Monday, October 30, 2023


Speaking of Which

Postscript Introduction

Note: It got too late Sunday night before I completed my rounds, much less checked spelling and formatting and did the other bits of housekeeping I need to do before posting, so let this sit overnight. I changed the date to Monday, but didn't make another round. I did add the bits from Twitter, and one more link on the UAW strike, since that not only really matters but wraps up the trifecta. Music Week will be delayed until Tuesday. The extra day has so far been good for two more A- records (surprises at that).

By the way, if anyone wants to try reformulating the introduction plan into an op-ed or a more serious proposal, please go ahead and do so (no citation required, but if you want to talk about it, feel free to reach out). I have no standing in mainstream media (or for that matter in solidly left-wing and/or antiwar media), and I have no appetite for throwing myself at their feet.

And yes, I understand why the plan as sketched out will be hard for lots of well-meaning folks to swallow. I'm sorry that in politics people hardly ever pay for their crimes. I was 18 when Richard Nixon was elected president, and no one in my lifetime ever deserved to pay more. (Well, maybe Winston Churchill, but he died when I was 14, or Joseph Stalin, who died when I was 2.) But that almost never happens, and even when some measure of justice is meted out, it's never enough. Nixon was granted a pardon, and retired not even to obscurity, but at least out of harm's way.

The proposed scheme simply splits off one part of the conflict and arranges it so the sides stop hurting each other. It's urgent to do so because it's turned into a self-destruction pact, as sore to Israel as it is fatal to Gaza. It leaves the rest of the conflict in place, in hopes that Israel will, in good time, recognize that they cannot forever deny Palestinians their dignity. I'm not very optimistic that they will come to their senses, but the odds are better than now, in the fevered heat of war.

The key points here are these: you cannot force Israel to do anything they're unwilling to do; you have to give Israel an option that they can choose that doesn't require that they change their fundamental political beliefs; you cannot appeal to the conscience of Israel's leaders, because they don't have a functioning one; you don't have to solve any problem but the immediate one in Gaza; you don't have to deal with Palestine's leaders, because none of them are legitimate; you do have to provide a path where the people of Gaza can live normal lives, in peace and dignity, where they have no practical need to lash out at Israel or anyone else. It is in the interest of the whole world to end this conflict, so it is worthwhile to put some effort into making it work. But for now the only piece you have to solve is Gaza, because that's the one that's spun out of control.


First Introduction

From early grade school, my favorite subject was "social studies," with geography and history key dimensions. But I also had aptitude for science, at least until an especially boorish teacher turned me off completely. I dropped out of high school, but not finding myself with any other competency, I tested my way into college, where my main studies were in sociology and philosophy. I turned my back on academic studies, but never stopped adding to my store of knowledge -- if anything, I redoubled my efforts after 2000.

When microcomputers started appearing around 1979, I bought one, and taught myself to program. Then I discovered that my real skill was engineering -- the practical application of my mindset.

Politics turned out to be mostly rhetoric: people were measure by how good they sounded, not by anything they actually did. Sure, social scientists measured things, but mostly their own prejudiced assumptions. But engineers didn't waste their time railing about the injustices of gravity and entropy. Engineers fixed things. And better than that, engineers designed and built things to not break -- or, at least, to serve a useful life before they wore out.

So, when I encounter a political problem, I tend to think about it as an engineer would (or should), in terms of function and the forces working against it. I can't be value-neutral in this, nor can anyone, though I'm better at most at recognizing my own prejudices, and at suspending judgment on those of others. A big part of my kit is what Robert Wright calls "cognitive empathy": the ability to imagine someone else's view. This is a skill that is sorely needed, and way too often lacking, in diplomats. (You're most likely to find it in sales, where one is measured on deals made, rather than on political rhetoric that precludes agreement.)

So when I encounter a political problem, my instinct is to come up with a solution: an approach that will reduce the conflict in a way that will lead to prolonged stability. It's always tempting to come up with a universal solution based on first principles, but history offers few examples of conflicted sides finding such common ground. That means for most acute conflicts we have to come up with short-range, partial fixes.

Over the last twenty years, I've come up with a lot of partial and a few comprehensive solutions to the Israel/Palestine conflict. They've never been taken seriously, by either side, or even by potentially influential third parties. The basic reason is that politically powerful Israelis are unwilling to grant concessions to Palestinians, even a small territory they have no settlement interest in (Gaza), basic human rights, and/or any real measure of economic freedom. There are various reasons and/or excuses for this, but the most important one is that no outside nation nor any possible internal force (nonviolent or not) has anything close to enough power to persuade Israel to change course. So the first rule is you have to give Israel something they would prefer to the course they have charted, which is to lay waste to Gaza, making it uninhabitable to the people who manage to survive their assault.

The first lesson Israeli leaders should draw from their war is that while it's easy to kill enough Palestinians to make you look monstrous, it's really hard to kill enough to make any real demographic difference. As long as Palestinians survive and hang onto what's left of their land, they remain to challenge and defy Israeli colonialism, sacrificing their bodies and appealing to international conscience. And while people of good will, many sympathetic to the Palestinian plight, were quick to condemn the violent outbreak, its main effect was to shock Israel into showing their true colors: that domination is based on overwhelming power, and the willingness to use it savagely when provoked.

Hence, Israel's response to the uprising -- the deadliest single day in Israel's history -- was first to threaten the total demolition of Gaza and the deaths of everyone who lived there (offering a mass exodus through Egypt as the only path to safety), then a systematic military campaign, starting with massive bombardment and leading to a ground invasion. With over two million people in Gaza, that could amount to the largest genocide since WWII. Israel's one-sided war on Gaza has slogged on for three weeks, with some of the heaviest bombing in recent history, destroying infrastructure, driving more than a million people from their homes, and theatening starvation. The longer this continues, the more world opinion will shift against Israel's brutality, until what little good will remains dissipates in disgust.

