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Shameless Self-promotion Sunday #33

Welcome to the first Shameless Self-promotion Sunday of 2009.

You know the deal. What have you been up to in the past week? Write anything? Leave a link and a short description for your post in the comments. Or fire away about anything else you might want to talk about.

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  1. Nick Manley -- Classical Liberal Nightmare

    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/01/20091423291426814.html

    Let us have a moment of silence for young Gazan children. They were the victims of a conflict they really bear no responsiblity for. Surely, we can all agree on that; if not on mourning the death of senior Hamas leaders.

  2. Aster

    I very much second Nick’s motion for a discussion on these issues.

    I feel terribly torn myself. There’s a protest against the Gaza attacks being held tomorrow, and I’ve spent all week internally debating on whether to attend. I would very much like to hear Charles’ opinion.

    Taken in themselves, the Israeli attacks contain enough nastiness that I am more than willing to condemn them. Some aspects may be narrowly targeted, but the ghettoisation of Palestine as a whole is an inexcusable atrocity. There are no good reasons for taking other people’s livelihoods away because you have the bulldozers and tanks. And there’s plenty of evidence of racism, dehuminisation, and cruelty by Israeli forces- to the level where it’s obviously structural.

    On the other side, it is too often glossed over that Palestinian culture is patriarchal, repressive, and brutal. Hamas and suicide bombers are just the louder and more immediate expression of a deeply closed and unfree society, one which is not only rife with anti-semitism but a prison for its own members. I can’t ever forget the fact that as a queer person I would never be allowed to exist, certainly not in freedom, in such a society- occupation or no occupation. Israel be contrast at least allows for protest and a relatively large degree of freedom and openness. The anarchists I know who wish to support the Palestinians don’t seem to understand that their fate would be under Hamas or its equivalents.

    But then again, there’s a lot to dislike about Israeli society- not only its crimes against Palestinians (or its statism), but an always troubling component of religious nationalism which is growing worse and worse and (much like in America) threatening to overwhelm the liberal and secular elements of the Israeli polity. I don’t see any difference in principle between Kahane and Islamists or Christian fundamentalists.

    What troubles me personally is the discourse surrounding the whole thing. A large portion of the centre-right press seems oblivious to Israel’s quite tarnished human rights record. But the left press seems to endless explain away not only Palestinian atrocities but more important the deeply oppressive nature of its culture internally, and to reduce the entire issue to a crude equation of Israel=America=colonialism=bad. Neither approach makes much sense and neither is very consistent with the larger value-commitments of each side of the debate. And while I think it is true that many people play the anti-semitism card to silence debate on a rational issue, it’s also the case far too much of the discussion (on several sides) does indeed sound a great deal like warmed over anti-semitism, and Israel is routinely singled out while a hundred other regimes- including the Palestinian leadership- with significantly worse histories of abuse are treated with blind eyes and excuses.

    I’d be glad to protest the Gaza attacks if I saw equally public protests about practically everything done in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia (for instance). Until then I don’t know where to stand- I don’t see a clear approach to take when a semi-free, semi-open society oppresses and sbuses an unfree and closed society which would clearly be worse if it had greater power. Perhaps it only makes sense to protest democracies which can be moved by public opinion in the first place, but my impression is that most people doing the protesting are opposed on principle to talking about indigineous oppression and tyranny seriously, just as the centre-right could care less about seriously discussing neo-imperialism and colonialism.

    And in the back of all this, the current fashion for bashing Zionism (which I don’t feel much better about than any other nationalism) is letting all sorts of far right creatures slither repackaged anti-semitism back into respectability. And if there’s one thing I don’t want to do it’s give the slightest encouragement to these creeps. I have trouble believing how careless today’s Left is becoming on that issue- surely this is a place to carefully beware of structural racism if ever there was one.

  3. wombatron

    Posts about axiomatic libertarianism, the Forums of the Libertarian Left, and some musings on the ontological status of human action at TechnoEudaimonia.

  4. David Z

    My post, The Problem of Oligopoly made it onto Strike-the-Root last week; that was a first for me.

  5. Nick Manley

    The left does seem to reduce all Palestinian atrocities to ill effects of occupation without considering how native ideas might play a role too. The vulgar hawkish right tends to whitewash the complexity of moral questions concerning warfare. I am inclined to give Objectivists a pass, but I am not sure all of them are nuanced about it. I’d say Adam Reed has said some provocative nuanced things about these issues. On the other hand, the ARI Institute has some really vulgar pro-war material.

