Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Time to Choose: Liberalism or Zionism? By Dov Waxman.

Time to Choose: Liberalism or Zionism? By Dov Waxman. Haaretz, April 23, 2014.

Waiting for the Palestinian Godot. By Ari Shavit. Haaretz, April 24, 2014.

Discard the false visions of a binational state. By Salman Masalha. Haaretz, March 19, 2014.


It’s not easy being a liberal Zionist. Denounced by right-wing Zionists for being insufficiently pro-Israel and disparaged by left-wing anti-Zionists for being insufficiently universalist, liberal Zionists have long been on the defensive. How can they square their commitment to Jewish statehood with their commitment to liberal democracy? How can they support Israel when it oppresses Palestinians? How can they criticize Israel when it is the victim of terrorism, rejectionism and anti-Semitism? How can they align themselves with Israel’s enemies?
Challenged with such questions from the left and right, liberal Zionists have defended Israel’s claim to be a Jewish and democratic state (often conveniently overlooking the fact that Arabs make up almost 20 percent of its citizens). They have also championed the establishment of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories. For liberal Zionists, a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not only morally and strategically necessary for Israel, it is necessary for them. It is the only way to reconcile their Zionism and their liberalism; their support for Israel and their support for equality and human rights.
As long as the two-state solution is possible, liberal Zionism makes sense, at least to its adherents. This is why liberal Zionists have placed such high hopes on the U.S.-backed peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. While most Israelis and Palestinians — and many disinterested observers — long ago gave up their expectations for the peace process and now regard it with a mixture of skepticism and cynicism, liberal Zionists, especially those in the United States, still fervently believe in it. They have enthusiastically thrown their support behind American Jewish organizations like J Street that lobby for it. The peace process offers the tantalizing prospect of the realization of the liberal Zionists’ dream — two states for two peoples living peacefully side by side. As long as there’s a peace process, the dream lives on.
The failure of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative, therefore, is a bitter blow for liberal Zionists. Over the past nine months, they set aside their doubts and invested their hopes in the slim chance that Kerry would somehow be able to cajole, entice and pressure Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas into making the difficult decisions and compromises necessary for a peace agreement. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, liberal Zionists desperately tried to convince themselves that this time things would turn out differently. Although every previous U.S. administration that has tried to broker peace has failed, the Obama administration could succeed; although Bibi has never demonstrated bold leadership, now he would; although Abbas has already turned down a previous Israeli offer, this time he wouldn’t.
It is now brutally clear that the current peace process will not end the conflict. Even if peace talks continue, there is no real prospect that a comprehensive final-status agreement can be reached, let alone implemented. Without such an agreement, the two-state solution is impossible to achieve since it can only be accomplished through mutual consent, not unilateral actions (such as an Israeli withdrawal from parts of the West Bank or Palestinian membership in the United Nations).
The apparent demise of the peace process forces liberal Zionists to confront a painful question that many wish to avoid — if a two state solution is now impossible, should they support, however reluctantly, a one-state solution? Must they concede that the only way to end the occupation is to endorse the principle of equal rights for Jews and Palestinians in all of Israel/Palestine? While granting citizenship to Palestinians living under Israeli rule in the West Bank effectively spells the end of the Jewish state, how much longer can liberal Zionists uphold Jewish self-determination at the expense of Palestinian self-determination?
To be sure, a one-state solution may be just as impossible as a two-state solution, if not more so — civil war and even ethnic cleansing are more likely outcomes than peaceful coexistence. Perhaps this long, interminable conflict cannot be resolved, at least not for the foreseeable future. In that case, liberal Zionists much accept that there is no easy way for them to reconcile their liberalism and their Zionism. Instead, they must either abandon their liberalism or their Zionism, or just learn to live with the constant tension between them. Whatever they choose, it will only become harder to be a liberal Zionist.

What Do You Call It When a Big Country Takes a Chunk of a Small One? Greed (And We Should Know). By David Lee McMullen.

What Do You Call It When a Big Country Takes a Chunk of a Small One? Greed (And We Should Know). By David Lee McMullen. History News Network, April 20, 2014. Also at Rambling Historian.

The Closing of the Academic Mind. By M.G. Oprea.

The Closing of the Academic Mind. By M.G. Oprea. The Federalist, April 21, 2014.

Let’s Give Up on Academic Freedom in Favor of Justice. By Sandra Y. L. Korn. NJBR, February 26, 2014. Published in The Harvard Crimson, February 18, 2014.


Harvard student Sandra Y.L. Korn recently proposed in The Harvard Crimson that academics should be stopped if their research is deemed oppressive. Arguing that “academic justice” should replace “academic freedom,” she writes: “If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of ‘academic freedom’?”
In other words, Korn would have the university cease to be a forum for open debate and free inquiry in the name of justice, as defined by mainstream liberal academia.
Unfortunately, this is already a reality in most universities across America, where academics and university administrators alike are trying, often successfully, to discredit and prohibit certain ideas and ways of thinking. Particularly in the humanities, many ideas are no longer considered legitimate, and debate over them is de facto non-existent. In order to delegitimize researchers who are out of line, academics brand them with one of several terms that have emerged from social science theory.
The first term, “hegemonic,” is frequently used in history courses, literary criticism, and gender studies. Hegemony, of course, is a legitimate word that is often useful in describing consistency and uniformity. However, most people outside academia are unaware that being called “hegemonic” is the insult du jour. It strongly implies that you are close-minded and perhaps even bigoted. This term may be applied to offences ranging from referencing the habits or dress of a cultural group to discussing the views held by a religion (and daring to question them—so long as the religion in question is not Christianity).
To do these things is to “essentialize” those people by speaking about them broadly and being so bold as to imply that they may share a practice or belief in a general sense. It is the insult of those who would have every department in academia broken down into sub-departments ad infinitum in order to avoid saying anything general about anything, resulting in verbal and intellectual paralysis.
This strategy of labeling has been particularly successful in its application to middle-eastern and Islamic studies. Any author, or student, who does not join in the liberal narrative about Islamic culture—which includes unwavering support for Palestinians, the absolute equality of men and women in Islam, and an insistence on the peaceful nature of the religion despite any violent tendencies in its foundation— will find themselves labeled an “orientalist.”
Edward Said popularized this term in his 1978 post-colonial work Orientalism. According to many of my colleagues, an orientalist is a person who writes about the Middle East from a “western perspective,” which is when one does not unquestioningly support and affirm Middle Eastern and Islamic culture. This does not mean that westerners are excluded from writing about the Middle East and Islam. A westerner can do so successfully so long as their research is void of criticism. Write anything else and you will find yourself labeled an orientalist and no graduate course will touch your work with a ten-foot pole.
Sadly, this is precisely what has happened to the work of Bernard Lewis, one of the world’s most renowned Middle East scholars. Because he has written about clashes between Islam and the West, and is willing to look at the Middle East outside the utopian academic optic, Lewis has been “dis-credited” and replaced with authors like Tariq Ramadan in college or graduate course syllabi. Similarly, Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States and visiting professor at Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown universities, has been dismissed as “not a historian” by some academics, presumably because of his pro-Israeli stance. Kambiz Ghanea Bassiri, an associate professor at Reed College, strips the scholar Daniel Pipes of his status as a historian, writing that he is a “historian of Islam turned pro-Israel activist,” implying that the two are mutually exclusive.
The effect of discrediting one’s opponents in this way—rather than engaging and debating their ideas—is to create an academia where there is only one right way to think. If you dissent, you will be blackballed and labeled as hegemonic or orientalist.
Nowhere has this been more evident than in Brandeis University’s withdrawal of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali recently because of her “controversial” stance on women’s rights in Muslim society, which mostly consists of objecting to things like female genital mutilation, forced marriages, and honor killings. Rather than defending Hirsi Ali, or at the very least welcoming the debate that her presence would bring, Brandeis chose to shut her out. This was done at the behest of Brandeis faculty, students, and the Council of American-Islamic Relations, all of whom claim she is Islamaphobic.
The censorial climate of academia extends beyond tenured professors and touches the students, both in undergraduate and graduate school. They are being taught what is and is not an “acceptable” way of thinking rather than being encouraged to think through difficult questions on their own.
(I recently met a fellow graduate student from a Muslim-majority country who confessed that she is disgusted with the way women are treated in her home country. She finds the inequality unacceptable. However, she felt the need to make a caveat: “I know as an academic and a Muslim I shouldn’t say this…”)
The trouble is, very few in academia will even engage supposedly orientalist and hegemonic views. How can one argue against a room full of graduate students—and a professor—who dismiss such views out of hand and label dissenters with epithets that are tantamount to “racist” in academic parlance?
Korn’s dream of a “just” academic utopia is already being realized. But like many utopian visions, there is a dark underbelly. Anyone who does not ascribe to the dogma of “academic justice” can expect to be shunned and muzzled—as Brandeis demonstrated recently. The irony is that in its effort to eliminate allegedly close-minded and bigoted views, the university itself has become illiberal, dogmatic, and intellectually hegemonic.
If we shut the doors on academic freedom, the acceptable territory of research and discourse will continue to shrink over time, and the self-censorial dogma of the academy will inevitably trickle out beyond the boundaries of the university campus, threatening freedom of speech—and thought—in society at large.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

