The Question of Palestine

from Edward Said, The Question of Palestine, p. 2.

When we refer to a subject, place or person in the phrase, “the question of,” we imply a number of different things. For example, one concludes a survey of current affairs by saying, “And now I come to the question of X.” The point here is that X is a matter apart from all the others, and must be dealt with apart. Secondly, “the question of” is used to refer to some long-standing, particularly intractable and insistent problem: the question of rights, the Eastern question, the question of free speech. Thirdly, and most uncommonly, “the question of” can be used in such a way as to suggest that the status of the thing referred to in the phrase is uncertain, questionable, unstable: the question of the existence of a Loch Ness monster, for example. The use of “the question of” in connection with Palestine implies all three types of meaning.

(See the About link for the diplomatic history of the phrase “the question of Palestine”)

Posted in Timeless

Noam Chomsky and BDS: the ‘responsibility of intellectuals?’

Noam Chomsky’s critique of the boycott/divestment/sanctions movement against Israel, in solidarity with the Palestinian people, attracted wide attention. The Nation, where his article appeared, published five responses, to which Chomsky responded, and at least five appeared independently. Chomsky’s views were not new, but were first expressed during a BDS initiative in 2002, at Harvard and MIT. The wide attention his recent remarks earned was due to the growth of the BDS movement since.

Harvard/MIT 2002

The Harvard-MIT initiative was a response to Israeli suppression of the al-Aqsa intifada, the Palestinian uprising that began in September, 2000. It was provoked by the swaggering entrance to the Islamic shrines in Jerusalem of then-defense minister Ariel Sharon, accompanied by a thousand Israeli police. There was a demonstration, an Israeli massacre, and resistance across the West Bank that Israel attacked with utmost ferocity. The uprising expressed seven lean years of frustration with Israel’s exploitation of the 1993 Oslo accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization to further engorge the occupied territories and suffocate Palestinian life. As prime minister, Sharon ordered Operation Field of Thorns, the lavishly violent reconquista of Palestinian areas of the West Bank, including the drunken bulldozing of the center of Jenin refugee camp, and its inhabitants.

Against this sanguinary backdrop, a Harvard-MIT petition called for “the US government to make military aid and arms sales to Israel conditional on immediate initiation and rapid progress in implementing the conditions listed below. We also call on MIT and Harvard to divest from Israel, and from US companies that sell arms to Israel.” The petition called for Israel to comply with UN Resolution 242 and withdraw from the territories conquered in the June, 1967 war; stop torturing, as called for by the United Nations Committee Against Torture Report of 2001; comply with the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibiting settlement and other practices in the occupied territories; and acknowledge in principle the Palestinian right of return as expressed in UN Resolution 194 (and related international law).

The petition garnered 443 signatures from Harvard and MIT faculty, staff, students and alumni, while a counter-petition garnered more than 3,200 signatures, amidst animated discussion. Then-Harvard President Lawrence Summers opined that “Harvard should not be an organ for advocacy on an issue as complex as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” He did exactly that by stating: “The suggestion that [Israel’s] defense against terrorist attacks is inherently immoral seems to me to be an unsupportable one.” At a prayer meeting on campus at the start of fall term, Summers stated: “Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent…. Where anti-Semitism and views that are profoundly anti-Israeli have traditionally been the primary preserve of poorly educated right-wing populists, profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities.”

Chomsky could have defended divestment as amply justified by Israel’s conduct and denounced Summers as unfit to lead an institution of higher education. He would have been vindicated resoundingly by Israel’s ongoing atrocities, and by Summers’ later claims about women’s inability in science, faculty no-confidence votes, and his resignation in 2006 after the shortest presidential term at Harvard in 144 years. Instead Chomsky was as upset as Summers that Israel could be sanctioned. In November, Chomsky told a Harvard audience: “I am opposed and have been opposed for many years, in fact, I’ve probably been the leading opponent for years of the campaign for divestment from Israel and of the campaign about academic boycotts.” One witness told this writer that the audience was “astonished.”

Read the entire article on DissidentVoice or as a PDF on this site. The footnote numbering is different on DV, which used the same note number for ibids. and other repetitions. The text is the same, just over 9000 words.

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The End of Modern Jewish History

The Jewish state of Israel and the organized Jewish communities abroad have constituted the Zionist Jewish people, whose aggrandizement has replaced liberalism as the Jewish social principle. This outlook has also deeply affected the Jewish left, who have abandoned the classical liberalism of the Enlightenment and emancipation, which rejected Zionism categorically, for a minimal critique of Israel’s “occupation” of the territories conquered in 1967, etc.

The article has three sections, “The Establishment,” “The Jewish Left,” and “Noam Chomsky.”  It is 17,000 words plus notes, the merest introduction to the subject. It is in the current issue (#38) of Left Curve available from Left Curve. The article is also online, in PDF form, at The End of Modern Jewish History. A summary of EMJH was read at a publication party held at the Emerald Tablet Gallery in San Francisco on July 9.