At some point, Israeli leaders are bound to realize three things: that continuing the killing hurts them more than it helps; that large numbers of Palestinians will stay in Gaza no matter what; and that as long as there are Palestinians in Gaza, the land is of no practical use to Israel. The only viable solution to this is for Israel to cut Gaza loose. The simplest way to do this is to return the mandate to the UN. This doesn't require any negotiations with Palestinians, so it doesn't resolve any issues with Palestinians within Israel, the occupied territories, or refugees elsewhere. Israel simply sets its conditions for the transfer. If the UN accepts, Israel withdraws its troops, and ceases all engagement with Gaza. Given the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding, the UN will have little choice, but everyone would be best served with some minimal understandings. I think the following would be reasonable:

  1. Israel removes any ground forces it has in Gaza, and seals the border. Israel unilaterally ceases fire, except in retaliation for attacks (e.g., rockets) from Gaza. Israel reserves the right to retaliate for each attack, one munition (shell, bomb, rocket, etc., but probably larger) for each munition used against Israel, but only within 24 hours of the incident.

  2. Israel is responsible for its land border with Gaza. Israel retains the right to continue patrolling the airspace and sea front until other arrangements are negotiated with the UN and/or future Gaza government. If Israel abuses these rights, there should be some court or referee to nonviolently resolve these disputes (but it's pretty unlikely Israel will agree to that).

  3. The UN will organize a provisional, representative government in Gaza, and will eventually organize elections (e.g., within one year of handover). The UN may dictate a constitution and a basic legal framework, which may be democratically amended or rewritten after a fixed period of time (e.g., 5 years). The UN will organize donors to provide aid in reconstruction, and may attach conditions to its aid (e.g., a court to police against corruption). The UN will issue passports to residents/citizens of Gaza, allowing them to leave if they wish, and to return at any future point they may desire.

  4. Israel and Gaza will be granted amnesty against possible charges under international law up to the date of ceasefire and transfer, and not limited to interactions between Israel and Gaza. All individuals within Gaza will also receive amnesty for their role in the revolt or other incidents that occurred up to the date of transfer. All political organizations in Gaza will be banned, and their property will be expropriated. New organizations may be formed from scratch, but none may reused the names of banned parties. Past membership in a banned political party will not be penalized.

  5. UNHCR-registered refugees in Gaza will enjoy full rights as citizens of Gaza, and will no longer be considered refugees from Israel. This doesn't affect the rights of refugees resident elsewhere. As a condition of its independence, Gaza may not call itself Palestine, and may not make any claims to land and/or people not presently contained in Gaza.

Other items not specified are subject to negotiation, which I imagine will be easier once the break is made, peace is established, and some degree of normalcy returns. Two things I haven't stressed are the desire to disarm Gaza, and the question of inspecting imports to keep weapons from entering Gaza. These things should be implemented voluntarily by Gaza itself. More weapons invites retaliation, which is inevitably collective punishment. As long as Israel retains that right, weapons shouldn't matter to them.

Another thing I didn't bother with is the hostage situation. I assume that the hostages will be released, even without negotiation, before amnesty kicks in. Of course, if Hamas is as bloodthirsty as Israel wants you to believe, they could also be executed before amnesty, in which case maybe some negotiation and exchange should take place first. I didn't want to make it more complicated than it had to be. As for the hostages Israel has taken prisoner, that call is up to Israel. Some sort of mass release, especially of prisoners who could be repatriated to Gaza, would be a welcome gesture, but need not be immediate: I hardly think Gaza really needs an influx of radicalized militants, which is the main produce of Israeli jails.

Israel gets several major wins here: they gain viable long-term security from threats emanating from Gaza; they give up responsibility for the welfare of Gaza, which they've shown no serious interest in or aptitude for; they get an internationally-recognized clean slate, immediately after committing an especially egregious crime against humanity (they're still liable for future acts against Palestinians, but they get a chance to reset that relationship); they break the link between Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, and they tilt the demographic balance in the area Israel controls back to a strong Jewish majority; they get a partial solution to the refugee; and they will have already shown the world how hard they strike back, without having to go complete "final solution."

But the biggest concession to Israel is that they get to control the timing, simply because no one can let alone will move to stop them. They can bomb until they run out, which isn't very likely given that the US is already resupplying them. They can kill, maim, destroy, until they run out of targets or simply wear themselves out. Or until they develop a conscience and/or a sense of shame over how world opinion and history will view them. Or until their friends take pity and urge restraint. Or until they start losing more soldiers than they're willing to risk -- the least likely of all, given that nobody is rushing to resupply Gaza with the arms they desperately need to defend themselves (as the US and Europe did for Ukraine).

The point -- probably but not certainly short of extermination -- is that eventually Israel will tire of the killing, but still need to dispose of the rubble and the corpses. That's when this framework comes into play. Sooner would be better for everyone, but later is the dominant mindset in Israel today, and one that is unfortunately reinforced by America.

What Israel gives up is an endless series of wars and other depredations which make them look like arrogant warmongers, and make them seem malign to most of the people in most of the countries in the world. (Even in the US, even with virtually every politician of both parties in their pockets, their reputation is currently in free fall.)

