When too much of Ken Roth is enough: Bernstein answers Ma’ariv’s questions

As posted here, Bob Bernstein, the original founder of HRW, came out with serious criticism of Ken Roth in the op-ed pages of the NYT. That led to something of a sandstorm, with everyone from Helena (Hullo can you see Florida from here?) Cobban to Roth himself throwing the sand in our eyes. (I haven’t gotten to fisking Roth yet, but it’s ripe for fertilizer.) Now, Ma’ariv asks Bernstein why he did what he did, and he answers. (HT for English version to Gerald Steinberg)

Here are the questions sent to Bernstein by Ma’ariv and below are his answers, in full:

1- Why did you write this op-ed at the TN Times last week? what was the ‘straw that broke the camel back’ from your point of view?

Actually it has been brewing for a long time. I had been trying to do a long piece because many of my views about human rights in the Middle East are different from those being expressed by Human Rights Watch. The Goldstone Report made me feel I should get something out, so I wrote the NY Times op-ed piece.

2- What was your vision when you founded Human Right Watch and does the organization follow your vision in the recent years?

My vision, I should say our vision because it was supported by a wonderful board – was to go into closed societies and try and help people in those societies who wanted free speech. I was a book publisher so that was an especially important principle to me and it’s a key part of the Declaration of Human Rights. But, of course, other basic human rights are also vitally important. – freedom of religion, equal rights for women, to name just two. When governments of closed societies asked us what we were doing about our own country we would explain that the United States had many faults but because we were an open society we had many organizations and other ways to try and bring change. But after a while we decided we would do some work in the United States but try to not replicate what was being done by others.

I also believe there can be times to do some work in open societies but, now focus is on the Middle East. I think Israel is a country where most people believe in human rights. But at this time many Israelis, and I share their view, do not believe that HRW in the issues it chooses, its tone, and even its interpretations of law are not helping to bring Arabs and Israelis together.

I had a lot to learn when I began feeling uncomfortable with HRW positions on Israel-Palestine issues in 2005 and certainly still do have a lot to learn, but almost from the beginning HRW has cast me as pro-Israel. I think that is the easiest thing to do – say someone is pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian. I like to think I am pro-human rights. Now that I have stated publicly, very sadly incidentally, that I am in disagreement with HRW, this will play out and others can decide if my views make sense.

3- You told me the you are amazed by the reaction, from general people and mostly from people inside the HRW. Can you explain? (you said, ‘they think they are God’ – off the record)

I was amazed and encouraged by the reaction to my op-ed. Because so many of the positive comments have come, not from those considered hard liners but from people who think a lot about human rights, I have been particularly encouraged.

4- What do you think about the last Goldstone report? Is it part of the big problem you were talking about with me? and if so, why does he, and other human rights organizations, focus mostly on Israel?

I think the Goldstone Report is deeply flawed. I was surprised Judge Goldstone, who I know and admired, took the job. He had to head a commission created by the United Nations Human Rights Council, which I think any fair-minded person would say had to clean up itself before it dared to criticize anything.

When I read Judge Goldstone’s op-ed in the September 17 issue of the NY Times and he said “While Israel has begun investigating into alleged violations they are unlikely to be serious and objective” I felt he was just “judging” too much.

5- What do you think should be Israel respond to Goldstone report as well as to some of the HRW reports?

I can’t tell Israel what to do. I do not think any country would want to put up with a war of attrition, which can explode into real war any time. However I certainly don’t know the best way to stop it. I fault HRW for not taking a position on the war. The fact that Hamas-Hezbollah and Iran have declared it is their intention to try and wipe out Israel and all Jews seems to me, to be incitement to genocide, especially when it is backed by rocket attacks.

88 Responses to When too much of Ken Roth is enough: Bernstein answers Ma’ariv’s questions

  1. sshender says:

    The last sentence is problematic. Critics would argue that precisely because these rockets are so ineffective that Hamas and other groups keep this practice alive. Many have argued, myself among them, that had Hamas been armed with more modern, effective and precise weapons they would hesitate using them in the same proportion for fear of shifting the status-quo. I think the argument that the more military power a state (or entity) has, the less likely they are to unleash it – because of the consequences.

    Of course one reasonable objection could be that these people, as opposed to secular westerners, are not governed by the same self-preservation guide lines and will ultimately favor a trade-off that is far more devastating to them. Iran looks like the perfect example, and yet there are many who try to downplay the incendiary Iranian rhetoric as nothing more than a fake posture for internal political reasons. I’ve read quite a few books on Iran, and find it extremely hard to make up my mind. I must admit that the overwhelming bulk of evidence shows that Iran is bent on something, I’m just not sure what. (And obviously it’s not too wise too sit around and see what exactly it is).

    But to get back to Hamas, in spite of its genocidal rhetoric and incitement to genocide, the rocket attacks are hardly the evidence to show that it can put its money where its mouth is.

  2. Peter B says:

    No discussion of the Goldstone Report is complete without the following, taken from an al Jazeera interview with Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). Some of the comments over at
    http://www.jihadwatch.org/2009/10/ah-that-explains-it-oic-initiated-the-goldstone-report.html#comments“>Jihad Watch
    are interesting.

    Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu: Let me first start by completing the story of the history of the Goldstone report. What I would like to put on record is that the OIC was the initiator of this process.

    On January 3, during the attacks on Gaza, we convened the executive committee of the OIC on a ministerial level. It was decided that the OIC group in Geneva should ask the Human Rights Council to convene and consider the possibility of sending a fact-finding mission to Gaza.

    The OIC was instrumental in getting through this resolution and thanks to the good offices of Ms Pilay, the UN high commissioner, that she formed this fact-finding mission headed by Judge Goldstone.

    On October 8, I visited Geneva and had a meeting with OIC ambassadors and the high commissioner. We revived the process again and the Goldstone report has been approved by the rights council.

    Now as for the prospects of the Goldstone report, I think the first thing to mention here is that the acceptance and approval of the report by the UN’s human rights council is itself testimony of the world’s public opinion about what happened in Gaza.

    This report has certain operative paragraphs which aim to determine who is responsible for the massacres and destruction – illegally and in flagrant violation of humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war.

    I think now the OIC and the international community should work hand-in-hand to implement the proposals made in the Goldstone report.

    You said the OIC initiated the process that led to the Goldstone report. Were you surprised then that the Palestinian Authority asked for the council’s vote on the report to be delayed?

    This was a big surprise for us – an unhappy and sad surprise. I was in Washington DC at the time meeting with the media, think tanks and I was meeting with Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, when news of this broke.

    We did not expect that, but I am glad that we eventually managed to revive it and get it adopted by the human rights council.

  3. Cynic says:

    sshender,

    Critics would argue that precisely because these rockets are so ineffective that …

    and many have argued that suicide bombing was the only tool that the Palestinians had to free themselves from the yoke of Israeli occupation; but then along comes Baroness Tonge and says ‘It should come as no surprise to anyone that suicide bombers in Iraq are Palestinians. Israel’s security wall is forcing them to export themselves to another arena …’

    See The Security Barrier Causes Palestinians to Export Themselves for the link that covers this in full.

    So, “great steaming balls of epithets”, the Palestinians are blowing up Iraqis because they cannot do it to the Israelis now?
    The latest and greatest form of outsourcing to relieve stress and occupation?
    Rational thought, logic never came into the equation; so basically we are just dealing with excuses and subterfuge to continue the war, firstly against the Jews.

    So if Hamas had F16s they’d think differently? A crowd only too happy to create shahids by sacrificing their own would worry about a hudna/status quo?

    If they’re blowing themselves up in Iraq then it is not just about Israel and the status quo because they are doing things at the behest of Iran/Al Queda; first we’ll take Berlin …..

  4. Ray in Seattle says:

    Cynic, Your comment rings true. I remember a YouTube n nterview I saw with two Pal High School girls who spoke good English. They were explaining to the journalist how they (the Palestinians) are special among Arabs in their hatred of the Jews and their willingness to sacrifice their own lives to kill their enemies to “seek justice”.

    And for this they receive the admiration of Arabs throughout the ummah. I think it is a particularly toxic part of Palestinain identity. It is taught to them as exceptional virtue – rewarded and encouraged by their society.

    Her animation and excitement reminded me very much of pep rallies at US high schools before the big game where a head cheerleader would excitedly explain how Central High was really going to “massacre” the South High football team that evening – all delivered with the sincerest passion – implying that “our team” would be victorious because “we” represent the good and virtuous and “they” – being the most depraved school on earth would fully deserve and receive the most humiliating defeat possible – and would certainly get it at our teams hands.

    Of course this is always interleaved between choreographed cheers by the whole squad, a solemn speech by the coach perhaps and the school band playing militant marches on cue. The whole thing builds to a peak at the end with all the students in the bleachers screaming, jumping and stamping their feet for victory.

    The Pals do give a whole new meaning to “team spirit” where the team uniform is a suicide belt packed with a couple of Kg’s of C4.

  5. E.G. says:

    sshender (but not only),

    almost from the beginning HRW has cast me as pro-Israel. I think that is the easiest thing to do – say someone is pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian. I like to think I am pro-human rights.

    Note the automatic, divisive, categorisation or labelling, verging on stigmatisation.

    I can’t tell Israel what to do. I do not think any country would want to put up with a war of attrition, which can explode into real war any time. However I certainly don’t know the best way to stop it.

