On Glenn Greenwald, Israel, and The Godfather III

Over the last several days, I’ve been commenting on the blog Sad Red Earth, run by A. Jay Adler. The post, guest-written by Rob H., that sparked the extensive comments was titled “Glenn Greenwald’s False Accusation Against The New York Times.” In it, Rob accused Glenn Greenwald, a political blogger on Salon.com, of falsely attributing anti-Muslim bias to the New York Times, which ran a headline immediately after the recent Oslo attacks stating, “Powerful Explosions Hit Oslo; Jihadis Claim Responsibility.”

Greenwald wrote that “for much of the day…the featured headline on The New York Times online front page strongly suggested that Muslims were responsible for the attacks on Oslo.” In reality, Rob countered, “the truth turned out to be that the headline he sharply criticized in two columns — over two days — was only online for about two hours, and NOT ‘much of the day.’ I confirmed this with a Senior Editor at The Times by simply sending him an email inquiring about the headline in question.”

First of all, assuming Rob is telling the truth (and I have no reason to believe otherwise), one should give credit where credit is due. Rob was right, and Greenwald was wrong. In fact, not only was he wrong, but his misinformation looks a bit suspicious: it’s difficult to mistake two hours for most of a day without some pretty severe preconceived biases.

The comments section of Rob’s post soon spun off into a million different directions, however, only some of which were related to the original subject. In general, the comments either supported or rebutted one of the following topics:

1) Glenn Greenwald “often makes mistakes and even admits it while declaring he’ll make many more.” He is thus irresponsible and unreliable as a writer/thinker, and is guilty of committing the same journalistic crimes as those he so often pillories.

2) Greenwald’s “worse [sic] trait is that, in Chomsky style, he truly sees the U.S. as nothing but a force of evil in the world, an [sic] also has this nasty little habit of advancing explicitly anti-Semitic arguments.”

3) As A. Jay put it, “Which is it – you want something ‘out of’ our relationship with Israel that you think we don’t get, or you morally can’t ‘stomach’ Israel? You can’t stomach Syria either, but at least you’re not paying for the upset, and that’s bottom line? And there are not other bases upon which to distinguish between then two and upon which to base our relations with them?”

4) The Godfather III. Don’t ask; I’ll explain later on in this post.

As Bernard-Henri Lévy concluded in his excellent introduction to Public Enemies, “These then are the terms of the debate.” Let us commence.

1) I have (perhaps unwisely) conceded that I am “a bit of a Greenwald fanboy,” to which Rob replied that he wished “you [would] attempt to scrutinize his work with ‘a bit’ more objectivity.” I suppose I should have clarified. By “fanboy,” I don’t mean that I accept all of Greenwald’s arguments unquestioningly, or that I necessarily agree with the tone of his columns, comments, or tweets. As it happens, his and my views on the Obama administration, Wikileaks, Israel, etc. are strikingly similar in many ways, but I am fully able to detect warning signs elsewhere: his quickness in resorting to sarcasm and ad hominem attacks against hypothetical, generalized, unintelligent people-groups, for example.

I am of the opinion that Greenwald’s positive impact far outweighs the negative value of his endless invectives — and, occasionally, is buttressed by them (when directed appropriately, and not indiscriminately against those with whom he disagrees). I was not a reader of his during the lead-up to the Iraq invasion nor during the commencement of military action in Afghanistan, and so I cannot dispute Rob’s assertion that he supported the Iraq war initially. (In fact, I’m not even sure where such proof can be found. Was he writing on Unclaimed Territory back in 2003? In 2001? Was it in one of his books? I would definitely like to see the proof, as that would be fairly surprising.)

Rob wrote, “…As I’ve shown, [Greenwald] often makes mistakes and even admits it while declaring he’ll make many more. So the next time you hear him haranguing journalists on their responsibilities to correct mistakes, keep that in mind that he clearly doesn’t correct his own.” He has made mistakes, yes, but often? I suppose that’s a subjective question to which no clear answer can satisfy both parties, but I think it’s at least one worth pondering.

To take the example Rob used in his post, it is true that Greenwald failed to revise his post to note the update to Jennifer Rubin’s atrocious column (the one that preemptively assigned blame for the Norway attacks to Muslim jihadists, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever). But the context here is important. First of all, Greenwald cited another journalist, James Fallows, in criticizing Rubin’s post, instead of doing so directly. He did this because Fallows had dedicated an entire post to the lunacy of Rubin’s assumptions and subsequent failure to correct them. Fallows’ post (to which Greenwald linked in his own post) was updated later on, linking to Rubin’s update.

It should also be noted that Greenwald was specifically attacking the primitive mindset that results in the following thinking: “Al Qaeda is always to blame, even when it isn’t, even when it’s allegedly the work of a Nordic, Muslim-hating, right-wing European nationalist.” This is relevant because Rubin’s update never actually corrected any of her underlying assumptive reasoning, only the irrefutable facts of the Oslo case specifically. In fact, she defended her original comments, writing,

That the suspect here is a blond Norwegian does not support the proposition that we can rest easy with regard to the panoply of threats we face or that homeland security, intelligence and traditional military can be pruned back. To the contrary, the world remains very dangerous because very bad people will do horrendous things. There are many more jihadists than blond Norwegians out to kill Americans, and we should keep our eye on the systemic and far more potent threats that stem from an ideological war with the West.

Aside from the laughably elementary reasoning here — “the world remains very dangerous because very bad people will do horrendous things” — the salient point is that Rubin failed to correct her preconceived notions, the very existence of which Greenwald dedicated his post (and, indeed, much of his writing at Salon.com) to exposing as the toxin it is. Greenwald did cite Fallows in an aside about Rubin’s then-nonexistent update, and he should have noted the change once it occurred. But there is a substantive difference in severity between failing to note a minor update that does nothing to correct the very sin that Greenwald’s post addressed and, say, writing a post that inexplicably embraced a fallacious central thesis and then defending it once its entire premise was rendered invalid.

In other words, I’ll gladly concede Greenwald’s technical flaws. But until he fails on a larger scale — for example, misreading an article, writing a post based primarily on his misreading, and then not correcting his mistake (as opposed to updating his post with a correction) — I maintain that his errors fall well within journalistic norms. (Take, for example, Bill Keller, the outgoing executive editor of the New York Times, whose 41.6% correction rate as a writer for the Magazine far surpasses Greenwald’s.) He could, perhaps, benefit from a less hostile tone, but the content of his critiques of the Obama administration, the media, and other institutions is generally (in my opinion) spot-on. I wish I knew why he got the timeline of the New York Times headlines on the Oslo attacks wrong, but this appears to be an isolated incident and not a trend. I am willing to be corrected on this if necessary, however. Meanwhile, his media and political critiques remain as pertinent as ever, in my opinion, and they are the reason I continue to read his columns with interest on a regular basis.

2) I don’t feel that this particular point necessitates much time or effort in terms of a response; but it is important to note that, all too often, critics of American policies are branded as anti-American or self-loathing Americans when, in reality, it is this ever-questioning introspection that is often so sorely lacking from national discourse. This is not to say that “the U.S. [is] nothing but a force of evil in the world,” but that when the country is seen as deviating from core national principles, sharp criticism is not only acceptable, but necessary. I don’t think I’m being particularly controversial here; where things get blurred is in relation to the question of what constitutes our core national principles. I will not be getting into an in-depth discussion of that here.

In terms of Greenwald’s “nasty little habit of advancing explicitly anti-Semitic arguments,” well, I’ll believe it when I see it. (Hint: I don’t expect this to happen any time soon.) Taking what some may perceive as a hard-line stance against Israeli policies does not equal anti-Semitism. And if Greenwald is in fact anti-Semitic, I’m not sure why he would write this, for example:

It goes without saying that there are other factions and motives behind the push for war with Iran besides right-wing Jewish groups…And, it should also be noted, a huge portion of American Jews, if not the majority, do not share this agenda.

Later on in the same post, Greenwald cited an American Jewish Committee poll that found that “only 38% of American Jews support American military action, down from 49% last year.” He then followed this quote with an observation of his own, stating that, “Despite their influence, Jewish neoconservatives and groups like AIPAC are highly unrepresentative of American Jews as a whole. Those facts only further undescore [sic] the baselessness and pure malice driving the attempt to equate opposition to their agenda with ‘anti-semitism.'” Note that he is referring to the agenda of specific Jewish lobbying groups, not Jewish interests as a whole, which he clearly differentiates. He has also used polls to demonstrate that the American “political class” (as he describes it) is out of tune with the American public at large on the subject of Israel.

None of this even approaches “explicitly anti-Semitic arguments.” I am also open to being proven wrong by other anti-Semitic statements that Greenwald has made, but I would be shocked if anyone could produce even one.

3) A. Jay’s question here — and the related questions that necessarily come up in answering it — is worth discussing at length. The short answer is, “Yes, I want something more out of an alliance that is supposed to be mutually beneficial, and yes, I also have moral problems with Israel’s policies.”

On the one hand, I identify strongly with Greenwald’s belief that Israel’s diplomatic, cultural, and even financial dependencies on the United States render it worthy of closer inspection. This is essentially an argument from realpolitik, and it applies to any nation with which the United States closely allies itself. Given that Israel is often considered the most crucial American partner of all, the relationship deserves to be scrutinized thoroughly. On this point, Greenwald is very consistent:

Don’t we have more of a responsibility to act when such brutality is carried out by regimes that we arm, support and prop up than by ones we don’t? (Greenwald, 7/9/2011)

Citizens bear a particular responsibility to object to unjust actions which their own Government engages in or enables.  It shouldn’t be the case — but it is — that Americans fund, arm and enable Israel’s wars.  Those are American weapons which, at least in part, are being used to destroy Gaza, and Americans therefore bear a special responsibility for condemning Israel’s unjust actions to a far greater extent than the actions of any other country except for the U.S. (Greenwald, 1/14/2009)

As I wrote on Saturday regarding Israel’s varied wars, walls and blockades:  “since we fund a huge bulk of it and supply the weapons used for much of it and use our veto power at the U.N. to enable all of it, we are connected to it — intimately — and bear responsibility for all of Israel’s various wars, including the current overwhelming assault on Gaza, as much as Israelis themselves.”  With our bipartisan policy of blind and absolute support for Israel — not just rhetorical but military and material as well — our political leadership has inextricably (and foolishly) tied American interests to Israel’s interests. (Greenwald, 12/30/2008)

Rob, noting Greenwald’s relative silence on Egyptian policies under former President Hosni Mubarak, countered:

As to Egypt, it is simply a fact that Glenn never criticized Mubarak’s Egypt, even as Mubarak used US military aid to repress his own people. Only when Glenn thought he could use that to his advantage did he begin bringing it up. That’s called a double-standard. And you can choose to view that aid as some sort of pay-off to maintain an “alliance” with Israel, but that’s simply a poorly drawn caricature of historically complex relationships between the superpowers, Egypt and other states in the region. After all, Sadat began dismantling Egypt’s alliance with the Soviets almost as soon as he attained power (and then basically threw them out in 1976). And part of the Camp David Accords provided the first framework for settling the Palestinian issue. And that led to Oslo. And so on and so on. To paraphrase Bob Marley: for every little action, there’s a reaction.

A. Jay made much the same point:

Being political friends (one implication of “alliance”) is a distant shout of alarm away from being paid off not to engage in, provoke, or support war against Israel or to formalize cultural and religious anti-Semitism as foreign policy.

I’m not certain I understand the lesson here. Rob’s explanation of Sadat’s motivations for making peace with Israel does not in any way diminish the fact that this peace came about, from the American side especially, as a result of the Egyptian-Israeli peace accords. The same can be said of A. Jay’s distinction between an “alliance” and “being paid off not to engage in…war against Israel.” The historical timeline that led to Camp David is not relevant to this question because, in the end, Egypt was rewarded monetarily by the United States (and continues to be, over three decades later) expressly for its agreement with Israel, a treaty over which the US presided.

The nature of the treaty is similarly unrelated. As an American, I am deeply concerned by the “actions which [my] own Government engages in or enables.” This means that if, for example, representatives of my government state that “President Mubarak and military leaders view our military assistance program as the cornerstone of our mil-mil relationship and consider the USD 1.3 billion in annual FMF as ‘untouchable compensation’ for making and maintaining peace with Israel,” then, for all intents and purposes, American foreign aid to Egypt is unquestionably a reward for that peace. Neither the degree to which that peace is an “alliance” nor the historical context that enabled Anwar Sadat to sign the historic agreement even slightly alters the fact that the United States is rewarding Egypt for favorable behavior towards Israel. (And Sadat’s eventual assassination at the hands of opponents of the Camp David Accords is proof positive that the world, and certainly Egyptians, understood very well that Egypt had exchanged peace with Israel for American support.)

Thus, one cannot separate the American-Egyptian alliance from the American-Israeli alliance, as the former is dependent in large part upon the latter. (The same is true, perhaps to a lesser extent, of the American-Jordanian alliance.) Rob wrote:

And it does matter to me where my money goes, but I don’t limit my compassion for a country’s citizens based on how much aid we give their government. When I look at Sudan and see genocide, I don’t waffle because my country ain’t waltzin’ with Bashir. I send money to those I feel are helping, I attend rallies and I write letters. It ain’t much, but I do what I can do. Now imagine what Glenn could do on that issue. But he won’t because of his supposedly strict doctrine.

And yet there is a world of difference between feeling generic “compassion” on the one hand and protesting one’s own government’s lockstep relationship with a troublesome ally on the other. I, for one, would feel a much greater deal of personal responsibility for the genocide in Sudan if my country were actively supporting the oppressing regime. That we did not proactively attempt to halt the massacres could be seen by others as an equally egregious (non-)action. But in general, I look at American policy and ask what could be changed for the better. I, like many others, am not entirely convinced that sending in troops (and thus creating a fourth simultaneous American war) to stop the bloodshed in Sudan would have made much sense. This in no way diminishes my sadness and disgust with the violence there, but simply represents my recognition of the limits of American influence. In regards to Syria, where Rob disagrees with me in relation to how much leverage the United States holds, the question is similarly academic. He may think one thing, and I may think another, but in each case we are strategizing according to our perceptions of American influence in that particular region.

And so it is that I believe the US can hugely shape our relations with dozens of countries for the better if we first reassess the nature of our current relationship with Israel. Many will disagree on the need for, and the effects of, such a recalibration, and the arguments on both sides have been discussed and fleshed-out enough that to go through the reasons now is beyond the scope of this post. Regardless of its rightness or wrongness, however, this is my argument from pragmatism.

My argument from morality is decidedly less complicated, even if the global debate surrounding Israel’s policies is infinitely so. A. Jay, in criticizing Greenwald’s and my basis for critiquing Israeli policies, wrote:

And this policy consideration, which you mostly present in cold, calculative terms – what is the U.S. getting in return for its aid, commitment, and alliance. Then, the class under consideration consists only of those nations with which the U.S. has such relations, and its members are evaluated according to (as you seem to set them) practical political criteria. But the judgments Greenwald makes about Israel (and you less explicitly within this discussion) are not these simply political judgments predicated on association – thought that sop is thrown out as a cover – but absolute moral judgments about nations, their policies and conduct. Then Syria is indeed in the mix, and Myanmar, and China, and Russia, and Sudan and on and on.

