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Over at the National Review, they’ve given idiot-at-large Jay Nordlinger a column called “Impromptus”, in which he jots down his half-formed mental emissions.  As with most such random-thoughts columns, you get what you pay for.  Let’s watch!

It was interesting to read Kate Trinko’s piece on Michele Bachmann and learn that the congresswoman had been a foster mother to 23 kids — 23 teenage girls. I thought, “Yeah, those heartless conservatives: never giving a fig about humanity.”

This is a traditional defense of the social Darwinism of the right:  look at how kind they are!  They have retarded kids; they adopt Vietnamese orphans; they help little old ladies across the street.  This is supposed to exculpate them for enacting policies which brutalize the working class and opposing any attempt to provide a safety net for the poor.  Lewis Hastings observed that “the possession of a highly social conscience about large-scale issues is no guarantee whatever of reasonable conduct in private relations”, and the reverse is also true, as Jay predicts, and he counters with this bizarre homily:

Do you know this old line? “A Marxist is someone who loves humanity in groups of one million or more.”

Only among the market evangelists of the right could caring about lots of people instead of just a select few be looked at as a vice.  Jay now moves on to the Goldstone retraction, over which the pro-Israel lobby has been having a field day.  No, he does not hesitate to bust out the right’s favorite trope when discussing their best buddies in the Middle East:

Goldstone, in his infamous report on Gaza, did a terrible, terribly damaging thing. He did it to Israel and the world. This was little short of blood libel.

The key element of Goldstone’s retraction is that the Israeli Army, during “Operation Cast Lead”, did not, as he initially reported, deliberately target civilians.  Not retracted:  that the Israeli Army has targeted civilians in the past; that Palestinian civilians have died in vastly higher numbers than Israelis over the decades; that during the most recent Gaza hostilities, Palestinian casualties outweighed Israeli ones by more than 100:1.  So, well done, Jay!   A real moral triumph for your side.  His mind then wanders, goodness knows why, to a book published nine years ago:

I remember when Martin Amis published his book Koba the Dread, about Stalin. This was in 2002. A lot of people said, “Gee, Stalin was bad? A mass murderer? A monster? Martin Amis recognizes that now? A little late, don’t you think? What will he next say, that the bubonic plague was unfortunate?” My view was a little different. I thought it was good that such a “cool,” stylish, and acclaimed novelist had made a statement about Stalin and Communism. There are lots of people willing to listen to Amis who are not willing to listen to — well, me, or you.  I thought the book was welcome.  Consider that Britain’s favorite historian, E. J. Hobsbawm, who is perhaps the English-speaking world’s favorite, or most honored, historian, too, is an outright apologist for Stalin and his crimes.

Since it is an article of faith on the right that anyone expressing an opinion to the left of Dwight Eisenhower is an “apologist for Stalin and his crimes”, it’s understandable that someone like Nordlinger would express joy that even a relatively conservative artist like Martin Amis would stand bravely against Uncle Joe, even though many on what would now be considered the radical left were denouncing Stalin as far back as the 1930s, when it was a tad more risky.  As for Hobsbawm, he has called Stalin’s crimes “shameful and beyond palliation, let alone justification”, but he has insisted on remaining a Marxist, which means he might as well have personally dispatched all those poor kulaks to Siberia.  Now, it’s on to a favorite hypocrisy of the right; discussing the recent harassment of Ai Weiwei, Nordlinger bloviates thusly:

Yes, that’s what they do: beat and detain, and worse. Countless anonymous people are bludgeoned by the regime in Beijing…But, hell, the Chinese government holds in prison the current Nobel peace laureate, Liu Xiaobo, and who cares about this? Not long ago, the 2009 Nobel peace laureate — Barack Obama — fêted in the White House the jailers and persecutors of the 2010 peace laureate. Great, just great.

