Friday, January 16, 2009

Those Poor Mexicans

Someone posted an article by one Randall Kuhn on this blog yesterday, over here. I'm not clear if the article was posted by its author or by someone else. Either way, Randall Kuhn is an assistant professor and director of the Global Health Affairs Program at the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies. I profess my ignorance about what gets taught at global health affairs programs, but I hope it isn't history, a field Dr. Kuhn's grasp of is a bit shaky.

As a general comment, the point of this blog is not to convince the Dr. Kuhns or Prof. Coles of the world. I wouldn't know how to do that, since these academics and many others like them are quite impervious to factual analysis; for all the thought I've given the matter over the past ten years or so, I haven't figured out what might reach them. This is a serious issue, I'm not being facetious. A fundamental aspect of rational discussion is that participants in it should have some set of arguments that would force them to change their positions. If I claim that A is true, there has to be a hypothetical set of facts that would force me to change my mind, were they to be demonstrated as reality; in that case I'd have to admit, sadly, that A is regrettably not true.

There are critics of Israel - the Economist is the best example - who don't particularly like much of what we do, yet their commitment to empiric investigation and rational thought force them, time and again, to admit that Israel's positions sometimes have merit, and its actions must sometimes be justified. We are sometimes exasperated by their basic unfriendliness, but we don't think they're antisemites, and we can respect their intellectual integrity. One reason for writing this blog, and a main reason for writing that book, Right to Exist, was to bolster people on our side of the argument in their discussions with the unfriendly-but-rational critics.

So here are some comments to Dr. Kuhn's piece, presented not to change his mind but for the use of those of you who hear his ideas all the time, if you think they're being quoted by someone amenable to discussion.

Dr. Kuhn dislikes comparisons of Israel's response to 8 years of Hamas rocketry to a hypothetical response to Mexican rocketry over the American border, because, he sets out to show, the Americans aren't as nasty to the Mexicans as the Israelis are to the Palestinians.

I admit to being surprised by Americans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders who allow themselves into the trap of starting the tale of Israel's crimes with the original sin of return to the land that in the meanwhile had been settled by the Palestinians, and pushing them aside. As any student of history knows, most populations in most places in the world are the descendants either of violent invaders or of the invaders and the natives after they intermarried - assuming there were any natives left with which to intermarry. The English speaking invaders tended not to leave very many locals in place, and their actions happened quite recently in historical terms. You don't need to invent hypothetical American nastiness to Mexicans when you live in a country your forefathers invaded, unbidden, quite recently.

A Frenchman who claims Jews had no right to migrate to Palestine doesn't know French or Jewish history. An American doesn't know about events from 170 years ago.

Dr. Kuhn rhetorically asks:
Think about what would happen if San Diego expelled most of its Hispanic, African-American, Asian-American and Native-American population, about 48 percent of the total, and forcibly relocated them to Tijuana?

Not just immigrants, but even those who had lived in the United States for many generations. Not just the unemployed or the criminals or the America haters, but the school teachers, the small business owners, the soldiers--even the baseball players.
Yes, indeed tragic. Of course, in the Israel-Palestine case, it might be helpful to remember that the Palestinians were forced out after they proclaimed their full intention to commit genocide, to destroy the Jewish presence in Mandatory Palestine, and that they backup of their declarations with actions. Alas, their plans backfired, thereby saving them from the opprobrium of committing the 2nd genocide against the Jews in a single decade.
What if we established government and faith-based agencies to help move white people into their former homes? And what if we razed hundreds of their houses in rural areas and, with the aid of charitable donations from people in the United States and abroad, planted forests on their former towns, creating nature preserves for whites to enjoy?
Nature preserves? How about housing for more than a million destitute Jews, hundreds of thousands of them Holocaust survivors, and the larger half Jews from the entire Arab World evicted with no property?
What if the United Nations kept San Diego's discarded minorities in crowded, festering camps in Tijuana for 19 years?
I agree, Dr. Kuhn. The UN collusion with the Arab countries insistence on not allowing the refugess to get on with their lives is horrendous. Cruel, cynical, inhumane.
Then, the United States invaded Mexico, occupied it for 40 more years and began to build large housing developments in Tijuana, where only whites could live.
And what if the United States built a network of highways, connecting American citizens who voluntarily (and illegally) moved to Tijuana, to the United States?
Israel's invasion of 1967 was self defense, you forget to mention. The settlement project is probably Israel's greatest mistake ever, but in 2000 the Prime Minster offered to disband most of it, and in retaliation the Palestinians launched a campaign of suicide murderers. In 2005 (that's 38 years), Israel unilaterally disbanded the settlements in Gaza, and this discussion is about Gaza, isn't it?
And checkpoints, not just between Mexico and the United States, but also around every neighborhood inside Tijuana? What if we required every Tijuana resident, refugee or native, to show an ID card to the US military on demand?
There have been no checkpoints in Gaza since 2005. The rate of shooting Kassams has climbed steadily since 2005.
[after] 40 years of brutal military occupation, we just left Tijuana, removing all the white settlers and the soldiers.

