Hamas Hizbollah Iran Israel Palestinians

The Middle East telephone game

Anyone who has played the game of “telephone” knows that our perceptions of what other people say are often distorted and inaccurate. In that game, people form a circle, and one person whispers something into the ear of his neighbor, who whispers what she thought she heard to her neighbor, and the whispers continue until the last person in the circle recites what he believes the message to be. It often bears only a passing resemblance to the original message.

But this inability to hear correctly seems to be especially acute, for some reason, when people hear remarks about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During presentations about the conflict, many of them listen mostly to the background music inside of their own heads, and hear what they want to hear based on that background music, on pre-ordained conclusions, on abject fury at Jews or Arabs, on who knows what else…And all nuance, all subtlety, is not merely ignored; it isn’t even heard.

During a book talk in Buffalo, I gave my standard spiel about how the far left hurts the Palestinian people. I said they spew out so much bile against Israel that they make more moderate, left-leaning Jews afraid to criticize the Jewish state or the American Jewish community. I said that, yes, some of the people emitting that bile were outright anti-Semites. Later, during the Q&A, a woman said she resented the fact that I said that all criticism of Israel was anti-Semitic!!!

It happens all the time.

Two days ago, someone named “A Kronfeld” wrote the following comment about my recent C-Span appearance:

I found Mr. Fleshler arguments during his CSPAN book presentation totally immature – rockets fire at Israeli cities – it’s not big deal; Hezbollah will not destroy Israel (meaning just kill few Israelis). For author of the book this logic is embarrassing.

If you didn’t watch or don’t have the patience to watch it now, I said when Hamas started firing rockets at southern Israel after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, Hamas’ actions were “stupid, immoral and illegal.” I mentioned, several times and in different ways, the dangers of Hamas using the West Bank as a staging ground for rockets that could hit Israel’s coastal plain, and said neither Israel nor the U.S. should –or would–ever permit that to happen.

I mentioned Hizbollah just once, in passing, when quoting from a passage about the sources of Israeli fears. Now, it is also true that I said “it is not 1939.” and objected to constant invocations of the Holocaust to justify Israeli actions. At one point, I noted that the threats from Iran and Hamas were very real, and said that I shared the fear of people who were worried about those threats, to some extent. But I said the fear did not justify refraining from pressing for a two-state solution and “a modicum of justice for the Palestinian people.”

You could legitimately argue with what I actually said. You could even argue, I suppose, with the right of an American Jew to say any of it. But only someone determined to hear what he/she wanted to hear could claim that I advanced the idea that Hamas rockets were “not big deal” (sic).

I am fascinated and saddened by this phenomenon. Do different Serbian factions have the same problem when the talk turns to the Balkans? Do Greek and Turkish Cypriots never hear what each other is saying? Why can’t we all just listen, carefully and attentively? Then if the arguments must begin, let them begin…

66 thoughts on “The Middle East telephone game

  1. Of course, it is not automatically “antisemitic” to criticize Israel. But how do we differentiate between “legitimate criticism”, or better, legitimate CRITICS, and antisemitic ones? This then refers back to your posting about your quoting Walt and Philip Weiss, saying that “they make good points as well and I agree with some of the things they say”. The outside observer sees that these people are anti-Israel and antisemitic, then they see you posting links to their sites, which is then interpreted as you granting legitimacy to ALL their views. How are they suppoped to know which opinions of theirs you like and which you don’t. I know because I have following your writings here over a period
    of time, but most lurkers don’t. This was your choice. You are the one who quotes them and provides links to their websites. So don’t be surprised when people put you in the category of being hostile to Israel even if it isn’t true. The misunderstanding comes out of your own actions.

  2. YBD:

    The same could be said of several things that you write that links you with others. Many of those who think that Sharon is a traitor also believe that Yigal Amir is a hero and that Baruch Goldberg was a hero. So, using your own logic, one could legitimately conclude that if people believe these things about you it is your own fault.

  3. So Yakov,
    You KNOW that Dan has a much more balanced and compassionate view, so why would you willingly impugn him?

  4. Tom, that is completely inane. Phil Weiss and his kameraden glory in deaths of jews and wish for the destruction of Israel. I run in what Phil would call ZOG circles. And nobody but nobody that I know thinks that Ariel Sharon is a traitor ir Yigal Amir is a hero. SAmir Kuntar on the other hand, after bashing in the head of a little Jewish girl is Phil Weiss’s kind of guy.

  5. Thomas-
    Please go through the archives and show where I have done the things you accuse me of, i.e. where I recommend people who say the things you indicate about Sharon, GoldSTEIN and Yigal Amir. I NEVER bring links from “right-wing sites” precisely for the reason you give.