David McCullough, Jr, the “You’re Not Special” Teacher, Pens New Book.

“You’re not special” teacher pens new book. Video. The Kelly File. Fox News, April 22, 2014. Also at Fox News Insider.

You Are Not Special Commencement Speech from Wellesley High School. By David McCullough, Jr. Video. WellesleyChannelTV, June 7, 2012. YouTube. Transcript.

Taking Religion Seriously. By Charles Murray.

Taking Religion Seriously. By Charles Murray. The American, April 18, 2014.

Inequality Today: The Left-Liberal Narrative. By Walter Russell Mead.

Inequality Today: The Left-Liberal Narrative. By Walter Russell Mead. The American Interest, April 22, 2014.

Class Warfare Justified? By Robert J. Samuelson. Real Clear Politics, April 21, 2014. Also at the Washington Post.

The Most Important Book Ever Written Is All Wrong. By Clive Crook. Bloomberg, April 20, 2014.

Marx Rises Again. By Ross Douthat. New York Times, April 19, 2014.

Why We’re in a New Gilded Age. By Paul Krugman. New York Review of Books, May 8, 2014. Also here.

Why Inequality Doesn’t Matter. By Ben Domenech. The Federalist, April 23, 2014.

What Thomas Piketty’s Popularity Tells Us About the Liberal Press. By David Harsanyi. The Federalist, April 23, 2014.

The Sources of Egyptian Anti-Semitism. By Samuel Tadros.

The Sources of Egyptian Anti-Semitism. By Samuel Tadros. The American Interest, April 21, 2014.

Mark Levin Interviews William A. Jacobson on the BDS Movement.

On The Mark Levin Show talking Israel and the boycotters. By William A. Jacobson. Audio. Legal Insurrection, April 21, 2014. YouTube. Also at The Right Scoop.

Anti-Conservative Eliminationist Theorist Exonerates Anti-Zionist Conspiracy Theorist. By William A. Jacobson.

Anti-Conservative Eliminationist Theorist exonerates anti-Zionist Conspiracy Theorist. By William A. Jacobson. Legal Insurrection, April 20, 2014.

Putin’s Empire of the Mind. By Mark Galeotti and Andrew S. Bowen.

Putin’s Empire of the Mind. By Mark Galeotti and Andrew S. Bowen. Foreign Policy, April 21, 2014. Also here and here.

How Russia’s president morphed from realist to ideologue – and what he’ll do next.

Galeotti and Bowen:

A specter is haunting Europe, the specter of Russian imperialism.

When Vladimir Putin first came to power in 1999, he talked ideologically but acted rationally. He listened to a range of opinions, from liberal economist Alexei Kudrin to political fixer Vladislav Surkov – people willing to tell him hard truths and question groupthink. He may have regarded the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century, but he knew he couldn’t re-create it. Perhaps the best metaphor is that while he brought back the Soviet national anthem, it had new words. There was no thought of returning Russia to the failed Soviet model of the planned economy. And as a self-professed believer who always wears his baptismal cross, Putin encouraged the once-suppressed Russian Orthodox Church.

He was a Russian patriot, but he also was willing to cooperate with the West when it suited his interests. One of the first leaders to offer his condolences after the 9/11 attacks, Putin shared Russian intelligence on al Qaeda with the United States. He did not hesitate to protect Russia’s interests against the West – in 2008 Putin undercut any thought of NATO expansion into Georgia by launching a war against its vehemently pro-Western president, Mikheil Saakashvili – but Putin’s challenges were carefully calibrated to minimize repercussions while maximizing gains. He shut off gas to Ukraine, unleashed hackers on Estonia, and, yes, sent troops into Georgia, but he made sure that the costs of asserting regional hegemony were limited, bearable, and short term.

But that was the old Putin. Today, the West faces a rather different Russian leader.

After all, the annexation of Crimea, by any rational calculation, did not make sense. Russia already had immense influence on the peninsula, but without the need to subsidize it, as Ukraine had. (Russia has already pledged $1.5 billion to support Crimea.) The Russian Black Sea Fleet’s position in the Crimean seaport of Sevastopol was secure until 2042. Any invasion would anger the West and force it to support whatever government took the place of Viktor Yanukovych’s administration in Kiev, regardless of its composition or constitutionality.

In Putin’s actions at home as well, the Russian president is eschewing the pragmatism that marked his first administration. Instead of being the arbiter, brokering a consensus among various clans and interests, today’s Putin is increasingly autocratic. His circle of allies and advisors has shrunk to those who only share his exact ideas. Sober technocrats such as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu played seemingly no role in the decision-making over Crimea and were expected simply to execute the orders from the top.

This has become one of the new themes of Russian politics: the conflation of loyalty to the Kremlin with patriotism. It says much that dissidents at home, from journalists failing to toe the official line to protesters on the streets, are castigated either as outright “foreign agents” (every movement, charity, or organization accepting foreign money must register itself as such) or else as unknowing victims and vectors of external contamination – contamination, that is, from the West, whose cosmopolitanism and immorality Putin has come to see as an increasing threat to Russia’s identity. As a result, Putin's relationship with Russia’s elite – now often foreign-educated, usually well-traveled, and always interested in economic prospects abroad – has become tortuous. Having provided members of the elite with opportunities during his first presidency, Putin not only mistrusts the elite now, but sees it as unpatriotic. Some $420 billion has flowed out of Russia since 2008, and in 2013, Putin decried those who were “determined to steal and remove capital and who did not link their future to that of the country, the place where they earned their money.” In response, he launched a program of “de-offshorization” that has prompted major Russian telecom, metals, and truck-manufacturing companies to announce their return to Russia. And Alexander Bastrykin, the powerful head of the Investigative Committee and one of Putin’s closest acolytes, promised a crackdown on schemes designed to transfer money out of the country.

These efforts are representative of a broader reconsolidation that requires the West to stay out of Russia’s politics and that prevents its ideas and values from perverting Putin's country. In this context, Yanukovych’s ouster from the Ukrainian presidency was the inevitable catalyst for a decisive expression of a new imperialism. From the Kremlin’s perspective, a Western-influenced and -supported opposition movement in Kiev rose up and toppled a legitimate leader who preferred Russia over the European Union, in the process threatening the liberties and prospects of the ethnic Russian population in Ukraine's east.