    To quote one:

    “Israel Should Wage War on Palestinians By David Holcberg

    Results from a recent poll indicate that 77 percent of Palestinians support their government’s kidnapping of an Israeli soldier and that 60 percent support the continued rocket fire from Gaza into Israel–this despite Israel’s withdrawal of its troops and removal of its citizens from Gaza just a few months ago.

    Israel should declare and wage war not only against the Palestinian leadership but also against the Palestinian people. The inevitable deaths of a few truly innocent Palestinians should not stop Israel from doing whatever it takes to eliminate its enemies; any deaths of innocents would be the moral responsibility not of Israel but of the guilty majority of Palestinians that seek to destroy it.”

    http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=12759&newsivctrl=2582

    I’d say that some liberal minded people standing up for Palestine right now are not specifically pro-Hamas. The politics of the territories are more complex then the above makes it sound. Hama’s main rival, Fatah, is corrupt but secular. Incidentally, it favors a more peaceful end to the conflict. That said, it’s a repressive organization too.

    See: http://www.reuters.com/article/newsMaps/idUSL926295820080730

    Adam Reed made a provocative case for a liberal occupation that might interest some minarchists reading this. The anarchists will be horrified, but that’s to be expected ( :

    “Gideon,

    I think that we disagree less than you seem to think. When the opportunity to impose a proper occupation on the territories first arose after 1967, it was stymied by a pragmatic compromise among the various religious and secular collectivists intent on establishing what was eventually established: a regime under which the RZs were free to expropriate land from resident Arabs, to realize their supernaturalist goal of “redeeming the Holy Land that God gave into the exclusive possession of the Jews.” There was never any attempt to establish a government that could protect the individual rights of the Arab residents – whether by extending the protection of Israeli law to them, or in any other manner – because that would have impeded the RZ project of “redeeming the Land.”

    In Japan, it took 7 years of an occupation that enforced equal individual rights before the Japanese realized that a government which protects individual rights was what they wanted for themselves. In the Territories, no such government was ever imposed; the result has been, predictably, that the resident Arabs are backing whomever they believe has the best chance, however slim, of getting rid of the RZ lunatics expropriating their land and water and killing them and their children at random. I agree with you that the only solution that is still available is to extend the equal protection of the laws of the State of Israel to all inhabitants of all territory under Israeli control. But that would require effective restraint of Israel’s own religious lunatics first – and under the current political system the chances of that happening are nil.

    The current situation in and around Israel demonstrates the consequences of Pragmatism: of compromising with religious lunatics within one’s own country – and then trying to get rid of the mess by means of compromise with external lunatics empowered by the consequences of the first compromise. The only real solution would be for secular Israelis to stop compromising with either set of lunatics, and start using those secular principles they admire so much when they look at the original Enlightenment ideals of America.”

    http://www.dianahsieh.com/cgi-bin/blog/view.pl?entry=877605386465040096

    My criticism of the left is similar to Aster’s. It’s not only about colonialism. The left reproduces the collectivist nationalist categories that fuel the conflict in the first place. If all Israelis and Arabs in the area were secular individualists, then the chances of this kind of conflict would have been less. The tribalist mentality is clearly part of the problem here. It’s the basis for both Jewish fundie and Islamist attitudes. My problem with the statist left’s perspective is that it seems to see a “solution” in creating another state with East Jerusalem as its capital. In my own family, this has been voiced in terms of Arab demands. It’s simply not viable to support state building on the implicit basis of ethnicity based claims to exercise authority over a geographical area. The issue should not be Jews vs Arabs. That is the framework that must be transcended. Unfortunately, the nationalist right doesn’t always have a better understanding of this — if at all.

  6. Aster

    I’ve decided to attend the protest. What decide me is a set of videos of a lecture by Norman Finkelstein on Znet.

    But ONE word endorsing Hamas, or one hint of anti-semitism, and I’m leaving. And if any national anarchists try to join in- well, they have a right to their own freedom of assembly, and I have a right to identify fascists for what they are, and will not do it politely.

  7. Nick Manley -- Classical Liberal Nightmare

    My my, Aster. You get around. You’re on Radgeek one second and reading what Carson calls statist goos goos at Z next ( :

    Just teasing! My dad gets Z. They have some good material, but I haven’t read much Norman Finkelstein. I do know who he is though.

  8. Aster

    ‘Statist goos goos’? Pardon?

  9. Kal

    I’ve been blogging lazily recently, but I’ve got a round-up of much of the best stuff other people have written on Gaza here.

    I want to respond to some things from Aster. I’ll try to stay polite.

    On the other side, it is too often glossed over that Palestinian culture is patriarchal, repressive, and brutal.

    Isn’t this more than a little essentialist, in a way that’s especially problematic when applied to a colonized population? Why is Hamas rather than Mahmoud Darwish the representative of the way Palestinian culture is?

