Hard-hitting campaigns or outright anti-Semitism?

This is a guest post from Jak Codd, Communications and Internal Affairs Officer for Leeds University Union.

Having been a student at Leeds for over three years, I am used to the rough and tumble of the student political environment. However, recent events on campus have shocked even myself. Leeds has always had one of the largest Jewish societies in the country, and coupled with an active Palestinian Solidarity Group, this often results in a robust political environment – especially where the Middle East is concerned.

Leeds Palestinian Solidarity Group has often been accused of having, at best, a dismissive attitude towards the anti-Semitism many students feel exists within the organisation’s midst. In November 2008, Jewish students decided that their student union needed to do more to combat the worrying rise in anti-Semitic incidents on British campuses, which resulted in a referendum motion proposing the adoption of the EUMC’s working definition of anti-Semitism. Rather than accepting that anti-Semitism was a major issue facing Jewish students, Leeds PSG and their so-called ‘progressive’ allies unleashed a ferocious campaign in response – peaking with a banner picturing an Orthodox Jew holding a placard stating ‘End the Holocaust in Gaza’. It was argued that the passing of the definition may shut down the Palestinian society but, as Bernard Harrison succinctly points out, surely anyone that claims that a restriction on anti-Semitism will deprive them of their best arguments is de facto admitting being complicit in anti-Jewish racism? Rather than self-reflect as to why the National Union of Students, the State Department of the USA, and the European Union to name but a few, considers their group to fall under the EUMC Definition, all Leeds PSG could do was pour petrol on the flames of their offensive discourse. This worrying attitude towards anti-Semitism is the context for the disturbing events that have embroiled Leeds PSG in 2010.

In January of this year, Leeds PSG ran a series of events to mark a year since Israel’s war in Gaza, which was conveniently timed to coincide with the student union’s week long commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day.

One event, hosted in conjunction with the Leeds city Palestinian solidarity campaign, was a lecture given by Sameh Habeeb. Habeeb is the editor and founder of the dubious newspaper the Palestinian Telegraph, and a cheerleader for the anti-Semite Gilad Atzmon. Habeeb published an article by Atzmon on Holocaust Memorial Day, which stated that “the true interpritation of the Goldstone report is that Israelis are the Nazis of our time”, and that “Israeli… involvement in organ harvesting is well documented and an accepted fact”. Leeds PSG are no strangers to hosting speakers that are near the knuckle, having supported BRICUP’s tour of Bongani Masuku, the South African trade unionist found guilty by the South African Human Rights Commission for hate speech. However, it was their behaviour at another event that show the true colours of Leeds Palestinian Solidarity Group.

Ishmael Khaldi is an Israeli diplomat of Bedouin origin who was invited to speak on campus by the student Jewish society, to address the issue of a boycott of Israel. Instead of engaging and debating with the speaker, Leeds Palestinian Solidarity Group attempted to stop the event going ahead by repeatedly banging on the windows of the lecture theatre and storming the venue. As a result, a female security guard and a representative of University security were both shoved; with one being kicked in the back by a protestor. Most seriously, a Jewish student has recently complained to the University of Leeds that they heard chants of “throw the Jews into the sea” outside the lecture theatre. Of course, the Palestinian society vigorously denies this claim. Leeds PSG’s behavior that night has resulted in the society being banned by the student union from booking rooms for the foreseeable future.

On the back of this, Leeds University Union recently held their annual sabbatical elections. As a result of hard work and excellent campaigns, four Jewish students were elected to sabbatical positions within the student union. These students were of varying political affiliations, their only common connection their religion. Amid the celebrations in the union bar, a student entered and proceeded to wave a Palestinian flag silently. A protest at the recent room booking ban? Or was there something more sinister at play? It could be merely a coincidence that a Palestinian flag was waved as four Jewish students are elected to office, but having experienced the rhetoric and tactics of Leeds PSG and their comrades for four years, I am not so sure.

These single examples could probably be explained away as merely hard-hitting direct action against the Israeli state. But put into context, there is clearly a worrying pattern of behaviour from Leeds PSG that at best is intimidation of Jewish students, but at worst is outright naked anti-Semitism. I know which one I believe.

228 Responses to “Hard-hitting campaigns or outright anti-Semitism?”

  1. Absolute Observer Says:

    Thanks for this Jak. I can only imagine the atmosphere on campus, and the intimidation felt.

    The UCU has also to take responsibility for encouraging this intimidatory antisemitism on UK campuses. After all many of those pushing the current libels spent the 80’s trying to ban university Jsocs.

    However, at least the NUS has a bit of sense.

    I note also that minor injuries are no longer a rarity.


  2. Anton Forbes Says:

    It feels like it may be a waste of time going over this again and again and again but hey, let me give it a shot.

    Your argument around the definition of the anti-semitism campaign is full of circular logic. “they campaigned against someone defining them anti-semitic, surely that means they’re anti-semitic”. The motion was aimed at equating anti-zionism with anti-semitism – something any critic of Israel would oppose. This is a definition I oppose personally both as an activist, a human being and someone with a long jewish heritage who does not with to see his roots equated with any state, particularly one with a record like Israel’s. How an image of an orthodox jew with an anti-israel sign is anti-semitic I don’t comprehend, especially when such campaigns actually exist: http://artintifada.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/psmneturi1.jpg

    Regarding the Ismael Khaldi argument, without engaging in a debate about the right way to treat an official representative of a state that engages in war crimes, the charges of racist chants are bullshit and we both know it. I’m not going to sink in a “didn’t – did to” argument with you about this but i’ll say that the use of such an allegation of anti-semitism that you know is a lie to further a political point is disgusting. I’d stand side by side with you against anyone who actually shouts such words at you, because I hate such prejudice deeply and had a large part of my life made very painful by it. But invoking the outrage of anti-semitism at a convenient point to further politics is just as disgusting – it cheapens the pain of those of us who have faced or continue to face this on a daily basis and shows very well the cynicism you and some other defenders of Israel have when it comes to this.

  3. MZ Says:


    ‘Free Palestine from the river to the sea’ is very very very different from “throw the Jews into the sea”.

    I can understand the purpose of this article, if it was written only to excel a certain agenda, a dubious political one. However, if the author truly believes such fixations of reality, as it is represented in this article, then i am seriously concerned over his mental well-being.

    Linguistically there is a huge difference between being anti-zionist and anti-semitic, and as long as you continue to fail to see the difference between the two then you will continue your blind support to Israel.

    The membership pool of PSG includes people of different perspectives – right to left, all religious faiths, etc… yet all are united in such a society to empower human rights.

    Come, at least as an observer, to one of the meetings – oh never mind, it is a banned society (for reasons that were not supported and eventually dropped).

    PS (allegations over anti-Semitic chants were dropped as there was no proof – there was at least 30 people in the JSOC event and maybe another 30 people in the protest outside, as well as at least 8 security personals – if allegations were not supported with such a big number of people, one could only belive that they were only framed [for very specific reasons – disrupting Israeli Apartheid Week?] )

  4. Von O Says:

    I’ll have to agree with Anton and MZ,

    Jak you seem to insinuate various of instances anti-semitism without backing it up. Also, your post tends to ignore the intimidating behavior that Palestinian students have been subjected to by members of Jsocs for instance, A student showing a Palestinian an IDF before telling her Palestinians don’t exist and stubbing a cigarette out on her forearm.

    In another incident, a Palestinian student was told that Palestinians “are dirty little people, who will always be refugees”. Jak focus on non existing incidents to try to discredit human rights supporters and ignores actual racism.

    It is certainly not a coincidence that the people criticizing Israeli Apartheid are some of the most prominent anti-racism campaigners on campus.

    Maybe Jak should try adopting a more objective and realistic view of the Israeli Government’s racist and destructive policies and initiatives.


  5. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Oh, god, here we go again: anti-zionism doesn’t necessarily equal antisemitism. Yes, we know that here, but it doesn’t mean that it _can’t_ under any circumstances equal antisemitism. Absolutist statements are always suspect.

    Then there’s Anton Forbes assertion that, for him, “a human being and someone with a long jewish heritage who does not with to see his roots equated with any state, particularly one with a record like Israel’s.” The obvious question is why not? The answer, of course, comes with the following: “Regarding the Ismael Khaldi argument, without engaging in a debate about the right way to treat an official representative of a state that engages in war crimes, the charges of racist chants are bullshit and we both know it.” Okay, what war crimes? May we have some evidence, please, or is that too much to ask? Must we, yet again, put up with evidenceless assertion? Must we, but only if it’s Israel and Jews, expect a sovereign state to put up with constant physical threats to its population and territorial integrity, and do nothing? Must we ignore the war crimes committed by Hamas and Hezbollah – or is that alright, because they are victims of the nasty Israelis? It’s okay, is it, for Hamas and Hezbollah to use civilians as human shields, to use mosques, schools and UN buildings as sites for the deployment of rockets, etc? To shell, indiscriminately, towns in Israel – because all Israelis are the enemy?

    To blame only Israel is far from being “just” or “only” anti-Zionist; it _is_ per se (despite UCU disclaimers) antisemitic. If you don’t believe this, ask Denis MacShane, MP, ask John Mann MP, read the EU definiton and discussion of antisemitism, read the Report of the Parliamentary All-Party Committee on Antisemitism. Then come back and tell us, by implication, that only Israel commits war crimes, if, hand on heart, you can.

    Then Anton Forbes tells us “How an image of an orthodox jew with an anti-israel sign is anti-semitic I don’t comprehend”. Well, in that case, he’s led a very sheltered life. He’s clearly never heard of Natura Karta, a collection of ultra-orthodox Jews who reject the state of Israel and, indeed, go further than that. All he has to do is look out the information of the Iranian anti-Holocaust conference of last year.

    “The motion was aimed at equating anti-zionism with anti-semitism – something any critic of Israel would oppose.” No they wouldn’t: I’m a critic of much Israeli government policy and I don’t oppose this, in principle. It depends what the anti-Zionist is trying to achieve. Often, the motive (intentionally or otherwise) _is_ antisemitic – search this site for references to The Livingstone Formulation.

    Then we have this from MZ: “‘Free Palestine from the river to the sea’ is very very very different from “throw the Jews into the sea”. Is it? How? The first demands that Israel cease to exist – and for once, I’m not going to remind know-nothings why Israel exists and in the form that it does: they can do the reading for themselves (some hope) – so what happens to the Israeli Jews who live there? Do we go for another Holocaust? Where, if they don’t want to live under an Islamic (or would it be and Islamist) state, would they go? And the second calls, in an undisguised manner, for the physical destruction of at least 6 million Jews.

    And these are really so very apart? It’s MZ who needs the lesson in linguistics, not Jak.

  6. Absolute Observer Says:

    “that the use of such an allegation of anti-semitism that you know is a lie”

    “I can understand the purpose of this article, if it was written only to excel a certain agenda, a dubious political one”

    So, Jak doen’t misunderstand the issue; he is purposely lying; he knows that he is lying! So, conclusion, never trust a “Zionist” who brings mentions contemporary antisemitism.

    “But invoking the outrage of anti-semitism at a convenient point to further politics is just as disgusting”
    “Jak focus on non existing incidents to try to discredit human rights supporters and ignores actual racism.”

    So, when “Zionists” raise antisemitism it is nothing but a cynical ploy to defend Israel from criticism. Need not go any further than this for an example of “actual” racism.

    “This is a definition I oppose personally both as an activist, a human being and someone with a long jewish heritage who does not with to see his roots equated with any state, particularly one with a record like Israel’s”
    Unlike Anton Forbes, Jak has no right to be identified as a “human being”.

    And these people think they have something serious to say about antisemitism.

    (Roots schmoots) AF really needs to tell his friends and himsled that collective responsibilty is a manifestation of antisemitism. C- on that one.

    Tip no.1
    Avoid using antisemitism to challenge an allegation of antisemitism. You simply end up looking foolish.

  7. Derrida Says:

    “Linguistically there is a huge difference between being anti-zionist and anti-semitic, ”

    Oh dear! Is this is what all my work has come to.

  8. Thomas Venner Says:

    Messing about with the English language isn’t a particularly good defence. Also, it’s a particularly unpleasant and cynical ploy to try and make out that criticism of Israel and anti-Zionism are the same thing. They are not. Zionists criticise Israel constantly. If you read this very blog, there are numerous articles strongly criticising Israeli government policy. Personally, I’m proudly pro-Palestinian and extremely critical of the corrupt, power-crazed gangsters who make up the current Israeli government, like any rational person would be, but I also fully support Israel’s right to exist and do not spread lurid and unfounded accusations of “genocide” or “apartheid” (tell me, please, how many senior black MPs, black military officers, black businessmen or black trade union leaders were there in apartheid South Africa?). Trying to equate anti-Zionism with legitimate criticism of Israel in order to try and silence those who oppose anti-Zionism is exactly the sort of malicious, underhand and cowardly trick of which you accuse your opponents.

    Also, your supposedly innocuous calls for “a free Palestine from the river to the sea” are a call for Israel’s destruction as a state, and for its Jewish population to be reduced to a subject minority. Claiming that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitic is nonsense. Anti-Zionism is an intrinsically anti-Semitic ideology, since it centres around the desire to strip the Jewish people of the one, tiny place on earth where they have freedom, self-determination and comparative safety from persecution. Even if you are not calling for the Jews to be thrown into the sea, you are still effectively saying that they should learn their place, give up any aspiration to be in control of their own fate and submit to the will of non-Jews, and that they should be subject to some unspecified form of collective punishment if they do not comply. We are talking here about the most persecuted group of people in history. In every state where Jews are in the minority, they are subject to constant persecution, and have been for over two millennia. In the last few years, the last Jewish communities have been forced out of Yemen, over half the sizeable Jewish population of Venezuela have fled the country and Jews are leaving in their droves from Europe, especially Spain, France and Sweden. Without Israel, where would they go? There is no other safe haven for them.

    And before you try to blame Israel’s actions for the rise in anti-Semitism, remember that this is not applied to any other group – China, for example, does far worse things in occupied Tibet every day than anything Israel has ever done, but Chinese people in this country are not subject to intimidation or assault, their shops are not smashed, their places of worship are not firebombed. After the 9/11 attacks and after the terrorist attacks on London in 2005, there was no widespread rise in anti-Muslim feeling. Any hate crimes committed against Muslims were committed by established racists using the attacks as an excuse. Only Jews are considered legitimate targets for these kinds of “reprisals”.

    As for your insistence that a few Jews support the destruction of Israel (like that Neturei Karta group in the image one of you linked to above, who are also extremely friendly with a selection of Holocaust deniers), that means absolutely nothing. If you tried hard enough, you could find some black people who would happily stand up and support white supremacism. Having some Jews who will support you does not mean that you cannot be anti-Semitic. Remember that Goebbels had a number of Jewish friends too.

    Fortunately, you will not succeed in your ideal aim of making Israel disappear into your “one state solution”. Israel is there to stay, and before long an independent Palestinian state will be as well. There is only minimal support in Palestine for “taking back” Israel. If you observe the friendly relations between the major Trade Unions on both side, you will see that most Israelis and most Palestinians are quite happy to accept each other. The real concern here is not that you will harm Israel – you don’t have the faintest hope of doing that. The real concern is that you will force the Jews out of Britain, and you seem to be well on the way to doing just that. So, congratulations in advance for increasing Israel’s population by a couple of hundred thousand.

  9. James Mendelsohn Says:

    Well said BF & AO. Note also how Leeds PSG use Nazi imagery to “criticise” the Israeli army (and also, it would appear, a Leeds student who took very courageous steps in challenging antisemitism elsewhere)


  10. Thomas Venner Says:

    Sorry, my comment above was aimed at the group of anti-Zionists who posted first, just to clarify.

  11. Absolutely Observer Says:

    Thanks for your comment. I appreciate its late in the day but I can’t quite get what you’re saying in your first paragraph.

    “It’s a particularly unpleasant and cynical ploy to try and make out that criticism of Israel and anti-Zionism are the same thing.”

    My instinct of what I have grasped is that you are fundamentally right. However, could you spell it out for me/us in more detail. I’m not as young as I was!


  12. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    I managed to miss this gem from “Von O”: “Maybe Jak should try adopting a more objective and realistic view of the Israeli Government’s racist and destructive policies and initiatives.” To be specific, what evidence are you prepared to cite in support of this assertion? Where is it from? What sources are you using to make these claims?

    To just drop this nonsense in is to make an antisemitic assertion for any number of reasons. Firstly, it is only Israel you accuse of these offences – without evidence, which would be quite useful here. Do none of Israel’s direct opponents carry out any actions of this nature? Or do you dismiss any evidence cited in support of this as lies – such as the evidence that Hamas used human shields, and mosques and schools to fire on Israel from, or the acknowledgement by the UN that one of its building had been so used. Is all this, as witnessed by non-Israelis, just to be dismissed and only Israel put in the dock? If so, then Von O is being antisemitic.

    You’re certainly not being either ironic or presenting evidence. And no, repeated assertion is not evidence, it’s just repeated assertion.

  13. Thomas Venner Says:

    AO: “My instinct of what I have grasped is that you are fundamentally right. However, could you spell it out for me/us in more detail. I’m not as young as I was!”

    I was just pointing out the fact that the anti-Zionists above were attempting to confer legitimacy on their ideology by trying to deceive people into believing that anti-Zionism and legitimate criticism of Israel are one and the same when they are in fact completely different things. Legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies, military actions etc., based on facts, is not in any way anti-Zionist, because it does not attempt to undermine Israel’s right to exist. Anti-Zionism is not in any way the same as criticism, as it is a specific ideology based around the belief that Israel, the only place in the world where Jews have self-determination and relative safety from persecution, should not exist, and which is committed to its destruction – it is therefore entirely, unavoidably anti-Semitic.

    Anti-Zionists, however, such as those who posted earlier, attempt to portray this ideology as being simply a form of “criticism”, and also try to give the impression that their form of “criticism” is the only one going on, in order to deceive and manipulate people into viewing their ideology as a legitimate expression of concerns over Israeli government policy rather than what it really is, i.e. a fundamentally anti-Semitic ideology devoted to stripping the Jewish people of their rights to freedom, self-determination and safety from persecution, and also to allow them to smear opponents of anti-Zionism as trying to “silence criticism of Israel”.

  14. Absolutely Observer Says:

    Thank you for the response. I appreciate the point you are making – and am agreement with it.

    I think the point you make that “Anti-Zionists, however, such as those who posted earlier, attempt to portray this ideology as being simply a form of “criticism”, and also try to give the impression that their form of “criticism” is the only one going on……..” is particularly insightful.


  15. Zkharya Says:

    ‘Free Palestine from the river to the sea’ is very very very different from “throw the Jews into the sea”.

    Not for the Jews concerned.

  16. Gwunderi Says:

    “Free Palestine from the river to the sea” is very very very different from “throw the Jews into the sea”.

    I first even thought it was sarcasm. But no, MZ means it seriously … I can’t help him.

    Thanks for your excellent comments, Thomas Venner.
    And for showing what the term “anti-Zionism”, very often used by anti-Semites as an excuse (I’m not against Jews, I’m only against Zionism), really means.

  17. Gil Says:

    I think that what Thomas Venner has said in a couple of posts is worth dozens of similar posts on this topic before now. Thank you for this. It’s also revealing that the anti-Zionists/Semites who posted at the start of the thread have not returned.

  18. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    I agree 100% with everything Jak says. The EUMC Definition says that antizionism is antisemitic and so did Martin Luther King. The Palestine Telegraph is more than “dubious”, it carries rabidly antisemitic content. Patrons: Tonge and Lauren Booth.

    This plan must be enacted:


  19. Thomas P Says:

    Zenner is deluding himself if he truly believes that there was no rise in anti-Muslim feeling post either the terrorist attacks on 9/11 or 7/7. It was widespread, noticeable, and in many local papers, documented. It’s easy to write it off as a few later justifications by existing racists, while failing to account for any of this effect when discussing anti-semitism.

    And yes, for the Jews concerned as well, ‘Freeing’ Palestine is not the same as the Jewish people being drowned en masse. Ludicrous statements such as the above aren’t helping your side, here!

  20. Empress Trudy Says:

    Antizionism IS antisemitism and the racists hurling that term around do t get to decide how the objects of their hatred are entitled or unentitled to feel about it.

  21. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Thomas P says, inter alia, that: “And yes, for the Jews concerned as well, ‘Freeing’ Palestine is not the same as the Jewish people being drowned en masse. Ludicrous statements such as the above aren’t helping your side, here!” Hold on a moment, Thomas P., what was said was “‘Free Palestine from the river to the sea’ is very very very different from “throw the Jews into the sea”. You have either misread what MZ wrote, and what we have been discussing, in which case, please go back and reread and re-comment, or (and it’s a big or) you are deliberately misreporting what was said. Regrettably, I suspect it’s the latter.

    The words _actually_ written demand a Palestine from the river (Jordan) to the (Mediterranean) sea, _not_ a Palestinian state on the West Bank and in Gaza, next to Israel. And all the comments that I, Absolute Observer, Thomas Venner and the rest have been making note that MZ’s first comment is, in fact, linguistically and politically indistinguishable from driving the Israeli Jews into the sea.

    If you disagree, then we are going to have waste the moderators’ time in explaining in excrutiating detail why this is so. Actually, you could save us all, including yourself, a lot of time by just using the “categories” list up on the left hand side of this and every page, just below the calendar, and educate yourself on this topic.

    Of course, it’s entirely possible that you _know_ the statements are indistinguishable from one another and are hoping that we won’t notice and award you a cheap victory. Fat chance.

    By the way, what is our “side”? Are you assuming that we are Israelis? That we are all Jews? I can only speak for myself, but I know that the first isn’t the case, and I’m as sure as can be that neither is the second. “Our side” is that Israel has a right to exist and exist in peace and security, as does a Palestinian state as noted above, just like every other sovereign state, and, given that, many of us “Engageniks” are highly critical of many aspects of Israeli government policy and practice. But then we’d probably say the same about our own governments’. I know I do. How about you, Thomas P? Where do you put yourself? Or are you going to either disappear back into cyber space or splutter incoherently about anti-Zionism?

    Go on, we’re waiting.

  22. Absolute Observer Says:

    “Zenner is deluding himself if he truly believes that there was no rise in anti-Muslim feeling post either the terrorist attacks on 9/11 or 7/7. It was widespread, noticeable, and in many local papers, documented. It’s easy to write it off as a few later justifications by existing racists, while failing to account for any of this effect when discussing anti-semitism. ”

    No idea who Zenner is; but, of course, Islamophobia increased after 9/11 and 7/7. Islamaphobia is an increasing problem and must be opposed. Not sure anyone on Engage would disagree on that point.

    Unfortunately, Thomas P seems to think that if one accepts the existence of Islamophobia then one cannot accept the existence of antisemitism. He seems to think that if one talks about antisemitism and not Islamophobia that was is guillty of a sin of omission. One can assume also, therefore, that if one brings up the reality of Islamophobia without mentioniing antisemitism, a similar sin is committed.

    But, of course, Thomas P is incapable of such an understanding. Thoomas P thinks that claims of the reality of Islamophobia and Antisemitism are in opposition to one another. Thomas P has no idea about racism, Islamophobia or Antisemitism.

