Saturday, November 25, 2023
Speaking of Which
I started collecting this on Tuesday, mostly because I didn't want
to let the Stevenson piece go without comment. The Mishra, which could
still use some work, was also found in the Wichita Eagle that day.
I had much more to write about the Ryu Spaeth piece, only some of
which got tacked onto the footer section. Two points would have fit
only awkwardly, but let me take a brief stab at them here:
Most leftists are informed and defined by a core philosophical
principle -- that all people are fundamentally equal, and justice
demands that they be respected as such -- but the left isn't some
sort of religion or cult; it is a political tendency, effectively
a party, aiming to incrementally improving justice by recognizing
our fundamental equality. People who embrace this core principle
will join the left, but you don't have to adopt the right thinking
to align with the left. All you need is to find that your interests
would be better served by the advance of the left. That happens a
lot, especially with oppressed minorities. A bunch of things follow
from this (which I'd rather not have to spell out at the moment --
one of which is that Jews in America, where there is risk of
oppression, gravitate left, whereas in Israel, where they have
attained the power to oppress others, they trend to the right).
Most leftists in America have come to embrace nonviolence,
partly because we have come to realize that violence corrodes the
spirit and compounds the difficulties of furthering justice, but
also because it's more promising in our political system, which
in principle allows for popular reform -- even though the system
is heavily stacked against it. It is therefore tempting to raise
nonviolence as a moral absolute, to condemn all exceptions, and
to purge the left political movement of those who fall short of
our ideals. I am pretty close to being an absolute pacifist, but
even I have to admit that this would be self-defeating.
reasons: violence, especially in self-defense, is a universal
human instinct, one we may disapprove of and often regret, but
cannot totally deny, because in some circumstances it seems like
the only option for saving our humanity; throughout most history,
at least since the left became a distinct political force, the
only way change toward greater equality and justice could be
achieved was through violence (e.g., the great revolutions from
1776 to 1917); even where reforms have been achieved, they were
often conceded to hold back the threat of revolutionary violence.
Of course, we now more fully realize that our violence has a dark
side. But aren't there still situations where nonviolent change
is so completely closed off that only through violence can people
assert their humanity?
I don't think that we, in neurotic but still fundamentally liberal
America, can with certainty assert that people barely surviving in
Gaza have any real, viable options. Sure, one may still hope that nonviolent
means, like BDS, might persuade Israel to lessen its stifling grip over
its Palestinian subjects, but it may be that all the nonviolent protest
has achieved -- and it has been tried at least as often as violence --
has been to reaffirm the faith of right-wing Israelis that overwhelming
force will always prevail. Even before the rise of Smotrich and Ben-Gvir,
but accelerating at an alarming rate after they joined the Netanyahu
government, West Bank settlers had moved beyond their initial goal of
staking claim to land to terrorizing Palestinians, hoping to drive them
into exile. Israel's support for Azerbaijan's "ethnic cleansing" of
Nagorno-Karabakh sure looked like a dress rehearsal for Israel driving
Palestinians out of the West Bank.
While I personally believed that the revolt of Oct. 7 was
ill-considered, politically reckless, and morally hazardous,
their political and moral struggle was not mine to dictate or
to judge. So I saw no point in condemning what appeared to be
an act of desperation. Certainly not to make myself feel more
righteous in comparison. Even less so as it would lend comfort
to those who would take this act of violence and use as excuse
to strike back even harder. And that part took no imagination
on my part, as by the time I had heard the news, many Israelis
were already clamoring for massive revenge -- as could have been
expected, given that Israel's whole system of governing is based
on their capacity for inflicting overwhelming violence.
Similarly, I can hardly condemn Israelis for defending
themselves once the revolt broke out of Gaza. I would only point
out that the defense was complete, and should have ended, once
the attackers were rebuffed, and the border secured -- which
happened within 24 hours of the initial attacks. The war since
then, including some 40,000 tons of bombs Israel has dropped on
Gaza, cannot be considered self-defense. This bombardment is no
less than an act of systematic destruction and slaughter, an act
that can only be summed up in the word "genocide."