    Now that’s refreshing! For a change, no moralist “pedagogic” advice. But…

    I fault HRW for not taking a position on the war.

    …a clear moral stand. Considering a/the war of attrition, is HRW’s main objective still the promotion and protection of human rights and freedoms? Or has it changed into something else?

    The fact that Hamas-Hezbollah and Iran have declared it is their intention to try and wipe out Israel and all Jews seems to me, to be incitement to genocide, especially when it is backed by rocket attacks.

    Incitement to genocide is the motive, rockets attacks are the means; is HRW waiting for the opportunity to commit the crime to actually occur before it takes a position?

  6. E.G. says:

    Reading Ray’s 3rd paragraph, I suddenly wonder whether it’s not the Manichaean spirit that is the common denominator between “Human Rightists” and “Freedom-fighting” killers.

  7. E.G. says:

    If Israel did not exist, the elites of its neighboring states might have found it necessary to invent it.
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1124688.html

  8. JD says:

    FYI, here is an apologia for HRW from the Los Angeles Times today.

    Bashing Human Rights Watch
    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-maccleod30-2009oct30,0,1700643.story

    Being the Los Angeles Times, it is low grade dissembling and misleading, but I think it worthy the writer’s only qualification, Scott MacLeod, is being a “reporter” for Time Magazine.

  9. Cynic says:

    E.G.,

    With regard to #6 and common denominators it reminded me (don’t ask why) of a t-shirt worn by a young woman on which was emblazoned:
    Fighting for Peace is like F***ing for Virginity

    The sooner we reject the pious platitudes and moral posturing and kick out the inverted logic, the sooner will we come upon a black on white reality.

  10. sshender says:

    Guys, I appreciate your passionate responses, and please keep in mind that I basically agree entirely with what is being said here, except that I’m often tempted to play devil’s advocate, especially since many of these challenges often go unanswered in the many exchanges I read. I mean, how do you convincingly prove (or disprove) the idea that just like with Al-Qaeda the only reason we have not seen anything more spectacular than rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza strip is due entirely to lack of means, not motivation?

    Or let’s try this from a different angle. Suppose you’re debating someone and use a sentence where you say that Hamas have declared it is their intention to try and wipe out Israel and all Jews seems to me, to be incitement to genocide, especially when it is backed by rocket attacks. Your interlocutor objects saying that these rockets have caused minimal damage and pose no existential threat, and thus are highly unlikely indicative of true intentions. Moreover, he elaborates, that if Hamas were to have better weaponry they would not be as quick to use it and that with more responsibility comes more maturity and moderation.

    My idea of tackling that consists of first highlighting the damage of the incessant rocket and mortar fire whereby except for the few casualties (which could have been much more if we weren’t so lucky) it has had a terrifying affect on hundreds of thousands of people living under constant fear and anxiety and how this has ruined the normal fabric of life in those areas (I’ve experienced it firsthand a few times). I would then try to explain the true nature of Hamas and its ideology and motivation, not without addressing the most common misconceptions first. And yet, I still find it hard to definitively assert that given a chance Hamas (and indeed Iran) would follow the Nazis in their footsteps. How would YOU go about proving that supposition to yourself and to others?

    I’m curious to know…

  11. Ray in Seattle says:

    I wouldn’t try. I would say that arguing them about how much damage different weapons systems seem able to inflict – is conceding the argument.

    I’d say that if someone has a gun and shoots it in the direction of my family, no matter what caliber gun it is, I would blow them away even if they are a poor shot because I don’t accept the premise that I need until they get lucky. I say let the human rights orgs wring their hands over it – and I could give a fuck.

    Once they discover that Israel is not interested in their “opinions” and will not adjust their response to avoid their criticism they’ll get over it. Israel’s only response should be complete contempt and disdain for those orgs. – and an announcement that any shots fired into Isreal are acts of wear and crimes against humanity that will justify an overwhelming response regardless of the damage done and at any time of Israel’s choosing.

    If someone says they are concerned about human rights – I’d tell them to persuade their protectees not to threaten or shoot guns in the direction of people who care deeply about the lives of its citizens and they have will nothing to worry about.

    Israel did the right thing in its response to Goldstone IMO – but not strong enough. They should have hit them with a huge hypocrisy charge and overwhelmed them with countercharges. But Israel did much better than I expected.

  12. Ray in Seattle says:

    I wouldn’t try. I would say that arguing them about how much damage different weapons systems seem able to inflict – is conceding the argument.

    I’d say that if someone has a gun and shoots it in the direction of my family, no matter what caliber gun it is, I would blow them away even if they are a poor shot because I don’t accept the premise that I need until they get lucky. I say let the human rights orgs wring their hands over it – and I could give a f**k.

    Once they discover that Israel is not interested in their “opinions” and will not adjust their response to avoid their criticism they’ll get over it. Israel’s only response should be complete contempt and disdain for those orgs. – and an announcement that any shots fired into Isreal are acts of wear and crimes against humanity that will justify an overwhelming response regardless of the damage done and at any time of Israel’s choosing.

    If someone says they are concerned about human rights – I’d tell them to persuade their protectees not to threaten or shoot guns in the direction of people who care deeply about the lives of its citizens and they have will nothing to worry about.

    Israel did the right thing in its response to Goldstone IMO – but not strong enough. They should have hit them with a huge hypocrisy charge and overwhelmed them with countercharges. But Israel did much better than I expected.

  13. sshender says:

    Interesting point, Ray, and reminds me a lot of what I had said on multiple occasions. Given my experience, your argument would be followed by the usual tired “if you starve a man, then don’t be surprised he’s shootin’ atcha” or the even more banal “well, what do you expect him to do after you have ethnically cleansed him of his land and massacred HIS family”. This will prompt some to cite credible historical evidence to the contrary, but nowadays, thanks to people like Pappe, Khalidi and Finkelstein historical truth no longer has any value. So we’re back to square one.

    BTW, reading the comments on the Ken Roth link at the top, I’ve found some interesting things:
    By Roth’s own admission, “only” 15% of reports Issued about the Middle East are on Israel, and yet Israel does not constitute 15% of the Middle East. Israel has a population of approximately 7 million, whereas the Middle East in its entirety has a population over 300 million. HRW`s focus on Israel is definitely disproportionate, even by HRW`s own statistics. Assuming all countries were in equal violation of human rights, HRW’s output per country should be (100 / 17 = ) 5.8%. Yet, Roth admits Israel garners 15% of their published output, or 2.5 times more than the expected value. Of course, not all countries are equal violators in reality, but Israel`s share of HRWs output is so exaggerated that its hard to believe HRW may be producing more output about any other country (or even anything close), or Roth’s claim of covering seventeen countries is suspect.

    Quantitatively, from their own numbers, HRW is unduly pre-occupied with Israel at the expense of everything else.

    Qualitatively, does it make sense to you that HRW generates so much more reports about Israel than about vicious dictatorships like Iran, Libya or Saudi Arabia?

    HRW reports by country:

    Israel and the Occupied Territories (371)
    United States (99)
    Lebanon (66)
    Global (63)
    Europe/Central Asia (62)
    Africa (39)
    Egypt (37)
    Asia (29)
    US Foreign Policy (26)
    Americas (21)
    Iran (17)
    Iraq (20)
    Jordan (20)
    Sudan (20)
    Syria (14)
    Russia (13)
    Afghanistan (9)
    Burma (10)
    United Kingdom (10)

    Israel 371, Lebanon 66, Egypt 37, Iran 17, Iraq 20, Jordan 20, Syria 14!

    If these numbers are true, they speak for themselves.

    Another interesting point:

    Mr. Roth seems to think that a country`s soldiers are cannon fodder freely sacrificed on the alter of international law. According to Mr. Roth, when a soldier has a doubt about the lawfulness of defending himself vs assuming the risk of personal death, it is the soldiers job to assume the risk until he can verify the lawfulness of acting in self-defense. His argument is that a soldier is trained to accept this fate whereas the civilian is not. Personally, I would not want any of my family or friends serving under his military command. I do not reject the principle of International law, rather its poor consideration of the human rights of soldiers in modern guerilla warfare

    And to top it off:

    HRW`s logic goes something like this…

    If your enemy is about to throw a petrol bomb or shoot at you, then you cannot shoot back because he hasn`t yet done anything!

    If your enemy has already thrown a petrol bomb or has already shot at you, then you cannot shoot back because he isn`t doing anything!

  14. Ray in Seattle says:

    sshender says:

    This will prompt some to cite credible historical evidence to the contrary, but nowadays, thanks to people like Pappe, Khalidi and Finkelstein historical truth no longer has any value. So we’re back to square one.

    Right. What those people say mean nothing. In this case actions speak louder than words.

    My position would be – justify whatever you want and call it whatever you want – but point a gun at my people and you will die before you pull the trigger if I can possibly manage it or later if I can’t – and then follow through with it whatever the cost in public opinion.

    Israel is not going to survive by any state’s good will other than its own. That should be obvious by now.

  15. E.G. says:

    sshender,

    I basically agree with Ray’s #11 take.

    I think Bernstein’s approach(“I can’t tell Israel what to do”) is the most honest one. Many persons would benefit from adopting his humble way.

