Thursday, October 12, 2023

"A Left That Refuses to Condemn Mass Murder Is Doomed"

With us posting more at Twitter and much less here, there's been very little posted here unrelated to climate. Still, given my semi-informed opinion that the readership/commentariat trends pretty left, and it seems worthwhile to bring up the small fraction (I hope?) of the left that sees nothing wrong with the atrocities in Israel, exclusively focusing instead on the tragedies past and future in Gaza.

So the post by Eric Levitz at NY Mag applies, maybe. Read the whole thing etc., and some relevant parts:

More broadly, the notion that an ethnic group can boast the exclusive right to occupy any stretch of land is not a left-wing one. Virtually all land is “stolen land” if one rolls the tape back far enough. Individuals who were dispossessed of property as a result of their ethnicity have a right of return and reparation. But ethnic groups do not have a right to cleanse any geographic area of outgroup members, whether they are Israeli or Palestinian.

Pretty good for a broad statement. All in life is qualified though. Ukraine IMO has the right to kick out Russian immigrants that have arrived in Crimea since 2014, even the innocent children, given the options of living a few miles away in Russia proper. (I hope that if Ukraine gets Crimea back that it becomes flexible on this.) Palestinians have the right to get settlement land back in the West Bank given that Israel proper is right next door, although for utilitarian reasons they should negotiate on this. But Jewish Israelis, most of whose ancestors fled from the Holocaust or were expelled from other countries, shouldn't be forced to become international refugees, let alone killed in the process of forcing out the rest. That's Holocaust-level antisemitism. It's not going to happen anyway, but it's still a really stupid idea. 

For these reasons, it is a moral imperative for progressives to condemn Hamas’s atrocities, affirm the human rights of Jewish Israelis, and reject the ethno-nationalist claim that Palestinians have a unique right to reside in the region. And it is also a political imperative for them to do so....Yet since algorithmic social media favors incendiary speech, from the vantage of many X and Instagram users, the left’s response to last weekend’s events is characterized by bloodlust. In the face of that response, multiple progressive-leaning people in my life have expressed a sense of estrangement from leftists and newfound doubts about their worldview. Seeing an ideological group embrace a position that one knows to be intellectually bankrupt and morally odious will naturally lead one to view that group’s other claims — especially those concerning matters one knows little about, such as the intricacies of the Israel-Palestine conflict — with greater skepticism. It’s important, therefore, to ensure that the majority of progressives who abhor all war crimes makes itself as visible as possible. 

 ....The political necessity of criticizing Israel on universalist grounds, rather than ethno-nationalist ones, is similarly urgent. In defending their apologias for war crimes, leftists tend to cite the gross power imbalance between the Palestinians and Israelis as somehow exculpatory. But precisely because Palestinians cannot hope to prevail in a contest of brute force, it is incumbent on their champions to make the case for their liberation in terms that honor the basic rights of Israelis. If we posit that some ethnic groups have a unique claim to specific stretches of land, and that they also have the right to commit war crimes so as to secure this heritage, then we will do the Israeli far-right’s ideological work for it.

Not much to add to that. I fear that the level of death and destruction coming to innocent civilians in Gaza will soon far exceed what happened in Israel. And still I think Israel has to invade, despite being led by a goon that might even be worse than Trump. What Israel will do after it invades is a huge question mark - I doubt it will handle things better than we did in Afghanistan and Iraq. And West Bank's future is also up for grabs, something that I wonder may have been Hamas' motivation in committing such a huge gamble with certain death for most of its leadership.

Makes climate change seem like a pleasant subject. Guess I'll get back to that.

25 comments:

Thomas said...

Yet, somehow, the people who refused to condemn Israeli apartheid policies and killings of Palestinians year after year get away with it. As long as it was only Palestinians who died the conflict wasn't really an issue.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

T: Israeli apartheid policies

BPL: Under Apartheid in South Africa, black people weren't allowed to vote. In Israel, the 20% of the population that is ethnic Palestinian Arab not only votes, but has members in the Knesset.

I think Israel needs to pull out of the West Bank and Gaza, and dismantle the settlements. But "Apartheid Israel" is an anti-semitic dog whistle, and people need to stop using it.

Thomas said...

Barton, I'm just tired of how every criticism of Israel is labelled as anti-semitism. Most recently former head of Mossad, Tamir Pardo, called it apartheid, several former Israeli ambassadors to South Africa wrote a letter calling it apartheid, human rights organisations call it apartheid. Are they all anti-semites?

Apartheid is most clear in the West Bank where Jewish settlers live under an entirely different legal system than the occupied Palestinians, while in Israel itself the Palestinians can vote, although in other respect they are second class citizens in a state that legally defines itself as for the Jewish people. Nor are they likely to get the property that was stolen from them in 1948 back.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

T: I'm just tired of how every criticism of Israel is labelled as anti-semitism.

