Thursday, May 17, 2018

Hysterical Gaza

In a NY Times piece about Gaza that has generated some possibly useful controversy —  "Falling for Hamas's Split-Screen Fallacy" — Matti Friedman writes that "As is often the case where Israel is concerned, things quickly became hysterical and divorced from the events themselves" .

He writes: "Israeli soldiers facing Gaza have no good choices. They can warn people off with tear gas or rubber bullets, which are often inaccurate and ineffective, and if that doesn't work, they can use live fire."

Fair enough. Did Israeli soldiers use tear gas? They did, and it obviously failed to contain the protest. Did they then try rubber bullets and discover them to be "inaccurate and ineffective?" Not that I've read or heard. From what I can tell, the IDF went directly to live fire with predictably ghastly results.

But wait: Friedman tells us that, "a Hamas leader, Salah Bardawil, told a Hamas TV station that 50 of the dead were Hamas members. The militant group Islamic Jihad claimed three others." And we, critical readers all, not at subject in the least to hysteria where Israel is concerned, don't stop to doubt the Hamas boast, do we? No, because if Hamas says it, it must be true: everyone cut down by the IDF must be a shahid, a true Islamicist martyr.

If you believe that, this bit of Hamas self-glorification, than maybe you’d like to invest in this bridge I happen to know about. You don't have to go to Gaza — who'd want to, right?— to get in on this offer; it's right there, at the lower tip of Manhattan. A nice bridge.
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My view is this:

1) recognize the perniciousness of Hamas


2) can still criticize Israel.


There are those on the Israel-bashing left (assuming it can be called a left) who deny that there can be liberal Zionists. There is no room for liberal Zionism in their anti-Zionist qua anti-Semitic worldview. For them, Israel is so bad from the ground up that liberalism doesn't apply to it; Israel can't be corrected or usefully critiqued, only, one way or another, torched and  reconstituted according to better — internationalist? Leninist? — principles. You don't have to go far to find examples of this. Dig just below the surface of JVP/BDS and you'll come on a raging source.

But it just ain't so. Like I said, I am a Zionist insofar as I believe without reservation in the state of Israel. I am a liberal Zionist in that I simultaneously believe that the country has deep flaws and I have the right to point them out.

This liberalism of mine is portable. It's American liberalism, to start with, and as critical of Trump and his gang of thieves, warmongers and liars as it is of Netanyahu's brand of nationalists and theocrats.

But getting back to Gaza, it doesn't make me an Israel-basher to say, after due consideration, that the use of live fire against protesters in Gaza was brutal and unjustified, and gave Hamas all the deaths it could now claim for itself, all the shahids, real or mostly bogus.

I bet a lot of the people out here who rush to the defense of Israel are liberals/progressives in the American context. Trump disgusts them. But somehow Netanyahu doesn't.

Now that's hysterical.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Little Kid in Gaza

In a NY Times piece about the turmoil and slaughter at the Gaza Border there was a bit about a Palestinian boy brandishing what he regarded as a precious trophy, a snippet of the barbed wire fence dividing him and his kind from Israel. He risked his life to get it, and was a fool for doing so. Gazans like him and his family are never getting back land they imagine was theirs in Jaffa, Jerusalem, or Tel Aviv. Hamas has misled him and others like him to fantasize otherwise and yet I think beyond child's play there some element of heroism in his action.

At any rate I feel more for him than I do for the Israeli sharpshooters looking down from wooden towers — have you seen these structures? the stuff of Star Wars, Mordor, Avatar — on Palestinians of all ages doing their deluded do-si-do with the border. These Palestinians are really no threat to crash that border and march on Eretz Yisrael, no threat to occupy even an inch of land. They have burning kites and burning tires, sometimes Molotov cocktails. And yet the IDF treats them as existential threats, as the overused saying goes, as if they were they vanguard of some mighty revanchist army that about materialize out of Arab sands at any time.
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How sick of Hamas to send helpless desperate believers to confront awesome military might.

How sick the IDF to shoot down from towers with live fire instead of rubber bullets.

Israel sharpshooters shot low, it's true, breaking legs, incurring crippling, maiming, amputation. They are sharpshooters; they aim. Would someone tell me how rubber bullets below the knee would not have more than sufficed to neutralize the advance of the dread phantasmagorical Gazan army?

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Israel disgusts me.

Not only vis a vis Gaza, though that would be enough, but also vis a vis Jerusalem, and how on the very day on which Palestinians mark Nakba, Trumpenyahu commemorated American official recognition of Jerusalem as capital of the Jewish State, thereby putting an end to all hopes that Jerusalem might also serve, as capital of a Palestinian entity.