Perhaps the world should have paid more attention when Putin made 2014 Russia’s “Year of Culture.” This was to be when the country celebrated its unique identity – a year of “emphasis on our cultural roots, patriotism, values, and ethics.” It was nothing less than a recipe for a new Russian exceptionalism, one that Putin himself would craft and impose. Seen in those terms, the turmoil in Ukraine did not merely allow him to step in – it demanded it.

The imperialism that has sprung from Putin’s revived emphasis on Russian identity cannot neatly be compared with either its tsarist or its Soviet forebears. The tsarist empire was driven by an expansionist logic that would gladly push Russia’s boundaries as far as they could stretch. Although multiethnic, there was no question that ethnic Russians were the imperial race and that others – with a few exceptions, such as the Baltic German aristocrats on whom Tsar Nicholas I relied – were second-class subjects. This was Russkii, ethnic Russian, not Rossiiskii, Russian by citizenship. By contrast, Soviet imperialism embodied, at least in theory, a political ideology greater than any one people or culture and a rhetoric of internationalism and evangelism.

Putin has spent considerable effort in forging a new Rossiiskii state nationalism. Absent is the visceral anti-Semitism of the Russian Empire, and the widespread racism and hostility visible within much of Russian society is not reflected in government policy. Nor does the president seem interested in expanding direct Russian rule (as opposed to political authority) or in exporting any particular political philosophy to non-Russians. At the same time, Putin thinks that “the [ethnic] Russian people are, without a doubt, the backbone, the fundament, the cement of the multinational Russian people.” In other words, though ethnic Russians do not rule the state, they do provide the foundations for the “Russian civilization” on which it is based.

Putin’s reference to Russia as a “civilization” signals itself a return to the time-honored belief that there is something unique about Russia rooted not only in ethnic identity but in culture and history – a belief that began when the country became the chief stronghold of Eastern Orthodoxy after the fall of Constantinople. As he put it in his 2012 state-of-the-federation address: “In order to revive national consciousness, we need to link historical eras and get back to understanding the simple truth that Russia did not begin in 1917, or even in 1991, but, rather, that we have a common, continuous history spanning over 1,000 years and we must rely on it to find inner strength and purpose in our national development.”

Putin’s conception of what it means to be Russian combines the stern-jawed heroics of the Soviet defenders of Stalingrad with the exuberant loyalty of the tsar's own Cossacks, while excluding the humanism of Andrei Sakharov and the ascetic moralism of Leo Tolstoy. It is a version of Russian history and philosophy cherry-picked to support Putin’s notion of national exceptionalism. In fact, he recently assigned regional governors homework, writings by three prominent 19th- and 20th-century intellectuals: Nikolai Berdyaev, Vladimir Solovyov, and Ivan Ilyin. These three, whom Putin often cites, exemplify and justify his belief in Russia’s singular place in history. They romanticize the necessity of obedience to the strong ruler – whether managing the boyars or defending the people from cultural corruption – and the role of the Orthodox Church in defending the Russian soul and ideal.

In this, Putin is directly drawing on a classic Russian dichotomy between autocracy and anarchy, as well as on the country’s experiences during the 1990s, when there was no strong, consistent central rule and the country was beset by rebellion, gangsterism, poverty, and geopolitical irrelevance. In his 2013 state-of-the-federation speech, Putin made the connection between authoritarianism and social order, admitting, “Of course, this is a conservative position. But speaking in the words of Nikolai Berdyaev, the point of conservatism is not that it prevents movement forward and upward, but that it prevents movement backward and downward, into chaotic darkness and a return to a primitive state.”

THIS IS THE CENTER OF PUTIN’S IMPERIAL VISION: The pragmatic political fixer of the 2000s now genuinely believes that Russian culture is both exceptional and threatened and that he is the man to save it. He does not see himself as aggressively expanding an empire so much as defending a civilization against the “chaotic darkness” that will ensue if he allows Russia to be politically encircled abroad and culturally colonized by Western values at home.

This notion of an empire built on the basis of a civilization is crucial to understanding Putin. There are neighboring countries, such as those in the South Caucasus, that he believes ought to recognize that they are part of Russia’s sphere of influence, its defensive perimeter, and its economic hinterland. But, he stops short of wanting forcefully to bring them under direct dominion because they are not ethnically Russian. Even when Moscow separated the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia in 2008, for example, it set them up as independent puppet states; it did not annex them into the Russian Federation.

Putin does insist, however, that Moscow is the protector of Russians worldwide. Where there are Russians and Russian-speakers and where Russian culture and the Russian Orthodox faith hold or held sway, these are nash – “ours.” Despite his mission to “gather the Russian lands” like the 15th-century’s Prince Ivan the Great, this does not necessarily mean occupying Crimea today, Donetsk in eastern Ukraine tomorrow, and Russian-settled northern Kazakhstan the day after, but it helps define what he thinks is Russia’s birthright. In his defense of the annexation of Crimea, he said that the Soviet Union’s collapse left “the Russian nation . . . one of the biggest, if not the biggest, ethnic group in the world to be divided by borders.”

Crimea, after all, is historically, ethnically, and culturally Russian, which is why, after its residents voted in favor of annexation, Putin approvingly noted that “after a long, difficult, exhausting voyage, Crimea and Sevastopol are returning to their native harbor, to their native shores, to their port of permanent registration – to Russia.” By contrast, the case to reach out to Transnistria in Moldova, for example, or even eastern Ukraine, is less clear. The Transnistrian Russians are relatively new colonists, arriving after World War II, and eastern Ukraine has Russian cities, but also a Catholic, Ukrainian countryside.

Putin is putting as much effort into defending his vision of “Russian civilization” at home as abroad, and he has drawn a direct connection between the two. In the past, he was a patriot, a Russian Orthodox believer, and a social conservative, but he saw the difference between his own views and state policy and was little interested in enforcing a social agenda. Indeed, he warned in 1999 that “a state ideology blessed and supported by the state . . . [means] practically no room for intellectual and spiritual freedom, ideological pluralism, and freedom of the press – that is, for political freedom.”

But what he once merely frowned upon, Putin now wants to ban. The conservative backlash, with laws against gay “propaganda,” the heavy-handed prosecution of members of punk band Pussy Riot after their “blasphemous” performance in a church, and renewed state control of the media, all speak to a new moral agenda – a nationalist and culturally isolationist one. Just as Putin has been trying to “de-offshorize” the Russian elite, he is now launching what could be called a “moral de-offshorization.” His more recent pronouncements have been full of warnings about the “destruction of traditional values,” threatening the moral degradation of Russian society.

The Russian Orthodox Church thus comes increasingly to the fore as a symbol and bastion of these traditional values and all that they mean for the new imperialism. Russian Orthodoxy was never an especially evangelical faith, concentrating on survival and purity over expansion, and much the same could be said of Putin’s worldview. In Putin’s previous presidency, the church was supportive, but just one of many of his allies. Now, though, from the pulpit to television news programs, the church is one of the most consistent and visible supporters of Putin’s state-building project. When interviewed on the subject of Crimea, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, one of Putin’s cassocked cheerleaders, asserted that the church has long believed that “the Russian people are a divided nation on its historical territory, which has the right to be reunited in a single public body.”

IN 1999, SOON BEFORE HE BECAME ACTING PRESIDENT, Putin released a personal manifesto in which he admitted that Soviet communism was “a road to a blind alley, which is far away from the mainstream of civilization.” Now, he is looking for exit ramps from that mainstream. Speaking in 2013 at the Valdai International Discussion Club, he warned against “mechanically copying other countries’ experiences” because “the question of finding and strengthening national identity really is fundamental for Russia.” It is a quest that he has taken upon himself in the name of personal and national greatness: A people with a destiny cannot be allowed to let him, themselves, their country, and their mission down.

