The continuum of civilianality that has come to characterize asymmetrical warfare

Gregory Djerejian of The Belgravia Dispatch has an excellent piece on the flotilla disaster. I’ll excerpt but read the whole thing:

Operationally, it’s largely no-brainer fare what went wrong, as various military experts have opined ad nauseam. Why was the intelligence about the ‘activists’ on board so sub-par, to include presuming a more docile reaction to airborne commandos crashing the party at an ignoble pre-dawn hour? What of the somewhat surreal tidbit about paintball rifles, as the FT reports typically “used to bruise and mark suspects for later arrest”, as if either of these crowd-dispersal techniques on a sea-borne vessel make any sense whatsoever? Instead, with the intelligence badly flawed from the get-go, and thus the operational capabilities required fundamentally misconstrued, it was all too easy for live ammunition to be too liberally employed in the initial chaos leading to fatalities (nine and counting, with regardless even one death too many for a boat full of non-combatants, which contra the always enterprising musings of Alan Derschowitz, where he says that the flotilla’s passengers “fit uncomfortably onto the continuum of civilianality that has come to characterize asymmetrical warfare”–I suspect instead most leading public international law authorities would ultimately conclude, ‘continuums of civilianality’ or not, that these individuals were not rendered bona fide combatants simply because the ship was attempting to break a blockade, and given the totality of the circumstances).

[…..]

And last, while there are still other strategic setbacks besides, the continued de-legitimation of Israel among large swaths of global opinion coming out of the ’06 Lebanese conflict, the dismal Operation Cast Lead, the Goldstone Report, and now this latest debacle, is worth highlighting as well. I know, I know, everyone would be beating up on Tel Aviv anyway, we are told by those who are always at the ready to provide carte blanche style rationalizations for whatever conduct Israel might deem appropriate, and with whatever the consequences, but this seems too easy a retort, no?

What worries me most is that Israel seems in the throes of conservative magical thinking. Each new disaster is treated in many quarters as “good news”, as a sign that “Israel is winning”. It reminds me a lot of how American conservatives think, with each new political setback advancing the overall cause of conservatism somehow. Luckily, in the United States, each new political setback for conservatives also limits conservative power and insulates the country from the dangers of conservative magical thinking. What is going on in Israel is very different.

Update. This Haaretz piece along similar lines is good too.






144 replies
  1. 1

    So this is good news for John McCain!

  2. 2
    Emma says:

    This whole thing terrifies me. If Israel doesn’t change its course (and good luck with that!) or if the United States doesn’t spell out where the uncrossable line is (and good luck with that!), I can see us dragged into a full-on war. Which, hey, may make the fundamentalists happy, but the rest of us, not so much.

  3. 3
    soonergrunt says:

    This has done something horrible to the Israeli political psyche. In the US, as Iraq went to shit, people began to question what the conservative leadership was doing, and eventually their reaction of doubling down on the crazy stopped working. Katrina put it to bed.

    The problem with Israel right now is that even the titular liberal wing of Israeli politics holds to the belief that it’s Israel’s struggle for survival against a hostile middle east with a largely indifferent rest of the the world. The Likud view is that most of the world is actively hostile to Israel.
    The current outlook for the majority of the Israeli polity (I’ve been waiting a few days to use that word, polity, YAY me) is to double down on the crazy.
    It’s because of the honor and discipline of Israeli commandos that only nine people are dead and not 600. These unarmed ships were floating weapons of mass destruction with their kitchen knives and axe handles. Those seeds in their cargo holds? Those are the SEEDS OF THE DESTRUCTION OF ISRAEL, AIEEEEEEE!

  4. 4
    Mark S. says:

    Is there any Israeli action that Dershowitz won’t defend? That’s a rhetorical question.

    The comments are of course completely fucking insane. Here’s my favorite:

    It is, in fact, well established legal military practice to summarily shoot illegal combatants. For example, the US Army did this routinely in WWII. The flotilla was a combatant entity, manned by unlawful combatants. Its ships should have been sunk without warning. The survivors should have been fished out of the water and hung

  5. 5
    El Cid says:

    The Israeli state and certain of its citizens have been gaining square meter by square meter, settlement by settlement, wall by wall, fenced off street by fenced off highway, checkpoint by checkpoint, as these last decades unfolded.

    If an eventual 2 state solution is unavoidable, Israeli policymakers of all political parties will gain as many resources and divide and weaken any future Palestinian states as possible until that time.

    If international opposition doesn’t prevent them from that, they’ll continue — likewise if international approval fails to help them with that, they won’t seek it.

  6. 6
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    @Mark S.:

    Is there any Israeli action that Dershowitz won’t defend?

    Fits in nicely with his day job. Klaus von Bulow, O.J., R. Allen Stanford… regarding OJ, it wasn’t so much representing him at trial, because that’s his job, it was the nauseating book he wrote afterward.

  7. 7
    El Cid says:

    Dershowitz is such a lying, racist, xenophobic hack piece of shit that he entirely fits within the establishmentarian notion of what qualifies as a prominent intellectual.

  8. 8
    SectarianSofa says:

    This whole debacle and the recent hamhanded Dubai assassination (in which Israeli agents used British passports as cover) seem so credulity-strainingly stupid that they appear deliberately retarded.

  9. 9
    Svensker says:

    Just to up the crazy, Brad Sherman (D-CA) wants to prosecute any Americans on the flotilla for “supporting terrorism”. See TPM.

    It is becoming a crime to disagree with Israel. This shit has got to stop.

  10. 10
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Mark S.: Dershowitz, Sarah Palin, Joe Lieberman, John McCain. If Schumer didn’t have his eye on Harry Reid’s job, he’d probably be joining the chorus. Even Anthony Freakin’ Weiner. Has a single national Republican criticized Israel over this?

  11. 11
    El Cid says:

    @Svensker: I think we need to push a Constitutional amendment that anyone disagreeing with the arguments of the most fervent Israeli state militarist should be immediately sent indefinitely to Gitmo or shipped to Syria for torture, ahem, enhanced irrigation.

  12. 12
    Jason says:

    I almost miss the stridency of the HRC discussion. There’s no real in-between for the administration, Reid, Frank, Waxman, everybody who’s opening their yap, on this issue. We’re back to Bush.

  13. 13
    SectarianSofa says:

    @soonergrunt:

    Looks like the Israeli government has been co-opted by a local paranoid movement that makes the Hutaree seem like a church youth group. Doomsday cult church group, but still. I’m afraid that Israel is poisoning its own institutions from the inside….

  14. 14

    @El Cid:
    We don’t need a constitutional amendment. John Yoo’s already authorized it.

  15. 15
    Cat Lady says:

    In Israel and for its apologists here, epistemic closure is a feature not a bug. There, it’s a dead end. Here, it’s going to end up with a loyalty tally – are you Jewish first, or American first? It’s becoming painfully clear they both can’t be first, but the question will need to be answered by American Jewry themselves for the sake of America’s own interest. Paging Glenn Greenwald and Peter Beinart.

    ETA: Derschowitz is an absolutist authoritarian who took every lesson of the Third Reich to heart, in a bad way.

  16. 16
    Chad N Freude says:

    Not entirely on topic, but highly relevant, is this analytic piece by Doyle McManus in the LA Times regarding the Obama administration’s handling of Israel.

    (He refers to the attacked ship as a “ferry”, but I don’t this discredits his analysis. Like nobody here ever makes a similar error.)

  17. 17
    Cacti says:

    It’s always fascinating/revolting to watch the mental contortions that “civil libertarian” Dershowitz employs to excuse the death of muslims and assorted goyim at the hands of the Chosen Ones.

  18. 18
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Cat Lady: American Jewry themselves are highly divided in their perception of America’s own interest. Remember the old joke about two Jews = three opinions.

  19. 19
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Cacti: Could you please explain why

    assorted goyim at the hands of the Chosen Ones.

    isn’t antisemitic?

  20. 20
    Svensker says:

    @El Cid:

    Don’t think it’s unlikely.

