Reading Material to Clear Your Sinuses

I’m not sure why, but I’ve coming across a great deal of really, really interesting reading material of late. Here are just a few choice articles that have recently crossed my screen via blogosphere and tweet-o-sphere:

Christopher Hitchens’ sinus-clearing take on the latest peace process developments:

The mathematics of the situation must be evident even to the meanest intelligence. In order for any talk of a two-state outcome to be even slightly realistic, there needs to be territory on which the second state can be built, or on which the other nation living in Palestine can govern itself. The aim of the extreme Israeli theocratic and chauvinist parties is plain and undisguised: Annex enough land to make this solution impossible, and either expel or repress the unwanted people. The policy of Netanyahu is likewise easy to read: Run out the clock by demanding concessions for something he has already agreed to in principle, appease the ultras he has appointed to his own government, and wait for a chance to blame Palestinian reaction for the inevitable failure.

An astonishing two-page personal rant against NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman that was featured prominently in the mainstream Israeli press:

Well, it’s time to get the cat out of the bag and tell Mr Tom Friedman a few words in his rotund, self-satisfied face. For example, that the fact he volunteered here in some kibbutz in the south 40 or 50 years ago doesn’t impress us at all anymore.  Mr Friedman, Israel has thousands of Jews, Gentiles and converts that have volunteered in kibbutzim, but they don’t rush to write books and tell the boys in high class parties in New York and Chicago, but stayed here and rushed to join the IDF.

Palestinian novelist Robin Yassin-Kassab documents the reality on the ground in the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Powerful, profound, and highly recommended.

15 thoughts on “Reading Material to Clear Your Sinuses

  1. Nicole

    Thank you, Rabbi Brant. That you keep on expressing a balanced and humane point of view is amazing – (and that you are not only still alive but beloved by many!)

  2. Y. Ben-David

    The link you provided to Robin Yassin-Kassab, which I presume you posted because you approve of its content, contains the following section:

    I heard Jamal Hwayil speak. He was the leader of the Fatah-affiliated al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Jenin at the time of Israel’s 2002 massacre there and now he is an independent member of the Palestinian parliament. He took a clear position on Palestinian division: “Political arrests are wrong. Wrong in Gaza and wrong in the West Bank. Political arrests have no place in a liberation struggle.”

    A little later he added: “There can be neither meaningful negotiations nor productive armed resistance so long as the political leadership is divided.”

    Now, “productive armed resistance” means suicide bombings (which killed or wounded thousands of Israeli, including not a few Arabs) and other forms of terrorism. Am I right in assuming that in your bringing this piece, which you called “powerful, profound and highly recommended” that you agree with this statement about “armed resistance”?
    The rest of the piece is so filled with falsehoods, and half-truths that I wouldn’t know where to begin. For a start there was no “massacre” in Jenin in 2002, there was a bloody battle with armed terrorists , and over 2o IDF troops were killed in this engagement.
    Israeli Arabs are NOT discriminated against in government budgets. I could go on. Does this article truly reflect your view of the situation, Brant?

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

      Re the quote from Jamal Hwayil:

      It feels silly to have to reply to this, but you seem to be asking the question in seriousness:

      Of course I don’t condone suicide bombings against civilians. To say I feel this article provides a powerful view of life in one West Bank city doesn’t not mean I agree with every single comment made by every interviewee.

      Re Jenin: there are many “narratives” of what actually occurred there in April 2002. I think it’s clear that the initial press reports and Palestinian claims of thousands killed turned out to be incorrect. However, Israel has never carried out and independent, transparent and credible investigation of the incident, so the final casualty numbers will never fully be known.

      Nevertheless, there is still reason to be deeply concerned about Israel’s actions during the incursion. A Human Rights Watch investigation claimed that “at least twenty-two of those confirmed dead were civilians, including children, physically disabled, and elderly people.” It also states that “Israeli forces committed serious violations of international humanitarian law, some amounting prima facie to war crimes.”