Few Palestinian politicians will welcome this proposal, especially as it isn't even up to them. It's hard to argue that they've served their people well over the years, even if one recognizes that they've been dealt an especially weak hand in face of Israeli ruthlessness. But for the people of Gaza, this offers survival, freedom, and a measure of dignity. And for the world, and especially for the UN, this offers a chance to actually fix something that got broke on the UN's watch 75 years ago and has been an open sore ever since.

But sure, this leaves many more problems to be worked on. There are border issues with Lebanon and Syria. There is apartheid, loss of rights, harassment, even pogroms within Israel -- all of which offer reasons to continue BDS campaigns. At some point, Israel could decide to cut off more land to reduce its Palestinian population, but they could also reduce tensions by moving toward equal rights, secure in the expectation of a strong Jewish majority. That might spell the end of the extreme right-wing parties, at least the leverage they've recently held over Netanyahu, and for that matter the end of Netanyahu, who's done nothing but drive Israel over the brink.

Meanwhile, all we can really do is to campaign for an immediate ceasefire, both to arrest the genocidal destruction of Gaza and to salvage Israelis from the ultimate shame of their political revenge. The time for both-sidesing this is past. There is little point in even mentioning Hamas any more. This isn't a war. This is a cold, calculate massacre. History will not be kind to the people who laid the foundations of this conflict, and will judge even more harshly those who are carrying it to its ultimate ends.

I'll end this intro with something I wrote back on October 9, a mere two days into this "war" (which I initially described as a "prison break and crime spree," before moving on to a comparison to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1944 -- it's not exactly ironic how often Palestinian suffering echoes calamities in Jewish history):

Anyone who condemns Hamas for the violence without also condemning Israel for its violence, and indeed for the violence and injustice it has inflicted on Palestinians for many decades now, is not only an enemy of peace and social justice, but under the circumstances is promoting genocide.

Bold in the original, and still valid here. And three weeks later, you know who you are.


Top story threads:

Israel: See introduction above. Just scattered links below, one that caught my interest and/or pissed me off. For more newsy stuff, see the "live updates" from Vox; Guardian; Washington Post. There are also "daily reports" at Mondoweiss.

  • Ellen Ioanes/Jonathan Guyer/Zack Beauchamp: [10-28] Israeli troops are in Gaza: 7 big questions about the war, answered. This is a fairly generic intro. I don't put much stock into arguments that the reason Hamas attacked when they did had much to do with topical or even strategic concerns like the Saudi Arabia alliance or the latest Al-Aqsa Mosque outrages. Rather, as Israel keeps lurching to the right, and as America becomes more servile to the Israeli right, the sense of desperation has increased. In such times, violence at least seems like the one free thing one can do, a way to spread the pain and get the world's attention. I've often pointed out that the attraction of rockets is that the walls can't stop them. They're the one way people in Gaza have of making their presence felt to their tormentors, of reminding the world of their suffering. Of course, every time they do that, Israel strikes back, massively, reminding the world that their hold over Gaza is based on murderous force -- that that's the kind of people Palestinians are struggling to free themselves from. It doesn't work, in America at least, because we're so conditioned to love Israel and hate its enemies.

  • Rania Abouzeid: [10-21] The simmering Lebanese front in Israel's war.

  • Paula Aceves: [10-27] The corporate and cultural fallout from the Israel-Hamas war. I don't have time to sift through this long list just to feel outraged, but will remind you that the first casualties of every war are anyone who doubts the necessity of the war and the virtues of the warriors (the ones who presume to represent you; the others, of course, are evil inhuman ogres, and anyone who can't see that is a na´ve simp or far worse). I'll also note that one of the fired was pursed for sharing a link to an Onion title, "Dying Gazans Criticized For Not Using Last Words To Condemn Hamas." I missed that piece, but did take note of two other Onion headlines: U.S. warns a Gaza ceasefire would only benefit humanity; and Biden Expresses Doubts That Enough Palestinians Have Died.

  • Michael Arria: [10-28] We are witnessing the largest U.S. anti-war protests in 20 years. Not just the US: See Philip Weiss: [10-29] The world is seeing, and rising.

  • Ronen Bergman/Mark Mazzetti/Maria Abi-Habib: [10-29] How years of Israeli failures on Hamas led to a devastating attack: "Israeli officials completely underestimated the magnitude of the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas, shattering the country's once invincible sense of security."

  • Paola Caridi: [10-26] Does the US really know the Arab world at all? You would think that for all those years of risking American lives, they would have developed some expertise, but both the political and military career paths mostly favored the advancement of facilitators of established prejudice, and certainly not critics, or even people with cognitive empathy. Author has a recent book: Hamas: From Resistance to Regime. I have zero confidence that anyone else I've read in recent months has any real insight into Hamas.

  • Isaac Chotiner: [10-25] Is this the end of the Netanyahu era? Interview with Netanyahu biographer Anshel Pfeffer, a columnist at Haaretz.

  • Jessica Corbet: [10-29] 30 Israeli groups urge global community to help stop surging West Bank settler violence: "Unfortunately, the Israeli government is supportive of these attacks and does nothing to stop the violence."

  • Connor Echols:

  • Richard Falk: [10-24] The West's refusal to call for a ceasefire is a green light to Israel's ethnic cleansing.

  • Thomas Friedman: [10-29] The Israeli officials I speak with tell me they know two things for sure. Friedman's such a reliable mouthpiece for those "Israeli officials" that he's rarely worth reading, but his counsel today, that sometimes it's better to do nothing when provoked, is sound, and compared to the hysteria of most of his cohort, refreshing. An earlier version of this op-ed took the last line as a title: "Please, Israel, don't get lost in those tunnels." That sums up his concern: he couldn't care less what happens to Palestinians, but he realizes that what Netanyahu's gang is doing is ultimately very bad for the Israeli people he so treasures.

