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Monday, June 27, 2011


What would LBJ have done?

"by entering into Israeli waters"

Whoa, wait... so Palestinians are Israeli citizens, then, or..? Haven't we just been told that attacking one's own citizens - who happen to be in armed rebellion - is a war crime that requires regime change? So... NATO strikes on Jerusalem are scheduled for when..?

I'm just so sick of hearing that Palestinians are under Israeli juridisction and not at the same time.

Once you realize that the status of Palestinians is practically the same as the status of black people in the U.S. 200 years ago, it makes sense. So long as you insist that they're people, the lies don't hang together at all.

No One -

I generally like your comments a lot but this one seems a bit off.

I'd argue those are two vastly different situations. There's the slavery thing and the and the sustained armed resistance thing and the religion thing and the language thing and the physical separation ... one group has wide international support and the other didn't. And of course Africans were brought here whereas Palestinians have had settlers visited upon them. One group was held as slaves for labor and the Israelis go so far as to import guest workers from halfway around the world so as not to have to employ many Palestinians.

I'd go apartheid South Africa metaphor-wise, of course I'm far from the first person to make the comparison.

The lesser of two evils, ladies and gentlemen.

Remember how important it was that we defeat McCain or he was going to lie our way into another war of aggression against an oil-exporting Muslim country?

Joe - Indeed! Remember how in 2004 Kerry tried to make McCain his running mate - which was statesmanlike one understands, of course - and then in 2008 McCain suddenly became a crazed old man.


I think you're being too specific.

The actual system is completely irrelevant. The policy is irrelevant. What I was going for was the viewpoint that makes that policy possible.

Once you cease to be human, I can do anything to you.

This is why the Nazis were not an anomaly for their time, but a fulfillment of contemporary thinking on race. The Final Solution was a natural conclusion from mainstream thought -- it was only horrible if you disagreed with the base assumption of mainstream thought.

The distinctions you make obviously did exist, but the common feature that you neglect in both of your examples is that both times, the policy enacted by the powerful was one of absolutely self-serving convenience and, once decided upon, the justifications came afterwards. However, none of the justifications make any sense unless you begin with the notion that the victim's aren't people.

Thus, European colonists in the Americas stuck in the situation of upper-caste Indians centuries ago would have no problem creating an identical caste system. South African whites of yesteryear transported through time and space to Colombus' ships would have no problem recapitulating that history. And Israeli Zionists, sent through a Rod Sterling-mediated role reversal, would have absolutely no problems standing in the shoes of a SS officer.

The policy is a creature of convenience. The lies that prop up said policy can only work if you begin with dehumanization.

Which is why a dignified underclass is the worst thing that could happen to an oppressive group (unless it has already chosen a policy of quick genocide; then dignity is only a threat if it matures into coordination).

The mere existence of Palestenian dignity is an offense to the Israeli police state -- just as the mere existence of black dignity was an offense to America's southern feudalism -- just as South African dignity -- and so on.

(*sigh*. To paraphrase classic video games, I need terseness badly. Hopefully, all that made sense.)

No One of Consequence,

Indeed it makes sense. And is right on target.

Otherwise, this blog entry is chilling. Have sent it all around.

Alright, this is actually a shade away from name-calling, it's so salacious, but here's a link to a kid-gloves review of a book from one of the most vapid pieces of shit to ever back Zionism (the author, not the reviewer):


Just try to absorb the levels of selfishness there. That book would convince an atheist to believe in hell.

Back to the main topic: journalists have no problem with traitorous calls for the murder of innocents, either:


I'm actually curious. If someone did use the terms treason and traitor to refer to the pro-Zionist, anti-American citizen positions we're seeing here, what would be the official response? It's never happened so I'm wondering if we'd see a novel lie.

Four years ago Israel imposed a draconian blockade on Gaza which has resulted in deprivation and death to innocent people. This blockade was imposed, in the words of Israel's leaders, to "put Gaza on a diet" as a punitive action for Palestinian's electing Hamas to power. This act by Israel is in violation of article 33, Geneva Convention IV, which clearly defines such acts, “Collective Punishment”. Israel is a signatory of Geneva Convention IV, therefore Israel is in violation of international law and standards by imposing the blockade.