    But I understand your distress too.
    Recall Scuds? Saddam did send a number of them on Israel, to the pre-peace partners’ great joy, and Israel did not respond to these attacks. So we’ve already tried the do-nothing strategy.
    Is Israel supposed to wait (not very long) for Hezbis and Hamasniks to get Scuds and hope that when these are launched their effect will be about the same as Saddam’s? Will it be even better to wait till a Scud causes considerable enough damage? What’s considerable enough? How many civilians hurt is enough? Or is the threshold crossed only if unconventional warheads are used?
    And what if Israeli intelligence services gain knowledge of more lethal arms than those already upgraded “home-made rockets” ready to be launched? Is Israel allowed (according to Intl. law, not the fora couch-judges or “Rights” folk’s self-educated guess) to proceed by a preemptive strike?

  16. E.G. says:

    sshender,

    Given my experience, your argument would be followed by the usual tired “if you starve a man, then don’t be surprised he’s shootin’ atcha” or the even more banal “well, what do you expect him to do after you have ethnically cleansed him of his land and massacred HIS family”.

    a. Israel isn’t starving anyone, there’s ample evidence to the contrary.
    b. The correlation between poverty and crime isn’t high and it’s even lower for terrorism. And correlation is not a sufficient condition to conclude causality.
    c. Given that quite a few Brits are descendants of the Romans who ethnically cleansed the Jews from their homeland and massacred entire Jewish families…

  17. Ray in Seattle says:

    Just to be clear – and I’ve said this before – I, in no way, presume to tell the people of another democratic state what they “should do” in the sense that I have any authority or right to tell them to do it – because of American aid and support for Israel. I will speak through my votes and that will be enough.

    My comments are about what I see as working best for Israel if I were in Israel’s place. They are not really advice. They are just opinions to be considered in case anyone is inclined to do so and that’s all.

    Israelis have to make the choices and have to live them. I don’t.

    That said, I sometimes wonder if Israel’s strategy is to allow some low level of terrorism as an outlet for Palestinians to feel they are “resisting” an “injustice” against their honor – knowing how crucial that is to Pal psychology. But then I say no, they are just afraid of world opinion – and maybe the world does have Israel more by the nuts than I know and there’s nothing they can do more than they are doing.

    But I sure don’t have an answer to this and wouldn’t have to suffer the consequences of it of I did.

  18. sshender says:

    Ray, it strikes me that you have undergone a transformation of sorts since you had begun reading this blog. You used to be more ambivolent and sceptical. Do you agree? On the other hand, it’s hard to feel sympathy for these folks when you understand why and how they operate…

  19. Eliyahu says:

    Look, every rocket shot at Sderot or at any other Israeli population center by Hamas or any other jihad gang is an act of attempted murder. In civilian law, attempted murder is a punishable crimes.

    Now, for those who point out that most of the rockets do little damage, the fact is that the Hamas and other jihad gangs in Gaza have upgraded their rockets, and now have rockets with much better accuracy and much longer range. They are now using Grad rockets, which I believe is a more official Russian name for the Katyusha.

    In January, their rockets hit Beersheba, destroying a kindergarten or nursery school there, by the way.

    as for baroness Tonge, she should really stop straining her vocal chords and go for a nice, quiet rest cure at a spa in the desert, there are several nice health ranches and spas in New Mexico and Arizona. But she might prefer a nice spa or sanatorium in the Iraqi desert. She ought not lose a minute in making her reservations.

  20. Eliyahu says:

    to #16, re scuds in the first Gulf War.

    Only two or three Israelis died in that war. One was an Arab girl whose family did not know how to put her gas mask on properly.

    Prince Hassan of Jordan, crown prince at that time, called it a “miracle” that so few Israelis were killed.

    But those scuds were very destructive, more so than what Hamas was using at first in January 2001. One came down in the yard next to my future son-in-law’s home in Ramat Gan. Fortunately he was OK. But the fact that the scud missed the apt building where he lived is small comfort to him and his family. It was a very close miss.

  21. E.G. says:

    Eliyahu,

    re-Scuds. You and I and sshender know that.
    I was trying to introduce some points providing a recent but forgotten example.

  22. Patvann says:

    RE: #10 by sshender

    You asked:

    And yet, I still find it hard to definitively assert that given a chance Hamas (and indeed Iran) would follow the Nazis in their footsteps. How would YOU go about proving that supposition to yourself and to others?

    I’m curious to know…

    I would invite you to read the Hamas charter, followed by the Koran. Then brush up on the mythology of the 12th Imam.

  23. Eliyahu says:

    As I understand, the scud is an elaboration of the German V-1 or V-2 rocket which caused so much havoc in London towards the end of WW2, in 1944 and 1945.

    Did anybody belittle the Londoners’ suffering at that time??

  24. E.G. says:

    Initially, Scuds were copies of the Nazi V-2, and later lots of technological improvements were introduced, including higher precision.

    From Wikipedia:

    “An estimated 2,754 civilians were killed in London by V-2 attacks with another 6,523 injured, which is two people killed per V-2 rocket. However, this understates the potential of the V-2, since many rockets were misdirected and exploded harmlessly.”

    “SS General Hans Kammler, who as an engineer had constructed several concentration camps including Auschwitz, had a reputation for brutality and had originated the idea of using concentration camp prisoners as slave laborers in the rocket program. The V-2 is perhaps the only weapon system to have caused more deaths by its production than its deployment.”

  25. sshender says:

    Patvann

    First, let’s concentrate on Hamas.

    I’m familiar with this argument, however it too has to be put in proper context. For example, some might argue that when a “resistance” group invokes extremely radical and uncompromising rhetoric at its inception, it actually reflects frustration and the dissonance more than it does real intentions. Further, some of these groups tend to become more practical and “mature” as time goes by and their message of unyielding hatred becomes detrimental to their basic earthly needs.

  26. Cynic says:

    Hamas and Iran wouldn’t specifically follow the Nazis in their footsteps by making the trains run on time to get them to the ovens on time nor would they set up a mechanized industry.
    It would be more in keeping with the barbarity we have already witnessed recently in Gaza with throwing people off roofs or the lynching of people as we saw some years back when the two Israelis were smashed to pieces, or past massacres of the medieval period when the streets ran with blood.

    One must understand that these people have a different attitude to incitement and blood compared to the stiff upper lip culture.
    Just the slightest allegation, or whiff of blood, and they get an adrenalin rush to put a satellite into orbit.
    Yes, an exaggeration, but watching them go off into an hysterical outburst of totally uncalled for violence at a lame traffic accident where “half cocked” is an inordinately long time to action along with the above what else can one conjure up of their behaviour at the inflammatory sight of the descendants of apes and pigs being slaughtered?

  27. Cynic says:

    sshender,

    For example, some might argue that when a “resistance” group invokes extremely radical and uncompromising rhetoric at its inception, it actually reflects frustration and the dissonance more than it does real intentions.

    And this is where many are so wrong because this culture gets so “hyped up” by the invective that it translates into action immediately.
    Just the words of the Imam and they become hysterical enough to rampage physically.

  28. E.G. says:

    A propos “calling” and “naming”:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5f9R9MtkpqM

  29. Ray in Seattle says:

    sshender, A transformation? I don’t think so but it’s sometimes difficult to notice one’s own changes. I have been very pro-Israel since I started looking more closely at the conflict in 2002, I think. I was shocked to find that many liberals were outright antisemitic and supported the terrorists. Actually they were more accurately “progressives” rather than “liberals”. I considered myself a liberal (still do) and felt I needed to immerse myself in the discussion and clarify for myself where I stood, what principles I followed.

    At that time I started reading heavily and getting into discussions at DU’s I/P forum. The more I was exposed to this anti-Israel venom from the far left there and the more I read of the actual history the stronger my ideological support of Israel became. I tried hard to keep my discussion within bounds but the regular antisemites there regularly succeeded in getting anyone who consistently provided decent pro-Israel arguments banned from the site. It took them almost three years but they finally did it.

    When I came here, because I still considered myself a liberal and announced – some of the conservative members here seemed to think I was an enemy (that’s my guess) and were quite inhospitable. Eventually though I think most members here now understand that I believe strongly in Israel’s right to defend itself from aggression – more so than some Israelis even. But I still found myself in some heated arguments about other aspects of my liberalism and also about my views of human nature.

    I am not Jewish. I was raised Catholic but I am an atheist. I judge people on their actions – not on their religion or ethnicity. I know there are good and bad in every group including Jews, Muslims and atheists.

    As a peaceful person my over-riding principle when judging people is that the worst possible crime, the most worthy of my condemnation, is initiating violence against the other – crossing the line from lobbying and persuasion to the knife or the gun. Conversely, the most honorable act in conflict, the act most worthy of my support, is defending one’s self or one’s people against violence. I have no problem with violence in clear defense. In fact I consider it extremely honorable.

    If I would fault my own country – the USA – I would say that at times we have not been careful enough to maintain clarity on our use of violence for defense. Viet Nam for example. It was complicated but I’m still not sure a clear case was made – and I opposed that war at the time based on those principles.

    In this conflict I see that for the last seventy years the Arabs have consistently and without fail been the aggressors – and at every opportunity. And the Israelis have been decidedly and clearly defensive, always acting in self-defense as far as I can see. I have searched and found little or no gray area here. It’s not like it’s even close.