  • Neta Golan: [10-28] Israeli attacks on Gaza's healthcare sector are a form of genocide.

  • Melvin Goodman: Israeli state terrorism over the years.

  • Ryan Grim: The lights are off. Here's what we know about life and death inside Gaza: Interview with Maram Al-Dada. Also: Inside a Gaza village: "All of us will die, but we don't know when".

  • Jonathan Guyer: [10-27] The Biden administration needs to update its old thinking on Israel-Palestine: "A viral essay by Biden's foreign policy adviser shows why Israel is more of a liability to the US than anyone's ready to admit." The official is national security adviser Jake Sullivan, and the piece is classic self-delusion, something shockingly common among Washington think-tankers, with their blind faith in throwing their power around, with little care for whoever gets hurt in the process. Guyer contrasts Sullivan's piece(s) with a recent one by Obama advisor:

  • Ben Rhodes: [10-18] Gaza: The cost of escalation. Behind a paywall, so let's at least quote a bit:

    The immediate comparisons to the September 11 attacks felt apt to me not only because of the shock of violence on such a scale but also because of the emotional response that followed. . . .

    But imagine if you were told on September 12, 2001, about the unintended consequences of our fearful and vengeful reaction. That we would launch an illogical war in Iraq that would kill hundreds of thousands of people, fuel sectarian hatred in the Middle East, empower Iran, and discredit American leadership and democracy itself. That we would find ourselves facing an ever-shifting threat from new iterations of al-Qaeda and from groups, like ISIS, that on September 11 did not yet exist. That we would squander our moment of global predominance fighting a war on terror rather than focusing on the climate's tipping point, a revanchist Russia under Vladimir Putin, or the destabilizing effects of rampant inequality and unregulated technologies. That our commitment to global norms and international law would be cast aside in ways that would be expropriated by all manner of autocrats who claimed that they, too, were fighting terror. That a war in Afghanistan, which seemed so justified at the outset, would end in the chaotic evacuation of desperate Afghans, including women and girls who believed the story we told them about securing their future.

    This accounting does not begin to encompass the effects of America's renewed militarized nationalism, jingoism, and xenophobia on our own society after September 11, which ultimately turned inward. While it is far from the only factor, the US response to September 11 bears a large share of the blame for the dismal and divisive state of our politics, and the collapse of Americans' confidence in our own institutions and one another. If someone painted that picture for you on September 12, wouldn't you have thought twice about what we were about to do?

    I can't look up exactly what I was thinking on 9/11/2001 because I was in Brooklyn, away from the computer where I had started keeping my pre-blog online notebook, but my memory is pretty clear. I knew in an instant that the crashed planes were blowback from past imperial misadventures, that the political caste in Washington would take them not as tragic crimes but as an insult to American hyperpowerdom, that their arrogance would strike back arrogantly, that the consequences would be impossible to predict, but would certainly create more enemies than they could possibly vanquish. I probably could have figured out that the war madness would poison our domestic politics, much as the Cold War played such a large role in crippling our labor unions. Even before 9/11, Netanyahu and Barak and Sharon had conspired to wreck the Oslo Accords and trigger an Intifada they would use to permanently disable the Palestinian Authority, figuring they'd rather fight with Hamas than negotiate with Arafat.

  • Benjamin Hart: [10-26] Why Ehud Barak thinks Israel must invade Gaza: He's a big part of the problem in Israel over the last 30 years, even as he's tried to position himself as the smarter/tougher alternative to Netanyahu. I mean, he is, but not much, especially not much of an alternative, but he is much clearer and much less of a liar, so you can learn things listening to him.

  • David Hearst: [10-23] Israel-Palestine war: Starmer's Gaza betrayal shows he is failing as a leader: UK Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, who saved the party for neoliberalism by ousting actual leftist Jeremy Corbyn, and who is likely to become Prime Minister next time voters get a chance to choose one. "This is the first time Britain has been complicit in a direct Israeli military action since the Suez Crisis in 1956."

  • Ellen Ioanes: [10-24] Israelis feel abandoned by Netanyahu after October 7.

  • Jake Johnson: [10-26] Eight progressives vote against House Israel Resolution that ignores Palestinian suffering. This was the first act of the House after electing Mike Johnson speaker. The vote was 412-10, with one Republican and one non-CPC Democrat dissenting, six Democrats registering as "present." The Senate passed a similar resolution unanimously -- despite More than 300 former Sanders staffers urge him to lead cease-fire resolution in Senate.

  • Jimmy Johnson: [10-28] Genocide has been catching up to Israelis ever since Zionism's inception. "Israelis now perpetrate small-scale pogroms like the one Issacharoff reported on such a regular basis that they are barely considered newsworthy."

  • Fred Kaplan: [10-24] How George W. Bush helped Hamas come to power. The history is basically accurate, but I have a different take on it. Israel never wanted a "partner for peace," so they never wanted a Palestinian leadership that enjoyed strong popular support. In Arafat, and later in Abbas, they thought they had a pawn they could manipulate, but they never wanted either to be popular, so they never really offered them much, ultimately sabotaging their authority and sending the Palestinians searching for an alternative who would stand up for them. That could have been Hamas, but Israel sabotaged them too -- with America's support, as it was easy to convince Bush that Hamas were hopeless terrorists. So the title rings true, but what really happened was that in denying Fatah any chance to serve Palestinians, they created a vacuum that Hamas tried to fill, then kept them from any effective power, driving them back to terrorism.

  • Isabel Kershner: [10-29] Netanyahu finds himself at war in Gaza and at home: "Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, apologized for accusing military and security officials of lapses that led to the Hamas massacre but declined to accept responsibility himself."