Never mind that the man who opened up relations with China (during a period when its government was infinitely more brutal than it is today) was Richard Nixon.  Never mind that every president from that point on has engaged in marshmallow-soft diplomacy with the crypto-fascist government in Beijing.  Never mind that the huge multinationals, at whose feet the right wing worships and on whose behalf their politicians shower endless tax breaks, all do vast amounts of big-money business with China, the proceeds of which help support the government that beats and detains Ai Weiwei and Liu Xiaobo.  The sole person responsible for the evils of the yellow peril is whatever Democrat happens to be occupying the White House.

You have read that Media Matters, the Soros-funded group, has announced a campaign of “guerrilla warfare and sabotage” against Fox News…Imagine what the reaction would be if a conservative group announced “guerrilla warfare and sabotage” against a left-leaning network (which is to say, pretty much all the others). Wouldn’t the media at large condemn this as an attack on the free press?

Gosh, Jay!  Imagine if that happened!  Finally, let’s engage in a fun little fantasy about immigration with ol’ Nerdlinger:

Went to a newsstand, here in New York. Young fellow manning it — looked about 18. Bright-eyed, smiling, handsome. Slight accent. Obviously an immigrant. Dad or uncle must own the newsstand. The kid had before him a science textbook, which he was studying between sales.  I thought, “This is something wonderful about America, something that recurs generation after generation.” I think it’s possible to be so appalled by illegal immigration, and the failure of the political class to do anything about it, that one forgets the glory of legal and sensible immigration.

Let’s leave aside for a moment that Jay assumes that anyone with even a slight accent must be an immigrant, because all native-born Americans talk like Don Draper.  Is there anything in this narrative that suggests that the kid is a legal immigrant (and therefore worthy of praise, unlike those appalling illegals)?  Well, he is bright-eyed, smiling, handsome, and studious, after all.  Unless he believes that all illegal immigrants are dark-eyed, frowning, grotesque and lazy, of course, his assumption that the kid is the product of the glorious tradition of legal immigration is just based on the fact that he likes the kid.  But he might be thrown into a panic by the thought there might be plenty of illegals, bright of eye and fond of chemistry, manning taco trucks and cab stands, takes away a favorite element of the moral panic that forms half the Republican platform.  So he invents this back-story.  I imagine it’s exhausting, having to constantly carry around these fictions in your head, but such is the burden of punditry.

Mirrored from LEONARD PIERCE DOT COM.

Comments

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eyelid
Apr. 11th, 2011 03:03 pm (UTC)
Not retracted: that the Israeli Army has targeted civilians in the past;

When?

Also, Palestinians ALWAYS target civilians. For instance, two weeks ago they deliberately destroyed a SCHOOL BUS (you know, for kids) with an ANTI-TANK MISSLE. Following the bus attack, Palestinians fired another 45 mortars and Kassam rockets and two Grad missiles on southern Israel. Randomly.

It's interesting to me that that doesn't appear to bother you.

When I was in Israel, our class had to be accompanied by an armed soldier at all times. It was the law. Because on previous occasions, Palestinians had taken whole classes of kids hostage and then deliberately slaughtered them. I'm pretty sure the Israeli army has never done that.


that Palestinian civilians have died in vastly higher numbers than Israelis over the decades;

Not for lack of trying on the Palestinians' part.


that during the most recent Gaza hostilities, Palestinian casualties outweighed Israeli ones by more than 100:1.

Oh I see, the side that has more casualties is automatically the righteous side/victims? So, we were the bad guys in WWII?

That is stupid. People die in wars. It sucks. It's why war is awful. Also, it's hard to avoid killing any civilians in a war - so hard that no one, no matter how righteous their cause, has ever been able to do it. But being the side that inflicts more causalties does not mean that your side is more or less moral than the other side.

I wonder how pacifistic you would be if it were your house Hamas was firing rockets at. I assure you the US would not be nearly so restrained as Israel if rockets were being fired into the US from Mexico.
ludickid
Apr. 11th, 2011 04:42 pm (UTC)
>When?

Constantly. From the initial founding of the state through the Sabra and Shatila Massacre to the 2006 Gaza conflict, when it was official IDF policy. You can read more about that here.