But once again, I can harbor misgivings on both a pragmatic and a moral level simultaneously. Furthermore, the two are not completely unrelated. If Israel does indeed act immorally, which I believe is often the case, and the United States unquestioningly supports the Israeli government as it does so, then why can’t there be dual causes for concern? On the one hand, many of Israel’s policies are (to my reasoning) morally bankrupt. But in addition to this, these immoral actions affect all those with whom Israel associates. The US, then, as Israel’s closest ally, stands to suffer the most (other than Israel itself) in terms of hostility directed at it by other nations that are repulsed by Israel’s behavior.

So, then, am I wary of Israel on moral or pragmatic grounds? The answer is: both. The actions I find reprehensible are troubling to me both morally and in terms of realpolitik. Other countries with far worse records of behavior (e.g. Syria) are even more morally appalling; the difference is, by my judgment, I don’t believe there is much the US can easily do in practice that would successfully stop this behavior without harming US interests. On Israel, I think the situation is exactly reversed: the US could both increase its global standing and help to end certain injustices (or at least to prod Israel in the right direction) by ceasing its mindless rubber-stamping of every misguided Israeli policy. That’s why someone like Glenn Greenwald may spend relatively little time dwelling on Syrian atrocities, or genocide in Sudan, but latches onto Israeli policies with relish: here’s a major tenet of American foreign policy that we can actually fix. Here’s a situation where we can enact real change and, even more pressingly, where we can reverse decades of ill-conceived American policy in regards to the Middle East.

4) Am I the only one in the world who enjoyed The Godfather III? Sofia Coppola tried her best to ruin it, but I actually think Al Pacino’s character was more affecting and raw than in the first two films (which were undoubtedly two of the greatest movies in cinematic history). Anyway, I’m all blog-posted out now.

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50 thoughts on “On Glenn Greenwald, Israel, and The Godfather III

  1. Jay P., just to set the right tone, I’ll start out where we have some agreement – The Godfather III. Almost destined to be pissed on if it didn’t measure up to its monumental predecessors – which it did not – it isn’t at all bad. Moving into disagreement territory, though, while it’s been as much fun for obvious reasons to dump on Sofia Coppola’s performance as on the film, I think it’s quite adequate. On the other hand, the Michael of III is a much humanized character from that of II – why you seem to like the character better – but it is not a believable transformation, which lacks foundation, from the great and tragically dehumanized character remaining at the end of II. In II he murders his own brother in a cold Machiavelle’s revenge; in III, he’s practically a mensch.

    Now on to the less serious business. I’m going to reiterate only one point about Greenwald. I’ve written about him at length, from which I’ve quoted a snippet or two in our previous exchange, and I won’t make a whole case anew. If my previous arguments and evidence have not been persuasive, it isn’t likely anything new I write will make the difference.

    In fact, I do not read Greenwald, unless he makes news himself. I read him at length when I choose to write about him, but I otherwise find him an objectionable and valueless source. Mind you, I think his targeting centers of political and media power to be a good and necessary thing. But he does it without integrity, which undermines the worth of his enterprise. He appeals to the disaffected who already agree with him and to the disaffected who are overwhelmed by the abundant apparatus of evidence – which is distinct from persuasive evidence or argument – and who find the bile temperamentally appealing.

    Here is the one point I’ll make. I call your attention to a post of Greenwald’s

    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2009/01/04/terrorism/index.html

    that I wrote about here,

    http://sadredearth.com/the-vice-of-the-extremes/

    and which Rob linked to in a comment at my blog. In it, Greenwald, the scourge of bad, unsubstantiated, and lemming-like reporting posts the following:

    “Especially in the American media, there is a constant focus on the effects on civilians from the rocket attacks on Southern Israelis — as well there should be, since that is an important part of the debate. But everyone should also be permitted to view the devastating effects on actual human beings from these Israeli bombing and artillery raids in Gaza. This truly horrific video — purportedly of a recent Israeli bombing of a civilian Gazan market — has been widely cited. I can’t and don’t vouch for its authenticity.”

    Yet he posts it anyway?! Still prefacing it with his full moral opprobrium directed at Israel? But wait, as his fellows on late night infomercials will say – there’s more. It turns out, would you believe it, that the video is not of what it was presented to be capturing: it’s of the aftermath of a Hamas militaristic parade drawing live munitions through crowds of civilians, including children. Never mind what further commentary on both Hamas and current Palestinian culture might be drawn from this truth, as I pointed out, multiple other sights that made the same misjudgment as Greenwald fully acknowledged the error. Greenwald? Retaining the video link, still attempting to use the video to tar Israel, he writes,

    “(UPDATE: there’s good reason to believe it’s not from an Israeli attack), but it’s certainly reflective of the carnage in Gaza. It’s much easier to undervalue the suffering imposed on The Other when you don’t have to see it.”

    It’s not video of Israel bombing anyone, but it COULD have been. It’s what they DO. Here, let’s look at this video of Assad attacking Hama – it’s what the Israeli’s do, too.

    There are no words to fully express the weasely, dishonest, characterless nature of this kind of writing, blogging, and reporting.

    As for Israel, there really is no need to go into the fine points of our discussions about alliances and treaties and the rest. To be clear, I do now, as I have always in the past, including when it began, oppose the settler project. I find the political and religious attitudes of the hardcore settlers and their supporters as objectionable as I do the current American GOP – neither appreciably, as I immediately think about it, more nor less. I do not oppose the project because I think that international law clearly invalidates it – I do not. I oppose it because of the attitudes that motivate it and because it violates a clear sense of political and humane equity that evolved over many decades after 1948 and that most Israelis, even now, possess.

    On the other hand, I note, and will always reiterate, that the extremist and intolerant settler project could never have begun and taken root had Arab and Palestinian anti-Semitism and far greater intolerance and rejection of Israel, even in principle, and, from 1967 on, opposition to trading land for peace, until Oslo –– provided the movement the space to grow.

    Beyond that, you use words and phraseology in relation to Israel such as “morally appalling,” “morally reprehensible” “morally bankrupt,” “immoral” and “oppressing.” These represent the vast distance between us on this subject. In all absolute, comparative, and contextual terms, I think them preposterous. They are terms used against Israel within certain kinds of ideological constructs that perversely skew reality, and within which Israel cannot actually exist – or the United States, whatever its flaws, be properly evaluated in relation to its contending forces in the world. Beyond the profound moral basis justifying U.S. support of Israel, this union in opposition to these ideologies, as much imposed upon the two nations by those ideological foes as it is chosen by the two nations, is the realpolitik basis for their continuing alliance.

    • A. Jay,

      Apologies for the delayed response. I’m in the process of moving (from New York to Paris) and I’ve been buried in boxes.

      Let me address your last paragraph first. To be clear, I am referring to current Israeli policies as such, not the state itself. I do not question the legitimacy of the state of Israel, and I apply the terms “morally appalling,” “morally reprehensible,” “morally bankrupt,” etc. in regards to very specific actions of the Israeli government. (These policies are not, as you know, perpetual properties of the Israeli state, and have often been absent before.)

      As a point of comparison, I’d use the same and other adjectives to describe many, many current and past American policies as well — the prison at Guantanamo, CIA-executed torture and extraordinary rendition, many (if not all) instances of the death penalty, prison overcrowding, the war on drugs, and on and on, to name just a few that immediately come to mind. These are issues that concern me, but in general, I have focused disproportionately on Middle Eastern politics because 1) it’s one of the most complex — and therefore, fascinating — regions in the world, and 2) after studying for a semester in Cairo and traveling throughout the region during college, I developed a strong interest in learning everything I could about Middle Eastern politics. (This in no way makes me an expert, just an interested observer.)

      As for Greenwald’s erroneous sources that led him to post a link to that video and then to offer only a half-hearted correction, I agree with you: he shouldn’t have posted it until he had better confirmation (which, as it turned out, didn’t exist). But while not defending him, I do think it’s relevant to point out that many more than just Greenwald have been fooled by such mis-attributed videos. You’ll recall the Israeli actor impersonating “an American gay rights activist disillusioned with the latest Gaza flotilla campaign,” a video which sources quoted by the NYT suggested may involve Israeli government officials: http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/27/israeli-video-blog-exposed-as-a-hoax/. (To my knowledge, however, this has not been proven. At this point I think it remains a rumor. Weirdly, it’s also not the only video controversy involving I/P…remember this? http://www.aolnews.com/2010/06/08/israel-apologizes-for-music-video-mocking-gaza-flotilla/)

      I am glad for this discussion. Between yours and Rob’s excellent research, I am discovering some of the more unsavory practices that Greenwald has utilized, and that’s disappointing. I suppose where we differ is that I still see value in his writing, especially in relation to media criticism and in holding politicians to their statements (see Candidate Obama vs. President Obama for a study in contrasts). Admittedly, it is a bit disconcerting to see that someone who has made his career in castigating others’ inconsistencies has been somewhat less than perfect in that regard himself. (I would, however, take into account two mitigating circumstances: 1) his extremely prolific column-writing and link-citing, which is bound to result in more numerous errors than traditional columnists/journalists who produce fewer — and shorter — articles; and 2) I’m not sure what the NYT’s correction process is, for example, but I’m assuming they have a significantly more beefed-up, high-budget fact-checking system than whatever is in place, if anything, at Salon.com — meaning, I’m guessing Greenwald gets little help in noticing/correcting his own errors, while the NYT journalists likely have other people doing this for them.)

      Is my willingness to overlook these flaws evidence of my own willingness to forgive those on “my side” versus those on the other’s? There may be a little of that, but I like to think that it’s mostly an issue of weighing the good his writing does vs. the occasional bad journalistic practices he engages in. So then, you and I just draw that line at different points.

      It seems the same is true of Godfather III, incidentally. I, like Rob below (and I’ll get to his comments a little later), “like to think Michael could change.” Sofia Coppola, on the other hand: that performance I have more trouble forgiving (although she’s quite obviously more than redeemed herself as a director).

  2. I apologize for being late to the game… been pretty busy the last week… but let’s make something clear from the start: I didn’t accuse Glenn Greenwald of “falsely attributing anti-Muslim bias to the New York Times.” The “False Accusation,” in my headline, and the one that prompted me to write the piece, was when Glenn started a blog by lying about that Times headline being online, “For much of the day.” He set the tone for an entire column based on a lie. Still, you summed up my point pretty nicely in the second and third graphs.

    But anyway, I think you hit the nail on the head about Greenwald. He has “some pretty severe preconceived biases,” against The New York Times. That much is certain. And his sweeping denunciations against the Times are starting to look more and more absurd. So much so that some of his readers are beginning to find him tiresome because while maligning the Times, he often cites their work in his columns. This was the Greenwaldian nugget I posted in a comment at A. Jay’s:

    “One would never, ever find in The New York Times such a sweeping denunciation of the plutocratic corruption and merger of private wealth and political power that shapes most of America’s political culture.”

    Really? Last week he linked to a Times editorial about the debt ceiling called “To Escape Chaos, A Terrible Deal.” In today’s New York Times there’s an editorial called “The Truth About Taxes,” which strongly criticizes the Republicans and Obama. And Greenwald currently has tweets up about two opinion pieces in the Times. One is a “Must-read.” Even more astonishing is that just the other day, he had an Op-Ed published in the Times. He’s also appeared multiple times on their “Bloggingheads” videos.

    So obviously, one does find these things in the Times. But that doesn’t matter to Greenwald because he’s trying to spin his narrative even when the facts clearly go against his narrative. Seems to me he just makes it up as he goes along and most of his true believers just eat it up.

    And he has the same “severe preconceived biases” about Israel. The issue that actually sparked me to become critical of his work is when Glenn was utterly fooled into posting a link on his blog to what turned out to be a terrorist propaganda video. A. Jay summed that incident up nicely, but one thing I will point out is that he initially claimed the video was “widely cited,” and in a letter to me called it “widely posted, including in places I trust.”

    Excuse my French, but that was total and complete bullshit. It wasn’t “widely cited,” nor “widely posted.” It appeared on all of five or six sites on the entire planet, and except for French Television, none of them are exactly bastions of journalistic excellence. For more on his sources and to see some of his cites, you can read a second letter I wrote in his comments on that subject (he deleted the first) where he calls his source “credible.” See if you find these sources trustworthy or credible:

    http://letters.salon.com/7e9f7788bf11819f827e128002dc7eec/author/index71.html

    Or read A. Jay’s “Vices of the Extremes.” And I readily admit to being the reader writing in private in that great piece. That’s how we initially connected.

    The fact is Greenwald was only too willing to lend his name to blatant anti-semitic propaganda. And not for nothing, it took me all of 30 seconds to debunk the video. So why he rushed to post it when virtually no one was reporting on this “horrific” attack should give you some fairly credible insight to his preconceived biases against Israel. And no, unlike those few sites, he never posted a clear and concise retraction or correction.

    Another time his severe preconceived biases shone through was when he first wrote about the deaths on board the Mavi Marmara during the Gaza flotilla. In the immediate aftermath of that incident, he exalted its participants as, “pure unadulterated heroes.” Of course when footage later emerged of some of Glenn’s “pure unadulterated heroes” chanting about killing Jews and talking about becoming martyrs, he wrote nothing.

    And earlier in that same piece he wrote, “The one silver lining from these incidents is that the real face of Israel becomes increasingly revealed and undeniable.” Thus, for Glenn’s true believers (and other cranks) the real face of Israel becomes one of a merciless killer gunning down civilians on a humanitarian aid mission. Never mind the footage of Glenn’s “pure unadulterated heroes,” beating soldiers with what turned out to be axes, pipes and huge knives (how very peaceful). But that significant factoid somehow escaped Glenn. A. Jay nicely summed up that piece of BS from Glenn here:

    http://sadredearth.com/the-hypocrisy-and-bullshit-of-glenn-greenwald-i/

    And I’m not buying your James Fallows/Jennifer Rubin argument. Greenwald’s intent was clear: through Fallows, he accused Rubin of not posting an update or correction. It’s part of his standard schtick and he doesn’t need James Fallows to make that argument for him… he often makes it himself. As in when he wrote last December, “it’s now been more than 24 hours since Todd Gitlin vowed to “think about” the factual inaccuracies in his article which I brought to his attention and TNR’s Editor-in-Chief Franklin Foer’s attention, and they have still done nothing to correct them.”

    Well, it’s now been more than a year since I brought to his attention the mistake he made about Elena Kagan and he’s done nothing to correct it.

    Duh. (that is not directed at you, Jay, but rather Greenwald)

    Or how about when to score points against the United States, he basically lied about Tunisia’s use of solitary confinement?

    http://letters.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2010/12/14/manning/permalink/249cf3cfb3bffcd30b23be88409be198.html

    Still no correction.

    I could play this game all day if I wanted. How about when he lied about the New York Times having a headline up “for much of the day”… wait, I think I already wrote about that.