All this helps explain the difficulty that Western governments have in understanding and dealing with him, especially this most aggressively cerebral U.S. administration. It seems that much is lost in translation between the Kremlin and the White House. Putin is not a lunatic or even a fanatic. Instead, just as there are believers who become pragmatists in office, he has made the unusual reverse journey. Putin has come to see his role and Russia’s destiny as great, unique, and inextricably connected. Even if this is merely an empire of, and in, his mind – with hazy boundaries and dubious intellectual underpinnings – this is the construct with which the rest of the world will have to deal, so long as Putin remains in the Kremlin.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Death of the Left. By Michael Lumish.

The Death of the Left. By Michael Lumish. Elder of Ziyon, April 20, 2014.

Egyptian “Expert on Hebrew” Pushes Passover Blood Libel. By Elder of Ziyon.

Egyptian “expert” pushes Passover blood libel. Sponsored by Visa. Elder of Ziyon, April 17, 2014. Updates here, herehere.

Article in Egyptian Magazine: “The Jews Can Rejoice In Their Holidays Only If They Eat Matza Laced With the Blood of Non-Jews.” By Firnas Hafzi. MEMRI. Special Dispatch No. 5714, April 17, 2014.

Egyptian Journalist Promotes Anti-Semitic Blood Libel over Passover. By Rachel Avraham. Jerusalem Online, April 20, 2014.

Is Confrontation With Russia Inevitable? By Fareed Zakaria.

Is confrontation with Russia inevitable? By Fareed Zakaria. Fareed Zakaria GPS. CNN, April 18, 2014.

Russia Will Never Be Like Us. By Anne Applebaum. NJBR, March 20, 2014.


Over the past 2 months, we have watched what has looked like a minor version of the Cold War ramp up between the West and Russia. And it has left many people wondering, “How did we get here?” Was this confrontation inevitable or did the West mishandle Russia, from the start?
In the mishandling camp is Jack Matlock, former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, who watched from Spaso House in Moscow as Mikhail Gorbachev presided over the end of the Cold War and then the end of the Communism. He argues, as the title of his recent Washington Post essay puts it, “The United States has treated Russia as a loser since the end of the Cold War.”
In the years right after the Cold War ended, several American statesmen and writers urged a more generous policy towards Moscow.
I was one of them. My logic was fairly simple. We have had two historic experiments with peace settlements after world wars. After World War I, the victors punished Germany and left it outside the new international system. It proved to be a disaster, leaving a wounded and angry Germany, pining for revenge. After World War II, on the other hand, The United States and its allies were magnanimous towards Germany and Japan, integrating those countries into the new global order. That peace, the Peace of 1945, succeeded brilliantly. And so, I thought we should do our best to try to integrate Russia into the structures of the new post-Cold War world, give it significant aid, and help it rebuild its economy and society.
Now, Western countries did provide some help, but not really on the scale that a vast country like Russia needed after the complete collapse it had gone through in the early 1990s. But if the West did not do enough, Russia also pursued policies that made integration very hard.
By the early 1990s, Moscow had launched a ferocious war against Chechnya, a part of Russia that had been seeking independence from Moscow for more than a century. Estimates vary, but many believe that the Russian army killed over 200,000 people in the first and second Chechen wars.
Meanwhile, in Europe, Moscow was ardently defending Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic as he massacred Bosnians and later Kosovars. This is not how Germany and Japan behaved after World War II as they sought integration. And at home, Russians were quickly developing a prickly resistance to outside interference and Russian politicians who urged integration with the West became marginal figures with tiny followings.
Looking at this record, the historian Anne Applebaum has argued, also in the Washington Post, that the West fundamentally misunderstood Russia. It saw the place as a quasi-Western land – think of Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky – a Western country in the making if only we had put forward the right policies. In fact, she argues, Russia derives its identity from being a non-Western country, perhaps even from being an anti-Western country, in the sense that it is distinct and different from the West.
Perhaps the West could have done more to help Russia. But it does appear to me, looking back, that the Russia of the late 1980s and early 1990s – of Gorbachev and Yeltsin – may have been a special conciliatory moment in its history, a time when Russia was weak, its leadership enlightened, and its populace worn out by decades of communist failure. The mood of that country changed quickly after that, as oil prices rose in the 1990’s, the Russian economy grew, and the Russian state reasserted itself.
In Russia, there has always been a great debate, at least since the 1840s, between “Westernizers” and “Slavophiles.” The Westernizers wanted Russia to become Western, while the Slavophiles felt its destiny lay in its distinctive Slavic civilization that was different from the West. 

Today, at least, it looks like the Slavophiles were right.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Letter to President Martin Van Buren Protesting the Removal of the Cherokee, April 23, 1838.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Letter to President Martin Van Buren Protesting the Removal of the Cherokee, April 23, 1838. The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Also here.