    This whole experience has caused my to identify less with liberals generally – seeing how liberal political views can by used to justify violence against Jews. So if I have changed much it is probably in the direction of seeing more clearly that there is good and bad in both liberal and conservative views of life – and that I need to be very careful about which I endorse and which I reject. My liberalism is certainly of the philosophical kind and not the political.

  30. E.G. says:

    Ray,

    I too think it’s more a change in style than in substance. And I appreciate the more topic-focussed mode of your recent posts.

    If I may correct your guess, I can’t think of anyone in this space considering you as an enemy. You mostly have encountered (and probably will continue to) opposition to some of your opinions, not towards your person (is it possible that the ad hominem, often excessively used in “liberal” fora, sort of conditioned your reaction to criticism?).

  31. Ray in Seattle says:

    EG, I appreciate your comments. I don’t feel that anyone here treats me as an enemy at this time. In my first couple of months here though I experienced some pretty extreme comments directed at me. In forums I try to be as polite as possible and stay away from personal attacks or references. I dislike those so much that when they are directed my way I will object to them and in some cases deliver back in kind – or better.

    That’s very consistent with how I view the Arab / Israeli conflict – don’t initiate aggression but be very intolerant of it if some is directed my way. Hit back hard and early.

    But that’s all water under the bridge and I have no desire to revisit who said what or why. I don’t hold grudges and I’m glad we’re past that. This is still my current favorite blog. I am especially interested in RL’s attempt to include the psycho-social view of the conflict which I think is the most important. I also gain valuable insight from one-on-one discussions with actual Israeli Jews rather than the American liberal kind.

    BTW – thanks for that YouTube link to Lakoff. He’s much more interesting in person than his books. I’m half way through and learning a lot about his views that I missed reading him.

  32. Ray in Seattle says:

    Although this is still my favorite blog, I have recently found fertile anti-Israel liberal bigotry over at Matt Yglesias’ blog. Here’s a comment I recently posted there on the HRW affair – that kind of encapsulates my views on the initiation of violence and how HR watchdogs like HRW enable the aggressors – in case anyone here is interested. (I don’t blame you if you’re not. Just ignore this comment.)

    But I’d much rather be arguing with those guys than you since I agree with most of your views on the conflict.

    Previous to this comment I established my belief that aggression is an act of violence that was not part of legitimate defense against a similar act. In this context, the first Qassam fired into Sderot the day after Israel withdrew from Gaza was an act of aggression – as were the thousands that followed – because none of them were fired in defense against some act by Israel or the IDF. They were aimed at civilians who were not attacking anyone and they were aimed at the civilians of a state that was not attacking anyone.

    Text follows: [snip]

    First, I think that HR violations are bad and should be noted and dealt with whenever they occur. The political philosophy of Western democracies is to provide governments that protects human rights and eliminates HR abuses and I am glad I am part of that society.

    Second, it’s good that human rights orgs focus on HR violations within ongoing conflicts, regardless of who started it. I’m sure we agree so far.

    I think the problem though is that once a conflict reaches the stage of violent war those concerns have the potential to make things even worse – to cause or allow more violations of human rights, more human suffering than would otherwise occur. That’s especially what will happen if those concerns are used by the aggressive party to impede the ability of the attacked party to defend itself.

    Thus, the HR concerns of the defender become a weapon in the hands of the aggressor that severely limits their ability to reduce or eliminate the threat against their people.

    You might say then that even so, it is still important to prevent atrocities in war and that without that focus they are even more likely to occur.

    I agree – but only with the provision that the HR watchdogs understand the huge advantage to the aggressor if they allow their HR watchdog work to be used to delegitimize the defender’s attempts to defend itself – and if they go to extreme lengths to assure that that does not happen. I would think HR watchdogs would do this voluntarily and document their efforts thoroughly and transparently if they were truly concerned about human rights and their future ability to credibly defend those human rights in conflict.

    In this case HRW and UNHRC have done the opposite. They have willingly allowed themselves to become a part of the aggression and attempts to hinder the defender’s ability to protect its citizens’ lives. There is indisputable voluminous video proof that Hamas does the following:

    a) They wear civilian clothes when fighting.

    b) They locate and fire from civilian areas and “protected” zones and buildings.

    c) They encourage and sometimes force civilians to remain in those areas while fighting is ongoing.

    d) They use ambulances to ferry fighters around combat zones and escape from IDF forces.

    e) They store weapons, bivouac their fighters and put command centers in mosques, schools and hospitals.

    Each one of those is a very serious war crime. That’s because each of those acts eliminates the human rights protections of civilians in the war zone under international law as protected parties in war. Each of those acts makes it highly likely that those civilians will be harmed by Israel’s legitimate attempts to defend its citizens from attack.

    With this being the case, any human rights organization that was sincerely concerned about civilian human rights in a war zone, would make this the focus of their efforts. They would point out that any civilians killed under these circumstances were caused by Hamas’ blatant disregard of the rules of war meant to protect those civilians. They would be demanding the arrest and severe punishment of Hamas’ operatives and especially their leadership for so severely endangering the human rights of their own population by removing their status as protected persons.

    But what do we see? We see little or no mention of such violations in their reports. Instead, we see highly questionable and unverified accusations that the IDF purposely attacks innocent civilians.

    As someone who cares about the human rights of innocent civilians – don’t these facts make even some difference to you in your judgment of Israel’s actions, and Hamas’ actions and of course, Human Right’s Watch’s actions in this conflict?

    I can’t help but wonder why someone who has a sincere concern for the welfare of Palestinian civilians would not be enraged at Hamas’ behavior and demanding that their leaders be arrested and sentenced to life prison terms if not hung. I can’t help but wonder why you support organizations like HRW that so willingly allow themselves to be part of Hamas’ efforts to de-legitimize Israel’s lawful defense of its citizens’ lives. In a better world it seems to me you would be demanding that HRW be scorned, sued by their donors and disbanded for doing so much to damage the lives of the innocent civilians they profess to care about.

    How can you care about the suffering and deaths (the human rights) of innocent civilians and do otherwise? I’m interested in your explanation.

    ******************

    I received no answer from anyone there and this remains the last comment in the thread, posted Oct. 24.

  33. Cynic says:

    Ray,

    You are the “troll” there to derail their narrative.

    Maybe you should have thrown around terms like cognitive dissonance especially in the last paragraph to entice some of their “intellectuals” to debate.

    After all is said and done one comes to the conclusion that any feelings they may have for the Palestinians are purely for show.

    Those who are truly humanitarian do things like that religious settler family who have taken in a gay Palestinian to protect him from his “brothers” when he could not get back into Israel after visiting his sick father.

  34. E.G. says:

    Ray,

    Pasturing in foreign meadows, eh?
    Well, at least you have the moral sense of confessing err… I mean doing your public auto-critique of such sins dissident, reactionary behaviour. ;-)

    I hope your comment made someone think.

    Re-Lakoff. He’s the (or one of the) most influential conceiver of the progressive/PoMo rhetoric techniques.

  35. E.G. says:

    Cynic,

    I only read about the Gay sheltered by settlers on Ynet. And that article went into so much detail about the Israeli authorities heaping difficulties for his return that, foreseeing the concentration on the “balancing” info rather than on the humanity of the “fanatics”, I did not relay it to my favourite “foreign meadows”. Do you have another source?

  36. sshender says:

    This thread just reminds me that this blog is among the few places where comments are often as much as or even more intellectually engaging than the initial posts themselves. For example, my favourite blog right now is Elder of Ziyon, and yet the comment section there comes nowhere near the level of this blog, although the blog itself is superb. I guess this has to do with the more analytical-scholarly approach of Richard which draws a croud with similar interests. Incidently, this crowd is also more erudite and well versed.

    Ray, I have tremendous respect for your position, because I’m also an atheist and (at least by my own definition) a liberal. However my views have been transformed since the 2nd intifada and my growing interest in the conflict. The thing is, my temperament and experiences in life have predisposed me to identify with the weak “underdog” party and I’m highly sensitive to any injustice – which has lead me to adopt a radical leftist ideology during my late teens. Of course this was not an ideology based on knowledge or reasoned analysis, rather a knee-jerk reaction of my mental projections. It took me many years and much reading, watching and hearing to challenge my views and to sober up. I am nowhere near the end of that journey, however, having experienced it first-hand, I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of the malady afflicting the left, which makes for its hopelesly misguided policies. This is why I have tremendous respect for liberals who find in them the strenght to oppose the dogmatism that has swept their ranks and stay true to the true liberal values upon which the Western civilisation was founded.

    Also, for some intellectually engaging material I strongly recommend reading the Z-Word site editorial articles, Commentry magazine, The Jewish daily Forward, Azure online and most recently Stuart Green’s thesis on Cognitive Warfare (often promoted by Richard) which is available in its entirety here:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/20459296/Stuart-Green-LTC-USN-Cognitive-Warfare-02-July-2008-Final

    (This is a 300 pages document, but is so fluent that I swallowed it in one gulp).

    It was very fascinating to see Dawkins’ meme theory applied to the Arab-Israeli conflict and to war in general. I just with the new atheists like Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris would take a more brave stand on Israel, instead of lumping all religions and religious violence into one universal evil. I guess this is why I have more respect for Oriana Fallaci and Pat Condell than Dawkins and Dennett.