    The main point is that once you start digging just the tiniest bit, he’s often completely unreliable. Many of his sources are atrocious or he distorts what they actually say. And many of his sources are, embarrassingly enough, himself. He links to his own pieces which link to more of his pieces and so on and so on. He’s 10,000 miles wide and half an inch deep.

    As to Iraq, thanks for confirming my point about the complete absence of that information on the internet. If you looked, you might find something I wrote and that’s about it. So surprise yourself by reading the preface of his first book. I might have to email it to you because mysteriously, the only link to a PDF of the preface, which was on Glenn’s Wikipedia page, now goes nowhere. And yet, it was there only a few months ago when I began bringing it up.

    The only comments I’ll make about Godfather III is that the first two are masterpieces, and 16 years later, with the franchise so enshrined in the culture, it would have been extremely difficult to satisfy people with Godfather III. That being said, it’s still a great film. And I like to think Michael could change. It makes less sense when you think back to his killing of Fredo, but hey, suspension of disbelief is part of why we go to the movies. Plus it could have used a little more horsehead. Or cowbell.

    • Rob,

      My mistake in regards to your headline on “Glenn Greenwald’s False Accusation.” (I was referring to this statement: “I’m still unclear as to his problem with this since it is simply a fact that a Jihadi website did claim responsibility for the attacks.” But as you said, that wasn’t your main point.)

      As to Greenwald’s citation of what was actually a completely unrelated video as proof of Israeli violence, see my above comment in response to A. Jay. The short version is: he was wrong, but keep in mind that the same thing just happened in the opposite direction (a video made by an allegedly disillusioned gay activist who’d been denied a chance to participate in the Gaza flotillas turned out to be the work of Israelis). This doesn’t make Greenwald right, but it does shed some light into the propaganda wars being fought on both sides and the difficulty of determining authenticity. (It sounds like it didn’t take you that long to determine that the video Greenwald cited was mis-attributed. I’ll take your and A. Jay’s word for it, as I have yet to check it out myself.)

      I do (partially) disagree with your assessment of Greenwald’s love-hate relationship with the New York Times, however. I believe, in one of my comments on A. Jay’s blog, I acknowledged that he tends to exaggerate — alternatively — his adoration for, or disgust with, certain entities, depending on the context. And you are right that his multiple personalities do detract from his writing. But I maintain that, his vitriolic strings of adjectives aside, alternately castigating and then praising the same publication is what *any* media critic does, and must do.

      Granted, he loses some credibility when he writes things like “One would never, ever find in The New York Times such a sweeping denunciation of the plutocratic corruption and merger of private wealth and political power that shapes most of America’s political culture” and then follows it up later on with a column praising another NYT article. There, again, his weakness for vituperation shows through; but I see nothing wrong with blasting the New York Times one day and giving it a gold star the next day. If Greenwald, like any media critic, wants to be effective, then the measure of consistency is not how he treats a specific publication over time, but how he treats a specific *issue.*

      You cite, for example, his recent participation in “Room for Debate” (at least, I believe that’s what you’re referring to) and Bloggingheads as damning evidence of his hypocrisy. But I see nothing inconsistent there. In fact, to the contrary, one thing I’ve always wished for more of is cross-pollination of political figures and writers with their arch-nemeses. In other words, FOX News is a bastion of lies, deceptions, and — at times — barely concealed racism. And this is exactly why I want to see more Democrats and liberals as guests on FOX programs. I’m sure they’re being invited on all the time, in which case they’re obviously all declining the invitations, but I think that’s an opportunity lost. More relevantly to this discussion, I definitely would not view an appearance on FOX by, say, Al Franken as hypocritical or disingenuous. At this point, too, FOX is too big a “problem” to simply ignore and hope it goes away.

      The same is true of Greenwald. He can castigate the New York Times all day long (and frequently does), but he’ll never kill it, and participating directly in the New York Times is one way he can improve what he sees as its weak points.

      Anyway, enough about that. I’ll try to find the preface to Greenwald’s first book (my email address, if you have a copy of the preface, is jaypinho at gmail dot com). As for The Godfather III, I couldn’t agree more: everything could use a little more cowbell.

      • Glenn’s “measure of consistency… over time,” with the Times is that he consistently makes extreme statements which don’t criticize a particular issue, but criticize the ENTIRE ENTERPRISE that IS The New York Times. He goes to the mattresses so often with The Times Family even Sonny would think he’s nuts. I have no problem with criticizing them on a specific issue (Judith Miller, anyone?) but when Glenn routinely makes sweeping denunciations of the paper as a whole, it tends to undercut him when he just as frequently cites their work to bolster his claims. In my opinion that’s hypocrisy, as in say one thing do another. It’s basically:

        ‘The Times will never ever print anything criticizing the wealthy and powerful interests who run the country. Now read this terrific piece in the Times which criticizes the wealthy and powerful interests who run the country.’

        As to improving their “weak points,” that presumes he actually criticizes their coverage when he gets the opportunity to appear in some capacity in the paper. He doesn’t.

        In the same vein, it was in 2009 when he had Rep. Jerry Nadler as a guest on Salon Radio. At the time, Jerry was Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and he had him on to discuss the State Secrets Act (disclosure: I’ve worked with Jerry and his staff). All well and fine except if you take into account that just a week earlier he’d blasted Jerry (not by name of course) as basically an odious apologist for war criminals because he’d had voted in favor of the House Resolution condemning the Goldstone Report. So at one end of Glenn’s spectrum, he painted Jerry as a champion for civil rights, while at the other, he was an apologist for war criminals. And when he interviewed Jerry, of course he didn’t bring up the fact that he’d eviscerated him over Goldstone just the week before. He didn’t want to lose access to someone he felt was important on other issues he cared about. That’s just “weasely” as A. Jay would say.

        I don’t know who ran with that absurd gay activist flotilla propaganda, but as far as I know, it only made it onto YouTube before being quickly debunked. And that became a huge story around the world. As for the Gaza propaganda video, Glenn, one of the most prominent bloggers on the internet, attempted to make it a story by running with that gory video because it fit into his preconceived notions about Israel. Try and find anyone other than me, A. Jay and the site below who wrote about that sorry episode.

        http://volokh.com/posts/1231136597.shtml

        I guess people have become so inured to the ridiculous anti-semitic propaganda emanating from some fringe parties in the ME that it ceases to become a story when their garbage is revealed for what it is. And damn if you’ll find Glenn flagellating himself over being completely fooled by said garbage. He devoted all of 11 words to his non-apology apology.

        Anyway, I’m gonna go because I got a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell. And I don’t have a cowbell so I’d better get some rest.

        I’ll email the preface. It’s a wondrous piece of bullshit, especially when he talks about supporting Bush on Iraq. But that’s my opinion of course. And I just discovered some even more astonishing BS from him that relates to that preface. It’s really quite striking and more than calls into question his truthfulness. He basically flat-out lied to another blogger, and one he agrees with in totality. Hate to leave you hanging, but I’ll have to save it for another day.

        And I apologize for any typos. I’m not proofing this because I was just asked to take Paulie for a ride. But I’ll bring back some cannoli.

      • I should have proofed myself last night as I meant to add this but forgot.

        Anti-semitic propaganda not only emanates from fringe groups, it’s also part and parcel of the mainstream media and educational systems in certain segments of the ME. People can say what they will about young visitors going to camp in Israel (my nieces just got back two days ago from a trip like that) but if the Israelis did anything remotely close to what some parties in the ME teach their kids about Jews, there would be an immense uproar around the world.

      • Rob,

        The end of your post yesterday (“Hate to leave you hanging, but I’ll have to save it for another day.”) reminds me of those movies that deliberately end with overt cliffhangers; should I be waiting for a follow-up on a blog somewhere? Is this just your way of increasing box-office receipts? 🙂

        I think we’ll end up at a stalemate on this issue of Greenwald’s obsession with the Times, so I’ll keep my rebuttal relatively short. My bottom line: GG is a media critic. He sees the NYT as often sycophantic to those in power (a charge with which I am in complete agreement) and, in the same pattern as my theory of his criticisms of Israel — he spends more time on it because it’s big and it’s fix-able — he spends more time on the NYT because it’s big and it’s fix-able. (You’ll notice he doesn’t spend as much time on, say, the WSJ, which is big but probably not fix-able.)

        His subsequent interaction with the media organizations he harshly criticizes is again, to my mind, no different than a liberal appearing on FOX or a conservative appearing on MSNBC. I think it would actually be a sign of cowardice on his part if he refused to interact with the publications he’s castigated due to his lack of comfort with it.

        Also, I think you’re being unfair to write, “As to improving their ‘weak points,’ that presumes he actually criticizes their coverage when he gets the opportunity to appear in some capacity in the paper. He doesn’t.” But his recent Room for Debate piece (http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/08/01/in-debt-talks-did-the-tea-party-win/the-tea-party-is-challenging-the-gop) had nothing to do with the media, journalism, or anything even remotely similar: it was about the Tea Party’s role in the debt ceiling deal. It would be quite a stretch to ask him to somehow turn that subject matter into a criticism of the NYT within his space/word-limit restrictions.

        I don’t have any background on GG’s comments on Nadler other than what you’ve described, so I can’t ruminate on the specifics, but the case sounds similar to his relationship with the NYT. He disagrees with Nadler on one issue (the Goldstone Report) and considers him an ally on another (civil liberties). This isn’t inconsistent if, again, you judge his consistency on the issues, not the people or entities. Even Ted Kennedy co-sponsored bills with Orrin Hatch. Common ground with otherwise bitter enemies is fine, as long as the lines of commonality are not blurred to the point of obscuring the points of disagreement.

  3. As an addendum, I just read the “Must-read” Times piece Glenn tweeted about. It’s pretty much exactly what Glenn claims “one would never ever find in The New York Times.”

    *rolls eyes*

  4. Jay P.,

    You wrote,

    “I do not question the legitimacy of the state of Israel, and I apply the terms “morally appalling,” “morally reprehensible,” “morally bankrupt,” etc. in regards to very specific actions of the Israeli government.”

    I did already take all this to be the case. I still separate myself from those terms and your overall position even on that clarified basis. Without getting into the details of some of the events or acts of recent years to which you likely refer, I reject those judgments about them, certainly in relative, contextual terms, and mostly in absolute terms, too.

    While I do not identify with the Israeli “right wing,” periods of rightward national drift in Israel are telling for those willing to perceive them directly and without slant. Certainly, a major factor is Jewish demographics. The rise of Likud in the latter seventies was significantly driven by the growing influence of the Mizrahim, the righward drift of the 2000s by the same and by the Soviet emigres. But the first period was also the result of the Yom Kippur War and refusals, beyond Egypt, to recognize Israel and trade land for peace. Labor’s lease was mostly up. Labor got one more chance, through Oslo, and the Second Intifada ended that.

    It is too sloppy and easy thinking to overlook that the greatest living Labor icon – Shimon Peres – left labor and joined in Kadima with, of all people, Ariel Sharon, that the last Labor PM to make a grand multiparty effort to achieve a settlement with the Palestinians, Ehud Barak, is willing to serve as defense minister in a LIkud led government with Netanyahu.

    Barak, by the way, is portrayed as something of a hardliner now. I’ll remind you that so, too, was Rabin, now the revered peacemaker of Oslo, when he served as Defense Minister during the first Intifada. In contrast, warmonger Sharon pulled out of Gaza, Lkud PM Ehud Olmert tabled a comprehensive two-state plan. When Israeli leaders, regardless of party, think they see genuine opportunities for peace, they have pursued them. When all they see is threat, they respond to that.

    I don’t even waste my time with people who question the legitimacy of Israel. I’ll argue with those who might be influenced by such people. What I challenge, then, are precisely those judgments upon the policies, and the acts flowing from them, that Israel, surrounded by a level of violent hostility unknown to any other nation in the world, and even under Netanyahu, has pursued in its self-defense.

    Moved to Paris? I am SO jealous.

    • A. Jay,

      I agree with almost all of this. Obviously the terms I use — “morally bankrupt” and so forth — aren’t shared by you, but the remainder of your post is essentially a recounting of demographic and political trends in Israel and their impact on the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. So my below point isn’t a disagreement, simply an observation:

      Demographic shifts don’t excuse bad behavior. There is certainly a correlation, for example, in the United States between an aging population and the inability of politicians to address the potential insolvency of Social Security. Similarly, the rise of the Tea Party can be largely attributed to lower- and middle-class white angst, but that certainly doesn’t absolve the representatives they’ve elected from bringing the country to the brink of catastrophe (and even while avoiding the worst fate, they’ve left a bitter legacy that the markets may not so quickly forget).

      Of course, the content of Israeli leaders’ “bad behavior” will probably look different in your eyes than in mine. I just think it’s important to distinguish their behavior from external causes: just as in the United States with the Tea Party-elected Congressmen, it’s not that they couldn’t have acted in ways befitting rational adults — they simply chose not to because they lacked the courage to do otherwise. I think this is often the case in Israel as well and, especially, I would argue, in the case of Netanyahu. His pandering to the right-wing of his coalition (in addition to his unhelpful arrogance as a guest at the White House) is a great example of everything that’s wrong with Israeli politics. And that, to me, is especially tragic, because — as you pointed out — it has often been the case that Israel’s hawks make more headway in peace talks than the doves.

      P.S. I’ll only be in Paris for a year (studying International Security at Sciences Po, with a concentration in the Middle East, not-so-randomly enough), but I’m very much looking forward to it.

      • Jay P.

        Of course, “Demographic shifts don’t excuse bad behavior.” I wasn’t suggesting they do. I was acknowledging a qualifier to my actual point in that paragraph, which is that the main reason for the rising influence of the Israeli Right, in the 70s and the 2000s, has been a natural and justifiable reaction to Arab and Palestinian intransigence and terrorism – a response that isn’t bad behavior. You chose to focus on the qualifier.

        Nonetheless, there is an embedded additional point in acknowledging the demographic role of the Mizrahim. One must ask WHY the Mizrahim were likely to be tougher in their reaction to the Arab world than the Ashkenazim and the Labor kibbutzniks. One answer? Because so many of them were refugees from Arab nations – in a refugee exodus from those nations quite equal to the Palestinian in 1948, and mostly unacknowledged by those determined to slant history. They have an experience of the depth of Arab and Moslem anti-Semitism that far too many on the Left are unwilling to face.

        Your focus on Netanyahu’s political pandering and his “arrogance” on visiting the U.S. are a small case in point. You call the former an example of “everything that’s wrong with Israeli politics.” That could be a meaningful statement if this pandering of Netanyahu to his right wing were any different from the kind you will find in any democracy. It isn’t remotely. Never mind, of course, the pandering to unattractive political elements to be found in the Arab world. The PA’s “reconciliation” with Hamas – an anti-Semitic, avowedly genocidal terrorist organization – now, that’s pandering with a capital P. But it is Netanyahu who exercises you.

