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November 27, 2007

Could Bush have done good?
Posted by Avram Grumer at 09:45 PM * 70 comments

This analysis piece in Haaretz, by Avi Issacharoff, claims that Arab support of the Annapolis Summit was due to (relatively) moderate Sunnis (led by Saudi Arabia) being afraid of a more aggressive Shia Iran. If he’s right (and the International Herald Tribune seems to agree), then the summit does wind up leading to a lasting normalization of relations between Israel and her neighbors, and a working sovereign Palestinian state (and that’s a big if, with the Palestinians still wanting East Jerusalem for a capital), it’ll be in part because the Bush administration invaded Iraq, greatly emboldening Iran. Not that that was their original plan — in fact, it’s the exact opposite of their original plan — but if it works out, at least they’ll deserve some credit for recognizing the opportunity.

Whether this will avert, hasten, or otherwise affect the coming Iraqi Civil War, Part 2 (Al Anbar Boogaloo), remains to be seen.

(Warning: Haaretz isn’t very picky about what web-ads they run. I once had one toss up a fake alert box and try to tempt me into downloading a dubious executable. I used an ad-blocker, and haven’t had a problem since.)

Comments on Could Bush have done good?:
#1 ::: Remus Shepherd ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2007, 10:50 PM:

With Hamas not invited to the summit, I can't see anything useful coming out of Annapolis except good PR for bad men. But I'd love to be wrong.

#2 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2007, 11:17 PM:

I hate to be pessimistic, but this is an "we agree to try to come to an agreement" agreement that leaves out, for instance, the representatives of the party that won the last Palestinian elections, and by a fair margin at that.

I promise to hope, but the Best Case may be that Abbas will not have advisors who know what they are doing, and will accept Partitioning that wouldn't pass the DOS test.

Otoh, anything that gets the Washington Times Gafneyated can't be all bad.

#3 ::: Nathan ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2007, 11:21 PM:

"but if it works out, at least they’ll deserve some credit for recognizing the opportunity."

Not so much. It sounds like the Saudis dropped this in the administration's lap. The rented catering hall rarely gets credit for a marriage that lasts.

#4 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 12:46 AM:

Other items in Haaretz might give you a clue to how the idea is going down in Israel - there was a mass prayer-session at the Western Wall that led into a march into the center of the town. Orthodox Jewish prayer-session. They were praying for the Annapolis initiative to fail. That doesn't bode well for things on the Israeli side, as the orthodox Jews are nationalistic to the point of encouraging violence (such as the murder of Rabin in '95, a constant campaign of terror against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, and the huge protests against the "disengagement" from Gaza, which included removal of settlements).

And that's just a peek at the Israeli side.

In terms of the Palestinian side of the equation, you've got a nation of people starved, exiled, traumatized, being offered an opportunity that seems rather insulting to human dignity and nationhood. Such as the offer to have their national future decided by a representative who is not the one they elected.

I can't see this turning into anything but another fiasco - which would lead to a great deal of pain, loss, death, and the maiming of yet another generation of innocent children (a.k.a. more war).

I hope I'm wrong.

#5 ::: Eric Chapman ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 02:58 AM:

So, the answer to the question at the top would be "Perhaps, but only by accident."

... which is kind of how I figured any good would come of him since he announced his intentions to occupy Washington.

Seriously though, I'm with Remus.

#6 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 07:06 AM:

If anything good comes out of this, part of me is going to be miffed that Bush accomplished something that Clinton attempted and failed at. (Clinton is much more qualified, and knowledgeable, in this arena than Bush is.) OTOH, if I'm following the news correctly, Bush doesn't actually seem to be doing anything. It's Rice who is on the line. (Incidentally, how does this relate, if at all, to the road map for peace brokered in 2002?)

However, my hope is now that Bush is in the "establishing the legacy" phase of his presidency, something good does come out of his terms of office. Otherwise, he may have to arm wrestle with Buchanan. (Interestingly, Buchanan got his reputation by not dealing with a volatile situation, as opposed to exacerbating one.) I wouldn't like that to happen to anyone.

#2: What is the DOS test?

#7 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 08:09 AM:

Well, if we're going to stretch that far, we could also say that by invading Iraq and mucking up (well, okay, dropping the ball on) the political side of things, the Bush Administration created the perfect opportunity for AQI to form (I believe in Doonesbury this was coined "Rummy's World"). Which then lead to AQI pissing off the locals because of their extreme ideas. Which then lead to us being able to defeat AQI during the "surge" (with the help of the former, more secular, insurgents). Which then lead to a major victory against al Qaeda when we could actually, "fight them there so we don't have to fight them here."

I mean, if we're going to stretch plausability this far, we could say that by invading Iraq we defeated al Qaeda (in Iraq).

(disclaimer, most of the top AQI people got away, we'll see this spring if AQI is really defeated)

#8 ::: John Dallman ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 08:22 AM:

The Al-Ambar strategy is quite similar to the one that the UK used from the beginning in southern Iraq. We didn't hand out arms particularly, because the locals had plenty, but we let them orgaise their own militias and run their areas.

This worked just great at first: we had much less violence, local elections worked, and things generally went splendidly for a while. But the many small militias gradually fused together, until there were only a few, and their heads weren't interested in further merging. They also put plenty of their people into the police, until the police were run by the militias, rather than the ostentible government. Then they started fighting each other a bit, and scoring status points by attacking UK troops. The result of this is that we have been pushed out of Basra, and are just holed up on the airbase, taking a couple of mortar attacks a day and going out as little as possible. This is being spun as "our presence will soon no longer be required", but really, we've been defeated.

And I'm not seeing anything in the Al-Ambar strategy that makes me expect anything different.

#9 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 09:23 AM:

I have the feeling that there's a certain 'the end of the second term is coming, I need a legacy' about the whole thing. I also doubt much is going to come out of it thanks to the absence of one of the most important parties.

#10 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 10:25 AM:

I think the analysis is bullshit. Iran would have become more bold whether or not we went to Iraq. I would say this summit (which I do have hopes for) has far more to do with the object lesson of the internal Palestinian contrast between (the current form of) Fatah and Hamas.

#11 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 10:49 AM:

At least a few people are of the opinion that this is more about 'containing Iran' than anything else, with the possible exception trying to get Bush out of office with at least one positive thing done. (What this conference actually may be is a big photo-op for all involved.)

#12 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 10:54 AM:

Dena: are the protests from Orthodox circles a sign that Annapolis is going to fail, or a sign that movers and shakers in the Orthodox world have reason to believe that Annapolis will succeed? I mean, surely the Israeli Cabinet[*] wouldn't have signed on to this process if they weren't prepared to tell the religious nationalists to go fly a kite.

[*]I say "the Israeli Cabinet" rather than "Olmert" because as I understand it, an Israeli PM doesn't have the same unilateral control over the executive branch that a US President has.

#13 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 11:38 AM:

Seth@12, the protests indicate that a large and influential segment of the enfranchised population has declared that it is going to fight it with everything they've got.

Israel is has multi-party system, where a coalition must be cobbled together by the leader of the party that obtained the most seats in the elections. Take a look at the Wikipedia entry which details the number of seats won by each party to get a sense of how important the religious parties are to the coalition.

A sitting prime minister can be voted out in Israel by means of a "no confidence" motion. I'm not sure if a simple majority is sufficient, but a quick count of Jewish nationalists (contrast with the very few Palestinian nationalists represented) plus Jewish orthodox plus former-Soviet-and-not-about-to-give-an-in-inch hardliners, and Olmert may lose his prime ministership and be forced into elections by a coalition of determined opponents.

And that doesn't even enter into speculation into another political assassination (Jewish-internal, rather than extraterritorial), like that of Rabin. Or a military coup (because much of the officer cadre of the Israeli army is orthodox and politically nationalist).

So no, Olmert won't be able to just tell people what to do and have them do it. Neither will Abbas. Nor Bush, really.

