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Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Before moving on to the outrages of the day, I need to respond to Howard B.’s thoughtful and passionate comment.  I come from a Jewish background, but I have never had any connection, even as a child, with Judaism.  Indeed, although I am an atheist, I resonate more deeply to the mythology and imagery of Christianity, as readers of this blog no doubt have discerned.  Let me be very clear.  My comments about the recent events in Israel were political, not religious or ethnic.  I oppose the policies of the state of Israel, just as I oppose the policies of the United States, even though I am through and through an American.  I am indeed aware of the presence in Israel of men and women who, often at great risk, have spoken and acted strongly against Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.  Not for one moment would I countenance the suggestion that the state of Israel has no right to exist.  I am also aware, thanks in part to the writings of William Polk, to the internal divisions and conflicts in the Palestinian population that have stood in the way of their ability to form a united and effect self-government.  Leaving aside problems of language, I suspect I would find Israel a more pleasant and familiar place to live than Palestine.  But none of that has anything to do with my political judgment that Israel – against the opposition of many of its own citizens – has played the role of conquering and occupying army for decades.


s. wallerstein said...

I'm not sure that Israel as it currently is has the right to exist, with the right to return automatically for all Jews and denied to all Palestinians, as a specifically Jewish state, with a colonial presence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, occupying sacred places for Islam.

Now if Israel changes and recognizes the right to return for Palestinians as well as for Jews and becomes a state open to all, not just a Jewish state, then of course it has the right to exist.

Israel is the last European settler colony in Asia and Africa, and like other European settler colonies, for example, South African and South Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), it has to take steps to end its status as a European colony.

Jerry Fresia said...

Another good thoughtful blog and comment by s.w.

Here's where I feel....????....apart from my many fellow citizens. One big factor in my politicization was Vietnam. I always thought that Vietnam, in terms of sheer horror and barbarism ranked second only to the Holocaust. Therefore, I gravitated toward thinkers/doers who didn't sugar coat reality: James Baldwin, Malcom X, and as a teenager I was thoroughly tickled by the antics of Mohamed Ali. To wit: while I completely appreciate your comment a day or too ago: "This is not my country" - I was wondering (without a good answer), in what year was it your country? or mine for that matter? I'm 100% American and feel rather estranged living in Italy. But their healthcare system keeps me here. Yet, I can't think of a year when the US was not doing the sort of thing that it is doing now with regard to Israel. But,I do have American political heroes to a degree;and probably did feel like the US was"my" country back then. Either way, the oft repeated embrace of "American values" makes me want to gag. I feel zero patriotism in the conventional sense.

LFC said...

Jerry F:
I always thought that Vietnam, in terms of sheer horror and barbarism ranked second only to the Holocaust.

Not sure there's a lot of point in playing Let's Rank the Crimes, but in terms of numbers of people killed basically just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and in some cases of the "wrong" ethnicity and/or religion, I'd say, w/r/t the 20th cent., that the actions of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao are prob. in a class of their own. (Followed perhaps by the actions of both sides in the Pacific theater in WW2: e.g. the Bataan death march, and then the U.S. fire-bombing campaign vs. Japanese cities, notably Tokyo, which bombings taken together actually killed more people than did the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.)

In short, if you look at the historical record w/r/t the barbarization of warfare in the 20th century, wars like Vietnam and Algeria, despite their horrors, are not at the top of the list. And to say that Vietnam ranks second only to the Holocaust for sheer horror and barbarism is bizarre, imo. Again, that's not at all to minimize what happened in Vietnam, just to put it in perspective. And btw this is not about total deaths: millions of Vietnamese died in the Vietnam War(s), but a substantial proportion were combatants of one kind or another (NVA, NLF, ARVN); for these grisly purposes, their deaths shd probably be distinguished from those of non-combatants. And you don't have to cite Nick Turse's Kill Anything That Moves by way of reply, as I'm already aware of the book and its focus/thesis re U.S. behavior in Vietnam and Indochina more generally.

s. wallerstein said...


When we talk of horror and barbarism, we're not only referring to the body count. I imagine that Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan killed millions of people, but we generally aren't horrified by them. They probably said to their troops: boys, let's go and rape and kill and plunder, and the troops cheered. I'm not apologizing for that, of course.

On the other hand, the U.S. invasion of Viet Nam was justified by an incredible web of lies, rationalizations, euphemisms and total hypocrisy which on a certain level seems worse than Nietzsche's authentic blond beast (see the Genealogy of Morality, book 1). The U.S. claimed to be the champion of the free world, defending democracy and liberty, while they napalmed children, tortured peasants, raped women and bombed innocent villages.

Since you're a bit younger (I believe) than I am (and I believe Jerry F. is), you may not realize that when the Viet Nam war began, almost everyone in the U.S. really still believed that their country was special, was always good, was John Wayne, had God on its side and that the U.S. president spoke the truth. The shock of realizing that that was not the case was horrible for many of us.

There is no view from nowhere about what is the most horrid form of military aggression.

LFC said...

I am indeed a bit younger than you (and Jerry F.). As for the rest, I've just put my computer in sleep mode so will respond later.

Anonymous said...

Not clear how anarchism is compatible with the right of any state to exist. Or is it non-contradictory to assert that states can exist, though any claim to power and the exercise thereof is illegitimate? A genuine confusion on my part.

Anonymous said...

A long while back I read somewhere that it takes over 3 generations to forget political atrocities, genocides, and wars. At that time, I thought that was a long time. But after seeing how residuals of the civil war are still fought even today in courts, in the streets, in coffee shops, I'm not sure 3 generations is enough. This brings me to the matter of Israel.

Another 60 dead, yet the needles have not moved. It has become a new normal. I sense a general tirednes the world over in dealing with the ME issue. My question is has anyone studied the long term effect of this continuous war is having on the Israelies themselves. Surely it is not good for the soul nor the heart. There is only so much one can blame but after 70 years, isn't this taking its toll?



Having trouble logging in, will have to post anon.

Joe Cairns said...

I am always puzzled by the claim that "Israel has a right to exist" as it seems to me that no state has a 'right' to exist. Metaphysical entities such as states do not have rights, people do. In our lifetimes we have seen the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and, almost, the United Kingdom, break up into smaller states. So much for "states' rights". There is a job for philosophers here in clarifying the language around discussion of Israel's "right to exist." If, as I am suggesting, states do not have rights, who are we talking about and on what basis did they acquire such rights?

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