        You seem to be operating from that mind set in which every ugly element of Palestinian culture – the anti-Semitic textbooks, mosque sermonizing, and television programming, the multiple recorded statements by even PA officials that even a two-state solution will be only an interim phase in the progress toward the ultimate elimination of Israel – is treated like a geographic feature of the natural world, unchangeable, without moral agency, and to be negotiated by others, while only the Israelis are actors with moral responsibility. Thus, of all the contributing elements to Mideast dynamics, what you consider to be tragic is Netanyahu having the temerity to do a little sermonizing about Israeli history to a U.S. president whose I-P policy has been so far, let’s face it, whatever your leanings, inept.

        What I consider tragic are thoughts of where the Palestinians (and others) might be, in contrast to where they are, if they’d only accepted that Arab state in 1948, or been willing to trade land for peace in the 70s and 80s, or accepted a deal at Camp David or Taba or in Ehud Barak’s office.

        Regarding Paris, “only a year,” he says. Sciences Po should be quite an education. Good luck.

      • A. Jay,

        I’ll try to respond to your points in order:

        1) “Your focus on Netanyahu’s political pandering and his “arrogance” on visiting the U.S. are a small case in point. You call the former an example of “everything that’s wrong with Israeli politics.” That could be a meaningful statement if this pandering of Netanyahu to his right wing were any different from the kind you will find in any democracy. It isn’t remotely.”

        But it very much is different, because not just any democracy is occupying an ethnic group, arbitrarily adding and removing checkpoints, building separation walls that annex land deep into the already-occupied territories, blockading (at least until very recently) building supplies which were badly needed to repair homes and businesses from Israeli military bombardment, adding to “settler” communities to such an extent that some of them (e.g. Ma’ale Adumim with a population in the tens of thousands) have become virtual cities in their own right, etc. etc. etc.

        I know you oppose some of these actions, so I’m not meaning to start discussions on each of them, but just to point out that in no way, shape, or form is Netanyahu’s combination of pandering to his base and publicly deriding his chief benefactor in front of his face at the White House remotely similar to that of most other democracies. The Republican Party, to use it again as a bad example (it’s too easy, really, these days), also panders to its more extremist base (the Tea Party and their ilk), but this is the result of elections that swept those very extremists into power and whose policies affect the very people who freely elected them.

        This is not the case with Bibi and his right-wing coalition in regards to the conflict with the Palestinians. This brings me to my second point…

        2) You say, “You seem to be operating from that mind set in which every ugly element of Palestinian culture – the anti-Semitic textbooks, mosque sermonizing, and television programming, the multiple recorded statements by even PA officials that even a two-state solution will be only an interim phase in the progress toward the ultimate elimination of Israel – is treated like a geographic feature of the natural world, unchangeable, without moral agency, and to be negotiated by others, while only the Israelis are actors with moral responsibility.”

        But again, that’s just incorrect. I abhor all of those things you just listed. But it is absurd to measure Israel against the Palestinians on some sort of moral scale for which full autonomy is a prerequisite — precisely because the Palestinians have nothing even approaching full autonomy, and, as time goes on and settlements encroach ever further into their already-occupied land, are probably getting further away in some ways (although definitely not all) than they already are from achieving it.

        In any hierarchical relationship, it is a given that moral responsibility must differ in relation to the autonomy allotted to each party. Israel holds virtually all the cards; the Palestinians are reduced to the deplorable “trump card” of terrorism, often pathetically executed (see Hamas’ mostly-impotent rocket attacks on southern Israel). (Let me be absolutely clear: I say “pathetically executed” in a military effectiveness sense. Obviously, I am relieved for Israel that Hamas’ ability to launch more massive attacks has — with some gruesome exceptions, such as the recent attack on a school bus — been mostly nonexistent.)

        This, to my mind, is one of the primary misconceptions associated with the I/P conflict. The two are given equal responsibility for a history which has been so overwhelmingly one-sided (to Israel’s — and its allies’ — credit). How soon we forget that the precursor to today’s vaunted IDF was the terrorist Irgun.

        And no, I am not justifying terrorist attacks by any party — ever, under any circumstances. My point is simply that Israel, too, once knew the pain of being country-less and destitute, and it too resorted to desperate, immoral measures in order to achieve some measure of stability. Were the circumstances different? Yes, but they always are. The point then, as it is now, is that while the actions themselves are deplorable, the context is important. Then, Israel was stateless and emerging from the Holocaust; now, Palestinians are also stateless and not yet emerging from decades of occupation. There is much madness on their part, but the “he started it” argument doesn’t cut it here. Which brings me to point…

        3) “What I consider tragic are thoughts of where the Palestinians (and others) might be, in contrast to where they are, if they’d only accepted that Arab state in 1948, or been willing to trade land for peace in the 70s and 80s, or accepted a deal at Camp David or Taba or in Ehud Barak’s office.”

        I understand the frustration. As someone (I can’t remember who) once said, the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, and this is partly true. But the underlying mindset of your statement is that independence/liberation is something to be granted at Israel’s convenience. You can point to the Camp David accords or other points in history, but Israeli self-portraits as the perpetual benefactor of the ungrateful Palestinians (as perfected by Netanyahu) don’t ring true when such an obviously insincere “peace process” is being dangled in front of Palestinian leaders who Israel knows couldn’t take Bibi’s dead-on-arrival overtures seriously even if they wanted to (because of their own constituents). (See the Wikileaks cables as proof that the Palestinians, especially in recent years, have compromised well beyond what even their own constituents thought they were doing.)

        Anyway, now packing is really calling me. My hypothesis that the boxes might fill themselves is turning out to be a non-starter.

      • Oh, come now, Jay P., to argue so tendentiously doesn’t respect the conversation. You write,

        “But it very much is different, because not just any democracy is occupying an ethnic group, arbitrarily adding and removing checkpoints, building separation walls….”

        Well, no, and not just any democracy – none other, in fact – has been surrounded for over sixty years by multiple adversarial nations of scores of millions of people culturally and religiously inculcated with hatred for it, and is perpetually in a state of conflict for all that time with an enemy that refuses to make peace with it. And still, in such light, you complain of mere political pandering to a party wing. Horrors. Also, the overwhelming majority of Palestinians live on land not administered and/or militarily occupied by Israel. I’d be happy to review the definition of “occupy” with you. Do the Palestinians control the boundaries of these lands? Of course, not. That is one of the consequences of refusing to make peace for six decades, of first already having rejected your own nation, and multiple more opportunities for another chance at it, while waging terror campaigns for much of that time. I won’t even expend energy on “arbitrarily” or the barrier that is 90% fence that you choose to call a wall. (Somehow sounds worse, doesn’t it?)

        Beyond this, Jay P., you only confirm my point. You infantilize and excuse the Palestinians from full human moral responsibility using nation-state autonomy as the weak crutch of your argument. There isn’t a single criticism of the Palestinians that I levied in my previous comment that requires national autonomy to address. Indeed, all of the surrounding Arab states share in some significant measure the same flaws, and their national autonomy hasn’t made an iota of difference in eliminating them; it often is used to perpetuate them. To speak of absurdity, your argument in this instance is akin to saying that the Allies would first have had to withdraw from Germany and returned to it its independence before it could de-Nazify, or the same with Japan before it could demilitarize its culture.

        As a contrast, I offer you the Kurds of Iraq and what they achieved without national autonomy during just tweleve years of protection from Saddaam Hussein under the no-fly zone. It is a wonder what a willing people can do absent a culture of victimization and disability and an ideology of the same from external supporters. It takes no nation to assume moral responsibility for the culture one helps create.

        And the precursor of the IDF was the Haganah, not the Irgun. Interesting that you make this mistaken connection to a small, extreme offshoot rather than the mainstream of Israeli military tradition. Maybe a U.S. president can elaborate on the subject the next time one of them travels to China and arrogantly lectures the Chinese on democracy or Tibet or some such thing. 😉

        I believe it was Abba Eban who meditated on Palestinians and opportunities.

    • BTW, the NYT today has what Glenn Greenwald might call a “must-read” editorial (actually, probably not) about the I/P conflict: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/08/opinion/palestinians-and-the-un.html?_r=1&hp. I can’t say I agree with the conventional wisdom that seeking UN recognition next month is a disaster for the Palestinians, but the rest of the editorial echoes in part what I wrote in my last comment about Netanyahu’s lack of courage. I can’t believe I forgot to mention the whole recent uproar over the 1967 lines, which have been the basis of all negotiations for decades, and which Bibi artificially provoked by pretending that this was some new sort of American restriction. Now, as have the other Israeli PMs over the years, he’s endorsing it himself. This is the type of disgusting politics and pandering that’s pervading both the Israeli and American right-wings these days. Both developments can only mean trouble for each nation.

  5. In the interests of you packing, I’ll keep my rebuttal short.

    One of my main beefs with Greenwald’s work (as if you haven’t guessed already) is that he takes such extreme stands, it induces (as you said) a bit of whiplash when he seemingly forgets the excessive positions he staked out earlier. One day Jerry Nadler is an odious apologist for Israeli war criminals, and a few days later he’s a clear-headed fighter for civil liberties. The positions are so incompatible it’s mind-boggling.

    And I think you give him too little credit for his unswerving ability to include subject matter that’s extraneous to a discussion. After all, he somehow found it relevant to call me an “Israel obsessive” in a comment about the Oslo shootings. He can take any topic and twist it into a treatise on a wide variety of issues. So I don’t think it would have been a stretch at all for him to throw in a thinly-veiled line directed at the Times about how the media reports on the issues that were in question.

    As for the cliffhanger, I’m just too Greenwalded out at this moment. And since the incident happened about four months ago, it’s not exactly time sensitive. But it follows his pattern of obfuscation and lying when someone catches on to his past. I’ll let you know when I get it together.

    But here are two somewhat related, but unrelated appetizers (I love his quote in the first article about his motivation. It’s just so… Greenwaldian):

    http://www.rickross.com/reference/hale/hale33.html

    http://johnpaulpagano.blogspot.com/2008/05/illegal-wiretapping-indeed.html

    • Thanks for the links. The second one was especially interesting as an insight into how Greenwald’s professional life matches up (or doesn’t) with the ethics he espouses on his blog — although, obviously, any infractions he earned during his days as a practicing lawyer don’t diminish the veracity or relevance of any statements he’s made on his blog as to the actions of others. (“It takes one to know one” and all that.)

      And you’re right that Greenwald’s language is a bit extreme. It just doesn’t bother me (at least, not all that much) because I don’t read him for his (often garbled) prose, or for the words he uses to disparage public figures, or for his large ego. I read him solely because I believe the point he’s making is important enough to read despite the grating way he sometimes makes it.

      That point, more often than not, is either that politicians are not living up to their own promises or that journalists aren’t doing their jobs. Roughly 90% of GG’s columns have something to do with the one or the other. And in a media climate in which, as NYU professor Jay Rosen has often and excellently exposed (although often with similar levels of ego-centrism), the “View from Nowhere” reigns supreme, it is a relief to have someone willing to do the research and pull all the sources together to definitively debunk and rebut the common absurdities of the press and politicians alike. Yes, sometimes he gets things wrong (e.g. the video that both you and A. Jay mentioned that he didn’t fact-check very thoroughly, if at all, before posting), but more often than not he doesn’t. And that’s worth something to me, especially when taking into consideration the fact that there aren’t very many effective alternatives to choose from.

      Thanks for the preface! I’ll take a look at it soon.

      • Forgive me, but I’m not sure how to blockquote here and all the html tags when I hit “Quote” make my head spin. So you’ll have to suffer. 😉

        “I read him solely because I believe the point he’s making is important enough to read despite the grating way he sometimes makes it.”

        The first part is why I used to enjoy his work. The second is part of why I stopped enjoying his work.

        “Yes, sometimes he gets things wrong (e.g. the video that both you and A. Jay mentioned that he didn’t fact-check very thoroughly, if at all, before posting), but more often than not he doesn’t. And that’s worth something to me, especially when taking into consideration the fact that there aren’t very many effective alternatives to choose from.”

        I don’t mind when people get things wrong, but when you take into account Glenn’s constant holier-than-thou paeans to journalistic ethics and getting things correct (and so on and so forth) he crosses into hypocrisy with extreme prejudice. He won’t live up to the standards he so stridently espouses and that’s incredibly insulting. To be blunt: Instead of tossing out gratuitous cheap shots and ad hominem attacks, issue a fucking correction if people point an error out. And I’ve pointed out quite a few and I’ve never seen a correction. Plus, even when he’s clearly wrong he hems and haws.

        Look at this letter I wrote to him about Kagan. At the top I quote him saying he’s going to write more about the error in question once he tracks down where he got his information from. He couldn’t just clearly say he was wrong. He’s like the Fonz on that point, only far less cool.

        http://letters.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2010/05/12/lessig/permalink/3ccb2bde3778a3e8930b79a0d175f506.html

        Zzzzzzzzzz… still waiting for him to write more about his source and issue a correction. Same for the Gaza video.

        And you’ll notice I credited Glenn with being an important voice in that letter, too. My major beef is with him is what A. Jay put so succinctly:

        “He is …always far more committed to” an “ideological destination than any honest journey to it.”

        So… you’re in NYC. Well here’s the absolute best damn Middle Eastern food in the city. It’s in Queens, and if that doesn’t scare you, it’s worth a trip. She’s like the Lebanese mother you never had (that is unless you’re Lebanese).

        http://www.yelp.com/biz/wafas-forest-hills-2

      • Rob,

        Agreed. His inability to issue a simple correction without self-aggrandizingly enclosing it within a larger excuse or disclaimer is absolutely not a good sign. But I suppose within the very limited field of effective media criticism in the U.S., I’ll take the best available representative at the moment. I can’t say I disagree with any of your most recent comment.

        I leave NY a week from today, so Wafas may have to wait for my return. It IS in Queens, after all. 🙂

  6. The best available representative(s) at the moment are, in my humble opinion, Paul Krugman, Charles Blow and Nick Kristof. And yes, I know they all write for the Times, but I thoroughly enjoy their work. When they make a case for something, they make it with far fewer words and far more class. But I suppose that in today’s world, stridency and overt anger are what sell. That’s not only a sign of the times, but one of the main reasons why Greenwald is so successful.

    And Lord how I miss Bob Herbert. He’s one of a kind. I started reading him when he was a columnist at The Daily News. When he wrote about torture, he left behind all the hysterics and caricatures and spoke directly to our values as a country. We need more of that and less over-the-top hyperbole. And speaking of the News, Mike Lupica, their great sportswriter, occasionally dabbles in politics and the affairs of the world. And when he does, he’s terrific. This is his column from today:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2011/08/08/2011-08-08_two_heroes_from_time.html

    As for Queens, we’ve got the best food in the city, bub! I haven’t been to Paris in a long time, but I certainly remember eating well. And I know what they say, but I practically lived by bread alone when I was there (and some cheese and wine). I hear the Le Grand Vefour is excellent, though… that is if you’re a hedge fund manager.

    Bon chance!