    I’d be glad to protest the Gaza attacks if I saw equally public protests about practically everything done in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia (for instance).

    It makes a real difference to our responsibilities, here in the US, that ‘our’ government is backing Israel to the tune of billions of dollars, in way that is qualitatively different from its relationship with any other country in the Middle East, allies included. Even were this not the case, there is absolutely nothing wrong with an activist choosing to spend time and energy on a particular injustice without spending equal time and energy on every comparable injustice.

    Until then I don’t know where to stand- I don’t see a clear approach to take when a semi-free, semi-open society oppresses and sbuses an unfree and closed society which would clearly be worse if it had greater power.

    The premise that Gaza would be “worse” absent Israeli occupation is entirely unsupported and more likely than not the opposite of the truth. Hamas’ social policies are not supported in polls of Palestinians – at least they weren’t as of the last data I saw, from a couple years ago. Hamas is popular because it resists a brutal occupation. It’s not hard to see that reactionaries in Israel and Palestine feed off of one another.

    my impression is that most people doing the protesting are opposed on principle to talking about indigineous oppression and tyranny seriously, just as the centre-right could care less about seriously discussing neo-imperialism and colonialism.

    I’m going to be a little impolite here to make a point, but… My first impression is that you’re an ivory tower critic who makes a virtue of indecision and condescends towards people willing to admit that sometimes the world’s ethical grays throw up a sharp enough contrast that we are required to take a stand. Of course, I don’t anything about you, really, and I hope I’m wrong. Do you know more about me and my comrades in organizing around Palestine?

    And in the back of all this, the current fashion for bashing Zionism (which I don’t feel much better about than any other nationalism) is letting all sorts of far right creatures slither repackaged anti-semitism back into respectability. And if there’s one thing I don’t want to do it’s give the slightest encouragement to these creeps.

    If you think bashing Zionism is a fashion, you’re living in unusual circles. More seriously, while antisemitism is never to be tolerated, Islamophobia is a far more real danger in the US right now, and the “New Antisemitism” as some sort of rising wave in the US and Europe is a right-wing myth. Just think about the reality of who’s being bombed, hate crime statistics, and what’s coming out of the media.

  10. Rad Geek

    Nick,

    Well. I said most of what I want to say in my post today. A couple more notes, though, I guess.

    I’m not aware of any conflict between Israel and Hamas. There’s a conflict between the Israeli government and Hamas. That conflict is, then, being inflicted upon a bunch of completely innocent people — mainly on the civilian population of Gaza, and to a much lesser extent on the civilian population of a few Israeli towns like Sderot near the Gaza border. As far as the sides in the conflict go, if that means the belligerent states, I don’t have one; I don’t take sides in conflicts between warring governments. No matter who wins, we all lose.

    Both armed factions are acting criminally and hurting innocent people, and both of them should stop immediately, completely, and unilaterally, whether or not their rival is willing to stop. For whatever it’s worth, as a matter of empirical fact, the Israeli government’s military is currently hurting and killing far more people than Hamas ever has (or ever could, if their main military resource are poorly-aimed rockets fired indiscriminately over the border), and I think it’s important not to lose sight of that fact.

    The ARIans, as usual, are moral cretins of the first order, and also specialize in saying deliberately offensive things in order to garner publicity.

    Adam Reed lost me at a proper occupation. Of course, there is no such thing; even on minimal-statist standards (let alone genuinely anti-authoritarian standards of justice) the conditions that are involved in establishing any long term military command-and-control over conquered territory are (just as such) inimical to anything like a just or humane or free polity. And I happen to know from conversations elsewhere, as well as Reed’s invocation of the tyrannical and punitive U.S. occupation of Japan after World War II, that Reed’s notion of what constitutes propriety in a military occupation is very far from anything that you could reasonably count as liberalism.

    I certainly agree with you that some parts of the anti-imperialist left tend to romanticize anti-imperial or anti-colonial armed factions, and to take too much nationalist mythology at face value.

    Aster,

    Like Kal, I’m suspicious of these kind of global judgments about the essential characteristics of some broad, allegedly shared ethno-political culture. There are about 1.5 million people in Gaza with a lot of different ideas, and culture is a contested space, and just because Hamas happens to be well-armed and politically powerful and (therefore) in the news all the time doesn’t mean that they have a monopoly on defining Palestinian culture, or Gazan culture, or whatever.