  • Whizzy Kim: [10-28] The boycott movement against Israel, explained: It's often said that nobody gives up power without a fight, but it's hard to fight injustice without complicating it. Hence the search for nonviolent resistance and pressure, which have had modest successes, especially in countries where public opinion holds some sway, both locally and among higher powers. BDS played a large role in convincing South Africa to abolish apartheid, so it seemed like an ideal strategy for pressuring Israel into ending its own system of apartheid. We're still in the stage where Israel is pulling out all the stops to keep people in America and Europe from even discussing the prospect. Gag laws, of course, have been tried before, most notoriously in the US to prevent abolitionists from petitioning Congress about slavery. We should understand that had BDS been more successful, Israel may not have blundered its way into the present war.

  • Menachem Klein: [10-26] Israel's war cabinet has learned nothing from its failures: "The leaders who oversaw Israel's Gaza policy for 15 years are incapable of abandoning the erroneous ideas that collapsed on Oct. 7."

  • Will Leitch: [10-27] Banning Palestinian flags is just the beginning.

  • Eric Levitz: [10-27] The suppression of Israel's critics bolsters the case for free speech: Someone get this guy a thesaurus. Bolster: "support or strengthen; prop up." I think I get what he's saying, but I can't figure out a way to rephrase his title. The weak link is "the case," as no way suppression of anything "bolsters free speech." "The case" turns a real argument about who's allowed to say what into an abstract right, where liberals have to defend the rights of assholes to spew hate and lies in order to justify their own right to say something sensible and helpful.

  • Richard Luscombe: [10-27] Ron DeSantis's claim he sent military equipment to Israel unravels. Well, it's the thought that counts. On the other hand, Edward Helmore: [10-29] Ron DeSantis defends call to ban pro-Palestinian groups from Florida colleges is totally on-brand.

  • Ian S Lustick: [10-13] Vengeance is not a policy: "Emotionally driven reactions from Washington won't prevent future violence. Dismantling the Gaza prison could."

  • Eldar Mamedov: [10-25] EU's vaunted unity is disintegrating over Gaza crisis.

  • Neil MacFarquhar: [10-23] Developing world sees double standard in West's actions in Gaza and Ukraine.

  • Ruth Margalit: [10-19] The devastation of Be'eri: "In one day, Hamas militants massacred, tortured, and abducted residents of a kibbutz, leaving their homes charred and their community in ruins." This doesn't excuse that, or is excused by any of the chain of outrages that came before, as far back as Deir Yassin (1948) or Qibya (1953) or, in Gaza itself, in Khan Yunis and Rafah (1956). But one shouldn't look away, because, regardless of the perpetrators and victims, this is what it looks like.

  • Stephen Mihm: [10-26] Many evangelicals see Israel-Hamas war as part of a prophecy: If you weren't brought up on "Revelations," this seems like lunacy, but if you were, you have damn little incentive to try to allay the threat of war in the region.

  • Mahmoud Mushtaha: [10-24] If we survive the bombs, what will remain of our lives?

  • Nicole Narea: [10-28] Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group, explained: "Why would Hezbollah enter the fight against Israel?" People forget that in 2006 Israel was attacking Gaza before Hezbollah started firing rockets into North Israel, triggering the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War. They succeeded in relieving Gaza, but Israel did an enormous amount of bombing damage to Lebanon, then attempted a ground incursion to rout out Hezbollah, and got beat back pretty bad. Since then, they've had occasional skirmishes, especially over the disputed Bekaa Farms, but neither side has wanted to reopen a full-scale war. Israel has, however, bombed Hezbollah and/or Iranian troops in Syria quite a few times, without reprisals from Lebanon or Iran, so there's an itch they'd like to scratch.

  • AW Ohlheiser: [10-29] Why some Palestinians believe social media companies are suppressing their posts. I don't know much about this, but I do know that my wife was threatened with a Facebook ban and responded by "algospeak" (not her term). Hard for me to tell, as I rarely post anything but links to my pieces, and occasional pictures of food, but I've seen little evidence that my pieces are even read, much less by people who hate them and try to ban me. But algorithms? That's possible.

  • Wendy Pearlman: [10-30] Collective punishment in Gaza will not bring Israel security: "Scholarship suggests the overwhelming violence unleashed on the strip is not just a violation of international law -- it is militarily ineffective."

  • Vijay Prashad: [10-26] The everyday violence of life in occupied Palestine. Prashad also wrote, with Zoe Alexandra: [10-27] When the journalists are gone, the stories will disappear.

  • Adam Rasgon/David D Kirkpatrick: [10-20] Another hospital in Gaza is bleeding: Speaking with Dr Omar Al-Najjar: "Gaza is the place we were born and raised. However much they try to frighten and scare us, I agree with my family that I can't ever leave Gaza."

  • David Remnick: [10-28] In the cities of killing: Long report on the ground, with history, but Not as much "what comes after" as advertised.

  • Richard E Rubenstein: [10-27] Conflict resultion and the war in Gaza: Beyond the "bad actor" perspective.

  • Sigal Samuel: [10-27] Palestinians fear they're being displaced permanently. Here's why that's logical. He doesn't mention the Peel Commission (1937), but they recommended partition of Palestine with forced transfer, a policy which David Ben-Gurion applauded -- publicly for the first time, although his adoption of the "Hebrew labor" doctrine made it clear that an emerging Israel would do everything it could to drive Palestinians away. That's what they did on a massive scale in 1948-50, but after that it got more difficult. Ben-Gurion advised against war in 1967 because he recognized that Palestinians wouldn't flee any more: they would stay in place, and Israel would be stuck with them, sinking the Jewish majority he had engineered by 1950. But the dream and desire to expel was always there, with the settler movement on the front lines, becoming ever more aggressive as they increased political leverage.

