Sunday, November 19, 2023
Speaking of Which
I'm mostly working on the
Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll this week, and probably every week
until the first of January, so this weekly exercise is being demoted
to a part-time, background project, making it even more cryptic and
scattered than usual.
Still, let me say a few words up top -- or reiterate, as I've said
pretty much the same thing
in recent weeks. The main story is, again, Israel's war, which
is no longer just against Gaza, but has extended to the West Bank
and the border with Lebanon. Israel's leaders have always understood
themselves to be at war with the Palestinian people and the broader
Arab neighborhood, the purpose of which is to utterly dominate the
region, reducing Palestinians to an "utterly defeated people," out
of sight and out of mind, effectively dead. You can date their war
back to 1948, or earlier. You can find seeds in Herzl's 1896 The
Jewish State, which started growing in 1920 when Britain set up
its "Jewish homeland," playing its typical divide-and-conquer game.
But the idea is older still: at least since 1492, Europeans have
moved to new lands and immediately started plotting to subjugate,
or better still eliminate, the people they found there. So this
first point, that the war did not start on October 7, should be
too obvious to have to dwell on. Still, we may treat it as a new
phase or level, as the shock of the Oct. 7 revolt gave Israel an
excuse to implement the genocide that Zionism always implied.
The second point is that the Oct. 7 revolt, and the subsequent
retaliation and escalation by Israel, was not necessary, and could
easily have been prevented, at least by Israel's current and recent
leaders. (Most obviously Netanyahu, but it's hard to discern any
fundamental differences going back to, well, Ben-Gurion, with only
Sharett and Rabin offering vague and conflicted gestures that might
have pointed toward some form of peaceful co-existence.)
Israel -- by which I mean its political leaders, a group that
could have fit within a meeting room and/or a conference call, and
not the whole nation -- could simply have decided to contain the
damage of Oct. 7, and not to compound the damage by retaliating.
They didn't do so because they've locked themselves into a logic
that tries to solve all problems by asserting their power. They
may argue that their policies have worked well enough so far, so
will work well enough in the future, but they are wrong: they've
only appeared to have worked because they've never seriously
assayed the costs.
The revolt itself could have been prevented in either of two
ways. The specific people who organized and led the revolt -- for
lack of more precise names, we might as well follow everyone else
and call them Hamas, but we're talking about a small and isolated
subset of people affiliated with Hamas, and quite probably others
not in any way part of Hamas -- presumably had enough free will
(but do we really know this?) to have decided not to act. That
they did revolt suggests not malice so much as desperation, and
mere luck in the outcome.
The other way to prevent revolt is to create conditions where
Palestinians would have no compelling reason to revolt. There are
lots of things that can be done in this regard (and Israel has
even, on rare occasions, tried some, which worked as well as they
could, as long as they were in place). Almost all internal conflicts
end, or simply fade into oblivion, with some kind of accommodation.
Israel is peculiarly, but not inevitably, resistant to the idea,
but it's the only real path out of their quandry.
Given these percepts, I've laid out a fairly simple way to end
the war in Gaza, which gives Israel a free hand to implement when
they are ready, which is favorable enough to Israeli interests they
should be happy to accept, and which accords Palestinians in Gaza
a fair hope for respect and recovery. It does not attempt to solve
any issues beyond the Gaza front, so does not require Israel to
address its abuses of Palestinians within Israel and its other
occupied territories, or its border issues with other countries.
Very briefly, the steps are:
Israel withdraws its forces from Gaza, and ceases fire on Gaza,
except for reserving the right to retaliate within a limited period
of time (say, 12 hours) for any subsequent attack launched from Gaza.
The sooner the better, but no one can/will force Israel to withdraw,
so they can destroy as much as they can stomach, until they tire
and/or become too embarrassed to continue.
Israel cedes its claim to Gaza, its air space, and adjacent
sea, to the United Nations. The UN accepts, and sets up a temporary
governing authority. (Israel may continue to conduct air and sea
recognizance and interception until other arrangements are in place.)
The UN authority will control the dispensation of aid, which will
be allowed in only if all hostages are released and no resistance
There will be blanket amnesty for all Gazans, for all Israelis
engaged with Gaza, and for the government of Israel, for all acts up
to the cease fire date. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and any other armed
groups within Gaza, will cease to exist as organizations, and be banned
from reforming. Individual members of those groups will be covered by
the blanket amnesty. It is not necessary to disarm people, but a buy
back program for arms and munitions would be a good idea.