    Dan brought an article from Amos Keinan. He was a political assassin who tried to murder a MAFDAL Kesset Member in the early 1950’s, David Zvi Pinkas. (he put a bomb in his house which exploded but Pinkas was not injured at the time…however Pinkas was badly shaken up and died of a heart attacks a couple of months later). Keinan was put on trial but was acquitted “for lack of evidence”. However, Keinans wife wrote a biography of him a couple of years ago and admitted that he did do it and his partner in the crime also admits they did it.
    There is no difference between Keinan and Yigal Amir except that Yigal Amir succeeded in his mission whereas Keinan failed. Keinan remained a hero of the Left, Amir is a national pariah. It just depends on who it is you try to kill.
    Since Keinan remained a hero of the Left up to his death, the radio reports at the time of his death didn’t mention his crime.
    So please do give me this stuff about “the violent Right” that you are attempting to associate me with. I don’t accuse Dan of legitimizing Keinan’s act, I am sure he didn’t know anything about it. Just because there are people who DO “call Sharon a traitor” and who happen to share views that I have regarding the Palestinians does not logically mean that therefore I subscribe to their views, BUT I DO NOT LEGITIMIZE THEM EITHER by posting links to web sites where they state these things.

    More on Amos Keinan:


  6. Dan, another way to look at it is–if you’re ticking off both sides–then you truly are a centrist and a moderate.

    One of your challenges then…is to anticipate how others will misinterpret you–whether willfully, or due to emotional deafness–and state your position clearly and repeatedly.

    And…you’re going to have to come down hard on both sides in equal measure. That’s the burden of a moderate, I think.

    In other words, you have to be louder about your position than they are–and more often (i.e., not simply as a response). That’s how I see it.


    You are right about the challenge but I don’t have the capacity to be any louder or to state my position more clearly than I did on C-Span, or in my book. People will still misinterpret because of some kind of wierd, neurological phenomenon, as noted in my post. But thanks for understanding what I am trying to do.

  8. Funny how Obama is going through a similar thing with health insurance reform.

    He is going to have to repeat himself ad nauseum to drown out the hysteria.

  9. YBD:

    Your statements regarding Sharon are similar to those of many who regard Amir as a hero. I don’t accuse you of thinking thus. But you seem to say that guilt by association is okay because Dan has a link to Mondoweiss on his website, which by the way I’ve never even been to. I say what is good for the goose is good for the gandar.

  10. Thomas-
    I strongly urge you to take a look at MONDOWEISS, then come back and tell us if you still think the same as you did before.
    For example, you might enjoy the recent discussions about whether the Jews deserved all the pogroms in Russia and Poland because of their “stand-offishness”.

    And I am very surprised by your use of “guilt by association”, i.e. people who like Yigal Amir say the same things as me, so we must be the same.

  11. “For example, you might enjoy the recent discussions about whether the Jews deserved all the pogroms in Russia and Poland because of their “stand-offishness”.”

    They are so predictably stale over there. They’ve already had that discussion about 40 times.

    Lesseee, it’s Wednesday…must be Jews-deserved-the-pogram day. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  12. I do see a certain reluctance among Phil’s personal friends here to put him in the pariah cage where he belongs.

    I wonder if I’d behave the same if it were someone I knew personally. I’d like to think not…but I don’t know.

  13. For those of you who were excited by Fayyad’s claim that in the next two years he is going to build the infrastructure of a modern, prosperous, democratic Palestinian state, it is worthwhile to read this article about the problems a relatively “liberal” Arab state, Morocco, is having in building a prosperous, democratic society. It is interesting to note how “spreading Shi’ism” is a crime. Remember, that Shi’ites and Sunnis are brother Muslims who love each other-also, what does this say about “freedom of religion” in a Muslim/Arab country?
    The link:


  14. For those of you who think it is possible to reach “reasonable” compromises with the Palestinians on Jerusalem, read this statement by the Chief Islamic Judge of the PA:


    Anybody think that Abbas will go against these views in his negotiations with us? Arafat wouldn’t…he refused to sign a paper handing over the Temple Mount to him with a simple addendum saying that he recognizes that the Jews view it as a holy site. He adamantly refused in spite of the fact that Clinton berated him for it.
    They stick by their guns, unlike our own leaders.

  15. It depends which “guns” you regard as the most important commitments.

    I would hope that they stick to their guns to regional peace, rather than careless expansion.

    I would hope that they stick to their guns in affirming Israel as a Jewish DEMOCRATIC state, that applies the Torah injunction to treat all residents equally under the law.

    I would hope that they stick to their guns in reviewing what combinations of behaviors and efforts result in security for Israeli citizens and residents, rather than carelessly provocative strategies to conform to the rationalizations of a few neo-orthodox rabbis.

  16. Because the comments on Dan’s blog entry are practically stochastic, I really would not know where to start to contribute.

    Thus I will look at the original blog entry:

    During a book talk in Buffalo, I gave my standard spiel about how the far left hurts the Palestinian people. I said they spew out so much bile against Israel that they make more moderate, left-leaning Jews afraid to criticize the Jewish state or the American Jewish community. I said that, yes, some of the people emitting that bile were outright anti-Semites. Later, during the Q&A, a woman said she resented the fact that I said that all criticism of Israel was anti-Semitic!!!