  21. 21
    grimc says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    http://www.ido.com.tr/uimages/mavimarmara.jpg

    Strictly speaking, “ferry” is pretty much what it looks like. Until I saw pictures of it, I thought the Marmara was a big freighter.

  22. 22
    Mark S. says:

    @Svensker:

    Unbelievable.

  23. 23
    Comrade Jake says:

    everyone would be beating up on Tel Aviv anyway, we are told by those who are always at the ready to provide carte blanche style rationalizations

    The interesting thing to me is that this isn’t the message you get if you read the vast majority of opinion pieces over at Haaretz. Most of them seem to suggest Israel fucked this up in any variety of ways, from the minuscule details of the boarding to the big picture of the blockade on Gaza period.

    But over here, in the US? That’s where all the media is reflexively pro-Israel.

  24. 24
    CaseyL says:

    Getting Greg Djerejian to post again is the only good thing to come out of this fiasco. Thanks for alerting us to the revival of Belgravia Dispatch!

  25. 25
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Chad N Freude: That is a good piece. I don’t have enough of a grasp on Israeli politics to understand Netanyahu’s position, but from what I’ve read/seen, Israeli public opinion is reacting much like USians did after Grenada or Noriega: We kicked some fuckin’ ass, man!

    McManus used to be on NPR frequently, but apparently they swapped him out for Juan O’Reilly Williams.

  26. 26
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: Doyle McManus is a thoughtful, insightful analyst. Juan Williams is … not.

  27. 27
    Cacti says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    Could you please explain why it is.

  28. 28
    Chad N Freude says:

    @grimc: Looks like one of those godawful floating tourist hotels you see off the coast of popular resort towns.

  29. 29
    Cat Lady says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    LOL, but really, Jews comprise a small minority of the population of this country. Hopefully, the small minority that is American Jewry who align with Israel first will not continue to dictate foreign policy. If it does, then something basic to this country’s ideal has been lost, and we’ve gone terribly, terribly wrong. It seems fair that when we Americans want to know whether Muslims are Americans first or Muslims first, to also ask whether Jews are Americans first or Jews first. Muslims have no power over our Congresspeople or the press, so the answer to the question is more important.

    Paging George Washington. Why didn’t we listen?

  30. 30
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Cacti: Easily. The use of “goyim”, admittedly not a flattering term although not a racist one — it’s slang for non-Jew used by Jews but generally not by non-Jews who don’t want to make an antisemitic point, and I don’t believe the government of Israel, or most of the citizens of Israel refer to or think of themselves as the Chosen Ones, although the Evangelical-oh-boy-the-rapture-is-imminent crowd may use the term. It certainly sound disparaging to me in this context.

  31. 31
    Uloborus says:

    @Chad N Freude:
    You know what’s sad? I’d never heard that joke before, but I *made it up from scratch* as I explained to a coworker why my boss Judy and I explained Jewish traditions differently. And Judy was sitting right next to me nodding the whole time.

    I still don’t understand why the US government is way more fanatically pro-Israel than the actual Jews either in the US or Israel itself.

  32. 32
    Cacti says:

    Okay, so use of Yiddish and/or Jewish theological fables by a non-Jew is antisemitic.

    Gotcha.

    And, umm, bullshit.

  33. 33
    eco2geek says:

    Thanks for linking to the article; it was an interesting read.

    Tweeting (Palin-style), special interest-laden, and hugely dumbed-down cable news addled mass democracy manages to run a serious foreign policy, but that topic is perhaps better left for another day.

    I hope the author writes that article.

    Anyway, not that I’m any kind of expert in the matter, but it seems to me that this is just the latest in a long series of Israeli use of overwhelming and wildly disproportionate violence in response to a perceived threat. (Maybe not even a threat in this case; more of a “see, we told you not to” kind of thing.) Israel’s actions are straight out of The Untouchables: “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.” Only times 100.

    The first example of this that really caught my attention was during the so-called second intifada, when there was a credible report in my daily newspaper that the IDF bulldozed a house and left the elderly Palestinian residents inside to die (I think this was during the Battle of Jenin). And this was by no means an isolated incident.

    So, sometime later this week, I’m going to sit down and write my congresscritters and ask them to explain why the fuck we give all this money and political cover to Israel.

  34. 34
    grimc says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    But a mini version. More like one of those god-awful tourist traps puttering around SF Bay that don’t even go to Alcatraz.

    It’s a bay, people. Body of water, much like any other body of water anywhere in the world. Now go back to Fisherman’s Wharf where you belong.

  35. 35
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Cat Lady:

    Hopefully, the small minority that is American Jewry who align with Israel first will not continue to dictate foreign policy.

    I suspect it’s to a large extent generational. I made a google, but all the articles seem to be written from a “those young whippersnappers don’t understand” perspective

  36. 36
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Cat Lady: I don’t think “dictate” is the right word. Descendants of Jewish immigrants have achieved positions of social, political, and financial power, and the US Government (sweeping generalization there, but anyway) is sensitive to or fearful of that influence. BTW, this influence didn’t exist before the end of WW II. The MS St Louis would have been welcomed if there had been strong Jewish influence on the US Government in 1939.

  37. 37
    ronathan richardson says:

    The conservatives like it when Israel kills civilians and looks terrible in the media, because they think it will lead to a full-on war. A war which gives us the opportunity to show everyone how big our dicks, i mean bombs, are, and feel justified in killing scores of people. This is what wingnuts salivate over, and it is why we support Israel–you think a conservatively minded person actually believes we have some strategic interest in supporting Israel?

  38. 38
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Cacti: It depends on how the

    use of Yiddish and/or Jewish theological fables by a non-Jew

    is framed.

  39. 39
    Chad N Freude says:

    @ronathan richardson: The answer to your question is Yes.

  40. 40
    Uloborus says:

    @ronathan richardson:
    But that doesn’t explain it at all. I mean, sure, there are conservatives who are on board precisely because it lets them wave the flag against the Evil IslamaBrownies. And there are a few who are on board because they’re loony Rapturists, but the latter can’t be that many. But the congressional Dems are just as insanely pro-Israel, and the Village media, too. I mean, they don’t agree across the board about ANYTHING else. Why this?

    I personally take Obama at his word, and I think he’d like to be pressuring Israel here, but I wish him luck with that. I don’t think there’s anything he can do Congress will back him up on, and he’s not the type to beat his head against that brick wall.

    EDIT – And c’mon. There’s more catholic power and wealth in the US government than Jewish. A lot more. But the government doesn’t spend half as much time adulating the Vatican.

  41. 41
    Cacti says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    Not buying it.

    See – “Undeserved Respect”, Richard Dawkins

  42. 42
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Cacti: Well, it’s not really for sale. It’s a carefully considered OPINION. Use whatever phraseology you like, but remember that it may affect how people evaluate your opinions.

  43. 43
    Cacti says:

    @Uloborus:

    But the government doesn’t spend half as much time adulating the Vatican.

    But the Vatican isn’t our agent provocateur in the world’s richest oil region.

  44. 44
    stickler says:

    I’m also glad that Djeridjian is posting again, but wow. He could sure as hell use an editor. Was he always this prolix? Just try to count the clumsy subordinate clauses in one paragraph over there.

    Re: Israel. Part of me really, really, wants Turkey to press the NATO button on this episode. We have an actual treaty with Turkey; with Israel, not so much. The contortions in Washington would be ugly to behold, but very entertaining.

  45. 45
    Cacti says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    Likewise.

    And I might OPINE, throwing out “antisemitic” is very easy and lazy way to attempt to shut off discussion.

    And one frequently employed by the State of Israel to defend its numerous excesses, infringments, and violations of human rights and international law.

  46. 46
    Mark S. says:

    @ronathan richardson:

    you think a conservatively minded person actually believes we have some strategic interest in supporting Israel?

    I think they actually do, because they see Muslims as THE ENEMY. These are the idiots who think we are fighting World War VIII, and assholes like Andy McCarthy think every single Muslim is a terrorist.

