Friday, February 26, 2010

Obama Administration Slams Israel For Designating Heritage Sites

My friend Ian Dubrowsky refers to the move as the "Isreali government chooses expansion over peace and security - again ". I do not see it that way. It is unclear exactly what the move is meant to do. If the site was not important to the Palestinians, there is a good chance it would have been destroyed already (see and). If anything it may actually give a free bargaining chip to future negotiations (should a deal be possible). It would be to simply grant unrestricted access to the Israelis to the site in recognition of its importance.,7340,L-3854323,00.html

"The Obama administration criticized Israel for designating two shrines on Palestinian territory as Israeli national heritage sites.

The criticism came as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday she hopes long-stalled peace talks between Israelis and the Palestinians will resume. Clinton told a congressional committee that groundwork is being laid to restart the talks with the help of US envoy George Mitchell.


  1. "I do not see it that way. It is unclear exactly what the move is meant to do."

    If you want to believe that something that's a pretty blatant example of Israeli expansion such as this where illegal settlements (it is illegal under international law to settle lands with your own citizens in which you are occupying militarily-And for all of Israel’s talk about wanting security it has conspicuously poured lots of resources and effort into doing for the last 40 years) are being consolidated with the benign purpose of whatever then that's something you could definitely choose to believe. The Chinese government propaganda organs make similar explanations about protecting heritage sites in Xingjian and Tibet, conspicuously (accompanied by heavy handed military tactics and settlement) when people start asking questions about their actions and many Chinese people believe what the government tells them.

    From the rest of the world looking at this I think that it takes a pretty naive view of politics to 1) actually believe that or that's the sole purpose and intent, 2) expect others (outside of your ideological supporters) to believe that is the sole purpose or intent.

    Even if the purpose is as benign as the Israeli government says, it's irrelevant, its not up to them what happens on land being lived on by Palestinians, it is up to the Palestinians what happens on their land. Just like you would expect and demand of where you live. That is of course if the prospects for peace are important to you, instead of being an "accidental" empire like the Israeli state... (Hint, it’s not at all an accident)

    "If the site was not important to the Palestinians, there is a good chance it would have been destroyed already "

    If you weren't my friend- I would say that to draw conclusions about Palestinian actions regarding these sites, from the examples you gave borders on racism if not prejudice. In the Warsaw ghetto many Jews resorted to despicable things in order to survive- when Jews first came to America we were working in sweatshops or building organized crime empires. If we want to be intellectually honest we don't look at these examples from Jewish history and say "Hmm what can this tell us about the proclivities of the Jews"- we ask what are the conditions that lead people to consider such choices. Besides do you really think there are no equivalent examples of Israelis acting in similar ways as the ones you gave of the Palestinians? I’m sure Hamas features such examples in its propaganda.

    As to your last point, if that's supposed to be convincing, then you must believe that the Israeli government's moral superiority is so self-evident that it doesn't even need to conduct its self in a moral fashion.

    A moral actor is responsible for the foresee-able consequences of its actions, such as "if we do x (colonize these people's land and treat them like dogs, make ridiculous and humiliating demands as pre-requisites for not occupying you with our military and denying you civil rights) we can expect y (people to be un-happy as well as desperate, extremist)

    Moves like this one will only increase support for morally equivalent terrorist organizations like Hamas- not undermine them. And Isreali governmental actors know that.

  2. Also iv'e been following little green footballs and its author Charles Johnson for quite a bit now. Indeed an interesting figure.

    His history of fostering anti-muslim sentiment and hatred barely needs my re-counting, but maybe you might find this new york times profile of him and his recent expierence "breaking with the right" interesting.

  3. @Ian Spencer Dubrowsky - they are not annexing the sites, just enshrining their importance.

    It is not racist to point to recent history and project what it means for current actions. Palestinians did destroy those things, there is no real dispute to that. No all of them, but enough that the rest could not or did not want to stop them. Saying there is a good chance they will do it again, just as they have in the recent past, is not racist; it is a logical conclusion.

    "Besides do you really think there are no equivalent examples of Israelis acting in similar ways as the ones you gave of the Palestinians?" - If you have any examples I would like to hear them.

  4. When i read your first point it reminded me of the defense Eichmann gave at his trial, That Jews in the camps weren't being "murdered" but were dieing for their own "medical reasons". Asked if Jews who died because they were overworked or denied treatment was a "medical reason", Eichmann said it was recorded as such, and therefore not murder- oh the banality of evil.