BPL: I didn't label every criticism of Israel as anti-semitism. I confined it to a specific remark, the one about apartheid. Read for context.

Nathan said...

Any criticism of Israel's actions?? It's mass murder too.

Thomas said...

Barton, you ignored that I pointed out that many prominent Jews also calls it apartheid. Calling a spade a spade isn't anti-semitism, although as you show the accusation is convenient to avoid discussing the real issue of what Israel is doing.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

T: you ignored that I pointed out that many prominent Jews also calls it apartheid.

BPL: "Prominent Jews?" Seriously?

Jews can be just as stupid as anyone else. The fact that a Jew misuses a term doesn't make it right. And there are plenty of Jewish antisemites. Noam Chomsky is a prominent example.

Thomas said...

I'd call a former mossad chief like Tamir Pardo prominant, just as ambassadors Ilan Baruch and Alon Liel, but feel free to call them stupid if you wish because they don't share your opinion on what is going on in the West Bank. You've achieved your purpuse anyway, moving the discussion away from Israel's behavior to the definition of apartheid and anti-semitism.

P.S. You are supposed to call non-zionist Jews "Self-hating Jews" not anti-semites. Keep your slurs correct.

Nathan said...

"And still I think Israel has to invade"

Yeah this is the problem...

I'm Australian, with nothing at stake here. I don't have any Jewish or Arab friends (they're not so common here) - but that's not because I am avoiding them.

The problem here is that this will never be resolved with violence

The problem is because when Israel formed they didn't seek compromise with the Arabs, they just went ahead with it - Arabs be damned.

The problem here is that the un came up with a solution without asking the local people.

It's a horrible mess, but that is history

but to support invasion? That's messed up and you should be ashamed of those thoughts.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

N: when Israel formed they didn't seek compromise with the Arabs

BPL: There was a compromise anyway. Palestine was partitioned into Israel for the Jews and Trans-Jordan for the Arabs. So your point is pointless.

Nathan said...

BPL

The 'compromise' was imposed on them.
That's not a compromise. The UN decided what would happen.

Nathan said...

"Palestine was partitioned into Israel for the Jews and Trans-Jordan for the Arabs. So your point is pointless."

The very fact you think this is pointless is weird.
This is what the whole fight is about. It is everything there.

Gingerbaker said...

"Apartheid is most clear in the West Bank where Jewish settlers live under an entirely different legal system than the occupied Palestinians"

Palestinians in the West Bank live under the legal system that THEY agreed to when they signed the Oslo agreements. And you want to hold that against Israel ?

You are comparing Israeli citizens (both Jews and Arabs) who have the right to vote in Israeli elections versus Arab noncitizens who have self-determination in their own government - the Palestine Authority.

For your information, there are plenty of South Africans who say that there is no apartheid in Israel. Arab citizens have exactly the same privileges and rights as Jews. If there was actual apartheid they would not.

Nathan said...

"Palestinians in the West Bank live under the legal system that THEY agreed to when they signed the Oslo agreements. And you want to hold that against Israel ?"

Jeepers.
well, not the Oslo accords really hold.
Israelis murdered their own Prime Minister because he signed them.
From Wikipedia;
A core issue of the Oslo Accords was the withdrawal of the Israeli military from Palestinian territories. The plan was a withdrawal in phases and a simultaneous transfer of responsibilities to the Palestinian authorities for maintaining security. Oslo II, Article X.2 reads:

"Further redeployments of Israeli military forces to specified military locations will commence after the inauguration of the Council and will be gradually implemented commensurate with the assumption of responsibility for public order and internal security by the Palestinian Police ..."


So again not really relevant anymore. and there's a lot on there to "hold against Israel".
Netanyahu fed off the discontent generated from the signing, and I guess was successful at convincing people that they didn't need to give up settled land.
It's a big mess, everyone is a victim here, and trying to frame this as a struggle of good vs evil is dumb.

But the Oslo Peace accord may have worked. had it not been completely sabotaged. It has the shape of what the new agreement would need to look like.

There's only really two paths to peace here. complete genocide, or real and honest negotiation... at the moment, neither side want to negotiate

Nathan said...

i borked that first sentence.

I meant to say "the Oslo accords don't really hold"

Gingerbaker said...

Of course Oslo still holds. It's the only thing keeping Abbas et al from being arrested for terrorism. The PA still exists. Areas A,B,C still exist. And Israel removed its military from the area in accordance with Oslo. And Israel abides by the rules on settlements.