  47. 47
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Cacti: I forgot to mention that I’m really impressed that you reference Richard Dawkins. Do you often reference Daniel Dennet, and Christopher Hitchens, and Edward J. Larson as well.

  48. 48
    Uloborus says:

    @Cacti:
    So? It’s not getting us more oil, and never will. It might be getting us less oil. The Neocon dream of conquering the Middle East so we can suck the oil out through crazy straws shot its bolt in Iraq and failed utterly, and that’s still not a motivation that can be relied on as a heavy draw on the Dem side. But Dems and Republicans, once they get to Washington they all love them some Israeli warmongering.

  49. 49
    Bernard says:

    do you think the conservatives see any fight as a failure? only the “liberals” see any as failure in any war where the conservatives fight and don’t outright win. any war to these “fighters” is a good war. the American Indian experience is testimony to that. the Americans never gave up massacring the Indians after they had clearly won the West. the killing went on cause they could.

    similarly, any war these “fighters” fight has no negative. if this skirmish didn’t succeed, the next will or the one after that. the battles are continuing and ongoing. why lose? you can only lose if you give up. giving up and not fighting again later is what issue most non warriors confuses

    and they make fortunes on killing the poorer people on both sides, domestic and foreign.

    this is a WIN WIN any way they see it.

    the desire to kill the other side never goes away. or is satisfied till they “Win.” get the gold and fight the next skirmish. these are just skirmishes. To think reason has anything to do with anything these people think is a wasted thought. they are anti-rational. their view of rationality is just different.

    after all these years they have created such a “truthy reality.”
    they created and live in it and are determined to perpetuate their reality. Smart and determined. i bet they win the war on America’s middle class they are waging now.

  50. 50
    wilfred says:

    As Israel’s only friend we could hardly complain about this:

    http://www.salon.com/news/poli.....index.html

  51. 51
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Cacti: If I recall correctly, I didn’t throw out an accusation, I asked why you thought it wasn’t antisemitic. But accuracy in debate isn’t always a priority here.

  52. 52
    Cat Lady says:

    @stickler:

    Agreed – I checked in with him every couple of months and nada, and then GUSHER! He’s worth the effort to ready through though, cuz he’s wicked smaht.

  53. 53
    Cacti says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    Is Dawkins an anti-semite too?

    I’d appreciate the clarification as you are the arbiter of these things.

  54. 54
    Cacti says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    If I recall correctly, I didn’t throw out an accusation

    So cute with the passive-aggressive.

  55. 55
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Cacti: I have no idea whether Dawkins is an antisemite or not. I’m sorry, I’ve lost the thread of this argument. I asked you about a number of other people who write about things that Dawkins does, and somehow that makes me a name-caller. Sorry, my head is spinning and I can no longer respond to you. (But I don’t doubt that you’ll take the head-spin crack and run with it in some derogatory way. GO!)

  56. 56
    Brachiator says:

    What worries me most is that Israel seems in the throes of conservative magical thinking. Each new disaster is treated in many quarters as “good news”, as a sign that “Israel is winning”.

    The flotilla incident is a PR disaster for Israel, but some in the Israeli government probably don’t care. The incident has achieved an intermediate goal. The Obama administration may have had some advance warning about the likely Israeli response (and even if it didn’t, it should have had better intelligence and diplomatic resources on the ground), but the State Department could do nothing to negotiate an alternative to Israel intercepting the flotilla.

    Even so, the Israelis have been flogging the “See, Obama won’t let us do what we have to do” line. Meanwhile, Turkey is unhappy with the initial muted US response to what unfolded.

    Net result: when the US calls for Middle East talks, both sides will be able to claim that the US is an unreliable mediator. The status quo is a good thing.

    By the way, nobody really gives a crap about the suffering of the Palestinians, aside from a few easily manipulated peace activists. Much of this whole mess could have been avoided had the flotilla arranged for inspection by a reliable neutral party, or even acceded to Israel’s demands that the boats be offloaded at a port that they designated.

    Also, by the way, although this issue is a big deal for Israel and the Palestinians, it really is small cheese as far as US interests, and diplomatic failures go. Far more important is the Obama Administrations failure to finesse the situation that resulted in the fall of the Japanese prime minister, largely because of the Japanese government’s failure to honor its promise to have a US base removed from Okinawa. US military leaders insisted that Obama play hardball, waving North Korea in Obama’s face.

    I blame much of both foreign policy failures on Obama’s selection of Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State. She is a diplomacy superstar and good soldier, but she has not been able to craft State into an effective foreign policy arm. Her political instincts have never been good, which was bad enough domestically, but a far bigger problem in the international arena. Obama is adept at reacting well after the fact, but needs better advice before getting jammed up.

  57. 57
    Cacti says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    Yes, run along and nurse your butthurt little flower.

    Oops, does that making me homophobic? (rhetorical question since you’re not answering) ;-)

  58. 58
    Chad N Freude says:

    OK, I lied about no more responses. I don’t think that

    I asked why you thought it wasn’t antisemitic

    is passive-aggressive. But I’m not a psychologist.

  59. 59
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Cacti: What motivated that?

  60. 60
    r€nato says:

    Even my wingnuttish stepfather (who otherwise is a great guy) thinks Israel went too far and acted like a bunch of idiots by storming the ship in int’l waters.

  61. 61
    Uloborus says:

    @Brachiator:
    Hmmm. Yeah, I like your arguments there. All of them. I didn’t know about the US connection to the Japanese prime minister’s resignation. I hadn’t really paid much attention to the resignation at all. I’ll read about that.

    Again, this incident is a big deal to the US solely because… for some reason the Village thinks Israel is our personal baby boy who can do no wrong.

  62. 62
    Smeh says:

    Heres the rub. The “right” of the existence of “Israel”.

    In 2010, hell since circa 1700 ( thereabouts, treaty of Westphalia kids) or so when the idea of nation states came into being if you made a claim to be a “nation” you had to draw some fucking lines on a map staking your claim.

    Israel, from its bastard birth from the Brits meddling to this day refuses to categorically state IN INK ON A MAP just what they claim to be recongnised as. In the (possibly kooky) notion of modern nation states Israel doesnt recognise the existance of Israel because they themselves refuse/cannot draw a fucking line on a map and try to defend that proposition. Instead they build “settlements”.

    Logically the the concept of the right to exist of the state of Israel is utterly inconsistent because Israel does not abide by the rules of the notion of nation states (as flawed as they may be)

  63. 63
    Chad N Freude says:

    On another thread, I made a really short comment about how I hadn’t commented for a while because I had no time. How I wish that I hadn’t had the time tonight.

  64. 64
    Cacti says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    Now, now.

    You’re not keeping your word.

  65. 65
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Uloborus: I don’t think it’s a “Village” thing. See my comment here .

  66. 66
    Uloborus says:

    @Chad N Freude:
    I saw that, but I can’t figure out what that influence could be. Yeah, there are rich and powerful Jews. So? Like I said, there are more rich and powerful Catholics, and even if the government doesn’t do much about its abuses, there’s no real universal pro-Vatican cheerleading service, either.

  67. 67
    wilfred says:

    By the way, nobody really gives a crap about the suffering of the Palestinians, aside from a few easily manipulated peace activists.

    How parochial can you get?

  68. 68
    Delia says:

    @El Cid:

    I think we need to push a Constitutional amendment that anyone disagreeing with the arguments of the most fervent Israeli state militarist should be immediately sent indefinitely to Gitmo or shipped to Syria for torture, ahem, enhanced irrigation.

    Um, shipping folks to Syria for criticizing Israel may not exactly put them in the torture chamber. Just sayin’ . . .

  69. 69
    eco2geek says:

    @Brachiator: The US would have wasted its time had it tried diplomacy. Israel’s policy regarding the Palestinians and other Arab groups it sees as threats to its territory and tribe is one of violence. Kill, bomb, starve, and blockade them long enough, and maybe they’ll be sorry they elected Hamas. Or at least they’ll be so weak they won’t bother you.

    Only it hasn’t worked out that way, has it?

    By the way, nobody really gives a crap about the suffering of the Palestinians, aside from a few easily manipulated peace activists.