    That Thomas P can only think in terms of facile oppositions is evidenced clearly in his last comment,

    “Ludicrous statements such as the above aren’t helping your side, here!”.

    One can only wonder what “side” he is referring to.

    Judging from the previous statements, the very narrow Thomas P thinks that those with whom he disagrees think exactly as he does, but simply change “Israel” for Palestinians” or “Antisemitism” for “Islamophobia”.

    Basically, he is arguing with his own imaginings. Not the first to do so, of course.

  23. NIMN Says:

    One wonders whether Thomas P went around claiming that the cause for the increased Islamophobia was the actions of a (few) Muslims and, therefore, the Muslims brought it on themselves. Alternatively, did he go around and claim that Muslims expression of fears and anxieties at the hostility and hatred shown toward them was really a clever “ruse” to silence criticsm of Muslim coutries.

    Or, did Thomas P do what he should do in those instances,
    1. Refuse to blame the victims of racism for the abuse they suffer,
    2. Refuse to take seriously the claim made by Islamophobes that no only there is no such thing as Islamophobia, but also to reject the Islamphobic claim that Muslims manipulate the truth for their own “political agenda”.

    If he did neither of these things, one wonders why he hasn’t challeged the comments above that say exactly the same things about Jews?

    Maybe it is because he really does think Jews make up the claims of antisemitism to silence others, or that, Jews bring antisemitism onto themselves.

    One can only wonder.

  24. Saul Says:

    Lest it pass without mention, and as way of recalling the universal dimension of what we are all fighting for,

    Happy International Women’s Day to all.

  25. Zkharya Says:

    ‘And yes, for the Jews concerned as well, ‘Freeing’ Palestine is not the same as the Jewish people being drowned en masse.’

    a) the original line was ‘Free Palestine from the river to the sea’ is very very very different from “throw the Jews into the sea” i.e. the latter need not mean ‘drowning’, as in the cry of the 1936 Palestinian rebels ‘The English to the Sea, the Jews to the grave’, just expulsion, effective or otherwise,

    b) have you actually asked the Jews concerned?

    c) the 1968 PLO charter only allowed Jews ‘normally resident’ in Palestine before 1917 to become Palestinian citizens i.e. it contemplated the expulsion of most of the rest, and

    d) every Jewish minority community within an Arab majority has been destroyed or all but destroyed in the 20th century, consequently

    e) why should the Jews concerned pay any mind to the assurances of studiedly ignorant western orientalists such as yourself, who whitewash the historical actions, threats and intentions of Palestinian and other Arab Muslims and Christians towards Palestinian, Israeli and other Jews, in a vain attempt to persuade them to fulfil your political agenda?

  26. Zkharya Says:

    ‘‘And yes, for the Jews concerned as well, ‘Freeing’ Palestine is not the same as the Jewish people being drowned en masse.’

    i.e. it only contemplates ‘the Jews concerned’ i.e. Israeli Jews ‘being drowned’, not ‘the Jewish people being drowned en masse’?

    And this helps your case, how?

  27. Philip Says:

    It looks like a case of people taking student politics a bit too seriously. Perhaps they should focus their efforts on doing better in their exams, rather than international politics?

    But in any case, I think there’s a distinct lack of empathy on both sides, which is a pity because it’s a very worthwhile characteristic. Take the statement, ‘free Palestine from the river to the sea’. I can see why Israelis find this threatening. I can also see that for Palestinians it simply represents a sense of loss at their disposession and what they see as a legitimate desire for national self-determination.

    But in the above discussion, it seems that neither side is able to take off their blinkers and see things from the other side’s persepctive. And that’s a recipe for an unproductive argument. Hence the slightly ridiculous name-calling above.

    • Zkharya Says:

      ‘I can also see that for Palestinians it simply represents a sense of loss at their disposession and what they see as a legitimate desire for national self-determination.’

      Except that this is by and large chanted by British cultural Christians as much as Muslims, frequently of no Palestinian or even middle eastern ancestry whatsoever.

      Except that dispossessing Palestinian Jews is what Palestinian Muslims and Christians were about from at least the 1930s. Never mind that they had regarded Jews as a people dispossessed to the respective humililation of Jews and the exaltation of Palestinian Christians and Muslims for most of Palestinian Christian and Islamic history, having kept them in a state of apartheid for most of the intervening period.

      Doubtless Palestinian Christians and Muslims felt this was what mere justice demanded, too.

      • Philip Says:

        Ok, so let’s agree that when some people utter this statement they are being racist. Or belicose. Or something similar.

        What I was saying is that it doesn’t *necessarily* have those overtones.

        I’m not sure what the point of your other comments are. There are lots of issues in the Middle East. It’s not a one-sided story. Jews have been harmed, too. All these things have to be taken into account. But that doesn’t take away from the wrong done to Palestinians. It doesn’t make them less than human.

        Do you agree that Palestinians were wronged? (I’m just trying to see where it is we disagree fundamentally, if indeed we do.)

        • Zkharya Says:

          Hi Phil, thanks for your reply, and I respect your tenacity in responding to all your critics.

          It may well be that most people, particularly Anglo-cultural Christians, are just joining the refrain in ignorance or thoughtlessness. I’m not sure that practically makes a difference. Many are doing so with a thought to ideological eliminationism that is, practically, little different to elimination of the heads wherein said objectionable ideology lies.

          In In search of Fatimah, Ghada Karmi talks of her associations with the PLO in the ’70s, where ‘revolution’ was used as a euphemism for doing for Israeli Jews: their fate was always elided, but there was no doubt in the conspiracy of silence between speaker and listener that it augured something bad and vengeful. The fact remains that, one way or another, ‘free from river to sea’ means, largely, ‘free of or from Jews’. The origin of the term is more in the former sentiment. And given the tenor of Palestinian nationalism for the last 100 years, and the fate of almost every middle eastern Jewish community, I’m not sure there is a practical difference with the latter.

          As for wrong doing: Palestinian Muslims and Christians have been ‘Jews’ for the last 60 years or so, even as Jews have been ‘Palestinians’ for the last 2000 years or so. Solution: two states for two peoples, with two rights of return etc.

        • Philip Says:

          I confess I don’t feel comfortable debating you in specifics here. However, I think we probably mostly agree. I will certainly look into what you say about how the term is used.

          My main concern is that we somehow delegitimise the Palestinian claim to all of historical Palestine, which to me is what that statement is about. I don’t think it’s an illegitimate claim. Let me be clear, I don’t believe that it’s a practical solution, and I don’t believe that Israel should be expunged. But it was their land, it was taken away, they likely can’t have it back, but let’s make a gesture in their direction. I don’t know what the solution is. My feeling is that it’s two proper states, but that’s for the relevant parties to negotiate under fair conditions. Not for me to decide.

          I concede that many people who speak up for Palestinians don’t help their cause. Which is a great pity.

        • Zkharya Says:

          ‘Do you agree that Palestinians were wronged? (I’m just trying to see where it is we disagree fundamentally, if indeed we do.)’

          They were partly ethnically cleansed, sure. They, their leaders or allies threatened the same against Palestinian Jews, or worse.

          Same as in the civil wars that birthed other states, except there it was often worse.

    • Zkharya Says:

      ‘it seems that neither side is able to take off their blinkers and see things from the other side’s persepctive’

      Except Leeds J or Israel Soc hasn’t been banned, while PSC has. Precisely because the former can compromise and empathise with the other, while the latter can’t.

  28. Rebecca Says:

    What, Philip, do you think that “Free Palestine from the River to the Sea” would actually mean to the Jews living in Israel if it were implemented? Don’t just drop in with your above-it-all concern – think about the consequences to the people who are actually living in Israel. If it is “Palestine” and not “Israel,” what happens to the six million Jews living there? Do you seriously think that a Palestinian government will let them continue to live peacefully in Palestine? And if that government doesn’t let them, where do you think they can go? Somehow I don’t think the “civilized” west will be any more willing to let refugee Jews in than they were in the past.

  29. Philip Says:

    Dear Rebecca, I believe what I said was that I can understand why Israelis would see the statement as being threatening. So I quite agree with you. All I was asking you to do was to see the other side concurrently. Unless you can empathise with those who disagree with you, or who see things from a different point of view, you won’t find a solution to the problem.

    So for Palestinians, that statement is one born of their dispossession. Not one necessarily born out of murderous intentions.

  30. Alan Says:

    I don’t know if Philip is old enough to remember what the leader of the PLO said, in front of the world’s press, the last time it looked as though a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” could soon be created, in early June 1967. He said that the surviving Jews would be helped to return to their countries of origin, but that his estimate was that none would survive.

  31. Bill Says:

    “Not one necessarily born out of murderous intentions.”

    Sorry, that’s bunk. It’s stirred up by antisemites and those who want to rule not just the Jews but anyone onto whom their jackboots land — and their willing suckers.

    “River to the sea” is not something you hear from honest people. R-t-S is perpetuated by those who believe that the Jew has no right to self-soverengnty in the middle east. And too often, it’s also shared by those who believe that Jews should be removed from any partnership in governance (self or community) anywhere you may find them. You don’t hear it from the moderates. You hear it from people who want Jews anywhere to ask permission to be Jews from the larger population wherever they may live. The people who go on about River to the Sea, likewise, believe the crap about the global Zionist kosher conspiracy and the rest of the bull hockey.

    If it’s about any dispossession, it’s about continuing to dispossess the Jews. There is room for two states. Israel knows it and have accepted it as a majority. The people in the PNA who are serious their own future know that without Israel as a partner, they’ll be yet another failed state. The R-t-Sers just want the region to burn, just to stick it to the Jews and too often to exploit the palestinians (either directly as the thugs in charge or those in on the game, or those who take credibility in being seen caring more about “The Other” than anyone else).

    As for empathizing, I’m ready and willing to empathize with honest two-staters. Heck, they already have more than my empathy, they have my support. On the other hand, River-to-sea’ers — the One-staters (arguably they’re “no-staters,” since those planning to deliver a single state are also too willing to be a boot on the face of their own “subjects,” Jewish or otherwise) — get no empathy from me nor do they deserve it. I file them with sociopaths, con-artists, and serial killers.

    But I WILL agree with one thing. The pampered fartlings should be spending more time with Calc 2 (and their own university affairs) and not with protests supporting regimes underwhich they’d never want to live in a million years.

  32. Philip Says:

    Alan, I’m not really sure where your contribution gets us. Something more constructive would be more helpful.

    Bill, I can see where you’re coming from. You’re right that a one state solution is not practiable (though that doesn’t mean it’s not just, mind) and that a two-state solution is about the only solution we’ll get (though we’re quite far away from that point right now).

    But put yourself in Palestinian shoes. Your parents or grandparents were kicked out of their homes in the 1940s, you live in a refugee camp or two rooms in the West Bank, and no one has ever recognised that a wrong has been done to you, at least not in a way that matters. It’s not irrational that you will hold on to a view of going back to how things were before. It’s more nostalgic than murderous. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will never compromise. In some ways it’s just a bargaining position.

    So I don’t think for Palestinians it’s a murderous intention. Granted, there might be people out there who do use it as such. There are lot of idiots out there who make silly and inflammatory statements and gestures on both sides. Don’t let them drag down the level of the debate.

    • Zkharya Says:

      ‘So I don’t think for Palestinians it’s a murderous intention’

      You really need to start researching the origins and course of Palestinian nationalism. The roots of RTS is in a nationalist discourse that is, at the very least, alienating or dispossessive, if not eliminationist.

      I grant most of the BDSers don’t know or choose not to know that. Or buy into a narrative were Zionist Jews are absolutely evil colonising-crucifying the Palestinian Muslims and Christian national Christ.

      But, practically speaking, the inciting or promulgating of such hatred would alienating, dispossessive or eliminationist in effect if not intent (and I think the intent often is there, to be read in the sheer monomaniacal hatred, pathological and unreasoning, that often pours off such people).

      Voltaire deprecated any harm to befall or be done to Jews. But he played his part in bringing it about by calling them ‘the most dangerous’ of all peoples.

      The same principle holds true of the BDSers.

      • Philip Says:

        The Palestinians I know and talk to (granted, well-educated ones, usually) do not want to kill Israelis. They just want to live their lives in their country. They have been denied that opportunity by a large number of factors, a major one of which has been intransigence, violence and repression by Israel. It’s not the only one, but it’s a big one. They believe that Israel has to be forced to the negotiating table, because otherwise it will simply stall and stall continuously, and that BDS is one way of doing this.

        So while there might be some who think along the lines you describe above (I expect that some people in Hamas fall under this category), I haven’t met a single one.

  33. Saul Says:

    Unfortunately, Philip seems to take the chant of some nice middle-class people from a civic university in England as the authentic expression of the sense of loss and frustration felt by the majority of Palestinians; and that those who oppose such chants in the UK as lacking empathy.

    Many Palestinians reject the destruction of Israel in the name of a “one-state solution” as both unwanted and impractical and would smile at the naivity of their “supporters” in student union’s across Britian.

    Unfortunately, both the UCU and SU’s refuse to hear those voices, but instead insist that only the most “radical” of positions is the legitimate one.

    Those like the above have their own agenda that has very little to the needs and desires of Palestinians as well as others in the region.

  34. Saul Says:

    And, yes, I empathise completely with the Palestinians. And, because of this empathy, I do not adopt a patronising attitude twoard them that seems to think that, well, they’ve been the subject of a grave injustice, so it is no wonder that they don’t really mean what they say.

    Palestinians are not a homogeneous bloack of people; they are divided along political, economic and social lines. Some call for the expulsion of Jews and/or the destruction of the State of Israel. Some do not. (Obviously this does not exhaust the range of opinions and views). As a matter of respect to the Palestinians, I retain my right to criticise.

  35. David Galant Says:


    I am in the position about which you romanticise. My grandparents and mother were driven out of the Ukraine (then Russia). My father and his parents fled from what is now Poland (then Russia). I never heard a harsh word about either the Poles or the Russians from any of them. Nor did they start insurgencies, let alone mass murder. I have no desire to return to either country.

    Are you perhaps so open minded that you’ve lost your compass? Do you not recognize a cargo cult gone criminal when you see one?

    As for going back to the way things were, I have no desire to have the likes of you hold my fate in their hands. The Jews tried that in Europe (which includes the Anglo-Saxon countries) and you failed miserably. We died, while you all wrung your hands and mumbled insincere mea culpas. How have you changed since then? Not at all!

    Forgetting the events of 1948, there could have been a Palestinian state in virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza as early as 1967. That was refused. Phillip, why was that? (Please don’t answer, the question is rhetorical). The real issue is the so called right of return. I assure you it won’t happen. Why? How many Jews will be allowed to live in a Palestinian state? The answer, if you don’t know, is zero.

  36. Bill Says:

    “and no one has ever recognised that a wrong has been done to you, at least not in a way that matters”

    Replace the Palestinians in Palestine with the Jews throughout the middle east and your argument would be considerably more accurate. No one contemplates a right of return for the scores and scores of jews who were run out on a rail throughout the middle east. You cannot talk about one right of return without acknowledging the absolute 100% lack of reciprocity.

    As Saul points out, there is honest respect for a forward thinking Palestinian cause… And then there’s flat out patronization and dishonesty that the enablers of the one-state/river-to-sea solution are chanting with no thought of the larger implications. You can be patronizing enabling (and very fashionable) and hold their hand and say, “yes we can go back to a Jew-Free Palestine and even have a Jew-Free Middle East” (the stance for which you’re making excuses), or you can file bogus sympathy where it belongs (between the s-word and syphilis) and take the more realistic view of an honestly brokered two-state solution. The latter of course is not going to make you popular in some circles. But pretending to identify with people so they can have the fantasy of a Jew-Free one-state solution helps the palestinians under the charge of Israel, Fatah and Hamas like buying a daily fifth of liquor for an alcoholic instead of the arduous task sobering him up and fighting off his drinking buddies.

  37. Philip Says:

    Saul, thanks for responding. I completely agree that Palestinians are not homogenous and have different views about their futures, individually and together. Some don’t want a state, some are happy to live in Jordan, some want their own state in the whole of historical Palestine, some want a binational state, others want two states. It’s one of the most diverse pluralistic Arab societies, and that’s reflected in their views of the future.

    However, what I’ve noticed about them is a single-mindedness in terms of the injustice and dispossession they have suffered. And I think that’s what that statement was about. I might be wrong, it’s just what I think having spoken to many, and living in the region myself.

    David Gallant, I’m not sure about the relevance of your comment, but let me try to engage anyway. A monumental injustice was done to the Jews in the 1930s and 1940s. That must be recognised by all. By the same token, a different injustice was done to the Palestinians in 1948. That too has to be recognised. If you don’t recognise both, then you won’t solve the problem.

  38. Philip Says:

    Oh, and David, I’ve done lots of things I shouldn’t have done in my life, but I don’t think you can pin the Holocaust on me. So I’d rather you didn’t make sweeping statements like that one if you don’t mind.

  39. David Galant Says:


    How coy — and narcissistic. I wouldn’t lay the blame on you (individually) any more than I would blame the Holocaust on any single individual. In fact I honestly doubt you would participate actively in any future genocide of anyone, or even advocate such. After all, you, Philip, appear as a fence sitter, an individual of words, not deeds. What I said, as you well understand, is that you (plural, implied Europeans which includes the Anglo-Saxon countries) did nothing to stop it.

    “you” is perfectly good English second person plural. The clue I included and which you obviously missed was the gratuitous “all”.

    • Philip Says:

      I was giving you the benefit of the doubt. However, if what you mean is a plural slur against all Europeans, then what you’re saying is bordering on racist.

  40. Gil Says:

    Philip, you talk about ‘single-mindedness in terms of the injustice and dispossession they [Palestinians] have suffered.
    However, does this mean that these feelings and emotions should not be reflected upon and examined carefully? Does the fact that a group talks in one voice mean that they are all inherently right and that no other view is legitimate? That the end justifies the means?

    Can those Palestinians not discuss issues such as the Palestinian rejection of the 47 partition plan, a rejection which is the begetter of their sorrows, or the Mufti’s alliance with Hitler and the continuation of murderous antisemitism in Arab countries?

    You write about not taking literally the statements of murderous intent of some Palestinians and you try to wash it away. Well, the suicide bomb culture is proof that you are uterly wrong.

    Strange, how it is only expected of the Jews that they should turn the clocks back because the rest of the world is inconvenienced. Well, tough.

    David Galant: Well said.

  41. Philip Says:

    Gil, I am not saying that feelings should not be examined and reflecte upon. All I’m saying is that you have to try to see things from the other side as well. Put yourself in their shoes. They should do the same and put themselves into the shoes of the Israelis. I’m not saying Palestine = good; Israel = bad. Nor am I arguing for turning back the clock. I’m saying that there’s a grievance. You need to understand it (even if you don’t agree with it). If you don’t understand it, you won’t solve the problem. Without understanding I fear that a peace deal will never be reached

    • Gil Says:

      Philip, I’ve read your post addressed to me carefully.

      Why should the debate be framed in terms of lack of empathy for the Palestinians. Who says I/we don’t have empathy for them? The topic of this post is antisemitism in the guise of criticism of Israel. If I may say so, Engage is not a mouthpiece for the Israeli government but serves to educate about antisemitism.

      I am capable of holding the following two views concurrently: I believe that the anti-Zionist discourse is riddled with antisemitism and also that Israel has not acted equitably towards the Palestinians, in particular since 1967, not to mention incidents that happened in 1947-8. Only a fool or a propagandist would deny these incidents.

      I have yet to see the same self-reflection or analysis amongst Israel’s detractors and Arabs in general: 1. That the Palestinians have contributed in a major way to their misfortunes 2. That what passes for discourse on the topic in Arab countries is riddled with antisemitism; 3. That the Palestinians have been let down by their bretheren who are using them as a stick with which to beat the Israelis.

      • Philip Says:

        Gil, thanks for a really insightful comment. I wasn’t saying anyone in particular doesn’t empathise with the Palestinians – more that that was the theme in the discussion on this post.

        I agree with your three points. I don’t think that takes away from the need on the Israeli side to do what is just, but you’re right that the other side, more so the Arab states than the Palestinian leaders themselves, needs to sort its house out.

    • Bill Says:

      That there are grievances are both obvious and (yes!) irrelevant. Everyone who’s tried to stick it to someone or stick it back to someone has had a grievance. What is relevant is the legitimacy of it, its pursuit, and the undeniable fact that this particular grievance has been manipulated and enabled for years and years by people outside of the conflict for their own selfish reasons (ranging from good old fashioned antisemitism, good old fashioned malignant exploitative psudoaltruism, and the lust for power over the palestinian refuge block). The R-t-S meme has been perpetuated almost exclusively by all three of these — not by people wanting a solution but the Jew (and for that matter the Palestinians, under their thumb). It’s founded on a premise of murder (how can you claim otherwise, unless you think Jews float or have gills?) and of course exploitation of “the cause”, not liberation, not support, not “solidarity.”

      Asking me to see “both sides” is like asking me to see the Manson Family’s side of the Tate and LaBianca murders, I believe they also had grievances. So did the Europeans against the Jews. Should we see both sides of those cases? No. And similarly I have no interest in seeing “both sides” of the river to the sea argument or that of their apologists. To do so is to stab Palestinians (and yes, Israelis) who are swimming up hill to seek a realistic forward-thinking solution squarely in the back. And I think deep down you bloody well know that. The question is, is that what you want? And if so, why do you insist that we do. And more importantly, why do you keep asking that of yourself?

      • Bill Says:

        Gah.. that last set should read

        ” And I think deep down you bloody well know that. The question is, is that what you want? And if not, why do you insist that we do. And more importantly, why do you keep asking that of yourself?”

      • Philip Says:

        Bill, let’s agree that there anti-semites in the world, and that they sometimes adopt the stance of defending the Palestinians, and take a very one-seide approach to this issue. They should obviously be condemned. There are also anti-Arab people who do the opposite. They too should be condemned.

        On the subject of grievances, I think you’re both right and wrong. Just because someone is annoyed about something doesn’t mean we should bow to their whim. However, legitimate grievances do exist. That’s why understanding, seeing where the other side is coming from is important. Because it lets us identify the legitmate grievances.

        So many Palestinians had their land stolen in 47/8. They want justice for that. I don’t think it’s unreasonable. The question of what remedy is practical and just, well, that’s a difficult question. It probably can’t mean that they can return to their homes. BUt something has to be done about it. And I think this is the only forward-thinking solution. To acknowledge the injustice and to do something about it. In the same way that the injustice to Jews of the 1930s and 1940s had to be dealth with, however imperfectly.

        My view is that if Israelis want a peace deal with Palestinians, rather than demanding that they drop their claim to all of historical Palestine as a pre-condition, this is a subject that must be part of negotiations. A grievance to be acknowledged and dealt with.

  42. Philip Says:

    Bill, Saul, thanks for your comments.

    I’m not saying that a one-state solution, one with a Palestinian majority is the solution. I am deliberately being agnostic about the issue fo a solution: that is for Palestinians and Israelis to decide ultimately.