Israelis have disputed that word, but with independence in 1948
they established a formal caste system with distinct legal status
for Jews and Arabs, driving some 700,000 of the latter into exile,
expropriating their property, and forbidding their return. They've
also, building on the British model, regularly practiced collective
punishment, including indiscriminate killing. Those are two of the
three essential constituents of genocide. The third is the loss of
inhibition against killing, which has been happening continuously
since the 2000 Intifada and the 2006 loss of Gaza to Hamas, such
that the Oct. 7 revolt merely tipped the impulse into action, with
public statements to match. It is still possible that Israel's
leaders will come to second thoughts and rein their killing in,
but until they do, shying away from the term only encourages them
Much more I could write on this, but time to post on schedule
is running out.
Top story threads:
Israel: If you are at all unclear on how we got to the
revolt on Oct. 7 and the subsequent intensification of the Israeli
war against Gaza, start with this timeline:
Countdown to genocide: the year before October 7.
Ghada Ageel: [11-25]
While the world has abandoned Gaza, its doctors have done the opposite.
They are our heroes.
Michael Arria: [11-26]
Three Palestinian students shot in Vermont in apparent hate
Erin Banco/Nahal Toosi: [11-21]
US has sent Israel data on aid group locations to try to prevent
strikes: Which didn't exactly work, or did it?
Zack Beauchamp: [11-22]
The Israel-Hamas deal is not a real ceasefire.
Roger Cohen: [11-20]
Between Israelis and Palestinians, a lethal psychological chasm grows:
This "chasm" is real, but its symmetry is forced. One side has immensely
more power than the other to punish and/or to forgive, and as such has
responsibility for perpetuating the hostility.
Dave DeCamp: [11-22]
Biden admin worries the pause in Gaza will give journalists more access
to expose Israeli atrocities.
Richard Falk: [11-24]
When is 'a humanitarian pause' genocidal?
Abdallah Fayyad: [11-22]
Why Israel imprisons so many Palestinians: "150 Palestinian prisoners
are being released as part of Israel and Hamas's recent hostage deal. But
thousands more remain behind bars."
Joshua Frank: [11-19]
The dangers only multiply: "Could Israel's war on Gaza go
nuclear?" No surprise that at least one of Israel's more sociopathic
politicians suggested that it should, but common sense argues that
it won't: mostly because the target is too close to risk the nuclear
fallout. On the other hand, it's sobering to read this line: "Indeed,
25,000 tons of bombs had already been dropped on Gaza by early
November, the equivalent of two Hiroshima-style nukes (without the
radiation)." One thing that's not stopping Israel is scruples about
Sophia Goodfriend: [11-24]
Israel's 'thought police' law ramps up dangers for Palestinian social
media users. The amendment was first drafted a year-and-a-half
ago, but only passed in the current panic.
Jonathan Guyer: [11-22]
The Israel-Hamas hostage deal, explained: "This is a deal that
has essentially been on the table for about a month," i.e., well
before Israel's ground offensive.
Tareq S Hajjaj: [11-25]
A 'temporary ceasefire' means realizing how much we've lost.
Sam Hamad: [11-18]
Understanding Hasbara: Israel's propaganda machine.
Benjamin Hart: [11-22]
How long could the Israel-Hamas ceasefire last? Interview with
Gershon Baskin ("an Israeli peace activist who played a key role in
the freeing of Gilad Shalit" in 2006), who plainly states: "There is
no scenario where the war ends with Hamas in control of Gaza."
Ellen Ioanes: [11-24]
The controversial phrase "from the river to the sea," explained.
Amira Jarmakani: [11-20]
The ADL is leading the attack against free speech on Palestine.
Caitlin Johnstone: [11-13]
Israelis keep hurting their own PR interests by talking.
Fred Kaplan: [11-22]
One factor behind the Gaza cease-fire deal: A massive shift in the US
relationship with Israel.
Kathy Kelly: [11-24]
Tunnels for safety and tunnels for death.
Jen Kirby: [11-22]
How Qatar became a key broker in the Israel-Hamas deal.
Daniel Larison: [11-22]
The warfare of starvation: "The siege will kill Palestinian
civilians and by doing nothing, the US is supporting it."