SIR: The seat you fill places you in a relation of credit and nearness to every citizen. By right and natural position, every citizen is your friend. Before any acts contrary to his own judgment or interest have repelled the affections of any man, each may look with trust and living anticipation to your government. Each has the highest right to call your attention to such subjects as are of a public nature, and properly belong to the chief magistrate; and the good magistrate will feel a joy in meeting such confidence. I n this belief and at the instance of a few of my friends and neighbors, I crave of your patience a short hearing for their sentiments and my own : and the circumstance that my name will be utterly unknown to you will only give the fairer chance to your equitable construction of what I have to say.
Sir, my communication respects the sinister rumors that fill this part of the country concerning the Cherokee people. The interest always felt in the aboriginal population—an interest naturally growing as that decays – has been heightened in regard to this tribe. Even in our distant State some good rumor of their worth and civility has arrived. We have learned with joy their improvement in the social arts. We have read their newspapers. We have seen some of them in our schools and colleges. In common with the great body of the American people, we have witnessed with sympathy the painful labors of these red men to redeem their own race from the doom of eternal inferiority, and to borrow and domesticate in the tribe the arts and customs of the Caucasian race. And notwithstanding the unaccountable apathy with which of late years the Indians have been some-times abandoned to their enemies, it is not to be doubted that it is the good pleasure and the understanding of all humane persons in the Republic, of the men and the matrons sitting in the thriving independent families all over the land, that they shall be duly cared for; that they shall taste justice and love from all to whom we have delegated the office of dealing with them.
The newspapers now inform us that, in December, 1835, a treaty contracting for the exchange of all the Cherokee territory was pre-tended to be made by an agent on the part of the United States with some persons appearing on the part of the Cherokees; that the fact afterwards transpired that these deputies did by no means represent the will of the nation; and that, out of eighteen thousand souls composing the nation, fifteen thousand six hundred and sixty-eight have protested against the so-called treaty. It now appears that the government of the United States choose to hold the Cherokees to this sham treaty, and are proceeding to execute the same. Almost the entire Cherokee Nation stand up and say, “This is not our act. Behold us. Here are we. Do not mistake that handful of deserters for us;” and the American President and the Cabinet, the Senate and the House of Representatives, neither hear these men nor see them, and are contracting to put this active nation into carts and boats, and to drag them over mountains and rivers to a wilderness at a vast distance beyond the Mississippi. And a paper purporting to be an army order fixes a month from this day as the hour for this doleful removal.
In the name of God, sir, we ask you if this be so. Do the newspapers rightly inform us? Men and women with pale and perplexed faces meet one another in the streets and churches here, and ask if this be so. We have inquired if this be a gross misrepresentation from the party opposed to the government and anxious to blacken it with the people. We have looked in the newspapers of different parties and find a horrid confirmation of the tale. We are slow to believe it. We hoped the Indians were misinformed, and that their remonstrance was pre-mature, and will turn out to be a needless act of terror.
The piety, the principle that is left in the United States, if only in its coarsest form, a regard to the speech of men, - forbid us to entertain it as a fact. Such a dereliction of all faith and virtue, such a denial of justice, and such deafness to screams for mercy were never heard of in times of peace and in the dealing of a nation with its own allies and wards, since the earth was made. Sir, does this government think that the people of the United States are become savage and mad? From their mind are the sentiments of love and a good nature wiped clean out? The soul of man, the justice, the mercy that is the heart's heart in all men, from Maine to Georgia, does abhor this business.
In speaking thus the sentiments of my neighbors and my own, perhaps I overstep the bounds of decorum. But would it not be a higher indecorum coldly to argue a matter like this? We only state the fact that a crime is projected that confounds our understandings by its magnitude, -a crime that really deprives us as well as the Cherokees of a country? for how could we call the conspiracy that should crush these poor Indians our government, or the land that was cursed by their parting and dying imprecations our country, any more? You, sir, will bring down that renowned chair in which you sit into infamy if your seal is set to this instrument of perfidy; and the name of this nation, hitherto the sweet omen of religion and liberty, will stink to the world.
You will not do us the injustice of connecting this remonstrance with any sectional and party feeling. It is in our hearts the simplest commandment of brotherly love. We will not have this great and solemn claim upon national and human justice huddled aside under the flimsy plea of its being a party act. Sir, to us the questions upon which the government and the people have been agitated during the past year, touching the prostration of the currency and of trade, seem but motes in comparison. These hard times, it is true, have brought the discussion home to every farmhouse and poor man's house in this town; but it is the chirping of grasshoppers beside the immortal question whether justice shall be done by the race of civilized to the race of savage man, – whether all the attributes of reason, of civility, of justice, and even of mercy, shall be put off by the American people, and so vast an outrage upon the Cherokee Nation and upon human nature shall be consummated.
One circumstance lessens the reluctance with which I intrude at this time on your attention my conviction that the government ought to be admonished of a new historical fact, which the discussion of this question has disclosed, namely, that there exists in a great part of the Northern people a gloomy diffidence in the moral character of the government.
On the broaching of this question, a general expression of despondency, of disbelief that any good will accrue from a remonstrance on an act of fraud and robbery, appeared in those men to whom we naturally turn for aid and counsel. Will the American government steal? Will it lie? Will it kill? – We ask triumphantly. Our counsellors and old statesmen here say that ten years ago they would have staked their lives on the affirmation that the proposed Indian measures could not be executed; that the unanimous country would put them down. And now the steps of this crime follow each other so fast, at such fatally quick time, that the millions of virtuous citizens, whose agents the government are, have no place to interpose, and must shut their eyes until the last howl and wailing of these tormented villages and tribes shall afflict the ear of the world.
I will not hide from you, as an indication of the alarming distrust, that a letter addressed as mine is, and suggesting to the mind of the Executive the plain obligations of man, has a burlesque character in the apprehensions of some of my friends. I, sir, will not beforehand treat you with the contumely of this distrust. I will at least state to you this fact, and show you how plain and humane people, whose love would be honor, regard the policy of the government, and what injurious inferences they draw as to the minds of the governors. A man with your experience in affairs must have seen cause to appreciate the futility of opposition to the moral sentiment. However feeble the sufferer and however great the oppressor, it is in the nature of things that the blow should recoil upon the aggressor. For God is in the sentiment, and it cannot be withstood. The potentate and the people perish before it; but with it, and as its executor, they are omnipotent.
I write thus, sir, to inform you of the state of mind these Indian tidings have awakened here, and to pray with one voice more that you, whose hands are strong with the delegated power of fifteen millions of men, will avert with that might the terrific injury which threatens the Cherokee tribe.
With great respect, sir, I am your fellow citizen,

The “Untamed Wildernesses” of Israeli and American Colonialism. By Paul Mutter.

The “untamed wildernesses” of Israeli and American colonialism. By Paul Mutter. Mondoweiss, August 17, 2011.

Legacy of Indian wars stops many guilty Americans from condemning Israel. By Philip Weiss. Mondoweiss, January 5, 2009.

“In the name of God, sir–” Emerson protested ethnic cleansing of Cherokees. By Philip Weiss. Mondoweiss, March 9, 2009.

The Witch Tree. By Philip Weiss. Mondoweiss, December 5, 2010.

The Native American analogy doesn’t work. By Ali Abunimah. Mondoweiss, December 5, 2010.

“Geronimo EKIA”– as Indian wars continue in Palestine. By Matthew Taylor. Mondoweiss, May 7, 2011.

Netanyahu seeks war with Iran so he can ethnically cleanse the West Bank. Interview with Moshe Machover by Philip Weiss. Mondoweiss, July 23, 2012.

How America Lost Vladimir Putin. By David Rhode and Arshad Mohammed.

How America Lost Vladimir Putin. By David Rhode and Arshad Mohammed. The Atlantic, April 19, 2014. Also at Reuters.

Why the Israeli-Palestinian Talks Fail. By Rami G. Khouri.

Why the Israeli-Palestinian talks fail. By Rami G. Khouri. The Daily Star (Lebanon), April 19, 2014.


Patient, serious diplomacy appears to be bearing fruit in many places simultaneously this week, except in the Israel-Palestine talks that have gone on for two decades since the 1993 Oslo peace accords. It is worth exploring why this is so.
Two agreements announced Thursday comprised an American-Russian-Ukrainian-European Union understanding on how to diffuse the tensions in Ukraine, and a decision by the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council to end the feud between Qatar and other members. In the ongoing talks between Iran and the P5+1 states (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany) to resolve tensions over Iran’s nuclear capabilities, the parties continue to reach agreements on some of the key issues while some others remain to be hammered out in coming months.
Why is it that these three difficult situations suddenly showed progress? I do not have inside information on any of them, but my hunch based on close observation and speaking to some of the participants in the Israeli-Palestinian and Iran-P5+1 talks in recent years is simply that some key recurring Rs had a big role to play in the success of some talks and the failure of others. The Rs I refer to are realism, reciprocity, reasonableness and respect. These are largely absent from the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and it is no surprise, therefore, that they continue to flounder.
The factors of realism and reasonableness refer to the fact that negotiators do not demand the maximum that is likely impossible for one side or the other to go along with, and instead seek what is attainable and meaningful for both sides, in a manner that is mutually politically realistic.
The reciprocity and respect factors are more complex, but more important for concluding a meaningful agreement. These refer to the practice of applying the same standard of conduct to both sides in a dispute and requiring them both to make concessions or moves of equal magnitude, and more or less simultaneously. The key here is to avoid any sense of humiliation or capitulation by one side, making it possible for protagonists to preserve their sense of honor and dignity while making the reasonable and realistic moves they agree on.
The Ukraine and GCC-Qatar agreements are very broad and couched in vague language, but they have been reached in an important, symbolic first step because they did not humiliate any one party and gave all parties something of value to them.
The Iran talks, similarly, have progressed rapidly in recent months because both sides took steps that made reasonable suggestions couched in respectful terms. Specifically, Iran achieved its core goals of an acknowledgment of its continued low-level enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes and an imminent end to sanctions and American threats of regime change. The P5+1 states achieved their goals of enrichment limits and inspections that make it impossible for Iran to surreptitiously build a nuclear bomb.
The real reason why these breakthroughs happened, I suspect, is that both sides started treating the other with more respect and with more reciprocity in the specifics of the measures that both sides would implement in a final agreement. Both sides reached a point where they could agree to the demands of the other, because the same process happened in the other direction.
This is precisely why the Palestine-Israel negotiations fail to make any similar progress. The Israeli demands from the Palestinians in areas like security, refugees and recognizing Israel as a Jewish state are so extreme that they cannot be met without totally humiliating the Palestinians. The Palestinians in turn get little respect from the Israelis or the American mediators even, who effectively ignore the core demand that the Palestinian refugee problem of 1947-1948 be acknowledged and redressed in a mutually agreeable manner.
Israel and the United States basically want to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict on the basis of territorial adjustments related to what happened in 1967. The Palestinians want to resolve the conflict on the basis of demographic and territorial changes from 1947-1948. Israel refuses to address the Zionists’ role in the events of 1947-1948 that shattered Arab-majority Palestine and exiled half its population, and only wants to discuss Israeli security within the June 1967 borders. Palestinians may look forward to some crumbs, but not much more than that. No wonder then that 20 years of negotiations have not achieved any major agreements.
The Americans and Israelis in particular could learn much from analyzing the recent trajectory of the Iran negotiations and why they suddenly achieved progress. The formula for success is very simple and reaffirmed again this week in three different contexts: act with reasonableness, realism, respect and reciprocity and you are likely to achieve the goals of all concerned. Ignore these critical elements, and you will only suffer serial failures, as has happened in the American-mediated Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Khouri’s definition of realism, reasonableness, reciprocity, and respect is really just a one-way street. Khouri is calling on Israel to capitulate to the Palestinian narrative that Zionism is an evil settler-colonial movement and that Israel is a criminal racist state. Khouri is recycling, yet again, the stale Arab talking points that Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state is an unbearable humiliation for the Palestinians, and that Israel must consent to its own destruction by agreeing to the right of return by the descendants of the 1948 refugees.