    Now, there are a lot of idiots on both sides who claim to speak for Israelis, speak for Jews, speak for Palestinians, speak for Muslims, etc. They all sometimes make ridiculous comments, sometimes racist ones.

    What I’m trying to argue is that at some point a political settlement needs to happen. That means taking where we are as the starting point. But it also means understanding the underlying grievances. I humbly suggest that these are the wrong done to the Jews in the 1930s and 1940s, and the wrong done to the Palestinians after the Second World War. Understanding these grievances and understanding where the other side is coming from will allow those grievances to be dealt with. Not met in full, but dealt with, made up for.

    Now it might be inconvenient that Palestinians think that their land was stolen. But that is what happened. That doesn’t mean we go back to 1900 and abolish Israel. What it means is that we recognise the grievance and make gestures (perhaps compensating refugees, anyone?) in order to try to make amends.

    What do you think?

    • Gil Says:

      Philip, of course we can agree about compensation for refugees – Jews and Arabs. But no Palestinian leader will survive if he/she puts their signature to such a document. Come on! You know that very well.

      The Palestinians may claim that ‘their land’ was stolen but the premise begs the question: How much was ‘stolen’? What about the land stolen from the Jews and given to TransJordan by the British?

      Regarding ‘gestures’: Sharon (whom I loathed and demonstrated against in my past) withdrew from Gaza and got a Hamas terror state in return. What will it take for you to take off your blinkers?

      • Gil Says:

        I apologise for the last sentence in my comment above to Philip.

      • Philip Says:

        When I talk about land being stolen, I don’t mean in a corporate or national sense. Individual people had their land stolen. A few sold up, but most were dispossessed. So if an individual Jew or Jewish family had their land stolen, then they too deserve compensation. I don’t think the partition and establishment of TransJordan per se qualifies for this. It’s where people were forced out of their homes and off their land.

        Hamas are a nasty group, I make no apologies for them. But as James Baker has argued, I think isolating them was a big mistake. They have to be negotiated with, however unpleasant. In my opinion, that is.

  43. Saul Says:

    “However, what I’ve noticed about them is a single-mindedness in terms of the injustice and dispossession they have suffered. And I think that’s what that statement was about. I might be wrong, it’s just what I think having spoken to many, and living in the region myself.”

    Agreed on the question of “signle-mindedness”.
    However, the statement you referred to was not, in this context, made by Palestinians, but by some irate students, “protesting” at the presence of an Israeli at a UK university campus.

    So, whilst I agree with you 100% about dialogue and empathy (I thiink Said discusses this point) – both in the UK and in Israel and the OT (and elsewhere), I think your comments are better directed at posters such as AF, TO, etc. who seem to think the mere presence of an Israeli person – in either a personal or official capacity – is “a call to arms” and a call to exclusion.


    • Bill Says:

      In expanding on what Saul said:

      “who seem to think the mere presence of an Israeli person – in either a personal or official capacity – is “a call to arms” and a call to exclusion..”

      I’d scratch “Israeli” and go so far as to say “Jew” (speaking as a heathen, btw). Phil, you mentioned being an “agnostic” in this. The BDS campaign and the “river to the sea-ers”does not believe in agnosticism, for themselves, for you or me, and especially for Jews. They have “globalized Zionism.” Some of them have made a very clear point that Jews anywhere must show their “anti-occupational” bonafides before being “accepted.” At my last zipcode I witness someone who wasn’t critizing Israel enough “stripped” of their european identify and labeled a jew. Jewish academics in the UCU who are “agnostic” (read: more interested in the UCU being a negotiating unit and not a fashionable wing of the SWP) have been the object of a hostile working environment within the union (it’s all been covered in detail on this site).

      In short, some of us can’t afford or are permitted by the BDSers to be agnostic on the issue.

      • Philip Says:

        Yeah, so we have to confront racists, too. And also some people who are naive enough to get invoveld with groups not realising them to be racist.

        Actually, I don’t believe the BDS is aimed at achieving a one state solution. My understanding is that they want to use economic means to force Israel to the negotiating table, because they think Israel hasn’t ever really sat down and negotiated a peace solution. Now they might be wrong in that analysis, or they might be right. That’s what we have discussions for. But I don’t think they advocate (at least the broad majority don’t) a one-state solution, or booting the Israelis out of the Middle East.

        • Bill Says:

          The BSDers as a block, esp in the UCU activist clique, have rarely articulated such clear terminal objectives like Israelis coming to the table or such as a means to end the BDS campaign. It’s one of the biggest “procedural” criticisms the boycotteers get here and it’s in contrast to the SA boycott movement. They don’t say “what will be required from Israel to stop sanctions etc.” There’s little point to give the BDS movement functional credibility if they can’t decide amongst themselves nor articulate to the rest of us what they want (aside from more unilateral concessions tomorrow). If anything, any conditions are a line in the sand that, given everything else they way with the BDS, would simply be a weak start: a means to leverage more concessions against Jews and only Jews. It’s lean lean lean, delegitimize delegitimize delegitimize, and for local faculty, harass harass harass (or from “their side,” self-select self-select self-select – note that I literally gave it the old college try and it just isn’t working). To some extent it demonstrates the fringe nature of the BDSers compared to realpolitik. While realists would say to go back to negotiated “secure and defendable” borders or 67 borders, BDSers insist on a dishonestly one-sided right of return. The first is grudgingly realistic given the current facts on the ground but BDSers reject that one outright, the middle is marginally negotiable, the last is a backdoor single Jew-free. The mean and median borders for the BDSers when you hand them the map and a pencil are between 1967 borders or if you will, the 135 CE borders.

        • Philip Says:

          Well, I can’t speak too much about the UCU movement. I have no involvement with them. However, I have about as much respect for trades unions as I do for student politics, ie, very little.

          On BDS, their website is very clear about their conditions, as are several activists. They have three conditions, which you can read about at the following links:



  44. David Galant Says:


    No, it borders on a truth that you are incapable of absorbing. Europeans are as capable of vile behavior as anyone and have been in the past. Europe is no more tolerant of the other than it was 100 years ago. Its nations have learned that they can no longer war against each other. But the people remain the same. Bigots and saints abound in equal small numbers, the great majority of people are neutral.

    Terence famously wrote that nothing that was human was alien to him. I try to follow him in that. But that does not mean that I celebrate vile behavior. I accept humanity one individual at a time. I judge people by what they do and say.
    That is how I have tried to confront you. You, on the other hand, have gone out of your way to appear offended. May I suggest that you are projecting. I am not offended by you, particularly, or by what you have said. I am just disappointed that in this world, there are people who are obtuse as you appear or pretend to be.

    • Philip Says:

      You made a sweeping generalisation about Europeans.

      I don’t care what accusations you make against me. I have a thick skin. Fire away. And I know that in each person there is good and bad. I even admitted it in my own case.

      However, whenever you make broad ‘you’ statements (viz. You Europeans, You Blacks, You Jews) it divides the world into us and them. Many people consider it to be racist. I would be careful. Especially on a site that is committed to a strict anti-racism policy.

  45. Saul Says:

    “Now it might be inconvenient that Palestinians think that their land was stolen. But that is what happened. ”

    Actually, objectively, that is not what happened. Israel’s birth was legally and politically legitimate. And, as such, is as much “stolen” as any other nation-state. But, of course, of the over 200 states, only the birth of Israel is presented and “remembered” is such delegitimising terms.
    I really had expected better from what you had said before.

    Empathy is, as you say, vital. So too is a respect for the reality of history and not its mythologisation. The one is intimately connected to the other.

    • Philip Says:

      I’m not trying to de-legitimise Israel. I know that many states were founded in nasty ways.

      But the fact is that Palestinians were driven from their homes, as Gil notes above. Many states have recognised the way in which they were founded was nasty and have compensated their victims. Hence the United States has given native Americans speacial legal status, land and welfare in an attempt to right a past wrong.

      All I’m saying is that Israel should do the same. Legal or not (and we probably disagree about that) things are as they are. The question is where do we go from here? Not how can we go back to how things were?

      • Gil Says:

        Philip, I’ve looked at my comments again and I cannot see where I am supposed to have said that ‘Palestinian were driven from their homes’. However, you got my broad sentiment right – but only partially. The majority of the Arabs in the Yishuv were told by their leaders to run away so as not to interfere with the progress of the Arab armies who, they were promised, would drive the Jews into the sea.

        The Jewish establishment in Haifa, for example, pleaded with the Arabs there NOT to leave. Many didn’t listen and left. They are the authors of their own misfortune. The Arabs that remain live in harmony with their Jewish neighbours.

        Why don’t the elements of the Left who are subject of this debate acknowledge this? Why the wilful refusal to read the history books? The primary sources?

        Why does the history of atrocities for the Left begin with Dir Yassin yet leave out the massacre of Jews in Hebron in 1929, the convoy of doctors and nurses to Mt. Scopus and countless others?

        Observing the utter cynicism of the Left which is flirting dangerously with antisemitism we should say to the Left: Show Zionists that they can trust you. Prove to them your bona fides; that you are sincere when you say that a two state solution is the end of the matter and we won’t have further clamours for Israel a la Czechoslvakia to make more and more concessions.

        • Philip Says:

          I took your comment about the Israeli government acting inequitably towards Palestinians in 1947/48 and various other hints to indicate broad agreement. Apologies if that was a mistake.

          I can’t peak for the ‘Left’ since I come from the right, personally, but I think you’re right that the historical narrative is open to abuse. People like Avi Shlaim are at pains to point this out and try to bring an evidential base to history of the conflict.

          Hmmm…I’m not sure it’s fair to say that the Arab Israelis live in harmony with their Jewish neighbours. I’m willing to have my mind changed, but most reports I read say more or less the opposite.

          On the last paragraph, it seems that you’re saying the Palestinians should give up their free all of Palestine mantra in order to prove they are trustworthy. I can see where you’re coming from, but here’s the other side of the coin: for Palestinians this is their biggest bargaining chip, and you’re asking them to give it up before they even start negotiating. Which would be crazy for them, because it means that any agreement will necessarily be weaker and they’ll get less out of it.

          I fully believe that they will give this up, but they need reciprocal concessions, and that is what negotiatons are about. In my view they are open to do business, but they won’t sell themselves short.

        • Gil Says:

          Philip, Hamas puts itself beyond the pale when its leaders whip up hatred against Jews using ‘classic’ antisemitic demonisation language e.g Jews being usurers; jews are allies of the devil and will be destroyed. I’ve attached the link to the report on the speech. It’s in Hebrew, a language which I’m not sure whether you read or not. Unfortunately, You will have to take me at my word regarding the sheer vileness of this screed.


          And this is one example which you choose to ignore. So, no, they are not partners to a negotiation as you have suggested above.

          You say following my comment: ‘Hmmm…I’m not sure it’s fair to say that the Arab Israelis live in harmony with their Jewish neighbours. I’m willing to have my mind changed, but most reports I read say more or less the opposite.’

          Leaving aside your sneering demonstrated by ‘Hmmm’: please stop putting words in my mouth. I spoke about the situation in Haifa, I did not talk about the rest of Israel. Not because I don’t have an opinion but I was talking explicitly about Haifa.

          You’ve said that you’ve been to the Middle East, clearly not to Israel. If you had been you would have known that my comment is correct, actually. So perhaps you should rely less on second hand reports and go and see for yourself. Otherwise, how will you ‘have your mind changed’?

          I see you make no reference to my comments about Palestinian atrocities against Jews.

          I didn’t ask the Palestinians to give up their ‘bargaining chip’ I was talking about their supporters in the Left, or Right for that matter. Again, you misread my comments.

          As it so happens the Palestinians and Israelis have been negotiating since the early 90s. Didn’t you know that?

        • Philip Says:

          It wasn’t my intention to sneer. Sorry if it seemed that way. I thought we were having a good and respectful discussion. I’m sorry if I’ve contributed to making it less so. Shall we return to how it was before?

          I have been to Israel. In fact, the visit was one of the most disturbing trips I’ve made. As you say, there may be cases where Arabs and Israelis coexist happily, such as in Haifa. I’m not convinced that this is the norm.

          I’m not going to defend Hamas. I think they are a nasty organisation. Nevertheless, they were democratically elected, so I think they have to be negotiated with. And I think it was a major strategic blunder by the US and the EU to follow Israel and marginalise them.

          I am aware of the negotiations that began in the 1990s. I have plenty of opinions on that, but this is probably not the place.

        • Gil Says:

          Philip, you say that your trip to Israel was ‘one of the most disturbing trips you’ve made’. This is of no validity or rather no empirical assistance in a debate. Your statement begs the question: compared to which other trips? Do you mean compared to previous trips? Trips to other countries?

          And, I’m afraid you are wrong about Jewish-Arab relations in Israel: By and large there is peaceful co-existence. Considering the state of war that Israel finds itself, that is a miracle. Arab members of the Knesset are free to get up and decry the Israeli state, demonstrate against the State. Care to show me another country in comparable circumstances where this is allowed? Arab students attend Israeli universities and they are not harassed. Israelis employ Arabs in their businesses and no harm comes to them. Yet many Arab employees have taken up arms against their own employers for nationalistic motives.

          ‘Hamas were democratically elected’? So what. They conducted their own ‘night of the long knives’ by killing their opponents. The story is well known. As you also must know, Israel is indeed negotiating with Hamas (albeit indirectly) for the return of Gilad Shalit/Hamas prisoners.

        • Philip Says:

          I only mentioned I had been there beause you seemed to think it would make my views more legitimate. I found it disturbing compared to many of the other countries I have visited due to excessive racism and militarisation.

        • Philip Says:

          I only mentioned I had been there beause you seemed to think it would make my views more legitimate. I found it disturbing compared to many of the other countries I have visited due to excessive racism and militarisation.

          My comment was more about happy coexistance rather than the peaceful kind. There may not be violence day to day, but there is constant oppression. Take for example the citizenship and entry law. Just because there isn’t armed resistance does not mean that it’s a fine state of affairs.

  46. Jonathan Romer Says:

    Amongst Palestinian and Israeli individuals there are examples of both empathy and the lack of it, on both sides. But at the level of leaderships, where it actually matters, that is absolutely not the case. From at least the 1930s onward Zionist and then Israeli leadership has demonstrated both rhetorical and practical empathy for Palestinian needs. Hence the famous diary comments of people like Ben Gurion, suggesting that in Arab shoes they too would resent and resist the Jews. Hence too the acceptance of their partition allotment of a tiny, fragmented shard of historic Israel, the surrender of control of the Temple Mount to waqf control, the current acceptance of the ultimate need for a Palestinian state, and meanwhile Palestinian autonomy by way of the return of the miserable Arafat and his cronies as the Palestinian Authority. Hence, furthermore, the willingness to contemplate the splitting of Jerusalem, a token return of Palestinian to Israel and compensation for the remainder.

    From the Palestinian leadership on the other hand, from at least the 1930s, there has not been the slightest glimmer of empathy. Their position, then and now, has always been that there is one and only one legitimate claim to self-determination in the land: Theirs. Ben Gurion’s empathetic writings have been twisted to be an admission of guilt. The gift of control of al Aqsa has been reciprocated with denial that a Jewish temple ever stood there. Palestinian autonomy in both the West Bank and Gaza has resulted in actions that are entirely consistent with the Doctrine of Stages, not a mutual future side by side, and from every PA or Hamas controlled school, mosque and media outlet comes a constant barrage, not of empathy and conciliation, but demonization, hatred and the justification of terror. As for Jewish refugees — well, no Palestinian or other Arab government admits to any. They all abandoned their homes and property and left Arab lands out of an excess of Zionism.

    Moreover, and more relevant to the topic of this thread, the total absence of empathy for Jewish and Israeli concerns is mirrored note for note by the anti-Zionists dominating the discourse in the UK’s Palestinian and Muslim student societies and in the UCU. I expect Palestinians to be partisan to their own cause, just as I’m not embarrassed to be partisan toward Israel, though I expect the partisanship to be based on truths, not deliberate lies and distortions. I expect the far right to be more or less open xenophobes, racists and bigots. Most of my contempt is reserved for a supposedly ‘progressive’ Left whose alleged devotion to justice doesn’t extend toward Israel or Jews in general, and whose empathy is entirely exhausted on the Palestinians, leaving not a trace for Israelis. I don’t accuse you, Philip, of being part of that group, but you are preaching to the wrong congregation.

  47. Saul Says:

    “The question is where do we go from here?”

    Maybe the first way is to substitue history for myth.

  48. Dooley Says:

    Philip Blue seems to think ‘the Jewish vote’ is holding back fair play:

    “Whatever the reasons for supporting Israel or not, given his silence thus far, his appointment of Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, as well as his selection of advisers, Mr Obama seems unlikely to be less supportive of Israel than Mr Clinton. Only when they are free of the electoral necessity to court the Jewish vote will Democratic presidents strike a more evenhanded pose. But for now, Mr Obama’s promised change will not materialise.”

    Blue also appears to be a friend of one Daniel Blanche, who in turn is a friend of Ben White. Guilt by association doesn’t always work, but in this case I think it might be pretty close to the money.


    • Philip Says:

      Dooley, as a rule of thumb, I always say that ad hominem attacks are born out of moral or intellectual weakness, or a combination of the two.

      If there is a mistake in my writing (which is more or less a summary of research by Shlaim, Walt and Mearsheimer [of Oxford, Harvard and Chicago – reasonable credientials I would say, and hardly out of the mainstream], applied to the 2008 Presidential election) then please do point it out. My guarantee to you is if you can persuade me that I’m wrong, I will change my mind.

      What is it I’m supposed to be ‘guilty’ of? I don’t know Ben White, but Daniel Blanche is a good man. I’d be proud to be associated with him.

      • Gil Says:

        But Philip, Walt and Mearsheimer are indeed marginal. Their work has been traduced comprehensively for very good reasons.

        • Philip Says:

          Well, Walt has a blog on one of the US’s most prominent foreign politics publications.

          In what way has their work been traduced?

        • Gil Says:

          Well, Walt’s post of February 8th in Foreign Policy brings in Blair for his argument that the Israeli lobby was behind the war in Iraq. Yet, and Walt himself acknowledges this in that article, Blair merely said that Israel was ‘consulted’ about the invasion.

          Some evidence of a pro-Israeli conspiracy, indeed! As if Saudi Arabia and other neighbouring states were not consulted.

          Philip, I’ve just read this on your blog post regarding Israel’s right to exist:

          ‘Similarly with Israel, it exists, I don’t want to destroy it, but I can’t think of a compelling reason for it to have a right to exist. To assert such a right seems contrary to the way that states and government have evolved over the course of human history.’

          Israel of course does have a compelling reason for its existence. But what is more galling is that while you fleetingly in your discourse apply this rule to other countries e.g. Venezuela, only Israel is a justified subject for world pressure on it ‘to change’ because you believe that if not, you and the West will be in danger from Islamism. In other words, Philip, no quid pro quo for you. Just a new Czechoslovakia for the 21st century.

          Please correct me if I’m wrong.

        • Philip Says:

          Right, but you haven’t explained how their work has been ‘traduced’. To do that you need to show me where there are mistakes in their arguments. On the basis of either the book or the LRB article.

          All states have to change. The UK must decide whether it will split into parts or merge into a federal Europe or evolve in some other way. There are all sorts of internal and external pressures.

          The same goes for Israel. There are external pressures and there are internal ones, such as Ehud Barak noting that Israel must change if it is to not be an apartheid state. I would treat Israel just as I would treat other states. No state has a ‘right’ to exist. Reasons, compelling or otherwise, are not what I was talking about.

  49. Absolutely Observer Says:

    A few facts (with apologies to Philip and in full deference to the great and good of Harvard and Oxford – hallowed be their naimes)

    2005: 5,280,000 Jews in the USA –
    15th March 308,871,450. people line in the USA

    There are 10 states in which Jews form over 2.1% of the population.
    The highest in NY with about 9.1%

    So, the first point is that Jews are hardly electorally significant in terms of the US electorate.

    Secondly, as is well-known, Jews differ on the question of Israel and, for some, it is hardly as issue that concerns their voting patterns. (Far more important is the same issues that concern other US citizens, the economy, etc. and so forth.)

    In other words, the “courting of Jewish vote” argument is yet another myth that you confuse, this time, with empirical reality, as well as implying Jews care more about Israel than the countries of which they are citizens.

    His next point is the “Israel Lobby” argument. Enough has been written discrediting that book as well as the antisemitic tropes on which it relies.

    As is so often the case, those with a limited understanding of reality, Philip’s falls back to unsupported cliches in which the complexities of politics is reduced to personal influence (see his comments about the personalities of Obama’s team; see above also, his repitition of the myth that Jews “stole” the land). This personalising of politics is, as we know, and always has been a mark of reactionary politics that, paradoxically, masquerades as “progressiveness”.

    This festishization of the personal is reflected again in Philip’s belief that the institution in which an academic is employed endows the work with a legitimacy that as the content of W and M and Shlaim’s later work does not deserve (see the relevant reviews).

    If we look at Philip’s comments to date, a picture of his thinking emerges that is familiar, flawed and inaccurate.

    1. That some protesters in Leeds chants are articulations of an authentic Palestinian experience.
    2. That Israel “stole” Palestine in 1948
    3. The US supports Israel because,
    a, Jewish electoral demographics (entirely false)
    b. Because of the influence of particular individuals
    c, Because of “the Lobby”.

    The only think missing from Philip’s freely-admitted plagarism of others’ thinking is empirical reality and at least the inking of a political understanding of the world as it is.

    Perhaps, Philip needs to,
    a read more widely, and,
    b. learn to read more critically.
    Because, as noted, he is doing no more than confusing reality with propganda.

    • Bill Says:

      Look, the “Israel Lobby” indeed has clout, not because of its nefarious jewishness but because a bulk of the US mainstream (which as AO points out is, as a whole, a “gentile” electorate) already has an affinity for Israel without the help, prodding or guilt from the Jewish Mother Lobby. It’s there for a range of reasons ranging from “where you’d rather sit is where you should stand,” “who’d be more likely to have your back in a crisis” and other coarse, unnuanced and horse-sense reasoning. Trouble is, those who fetishize The Lobby fail ask the rest of us why we are prone to support Israel — perhaps because they already know why.

      “The Lobby”as a troublesome presence is a meme created by those who resent the fact that as Americans, we on average are prone to like Israel over her enemies. While the Lobby is attributed to a shady cabals of Jews, it would be worthless if it weren’t for the non-jews already being on the same page.

    • Philip Says:

      I think you misunderstood some of my comments.

      I don’t believe that protesters in Leeds are authentic representatives of Palestinian experience (though they could be, I don’t know exactly who they are, and in any case, we should be careful about restricting authenticity too much). What I said was that the desire of Palestinians for a ‘free Palestine’ is not necessarily an antisemitic idea.

      I believe that individual people living in historical Palestine in 1947 had their land stolen. That is, people who lived in houses, on farms, in towns, etc. were dispossessed. Do you dispute this?

      I think you have also simplified my view of US foreign policy.
      And I think you have also misunderstood the arguments I made in that post.

      And finally, while I’m happy to admit that I’m hardly an original thinker, plagarism occurs when you copy someone’s work and don’t attribute it. I do attribute, so your comment is, I’m sorry to say, inaccurate.

