Archive for the ‘My favorite posts’ Category

The Rapture of the Palestinians

Monday, June 18th, 2012
No, they don't look Palestinian. But the picture is evocative anyway.

No, they don’t look Palestinian. But the picture is evocative anyway.

By Vic Rosenthal

At exactly 6 PM on November 29, 2012 (the UN’s “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People”), Allah in His mercy transported all 11,000,000 ‘Palestinians’ — those living in Israel and the territories, in refugee camps in various Arab countries, and in their worldwide diaspora — to heaven, where they received the rewards denied them on earth.

After collecting the piles of clothing, Kalashnikovs and explosives left behind by the departing Palestinians, Israelis heaved a sigh of relief. Now that they could no longer be accused of mistreating Palestinians, they would be welcomed into the family of nations.

No such luck.

On the day after the Rapture, UNRWA officials announced a crash program to hire new employees to replace the 29,700 out of 30,000 who were Palestinian. “We have a huge task ahead of us,” said John Ging, head of UNRWA in Gaza, as he walked through the deserted streets of Gaza City, among wind-whipped black ski masks and green headbands. “One we get staffed up again, we’ll begin the task of repopulating the refugee camps. Maybe we can get Egyptians to live here — they don’t have any food in Egypt.” Deftly stepping over a Qassam rocket rolling on the sidewalk, he continued: “After all, we can’t let the Zionists come back. And we have $1.2 billion to distribute!” In the distance, the detonation of an empty suicide belt was heard.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon issued a statement, in which he congratulated the Palestinians, and wished them luck in finally achieving Fatah-Hamas unity. “But we must keep in mind,” he said, “that there are still many obstacles to peace in the Middle East to be overcome, such as Jewish settlement construction. And the lack of Palestinians may slow down negotiations for Israeli withdrawal.”

The New York Times, in an editorial, agreed, and added sternly that “the hardline right-wing Netanyahu government should be put on notice that this event does not give it the right to violate international law and Judaize the city of Jerusalem, which is holy to three great religions, and which some Arabs probably want as capital of their future state.”

In his column, Thomas L. Friedman suggested that perhaps the disappearance of the Palestinians opened up a long-awaited window of opportunity: “If the hardline right-wing Likudniks over there would just get down on their bellies and crawl to Riyadh where they can bow to the King the way Obama did, then maybe there could be progress,” said Friedman. “But they must act quickly, before the world loses patience.”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied the possibility of a miracle. “If anybody brings Muslims to heaven, it’s going to be me, and it’s not going to be those Sunni heretics that get to go, either. Probably the Zionists, who are still a cancer on the pancreas of the Islamic Middle East, murdered them and hid their bodies somewhere. ”

“Yeah,” piped up Hassan Nasrallah, “and they are still occupying the Shabaa Farms, whether or not there are any Palestinians.”

US President Barack Obama, now a lame duck and too depressed to talk, did not make an official statement. But he was overheard when he spoke into an open microphone, saying “f-k the Jews, they didn’t vote for us anyway.”

Finally, a joint delegation from Students for Justice in Palestine, J Street, Jewish Voice for Peace and Peter Beinart appeared on MSNBC. “We are pleased to see that the oppression of Palestinians has finally come to an end. But there is still much to do in order to sma– er, improve — the undemocratic, racist, right-wing theocratic state of Israel. We are all Palestinians now!”

There was a soft pop, and they disappeared.

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Why we talk past one another

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

By Vic Rosenthal

Yesterday I described some of my experiences at one of our community’s recurrent anti-Israel events. It got me thinking about the reasons that we seem to divide into groups according to political criteria, groups that talk past one another.

I mentioned that I went to an event sponsored by the local “Center for Nonviolence.” I would very much like to explain to them why I think that the policies they advocate, these basically honest people who would like to improve the world, would result in more violence, not less. But conversations like this are almost impossible. Why is this?

When I think back to my days as a philosophy student, one of the philosophers who made the most sense to me was Kant. Kant took very seriously the arguments of Hume and others that the ideas of space, time, causality, etc. — things that allow us to organize and understand our experience –  could not be found in our experience itself. But if this is so, how can we know that our systems of knowledge, including science, are reliable?

Kant’s answer (very oversimplified!) is that these “modes of perception” — space and time — and “categories of the understanding” — including causality — are built into humans, who then impose them on their otherwise chaotic perception of outside reality.

Something like this happens at a higher level, the level at which we assign political significance to events. So a person makes otherwise chaotic human behavior understandable by applying a priori categories and principles to it.

The classical Marxist, for example, uses the class struggle as a unifying principle. It enables him to understand and predict, he thinks, the behavior of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Today much of the Left holds a postcolonialist worldview, in which the behavior of nations and politicians is explained by relationships of colonial exploitation, present and future.