#14 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 11:47 AM:

Has Hamas asked to be included in the peace talks?

#15 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 01:39 PM:

A stopped clock is right twice a day. Even a blind squirrel finds an occasional nut.

#16 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 01:46 PM:

Josh Jasper @ #14, on the contrary. Hamas had ~10,000 people in the streets of Gaza yesterday protesting the "summit."

#17 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 01:52 PM:

OK, check my math: Kadima, Olmert's party, has 29 seats. Labor-Meimad, which is at least as dovish as Kadima, has 19 seats. Shas, a religious party not averse to compromise on the territories, has 12 seats. Meretz-Yachad, the most left-wing Jewish party in the Knesset, has 5 seats. Gil, which seems to have no particular position on territorial issues, has 7 seats. That's 72 seats, a solid majority of the Knesset, before you even count the ten seats held by "Arab" parties.

(IIRC, back when Peres was PM, there was much grumbling on the right that his government did not represent a "Jewish majority".)

And if Kadima, L-M, or M-Y gain seats in the next election, then they won't depend on Shas, which is significant because Shas's leader is against dividing Jerusalem.

Olmert personally may not have much of a political future, but as I understand it, that has more to do with the recent Israeli fuckup in Lebanon than with the issue of land for peace.

See also this article from Arutz Sheva, Israel's fair and balanced news network: "Can Right-Wing Knesset Lobby Stop Olmert?"

I agree that as the nationalists lose access to the organs of state violence, they are more likely to become violent on a free-lance basis.

#18 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 01:54 PM:

Alan @ 15: Or, as Abba Eban said: "Men and nations act wisely after all other alternatives have been exhausted."

#19 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 02:28 PM:

I keep wondering why the descendants of the people who left what is today Israel because the Arab League countries told them to, aren't blaming Saudi Arabia, Syria, etc., who told them to leave, refused to grant them citizenship and permanent residency, and basically treated them as a continuing and growing population of aggrieved shock troops....

The reality is that at least as many Jews got displaced violently out of Syria, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, etc. with a choice of leave or face murdering fanatics bent on eradicating their presence, as non-Jews got displaced out of what today is Israel. The Israeli Jewish birthrates have been consistently lower than the displaced (and non-displaced for that matter) Moslem's birthrates, meaning the the Moslem displacement numbers have grown substantially in the two generations since.

Another point is that there are Moslems living in Israel who are Israeli citizens. Are there Jews living in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, etc., with citzenship other than miniscule numbers in Syria and maybe still in Iraq most of whom either were of families not in a position to leave 60 years ago, or determined to stay despite rampant repression, mayhem, and murder aimed in their direction.

Ironically, Isreal contains very little of the historical areas of Judea... Tel Aviv for example was not part of Judea, it was part of Philistia, and most of the Negev wasn't, also... the West Bank region is where much of Judea was.... Jerusalem was, Bethelhem was, and the northern parts of Israel were part of Samaria.

#20 ::: marek ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 03:36 PM:

Seth @18. Or, as is attributed to Winston Churchill, "The United States invariably does the right thing, after having exhausted every other alternative."

#21 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 03:52 PM:

Seth @17,

Shas is a religious party which has been outspoken in its objection to any discussion of Jerusalem (not to mention, compromise on it). Kadima is made up of mostly ex-Likud members, and while it nominally has 29 seats, earlier affiliations with the Likud (and impassioned "come home!" please) will probably mean that Olmert has maybe a dozen people to do his plan with. Maybe less than a dozen. Gil has no *official* position on territorial issues, but it is run by ultra-nationalist Rafael Eitan (whom you might recall from the Pollard spy case - he's the dude Pollard brought all the data he stole from our Intelligence resources to). I'd count Gil staunchly against anything that sounds like actually treating Palestinians as human beings. I'm not sure you'd get all 19 of the Labor-Meimad votes for any plan that involves actual concession of anything material (like sharing the dwindling water resources or administration of Jerusalem). All in all, if you have 40-50 votes *for* a peace plan, I'd be surprised. 72 is far too optimistic.

You do indeed remember correctly that the Jewish majority considers the votes cast by Palestinian Arabs with Israeli citizenship (there are about 1.2 million of these - as compared to about 5 million Jewish Israelis and another million "others") to have no right to any kind of say about any matter of national importance. (About which, see the Orr commission paper.)

The main reason Olmert probably has no political future is the extensive bribery in which he is implicated - there are several cases which have gone through the slow processes of approval-to-investigate, and are currently coming to the point of "active, public investigation against the prime minister on criminal charges". That tends to dampen a person's career.

As to the free-lance violence, the reason I find it very likely is that there is a wide-ranging support of it. One of the ways this is demonstrated is by the broad support given to Yigal Amir, who murdered Rabin. The orthodox extreme-nationalists have embraced him, his family, and his cause, as was recently seen in the celebration of his son's birth.

Paula @19: allow me to register my total disagreement to your representation of the history of Palestine and Israel. I recommend that you read Israeli historian Tom Segev for a rather more accurate description of the history. Your version of history doesn't mesh with the one I know, but I don't think that Making Light is really the place to start arguing those facts. So I'll just register my protest about the narrative that you present as factual.

#22 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 05:17 PM:

8 John Dallman

Good analysis. Ian Jack in the Guardian (I make sure I read his column every Saturday, the language, and the commentary on the zeitgeist of modern Britain, is almost always worth it):

'Basra is Rorke's Drift with air support'

In fact, things aren't radically different from the last time we invaded. We are trying to use the Sunnis to keep the Shia down (this time, the Kurds are on our side, or their own side is allied with our side). One set of tribes to beat up on another.

The strategy in the end will prove about as successful. We'll be forced out, and the settling accounts will take place.

I don't know if you read Jim Holt in the London Review of Books, but the article below ('It's the Oil') is particularly interesting if we tie in the notion of Peak Oil (see the current documentary 'A Crude Awakening' or David Strahan's book which is quite good).

Iraq has 115 billion barrels of known oil reserves. That is more than five times the total in the United States. And, because of its long isolation, it is the least explored of the world’s oil-rich nations. A mere two thousand wells have been drilled across the entire country; in Texas alone there are a million.

Many people are still perplexed by exactly what moved Bush-Cheney to invade and occupy Iraq. In the 27 September issue of the New York Review of Books, Thomas Powers, one of the most astute watchers of the intelligence world, admitted to a degree of bafflement. ‘What’s particularly odd,’ he wrote, ‘is that there seems to be no sophisticated, professional, insiders’ version of the thinking that drove events.’

Alan Greenspan, in his just published memoir, is clearer on the matter. ‘I am saddened,’ he writes, ‘that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.’

Was the strategy of invading Iraq to take control of its oil resources actually hammered out by Cheney’s 2001 energy task force? One can’t know for sure, since the deliberations of that task force, made up largely of oil and energy company executives, have been kept secret by the administration on the grounds of ‘executive privilege’.

One can’t say for certain that oil supplied the prime motive. But the hypothesis is quite powerful when it comes to explaining what has actually happened in Iraq. The occupation may seem horribly botched on the face of it, but the Bush administration’s cavalier attitude towards ‘nation-building’ has all but ensured that Iraq will end up as an American protectorate for the next few decades – a necessary condition for the extraction of its oil wealth. If the US had managed to create a strong, democratic government in an Iraq effectively secured by its own army and police force, and had then departed, what would have stopped that government from taking control of its own oil, like every other regime in the Middle East? On the assumption that the Bush-Cheney strategy is oil-centred, the tactics – dissolving the army, de-Baathification, a final ‘surge’ that has hastened internal migration – could scarcely have been more effective.

#23 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 05:31 PM:

Dena Shunra

I owe you a reply still to your thoughtful email about Israel, and I haven't made it-- there was too much to think about, and I don't know enough to really disagree with you.

