember the Gazans. Thanks.

"We will not go down (Song for Gaza)"

Posted by: Rupa Shah at January 12, 2009 09:56 PM

John, I'd NEVER seen that before. I'm amazing that anyone codified it like that and then let it leak out.

Well, you've got to admire the hard work and dedication that went into it.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at January 12, 2009 10:15 PM

You've never seen it? I'm stunned. That does it, then—I'm definitely going to put together the hasbara posting I've been mentally planning for the past few weeks.

I agree, it really does show some astonishing dedication and (more importantly) organization—which is the hallmark of Israeli activists on both sides of this issue, in my experience, and one of their greatest strengths.

Posted by: John Caruso at January 12, 2009 11:01 PM

1. Neil, AT 8:19 PM , is right, I think.
2. True, John Caruso, there is little basis for discussion. It was foolish of me to wade in one more time. It is a given among progressives, by now, that Zionism was what it became (say, after 1967)from the start (drive out the Palestinians)and that Israel alone thwarted any and all efforts for peace. (You might, however, sometime read some Socialist Labor--and other--Zionists from the 1920-30s to see how they envisioned a harmonious Hewish-Palestinian society.)
3. The "Peace Now" movement in Israel, quire substantial at one time, was, like German resistance what--mostly a myth?
4. I mourn for the Israel I had hoped to see thrive, and the best qualities among Jews that support(ed) it. But that's just my story, an old Social Democrat out of place on the Left on this issue and suspect (to put it mildly) among fellow Jews.
So be it.

Posted by: donescobar at January 12, 2009 11:18 PM

The PDF link is broken...? Do you have another copy?

Posted by: saurabh at January 12, 2009 11:21 PM

Donescobar--I think you're misreading John Caruso's point. Or maybe I am or maybe it's both of us. Anyway, I don't think he's interested in discussing in this post or this thread the entire history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and apportioning out the correct amounts of blame. Myself, if we do that I'd go along with much of what you say, though maybe quibbling a bit here and there. But that's not the subject here. The subject here are Palestinians (and also Israeli Jews) who've risen above all the reasons for hatred.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at January 12, 2009 11:31 PM

It's Nell.

But who's counting?

Posted by: Nell at January 12, 2009 11:32 PM

Nice touch about F-16s bombing empty buildings looking oppressive. Finding bodies underneath really looks bad.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 12, 2009 11:33 PM

donescobar: True, John Caruso, there is little basis for discussion.

I didn't say that. I said you've shown little inclination to engage in genuine discussion—as you have yet again with this response. Personally, I make a point of talking with supporters of Israel every chance I get (as at the protest on Saturday, when I spent the whole time under the white and blue flags).

saurabh: It's working for me. If you google "hasbara handbook" you'll see some more excerpts from it and might be able to find another full copy.

Posted by: John Caruso at January 12, 2009 11:42 PM

What Donald is gently suggesting, donescobar, is that it isn't all about the Jews of Israel. Or you.

Posted by: Nell at January 12, 2009 11:45 PM

Wow, John, I just glanced at the hasbara book. I think you're being really unfair to donescobar, even if he is maybe missing the point here. In his case what he says is all pretty clearly heartfelt. But by coincidence I was just emailing to Jon about someone at another blog who debates with this weirdly civil yet utterly dishonest style that the hasbara book recommends.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at January 12, 2009 11:45 PM

Coincidence, I meant to say, because I hadn't seen this book until you posted the link.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at January 12, 2009 11:48 PM


Donald Johnson- Yes, wise words.

John Caruso: You see, it's not about "Israel supporters," it's about what happened there, how and why, and what things in the past came to make a difference in the present.
Finally, something you, I suspect, do not get: It is time for Jews (everywhere) not to be dominated--in mind and action-by the Holocausr. Not to forget it, but not to let it control.
So--many Arabs, from the Mufti in WWII, to Nasser, to Ahmadinejad--shoved it down Jews' throats. And still do.
Maybe, to paraphrase what Blacks used to say, it's a "Jewish thing."
It may not touch a central nerve in you. Like the woman on Counterpunch, who can't understand why her Jewish companions in the Peace Movement won't join her in their Anti-Gaza protests. They hate what's happening there, but...
You don't get the "but." Or, choose not to.