  • Benzion Sanders: [10-28] I fought for the I.D.F. in Gaza. It made me fight for peace. "When my Israeli infantry unit arrived at the first village in Gaza, in July 2014, we cleared houses by sending grenades through windows, blowing doors open and firing bullets into rooms to avoid ambush and booby traps." And: "All our casualties and the suffering brought on Palestinians in Gaza accomplished nothing since our leaders refused to work on creating a political reality in which more violence would not be inevitable." Also see: Ariel Bernstein: [09-29] I fought house to house in Gaza . . . I know force alone won't bring peace.

  • Jon Schwarz: Hamas attack provides "rare opportunity" to cleanse Gaza, Israeli think tank says.

  • Adam Shatz: [11-02] Vengeful pathologies. This well-crafted essay stops short of considering the pros and cons of genocide, which would push the conflict into uncharted territory, but draws on the long history of colonial conflict as well as recent Israel/Palestine, where "its political class lacks the imagination and creativity -- not to mention the sense of justice, of other people's dignity -- required to pursue a lasting agreement." A couple quotes:

    One is reminded of Frantz Fanon's observation that 'the colonised person is a persecuted person who constantly dreams of becoming the persecutor.' On 7 October, this dream was realised for those who crossed over into southern Israel: finally, the Israelis would feel the helplessness and terror they had known all their lives. The spectacle of Palestinian jubilation -- and the later denials that the killing of civilians had occurred -- was troubling but hardly surprising. In colonial wars, Fanon writes, 'good is quite simply what hurts them most.'

    What hurt the Israelis nearly as much as the attack itself was the fact that no one had seen it coming.

    Shatz notes that "many analogies have been proposed for Al-Aqsa Flood," then argues for the 1955 Philippeville uprising where:

    Peasants armed with grenades, knives, clubs, axes and pitchforks killed -- and in many cases disembowelled -- 123 people, mostly Europeans but also a number of Muslims. To the French, the violence seemed unprovoked, but the perpetrators believed they were avenging the killing of tens of thousands of Muslims by the French army, assisted by settler militias, after the independence riots of 1945. In response to Philippeville, France's liberal governor-general, Jacques Soustelle, whom the European community considered an untrustworthy 'Arab lover', carried out a campaign of repression in which more than ten thousand Algerians were killed. By over-reacting, Soustelle fell into the FLN's trap: the army's brutality drove Algerians into the arms of the rebels, just as Israel's ferocious response is likely to strengthen Hamas at least temporarily, even among Palestinians in Gaza who resent its authoritarian rule.

    Already, the 10/7 attacks, unprecedented in scale as they were, have been dwarfed by Israel's overreaction. And while demographics and modern war technology won't allow a repeat of Algeria, Israel still has a lot to lose in its quest for vengeance.

  • Raja Shehadeh: [10-26] The uprooting of life in Gaza and the West Bank: A friendly reminder that "Palestinians are determined not to be displace."

  • Kevin Sieff/Noga Tarnopolsky/Miriam Berger/William Booth/David Ovalle: [10-24] In Israel, Macron proposes using anti-ISIS coalition against Hamas. It's really mind-boggling that the leader of a country which made such a complete and utter disaster of its colonialist adventure in Algeria could want to come back for more. But even if this isn't just some deep-seated muscle memory from the golden age of European imperialism, even if it's just sheer opportunism on Macron's part, how smart is it to want to be remembered for aiding and abetting genocide? Lots of western politicians have embarrassed themselves fawning over Israel lately, but this takes the cake.

  • Richard Silverstein:

  • Norman Solomon: [10-30] Biden is a genocide denier and the 'enabler in chief' for Israel's ongoing war crimes. It kind of looks like that, doesn't it?

  • Ishaan Tharoor:

    • [10-29] Israel's Gaza offensive stirs a wave of global protest: This is the only really heartening thing to come out of this month. For many years, Palestinians have been divided between factions (like Hamas) set on fighting for their rights, and others appealing to nonviolent change: to decent public opinion, international law, and the subtle pressure of BDS. Israel has done everything possible to fight both, especially by turning them against each other, and they've done a pretty good job of locking up political elites in the US and Europe with their campaign against "terrorism." But large numbers of people, even in media markets saturated with Israeli talking points, still see through that. And once their eyes open up, further genocide will only further estrange Israel from what we'd like to think of as the civilized world.

    • [10-25] Israel says Hamas 'is ISIS.' But it's not.

    • [10-27] The brutal logic of tying colorful pieces of string around children's wrists in Gaza.

  • Nick Turse: [10-24] Secret U.S. war in Lebanon is tinder for escalation of Israel-Gaza conflict: "Billions in security aid to Lebanon, along with off-the-books commandos, could embroil the U.S. in a regional conflagration."

  • Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [10-27] 'Tit-for-tat' after US retaliates against Iranian targets: "F-16s struck what Pentagon said were IRGC-backed militias on Friday."

  • Bret Wilkins: [10-25] 40 faith leaders lead Gaza pray-in at House Minority Leader Jeffries' DC office. I'd nominate this for Seth Meyers' "The Kind of Stories We Need Now" segment. Wilkins also wrote:

  • Li Zhou: [10-25] What unites the global protests for Palestinian rights: Given the near unanimity of the US political caste in its fealty to Israel (e.g., the Senate voted 97-0 to denounce a ceasefire), you may be surprised by how many people all around the world demonstrating for Palestinian rights, the most basic of which is not to be slaughtered by Israeli bombers and left to starve in the rubble. The messages and emphases vary, but the most basic one in the US, where Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now have been especially active, is to call for an immediate ceasefire.