19 Paula Lieberman

You are implying that the 'Judea and Samaria' issue is something other than a historical curiousity. The interesting bit of Israel is the bit carved out in the war and ethnic cleansing of 1949, which gave the Jews a majority state in the Middle East, which was impossible in the Mandate. The world has de facto recognised that, and no one seriously expects Israel to budge from that (except Hamas, and Hamas is like the Provisional IRA of old, it can keep dreaming of reunification with the South in a Marxist state, because it will never happen, it's a dream that feeds the revolutionary fervour).

The reality is the Palestinians exist, and they are not going to simply be wished away and absorbed by other Arab states, however much Golda Meir would have wished it 'there is no such thing as Palestinians' was I think her famous line.

Israel either chooses to go on as it is, bit by bit carving up the West Bank and hemming the Palestinians into the world's largest open air prison, and lives with the consequences for its own democracy and security, or it embraces a genuine 2 state solution.

Assuming the former, which seems likely, Israel will increasingly become like Apartheid South Africa or indeed any other garrison state. Eventually, I think, Israeli democracy will collapse on the contradictions.

The whole thing is military madness. No strategist or military planner would embed a civilian population surrounded by a vastly larger hostile one. It weakens Israeli security enormously, and ties down the Israeli Army in a role as policeman, for which it is ill-suited. It smacks of the British in Kenya in the 1930s or Rhodesia postwar or indeed any number of other failed efforts to 'implant' western colonists amongst natives.

From what I read, many of the settlers themselves know this, but they feel trapped by economic reasons (highly subsidised housing and infrastructure etc.). The religious faction amongst the settlers isn't actually predominant (although the ultra-nationalist one is).

For now, the religious and nationalist parties in Israel will dominate. In doing so, they accelerate the day when Israel as we know it ceases to exist (as a western, secular democracy) and, who knows, perhaps the day when Israel itself is destroyed (probably by atomic attack, rather than conventional military force).

The irony is I think the opinion polls still show the majority of Israelis want a separate Palestinian state, and are willing to give up the West Bank to achieve it. But the peculiar nature of the Israeli electoral system means that minority parties dominate.

#24 ::: thanbo ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 05:55 PM:

[radical rightie position:]

Noting that "Valuethinker" accuses Israel of "ethnic cleansing" in 1949, perhaps Israel should actually do the ethnic cleansing they've been accused of, and make R' Kahane's dream of "transfer" a reality - complete the population transfer begun in 1949. Just like their peaceful neighbor Jordan did to deal with the "Palestinian problem".

(It'll never happen - Israel holds itself to a higher standard, as does the world. The Arabs can commit ethnic cleansing and the West doesn't bat an eye.)

Not a very good job of ethnic cleansing, is it, if there are still a million Arab citizens of Israel, and another 1.5-2M in Gaza and the West Bank. Maybe, just maybe, Israel *didn't* commit ethnic cleansing.

Many of the fear stories were spread by the Arab propagandists, not just by the Jewish propagandists. Morris went through records of hundreds of abandoned towns; far more were evacuated by either Arab encouragement (we'll return in force and retake it) or Arab fearmongering (get out before the Jews kill you) than to Jewish fearmongering. If there was ethnic cleansing going on, it was on the part of the party that wanted to sweep the Jews into the sea, doncha know.

Dena @ 21: there are rightist and leftist views of Israeli history. You evidently subscribe to a leftist (New Historians) view, Paula to a rightist (old national mythology) view. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere between, in the ground where Benny Morris has partially recanted the more extreme claims of the New Historians.

#25 ::: Matt Stevens ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 06:27 PM:

Uh oh, a thread on Israel-Palestine on a site with a famous anti-trolling policy. Can we place bets on the disemvowel-percentage?

Can we have a discussion of gun control, too? And maybe abortion? How about a thread on gun control and abortion in Palestine? Might as well try for the full monty.

#26 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 06:47 PM:

You are implying that the 'Judea and Samaria' issue is something other than a historical curiousity.
"historical curiosity"?? They lasted longer than the USA has so far been in existence. Alexander of Macedonia's empire which I think few people would call "a historical curiosity" lasted fewer than two decades.

I was pointing out that it's ironic that the current state of Israel exists as a geographic area which was historically mostly outside the are of "the Holy Land".

I really, really, REALLY despise the term "ethnic cleansing" and notice that nobody seems to consider it appropriate to use that term as opposed to "expulsion" for what Ferdinand and Isabella did to Jews in 1492 and what Portugal did a few years later, with the ban in Spain ending in was in 1992, FIVE HUNDRED YEARS LATER. Ahem., or England which for most of the past 1500 years had banned the presence of Jews, or France when it banned Jews in various times in history, or the massacres of Jews in the Rhineland during the Crusades, or the round up of Jews before and during World War II... and there was the genocide--note the term "genocide" and not "ethnic cleansing" of Armenians by the Turks which to this day Turkey objects to discussion or acknowledgement of, or of the massacres Imperial Japan inflicted on China early in the 20th century, or the Trail of Tears in the USA....

I really, really, really despise the term "Ethnic Cleansing" as a mealymouthed misleading circumlocution. If there were massacres involved, say so. If it was expulsion, say that.... and would you say that there was "ethnic cleansing" starting in the late 1880s in Tunisia and Egypt and Mesopotamia and Syria and Lebanon and Saudi Arabia and Jordan or were the Jews from the Islamic world all packing up and leaving because they wanted to leave the places their families had been living for hundreds or even thousands of years?!

I don't have any Zionist direct relatives that I know of in Israel, the ones who did exist, disappeared years before World War II, probably dead in a large earthquake that hit Jerusalem. None of the relatives of my parents over the age of 12 who hadn't left mainland Europe and Soviet Russia survived--apparently some of the people in the village in what today is Ukraine that my father's father left in a hurry while on learve from the Russian army, after ambushing the sweet delightful local [Christian] gendarm's son and his cronies who were heading to the Jewish village to commit some fun mayhem, who were under the age of 12 survived the atrocities and mass murder sprees of active malice (Germans and those like the gendarm's son....) and/or intentional starvation (Stalin...).

There are reasons my grandparents left mainland Europe; I presume that my father's mother's family packed up and moved here in the 1880s because of the repression and intolerance and bigotry against Jews in Austria-Hungary back then, that caused Theodore Herzl to found the Zionist movement. He realized one day that even converting to Christianity which he had thought about doing wouldn't make him socially acceptable there, and picked another path in life. There wasn't really anywhere>i/> in the work in the late 19th century where being Jewish wasn't a major disadvantage, at best--the USA had all sorts of institutions that banned Jews but didn't have organized pogroms, unlike Russia, Austria-Hungary, Mesopotamia... where mayhem against Jews and outright murder were common. There wasn't one country, anywhere in the world, where Jews weren't a minority, and usually a despised minority. Islamic lands treated them less vilely than a lot of Christian majority ones.... In the Middle Ages forward, the economic rules in the caliphates and such were that non-Moslems got hit with poll taxes and such that Moslems weren't subject to--which convinced a lot of people to convert. There were also positions that weren't available if not Moslem, or which were a lot easier to rise to if Moslem, there were restrictions regarding clothing... on the other hand, it was better to be a women who was Christian or Jewish than Moslem as regards self-determination in countries where Islamic Law held sway, because the restrictive purdah requirements, didn't apply to women who weren't Moslem....

It felt very strange to me in Israel to not be inconvenienced by being Jewish--that is, while the Blue Laws that once banned retail sales of almost anything on Sunday in the USA are essentially gone now, the SATs remain scheduled on Saturday, when I was in college one of my classes had a major test on Yom Kippur, the whole country shuts down on Christmas and pretty much on most commonly celebrated as Easter Day date respecting the religion of the majority but doesn't give much shrift to other religions's most important holy days... US busines and educational and leisure etc. etc. etc. calendars all revolve around the assumptiong that The Normal Person is Christian, and anyone who is of some other religion, probably has to take vacation time to be out of work on their holy days, for example, has to contend with important civic and cultural events being scheduled with zero consideration/respect/regard for what their holy days and religious obligations are (it's particularly common for civic days events and fairs and things to occur on Yom Kippur... there was an incident of that in Littleton or Groton, Massachusetts, this very year...)