  37. sshender says:

    BTW, sit tight. On november 5th the two Golds (Dore Gold vs. Richard Goldstone) will go head to head in a televised debate about the Goldstone report. This promises to ne entertaining!

    http://www.brandeis.edu/streaming/

  38. Ray in Seattle says:

    EG @35, Yes he’s on the liberal side against the conservatives. But his techniques are just as thoroughly studied and adopted by the right – as per Frank Luntz.

    Lakoff, PoMo? I didn’t see any of that – but then I wasn’t looking for it either. Did you?

    I think both of them are using their insights into psychology to further their ideological aims. I appreciate them both from that perspective and I largely agree with them both on the psychology.

    The difference between me and them is that I don’t hew to the left or the right party line. I’m not out to win anything for “liberals” even though I consider myself one on some issues.

    I’m not so much interested in using my understanding of the psychology of belief to trick people (independents) to agree with my political views – which I think is how both Lakoff and Luntz market themselves and justify their speaking fees. I think the greatest value of the psychological view for me is that it helps me question my own conclusions no matter which side they conform to. That doesn’t mean I will be right – but the odds are greater for that.

    Also, by discussing this view emotionally driven of behavior and belief others might come to see some sense in it as well and if they become more likely to question their political conclusions then I think everybody wins. But I don’t discuss it for that reason in forums. I’m just interested in understanding human nature and especially the nature of conflict for its own sake.

  39. Ray in Seattle says:

    In #38 I said: “I appreciate them both from that perspective and I largely agree with them both on the psychology.”

    I should have said:

    While I largely agree with them both on the psychology – I’m not so impressed that they use it to further political goals.

  40. sshender says:

    This thread just reminds me that this blog is among the few places where comments are often as much as or even more intellectually engaging than the initial posts themselves. For example, my favourite blog right now is Elder of Ziyon, and yet the comment section there comes nowhere near the level of this blog, although the blog itself is superb. I guess this has to do with the more analytical-scholarly approach of Richard which draws a croud with similar interests. Incidently, this crowd is also more erudite and well versed.

    Ray, I have tremendous respect for your position, because I’m also an atheist and (at least by my own definition) a liberal. However my views have been transformed since the 2nd intifada and my growing interest in the conflict. The thing is, my temperament and experiences in life have predisposed me to identify with the weak “underdog” party and I’m highly sensitive to any injustice – which has lead me to adopt a radical leftist ideology during my late teens. Of course this was not an ideology based on knowledge or reasoned analysis, rather a knee-jerk reaction of my mental projections. It took me many years and much reading, watching and hearing to challenge my views and to sober up. I am nowhere near the end of that journey, however, having experienced it first-hand, I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of the malady afflicting the left, which makes for its hopelesly misguided policies. This is why I have tremendous respect for liberals who find in them the strenght to oppose the dogmatism that has swept their ranks and stay true to the true liberal values upon which the Western civilisation was founded.

  41. E.G. says:

    Ray #39,

    Ah, but that — the psycholinguistic insights and knowledge used for political ends — was the point in posting the link here. Cogware for CogWar.

  42. E.G. says:

    In case it went unnoticed, the title of sweet dear Helena Cobban’s entry, discussed in the preceding thread:
    The value of the human rights frame

    That’s shorthand for frame of reference. But the analogy with a photo/film frame is highly pertinent. Especially what’s in and what’s out, and what’s focussed or in the background/periphery…

  43. Ray in Seattle says:

    EG, I didnlt quite get the connection between “calling” and “naming” and sshender’s comment just prior. He was talking about hyperbole and hot rhetoric it seems to me.

    I think “framing” is something much different. It calls emotions into play by cleverly attaching them to other emotional beliefs. It’s like a magician waving a white handkerchief while he finds the card in his sleeve with his unseen hand.

    Arab invective in Arabic is mostly pure emotion. It may be primitive and tribal but it’s more honest in that respect. It’s let’s get excited and shoot our guns in the air and scream about how much we hate the Jews – and then lets go kill some – because they are our mortal enemies and that’s what we do to our enemies because we are Arabs.

    But the Arabs also do framing when they speak in English. The terms “resistance”, “justice”, “oppression” that thread consistently through very their political discourse – and that are eagerly picked up by the Western anti-Israel left – show how successful repeating such frames can be – a topic Lakoff discusses in his talk.

  44. Ray in Seattle says:

    I’m afraid my careful “trolliness” is wasted there. The more I lurk the more it seems that the anti-Israel crowd just posts the most inane arguments for the weirdest premises most disconnected from reality in any real context. And whatever anyone says to them – and there are a couple of pro-Israel commenters there – they just ignore it and come up with another totally disconnected absurdity.

    We should have a contest to see who can find the least disconnected-from-reality anti-Israel forum on the internet. Some place where they try and sometimes succeed in posting a sensible comment. Then again maybe solitaire would be more interesting.

  45. Ray in Seattle says:

    Ooops, #43 was directed to Cynic’s #34. I forgot to mention that.

  46. sshender says:

    Ray, I have tremendous respect for your position, because I’m also an atheist and (at least by my own definition) a liberal. However my views have been transformed since the 2nd intifada and my growing interest in the conflict. The thing is, my temperament and experiences in life have predisposed me to identify with the weak “underdog” party and I’m highly sensitive to any injustice – which has lead me to adopt a radical leftist ideology during my late teens. Of course this was not an ideology based on knowledge or reasoned analysis, rather a knee-jerk reaction of my mental projections. It took me many years and much reading, watching and hearing to challenge my views and to sober up. I am nowhere near the end of that journey, however, having experienced it first-hand, I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of the malady afflicting the left, which makes for its hopelesly misguided policies. This is why I have tremendous respect for liberals who find in them the strenght to oppose the dogmatism that has swept their ranks and stay true to the true liberal values upon which the Western civilisation was founded.

    Also, for some intellectually engaging material I strongly recommend reading the Z-Word site editorial articles, Commentry magazine, The Jewish daily Forward, Azure online and most recently Stuart Green’s thesis on Cognitive Warfare (often promoted by Richard) which is available in its entirety here:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/20459296/Stuart-Green-LTC-USN-Cognitive-Warfare-02-July-2008-Final

    (This is a 300 pages document, but is so fluent that I swallowed it in one gulp).

    It was very fascinating to see Dawkins’ meme theory applied to the Arab-Israeli conflict and to war in general. I just with the new atheists like Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris would take a more brave stand on Israel, instead of lumping all religions and religious violence into one universal evil. I guess this is why I have more respect for Oriana Fallaci and Pat Condell than Dawkins and Dennett.

  47. sshender says:

    Bhaaaaa…. Why are my comments not being posted? And when I retry I get the duplicate error? Didn’t use any profane language or anything that might be mistaken for such…. wierd…

    Anyway, if it eventually clears, don’t be surprised that there a few of them around…

    Sorry

  48. Ray in Seattle says:

    sshender, I find that I agree with much of what you said in #37. Even – or especially – the last part about lumping all religions and religious violence into one universal evil. I’ve been thinking about that lately. More than usual because I visit PZ Myers Pharyngula blog regularly.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/

    He’s another professor who admires Dawkins and is passionate enough about his beliefs to make them available outside his class room which I greatly appreciate (thanks Richard). But I don’t agree so much with his anti-religious views which seem to parallel Dawkins. I can see an evolutionary purpose for religion. In fact anyone who closely observes the Arab / Israeli conflict will probably see the same connection. But my view delves into evolutionary psychology while PZ sticks closer to the biological rather than the psychological side.

    It makes sense to me that humans who acquired a genetic predisposition (instinct) to passionately follow the leadership of a charismatic warrior / leader who could pull together a large tribe in common fanatic purpose – probably were better able to conquer neighboring tribes and take their resources and women as well as defend themselves better when they were attacked by tribes of like mind. Isn’t that pretty much the story of Old Testament?

    Anyway, there’s an evolutionary basis for religion and the evidence for it is sitting right there in Palestine and the ME. I’m sure it’s not an original idea but I think Dawkins and Myers are blinded by their religious antogonism and unable to see the bigger picture in this case. That’s my take on it anyway.

    Israel is reasonable and logical and advanced and wants to be peaceful and only defend itself as much as necessary because of their pacifistic religious mentality. Israel has a wide variety of religions that share spiritual influence with each other and the largely secular government – so that no religion provides a meaningful unifying force that could work together to kick their neighbors’ asses.

    The ME Muslims are tribal and superstitious and unified in their Islamism and seem willing to follow the most fanatical parties and leaders – even to sacrifice themselves and their children in order to kick the Jews out of the ME. Such is the power of patriarchal tribal religion as it was in its heyday in the middle ages.

    The Muslim masses are poor and largely uneducated but because of their medieval religious belief system – they have Israel tied in knots and justifiably fearful that it may not survive the next few years as a viable state.

    Religion may be irrational and superstitious and people like Myers and Dawkins dismiss it as primitive – but the winner of the contest will be the dna that propagates its particular code into future generations more effectively than its competitors. And a century from now the winner could turn out to be the dna that provides a predisposition for such lethal and total religious passion to its human carriers rather than the dna that provides high intelligence.

    Anyway that’s what’s been on my mind lately and I see we think alike in many ways so I though I’d mention it.

  49. Michelle Schatzman says:

    Very interesting declarations, Ray. This is one of the best discussion threads in RL’s blog. I don’t have much to add, because I identify quite a bit with the path that Ray or sshender followed. They said it better than me…

  50. chaim says:

    Ray,

    That post you left in the Yglesias forum (in #33 above) was masterful. You asked:

    “As someone who cares about the human rights of innocent civilians – don’t these facts make even some difference to you in your judgment of Israel’s actions, and Hamas’ actions and of course, Human Right’s Watch’s actions in this conflict?”