Posted by: donescobar at January 12, 2009 11:56 PM

Quick addendum:
Signs or shouts at recent Gaza protestds:
"Hitler didn't do a good job." (Toronto)
"You need a big oven, that's what you need." (Ft. Lauderdale)
"Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas." (Amsterdam)
and others like these.

How much this represents of sentiments among Muslims or Palestinians, I don't know. But it's not just numbers thar really matter in how this stuff touches even those who hate what Israel is doing now?

Posted by: donescobar at January 13, 2009 12:08 AM

donescobar has a point, Israeli or Disporia the ONLY thing the world will say is "See what the Jews did". NO ifs, ands, or buts about that one.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 13, 2009 01:21 AM

Oh, donescobar, please: undocumented "shouts" and signs at demos? Why not go comment-section-diving? For every hateful expression dug up (even assuming the anecdotes are real), there's one from the ugly far reaches of the other side.

Numbers don't matter, after all, just the feelings of those who hate what Israel's doing right now? I'm sorry, that just sounds like reaching for an excuse to avoid doing anything.

If you hate what Israel's doing right now, then do something to help make it stop. Communicate with your members of Congress, write a letter to the editor. No one thinks hitting the street is the only option.

Posted by: Nell at January 13, 2009 02:41 AM

@Donald J: I know exactly the commenter you mean; I've been observing him for a while. He's at an advanced skill level, I'd say.

Posted by: Nell at January 13, 2009 02:44 AM

Finally, something you, I suspect, do not get: It is time for Jews (everywhere) not to be dominated--in mind and action-by the Holocaust.

People who believe that the lesson of the Holocaust is "Jews must be protected by all means necessary" are savages. They can't be argued with, they should be ignored or mocked.

People who don't believe it but merely use this proposition as an argument/ propaganda tool are despicable individuals.

With that clear and out the way, I don't see any harm with anyone being dominated in mind and action by the Holocaust.

Posted by: abb1 at January 13, 2009 04:32 AM

"...[T]he only victory lay in the far future, long after you were dead, that from the moment of declaring war on the Party it was better to think of yourself as a corpse."

George Orwell - 1984

Posted by: LT at January 13, 2009 06:42 AM

I don't think it can be the work of the Maccabees

Yeah, not the Maccabees, Josiah. Got my wires crossed. And that's according to Israel Finkelstein whose interpretation of the archaeological evidence, at least on the question of whether there was a major kingdom united under David and Solomon, is not uncontroversial. Though most of those with a problem with it have one or other of the obvious axes to grind.

Posted by: RobWeaver at January 13, 2009 07:59 AM

It is brutal what the IDF is doing in Gaza..

BUT!! ... the US armed forces have caused a million deaths in Iraq over the years!!!

So I wonder if the Israeli politicians/Govt really is the monster it is made out to be??

where is the outrage from the world about the American Govt... where are the UN resolutions? where are the sanctions/boycotts?

I am not defending the acts of the Israeli govt. but its actions seem like chump change when compared to what the Bush regime has done to afganistan and iraq and what Obama may do to Iran

Posted by: Sam at January 13, 2009 08:44 AM

Nell et al
But I have done things, from writing letters (AJC, Foxman, Congress...)to corresponding with a Palestinian who was in Israeli jails for years.
As a traitor to both "either-or" sides, I will continue, but my gripe here was an unwillingness to understand how the Israli mindset got to be where it is today and who, I gather from my readings, contributed and still contributes to making it worse.
That is no excuse for dropping bombs on civilians. It is not even an explanation.
So, that is it.
I do wish those who now, quite justifiably, depict the horrors inflicted on the bodies and flesh and minds of kids in Gaza had done the same thing when Israeli kids got blown to bits on buses etc. Instead, we get and got cold, flat phrases like "Of course, I deplore the violence used by Hamas..."
Maybe they'll just get tired. Both sides. Or, to paraphrase that great American, Curtis LeMay, when you kill enough of 'em, they'll stop.

Posted by: donescobar at January 13, 2009 09:19 AM

"We can’t sit by and watch Palestinian civilians killed year after year and do nothing. "

"We can't sit by and do nothing", is what politicians always say, right before they do something... that makes the situation even worse. It's like spraying gasoline on a burning house because you can't find any water. "What, you expect us to just stand here and watch it burn?"