    And whatever one thinks about the culture of people getting bombed, shelled, etc. in the military onslaught, I think what’s more important is to insist on the right of people not to be bombed, shelled, etc. in the military onslaught. Of course, when people on the Left uncritically plump for Hamas (as some people on the Left, unfortunately, do), they deserve to get called out on that shit. Because it’s stupid, and because it involves you in making excuses for despicable people and despicable actions. But supporting ordinary Palestinians’ right not to be subjected to heavy artillery shelling, aerial bombardment, collective punishment, etc. etc. etc. is definitely not the same thing as plumping for Hamas.

    I agree with you that some people on the Left are far too cavalier about anti-Semitism, especially when it comes to work against the Israeli government’s militarism.

    I’m not sure what you have in mind when you worry about the effects if Hamas were more powerful. It’s not as if the Israeli government or its military is somehow containing a force that would otherwise be spreading beyond where it currently is. If the Israeli government were to stop everything that it is doing tomorrow, and were, in fact, to completely withdraw from Gaza, and to end the starvation blockade it is imposing, and in fact to go so far as to tear down the government walls and remove all of its military checkpoints, thus ending the lockdown that cuts off ordinary Gazans from any meaningful cultural or economic exchange with the outside world, then I think Hamas, though more successful in terms of its short-run political goals, would be no more powerful. And the lot of people in Gaza, and in Israel, and in Egypt, would be much better for it.

    Of course, if Hamas were somehow (how?) to suddenly take control over some much larger territory (all of Israel and Palestine, or whatever), that would be bad; it would be much worse for some people (Jewish people, gay people, etc.) than the status quo ante. But I don’t see how that, or anything even remotely like it, is at issue in the current fight.

    I hope the protest went well.

  11. Aster

    Kai-

    I just came back from the protest agaist the Gaza attacks, which I might talk about later.

    As for the rest, I really don’t believe that the tone of your remarks is justified. And if you think that I’m the kind of person who abhors strong judgments as a moral principle you totally do not understand me, and I’ve never been a relativist. I merely believe that some cases are extremely complicated messes of blacks, whites, and greys on several sides which requires careful contextual scrutiny before making a decision as to what to oppose or support. It is certainly possible that I’ve made errors of judgment, and given that this is a messy situation I’m a little more cautious than if I was judging, say, the Civil Rights Movement or Guantanamo (to pick cases where it is easier to make clear and sharp judgments,in opposite ways).

    FYI, I left the U.S. nearly a year and a half ago. I see no reason to judge my political priorities by an American moral context and I see no reason ever to judge basic principles by present and local expedients. I’ve been told recently in a different context that racism and transphobia don’t matter because the only thing which is allowed to count right now is American imperial statism. With due respect, I don’t play this game, which usually amounts to my-oppression-trumps-yours, and nearly always ends up handing power to people who think your-oppression-has-no-human-involvement. On this issue I’ve seen way too much of the Islamist or European far right making poisonous capital out of the occupation.

    For the record, my view isn’t that Gaza would be worse minus an Israeli occupation- quite the contrary, given that Israel simply adds its own oppressions while not even pretending any interest in removing those already present. My view is that the hegemony of an Islamic closed society would be worse than an Israeli hegemony given a comparability of scope and power. I think it is far more useful in the long run to judge a society by its essential values than it is to judge it by its conduct in a given contingent situation . In this case, I’m imagining: what if the situation was reversed and Hamas had the kind of power advantage which Israel has right now; I have little doubt that the result would be a genocidal bloodbath. None of this justifies Israeli racist and colonialist atrocities, but I can’t accept any politics which insists on turning a blind eye to the reality of what a society which doesn’t recognise the principle of individual rights does to human beings- particularly to nonconformists of choice or necessity. Let’s say the occupation ends tomorrow with full independent sovereignty and any instantaneous reparations you might wish: now would you rather live in an independent Palestine or in Israel? Given that I like being free and alive, it’s not a hard call for me to make. That matters to me.

    I very much distrust ivory tower baiting. I respect academia. Not holding any university position myself, however, I’ll have to settle merely for the pejorative ‘armchair’. In this case, however, the issue isn’t so much that I’m ‘armchair’ as it is that on this issue I’m simply mostly new. May I suggest that if you wish to gain support for a political cause, that the best thing to do is not to show immediate hostility to someone who tries to work with you and who (I hope) wants the same world free of oppression which you do, but who doesn’t or doesn’t immediately frame a specific issue in the same way? Do we really have any basic differences of principle here?

    http://www.zmag.org/zaudio/170

  12. Marja Erwin

    I mostly agree with Nick, this time…

    I don’t think that there is any such thing as “a proper occupation,” or in general, a proper use of violence.

    In general, foreign rulership is worse than local rulership, if there is rulership. But that’s simply because it further insulates the rulers from the ruled. Given the land seizures, etc. the existing border controls create several Bantustans, and the two-state solutions simply legitimize them; besides which, they empower the bigots on each side.