Anyway, for the first time in my entire life when I was visiting Israel with my late aunt, I wasn't part of a disenfranchised religious minority in which the overal cultural expectation ASSUMED I was a Christian and ran all the rules and scheduled based on the citizenry being Christians.

It felt very strange to see business and commerce and industrial and academic and leisure schedules based on the assumptoin that the average person was Jewish... and Israel is the ONLY country in the world, again, where that;'s the situation. There are lots of countries with Christian majorities, quite a number with Islamic, and where the societies put those religions at the heart of the social scheduling, to the detriment of everyone else. It felt very weird, not being discriminated against on the basis of religion....

My grandparents packed up and left the countries they were born (or their parents packed up and left taking their children with them)--it likely was NOT an easy thing to do, but they did it anyway--and if they hadn't, they probably would have been among the millions of dead victims of greed ethnic hatred and intolerance, and I wouldn't exist.

They had were all immigrants who had to make their own lives speaking a language that wasn't their birth tongue, and had been despised minorities in the countries they were originally from.

There are people I've worked with who left where they were from, one fellow was from an Moslem family in India, which left in the wake of ethnic hatred and violence fearing for their survival if they stayed. Another fellow was originally from Iran, and regarded the people who stayed there as crazy/insane. The former sometimes expressed regret about leaving the area but had no desire to move back and little interest in doing so, he was looking to the future and intending to relocate to Australia or New Zealand, which I think he did. The latter has no interest whatsoever in returning to Iran and no nostaglia for it.

I don't have any interest in "returning" to Ukraine, or wherever it was in Austria-Hungary that my maternal grandmother's family was from, or to Bialystock where my mother's parents had both been born in the area of... but then, nobody told me I -should- feel any nostaglia or strong connection to those places as "home," either....

Regarding the USA... my ancestors got kicked around and beaten up all over Europe for the past who knows how many centuries, my mother's mother watched peeked out the window watching Cossacks freely rampaging in the village streets hanging by a foot from a stirrup skewering anything that moved, my father's father, again, ambushed and beat up someone who was coming to commit mayhem on his family's village.

And the fact that they -left- that world, kept them alive when their siblings who hadn't left, were extirpated.

#27 ::: thanbo ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 07:14 PM:

[defeatist position:]

Haven't we been here before? Like, about 8 years ago? It's just another Bush attempt to grub up a "legacy". All this Annapolis process hopes to do is to agree to talk about a "final status". We're back to, like Sharm al-Sheikh in 1999, trying to talk about when to talk about substance. And all the parties are not at the table.

So they'll blunder along, and not do anything.

#28 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 07:19 PM:

John #6: OTOH, if I'm following the news correctly, Bush doesn't actually seem to be doing anything. It's Rice who is on the line.

The only point of this conference is to have its endpoint set for December, 2008 -- that is, after the election. It's supposed to make it look like the Bush is doing something, without having to actually produce any results.

#29 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 07:21 PM:

Jim @28
Kind of like No Child Left Behind, only less expensive and with lots more press?

#30 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 07:24 PM:

The problem with defeating Al-Qaeda in Iraq is that it isn't really Al-Qaeda at all. It's a bunch of wannabees that couldn't threaten anyone who didn't come up and park themselves within a mile of an AQI branch office. If we weren't fighting them over there, we wouldn't have to fight them anywhere, because unlike the real Al-Qaeda, they don't have the organization or resources to fight us over here.

So where does the *real* Al-Qaeda get all those resources to wage a global jihad? Why, from our friendly neighborhood oil salesmen the House of Saud, of course! Every gallon of gas that goes into a tank, truck, helicopter or plane in Iraq (or the supply ships going back and forth, etc.) is feeding a few more pennies to the real Al-Qaeda.

As for Israel - eventually Europe got bored of everyone killing everyone else over their religious differences, and now most parts of Europe don't take religion seriously enough to kill for it anymore. (The other parts aren't so peaceful - e.g. Northern Ireland, Bosnia.) When that happens to Israel/Palestine it will know peace. Not before.

The politicians are largely irrelevant - as long as they have less power than the religious leaders, they can do nothing but make deals their compatriots will break; when (if) the religious leaders lose their power to command their followers to kill, there will be nothing left for the politicians to do but take credit.

Tribal conflict, religiously flavored or otherwise, doesn't make much sense if you actually *look* at it (almost all the bones of contention are worth far less than the blood and treasure spent fighting over them); it's only the human tendency to jump into it without looking that makes it persist. If we can find some way to fix that particular mind-bug... well, I visualize world peace. No more misguided missiles.

#31 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 07:55 PM:

Chris at 30, I visualize world peace, too. How come it never happens?

My visualization-fu is not strong...

#32 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 08:34 PM:

Dena Shunra @ 29

And like the Shrub's $10 billion to combat AIDS in Africa (most of which hasn't been sent), and like the re-jiggered Manned Spaceflight Program (which someone else will have to pay for, after all the science gets grounded* because all the money's gone for yet another generation of manned spacecraft), and like the restoration of New Orleans (money promised, not spent), and like the improvement of security, nation-wide (at least we got some amusing security theater out of that), and like ...

It seems obvious to me that the middle east talks are yet another attempt to get good PR without actually doing anything.

* just to prove that this has effects on the ground, my brother-in-law, a physics professor at CMU, has had his entire research program for the last three years scrubbed, and now has lost at least the next 5 as well, which takes him very close to retirement. He's in liquid-crystal film research, and it was all dependent on microgravity experiments in the Shuttle.

#33 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 08:48 PM:

Valuethinker @ 22

Let's assume for the sake of discussion the overriding motivation for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent occupation was getting control of Iraqi oil. In what alternate universe was this purpose fulfilled? Oil output is very low, sabotage of wells and pipelines is continual, and the infrastructure is still so badly damaged that it's not reasonable to expect output to be increased any time soon.

In fact, if AQI does nothing else, it can easily deny the US access to that oil for years to come; pipelines are highly vulnerable to small explosives. And I would bet there are insurgents in Iraq just itching for an excuse to fire a small missile at a big oil tanker.

#34 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 09:13 PM:

Lizzy L @ 31... I visualize world peace, too. How come it never happens?

I visualize hurled peas and it's a good thing it never happens.

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 09:14 PM:

When I think of Dubya doing something good, I am reminded of the infinite number of monkeys at the keyboard.

#36 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 09:26 PM:

#16 Linkmeister - Pretty much what I thought. It's odd seeing people say "without Hamas invited blah blah blah".

I was under the impression Hamas was not in favor of peace with Israel. Or Fatah for that matter. So inviting them would not get them to come anyway.

#37 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 09:45 PM:

#35 Serge, surely your not suggesting that the what the Bush Administration needed was just one more monkey and one more typewriter? I mean, where does that get us exactly except another Hamlet?

#38 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 09:58 PM:

Steve Buchheit... Nah. We've got all the monkeys that the country can withstand. Besides, if we give these monkeys enough time, they're less likely to come up with Hamlet than with an omelette.

#39 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 10:24 PM:

Thanks the gods, Serge. Right now we have all the poo flinging we can handle, IMHO.

#40 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 10:45 PM:

Let me add another Haaretz link, this one to the Hebrew periodical rather than the (pale) English translation. Don't worry - no Hebrew needed.

It's the daily political cartoon, by Daniel Yaron-Dekel.

I assume that she hopes she's wrong, too.

#41 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 04:34 AM:

I'm not surprised that Hamas and the Iranians stayed away from a summit within the US. Imagine the hassle they'd have got at immigration - and the fun TSA would have had when they tried to get on a plane to go home. I'm only surprised that some of the others came.