Secretary of State Clinton needs to be reminded that it is her DUTY to protect American Citizens from possible violent and declared acts against them by foreign entities and states. It is time that the US State department cease protecting Israeli violators of international law who have AGAIN threatened the safety of US citizens who are acting in international and Gaza waters which are outside Israel’s jurisdiction.

To remind Clinton of her DUTY to protect american citizens from the violent and illegal acts of Israel call 202-647-6575. Leave a message 24/7

Pretty much every instance of "man's inhumanity to man" depends upon some level of dehumanization, sure.

Aside from that I think the comparison of African-American slaves and Palestinians is a poor one, when there are a lot of instances of historic similarity readily at hand. The Nazis' attempt to clear the Slavs for Lebensraum seems rather a better comparison to me than American slavery, and the apartheid comparsion strikes me as better still. American slaves were not refugees nor were they cordoned off in homelands and refugee camps. They were not stateless people (if not fully citizens). They were forced into a situation of largely uncomepnsated work, not forced into a condition of unemployment. They were assigned specific owners legally, not disposessed of any state's law. They were scattered geographically and in intimate contact with their oppressors, not largely separated from their oppressors. They did not have sustained resistance movements and warring parties. They were not after the earliest years of slavery of a different religious background than their oppressors.

It just seems an all-around poor metaphor. If we were to compare anyone in the American experience to the Palestinians to me the obvious very rough model would be the native peoples of the continent.

This becomes of any importance at all - on the whole it's an academic exercise - to me only in that we have a model for dealing with apartheid that was ultimately succesful. The model for dealing with American slavery does not at all transfer. I don't see half of Israel taking up arms against the other half so that Palestinians can become Israeli citizens. I do see the possibility of Israel being made a pariah state (in many quarters it already is) and international succor being given to resistance groups. Every situation is different but there are cases of nations breaking away to form states that have been succesful. The goal of most American slaves and their ancestors has been to become American citizens in full standing.

Like I said, though, it's not really a comparison: it's a common philosophical stance. I'm not comparing the policies, I'm pointing out the essential viewpoint that makes the policies intellectually (and ethically!) acceptable to even those who receive a minimum or no benefit to them. This is not redundant because there are several possible explanations for these evils and it's important to pick the right one.

Weirdly enough, I think it's possible to be beastly to someone else without just declaring that the victim is subhuman. Best example of this would be cruel religious traditions whose practitioners are equally cruel to themselves as others. (Complete freakn' tangent: this is why I think Rawl's veil of ignorance is crap, since, among other things, there are people who will -- in good faith! -- happily create an underclass even if it screws them over because God Likes Peasants.)

As a result, I think it's meaningful to state when a horrific policy is one of four things:

• Built on an assumption that the cruelty inflicted is good or acceptable because the policy's promulgators apply it to themselves as well. This is exceedingly rare, but it does happen. Women who hate female circumcision because they've endured it but feel that it is right to inflict it on themselves and others because it's tradition fit in here. I'm not saying this isn't evil -- just saying it's in good faith.

• Incredibly stupid and ignorant: the promulgators Just Didn't Know. This is unlikely on a large scale. I'm slow at the moment and can't come up with an example, but, on the scale of nation-states, there might not be one. All nation-state activity is usually tainted by the fourth assumption, and once you have that, none of the other assumptions "count" from an ethical standpoint.

• Above-board dehumanization. The ancient Persians are good here. Those who didn't follow their religion weren't people, full stop. I call this good faith insofar as we're not lying about the promulgator's motivations. In the U.S. slave system, for counterexample, while white supremacists state plainly that blacks are subhuman, they usually don't drop the "human" tag entirely -- especially not academically -- and persistently insist that the institutionalize rape and murder of a whole bunch of people is Good For Them. Ancient Persia offers no philosophical rebuttal to the notion that its victims are, in fact people. It just keeps taking until it gets slapped down. This is a rare position because it offers little propagandistically. It's more likely to be seen in comic book supervillains than in the real world and I doubt you're going to find many modern world examples because of how worthless it is when it comes to manipulation others.

• Bad faith dehumanization. Humanity's favorite way of shitting all over other humans. This is the same as the assumption above save that the promulgators lie about their position. This is extremely powerful; even the wise and ethical may, as a result, start harping on the nature of the victim rather than the nature of the aggressor, thus granting the aggressor freedom from moral condemnation.