  13. Mike Gogulski

    A defense of porn actress Janine Lindemulder, sentenced to six months in prison for tax evasion, Free Janine! And all political prisoners!.

    Also, I’m officially stateless now. Images of my Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States and canceled, annotated passport are posted here.

    As for Gaza: fuck Israel, fuck Hamas, and fuck the corporate media.

  14. Nick Manley -- Classical Liberal Nightmare

    Aster,

    I was just referencing this: “”Progressive” (gag!) These last five publications are aimed mainly at “progressives” (i.e., NPR liberals and assorted statist goo-goos), but still present useful news you wouldn’t get, say, from the Associated Press.”

    http://mutualist.org/id44.html

    Statist goo goos is a funny phrase. I’ll admit that ( :

  15. Nick Manley -- Classical Liberal Nightmare

    Kal,

    I agree with you and Charles about being congizant of the differences among Palestinations on cultural issues. That said, the points being made by Aster are relevant ones. Hamas has stated that all Israelis are fair game now. This even includes Israelis outside of the country. An organization like that with the kind of power the Israeli state has could very well engage in religiously motivated nuclear warfare or domestic genocide. The Israeli government is not free of racist or colonalist behavior towards Palestinations, but it’s arguably better then Hamas on important issues.

    Don’t get me wrong, it makes use of the military draft and upholds other statist annoyances, but it also has some great modernist-secularist influences in it too.

    To quote Wikipedia:

    Israel is considered the most progressive and tolerant country in the Middle East in terms of gay rights.[citation needed] In November 2005, a groundbreaking court decision in Israel ruled that a lesbian spouse could officially adopt a child born to her current partner, by artificial insemination from an anonymous sperm donor; this ruling was despite protests by the Orthodox Jewish parliamentary parties (which are a minority). Common law marriage has already been similarly achieved (which grants most of the official marriage rights to the spouse), but full official gay marriage has not yet been sanctioned. However, same-sex marriages performed elsewhere are recognized.

    Israel, Jordan, Turkey, and Cyprus are the only countries in the Middle East[1] where homosexuality between consenting adults in private is not illegal and homosexuals are not persecuted under law. In most other Middle Eastern countries homosexuality is illegal, often punishable by flogging and even hanging. Until 2007, Israel was the only country in Asia where homosexuals were protected by anti-discrimination laws.[2] Israel remains the only country in the Middle East to provide such legal protection.

    Out Magazine has named Tel Aviv “the gay capital of the Middle East.”[3]

    Unlike many other democratic nations, the armed forces of Israel allow service without any distinction based on sexual orientation. Since 1993, homosexuals have been allowed to openly serve in the military, including special units.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBTrightsin_Israel

    In contrast, there seems to be a lot of evidence that Palestine is more traditionalist-patriarchial. I found this information:

    UNICEF reported that “According to 1999 estimates, more than two-thirds of all murders in Gaza strip and West bank were most likely ‘honour’ killings.”[25]

    In 2003 James Emery (adjunct professor of anthropology at Metropolitan State College of Denver and expert on Afghan politics and the Taliban) wrote: In the Palestinian communities of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Israel, and Jordan, women are executed in their homes, in open fields, and occasionally in public, sometimes before crowds of cheering onlookers. Honor killings account for virtually all of the murders of Palestinian women in these areas. [26]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honorkilling#citenote-25

    http://www.worldandi.com/newhome/public/2003/may/clpub.asp

    I am interested in the data you reference. Would you be so kind as to post a link?

    I certainly see complexity in Palstination society-culture, but I’d be surprised if conservative Islam didn’t play a big role — much like it does in many other so called “Muslim nations” — a term I like no less then Christian nation.

  16. Aster

    ‘For whatever it’s worth, as a matter of empirical fact, the Israeli government’s military is currently hurting and killing far more people than Hamas ever has (or ever could, if their main military resource are poorly-aimed rockets fired indiscriminately over the border), and I think it’s important not to lose sight of that fact.’

    I think that it’s indisputable that the Israeli government is currently hurting and killing far more Palestinians than Hamas has ever killed Israelis– especially when you factor in the fact that the occupation obviously creates conditions where hateful authoritarianisms are likely to flourish. But how many Palestinian deaths is Hamas responsible for? And how much death and misery is the product of the broader Islamic authoritarianism of which Hamas is a specific instance? And yes, the same standards should absolutely be applied to the broad Jewish fundamentalist culture which manifests is atrocities committed by the Israeli state as well as by private murderers.