Posted by: SteveB at January 13, 2009 09:40 AM

The immorality of suicide bombings in pizza parlors (which is what I meant) is self-evident. Do we really want to debate this?

The stupidity? I use the word in a technical sense, not a derogatory one. I am not saying Palestinians should capitulate. Far from it. But if you think suicide bombings have worked great for Palestinians, then you're going to have to explain how.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at January 13, 2009 10:30 AM

"we get and got cold, flat phrases like "Of course, I deplore the violence used by Hamas..."

I think that often this perceived coldness is just someone struggling in an American context to break through the notion that only the Arabs target civilians and getting impatient. Lawrence of Cyberia has a good post on this (Jan 11)--Israel's targeting of civilians.

I mean, what you find in 99 percent of mainstream American discussion of the conflict is one of two views--

A) The Palestinian terror groups are barbarians who target civilians. Period. Any attempt at even mentioning Israeli crimes or context is apologetics for Palestinian terror.

On a personal level, I've got a friend who takes exactly that position. It's hard, maybe impossible, to break through this and you kinda want to break out in curses.

B) Palestinian terror groups are barbarians who target civilians, but Israelis in their justifiable defense against these groups go too far and have inadvertently killed civilians and this just makes things worse. Plus the settlements are bad and in some hypothetical distant future there ought to be a two state solution.

That's it. Those are the two positions in American politics and the second one is regarded as pretty edgy. So it's in that context that you will often find lefties getting angry and adopting a somewhat abrupt tone when saying "Yes, suicide bombing is horrific, now what about all the Israeli crimes that don't get talked about and by the way, if you think those are all acccidental deaths when Israel kills civilians you are a moron." It's very difficult not to react like that.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at January 13, 2009 10:37 AM

Nell--Yep, taking a close look at your words you know who I mean. What's striking about that person is the way he has such detailed knowledge at his fingertips when it is info in Israel's favor or that makes Hamas look bad, but he is equally happy using the most superficial and false depictions of the conflict if that works in Israel's favor. This isn't somebody who's been misled by the press--he knows exactly what he's doing and he's good at it.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at January 13, 2009 10:51 AM

As a traitor to both "either-or" sides, I will continue, but my gripe here was an unwillingness to understand how the Israli mindset got to be where it is today

donescobar: Understanding the Israeli mindset is an interesting endeavor. Hey, as a long time student of South African history I find the story of the Afrikaners fascinating. And folks with conflicted views of their community and history make for interesting reading (eg Rian Malan's _My Traitor's Heart_). And understanding/emphasizing with Israeli fears and paranoia may be important if your goal is to communicate with Israelis and change Israeli public opinion. It may even be useful for figuring out how to frame arguments to American jews who are not in the anti-zionist minority.

but THAT IS NOT MY GOAL! I, and perhaps some others here, are interested in US government policy and American opinion. Without outside pressure or some magical appearance of parity of arms, all of that soul-searching that has to happen in Israel is not going anywhere.

Posted by: pulaski at January 13, 2009 11:47 AM

StO: You and Donald both seem to think sincerity is the key concept, but it actually has nothing to do with it. Point scoring is the diversion of an argument from its original course to a set of points the scorer wants to make, and the scorer can and usually will believe passionately in those points. The signatures of point scoring are 1) constant diversion of the conversation to talking points which either make Israel look good or her "enemies" look bad, and 2) the avoidance of genuine discussion—e.g. ignoring direct questions or significant counterarguments, or appearing to address them while actually immediately deflecting them to your own talking points.

Just because someone is using point scoring techniques doesn't mean they've had hasbara training (formal or informal), of course.

pulaski: Understanding the Israeli mindset is an interesting endeavor. Hey, as a long time student of South African history I find the story of the Afrikaners fascinating.

I'm afraid I must demand that you stop reading my mind. If you refuse, well, you know what will happen.

Posted by: John Caruso at January 13, 2009 12:14 PM

@donescobar: pulaski has said it best.

Here's what makes me unwilling to accede in this comment section to your demand for emotional equality.

Decades of discourse in the U.S. -- in media, from politicians, among ordinary people -- consisted of accounts in which only the Israeli Jews were discussed as fully human people whose basic goal was peace, while Palestinians and Israeli Arabs were either unmentioned, mere statistics, or demonic or debased stereotypes.