Such conceptual schemes have their utility, but they do not necessarily serve the truth, and can even invert reality when applied inappropriately. My readers are probably tired of hearing me talk ad nauseum about how  postcolonial theory inverts reality when applied to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

The first reason that I have trouble talking to the people from the Center for Nonviolence (much as I would like to see a reduction of violence in the world) is that we apply different explanatory principles to the same events.

This is bad enough, but there’s more. When we read history and today’s news, we not only organize our experience according to a conceptual scheme, we fill in gaps. Things like the motivations of political actors are not always transparent, but they are of great importance in allowing us to predict their future behavior (and isn’t that what knowledge is all about?). So when we process information, we not only organize it, we add to it.

What comes out of this is a historical narrative. And narratives about the same events can diverge to the point of being complete opposites. The obvious example of this is the difference between the so-called Israeli and Arab narratives of the events of 1948, in which a real event — the displacement of some Arabs from what is now Israel — is interpreted in entirely different ways by emphasizing some facts and deemphasizing, even ignoring, others, by imputing motivations to the actors, and more.

Should we include the parallel displacement of Jews from the Arab world in our understanding? What were the motivations of the Arabs that fled? What did the Zionist leadership intend? What did the Arab leaders want? Which accounts are reliable and which not? The answers to these questions determine a historical narrative.

So we have different conceptual schemes and different historical narratives. And even that isn’t all: we live in parallel but different media universes. We visit different websites, watch different TV networks, read different newspapers and magazines, listen to different radio stations. Naturally, we choose the universe that best fits our conception of the way things are.

These three reasons are at least part of the explanation for the failures of communication between, for example, a Zionist like me and a member of the Center for Nonviolence.

Keep in mind that these differences do not imply that “everyone is equally right” or something similar. Kant thought that despite the fact that humans imposed categories on empirical reality, there was an empirical reality. Propositions can be true or false in a way which may not be entirely objective, but is nevertheless universal. Things are more complicated than they may look, but truth and falsehood, right and wrong, are meaningful concepts.

I’ve found that entering the media universe of my political opponents gives me a certain amount of power. I recommend it. But one needs to understand their conceptual schemes as well in order to communicate.

Unfortunately, only a few people have the patience to listen to the other side long enough to understand them.

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Moty & Udi: at the Purim party

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Not everyone is a Star Wars fan, but we are all familiar with the double standard under which it is just fine to accuse ‘Zionists’ of every despicable behavior imaginable, while it is considered inappropriate — and often dangerous — to talk about the Arab and Muslim propensity to terrorism.

For example, a newspaper in the UK has had a complaint filed against it at the Bedfordshire police department because it published a piece by Melanie Phillips containing this:

Today the massacred Fogel family was buried in Jerusalem. And as anticipated, the moral depravity of the Arabs is finding a grotesque echo in the moral bankruptcy and worse of the British and American ‘liberal’ media – a sickening form of armchair barbarism which is also in evidence, it has to be said, on the comment thread beneath my post below.

Overwhelmingly, the media have either ignored or downplayed the atrocity – or worse, effectively blamed the victims for bringing it on themselves, describing them as ‘hard-line settlers’ or extremists. Given that three of the victims were children, one a baby of three months whose throat was cut, such a response is utterly degraded.

The complainant, the head of an organization called “Muslims4UK,” Inayat Bungalawa, said

Her words went far beyond just denouncing the killings. It was a far more generalised racist outburst against Arabs as a whole.

Well, Bungalawa has a blog of his own, called “Inayat’s Corner,” and a filthy little corner it is indeed. Here are some quotations I found there without looking very hard:

(3/11) The Israel lobby views any progress made by UK Muslims in this country’s political life as being against their interests. The only permissible Muslims are those who are prepared to remain silent about the crimes perpetrated by the apartheid state of Israel.

(2/11) Robert Halfon [a British MP] – you are a total and utter coward, much like the members of the murderous Israeli Defence Forces. Whereas the IDF like to hide inside their tanks while firing shells at little children, you hide inside the House of Commons while making your libellous comments.

(10/10) David Cameron spoke out against any calls to punish Israel for its continuing occupation of Palestinian lands, its illegal Jewish settlements, its cruel and barbaric treatment of the besieged and repeatedly bombed people of Gaza and its known stockpile of nuclear weapons.

(9/10) Four Israeli land-thieves killed

All the main news outlets are currently carrying the story of the killing of four Israeli colonist-settlers yesterday by the military wing of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, near the Palestinian city of Hebron.

(5/10) It is not difficult to imagine that the UK govt’s reaction would have been rather different if it had been, say, Iran that had massacred a group of aid volunteers [on the Mavi Marmara].

If we had the kind of hate speech and libel laws here as they do in the UK (thank goodness we don’t), I’d file a complaint against Bungalawa on behalf of Israel and the IDF.

Almost everything he says is anti-Israel, but I’ve excerpted only those quotations which appear libelous. He is also remarkably rude to Melanie Phillips — perhaps she should sue him too?