    No, these facts make no difference to them. In fact, these facts expose their real agenda.

  51. Cynic says:

    E.G.,

    I only read about the Gay sheltered by settlers on Ynet. And that article went into so much detail about the Israeli authorities heaping difficulties

    but of course, mais bien sûr, it must be fair and balanced and of course the Israeli mirror images of the foreign media would not, gasp, say something nice about a settler even in a fairy tale.

    Seriously though, I think something was mentioned on TV (not the official news; I would not swear to it though, curse, curse).

  52. Eliyahu says:

    Ray wants to hear of inane arguments disconnected from reality. How about this one that is making the rounds, the theme of a letter in the guardian. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, is charged with proposing to “nuke” Gaza. This mad, asinine and irrational charge is unaware of either 1) the effects of a nuclear bomb in general or of one set off in Gaza in particular which would affect Israel too of course OR 2) the geography of the country, wherein Gaza is adjacent to southern Israel, or maybe ignorant

    So any nuclear bomb over Gaza would destroy much of Israel, poison the air and ground, kill many Israelis, etc. By the same token, a bomb shot at Israel by Iran would be harmful for the Arabs in Judea-Samaria and Gaza, whether or not they are aware of those likely effects.

    Charging Lieberman with wanting or proposing to nuke Gaza carries the color of madness or fanaticism.

  53. Cynic says:

    sshender,

    The thing is, my temperament and experiences in life have predisposed me to identify with the weak “underdog” party and I’m highly sensitive to any injustice – which has lead me …

    How did you identify the underdog at the time?

    If one has brought up children and the effort has spiced the cognitive aspect (not easy as one is captive to all sorts of emotions) then one will not identify with the underdog getting their older sibling to pay the price of any excesses.
    Funny thing in this world of ours is that it is usually the mother who cottons on first, if the father at all, whereas all those feminists don’t get it at all.

  54. Cynic says:

    Eliyahu,

    a bomb shot at Israel by Iran would be harmful for the Arabs in Judea-Samaria and Gaza,

    but for the apocalyptic crowd there are never too many shahids.
    I think it was during the fighting with Hezbollah in 2006 that one of their clerics basically wrote off the Arab deaths in Nazareth as shahids. Double entry accounting.

  55. E.G. says:

    Here’s an English translation of an article:

    Israel’s Moral Problem, by Ronen Shoval
    http://dday.livejournal.com/284906.html

    The same author (Shoval) published today (Hebrew Ynet) another article, in which the following 2 paragraphs caught my attention.

    Israeli democracy needs to know how to defend and confront the brutal assault on its very existence. Not everything is worth hearing, not everything is legitimate and not everything should automatically be granted protection under the “free speech” umbrella. Since not any opinion is legitimate, the public sphere knows how to denounce such despicable phenomena. Just as it’s unthinkable to invite a pedophile journalist to a convention of victims of sexual assault to explain his deviant motives, so is it inappropriate to invite an anti-Semitic journalist to the Dimona media conference to explain why IDF soldiers behave as they do.

    Bostrom seeks to use Israeli democracy and its freedom of expression to undermine Israel’s right to exist and defend itself. Therefore, we should distinguish between freedom of expression and freedom to incite, in this case anti-Semitic incitement inspired by medieval libels. This position should remain outside the legitimate public discussion.

  56. E.G. says:

    oops, the 2nd paragraph vanished from my previous post.

    Bostrom seeks to use Israeli democracy and its freedom of expression to undermine Israel’s right to exist and defend itself. Hence, we need to distinguish between freedom of expression and freedom to incite, in this case anti-Semitic incitement inspired by medieval libels. Such a stand should remain outside the borders of legitimate public discussion.

  57. Cynic says:

    Nu E.G.,

    Seems that you have to get out an updated version of The Al-Ard Code.
    Too many missing words on this thread.

  58. E.G. says:

    Doin’ me best, Cynic. Will catch up asap.

  59. sshender says:

    Guys, did you check out the full Stuart Green paper? I’d like to see Richard post on some of its previously unpublished chapters in anticipation for a lively discussion in the comments. Also, I’d love it if Richard could embed the upcoming Gold vs. Goldstone debate in Brendeis on Nov. 5th so we can have a go at it too.

    To answer some of the ensuing question, my perception of the crisis was similar to that of any layman unfamiliar with the nuances and context and who gets his info from the media and projects his own mentality onto the other side. To add insult to injury, when small I was a timid, inhibited, introvert and physically weak child and suffered quite a lot of bullying and harassment. I was always terrified of physical violence and up to this day have serious inhibitions about resorting to force. This has left a psychological scar in me to this day and that’s why I’ve always gravitated towards siding with the oppressed weak side. This explains my teen infatuation with animal rights and championing of (at least what I perceived as at the time) oppressed minorities. Thus my cognitive state proved fertile ground for ideas of social equality, cosmopolitanism and most of all the quest for peace and reconciliation with our enemies.

    Given this situation it was only natural that my initial simplistic understanding of the conflict (which was only enhanced by the circles I was hanging with) led me to adopt the usual cliches about the strong and brutal Israeli usurpers vs. the weak, meek and oppressed Palestinians. Incidentally, I couldn’t probably even name the exact year of the Balfour declaration or the Yom Kippur war, but that didn’t stop me from attending mass pro-peace rallies, demonstrating against settlements and doing voluntary work in Israeli-Arab villages. I am appalled as I look back and recall myself justifying the attack on a school bus in Gaza and blaming instead the settlers whom I held responsible for putting their kids in the line of fire. I justified (or rather excused) any atrocity by the other side as the result of their dire conditions and lack of opportunity and hope, since, my thinking went, I too, as an idealistic young man would have probably taken up arms against the brutal oppressor with far superior weaponry. I once even got into a fist fight while in boot camp over a heated argument about those things. Looking back on this incident, I feel like this guy was right to punch me in the face and spit my way, as I would have probably done the same with the benefit of hindsight.

    So to sum up, looks like my condition was typical of many leftist bleeding hearts that unlike the ill intention prescribed to them from the right are simply the hostages of their mentality and ignorance. In their hearts they truly believe that they are fighting for the right cause, and this idealism is almost immune to criticism because it’s a mental condition, and not the result of a well-thought out reason. I think that the catalyst for my disillusion was the fact that I became more aware of my atheism and skepticism through engaging the religious missionaries, and this has fine tuned my bull**** detection kit (to cite Carl Sagan), which was then applied to my politics and philosophy as well.

    Another contributor, I think, was my hyper awareness of my surroundings which led me to a cognitive dissonance of sorts. Ever since my early childhood, it appeared that my “tormentors” were without exception Mizrahi Jews. I tried ignoring that, but as I grew older I found myself increasingly at odds with the Mizrahi mentality – which I found to be more macho, physical, intrusive and vulgar than that of my Ashkenazi counterparts – whether it be Moroccan, Caucasian, Algerian or any other middle eastern descent. Of course there were exceptions to the rule, but to this day I keep encountering the same attitude and it still makes me uneasy to this day.

    Later, when I delved into the anthropology behind it, having read Patai, Pryce-Jones, and other pieces, it bacame clear to me that this was the embodiment of a different culture and different set of values. (What an epiphany was Richard’s honor-shame paradigm for me, as it explained so much of what I had experienced). Only later, when I came across Arabs did I see this mentality in its full “glory”. Most Mizrahi Jews have for the most part been somewhat Europeanised (or the hebrew term “Ashkenized”) and I think having been a minority in Arab lands probably had a moderating effect on them. But among the Arab (and the Druze) this took an especially acute form. Thankfully, the Israeli melting pot is bridging the gaps quickly, and both the Ashqenazi and the Mizrahi Jews can enjoy the best of both worlds. The arab world, on the other hand, has no such moderating framework, and I don’t see how it is possible to build a civil society based on their brutal honor-shame mentality.

    I hope I won’t be labeled a racist here, but I believe that political correctness has stifled any debate as to the cultural differences between the Diasporas in Israel.

  60. Cynic says:

    sshender,

    I tried to download the paper as I cannot read it online as the full screen button does not want to function. I don’t have the time for one complete read anyway and the accompanying ‘forgetting’, and would prefer to to digest it bit by bit at my “leisure’ but apparently one must register.

    The Israeli melting pot has only been going some 60 years but there are noticeable improvements in relations between the various groups.
    Those who came from the Arab countries had a completely different culture as dhimmis, indoctrinated over centuries, inflicted by the Muslims.
    Very few individuals in the Western world are cognizant of the other’s culture when interacting and are not making allowances for the differences but just adhering to local social protocol.
    Just watching the reactions between Argentinians and Brazilians and analyzing comments made after the meeting was over made it obvious that no thought was given to the different customs at play.

  61. E.G. says:

    Ray,

    Here’s the connection.

    sshender:
    For example, some might argue that when a “resistance” group invokes extremely radical and uncompromising rhetoric at its inception, it actually reflects frustration and the dissonance more than it does real intentions.

    Naming a terrorist group “resistance” is one technique of framing. The term is charged with positive connotations since it evokes (in the first place) European underground groups fighting conquering Nazi forces.