Also on X (Twitter):

  • Peter Beinart: [Response to Yair Wallach: Last night, settlers invaded the village of Susya (South Hebron hills) and ordered its residents to leave within 24 hours -- otherwise they would all be killed.] All year we've been screaming that this would happen. No establishment American Jewish leader said a word. As far as I know, they still haven't. [Link to Beinart's article: [04-13] Could Israel carry out another Nakba? "Expulsionist sentiment is common in Israeli society and politics. To ignore the warning sign is to abdicate responsibility."]

  • Ryan Grim: Holy shit -- it looks like the Western media mistranslated a doctor's guess that there were more than 500 killed or wounded by the hospital bombing, and just went with killed.

    Then the press found that fewer than 500 were killed and the president of the United States told the world the numbers from the health ministry can't be trusted.

    Astounding combination of arrogance and ignorance all in the service of unchecked slaughter.

    [Continuing in comment] The error flowed, I think, from the Western media's lack of interest in Palestinians as people. If one dies, we put them in a spreadsheet, because we know on some level it's bad when civilians are killed.

    But if one is only wounded -- a leg blown off, a concussion, what have you -- that's not interesting to us, and you very rarely see stats for killed and wounded in the Western press -- only killed. Or "died," usually.

    But people in Gaza, such as this doctor in question, do care about the wounded as well as the killed. So he mentioned both, and we simply didn't hear him, because it doesn't matter to us if a Palestinian civilian is only hurt but not killed in a bombing.

  • Katie Halper: Jews pretending to be "afraid" of "antisemitic" protests: They're protests against Israeli genocide. It's you genocidal fascists who put us Jews in danger by conflating Jewishness & zionism & perpetuating the antisemitic myth that all Jews support Israel. You don't speak for us.

  • Tony Karon: Some mealy-mouthed efforts by the Biden Administration to distance itself from Israel's war crimes in Gaza do nothing to alter its culpability. The only credible way to prevent further mass slaughter of civilians is to force a cease-fire. [Link to: US says Israel must distinguish between Hamas targets and civilians. Israel will just say Hamas is using "human shields," as if that's all the excuse they need. They don't distinguish between targets and civilians because they don't make the distinction.]

  • Tony Karon: Contra to @JoeBiden's ham-handed efforts to equate Hamas with Russia, it is Israel that is following Putin's playbook. In the second Chechnya war, he supervised Russian forces flattening Grozny, and killing 18,000 people in the first weeks of his assault.

  • Tony Karon: Colonialism is deeply embedded in the BBC's DNA, which is why every report on horrors being inflicted by Israel's 'pacification' violence must be qualified by the colonizer's own spin. Clearly, @BBC bosses believe the Israeli version. They would, though, wouldn't they? [Robert Wright commented: Or it could be that, like many people, whoever wrote this doesn't know the difference between "refute" and "rebut".] Karon continued: Not really, because it's a pattern -- literally every report on the horrors unfolding in Gaza on their web site is accompanied by a disclaimer worthy of Walter Isaacson's 2001 instruction to his CNN staff to downplay and spin civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

  • Arsen Ostrovsky: [Over aerial video of a massive protest in London] This isn't a pro-Palestinian rally in London now, it's a pro-Hamas rally.

    Churchill is probably rolling in his grave.

    Jon "Pumpkinhead" Schwarz commented: Churchill probably would be upset about these demonstrations, given that he referred to Palestinians as animals ("the dog in the manger") who had no right to be upset by being replaced by "a higher grade race"

  • Nathan J Robinson: This is an important point. If the British had responded to IRA attacks on civilians by launching relentless air strikes on Irish civilian neighborhoods, it would have appeared obviously psychopathic and deranged. Yet in Gaza this is considered a reasonable response to terror.

  • David Sheen: Israeli TV running a counter of fatalities in Gaza -- most of whom are civilians and many of whom are children --under the heading "terrorists we eliminated". And for those too lazy to drive to Sderot to watch the genocide, they've got you covered with a livestream of the bombing.

    Tikun Olam commented: Language betrays the immorality and genocide. Here are a few other statistics: 8,000 Gaza dead -- 3,000 children. 45% of homes destroyed. 1.5-million refugees. 10 of 35 hospitals shut down due to lack of supplies & power.

  • Rabbi Alissa Wise: This is Netanyahu telling the world he plans genocide. So even if 8000 dead and cutting off connection to the rest of the world and access to food & water didnt convince you, now you know. ACT NOW! [Refers to Netanyahu quote, video included: "You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible"]

    Elsewhere, Barnett R. Rubin explains Netanyahu's bible quote: For those unfamiliar with the reference, here it is: I Samuel 15: 3-4: Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

    Tony Karon adds: Here, @POTUS, is your deranged partner in war crime pledging to commit Biblically-inspired genocide. That Palestinian death toll you don't want to hear about? Is that because you know you could have prevented it?

Trump, and other Republicans: Big news this week, aside from Trumps trials and fulminations, was the election of Mike Johnson (R-LA) as Speaker of the House. So he's getting some press, raising the question of why anyone who thought Jim Jordan was too toxic could imagine that he'd be any more tolerable.

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

  • Lautaro Grinspan: [10-23] How young Argentines might put a far-right libertarian into power: Javier Milei, who if elected would probably become the very worst national president in the world today. He was the surprise leader in the primary round, but fell to second place in last Sunday's first-round election. (It's kind of a screwy system.)