    • See, here’s the thing about the NYT writers you mentioned. I’ll have to abstain from commenting on Charles Blow, because I’ve only started reading him a bit more recently, but I can comment on the other two. Paul Krugman is sometimes worth reading, but I’m a bit surprised that you’d be a fan since, when it comes to egocentrism and an unhealthy obsession with his own perpetual rightness, Krugman is second to none, even Greenwald. Perhaps in your opinion he’s just right more of the time then?

      As for Kristof, he consistently brings up important topics but I must admit I find him too preachy for my taste. I can’t say I read Herbert that consistently…where did he go from the Times?

      I am no hedge fund manager (and have no plans to be either), but I’ll be sure to check out Le Grand Vefour if I’m feeling particularly bourgeois. 🙂 Thanks for the tip!

      • Krugman definitely has an ego, but unlike Greenwald he IS right more of the time (and as far as I can tell… a LOT more of the time). Plus he takes complicated economic issues and makes them easier to understand for us non-Nobel Prize winning economists. His piece on Standard & Poor’s the other day was terrific.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/08/opinion/credibility-chutzpah-and-debt.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

        I find Kristof a bit preachy sometimes, and sometimes I disagree with him, but my respect for him as a journalist is almost second to none. He talks the talk because he walks the walk. He’s reported from more god-forsaken corners of the Earth than anyone I can think of. So I think he has the right to be preachy when he wants. What he sees in person comes through on the page.

        I’m not sure where Herbert went. I only know he expressed a desire to do more long form pieces as he’d been a reporter and columnist for over 40 years. I hope I see his byline somewhere, because he’s such a clear, concise and powerful writer.

        Blow is relatively new, but I find him spot-on. He only appears on Saturdays, though.

        You should read A. Jay’s piece on the Native Americans. It’s not current, but if you click on my comment at the top of the page, it’ll take you there.

        I think the reason you’re thanking me for the tip on Le Grand Vefour is because you think I can afford the tip. 😉

      • Rob,

        Agreed re Krugman breaking down complicated issues and making them digestible (and I did like that article I linked to). I hope someday you’ll be able to join those of us who’ve won Nobel Prizes on that higher level of understanding, though. 😀

        The same is true of Kristof and his passion for the issues: it definitely shines through, as you said. It’s never the content of his posts but the tone that bothers me, which I’m sure is a bit of a surprise given the long conversation we’ve just had about Greenwald, where the exact opposite is the case for me. The fact that he highlights, say, the plight of women in Afghanistan who are sprayed in the face with acid for perceived sins doesn’t bother me (obviously this is an issue everyone should care about), but he often prefaces (or suffixes) these remarks with nonsensical asides like (paraphrasing), “You’d think from all this nonstop coverage, the debt ceiling debate was actually the most important thing going on. But over in Afghanistan…” etc. etc. So it’s more of the Kristof schtick that gets to me; of course, the things he writes about are essentially unimpeachable.

        You’re definitely right about his experience too; have you ever checked out his bio page on the NYT? It’s incredible. The guy’s been through, and done, a lot.

        I’ll be sure to check out A. Jay’s post as soon as I can.

  7. Jay P,

    Nice to read your blog, and, believe me, I wish I had more time to reply but I’m actually a full-time blogger (at CiF Watch) – that is, it IS my day job – so time is precious but in reading your post about Greenwald I simply don’t understand how you can not characterize him as someone who advances antisemitic arguments.

    Here are a few quotes:

    http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DRIT=3&DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=624&PID=0&IID=3211&TTL=Anti-Israelism_and_Anti-Semitism_in_Progressive_U.S._Blogs/News_Websites:_Influential_and_Poor

    “So absolute has the Israel-centric stranglehold on American policy been that the U.S. Government has made it illegal to broadcast Hezbollah television stations.”

    Just ponder this for a second, if you will. The “Israel-centric” lobby is strangling American policy so much that Americans aren’t able to watch the satellite fed propaganda of an Iranian sponsored Islamist terror group. Are you really denying that he’s talking about the Jewish lobby? And, do I really need to lecture you about the history of that visual – organized Jewry having a “stranglehold” on the non-Jewish leaders of their nation?

    And, then there’s this:

    “Those who favor the attack on Gaza are certainly guilty…of such overwhelming emotional and cultural attachment to Israel and Israelis that they long ago ceased viewing this conflict with any remnant of objectivity.”

    This is a classic “dual loyalty” charge, Jay. I mean, is this different in any way from what Pat Buchanan says? The notion that Jewish supporters of Israel have to prove their loyalty to the U.S. in order for their opinions on U.S. foreign policy to be credible is not just ad hominem, it parrots classic nativist antisemitism.

    Again, look at my JCPA piece for more quotes.

    As far as anti-Americanism. Again, Greenwald is, at best, agnostic on the “question” of whether the U.S. invasion of Iraq is morally comparable to the Nazi conquest of Europe.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/06/glenn-greenwald-compares-the-iraq-war-to-the-nazi-conquest-of-europe/58966/

    This is just insane and I honestly don’t know how anyone who truly loved America, and had even the most rudimentary understanding of 20th Century history, could possibly compare the overthrow of Saddam Hussein with Nazism.

    Greenwald is in the absolute worst tradition of the radical, anti-American, anti-Zionist Left.

    (My apologies in advance for any spelling mistakes…like I said, I have the Guardian to monitor.)

    • Adam,

      Thanks for checking out the blog. I’ll try to make this quick, but the gist of it is that I still disagree strongly. To address your points in order:

      1) “The ‘Israel-centric’ lobby is strangling American policy so much that Americans aren’t able to watch the satellite fed propaganda of an Iranian sponsored Islamist terror group. Are you really denying that he’s talking about the Jewish lobby?”

      No. Of course he’s talking about the Jewish/Jewish-American/Israeli lobby. I’m not denying that, and I’m fairly certain he wouldn’t either. Is affirming the existence of a Jewish lobby now the threshold for anti-Semitism? And if so, when did this happen? Hell, just yesterday, the Jerusalem Post (and I think you’ll find it slightly more implausible to slap them with charges of anti-Semitism than you do Glenn Greenwald) wrote:

      “Eighty-one congressmen, or about 20 percent of the US House of Representatives, will visit Israel over the next three weeks during Congress’s summer recess, with the first group of 26 Democrats scheduled to arrive on Monday…

      …The week-long trips are sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which brings large delegations of congressmen here every other August…

      …In a related development, The Israel Project will be bringing a group of 18 Washington-based ambassadors from Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America to Israel on Monday for a weeklong tour and high-level meetings…

      …Some of these countries have been mentioned by officials in Jerusalem as likely candidates to either vote against, or at least abstain, when the vote on Palestinian statehood comes before the UN in September.”

      (source: http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?ID=232876&R=R1)

      Is the Jerusalem Post now anti-Semitic for pointing out that 20% of the ENTIRE lower house of the American Congress is visiting Israel during a three-week period, at the behest of the most prominent Jewish lobbying group in the U.S.? You tell me.

      Similarly, I don’t at all understand your point about Americans being legally banned from broadcasting Hezbollah TV stations (which I’ll assume is true; I didn’t know this before your post). Are you saying this is a good thing? It sounds from your comment like you do, which — to use your own phrase — “is just insane and I honestly don’t know how anyone who truly loved America” (and understood the First Amendment whatsoever) could advocate banning a TV broadcast of a Lebanese political party, or anyone for that matter (with the very few exceptions drawn out by Supreme Court decisions in regards to inciting “imminent lawless action” and so forth). This is in the same spirit as the recent Israeli law to ban boycotts; whatever happened to free expression?

      2) “Those who favor the attack on Gaza are certainly guilty…of such overwhelming emotional and cultural attachment to Israel and Israelis that they long ago ceased viewing this conflict with any remnant of objectivity.”

      You use this Greenwald quote as evidence of anti-Semitism. Obviously, I respect your right of disagreement with his point, but that doesn’t justify sticking the “anti-Semite” label on any statement on Israel that you don’t happen to like. The Gaza attack resulted in casualties of a ratio of 100:1 (Palestinians to Israelis). To pre-empt a long discussion about the Gaza war, let me be clear in stating that, obviously, counting casualties is an incredibly simplistic way of evaluating anything, but it IS a fact, and as such it is absolutely feasible that someone who’s not permanently welded to either side of the I/P debate would find it plausible that “an overwhelming emotional and cultural attachment to Israel and Israelis” is preventing some people (and I don’t know how Greenwald meant it, but this could refer to Jews OR Gentiles who tend to side with Israel for a broad array of reasons) from understanding that there is sufficient nuance in the details and context of the Gaza incursion to obviate “they had it coming” types of arguments (not saying you are making this argument, by the way; but I’m assuming that’s the type of argument Greenwald was talking about [correct me if I’m wrong]).

      3) As for Nazi comparisons, I’m almost always not a fan (although I have at times made exceptions for George W. Bush, such as: “The only difference between Hitler and George W. Bush is that Hitler won the popular vote.”) There is actually a mostly-tongue-in-cheek theory about the propensity of online discussions to end in accusations of Nazism; it’s called Godwin’s Law: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law.

  8. jaypinho :
    How soon we forget that the precursor to today’s vaunted IDF was the terrorist Irgun.

    I have things to do today, so I’m keeping this short, focusing on this one statement, and omitting a lot of background. The precursor to the IDF was NOT the Irgun, it was the Haganah, founded in 1920. The Irgun came about in response to the 1929 riots and didn’t declare themselves separate from the Haganah until 1931. In 1948, when Ben-Gurion declared an independent state of Israel, the Irgun was rolled into the IDF, where, subsequently, they engaged in some violent confrontations with the IDF over the issue of arms smuggling, and in essence, political power. And people on both sides were killed in these firefights. Hell, Ben-Gurion ordered the shelling of the Irgun’s ship, the Altalena. In the aftermath, hundreds of Irgun fighters were arrested. And I believe the Haganah’s Palmach actually allied themselves with the British at one point to demolish the Irgun and the Stern Gang.

    And it should also be pointed out that one of those Irgun ‘terrorists’ is the man who signed the historic peace treaty with Egypt. Just as Yasser did with Rabin.

    I’m sorry, Jay, but that statement about the IDF is Greenwaldian in its distortion.

    • Rob,

      You’re right. “Precursor” was a poor choice of words. I meant to say that the Irgun “came before” the IDF, not that it was the direct ancestor (although, as you said, it was eventually absorbed into the IDF).

      As for Begin and (later) Arafat, I think that’s exactly my point: both men had terrorist pasts and yet managed to be “brought into the mainstream” and eventually played vital diplomatic roles. I wrote:

      “My point is simply that Israel, too, once knew the pain of being country-less and destitute, and it too resorted to desperate, immoral measures in order to achieve some measure of stability. Were the circumstances different? Yes, but they always are. The point then, as it is now, is that while the actions themselves are deplorable, the context is important. Then, Israel was stateless and emerging from the Holocaust; now, Palestinians are also stateless and not yet emerging from decades of occupation.”

      In other words, let’s remember that, long-term mutual hatred notwithstanding, agreement was and is possible. The blame game can be played ad nauseum by both sides, and there is *plenty* to go around.

      There, I have just issued a word choice correction. That should place me at least one full notch above GG, I would think. 🙂

      • jaypinho :
        Rob,
        You’re right. “Precursor” was a poor choice of words. I meant to say that the Irgun “came before” the IDF, not that it was the direct ancestor (although, as you said, it was eventually absorbed into the IDF).

        Just as I chastise Greenwald’s equivocation on points such as this, in the interests of fair play, I’m going to chastise yours. Here’s what you originally wrote:

        jaypinho :
        How soon we forget that the precursor to today’s vaunted IDF was the terrorist Irgun.

        That’s more than a “poor choice of words,” that shows a type of generalized mindset among critics of Israel.

        The picture you were attempting to paint is one of the IDF having its roots firmly planted in the terror firma (excuse the pun) of terrorism. If you meant to say the Irgun “came before” the IDF, well, so did the Jewish Legion, the Palmach, and if one wants to go back 3,000 years, even the army of King David. That you chose “the terrorist Irgun” as the sole representative that “came before” the IDF is telling. If you’d said, ‘one of the precursors’ you’d be on firmer, but still quite shaky ground. The obvious (and definitive) modern precursor to the IDF was the Haganah.

        And yes, I said the Irgun was eventually absorbed into the IDF, but I made it as clear as possible (within personal time restraints) what happened afterward between the two. The crux of the Altalena Affair was that Ben-Gurion didn’t want Begin to have his own army within the IDF, and that’s why violence broke out. There was obviously plenty of politics and skullduggery, which would be far too much to get into here, but that’s it in a nutshell. It’s a fascinating story, though.

        But overall, this is one of my main beefs against Greenwald. Given the salient point in question, “a poor choice of words,” or “I meant to say,” don’t cut it. Just a simple ‘I was incorrect,’ or ‘I shouldn’t have said that,’ would have sufficed. When I got something wrong with Glenn, I admitted it, agreed he was right, and moved on.

        But no worries, I won’t have you banned from Wafa’s over this because: A) She likes me, but not that much and; B) Even if I could, that would be far too cruel. Really, when you get back, put her on your list.

        Now I have to get packing. I’m off to the mountains for a few weeks which will, hopefully, be free of any references to Michelle Bachmann. I don’t think I’ll be that lucky.

  9. A. Jay,

    I’ve just spent the last 5-10 minutes trying to figure out how you replied to my last comment such that it shows up indented and directly below my comment, but to no avail (I’m not seeing any Reply link on your post, or even on my post to which you were replying), so I’m starting a new thread here.

    1) You wrote, “Well, no, and not just any democracy – none other, in fact – has been surrounded for over sixty years by multiple adversarial nations of scores of millions of people culturally and religiously inculcated with hatred for it, and is perpetually in a state of conflict for all that time with an enemy that refuses to make peace with it.”

    But I agree (in principle, if not in the over-generalized details). This doesn’t in any way lessen my point. Israel is indeed in extraordinary circumstances — regardless of which of my particular details you disagree with or add nuance to — and thus your claim that Netanyahu’s pandering isn’t substantively “different from the kind you will find in any democracy” is simply not the case. As I pointed out, when the GOP panders to its own extremists, the result is also often terrifying (nearly a national default and already a credit downgrade), but at least we can blame ourselves for the democratic process that brought these radicals to power.

    Things are different in Israel. Netanyahu pandering to his extremists means having Avigdor Lieberman pushing for loyalty oaths, an unabated (and perhaps increased) pace of settlement building (here is just one of many recent articles: http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=233495), and insincere peace overtures in which his “commitment” to a two-state solution is heralded as progress while the “facts on the ground” and his very own public statements undermine that very sham peace process in the first place. Yes, Israeli hawks CAN be more effective than their doves, but Bibi is certainly doing everything he can to avoid fitting into that particular mold, it would seem.

    In other words, these policies are directly affecting people who don’t have a voice at all in Israeli politics and yet often owe their livelihoods to its participants’ every whim. You don’t think, then, that this is more irresponsible than your average pander to the right? And this is even leaving aside the fact that it is just stupid to call out your chief ally in front of TV cameras when he’s invited you to the White House, just as it was stupid that the Israeli housing ministry announced new settlements in March 2010 just as Biden was touring the country. What does this accomplish? Again, I think this all fits quite naturally into what I termed “everything that’s wrong with Israeli politics.”

