Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mondoweiss Universe

I've just spent half an hour reading comments at Mondoweiss, something I don't often do. It's a bizarre exercise. See, for example, the comments on Phil Weiss' angry response to Obama's Afghanistan speech, last week. It's title, 'History's Fool', only goes halfway; the comments contain a long discussion about the probability that Obama, like other presidents before him, has received a sealed envelope with "marching orders" from... whom? It's not clear, but they're the Bad Guys, and they control the world, and Obama is under their thumb, and his decision on Afghanistan is proof.

I understand there are kooks around, and they can be found at both ends of the political spectrum. You look at this discussion, however, and some of the others on the same site, and you wonder if perhaps the sentence shouldn't be formulated in the other direction: the ends of the political spectrum exist because there are kooks around who can't deal with the complexity of reality and instead create imaginary scenarios to comfort themselves.

So long as they're fringe kooks, they add flavour. Yet the 20th century saw any number of times when the kooks took hold of the mainstream; in the course of trying out their ideas they killed tens of millions of people and caused endless human suffering - which is why normal people need to keep a wary eye on them. Not obsess about them, not act on each and every idiocy they invent, but never forget that in the wrong conditions, kooks can be very persuasive and infinitely destructive. They are often intelligent, articulate, and personable. They don't advertise their oddity with obvious external symbols such as pointed ears, tails, or even simple frothing at the mouth. They can be a nice-looking elderly man with glasses, a clear-eyed fellow with an open collar (to mention two I've linked to over the past few months) - or, they're very likely to be eager young university students earnestly learning about the world. Jo Ehrlich, for example.

Jo and I were on the same bus tour to Hebron, last week. I haven't yet written about the experience. Jo has, at Mondoweiss, here. She doesn't tell how she carefully chose the parts of the story she wished to tell, while overlooking others. She can't tell you the parts she doesn't know. That was one of the funniest things about her, to me: that she and the other enemies of Israel with us on the bus didn't know very much about the Israel-Palestine conflict, to the extent that they didn't even know much about what Israel has done wrong. They are firmly rooted in a narrative about the present, with next to no idea of how it came to be.

I use the term 'enemies of Israel' advisedly. On the way back to Jerusalem I engaged some of these students in conversation. I hadn't intended to, but there was an American woman a few rows behind me who was defending Israel, and the students were lambasting her with a stream of counter factual contentions, so I joined the discussion to set the facts right. (Using the Goldstone Report as my primary source, of all things. The "facts" they were citing were so outlandish I was able to refute them from the Goldstone Report, which they all admitted not to have read.The world can be a funny place).

Jo Ehrlich didn't participate in the conversation, which was mostly between myself and two or three young Palestinians, and an English student named William. The Palestinians weren't kooks; it took all of ten minutes for us to agree that we can't live in peace with each other because their fundamental positions and mine aren't compatible. They demand a right of return and reject a Jewish claim to the Temple Mount. But they were nice, and I was sorry we didn't have more time to discuss.

William, on the other hand, is an antisemite with whom there can be no common ground for agreement. For him, Israel Is Evil. Everything Israel does is wrong and the Palestinians are the only wronged party in the conflict. He was incapable even of an intellectual exercise of trying to piece together how the Israelis see their world. Not only can there be no possible explanation of the facts that would set Israel in a reasonable light; when I suggested a number of such scenarios he brushed them aside as fantasies. In one case, I told of a clear-cut democratic decision made by a comfortable majority of the Israeli electorate earlier this decade; not only was he unaware of it, but he confidentially told me I was wrong, and if I wasn't wrong, the decision had been a hoax, intended to pull the wool over people's eyes; since he, however, studies Middle East Studies in London, he's able to recognize the truth and not be fooled.

Such a pathology cannot be argued with, and after about the fourth attempt to counter his allegations with facts, to each of which he responded with a version of "it's an Israeli attempt to fool everyone so as to continue with their evil machinations", I literally turned my back to him and stopped trying. If I'm evil irrespective of any facts, what might we discuss?


Barry Meislin said...

The question is, of course, at what point will William's pathologies, echoing those of his beloved "victims," become the world's?

The process, oiled by the usual suspects, including a tendentious (or worse) media, is already well under way.

The lies have become the truth; and most fingers point in one direction only.