    Read: “The only people Brachiator thinks care about the suffering of the Palestinians are a few easily manipulated peace activists.”

    Much of this whole mess could have been avoided had the flotilla arranged for inspection by a reliable neutral party, or even acceded to Israel’s demands that the boats be offloaded at a port that they designated.

    The whole point of this was to bring attention to Israel’s ludicrous list of items that are allowed into Gaza, and Israel’s blockade of Gaza. The activists didn’t want to “avoid a mess.” Nor should they have had to.

  70. 70
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Uloborus: My take is that Catholics don’t present a tightly focused with-us-or-against-us threat to politicians. And Catholics in Government or Government-advisory positions don’t have a (valid) they-tried/they-are-trying-to-eliminate-us narrative. See Spain, Siglo XV.

  71. 71
    Mark S. says:

    @Uloborus:

    I don’t know what it is either. I mean, Cuban Americans have a disproportionate influence, but that can be explained, since most presidential candidates can’t afford to write off Florida. But the Israeli lobby is a billion times more powerful than that, even for congressmen who have about thirty Jews in their districts.

    Somebody here, I think Zifnab, has been arguing it has to do with military contracts, which I find a tad hard to believe. Then again, this is the Congress where it is nearly impossible to kill funding for a war plane that can’t fly in the rain.

  72. 72
    Uloborus says:

    @eco2geek:
    But by bringing attention to it, they had to know from the start that their cargo would not get through. Therefor, their goal was to make a statement, not to deliver humanitarian relief. That’s what Brachiator is saying with the ‘nobody gives a crap’ bit.

  73. 73
    MikeJ says:

    @grimc:

    Until I saw pictures of it, I thought the Marmara was a big freighter

    Yeah, my mental picture was Exodus, where Paul Newman was trying to shame the superpower into letting aid into Palestine.

    At least back then superpowers had shame.

  74. 74
    gwangung says:

    @wilfred:

    How parochial can you get?

    Not parochial, but deeply, deeply cynical.

  75. 75
    Uloborus says:

    @Chad N Freude:
    Really? I see that in exactly the opposite way. The Catholic church and its activist groups are constantly trying to influence the government on issues of censorship, abortion, and other ‘social conservative’ topics. And they’re very organized and aggressive, and always have been. But even when they succeed, it’s always a controversy. Only on the topic of Israel can I recall both parties, all of congress and the media, being united. For pity’s sake, Obama gets whined at by Democrats for so much as saying Israel really shouldn’t be breaking their own treaties with settlements.

  76. 76
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Mark S.:

    Israeli lobby is a billion times more powerful than that, even for congressmen who have about thirty Jews in their districts.

    Fundamentalists. “Holy Land” is not an anachronism to a whole lot of people, and they think that Jews are the designated caretakers of the Magical Real Estate until The Rapture.

  77. 77
    Uloborus says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:
    But the fundies have a fraction of the power of the Israeli lobby, and it’s only the crazier fringe of Rapturist fundies who think Israel matters. Heck, most of the rest think Jews are Jesus-murderers.

  78. 78
    magurakurin says:

    I know a bit about the Japanese situation as I watched it unfold on the news here for the past year. In a nutshell, former Prime Minister Hatoyama campaigned on removing the Marine air station from Okinawa. The people there have long complained of the noise from intense air traffic and the occasional rape of one of their pre-teen daughters by drunken US Marines hasn’t helped. Hatoyama and the Democratic Party won the election for the first time in, like, forever and the Liberal Democratic Party was handed its first true loss. The Okinawa question wasn’t the only issue and in fact the LDP probably lost mainly because of rampant corruption in its ranks. But a lot folks took Hatoyama at his word, particularly in Okinawa.

    Unfortunately for Hatoyama the Americans were totally unwilling to give him anything. The LDP and the US had made an agreement to relocate the air base(mainly attack helicopters) to an offshore reef location, where an artificial island will be built. At first Hatoyama had said he would try to get the base removed to Guam. Then he tried to have it removed to another smaller Japanese island nearby. But it that case the people on that island revolted and rejected it(as did the Americans). Finally, he asked Clinton if the Americans would move the Marine base to a different location near Naha city in Okinawa. It was to be a runway built on pilings in the sea. The Americans rejected this as well, stating that such a runway would present a dangerous “terrorist target opportunity.”(roll eyes). So, he got nothing. We(the Americans) didn’t even offer to try to reduce traffic on the base.

    Hatoyama’s resignation then came soon after. It was, however, not entirely because of his failure to get our selfish military to cooperate at all. There were internal political reasons as well. After the failure, the LDP dug up video clips of Hatoyama stating he would resign if he didn’t get the Marines out of Okinawa. Their thinking was to embarrass and weaken Hatoyama for the next elections. I’m of the opinion that they never expected him to actually resign and in fact would have rather he hadn’t. But Hatoyama really stepped up and took one for the team. He, in a manner of speaking, committed political seppuku. In doing so he restored his honor and probably boosted his party’s position. Also, he really just wasn’t up to the job as PM anyway. He is a very decent and kind man, and he truly wants to do what is right for the people here, but he just doesn’t have the chops to survive in the corrupt and backstabbing world of Japanese politics. His successor, Kan, looks to be a much better PM and the party just might save itself from its recent declines.

    All that being said, we still suck. The bases on Okinawa are overkill. The Marines are training in attack choppers over a heavily populated area every fucking day. It would never be allowed in a US city. There is no real strategic benefit to their being there. They could be stationed on Guam(which is “ours” after all) and the base in Okinawa could be staffed and kept at readiness by the Japanese Self-defense forces. It would then be ready for use if war were to break out. But, as one of my Japanese friends believes, the US Military likes Okinawa. The weather is good and the Marines have a blast getting drunk and swimming(and occasionally raping a 12 year old girl, bygones) and they simply don’t want to give up their little tropical playground.

  79. 79
    Chad N Freude says:

    @eco2geek: What a relief! I didn’t realize that it was that simple. I really don’t want to be insulting, but there is a highly complex dynamic here. I await the evidence that there was no manipulation of sincerely well-meaning people who didn’t think they were being used for a political/provocative purpose.

    I’m not asserting that that was the case, but I haven’t seen anything admissible in court one way or the other.

  80. 80
    Jay C says:

    @Uloborus:

    Yeah, well if the Vatican, say, used US aid to boost the manpower of, say, the Knights of Malta up to Corps strength, armed then with the latest high-tech weaponry and an air arm, and launched a new Crusade against, say, Tunis (like St.Louis IX, though with, hopefully, better results) – maybe “Catholic power and wealth” might come in for a little more scrutiny. Though if it could be pitched as a campaign against “terror”, maybe not…

  81. 81
    wilfred says:

    I await the evidence that there was no manipulation of sincerely well-meaning people who didn’t think they were being used for a political/provocative purpose.

    You mean the American public who are bombarded with Israeli propaganda 24 hours a day?

    As for the rest, pretty lame hasbara, no?

  82. 82
    grimc says:

    @MikeJ:

    Sadly, I’ve never seen Exodus so my mental picture was more whatever Die Hard that had Samuel Jackson. I think it was the same one that resulted in the TSA rule that all toothpaste has to be travel-sized. I am a product of the pop culture that was created for me. It’s MTV’s fault.

  83. 83
    Jay C says:

    @stickler:

    Yeah, stickler: Greg Djerejian (note the spelling – you pretty much have to, he must be the most spell-checked blogger on the ‘Net) has never been one to chop his posts short for the proles: it would be annoying if he didn’t most always have something really intelligent to say – however many words he takes to get there.

  84. 84
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Uloborus: I think there is a distinction between internal (the Catholics rule!) and external (the Jews rule!) politics. Catholics are concerned with what they perceive as saving lives before emergence from the womb, Jews are concerned with what they perceive as the survival of an entire ethnicity.

    (I also think that conservative Jewish organizations in the US are much more influential in foreign policy than Catholic organizations. Liberal Jewish organizations . . . not so much.)