    2) “I won’t even expend energy on ‘arbitrarily’ or the barrier that is 90% fence that you choose to call a wall. (Somehow sounds worse, doesn’t it?)”

    A. Jay, this is just quibbling over semantics.

    Here’s Aharon Barak, writing as the then-President of the Israel Supreme Court in 2004: “The “Seamline” obstacle is composed of several components. In its center stands a “smart” fence. The purpose of the fence is to alert the forces deployed along its length of any attempt at infiltration. On the fence’s external side lies an anti-vehicle obstacle, composed of a trench or another means, intended to prevent vehicles from breaking through the fence by slamming up against it. There is an additional delaying fence. Near the fence a service road is paved. On the internal side of the electronic fence, there are a number of roads: a dirt road (for the purpose of discovering the tracks of those who pass the fence), a patrol road, and a road for armored vehicles, as well as an additional fence. The average width of the obstacle, in its optimal form, is 50 – 70 meters. Due to constraints, a narrower obstacle, which includes only the components supporting the electronic fence, will be constructed in specific areas. In certain cases the obstacle can reach a width of 100 meters, due to topographical conditions.”

    (Source: http://elyon1.court.gov.il/files_eng/04/560/020/a28/04020560.a28.pdf)

    For what it’s worth, the International Court of Justice uses the term “wall” and wrote, “[This is] the term which the General Assembly has chosen to use and which is also used in the Opinion, since the other expressions sometimes employed are no more accurate if understood in the physical sense.”

    (Source: http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?pr=71&p1=3&p2=1&case=131&p3=6)

    Needless to say, this is not your average every-day fence.

    3) I just replied to Rob’s comment re the Irgun. You’re right; I used the wrong term. “Precursor” is not the correct word to describe it. I should have written “came before.”

    • Jay P.

      A reply link shows up at the top right of most of your comment boxes, though not all, with some reply boxes being exceptions,as I see the page. How this all works? I have a hard enough time with the idiosyncrasies of my own blog.

      I’ll keep this reply limited to the general argument itself. Your response on “political pandering” is no more than that “everything is different from everything else.” This renders all comparison impossible. You are confusing class and the distinguishing characteristics of members of the class. You choose a significant contextual characteristic of Israel, or the U.S. or any other democracy (in the terms of this argument), and claim that this characteristic is so differentiating that it renders comparisons void. That’s what you’re doing with Israel. The consequences of political party pandering will be different in every instance,with every nation, but political pandering in liberal democracies is political pandering and is not a structural or ethical difference in the nature of Israeli democracy or the Israeli nation.

      You will make no points with me (nor should you with anyone) attempting to reduce semantics to meaningless quibble. A wall is a wall as a fence is a fence (as a barrier, which is a class that includes both, is a barrier) and if not, I’m sure you won’t mind referring to it as a fence from now on. “Occupy,” “illegal” “concentration camp,” “apartheid,” “humanitarian crisis,” “humanitarian aid,” “border” vs. “boundary,” “colonize,” “indigenous,” and so many words more all have meanings that matter and are all part of a semantic propaganda war against Israel. It is no accident, of course, that those unsympathetic to Israel use the word “wall” and those who are sympathetic do not. I am content with the word barrier.

      For the record regarding the barrier, while Israel was being subjected to a nearly unprecedented wave of terror (Irag set the bar high for everyone else in field of terror campaigns against civilians), I was included among those crying out from within my own febrile imagination, before I ever heard another person voice the thought, for some kind of last resort barrier to stop it. I would have supported a dome, if it were possible. It did its job and its moral defense should be manifest. To the complaints from those unsympathetic to Israel anyway that the lines and some effects of the barrier are not to their liking, my response, given the cause of its creation is “tough shit.” You don’t like the barrier? Do what is necessary to make peace and remove it. To start, remove any preconditions to negotiations, as Israel sets no preconditions, and call what you believe to be Netanyahu’s bluff. Unless, that is, the PA is full of shit itself.

      • A. Jay,

        1) Point well taken. I shouldn’t have gone down the road of claiming Netanyahu’s pandering is substantively different in appearance than other leaders’ similar genuflections to their respective bases. I believe this part of the conversation started when I wrote:

        Of course, the content of Israeli leaders’ “bad behavior” will probably look different in your eyes than in mine. I just think it’s important to distinguish their behavior from external causes: just as in the United States with the Tea Party-elected Congressmen, it’s not that they couldn’t have acted in ways befitting rational adults — they simply chose not to because they lacked the courage to do otherwise. I think this is often the case in Israel as well and, especially, I would argue, in the case of Netanyahu. His pandering to the right-wing of his coalition (in addition to his unhelpful arrogance as a guest at the White House) is a great example of everything that’s wrong with Israeli politics. And that, to me, is especially tragic, because — as you pointed out — it has often been the case that Israel’s hawks make more headway in peace talks than the doves.

        What I meant there — and I only later muddled into an ill-advised moral comparison of Israeli pandering with every other kind of pandering — was simply that Netanyahu’s brand of it, very much like the extremist Tea Partiers’, is specifically disgusting in its utter cowardice and lack of initiative. I should have stopped there.

        In both cases, this continued irresponsibility — in Bibi’s case, this means kicking the can down the road while the conflict drones on interminably; with the Tea Partiers, this means confidently and foolishly running headlong into the face of possible default — will have dire consequences down the road. But because of that funny little thing called two-year terms in the House of Representatives and because Netanyahu’s coalition is always precarious in Israel (and as his stint as PM grows ever more tenuous with the ongoing tent protests), the right thing never seems to be the thing that gets done.

        On a slightly different note, and going way back to the genesis of the larger Israel conversation we’ve been having, I also meant that statement (about “everything that’s wrong with Israeli politics”) as relating to the U.S.’s own foolhardiness in supporting a nation so steadfastly that so often finds it completely unnecessary to return the favor. Again, I am now drifting from matters of ethics into strict foreign policy, but it seems to me that one of the benefits of having Israel as an ally should be that it acts in a manner befitting a nation that receives billions of dollars in foreign aid annually (as well as intelligence sharing and a host of other goodwill).

        The extreme version of this is a situation like Afghanistan or Iraq, where the leaders there openly deride American interests and policies for reasons both demagogic and legitimate, and thus the American presence in both countries is among our most muddled and incoherent of all our foreign policy.

        Obviously, our public spats with Israel are mild sauce by comparison. (For one, it helps that we’re not rampaging through the Israeli countryside and fairly frequently killing civilians with accidental air strikes.) But from an American perspective, having Netanyahu look into the cameras while sitting feet from Obama and denounce the president’s completely unoriginal and longstanding policy of basing negotiations on the 1967 lines (a policy which, only weeks later in a complete reversal, Netanyahu was endorsing himself: http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/62555/as-israelis-take-to-streets-netanyahu-shifts-on-67-borders/) is not a good look for a nation that so happily deems itself “the lone remaining superpower.”

        Anyway, to conclude this point, Netanyahu’s pandering does disgust me, but to go down the line and give it some special significance is probably a stretch. I do believe that the stakes are higher than, say, the Tea Partiers’ intransigence, because of the statelessness of the Palestinians (whereas American citizens actually voted these wayward Congressmen into office), but just because something is the worst of Israeli politics doesn’t mean it’s also worse than the worst of everyone else’s.

        2) I think you misunderstand my quip about “semantics.” I absolutely agree with you that nuance matters enormously in such matters as the I/P conflict (and in virtually everything else). In fact, that’s precisely what I was trying to do: add nuance. What I was saying is that your aside — “I won’t even expend energy on ‘arbitrarily’ or the barrier that is 90% fence that you choose to call a wall. (Somehow sounds worse, doesn’t it?)” — was straight out of Israeli talking points and represented an attempt to obscure the true nature of the barrier itself.

        For the record, I have no problem with calling it a barrier either. But you imply (by arguing that it’s simply “90% fence” and thus, I take it, less severe) that it’s merely a minor obstacle whose physical construction somehow warrants differentiating it from the term “wall.” But it doesn’t. If anything, given Aharon Barak’s description of it that I posted, it is clear that neither “fence” nor “wall” render anything close to approaching a complete picture of the extensiveness and impenetrability of the barrier. Saying it’s “90% fence,” as if calling it a “wall” connotes something harsher than reality, is clearly not the case — unless, of course, you take issue with Barak’s very description of it.

        3) You write:

        To the complaints from those unsympathetic to Israel anyway that the lines and some effects of the barrier are not to their liking, my response, given the cause of its creation is “tough shit.” You don’t like the barrier? Do what is necessary to make peace and remove it. To start, remove any preconditions to negotiations, as Israel sets no preconditions, and call what you believe to be Netanyahu’s bluff. Unless, that is, the PA is full of shit itself.

        I don’t even know where to begin with this statement. First of all, your response to a barrier that illegally annexes 8.5% of Palestinian land (http://www.btselem.org/separation_barrier/statistics) is “tough shit?” This is a classic cart-before-the-horse approach. We can argue opinion all day, but Israel has been in violation of international law for decades in regards to the occupation. A whole host of UN resolutions, as well as the Fourth Geneva Convention, speak to this. These are not opinions, but facts. As a member of the UN and a signatory to the GC IV, Israel has an obligation to abide by the rules of both. Terrorism is deplorable, but Israel cannot reasonably expect peace until it either bombs the West Bank/Gaza into oblivion or begins to put forth a serious effort at peace.

        And secondly, “Israel sets no preconditions?” You cannot possibly be that naive. When Netanyahu calls the 1967 lines “indefensible,” that’s a precondition. When he refuses to freeze settlement construction for any substantive length of time, that’s a precondition. When he declares that Jerusalem will forever remain undivided under Israeli rule, that’s a precondition. Each of these (and many more) statements and policies indicate Israel’s current lack of seriousness. The only difference between Israeli and Palestinian preconditions is that the Palestinians have to request them — more electricity supply from Israel, a less severe blockade of Gaza, recognition of a Palestinian state, etc. — whereas Israel has the ability to freely impose their own. Two parties can’t have a negotiation over a cake if one of them is eating it piece by piece while they’re debating who gets which slices. Netanyahu doesn’t need to have someone call his bluff; he’s done it ably himself. If he’s so serious about peace, then why can’t he even make up his mind about the 1967 lines within the span of a few weeks’ time?

  10. jaypinho :
    A. Jay,
    I’ve just spent the last 5-10 minutes trying to figure out how you replied to my last comment such that it shows up indented and directly below my comment…

    I was trying to figure that out, too.

  11. Rob,

    You wrote, “The picture you were attempting to paint is one of the IDF having its roots firmly planted in the terror firma (excuse the pun) of terrorism. If you meant to say the Irgun “came before” the IDF, well, so did the Jewish Legion, the Palmach, and if one wants to go back 3,000 years, even the army of King David. That you chose “the terrorist Irgun” as the sole representative that “came before” the IDF is telling. If you’d said, ‘one of the precursors’ you’d be on firmer, but still quite shaky ground. The obvious (and definitive) modern precursor to the IDF was the Haganah.”

    But you’re wrong here. I absolutely stand by my statement. I did not mean to imply whatsoever that the terrorist Irgun somehow influenced the current-day IDF, or that it somehow reflects an overly violent nature in the contemporary Israeli military, or any such thing. The IDF, like the American military or any other, is simply a reflection of whatever its leaders have decided to use it for at any given time. The IDF, to me, is no more or less inherently terrorist or violent than its American counterpart.

    What I meant by precursor was literally “came before.” I do admit to getting the history itself wrong (I should have double-checked before posting, and I didn’t, and now I’ve learned something new), but my intention was simply to describe a parallel time when Israel was as ferocious/tenacious in its desperation as the Palestinians are in their struggle today. Here is what I said:

    “This, to my mind, is one of the primary misconceptions associated with the I/P conflict. The two are given equal responsibility for a history which has been so overwhelmingly one-sided (to Israel’s — and its allies’ — credit). How soon we forget that the precursor to today’s vaunted IDF was the terrorist Irgun.

    And no, I am not justifying terrorist attacks by any party — ever, under any circumstances. My point is simply that Israel, too, once knew the pain of being country-less and destitute, and it too resorted to desperate, immoral measures in order to achieve some measure of stability. Were the circumstances different? Yes, but they always are.”

    Enjoy the mountains! I’m not sure anyone in this country will be able to hide from Bachmann references for a while yet.

    • Jay P,

      You wrote:

      “What I meant by precursor was literally “came before.” I do admit to getting the history itself wrong (I should have double-checked before posting, and I didn’t, and now I’ve learned something new), but my intention was simply to describe a parallel time when Israel was as ferocious/tenacious in its desperation as the Palestinians are in their struggle today.”

      And what I still find questionable is that out of many groups to choose that “came before” the IDF, you chose the Irgun. And now you say you got the history wrong and you learned something new.

      Kudos on the honesty, but can you see why people like A. Jay, Adam and I get frustrated with some of Israel’s critics? That was a basic fact about Israeli history and not only did you get it wrong, but you admit you didn’t know the history in question. That’s more than illustrative of the misconceptions and propaganda about Israel that abound. Even someone who appears intimately knowledgeable about many facets of the I/P conflict gets a basic historical fact about Israel’s past wrong. Just think about someone reading what you wrote uncritically. They’d come away with the notion that IDF was founded by terrorists. And that’s absolutely untrue.

      As to Greenwald’s accusations of people having “overwhelming emotional and cultural attachment to Israel,” he’s used different variations on that vile line of questioning before. He did it to me once and this is how I replied in a comment:

      “As to your absurd question about my attachments to Israel, it’s shocking (and insulting) that you would even ask such a non sequitur. If someone has cultural, emotional or religious ties to Jews or Israel, does that make their comments on this issue any less relevant? Seriously, it smacks of the worst dual-loyalty horseshit peddled by extremists on the far right and far left.

      But far be it for me to stoop to your level by not answering the question. Yes, I’m Jewish. And I do see Israel as something special. What does that tell you, Glenn? I answered your question, you answer mine. But if you’re going to tell me that makes me emotionally attached to this issue, I’ll spare you the rhetoric… you’re correct, I am. But it’s not as cut and dried as you and many others would like it to be. That’s because I feel the pain and anguish on both sides. I can support Israel because I’m Jewish while sometimes disagreeing with her policies. And I can support a Palestinian state. I know you know that of many people here who write to you. But the insinuation in your question about my religious background just reeks. The logical extension of that is that I should have a Star of David placed next to my signature. Or a Muslim Palestinian should have the Star and Crescent.”

      And yes, he used the term “RELIGIOUS TIES.”

      In response to that, in the most cowardly of ways, he flat out lied about me. You can gain further insight into my feelings about Greenwald and his thoroughly dishonest. disingenuous, and disgusting methods when I replied to him on this issue here:

      http://letters.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/03/29/newsweek/permalink/1db7bd16ee5fd76f38de6ee2950e2f21.html

      And it’s interesting to note that the ever loquacious and pugnacious Glenn Greenwald slunk off after that and never replied to that letter. Gee, I wonder why?

      Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to put on my party hat to belatedly celebrate Elvis’s birthday.

      • Rob,

        Glad to see you made it back from the mountains. 🙂 I actually did a little mountain-climbing myself yesterday. I’m in Anchorage, AK for a couple days (long story) before moving, and I got to climb Flattop Mountain. Definitely not something a New Yorker gets to do that often.

        Again, as to the history, I got it wrong, no question. And you’re right that I should have been more thorough before including an “Irgun as a precursor to the IDF” statement in my comment. (As stated above, I didn’t actually mean it as a pejorative comment in relation to the IDF. I simply wanted to highlight that the Irgun is indeed a significant part of Israeli history and thus the process leading up to Israel’s founding included terrorist elements whose activities in many ways resembled those of Hamas and its ilk today. The intent is not to condone either group, but simply to put them both into a broader context of a struggle for national self-determination.)

        You wrote:

        Kudos on the honesty, but can you see why people like A. Jay, Adam and I get frustrated with some of Israel’s critics? That was a basic fact about Israeli history and not only did you get it wrong, but you admit you didn’t know the history in question. That’s more than illustrative of the misconceptions and propaganda about Israel that abound. Even someone who appears intimately knowledgeable about many facets of the I/P conflict gets a basic historical fact about Israel’s past wrong.

        I understand the frustration, but I can say the very same thing about, say, A. Jay’s claim that “The Palestinians won’t negotiate” and this woefully inaccurate comment:

        “And what concession have the Palestinians offered (choose your time frame)?

        Oh, I’m sorry – I forgot they don’t have to do anything because… rationalization, rationalization, rationalization.”

        I got my history wrong, but at least it didn’t change anything about my central point (which was simply to recall the Irgun’s existence) and, furthermore, concerned events that took place over 60 years ago. A. Jay got one of his central theses egregiously wrong about current events, the proof of which has been provided in many forms, perhaps most convincingly (and relatively recently) by the leaks of the Palestine Papers just this year (and whose veracity was confirmed by Olmert’s own media adviser). (I covered all of this in my response to A. Jay’s claim.)

        Again, this doesn’t concern a history lesson; this is about real-time events. Whether or not you agree with the breadth or depth of Palestinian negotiations of concessions, to say they never negotiate at all is demonstrably false and demonstrates a far worse ignorance of the events taking place right now than any mistake I made about the Irgun’s successors more than 60 years later.

        And this is one of the central problems supporters of Palestinian self-determination often confront as well. Some (not all) “pro-Israel” defenders make absurd claims, such as the trope that Palestinians don’t negotiate at all, and then when presented with evidence to the contrary, don’t have anything to say in response (in this case, 5 days after my response comment; obviously A. Jay may be busy with other things).

        As for Greenwald, if he indeed said that Jewish people are inherently unable to think reasonably about the I/P conflict, then I won’t defend that statement. But keep in mind that citing religious ties is absolutely not the same as singling out Jews. If you’ve spent any time around Christian evangelicals (as I have), you’ll quickly learn that religious ties can refer to a whole array of beliefs, many of which are themselves anti-Semitic while purporting to be in support of the state of Israel. (See “John Hagee” for a classic example of an anti-Semitic Christian “Israel supporter.”)

  12. Jay P.

    In this case, your most recent reply offered me, in its box, the option to “quote” – don’t know what that means in this context – but not to reply, thus the new thread.

    You write,

    “I do believe that the stakes are higher than, say, the Tea Partiers’ intransigence, because of the statelessness of the Palestinians.”

    I do quite agree with you that in this case the stakes are higher, and while I by no means endorse all of Netanyahu’s positions, and I do care that the Palestinians, despite my displeasure with them, get a state, it is all a matter of where we place our greater emphasis, and why – as I think the states are higher because of the threat to Israel. The statelessness of the Palestinians, starting from 1948 through today, is their own doing.

    I did not say that the barrier is “simply” fence. That word is your addition. I stated last time that my choice of words is barrier. I made the point I did because, factually, the primary dividing structure, the linear marker, so to speak, is a fence, not a wall. Israel’s adversaries call it a wall, purposely, pointedly with the clear intent to make it sound worse than either fence or barrier – most people will never know the details of what constitutes the barrier. I was addressing the semantic manipulation of the truth attempted by those who call it a wall. I am not attempting the reverse. As I think I made clear, I have no care to diminish the nature of the barrier. It is supposed to be, as you call it, “impenetrable.” And it has done its job.

    Israel has not “annexed” disputed lands on its side of the barrier. They are simply, for now, there. It is also not “Palestinian land.” You and I may wish it to be some day, but as someone who cares about legality, you need to acknowledge that historically, neither the Palestinians nor any other nationality has ever enjoyed legal sovereignty over that land outside of de facto rule through conquest or UN mandate. Consistently repeating the same untruth, like use of the word “occupation” where there is none, does not make it true, though there is certainly the hope among many that the truth will be obscured. Why do you and nearly everyone else not call for return to the original 1948 partition lines rather than the 1967 boundaries? That additional land has been annexed. The reason, in part – because we all recognize that aggressive war has consequences.

    As to preconditions, you are confusing them with positions. Of course, Israel has positions, some of which it offered to abandon as recently as 2008 – Olmert offered Abbas East Jerusalem. A precondition is a condition that is expected to be met before a party will sit down to negotiate. Israel is, and has been, setting no preconditions to negotiations. It is the PA that sets the precondition of ceasing settlement activity, by which it also means apartment construction in East Jerusalem. If Israel said it would not negotiate until all anti-Semitic textbooks were removed from Palestinian schools, that would be a precondition.

    Finally, you write,

    “Terrorism is deplorable, but Israel cannot reasonably expect peace until it either bombs the West Bank/Gaza into oblivion or begins to put forth a serious effort at peace.”

    “Terrorism is deplorable, but” and “begins to put forth a serious effort at peace” after the 1948 acceptance of the partition, the Begin-Sadat Camp David peace treaty, the 2000 Camp David negotiations, the Taba negotiations, the withdrawal from Gaza (which I understand is nonetheless still “occupied,”) and the 2008 Olmert offer, with no comparable record on the Palestinian side, is just a reminder that we are spinning our wheels here.

    • A. Jay,

      I’ll skip past the barrier/fence/wall discussion since I think we’ve exhausted it for the most part. It seems we’re both content with using “barrier” as a descriptor; you see “wall” as prejudicial, and I see “fence” in the same light.

      As for preconditions vs. positions, I don’t think I’m confusing them at all. Here is where it gets down to the substance of the negotiation. The I/P conflict is, primarily, one over land. (Obviously, there is a plethora of other issues tied in, including religion, ethnicity, etc.) It is negotiating in very bad faith, then, to reduce the amount of potential end results by tampering with the very issues under dispute in the negotiations.

      You say Israel has only positions, not preconditions, but that extremely sympathetic view is made possible (although not accurate) only by Israel’s current control over everything. Until final-status negotiations are completed, Israel controls all of Jerusalem, all of its existing settlements (without any land swaps in the interim) as well as the continuously built present and future ones, is recognized as a state by the whole world, and effectively controls Gaza and, to an extent, the West Bank as well (with its often-arbitrary system of checkpoints, roadblocks, border controls, etc.).

      Thus, you are obfuscating the nature of Israel’s policies as positions, when in actuality they operate exactly as do Palestinian preconditions. It’s simply a matter of how one frames the questions. Will the Israelis negotiate if they are forced to freeze all settlement building until negotiations are over? Of course not; it’s a hypothetical question anyway, because no one can force them to do it. Would Netanyahu negotiate if it were based on the 1967 lines? As of a few weeks ago, no; now, yes. The same is true with Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel; you can say that this is simply a position, and technically you are correct, but by staking sole claim to the most hotly-contested issue of the entire conflict, Israel has effectively set a precondition: Jerusalem is not up for debate if we’re going to negotiate. (Olmert offered East Jerusalem three years ago — as part of a package that offered less in land swaps to the Palestinians than Israel would annex from the West Bank with its settlements — but each PM has clearly set his own parameters for negotiation, and Netanyahu’s are even more untenable than Olmert’s.)

      Think about it this way, to take an extreme example: if Hamas held 1000 Israeli prisoners, not just Gilad Shalit, and Israel decided to negotiate their release, would it be a fair negotiation if Hamas were systematically shooting one prisoner per day while the talks went on? (Obviously, nothing about this example would ever happen this way in reality. Although I don’t think Hamas would feel particularly ethically troubled by doing this, Israel would likely take much harsher measures than simply negotiating if 1000 prisoners were actually being held, and methodically executed, by Hamas.) All of Israel would be up in arms, as the issue in question (the prisoners) would be decided before negotiations themselves could be completed. Hamas could counter that these executions are not a precondition, just a position, but what would be the difference? Either way, real negotiation is rendered difficult if not impossible until the offending activity stops.

      Such is the case with the settlements, to take the most obvious example. Until it stops, Israel has effectively halted negotiations, despite Netanyahu’s deceptive “overtures” to the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table. How can the Palestinians negotiate even as their potential future state is being whittled away? I know you and I don’t completely disagree on this, since you’ve stated opposition to the settlements earlier. Where we seem to differ is in whatever substantive difference there is between calling this a precondition or just a position.

  13. You are well on you way to “war is peace.”

    “I will not sit down and talk with you unless…” is a precondition. All the rest is inverted redefinition to rationalize what is precondition and to transform that which is not into it – all in order to conform perception to predisposition. But such rationalization tortures consistency.

    “How can the Palestinians negotiate even as their potential future state is being whittled away?”

    There it is. The Palestinians won’t negotiate, and you justify it, and thereby perpetuate conflict. Enemies will negotiate even as they kill each other – if they want to. When a party is weak and losing is the best time to negotiate, before all may be lost. Unless there are other motivators. But you will accept every power-defined parallax distortion of reality: seeking peace is not seeking peace; obstructing it is the greater desire for it.

    “Olmert offered East Jerusalem three years ago — “…rationalization, rationalization, rationalization.

    And what concession have the Palestinians offered (choose your time frame)?

    Oh, I’m sorry – I forgot they don’t have to do anything because… rationalization, rationalization, rationalization.

    • A. Jay,

      “I will not sit down and talk with you unless…” is a precondition. All the rest is inverted redefinition to rationalize what is precondition and to transform that which is not into it – all in order to conform perception to predisposition. But such rationalization tortures consistency.

      No, it doesn’t. The difference between what you term a precondition and what you term a position is, in practice, the ability to enforce each. The Palestinians are unable to force the Israelis to recognize their state, or to stop settlement-building, or to negotiate based on the 1967 lines, or anything else. Thus they attempt to set preconditions so as to indicate which concerns are primary and should remain open for discussion. By closing itself off prematurely from such discussions, Israel signals its unwillingness to negotiate in good faith (by its continuation of settlement-building, declarations that Jerusalem will be the undivided capital, etc.).

      I agree that “preconditions” are — on a technical level of meaning — different from “positions.” What blurs the line here is the effect, which is nearly exactly the same. You can insist on the differences of the written definitions of these words, and obviously you’d be correct. But we’re not discussing abstractions. The peace process is defined by both positions and preconditions; the existence of both can (and often does) impede the process by introducing obstacles to getting both sides to the table. Palestinians claim that ongoing settlement construction and arbitrary checkpoint procedures prove an obstacle to peace; Israelis claim that terrorism and “preconditions” are equally frustrating.

      The point is, Israel, by virtue of its ability to ignore Palestinian demands at will, eliminates the need for “preconditions.” A precondition, by definition, “must be fulfilled before other things can happen or be done.” But if the party in question can fulfill these things itself, there is no need to set preconditions, which are essentially requests for certain behavior that the requesting party is unable to do itself. This is the position in which the Palestinians find themselves; Israel is luckier.

      You then say:

      There it is. The Palestinians won’t negotiate, and you justify it, and thereby perpetuate conflict. Enemies will negotiate even as they kill each other – if they want to. When a party is weak and losing is the best time to negotiate, before all may be lost. Unless there are other motivators. But you will accept every power-defined parallax distortion of reality: seeking peace is not seeking peace; obstructing it is the greater desire for it.

      “Olmert offered East Jerusalem three years ago — “…rationalization, rationalization, rationalization.

      And what concession have the Palestinians offered (choose your time frame)?

      The Palestinians don’t negotiate or offer concessions? Have you ever even heard of the Palestine Papers?

      Here’s Haaretz (http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/the-palestine-papers-al-jazeera-trumps-wikileaks-1.338875):

      The leaked documents completely discredit the claim that there is “no peace partner” made by the leader of the newly formed Atzmaut faction, Ehud Barak, and his boss, Benjamin Netanyahu.

      The documents are testimony that the Palestinians are willing to go the distance for peace: They will relinquish their claims on the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, the Etzion settlement bloc and the settlements along the Green Line. This would all be in return for territories on the western side of this line, including the region of Gilboa and Mount Hebron.

      According to a map that was shown to me two weeks ago, the major territorial disputes remain over Ariel, Elkana, Ma’aleh Adumim and the Har Homa suburb of East Jerusalem (which was built after the 1993 Oslo Accords).

      The documents in Al-Jazeera’s hands also confirm that the Palestinian leadership would be willing to abdicate sole autonomy in the Old City of Jerusalem and keep it under special rule.

      Or how about this (http://english.aljazeera.net/palestinepapers/2011/01/2011122114239940577.html):

      The Palestinian Authority proposed an unprecedented land swap to the Israeli government, offering to annex virtually all of the illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem.

      Not only did the Israeli government offer no concessions in return, but – as The Palestine Papers now reveal – it responded with an even more aggressive land swap: Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert wanted to annex more than 10% of the West Bank (including the major settlements in Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel and elsewhere), in exchange for sparsely-populated farmland along the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

      In fact, these Palestine Papers were so disturbing to the Palestinian people (because of the widespread concessions) that it prompted an ironic outburst of denials from the Palestinian leadership, including this nugget from chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12263671):

      The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who is quoted as saying they were “offering the biggest Yerushalayim [Jerusalem in Hebrew] in Jewish history”, later told al-Jazeera that he had nothing to hide.

      “On several occasions I have said on al-Jazeera that we, the Palestinian Authority, would never give up any of our rights. If we did indeed offer Israel the Jewish and Armenian quarters of Jerusalem, and the biggest Yerushalayim as they claim, then why did Israel not sign a final status agreement?” he asked.

      And yet the media adviser for Olmert during that time confirmed the accuracy of the Palestine Papers (http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/2/8/4739/World/Region/Olmert-adviser-says-AlJazeera-leaks–correct.aspx):

      The media adviser for the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Yankie Galenty, affirmed that Al-Jazeera’s leaks are 100 per cent correct indicating that they cover Palestinian-Israeli negotiations from December 2006 till the end of Olmert’s term in office.

      Olmert’s media adviser, responsible for releasing Israeli army statements, said that he cannot understand the reason behind publishing the documents but that he can confirm that serious negotiations were going on at the time. If Israel wanted to put a serious plan on the table then it theoretically has nothing to hide, he said.