  50. Absolute Observer Says:

    It is one thing saying the IL has “clout” and the position adopted by W and M. W and M’s claim is stonger and speaks in terms of “determining” US policy.
    Of course, the IL is organised.

    However, during the Bush years, they were pushing on an open door. They got a hearing because it chimed with US policy.

    Those who think that the Israel tail is wagging the US dog (i.e. the antisemitic viewpoint) are prepared to excuse those that make decisions whilst putting the blame on those that don’t.

    Not for the first time and not for the last.

  51. Absolute Observer Says:

    In other words, Bill, I agree with you.

    • Bill Says:

      (and let’s not forget that it’s only called Lobbying when you want them to shut up! Otherwise it’s free speech and petitioning the government for a redress of grievances. 😉

      • Bill Says:

        (and of you’re a state/gov. employee, depending on how your contract works, a Lobbyist, The or otherwise, is the ONLY way you can legally do the above!)

  52. Absolute Observer Says:

    “I believe that individual people living in historical Palestine in 1947 had their land stolen. That is, people who lived in houses, on farms, in towns, etc. were dispossessed. Do you dispute this?”

    No, I don’t dispute it – reality disputes it. Let me give a lesson in I/P 101
    1. The Yishuv existed in what is now Israel for centuries.
    2. During the latter part of the 19th century land was bought legally and legitimately by Jews from mainly absentee Arab landlords.
    3. In the mid-1940’s there were various partition plans. Mutual agreement was missing. After both Jewish-Arab and Jewish-British (the Mandate power) vioelnce, Israel unilaterally declared independence.
    4. There was a war of indepence. Israel was successful and was established within its “pre-1967” borders. During this war there was expulsions of Arabs various villages (In the 1930’s there were expulsions of Jews from Gaza and some other places. These borders were internationally recognised.
    5. What is now Gaza and West Bank was incorporated into Egypt and Jordan respectively.
    In 1967, Israel begun its illegal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

    So, no, Israel did not “steal” land in the sense of the couple of books you have read mean it.

    “I think you have also simplified my view of US foreign policy.”

    You have written,
    “Only when they are free of the electoral necessity to court the Jewish vote will Democratic presidents strike a more evenhanded pose. But for now, Mr Obama’s promised change will not materialise.””

    I have shown you that the “Jewish vote” is of significance in two maybe three states at most. And, even then, Israel is not on the top of every Jew’s agenda.

    In other words, the idea of the need of the Democrat’s to “court the Jewish vote” is demographically and elecotorally rubbish.

    For someone who thinks that W and M is a legitimate contribution calling my understanding of US foreign policy “simplistic” can only be treated as ironic.

    Basically, Philip, you really have a lote more work to do because, at the moment, despite you dislike of student politics, your knowledge of what you talk would made SU politics positively erudite.

    Now, when you have actually done that reading, feel free to come back and we can have a sensible and serious conversation. Til then, I advise you to take a look at past discussion on Engage on the points you have raised. It seems a waste of time simply repeating the same things over and over again for those who confuse cliche with knowledge.

    • Philip Says:

      So what happened in step 4? Palesinians were expelled from their villages, ie, their homes and land were stolen Whether it happened in the cases of other states being formed is really not the point. It’s theft whether it happened in Colombia, the USA, East Timor, Russia or Namibia.

      Again, you have misunderstood the argument. In swing states, small margins mean that appealing to interest groups are a way of winning the entire electoral college. The same happens in the UK where a small number of voters in marginal constituencies are specifically targeted because their votes can tip the seat one way or another, thus having a disproportionate effect on election results. This is hardly rocket science.

      Mearsheimer and Walt are two of the most respected academics in the field of political science, and the sub-field of international relations. They are on every undergraduate reading list.

      Now, rather than pettiness, why not suggest something(s) I might read? That is, academic books.

      • James Says:

        You might read some of the large number of critiques of M & W’s dodgy scholarship


        If you’re short of time, just read this one, which is devastating:

        Click to access 0604dershowitz.pdf

        • Philip Says:

          James, thanks again for sending me these links. I have spent some time over the weekend looking through them, in particular the Dershowitz article, and also re-reading the Mearshemier and Walt paper and their rebuttal of some of the criticisms.

          With respect, I’m afraid that I didn’t find the critiques convincing. Let me focus on the Dershowitz article.

          First, I felt that he mis-characterises what Mearsheimer and Walt are saying, making it seem that they have a conspiratorial view of the world. On the contrary, the position they take is that the IL is a loose coalition, not a well-organised conspiracy or a Jewish cabal. He then tries to divert some of the criticisms by saying that their sources are extremist websites.

          Second, some of the criticisms are just plain wrong. For example, Dershowitz writes that it is wrong of M & W to talk of a great moral crime against the Palestinian people without mentioning another great moral crime: the Holocaust. In fact they do mention this, explicitly saying that the creation of Israel was an appropriate response to this crime. He criticises them for saying that Israel is Jewish state, when this is exactly what it is. (The proof of the pudding is that virtually all naturalised citizens are Jews.) He says they are wrong to minimise the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. You could say it’s a matter of educated opinion, but to say that they are wrong to posit such a theory, on the basis of the words of the bigotted loud-mouth Ahmadinejad?

          Third, in his ‘logic’ section, Dershowitz argues that the IL theory must be wrong and that M & W haven’t considered that Israel and the US might have common interests. This, he argues, is a better way to explain why the two countries so often act in concert. Well, that might be right, but this is, in fact, what the whole M & W paper actually does. They carefully examine whether the US has been acting towards its interests (as defined in the narrow realist sense), they find that it hasn’t (Dershowitz doesn’t tackle this issue) and then examine a number of explanatory theories, settling for the IL. Essentially, Dershowitz doesn’t deal with the central crux of their paper at any stage.

          Finally, the closing sentence was a bit too macho for my tastes, and felt slightly ridiculous. Academic debate should not be about macho ‘looks in the eye’ and tests of patriotism.

          I’m sorry we can’t agree. Perhaps my comments will spur you to re-think your own views. I hope so. I hope too that you won’t think I haven’t looked again at the issue in good faith. I’m more than willing to read any other articles or books that you think are worth my while.

      • Gil Says:

        ‘Mearsheimer and Walt are two of the most respected academics in the field of political science, and the sub-field of international relations. They are on every undergraduate reading list.’

        Philip, have you ever studied International Relations or Poli Sci? It goes without saying that the Realist (or Offensive Realist) school of International Relations is of seminal importance on such courses. So what? There are other schools and theories that you study at undergraduate level. But International Relations is not a science, it is theory. The discipline has borrowed from other Social Sciences and the Humanities to construct (concoct?) various narratives that are then applied to historical events. And you seriously think that this works in the real world to predict future events?

        So are you going to seriously suggest that we cannot critique their polemical book on the Lobby just because they are known for their acacemic theories? In their book they crossed over into political agenda making.

        Thankfully, you support a school of thought that would say that Israel should prioritize its national interest and security.

      • Philip Says:

        Thank you James, I’ve had look through some of the links on that page.

        Gil, I have a degree in political science.

        Of course realism (or neo-realism) is a theory, however, it is one of two pre-eminent theories within the discipline, along with neo-liberalism. The question is whether it has explanatory or predictive power in relation to observed events.

        So, by all means question the theory. That’s what academic discourse is about. But if you want to criticise the Mearsheimer and Walt theory in a meaningful way, then I would suggest you do so answering the following questions:

        1. Is neo-realism adequate for explaining events in interantional politics?
        2. Is neo-realism a good basis on which to base US foreign policy?
        3. Do Mearsheimer and Walt correctly apply the theory to this situation? Have the accurately presented and analysed the facts of the situation? Has the US acted contrary to its national interest with regard to Israel? If so, what can explain this behaviour?

        These are the central questions, in my view. Accusations of ‘polemics’ and worse are kind of irrelevant.

        • Gil Says:

          ‘Gil, I have a degree in political science.’

          Good for you, Philip. I have degrees in both Political Science and International Relations. Would you agree that this makes me more qualified to talk about the subject?

        • Philip Says:

          No, I wouldn’t agree.

          However, it does mean that I will listen to your arguments carefully. Earlier you were making some. Your recent contributions have been less informative.

  53. Absolute Observer Says:

    And, talking of the “Israel Lobby” here’s a strange sentence or two from Ian Black in the Guardian today.
    Talking of a spat between Israel and the US back in 1975 he writes,
    “Ford came under domestic pressure from Jewish and pro-Israel Lobby groups………………..[aha, this will show their power; but he continues]…….and Israel eventually gave way.”

    So, Black sets up the myth of the omnipotent lobby even though in this instance it failed miserably (on their terms, I hasten to add).
    My, that is some omnipotent lobby and some pressure!

    Again, In 1981 “Israel and the Lobby groups tried but failed…..”

    Under Regan and Bush jnr; the Lobby was more “successful”.

    I guess the Lobby got rid of the kryptonite hanging around their offices or, far less plausable, the Republicans took a political decision to support Israel right or wrong.
    Dogs and tails, dogs and tails.

  54. Hanif Leylabi Says:

    Brian – You know full well that NK are one of the smallest anti-zionist Jewish groups. Satmar alone has round 120 000 members and then there are countless secular groups including Jews for Justice, IJAN, Independent Jewish Voices etc.

    And regarding NK attending the conference in Tehran where the holocaust was denied, the larger section of NK did not support attending.

    Jak – As you well know, there is no documented evidence of anti semitism from the PSG. Not this year and no year previous.

    At the end of the day the belief that all criticism of Israel’s right to exist is anti-semitic is at fault. A ridiculous notion which leads Zionists to label hundreds of thousands of Jews worldwie as anti semitic are self hating.

    Just look at the so called ‘shit list,’ of self hating Jews wich contain anti-zionist jews with some profile. that’s over 7000 people long in itself!

  55. Hanif Leylabi Says:

    correction now nearly 9000!

  56. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    Hanif Leylabi, you are wrong, the ritht ot existence of the State of Israel is not negotiable. there is no moral or political basis to deny this right.
    The argument, that wrongs were done is not valid. When Pakistan seceded from India on purely religious basis, there were mor than 10 Million refugees and one million who lost their life. Is anyone denying the right of existence of Pakistan.
    those who deny the right of existence of Israel are antisemites – and it does not matter how they see themselves.
    After what is making some muslim so angry is that Jews do not want to be dhimmis anymore. And H.L. when you watch how Muslims butchered just recently 500 Christian Nigerians and how some Copts were in January massacred when they left their church in Egypt, then you probably understand why Israels existence is necessary.

  57. Absolute Observer Says:

    Hmmm, no documented evidence eh?
    Well, let’s refer to Jon Wright’s linking to a neo-nazi website and his use – and defence of the term “international Jewry”.
    Let’s look at the OSG’s reading of Perdition on HMD (i.e. the distortion that ZIonists collaborated with the nazis”

    This link from the SPSG webpage,
    “Auschwitz survivor: ‘Israel acts like Nazis’”

    or this,
    “How can the same people who pride themselves on maintaining the importance of Holocaust memory invoke the real horrors of the past as a political tool? Ironically, mobilizing that kind of fear and memory of past defeat was used by early Nazis to mobilize Germans in support of National Socialism in its early stages.”

    That offers a direct comaparison of nazism and Israel.

    Let’s look at Jenny Tonge, STWC, George Galloway and the recent blood libel.

    Let’s look as Tonge’s comments that the Zionists have their hooks in the Lib Dem Party.

    Let’s look at Mike Cushman of the UCU boycott linking to an article that explans how many Jews sit as Lobaour MPs and argue how ZIonists control the Labour Party.

    That is just from memory.

    Antisemitism does not define the antizionist and pro-Palestinian movements.
    Yet, it is present in their movements.
    They and you pretend it does not exist.

    Maybe rather than making counterfactual claims that it does not exist, one would be better acknowledging its presence and doing something serious about it.

    Or, of course, you could just continue with the idea that when Jews and non-Jews raise antisemitism they are simply liars; an accusation implied in your use of the phrases
    “As you well know” and “You know full well” (see also George Galloway in the US who called a Jew a liar for reporting the verifiable and verfied antisemitic slogans on an anti-Operation Cast Lead demo)).

    And, no, I don’t think you or anyone else is a “self-hating Jew” nor do I think you are a liar. You are simply wrong on this point.

  58. Absolute Observer Says:

    “I don’t think anyone is claiming that there is an ‘omnipotent’ Lobby. But it’s probably easier to argue against straw men.”

    Actually it is easier to argue (if that is how you see it) with people who know what they are talking about.

    As I noted before, your “argument” consists of cliches that you have culled from three books
    Israel “stole” the land from the Palestinians.
    Yes, there were expulsions of Arabs from what was to become Israel, just as there had been expulsions and attacks on Jewish settlements.
    Jews were fortunate enough that Israel emerged to make those Jews expelled into citizens of Israel. What was unfortunate was the lack of a Palestinian state to emerge at the same time (as well as the refusal of Jordan and Egypt to grant at least temporary citizenship to those dispossed and those who contiuned to live in those regions).

    One can only work for the same outcome for those Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank (as well as for those Jews who wish to remain in a sovereign Palestine, just as those Arabs who remained in Israel became Israeli citizens). That is, a sovereign state of Palesine.

    2. That the Democrats have to court the Jewish vote,
    In the big states, one has to court Jewish votes, in the small states, since Jews are swing and marginal, one has to court Jewish votes (please note that only 10 states have over 2% Jews). Your argument has all the hallmarks of a classic conspiracy theory – that any and all contradcitions are reconciled with a single answer – the Jews.

    3. You appear in thrall to a flawed and deeply suspicious thesis because they are written by two senior and, until recently, respected academics. [cf Chomsky]

    The thesis of IL is that the IL determines US foreign policy as regards the ME and Israel. The argument is that that in so doing it acts against the US’s interests. In the LRB it is claimed that it is Likud at the heart of Washington. It argues that the IL will prevent criticism of that policy and do all it can to meets its interests.

    In other words, Philip, the IL thesis is precisely the Straw Man that, on this occassion, you think determines a complex matter of geo-politics.

    As to readings, maybe a good place is the critiques of the two or three books you have read. And, whilst reading them, keeping your critical faculties on alert. That may halt your propenisites for both easy answers to complex problems and a healthy disregard for the status of those writing. I know you can do it!

    • Philip Says:

      So you agree with me that there were expulsions of Palestinians, but you won’t call it ‘theft’. Is that where we’ve got to? Seems like a matter of semantics. Incidentally, I don’t propose reversing what happened 60 years ago, but I think an acknowledgment of it is important if we are to move forward.

      I don’t think that the IL ‘determines’ geo-politics. I believe it is an influence on it. In some areas, for a number of reasons, it is able to have more influence than in others. In the case of Middle east policy, it is because it is something the IL cares a lot about but most people don’t care too much about. It means that there is little cost to appeasing the IL.

      In a swing state where there is a difference between parties of, say, 2%, it might be important to court the vote of minority groups. Not just Jewish voters, but also Armenians, Arabs, Hispanics, etc. From state to state this will change.

      Ok, let’s start with Avi Shlaim. Where can I find a critique of ‘The Iron Wall’? I will happily read it.

  59. Absolute Observer Says:

    “and do all it can to meets its interests.”
    Should read, “and will have its interests met, regardless of the opposition that it silences.”

  60. Curious Says:

    Does a Harvard Law School Professor trump a Foreign Relations Professor of the same university?
    Form over content is so important these days.

  61. NIMN Says:

    I am afraid that there is a overt contradition in Philip’s argument that of

    1. His belief in the veracity of the Israel Lobby, and

    2. His belief in the courting of the Jewish vote (we will leave the presumed homogeity of such a concept aside for the time being.)

    The misnomer that is the Israel Lobby is more often than not presented by “critics” of such a thing as not reflecting the popular opinion of Jews at grass roots level.

    Assuming this is true – and many of the lobby groups (plural) are, indeed, rightist, both in terms of US and Israel politics (hence, the recent meeting of minds) – then the necessity of courting the few Jews who live outside the 3 main states of the US would mean adopting a position contrary to that reflected by the more established lobbies.

    In other words, the idea of courting the Jewish vote and the idea of the determining impact of “the Lobby” on the allegation of the defence of Israeli interests at the expense of US interests are not reconcilable…………….unless, of course, one is narrow enough to think that on Israel (as with everythin else).

  62. NIMN Says:

    unless, of course, one is narrow enough to think that on Israel (as with everythin else), Jews are nothing more than Ouds.

  63. Absolutely Observer Says:

    “So you agree with me that there were expulsions of Palestinians, but you won’t call it ‘theft’.”

    It’s not a matter of agreeing or not, it is historical fact. And, I won’t call it “theft” not for mere sematic reasons, but because the concept of “theft” is not appropriate in that context. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain to you the meaning of “theft” in both a doemstic and international legality. And, as I said at the beginning of this tiresome exchange, how one explains and understands the past has important implications on how we deal with the present.

    “In the case of Middle east policy, it is because it is something the IL cares a lot about but most people don’t care too much about. It means that there is little cost to appeasing the IL.”

    I think before you look at critiques of Shlaim, you may be better starting with,
    Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History by David Aaronovitch
    and then
    Strange Days Indeed: The Golden Age of Paranoia by Francis Wheen

  64. Curious Says:

    Carl Schmitt was one of the leading political and legal thinkers in the Weimar Republic.
    His work was on undergraduate reading lists.
    In 1933 he produced a series of vindictive antisemitic works.

    Would Philip argue that these latter works are legitimate because he was a “great thinker”?

    (This question in no way implies a correspondence between Schmitt’s views on Jews and the content of the “Israel Lobby”).

    • Philip Says:

      I haven’t been making the argument that because someone features on an undergraduate reading list their works are legitimate. And I haven’t talked about any ‘great thinikers’. Another person about whom you could make similar remarks is Martin Luther. It’s sometimes difficult to know what to do with the works of someone who discredits themselves somewhat with some of their writings. As you say, however, you aren’t equating Mearsheimer and Walt with Schmitt and there is no accusation here being made of anti-semitism.

      In my comments I was rebutting the argument made by some on this thread that Mearsheimer and Walt are not respected academics. The fact that their work appears on undergraduate reading lists is an indication that they are. It can be no more than an indication. Another indication that their joint work (on the IL) is well-respected is that, of the list of critiques linked to above, none seems to be by another academic political scientist, as far as I can tell.

      • Gil Says:

        Philip, we could have been having a debate on W+M’s book on its own merits regardless of their status on undergraduate reading lists. The fact that you can’t see that is simply laughable, quite frankly. Actually, the W+M segment of this debate is a diversion. The need to respond to someone saying that W+M are not respected academics misses the point as that was not a question worthy of this debate.

        • Philip Says:

          I’m not sure I understand what that means.

          In any case, I had no intention of getting into a M&W debate, but simply responded to remarks that were made about them, started by you and ‘Absolute Observer’. I would quite happily have not discussed them, and continued to talk about empathy, which was the original point I made.

          Incidentally, a number of my responses from yesterday (well, at least two from memory) have not yet been posted.

  65. Absolutely Observer Says:

    Philip, I wasn’t being ironic in my book selection for you. You still seem to think that the dog wags the tail; as well as presenting the most simplistic concept of liberal democracy I have read for some time.

    So, put your feet up and enjoy.

    (As to Shlaim, maybe some reviews of his work from as many sources as possible – google can help. Although if you need to ask such a simple question as to where to find commentaries on books, one wonders how it came to pass that you felt confident or knowledgeable enough to speak on a complex issue such as this. After all, you yourself admit you know next to nothing.)

  66. Absolutely Observer Says:

    And, finally, on a more serious note, throughout the discussion you have objected to other illustrations, thereby, making Israel the sole focus.

    Unfortunately, all nation-states have been built on what you term as “theft”. Israel, Iraq, Iran, USA, Canada, France, UK, Poland, Germany and so on). You mention the US and the “first peoples” (who were themselves migrants to that area of the world) and the “apology” made by the US. However, the numerous bands that survived genocide (events that did not happen in Israel) were forced onto reservations. Many are still there, with high levels of unemployment, poverty and a raft of social problems.

    I assume therefore that you have made comments on the various sites concerning these ongoing problems.

    As to the question of theft, maybe you need to consider these comments and consider what makes Israel so special. I don’t really see why Israel should carry the “sins” and be the “scapegoat” of the contemporary world in which nationalism is a universal “evil” and which those issues for which they can, in tis context, be held to account. The same applies to issues of apologies and compensation which is unfinished business in an equally high number of countries.

    Property is organized robbery. ~George Bernard Shaw

    Religion, the dominion of the human mind; Property, the dominion of human needs; and Government, the dominion of human conduct, represent the stronghold of man’s enslavement and all the horrors it entails. ~Emma Goldman

    “All Property is Theft” – attributed to Proudhon, (but I always thought it was Burke).

    My personal favourite,
    The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not anyone have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows, “Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.” ~Jean Jacques Rousseau, A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality

    However, nothing beats Marx’s Grundisse and Capital.

    Anyway, apologies for interrupting your reading.

    • Philip Says:

      I really don’t know what to make of your comments.

      The main issue is that you appear to attribute to me views that I don’t have. I have not mentioned the words ‘sin’ nor ‘scapegoat’, nor described nationalism as an ‘evil’. I have certainly not avoided comparisons to other countries. In fact, the opposite is true, since I was the one who brought up the US / Native Americans issue in the first place.

      With regard to dogs and tails, again, you seem to be attrbiuting to me much more than I have actually said. I have not claimed belief in an all-powerful lobby that controls the US government. Only of a lobby, a loose coalition of forces, that has been successful in exerting influence over one aspect of US foreign policy.

      You haven’t yet offered me much of a reason for why you don’t consider it appropriate to talk about the theft of land from Palestinian people. We seem to have a similar view as to the events that took place. You hint that there is some other term that better describes the facts (as opposed to ‘theft’) but it appears that you don’t have the time nor the inclination to reveal this insight. At other times your defence is more along the lines of ‘well other countries did it too, some of them much worse’. Which is more or less an admission. I’m not sure which is your preferred line of argument, though I have to say that neither is especially impressive.

      Finally, I have read a number of reviews of Avi Shlaim’s work. I imagined, given your confidence, that you were going to provide me with the silver bullet that would refute his work. If you can provide me with the link to such a review, I am still more than happy to read it.

  67. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Sorry, folks, I’ve been away for a week visiting the family in New York – looks like that was much more fun, even allowing for the ghastly weather over last weekend, than being here! Firstly, on a personal note, Hanif Leylabi says:
    “Brian – You know full well that NK are one of the smallest anti-zionist Jewish groups. Satmar alone has round 120 000 members and then there are countless secular groups including Jews for Justice, IJAN, Independent Jewish Voices etc.”

    That’s naughty, Hanif. You know full well from the context that this was a fast response to Anton Forbes some 2 weeks ago, and you are implying that because Natura Kartei are a small splinter group, this invalidates the comment. No it doesn’t, and you know it. Go back to the original Forbes comment and my response (as well as those of others) to see that you are being, to put it politely, Jesuitical.