  85. 85
    Uloborus says:

    @Jay C:
    No, but see, that’s my point. The Catholic Church, even with the awful molestation coverup, is still way less controversial than Israel – everywhere else except in America. In America, in the circles of Washington DC, specifically in congress and the media, Israel can do no wrong. But why? Jews are not richer, and certainly not more politically active or monolithic in their opinions of Israel. It doesn’t make any sense that a few rich Zionists and the more freakish fundy Rapturists can completely sway congress. Even if you throw in the chickenhawk neocons.

    I mean, it’s happening, but I can’t find an explanation that seems to be big enough. The US government isn’t this united on any other issue I can think of.

  86. 86
    MikeJ says:

    @grimc: Here’s the ship that was used in real life, that the movie was based on. Full of brave people that stood up to a blockade. They were non violent and still stared down a superpower.

    But they don’t make superpowers the way they used to. The Brits never claimed to be übermenschen.

  87. 87
    Chad N Freude says:

    @wilfred: Lame hasbara – yes. Evidence of

    bombarded with Israeli propaganda 24 hours a day

    not really. But direct lines (totally encrypted with the most advanced algorithms) from the Israeli propaganda machine to the US news networks . . . well, maybe. It’s clear that almost all of the news sources in the US are not “fair and balanced(tm)” but I find it hard to believe that what they “report” is Israeli propaganda. It’s the inept/stupid judgment of the editors (a term used loosely here) as to what will please their commercial audiences.

  88. 88
    LesGS says:

    @magurakurin: Thank you very much for this informative summary of the recent events in Japan. I hadn’t been following this at all.

  89. 89
    SectarianSofa says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    oh come on now, eh. Are you serious?

    If it wasn’t an accusation, why not phrase it differently? Isn’t the whole point of this quodlibet — that the anti-semitic reading that readers might read as anti-semtic just jumps out to any reasonable audience familiar with the facts?
    Aren’t we talking about discoverable meanings which make sense, from context (macro and local)? How are we supposed to read your non-accusation of racism in this comment section, if not as an accusation? Why or why not?

  90. 90
    wilfred says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    See here for how:

    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/

    The Israelis were given free rein on US television for at least 48 hours while the activists were stewing in jail. How many US press outlets will report what they have to say?

  91. 91
    grimc says:

    @MikeJ:

    I don’t know if we should be going around claiming to be a superpower anymore. We’re not exactly faster than a speeding bullet; just able to whistle and ignore it.

  92. 92
    eco2geek says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    What a relief! I didn’t realize that it was that simple. I really don’t want to be insulting, but there is a highly complex dynamic here. I await the evidence that there was no manipulation of sincerely well-meaning people who didn’t think they were being used for a political/provocative purpose.

    Having not been there when the flotilla was organized, I have no idea whether sincerely well-meaning people were manipulated or not. I really don’t want to be insulting, but the people who were killed aboard the Mavi Marmara are just as dead, whether they were manipulated or not.

    You and Brachiator sound very much like you’re trying to shift the blame from Israel, where it belongs, onto the flotilla participants.

    @Uloborus: If that’s what he meant, that’s not what he said. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict’s been going on for a long, long time. And it was a very cynical thing to say.

  93. 93
    MikeJ says:

    @grimc: I was actually counting Israel, what with having somewhere between 70 and 400 nukes.

  94. 94
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Uloborus: It has its roots in the horror experienced when the Holocaust entered the American consciousness after WW II. It has become frozen as filter through which the actions of Israel are interpreted. Dershowitz and company are stuck there: Palestinians are hostile = Nazis were hostile = we must protect ourselves = Quentin Tarantino makes a really good, bloody, movie that reinforces the perception.

  95. 95
    Chad N Freude says:

    @SectarianSofa: Yes, it could be read as an accusation, because I think cacti chose language that could be read as antisemitic rather than language that was less likely to be interpreted that way. I think a discussion of what’s wrong with the Israeli government can be conducted without the phraseology that cacti chose, phraseology that I think can be interpreted as prejudiced. I think he should be able to justify his choice of language that clearly could be read as biased. Maybe he thinks it can’t be read that way, but there’s no tone of voice or body language on a blog that can give his audience the cue that it isn’t really what it sounds like.

  96. 96
    Chad N Freude says:

    @SectarianSofa: I forgot to mention that your use of “quodlibet is incredibly cool.

  97. 97
    Chad N Freude says:

    @MikeJ: At least back then they had Paul Newman.

  98. 98
    Brachiator says:

    @eco2geek:

    The US would have wasted its time had it tried diplomacy.

    You miss my point. Had the US been able to delay the flotilla or negotiated a reliable neutral inspection of the ship, then the Israeli government would not have been able to pitch its “Obama won’t let us do what we need to do” nonsense, and would have a weaker hand when it comes to what they really want, which is to make sure that no US sponsored Middle East peace talks occur during an Obama administration.

    RE: By the way, nobody really gives a crap about the suffering of the Palestinians, aside from a few easily manipulated peace activists.

    Read: “The only people Brachiator thinks care about the suffering of the Palestinians are a few easily manipulated peace activists.”

    Sorry, this is not the case. The Saudis, among other Arab and Muslim groups, manipulate the Palestinians, and make sure that their lives are miserable. I could ask why there is no significant unilateral assistance for the Palestinians coming from the oil rich Arab nations, but why bother. We know what the answer is.

    And I think that some progressives, for complex reasons, are more anti-Israel than they are pro the Palestinian people.

    That said, I take your point.

    The whole point of this was to bring attention to Israel’s ludicrous list of items that are allowed into Gaza, and Israel’s blockade of Gaza. The activists didn’t want to “avoid a mess.” Nor should they have had to.

    Bring it to whose attention for what purpose? It sounds as though even the activists don’t care about the Palestinians. Israel’s misguided policy towards Gaza has been in place since 2007. It’s not going to change easily. The Israeli government has dug in deeper and is also furiously launching a PR offensive to further tie up the Obama Administration’s hands. The UN can’t do anything.

    Any supplies that are allowed in will be at the terms set by the Israeli government. So, is the point to get supplies to Gaza or to play a losing geopolitical game?

    The Gaza leadership is playing a dangerous game as well. I can understand their desire to show some exercise of independence, but if they succeed in getting supplies through without inspection, they risk some future armed response by Israel with the cover story that arms or other military material “obviously” slipped through and so had to be dealt with.

  99. 99
    Chad N Freude says:

    @eco2geek: My comment was not intended to demean the tragedy of the deaths. I think there is a possibility — possibility — that some of the people on the boat were being used for political ends.

  100. 100
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Brachiator: So how come the other commenters here don’t engage in this discussion? Oh, right, it’s complicated and nuanced. Much easier to talk about Good vs Evil .

  101. 101
    GregB says:

    The verdict is already in our our “former” NATO ally Turkey. They have been repositioned as the new third member of the axis of evil by Dame Cheney.

    Iran, Syria and Turkey.

  102. 102
    SectarianSofa says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    OK, fair enough. From here in my cave, I don’t really know how ‘goyim’ and ‘chosen ones’ and so on play out in the real world, so I am bewildered and fascinated by the whole discussion.
    I’m used to reading over-the-top facetious caricatures of arguments here, so that was my initial take on cacti’s comment.
    I am not comfortable with the phraseology, but I didn’t take my discomfort as dispositive.

  103. 103
    LanceThruster says:

    No, no, no!

    We’re Unitarian Troops for the Shock Jihad!

    Splitters.

  104. 104
    Uloborus says:

    @Chad N Freude:
    That’s… the best explanation I’ve ever heard, actually. For the later generations, the holocaust is this awful thing, sure, but WWII doesn’t have that visceral power. But congress is dominated by the generation that grew up during WWII, isn’t it? It’d be like someone, forty years down the line, trying to tell me that limited nuclear engagement was feasible. I remember the last years of the cold war. I’d go ballistic if the notion even came up.