>Also, Palestinians ALWAYS target civilians.

I didn't say that they didn't.

>Palestinians fired another 45 mortars and Kassam rockets and two Grad missiles on southern Israel. Randomly.

Killing no one.

>It's interesting to me that that doesn't appear to bother you.

It's not that it doesn't bother me on general principles. It's that I think disproportionate state violence against a non-state actor is always wrong. In the 2009 Gaza war, 13 Israelis were killed, against 1300 Palestinians (the vast majority of whom were civilians). Terrorism bothers me, of course, though a bit less when it's from an oppressed group that has no military with which to fight one of the most heavily equipped armies on Earth. But the occupation, and the horribly unbalanced death toll, bothers me more. No one disputes, for example, that American Indians carried out acts of terrorism and atrocities during the Indian Wars. But most people also agree that it was the US that was in the wrong, and that the number of casualties inflicted by them was all out of proportion to those inflicted against them.

>I'm pretty sure the Israeli army has never done that.

Pretty sure? Are you pretty sure Lewis Lapham was lying when he reported seeing an IDF soldier taking potshots at Palestinian kids? Are you pretty sure the massacres at Sabra and Shatila never happened? Have you heard of the Irgun? The bombing of the King David hotel? The Deir Yassin massacre? Zionist terror groups were killing Palestinian civilians before Israel even existed, and it hasn't gotten much better since then.

>Not for lack of trying on the Palestinians' part.

So I guess now we're judging people on their intentions. How many people is it permissible to kill because of what they tried to do? How about because of what you thought they might do?

eyelid
Apr. 11th, 2011 06:03 pm (UTC)
From the initial founding of the state through the Sabra and Shatila Massacre to the 2006 Gaza conflict, when it was official IDF policy. You can read more about that here.

I don't suppose you have that from any sort of, you know, verified and credentialed source?

Because frankly, if it were some sort of open Israeli policy to deliberately target civilians, they'd be conducting their incursions much differently. E.g., not targeting military targets, not attempting to avoid civilian deaths, not apologizing for civilian deaths, etc.

They'd just randomly bomb. Or target school buses.

You know, like the Palestinians do.


I didn't say that they didn't.

:P don't be disingenuous. to say that one side does, and attack them for it, while remaining silent about the other side, is obviously an implication.


Killing no one.

What's your point? You don't think they are trying to kill anyone? Civilians, in point of fact?


It's not that it doesn't bother me on general principles.

Really. Cause you don't seem very bothered. I mean, you don't even mention it. You kinda just cut that out of the picture entirely like it doesn't exist.

To the Israelis it's kind of an important part of what's going on.


Are you pretty sure Lewis Lapham was lying when he reported seeing an IDF soldier taking potshots at Palestinian kids?

I have no idea whether Lapham was lying. I have no particular reason to believe or disbelieve him. I also don't know if he correctly interpreted whatever he saw (assuming he saw something). As an attorney I'm pretty skeptical about just believing people.

To clarify, however, I'm sure there have been individual cases of bad actor Israeli soldiers. Just like in EVERY army, or country, or city, or other group of people, EVER. That is NOT the same as a POLICY AND PRACTICE OF TARGETING CIVILIANS, or a founding document that states that the elimination of a given group is their founding goal - such as the Palestinians have.

To claim that these two things are the same is, again, entirely disingenuous. You're basically saying that one time an Israeli soldier broke the rules of what he was supposed to be doing and attacked civilians, therefore Israel is deliberately targeting civilians. :P


It's that I think disproportionate state violence against a non-state actor is always wrong.

What non-state actor? Last I knew the Palestinians had governments. Governments that, BTW, had as one of their founding principles the purpose of killing every Israeli and destroying Israel.

Furthermore, "disproportionate" is in the eye of the beholder. I assure you that the US would find just about no response "disproportionate" if our school buses were being hit with anti-tank missles. And if your kid was on the bus you might just agree.