    Now, these groups did not have Hamas-like rhetoric (annihilate the enemy), nor did they target civilians. They were mostly talking of liberating their country and people (bell-ring: PLO) from a conquering army (sometimes also from a Nazi-collaborating regime). The Jewish undergrounds in Mandatory Palestine (as they called themselves) did resort to terrorist acts, mainly targeting British military/police (i.e., armed forces) and named their objective “independence”, like (as far as I know) other groups (ETA, IRA…) who use(d) terrorist means, including targeting civilians.
    So the use of the term “resistance” is not fortuitous but very purposeful. And the same goes for “occupation” and for “colonialism” (in some languages, Israeli – and only Israeli – settlements are called colonies and settlers are colons): Israeli acts are described by negatively-connoted terms (for Western ears/minds) whereas Arab acts are described by positively-connoted ones. Thus, the frame of reference the Westerner is frequently exposed to (and ends up adopting) is construed so as to make him/her automatically (i.e., without much thought or cognitive effort) adhere to the positive aspects and simultaneously reject the negative features of a “plight” tale (or “narrative” as it’s nowadays called).

    Note the absence of any reference to identification with the underdog. That’s a different story, albeit it’s one more “weaponised idea”© used in combination with other CogWar techniques.

    ©Lorentz Gude

  62. sshender says:

    Cynic, I’m not sure you understand the problem. I refer specifically to the honor-shame, prime-devider mentality that these Jews have brought along with them from their countries of origin. I don’t blame them for that, since it’s the only natural state of affairs, but by evading this problem – and it is a stark problem that’s evident even from reading the daily papers, if you read between the lines and learn to recognize PC in action. It has nothing to do with oppression and dhimmitude and everything to do with their environment, much like the Russian Jews’ “Soviet” (or even Slav) mentality.

    It’s not an accident that most Mizrahis are Right wing (on security issues) while the majority of Ashkenazim (at least until recently) gravitate towards the center-left. It’s no chance that almost no violent criminal acts are carried out by Ashkenazim, while the overwhelming majority are the work of Mizrahim, Arabs and non-Jewish Russians. These are not just stereotypes, but empirically verifiable reality. Look at the names of top Israeli organized crime figures and their conduct and codes of honour – they are hardly distinct from arab Honor-shame tactics. And so on. If you’re an Israeli, you sure are familiar with the term ARS (ערס) – which personifies the Mizrahi posse in general. This is not racism, this is a reality where two distinct cultures – the Ashkenazi Jewish which is at the vanguard of science, phylosophy, political thought (for better or worse) and self-criticism, and the Mizrahi which has no such tradition or underpinning and which is strikingly similar to the typical Middle Eastern mindset. I can go on with countless more examples to that regard, but I think it is quite obvious to any honest observer.

  63. sshender says:

    E.G.
    Just to be clear – my use of the word “resistance” was a demonstration of an argument as it might be phrased by the other side. I do not subscribe to the One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter nonesense and would never call an Islamist terror group a “resistance” group.

  64. E.G. says:

    sshender and Cynic (in particular but not exclusively),

    Latma’s “Honour” parody posted a few threads below is based on an Israeli 1960′s musical hit (Kazablan), composed by (Ashkenazi) Romanian-born Dubi Seltzer. It was originally sung by proud Sephardi (geneartions-old Jerusalemite) Yehoram Gaon. Here’s for Honour and roots and melting pot.

    So, sshender you’ve been the Yoram/Bok of service?
    With my best and sincere empathy, I honestly doubt the causal relation you establish between your very unpleasant early years’ experience and your instinctive ideological later choices. I think there’s more to the (alleged Al-Ard target readership’s) “Human Rightist” viewpoint than the mere sharing of being bullied experience. But perhaps there are some aspects of vulnerability that predispose or provide a more receptive terrain in some individuals to certain appealing factors of propagandistic messages.

  65. E.G. says:

    sshender,

    Yes, I cited your comment, not taking it as your stand.

  66. sshender says:

    E.G.

    My experience is not universal, but I have seen many like-minded people along the way who having had similar experiences ended up in a the same ideological camp (at least as adolescents and teens). This is not to say that all (or even a large proportion) of delluded leftists are in it for the same reasons), but I tend to think that since most people are not rational actors, our political choices (like others) tend to reflect our deep inner desires and fears. And these are usually comprised of our genetic makeup and experiences vis-a-vis the environment. So whatever the subjetive experience might be, I think it is a viable and deeply plausible assumption that it affects who we become later in life and what causes we choose to champion.

    I think the difference here is one of elites vs. simple folk. Elites usually have more down to earth, selfish and sinister designes, while they manipulate the naive, idealistic masses (myself included) into sacrificing themselves on the altar of their ideology.

    Also, one must distinguish between Sephardi Jews (who are descendant from Spain and/or resided in Palestine for ages) and the Mizrahi Jews, many of whom are ethnically Arab. For me, sephardis are somewhere in the middle.

  67. Cynic says:

    sshender,

    I refer specifically to the honor-shame, prime-devider mentality that these Jews have brought along with them from their countries of origin.

    By the way back in the 60s there was a commotion when a London family of Sephardi stock took issue with the possible entry of one of their offspring into a marriage contract with an Ashkenazi family.
    I happened on this piece of gossip among slighted relatives during my worldly travails while in Cape Town.
    Ah, the good old days.

  68. Cynic says:

    Actually, I should have continued with the different cultural delights expounded on by the different European sects and their honest if humorous criticisms of the other’s taste, but not wishing to torture myself too much until I can lunch I desisted.

    Many a ‘melting pot’ food reunion had its scenes of humour and high dudgeon.
    Ah the good old days.
    Unfortunately tastes don’t linger forever and with the passage of time the makers have passed on.

  69. E.G. says:

    sshender #63

    I’m afraid you’re overgeneralising your own experience.

  70. Chaim says:

    Ray,

    Your post #33 which went unanswered at Yglesias should be re-written as an OP-ED in a newspaper as a challenge, perhaps by someone widely syndicated like Dershowitz (maybe label it as some moral challenge to the Goldstoners).

    If you think this is a good idea, what can we do to convince someone like Dershowitz to make this challenge go viral? It would be great if RL went with it at JPost, but I think someone like Dershowitz is far more influential.

    What do you think?

  71. Chaim says:

    Ray,
    Hope you don’t mind but I stole your thunder and CP’d your Ygesias post here in response to someone who was published at al-Jazeera writing as a member of Rabbis for HR…

    http://velveteenrabbi.blogs.com/blog/2009/11/reaching-a-different-readership.html#comments

    I’m interested in seeing her response to this – although I was sloppy and didn’t make the minor change from HRW to Goldstone.

    If she responds, you should take over the conversation since you wrote it – that is, if you’re interested. Otherwise, I get dibs!

  72. E.G. says:

    sshender,

    I just read your November 2, 2009 @ 5:31 pm comment.
    These issues are off-topic, but for the record here’s my stand.

    I tend to think that since most people are not rational actors, our political choices (like others) tend to reflect our deep inner desires and fears.

    I think it’s the other way around, as you put it in your paragraph about the elites (though I’m not sure I understand who exactly you refer to as elite): our sensitivity is more or less stirred by the messages election candidates send.
    And “simple folk” are far from being all “idealistic masses”. That is, unless by “simple folk” you mean just a not very large part of the electorate.

    I find your view concerning Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews distasteful. And not very anchored in facts.
    It’s about as fair and ethic as the one held by some Jews from Poland about Jews from Romania, or Jews from Algeria relating to Jews from Tunisia, and vice versa. Or West-European Jews’ grievances about East-European Jews at the beginning of the last century. Or the old established Sephardi-French Jews looking down in contempt at the Ashkenazi-French (Alsace-Lorraine) beforehand.

    No doubt you came across some individuals who correspond to the description you gave. I know quite a few others who don’t. And, FYI, some of my neighbours were Frehim/Frehot (bimbo) regardless of their ancestry.

    Your stigmatisation is not only baseless and devoid of any decent consideration of basic group processes (because the phenomenon is hardly a singularly Jewish one, as Cynic pointed out above). It also leads to a vicious circle of self-seclusion.

  73. Eliyahu says:

    Peter B, #2

    Ihsanoglu is a Turk. Turkish officials have long been assumed to be reasonable, not overbearingly Islamic or Islamist, moderate, willing to cooperate with Israel, etc. Well, Ihsanoglu’s doings at the OIC have been going on for years during his term as top gun there. Despite all the happy assumptions about Turks, Ihsanoglu does not fit the bill of a reasonable, moderate, tolerant leader, and so on.
    With Erdogan as new top gun in Turkey, things have been getting worse there with the encouragement of Islamic bigotry. Turkey can no longer be viewed with equanimity.

  74. Ray in Seattle says:

    We’re left last Monday AM on a road trip that will take us from the Olympic Peninsula of WA state to first main stop Moab, UT. Eventually we’ll be thru Arizone, So Cal and back up the coast hoping to return home 1st week of Dec.

    Right now I’m typing this in a Starbucks in Bountiful, UT and I see there are 19 new posts in this thread. I’m falling behind. It takes me a while to digest comments and compose a response where appropriate – so I will not even try anything substantial at this time. I am skimming though and enjoying what brief contact I can get here. I have noted sshenders interest in the full text of Stu Greene’s work and hope to read it as soon as I get a few hours to myself. Thanks for posting the link sshender.