The Malice of Mondoweiss. By A. Jay Adler.

The Malice of Mondoweiss. By A. Jay Adler. The Sad Red Earth, June 28, 2009.

Mondoweiss Agitprop. By Yaacov Lozowick. Yaacov Lozowick’s Ruminations, June 8, 2009.

Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem on the Eve of Obama’s Cairo Address. By Max Blumenthal. Video. Live Leak, June 5, 2009.

Mondoweiss: Hate as “Progressive” Jewish Politics. By Adam Levick. Elder of Ziyon, June 29, 2010. 

Better Jews. The Moral Vanity of Israels Leftist Jewish Critics. By Adam Levick. Adam’s Zionist Journey, December 9, 2011.

Academic Boycotts and Re-Colonization by Theory. By A. Jay Adler. SPME, January 28, 2014.

Adler [Mondoweiss]:

On June 4, Max Blumenthal and Joseph Dana released on the Internet, via Mondoweiss and The Huffington Post, their now infamous video “Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem.” The video presented a visual compendium of college-age, drunken Jews, in restaurants and on the street, spewing undeniably and phenomenally ignorant, ugly, and racist comments about Barack Obama. All of the young men and women shown ought now be committed to spending a healthy measure of their coming adulthoods to overcoming the shame of their outing as dimwitted bigots.

The video received mostly negative attention, though it was roundly praised by the Israel-hating commenting community at the Mondoweiss blog. Some people tried to account for the awful behavior by offering the bogus, distracting excuse for the students that they were drunk.  Serious criticisms of the video itself, however, were that the young people in the video could hardly be considered representative, of anything – while the clear intent, later expressly confirmed both by Blumenthal and Mondoweiss’s co-bloggers, Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz , was that it did, indeed, represent something characteristic – and that the video seemed to be intending a criticism of Israel (the raison d’ĂȘtre of Mondoweiss) while the students were all, in fact, not Israelis, but American Jews.

The video’s content is so ugly and pathetic, the rationale for it so wrongheaded and dishonest, that within hours Huffington Post removed it from the site. Reported Blumenthal later about the decision:
“I don’t see that it has any real news value,” the administrator told me. “For me it only proves that one can find drunk people willing to say just about anything.  Especially drunk, moronic people.”
YouTube followed suit.

A couple of days later, Blumenthal justified himself on Mondoweiss, declaring himself to have been “censored” by Huffington. This kind of puerile and disingenuous posturing is typical Blumenthal of all the actors involved. They all do much serious chest puffing about being “journalists,” but still Blumenthal feigns that a publisher’s choice not, in fact, to publish something, or its decision to correct a publishing error, is something other than editorial judgment at work – the kind of judgment by which journalists and other writers are regularly denied publication. No legal authority blocked public access to the video. Blumenthal is free to contract with whoever is willing to show his work. The video is visible in snippets, still, all over the Internet. The rapper 50 Cent posted it on his website, where it reaped the predictable whirlwind of counter racist scatology back. But characterizing Huffington’s decision as “censorship” – like a high school student newspaper editor denied the subversive wish to publish this week’s issue in virtual-cow-shit Smell-O-Vision – is representative of the hysterical vocabulary and devious propagandizing of Blumenthal, Weiss, and Horowitz.

All throughout Blumenthal’s defense of himself, and that offered by Weiss and Horowitz four days later, the low, dishonest confusion of categories continues. Israeli is elided into Zionist, Zionist into American Jew supportive of Israel’s existence, that category into American Jew who attends Yeshiva, into one who makes aliyah to Israel, into one of the dopes in the video. Blumenthal wants to undermine the moral legitimacy of Israel and he attempts it by substituting American Jewish students on drunken holiday. The intellectual rigor is awe inspiring, the journalistic method beyond reproach. Read Israeli blogger Yaacov Lozowick’s description of the area where the video was shot.

Said Blumenthal, “I do not and have never claimed that the characters that appeared in my video were representative of general public opinion in Israel. They reflect only a slice of reality, which is reality nonetheless.”

One can never be sure whether the arguments are consciously deceitful or the product of remarkably unconscious prejudice – or if these guys aren’t, one must say, really, very smart. The whole intent of the video is to stain the Israeli nation, and beyond that the Zionist belief in the need and justness of a Jewish state that is the basis of an Israeli nation. Of course, Blumenthal is claiming representativeness. The video is otherwise purposeless. And he does it by substituting some American Jews for Israel and never understands that the difference matters. The “slice of reality” – which isn’t, anyway, by that virtue alone significant – is deceptive. Blumenthal cannot see this. All of the cultural, sociological, and political distinctions are meaningless. The students are all Zionists. Enough said.

The obvious reality, historically demonstrated far more forcefully than Blumenthal’s petty propagandistic distortions, is that if one sought it out, one could find the same vile bigotry voiced by (non-Jewish) whites against blacks, French and Dutch against Algerians and Muslims, Italians against Albanians – oh, dear, need I go on? And dare I say – Palestinians against Jews? (One small example, via Jeffrey Goldberg, from the late Nizar Rayyan: “I asked him if he believed, as some Hamas theologians do [and certainly as many Hezbollah leaders do] that Jews are the ‘sons of pigs and apes.’”)

What we see in the video are, according to Blumenthal, “the painful consequences of prolonged Zionist indoctrination.” (Indoctrination – that’s a good loaded word. Nothing, I’m sure, that Blumenthal would imagine going on anywhere in Palestinian schools, let’s say. Nothing, theologically, I don’t know, about, say – pigs and apes?) It is all “the disturbing spectacle of young Jews behaving like fascist soccer hooligans in the heart of the capitol of Israel and the spiritual home of the Jewish people,” where “vitriolic levels of racism are able to flow through the streets of Jerusalem like sewage” and “the grandsons of Holocaust survivors feel compelled to offer the Shoah as justification to behave like fascist street thugs.”