Zionist terror groups were killing Palestinian civilians before Israel even existed, and it hasn't gotten much better since then.

Before Israel existed the "terror groups" were "non-state actors". Shouldn't you be on their side? I thought you thought that attacks on civilians by such groups was no big deal? Or is it only when Palestinians do it that it's ok?

Anyway, are you seriously that ignorant of middle east history that you don't know what was going on at that time w/r/t attacks against Jews that caused the rise of self-defense groups? Does the fact that the day Israeli indepedence was declared Israel was attacked by five Arab nations simultaneously with the stated intention of killing every single Jew there clue you in?

Let's get to brass tacks: if Israel wanted to massacre Palestinian civilians, there would be no Palestinian civilians left. Meanwhile, if the Palestinians had the wherewithal to make their dreams reality, there would be no Israelis left.
ludickid
Apr. 11th, 2011 06:52 pm (UTC)
>I don't suppose you have that from any sort of, you know, verified and credentialed source?

Uh, you mean besides the ones in the article I linked, which include the PCATI, Human Rights Watch, Defense of Children International, and the United Nations? How about the Israeli Kahan Commission, which found the government indirectly responsible and Ariel Sharon directly responsible for Sabra and Shatila?

>That is NOT the same as a POLICY AND PRACTICE OF TARGETING CIVILIANS

"In the beginning of October 2008, the Commanding Officer of the IDF’s Northern Command, Major General Gadi Eisenkott, gave an interview to Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, in which he unveiled what he called the 'Dahiye Doctrine': ‘What happened in the Dahiye Quarter of Beirut in 2006, will happen in every village from which shots are fired on Israel. We will use disproportionate force against it and we will cause immense damage and destruction. From our point of view these are not civilian villages but military bases. This is not a recommendation, this is the plan, and it has already been authorized.’"

>a founding document that states that the elimination of a given group is their founding goal - such as the Palestinians have.

"The Palestinians" have no such founding document. The PLO has recognized Israel's right to exist since 1993, and Hamas has done so since 2006.

>What non-state actor? Last I knew the Palestinians had governments.

If you think the Palestinian government has any real power, you are delusional.

>Let's get to brass tacks: if Israel wanted to massacre Palestinian civilians, there would be no Palestinian civilians left.

I see. So I guess they should really be grateful.
ludickid
Apr. 11th, 2011 04:42 pm (UTC)
>Oh I see, the side that has more casualties is automatically the righteous side/victims? So, we were the bad guys in WWII?

Well, no. But:

(a) There's a difference between saying "the side that has more casualties is automatically right" and saying "the side that is inflicting far vaster numbers of casualties may just be in the wrong". In WWII, the ratio of military deaths on the Axis vs. the Allied side was less than 2:1. In the Israel-Palestine conflict, it's ranged from around 7:1 (in the early days of the conflict) to 100:1, as casualties have gotten way out of proportion in recent years. When the ratios get that high, you have to wonder if you can really call it anything like a fair conflict; it begins to look a lot like democide.

(b) Even if the casualties were more even, the key point is that the Palestinians are an oppressed people. They are an ethnically and religiously divided group who live under occupation, who have no democratic voice in the government that rules them, that are kept in conditions of extreme poverty and deprivation, and are denied some of the most basic civil rights. Regardless of the statistics one way or another, I would support them, because they are the ones to whom the greater wrong is being done; they are the ones who are the constant victims of abuse by a vastly larger, wealthier, better equipped, and better supplied military and political force. The fact that they're also being killed in disproportionately high numbers only drives home that the Israeli government is who's causing the most harm.

>That is stupid. People die in wars. It sucks. It's why war is awful.

Especially unnecessary wars. I mean, I'm sure a lot less Russians would have died in WWII if they'd have just stopped fighting against German aggression, right?

>But being the side that inflicts more causalties does not mean that your side is more or less moral than the other side.

That's true. What makes them less moral is their status as occupiers, aggressors, oppressors and deniers of civil rights.