    I think I understand the woman’s problem.

    I attend right & left anti-Israel pro-Palestinian activist meetings (rather like Rabbi Dovid Weiss of NKUSA — I often run into him).

    On the leftist side I have never seen or heard anything that could be mapped to the classic anti-Semitism of the 1920s or 1930s or even phenomena that could be identified as Judeophobic by a looser standard.

    At one right-wing meeting, I kept Rabbi Weiss company because people were definitely cold to him, but afterward a lot of attendees told me that they felt sorry for him and were glad that I had attempted to ameliorate the situation.

    Anyway, I doubt the woman was even thinking about right-wing pro-Palestinian activism. Thus when Dan talked about left-wing anti-Semitism and she like me could see none, she had to assume Dan was referring to all left-wing anti-Zionism.

    I have put together the nastiest anti-Israel piece I could write on the basis of current news. I think it is nastier than anything that I have ever seen, heard, or read at a leftist anti-Israel conference.

    I dare commenters to tell me what is anti-Semitic about Culling Palestinians for Organ-Harvesting.

    I have to make one disclaimer. My instincts are more to the right than to the left. I was at one time a Rockefeller Republican.

  17. Jeez, Hammer…you’ve been all over the political spectrum. What’s next week’s flavor going to be?

    As for leftist anti-semitism cloaked in anti-zionism….

    it’s all in the innuendo.

    Kinda like how whites crossing the street insist they aren’t doing it to avoid the black man walking towards them.

    yep, right!

  18. Of course Dan didn’t say that all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, he just drew an unacknowledged line in the sand–Zionism–that can’t be crossed.

    If you happen to be against ethnic nationalist genocide–EVEN WHEN ***JEWS*** ARE DOING IT–why, you must be “hurting the Palestinians.”

    Obviously Dan’s prime concern isn’t Palestinians–it’s Jewish nationhood. So why he should be taken seriously on that point escapes me.

    But since he’s got a blog and all, maybe if he used it to, I dunno, take a stand against UNSANCTIONED “AUTOPSIES” (Suzanne, that means we’re calling the IDF bodysnatchers, honey), it might beef up his pro-Palestinian cred?

    Just another unwelcome thought… and now… *poof*

  19. Joachim, there’s a guy here on Dan’s blog who will yell “blood libel” at a cat’s meow. I don’t think he will have any problem diagnosing your anti-Semitic nature, unless Dan has banned him, which would really be a shame, since there’s nothing like the phrase “blood libel” to liven up an unsanctioned autopsy of a conversation.

  20. I thought you were going to go “poof,” MM. I was very excited when you concluded a previous comment with that promise. If you want to know what I think of some people on the far left–a small minority–, read Chapter 9 of my book. It’s called “The Far Left’s Jewish Problem and Why It Hurts the Palestinians.” For that matter, read the rest of my book. Until then, I don’t think you should glibly characterize people you are obviously too angry –or perhaps too much in pain– to understand.

    To both you and Joachim, I think the quote from Mitch Cohen in that chapter rings true: “If you are anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic, then don’t use the categories, allusions and smug assertions that are all too familiar to any student of prejudice.”

  21. Mitch Cohen’s rule simply does not solve the problem for those of us with a background in Eastern European and Jewish history and politics.

    As Arendt, Harshav, Harris, Stanislawski, and many others have written, a lot of the negative or anti-Semitic stereotypes (including the German Nazis favorite Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy) are based in fact.

    I researched the history of anti-Semitism in Saxony for an undergraduate thesis. I found that every claim of non-Jewish Saxon butchers about Jewish ethnic/confessional conspiracy, collusion, and dishonest practice for the purpose of controlling the meat industry in Saxony was true.

    Laura Leff in her book Buried by the Times, The Holocaust and the NY Times inadvertantly explained one Jewish media control mechanism that in her example worked against rescuing Jewish from Nazi controlled territories. The same mechanism also covered up Soviet Jewish planning and perpetration of mass murder in the Soviet Union, Soviet Jewish pogroms against religious Jews in the Soviet Union, and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1947-1948 (really more like 1959).

    I provide Wall Street services. Whenever I walk into a firm, within a week or so someone or some group tries to recruit me for the local network of Jewish financial personell, who collaborate to protect each other and share financial information. These social networks cross company boundaries, invariably enforce some sort of (usually unconscious) Jabotinskian Zionist orthodoxy, and often cross into regulatory agencies and the DOJ.

    As far as I can tell, a lot of financial professionals are aware of the roles that AIG, some of its senior Jewish staff, and the Israeli government played in during the GHWB administration to start the CDO bubble that burst down and created a worldwide economic crisis. I have yet to see any rational discussion of the topic in English or any Western language.