    Chaim, thanks much for you kind words re: that HRW / Goldstone post. Please use whatever ideas / content in there you wish. I certainly won’t have time to do any serious follow through for the next few days.

    Cheers

  75. sshender says:

    E.G.

    By “simple folk” I reffer to the many leftist “cannon fodder” throughout the ages. The people whose naivete and bleeding heart have led them to adopt leftist politics. As opposed to people who only use leftist rhetoric as a means to an end. Obviously MOST “simple folk” are not idealists, hence it has no bearing on them.

    I find your view concerning Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews distasteful. And not very anchored in facts.

    I kinda thought that this was a place where distatefulness is not enough to discredit an idea… The same can hypothetically be said about the negative views about Arab and Muslim culture, however, they are validated by the overwhelming amount of evidence. I believe the same applies to many Mizrahi Jews, consistantly enough as to be assigned to the group as a whole. It should be noted that I’m simply pointing out a phenomena, and my negative charictarisation of it entirely my subjective judgement – others may find such mentality and behaviour as positive.

    I don’t know if you’re an Israeli, and what’s your experience with Israeli society, but almost every other person I’ve spoken to has confided in me that he/she felt the same way, but was afraid to say it in public for fears of being branded a racist. Anyway, your second paragraph has very little substance so I don’t really know how to respond to it, besides highlighting yer again that this is not a racial thing, but rather a cultural thing, which should above all be obviuos to followers of the blog of all places.

    It may also seem that my resentment stems from my personal negative experiences which clouds my judgement, but I believe l’m self-conscious enough to overcome any confirmation biases I may have, and to look at the whole picture objectively. But my being right or wrong does not really have any bearing on the truth, which to my reckoning, should speak for itself.

    Your experience are by no means unique. I, too, have met my share of highly pleasant and intelligent Mizrahi Jews and some remain my good friedns (funny enough, some share my views about their peers). Without a doubt, there are also some Ashkenazi “white trash” around. But that does not negate the fact that MOST arsim are Mizrahim, and MOST Ashkenazim do not fit the profile. I think I will describe the divergence in Israeli society in more detail in the next posts to prove my points more clearly.

    Your stigmatisation is not only baseless and devoid of any decent consideration of basic group processes (because the phenomenon is hardly a singularly Jewish one, as Cynic pointed out above). It also leads to a vicious circle of self-seclusion.

    IMHO, it is you who are wrong to deny that Mizrahi Jews share some of the features of Honor-Shame culture. I’d appreciate it of you could elaborate on those basic group pricesses you’ve mentioned. Besides that, I’d appreciate if you could be more argumentative and less moralistic in your replies.

  76. sshender says:

    Ray, I envy you!
    As much as I love Israel, it is a territorial trap of sorts and its nature – while tremendously diverse for such a small speck of land – is nowhere near the astounding beauty of the US, especially its western part. The road trips we Israelis embark on last 5 hours tops (unless you count the occasional traffic) and usually end in Eilat.

    Beside that, Green’s thesis is VERY worthwhile reading. Moreover, in the beginning he lists a few books which contributed to his understanding and I recommend following up on these too.

    Peace.

    Sergei

  77. Cynic says:

    sshender,

    Reading your #76 post I now get a clearer understanding of where you’re coming from and can relate to some issues.
    As you say this is not a racial thing, but rather a cultural thing, …
    but above all a psychological thing as well.
    In my old age it seems that my analytical observations of people in bus and supermarket queues, for example, have mellowed beyond the #$*&(@ whatever, trying my patience and upsetting my demeanor.
    They are generally folk who suffered the hardships 50 and 60 years ago arriving with just the clothes on their backs to a place where even eggs were rationed and watch as later arrivals got all the help from a far more affluent state. With an incapacity to make for themselves, envy, jealousy come to the fore as they try to retain what they consider theirs, be it even the street or the healthcare centre.
    They were her first and suffered so “by right” are the first to get on the bus etc.
    All this they passed on down to the younger generations and it is slowly coming out in the wash.
    I can talk like this because I witnessed similar events elsewhere in the world which ended up pitting one “culture” against another; where young kids from an orphanage would beat up the locals living round about – it was too much to swallow comparing their “Oliver” style existence with that of those living in good homes.
    Where locals who literally sat on their backsides were eaten up with jealousy when newcomers who applied themselves more than diligently were able to afford a car or fridge, whatever whilst the oldsters remained in their stagnation.

    I tend to treat this more as a test of my ability to circumvent the animosity and build up a trust where now the few I made the effort for, who previously sneered or even spat at me behind my back, now greet me warmly offering me coffee or even come round to wish me for this or that holiday.

    In a manner I treat it as a battle of wits.

  78. E.G. says:

    Cynic & sshender,

    Now, be civilised and behave when you rush to see this. Remember not to double-click too noisily or in any other inadequate way… And do turn your loudspeakers to the lowest level possible during schlafstunde and after 10.

  79. Cynic says:

    E.G.,

    Gefilte fish im sukar. Really!

  80. E.G. says:

    Cynic,

    Aha-wa!
    Same as the salted Margarina (Bluband) one of my friends’ mother regularly used for her chocolate cake.

    Nearly as heretic as the Falafel ball in the midst of Endive-Asparagus and smoked fish plate I was recently served in a fancy Frankfurt restaurant.
    Sic transit gloria mundi.

  81. Eliyahu says:

    by the way, a dish similar or equivalent to gefilte fish was eaten in some of the Oriental Jewish communities in eastern Turkey and Iran, etc.

    But I think what the film referred to in commenting on gefilte fish with sugar was that Polish Jews traditionally made the dish with sugar which horrified the Litvak [Belarusian] Jews and the Mala-Rusian [Ukrainian] Jews who preferred their gefilte fish with pepper, which is how I grew up.

  82. Cynic says:

    E.G.,

    You complaining about Nouvelle cuisine?
    Yeh, I can just imagine my smoked salmon with falafel.
    Kippers and falafel?
    No ways!
    What I am enjoying lately is toasted whole wheat spread with Ikra and chopped onion and slivers of smoked salmon. An iced Golan Chardonay goes down luverly.

    The gefilte fish I am accustomed to but which I have not had in years was neither sweet nor peppery. But served with the jelly and a hot mustard. Of course the bread served had to be adequate to the dish.

  83. E.G. says:

    Eliyahu,

    gefilte fish with pepper, which is how I grew up.

    See where it got you? ;-)

    Cynic,

    Not nouvelle (it’s out even in Deutchland), fusion. Multi-culti applied to Kitchy. Er, kitchen. But some combinations are nice.

    Gefilte with mustard? Not horseradish?

    The finest Ikra, and Gefilte Fish, is made of Pike – unfortunately not available in Israel. But the Golan Chardonnay compensates. Have you tried it with a Golan Gewurztraminer?

    BTW, I may have the time to try one of those restaurants you told me about a few months ago…

  84. Cynic says:

    E.G.,

    Gefilte with mustard? Not horseradish?

    Hey, we had to leave some distinction for Pesach.
    מה נשתנה הלילה …… בגלל לא אכלנו חרדל
    I suppose I could rant and say that in our house any excuse to get a break from horseradish was good enough.
    Endive-Asparagus and smoked fish plate with horseradish?
    but the g fish and mustard was tops
    ( mustard was homemade and hot like it should be and just so that we didn’t get too uppity and forget where we were it was made with Colman’s powdered; by appointment to the King).
    And if the slice of carrot atop the fish was missing – shanda!

    My budget doesn’t go with experimenting. Actually didn’t even know they made a Gewurztraminer. I wait for the holiday offers at the super:

    Now we get to the cultural bit:
    is made of Pike
    Not having eaten gefilte fish in Britain I don’t know what pike is like. I do know that we don’t like what is made from carp.
    My culture developed its from 3 different types of sea fish (not available here which is one reason I have been on such an extended diet) two white and one red which produced the best tasting jelly/aspic, in our opinion and in accordance with our snobbery, enough to have the local bards extolling the virtues of “this year’s winner of gastronomic heaven” which went to Mrs. …. :-)

  85. E.G. says:

    Cynic,

    I’ll try the next G-Fish with Dijon mustard.
    I don’t recall horseradish on that German plate, although Germans are quite fond of it (so there probably wasn’t any, fancy oblige).

    There should be Hanukkah special offers coming soon to your local super. The Golan Gewurztraminer actually got compliments from many an Alsace native! And I don’t think it’s awfully expensive (though it’s cheaper at the BG Duty-free). And it goes well with both Foie gras and some kinds of (stinky) cheese too.

    Carp is not edible. It used to be poor E.European Jews’ ersatz, but the real stuff is finer, white river fish. Kudos to Lady C. for the jelly!

  86. GF70 says:

    sshender,

    Your basic arithmetic leaves something to be desired. As someone who has followed HRW’s work for more than a decade, I know that 371 have not been produced on Israel and the OT. Ha! They have one researched dedicated to the region that is occasionally supplemented by other staff in times of conflict.

    If anyone wants to check out this bogus claim, just follow this link. There were 5 — five! — HRW reports this past year on Israel and the OT, to give you some idea of the inaccuracy of this kind of claim that has been circulating on the web, in lots of crazy corners.

    http://www.hrw.org/en/publications/reports?filter0=**ALL**&filter1=228

    - GF

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