The "pieces process" advanced to the point where formerly sympathetic people came to believe that the Israeli government's goal really was to take all the land and drive out Palestinians and Israeli Arabs (during a period when it was literally impossible to find in any mainstream outlet maps depicting the actual situation).

Rebukes of anti-Semitism were near-instantaneous whenever criticisms of Israeli government actions were raised -- no matter how carefully and even-handedly they were couched. This tended to shut critics up, but our minds continued to work.

Each new atrocity by either party to the conflict made the silence more galling. Nothing permitted one to participate in respectable discussion but a near-exclusive focus on Palestinian crimes -- exactly as the imbalance in power grew and grew, along with the disparity in civilian deaths.

So, yes, the recitations became cold and ritualized. At this moment, as the scale and character of Israel's assault on defenseless people reaches a horrifying new high, John's post on the humanity and resilience of Palestinians he's met provokes from you the demand that we acknowledge our role in bringing Israeli public opinion to its current sorry state.

As far as I can see, the biggest contribution to that is the sense of impunity created by the certainty of U.S. support for U.S.-Israeli government policies bound to enourage the worst, most hard-line response from Palestinians.

Real reconciliation requires an active attitude of compassion and understanding. But such an attitude can't be brought forth on command, by accusations that we're ignoring the feelings of people who are currently cheering on slaughter.

Posted by: Nell at January 13, 2009 12:48 PM

John Caruso
Ye know, it's beginning to feel like a block meeting in the DDR I was honored to attend in 1973, while a guest in East Berlin.
No, I don't like what Israel is doing--and has been doing since Lebanon in 1982.
But, I cannot say that Israel alone is responsible for the position she is in today vis a vis the Palestinians. This does not absolve Israel from responsibility for her actions in these years, but many others contributed, including Arafat, to the position both sides are in today.
Doesn't matter to you, fine.
Also, what makes you think anyone should learn about "family values" from Palestinians or other folks in similar places? You think if they had the means, all but the religious fanatics, wouldn't seek the consumerist riches and comforts our mall-inspired populace (and other dread Western types) do?
A couple of experiences with warm, compassionate sets of families? I can set you up in rural Missouri or Iowa with those too. I hope the Palestinians will find peace, or grab it, and live safely and prosper, but they are not that different from the rest of us.
I think you and Bernard are just a touch condescending and romanticising on this topic.
So is much of the progressive community. It's not a "bad" thing, but you might want to be aware of how others could see it. The cultural conservatives aren't wrong about EVERYTHING.

Posted by: donescobar at January 13, 2009 01:08 PM

donescobar: As pulaski keeps reading my mind, you keep misreading it. But setting that aside and getting to the crux of the matter, I reject your core argument, and I suspect you do too—except in this case.

Were the blacks in the Bantustans just as flawed and imperfect as the Afrikaners who kept them there? And didn't the ANC use terrorist tactics? Yes, but that doesn't stop us from seeing clearly who was right and who was wrong.

Were the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto just as fallible and foibled as the German troops assigned to keep the boot on their necks? Yes, but that doesn't stop us from seeing clearly who was right and who was wrong.

You see the analogy, I'm sure. But only in this one case do you make a point of saying, over and over, that we must focus constantly on the history and circumstances of the persecutor and see how they mitigate the (extreme, continuing, inexcusable) crimes. We could certainly choose to investigate the mental state of white South Africans or research German feelings of humiliation after World War I, but ultimately it has nothing to do with the underlying moral questions. I don't reject your viewpoint in the least, but I do reject your feeling that it deserves constant recognition (along with your continual attempts to portray Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular in the worst possible light).

Also, you act as though your viewpoint is inherently worthy of intense study and make a point of hijacking every Israel-related thread to push it one more time, but as I already said (and you ignored), I find much more that's worth consideration in the viewpoints of people like Uri Avnery, Norman Finkelstein, Naomi Klein, Ilan Pappe, and so on—Jews who explicitly reject making excuses (directly or indirectly) for Israel's crimes, and who are willing to take a strong and principled stand against them.