    They are not "annexing sites" just "enshrining their importance"- like pouring a 100 million dollars into cordoning off the Il-Ibrahim Mosque (yes a Mosque) on the anniversary of Baruch Goldstein's shooting spree where he murdered 29, maimed 150 praying- is such. Again you probably shouldn't believe everything a state tells you ( or at least take a non-critical view like you do) , and nobody's moral superiority is so self-evident that they do not have to act like a moral person.

    Its not at all a logical conclusion, unless you are a racist. I don't dispute that the examples you gave aren't true, I'm absolutely sure they are. I'm sure Bernie Madoff happened too, but I don't draw the conclusion that Jews cannot be trusted to work in finance anymore. Should we look at the recent history and "project" what it means for "current actions"? (that's an awfully convenient justification-not a real justification- but whatever helps you feel better about the situation I guess) .

    Mein Kampf has true things in it too, like that Jews were a tiny proprtion of the population yet controledl an outsized amount of the wealth, they came to some pretty interesting "logical conclusions".- we know what to think about that though.

    I guess your just illustrating it in general that the problem with racism is not just a moral one, but a factual one. It leads you to terrible non-factual assumptions/conclusions, like that Israeli expansion is a good idea.

    Or that its ok to do something that in any other context you would find appauling because ""they"' will do it again, just as "they" have in the recent past"'. It's like bin-laden's justification for 9/11, "they" have killed muslims before, so theres a good chance "they" will do it again"" "no one disputes innocent muslims were killed in the first gulf war and maybe not all americans were involved, ""No all of them, but enough that the rest could not or did not want to stop them."'

    I'm sure to him its all very logical. But that's just him. I don't think its a real justification, its just a justification. Like your non-justifications.

    Baruch Goldstein is pretty equivalent. Of the top of my head equivelnt examples are hard, because the examples of much more horrendous atrocities committed by Israelis is truthfully alot richer. If I was a racist, I would say that Israeli atrocities tell us something about the Jews,yet they don't, they tell us something about actors in the Israeli government, they tell us something about the structural conditions that laid the foundation of the conflict (a gift from the british) it tells us alot, but nothing about the Jews, anymore then your examples tell us anything we should then "project" about the palestinians because it makes us feel better about what Israel does. You don't need to be serving power all the time.

    I don't think it will make a difference to you though to be honest, you've denied war crimes. The Nakba- did happen. I think in most other contexts that's a racist thing to do. I suspect that you will keep on denying war crimes, keep on ignoring evidence- deny deny deny

  5. @Ian Spencer Dubrowsky - Really; you just had to draw connections between Israel / supporting Israel, and the Nazis. It is so ridiculous on its face it does not even merit a serious and prolonged counter.

    I am not a 'war crime denier' when a war crime has actually occurred. You can not seriously be arguing though that adding sites to a heritage list constituents a war crime.

  6. No, im drawing a connection between supporting war crimes. Whether they are Nazi war crimes (in my opinion the most depraved and serious in human history) or Israeli war crimes.

    You could argue that it is a more or less serious war crime, but its not just "adding sites to a heritage list" and you know that, and yes it is a war crime.

  7. @Ian Spencer Dubrowsky - That is what they did, and what I thought you were calling a war crime. What I mistaken, or was it that in conjunction with something else (and please specify what that else is that is congruent with this 'episode')?

  8. Its one war crime in a massive series of war crimes that all together constitutes a very serious war crime, which Israel does at the expense of its security.

    These moves by Israel in the Palestinian experience always precede annexation of Occupied Territory for a "Greater Israel". Take the recently annexed Ibrahim Mosque

    according to Francis Boyle: "The Muslims and the Jews do not “share” the Ibrahimi Mosque. In fact, Israel confiscated the chamber of the Mosque where Ibrahim, Isaac, Jacob and their wives are buried, then built a synagogue in there. In other words, the Israelis desecrated the Mosque by building a synagogue within it. I have seen it myself, truly disgusting. This regime is enforced by armed Israeli soldiers within the Mosque—further desecrating it. This was clearly a war crime in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, inter alia."

    I think if fanatical jewish settlers want to live in the west bank (which is what this is all about), thats fine, but they shuld then live under the laws of the Palestinian authority or leave and go to Israel. Either way I don't see the character of Israel as we know it now being the same in the next 50 years. Juan Cole thinks the Jews will be like the christian minority of lebanon- formorlly dominant minorities. I think he may be too optimistic-Israel has set the wheel of violence in motion without any remorse for its actions for such a long time.

  9. This is classic fanatical hardliner politics.

    "adding heritage sites" is all Israel says, SAYS, it did. is it actually?, well it would probably help you to take a look at the facts. Instead of taking it upon yourself to defend policies that are hurting us by proxy and putting Jews world over in more danger.

    Stalin said he was sending people to "re-education", is that all it was? no, you would know what to think about that.


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