Only instead of giving them their freedom, we built a 20-foot tall electrified wall around Tijuana. Not just on the sides bordering San Diego, but on all the Mexico crossings as well.
Umm, Dr. Kuhn, there's no wall around Gaza, no watch towers, all there is is a fence.

Anyway, my time is up. It's almost Shabbat, and I've got a life to live. You get the general point.


Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Lozowick.

I'm the one who posted the Kuhn article, and I can assure you that I'm not the author.

I did it only because I thought that all the analogies being offered by U.S. policymakers and pundits to justify Israel's war on Gaza (in your interest and focus on Israel's British and European critics, you often neglect to mention that they are in the vast minority in the U.S., to the point of scarcely being heard at all) invite Americans to place themselves in Israel's shoes. It is very rare to see an analogy that invites Americans to place themselves in Palestinian shoes.

If you think you can construct a better analogy of that sort than the one Dr. Kuhn proposed, I would be interested in seeing it. Although I can understand that it might be hard to construct such an analogy while still taking responsibility for Israel's war, I suspect that you might be capable of such a feat.

I also thought the main problem with Dr. Kuhn's article was its neglect of the factor of Jewish return, along with its failure to account for Hamas' internal strategic thinking, whatever the hell it might be. But the force of it, which was to humanize the population of Gaza, is something war cheerleaders and sad-but-necessary war-defender types alike tend to pass over.

Shabbat Shalom and I look forward to a response from you on Sunday.

adam d. said...

to the person who posted the Kuhn article,

There's nothing wrong in principle with wanting to tell the story from the point of view of the people of Gaza, but you should describe them as they are rather than as you would have them.

It seems to me you want them to be the perfect victims and the perfect recipients of your perfect compassion, but the reality doesn't quite fit that desire. The reality is that they, the population of gaza, have chosen a path of war, through the election of a party whose intentions and character they certainly knew intimately, through repeated demonstrations of support for every act of terror against civilians around the world, through the willing transformation of gaza civil society, such as it was, into the bizarrely self destructive cult of violence and death that exists there today.

You can't reasonably argue that they didn't have all the information, or that they made their choices unwittingly. You can't argue that their good faith efforts to make peace have been rebuffed, since there never were any such good faith efforts. You can't argue that they're simply a mob of illiterates, since that mob includes in its number innumerable doctors, lawyers, scholars who qualify for or have been to the top schools in the world.

You might be able to argue that they're a population in the thrall of a vicious and extremely brutal organization that makes it dangerous for a citizen to even entertain the thought of peace with Israel, and thereby at least exonerate the typical Palestinian in some way. But you're not bothering to do that.

In short, you're not humanizing the population of gaza with this article. You're presenting a fantasy of gazans as you would like them to be, simple victims who did not choose this outcome for themselves.

They did choose it. They don't like it, and that's not very surprising, but you should at least honestly admit that they freely chose the path of war and are now reaping most painfully what they have sown.

So, again, I think there's nothing wrong with the impulse to understand in intimate human terms what the gazans are all about. Just do it honestly.

pji said...

If he was going to try and draw a parallel, at least use the treatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII.

jett said...

THese articles about Gaza are never about Gaza. They are about the writer's/newspaper's perception of what life should be like in Gaza. But just as a reminder, these are the same Gazans that cheered when 9-11 happened, Madrid happened, and put Hamas into power to begin with. Now they shell and blow-up civilians in Israel for a decade and FINALLY someone shoots back. I'm suppose to feel an abundance of sympathy for them? Life looks so neat when you live it from a writer's cubicle. Then again, the best writers never stay in the cube. They get out and find out what is really going on.

Anonymous said...

To Adam D.:

You're right, to an extent. But one could say the same thing about Americans, electing George Bush in 2004.

Did Americans "choose a path of war" by "electing a party they knew intimately" had supported a policy of regime change through force and attempts to install democracy through proxy rulers while auctioning off natural resources to their crony connections?

Maybe. Lots of issues come up there, in terms of what people think they're voting for, what kind of information they have, self-delusion, etc. etc.

If they did knowingly do that, would it justify an Iraqi group carrying out a terrorist attack on American soil?

I think we would both say no.

So I'm not sure why your "correction" of my perspective on Gaza changes much.

kai said...

Just a footnote. Didn't the Americans take some million square kilometers from Mexico by force?