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The Obama Sopranos

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Sometimes something obvious to everyone else comes as a shock to me. I’ve been writing all week (here, here, here and here) about  the sheer lack of logic in the Obama Administration’s linkage theory, the idea that forcing a Palestinian state into existence will give the US and Israel leverage in dealing with the Iranian threat, nuclear and otherwise.

I called it a blinding non-sequitur, a backwards strategy, and argued that it should be obvious to everyone that Iranian mischief, by way of Hamas and Hezbollah, supports and nurtures the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that there will be no solution for Israel and the Palestinians until Iran and its proxies are dealt with — the opposite of what the administration is insisting. The road to Tehran does not lead through Jerusalem, I said, it goes in the other direction.

I tried very hard to find the logic, to understand the reasoning.

Stupid me. It is not a theory — an attempt to explain a phenomenon,  or a strategy — an attempt to approach a final goal by way of an intermediate one. There is no ‘reasoning’ involved. To use the language of philosophical logic, it’s not an argument, it’s a “performative utterance” .

In other words, it’s a threat.

Here is what Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Joe Biden, James Jones, and who knows who else is saying:

Look, Israel, we know you’re worried about  Iran and the tens of thousands of missiles in Lebanon and Syria that they control, and we know that you’re worried about the atomic weapons that they will have in a year or two. We know that Ahmadinejad has threatened to whack you in the crudest antisemitic terms.

But see, those missiles are a lot closer to you than they are to us. And there are certain things that we want, like a Palestinian state tomorrow and an end to your own nuclear capability. So if you want our help, just roll over and give it up.

You wouldn’t want have an accident with those missiles.

Oh, and don’t go trying to take on Iran yourself. You want protection in this neighborhood, you buy it from us.

Even Tony Soprano couldn’t have put it more clearly.

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No room for Jews

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Ahmed QureiYesterday I wrote that the Palestinians have never negotiated, that they have not reduced their demands since the ‘peace’ process — first Oslo and now Annapolis — began.  Here’s some more evidence:

There will be no room for Jews or settlements in the West Bank because their presence there will always be an obstacle to peace with Israel, Ahmed Qurei, head of the Palestinian Authority negotiating team, said at the weekend…

“Initially, Israel sought to annex 7.3 percent of the West Bank,” he disclosed. “Then it went down to 6.8%. Of course we completely rejected this idea…”

The chief Palestinian negotiator also said Israel agreed to take in 5,000 Palestinian refugees over a five-year period, but this was rejected by the Palestinians…

Qurei said the Palestinians have also rejected the idea of land swap with Israel. How can we give up any part of Jerusalem?” he asked. “For us Jerusalem is not only a spiritual or cultural or historic center, but also the economic center of the future Palestinian state. The settlements surrounding the city will make it hard for millions of Arabs, Muslims and Christians to visit Jerusalem in the future.”

In a few sentences we have the Palestinian position: no compromise on borders, refugees or Jerusalem.

No room for Jews. It has a familiar ring to it.

It’s instructive to ask exactly what justifies Qurei’s stubbornness.

One of the places that the Palestinians do not wish to compromise on is Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, south of Jerusalem. Part of the Palestine Mandate from 1917 to 1948, and the Ottoman empire before that, it was purchased from local Arabs and settled by Yemenite Jews in 1927.  They lived there on and off (they were driven out several times by Arab riots) until 1948 when the invading Jordanian army overran it and executed all but four of its defenders. All of the West Bank and East Jerusalem were made Jew-free by the Jordanians, who illegally occupied the area until 1967, when the kibbutz was reestablished.

So please explain, Mr. Qurei, where the Palestinian claim comes from. And explain why it is that if Kfar Etzion did become part of your state, there would be no room for Jews in it. Will Palestine be a racist apartheid state?

He has an answer for this:

Our experiences have taught us that it’s impossible to coexist with these settlers. We still remember the [Tomb of the Patriarchs] massacre in Hebron in 1994 and the daily attacks carried out by settlers in Hebron, Nablus, Kalkilya and other places.

In other words because a Jew, Baruch Goldstein, acted like an Arab terrorist (after which he and his act were denounced by all but a tiny sliver of Israel’s population), and because some Jewish settlers have become hostile in the face of constant hostility from Arabs — that is, because they have behaved like the imperfect human beings that they are — Jews are not permitted to live in Kfar Etzion?

Does Mr. Qurei have the moral authority to argue that Jews must be expelled (again) from Kfar Etzion because of the settlers’ behavior when his national heroes are murderers like Samir Kuntar and Dalal Mughrabi?

Does he have the moral authority to worry about access to Jerusalem for “Arabs, Muslims and Christians” when Israel has allowed access to the holy places for all faiths, even after Jews were not permitted to set foot in East Jerusalem during the Jordanian occupation?

Does he have any moral authority at all when his PLO has been the world leader in terrorism and murder since the 1960’s?

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