47 Comments

I want to say how again much I appreciate your writing on this subject, and in general. You seem to manage to stay morally consistent and fair-minded without pretending to have an Olympian objectivity (which nobody has). This is difficult to do, and usually painful when you do manage it.

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Nov 27, 2023·edited Nov 28, 2023

I will say that as someone who is quite 'pro-Palestinian' however you wish to define that, October 7 is the most sympathetic I've felt for Israel and its position in a long time, and completely understood that some military response was inevitable after such an attack. I thought the blank check Biden gave was a bad idea but a fairly predictable reaction.

That said, it has totally been eclipsed by the sheer scale of the civilian bombing, the clear lack of a military objective, and more than anything else the total legalisation of settler violence in the West Bank. I don't know how true this is in general – God knows there are undercurrents of antisemitism in there and also the tendency of American culture war to subsume everything else – but for me at least, the scale of reprisal and potential for ethnic cleansing really has overshadowed October 7 to some extent...

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This isn't some disproportionate attempt to kill Hamas members "hidden" among civilians. When the bodies are counted and witnesses interviewed - assuming Israel lets any reporters survive in Gaza - it will be shown once again that Israeli intelligence had no idea if any Hamas members were anywhere near the actual targets: Civilians and civilian infrastructure.

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Josh Marshall of TPM has been giving some real stinky takes recently, and this is my attempt to address his and other politically frustrated Zionists as fairly as possible:

It is accurate that leftists who directly compare Palestinians to Native Americans are agitating without context. However, the basic issue of "this land is ours now, thanks to guns, YHWH and steel" is woven through Israeli society. Many people didn't follow Israel closely but had a general sense that it operated in a sickening way towards Palestinians (and I was just reading about forced birth control for Ethiopian Jews that halved their birth rate in a decade). Now we're seeing a grandiose narcissist who attempted some fascistic centralization of power become the embodiment of anti-Semitic stereotypes ("I can control American public opinion"), and we don't get the joke. I am hopeful that Biden sees enough of Trump in Netanyahu (cheated on his pregnant first wife with a blonde Gentile student and got divorced, married and divorced her, and then married a flight attendant who he met on the job) that there is going to be a reckoning for the Zionist movement, in terms of democracy in Israel as well as the endless maintenance of a status quo of apartheid.

Israel's Manifest Destiny is strong: the Israeli settlers must have their land in Judea and Samaria, just as American evangelical Christians must have their Israel in accordance with their perverse ideas about rapture and apocalypse. It's past time for Zionists to get off the cross and see what carnage Jewish identity politics has wrought, regardless of support for Israel's right to continue as a Jewish homeland.

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Regarding the hostage posters: while I do think think it is important to free the hostages, the rhetoric used by the posters and the petition they are promoting presents, let’s say, a maddeningly myopic view of the situation.

You can see the poster PDFs as well as the link to the petition here:

https://www.kidnappedfromisrael.com/

There is nothing overtly racist or bigoted about these posters. The issues with the posters are, instead, the things they elide:

• The hostage-taking happened within the context of an ongoing, century-long civil war, in which the IDF was already holding 10-100x as many civilian hostages as Hamas took on Oct 7.

• By all accounts, the Likud government deliberately left the communities of Southern Israel in harm’s way because the people in these communities oppose Likud.

• One could plausibly argue that the IDF’s civilian hostages, as well as the civilian buffer zone surrounding Gaza, are just as much human shields as are the civilians of Gaza itself.

• The IDF resumed bombing Gaza almost immediately, reportedly killing two dozen hostages within days, in spite of public demands by the hostages’ loved ones that Israel negotiate a hostage exchange.

I saw the pro-Israel march on Washington being described as demanding that Hamas [unilaterally] release the hostages. Similar to the petition, this framing willfully misunderstands who has leverage over whom in this situation. Neither the US nor Israel has any direct or indirect leverage over Hamas. Demanding that the US or Israel “make” Hamas release the hostages is almost laughably out of touch with reality.

More generally, again, the posters represent a complete detachment from Israeli domestic politics and the wishes of the families of the people on the posters. These families wanted Israel to negotiate a hostage exchange immediately. These people blamed Netanyahu for putting the hostages in harm’s way in the first place.

Any Israeli obscuring this dynamic when translating their activism from Hebrew to another language would be cynically appropriating the images of strangers and spiting the wishes of those strangers’ families.

These posters do not represent a good-faith effort to free the hostages. These posters call for “awareness” without meaningfully calling for any concrete action in furtherance of their ostensible goals.

One can support the freeing of the hostages while also seeing these posters as exploitative and gross.

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Nov 27, 2023·edited Nov 27, 2023

Excellent analysis.

No one knew exactly how this would play out directly following the Oct 7 barbarism. But the wise among us (JG included, thinking “The Trap” piece) were calling for restraint and resisting the sort of us vs them thinking that justifies indiscriminate bombing etc. Hamas’s strategy was to incite massive retaliation that might change the dynamics of a frozen conflict.

Bibi has walked Israel into the trap Hamas set for them. Just like Bush walked the US into the trap AQ set in 9-11.