The only possible outcome can be catastrophe. (But for whom?)

t34zakat said...

Much careful selection, by both Jo Ehrlich and B’tselem: Although Jo seemed to recognize that Wilder wasn’t entirely representative of the settlers, she didn’t discuss just how representative or unrepresentative Issa is of Palestinians. But Jo is focused on portraying Israel as the problem. And for that all she needs is a photo and some tendentious statements.

The discussion, in the comments, about Poland and the lack of Ashkenazi appreciation for those Poles who hid Jews during the war is interesting. No mention of the settlers who have helped and sometimes hid Palestinians, gay and straight alike.

The lack of history is something I noticed about the Apartheid fight. Very few understood that the British had corralled Afrikaners into concentration camps or that Mandela didn’t represent all of the ANC. Perhaps more lives would have been saved if the ANC hadn’t been seen as such a paragon of virtue. But distinguishing between shades of gray never appears to interest the fringes. Of course no one listened to Khaled abu Toameh about corruption in the PA until the election disaster.

Gavin said...

Her mention of Ben Gurions diary gives her away as one who embraced the writing of Ilan Pappe (and probably Benny Morris). Pappes book(s) have been required reading throughout many colleges and universities for a long time now Yaacov. It used to be Pappe and Morris were feted among the anti-Israeli crowd, but Morris has been on the outer since he declared himself a Zionist.

The harm that Pappe has done your country is incalculable. You probably don't appreciate just how much impact his books have had, being resident in Israel, but out here in the west any gathering of the liberal left will echo with the ranting of Pappe. Mention of the Ben-Gurion diaries is always a dead giveaway. It's where the anti-semiticism of many of these people is born; their first exposure to Israel and the evil Zionists is at school via the writing of Pappe & a few others.

You'll never be able to argue against those people. They already know the truth, they read it in a book. Your Pappe is one of the big-time kooks, he and his kind are indirectly responsible for a lot of deaths over the last decade or so... Judas had nothing on Pappe.


AKUS said...

The brainwashing of Britain, as evidenced by people like William, is thorough and increasing. Visiting London from time to time (usually during a stopover on the way to Israel) has become like visiting another planet. The news seems to be backwards, the baddies are the good guys, the victims the perpetrators, and, with respect to Israel, an imaginary country has been created which resembles, in the minds of the Williams, a sort of muscular Darfur, with the Palestinians being exterminated daily, over and over again, like a sort of national Sisyphus.

This is going to end very badly for the Jews there, unless they drop their supine attempt to hush things up and start fighting back.

AKUS said...

Gavin - you may be giving her too much credit. There are handy lists of quotes from ben Gurion, many fabricated, scattered all over anti-Semitic web sites. Just try googling his name and you'll see what I mean. Its unlikely someone like that, in my experience, has ever actually read the source material or even the novels written by Pappe as history.

t34zakat said...

Are there any good works on Israeli historiography available in English?

rashkov said...

I think the origin of the sealed envelope refers to the previous president -- George W. Bush. I vaguely recall this being a traditional thing for presidents to do, to leave letters for one another. Your point stands though, due to how Weiss left that vague and paranoid.

rashkov said...

my mistake, weiss didn't write about the envelope. i actually can't really find the comments referring to it. but that could be what they meant.

Gavin said...

AKUS. I'm from New Zealand. We're a long way from Europe down here but we're a well travelled bunch & most of us keep up with what's happening in the world. Anti-semiticism never really came up much here, possibly because few Jews settled here but also likely because of our own culture being pretty tolerant.

A few years back I noticed a rise in anti-Israel activism with the resultant anti-semitic reactions, it was driven by narratives on Israeli history that I'd never heard before. Ethnic cleansing, evil plan to transfer all the Arabs out of Palestine etc etc.

I've spent the last few years idly following that activism and what gave birth to it. Quiet probing of any strident critic of Israel usually triggers quotes from Pappe, Morris & sometimes Shlaim. References to Ben Gurion are usually followed by mention of the Dalet plan.

The only reason I read Yaacovs blog is to try & learn a bit more about Jews & Israelis. In return for Yaacovs hospitality I try & impart some perpectives from the non Jewish world.