      Does all of this constitute a “massacre?” I suppose we can argue that point, but I don’t know that such an argument would make too much difference to the loved ones of the dead.

      I beg to differ with you strongly on your claim that Israeli Arabs are not discriminated against in government budgets.

      From Adalah: Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel:

      Further, the discretionary powers entrusted to various government ministries and institutions – including budget policies, the allocation of resources, and the implementation of laws – results in significant de facto discrimination between Jewish and Palestinian citizens. For example, a report issued by the Ministry of Interior confirmed that Arab municipalities received a fraction of the total funds allocated by the national government per resident to Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories and to development towns populated exclusively by Jews. Moreover, the Ministry of Religious Affairs affords a small percentage of its budget to the Arab Muslim, Christian, and Druze religious communities. Funds for special projects such as the renewal and development of neighborhoods and improvements in educational programs, services, and facilities are also disproportionately allocated to Jewish communities. To date, Israeli authorities have rarely used their discretionary powers to benefit the Palestinians minority.

      1. Richard Kahn

        I would say that calling for terrorism should render an article unfit to be promoted on your blog. It’s not just a minor point. Calling for the killing of civilians can never be just an “I don’t endorse everything she says” sort of thing.

        Regarding Arabs, just visit some Arab-Israeli villages to see that there is tremendous institutional discrimination.

      2. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

        This was a thoughtful article about important, notable divisions in Palestinian society. The quote in question was made during a conversation between a group of Palestinians discussing the issue of armed vs. nonviolent resistance (a central and much-debated issue in Palestinian society).

        To say this article “calls for terrorism” is simply ludicrous. Did you even read it?

      3. Shirin

        The very fact of such things as “Arab municipalities” in Israel is enough to prove discrimination.

        Then, of course, there are the “development” towns and their history which are stark reminders that in the Jewish State even being a Jew does not guarantee against discrimination.

  3. Y. Ben-David

    Richard Kahn-
    You are quite right, Israeli-Arab villages are frequently not as clean and developed as Jewish areas. BUT THIS IS NOT DUE TO “DISCRIMINATION”. It is because the rate of collection of the municpal “arnona” tax, which finances municipal services, is MUCH lower in the Arab towns than in the Jewish ones. Taxes, in the Arab world, are very unpopular because they are not viewed as payment for services rendered but rather as “tribute” to the ruler.

    1. Shirin

      Ben-David, you are often very creative, and this is one of your best so far. Tell me, do you make this stuff up on the fly, or do you pull it out of some source somewhere?

  4. Shirin

    “productive armed resistance” means suicide bombings…and other forms of terrorism.

    That is utter rubbish that you made up for your own convenience. There is no generally accepted definition of armed resistance that “means suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism”. In fact, productive armed resistance scrupulously excludes attacks on civilians, is aimed at those conducting and enforcing the occupation, and is absolutely legitimate. Among the mainstream of those who recognize that armed resistance is an absolute right if not a duty of the oppressed, and is often necessary, terrorism is considered counterproductive and immoral and would never be included in a definition of productive armed resistance.

    1. Richard Kahn

      You’re a lot of unsourced nontrivial claims.

      Seeing as the phrase “productive armed resistance” doesn’t appear on the Internet except for in this article, I think it’s fairly clear that it’s not a term of art. It would seem to me that what is productive is in the eye of the beholder. Clearly, many thought that terrorism was productive. I also don’t know how you can possibly back the claim that the “mainstream” who recognize armed resistance as a right of the oppressed consider terrorism immoral and counterproductive.

      1. Shirin

        You’re a lot of unsourced nontrivial claims.

        How interesting. And your claim that “productive armed resistance” means suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism is, of course, well-sourced, well reasoned, and not at all self-serving rubbish made up for the sake of demonization of legitimate resistance.