Posted by: John Caruso at January 13, 2009 01:58 PM

donescobar writes: what makes you think anyone should learn about "family values" from Palestinians ... ? You think if they had the means, all but the religious fanatics, wouldn't seek the consumerist riches and comforts our mall-inspired populace (and other dread Western types) do?

Of course. What makes you think anyone should learn about fortitude from Anne Frank. You think if she'd grown up on the Upper West Side, she wouldn't have been just another spoiled teenage material girl?

I don't know how you do it.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at January 13, 2009 02:20 PM

John Caruso

I do not insist that "we must focus constantly" on the circumstances or history.
I do suggest we should take it into serious consideration.
And yes, it has to do with how we approach the underlying moral question. Surely you can see that.
Nowhere do I propose "constant..." I brought it up, yes several times, because it seems to be almost entirely ignored, which seems as bad as almost constant focus.

Bernard Chazelle

That really doesn't deserve an answer.

Posted by: donescobar at January 13, 2009 04:34 PM

I do not insist that "we must focus constantly" on the circumstances or history.

You focus constantly it, and you hijack every Israel-related thread here with the refrain that the rest of us should do so as well, are not doing so enough, etc, etc, etc, oh and by the way Palestinians cheered 9/11 and the Mufti luvved Hitler and they all read the Protocols of the Elders of Zion day and night because of their burning hatred of Jews and some protesters said some ugly stuff and did I mention Auden?

Excuse me for saying so, but the narcissism of this is just extraordinary—and as I keep saying, ESPECIALLY NOW, when dead Palestinian children lie like rag dolls across the Gaza Strip. And especially when you act as though your viewpoint requires unique recognition and repeated emphasis, despite the fact that thousands upon thousands of Jews (just a few of whom I've mentioned and quoted here) entirely disagree with you.

Finally, I'm sorry but not surprised to see you dodge the examples I gave as well as Bernard's well-posed analogy. But it's par for the course. I respect people who can have a reasoned debate on this issue and I welcome that kind of discussion, but the fact that you studiously avoid responding to substantive arguments shows that what you're doing here is little more than point scoring. Unless you actually address any one of the myriad questions and arguments you've ignored—from me or others—I won't be responding to you any more on this thread.

Posted by: John Caruso at January 13, 2009 05:41 PM

If you got questions, happy to engage. Start out with 3 or 4 or...and I'll be happy to answer.
You have not responded to most points I made either, but the heat of this topic often precludes give and take.
As far as the Jews who disagree with me, what do they disagree with? I don't mind a bit, but WHAT?

Posted by: donescobar at January 13, 2009 06:09 PM

donescobar. So you think you can just get away with offensive statements like this one: 'what makes you think anyone should learn about "family values" from Palestinians?'

This is rancid stuff, man. Do you even understand why?

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at January 13, 2009 07:35 PM

You can learn about "family values" from many, anywhere. Even Americans. Do you not understand?

Posted by: donescobar at January 13, 2009 07:44 PM

So again I'll ask: when you read about Anne Frank, do you go "Yeah, but you can learn fortitude from many, anywhere."

250 kids have been killed in Gaza in the last 2 weeks. Do you see why perhaps the Palestinian experience is worth listening to? Do you see why perhaps John's point is eminently valuable?

And do you see why your comment is so offensive as to be borderline bigoted?

I suspect you just don't get it.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at January 13, 2009 07:50 PM

Just in case, Bernard:
You are the one who made Palestinians into exemplars of "family values," compared to what--our soulless mall vultures? But Bernard, those values exist on a farm in Australia, a kibbutz in Israel, a boarding house in Berlin--there are individuals and groups who embrace and practice them here, there, anywhere--they don't depend on being Palestinian.
Just as there are "dead" and vicious people among them, the Israelis, the Swiss etc Family values are no specialty of one ethnic, religious or national entity. If we want to learn them, go to a family that exhibits them. Are there more or better family values in Palestine than in the UK or Norway the USA? You don't really know that, neither do I.
You are really trying to do or say something quite different. Come out with it, but bs about "family values?"

Posted by: donescobar at January 13, 2009 08:01 PM

Well, yes, we can learn from the Palestinian experience, as we could from sufferings of many others in the past. We usually don't, sad to say.
But that's a whole other story.
If all you're saying is that families/groups tend to help each other and be are compassionate during dark times, yeah, but whom are telling this to?