#42 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 05:50 AM:

Serge #35 writes: When I think of Dubya doing something good, I am reminded of the infinite number of monkeys at the keyboard.

In this particular case, I'm reminded of Dogbert, on reading a poem by Dilbert:

DOGBERT: I once read that given infinite time, a thousand monkeys with typewriters would eventually write the complete works of Shakespeare.

DILBERT: But what about my poem?

DOGBERT: Three monkeys, ten minutes.

#43 ::: John Dallman ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 08:02 AM:

#22 Valuethinker. Thanks. I don't find the oil theory compelling, simply because if there were a clear objective - any clear objective - it would have been done more competently. The reason for the invasion of Iraq seems to me to be mainly emotional. It goes like this:

September 11th: "This is an act of war". OK, so what do you do in a war? You fight, if your views on how to do a war are the slightest bit conventional. And with nobody invading you, you need to invade somewhere else to have a fight. So invading Afganistan was first, and Afganistan did actually have a lot to do with the attack, so there wasn't a political problem with this. But when the task of invading Afganistan was over, and there wasn't emotional closure for 9/11, what next? Well, Iraq was a traditional enemy, and there wasn't closure on the war of 1991 either, and, damnit, attacking and invading is what armies are for, and armies are how you fight wars (aren't they?). So the military system proceeded with the things it's set up for, Iraq was invaded, and again, there's no emotional closure. That's because Sadam wasn't captured until he'd become irrelevant, the ideas about what to do once Iraq was conquered weren't thought through, and OBL is still out there. Now Iran is offering a option for redoubling the stakes, and the US is still "at war".

The people who say "We shall prosecute this war until we attain victory" are seeking closure, IMHO, on the emotional traumas. These really seem to hang around in US culture, in part because someone has to be so bad, so much an enemy, before the US can go to war. WWII had closure. Korea and Vietnam didn't, and that seems to me to be why they're still live, raw, issues in US politics.

#44 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 08:48 AM:

Chris @ 30: I don't think the Israeli/Palestinian conflict has much to do with religious differences.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world and is pretty much uninvolved with the conflict. A lot of the countries that have been giving Israel the most trouble over the past few decades (either through war or through subsidy of terrorists) are secular Arab countries, while the Saudi theocrats have just switched to the "let's make a deal" side. Yassir Arafat's widow is a Christian. Back in the day, Israel actually encouraged Islamic fundamentalism in the occupied territories, because they thought it would provide a counterweight to the secular Arab nationalists in the PLO. (Whoops!) Arab citizens of Israel support Palestinian nationalism but have hardly ever resorted to violence. (And if you say "well, that's because they're economically better-off than the Palestinians in the territories", you have to consider that a lot of suicide bombers also come from middle-class backgrounds.)

When two ethnic groups are at war, both sides will usually appeal to some ancient religious dispute or historical slight to whip up nationalistic fervor. However, that justification is not the real reason for the war. Outside observers should not be tricked into throwing up their hands and saying, "well, X and Y have been fighting one another for thousands of years, there's just no way to solve it".

#45 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 08:54 AM:

#30 Chris

Post-WWII Europe looked very different than Europe before and after WWI--Russia in all but name annexed those parts of Eastern Europe, and much of Central Europe, that weren't Russian. France snagged a region that had spent generations under dispute between France and Germany. The official borders of Poland migrated with part of it getting appended to more Russian Soviet satellite and part of Germany getting appended to Poland.

The Jewish populations of central Europe evaporated and their presence for hundreds of years, rendered in some cases not even ghosts. Some of the Jews who tried to move back to where they had been before "displacement" didn't survive the attempt... I think I quoted passages a year or two or three ago here from a book written by a relative of Jewish resistance fighters, regarding that (the book was about various Jewish resistance fighters during and after WWII--some of them were involved in a plot to murder Germans in retribution after the end of the war, those who knew who and what was involved regarding who were in the plot and who made the decision that the operations should cease and desist, wouldn't tell the author anything beyond saying it was a bad situation).

But anyway, active direct bigotry and repression against Jews (or any other specific group) when there aren't any Jews (or whatever specific groups) around, doesn't happen. That doesn't eliminate such bigotry, it merely means that there isn't anyone there to act it out against..... The populace may still use offensive terms and blame everything on the Jews or whoever, but if no member of that group is in the area, the bigotry doesn't get acted on locally oppressing the people who aren't there.


On a slightly different note--the Armenians who relocated to the USA a century ago when Turkey was engaged in eradicating their existence in lands Turkey was claiming, had deep and abiding grievances against Turkey for dispossessing them and murdering their families and friends and for Turkey to this day refusing to acknowledge its actions and responsibility for mass murder, and passed their grievances on to their descendants. HOWEVER, I haven't heard of any armies of Armenian terrorists blowing up markets in Ankara or Istanbul, or of organizations funding Armenians to be terrorists, or of refusal of Armenian families to take citizenship in other countries, etc.... of course, nobody has been sponsoring and urging them to be cannon fodder and paying them bonuses and death benefit bonuses to commit atrocities, either... and I don't notice Rwandan and Burundi sponsored by third party mass atrocity terrorism, either, to name a more recent situation of mass murder.... the situation in the Middle East did not involve mass murder by Jews unprovoked of Moslems and Christians (note that I alluded to a mass murder plot against Germans, and the provocation for that was retribution by survivors of the loss of their families and culture in one of the most vicious mass murder programs in known history--and for that matter, that plot got terminated by some of the people originally in it... and it was not being sponsored by wealthy states with a grudge against Germany who were funding people to hate.) The Stern Gang was NOT regarded as national heroes, and was wiped out...

#46 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 09:17 AM:

Paula Lieberman @45: I haven't heard of any armies of Armenian terrorists blowing up markets in Ankara or Istanbul

I expect Serdar Argic to arrive here soon and enlighten us ...

#47 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 09:23 AM:

Steve Buchheit @ 37

"To be or not to be, that is the ... Gesornem Platz?"

#48 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 09:33 AM:

#45 and #46

The Turkish consul in LA was killed by an Armenian, not so many years ago. Does that count?

#49 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 10:06 AM:


I wrote "armies" deliberately. Individuals acting on their own or in very small cabals, be it the Unabomber, the Bader-Meinhof gang, the perpetrators of the Olkahoma City atrocity, do not constitute organized funded-from-third-party-country state or quasi-state terrorism or would-be state terrorism (that is, groups which have organized terrorist activities with the intention of creating a new state and/or replacing/exterminating and existing government and/or state).

Al Qaeda has had armies of terrorists, is one example, and the old USSR sponsored terrorist activities in lots of different places trying to create more communist countries. Indonesia and Sri Lanka there have been organized movements employing organized terrorism. And then there is the horn of Africa and the janjuit [spelling] who are state-sponsored mass murderers.... and don't forget Milosevic and his minions....

Individual murdering fanatics and crooks (token mention of James Bulger....) do not represent "movements" with continuing political sponsorship and reinforcement....

#50 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 10:19 AM:

There's a quite apropos article in last July's Harper's. Unfortunately it's behind a subscribers-only firewall, so you'll either have to go to the library, read your own copy, or trust my summary. Basically their points were: (a) The Middle East really isn't important to US interests. (b) The level of hysteria about the region is way overstated, and these kinds of talk are a lot of sound and fury signifying almost nothing (with the Israeli-Egypt talks brokered by Carter being the conspicuous exception). (c) The Arab nations of the area are economically and militarily incompetent. (d) We have zero chance of influencing the culture there. (e) We should largely wash our hands of the whole thing.

I suspect that this is a bit too close to the mark.