    Re Philip: while I admire his sticking to his self-appointed mission, he has revealed further flaws in his approach (beyond those that are slowly being widened by AO, Zhakarya, et al). Walt & Mearsheimer have been dealt with, but citing Avi Shlaim as a source here and expecting us to nod sagely??? Philip, in case you hadn’t noticed, he’s an anti-Zionist Israeli in self-imposed exile. His ideology is such that no good can come from Israel, whatever it does. I suspect that even if a viable 2-state solution were to emerge, put in place and survive, Shlaim would remain a critic of the outcome.

    Where an academic is earning their living is no necessary guide to the validity, truth or efficacy of their social and/or political pontificating. Oxbridge and Ivy League have generated some _very_ suspect movements, to say nothing of, eg, German universities of the 1880s to the 1940s. Anyone else here remember the “Oxford Movement/Moral Rearmament” of the 1950s and 60s? To say nothing of the CIA financed Congress of Cultural Freedom with its willing dupes in the self-same Ivy League unis of 1950s and 60s USA.

    Finally, it is interesting to note that the original “anti-Zionists” (to be polite about it) at the head of this thread (assuming that they are not re-posting under other names) – Anton Forbes, MZ, Von O, Thomas P. – haven’t reappeared, unless they are _all_ Philip.

    I wonder why?

    • Philip Says:

      Brian, I appreciate your comments.

      You misunderstand my points regarding Mearsheimer and Walt. The reason I brought up the universities they work at (Chicago, as you’ll be aware, is not an Ivy League school) was not to suggest that it would necessarily validate their work. Rather, I did this because I wanted to show that ideas about an Israel Lobby were not some loony fantasy, but something that had acceptance in some of the world’s top universities. These people may be right or wrong. Nevertheless, their ideas should be examined seriously.

      I find your characterisation of Avi Shlaim perplexing. He is absolutely not an anti-Zionist. He is on public record supporting the two-state solution, and he fought in the IDF in 1967. He is by no means uncritical of Arab governments. If his decision to advance his career by taking a position at one of the world’s top universities is to be frowned upon, then there isn’t much hope for the future of academic excellence.

      I don’t know who the other contributors were. I didn’t write their comments, nor do I know why they haven’t returned.

      • Gil Says:

        Philip, which ideas about the IL should be examined, that have not been examined before? The book has been widely critiqued and heavily criticized as you see in the above posts.

        W+M wanted to make a splash; they wanted to break into the mainstream – rare for IR people. Not every one can be as successful as Kissinger or Brzezinski.; they wrote a book about the Lobby because there was a niche for such a book. There is so much conspiracy theory about the influence of the lobby that theirs was a book waiting for an author, to tap into the new Zeitgiest: Those nefarious ‘Israel Firsts’.

        And the fact is that Walt is NOT saying that Israel was behind America’s war in Iraq. At least that’s what Walt was saying in his recent Foreign Policy piece.

      • Philip Says:

        Gil, I guess what I meant was that I find their arguments persuasive. More so than some of the rubuttals (I explain above why I don’t find the Dershowitz response convincing). I guess that means we will disagree.

        I don’t think it is a conspiracy theory.

        And you’re right, they don’t say that Israel was behind the war in Iraq, just that this war was much more in the interests of Israel than it was of the US, and that the Israel Lobby had an influence, among other influences, on the leadership. Right or wrong.

        • Gil Says:

          Philip, we are going round in circles here. Your posts are studded with tentatives and with subtle backtracking. It isn’t clear what you are trying to say about the Lobby beyond just lobbing non-sequiturs. No one is denying W+M’s claim that there is a powerful lobby that acts…as a lobby. This is not illegal in the USA and common. Indeed, so common is it that there is also a powerful Saudi lobby in league with the oil lobby. That same Saudi Arabia from whence the 9/11 hijackers came from.

          Who said this Philip: ‘”there are far more powerful interests that have a stake in what happens in the Persian Gulf region than does AIPAC [or the Lobby generally], such as the oil companies, the arms industry and other special interests whose lobbying influence and campaign contributions far surpass that of the much-vaunted Zionist lobby and its allied donors to congressional races.”

          Alan Dershovitz? wrong. It was…Noam Chomsky.

          And regarding Israeli aims pre-Iraq invasion: I can tell you that as far back as the 90s, Iran was identified as the more serious threat. Having said that, in the context of the ME situation, you can’t blame Israel in principle for not objecting to the toppling of Saddam. After all, he was in the process of building a nuclear reactor and a WMD program. Israel did the Middle East, the world even, by taking the reactor out.

          But I digress: The pro-Israeli lobby is very effective and Walt and Mearsheimer criticize it because of its effectiveness. That’s all.

        • Philip Says:

          Mearsheimer and Walt criticise the Israel Lobby because it lobbies the US to engage in foreign policy that is not in the US’s interest (in part of the world) and because it is effective at doing so. Quite. As far as I can tell, you agree with the latter, but not necessarily the former, but I don’t see how you can hold this view consistently with the idea that their work has been ‘traduced’.

          I hesititate to get into a further argument, but are you really suggesting that Hussein was ‘in the process of building a nuclear reactor and a WMD program’?

    • Gil Says:

      Brian, your tentative comment about all the other “anti-Zionists” who posted before being Philip (or not as is the case) is wrong and a bit unfair.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        Gil, I know, but it just came out, given that it has been known for posters to use multiple identities. However, Philip is somewhat more sophisticated (and that’s meant as a compliment) than the others mentioned. However, I’ll certainly take your word for Philip being only one person and none of the above.

  68. Absolutely Observer Says:

    I have re-read the above discussion. It would appear on the surface he and I both want a two-state solution.

    It does seem though that Philip’s passive-aggressiveness is after something more.

    For Philip, politics and the dignity of recognition that politics gives to a state (including a future state of Palestine) is insufficient. He wants a “moral” reckoning too.

    Arguing in all grace and humility, he pushes the idea that contain within it a whiff of threat, of poison and of humiliation.

    He speaks not of recognition of statehood and of mutually-respected borders but of “compensation” for “theft.

    He speaks of a powerful “lobby” in the language of appeasement “appeasing”.

    He speaks of policy decided upon and pursued by the most powerful state on earth because of the presence of tiny percent of Jews scattered across the majority of the vastness of the United States.

    He speaks of Israel’s “excessive racism”.

    He speaks of deference to those whose work appears on undergraduate reading lists.

    He claims no states have a “right” to exist, but he cites Israel Apartheid week (a movement aimed at the demonising and deligitimizing of Israel and only Israel) in defence of a position of his, without awareness(?) that it is precisely the accusation of apartheid that in international law undercuts the legality and legitimacy of a state’s existence (by right or not). That state is said to be Israel.

    He speaks of all countries with the aura of sinn, but Israel sinning more than all those others.

    Perhaps the book I should has recommended to him was Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals – a book that, in describing the man of ressentiment may act for him more as a mirror onto his own beliefs than as a source of information.

  69. Talking From Here Says:

    You’re trying hard to see enemies in all corners of the world. Because of your bad temper and ignorance of others, this often succeeds and the victim does the rest according to your plan. He unluckily shouts down with Jews although he only may have wanted to say down with fools in the first place.

    If gypsies had better attorneys and spokesmen, perhaps, your cries about being attacked verbally and what not else – just because you don’t know how to communicate with other people properly without advocating a self-devised supremacy cause – would not be that prominent anymore. The same goes to Ukrainians, Armenians, the Kurdish and many others. Their historical lot has been a tragic one.

    So think about it.

  70. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Philip says: “I find your characterisation of Avi Shlaim perplexing. He is absolutely not an anti-Zionist. He is on public record supporting the two-state solution, and he fought in the IDF in 1967. He is by no means uncritical of Arab governments. If his decision to advance his career by taking a position at one of the world’s top universities is to be frowned upon, then there isn’t much hope for the future of academic excellence.”

    Well, maybe. Under the heading ‘Leading Israeli Scholar Avi Shlaim: Israel Committing “State Terror” in Gaza Attack, Preventing Peace’ (on the Democracy Now website, link http://www.democracynow.org/2009/1/14/leading_israeli_scholar_avi_shlaim_israel), Shlaim is quoted, in an interview, as saying: “I, for my part, have never questioned the legitimacy of the Zionist movement. I saw it as the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. Nor did I ever question the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. What I reject, what I reject totally, absolutely and uncompromisingly, is the Zionist colonial project beyond the 1967 borders. So we have to distinguish very clearly between Israel proper, within its pre-1967 borders, and Greater Israel, which began to emerge in the aftermath of the June ‘67 war and has completely derailed the Zionist project.”

    Now, at one level, he is, of course, entitled to say what he likes, but he cannot _now_ (unlike in 1967) be claimed as an umcompromising Zionist, given the above quote – and there are many who are able to cite other comments. I’ve just picked out this one. That’s almost like claiming Gilad Atzmon as a Zionist, because he is an (ex- on his own claim)Israeli former paratrooper. However, just google Gilad Atzmon and Palestine Solidarity Committee (even Scottish PSC) and also link him to the Socialist Workers Party (UK version), and see what you get.

    As I said above, just where somewhere is employed doesn’t, per se, give them academic or any other credibility. It’s what they do with their work that gives them that.

    Prior to this, you write: “You misunderstand my points regarding Mearsheimer and Walt. The reason I brought up the universities they work at (Chicago, as you’ll be aware, is not an Ivy League school) was not to suggest that it would necessarily validate their work. Rather, I did this because I wanted to show that ideas about an Israel Lobby were not some loony fantasy”. Firstly, your point about Chicago is a nit-pick: my point was general one. But leave that aside. Without wishing to be pompous or patronising, you need to read the critiques of W & M. I’m sure that googling them will throw up numerous critiques, but trawling through the subject list on the archive link, above left on this and every page, should lead you there. And Absolute Observer points you in the right direction anyway. That said, my comment on Shlaim and his employment at Oxford applies to them & Chicago too.

    Which is what my point about the “Oxford Movement” and the CIA and the Congress for Cultural Freedom (and their journal Encounter) was all about. Worth googling them too. Now I _am_ going to sound patronising. Sorry. I don’t need to do the googling: I lived through that period, and my research thesis was partly on the CIA/Congress period.

    Finally, you say: “I don’t know who the other contributors were. I didn’t write their comments, nor do I know why they haven’t returned.” Yes, sorry about that, it was a cheap shot and totally unworthy. I apologise for it unreseverdly.

    BTW, what is “Talking From Here” on about? If I read him/her correctly, we Jews should be grateful that we’re not the only victims the rest of the world picks on, and we should shut up and get on with our lives. Unless I’m imagining things – and unlike “Talking…”, I don’t think I am – I’m actually lucky that there still as many as app. 15 million of us left, given the way the world has been treating us for the last 2000 years or so.

    Or is it all a figment of my imagination that the worst state in the world, to sections of the Left (for once, we’ll leave the Right out of it), for breaching others’ human rights is the only Jewish one. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “Talking…” has no idea how much I wish we collectively were irrelevant to the rest of the world and could just get on with our lives. Without, for example, being the only religious group in the UK which has to have security outside our places of worship and wherever we gather together as Jews.

  71. Philip Says:

    Brian, no need to apologise – I have a pretty thick skin. Don’t worry about it.

    I wasn’t trying to say that Shlaim is an uber-Zionist, simply that he isn’t an anti-Zionist. As you say, he supports the existence of the state of Israel, within the pre-1967 borders. My point was that it’s not fair to discredit him by saying he’s an anti-Zionist, firstly because he’s not, and secondly because it’s much better to actually deal with the substance of their work. I have been asking Absolute Observer to provide me with critiques of ‘The Iron Wall’ but he seems more interested in being pompous than actually supplying information.

    As for Mearsheimer and Walt, I honestly believe that I’m always willing to change my opinion, but so far nothing I have read (especially the Dershowitz piece, which I talk about above) has convinced me that they are not broadly right. But I will continue to read as you suggest.

    I agree with you that the universities they work for does not necessarily mean that everything they write is right. I never meant to give the impression that is what I think. I think they are right (and the same goes for Shlaim) on the basis of what they have written, because I find their arguments persuasive. I realise this means we will probably disagree.

    Re ‘Talkling from Here’ I agree, I don’t really understand what he / she is getting at.,

  72. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Philip, sorry for the delay in responding, but I’ve been away – it’s what we retired folks do – go away and spend the kids’ inheritance on frivolities like watching geysers blow their top in Iceland and traverse the mid-Atlantic Ridge in a coach, also in Iceland. It actually feels more productive, on ocassions, than arguing with others here. But nil desperandum, onwards. You say:

    “As you say, [Shalim] supports the existence of the state of Israel, within the pre-1967 borders.”
    Actually, what Shlaim said was that he support_ed_ (ie had, in the past, but not now) the pre-’67 borders, etc. That’s a massive difference, and please don’t misquote anyone. It’s not nice. And I’m not going to answer for AO. I strive not to put words in other people’s mouths.

    But as for Mearsheimer and Walt, they have been comprehensively rubbished as Israel Lobby conspiracy theorists. Others have already done the job, but you need only track back through the various links to be found top left of every page to read for yourself. If you need educating on the notion of conspiracy theory, then Engage were kind enough to post an article by me a month or so ago on that very topic. If you can’t see the connection between that and M & W, then there may be little hope for you.

    I would also note that I haven’t recommended any reading for you – please also stop conflating those of us trying to guide you into the paths of righteousness – and I would also underline the fact that I’m a _retired_ academic – but if you insist, here goes: Benny Morris “1948: The First Arab-Israeli War”. Morris started his academic career as a proponent of the view that Israel had, effectively, caused the Palestinian refugee problem. This may have been because he was a Young Turk and needed to displace the Old Guard, but also because of the sources available to him. _This_ book presents a very different picture. It was published in 2009, so may now be in paperback. Well worth a read.

    Then there’s his latest book “One State, Two States”, published this or late last year and due out in paperback in April 2010. I have no knowledge of its contents, and am waiting to buy it in April. Could be quite interesting.

    On a more dialectical note, Philip, if you’re hoping for the last word here, think again. Unless and until the moderator gets fed up, we Engageniks will just keep going. On that note, I wonder what AO is writing as I type!

    • Philip Says:

      I’m afraid I didn’t mean to put words into your mouth. But I think the issue we have may be to do with differing definitions of what Zionism is. For my part, I had gone with a definition something along the lines of the project to establish a nation for Jews in the Middle East. My definition would not stipulate the precise boundaries of this state. Therefore, since Shlaim supports the existence of the state of Israel within the pre-1967 borders (and I really don’t see any other way to read the quotation above – what he is against is the state being extended beyond those borders, he states this quite plainly), that would mean that he would not qualify as an anti-Zionist.

      The only way I can see you could disagree with this is if you believe that Zionism requires subscribing to the idea that Israel should include the West Bank and Gaza (and possibly other lands) too.

      Mearsheimer and Walt – it would be easier to take you seriously if you presented actual arguments instead of simply telling me that their work has been ‘rubbished’. You may well believe that, but I don’t. So unelss you give me reasons, other than arguments from authority, then I’m afraid we’re at an impasse.

      In any case, I didn’t enter this discussion inorder to talk about the merits of these people’s arguments. In fact, this tangent only emerged after someone, deciding to dredge through my blog (searching for the word ‘Jews’, presumably to verify whether or not I was anti-semitic or not) found references to them.

      The reason I first posted was becasue of what I felt was a lack of empathy being shown towards the Palestinian side of the debate. In fairness, I think this reflects the commenters more than the authors of this blog. But in any case, I have had useful engagement with one or two others here, and with others less.

      Nevertheless, in a spirit of good will, I will take a look a look at Benny Morris’s book when I get a chance.

  73. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Phillip says: “Mearsheimer and Walt – it would be easier to take you seriously if you presented actual arguments instead of simply telling me that their work has been ‘rubbished’. You may well believe that, but I don’t. So unelss you give me reasons, other than arguments from authority, then I’m afraid we’re at an impasse.”

    No we’re not. All Phillip has to do is go to the list at the top left of this and every page, click on the 6th item down in the first list there, “Archive by subject”, and click, in turn, on the 4th item in the new box, headed “Mearsheimer and Walt”. What’s difficult about that. Then you’ll see that what I and others have been saying is nothing but the truth. All this you could have done for yourself, had you followed my suggestion in a previous comment that you do this. I’ve now given you a street map.

    Try to follow the directions. To pretend that it’s my job to repeat what others have already said – in this comments thread, as well – is less than sensible. You also have to do _your_ homework, I’ve done mine.

    I’ll turn to your other comments when you’ve had time to digest those entries on M & W.

    • Philip Says:

      The issue is that you assume I will be convinced by these papers. Now, I wrote about why I disgaree with the Dershowitz paper above, in response to a comment by James.

      With regard to the others, they all seem to share the view that Mearsheimer and Walt are promoting a conspiracy theory. Well, I disagree with that. They explicitly state that they do not see a conspiracy. They describe a group of lobbyists who have an unhelpful and powerful influence over US foreign policy in the Middle East.

      So if these people have mis-read the work they are trying to criticise (as you too appear to have done) then the critiques will be off the mark. There is a lobby which promotes Israel to the US government, it is successful, and Israel and the US’s interests do not always coincide. Therefore the lobby will sometimes promote policies that are not in the interests of the United States. This doesn’t seem all that controversial to me.

      Now, we can carry on banging on about this subject, or we can return to the issue of empathy for Palestinians, or even address a wholly new topic. What do you prefer?

  74. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Actually, Phillip, here is a link to an article by Shlaim: just 3 pages.

    Click to access Zionism%20AS.pdf

    • Philip Says:

      Not sure what you’re getting at. Are you still going on about Shlaim being an anti-Zionist?

      It seems quite clear that what he’s saying is he is unhappy with the way Zionism has developed since 1967. But that he remains convinced of the case for ‘true’ Zionism.

      Perhaps the best way to proceed is as follows: why don’t you tell me your definition of Zionism, and then we can work out whether Shlaim is against it or not, and whether that’s a good thing or not?

  75. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    “The issue is that you assume I will be convinced by these papers.”

    No the issue is that you are just rejecting statements about Mearsheimer and Walt without having read the critiques. Can’t have it both ways. Either you read the critiques and respond to them and we can, collectively, debate that. Or you can continue to accept M & W as accurate purveyors of fact and expect to be treated as as you have been: as someone saying, in effect: “My mind is made up; don’t confuse me with the facts.”

    Which is it to be, Phillip? The choice is yours.

  76. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Well, given that Mearsheimer and Walt argue (assert, more likely) that an Israel Lobby actually dictates (even distorts) US foreign policy in favour of what is in Israel’s best interests and against the best foreign policy interests of the US, I’d say that merely agreeing with them and dismissing the critiques is a bit cavalier of you. For example, there is much claiming that the US invaded (went to war against) Iraq at the behest of the Israelis and “their” lobby, when numerous sources stress that the Israelis were insisting that, both from their point of view and that of the world in general, Iran was/is a much bigger threat than Saddam Hussein.

    That’s a fact for you.

    Further, such a stance manages to ignore a number of inconvenient facts and factors. For example, the oil lobby; the armaments lobby; the civil aircraft lobby and the whole of rest of K Street. It also manages to gloss over the evidence that a majority of US citizens support the existence of Israel and its right to security. This might _just_ influence any number of US politicians, without any reference to an IL. Further, Jewish voters in the US, assuming that they are all registered and determined to vote, _could_ (not _will_) influence only two Senatorial races or Presidential electoral college outcomes: in New York and California, and vanishingly few, if any, House of Representatives races.

    Why do you agree with M & W? Why do you dismiss as of no account _every last one_ of the critiques? How are you going to square the claims of M & W with the responses of the Obama administration to the current Israeli government policy of extensive building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

    Or is that response a chimera and an illusion?

    Your answers to these highly specific questions is awaited with bated breath. To merely accept or dismiss claims and arguments without debate is the work of those who merely assert and find facts inconvenient, let alone logical arguments derived from facts. This is what too many of those who comment here and dispute what Engage stands for (again, the Engage “mission statement” can be found up there on the top left under “About Us”).

    Furthermore, when I get back home today, I’ll repost (with the Moderator’s agreement) a comment I made on this topic in response to an article by Jonathan Freedland linked to here last year.

  77. zkharya Says:

    I strongly recommend Benny Morris’ critique of the work, especially the latest collection of essays, by British, (professional ex-Israeli?) historian, Avi Shlaim. In it he demonstrates why thinks that, though in places Shlaim expresses views which are sympathetic to Zionism, elsewhere he expresses opinions at variance with and undermining of that position:


    • Philip Says:

      Thank you Zkharya. I’ve read this review now. Before I respond, can I ask you what you consider to be a definition of anti-Zionist? If we’re going to decide whether Avi Shlaim is one or not, I think we need to establish what it is.

      • zkharya Says:

        I am saying, as is Morris, that Shlaim has said different things at different times. On balance he has exhibited a greater hostility to Zionism historically, by word or deed, than a sympathy with it, for whatever reasons.

      • Philip Says:

        But my concern is that Zionism means different things to different people. So if I say Zionism about support for Jewish national self-determination and a state within pre-1967 borders I will find that a different set of people are Zionists than if someone who says that Zionism is about territorial expansionism.

        But to try to bring these threads together, perhaps what I would say is that Shlaim is certainly critical of some people who call themselves Zionists. And he is critical of the Israeli government on numerous occasions. I think he believes that some people have mis-appropriated the term Zionism and have begun to use it to promote something entirely at odds with what he supported. Which might mean that the battle is between people for the concept itself, and Zionism ceases to mean anything. New terms have to be found.

        The danger is that the term anti-Zionist when used of people like Shlaim loses its bite. Maybe that’s fair enough. But at its extreme it becomes like accusing those who are critical of Osama bin Laden of being anti-Islam.

        • zkharya Says:

          ‘The danger is that the term anti-Zionist when used of people like Shlaim loses its bite. ‘

          I think the reverse is true. Anti-Zionists use his formula to prove they are really ‘Zionists’, by reducing ‘Zionism’ to a suitably anti-Zionist baseline.

          He may say pro-Zionist things here, but he says rather more anti-Zionist things there. The overall result may not be the greatest anti-Zionist, but one may judge, like Morris, that it is to some degree.

          For me a ‘Zionist’ minimalist believes Jews had at least some measure of right of return to the land, as of justice and need, a right unecclipsed by Palestinian Muslim and Christian rights, who had no right to exclude Jews, let alone dispossess or eliminate them. A single state might have been possible had Palestinian Muslims and Christians been content with Jews among them as anything other than a tiny minority (and one historically highly discriminated against). But given that this was not the case, Jews had right to some measure of independence and autonomy in the land, as did Palestinian Muslims and Christians, who, sadly, thought it more important to deny Jews this than acquire it themselves.

          It seems clear to me that Shlaim believes that the Balfour Declaration, the allowing of Jews to enter Palestine in other than tiny numbers, against the wishes or desire of Palestinian Muslims and Christians, and even more their being granted a state, to be fundamentally unjust to Palestinian Muslims and Christians.