Publication was delayed by the passing of the editor of Left Curve, Csaba Polony, on March 9. See the obituary and remembrances at

http://www.csabapolony.com/

“A memorial to Csaba last night at an SF art gallery was SRO … The audience was a who’s who of who remains ambulatory in the North Beach culture scene,” wrote a friend in an email. RIP Csaba, you have gone to your reward.

LC38-cover

Number 38 also contains an article by Rahela Mizrahi: “Usurping Art: Patterns of Expropriation, Conversion & Appropriation of Palestinian Heritage by Israeli Fine Arts.”

LC #37 contained a fine poem on the 30th anniversary of the Sabra/Shatila massacre by James Scully. See

Thirty Years After the Massacre

“The End of Modern Jewish History” is an emerging theme. See Enzo Traverso, La fin de la modernite juive (Paris, 2013). From web references, an English edition is forthcoming from Pluto Press in 2016, but there is no web page as yet at Pluto. An English review is at

The end of Jewish modernity?

Judaic Studies at Brown offers a course, “The End of Modern Jewish History”. See JUDS 1716, 2/3 of the way down this page

JUDS 1716. The End of Modern Jewish History

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged

Ending the ‘Passionate Attachment’

Allies in the Medieval-Modern Struggle

In his farewell address in 1796, George Washington warned against a “passionate attachment” or “inveterate hatred” toward any nation. Some Americans were impassioned about revolutionary France. Within a few years, agents of foreign minister Talleyrand would boast to American diplomats of French power within the United States, and demand large bribes and loans to advance relations. The correspondence was published in the US, in the XYZ Affair, which embarrassed France and the French party in the US, and incited US opinion against France. The rupture was not permanent, and relations resumed on dispassionate terms, to the benefit of both countries.

Since the 1992 publication of The Passionate Attachment: America’s Involvement With Israel, 1947 to the Present, by George W. Ball, undersecretary of state for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and his son Douglas B. Ball, Washington’s prescient term has become ubiquitous to describe the US-Israel relationship. No agents of Israel have ever been embarrassed by boasting of Israel’s power in the US, or by demanding loans and aid. The protestations of American diplomats at Israel’s aggrandizement and damage to US interests have embarrassed them, not the pro-Israel party, which has gone from strength to strength until quite recently.

This has produced a loose establishment diaspora of US diplomats, military and intelligence officers, politicians, academics and journalists critical of the US-Israel relationship, in Washington and elsewhere. On March 7 a quorum of these and other critics gathered in Washington, for a “National Summit to Reassess the U.S.-Israel ‘Special Relationship.’” The event was organized by the Council for the National Interest, If Americans Knew, Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, and Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. There was a full day of six panels with a total of 25 speakers. Despite the full program moderators kept the event on schedule. The ballroom of the National Press Club was filled, and the event was broadcast live on C-Span. Video of each panel and separate audio for each speaker, and near-complete transcripts, are at the IRMEP program page. The proceedings survey Israel’s influence and its damage to the US.

See Dissident Voice for entire article

Posted in 2014

Perry Anderson on the Left and the ‘Israel lobby’

Perry Anderson, the leading Marxist scholar of the day, confounds the vulgar Marxism that US policy is about “oil” and “profits”, a view that would reduce Nazism to a matter of Russian oil and wheat. These excerpts are followed by a link to the piece.

“The Middle East is the one part of the world where the us political system, as presently constituted, cannot act according to a rational calculus of national interest, because it is inhabited by another, supervening interest. For its entire position in the Arab—and by extension Muslim—world is compromised by its massive, ostentatious support for Israel.”

“The outstanding work of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt has finally broken this silence… In striking contrast has been the general pusillanimity of the American Left, prone to emphasizing the role of its bugbear the Christian Right as a more acceptable culprit, when the latter’s function has clearly been in effect a force d’appoint.”

These remarks are in section IV.7 of this article, and in the note in that section.

New Left Review, n. 48, November-December 2007
Perry Anderson
Jottings on the Conjuncture

Posted in Timeless

Theses on Zionism

by Harry Clark

On CounterPunch January 17, 2014

In response to Joseph Massad’s  “Theses on Zionism” in Electronic Intifada on December 9, 2013.

On this site

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Posted in Uncategorized

Reboot the Left on Palestine

What is to be done?

Worldwide, it is Israel Apartheid Week, 2013, a worthy expression of solidarity with the Palestinians suffering under Israel’s occupation of the territories it conquered in the June, 1967 war. However, the leading lights of the anti-apartheid struggle said a decade and more ago that Israel’s regime is much worse than South African apartheid. After 46 years, “the occupation” is clearly not temporary as the word implies. It is wrong to use this language, which privileges the oppressors and further oppresses the victims. This language is universal and long-standing, reflecting habits of thought and action long overdue for replacement. The following was written as notes for a discussion, about 2100 words.

entire article on Dissident Voice or keep reading here

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Posted in 2013