#51 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 11:56 AM:

I haven't heard of any armies of Armenian terrorists blowing up markets in Ankara or Istanbul

In the early 1920s, an Armenian group called (IIRC) Nemesis tracked down and killed Talaat Pasha and Djemal Pasha, two of the triumvirate which was in charge of the Ottoman Empire when the genocide took place.
(The third triumvir, Enver Pasha, was killed charging a Russian MG on horseback during his attempt to create a new Turkic empire for himself in central Asia.)
Nemesis is also supposed to have been behind the assassinations of a number of other Ottoman officials. Tricky to say whether this was terrorism or not. A lot of Nemesis members were acquitted by European courts, on the grounds of provocation.

#52 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 01:46 PM:

ajay #51

I haven't heard of any armies of Armenian terrorists blowing up markets in Ankara or Istanbul

In the early 1920s, an Armenian group called (IIRC) Nemesis tracked down and killed Talaat Pasha and Djemal Pasha, two of the triumvirate which was in charge of the Ottoman Empire when the genocide took place.
(The third triumvir, Enver Pasha, was killed charging a Russian MG on horseback during his attempt to create a new Turkic empire for himself in central Asia.)
Nemesis is also supposed to have been behind the assassinations of a number of other Ottoman officials. Tricky to say whether this was terrorism or not. A lot of Nemesis members were acquitted by European courts, on the grounds of provocation.

It doesn't look like mass atrocity/terrorism to me, it looks like selective assassination imposed on those responsible for "crimes against humanity" I think is the current generally accepted terms internationally is.

Terrorism is a political tool of attacking people mostly promiscuously (non-sexual use of the term, perhaps I should have typed "indiscriminately" instead)to cause get lots of attention, cause as much splashy damage as possible including strewing gore that used to be people around to change public opinion (including that as brutal persuasion), to create a climate of fear and submission....

Nemesis from your description, wasn't trying to exterminate the state of Turkey or its citizens, wasn't trying to drive Turks out of a region, but rather, was assassinating the architects of mass murder, mass atrocity, and brutal expulsion and displacement of Armenians from their homes and land-- a less kind and gentle analogy of Simon Wiesenthal....

Also, 1920 was a LONG time ago. Presumably the members of Nemesis were direct victims or had close calls or immediate family members who were victims of the polices of those they assassinated. All these years later their descendants do not appear to be either eager recruits or supporters of the idea of Armenians committing atrocities against Turks, and appearl to not regard anyone who would die in the process of blowing up markets, restaurants, etc. full of random people as "heroes" and respected martyrs to a Cause....

For that matter, Northern Ireland which had been a place rife with murdering fanatics and their enthusiastic supporters, former supporters of murdering fanatics on opposite side of the conflict lines, are now political allies....

And in a less virulent as regards direct effects vein, consider the USA and the Confederate-minded sorts, who refuse to get over a war their ancestors lost closing on 150 years ago... that is, it's been a longer time to the US Civil War, than it was from the founding of the US to the Civil War! My forebearers weren't anywhere NEAR the western hermisphere in the 1860s, much less involved in the Civil War. Yet, the Confederate crackpots rant at me for being a "Northerner".... but at least most of the Confederate crackpots aren't out there blowing people up (some do still lynch people, however... and sometimes justice happens and they are held responsible for homicide and hate crime. If they spent their energy on trying to improve their lives instead of blaming other people for their unhappiness in life and/or stopped regarding the slave-owning Confederacy with themselves as Masters as an ideal state....

#53 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 01:52 PM:

Seth #44:

Indeed, plenty of neocon types here in the USA have appealed strongly to the notion of a centuries old conflict between Christendom and the Islamic world, framed the discussion in terms of a "clash of cultures," etc. I think this is pretty generic, right? Once I decide to hate you, I can do something a bit like data mining to find reasons to justify it. So the Muslims are anti-Christian, anti-Western, anti-democracy, anti-technology, mistreat their women, are corrupt, marry their cousins, etc. They are no more of any of those things now than 30 years ago, but we didn't need to find reasons to hate them then, since we were busy hating the godless, imperialistic, police-state, freedom-hating, boorish, lying Russians.

In both cases, the descriptions have some truth to them, but they're mostly not original reasons for hating their targets, they're additional piled-on justifications for hating them.

#54 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 02:12 PM:

Paula #52:

I think assassination is something of a gray area w.r.t. terrorism, depending on who the targets are and what the goal is. Assassinations of abortionists in the US look an awful lot like terrorism to me, though I'm sure the assassins would explain their actions in the same terms as the Armenian assassins did.

#55 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 02:41 PM:

Albatross: what do you mean by "looks an awful lot like" in this context? Planting pipe bombs and shooting people as part of the radical fringe of a political movement to effect political change -- in what was is there any ambiguity at all about the doctor-murderers being terrorists?

#56 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 02:44 PM:

I'd say assassination is more of a red area than a gray one, regardless of motive.

#57 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 04:47 PM:


The murder of medical professionals who perform abortion is qualitatively different than the assassination of mass murders of one's relatives....

The former is primarily -political/religious- atrocity carried out by fanatics trying to impose their values on the rest of the universe.

The latter is someone with a personal grievance who suffered -personal- losses, not trusting or interested in law enforcement and the law and government to arrest and convict a mass murderer, committing vigilante homicide.

I mentioned Simon Wiesenthal because he had dedicated his life after Shoah to the apprehension of persons alleged responsible for mass atrocities and education aimed as atrocity prevention, with the intent that the apprehended alleged responsible persons for crimes against humanity, be tried in legal courts for their alleged actions.

#58 ::: myrthe ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 05:03 PM:

Josh Jasper @36

Hang on a mo'. "I won't talk to them until they agree" is one of the Bush sleight-of-hands. You don't hold Peace Talks with allies, or friends, or even antagonistic neighbors. You hold Peace Talks between Enemies, who want each other destroyed and often who are actively engaged in doing just that. Setting preconditions on who can come is a time-honored way of not actually having to discuss, while seeming to hold some moral high ground.

I'm not arguing who here is more or less to blame, But I am supporting the position that holding Talks without the some of the key players does not bode well.

#59 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 10:38 PM:


The point is, that's an example of a campaign of assassination that we'd all consider terrorism, even though it's directed at people they think deserve to die. I don't think you can remove assassination campaigns from the category of terrorism.

Similarly, lynching blacks was used as a terror tactic, though it may be that many of the lynch mobs thought the specific blacks in question had done something to deserve death.

Terrorism is a pretty broad, fuzzy category. But it's not going to work to have a definition of terrorism that depends on whether you like the cause the alleged terrorists are backing.

#60 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 07:58 AM:

#47 Bruce Cohen, well, yeah.

Iraq, Iran, either could have been a typo by one of the poo flingers.

And maybe it explains all of GW's verbal gaffs. They really aren't mind blips, but his constant correction for typos, some just get by.

#61 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 08:41 AM:

24 Thanbo

Israeli historians have documented the ethnic cleansing. The memos and communications exist, including the orders to Lieutenant Sharon. The historical fact of what was done by the Hagannah etc. has been documented.

An argument that 'well the Arabs did it too' doesn't hold water. Hitler ran concentration camps, that doesn't justify us doing so.

Since I was talking about pre 1967 Israel, what did or didn't happen in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is not relevant to my observation.

You know, also, presumably about the land trust in Israel that holds the freehold to all the land? It is specifically tasked in its deed with increasing the Jewish hold on the Holy Land. Therefore, it's almost impossible for a non-Jew to buy land in Israel, outside of the existing Arab communities. This is Israeli state policy, again well documented by Israelis.

The Israelis have even applied these principles to my Christian Arab brethren, some of whom are Church of England. So you could say in that sense, it is pure racism, rather than just religion.

Again I am not defending the policies of the Jordanian, Lebanese, Syrian governments etc. in their own countries. We all know these are corrupt and violent mukhbharrat regimes.

But was American segregationism in the deep South justified by the fact that the Soviet Union was a police state?

