Reading, Watching 10.08
A Savage War of Peace
This is a (roughly) regular feature for paid subscribers where I write about what I’ve recently been reading and/or watching. Hope you enjoy!
The series on Black October will resume next week. Turns out Russian politics are very complicated, so I’ve been doing a lot more research than I anticipated. I’ve also been asked by a reader if I could record it as a kind of mini-podcast that would just involve me reading the article aloud. I’m going to give this a shot, so that’s also adding a little time to preparation. You can expect this probably by Tuesday.
I’m sure by now everone has seen the horrible images and reports coming out of Israel and Palestine as the region plunges into full-blown war. I don’t comment much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for a few reasons: one, I am not an expert about it, two, one is likely to enrage a good deal of people no matter your views, and three, I have very mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I’m not a Zionist; I certainly feel no romantic pull to the national project of Israel. Nor does the pragmatic argument that Israel provides a safe homeland for the Jews hold much water for me, since it’s security is always in peril, as we can see now. I believe it’s a state founded on a world-historical crime of the expulsion and massacres of Palestinians in 1948. I believe the occupation is an ongoing crime, the expansion of settlements in the West Bank is outrageous, and the hellish conditions enforced on Gaza are unsupportable. It was once only activists who referred to the regime enforced on the Palestinians as “apartheid,” now it is mainstream, and it is hard to argue with. In addition, the tenor of Israeli politics seems to grow ever more frighteningly anti-democratic and extreme by the day. The current cabinet surrounding Benjamin Netanyahu, a crook who would snuff whatever is left of democracy in Israel out in a second to avoid any repercussions, is a gaggle of low-rent fascists. And despite their tough talk, they’ve been apparently unable to provide basic security. Now, it is likely they will respond with all their hate and fury to cover up the humiliation of the moment, not to mention use it to push for the realization of their most brutal programs. In this moment, I fear that Israel will essentially level the entirety of Gaza and cause its population to flee, in a nightmarish repeat of the worst events of 1948. I also fear another outbreak of communal violence in Israel’s Arab-populated cities, like the one we witnessed in 2021, but far worse.
With that all being said, I believe the existence of Israel and the presence of the Jews there is a fait accompli: the hope that Israel will one day cease to exist seems to me naïve at best and implicitly genocidal at worst. And while I agree with the principle of national self-determination for the Palestinian people, both the ideology and tactics of the groups that currently embody that aspiration are disturbing and unacceptable to me. What would the collapse of an Israeli state and a Hamas victory look like, anyway? Well, to Israelis the evidence now appears clear: it would likely involve gunmen in the streets of Israeli cities, hunting Israeli citizens. Whatever the moral calculus one might employ to justify this—the long-suffering of the Palestinian people and their routine killings at the hands of occupation forces, their lack of other available political and military techniques, and their frustration and despair with their current international isolation—none of that will matter to the Israeli public: they will call for an even more brutal security regime. Besides scuttling Israel’s opening of relations with the Arab world, that is perhaps one of Hamas’s goal here: to provoke Israel to such a terrible response that they will horrify world opinion and thereby isolate themselves.