      The documents prove that the Palestinian side came to the negotiations with good intentions, he added, or else they wouldn’t document it in a 1,600 documents.

      “The [Palestinian] Authority was convinced of the solution and wanted to achieve it,” Yankie Galenty said.

      I’d be interested to hear your rationalization for this.

  14. Jay P,

    Re: “Is affirming the existence of a Jewish lobby now the threshold for anti-Semitism?”

    No, of course not.

    But, arguing that the “Jewish lobby” is injurious to the American body politic is classic antisemitism.

    Greenwald doesn’t merely assert the “existence” of a pro-Israel Jewish lobby. Rather, he opines quite often on its injurious effect on U.S. foreign policy. Again, this is just classic right-wing nativist antisemitism.

    And, one of the reasons I’ve moved right politically is that – while such paleoconservative Judeophobic narratives are discredited in the mainstream media – such tropes parade as progressive, enlightened thought in the liberal blogosphere, and represent an ideological overlap between far right and far left which is simply astonishing.

    The Left has become the right when it comes to arguments about the threat posed by organized Jewry.

    Re: Greenwald’s quote: “Those who favor the attack on Gaza are certainly guilty…of such overwhelming emotional and cultural attachment to Israel and Israelis that they long ago ceased viewing this conflict with any remnant of objectivity.”

    You say:

    “You use this Greenwald quote as evidence of anti-Semitism. Obviously, I respect your right of disagreement with his point, but that doesn’t justify sticking the “anti-Semite” label on any statement on Israel that you don’t happen to like”

    Jay, really, you’re avoiding my argument, and attacking a straw man.

    So, I’ll repeat. American Jews don’t have to prove their loyalty to the U.S. for their views on the Middle East to be given credibility. Agreed?

    Paleoconservatives and extreme leftists like Glenn Greenwald share at least one thing in common: They both question the loyalty of American Jews and, instead of merely refuting American Zionist arguments, engage in ad hominem and, frankly, racist attacks.

    If the views of American Jews who support Israel are flawed, people are right to say so.

    But, who the hell is Glenn Greenwald, or Pat Buchanan, to decide whether or not such Jews are being “objective”…as if they, unlike us ethnically compromised Americans, stand above such allegiances, and can judge, objectively (with some sort of Platonic clarity) what proper U.S. foreign policy should be.

    You say:

    “As for Nazi comparisons, I’m almost always not a fan (although I have at times made exceptions for George W. Bush, such as: “The only difference between Hitler and George W. Bush is that Hitler won the popular vote.”)”

    Jay, please tell me now whether you’re being serious, or simply have tongue in proverbial cheek, because I couldn’t possibly have a civil discussion with someone who makes such an intellectually unserious, and morally obscene, historical comparison.

    Jay, really, I think this discussion has reached its conclusion. Bush..Hitler..seriously?!

    Agreed, some on the right are far too quick to label those on the left who are merely critical of U.S. foreign policy of being unpatriotic, but when you suggest such utter nonsense you become a caricature of the far left. Really, if you didn’t exist, I’d have to invent you.

    You are unimaginably privileged to be a citizen of a free, democratic, and remarkably tolerant nation – a country which indeed represents the last best hope for mankind.

    The fact that you would likely mock my words reminds me once again why I no longer swear allegiance to liberalism.

    I live in Israel now, but still love America with everything in my being.

    I’m truly sorry you don’t share my passion.

    • Adam,

      You wrote:

      But, arguing that the “Jewish lobby” is injurious to the American body politic is classic antisemitism.

      Greenwald doesn’t merely assert the “existence” of a pro-Israel Jewish lobby. Rather, he opines quite often on its injurious effect on U.S. foreign policy. Again, this is just classic right-wing nativist antisemitism.

      This is absurd. To argue that the Israel lobby has an injurious effect on American foreign policy is anti-Semitic? So there is literally no room for dissent when it comes to matters relating to Israel? And yet then you write this:

      If the views of American Jews who support Israel are flawed, people are right to say so.

      So it seems you can’t even make up your own mind. If “[opining]…on [the Israel lobby’s] injurious effect on U.S. foreign policy” constitutes “classic right-wing nativist antisemitism,” and yet “people are right to say so” if these same people’s views are flawed, then what IS your position? Unless, of course, you don’t think “American Jews who support Israel” are the same group as the “pro-Israel Jewish lobby,” which is exactly the point Greenwald has made himself.

      I’m also unsure of how you explain the anti-Semitic nature of Greenwald’s quote that “those who favor the attack on Gaza are certainly guilty…of such overwhelming emotional and cultural attachment to Israel and Israelis that they long ago ceased viewing this conflict with any remnant of objectivity.”

      Has it not occurred to you that this group includes hordes of American evangelical Christian Zionists, many of whose own current support of Israel is based in anti-Semitic notions of eventual Christian triumphalism in which the Jewish faith is essentially collateral damage?

      As for the Bush-Hitler joke, lighten up. It’s just that: a joke. And finally:

      You are unimaginably privileged to be a citizen of a free, democratic, and remarkably tolerant nation – a country which indeed represents the last best hope for mankind.

      The fact that you would likely mock my words reminds me once again why I no longer swear allegiance to liberalism.

      I live in Israel now, but still love America with everything in my being.

      I’m truly sorry you don’t share my passion.

      I’ll stop short of “[mocking your] words,” but I find it incredibly depressing when people equate blind allegiance to the status quo to patriotism. Dissent is patriotic too. What’s unpatriotic is refusing to question existing policies out of some misguided sense of what it means to love one’s country.

  15. I’m not going to address your accusations against A. Jay, but I think you’re taking him out of context. So I’ll let him have at it if he wants.

    And I’m not sure if my second blockquote will work, but what the hell…. (this thing needs a preview feature)…

    jaypinho :

    As for Greenwald, if he indeed said that Jewish people are inherently unable to think reasonably about the I/P conflict, then I won’t defend that statement. But keep in mind that citing religious ties is absolutely not the same as singling out Jews. If you’ve spent any time around Christian evangelicals (as I have), you’ll quickly learn that religious ties can refer to a whole array of beliefs, many of which are themselves anti-Semitic while purporting to be in support of the state of Israel. (See “John Hagee” for a classic example of an anti-Semitic Christian “Israel supporter.”)

    That’s hogwash. Greenwald knew exactly what he was doing when asking about my “religious ties.” Simply put: He was trying to flush me out as a Jew to marginalize my opinion. For confirmation, look at what he wrote when he was getting more pissed at me because I had the temerity to keep bringing up his pathetically revolting fling with terrorist propaganda:

    Anyone can look at his comment history and see that he only gets riled up about criticisms directed at his “special” country or arguments that while Israel has the right to treat itself as “special,” the U.S. shouldn’t be.

    Well… ‘looking at my comment history,’ he should have quickly gleaned that I’m not a Christian evangelical and certainly not a follower of John Hagee. Among other things, early in my comments at Salon, I talked about working for Nader in 1992, my opposition to Iraq, and working for Kerry in 2004. Hence, it would be a stretch of unimaginable proportions to state that my “religious ties” were to evangelical Christianity. So what does that leave? My “religious ties” must be to Judaism, correct?

    The plain truth is that Greenwald’s questions about having cultural, emotional or religious ties to Israel drip with anti-semitic tropes. To not see that is to willfully stick your head in the sand.
    Like many times since, he couldn’t argue on the facts, so he resorted to his tried and true sleazy method of launching ad hominem attacks. And that one was mainly cloaked in my “religious ties.” As in, I’m Jewish, therefore my opinion about Israel counts far less.

    That’s the type of anti-semitic slime Greenwald routinely peddles. Only he hides it behind a thin veneer of Serious Commentary. So is it any wonder that none other than David Duke cited Glenn’s writing on Jews and Israel on his website?

    Oh yeah… I’m still in the mountains. I’ll be here until after Labor Day. Enjoy Alaska.

    • Rob,

      Then I can’t defend that comment (Greenwald’s). I didn’t research the context of his comment, but it sounds from your description that he was accusing you of being unable to be objective simply by virtue of being Jewish. Obviously I disagree, unless he meant it as a very narrow (and non-racial/ethnic) way of prejudging ANYONE on their ability to be objective on an issue they “care” about (like a rifle owner being unable to objectively talk about the NRA). Whatever his meaning, it is certainly your right (and not far-fetched either) to assume he meant it in the more questionable way, which — again — I would not defend.

    • One more thing: I realize it’s not your job to defend A. Jay’s comments, but you can’t possibly hold GG to one very stringent standard of consistency and then say that a statement such as “The Palestinians won’t negotiate, and you justify it, and thereby perpetuate conflict” is simply “taking him out of context.” That is extremely inconsistent, and gives someone with whom you often agree substantially more leeway than you give GG, with whom you happen to disagree quite often.

      • You’re right. It’s not my job. And I’m not going through this thread to dissect a discussion between you and A. Jay. All I’ll say is that he was responding to your comment about Netanyahu and a Palestinian state being whittled away. That’s the context of that particular quote you’re using against him.

        As to me being “extremely inconsistent” by giving A. Jay “substantially more leeway,” than Greenwald, once again, that’s hogwash. The reason I lend more credence to A. Jay is because of his track record.

        But I tell you what… when A. Jay starts routinely lying about events, posting terrorist propaganda, egregiously misstating people’s positions, insulting me (and everyone else with whom he disagrees), and becoming a serial distorter, I’ll hammer him too.

        Agreed?

      • Rob,

        As I said before (and you obviously agree), it is not your responsibility, and yet you decided to go ahead and respond to A. Jay’s statement anyway by writing that “I think you’re taking him out of context,” so it’s very much fair game for me to respond to that.

        And my response is that, throughout this entire comment thread, you’ve consistently attempted to portray my defenses of Greenwald as dogmatic adherence in the face of incontrovertible fact. And yet when I brought up your reference to A. Jay’s statement that was incontrovertibly false, your defense is that “I lend more credence to A. Jay because of his track record?”

        That, to use your phrase, is hogwash. It’s also the exact thing you have been (in my opinion, inaccurately) accusing me of doing in my defense of Greenwald: irrationally holding onto an idea of the guy’s arguments that don’t correspond to reality. And yet here you do the same thing, and then go a step further by admitting it. Even if someone has theoretically been right 100% of the time in the past, that doesn’t excuse the next false statement.

        It seems to me to be a pretty low standard of a positive “track record” that someone doesn’t insult you or inadvertently post a mis-attributed video.

  16. Jay, I’ve withdrawn from this conversation because as my last few comments began to suggest, you hold certain positions on I-P that make continued exchanges very likely fruitless and I don’t want to relive Oslo in real time in the comments section of a blog. It is so, though, that if one looks back over the debate, you have backed away from or abandoned whole lines of argument, yet your overall position has not changed. Well, I understand that you have an entire world view from which I-P is inseparable; change in one cannot happen without some change in the other and that doesn’t happen quickly. But some quick, final clarifications are in order.

    Note how my “won’t” in my last comment about the PA and negotiations was altered by you to “don’t.” Your entire response to me is predicated on the “don’t.” Discussion of the meaning of the Palestinian Papers is a quagmire just like every other discussion about history among people with settled but differing views of it. The only purposeful and potentially constructive discussion to be had regarding Israel and the Palestinians is negotiations, in which you currently argue the PA should not unconditionally engage, and you do so by continuing to commit a convoluted categorical confusion between preconditions and positions.

    Positions are ALWAYS an obstacle to peace. It is only negotiations or victory in war that overcomes them. Israel can achieve that victory in war. Hamas, Hezbollah, and other Arab actors are not convinced that they can’t ultimately, taking the long view, achieve the same victory. The PA and many of its sympathizers believe they can win a political victory over Israel that is the equivalent – truly politics as a continuation of war by other means.

    Belligerents will be belligerents for as long and however they choose to be so. They are the actors in the conflict and will claim their rights. However, third parties who do anything but encourage unconditional negotiations, who defend an unwillingness to negotiate, for whatever reason – no matter how subtly it is theoretically fashioned – can claim many things, but they cannot claim to be agents of peace rather than victory. What they do instead is “perpetuate the conflict” – now over whatever sense of justice or equity it is for which they claim to struggle. Failure to own up to that truth is just one more of the dissimulations – perhaps, in some cases, self-delusions – in which those antipathetic to Israel engage.

    • A. Jay,

      As you point out, a full-blown discussion of I/P is probably not a particularly fruitful road for us to travel. But I have to respond to this latest comment:

      You write:

      It is so, though, that if one looks back over the debate, you have backed away from or abandoned whole lines of argument, yet your overall position has not changed. Well, I understand that you have an entire world view from which I-P is inseparable; change in one cannot happen without some change in the other and that doesn’t happen quickly.

      What exactly are you referring to? My statements on “everything that is wrong with Israeli politics?” I’m sure you understood then as now that this statement is one I continue to stand by; where I erred was in portraying it as worse than politics in other countries (which is virtually impossible, and probably pointless, to try to quantify).

      So yes, if by “you have backed away from or abandoned whole lines of argument,” you mean that I acknowledge a mistake in reasoning that in no way contributed materially to my overall point, then you are right. In other words, yes, I admit my mistakes.

      You have chosen, on the other hand, to once again play “word games.” You said earlier that you didn’t like my use of the phrase “quibbling over semantics.” And yet as long as you continue to do so, I will continue to bring it up. I actually can’t believe I’m forced to respond to your thread-splitting of “won’t” versus “don’t,” but here we go.

      Here are a few things you wrote:

      There it is. The Palestinians won’t negotiate, and you justify it, and thereby perpetuate conflict.

      But you will accept every power-defined parallax distortion of reality: seeking peace is not seeking peace; obstructing it is the greater desire for it.

      And what concession have the Palestinians offered (choose your time frame)?

      I would be very interested, once again, in hearing how these statements allow for even a sliver of doubt as to your intended meaning of “won’t.” At the risk of delving completely into absurdity, I’ll make this more explicit: you ask “what concession have the Palestinians offered (choose your time frame)?” You are thus implying that they have not offered any concession, and by your phrase “choose your time frame” you’re further implying that they have never offered any concession. You also write that, to me, “obstructing [peace] is the greater desire for it.” As I have been criticizing Israel for its behavior, you were clearly referring to the Palestinians as the obstructing offenders. (Or are you going to debate this interpretation as well?) And lastly and most damnably, of course, you write, “The Palestinians won’t negotiate.”

      As the dictionary definition of “negotiate” is to “try to reach an agreement or compromise by discussion with others,” and as you suggest that the Palestinians have never compromised, it would seem, then, that you believe the Palestinians not only won’t or don’t negotiate, but that they never have.

      So once again, you can continue to draw ever finer lines separating your words from their meaning, or you can own up to them. But if you’re going to accuse me of perpetuating the I/P conflict (which is an absurd claim in and of itself), I suggest you take stock of your own false statement and acknowledge its error, whether you choose to see that as “[abandoning] whole lines of argument” or otherwise.

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