Lauren Leatherby: [11-25]
Gaza civilians, under Israeli barrage, are being killed at historic
pace: "In less than two months, more than twice as many women and
children have been reported killed in Gaza than in Ukraine after two
years of war." Also see the Corey Robin tweets,
John Mueller: [11-21]
What if Israel didn't set out to 'destroy Hamas'? "The case for a
limited response after the October 7 attacks."
Orly Noy: [11-23]
What Israelis won't be asking about the Palestinians released for
hostages: "The list of Palestinians slated to be exchanged for
Israelis should provoke reflection over the role of mass imprisonment
in the occupation."
Taha Ozhan: [11-25]
The West will pay a heavy price for expending its credibility on
Matthew Petti: [11-20]
Media amplified US, Israeli narrative on Palestinian deaths:
"Following senior officials' lead, many prominent Western news
outlets started linking Hamas to hospitals in Gaza."
Mitchell Plitnick: [11-24]
Israel wants to pull the U.S. into a regional confrontation, but
Biden remains reluctant.
Mouin Rabbani: Two pieces that Norman Finkelstein
Thoughts on the truce; and
Israel has lost the plot: This provides a cogent explanation of
why "the elimination of Hamas is unattainable" -- not exactly the one
I was thinking of, but good enough for all practical purposes. Given
that the root-and-branch elimination of Hamas is doomed to failure,
serious thought should be given to how to turn Hamas into a force for
reform: basically, how to domesticate it. Israel has long complained
about not having a "partner for peace," but Israel never wanted one
(else they would have made an effort). Also see this [11-07] discussion
between Rabbani and Finkelstein:
Gaza one month later.
Mohannad Sabry: [11-22]
Israel's killing of journalists and denial can't hide the horrific
toll in Gaza.
Tom Suarez: [11-26]
The masterful propaganda of 'deadliest day for Jews since the
Holocaust': "Israel and its supporters are engaging in Holocaust
revisionism to justify its genocidal attack on Gaza."
Jeffrey St Clair:
Struan Stevenson: [11-20]
Iran's 'axis of resistance' to Israel begins to crack. Author
is a former member of the European Parliament (from Scotland), and
a former chairman of a group called Friends of a Free Iran. This
piece, like his previous [10-17]
Iran's tyrannical mullahs created the Hamas monster, is vivid
and vitriolic propaganda aimed at pinning the Oct. 7 Gaza revolt
on Iran, for reasons known only to the diabolical mullahs. Much of
what Stevenson writes is patently false, and much more is simply
hard to believe. Iran didn't invent Hamas, and had essentially no
interest in the Palestinian struggle until the 1990s, when Israel
turned on Iran, figuring that Iraq could no longer be painted as
an existential threat, and that Iran would play better with the
Americans, who still nursed a grudge over the 1980 hostage thing.
Even so, there's no credible accounting of how much support Iran
has ever provided to Hamas. Stevenson's claim that "the mullahs
have provided hundreds of millions of dollars annually to Hamas"
is especially mind-boggling. (That's more like the levels of arms
the US supplies to Ukraine and Israel.) Even if Iran is using its
"proxies" just to stir up trouble, it would be much easier and
cheaper to negotiate some kind of détente, or better still a
normalization of relations, which would allow them (and others)
the opportunity to enjoy peace, instead of just beating them
with sticks like like Mojahedin-e Khalq (the Israel-supported
terrorist group Stevenson is allied with).
Philip Weiss: [11-26]
Weekly Briefing: The Israeli perspective -- on genocide -- dominates
Oren Ziv/Yotam Ronen: [11-22]
Carrying the pain of loss on October 7, these families are pleading
for peace: That the families of hostages have been the loudest
and most visible opponents of the war against Gaza reflects, I think,
two deeper truths. One is that sympathy gives them a forum to speak
publicly where most Israelis (and all Palestinians) are intimidated
into silence. The other is that they realize that Israel will gain
nothing by prosecuting the war, while they stand to lose their
families for no good reason.
Trump, and other Republicans:
Thomas B Edsall: [11-22]
The roots of Trump's rage.