  17. Nick Manley

    “Any army that concentrates on killing civilians does not deserve our respect,” he told The Times.

    http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1231223487049&pagename=Zone-English-News/NWELayout

    People imagine that Islamist or other fundamentalist groups think targeting innocent people is ok. In objective terms, that’s true. The key to their own subjective psychology and worldview is that people aren’t truly innocent when “allying” with the “Crusaders”. I just find that curious and instructive.

  18. Kalkin

    FYI, I left the U.S. nearly a year and a half ago. I see no reason to judge my political priorities by an American moral context and I see no reason ever to judge basic principles by present and local expedients.

    My apologies for a false assumption – as I said, I knew nothing about you, and know very little more now.

    The tone of my remarks was a deliberately provocative response to the tone of yours, because they came off as condescending in several directions, both towards activists opposed to the assault on Gaza and towards Palestinians. Tit for tat intended as a wakeup call. Without meaning to claim credit, I do appreciate that your second post is better.

    I’ve been told recently in a different context that racism and transphobia don’t matter because the only thing which is allowed to count right now is American imperial statism.

    That’s gross, and also premised on extreme obtuseness about the connections between imperialism, racism, and machismo, on the part of whoever you were discussing this with.

    My view is that the hegemony of an Islamic closed society would be worse than an Israeli hegemony given a comparability of scope and power. I think it is far more useful in the long run to judge a society by its essential values than it is to judge it by its conduct in a given contingent situation.

    I think this and what follows is way, way too abstract. Hamas’ very existence, not just its current power, is premised on very recent history in which the Israeli occupation is the central political fact. Essentialism about cultures and societies is problematic not just because it is often racist, but also because it makes thinking clearly very difficult. If there is any transcendental, ahistorical essence of Palestine, I do not know what it is, but I think we have good reason to believe it does not involve some sort of theocratic nightmare. More in a coming response to Nick.

    Let’s say the occupation ends tomorrow with full independent sovereignty and any instantaneous reparations you might wish…

    While we’re dreaming, why not the world socialist revolution, followed by a few centuries worth of instantaneously compressed peaceful and technological development? I’d rather live in the Culture, thanks.

    We’re faced with a question in the here and now. Rather than choose whether we’d like to live in a fantasy-world version of Israel or Palestine, how about we ask whether humanity and its prospects a transformed and peaceful Middle East are better off if Israel succeeds in destroying Hamas or if Hamas achieves the military stalemate which would count as victory? I would say the latter.

    You do not have to agree with me there to be opposed to Israeli actions, however, and I’m glad that you attended the protest.

  19. Kalkin

    Nick – I can’t find the poll I was thinking of, which IIRC had around 25% support for Islamic law. In general it appears to be very difficult to find any polling of Palestinians on social issues on the Internet, though there’s plenty on political parties and on relations with Israel.

    I did find this, which is indicative of what is and is not a reason for Hamas’ support:

    21%… view Hamas’s goal as the creation of a state that guarantees public liberties and in which Sharia would be one of the sources of legislation… 32%… view Hamas’s goal as the creation of a state that guarantees public liberties and in which Sharia would be the only source of legislation… 16%… view its goal as the creation of a state based on Sharia like in Saudi Arabia… 5%… view it as the creation of a state based on Sharia like in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

    With reference to what “an organization like [Hamas] with the kind of power the Israeli state has” might do, refer to my previous post.

  20. Nick Manley -- Classical Liberal Nightmare

    I couldn’t resist posting again. I just feel like I am living in Peikoff’s book The Ominous Parallels — a Randian text on the philosophic parallels between pre-Nazi Germany and America.

    “Robertson predicted that Americans will “welcome socialism in order to relieve their pain,” and “nothing will stand in the way” of a plan by President-elect Obama to restructure the economy in the same fashion as Franklin Roosevelt did after the Great Depression.”

    Leaving aside the probable fact that Pat has little understanding of the history of the term socialism or socialist movements, this is merely an easy judgment called the “wisdom” of God.

    Is Pat Robertson prepared to follow Obama completely? God says nothing will stand in the way of his alleged plan to restructure the economy. Is he not obligated to step aside then or will his valiant Christian brigade try to stop the mighty Obama?

    Either way, we’ve got a cult following.

    http://www.bostonherald.com/news/us_politics/view/2009_01_03_Pat_Robertson_predicts_U_S__will_embrace_socialism__economy_will_recover_in__09/

  21. Nick Manley -- Classical Liberal Nightmare

    Kalkin,

    Hamas did arise in the context of Israeli occupation and has been shaped by it. That said, isn’t it also true that there was a cultural base in Palestine for it? It’s too reductionist and monocasual to lay all the blame at the feet of the Israeli occupation. Hamas arose in an Islamic cultural context that made it a conceivable response to Israeli actions.