It amazes me Bibi has enough support within Israel to carry on. Hopefully that changes very soon.

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A few quick ones:

There is a partially, maybe tentatively functional Nazi comparison (as if one’s needed): The Warsaw ghetto with, of course, the Palestinians in the place of the Jews. (Note: I’m not an antisemite nor is the preceding in any way an endorsement of same.

Being a dotard, I have dotard theories: The latest is far right political leaders and dictators know how to get into and stay in power but are pretty much awful at managing crises. The speed with which Netanyahu et al pissed away the good will Israel had after the 10/7 attack is historic and breathtaking.

Because the fPOTUS’ BS will surely paint himself as the one who could have prevented 10/7 and knows how to deal with it (kill as many Palestinians as Israel wants, probably even more than that) a reminder that to a significant extent 10/7 was instigated by his highly lucrative Abraham accords per which, as a practical matter, the Palestinians lost significant support among the KSA and other Arab countries.

BTW: Netanyahu was of course correct in (allegedly) pointing our hypocrisy, but incorrect that it mattered.

Well onward with the cycle we can’t get out of instead of establishing a Palestinian state which is the only solution.

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Until the last few weeks, I've always thought that left antisemitism was impossible. I distinguished anti-Zionism from antisemitism. Yes, I've seen what everybody else has seen, but ascribed it to the overzealousness and intellectual sloppiness of the young.

On the other hand, the necessary element of conspiracism does exist. Juvenile anticolonialism is based on a conspiracy theory--everything wrong in the world is the working of the United States, or maybe Europe as well, or maybe just "capitalism." There is also a faint whiff of the herrenvolk, played in this case by the noble savages of the Global South. (I hope this evokes a bit of Rousseau.) But these are peculiar herrenvolk--not the pampered anticolonialists themselves, but rather Others.

On the third hand, where is the masculinism in juvenile anticolonialism? (Quite the contrary!) Isn't masculinism a vital element of the antisemitic-fascist stew?

I'm puzzled and confused.

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Great piece, as always. This is tangential and probably incoherent (and naive), but I always wonder what if after 9/11 the US had taken the legal route, joined the ICC, pursued OBL as an international criminal, instead of war on terror, bombing Afghanistan, war in Iraq, etc. There was such goodwill in the world for the US after that, seems like it might have been an opportunity to set an example on how to escape the cycle of atrocity and retaliation, which just ends up with everyone waving their own particular bloody shirt. Anyway, thanks again for the great piece John. Your writing on this has such clarity in all the murk.

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I think you pretty much wrote as much, but from day one this whole conflict has drawn out right wing governance for exposure. Feels like Netanyahu's whole compact with Israeli public is that he would keep the country and people safe through strength but their intelligence failed to anticipate the attack and now it looks like Al Shifa was criminally exaggerated, on top of every you laid out in this article. How could they fail and be failing so miserably?

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Another fine and honest piece.

If someone - say an imaginary outlier in Netanyahu’s Cabinet - were to say to him, “However many terrorists we kill, the misery and destruction we’re unleashing on Gaza is just creating scores more to replace them” - how would Netanyahu (or Smotrich or Ben-Gvir) respond? I often wonder about such things because they’re about inevitable consequences in the real world, and politicians, even corrupt ones in survival mode like Netanyahu, must occasionally think about them. Or are they just reconciled to eternal death and violence, which is quite possible, if unspeakably vile and awful for Israelis and Palestinians both.

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founding

This is like asking where you stand on the Palestinian or anti-Palestinian question. There IS an Israeli nation there that will not be given up and has the support of the vast majority of the world’s Jews as well. Any solution is going to take into account their national rights.

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I am so glad I subscribed to this newsletter - it had been a while since I last read a text online without losing focus.

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founding
Nov 27, 2023·edited Nov 27, 2023

The biggest problem Israel has is that in order to be what is, it has to deny rights and equality to Palestinians.

One of worst things to happen to the Palestinians is Hamas. It warps reality around it. Instead of talking about apartheid or settler violence, all anyone can think or talk about is the bad things Hamas does.

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Two solutions to the Israel/Palestine problem are not possible. Neither side can win militarily. The West Bank has become thoroughly intertwined with new settlements and old cities and villages. Doesn't anyone remember how hard it was for Ariel Sharon to remove the settlers from the Gaza Strip? The best that could be done now would be to restore property recently stolen to their Palestinian owners. The only viable solution is to let the residents of Israel/Palestine remain in place. The barriers must be removed. Palestinians and Israelis should be empowered to establish a new reality leading to elections to a unified country.

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I admire your courage to say what you think in this story. Massacre of Israel didn’t receive enough attention, so do the death of soldiers too. Israel isn’t showing these casualties too. Israel isnt only one that lost, Israel actually won to bring back home hostages, this is winning for Hamas while Palestine loses actually in this story. They had many dead and few prisoners back home. Hamas gained more power in Palestine which is not good result. I don’t see how Palestine will gain freedom and independence from Hamas. It’s failed nation today. Their future is only gaing against Israel and children throwing stones.

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