Eric Levitz: [11-24]
Trump as a plan for massively increasing inflation. Clever to
note that while Republicans hammer away at Biden for inflation --
when he wasn't threatening to beat up Teamsters, Markwayne Mullin
was lying about diesel prices (see [11-22]
GOP Senator swiftly fact-checked after whining about gas prices
for his massive truck) -- aren't solutions, and in many ways
only make the problem worse. Still I'm not convinced that Trump's
10% across-the-board tariff idea is such a bad one: true it will
raise consumer prices, and it may not stimulate much new domestic
production, but it should reduce the trade deficit (which I've
long taken to be a bad thing, although economists tend to argue
otherwise). I also doubt that another round of Trump tax cuts will
have much effect on consumer price inflation -- although it will
undoubtedly lead to inflated asset values (something economists
refuse to count as inflation). On the other hand, no mention here
of antitrust (which Trump will presumably cripple, unless he can
use it vindictively to attack his political enemies), which if
enforced should push prices down, and if neglected will allow
companies to become more predatory. Or of more deregulation,
which helps unscrupulous companies increas profits both through
higher prices and by passing costs on to the public (pollution,
which includes the effects of global warming, is the most famous
of these externalities). Still, Republicans do have one effective
tool to quell inflation: recession. That's cure much worse than
the disease it claims to treat. It's also the end-state of the
last three Republican presidencies. Whereas this and the last two
Democratic presidents (but not Carter) ended up with sustained
economic growth, and (more modest) wage growth. Maybe a little
inflation isn't such a bad thing.
Zachary Petrizzo: [11-16]
Trumpworld is already at war over staffing a new Trump White House.
Peter Wade: [11-26]
Christie blames Trump for increasing antisemitism and Islamophobia:
To quote him: "Intolerance toward anyone encourages intolerance toward
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Branko Marcetic: [11-22]
Voters are leaving Joe Biden in droves over his support for Israel.
Harold Meyerson: [11-20]
Can Biden and the Democrats survive their divisions on Israel-Palestine?
He offers some suggestions, mostly referring back to the 1968 rift
over the Vietnam war, which isn't terribly relevant. Johnson's big
liability in 1968 was that he and his administration had repeatedly
lied about the war, falling way short of their promises, inspiring
no confidence in their future, in a war that had enormous personal
impact on millions of Americans. Consequently, Johnson/Humphrey were
opposed by prominent Democrats. On the other hand, no major Democrat
is going to stand up against Biden, especially not for showing
excessive fealty to Israel. Maybe there's an enthusiasm slump as
the gap between the Democratic Party leadership and base expands,
but party regulars are almost certain to rally against Trump. The
volatile center, on the other hand, may not be able to articulate
the problem with Biden's wars in Ukraine, Gaza, and (heaven forbid)
Taiwan, but the bad vibes could sink him.
Steven Shepard: [11-25]
The polls keep getting worse for Biden.
Daniel Denvir on points above:
If Democrats are suddenly worried that Biden will lose to Trump --
as they should be -- the rational thing to do would be to 1) make
another, more popular Dem the nominee and 2) move the party away
from its pro-genocide position. Blaming the left for saying genocide
is bad won't work
Also from Nathan J
I'm interested in the theory of how Biden is supposed to turn his
numbers around, given that:
(1) The main issue is his age and he gets older every day, and
(2) Humanitarian crisis in Gaza will worsen as disease and starvation
set in, and it is causing young Dems to hate him
Legal matters and other crimes:
Around the world:
Eileen Crist/Judith Lipton/David Barash: [11-24]
End the insanity: For nuclear disarmament and global demilitarization.
Tom Engelhardt: [11-26]
A slow-motion Gaza: But isn't it a little soon to turn "Gaza"
into a metaphor for the "hell on Earth" that global warming is
James Fallows: [11-23]
Why Charlie Peters matters: The founder and editor-in-chief of
Washington Monthly for 30 years (1969-2000) has died, at 96.
I subscribed to the journal for several years early on, possibly
from its inception, and found it to be seriously informative and
generally sensible about policy workings in Washington. I was rather
dismayed later on to find that Peters had coined the "neoliberal"
term, though there may be an argument that what Peters had in mind
differed significantly from the disparaging use of the term lately --
see Paul Glastris: [01-08]
Need a new economic vision? Gotcha covered. Last thing I recall
reading by Peters was a sad lament about his home state of West
Virginia flipping Republican.