>I wonder how pacifistic you would be if it were your house Hamas was firing rockets at.

I'm not a pacifist.

>I assure you the US would not be nearly so restrained as Israel if rockets were being fired into the US from Mexico.

The 1,300 people who died during Operation Cast Lead would probably disagree that Israel's response was "restrained". But if the situation were reversed, would you find yourself happy? If the Palestinians were in charge of Israel, with a vast arsenal of high-tech weapons, nuclear bombs, and highly trained soldiers, and they kept the native Jewish population under strict control, and didn't let them vote, and didn't let them travel freely, and violated their rights in dozens of ways every day, and responded to any Israeli rebellion or violence with massively disproportionate amounts of violence, would you be defending the Palestinian government? Would you say they were exercising restraint? Would you just shrug and say "Well, people die in wars, and it sucks"?
eyelid
Apr. 11th, 2011 06:31 pm (UTC)
WWII, the ratio of military deaths on the Axis vs. the Allied side was less than 2:1. In the Israel-Palestine conflict, it's ranged from around 7:1

?? so WHAT? I WISH the casualties in WWII had been much MORE disproportionate. How on earth would that have affected whether we were in the wrong to be involved?? That doesn't even make sense.


the key point is that the Palestinians are an oppressed people. They are an ethnically and religiously divided group who live under occupation, who have no democratic voice in the government that rules them, that are kept in conditions of extreme poverty and deprivation, and are denied some of the most basic civil rights.

Jews were expelled from various Arab countries when Israel was created. They fled to Israel for sanctuary. Those remaining in Arab countries often have no rights (in fact, Islamic law provides that they should not.) Does that mean that Israeli Jews are an oppressed people?

These attacks are coming from Gaza, where no one BUT Palestinians live, where Palestinians democratically elected their own government, etc. I'm not sure how being ethnically divided means they are oppressed. Americans are ethnically divided. Jews in Israel are ethnically divided too (believe me.)

Definitely there is poverty and misery in Gaza. While of course, intermittant Israeli bombing in response to Palestinian attacks doesn't help that situation, Israel itself was born in war and oppression of Jews and yet it managed to become an impressive country. In fact, Jews have managed to thrive in circumstances of horrific oppression all over the world.


If the Palestinians were in charge of Israel, with a vast arsenal of high-tech weapons, nuclear bombs, and highly trained soldiers, and they kept the native Jewish population under strict control, and didn't let them vote, and didn't let them travel freely, and violated their rights in dozens of ways every day, and responded to any Israeli rebellion or violence with massively disproportionate amounts of violence, would you be defending the Palestinian government? Would you say they were exercising restraint

Jews have been in much worse situations for thousands of years. Only the violence came regardless of whether we did anything first. And the Arab countries in the Middle east are no exception - again, they slaughtered and expelled us in 1949.

Not that you care - not that any non-Jew cared.

Anyway, it's a nonsensical comparison because neither party would act in this way if the situation were reversed. If Palestinians were in charge of Israel they'd just round up and slaughter all the Jews. Maybe just expel them if they were feeling generous. Remember, that's what the other Arab countries did.

Also, the Jewish response to such a situation would be vastly different. If the Jews held Gaza and the West Bank as the Palestinians do, they would be industriously building infrastructure and creating farms etc. Those places would become centers of learning and technology. That's what Jews do. That's what we've always done.

As for Israel proper, if we wanted more rights, and if the Palestinians had somehow not slaughtered/expelled us and would not do so if we protested, we'd do it via peaceful protest (which would actually be WAY more effective IMO). Even the settlers who were uprooted from Gaza (the most hard-core of the hard-core) did not resort to any substantial violence.

But frankly, it's not the Arabs/Palestinians in Israel proper (who are deprived of some rights, though not to the degree you're stating) who are terrorists. Their standard of living and their individual rights are higher than in other Arab countries. That's why terrorism plummeted with the building of the wall. By and large (obviously there are exceptions), it's not the Arabs IN Israel that are the problem.

ludickid
Apr. 11th, 2011 07:39 pm (UTC)
>?? so WHAT? I WISH the casualties in WWII had been much MORE disproportionate. How on earth would that have affected whether we were in the wrong to be involved??