Other stories:

Kelly Denton-Borhaug: [10-29] The dehumanization of war (please don't kill the children): Always two titles at this site, so I figured use both, for this "meditation for Veterans Day," which I could have filed under Israel or Ukraine or possibly elsewhere, but thought I'd let it stand alone. Starts in Hiroshima, 1945 with what Stalin would have called a "statistic," then focuses in on a 10-year-old girl, whose mother was reduced to "an unrecognizable block of ash," with only a single gold tooth to identify her. The author has a book about American soldiers but the theme is universal: And Then Your Soul Is Gone: Moral Injury and U.S. War-Culture.

Lloyd Green: [10-29] Romney: A Reckoning review: must-read on Mitt and the rise of Trump: "McKay Coppins and his subject do not hold back in a biography with much to say about the collapse of Republican values." Also on the Romney book:

John Herrman: [10-27] What happens when ads generate themselves? I wish this was the most important article of the week. This is a subject I could really drill down hard on, not least because I think advertising is one of the most intrinsically evil artifacts of our world. And because "artificial intelligence" is a pretty sick oxymoron.

Bruce E Levine: [10-27] Why failed psychiatry lives on: Seems like someone I would have gained much from reading fifty years ago (although R.D. Laing, Thomas Szasz, Paul Goodman, and Neil Postman worked for me).

Sophie Lloyd: [10-28] Disney's 8 biggest mistakes in company's history: I wouldn't normally bother with a piece like this, but as mistakes go, these are pretty gross. I mean, after their treatment of slavery and Indians, and their mistreatment of lemmings, number eight was an omnibus "A long history of sexism."

James C Nelson: [10-27] Just another day in NRA paradise: I suppose I have to note that another crazy person with an assault rifle killed 18 and injured 13 more in Lewiston, Maine, last week. This article is as good a marker as any. You know the drill. If you want an update: Kelly McClure: [10-27] Suspect in Maine mass shootings found dead.

Will Oremus/Elizabeth Dwoskin/Sarah Ellison/Jeremy B Merrill: [10-27] A year later, Musk's X is tilting right. And sinking.

Nathan J Robinson: I could have split these up all over today's post, but want to point out the common source of so much insight:

  • [10-27] They're all "extremists": "The Republican Party has long been pushing us toward an apocalyptic dystopian future. The differences between individual Republicans are far less important than their similarities." My only question is why the quotes? "Extremists" is plainly descriptive, and hardly controversial.

  • [10-26] How the occupation of Palestine shapes everyday life -- and what happens now: Interview with Nathan Thrall, former director of the Arab-Israeli Project at the International Crisis Group, and author of The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine, and most recently A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy. Thrall lives in Jerusalem, but has recently been trying to promote his book in the UK, noting:

    I have never seen this degree of intolerance for any sort of nuance in the discussion of Israel-Palestine, for any discussion of root causes, even just expression of sympathy for Palestinians living under occupation. We've seen events canceled in the UK and the US, hotels refusing to host long planned Palestinian conferences. A concert in London was shut down, and my own book event was shut down in London by the UK police. And of course, what made headlines was the prize in Germany that was going to be given to a Palestinian author. And you saw that the UK Home Secretary had said -- the police, of course, are not going to follow through on this -- but she recommended to the police to arrest anyone, or to consider arresting anyone, with a Palestinian flag. We saw in France that they were banning Palestinian protests. It's really a very difficult moment to speak with any kind of intelligence or nuance about this issue.

    I've occasionally noted instances of repression emanating from political and cultural elites in the US and Europe, clearly aimed at shutting down any discussion, much less protest, against all the violence in and around Gaza, but I haven't seriously tracked it, because this assault on free speech and democracy seems like the less urgent tragedy. But it's happening. And it reminds me of 9/11: not the shocking initial event, but the chilling efforts to keep anyone but the warmongers from speaking, allowing them the illusion of cheering applause as they went ahead with their ill-considered and ultimately self-destructive program.

  • [10-25] "Libs of Tiktok" is Orwell's "two minutes hate": "The right-wing social media account is viciopus and dehumanizing. Its revolting toxicity shows us why empathy and solidarity are so important."

  • [10-23] The wisdom of Edward Said has never been more relevant. Article includes extensive quotes.

Jeffrey St Clair: [10-27] Roaming Charges: That oceanic feeling. Lead section on climate change (remember that?) and environment. I didn't realize that small planes still burn leaded gasoline. Then the dirt on Mike Johnson. Then a much longer list of criminal injustices. Plus other things, like a Nikki Haley quote ("I'm tired of talking about a Department of Defense. I want a Department of Offense.")

Evaggelos Vallianatos: [10-27] Slauighter of the American buffalo: Article occasioned by the Ken Burns documentary, which may be an eye-opener if you don't know the story, and adds details if you do. It is a classic case of how insatiable world markets suck the life out of nature, and how the infinite appetites of financiers, who've reduced everything to the question of how much more money their money can make.

Richard D Wolff: [10-27] Why capitalism cannot finally repress socialism. This assumes that some measure of sanity must prevail. And yes, I know that's a tautology, as socialism is the sanity that keeps capitalism from tearing itself apart and dissolving into chaos.


Nothing from The New Republic this week, as they decided I'm "out of free articles," even though I'm pretty sure we have a valid subscription. Not much there that isn't elsewhere, although I clicked on close to ten articles that looked interesting, before giving up, including one called Kyrsten Sinema's Delusional Exit Interview. AlterNet has a similar article: Carl Gibson: [10-30] 'I don't care': Kyrsten Sinema plans to cash in on Senate infamy if she loses reelection in 2024.

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