Eric Levitz: [11-22]
OpenAI was never going to save us from the robot apocalypse.
Robert Lipsyte: [11-21]
Farewell to the New York Times sports department: "Or should
it be good riddance?"
Pankaj Mishra: [11-18]
The west never had a chance at winning over the world: Talks
about the phrase "the global south," and how it's come to the fore
since Russia's invasion of Ukraine tightened the bond between the
US and Europe, while estranging both from the rest of the world
(now known as, the Global South). It surely can't be a surprise
that the renewed and militant union of Europe and the US (aka, the
West) would be viewed suspiciously by the Global South? Mishra notes
that "the Biden administration failed to enlist any major country of
the Global South in its cause," i.e., economic war against Russia,
ostensibly to defend Ukraine. He adds: "Even worse, the conflict in
Gaza may now have mortally damaged Western power and credibility in
the Global South."
Olivia Nuzzi: [11-22]
The mind-bending politics of RFK Jr.'s spoiler campaign.
He's having a moment as a free agent presidential candidate,
partly because he might appeal to scattered, disaffected groups
that otherwise are stuck in the two-party straitjacket; possibly
also on the 60th anniversary of the assassination that turned
his family into a cult memory project. Most of his appeal will
probably blow over, because the one group he has no appeal for
is moderate-tempered centrists. That leaves extremists who hate
both parties, and who don't care who wins. How many of them are
However, note that a recent a recent
Harvard/Harris Poll, which shows Trump over Biden by 6% in a
two-way matchup, gives Kennedy 21% of the vote in a three-way,
increasing Biden's deficit to 8%. In a five-way with West (3%)
and Stein (2%), Trump loses 1%, Biden loses 2%, Kennedy 3%.
St Clair (link above) comments: "If your Lesser Evil countenances
the bombing of hospitals and the slaughter of nearly 6000 children
in a few weeks, don't you know that you can count me out."
Andrew O'Hehir: [11-26]
My mother, the debutante Communist: An American family story of love,
loss and J. Edgar Hoover.
Nathan J Robinson: [11-21]
Can the left reclaim "security"? A review of Astra Taylor's new
book, The Age of Insecurity.
Douglas Rushkoff: [11-25]
'We will coup whoever we want!': The unbearable hubris of Musk and
the billionaire tech bros. Reviews some books, starting with
Walter Isaacson's Musk.
Anya Schiffrin: [10-13]
Fixing disinformation online: "What will it take to regulate the
abuses of Big Tech without undermining free speech?"
Katharine Q Seelye: [11-19]
Rosalyn Carter, first lady and a political partner, dies at 96:
I don't really have anything to say about her, good or bad, but
thought I should note her passing in the plainest way possible.
While trawling through the NY Times obituaries, I also noticed:
I was surprised not to find an obituary there for the late
Larry Fink (82, Mar. 11, 1941-Nov. 25). For some images, start
Ryu Spaeth: [11-20]
Israel, Gaza, and the fracturing of the intellectual left.
Title makes this seem like a big deal, but it's really just comes
down to a couple pieces in Dissent between Joshua Leifer
and Gabriel Winant, with side glances to a couple more journals
(n+1, Jewish Currents). This sort of thing happens
every now and then, usually when someone who has long identified
with the left freaks out and turns on his former comrades. Back
in 1967, I used to read a journal called The Minority of One,
which was very strongly opposed to the American war in Vietnam . . .
until June 1967, when the editor flipped to support Israel in its
Six-Day War, and forgot about everything else. Something similar
happened with Paul Berman after 9/11. There have been other cases
of leftists turning hard right, but these two (presumably Leifer,
too) insisted that they were being consistent, and others in the
left had gone haywire. They created some noise, but had little if
any impact on the left, which always recovered with a principled
examination of the facts.
This article quotes Arielle Angel (Jewish Currents):
"What we are watching is a full reactionary moment among many
Jews, even some left-wing Jews, because they feel there was no
space on the left for their grief." That doesn't seem like too
much to ask. The left is fueled by indignity over injustice,
and injustice is often first experienced as grief. But few on
the left would grant anyone, even Jews (whose suffering has left
an indelible mark on most Euroamerican leftists), an exclusive
right to grieve, let alone a license to channel that grief into
a force that strikes out at and inflicts grief on others.