  105. 105
    Brachiator says:

    @magurakurin:
    Great post, and I largely agree with your assessments. One note, however. The US has been planning to move the Marines from Okinawa to Guam since at least 2008 (Guam Braces for Peaceful Military Incursion). The people of Guam aren’t universally happy about this, by the way.

    The relocation is scheduled to be completed by 2014 and the Japanese government is even kicking in a few billion dollars to help smooth the transition.

    However, this is not the same thing as removing the US military base from Okinawa.

    You are also correct when you note that the Okinawa issue was not the only, or even the main thing, that got Yukio Hatoyama to resign. But his failure here became the focal point around which his leadership collapsed (from BBC news reports):

    For months Mr Hatoyama had searched fruitlessly for an alternative location to fulfil a pledge to move the base off the island or even out of Japan altogether, our correspondent says. When he failed his governing coalition split – a coalition member was fired from the cabinet for refusing to back the decision.

    The US government was never going to help him fulfill his pledge, particularly with all the North Korea related saber rattling going on, but the State Department might possibly have helped prevent the prime minister from looking totally foolish.

  106. 106
    Chad N Freude says:

    @SectarianSofa: Be uncomfortable. Be very uncomfortable.

    But seriously folks, “goyim” means “non-Jewish” and can be used as “clueless jerks” or “people who aren’t Jewish”. “Chosen People” in secular contexts is seriously offensive.

  107. 107
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    I don’t get why so many people think that there are downsides for Israel in any of this.

    Israel is effectively invincible within the region. There are no existential threats to Israel and haven’t been for 40 years.

    Israel owns the US Congress on any issue that bares even tangentially on Israel.

    They could nuke various European capital cities, and Congress would pass a resolution condemning the EU for aggression against Israel.

    They could barbecue Palestinian babies on pitchforks and the discussion in Congress would be about how to get more US made pitchforks to Israel.

    In terms of Israel getting what it wants and doing what it wants, nothing that Israel can do will impact on that while Congress remains Israel’s bitch.

  108. 108
    eco2geek says:

    @Brachiator: Apparently so. According to an article in the New York Times yesterday, the Israelis denied that the Obama administration said anything to them before the raid on the flotilla.

    The Saudis, among other Arab and Muslim groups, manipulate the Palestinians, and make sure that their lives are miserable.

    Yes, they do manipulate the Palestinian situation to further their own aims. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they make sure their lives are miserable (you are cynical), but they seem to find the situation politically useful the way it is.

    Bring it to whose attention for what purpose? It sounds as though even the activists don’t care about the Palestinians.

    To quote the NYT: “The activists had set sail precisely in hopes of forcing the world to focus on Israel’s blockade of Gaza, something they had sought in vain in the past. This time they succeeded.”

    And if they hadn’t been boarded, then they would have succeeded in bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza. I don’t know how you turn that into “even the activists don’t care about the Palestinians.”

    The Gaza leadership is playing a dangerous game as well. I can understand their desire to show some exercise of independence, but if they succeed in getting supplies through without inspection, they risk some future armed response by Israel with the cover story that arms or other military material “obviously” slipped through and so had to be dealt with.

    Damn, but it sounds like you’re talking about an abused wife and her wife-beater husband. “She’s playing a dangerous game as well. I can understand her desire to show some exercise of independence, but if she succeeds, she risks getting beaten up again by her husband, with the cover story that she was being “uppity” and so had to be dealt with.” Good Lord.

  109. 109
    Ailuridae says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    In all honesty the reason more aren’t “engaging in this conversation” is that most of us, rightfully, see the actions of Israel in Gaza from 2007 through the flotilla incident as clearly, undeniably morally reprehensible. Further those actions are completely anathema to the entirety of the progressive tradition. Additionally much like there are certain supporters of Obama that you could never to admit that ordering the execution of a US citizen is wrong precisely because “it can’t be wrong if Obama did it” you can never get a reflexive “leftist” supporter of Israel to ever condemn its actions despite overwhelming evidence they are in the wrong. Thats not progressivism or even decent thinking. Its asking your fellow travellers on the left to pretend you are not currently engaged in a form of repellent tribalism where Israel through some affinity to you religiously, culturally or such can never be in the wrong.

  110. 110
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Uloborus: That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me on this blog. I appreciate it, but don’t expect any sexual favors.

  111. 111
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Ailuridae: You may have mistaken my meaning/intent. The Israeli government’s actions are inexcusable (or any other adjective you like), but they are not unrelated to a complicated history of Middle East relationships and US-to-Middle-East relationships influenced by complicated (that word keeps popping up) US internal politics.

    I apologize if that seems incoherent, but I’ve been absorbing a significant amount of wine while trying to carry on a coherent conversation here. Assuming coherence is a good thing here. (Maybe not.)

  112. 112
    Ailuridae says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    The Israeli government’s actions are inexcusable (or any other adjective you like), but they are not unrelated to a complicated history of Middle East relationships and US-to-Middle-East relationships influenced by complicated (that word keeps popping up) US internal politics.

    And, again, if you are a progressive none of that makes a difference. Oppressing and disenfranchising a people and denying them the basic necessities of life is a morally unacceptable position for any US ally to take regardless of complicated history. That’s a clear moral point.

    Where results-oriented progressives become exasperated at the unique treatment of Israel is that our government’s decision to prop them up and shield them from any and all criticism/rebuke doesn’t make any practical sense either. What, exactly, is the US as a nation getting by every leader of both major parties and every newscaster and pundit making outrageous claims defending Israel when the facts of the matter show Israel is clearly in the wrong? The answer, of course, is we get next to nothing out of our relationship with Israel except blood on our hands and unnecessarily complicated foreign affairs.

  113. 113
    eco2geek says:

    @Chad N Freude: By all means, let’s have a nuanced discussion without bringing such old-fashioned and polarizing concepts such as “good vs. evil” into it.

    While we’re at it, why don’t we have a nuanced discussion about why we don’t give billions in aid money to the Palestinians instead of Israel? I mean, sure, they’d probably go and spend it on weapons, and it’d be a messy transition and all, but if they were our allies the way Israel is our ally, what difference would it make who owns the land? It’s just about national interest, right?

  114. 114
    Brachiator says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    So how come the other commenters here don’t engage in this discussion? Oh, right, it’s complicated and nuanced. Much easier to talk about Good vs Evil .

    To be fair, I have learned much about this region from some commenters here (especially ellaesther). But sadly, I think that sometimes, some people deeply prefer that things might be reduced to GvE.

    Worse, sometimes people don’t know enough about an issue and don’t want to know more.

  115. 115
    eco2geek says:

    @Ailuridae: One way the US/Israeli alliance benefits us: We might let Israel deal with Iran’s nuclear facilities the same way they dealt with Osirak in 1981. It might be altogether easier that way than to struggle with diplomatic methods that wouldn’t necessarily be successful, or, if they were, might take a long time and a lot of effort. Plus, they’d get the blame, not us (and although bombing the Iranian facility would probably be something many in the US government would see as justifiable, since the results are immediate and we have soldiers close by in Iraq, it would bring international condemnation).

  116. 116
    Cacti says:

    @Chad N Freude:

    I think you misunderstood the point of my post from the start. My barbs were aimed at Alan Dershowitz in particular, self described civil libertarian, who always finds a way to excuse the mistreatment and/or death of non-Jews at the hands of the Jewish State.

    The goyim/Chosen Ones reference was a reference to Prof. Dershowitz’s filter of whose lives are valuable and whose lives are expendable in these encounters. His mealy-mouthed “some civilians aren’t really civilians” claptrap is just more of the same rubbish he’s been vomiting for years.

  117. 117
    PeakVT says:

    One way the US/Israeli alliance benefits us: We might let Israel deal with Iran’s nuclear facilities the same way they dealt with Osirak in 1981.

    It would be a colossal blunder on the part of the US. Nobody would believe that the US didn’t authorize and support the operation.

  118. 118
    kdaug says:

    @stickler:

    Re: Israel. Part of me really, really, wants Turkey to press the NATO button on this episode. We have an actual treaty with Turkey; with Israel, not so much. The contortions in Washington would be ugly to behold, but very entertaining.