How viciously provocative, on Nakba day.

But then there's the gargoyle nonsense of the commemoration, which featured a Christian pastor who has declared that "Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism" lead people "to an eternity of separation from God in Hell," and a concluding benediction by an another pastor noted for saying "Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral homeland."

Israel disgusts me, and its theocracy. So too the United States, and its, our, theocracy light.

Sometimes political reality leaves little space to breathe.

I know how that little Palestinian kid felt with a bit of Gaza wire in his hand. And that he had no idea of the shit he was getting into.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

President Horribilis — Iran

How disappointing that the opposition — the "resistance" — did next to nothing to oppose or resist Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear treaty with Iran.

Nothing about the withdrawal was a surprise. Trump kept promising to do it. And given his manifold failures — to fully eviscerate Obamacare, to get Mexico to splurge for a wall, to bring back coal etc. — it seemed increasingly likely he would follow through on this particular boast: this was the one big campaign pledge entirely within his power to fulfill,  so he did.

Seems to me those of us who might have mounted or called for at least a semblance of opposition, and I do not exclude myself, were bent over with concerns about burnishing our critiques, fussing over just the right historic parallels to bring up and the most acerbic phrases to use in describing the nouveau conditions of the Trump presidency — that of President Horribilis.

It was, I felt often, as if there was some unannounced Grand Prize for coming up with the best rhetorical flourish, the most thunderous damnation.

But while we were thundering, flourishing and damming, Trump, by annulling the American stake in the Iran deal, has very simply moved the United States, the Middle East, the world, close to a big war.

Sometimes, seems to me, the most politically astute among us are blinded by our astuteness.

And I'm not in the least confident that we of the resistance, of the opposition, have any idea of how to resist or oppose this war, which is already coming at us in bits and pieces.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Corbyn, Zionism, Jewish nationalism

When you disregard or insult Jews enough — as Jeremy Corbyn has done by calling Hamas and Hezbollah great friends of the left, or at least his version of it — not only do you betray a blinkered view of the world but you in effect dare Jews to do something about it. I mean, what can Jews do, cause they need the left, right?

Or maybe not.

And so, in the spirit of "If you prick us, do we not bleed?", London Jews have pricked back. They voted Labor out in seats long regarded as Labor sinecures.

Lest this be construed as yet another debate about Zionism, let me suggest it is but it is also much more. It is, for one thing, a debate about a leftism that has never matured an inch beyond Leninist conceptions of history. According to these, Israel is a "colonial settler state." That's the sort of nonsense Abbas revisits when he talks about imperial designs on the Levant that Zionism Europe a vehicle to fulfill.

In his apology for this dreck Abbas did admit that nothing worse than the Holocaust had ever happened, ever, so far as crimes against humanity go.

Holocaust on the one hand, worst crime ever, Zionism as handy imperialist conspiracy on the other.

Sense the disconnect?

I'm sure Abbas, an octogenarian, gets splitting headaches about this. Maybe. Or doesn't. Assuming a head. Same should be said of the left head. Or lack thereof.

But I want to move on, if only slightly, from the particular brain ache about Zionism and the Holocaust.

I want to say something ++ about the emptiness of Zionism, its failure, allure, insufficiency, void.

I support the state of Israel. Therefore, in the most basic sense, I am a Zionist. But Israel does not satisfy my sense of Jewish nationalism. Nor can it. Nor can it speak for or protect me and the likes of me outside its borders.

I support English labor initiatives much as I can, or the equivalents in the United States, but I support even more those Jewish voters in London who said, no you can't run over us.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Bibbi, What's Wrong With Him?

Bibbi, What's Wrong With Him?

Bibbi, what's wrong with him and beyond him Eretz Yisrael

Yeah, I read The Times. and here's the scariest bit I came upon in today's paper (5/3/18):

Even as Mr. Netanyahu was speaking [announcing reasons, fraudulent even by the lights of his own highly sophisticated military, for abrogating the nuclear treaty with Iran] his coalition in Parliament was pushing through a bill that would shift the power to go to war or carry out a military operation from the full cabinet to the smaller security cabinet — and, under “extreme circumstances,” allow the prime minister and defense minister alone to order such action.

This is scary. Even if the Israeli political system will put enough blockades in the way.

And yet, one must ask, what is it with Netanyahu, as in WTF?  Such a monster,  warmonger?