    A finance reporter for an important English-language Arabic paper asked me to review an article on the roots of the CDO meltdown. I asked why there was no discussion of this aspect of the meltdown. He told me that it could appear in Arabic language finance analysis but his paper did not want to deal with noise from advertisers.

    A mini-version of the same behavior played out with the Harvard endowment when a Jewish network of trust essentially started looting, and the non-Jews quit. While at least one lawsuit has resulted, discussion has been suppressed in the media.

    Is it any wonder that anti-Semitic Jewish conspiracy theories when there really are Jewish conspiracies about which no public discussion is allowed?

    I recently put up two conspircacy blog entries on EAAZI: [wvns] Money Power’s War on Islam and [wvns] Israel Wages Game Theory Warfare.

    The former article contains a lot of the anti-Semitic and “magical” elements of classic conspiracy theories although in the end it focuses more on the plutocratic than on Jewish aspects.

    I don’t like the last sentence of the latter article. It suggests that Zionist power politics is somehow different from that of any other groups. Maybe author Jeff Gates knows more about the Aumann’s group than I, but he probably makes it more powerful than I see it, for he almost elevates it to the status of the Elders of Zion.

    Aumann may want his people to serve in that role. He is a Jabotinskian, and Jabotinsky really did believe in ethnonational financial warfare, but from the perspective of someone that has worked with the Israeli Military Industrial complex, the Israeli government and intelligence services seem to operate more from opportunism than from some detailed game theoretic business plan, and there is a lot of internal politics (to which one might apply game theoretic analysis).

    In addition, the ethnonational financial warriors really had no opportunity to put their plans into operation until after Begin took power, and they could not do much until the US started providing unaccounted cash aid as a result of the Camp David Accords.

    The Clash of Civilizations framework is more of a production of American Jabotinskian Zionist intelligentsia. It was developed in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution by Daniel Pipes et al., uses more classical advertising/marketing techniques, and took about two decades to get traction.

    While Gates avoids the “magical” components associated with classical conspiracy theories, the absense of discussion of political evolution and the hypothesized centralization of direction in a small Zionist clique in Israel give his article a strong similarity to classic anti-Semitic theories even if I would want to see more work from this author before I would charactize him as an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist.

    Anyway, I study “the categories, allusions, and smug assertions that are familiar to any student of prejudice.” I can’t avoid them in my analysis.

  22. Effective rationalization Martillo.

    Jeff Gates has shifted from his advocacy, along with Newt Gingrich, for ESOP’s.

    Who would have thought that he would go Lindbergh?

  23. “I researched the history of anti-Semitism in Saxony for an undergraduate thesis. I found that every claim of non-Jewish Saxon butchers about Jewish ethnic/confessional conspiracy, collusion, and dishonest practice for the purpose of controlling the meat industry in Saxony was true.”

    If this is indeed true, it’s no different from the UNFORTUNATE competitive dirty tactics that take place in many professions ACROSS all ethnicities.

    If this is what you base your hatred of Jews on–you are even more wacked than I originally thought.

    In fact, the logic here would be hilarious if mental illness weren’t such a serious matter.

    I realize I’m getting personal and all that–but I want to point out there’s no way to have a rational debate with an unsound mind. Just calling it like I see it.

  24. As for Mitch Cohen…wow…blast from the past…I crossed paths with him when I was in college and he was part of a group of leftists who were much older.

  25. Suzanne has hit exactly the issue, which made Saxony a center of anti-Semitic agitation even though there were not many Jews in Saxony and even though the Saxon Diaspora in E. Europe and the Czarist Empire generally got along with Jews.

    The behavior, which E. European Jews brought from Polish territories into rump Germany was something unusual in German business practice even for German Jews, who practiced a similar form of social networking but generally within the limits that German non-Jews and the German legal code were willing to tolerate.

    In a certain sense Ostjuedisch immigrants created the anti-Semitic movement in Saxony even as the German Jews were being ostjeudischized by the influx of Ostjuden. (Shulamit Volkov has written about this process.)

    For a time period it was an incendiary situation only to die down until the Russian revolution and the common and not incorrect fear of the Judeo-Bolshevik threat — especially after the Bavarian Communist Coup, which was primarly Jewish led.

    As for the accusations of mental illness, I have to point out that I based my thesis on primary sources and secondary sources that were all written by Jews.

    I think a good definition of mental illness might include a mental state where the facts are unable to affect worldview.

  26. On “telephone”.

    I went to a yeshiva for a short time in Jerusalem in 1986, but didn’t stay.

    One of the primary theses was that Torah was transmitted to Moses at Sinai, complete (written and oral, even the descriptions of his death, his angers at future events?).

    And, Moses transmitted the entire Torah to Aaron, to the congregation, and to their children, and to their children, etc. until the written Torah was compiled by Ezra in 400+ BC. Then the written Torah was copied by hand, to by hand until today.

    Every week, every year, the physical Torah is lifted shown to the congregation, and the rabbis ask, “Is the the Torah given to Moses at Sinai, word for word, letter for letter?” “Yes”.