    I don’t feel you’ve adequately addressed my point about the type of violence Hamas would inflict with more powerful weapons. A totalistic religious mentality is frequently not conducive to peace. Hamas encourages the view that all Israelis or even all Jews are the enemy , but the Israeli government allowed some Palstinations to leave the strip and has allowed some aid in. It has even dropped leaflets and sent other messages to warn people of impending bombing. I read about an incident where the air force requested that people leave a house and didn’t bomb when they refused to leave. I am not saying it has treated Palstinations in a saintly fashion, but I see some important relative contrasts between it and Hamas. One would likely kill or imprison my friend Chris for being gay. The other wouldn’t. I don’t see why the destruction of Hamas in the current debacle wouldn’t be a positive with the maintenance of aid to its absoloute dependents continued. My concern about Israel’s actions is the fact that plenty of people who’re not seasoned Islamist terrorists are losing out. Another concern is that Israel’s actions will bolster Hamas, so we’re not entirely on different pages. I don’t see it as proper to support Hamas in pursuit of a military stalemate though. The only reason you or I might be able to do that is that we’re not smack dab in the middle of the conflict. I doubt Hamas would treat cultural-political dissidents like us very kindly in the aftermath. Israel is arguably a state with more relative respect for inalienable individual rights and rule of constitutional law. There are dark political forces at work in it that undermine this, but it has some positive counter-balancing forces too.

    “32%… view Hamas’s goal as the creation of a state that guarantees public liberties and in which Sharia would be the only source of legislation…”

    I can’t think of a single Middle Eastern state that actually guarantees public liberties while keeping Sharia as the only source of legislation. It shouldn’t be assumed that the concept of public liberties being thought of is adequate. I honestly don’t know the entire Sharia by heart. What I’ve seen of its implementation in other countries is not hopeful though.

  22. Nick Manley

    I fear I’ll be misunderstood and unleash a firestorm of criticism with my nuanced positive comments on Israel above ( :

    To preempt that, I find the current situation in Gaza horrific beyond belief. I have read my Noam Chomsky and know about Israeli military atrocities. That said, there is some nominal civilization involved in Israeli army doctrine that Hamas does not match — e.g. an indiscriminate rocket firing vs the targeting of a senior Hamas leader’s home.

    Code of Conduct against militants and Palestinian civilians

    Recently,[when?] a team of professors, commanders and former judges, led by the holder of the Ethics chair at Tel Aviv University, Professor Asa Kasher, developed a code of conduct which emphasizes the right behavior in low intensity warfare against terrorists, where soldiers must operate within a civilian population. Reserve units and regular units alike are taught the following eleven rules of conduct, which are an addition to the more general IDF Spirit:

    1. Military action can be taken only against military targets.
    2. The use of force must be proportional.
    3. Soldiers may only use weaponry they were issued by the IDF.
    4. Anyone who surrenders cannot be attacked.
    5. Only those who are properly trained can interrogate prisoners.
    6. Soldiers must accord dignity and respect to the Palestinian population and those arrested.
    7. Soldiers must give appropriate medical care, when conditions allow, to oneself and one’s enemy.
    8. Pillaging is absolutely and totally illegal.
    9. Soldiers must show proper respect for religious and cultural sites and artifacts.
      1. Soldiers must protect international aid workers, including their property and vehicles.
      2. Soldiers must report all violations of this code.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_Defense_Forces#Stated_values_of_the_IDF

    Israel may not always live up to this code in its military behavior, but Hamas makes no pretense of trying to respect the Israeli populace in a similar way. At best, I’ve read they will stop attacks on civilians once Israel stops assassinations-raids.

    Hamas officials have stated several times that they are willing to stop attacks on Israeli civilian targets if Israel stops attacking Palestinian civilian targets in return.[134] In May 2003, Abdel Aziz Rantisi has said,

    “The Hamas movement is prepared to stop terror against Israeli civilians if Israel stops killing Palestinian civilians … We have told (Palestinian Authority Prime Minister) Abu Mazen in our meetings that there is an opportunity to stop targeting Israeli civilians if the Israelis stop assassinations and raids and stop brutalizing Palestinian civilians.”[135]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamas#Attacks_on_civilians

    This tit for tat justification is little different from American conservatives who want to nuclearize the Middle East for Bin Laden’s crimes.

  23. Kalk

    I’m going to have to reply very quickly because I don’t have much time.

    Hamas arose in other contexts than that of the Israeli occupation, of course, including those of Islam, and the late 20th century defeat / bankruptcy of the Arab Left. The point of laying substantial blame at Israel’s feet is not to offer a monocausal explanation, but to argue that we have no good reason to assume that Palestinians would have been ruled by a group with all or most of the same reactionary characteristics even without the role of Israel.