She read & embraced Pappe, trust me on that. These people's hatred of Israel had to be germinated from some kind of seed, their behaviour is too rabid and fanatical to be borne of just blind prejuduce. Pappe's books are that seed for many of Israels enemies in the west.


t34zakat said...

How delightful, the commentary over at Mondoweiss has devolved into a Jewish plot to kill JFK.

Victor said...

I'm looking forward to your post on your trip to Hebron, which will hopefully include pictures.

Will you participate in any more trips with B'tselem?

Different regional councils in Shomron and Yehudah are planning similar trips right now, trying to educate Israelis on the settlements. Surprisingly, the great majority of Israelis have never been to the settlements.

It sounds so simple in the US - you get in your car and drive 15 minutes east of Tel Aviv and you'll hit Alei Zahav, the gateway to Ben Gurion airport. Without it, planes will start falling from Israeli skies.

Over there, everything is different; the settlements are like another world that people don't know about and don't want to think about.

Anonymous said...

"If I'm evil irrespective of any facts, what might we discuss?"

You could have discussed the degree of your evilness, just for shits and giggles and compared your alledged with his apparent. LoL.

t34zakat said...

I'd like it if someone went on the Hebrew language version of the B'tselem tour.

zionist juice said...

@ t34zakat
try this:
Author: Karsh, Efraim
Title: Fabricating Israeli history : the ’new historians’ / Efraim Karsh
Edition: 2nd ed. rev.
Published: London : F. Cass, c2000

pappe and morris are very different. both in there methods and in their conclusions (just take a look at the tantura case).
pappe is a revisionist in the sense that he is starting with an idea what to write and conclude and ignores everything that contradicts his thesis (amazing his article about the husayni family (the rise and fall of the husayni family) which ends exactly when amin al husayni comes on the scene).
morris is a positivist. his findings might not always be positive for israel but at least his is out the for looking for something like the truth.
pappe is out there for fabricating the truth he wants to have.
morris is not only disliked by the israel haters because (allegedly) has declared himself a zionist (has he? or has he written other books that have different conclusions?), but because his conclusions are exactly not what the antisemites want to hear:
israeli forces forced some arabs to leave their towns, but most fled because they were afraid of war and so on.

Gavin said...

Thanks ZJ, I've already read Karsh. My observations weren't about me, they were about the people we encounter who hate Israel. My own quiet research revealed that nearly every group or individual around the (western) world who were outspoken against Israel had the same narrative. They're like parrots. They didn't think their views up for themselves, they got them from somewhere. The question was; where? Where did they get their distorted picture of Israel from? Excepting the neo-nazi creed pretty much every path I've followed leads to Pappe and his revisionist history.

This person here is a typical example of the NGO breed. He organised a protest against a female Israeli tennis player when Cast lead was on. He was very prominent in the anti-apartheid movement & now he's agitating against Israel in my country. He's also a teacher (unfortunately)

Where do you think he got his history of Israel from... Pappe or Karsh? His type can be found in every country in the west, all saying much the same thing. And all the lies & distortions, the fabricated history of Israel they promote.... always from the same source(s).

Pappes revisionism gives the anti-semites power. The power to convert otherwise normal people into fellow jew-haters. Unfortunately a large proportion of western academia have embraced Pappe, and they spread his bile among students like a virus. I bet 50:1 that Jo Ehrlich there has been indoctrinated at college or 'varsity by jew-hating lecturer(s).

As a final note; the fact that someone like myself is even reading Yaacovs blog & commenting is a sign that anti-semiticism is getting worse. Of all countries NZ just shouldn't be seeing anti-semiticism, we're at the arse end of the world & we don't even have many Jews resident here. I'm here because I find the whole picture extremely disturbing.


t34zakat said...

Thanks for the Karsh reference ZJ.

I've found a limited preview on google, but I'll have to find a copy to read.

rashkov said...


Real interesting. Thanks for being here.

Gavin said...

Thanks rashcov. Truth to tell I enjoy Yaacovs writing anyway, so it's not a chore. The Israelis I've met in my travels have always been a bit defensive, and Yaacov is very welcoming to people which is refreshing. He also writes well, he's a good storyteller.

(That's not a criticism of Israelis btw, after 60yrs of conflict & the history of antisemiticism it's not exactly a surprise that the average Israeli wouldn't be handing out the welcome mat to every stranger they meet)

Cheers, Gavin