This distinction matters tremendously. The "class iv" variant is possibly the worst thing ever invented -- I wish that was me being typically hyperbolic. So long as you can blame the victim or isolate the aggressor from moral analysis, you can never solve the problem. When the Supreme Court can write a dozen-page opinion on consistently-proven discrimination and speak at length on the challenge affirmative action presents to black dignity without addressing de facto affirmative for whites and the notion of white supremacy -- you have the "class iv" variant in full force. The outcome is inevitably shit.

In the case of Israel, the sensitivity of our aristocracy to any speech that is outside the norm -- even if it isn't accusatory -- is a sure sign of this phenomenon. If we parse the issue as one of bigotry towards Palestinians and call the aggressors anti-Palestinian, they won't present a propagandistically useful rebuttal. What matters here is that, intellectually speaking, the aggressor is assumed to be in good faith and to have at least the beginnings of an intellectually sound position, which is the same thing granted to pro-slavery/anti-black persons in the U.S. and anti-Jew/anti-Romani* persons in Europe (in the past and, actually, even now) and so on. Once you can challenge that good faith, remarkably, the conversation shifts back to the goodness or evilness of the aggressor -- where it should have been in the first place, and literally none of the original propaganda applies. This also clears up thorny and twisted legal issues that perplexed skillful minds: instead of a "black question" you end up with a "white failure" and can treat it the same way you'd treat anyone who committed a crime or tort. . . Which is why aggressors work so hard to obfuscate the issue by demanding that unchallengeable good-faith assumption.

I wasn't making a comparison or using a metaphor. I was claiming that the phenomenon share identical philosophical clades and, from a rhetorical standpoint (erm, the standpoint-of-rhetoric, not "hypothetical" -- ick) -- from a rhetorical standpoint, it's really useful to establish this.

*My spell-check doesn't recognize the word "Romani." My computer is racist. :-P

"The ancient Persians are good here. Those who didn't follow their religion weren't people, full stop."

My reading of the OT is that this was the same for the biblical Jews, otherwise there's no squaring the Ten Commandments with God's instructions for dealing with the neighboring tribes. It's perfectly OK to covet the neighbor's ass and wife if the neighbor isn't a person in full standing.

Of course I also read at least parts of the OT to hold that the now monotheistic Judeo-Christian-Islamic God was taken to be the tribal god of the Jews with the other gods of other tribes one wasn't supposed to worship being very real ones, not fictional. "Our god can beat up your god."

A remarkably large % of the world's languages refer to the speakers of that language as "the people." That the ones who don't speak your language are not "the" people and maybe just plain ol' not "people" seems the other shoe dropping.

I'll partially agree. The OT can be read as being ruthlessly pragmatic as well. Your neighbor is "people," but the world is a bitch and you do what you gotta do. The OT covers a lot of people and a lot of ground and a lot of different time periods and I suspect that there wasn't the sort of unified belief system that, say, the Persians had -- in fact, the next point makes me sure of it.

Yep, there were tons of gods back inna day and the mere existence of "lesser spirits" wasn't a problem for ancient Hebrews -- the problem was when they got top billing. This is why modern Christian lay theology is so confused: it comes out of two contradictory traditions, one saying that there is a diverse world of nonhuman sentients and another saying there's nothing out there besides us and God.

The word "barbarian" comes from the sound the Greeks thought non-Greek speakers were making in conversation: "bar-bar-bar." You're right, it's a common convention. . .

. . . in the ancient world. One of the remarkable things about the modern world is that I don't think anyone really does this anymore on a nation-state scale. It really is only found in fiction and in blatantly racist groups. Indeed, when you read a pro-segregation screed from a cliched and dedicated racist, the one thing that comes to mind is how naieve it is. What's striking about such proposals are that they really aren't as effective as, say, redlining or privatizing "failed" schools that happen to be nonwhite. Even worse for the "honest" racist, his position can be easily attacked on the merits with clinical precision. Again, the bad-faith bigot wins big here.

Outside of this, I don't think we really do good-faith dehumanization anymore.

Apologies for the overposting.

Flotilla sabotage:


(Hm. Little link has gone away :-[ .)

NOoC, The link appears to be working now. You are talking about this Alternet story. Yes?

"Assault on Gaza Flotilla Ship: 'Sabotaged by Divers' in Port, Attacked by Legal Group Funded by Christian Right 'Mad Pastor' John Hagee"


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