          Since it is this kind of belief and its associates in which Shlaim is rather more vocal, it also seems to me that he believes that Jewish nationalist claims were not equivalent to those of Palestinian Muslims and Christians, rather their inferior.

          Hence, on balance, I would say Shlaim is rather more hostile to Jewish nationalism than sympathetic with it, at least publicly.

          It’s true he plays a double game, sometimes, such as arguing the anti-Zionist position in debate, while saying he supports Zionism within the ’67 borders. But, given what his discourse generally comprises, over the course of his career, I think it hardly makes him, over all, pro-Zionist.

        • Philip Says:

          Zkharya, thanks for your comment. Can I also just say that I’ve found you to be a respectful, balanced and, above all interesting, interlocutor.

          I can see what you mean in your comments, but unfortunately I’m still not sure that I agree with you entirely, though I do agree that it’s important to consider all of what a person says and does, rather than isolated comments or actions. Let me make a few points to explain why I don’t agree, though.

          Shlaim seems to advocate Zionism primarily in terms of people rather than land. Where he does support the land component, I think he does so more out of ‘need’ than ‘justice’. But nevertheless, he emphatically supports the existence of Israel today in its pre-1967 borders, possibly more from practicality than conviction, though I don’t think I am in a position to say.

          I think that when you start talking about justice, things become very tricky, because there are also sorts of claims to justice that have to be balanced against each other. To some extent this is what the Balfour Declaration and the Partition Plan attempted to do. I think Shlaim’s criticism of the Balfour Declaration is that it was pretty impractical and over-reached, which I think is true in a practical political sense.

          Does he believe that Jewish nationalist claims were not equivalent to those of Palestinians? First I would say that this would not necessarily be all that terrible. Indeed, there are groups who claim self-determination to who we deny it: Catalans, Kurds, Chechens, etc. In some cases that’s probably right and in others it’s probably not. But there are criteria that can be applied to make a judgment either way.

          On the issue at hand, what I would say in Shlaim’s defence is that the Partition Plan was pretty unfair insofar as Israel got something like 73% of the land (from memory) whereas they had a minority population-wise. So it may be that what Shlaim is saying is that the balance between the two people’s claims to self-determination went too far in Israel’s favour, and some redress is therefore needed.

          What do you think?

        • Zkharya Says:

          Having read a lot of Shlaim, it seems clear to me that, in terms of justice, he does not equate Jewish nationalist with Palestinian Muslim and Christian nationalist claims, rather favours the latter over the former. Also, while he adduces as many of the sins of the former as possible, he omits or elides pretty much all of those of the latter. Unsurprising given his forming rather more friendships with Palestinian Muslim and Christian nationalists in the UK, and his pretty much total estrangement from the Israeli community, here or in Israel (or from the Anglo-Jewish community, in fact).

          The fact is Shlaim leads straight to Pappe, whose PhD he supervised, and who has now set up academic shop in Exeter. This can in no wise be construed a pro-Zionist trajectory, in my view.

          Most of the land allotted to the Jews was desert, while the Arabs got most arable land. And 55% to 45% area is hardly grossly inequitable, in those circumstances. No partition of land is exact. But that is not why Shlaim is saying it was unjust: he is saying it was unjust because he thinks Palestinian Muslims and Christians in the end had the right to veto the migration of Jews into Palestine in other than tiny numbers, never mind veto a state. He thinks partition was unjust a priori.

          By all means consider Shlaim pro-Zionist if you like. I have explained why I think that mistaken.

        • Philip Says:

          Thanks for your answer Zkharya. I take your points. Just to clarify, my concern was with disputing the term ‘anti-Zionist’ being applied to Shlaim. I was not necessarily making the case that he is a ‘pro-Zionist’. If, as you argue, he rates the claims of Palestinian nationalism aboce those of Zionist nationalism, it doesn’t make him anti-Zionist. If I support Arsenal more than I support Glasgow Rangers, it doesn’t mean that I am anti-Rangers. Just that I prefer Arsenal.

          I think, however, that we have probably gone as far as we can on this line of argument, though. I appreciate you taking the time.

        • zkharya Says:

          ‘If, as you argue, he rates the claims of Palestinian nationalism aboce those of Zionist nationalism, it doesn’t make him anti-Zionist.’

          I beg to differ: it certainly can do if his ascribing injustice to Zionist claims, and hardly any but justice to Palestinian Muslim and Christian nationalist claims, is as long standing and sustained as his.

          Shlaim has never, for instance, so far as I have read, in The Iron Wall or elsewhere, claimed that Palestinian Muslim and Christian nationalists committed injustice against Palestinian, Israeli or other Jews. But he has established his academic career on the assertion that Zionist Jews committed a fundamental injustice against Palestinian Muslims and Christians.

          And he has never, for instance, so far as I have read of his, claimed that the establishing of Israel was justice for anybody.

          Your comparison with a the football match is, I think, at best, inaccurate and imprecise.

        • zkharya Says:

          ‘I was not necessarily making the case that he is a ‘pro-Zionist’. ‘

          With all due respect, if you were claiming he was ‘Zionist’, that surely is necessarily what you were doing.

        • Philip Says:

          I took the opportunity to have a look through Shlaim’s latest book as well as his concise guide over the weekend.

          In the former book he does say that the establishment of a Jewish state in historical Palestine was the only just solution to the holocaust. So I think you’re wrong to say that he doesn’t think the establishment of Israel was just. On the other hand, despite this justice, he does argue that it involved a huge injustice for Palestinians.

          On the issue of whether I was arguing he was a pro-Zionist: I was making the point (in response to the somewhat ridiculous argument – which I’m aware you didn’t make – that calling Shlaim an anti-Zionist was enough to disprove his ideas) that he was not anti-Zionist. Make of that what you will. I agree that he is hardly a turbo-charged Zionist like Ariel Sharon. But on the other hand, he is hardly Hassan Nasrallah.

          Far better to address the merits of Shlaim’s ideas than to try to tarnish him with labels. (I appreciate it was not you who started this line of discussion.)

        • zkharya Says:

          ‘In the former book he does say that the establishment of a Jewish state in historical Palestine was the only just solution to the holocaust. ‘

          Does he? I thought he says it was legal. But unjust.

          “The Jews are a people and, like any other people, they have a natural right to national self-determination. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the moral case for a Jewish state became unassailable…. This was the background to the U.N. resolution of 29 November 1947 … an international charter of legitimacy for the Jewish state…. Arabs … felt that the gift of Palestine to the Jews was illegal. However, a resolution passed by the UN General Assembly by a large majority cannot be illegal. It may be unjust but not illegal.”

          ‘Far better to address the merits of Shlaim’s ideas than to try to tarnish him with labels. (I appreciate it was not you who started this line of discussion.)’

          I think Benny Morris, at least, does exactly that, addressing precisely the issue of whether Shlaim considers Zionism ‘just’, or not:

          Israel and Palestine, which will probably earn Shlaim more Israel-bashing brownie points than all his previous books combined, is a collection of academic essays and reviews, along with some journalistic articles about politics. The pieces are mostly an extended exercise in anti-Zionism, nothing more…

          …All in all, there is much to be said for Shlaim’s credo. The problem with Israel and Palestine is the dissonance, which is sometimes very jarring, between these lofty professions of faith and Shlaim’s assertions (and their tone) about the very recent history of the conflict, which are not just critical of Israel’s post-1967 expansionism, but also unrestrainedly anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli. On page 307, for example, he tells us that the establishment of Israel “involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians,” and goes on to quote a leading British Foreign Office anti-Semite, John Troutbeck, in 1948, to the effect that the Americans were responsible “for the creation of a gangster state headed by ‘an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders’.” Shlaim comments: “I used to think this judgement was too harsh,” but then Israel’s “vicious” assault on Gaza in December 2008–January 2009 “reopened the question.” His logic here is faulty: either Israel’s leaders in 1948 were “unscrupulous” and Israel was, at its inception, a “gangster state,” or it was not. These have nothing to do with how Israel behaved, or allegedly behaved, sixty years later. But more alarming than Shlaim’s lapse of logic is the content of his assertion, which seems to involve a renunciation of the credo that I have just outlined. “Legitimate” and “gangster state” have some difficulty in co-existing.

          Palestinian political aspirations, then and now, were “just,” according to Shlaim. He never applies the word to Zionist aspirations, before 1948 or after. Was Israel’s establishment “just,” and is its continued existence “just,” in light of the monumental “injustice” that it caused the Palestinians? Should the Jews never have established their state in Palestine? Shlaim implicitly leaves on the table the standard Palestinian argument that the Palestinians have had to pay for an injustice committed against the Jews by others. Nowhere in this book does Shlaim say a word about the Jewish people’s three-thousand-year-old connection to the Land of Israel–that this land was the Jewish people’s cradle; that they subsequently ruled it, on and off, for over a thousand years; and that for the next two millennia, after going into exile, they aspired and longed for repatriation. Nor does he mention that the Arabs, who had no connection to Palestine, in the seventh century conquered the land “unjustly” from the Byzantine Empire and “illegally” settled in it, forcibly converting it into an “Arab” land. If conquest does not grant rightful claim, then surely this should be true universally?

          …Without a doubt, history has ill-served the Palestinians. They became a separate and distinct “people” (while remaining part of the greater Arab “people”) as a result of the Zionist enterprise and the Zionist challenge, and Zionism has caused them repeated bouts of suffering. Their persistent rejection of compromise, as expressed by their successive leaders, has had a major role in the perpetuation of this suffering. And this suffering appears to fuel Shlaim’s animosity toward Israel. But there is a mystery here. Many intellectuals, in Israel as in the West, have been moved by the Palestinians’ history and their plight, but at the same time they have remained sympathetic to Israel’s predicament, and admiring of its real and in some ways incomparable achievements over the past six decades. In Israel and Palestine, by contrast, there is no sign of any such complex sympathy.

        • Philip Says:

          In the new book, on pages x-xi in the introduction, he outlines the moral case followed by the legal case for the state of Israel. He doesn’t use the word ‘just’ but he does say, for example, ‘In the aftermath of the Second World War, the moral case for a Jewish state became unassailable…something on a titanic scale had to be done for them and there was nothing titanic enough except Palestine’. That’s in addition to outlining the legal case.

          Benny Morris’s review is interesting. Though a note of caution: when someone is the subject of a book (and there’s a chapter about Morris) it is worth questioning whether they are able to be sufficiently free from conflicts of interest to review it fairly.

  78. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    As promised, and with the indulgence of the moderator, here is the comment from last March that I posted on the “Israel Lobby”. The first 3 lines are the title of the article to which it is attached, so you can see where to go for the full flavour of the debate, and the date it appeared on this site:

    Jonathan Freedland on AIPAC and the myth of the “Israel Lobby”
    March 18, 2009

    Brian Goldfarb Says:
    March 19, 2009 at 12:00 am
    Let’s get back to the Freedland atricle…There’s actually a whiff of conspiracy theory here from Freedland. Note the following:

    “True, too, that a critical blow came from Nancy Pelosi, the house speaker, reportedly outraged by Freeman’s overly indulgent attitude towards China’s rulers. But I’m reliably told that these lines of attack originated with the pro-Israel crowd. Nor have Freeman’s character assassins bothered to hide their fingerprints.”

    So, the powerful Speaker of the House of Representatives (quite high up in the succession stakes, according to the [US] Constitution) has no views herself concerning China and Freeman’s role in promoting the place. She has to receive her instructions and be pushed by the “Lobby” – so Freedland tells us, without being other than coy about who nudged her.

    Then there’s this:

    “So the myth of an all-powerful Israel lobby, pulling the strings, is a delusion. But it’s equally false to pretend that Aipac and its allies don’t exist or exert genuine influence. They do and they play hardball, as the Freeman affair has vividly demonstrated.”

    This comes shortly after Freedland has noted the existence of other more powerful lobbies in Washington, such as oil, and all serious commentators on the Federal political scene will be able to reel off a string of other lobbies equally interested in steering US government policy in the Middle East: armaments, anyone? How about manufacturers of civil aeroplanes, like Boeing?

    Freedland comments on Aipac as though the existence of lobbies, K Street in Washington and serious money being spent on attempting to influence the US government comes as a surprise to him. They are and have been for decades a natural part of the US Federal Government scene, and Aipac is but one, and not that powerful a one, at that, player in this game.

    Just why does Freedland feel the need to make these statements? Or has he become infected by the attitudes prevalent in the rest of Guardian building?

    I would add now (31 March 2010) that I and others believed then and believe now that Freedland exaggerated the strength of the so-call Israel Lobby, or one of its manifestations, AIPAC. Note that there are other pro-Israel lobby groups, some of them more leftish than AIPAC (so therefore working to pull US policy in different directions), as well as much less pro-Israel Jewish groups. This, in turn, says nothing of anti-Israel lobby groups.

    So tell us, Phillip, how does this mish-mash work to creat “the” Israel lobby, and how do US politicians choose between them? Or is that too hard a question for you?

  79. Gil Says:

    Philip, I hope this helps:
    No one is denying that AIPAC has a lot of influence on US foreign policy towards Israel. The problem with Walt and Mearsheimer is that many commentators used the book to further their antisemitic agendas. M+W have done nothing, as I can see, to come out and attack those that would distort their work. On the contrary, they appear to be complacent or even content that their work ‘nudged’ others in that direction.

    Also, the controversy over Charles ‘Chas’ Freeman (see Brian above) was very revealing about their mindset and their malice when coming to Israel.

    W+M should do more to come out against the antisemitic interpretations of their work.

    • Philip Says:

      I’m not sure then why we’ve had a debate about whether M&W were right, if you support one of the central arguments of their paper / book?

      In terms of their work being taken up by racists, in their follow-up letter to the LRB, they do say: ‘We have no control over who likes or dislikes our article, but we regret that Duke used it to promote his racist agenda, which we utterly reject’.

      Obviously they can’t respond to every instance of their work being used by antisemites, but you think they still need to do more?

      • Gil Says:

        Philip, Richard Gold below says it better than I could.

        For the avoidance of doubt: I certainly don’t support the conclusions that M+W draw from AIPAC’s PR work on behalf of Israel, that allegedly AIPAC, svengali like, have somehow caused US lawmakers to vote against the latter group’s perception of the US national interest. Ditto regarding those of the Executive branch.

        See this article on the Saudi Lobby, a lobby that has been operating in the US with nary a peep from the anti-Zionists and the anti-semites. http://www.harpers.org/archive/2007/04/jrm-pubnote-20070417

        What M+W also do is pour malicious content into the label ‘Israeli Lobby’ i.e. including people who are not members of AIPAC as such. I agree with those who claim that they are essentially called into question the loyalties of American Jews such as Martin Peretz and others.

        And finally, M+W are poor scholars of the realist school of they arey believe that the US is acting against its national interest by supporting Israel. It is entirely possible for the US definition of the national interest shifting to not supporting Israel. Somehow, I don’t think this will happen in the near or medium term. W+M, however, are guilty of trying, wishing even, to bring about a self-fulfilling prophecy. As an International Relations undergraduate yourself, this concept probably rings a bell. Hint: Jervis. They’ve cloaked their agenda in their IR theories. In doing so they are dishonest.

  80. Bill Says:

    Re: Chaz Freeman, let’s not forget that Freeman issued joint apologetics for the Bonus Army and Tiananmen Square crackdowns. Given the broader implications, by so doing, he made himself unfit to serve as the town dog catcher. But it’s so much easier to make a Kosher Konspiracy martyr out of him given those aforementioned creepy, alarming and toxic implications.

    And once again as AO pointed out, AIPAC is “powerful” not because of the need to court the relatively small Jewish vote, but rather because a goodly share of Americans have an affinity for Israel for a wide spectrum of very valid reasons despite it’s lack of pristine perfection. American’s don’t jump on AIPAC’s coat-tails – it’s very much the other way around. To deny this is to admit that you live in a bubble and need to get out more.

  81. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Phillip, concerning Avi Shlaim, the link below will take you to a very interesting extended review and critique of Shlaim’s latest book “Israel & Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations”:

    It’s by Benny Morris and is from the US publication “The New Republic”, long considered left-wing (in the US context).

    I’m most interested, indeed highly curious, as to your reaction to Shlaim and your insistence that he is (still) a Zionist after reading Morris on Shlaim.

    Let’s get intellectual on this, shall we? Shouldn’t take you long to read, it’s only 6 pages.

    • Philip Says:

      Can you define to me what you mean by Zionist / anti-Zionist?

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        Ooh, a Jesuit, noch! Stop splitting hairs, Philip, and answer the question(s). Either Shlaim _is_ still a Zionist, or he isn’t. If he is, in your view, then it is up to _you_ to define in what ways this is so. I and others have produced a reasonable amount of evidence that suggests that Shlaim can no longer be considered a Zionist in terms that both Benny Morris and I (and a huge number of others) would accept.

        If we’re wrong, it is up to you to show us how we’re wrong. I’m not going to try and disprove a negative.

        So far, a number of us have produced a variety of arguments, buttressed with evidence, which you have, in effect, ignored, just asserting that we’re wrong and you’re right. Not good enough. Argue, with evidence, or quit the field. Don’t just produce meaningless sentences like the one above.

        • Philip Says:

          If we play by your rules, since you are the one who first made claims that Shlaim is an anti-Zionist, it is in fact you who should provide reasons as to why you consider him to be so, and by what definition.

          As I understand it, your argument is that because he does not support the expansion of Israel beyond the pre-1967 borders, he is an anti-Zionist. Please correct me if I am mis-understanding your argument (if your sequence of perplexing statements and links to articles can be considered an argument, that is). If that is what you mean by anti-Zionist, then I expect many readers of this blog will have to adopt the label, and it can hardly be considered a bad thing – certainly not something to be criticised for.

          As I say, if I’ve misunderstood you, please do set me straight. But please do so in plain English.

      • Philip Says:

        In order to answer the question, ‘is Avi Shlaim a Zionist or an anti-Zionist’ we have to establish the terms. That is, what is a Zionist, and what is an anti-Zionist.

        I previously said to you that I consider Shlaim to be a Zionist. That is, he says that Jews have as much right as any other national group to have a state, that is Israel, and he supports it existence in the pre-1967 borders.

        For me, that is what being a Zionist is; supporting the cause of the Jewish people to have their own state. Shlaim is critical of some of the actions of that state, but he doesn’t question whether it should exist.

        Now, you can disagree with this in one of two ways. Either you agree with my definition of Zionist, but you think that actually Shlaim does not fit this defintion. Or you can disagree with the definition itself and argue that Shlaim is an anti-Zionist for other reasons. (A third possibility worth noting is that he could be neutral with respect to Zionism – I don’t happen to believe he fits this category, however.)

        Once we have a working definition of Zionism, then we can start applying evidence to the framework and see where we get to. This is how you set about analysing and answering questions.

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          Actually, you have just demonstrated that you haven’t read Benny Morris review of Shlaim’s latest book. Until you do so (and the link is my comment dated April 4), we have nothing to talk about.

          You have been asked a number of questions which you have avoided responding to, preferring to make comments such as the one immediately above. Morris provides you with all the definitions of Zionism you need and also some of the nuances around this term. The review is only 6 pages long, and shouldn’t detain you for long, although a response to it may take some extra time.

        • Philip Says:

          As far as I can make out there are two instances in which Morris accuses Shlaim of anti-Zionism. One is where he is puts it together with being anti-Israel. In this instance what he is critical of is Israel’s injustice towards Palestinians and the scruples of Israel’s leaders. I don’t think that’s anti-Zionist. He is not calling into question that there should be a state for Jewish people.

          The second instance is where he says that the foundation of the Israeli state has caused one of the most protracted conflicts of modern times. Well, that seems to be true. Shlaim is critical of the way that Israel was founded, the way that Britain intervened in the region, etc. Very critical. But I don’t think you can call him anti-Zionist for stating the obvious. At best, you could call him neutral with respect to Zionism. That is, the Jewish state came about because of collosal blunders by the colonial powers. If we were back in 1917, we should probably look at enacting this project in a different way.

          My concern here is that the way you are strarting to use the term anti-Zionist is in a way in which it loses its bite, and in which being anti-Zionist will be no bad thing. Perhaps that’s for the best, but I suspect it’s not how you intend for it to be understood.

  82. Richard Gold Says:

    Hi Philip. Glad you’ve been commenting. As i’ve been moderating the comments i’ve been aware of the debate re Mearsheimer & Walt in this thread so a few quick points.

    1) You talk about the scholarly qualifications of the authors. That’s why people have taken them to task as for such scholars to write a shoddy piece of work with simple mistakes and distortions makes it even worse. You’d certainly expect more of a rigourous and scholarly work from them.

    2) You say that the authors didn’t talk about some tight knitted conspiracy (i’m paraphrasing you) but a looser network. And that’s the point as they grouped together many organisations with differing views and turned it into a conspiracy and a lobby.

    3) I can recommend this piece which shows how the authors distorted , took quotations out of context and were wrong on several accounts. Unfortunately it’s only available through paying but i’d recommend it.


    4) With regard to antisemites using their work – the authors certainly provide a framework for antisemites to operate in , even if they themselves are not antisemites.

    It’s amazing that such a poor piece of work with so many mistakes and so poor from a research point of view gained so much traction. It’s also good that their central thesis has been disagreed with by many on the left.

    It’s not the first time an article has been judged by some on it’s political message and not on it’s content. Professor Rose wrote a very poor book ” A Question Of Zion” which was taken apart by Shalom Lappin. But those who praised it weren’t really bothered about the facts and Professor Rose was judged not on what she wrote (which carried some major mistakes), but by the fact that she was a leading proponent for the academic boycott of Israel and hostile to zionism.


    • Philip Says:

      Richard, thanks for your comment.

      In truth I didn’t intend to get into a discussion of Mearsheimer and Walt. My initial intent was to discuss the apparent lack of empathy for the Palestinian predicament in the discussion.

      I think you identify a valid problem when you talk about people evaluating work based on whether it backs-up their existing preconceptions or supports their political aims. I think we’re all susceptible to that.

      I will try to read the pieces that you recommend, but I just wanted to respond to points 2 and 4.

      On point 2, I see where you’re getting at, but I think I still disagree. A conspiracy happens when people get together and conspire to do something. I think it has to invovle that element. What Mearsheimer and Walt identify is a far looser thing that happens not out of conpiracy, not necessarily even for impure motives, but something that happens almost like Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Not something someone preconceives, but something that happens spontaneously. That’s a lobby, but I don’t think it’s a conspiracy.

      On point 4, I’m not sure that’s fair. I don’t see the point of making such a point unless it’s to hint that they might be anti-semitics themselves. Or alternatively, it’s not relevant to the argument being made, which is either right or wrong. One way to see this is as follows: assume that there is an Israel lobby that acts in more or less the way that Mearsheimer and Walt say. Can it be criticised in a way that is not antimetic or does not provide a framework for others to use in an antisemitic way? If the answer is yes, then I’d love to hear what you think it is! If the answer is no, then I think it could have worrying implications for concepts of truth and error.