The UN will issue passports for Gaza, which will allow residents
to leave and return at any later date.
The UN will organize several levels of advisory councils, and
operate subject to their agreement. The easiest way to organize these
councils would be to select members at random, allowing anyone thus
selected to select another person in their place. This will lead to
elections in a year or two. In the meantime the UN will organize
competent administration, police, and courts, primarily employing
After a couple years, Gaza will be recognized as an independent
country, with normal full sovereignty, and will be able to renegotiate
its relations with the UN, and with any other countries. It should be
understood that its borders are permanently defined, and that it cannot
call itself Palestine (as that might imply extraterritorial ambitions).
Note that nothing here requires Israel to dismantle its apartheid
regime elsewhere, nor does it protect Israel from war crime and human
rights charges (except for Gaza up to the hand off). Nothing here keeps
world from showing its reservations over Israel, especially through BDS
programs. Israel will remain, for the time anyway, racist and militarist.
It just won't have Gaza to kick around any more. Given how much kicking
they've done, especially since 2006, that in itself should reduce the
conflict, and make other aspects of it easier to deal with, but that
ultimately depends on Israelis growing up and becoming responsible
citizens of the world, as opposed to their current preference as tyrants
over one small patch of it.
I'm pretty certain that, given the chance, a democratic Gaza will
not tolerate any attacks on Israel. Some Gazans may still decide to
join ISIS or other extremist groups, but they will have to go into
exile to do so, and will no longer be Gaza's responsibility. Plus,
there will be far fewer of them once Israel stops "mowing the grass."
Other topics could be added to this, but why complicate things?
I believe that there should be a right to exile, which would allow
Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails to leave the country. That
would be a better solution than simply trading hostages/prisoners.
My guiding rule for negotiations is to try to get to the right
answer, one that works for all sides, with a minimum of impacts, and
measure to increase trust and transparency. That may not always be
possible, in which case you should look for other ways to compensate
for perceived losses. (Gaza, in particular, is going to need a lot
Let's put this part in bold:
Once you get to peace and justice, lots of things become possible.
But it all starts with an Israeli cease-fire. That's all it takes
to stop the killing, to halt the destruction. And that will at least
slow down Israel's presently inexorable moral decay of into genocide --
and that of America, seeing as our leaders are currently in lockstep
with Israel. So demand it! For once, it's obvious what's best for
Top story threads:
Mondoweiss: I'm not up to dredging through the daily
New York Times reports on the war, but this heroic website gives you
a better accounting of the tragic consequences of senseless war, and
a lot less propaganda spin.
Spencer Ackerman: [11-17]
Gaza shows the difference between international law and the "rules-based
international order": "Adherence to US hegemony determines who does --
and does not -- get to violate the architecture restraining state
Hugo Albuquerque: [11-17]
Israeli Communist leader: The Netanyahu government has no answers:
Interview with Eli Gozansky.
Michael Arria: [11-16]
March for Israel: "Thousands gathered in Washington this week
to support Israel. The Israeli Consulate announced 290,000 people
attended, while estimates show they were off by about 265,000. Still,
support for Israel from elected officials was clear." Is there anything
less meaningful than organizing a public showing of support for the
powers that be?
M Reza Benham: [11-15]
The catastrophic roots of Zionism in Palestine: History back to
Herzl, plus a suggestion that "it is time for the Arab world to use
its formidable oil weapon to end the carnage." I don't see that
happening: the "weapon" is less formidable now than in the 1970s,
the political will is lacking (maybe the "Arab street" identifies
with Palestinians, but the sheiks don't), and it's only been used
of late to prop up sagging prices.
Nader Durgham: [11-16]
Do you want to understand the Gaza war? Look at the Beirut siege
Malay Firoz: [11-17]
The unforgivable hypocrisy of the American liberal.
Lev Grinberg: [11-15]
For all its military might, Israel succumbed to its most fatal weakness:
"The illusion that Israel could control Gaza endlessly is rooted in a
dysfunctional political system that is incapable of imagining an
Jonathan Guyer: [11-18]
Most of Israel's weapons imports come from the US. Now Biden is rushing
even more arms.
Yoav Haifawi: [11-18]
First Tel Aviv anti-war demonstration reveals the limits on protest
in today's Israel.
Tareq S Hajjaj: [11-16]
Rainfall on a destroyed Gaza could spell disaster.
Jeet Heer: [11-17]
Israel's ludicrous propaganda wins over the only audience that
counts: "Why make an effort to be credible if you're going to be
uncritically echoed by the White House and the Western press?"