Monday, April 30, 2018

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain "Trump, God, and Guns"

Anthony Bourdain's "Trump, God, and Guns," set in  McDowell County, West Virginia, the kickoff to his new season of "Parts Unknown," left me dispirited. That's not because the Appalachian cuisine featured seemed less appetizing than the complex noodle dishes Bourdain regularly savors in other parts unknown, since the  deep fried Appalachian rabbit — never mind it was farm raised — promised pleasures of its own.

No, it's because the gulf between the likes of Bourdain and the good people of McDowell County seemed immeasurable, nonnegotiable — even unspeakable, at least by the usually voluble Bourdain. And as the show establishes, they are good people — if you're one of them. From football to cooking — "Let us now say grace," which they do for both endeavors — they know and look after each other, as if they have since forever.

But there are paradoxes, including the ubiquitous love of guns, including fully automatic machine guns. It's not mostly about rabbit or squirrel hunting, though it might have begun there. No, they raise their rabbits. They just like to shoot. They say they want to be able to protect themselves. But if, as seems to be, they are such good neighbors, what exactly are they protecting themselves from? Not crime, surely, no mention of which is made in the show.

Then what?

It's a culture unto itself, and Bourdain can't seem to crack or honestly speak to it. I've never seen him so awkward, tongue-tied, maybe even frightened. He's relieved if not grateful they take him in, share with and say grace with him, even though he's the kind of New Yorker whose lifestyle refutes and contradicts so many of their values.

Another paradox is Trump. Another New Yorker. Nothing remotely salt of the earth about Trump. Yet they see him as one of their own. They embrace and close ranks around him.

Bourdain sputters in response to that.

I'm not sure what I would have done in his place, not sure what I would have said.

Maybe I would have skipped the whole discordant, inassimilable W. Virginia venue. Or maybe I would have solved all the "Let's Say Grace" occasions by saying, no disrespect,  I'm Jewish, that's not my prayer.

Or maybe I would have said the kind of thing that would have roused the good people of McDowell County to drop their good manners and become unpleasant.

I don't know that I could have stopped myself.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Hellboy: Or Fascism with American Characteristics

I like Hellboy as played by Ron Perlman. I like Hellboy way better than I do Batman, Superman or any of the Avengers. Hellboy isn't as thick and serious — as deep down turgid — as Hulk, Thor etc.. There's humor to him, and a bit of whimsy.  

So I respect his opinion a lot more than I would that of Ultron, Odin, Black Widow, Iron Man or the rest of that clunky, corporate bunch. And I'm not surprised in the least to learn that he detests Trump keenly, though it's nice to have it in his own words. Asked, for example, if he'd like to play Trump in a film, Perlman asked back, what's to play: "There’s nothing there to explore. He’s one-dimensional, and he’s not clever. He’d be very boring to play.”

Anything else Hellboy would like to point out about Scrump? Well, that he's "normalized things that are unconscionable, lies every time he speaks and has desensitized us to what a lie and the truth is. There is nothing to teach our children to aspire to, the ideals that are truly American. He’s got it all muddled. He’s supporting Nazis, he supports all of the things that autocrats support, destroying the credibility of the free press. He’s managing to speak to the lowest form of discourse. And he’s parlayed this into this hold he has on the GOP, and shown there is no patriotism in the GOP."

As for the cast of characters Trump has promoted or tried to — that band of fascists with American characteristics — “It seems for him the only way to maintain full control is to tear down everything that exists. The head of the EPA, he puts in a guy who protects polluters. The Treasury is supposed to protect the economy, and the guy he names protects the one-percent. Housing, he’s got this fucking idiot, I don’t know if he’s asleep or awake."

Note well the Marvel, DC and Disney big shots stay mum.

But Hellboy, he  can't help it, he speaks out.

Hellboy has no dual identity. He can't crawl back into Clark Kent or Steve Bannon or Bruce Wayne. He's Hellboy 24/7/365, with his tail, his horns and his sweet love of cats.

Hellboy has fought all kinds of heinous entities, the wonderfully named Wink, for example, in Hellboy II, and Sammael, the Seed of Destruction, Hound of Resurrection in the original. Hellboy has defended the Earth from Rasputin and monsters that hail from the Lovecraft dimension of   evil, older things, just waiting for the conjunction of forces that would let them break through. Hellboy has even defended the earth from Hellboy , shearing off his budding Hellboy horns when need be.

But you get the feeling even Hellboy and Perlman are debating how to deal with the "cardboard cutout piece of shitfuck," we in 2018 call president.  How is it possible? How could it happen? This question brings us to history, politics, philosophy and what may extend beyond these disciplines — comics.