Most of us realized immediately that's exactly what Israel's
leaders had in mind. They saw the Oct. 7 revolt not as a tragic
human loss but as an affront to their power, and they immediately
moved to reassert their power, with scarcely any regard for more
human losses (even on their own side). Over six weeks later, as
threats of genocide were turned into practice, we need hardly
debate that point.
Glenn Thrush/Serge F Kovaleski: [11-25]
Stabbing of Derek Chauvin raises questions about inmate safety.
Weren't there already questions? If not, why do police interrogators
brag about how treacherous life in prison will be?
Jen Wieczner: [11-22]
Behold the utter destruction of crypto's biggest names.
Here are a series of tweets from
Corey Robin (I'm copying them down because the original format
is so annoying; the chart matches the Leatherby piece above, so
that is probably the uncited source here):
1/ "Israel's assault is different. Experts say that even a
conservative reading of the casualty figures reported from Gaza show
that the pace of death during Israel's campaign has few precedents in
2/ "Conflict-casualty experts have been taken aback at just how
many people have been reported killed in Gaza -- most of them women and
children -- and how rapidly. It is not just the unrelenting scale of
the strikes . . . It is also the nature of the weaponry itself.
3/"'It's beyond anything that I've seen in my career,' said Marc
Garlasco, a former senior intelligence analyst at the Pentagon. To
find a historical comparison for so many large bombs in such a small
area, he said, we may 'have to go back to Vietnam, or the Second World
4/ "Modern international laws of war were developed largely in
response to the atrocities of World War II."
The comments range from stupid to facetious ("It is morally
appalling that Hamas decided to start a war with a country that
can mount such a powerful air assault, . . . All those tunnels
& not one bomb shelter").
Corey also offered a tweet on the Ryu Spaeth article I wrote
too much (but not enough) about above:
Everyone's pissed about this piece but I think it has two virtues. 1)
It gives a fair, full hearing to the anti-Zionist side. 2) It reveals,
inadvertently, the extent to which Zionist progressives depend on
debates from 100 years ago. I'll take the win.
One more point I might as well make here, as I didn't consider it
appropriate above, is that this article is only of interest to those
on the left who are in close proximity to people with a deep psychic
identity connection to the very old Zionist left (the romance of the
kibbutzim) and/or the trauma of the Holocaust. The Oct. 7 attack hit
these people so hard that they suspended their critical facilities,
losing track of the context, and therefore unable to foresee the
Most of us immediately recognized the context that led to the
revolt, and understood that the response of Israel's leaders would
be genocidal. Hence, no matter how much we may or may not have
grieved for the immediate victims of the revolt, we understood
that their deaths would soon be dwarfed by Israel's vindictive
reassertion of their overwhelming power.
It's worth noting that while such reactions are unusual on the
American left, they are very common in Israel. The best example
is the long-running Peace Now bloc, which formed after the 1982
war on Lebanon went sour. Ever since then, they have never failed
to support initial Israeli military outbursts (e.g., 2006 in Gaza
and Lebanon, and the many subsequent Operations in Gaza), although
they've almost always come to regret those wars. Israelis, even
ones with liberal and/or socialist temperaments, are conditioned
to rally under crisis to support the state's warriors, and the
national security state pulls their triggers whenever they want
to strike out. It's practically an involuntary reflex, even among
people who must know better.
It's great credit to
Jewish Voice for Peace that they didn't fall for this triggering.
Regarding Larry Fink, I posted the following comment on
I met Larry several times. Longest talk we had was mostly about jazz,
in the car on the way to a memorial "meeting" for his mother. He took
a lot of notable photographs of jazz musicians. Liz had one framed, of
Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald sitting together in a table in a
club somewhere. On 9/11, he called Liz, and told her he was thinking
about rounding up some fowl for a "chickens come home to roost" photo,
echoing the famous Malcolm X quote. He was living on a farm in PA at
the time, but I don't recall whether he had his own chickens, or
whether he ever took that photo. But of the myriad reactions to 9/11,
his was one of the smartest. (Or maybe I thought so because I was
already thinking about the same quote.)
Ask a question, or send a comment.