Marc Owen Jones: [11-15]
Israel's comically bad disinfo proves they're losing the PR war.
Rashid Khalidi: [11-18]
A paradigm shift in the hundred years' war on Palestine?
Talia Lavin: [11-17]
These evangelicals are cheering the Gaza war as the end of the
world: "Some far-right Christian leaders believe the bloodshed
portends the second coming of Christ."
Eric Levitz: [11-16]
Sam Harris's fairy-tale account of the Israel-Hamas conflict:
Harris first gained attention as a rare guy who was evangelical
about atheism, which seemed like a refreshing twist, but turned
out to be just another bigoted bore. So no surprise that "on
questions of foreign policy, Harris's thinking can become nearly
as dogmatic and blinkered as that of the religious zealots he's
dedicated himself to discrediting."
Ruth Michaelson/Kaamil Ahmed: [11-19]
'It's basically hell on earth': Gaza City left totally bereft of
Mahmoud Mushtaha: [11-14]
Palestinians fear 'slow death' as hunger and thirst spread in Gaza.
Nicole Narea/Sigal Samuel: [11-13]
How to think through allegations of genocide in Gaza: This is a
long trawl through arguments I've dealt with extensively in recent
weeks. I don't have time to rehash them here, but my considered take
is pretty straightforward: the intent of Israel's leaders is clearly
genocidal; Israel's actions (bombing, armed incursions, blockades)
are indiscriminate, effectively aimed at the whole population; until
Israel halts those operations, they merit the charge of genocide;
if/when Israel ceases fire, withdraws, and allows third parties to
provide aid, we might consider reducing the charge, as only such a
end to hostilities can counter the charge. And, needless to say,
the longer they take, the less credible their excuses.
Jonathan Ofir/Yonathan Shapira/Ofer Neiman: [11-09]
Do not dismiss the Gaza genocide allegations: Starts by noting
an article by Eitay Mack in Harretz which tries to do just that.
Gareth Porter: [11-17]
Israeli deceit and the battle of Shifa Hospital: Also links to
updates, including: [11-16]
Israel searches for traces of Hamas in read of key Gaza hospital,
finding "no command centre, hostages, Hamas fighters."
Ali Rizk: [11-17]
How US, Hezbollah interests align amid Gaza war: "Both worry
about being dragged into a wider regional conflict." But both have
funny ways of showing that, because Israel is locked into warring
on Hezbollah, and the US is locked into blind support of Israel.
Aidan Simardone: [11-17]
Israeli weapons are common to the displacement in Nagorno-Karabakh
Reis Thebault: [11-18]
Palestinian Americans face fear, violence amid Israel's war in
Philip Weiss: [11-19]
Washington's approval of unending massacre is a 'stain upon our
souls'. I haven't been citing Weiss's "Weekly Briefing" posts,
but also see:
Robert Wright: [11-17]
The truth about Hamas: This pretty much matches my understanding,
at least from 2006. Israelis often complain about "not having a
partner for peace," but there's little evidence that they ever
wanted peace, and there's frequent evidence that they've pushed
Palestinians into more radical stands so they'd have an excuse
not to negotiate with them.
Li Zhou: [11-15]
The dire medical crisis in Gaza, explained.
Trump, and other Republicans:
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Joe Biden: [11-18]
The U.S. won't back down from the challenge of Putin and Hamas:
But will the U.S. even recognize the challenge of Netanyahu and
Zelensky? Like the proverbial hammer seeing everything else as a
nail, the most heavily armed nation in the world hardly requires
conscious thought to "stand up and fight."
Kyle Anzalone: [11-16]
Biden has 'productive discussion' with Xi, then slams Chinese leader as
'dictator'. Speaking "truth to power" may be overrated, given that
power is rarely open to truth, but going behind power's back just makes
you look petty.
Mark Murray: [11-19]
Poll: Biden's standing hits new lows amid Israel-Hamas war:
Washington loves a good war. The American people, not so much so.
Andrew O'Hehir: [11-18]
Joe Biden at history's crossroads: Is backing Bibi's Gaza war a fatal
Nathan J Robinson: [11-15]
Does democracy mainly mean voting for Democrats?: "Heather Cox
Richardson's narrative of Good Democrats and Bad Republicans lets
liberals off the hook for their political failures." I've read two
of her books on the Republican Party, and a few of her Substack
columns, all of which are well researched and sensibly written,
and I've put a lot of thought into writing a book exactly along
those lines, so I was a pretty good prospect to pick up her new
book, Democracy Awakening. But one thing that stopped me
cold was a column (or maybe just a tweet) praising Biden's great
accomplishments in foreign policy. I was surprised to find myself
being pleasantly surprised by many aspects of the Biden presidency,
but foreign policy has not been one of them.