  83. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Philip, let me give you a taster of the Morris review, with these two paragraphs from p. 2 of the article:

    “To be sure, Shlaim’s attitude to Israel earned him prestige among his British, European, and Arab academic colleagues. So did his voluminous The Iron Wall (2000), a history of Israeli-Arab relations since 1948. In his new book, a collection of essays, in a piece called “Free Speech? Not for Critics of Israel,” Shlaim sums up that book not inaccurately: “The central theme of … The Iron Wall is that Israel throughout its history too readily resorted to military force, and has been unwilling to engage in meaningful diplomacy.”

    In fact, The Iron Wall was more balanced than that. In the heat of his current pro-Palestinian righteousness, Shlaim forgets that The Iron Wall devoted many pages to the Israeli-Egyptian and Israeli-Syrian post–October War disengagement negotiations, which led to substantial Israeli troop withdrawals; and to the Israeli-Egyptian negotiations and peace treaty of 1977–1979, which saw Israel evacuate every last inch of the Sinai Peninsula; and to the Israel-PLO Oslo accords and the negotiations that resulted in the Israel-Jordan 1994 peace treaty. And while Ehud Barak’s (and Bill Clinton’s) efforts in 2000 to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace may not have been successful, they cannot be airily dismissed as “meaningless” diplomacy. Indeed, one can say that in the course of its sixty-year history, Israel has engaged in very meaningful diplomacy–and in diplomacy that resulted in its evacuation of huge swathes of territory (Sinai alone is three times the size of Israel) and in peace treaties with two of its Arab neighbors.”

    There, should be enough for you to get your teeth into and to present at least the start of a reasoned critique as to why Shlaim, despite it all, is really a Zionist at heart. Don’t say I never do anything for you. All this evidence, all these references…just when are you going to read it all, Philip?

    • Philip Says:

      I have read this article. I’m not sure why you picked out this particular passage. It describes someone who is critical of the Israeli government. You can dispute the facts if you like.

      Shlaim is not someone who believes in the extreme vision of a Greater Israel. He does believe that Jews should have a Jewish state. Further, he is critical of the way the Israeli government has conducted himself, in particular he believes it has been slow to make peace with Arab states and Palestinians. If all that makes him anti-Zionist, then he’s guilty as charged. I don’t suspect he’ll worry too much about your opinion.

  84. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Philip, you may think that you’ve responded to Richard (and it’s for him to say whether you have or not), but I do notice that you have never replied to my pretty specific comments on M & W and the “Lobby”, when I noted that both Israeli sources and US based pro-Israeli sources (more than one and too disparate to be lumped together) had argued that Iran and not Iraq was the real enemy of the West. This _before_ M & W and their like started to argue that the US had gone to war with Iraq at the behest of Israel.

    Ignoring comments you don’t like or are uncomfortable for your own stance is no way to carry on a debate – it’s why people get ever more insistent on answers to the questions asked or the points made or the information provided. (This doesn’t apply to insults – as opposed to unfunny jokes or supposed witticisms – these are sometimes best ignored.)

    However, as per my first paragraph above, I’m still waiting for responses, which is why I’m posting ever more specific info. Failure to respond brings its own assumptions about your position and desire to do other than score cheap points – even if such assumptions are wrong. You really don’t want to get to lumped in with the anti-Zionist asserters who rear their heads here every so often.

    However, if the cap fits…

  85. Philip Says:

    I don’t believe anyone made the argument that Israel didn’t want a war with Iran. In fact, there is increasing evidence that it does want the US to pick a fight with them.

    The point that Mearsheimer and Walt made is that prominent parts of the Israel lobby, and Israeli leaders did promote the Iraq war, and that this war was not in the US national interest. These included Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Shimon Peres. Are you disputing that they made these comments? Or are you saying that they should be ignored?

    • Gil Says:

      Philip, your last comment was a sign that you’ve run out of arguments and resorted to a position that sounds suspiciously like conspiracy theory. You’ve revealed your true colours and this is my last comment on what you have to say.

      Take the Iran point. You’ve obviously ignored the real issue here: That Israeli policy from the 90s onwards was that Iran was the main threat and NOT Iraq. According to Lawrence Wilkerson who was a high ranking official at the State Department and later Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff, Israel encouraged NOT to attack or occupy Iraq and instead to focus on the main enemy (as it saw it), Iran.
      Here’s the link

      I would much rather believe someone who was privy to the actual discussions, than two academics who hate Israel.

      Regarding your malicious comment about Israel and Iran: Where is the ‘increasing evidence that it [Israel] does want the US to pick a fight with [Iran]?

      How did you measure ‘increasing’ in this context?

      The national interest is decided by the President and his Cabinet with the National Security Council. None of these office holders was Israeli or Jewish.

      Where is the evidence that Israel doesn’t want to to the job itself and wants the US to do the job for Israel? You’ve inverted reality. The fact is that the US is trying to hold Israel back from attacking and is demanding that sanctions be used first. If you had chosen to read the news and educate yourself about this then you would’nt have made an utter fool of yourself with this comment.

      • Philip Says:

        This is becoming a thread where I am being accused of things I have not said. So as I said before, I have not argued anywhere that Israel did not have a policy of taking on Iran. This is in no way inconsistent with Israel supporting the war in Iraq.

        With regard to the Wilkerson info, that’s very interesting. It seems to conflict with what Tony Blair said in the recent inquiry. What do you make of that. Beyond that, however, I would make two points. The first is that lobbying does not happen through involvement of nefarious involvement of cabal’s in government. It happens by loose groups exerting influence where they can, in this case through congress, through the media and through government discussions. The second is that when you have Ehud Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu writing articles in US papers saying that Saddam Hussein should be removed, I think it becomes difficult to argue that the Isareli establishment was somehow not interested in the Iraq war. But I’ll leave people to ponder that.

        The Israely lobby thesis does not hold that the President or members of the cabinet must be Israeli or Jewish. I have certainly not said so. The national interest, in the IR realist sense, is not decided by the president, cabinet and national security council. They can often be wrong. Besides, in the US the executive is particularly weak, and congress exerts significant influence over this process.

        ‘Increasing’ was the wrong word to use. I should simply have said ‘there is evidence’. Sorry about that.

        Your last paragraph is something of a non sequitur.

        As a general comment on ‘conspiracy theory’, you are way too quick to use the term. The same can be said for much of this discussion. Many views have been ascribed to me (and to Mearsheimer and Walt) that I simply do not hold. So I don’t believe in a ‘Jewish cabal’ that ‘controls’ US foreign policy. nor do I believe that lobbying is a ‘nefarious’ activity is ‘unpatriotic’ or evil.

        It would be nice if discussion could be restricted to views I, or other interlocutors, actually hold.

        • Gil Says:

          Philip, you now write that you were wrong when saying that there is ‘increased’ evidence that Israel wants the US to pick a fight with Iran. Moving on, could you please provide the actual evidence for your robust assertion that there is ‘evidence’ that the US actually does not identify Iran as a threat to US interests in the region and therefore its policy against Iran is a result of Israel actually wanting the former to ‘pick a fight’ with the latter.

          Also, when you say ‘pick a fight’ are you implying that Iran/US relations have been harmonious and that the two countries have never engaged in hostilities in the past 30 years? Nor that Iran has not been involved in stirrign up trouble against US and British troops in Afghanistan?

        • Philip Says:

          No, you are putting words into my mouth. I have not said that the US has no interest in taking on Iran. And I certainly never said that the US’s policy on Iran is a result of Israel’s position. I’m sure that there are many many factors behind the US’s policy. As a caveat however, I’m pretty sure that the US’s reasons for wanting to confront Iran are somewhat different from Israel’s. For one, the US is in part motivated by its interest in making sure the NPT works, which I supsect Israel is less interested in.

          What I in fact said was that Israel wants the US to confront Iran. I would have thought that comments by the Israeli leadership comparing Iran to Nazi Germany as well as the lobbying work of AIPAC and J Street to get Congress to push for sanctions were indications of that.

    • Jonathan Romer Says:

      Good grief, Phillip,

      Take a little time to reflect on your prejudices. Do you really believe Israel wants a war with Iran? A war in which, no matter whether Israel itself or the US is the protagonist, there is a very high probability that every population centre in Israel will come under a hail of rocket fire from Hezbollah, Hamas and probably Iran itself? What Israel desperately wants is for Iran — which describes Israel as a cancer and threatens its destruction — to be forced out of the nuclear weapons business. If there was a serious prospect that that could be achieved by any non-military means, do you really believe that Israel would say no, we’d rather attack them? Why? There’s no rational explanation; it could only be because Israel — that is, Israelis — lusts for blood at all costs.

      And do you also believe that Barak, Sharon and Peres somehow arm-twisted George Bush, Dick Cheney and Congress into a war that these American leaders felt was against US interests? How did they do that?

      I think you have revealed more of yourself than you may have intended to.

      • Philip Says:

        If Israel wanted to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, it could do worse than signing up to the NPT, which would help put pressure in Iran. I don’t see that happening too soon, however.

        I have to say that the initial sugegstions that Israel wants to take on Iran did not come from me, so I find it odd that I’m the only one to receive your comment telling me that I’m prejudiced. This may be because you find ad hominem attacks useful. I think that Israel has an interest in confronting Iran. I’m not sure whether it wants to do this militarily or not, though I know that they are staging plenty of war-games. But you would probably be better direcing your question to others in this thread who have been educating me so helpfully about Israel’s policy towards Iraq and Iran.

        I have never said that Israeli leaders ‘arm-twisted’ US leaders into a war they that American leaders believed to be against the US interest. Try to show some nuance in your thinking, and try to be more accurate when representing my views.

        • Jonathan Romer Says:


          I addressed myself to you because it was your slanted and frankly ridiculous comment that caught my eye. But to please you I have now gone back and had a scan through the thread. I found no one, before or after you, claiming that Israel wanted a war with Iran. Can you point out something I missed?

          These are your words: “I don’t believe anyone made the argument that Israel didn’t want a war with Iran. In fact, there is increasing evidence that it does want the US to pick a fight with them.”

          When you now talk of Israel “taking on” and “confronting” Iran, should I take that as just rephrasing of “wants a war”, or are you trying to quietly back away from your earlier belief? Either own up to the harmful stupidity of your earlier words, or else explain why war would be Israel’s preferred option.

          You went on to say “… Israeli leaders did promote the Iraq war, and that this war was not in the US national interest.” What was the relevance of that observation, if not to suggest that Israel forced, manoeuvred, bribed, bullied, tricked, cajoled or otherwise led the US government to act in a way that it would not have otherwise? Did Bush and Congress make their own decision, or didn’t they? If Israel showed support for what the US decided it intended to do, what of it? So did Britain. M&W, and you, think the Iraq invasion was bad for the US, George Bush disagreed with you and he got to make the call, not you or M&W. Why bring up the “Israel Lobby” (and why no others?) if the US government was simply doing what it does, with the executive proposing foreign policy and the legislature debating and approving it (or not)?

          I have saved your latest idea, “Israel … signing up to the NPT … would help put pressure in Iran” for last, because it barely deserves attention. Iran can be in no doubt, even if you are, that Israel has no reason at all to attack it if it doesn’t threaten Israel, and the only thing that makes an Israeli attack at all likely is if Iran persists in developing nuclear weapons. Iran, you may have forgotten, is already a signatory to the NPT but not willing to fulfil its NPT obligations. Are you really suggesting that Israel opening itself up to the IAEA and all the encumbrances that follow would make Iran — which has expressed 30 years worth of hatred and threats to the “Zionist entity” — sweat more than than the possibility of having its facilities bombed?

        • Philip Says:

          Well, the argument is that Israel signing up to the NPT would strengthen it, and give the Security Council more weight in its efforts to prevent proliferation and to force Iranian compliance with its obligations. Reasonable people can disagree about whether this would work, I suppose, though I happen to think that it has a better chance of working than the current situation.

          Your fourth paragraph is again assigning arguments to me that I have not made. Please be accurate in restating my views. To do otherwise is disrespectful. The reason I made the point I made was because people were arguing that Israel did not want the US to attack Iraq, which is demonstrably false, since Israeli politicians were lining to write articles in the US press putting the case for getting rid of Saddam Hussein.

          Finally, you again accuse me of saying that war with Iran is Israel’s preferred option. I have never said so. ‘Picking a fight’ was not intended to mean ‘war’. I’m sorry if that was unclear. To explain the context, Brian Goldfarb had been trying to explain to me that Israel’s position was that Iran was the real enemy of ‘the West’, which meant that Israel could not have supported the war in Iraq. I was simply rebutting his claim by saying that I had not suggested that Israel had no desire for a war with Iran. (He is also wrong because Israeli leaders were, in fact, pushing for the war.) You took something of a leap in thinking that I was arguing the opposite. Perhaps this was because I was clumsy. If so, apologies. What I believe is that Israel wants Iran confronted.

        • Jonathan Romer Says:


          Perhaps you are tripping over your own double negatives. “I had not suggested that Israel had no desire for a war with Iran” and “I don’t believe anyone made the argument that Israel didn’t want a war with Iran” are both statements that Israel did want that war. I say again that there is no evidence to support that. Israel wants Iran to be unable to back its threats to its existence with nuclear means. It has been clear from the outset that Israel is willing to give as much opportunity as absolutely possible for diplomatic and economic solutions to work and that a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would be a last and rather desperate resort. You may view such a strike as an act of war — so, without a doubt, would Iran and all of Israel’s other “critics” — but it is in fact the threat that such a limited strike would spiral into outright war that makes Israel so reluctant to contemplate it.

        • Philip Says:

          Well, it’s not just me – the UN Charter and the body of international law would also consider it to be an act of war.

          Again, I have not made the argument that Israel wants a war with Iran. If you think I have, then let me take this opportunity to correct that impression. The issue of Iran was not brought up by me.

          In any case, I think we can both agree that one of Israel’s foreign policy goals is to confront Iran over its nuclear weapons programme, which is part of a wider strategy to ensure that Iran does not become over-powerful in the region. Now, does Israel want ‘to give as much opportunity as absolutely possible for diplomatic and economic solutions to work’? I suspect this is overly generous, but it’s up for debate. I would humbly suggest it’s better left to another day, however.

        • Jonathan Romer Says:


          I should be grateful, I suppose, that you have finally issued a retraction of sorts, but it is the sort of weaseling apology that says “I’m sorry you misunderstood me” when what’s needed is “I’m sorry I said what wasn’t true”. It’s taken too long and too many times of shoving your own words in your face for me to feel particularly generous now. You’re right, you “have not made the argument that Israel wants a war with Iran”, but you have asserted exactly that — “I had not suggested that Israel had no desire for a war with Iran” — without substantiation.

          And still, you are pushing the same stuff. Please, explain why would Israel not much rather solve the problem of Iran’s nuclear threat peacefully, but would prefer to do so militarily? Because that’s what you imply by saying it doesn’t want to give every chance for diplomatic and economic solutions, whether you couch it as your suspicion of excessive generosity or say it plain.

        • Philip Says:

          We’ll just say that Israel’s record on giving non-military, economic and diplomatic means a chance over the past 60 years is not a good one. So going on past precedent, I don’t think my comment was especially unreasonable.

          The method of argumentation you are using (viz. taking my denial of one point to mean my endorsement of the opposite) is unfair. It would help us to have a more meaningful discussion if you would stop.

        • Jonathan Romer Says:

          “We’ll just say that Israel’s record on giving non-military, economic and diplomatic means a chance over the past 60 years is not a good one.”

          No, Philip, we won’t. Israel’s record includes major land-for-peace attempts on all its borders — repeated tries, even in the face of renewed aggression from across those borders; peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan; multiple attempts to negotiate a peace with Syria; and an agreement to allow Arafat and assorted other old terrorists to return from exile in Tunisia and set up a government 10 miles from Jerusalem and 30 from Tel Aviv, with authority over 90+% of Palestinians. It includes an attempt to stave off the 6 Day War by diplomatic means that persisted so late in the game, it gave the Defence Minister a nervous breakdown, and it includes offers to split Jerusalem and return almost completely to the 1967 armistice lines. Some of us find that a pretty exemplary record.

          You argue by the use of double negatives and indirect insinuations and then you moan about being misinterpreted. Tell me Philip: Am I permitted to interpret “Israel’s record … is not a good one” as meaning you think it’s bad, or do you want stay free to shed responsibility for that opinion too? Say what you mean, back it up with evidence and you’ll raise the standard of this debate immeasurably.

        • Philip Says:

          I was trying to show more nuanced. My position is that it is not a good record. It could be worse, but is not good.

          To claim that it is exemplary seems to go much too far in the opposite direction. And seems to forget Suez and Gaza, to give two examples. However, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you were exaggerating.

        • Richard Gold Says:

          It’s worth pointing out that israel stayed out of the first Gulf War even though scuds were being fired on Israel by Iraq. US pressure probably which again goes against the M & W thesis.

  86. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    “The point that Mearsheimer and Walt made is that prominent parts of the Israel lobby, and Israeli leaders did promote the Iraq war, and that this war was not in the US national interest. These included Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Shimon Peres. Are you disputing that they made these comments? Or are you saying that they should be ignored?”

    Are we disputing that they made these comments? Yes, we are, loudly and in spades, as Gil shows abundantly clearly with his link to ips news. Are you going to read it? You’ve shown precious little evidence of reading any of the material we’ve put your way. And when are you going to answer my specific points, Philip?

    We are saying, again and again, that whatever Mearsheimer and Walt chose to say (and, presumably, believe), Israel counselled long and hard _against_ an invasion of Iraq, stating that Iran was the real threat in the region. Further, that no US-based pro-Israel lobby actually influenced the Bush administration to follow a policy _against_ the interests of the US. G.W. Bush was many things as President: a patsy wasn’t one of them, nor were his foreign policy advisers patsies.

    As Gil notes, “Philip, your last comment was a sign that you’ve run out of arguments and resorted to a position that sounds suspiciously like conspiracy theory.” I’ll leave aside his suggestion that you’ve revealed your true colours, although I am inclined to agree with him. Time and again, you have ignored the arguments and counter-arguments presented here; you’ve shown no sign of reading the articles linked to for your benefit (the books would take longer, so we’ll leave those aside for now); nor have you done other than become tediously, and without evidence, repetitious. It’s as though you expect us to suddenly say “oh, of course, the scales have fallen from our eyes: your repitition has worn down our scepticism”. Or as though _you_ expect _us_ to just give up, so you can go away and say to your friends, look, they have no answer to my erudition. Two chances of that happening: fat and slim.

    You have shown no erudition, merely repition. You have presented little evidence (and much of what you _have_ presented had been previously and comprehensively critiqued); and you have vanishingly little in the way of argument. What you _have_ done is assert, over and over again.

    It could almost be the motto of the comments threads of the Engage website that “assertion wins no debates here; the rules of academic engagement are the guiding light”. So, if you don’t know what those are (though I suspect that you do, very well), go away and learn them. Then, and only then, come back and debate with us.

  87. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Philip: “This is becoming a thread where I am being accused of things I have not said.”

    No, actually. What you are being accused of, among other things, is not responding to the points put to you, the questions asked of you, and not offering reasons why the evidence we put to you doesn’t apply or is just wrong. I’m used to being ignored (I’m married with children), but you are raising it to an art form. You have failed on at least 3 occasions to respond to specific points I’ve made to you, which I have backed with argument and evidence. That you refuse to respond is becoming seriously suspicious: you effectively impute motives to yourself.

    And, by the way, if you’re being accused of things you did not say, who has accused you, what and when did they say it? Simple enough: if you can’t produce chapter and verse, it might be because you haven’t been so accused but are using an ancient rhetorical trick to avoid responding to points you wish would go away.

    Tip: they’re not going to, not here on Engage. And please stop repeating assertions not backed by evidence or argument. They don’t wash here and are, frankly, boring.

    • Philip Says:

      For my benefit, and because I’m not sure on which occasions I didn’t respond, why don’t you outline the points you feel I haven’t addressed? I will then systematically answer them, if I can.

      I will also go through and outline where I have had opinions ascribed to me that I don’t hold. Though you’ll have to forgive me if I do that tomorrow, since work calls.

    • Philip Says:

      For my benefit, and because I’m not sure on which occasions I didn’t respond, why don’t you outline the points you feel I haven’t addressed? I will then systematically answer them, if I can.

      I will also go through and outline where I have had opinions ascribed to me that I don’t hold. Though you’ll have to forgive me if I do that tomorrow, since work calls. However, one such example is Gil’s latest comment…

  88. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    April 7 twice will do for starters, but I’m not going to repeat myself beyond that. If you claim to be following what’s happening, it’s up to you to note when you are being asked questions, etc.

    And as for “I will also go through and outline where I have had opinions ascribed to me that I don’t hold,” please do. It isn’t enough to assert that this is happening, it needs to be documented.

    • Philip Says:

      I see that its ok for you to ‘assert’ that I haven’t been answering your questions without ‘documenting’ it, but you don’t extend similar priveleges to me. Is this another of your ‘academic’ principles?

      • Philip Says:

        I will respond to your questions however, just a little busy at work right now. Tomorrow hopefully.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        Cheap jibe, Philip, and, given that you haven’t in fact replied to me but rather to others on different matters, an untrue statement. I’m not going to do your work for you: if you honestly believe that you _have_ answered my questions and points, all you have to do is state where and when (date and time).

        Indeed, your time would be better spent either noting when you answered me, or in actually answering me, than in making unwarranted slurs on my character and mode of commenting. You are getting predictable like certain others who comment here in like vein.

  89. Philip Says:

    My quick research thus far reveals the following views ascribed to me which I haven’t made:

    Absolute Observer wrote that I believe that the Israel lobby ‘determines’ US policy in the Middle East. I don’t.

    He also claims that I believe Israel is a ‘sinful’ state. Not sure where that one came from.

    Gil wrote that I believe that the US has no interest in confronting Iran except because of the Israel lobby. I didn’t say that.

    And Jonathan Romer writes that I think US leaders were ‘arm-twisted’ into the Iraq war by Israeli politicians. I don’t.

    • Gil Says:

      Philip, I’ve reread your posts again including your remark to one of the other posters here to pay to attention to nuances. Honestly, I think that you’ve couched your comments in so much nuance that it is impossible, for me at least, to understand the significance of what you are saying. Perhaps you were being too subtle. What I do find interesting is that most of your comments are about ‘I did not say/think/believe this’ than what you are actually ‘positively’ saying.

      To me (and probably to one other poster at least from what I read here) it appears to be that in your very latest posts you appear to be backtracking from what you were originally saying about M+W; Iraq+Iran.

      My guess is that now you would much rather discuss Shlaim and Morris rather than M+W. You simply do not come across as having anything meaningful (that is not couched in nuance) to say on the latter.

      • Philip Says:

        Gil, the reason I had this list of negatives is because Brian Goldfarb asked me to produce it. It wasn’t meant to be a positive argument, just a response to his request.

        With regard to the lobby, off the top of my head: there are a number of groups in the US that try to influence US policy in the Middle East, with particular regard to Israel. They try to promote what is in Israel’s interests. They may do this because they believe that Israel’s interests and US interests are similar or the same. They are successful in many instances. Since US interests and Israeli interests are not the same (though on occasions they do overlap) it is unwise to allow these lobbying groups from influencing US policy.