You really don't think that proportionality is relevant? You think that if I punch you in the nose, and you punch me in the eye, that's on the same moral plane as if I punch you in the nose and you beat me so badly that I'm crippled and you murder ten members of my family?

>Those remaining in Arab countries often have no rights (in fact, Islamic law provides that they should not.)

There is no such thing as "Islamic law". And Jewish communities exist in a number of Arab and Muslim countries.

>I'm not sure how being ethnically divided means they are oppressed. Americans are ethnically divided.

If you honestly don't believe the people of Palestine are oppressed or that they aren't badly treated by the government (the REAL government of Israel that wields power in the area, not the toothless Palestinian government) or that they aren't being denied their basic civil rights, we really don't have anything further to discuss, because that's just not true.

>Jews have been in much worse situations for thousands of years.

What does that have to do with how they're treating the Palestinians? If anything, the way that Jews have been treated historically should make it all the more repulsive that the Israeli government treats Palestinians so badly.

>Not that you care - not that any non-Jew cared.

No non-Jew has ever cared about the treatment of the Jews? Ridiculous.

>If the Jews held Gaza and the West Bank as the Palestinians do, they would be industriously building infrastructure and creating farms etc. Those places would become centers of learning and technology. That's what Jews do. That's what we've always done.

When the Israeli government DID hold Gaza and the West Bank, they destroyed farms, drove people out, and seized their property.

>we'd do it via peaceful protest (which would actually be WAY more effective IMO). Even the settlers who were uprooted from Gaza (the most hard-core of the hard-core) did not resort to any substantial violence.

That's certainly not historically accurate. When the Irgun and Haganah and Lehi were seeking more rights, they certainly didn't engage in much in the way of "peaceful protest". Were Deir Yassin or Sabra and Shatilah "peaceful protests"? As far as Israeli settlers go, not only have they engaged in quite substantial violence, but incidents of violence by settlers is on the increase -- and that's according to the IDF.

>Their standard of living and their individual rights are higher than in other Arab countries.

That's not true. Conditions in the occupied territories are awful, and getting worse. The UN's World Food Program says "Palestinians are experienced a dramatic decline in their living standards and a regression of the economy due to internal and external movement restrictions, limited control over natural resources, restricted access to local and international markets, low rates of economic production and limited access of Palestinian labourers to their former work in Israel." The UN's permanent observer reports that the economy there is bad and getting worse, reaching a disaster of unprecedented levels thanks to "most rigorous form of international sanctions imposed in modern times". The Relief and Works Agency calls it a full-blown humanitarian crisis, with nearly 50% unemployment and per capita income shrinking almost 10% a year. And almost all of this is due to Israeli blockades and control over transportation, travel, and resources.

These are facts. A country that is slowly choking the life out of an underclass of its own people while claiming to be a democracy? I don't find that justifiable under any circumstances. Maybe the Palestinians would be doing it to the Israelis if they were in charge; maybe they wouldn't. But they're not.
piduymir
Apr. 12th, 2011 11:57 pm (UTC)
Did you heard what Rob Matts said about that?

(Anonymous)
Apr. 13th, 2011 06:40 am (UTC)
Pointless
Leonard, this woman is saying, in so many words, that Jews ARE BETTER THAN PALESTINIANS, and THEREFORE MORE WORTHY OF RIGHTS. That's what the ridiculous business about how if Jews were being penned behind barbed wire, with arable land confiscated, water supplies intermittently cut off, and vital supplies embargoed, they would magically turn their open-air prisons into Shangri-La.
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ludickid
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Leonard Pierce is a freelance writer wandering around Texas with no sleep or sense of direction. If you give him money he will write something for you. If you are nice to him he may come to your house and get drunk.

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