    This.

  119. 119
    Brachiator says:

    @eco2geek:

    Yes, they do manipulate the Palestinian situation to further their own aims. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they make sure their lives are miserable (you are cynical), but they seem to find the situation politically useful the way it is.

    Not cynical at all (and I hate the cynicism of realpolitik, for example). Cynics believe that the only motives are the worst motives. I just try to pay attention to history and to the facts as far as I can discern them.

    The Palestinians have been Fortune’s fools since the other Arab countries promised them that they would soon be back in their homes after Israel declared independence in 1948.

    RE: Bring it to whose attention for what purpose? It sounds as though even the activists don’t care about the Palestinians.

    To quote the NYT: “The activists had set sail precisely in hopes of forcing the world to focus on Israel’s blockade of Gaza, something they had sought in vain in the past. This time they succeeded.”

    The world is focused on the blockade. The blockade continues. You made my point. Actually getting aid to the Palestinians is a secondary issue, even for the activists.

    RE: The Gaza leadership is playing a dangerous game as well.

    Damn, but it sounds like you’re talking about an abused wife and her wife-beater husband. “She’s playing a dangerous game as well. I can understand her desire to show some exercise of independence, but if she succeeds, she risks getting beaten up again by her husband, with the cover story that she was being “uppity” and so had to be dealt with.” Good Lord.

    Nations ain’t spouses. I never waste time with false or facile analogies when the actual games that nations and political leaders play provide all you need to know. And perhaps more than you want to know.

    During the Bush Administration, the neocons were hot to push for Israeli belligerence in the Middle East, as it dovetailed with their stupidly misguided belief that they could impose American will on the region. The present Israeli government yearns for the days when they had a relatively free hand in the region. The absolute worst of the Israeli hawks foolishly believe that most black people in general and Obama in particular are reflexively anti-Israel.

    Then you have Palestinian leaders who miss no opportunity to miss an opportunity for peace, and remnants of a version of Muslim Manifest Destiny which asserts that there can only be Islamic majority countries from Pakistan to North Africa. Throw in tea baggers and the idiot GOP and you have a lot of room for misunderstanding and mischief.

  120. 120
    Steeplejack says:

    @Mark S.:

    The comments are of course completely fucking insane. Here’s my favorite:

    The survivors should have been fished out of the water and hung.

    That is clearly insane. It should be:

    The survivors should have been fished out of the water and hanged.

  121. 121
    Yutsano says:

    @Steeplejack: Pedant. :)

  122. 122
    Steeplejack says:

    @Yutsano:

    Stalker! Think I’m about to go to bed–or maybe do the crosswords. The Sunday ones should be posted on the sites I go to.

    (But of course I will keep obsessively checking back here for a bit to see if there is an outbreak of late-night action.)

    Song for you: Mos Def, “Umi Says.”

  123. 123
    eco2geek says:

    @Brachiator: Well, I think I’ve been accused in this thread of over-simplifying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the American-Israeli relationship; also of not knowing enough about it; and also of not being interested in learning more about it, by two people I don’t know and who have provided no proof that they know much more than I do about the topics at hand.

    Annoying. See ya.

  124. 124
    Brachiator says:

    @Steeplejack:

    Song for you: Mos Def, “Umi Says.”

    Nice, but a bit dreamy.

    Here’s something for hardcore insomniacs, The Heavy – How You Like Me Now?

    And with that, good night everybody….

  125. 125
    Brachiator says:

    @eco2geek:

    Well, I think I’ve been accused in this thread of over-simplifying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the American-Israeli relationship; also of not knowing enough about it; and also of not being interested in learning more about it, by two people I don’t know and who have provided no proof that they know much more than I do about the topics at hand.

    And interestingly enough, I never accused you of anything….

    Later.

  126. 126
    Quiddity says:

    @Mark S.: Where is that quote? I don’t see it in the comments section of Djerejian’s essay, nor on the Dershowitz page he linked to.

  127. 127
    eco2geek says:

    @Brachiator: Live and learn. Sorry.

    Why do you think Israel has less of a free hand in the region than it did during the Bush administration? (For tomorrow. Good night.)

  128. 128
    Mark S. says:

    @Quiddity:

    It’s on the Dershowitz page. You have to scroll down and click the individual comments to read them (annoying). The guy I quoted is the second one, Moshe.

  129. 129
    TenguPhule says:

    While we’re at it, why don’t we have a nuanced discussion about why we don’t give billions in aid money to the Palestinians instead of Israel?

    We do, directly and indirectly. Fat lot of good it did, what wasn’t stolen was wasted and what wasn’t wasted probably went into buying stones to throw at Israeli troops.

  130. 130
    TenguPhule says:

    Oppressing and disenfranchising a people and denying them the basic necessities of life is a morally unacceptable position for any US ally to take regardless of complicated history. That’s a clear moral point.

    You must be new to our Afghanistan policy then.

  131. 131
    TenguPhule says:

    There are no existential threats to Israel and haven’t been for 40 years.

    Then you haven’t been paying the fucking attention.

    Israel is going to be literally bred out of existance if current demographic growth in the area continue its trend.

    That’s what all the fucking noise boils down to. The Israeli leadership is scared as fuck all about having a jewish minority in their own nation.

  132. 132

    @TenguPhule:

    False. Birthrates for the Arabs are falling while right-wing Jewish birthrates are on the rise.

    Haaretz: Defusing the demographic scare, by Paul Morland

  133. 133
    kay says:

    @Brachiator:

    You miss my point. Had the US been able to delay the flotilla or negotiated a reliable neutral inspection of the ship, then the Israeli government would not have been able to pitch its “Obama won’t let us do what we need to do” nonsense, and would have a weaker hand when it comes to what they really want, which is to make sure that no US sponsored Middle East peace talks occur during an Obama administration.

    Yeah. That’s the problem. The US just wasn’t engaged enough or clever enough or helpful enough. Despite the fact that the State Department have been camped in Israel since Obama took office, with Joe Biden playing back-up. The reward for Biden’s involvement and loyalty was his humiliation, by Israel, to score political points in Israel.

    If Hillary Clinton just had a better political sense, we’d be making progress. It’s really her failure. Uh,huh.

    How long are we going to sing this lament? “If only the US would….then Israel could…..”

    Israel “can” do or not do whatever they want. Their actions aren’t dependent on US involvement or approval, as has become abundantly clear.

    Why is it the duty of the US to “negotiate” a reasonable inspection of the ship? I don’t want the US enforcing Israel’s blockade of building supplies. I can’t imagine anything worse for the US than directly involving ourselves in enforcing this. The US want them to drop the blockade. Why in the hell would we help them enforce it?

    By the way, despite claims to the contrary, here’s what happens when activists cooperate:

    JERUSALEM — A defiant Israel enforced its 3-year-old blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza on Saturday, with naval commandos swiftly commandeering a Gaza-bound aid vessel carrying an Irish Nobel laureate and other activists and forcing it to head to an Israeli port instead.

  134. 134
    kay says:

    @Brachiator:

    I’m wondering when conditions will be just right for Israel to fulfill their duty to the US and make a concession for the good of the US.

    Despite political consequences for politicians in Israel.

    Maybe a new Secretary of State? A US President more to Israeli voters liking? A better plan? I’m seeing the Obama Administration, and the US, taking a lot of hits on Israel’s behalf, and nothing in return.

    Duties run both ways. They’re getting the benefit of this alliance. When do they start reciprocating on the “duty” part?

  135. 135
    Svensker says:

    @Uloborus:

    But by bringing attention to it, they had to know from the start that their cargo would not get through. Therefor, their goal was to make a statement, not to deliver humanitarian relief. That’s what Brachiator is saying with the ‘nobody gives a crap’ bit.

    That’s like saying MLK didn’t care about actually getting civil rights when he marched because he figured marchers would get arrested.

  136. 136
    wilfred says:

    Tony Karon wrote a strong piece on American concerns here:

    http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175222/

  137. 137
    Michael Finn says:

    Attention, in the last two weeks…

    * 80 Indians were killed by Islamic terrorists while attending their own Mosque (wrong religious sect.)