        • Gil Says:

          Philip, you said this in your last response to Jonathan Romer: ‘Well, it’s not just me – the UN Charter and the body of international law would also consider it to be an act of war’

          Philip, what would be an ‘act of war’? A ‘confrontation’? an attack that doesn’t mean a ‘confrontation? you are so slippery that it is impossible to know what you mean any more. To my mind, you’ve backtracked from all your positions but you can’t bring yourself to admit that you were wrong.

          And when you talk about the UN Charter etc. regarding ‘it’ [what is ‘it’?] as an act war: Are you so sure that, assuming you mean an Israeli attack, it will be held injust or illegal under International Law?

        • Philip Says:

          I was referring to the comment Jonathan Romer made, where he said that I might consider ‘a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities’. I am arguing that this would be an act of war.

          I am sure that international law and the UN Charter would regard it as an act of war. The use of force and the threat of the use of force are both reuled as illegal under the UN Charter, with two exceptions: self-defence or as a result of a Security Council-authorised breach of the peace. (There is an emerging consensus on the use of force for humanitarian reasons, too.)

          An Israeli attack would not fall under the first category. It is possible it would fall under the second, but I think it is unlikely in the event that the Security Council decalres a breach of the peace, that Israel will be asked to contribute to any action. I base this on precedent from the first Iraq War. Anyway, I am pretty sure it would be an act of war.

        • Gil Says:

          Philip has decreed, without a sliver of nuance, that an Israeli pre-emptive (and I hope that it will not come to this) attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, would not be considered an act of ‘self defence’. Thus spake Philip.

          Honestly, did you take the International Law module during your degree studies? You may be an IR graduate but you don’t know much about legal reasoning. There is always a counter-argument. This latter argument would include the quite reasonable point that facing a nuclear threat, Israel cannot passively be expected to wait for diplomats to decide what is imminent’.

          In any case, if Israel faced a mortal threat (and I mean a mortal threat), it certainly won’t wait for the antisemites at the UN to decide its fate. What country would, Philip?

          Rereading your latest comments again, it appears that your ‘legal analysis’ is tainted by your inherent bias against Israel.

          I’m through with wasting my time here.

        • Philip Says:

          I have no bias against Israel. If Iran launched an attack against any other country that too would be an act of war. I’m surprised, given that pre-emptive strikes have been comprehensively discredited in Iraq, to find anyone trying to justify them.

          There are always other points of view. But I believe that the law is pretty clear. You may be believe that the law is an ass in this case. In my view you would have a more powerful argument than the one you made above.

          A quick point of order however: just who at the UN are you saying is antisemitic? Obviously there are a few (Ahmadi Nejad for one), but they don’t have seats on the Security Council. I certainly hope you weren’t making borderline racist allegations against the majority of UN members.

  90. Richard Gold Says:

    Hi Philip

    Sorry for not replying to your last point re my comment but been rather busy doing some election work.

    You say it’s not fair to say that M&W provide a framework for antisemites to operate in. But “The Lobby” certainly does provide a framework and it’s been jumped on by antisemites. It’s been used by the far right – that’s a fact

    You say that because M&W talk about various organisations that are not part of a cabal that it’s ok. But they group different organisations together who have different aims and objectives – infact they even tried to group Jstreet into the “lobby”. It’s also interesting that when the book first came out that they titled it “The Lobby”.

    With regard to Iraq – they were wrong and even admitted it later. The fact is that Israel had very little to do with the US and UK decision to invade Iraq. Yet M & W blame Israel and ascribe to Israel the ability and power to push the US into invading Iraq. Jews often get blamed for wars. They were blamed for the Boer War and WW1 and WW2. They weren’t responsible for any of them and they weren’t responsible for the invasion of Iraq.

    With regard to your recent comment citing Shlaim “that the Partition Plan was pretty unfair insofar as Israel got something like 73% of the land (from memory)” – We ll it was 55% to Israel but please remember that this included the Negev desert which vastly slants the percentage as it was mostly desert and uninhabited. Also kindly bear in mind that the Palestinian Arab share virtually included no Jews which is another reason why the Palestinian Jews received more land as it was how the land lay.

    Philip , i know the attempts weren’t in the end “succesful” but can i ask you what do you think would have happened to the Palestinian Jews if they had lost the war in 1947 ? Do you think that attacks on Jews in Palestine were justified ?

    • Philip Says:

      My argument was not about whether anti-semites appropriated the work. It is that to say so is not a valid argument. So what? The question is whether their work is anti-semitic, not whether a bunch of pea-brained bigots like it. The BNP quite like socialism. Does that discredit socialism?

      No one has said that Jews are ‘responsible’ for the Iraq war. The only people who are reponsible are those who made the decisions. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look at the advice they were receiving. Can you point me to where M & W admitted they were wrong?

      I got my figures wrong – confused with the post-war split, so sorry about that. It was unfair insofar as the territorial split went in Israel’s favour (numbers-wise) whereas the population split gave the Palestinians an overwhelming majority. This doesn’t mean that the plan was ultimately the wrong thing to do, but I still think, based on those numbers, that it was unfair.

      I really don’t want to get into counter-factuals. I think that attacks on Jews in Palestine were unjustified.

      • Richard Gold Says:

        Philip – If you produce a piece of work as M & W did which was full of conspiracy theories , full of imagery of a lobby working against the interests of the US then you will appeal to antisemites. I don’t know whether M & W are antisemites , i don’t know what goes on in their thought processes.

        Your comment re BNP and socialism is childish and silly and i’d expect better from you.

        RE M & W admitting they were wrong. Can’t find the link but during their tour of Europe (or perhaps just before) they backtracked on the thesis that Israel was the driving force behind the war.

        “I really don’t want to get into counter-factuals” – I’m sure you don’t !

        Re getting your figures wrong – you got the figure very wrong. How would you have divided the land Philip ? What would have been fair Philip (taking into consideration that the Israeli part included the Negev which distorts the division greatly) ?

  91. James Mendelsohn Says:


    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Sorry our exchanges are boring you, James. Perhaps you believe that we should just let Philip go away believing that we think he’s right by not replying. You are not obliged to read these comments, but if you do, something a little more constructive might be nice.

  92. Philip Says:

    Brain Goldfarb, I apologise for the time it’s taken me to respond: all in all, work deadlines, air travel disruption and moving house have all contributed to my tardiness.

    Let me start by saying that I have not made any slurs on your character. Please point out where I have done this. If it is the case, I will apologise unreservedly. With regard to your mode of commenting, I simply pointed out your inconsistency in one respect, and made a tongue in cheek comment about one of your slogans. Not a heinous crime, I don’t think.

    I have identified 5 questions or remarks that you have made. Rather than point you to my answers previously let me just answer them briefly now.

    1. You wrote that I had not read the critiques of M & W. This is untrue. I have read them.

    2. You asked why I dismissed these critiques. I answered saying that my major problem was that they were critiquing a reading of the M & W work that I didn’t recognise. They were mistaken in framing it as a conspiracy theory, which it is absolutely not. They tended not to engage with the actual arguments that M & W made.

    3. You asked whether Obama’s policy towards Israel was simply an illusion. I believe that Obama wants to make progress on this issue, and he has taken a tougher line than I expected. It may reflect a weakening of the Israel Lobby. I thin kit certainly reflects a change in perceptions of what it means to be pro-Israeli. I think Gaza marked a turning point in Israel’s PR which has enabled him to be tougher.

    4. You ask how a mish-mash of groups can act as a lobby, and wonder how politicians can choose between them. You’re right that there are many different groups and persepctives. But the common thread is that they favour giving steadfast support to Isreal, and put Israel first. The effect is to shift the discourse of the debate to an Israel-first position. M & W address this head-on in their original article.

    5. You argue that Israel could not have supported the Iraq war because their major concern was Iran. I responded by saying that the two are not inconsistent positions. But in any case, to argue that the Israeli establishment did not want Saddam Hussein to be toppled seems foolhardy in the extreme: articles by Barak in the NYT and Netanyahu in the WSJ both supported the action.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      You ask “Let me start by saying that I have not made any slurs on your character. Please point out where I have done this. If it is the case, I will apologise unreservedly.”

      Philip, I didn’t say that you had cast any slurs on my character: generally speaking, my back is broad on that issue. Only if I feel that the comment is insulting enough will I talk about slurs. What I did say was that you had made a cheap jibe – which is very much not the same thing, and you made it here (on April 13, 1.19 pm):
      “With regard to your mode of commenting, I simply pointed
      I see that its ok for you to ‘assert’ that I haven’t been answering your questions without ‘documenting’ it, but you don’t extend similar priveleges to me. Is this another of your ‘academic’ principles?”

      I have noted time and time again that you are _not_ backing up your claims (assertions I said and I continue to say) with evidence. An enormous amount of evidence has been put your way: Absolute Observer and Richard Gold have shown exactly how M & W operated (whether intentionality or not – and probably not) to encourage antisemitism, but they certainly haven’t disavowed this. I pointed you to the Engage archive up there on the left-hand corner of _every_ page, including this one, _and_ stated how you could find previous comments and discussions of their work. I also provided a link to the Benny Morris review of Shlaim’s latest book, which included a general critique of Shlaim’s work. I have also provided the titles of two of Benny Morris’s latest books for you to read.

      You demonstrate no sign of having read any of this. You have a cast-iron nerve accusing me (or the other commenters I have referred to in this entry) of asserting as you are doing. I have read all that I have referred you to (bar the latest Benny Morris book). You haven’t.

      It may not be a heinous crime, but you continue, in the rest of this current comment, to avoid citing evidence. If you so deeply disagree with the interpretations of M & W’s work, show it, don’t simply continue to assert it by saying you disagree. Why do you disagree? What is _your_ evidence?

      I am not imagining the lack of evidence and argument based on that. Others note it too. And anyway to argue that: “…the Israeli establishment did not want Saddam Hussein to be toppled seems foolhardy in the extreme: articles by Barak in the NYT and Netanyahu in the WSJ both supported the action” does not preclude the overwhelming evidence that the Israeli government and intelligence service (and this has been cited in these columns) thought and think that Iran was a greater threat and that if the US was going to spend further resources in the region (having invaded Afghanistan), they should be spent on Iran not Iraq. Saddam was no great threat to Israel, as was demonstrated in the first Gulf War; Iran’s potential atomic bomb is a far greater one.

      But I should just go ahead, Philip, and ignore all the evidence we put your way. You’ll be more comfortable that way and you won’t have to accept inconvenient truths. BTW, if those articles by Barak and Netanyahu are so compelling, why aren’t you providing links to them, or at least a date and article title?

      No I’m not expecting an apology – it’s not due – but an acknowledgement that it _was_ a cheap jibe would be nice. And I still say your asserting. not arguing.

      • Philip Says:

        You did say I had slurred your character: ‘making unwarranted slurs on my character and mode of commenting.’ But this was probably a slip.

        Was what I said a cheap jibe? I don’t see how. You said that I had to supply chapter and verse about where people had accused me of believing things I didn’t. You said I couldn’t just ‘assert’. Yet when I asked you to tell me which questions you wanted answering, you basically refused.

        So yes, I was poking fun at you, and your previous comments about the rigour of ‘academic’ debates. But it was still fair to pick you up on it.

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          If you really don’t understand the English language – and my comment was pretty plain – then I really do have better things to do than explain in words of one syllable. Now you really _are_ nitpicking, and I refuse to dignify your silliness with a response beyond this.

          And if you think that ” the rigour of ‘academic’ debates” is something that is worth poking fun at, then I’ve got a lot of people who no longer (at least under their real names) post here, because they couldn’t provide the necessary rigour in their postings. Nor, on the evidence so far, can you.

          So go and post on more amenable anti-zionist (to be polite about it, websites

  93. Philip Says:

    Really, your comments are perlexing. You can ‘assert’ all you like that I haven’t read the links you sent. The contrary is true. Your MO is appalling. Saying I haven’t read something, accusing others of conspiracy theory, it’s all designed to stop you from having to actually ‘engage’ (geddit?) with the arguments.

    So Mearsheimer and Walt write an article about a lobby in the US. People respond by accusing them of imagining a conspiracy theory that controls US foreign policy. I would have thought that in this case, the onus is on M & W to show how the lobby works, and on their critics, since they have chosen to label it a conspiracy theory rather than challenge the arguments made, to show how and why it is a conspiracy theory. Where is your evidence?

    As far as I can tell, the only person who has tried to make an argument on this thread is Richard Gold, in point 2 here: https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2010/03/03/hard-hitting-campaigns-or-outright-anti-semitism/#comment-9486. I have to say I disagree still, but fair play that he actually bothered to make an argument.

    (P.S. When you say that M & W haven’t denounced racists who have taken up their material, are you taking into account my comment here: https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2010/03/03/hard-hitting-campaigns-or-outright-anti-semitism/#comment-9481?)

    With regard to Iraq and Iran, we have to look at the balance of evidence. So far you have one person in support from the IPS article, whereas I have mentioned Blair (from the Iraq Inquiry), Barak and Netanyahu. The articles are referenced in the Original Mearsheimer & Walt article here: http://web.hks.harvard.edu/publications/getFile.aspx?Id=209.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      If you read these links and these articles, demonstrate it. So far, you have merely continued to assert that you’ve read them and you continue to avoid (possibly even evade) actually debating the material you are pointed to. Just one example, since I posted the link to the Benny Morris review/critique of Shlaim, you’ve gone astonishingly quiet on Shlaim.

      I wonder why?

  94. Richard Gold Says:

    I think we’re going round in circles. Everybody has made their points and i’m sure there’s food for thought. So can i suggest we close this debate by the end of tomorrow ?

  95. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Philip, I’ll read the Barak & Netanyahu articles with pleasure, but where in the 82 page article are they referenced? The footnotes are at the foot of each page and I don’t plan to read every footnote to find these articles. Like everyone else, it’s up to you to give a direct link, even if it’s only the page numbers of the article in question. I’m not going to read through it just to please you.

    • Philip Says:

      Endnotes 139 to 147 provide a number of references to articles about Israel and support for the Iraq war. You can find them on pages 67-69 of the paper.

  96. modernity Says:


    Might I suggest something?

    You have a blog.

    You could write a post in a condensed format with all of your points here concerning Mearsheimer and Walt, their arguments, what you find convincing and what you don’t, on your blog.

    That way people would be clear as to what *you* are saying and the validity (or not) that you give to their arguments, etc etc

    • Philip Says:

      I have largely been defending myself in this exchange when it has come to the Israel lobby. I didn’t bring it up. You’re right that if I wanted to write something about it, I could. If I have the time and inclination to do so, I might. However, my blog tends to focus on development issues, and that’s what I prefer to write about. Though admittedly I stray into the realms of politics, etc., etc. on occasion.

      I entered this thread because I wanted to make the point that empathy for Palestinian dispossession was important. No more, no less. Some others decided to dig through my past to try to tarnish me. The character known as ‘Dooley’ being the chief proponent. Two people even decided to search my blog for the term ‘Jews’. I can’t be certain why, but perhaps because they assumed that someone who empathised with Palestinians has almost certainly written about his Jew hangups. I mean, honestly.

      I have tried to defend my views because I don’t like to be tarnished. As Richard Gold mentioned, the debate has gone round in circles. I have tried to outline my problems with some of M & W’s critics, but people have not really responded to those points. Brian Goldfarb persists in insisting that I haven’t read anything. He says that he is a retired academic: I’d love to know what subject and which university.

      My main regret is that more people didn’t actually engage on my initial point. I might be wrong about things. Discussion is a good way of ironing out flaws in one’s argument. With some notable exceptions, I’m not sure that people on this thread have been that interested in doing that.

      • Richard Gold Says:

        Philip. To be fair – you have linked to your blog when you’ve posted comments. So of course people will read your blog to see where you’re coming from. Let’s not forget the original piece was about the behaviour of PSG at Leeds University and it’s behaviour.

        • Philip Says:


          ‘I believe I speak for the overwhelming majority of Israelis in supporting a pre-emptive strike against Saddam’s regime. We support this American action even though we stand on the front-lines, while others criticize it as they sit comfortably on the sidelines. But we know that their sense of comfort is an illusion. For if action is not taken now, we will all be threatened by a much greater peril.’

        • Philip Says:

          Sorry, posted that in the wrong place!

  97. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    To my mind the Barak article can be read either way: if you, the US, decide to go for it, then this is what’s needed, or as an argument for taking out the regime.

    However, interestingly, it starts from the premise of taking out Iraq’s nuclear capability and nowhere mentions Bush’s rationale of an attack on one of the pillars of support for terrorism. The Israelis knew full well that it was _Iran_ that was funding and arming terror groups such as hamas and Hezbollah. Barak also argues for a surgical strike against the Iraqi nuclear plants that (like the rest of us, inlcuding Bush and Blair [to be overly kind to them]) he believed Saddam had.

    It needs a much stronger argument to go from this to pressure on the US from Israel to invade Iraq when it was plainly (in Mearsheimer and Walt’s joint view) against the best interests of the US. _This_, as you know full well Philip, is what the “Lobby argument” is all about. By the time Barak and Netanyahu are writing their articles, the US had already decided what it was going to do.

    Unfortunately, google only leads me to the European edition of the Wall Street Journal, and that doesn’t have the Netanyahu article in its online archive. Does anyone have such a link to the US online edition? I’m certainly not prepared to rely on M & W’s interpretation of what Netanyahu said in his article.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Further, one can’t access articles on the WSJ online archive more than 2 years back. So I refuse to discuss the Netanyahu article unless a proper link can be provided. And the link I was given by a contact in the US made this abundantly clear.

      • Philip Says:


        ‘I believe I speak for the overwhelming majority of Israelis in supporting a pre-emptive strike against Saddam’s regime. We support this American action even though we stand on the front-lines, while others criticize it as they sit comfortably on the sidelines. But we know that their sense of comfort is an illusion. For if action is not taken now, we will all be threatened by a much greater peril.’

        • Bill Says:

          Normally my first question would be why you chose NOT to use the official WSJ site, favoring a whacky airstrip site. But I do have to ask why you thought it fit to strip the key part about him speaking as a private citizen.

          And I didn’t need him (private or public) to get me to support a preemptive removal of Saddam. Like Christopher Hitchens, I had a number of reasons to support getting him off the global gameboard and I still have no regrets — even now with hindsight. (I’m not Harry Turtledove, I don’t do alternative histories.)

          Finally, Israel (capital I and small i, if you will) was concerned about Iraq. Well, Duh. Israel was also concerned about Iran, Syria and a host of matters. That day the blue plate special at Chez Bibi, small-i Israeli (at the time), was Iraq, and that’s what M/W cherrypicked to support their slanted thesis.

    • Bill Says:

      Is it this one?

      Also as Brian correctly says, by the time Bibi spellchecked his oped, W had a feel for what he was going to do.

      And the Lobby didn’t give W his talking points or marching orders… “The” Lobby, like any successful lobby, triangulates themselves to US opinion. The US likes Israel not because of a Lobby turning their neck, but because the US identifies with Israel better than any state in the region (for a host of reasons). Blaming a shadowy Lobby might make you feel good if you’re out of step, but in the end people holding that view really should get out more!


      The Case for Toppling Saddam
      The longer America waits, the more dangerous he becomes.

      Friday, September 20, 2002 12:01 a.m.

      Sept. 11 alerted most Americans to the grave dangers that are now facing our world. Most Americans understand that had al Qaeda possessed an atomic device last September, the city of New York would not exist today. They realize that last week we could have grieved not for thousands of dead, but for millions.
      But for others around the world, the power of imagination is apparently not so acute. It appears that these people will have to once again see the unimaginable materialize in front of their eyes before they are willing to do what must be done. For how else can one explain opposition to President Bush’s plan to dismantle Saddam Hussein’s regime?

      I do not mean to suggest that there are not legitimate questions about a potential operation against Iraq. Indeed, there are. But the question of whether removing Saddam’s regime is itself legitimate is not one of them. Equally immaterial is the argument that America cannot oust Saddam without prior approval of the international community.

      This is a dictator who is rapidly expanding his arsenal of biological and chemical weapons, who has used these weapons of mass destruction against his subjects and his neighbors, and who is feverishly trying to acquire nuclear weapons.

      The dangers posed by a nuclear-armed Saddam were understood by my country two decades ago, well before Sept. 11. In 1981, Prime Minister Menachem Began dispatched the Israeli air force on a predawn raid that destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak. Though at the time Israel was condemned by all the world’s governments, history has rendered a far kinder judgment on that act of unquestionable foresight and courage.

      Two decades ago it was possible to thwart Saddam’s nuclear ambitions by bombing a single installation. Today nothing less than dismantling his regime will do. For Saddam’s nuclear program has changed. He no longer needs one large reactor to produce the deadly material necessary for atomic bombs. He can produce it in centrifuges the size of washing machines that can be hidden throughout the country–and Iraq is a very big country. Even free and unfettered inspections will not uncover these portable manufacturing sites of mass death.

      We now know that had the democracies taken pre-emptive action to bring down Hitler’s regime in the 1930s, the worst horrors in history could have been avoided. And we now know, from defectors and other intelligence, that had Israel not launched its pre-emptive strike on Saddam’s atomic-bomb factory recent history would have taken a far more dangerous course.
      I write this as a citizen of the country that is most endangered by a pre-emptive strike. For in the last gasps of his dying regime, Saddam may well attempt to launch his remaining missiles, with their biological and chemical warheads, at the Jewish State.

      Though I am today a private citizen, I believe I speak for the overwhelming majority of Israelis in supporting a pre-emptive strike against Saddam’s regime. We support this American action even though we stand on the front lines, while others criticize it as they sit comfortably on the sidelines. But we know that their sense of comfort is an illusion. For if action is not taken now, we will all be threatened by a much greater peril.

      We support this action because it is possible today to defend against chemical and biological attack. There are gas masks, vaccinations and other means of civil defense that can protect our citizens and reduce the risks to them.

      Indeed, a central component of any strike on Iraq must be to ensure that the Israeli government, if it so chooses, has the means to vaccinate every citizen of Israel before action is initiated. Ensuring this is not merely the responsibility of the government of Israel, but also the responsibility of the government of the U.S.

      But no gas mask and no vaccine can protect against nuclear weapons. That is why regimes that have no compunction about using weapons of mass destruction, and that will not hesitate to give them to their terror proxies, must never be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. These regimes must be brought down before they possess the power to bring us all down.

      If a pre-emptive action will be supported by a broad coalition of free countries and the U.N., all the better. But if such support is not forthcoming, then the U.S. must be prepared to act without it. This will require courage, and I see it abundantly present in President Bush’s bold leadership and in the millions of Americans who have rallied behind him.
      I recognize this courage because I see it on the faces of my countrymen every day. Millions of Israelis who have been subjected to an unprecedented campaign of terror have stood firmly behind our government in the war against Palestinian terror. We have not crumbled. We have not run. We have stood our ground and fought back.

      Today the terrorists have the will to destroy us but not the power. Today we have the power to destroy them. Now we must summon the will to do so.

      Mr. Netanyahu is a former prime minister of Israel.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        Yes, Bill, this is the one. And my US contact (not Bill) turned it upo not an hour ago, and I’ve just finished reading it. My comment is exactly the same as Bill’s. No point in repitition.

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