Now in truth when I said 'ethnic cleansing' I was talking about both sides in the Mandate: Arab Christian and Moslem, as well as Jews. Although I don't know of any cases where Jewish refugees were created as a result of the 1948 War in the Mandate, there may have been some.

Note I said 'ethnic cleansing' and *not* genocide. There were massacres, but it wasn't a general genocide.

My broad concern with all this is what it does to Israel. I am reminded, terribly, of both Northern Ireland and South Africa (maybe the US Deep South as well?). ie by strenuously denying what actually happened, by constantly pleading 'we are the victims of history' (a standard Afrikaaner talking point down through the apartheid years: remember the Concentration Camp was Lord Kitchener's invention in the Boer War; a standard Southern one is about the 'War of Northern Aggression' ie everything would have been alright with the slaves if Lincoln hadn't stuck his nose it) and so our bad behaviour is in turn justified.

Israel sets itself for what it is fast becoming. A polarised state where religious and political fanatics hold sway. A la Voerward and the Apartheid Regime-- now if only those stupid Palestinians would go back to their Bantustans and stop complaining. It's all about uppity Negroes and meddling Northerners, you see. Liberals are 'traitors' and 'anti semites' and 'self hating Jews'. It's Papist idolators and traitors at the heart.

And Israel is a garrison state, with an Army being used for an urban combat and occupation, for which it is not well designed, and poorly suited. And that kind of duty is corrupting and degrades military efficiency. As are the daily humiliations meted out to Palestinians at checkpoints.

Read Martin Van Creveld, one of the best writers on the history of warfare and on strategy. The West Bank does not meaningfully enhance the military security of Israel: it cannot. A point the Israelis finally realised with the Gaza Strip. Tying down half the Israeli Army protecting 10,000 settlers was militarily and economically irrational.

But you see 'if only the Palestinians would stop complaining and protesting when we bulldoze their homes and their olive fields, and expand our settlements, and freeze them at our checkpoints'. 'If only the Palestinians would understand that they are much better of than if they lived under Assad or Hussein etc'. 'If only these Negroes would stop being so uppity: we have our place, and they have theirs, it's always been like that'. 'The Black man is not capable of ruling Africa'. 'The Catholic is inherently inferior to the Protestant in his inability to control his seed, and his lack of a work ethic, and his love of drink....'

You see, we've heard all these arguments before. Justify your own position, by vilifying the opponent.

But the Palestinians aren't going away. And a people who have no country, have, in essence, forever to create one. Next Year in Jerusalem, in fact.

The day when the moslem world 'resolves' this problem by a nuclear war cannot, I suspect, be delayed indefinitely. The Islamic bomb exists, and it is spreading. Only if Israel can successfully create a Palestinian state, does Israel fundamentally divide the pragmatic and the nihilistic moslem factions.

And for Israel itself, I fear very much the day when it is no longer a democracy. Either a military dictatorship to keep the factions from strangling each other (remember Josephus 'The Jewish War'? zealot factions killing each other in the temple whilst the Romans batter down the walls (accept caveat re Josephus as a roman propagandist)) or some kind of extremist state a la apartheid South Africa, or what the Confederate States of America might have become.

#62 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:44 AM:

33 Bruce Cohen

If the local tribes want the oil to flow, I think it will flow. Oil infrastructure is vulnerable, but the guerilla swims in the sea of the people.

43 John Dahlman

The 'eff up' school of history v. the 'nefarious conspiracy' school of history.

I, by nature, incline to the former. Look at the Ex-Comm tapes from the Cuban Missile Crisis. A bunch of men stumbling towards nuclear war in the dark. Bay of Pigs even worse ('groupthink' was the term coined by Irving Janis to describe it).

It is hard to credence a group of men as experienced in government as Bush's war cabinet with that level of incompetence. Although the psycopathic rivalry between the Pentagon and the State Department (and the CIA and both) is another factor.

If you believe that terrorism is an artifact of state-created actors, which is an obsolete (and dangerous) world view, but which many Cold Warriors held and hold, then you can see how Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rice-(Powell) could come to the silliest of decisions. I also think there is plenty of evidence that Bush intended to 'get' Saddam from day 1 of his Administration, 9-11 merely kicked into touch a play that was already contemplated and desired. Again the London Review of Books (of all places) was warning of that as early as March 2001.

The article I cited is the 'nefarious conspiracy' case. It links in to Peak Oil, because if you think Cheney believes in Peak Oil (or even in the fundamental unreliability of Saudi Arabia) and the need for American oil companies to secure access to new oil drilling territories (which is undoubtedly true, as Chevron, Exxon et al have admitted) then Iraq makes sense as an oil play.

I don't necessarily believe it (inclining towards the eff up school) but the evidence mounts (somewhat) towards it.

50 C Wingate

I think that article is by Edward Luttwack, one of the most creative strategic thinkers out there. Luttwack actually fought for Israel in 1967.

I don't think he's entirely right (although I haven't read the article). In particular, as long as the US economy is dependent on Middle Eastern oil the US is going to be deployed into the Middle East, and involved there.

The other is the historic alliance between the US and Israel, since its foundation, which has been strengthened by the commitment of evangelical Americans to the prophesies in the Bible regarding the return of Israel and the Second Coming.

This ain't gonna change. The irony is liberal Israelis look to the US to force their leaders to do what is most sensible for Israel: withdraw from the West Bank. Which is precisely that the US will not do, despite many and public statements of every US president since Jimmy Carter, that the West Bank settlements and their expansion were a violation of international law, and an impediment to peace. The US will not do this for domestic political reasons.

In Israel the political system is deadlocked, and the US will not provide leadership. Because it will never actually punish Israel by, for example, cutting off aid.

#63 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:56 PM:

Terrorism involves -intent-.


Hmm. Countries with Islam as state religion:
Saudi Arabia
[and others]

Countries with Christianity at state religion
The Vatican
at least one South American country I think
[and there are lots of other I think]

Countries with majority Christian population:
Every country on the mainland in North, Central, and South America
Northern Ireland
Spain (banned Jews from 1492 to 1992)
the Netherlands
the Czech Republic

Countries with majority Moslem populations:
other -istans
Albania ?

Countries where the majority religion is other or none:
China [majority non-Judaeo-Christian-Moslem]
Japan [non-Judaeo-Christian-Moslem]
India [majority non-Judaeo-Christian-Moslem]

Israel is the only country in the world where Jews are not a tiny minority. There are lots of countries where Islam is the STATE religions, there are lots of countries where Christianity or a specific branch of Christianity is the state religion. There are countries where you cannot be a citizen unless you are a member of the state religion, and are excluded from certain cities--Saudi Arabia is the most prominent example of both, Mecca and Medina have banned non-Moslems for centuries (Sir Richard Burton committed cold-blooded murder of a Moslem who saw him urinating, his being uncircumcised constituted proof he was non-Moslem, and any non-Moslem discovered in Mecca or Medina or headed to them, got the the death penalty for trespassing, immediately).

#64 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 05:44 PM:

I think it's notable that the losers and their descendants of war after war after war intended to "drive the Israelis into the sea" in the Middle East who go around promoting mass murder, get looked at so very much more positively in the world view than Tamil terrorist, Northern Ireland terrorists before the rapproachement that occurred in the past recent years, the terrorists in Indonesia and East Timor, the Janjuweed, the terrorists in the Phillipines, the committers of mass atrocity in ex-Yugoslavia....

Why isn't there a huge movement promoting Armenian Return and eradication of Turkey, return of Poles to the land taken by the USSR, return of Germans to the parts of Germany annexed to Poland, terrorism against China for its takeover of Tibet etc., war between Russian and Japan over the disputed islands and rampant terrorism, revolt and rebellion all over the world, butchery of European-descended Australians by those whose ancestors were living there before the Europeans showed up, uprising by those who ancestors were living in Hawaaii before Europeans showed up, etc. etc. etc.?