Gracious. Where to begin when a journalist uses words so carelessly, so maliciously? The increasingly ubiquitous “fascist” we can take here as merely a synonym for the then redundant “thugs,” which I guess is a little weightier in menace than “hooligans,” though aren’t those “soccer hooligans” usually prone to riot and violence? Don’t believe I saw any behavior like that anywhere in the video. And the racism flows “through the streets of Jerusalem like sewage.” (straight from the United States, actually, but shh!) All this occurring before the delicate, we know, Jewish nationalistic and religious sensibilities of Blumenthal, in the – hear the deflation of the poor man’s will – “heart of the capitol of Israel and the spiritual home of the Jewish people.” 

Oy, what a thespian. And fraud. Think Mary McCarthy on Lillian Hellman.

Blumenthal was not alone in defending his work. On June 10, so, too, did Weiss, in his and Horowitz’s name. Blumenthal’s video is important, Weiss stated, “because it reveals an p-weissessential component of Israeli and Zionist society that has largely been covered up.” Hateful and ignorant racism is “essential” to Israeli society and Zionism. This last element, about Zionism specifically, was the claim of the infamous 1975 U.N. resolution sponsored by the gamut of Arab autocracies and Cuba, and voted for by all of the Communist totalitarian governments, while being opposed by nearly every industrial democracy – the resolution that was rescinded in shame in 1991. Just so we understand the ideological prism and intellectual identifications of Mondoweiss.
Said Weiss:
You can argue about Blumenthal’s method all night long. I won’t be there for that argument. Is the video somewhat sensational? Of course. But the views expressed are shocking, and, while they are obviously cherrypicked, they are representative of a real current in Israeli society; and a journalist who is on to something important should have the freedom to highlight shocking stuff. That’s how journalism works. You don’t show readers your out-takes.
Weiss “won’t be there for that argument,” presumably because he can’t coherently respond to it or he doesn’t care. About the method. Something rather important, intellectually, professionally (they are journalists, after all), ethically. He acknowledges the video is of course “sensational,” as in, according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:
Arousing or intended to arouse strong curiosity, interest, or reaction, especially by exaggerated or lurid details: sensational journalism; a sensational television report. (Emphasis added)
The views in the video, he admits, are obviously “cherrypicked,” as in, Wikipedia relays to us:
the act of pointing at individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position. . . . Cherry picking can be found in many logical fallacies.
One suspects Weiss did not fully intend to confess all he does here, but then he is no more careful a writer, and thus, thinker, than is Blumenthal. He twice refers to the “murderous” feelings of the idiots on camera, and while I am working from memory – it being so far impossible at this point to find more than snippets of the video for review – and though I recall, of course, obviously, much in the manner of the stupid and self-demeaning, I have no recollection of the “murderous.” But this is the carelessness, the irresponsibility, the hatefulness of Mondoweiss.

As to “how journalism works,” that “you don’t show readers your out-takes” – well, yes, that is generally so, though sometimes reporters are prompted to do just that, when there are questions of credibility. Blumenthal says he “edited an hour of interviews into a 3:30 minute video package.” I wonder if he would be willing to release the other 56:30 minutes to the public. Or does that seem, really, beside the point now?

If it appears that I am being awfully cutting and hard on our trio – that is because they deserve it. They have appointed themselves leaders in an ambition to single out Zionism, among all nationalisms, for censure – to take Israel down. Indeed, according to Weiss “Blumenthal may even be a game-changer.” My, ain’t he anticipatory in his self-regard. But any influence they do have affects the lives of millions, and they have neither the intellectual coherence nor honesty to warrant such a mission.

Let’s consider, as Weiss likes to do, essences. On May 7, Weiss blogged from the 2009 AIPAC policy conference. You know he wasn’t really there to participate honestly, despite the transparent feints in that direction. However, he soon enough shows his hand:
When they are gathered in the hall … it seems like a plenary gathering in the Former Soviet Union. On the stage are the Politburo, 40 or 50 people at tables, most of them old and rich, with name cards in front of them, all revered by the people in the room. The people on the stage establish the new line. The degree of variation from that line will be minimal; the famous Jewish idea that if you have two Jews, you will have three opinions, does not hold here. For the entire conference is psychically built on one issue—Jewish survival—and on questions of Jewish survival, Jews defer to their leaders, as the Torah shows. There is utter orthodoxy. As I came into the hall for the Shimon Peres speech, two Jewish women (Rae Abileah and Medea Benjamin) were being dragged out kicking and screaming. Their opinions on Gaza were not welcome. The next day when two women interrupted Joe Biden’s speech, the whole conference rose as one to applaud and drown them out. Very Brezhnev.
When one considers the thought and writing of Mondoweiss, it is impossible not to keep returning to adjectives like dishonest and disingenuous. The search for synonyms in order to avoid monotonous drone becomes tiresome. Weiss knows full well that the purpose of the AIPAC policy conference is not to admit debate from ideologically antagonistic interlocutors, anymore than it is the purpose of the Democratic or Republican Party conventions to invite their opposites from the floor on such matters as abortion or gay marriage. Anymore than it is the purpose of the NRA annual convention to debate, in ceremonial assembly, with representatives of The Brady Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, or for attendees at a Planned Parenthood conference to be denounced at the dais as baby killers. Or at the AIPAC, again, to enter into discussion with CODEPINK activists hoisting banners that read “No Money for War Crimes.” These are all, Weiss knows, organizations of the generally like-minded, who discuss their differences, usually, amongst themselves and not in public with those who despise them and pretend to be seeking honest dialogue. But Weiss, like Blumenthal, is a merry agitprop prankster, for whom the essence of good political street theater is a story line of engagement sought, culminating in a well-plotted climax of disruptive embarrassment, preferably requiring the use of security personnel for maximum repressive affect. Then Weiss may seek to regale readers with totalitarian comparisons. (Fascist? Communist? Whatever.) How very, may I say, Socialist Worker Party of him. But that would be so unfair of me, shallow and juvenile, like calling the faculty advisor of that high school newspaper – who won’t go for the dungy scentorama – a dictator.

By the end of the AIPAC account we are brought to, actually, something rather real, to which Weiss is, indeed, touchingly prone. It is historically not uncommon for people like Weiss, Horowitz (I’ll get to him), and Blumenthal to be denounced as “self-hating Jews.” I am, I confess, more partial to “fools.” But there is a transparency to Weiss that does introduce the personal “issues” at work in his political agitation:
The torment at the heart of my writing here is that I grew up in tribal ways; and I recognized that woman [a Holocaust survivor] as an older Jew like my parents and my parents’ friends—in fact I even ran into one of my parents’ friends there!–and the basis of my napkin-biting moment is that AIPAC brought me home to this identification. I put aside my assimilationist feelings, my intermarried goyim-loving feelings, and got back to the fact that this is the community I was raised in and love and have grown out of but still love; and I am not going to be deracinated.
Hm. One can fill in the blanks of this story in a multitude of ways, but we recognize an outline. A pressing question, too, is – who is it, exactly, who is deracinating Weiss? Even he treats the matter ambiguously. And in this confusion of identity, the Jew in fear of his own deracination reaches for the fat on the flanken: he reasserts himself as a member of the “tribe.” From goyim-loving assimilation he dives now straight into the schmaltz. Soon he’ll be longing to sit down with the whole mishpucha.
The personal crisis gets worse, however.