Posted by: donescobar at January 13, 2009 08:08 PM

@donescobar: One more try and then I'm done.

John in no way said or implied that Palestinians were the only practitioners of true family values in the world, simply that we could learn something from them. That they are people, who remain accessible as people, who have retained a remarkable amount of humanity and compassion considering what they have been subjected to.

If all you wanted to say was that John and Bernard, who have spent time among Palestinians in Palestine, are painting too rosy and romantic a view of Palestinians, why didn't you just start off saying that? The heart of your complaint is really here, and I wish you'd made it your first comment: You are really trying to do or say something quite different. Come out with it, but bs about family values?

This kind of mind-reading is very disruptive to an honest exchange of views; it's another form of putting words in someone's mouth. The only mind you can read is yours: Why don't you come out with it, and say what you are projecting as John's "real" point?

Posted by: Nell at January 13, 2009 11:10 PM

Fair enough, Nell.

John writes :
"we'ew so divorced from basic human empathy..."

1. Who's we? Many Americans? Most?
2. If we're divorced from bhe, when did this divorce occur?
3. And if we were once connected, how and why did we disconnect or allow ourselves to be disconnected?
Could be what he calls a "genuine" discussion.

Are people, in general, connected to bhe when experiencind hardship and suffering, as the Palestinians are today? Probably, even very likely, as other dark periods in other places brought out such empathy.
But hardly any of this is explored. Americans are called "dead" to empathy compared to Palestinians encountered. Could be right. But when, relatively speaking, they were not suffering as horribly as today, was the empathy as strong? Could it even be? And if Palestinians could choose, would they pick a comfortable and relatively selfish and self-centered life, as so many Americans? A case could be made this might be so, but who knows.
But even suggesting such things to Caruso and Chazelle is akin to bigotry. Please.

Posted by: donescobar at January 13, 2009 11:32 PM

Nell: Thanks. I'm also done, after this.

donescobar: But even suggesting such things to Caruso and Chazelle is akin to bigotry.

As bad as you've been about misreading my mind, you're worse about conflating what you think I think with what you think Bernard thinks. Believe it or not, we're two distinct individuals.

Could be what he calls a "genuine" discussion.

Yes, that could have been a good starting point. To be a genuine discussion it would have had to involve multiple exchanges of responses, each addressing the last, though.

Also, not all topics flourish under all styles of discussion, and your antagonism to the notion that Palestinians might show remarkable admirable qualities doesn't make me think a good discussion would have resulted no matter how it had started. How you can fail to be moved by what Amjad said to me, and how you can treat a posting like this as just a springboard for the same slate of talking points, is beyond me, honestly. But your hostility to Bernard's point about Anne Frank—which not only deserved an answer, but hit at the very crux of your argument—shows that that antagonism doesn't generalize beyond this one group.

Actually, in looking at the comments it looks like your very first response was along those lines...but I didn't look at the thread until after you responded to Bernard's first comment, which for some reason set you off on a round of insults and Palestinian-bashing (an approach you maintained throughout). Too bad.

Posted by: John Caruso at January 14, 2009 02:11 AM

Discussion--my foot.

You don't really want questions exchanged, points of view examined, enjoy a critical but civil back and forth. That seems clear.
The three questions on something you wrote might have been a great starting point.
What did you write?
Doesn't really matter, I suppose.

Posted by: donescobar at January 14, 2009 08:50 AM

donescobar -- you too might consider the possibility that one reason Palestinian suffering gets better press than Israeli suffering is that Israel is the aggressor.

Posted by: Duncan at January 14, 2009 10:52 AM

I agree, in part.
When it comes to aggressors--we got two, Israel and Hamas. Each wants to destroy the other.
When it comes to suffering--its 99% Palestinian, 1% Israeli.
The much despised (here) Jeffrey Goldberg has written an op-ed piece in today's NYT. What do you make of it, including the Hamas quotes?

Posted by: donescobar at January 14, 2009 11:13 AM

Tribal affinity is a very, very strong force, I must say.

Personally, I quit being a Jew long time ago and became a citizen of the world, cosmopolite, and anti-patriot. Well, today I was listening to the yesterday's DemocracyNow show on the radio and they played a clip from some anti-Israel protest by some Jews in New York (or Miami?). All of a sudden there's a lump in my throat and I'm almost crying. WTF? Absolutely nothing special there, ordinary people saying normal things; what's so touching about it? I dunno. It's odd.