What about the displacement of the Choctaw and the Chickasaw and the Cherokee Nation. The situation in New England of those with pre-Columbian native ancestry is a lot more complicated, one friend who's a descendant of the fellow points out that the person who was the most lethal Indian killer in Massachusetts Bay Colony, was of native blood and was murdering one branch of his non-European-descent family members on behalf on another branch of his non-European-descent family members... for that matter, Custer's associates were not all of European ancestry....


Go further back to takeovers of Normandy, Brittany, England, Ireland, the Romans and Greeks lording it over large areas, La Reconquista driving out the Moslems, the Moslems conquering the Franks, the Franks conquering the Iberians.... where does the gradient where "you LOST, go make a life somewhere ELSE and stop blaming you miserable life something that happened generations before you were born by people long dead! Go do something POSITIVE and make yourself into something other than a murderous jackass or pathetic whiner !"


Again, my grandparents were all immigrants. If it had been so wonderful for Jews in Europe, why didn't any of them -stay- there.... ah yes, pogroms are SUCH character building events....

#65 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 06:30 PM:

I often think that the only real good we can extract from the monstrosities of history, particularly those that affected our own ancestors (and which, therefore, sting to this day) is to learn a little empathy with people similarly stuck now. For instance, reflecting on the current European fears of a wave of immigrants, I find myself thinking of the way my great- great- grandfather† was treated when he fled Ireland for America during the potato famine.

I don't think that I can't dwell on his suffering (and it was substantial, and protracted) and somehow get a free pass not to care about present injustices. Nor did the memory of what he went through somehow allow me to support the IRA in their campaign of violence, back when it was going on*. Even the fact that they started out defending people like him - and like I would have been had he not left Ireland - does not allow me to support the unethical means that they used to do so.

To rehash his suffering to the exclusion of empathy is to insult the memory of his courage. To use it as an obstacle to creating a better world is to ensure that more people suffer similar outrages, and may he‡ haunt me if I ever do so.

There are enough present-day obstacles without invoking the past as well.

† fourteen, and the only survivor of his entire family
* though many people not only supported it but glorified it at the time
‡ and all my ancestors, both the immigrant and the invaded

#66 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 12:11 AM:

Paula -- none of your historical excuses have any impact on what the \nation/ of Israel continues to do in the present time. Even if the Palestinians were simply to "get over it" as you demand, consider your remark

Also, 1920 was a LONG time ago. Presumably the members of Nemesis were direct victims or had close calls or immediate family members who were victims of the polices of those they assassinated.

Israel acts to kill anyone it concludes is responsible for terrorism; even if you argue that their intelligence is far better than the U.S.'s (which I feel free to doubt, seeing as Dershowitz's vile "ticking time-bomb" excuse was specifically on Israel's behalf), they are going to make mistakes in intelligence, in targeting, and in confining the damage to the parties they're targeting. Add to this that Israel is \continuing/ to grab land (cf the wall), and you are asking the Palestinians to "get over" what is continuing to happen to them. Consider the reaction you'd get if you said that to an abused wife, regardless of how wretched a childhood her husband had had.

For that matter, how would you react if I told you to "get over" the Holocaust?

No, I'm not excusing certain levels of anti-Israel action (and I'm not going to be drawn into the trap of defining exactly what those levels are). But those actions are attacked all over this country, every day, with (IMO) insufficient recognition of where they come from -- or worse, with a sort of absolutism that says Israel is Good and Right and Pure and ... and is therefore justified in whatever it does. (Note that I have not tried to measure just how widespread those attitudes are in Israel itself, or even how much they're a matter of state policy.) Until our country has some sense of balance -- until it makes clear to Israel that there will be severe and immediate penalties if it takes one more foot of Palestinian ground for a colony, or builds one more foot of wall subdividing Palestine -- I see no reason to join or support those voices.

#67 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 08:54 AM:

re 62: I see Chavez is threatening to cut off our oil. Does that mean he's going to close Citgo stations nationwide?

Luttwack addresses the oil question, actually. His view is that middle eastern conflicts and to cost/availability of oil have become decoupled, at least in part because the Saudis etc. are too hooked on the money to be able to turn off the spigots.

The historic alliance is of course a different matter, and he doesn't address it except indirectly. He holds that the Arabs can't "drive the Jews into the sea" and that we can stop worrying about that. And that therefore we can totally disengage from the matter. As a matter of US politics, of course, that is impossible. But I do think his urging of being less reactive makes a lot of sense.

#68 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 09:32 AM:


I think Israel gets held to first-world civilized democracy standards, whereas the Arab countries get held to third-world thugocracy standards. And this is mainly because Israel is actually a first-world civilized democracy, and the countries surrounding it are mostly third-world thugocracies. Whether it's fair or not, we expect Israel to live up to the standards of the US or UK or Germany or France, not to the standards of Egypt or Saddam's Iraq or Syria or Jordan or Saudi Arabia.

I can't speak for the rest of the world, but my sense is that even pre-9/11, Americans overwhelmingly had a pretty damned low opinion of most of those countries, and of terrorists in general. It's possible to say "The Palestinians have been repeatedly shafted by everyone in the region, pushed out of their homes and harassed constantly by Israel and used as pawns by the surrounding Arab nations, and criminally misgoverned besides" without thinking that there's any justification for their blowing up busses or schools or pizza parlors full of civilians. And recognizing the evil of those terrorist attacks doesn't change whether Israel's responses are reasonable, any more than the evils of Al Qaida justifies our running secret prisons and torturing people at Guantanamo Bay.

#69 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 10:28 AM:

68 Albatross

I don't think the question of what standards you hold Saudi Arabia to is relevant to what we think of the Palestinian question/ standards we hold Israel to.

You cannot justify what Israel does on the West Bank to the Palestinians, by pointing out that the Syrians or the Saudis are worse.

You can't justify deporting the Japanese in WWII, or any form of mass killing say of aboriginal Americans, by noting that Hitler and Stalin were worse.

Saudi Arabia is what it is. A brutal theocracy that happens to be the largest supplier of a commodity that runs the modern world: oil. We sell them arms, and protect their oil wells from strategic threats, and they give us cash. Our power to demand or effect change is minimal. End of story.

What Israel is doing on the West Bank is both inhumane for an alleged western democracy to do (but hardly unprecedented: think South Africa, or the British at various times and places in their colonies, or the Deep South pre the Civil Rights period), and is also long term strategically detrimental to Israel.

And Israel is the largest recipient of US military and foreign aid, and has received large transfers from many western countries, Germany amongst them.

Anyone, not even a Jew, must shudder when an Israeli Cabinet Minister says (of a food embargo on the Gaza Strip) 'we will put the Palestinians on a diet'.

Now a German officer responsible for the Lodz or Warsaw Ghetto in 1941 would have said the same thing. And probably, in German, did. (the plans for forced starvation certainly existed and were executed).

Or when an Israeli general says 'we must learn the lessons of the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, for our soldiers'.

Israel has engaged itself in what has been called 'the last colonial war'. The effort to implant Israeli civilians into the militarily occupied West Bank (and formerly the Gaza Strip).

It will end badly. Whether now, in 30 years, or 100 years, I don't know. But it will end badly.

#70 ::: John Dallman ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 10:01 AM:

#62, Valuethinker

It is hard to credit a group of men as experienced in government as Bush's war cabinet with that level of incompetence.

Experienced in the hard parts of government, or in just turning the handle and following the guidance of the system? Because many of their actions have seemed to me like those of men who didn't actually have a plan of action, aside from being in power. Most of them learned the trade during the Cold War, and seem to want to behave in the same way, even though that war is over. They were trying to act like men in government, without being able to disentangle the behaviour of the past from its causes.

Sometimes they seem to be fumbling towards having Iraq as a new West Germany, as the frontline of confrontation with Iran as a new Soviet Union; a ridiculous objective, given the limits of Iranian power, but one that would provide them with a familiar context for action.

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