There is no future for negotiation. The Palestinian leadership, whether in the WB or Gaza has made it abundantly clear they do not want a new country, or one that exists peacefully alongside Israel. They want Israel to disappear. The say it in public, in Arabic, all the time. We should listen to them.

And, frankly, the Israeli government has always, albeit quietly, affirmed its sovereignty within its borders. And by that they mean its still-legal May 15th, 1948 borders.

Nathan said...


Which area did they remove their military from? Area A?

This is what wikipedia says:

"Following the Gaza–Jericho Agreement and prior to the first Palestinian Authority elections, Israel withdrew in 1994 from Jericho and from most of the Gaza Strip. In accordance with the Hebron Protocol, Israel withdrew from 80% of Hebron in January 1997. With stalled negotiations, further redeployments did not take place. By March 1998, none of the withdrawals had occurred. In October 1998, the parties signed the Wye River Memorandum, promising resumption of the redeployments, but only the first stage was implemented. While Netanyahu faced opposition within his cabinet, additional withdrawals were delayed. During the Second Intifada, in 2002, the Israeli military re-occupied many of the areas previously turned over to Palestinian control."



"There is no future for negotiation. The Palestinian leadership, whether in the WB or Gaza has made it abundantly clear they do not want a new country, or one that exists peacefully alongside Israel. They want Israel to disappear. The say it in public, in Arabic, all the time. We should listen to them."

Yes and Israel says it too.
Only two ways this ends, genocide or peace.


"And, frankly, the Israeli government has always, albeit quietly, affirmed its sovereignty within its borders. And by that they mean its still-legal May 15th, 1948 borders."

And yet they keep annexing land (or occupying it) outside those borders. The key issue is they didn't set things up for peace from the start. The events of 15th May 1948 were not peaceful, and it's never been peaceful since.


Nathan said...

ok I think I have drifted well away from what I was saying initially.

The point I was making, was that the title of this blog post and the blog post itself reeks of hypocrisy.

To claim that the left is doomed for not condemning mass murder, and then support the invasion that will kill thousands is utterly hypocritical.

Supporting the invasion is bloodlust - simply by another term - so accusing 'the left' of bloodlust is hypocritical.

It won't lead to peace - that takes another path, a harder path.



Brian said...

I think hypocrisy is the most prevalent of the mortal sins, so call me a hypocrite and you're probably accurate in general if not in that specific case.

I don't think Israel, or the US, or Australia (Nathan) should have been formed, but it is an injustice to try to 'fix' those past injustices through violence.

I can see why a pacifist might reject Israel reacting violently to October 7. I disagree with that philosophy though, and don't think it's hypocritical to think Israel can use violence in response to something immediate and likely to be repeated if not responded to.

I fear what Israel will do, and has already done. While I think an immediate cease-fire is wrong unless Hamas agrees to go into exile (which it won't do obviously), I think people pushing for cease-fires in the West might be somewhat useful in incentivizing Netanyahu to be less brutally stupid.

Nathan said...

"I can see why a pacifist might reject Israel reacting violently to October 7. I disagree with that philosophy though, and don't think it's hypocritical to think Israel can use violence in response to something immediate and likely to be repeated if not responded to."

I'm not expecting people to support a pacifist approach necessarily.
It's important to understand that violence won't solve this issue. Violence has been tried here since the 1920s, and it has never led to a good outcome.
It's time to try something new.

To also characterise this hypocrisy as just another human foible is unfortunate and an understatement. Seeking out the destruction of your enemies is not 'good', especially when you have a clear understanding of the innocent lives that will be lost.

I guess I have said too much.

Maybe just think through the consequences of what you propose to support.

Nathan said...

So much death now.
when will it be enough?

Gingerbaker said...

"And yet they keep annexing land (or occupying it) outside those borders"

By this statement, you prove you don't know what the 1948 borders of Israel were. They are from river to sea, which includes all of the so-called West Bank. And those borders are based on still-valid International law.

There is no cap on legal settlements, but they must be legally-sited in A,B, or C. Israel destroys the homes of Israelis who build homes in illegal areas.

Nathan said...

Gingerbaker:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Partition_Plan_for_Palestine

You're quite wrong about that.

Compared with the Oslo Accord borders

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_the_river_to_the_sea#/media/File:Occupied_Palestinian_Territories.jpg


The West bank areas were seized in 1967.
They also seized a lot after the war in 1948

Nathan said...

Looks like the Government in Israel has opted for genocide...

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/20/netanyahu-defies-biden-insisting-theres-no-space-for-palestinian-state

A terrible outcome.
Let's home the Israelis give this Govt the boot.

Nathan said...


Does anyone have the decency to decry Israel's invasion, after claiming it was essential?

Probably would be a good idea to delete this blog post now.