    For this reason and others, I don’t see the relevance of what Hamas might do with more powerful weapons. The fact is that it doesn’t have them and won’t have them. Your position reminds me a little of the paranoids who prophecize Shariah in the United States if “we” do not become tougher, i.e. more callously violent. You’re obviously much saner, but what you’re saying has some of the same dangerous reversal of reality.

    The question of where we would like to live is even more fundamentally misleading, I think. It’s not quite this simple, but oppressors are typically better off than the oppressed…

    Since Israel is capable of doing much more damage than Hamas, as it is currently demonstrating, I think we’re better off if Israel is weakened by a Hamas victory (in the only sense possible, i.e. Hamas survives and manages some sort of stalemate). Together with Israel’s defeat by Hezbollah a couple of years ago, that would have a real restraining effect on Israel’s tendency towards military aggression. On the other hand, if Israel succeeded in crushing Hamas, that would free its hand to continue its brutal occupation of Gaza, and progressive politics in Palestine would be much less likely to be advanced than despair, cynicism, and bitterness.

    Regarding Shariah, I think the majority of Middle Eastern states have some sort of nod to Shariah as the source of law in their constitutions. That’s not good, but it doesn’t prevent a wide variation in restrictions on religious belief and sexual and gender relations.

  24. Nick Manley -- Classical Liberal Nightmare

    I guess the effect of calling for a ceasefire would be the survival of Hamas. What I oppose is celebration of Hamas with active material support or traveling bridages of Western revolutionaries eager to kill Israeli soldiers. I am not accusing you of any of that though.

    I am not really concerned about the imposition of Shariah in the United States. There are plenty of homegrown Christo-fascists to worry about. The chance of Shariah in the U.S. is probably super nil.

    As for callous toughness, I certainly agree with you that reflexive knee jerk adoption of more forceful solutions is in bad taste.

    Charles and Kalkin,

    I only meant I saw Israel as preferable to Hamas ruled Gazs in relative terms. I also agree that it depends on who you are. I would say that being an Israeli citizen certainly puts you at an advantage relative to those in the occupied territories or Arab by permission in contested East Jersualum. That said, I’ve read that de jure treatment of full Israeli Arab citizens is fairly good — e.g. they have equal rights on paper but aren’t conscripted for military duty. I’ve heard from a friend that it’s true that de facto socetial attitudes towards Arabs are far from entirely non-discriminatory. I’ve also heard about Arab university professors, an Arab woman winning miss Israel, and other such signs of cross-racial tolerance. It’s clearly a mixed bag.

    “For this reason and others, I don’t see the relevance of what Hamas might do with more powerful weapons. The fact is that it doesn’t have them and won’t have them.”

    It’s relevant insofar as Hamas would have influence on a new state — one with the tax supported ability to develop new weapons or more easily buy them from its backers. They already seek to acquire more powerful rockets right now. It seems plausible that Islamist groups would attempt to acquire nuclear esque weapons. I certainly don’t see a complete Muslim monolith in the way that extremely hawkish conservatives do. I am just not sure we can so easily conclude that Hamas won’t ever get those weapons. Of course, there is good evidence for Hama’s popularity being connected to Israel’s behavior-actions. I am not prophezing the immediate end of the world by Hamas or anything.

  25. Sergio Méndez

    Aster:

    I think I tend to agree more with Charles than with you in this discusion. Just 3 short points in this respect:

    1) I think Charles has it right. You do not have the right to kill innocents to preserve your own life, because well, this people have as much right to you to live, and their sole existence is not treatening yours.

    2) I think Nietzsche was wrong. I do not think we need to reject the whole “judeo/christian tradition” to get rid of the religion(s) in themself. If the bible say “you shall not murder” or “you shalt nos stael”, you don´t need to reject those principles just cause they make part of a religios tradition you reject as a whole. If the points make sense on their own, they should stay.

    3) Lets not forget that the claim that Israel is a “liberal/secular state” and thus we ought to defend what it does no matter what (I am not saying you say that, but many -specially in the right say so- is no more different than the claims of moral superiority that the west has used to justify its own imperialism and colonialism for centuries. I apreciate the civil liberties Israeli state offer to its citizens, or the civil liberties the US offer to its citizens in comparison with third world societies and nations, but that is a completly different issue of what first world states (usually claiming to represent those societies) do outside their frontiers.

    Charles:

    But still, I think you have the moral obligation to say what Israeli people have the right to do to defend themselves. Because it will probably will require an armed action against Hamas, and it will probably imply casualities on civil population (maybe just a terrestial operation without aerial bombardements?)

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