Weiss travels to Gaza with CODEPINK. He is moved by what he sees – in strange ways – though he remains no less prejudicially determined in his understanding of the causes of it. He returns to New York, seeming tortured as he mingles with likeminded thinkers, and posts, yesterday as I write, June 25, “feeling the rage in new york” – a post that as of at least 2:30 EST on June 26, just one day later, has now been removed from the Mondoweiss site, though you can find the cache of the page here and here. Weiss’s feelings, a mixture of political outrage, seething passion, and personal confusion are raw, producing an awed tenderness of response from his commenters. What follows are selected quotes from “feeling the rage in new york.” You may find them to provide a potential explanation for second thought and the post’s deletion.
The Hebrew sounds as bad in Miriam’s ear as German did back in the 50s, when people hated the Germans.
Emily and I go out on West End Avenue, and a blonde mother goes by with two kids. I hear her talking Hebrew and I feel anger toward her. The kids are in cute outfits. They must have some money to live in this neighborhood. I think about all the seculars who are leaving Israel, and why they don’t speak out against a basic Zionist principle: the necessity of the Jewish state.
We stop on Broadway for a drink. Emily’s from Pennsylvania. She’s not Jewish. She tells me she’s been having a hard time since she got back, trying to come to terms with the monstrousness of what she saw. It keeps her up at night. Finally she made a date in July to speak about the issue at the local coffee shop, and she has an appointment with the legislative assistant to her congressman. His name sounds Jewish. I feel anger at him, and give her suggestions of what to say to the guy.
I used to get in screaming matches at dinner parties about The Subject. . . . I have alienated myself from my peers over this issue. They don’t want to hear. But I don’t know that I can blame them entirely. I seem to have found this spot, of righteous and critical distance. I suppose I had it in my family, too. I really need to take responsibility for my own anger.
A lot is going through my head. At the meeting, Jane said that one problem with our issue is that, Like it or not, it’s going to draw anti-Semites. They show up at lectures and talks. She’s right. I’ve met anti-Semites cloaked in their righteous criticism. I saw anti-Jewish hatred in Gaza, where they paint dustbins with the Star of David. I’ve felt that hatred of Israel myself. When you see the monstrosities of Gaza, you can’t help but feel hatred.
A friend at the meeting said that Hamas only fires rockets to get attention to the siege, which would never command world attention anyway. I know this is true, but. It isn’t like there hasn’t been violent murderous rage on our side of this struggle for a long time.
The situation is built around an edifice of rage. Ever since I got back, I keep wondering what if the Palestinians accepted. Accepted everything and anything for a state, sought the whole world’s good opinion by acceptance. Now they have 90 percent of the good opinion, but they don’t have Washington or Establishment Jews yet. What if Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, who met with them and talked with them about the west, convinced them to take another step of acceptance so that the students could get out of the territory? And forget about all the Green Lines and 1948, and the old stories. Just accept. And lo, there was a mini-state, or a bantustan, and peace and a civil rights struggle. Then maybe Israel would collapse. The hatred and animosity would disappear and so would the reason to be there. They would all move to West End Avenue.
The threads here are several. The tribal heart-call of the AIPAC post seems clearly overwhelmed by what is emerging as an ethnic animus. Just to hear Hebrew, to hear a Jewish-sounding name, produces anger. There is recognition of the anti-Semitic appeal of his ideas, but rather than allow pause by this fact, Weiss voices understanding of the “hatred,” which he says you can’t help but feel. Then he ponders, in the spirit-tone of so many who become fatigued with hating and fighting and dying in irreconcilability, what if they just accepted? What if the Palestinians just accepted all that they have never been willing to accept in order to gain all that they have never had, a state of their own?

“Then maybe Israel would collapse.”

The unyielding desire. The core passion. Not peace. But Israel’s collapse.

“The hatred and animosity would disappear and so would the reason to be there.”

In how many languages can one utter the word “fool”?

“They would all move to West End Avenue.”

Not “the Jews.” Not “we” – the tribe. “They.”

The driving spirit behind Mondoweiss is an end to the Jewish state – Israel. Even in fantasies of a resigned acceptance to fact that is always an element in peace making between enemies, the goal remains, like a dead man’s arm reaching up from the grave for a neck, Israel’s demise.

This has a familiar ring, too. Here, from an interview with PLO Ambassador to Lebanon Abbas Zaki, which aired on ANB TV on May 7, 2009, transcript by MEMRI:
They talk about a two-state solution, and when that is achieved… Even Ahmadinejad, leader of the rejectionists throughout the region, said he supports a two-state solution. Nobody fools anybody.
With the two-state solution, in my opinion, Israel will collapse, because if they get out of Jerusalem, what will become of all the talk about the Promised Land and the Chosen People? What will become of all the sacrifices they made – just to be told to leave? They consider Jerusalem to have a spiritual status. The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. It will regress of its own accord. Then we will move forward.
In “Mr.Horowitz, tell us what you think of the two-state solution,” Adam Horowitz responds, “There is a short answer and a longer answer to this question. The short answer is that I don’t take a position on one state or two states. In the end I’m not invested in one end product, but in ending the conflict.” As is usually so with Mondoweiss, complete honesty is never available. First, for Horowitz – or for me, for that matter – not to take a position on a matter like the two-state solution is meaningless, is to be coy without any corresponding appeal. Neither Horowitz nor I have any say in the matter. We are not players in the decision making, however much Mondoweiss may preen in self-important fantasy, and so the basis for an interlocutor’s refraining from expressing an opinion on a core issue – that he may continue to play the role of honest broker, which, at any rate, Horowitz is not – does not apply. And besides, the longer answer is that the shorter answer is bullshit.
The longer answer gets to the real reason I think people tend to ask this question, especially if they’re confrontational: they are asking if I support a Jewish state. The simple answer is no.
Mondoweiss gained happy-making attention from the Blumenthal video. Its creators and contributors post on one of the most widely read blog sites, The Huffington Post. The influential Talking Points Memo, via it TPMCafe, now syndicates Mondoweiss’s posts. So what we are witnessing is a growing acceptance of its view that bears consideration.
The writing and thinking are shoddy, we see, marked by blind prejudice and the active influence in the political sphere of confusion in personal identity and psychic demons.

What more can we say? That – though I would disagree myself with almost all of the judgments – out of humanistic sympathy for Palestinian aspirations and suffering through all these years of conflict, Mondoweiss advocates for greater Israeli compassion in its ascendency? That it seeks more humane treatment toward Palestinians in administration of road-blocks and check points? That it seeks, even, a unilateral end to all of the partial and periodic “occupations” prior to any other agreement on disputed issues? That it argues for the constructive role that might be played by the complete opening of the Gaza borders? That it believes the recent Gaza conflict (and probably, then, by reasoned extension, every other Israeli military action over the decades that was not an immediate defensive response to a conventional attack by a national army) was misguided and excessive? That it believes the West Bank settlements – just as the Gaza settlements, now unilaterally dismantled – are illegal and immoral and need to be removed as a basis for a just settlement, leading to the willingness of an empowered Palestinian authority to agree, for the first time, to exchange land for peace and to recognize a Jewish state of Israel while gaining a Palestinian state?

Can we say all this of Mondoweiss? No, we cannot. Not really. For while Mondoweiss may at times espouse these positions, none of them are the end it seeks to serve, not even the ultimate end of a just settlement and a lasting peace. In conflict, a just settlement recognizes the legitimate desires of all parties, not the moral claim of only one. But the active agents behind Mondoweiss do not believe that Israel, or the Jewish people in relation to Israel, has just desires. Horowitz does not support the existence of a Jewish state. Blumenthal, like him, believes that Zionism (Jewish nationalism) – in apparent contradistinction to any other nationalism – is inherently racist. Weiss, a deeply anti-Semitic work in progress, in his haziest, most narcotic fantasy of peace, envisions as its ecstatic end not the peace, but the end of Israel.

The cause of Mondoweiss is not a settlement of grievances. It is not peace. The cause Mondoweiss serves, the position it espouses, is that of the most unreconstructed, unrelenting, and agonistic of all Palestinian positions and causes – and end to a Jewish state in its ancient homeland. It is a position, coming from Mondoweiss no less than from any Palestinian – or Israeli in reverse – that will further not the interests of peace, but the continuation of conflict, and of the suffering of all, especially Palestinian suffering, over which Mondoweiss hearts purport to bleed.

This is the malice of Mondoweiss.