Posted by: abb1 at January 14, 2009 12:30 PM

"What do you make of it, including the Hamas quotes?"

I'm no expert on Hamas, but my impression is that some people in Hamas are straight ideologues and some are more pragmatic--the latter being the type that talk about ten or even hundred year truces with the Zionist entity (or maybe they even say Israel, I don't know). I read about such people elsewhere. A hundred year truce is for all practical purposes a peace treaty--perhaps a very cold one, but the hope would be that this would be a stepping stone to something better. The people Goldberg spoke to (assuming he's not leaving something out) would not be the pragmatists. They would be the fanatics. You'll note how little we hear about Israeli racism and fanaticism in the NYT, but they obviously exist in large numbers too and that doesn't mean it's hopeless to think that Israeli thugs in the government couldn't be brought to a fair peace agreement eventually.

I'm also pretty sure I read an interview with some Hamas leaders several years ago in some radical journal that I found in a newstand and IIRC, though they were opposed to a Jewish state, they weren't talking about driving all Jews out. This is familiar territory. I'm slowly reading Shlaim's biography of King Hussein of Jordan and a couple of times already someone in the book (Abdullah and then one of Hussein's friends) favors absorbing Israel into Jordan and not driving out the Jews, but having them live under Muslim rule. You know, the good old days, from their perspective. Obviously that wasn't and isn't acceptable to Israelis and isn't going to happen, but I point this out just to say that some Arab "extremists" opposed to Israel's existence aren't genocidal thugs--they favor politicide, not genocide. Lots of politicidal people on both sides. If they recognize they can't achieve their dreams, sometimes they can be reasonable.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at January 14, 2009 01:24 PM

My proposal would be:
1. Give all Arabs in Israel full citizen status.
2. Allow return of a given number of Palestinians under the same status.
3. Arab states absorb a given number of Palestinians, also as full citizens.
4. All countries in area work together on rebuilding Gaza, connecting it to West Bank.
5. Given number of Jews live in Arab countries and in Palestine, as full citizens too.
6. Firing anything anywhere then would be dumb--you might hit your cousin or uncle.
7. Borders, after a couple years of this arrangement, might be a relative piece of cake.
Of course, ain't nobody gonna consider this.

Posted by: donescobar at January 14, 2009 01:36 PM

I suppose that when ones has under 20 stories of Israeli dead there's just not that much 'fill' in air time, unlike a "goldmine" of 1,000 death to report.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 14, 2009 03:06 PM

Oh, and there's also this:

I cannot blame either side for that. But if you ignore that, all you get to do is hate one side or the other. And that's pretty much where we are. Ain't history grand?

"Hate" is an empty word in this context, and evidence of bad faith on your part. I don't think I hate either Israel or Palestine. When I say that the US was the aggressor in Vietnam, for example, I don't say that because I hate the US. When Martin Luther King Jr. said that the US was the greatest source of violence in the world, did he say so out of hate?

Not that it matters. Talking about "hate" (or "love") only clouds the issue. Even if I did hate America, America was still the aggressor in Vietnam. Even if I were an anti-Semite, Israel is the aggressor in Palestine, with a horrifying history of violence and human rights violations. (I've been reflecting lately how the Israeli Shrecklichkeit in Gaza does distract attention from its other crimes. Even if Israel were in the right in Gaza, it would still have a lot to answer for.)

Posted by: Duncan at January 15, 2009 10:33 AM

That's an excellent set of points, Duncan. Just one addition:

Israel is the aggressor, as shown (among other things) by its consistent refusal to sustain truces and other peace agreements.

First and foremost of those other things (as I'm sure you had in mind) is the fact that it's Israel that's engaged in a decades-long project of confiscating Palestinian land. Removing that goal from the discussion and erasing the context it ineluctably dictates (Israel is the occupying power, Palestinians are the occupied, and their "aggression" is in fact resistance to the theft of their land) is always the first task of those who defend Israel, for obvious reasons.

Hamas is no more an aggressor in this situation than the Maquis in France or the ANC in South Africa.

Posted by: John Caruso at January 15, 2009 11:40 AM