    * 80 Indians were killed when a train was derailed by Mao terrorists (they are still around?).

    * US handed over the mastermind of the 26/11 attacks on India’s stock market that killed over 200 people, who happens to be an American citizen.

    * Government of Japan fell after keeping the American base in Okinawa.

    * Government of South Korea fell after taking too hard of a line against North Korea.

    * The oil spill has now surprassed 47 million gallons.

    Back to normal…

  138. 138
    El Cid says:

    @Delia:

    Um, shipping folks to Syria for criticizing Israel may not exactly put them in the torture chamber. Just sayin’ . . .

    Who said we have to tell them why they’re being sent there? As far as the torturers know, they all know where a ticking bomb is.

  139. 139
    Mike G says:

    what wasn’t wasted probably went into buying stones to throw at Israeli troops.

    Yes, because stones are such a rare and expensive commodity in the MIddle East. Imbecile.

    Israel is going to be literally bred out of existance if current demographic growth in the area continue its trend.

    Therefore, Israel must embargo nutmeg shipments to Gaza. It makes perfect sense.

  140. 140
    tkogrumpy says:

    @Chad N Freude: Well, that explains it.

  141. 141
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    @Brachiator:

    Had the US been able to delay the flotilla or negotiated a reliable neutral inspection of the ship,

    Turkey, which was one of Israel’s best friends in the world, vouched for the contents of the flotilla.

    Now, even though an ally vouched for the contents you might still want to inspect it yourself. The problem with this is that Israel has been impounding and only releasing parts of the aid. And the reason for this is that stopping weapons from getting into Gaza is only the secondary goal of the blockade, the primary one being collective punishment.

    Even the U.S. recognizes that Israel’s impounding of aid and promising to give it to them later is a sick charade. Official statements make clear that the Obama administration knows that the humanitarian situation is grievous, at the same time couching these statements in language that is protective of Israel. So when you have a situation where a population desperately needs aid, and an occupying power is lying about letting in adequate amounts of it, what do you do?

    Seems to me an obvious solution would be to send in aid on UN flagged vessels and have the contents vouched for by them. Well, that would be an obvious solution except that israel (backed by the U.S.) will never allow it, and the reason they will never allow it is that the primary reason for the blockade is collective punishment, not interdiction of weapons.

    I don’t think it really matters what the motivation of the activists is, does it? If by some miracle the aid gets through then it would help the people it’s supposed to help. If it gets impounded by Israel then this puts increasing pressure on the U.S. and, sadly, the only way these people are ever going to get the help they need is if the U.S. is put into a completely untenable situation with the world community. I’m not holding my breath for the latter either, though. I fear that it will take something quite dramatic, like the Egyptian dictatorship falling to Islamists, before the Obama administration finally starts to clue in that reflexive support for every crime Israel commits may not be the way to go. And even then the pathetic cowards in Congress wouldn’t be on Obama’s side. So the upshot of this rambling paragraph is that confronting the blockade puts pressure on the U.S. to do something concrete for the people of Gaza, even if the chances are slim that the strategy will work.

  142. 142
    TenguPhule says:

    False. Birthrates for the Arabs are falling while right-wing Jewish birthrates are on the rise.

    For Israeli Arabs. This study didn’t do anything on Palestinians. Who are going to become defacto citizens of Israel at this rate.

  143. 143
    TenguPhule says:

    Yes, because stones are such a rare and expensive commodity in the MIddle East

    Your sarcasm detector is not functioning again.

  144. 144
    Brachiator says:

    @eco2geek:

    Why do you think Israel has less of a free hand in the region than it did during the Bush administration?

    It’s not so much that Israel has less of a free hand. It’s that the hardliners in the Israeli government are obsessed with the idea that Obama is not “a friend to Israel,” and want to do everything they can to throw up obstacles to any Obama peace overtures. They miss the good old days when they thought that they had the total support of the Bush Administration. The Bush/Cheney doctrine of preemptive strikes against “potentially” hostile governments fit with some positions of Israeli hardliners.

    In the Los Angeles area, radio station KFI dominates English language talk radio. They are the local outlet for Rush Limbaugh, but their other hosts are not doctrinaire right wingers (and the station dumped Dr Laura when her ratings started to sag). When the flotilla flap hit the fan, KFI’s morning man Bill Handel spoke with Israeli based American journalist David Gilbert, who clearly has contacts within the Israeli government, and particularly the hardliners. Gilbert’s report hit on two themes, that Israel had every right to take action against the flotilla because everyone in the region wants Israel wiped off the map, and that the Obama Administration cannot be trusted to be fair towards Israel. This perspective was in sync with later comments coming from the Israeli government and from the most vehemently pro-Israel US pundits. The Gilbert reports are still available on iTunes podcasts of the Bill Handel show and at KFI’s website, for those interested.

    @kay:

    Yeah. That’s the problem. The US just wasn’t engaged enough or clever enough or helpful enough. Despite the fact that the State Department have been camped in Israel since Obama took office, with Joe Biden playing back-up. The reward for Biden’s involvement and loyalty was his humiliation, by Israel, to score political points in Israel. If Hillary Clinton just had a better political sense, we’d be making progress. It’s really her failure. Uh,huh.

    I thought I was pretty clear here. Ultimately, the buck stops at Obama’s desk. But as far as I can tell, Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, is great at making superstar appearances, but has failed to build an effective foreign policy organization at State. Otherwise, Biden wouldn’t have to backstop State Department efforts. In addition, for the longest time, the special envoy for Afghanistan and Iraq couldn’t seem to be able to find his ass with a GPS system, and India complained that the US didn’t seem to have anyone in place to deal with their foreign policy concerns. So in the most critical foreign policy hotspots, the Obama Administration doesn’t have its act together.

    By the way, although Bill Clinton was personally great with foreign leaders, his foreign policy team was pretty shambolic. But given the degree to which Bush/Cheney royally screwed every goddam thing they touched, I was hoping for much more from Obama.

    Why is it the duty of the US to “negotiate” a reasonable inspection of the ship? I don’t want the US enforcing Israel’s blockade of building supplies. I can’t imagine anything worse for the US than directly involving ourselves in enforcing this. The US want them to drop the blockade. Why in the hell would we help them enforce it?

    Note that I never suggested that the US get directly involved in enforcing the blockade. My point is really quite simple. If the US wants to have a hand in Middle East peace negotiations, then they have to avoid being played by the Israeli hardliners. The flotilla incident is being used by the Israeli government to underscore US unreliability. The State Department should have offered better advice on how the US might have avoided this. They didn’t. And also note that I also brought up the issue of Japan/US relations as another example where US foreign policy fell short.

    I’m wondering when conditions will be just right for Israel to fulfill their duty to the US and make a concession for the good of the US.

    I don’t think that the present government of Israel will ever make significant concessions.

    Despite political consequences for politicians in Israel.

    The problem here is that the Israeli government misreads Obama. Their fear and unreasonable beliefs about Obama keeps leading them down a dumbass path. And note here that there might not be much that the US can do about this. In some ways, some Israeli hardliners are dumber than tea baggers.

    Maybe a new Secretary of State? A US President more to Israeli voters liking? A better plan? I’m seeing the Obama Administration, and the US, taking a lot of hits on Israel’s behalf, and nothing in return.

    Obviously, I am deeply unimpressed with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, and with many of Obama’s foreign policy team. But it is pointless to just reshuffle the team if you don’t realize what weaknesses need to be addressed. I think that Obama (and Secretary Clinton, for that matter) have demonstrated an ability to be flexible and to adapt to new conditions when the situation demands it. Unfortunately, the Beltway is filled with unimaginative dolts. Much of the reporting and punditry coming out of Washington and New York doesn’t indicate that anyone has a handle on some of the bigger problems here.

    Duties run both ways. They’re getting the benefit of this alliance. When do they start reciprocating on the “duty” part?

    Some very good questions. Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers here. I hope that someone is posing these questions to prime minister Netanyahu.

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