    The description was the game telephone, that if Torah had been revised since revelation, that someone would have answered “No, this is not the same.”

    And, similarly with the oral portion (now compiled in writing), and interpretations. A telephone.

    The significance of that is both as Dan referred, how quickly and radically, original text and interpretation may be revised, so there is an element of doubt as to authenticity, interpretation, and current relevance. That is especially so given that the world changes, and that we learn new things. For example, the earth is not 5800+ years old, but billions of years old.

    And, the big theological issue now, is how to live en masse in the holy land, the same land that the original instructions were given for (with the assumption that there wasn’t much more to the world anyway).

  27. “The behavior, which E. European Jews brought from Polish territories into rump Germany was something unusual in German business practice[…]”

    Ah…yes, the way Germans went about butchering was much cleaner & more efficient, wasn’t it?

    Tell me, Joachim…is an EU pogram against Germans in order according to your logic? Is it understandable?

    How about systematic ghettoization of Muslims who are transforming a dying European culture?

    You cherry pick your facts—but I suspect you have no control over that.

  28. To continue thoughts on Torah.

    So, the important question relative to Torah is “Is this the word of God?”

    Even in some modern adjustment for the changing times as defined by the trustable wisdom of Torah sages?

    And why and how?

    My answer is a qualified yes, trustable in its core message. “IF you keep my commandments, I will give you the rain in its time (a metaphor for all things in balance, “as they should be”.) and if you don’t you will be scattered like dust in the wind”.

    And, the commandments? The ten, inscribed in our mezzuzot, our tefillin, reaffirmed daily.

    The kernel not changing in Israel, just minor aspects of application. “Love thy neighbor as thyself”.

    “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

  29. Suzanne, what you don’t know or are misrepresenting about Eastern European Jewish history could fill the Rose Bowl.

    Jewish criminality (fiscal, smuggling, kidnapping and prostitution) was steadily increasing from the 1830s onward while radical Jewish violence including sabotage and targeted assassinations steadily increased from around 1850 to reach a crescendo with the overthrow of Czarism.

    To put this in perspective, there were more ethnic Ashkenazim than Danes or Croats. Jewish politics was transnational and often subversive like Eastern European politics in general.

    Jews dominated the media throughout Europe and important segments of the NA market. If NA, Central European and Western European Jewish wealth could be mobilized (as it eventually was for Zionism) for (virtual) nation-state purposes, Jews collectively constituted a major financial power.

    Of course non-Jews were becoming antsy about the Jews among them and the threatening Jewish behavior including the crash of the railroad bubble to a large extent caused by the malfeasance of Jewish investors like Bethel Strousberg.

    The Jewish-lead Bavarian coup and the Jewish-led Soviet Army marching West only to be stopped by the Miracle of Warsaw created a panic validated by subsequent Soviet Jewish orchestrated mass murder, ethnic cleansing and genocide.

    E. European immigrants to the United States brought along subversion (according to Soviet archives) while Zionist immigrants to Palestine brought along both abusive Jewish practices toward peasants and targeted assassination.

    BTW, despite the mythology pogroms were not only directed at Jews. Sometimes Jews committed pogroms. (Greeks were a common target of the early 19th century.) Poles experienced pogroms as did Germans in the 20th century. There were also Jew-on-Jew pogroms usually related to the Jewish kinderkhapper or white-slaving, but after the consolidation of the Soviet Union there were pogroms of communist Jews on religious Jews.

    Jews believe that Christian animosity created anti-Semitism in Central and Eastern Europe as a means to avoid self-scrutiny.

    The claim that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism serves the same purpose.

  30. Has anyone read the The Jewish Century by Yuri Slezkine?

    It was recommended to me awhile back and finally has made its way to the top of my long reading list.

    BTW–the Jews are not singular in being persecuted middlemen outsiders. So were the Armenians (and we all know what happened to them), the Lebanese in the ME and Africa–and some Asian middle class communities in various Asian countries.

    I guess they all went to the school of Ashkenazim mafia training. 🙂

  31. This is not a barb:

    Dan–when you know whozie gets to the part about Ashkenazim being Khazars and not semites…I hope you’ll bar him for bad science.

    I’m really hoping this isn’t turning into Phil Weiss II

  32. Suzanne, I don’t think many of Phil’s fans care one whit what I think, so I don’t think many of them visit very often. I am embarrased to say I am not technically proficient enough to ban someone even if I wanted to. It isn’t easy to do on WordPress, it turns out. If you know someone who can walk me through the process of getting a WordPress “plug-in” for that purpose and then making it work, that would help.

    That said, I think Joachim’s comments, while often infuriating, are fascinating in many ways. His posts remind me of old, closely argued pamphlets supporting Father Coughlin that I once bought in an antique shop, but have since lost. It does not serve any purpose to insult him, bait him or, for that matter, argue with him (even though I kinda did some of that earlier in this thread).