Alexander Sammon: [11-15]
The Squad is about to fight for its political life: "AIPAC wants
to show progressives that 'no one is safe from their wrath.'"
Jeremy Scahill: [11-14]
Biden's legacy should be forever haunted by the names of Gaza's dead
children: "Biden's support for the terror bombing of Gaza continues
his long history as a steadfast supporter of Israel's greatest crimes."
Legal matters and other crimes:
Climate and environment:
Ukraine War and American Geopolitics: While the Ukraine
quagmire only deepens, other stories pop up that fit into the
broader domain of America's arms racket and imperial ambitions.
Around the world:
Liza Featherstone: [11-17]
Rich people in the US have been allowed to get way too rich.
Paul Rosenberg: [11-19]
When a liberal president goes to war: Lessons of the LBJ era are
Jeffrey St Clair: [11-17]
Roaming Charges: Politics of the lesser exterminators.
Gerald "Jerry" Paske: Obituary. I'm saddened to note the death of
my first philosophy professor, at 90. He taught the 101 intro course
at Wichita State University, a big lecture class, and immediately
turned us to reading Charles Sanders Peirce, the most interesting
of the American pragmatists, and a perhaps unknowing gateway into
the Marburg Neokantians. He always seemed like a decent, sensible
guy, but the event that most impressed me was when, immediately
after the Attica massacre, he put aside his prepared text and talked
extemporaneously about the contempt for humanity that stoked the
slaughter. After we returned to Wichita, he had retired, but every
now and then he would write letters to the Eagle, always insightful,
reliably decent. I found out then that he had written a short book,
Why the Fundamentalist Right Is So Fundamentally Wrong. I
tried to get in touch with him after my nephew Mike Hull finished
Betrayal at Attica,
but I never heard back.
[PS: In looking Paske up, I also found out that another of my
WSU philosophy professors,
Anthony Genova, died in 2010. I took
his course on logic, which was mostly symbolic, but the opening
section on informal fallacies was eye-opening. There are dozens
of examples in the pieces I cite every week.]
I also see that Jonathan David Mott, the author of the blog
Zandar Versus the Stupid, has passed away, at 48. I can't say
as I've ever read him, but got the tip from
No More Mister Nice Blog, who wrote: "He was always one of
the most perceptive bloggers out there, and I will miss hearing
from him as the world goes to hell."
I'm reminded that Norman G. Finkelstein published a book in 2018
called Gaza: An Inquest Into Its Martyrdom, which seems a bit
premature at the moment, but no more so than it would have been to
write a book on how alarming you found Nazi anti-semitism after
Kristallnacht in 1938 (or after the
Nuremberg Laws in 1935, when the die was cast, but still
cloaked under the guise of law). Still, the book goes into great
detail on Operation Cast Lead, the Goldstone Report, the Mavi
Marmara, and Operation Protective Edge. The preface opens:
This book is not about Gaza. It is about what has been done to
Gaza. It is fashionable nowadays to speak of a victim's agency. But
one must be realistic about the constraints imposed on such agency by
objective circumstance. Frederick Douglass could reclaim his manhood
by striking back at a slave master who viciously abused him. Nelson
Mandela could retain his dignity in jail despite conditions calibrated
to humiliate and degrade him. Still, these were exceptional
individuals and exceptional circumstances, and anyhow, even if he
acquits himself with honor, the elemental decisions affecting the
daily life of a man held in bondage and the power to effect these
decisions remain outside his control. Gaza, as former British prime
minister David Cameron observed, is an "open-air prison." The Israeli
warden is in charge.
It's unfortunate that we keep resorting to Nazi Germany, Apartheid
South Africa, the Slave Power in the United States, to provide some
historical context for what Israel has done to Gaza, but those are by
far the most relevant examples we are mostly aware of. But that's
pretty much Israel's peer group. And I suppose those examples do offer
one small bit of hope: they offer a range of possible endings to the
still unfinished story of Israel and Gaza. In South Africa, reason and
decency dismantled Apartheid. The other two regimes were destroyed in
war, but not before the Nazis killed 6 million Jews, and lost 12 million
of their own. The slave states lost their war as badly, but recovered
to create a new system of oppression, which took another 100 years to
dismantle (and could still use some work).
Ask a question, or send a comment.