        And please do not try to divert the argument to a question of whether “productive armed resistance” is or is not a term of art. The argument is over your utterly unsupportable claim that “productive armed resistance” means suicide bombing and other forms of terrorism. I am telling you that it does not. I am further telling you that the mainstream believe that suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism are not productive forms of armed resistance, but are instead counterproductive. I would take it even farther, in fact, and say that in the minds of many supporters of resistance movements, including myself, suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism do not even fall under the term of armed resistance, and belong in a category of their own.

      2. Richard Kahn

        I’m saying that one possible read of “productive armed resistance” is terrorism. This is further supported by the fact that the man calling for it is the former leader of a terrorist organization! This is good reasoning. It doesn’t need a source for my interpretation of his words. Do you want a source to prove that he was a terrorist? It says so in the article. Do you want a source to prove that terrorism is armed resistance? Well, it’s resistance to the occupier and it’s armed. This man committed or helped commit acts of terrorism, and now he is calling for “productive armed resistance”! Barring any explicit statement to the contrary, I think it is safe to say that he may be calling for terrorism.

        “I am telling you that it does not.” And I am telling you that you don’t have the final say on what words mean. If it were a term of art that I was not familiar with, I would concede and admit that I wasn’t familiar with the terminology that you and other supporters of armed resistance use. Seeing as it is not, terrorism is clearly armed resistance. Whether it is productive or counterproductive will depend on whom you ask. You clearly think that terrorism is counterproductive (!!!). He might not. All you can say is your opinion. You can even speculate on his opinion, saying that you have reason to believe that he doesn’t mean terrorism. I have reason to believe that he may mean terrorism.

        Your main unsourced claim is that “the mainstream believe that suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism are not productive forms of armed resistance, but are instead counterproductive.” When you make factual claims about what the “mainstream believe,” you need to provide sources. Maybe provide polls, although I’m not really sure how a poll would define the “mainstream.” If you’re interpreting a quote, you don’t need to provide sources. You just need to provide your reasoning.

        I’m also glad to hear that you don’t believe that terrorism is armed resistance. That’s wholly irrelevant to what the former head of a terrorist organization believes.

  5. Y. Ben-David

    Every single statement I make you dismiss, saying I am “ignorant” or unqualified to make “since I am not a Muslim”, or “I make it up”.
    The fact that Israeli Arabs have a much lower rate of payment of municipal taxes is a documented fact and has been written about by “progressive” newspapers such as Ha’aretz.
    The Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade that Hwayil belongs to carried out the majority of suicide bombings in Israel, more than HAMAS did. It is a part of FATAH and was under Arafat’s direct control (yes, Arafat’s successor Abbas has said he opposes suicide bombings saying they were “counterproductive). The suicide bombings were very popular with the Palestinian public, at least at the time. Over 1100 Israelis were killed and thousands more wounded. So don’t tell us that “the Palestinians have always opposed terrorism” . HAMAS’s an HIZBULLAH’s lobbing rockets in an indiscriminate manner into Israeli towns is also terrorism…it certainly has no military value. It is this terrorism that is the main reason they don’t have a state today.

  6. Aryeh Shomron

    Please note that The Makhmood Abbas, the Palestinian President as well as Shirin oppose terrorism because it is “counterproductive”. Shirin is telling us that the mainsteam of the Palestian popolation is of the same opinion for the same reason. Why have I never heard a Palestinian oppose terrorism because it is a vile, abject immoral murderous crime? It is my poor command of the English language that prevents me from fully emphasizing the severeness of the crime of terrorism. In fact, the only crime I can think of that is worse than terrorism is genocide. While I, as an Israeli Jew was educated to yearn for peace with our Arab neighbors, the Palestinians continue to educate their chidren, teenagers and adults to hate the Jews and to kill them, provided it is productive. – Killing a Jew is a good thing! But if killing Jews is counterproductive at the present time, don’t do it now! Wait patiently for better times when killing Jews will be productive once again!


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