    Finally, I cannot monitor this blog all the time. I deleted one comment today and have done so at other times. There is a certain luck of the draw here and certain risks are being taken, and all I can do is hope that nothing truly harmful is posted on the threads.

  33. I hope I make tight, careful arguments.

    I started reading some of Coughlin’s material a few months ago. Coughlin’s writings about Jews have a lot of similarity to a lot of Zionist discourse about Palestinians, Arabs, or Islam.

    I called him an anti-Semite because he published The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and received some criticism from a reader for not trying to understand Coughlin enough.

    The reader was correct, for I was doing exactly the same thing for which I was criticizing Coughlin and for which I criticize Zionists.

    Because Dan said he often agrees with Stephen Walt, I provide links both to my original accusation that Coughlin was an anti-Semite and to my retraction:

    1. Stephen Walt: New Father Coughlin??

    2. Was Fr. Coughlin an Anti-Semite?

  34. “If you are anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic, then don’t use the categories, allusions and smug assertions that are all too familiar to any student of prejudice.”

    Give me a break. In the mind of anyone in whom the irrational fear of Gentile bloodlust has been inculcated since birth, critics of Zionism are always GUILTY until proven innocent. That mechanism is well on display here.

    Zionists are more than happy to have an open debate about Israel, just as long as their opponents don’t say things they don’t approve of.

  35. I have a wordpress blog (not political)–and yep, I don’t think there’s a feature to bar an ISP or specific poster. I can double check.

    Point taken about not arguing or baiting…when i don’t react, it is fascinating to see the psychology of denial and rationalizing of bizarre beliefs.

  36. At this point, the best thing to do is simply ignore. I recommend everyone follow this course of action. It would be a tragedy if this site were ruined in the ways others were.

  37. Dan, does it bother you that your attracting fans of father Coughlin. And btw I stand by what I said about his lovely bride.

  38. I don’t know anyone that stated “peace is at hand”.

    Many have stated “peace is possible”.

    Which I agree with. There are aspects beyond Israel’s control and they can derail long efforts with early compromises already made.

    But, there are so many aspects within Israel’s control that do make a difference, most notably the settlement expansion, and particularly in East Jerusalem.

    They convey Israel’s intent. If Israel intends to reconcile, it will defer expansion. If Israel intends to annex, it will continue expansion.

    Its NOT an inconsequential issue by any stretch, as much as the author dismisses it.

  39. Richard-
    Don’t you remember the “Oslo process”? Rabin and Peres and the rest of the Oslo gang certainly pushed the idea that “peace was at hand”. The whole thing was to be wrapped up in 5 years IIRC. There were quick deadlines on 3 preliminary Israeli withdrawals. Yossi Beilin was yelling the whole time that it should be accelerated. Finally, Barak convinced Clinton in 2000 that a final push for peace and a comprehensive agreement should be made at that time, even though Arafat said explicitly and publicly that he could not agree to such a thing. What did we get? A horrendous war.

  40. Peace was at hand. Then Rabin was assassinated in some odd concept of Jewish orthodox adherence.

    And then, “hero” Baruch Goldstein massacred 30 in Hebron in another odd Jewish adherence.

    Still admired. Flowers on his grave.

    The two right wings conspired (without direct contact), Hamas and the neo-orthodox zealotry.

    You (collective) just want the territory is all, and will rationalize Torah, history, renunciation of realizing possibility, and renunciation of Jewish values, to get it.

  41. Richard-
    You are really desperate if you claim Rabin’s murder and Golldstein’s act (which occurred first) “prevented” peace. Rabin would have lost the coming elections (which would have been held in 1996) had he lived. So then you would have to blame the “stupid Israelis for voting the man of peace out”. Regarding Goldstein, there have been MANY bloody attacks carried out by the Palestinians since then. Maybe THEY are the reason there isn’t any peace agreement.
    I find it incredible that you let Arafat, a cut-throat assassin who brought civil wars to two countries (Lebanon and Jordan) before Oslo, off the hook and blame Israel instead. I suggest you study more history and get off your liberal Jewish guilt trip before making comments like this last one.

    BTW-how many of the 12 million or so Jews in the world and 5 million in Israel leave flowers on Goldstein’s grave? How many Jews paid homage to cut-throat Arafat over the years?

  42. Yakov,
    I am “blaming” you for negligence, not for an overtly evil act.

    That you failed to use your and your collective intelligence to construct peace.

    I personally never described Arafat as hero, or known to have “changed” to pro-Zionist. He certainly never did.

    Again, I’ve met my Abrahamic 50, that prove to me that there is a leadership population in Palestine that in spite of the brutality of roadblocks, imprisonment without trial, house demolitions, expropriation of land, still are willing to co-exist, to accept the other as neighbor.

    I don’t hear it from you.

    I don’t hear you seeking. I only hear you rationalizing why you won’t seek.

    Both the Rabin assassination and the Goldstein massacre are critical formative events in Palestinian and Israeli consciousness, as disruptive to peace and real Jewish values as Hamas.

    We have the possibility of a golden calf here. “Aharon” is again not standing up to defend Jewish law, but is instead complying with the fears and lusts of the assembly.

  43. Richard-
    In comment 45 you said “peace was not at hand”, only that “peace was possible”. In comment 48 you say “peace was at hand” and that Rabin’s murder nixed it. Then in comment 49 that “Arafat had not changed”. Well, which is it. Do you really think the man who started TWO bloody civil wars in Lebanon and Jordan really wanted peace with Israel? Peres said then “the man has changed”. Now everyone (except for maybe Peres) says he never wanted peace (which is why it enrages me that Peres is President today). Do you think everyone is that stupid?

  44. You are intentionally twisting words, Yakov.

    My meaning is quite clear.

    Why are boycotting using your God-given skill for good, for peace, for reconciliation?

    Why are you permitting yourself to harbor any rationalization for any land-lust?

    Arafat did change, as did Sharon, as did Rabin, and as hopefully Netanyahu will change.

    Neither gave up their assertions or representation of their people. But, they all gave up some of their excesses, and risked something of their personal lives in their change of mind, even if relative.

    Rabin was assassinated, which was the worst.

    What do you think of the assassination? Did you, or do you, approve of it in ANY way? I’m sorry if that offends you. I can’t tell where you establish moral lines.

  45. Arafat was directly responsible for the murder of something like 1500 Israelis, most in horrific suicide bombings, with the bombers dipping the shrapnel in rat poison, HIV-infected blood etc.
    He gave the orders and his state-controlled media praised those who committed these crimes. Why do I have to remind you, Richard, of these things?


  46. “Arafat was directly responsible for the murder of something like 1500 Israelis, most in horrific suicide bombings, with the bombers dipping the shrapnel in rat poison, HIV-infected blood etc.


    He might have given orders to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades people, but not confidently. He certainly did not give orders to Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP or others.

    He did grant pensions to families of “martyrs”, which I considered a reward for terror. To which Israel responded by tearing down the houses of parents, brothers, grandparents of suicide bombers.

    In violation of Torah, which does not hold the parents and brothers of criminals accountable for a criminal’s actions.

    Arafat changed from rejecting the state of Israel at any boundaries, to accepting the 67 borders, and potentially moderately revised borders.

    His willingness to sign an agreement with Israel at all, put him at grave personal risk, which is a statement of courage on his part.

    To appreciate specific actions of Arafat is NOT a statement of endorsement of his life, attitudes, policies.

    It is though an objective OBSERVATION.

    In science, observing the state of water (ice OR water OR steam) is really insufficient for most measurements. The temperature is needed and observed at a high level of precision.

    Cool water is sufficient. It need not be warm or boiling in order to contract.

    And again, I “accuse” you of neglect. Neglect to to search for a path, to make contact, to use your intelligence for the good of your neighbors, and to rationalize that you are willing for peace, when in fact you desire to control the land from river to sea, rather than enough.

  47. Richard,
    I think that you are deluding yourself if you really think that Arafat changed in any meaningful way. Between 1994 and 2000 he alternately cooperated with both Israel and the Islamists in a bid to stay in power depending on who was pressuring him more. In 1999 or 2000 he made his decision for war and instituted preparations for the Al-Aksa Intifada.

    It is easy for you to fault Rabin for attempting to make peace with Arafat, because you don’t believe that peace is ever possible and so wouldn’t make that mistake–you make the MUCH GREATER error of dooming Israel to perpetual warfare through the actions of yourself and your colleagues. Rabin only attempted to make peace with Arafat after it was conclusively demonstrated to him that Arafat could keep all other Palestinians from making peace. Rabin then, correctly in my opinion, attempted to make peace with Arafat when he was vulnerable. Rabin had control over the process up until the point that he was murdered.

  48. Thomas-

    Former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe (Boogey) Ya’alon has repeatedly stated, including in his recent book, that Rabin told him shortly before he was murdered that Arafat and the whole Oslo “process” was out of control and that Israel had to get out of Oslo somehow but he couldn’t make a move until after the upcoming elections. His murder conveniently ended that possiblity and made Oslo “his holy legacy”.

    I am currently reading Matt Beynon Rees’ novel “The Collaborator of Bethlehem”. It came out a couple of years ago. It is a Palestinian murder mystery written in the spirit of Raymond Chandler. Rees is strongly pro-Palestinian (he is a non-Jew from Wales, he came to live in Israel in the 1990’s as Time Magazine’s correspondent and is still here writing novels). I don’t think he considers himself a supporter of Zionism but he supports a “two-state peace”. He knows and Palestinian society very well and strongly sympathizes with it. He very accurately describes the disfunctional Palestinian society and the massive corruption and violence Arafat foisted on them. He talks about the suicide bombings, how the AL-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades (Arafat’s shock force) was nothing but a bunch of gangsters who use their “heroic” credentials as terrorist fighters against Israel to intimidate and rob their own people. I recommend everyone read this and decide for himself how the Palestinians are going to build a normal society that can live in peace with Israel.

    See his web site


  49. Tom,
    Arafat had a change of heart, just not the change you hoped for. He remained committed to Palestinian national cause, and by his own definition, not mine and not any Israeli party’s.

    Do you think that Sharon changed?

    I do. And again, not sufficiently to realize qualitative change in the situation.

    Its a bait and switch in this conversation, to shift it to Arafat.

    I want to shine the light on Yakov’s commitment for peace as we pray daily, or lack of it, not a distraction about whether Arafat was an angel.

    We look at what we can do, not at others. We bother to ask ourselves, “are we doing all we can to realize Godliness on the planet?” And, if the answer is no or even “I’m not sure”, then we have work to do.

    It is NOT a truth, that there is nothing that can be done. There are some things that are impossible, but much is possible.

    If we harbor a lust for land, and hide that by declaring “they don’t make peace possible”, then we are self-deceiving.

    I regard the lust for land as “an other god before ME”, as a Golden Calf when we are so close to real spiritual transformation.

    Israel is not currently doing what yeilds peace in the region. Some are making some efforts. I’m happy that Israeli and Palestinian economic ministers are meeting as we write. While the left rejects such social efforts at reconciliation, I applaud them.

    But, I don’t hear any of that from you Yakov. I only hear rationalization for your personal and colleagues negligence.

  50. The Matthew Beynon Rees novel sounds intriguing.

    I’m reading a book on the social history of the Scots Irish by James Leyburn. Now, I’m hardly a student of social history but the Scots were in total disrepair until the time of Reformation. Prior to that, it was a nuthouse over in Scotland. Violent, unruly, no law of the land etc. Kinda like the Palestinian territories. They weren’t the only ones, but that’s what I’m reading about right now so they’re on my mind.

    Anyway…one of the points I take away from it (as someone who hasn’t studied historical patterns) is that some sort of social revolution needs to take place before a peoples straighten out.

    In other words, it’s not some smooth transition from crazy to normal. Something major needs to happen to induce people to act collectively to better themselves.

    Until that happens…it really doesn’t matter what gesture Israel does or doesn’t make.

    Those are my thoughts for the evening. I might see it differently tomorrow. 🙂

  51. Richard,
    I’m a Deist, so you and Ya’akov can have your religious arguments back and forth but leave me out of them.

  52. Suzanne,
    Societies can change quite radically over time. Sometimes its by evolution, more often by some big event that leads people to change their thinking. Germany changed rather dramatically as a result of its defeat in WWII. The American South failed to change as a result of the defeat in the Civil War, but has started to change after the Civil Rights Era. Part of the problem with the Palestinians and the Arabs is that they have had others bail them out after their defeats. The Soviets were always ready to resupply them with more weapons on long-term credit. Today they have the Iranians. Only when they don’t have this outside pipeline will they think more seriously about peace.

  53. Tom, I would add the West to the list of those bailing out the Arabs after their self-imposed disasters. A good example was when George Mitchell was sent to the area when the suicide bomber war exploded (I think he came in 2002). He was supposed to carry out an investigation of who was “responsible”. Naturally, he came to the conclusion that it “was not possible to assign blame”. Why? Because the Americans didn’t want push Arafat too far, fearing he might set his suicide bombers against American targets or cut off relations with the US.
    As the Palestinian economy faltered as a result of the war, the EU INCREASED donations to the Palestinian Authority in the name of “humanitarian concers”. Thus, Arafat was safe in starting a war with Israel, knowing he would never have to pay a political nor economic price for it, no matter how it turned out. Of course, Bush did downgrade relations with Arafat and acquiesced in Sharon’s locking him inside his Muqata headquarters, but the “Rais” was still running the show until he died.

  54. The column is innaccurate.

    The peace-process included treaties with Jordan and with Egypt, that has led to 300 miles of civil frontier with minimal violations of formerly 600 miles of frontier.

    If a similar actual peace can be negotiated with the PA (which does enforce laws against staging terror from Palestinian jurisdiction), then another 200 miles of frontier will be treatied with accountability.

    It is a false assumption that military threat comprises a more secure border than the combination of treaty (with military consequences for gross violations).

    And, it is a more than false assumption that seeking to dismiss or disrupt efforts for peace, rather than actively pursuing it, is currently anything than a land-lust.

  55. Tom–that’s a good point about enablement of Palestinians’ self destructive behavior and there being no incentive to change. I agree.

  56. Ya’akov,
    Actually Mitchell came in late 2000 or early 2001. He probably didn’t blame anyone because there was plenty of blame to go around and both sides would be offended if they were blamed for even minor causation–as both sides like to pretend that the conflict is wholely the fault of the other side. Mitchell was in the position of making recommendations for an incoming administration that would have to work with the two sides if it wanted to resume the peace process.

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