“A” Is for Occupation

In a post I wrote back in 2020 explaining the A-B-C system that structures the Israeli occupation of Palestine, I described Area A, the area supposedly under Palestinian control, as follows: 

Area A covers Palestinian urban centers, supposedly under full Palestinian control, both “civil” and “security” related…Area A is under “full” Palestinian control–except when Israeli military forces enter such an Area, as they often do, in which case “full” control becomes non-control for the duration.

Current events in Jenin illustrate this. Jenin is squarely in Area A. Area A is under full Palestinian control. But at the moment, Jenin is precisely not under Palestinian control. Apparently, some control is fuller than others. 

From The New York Times:

Israeli forces raided the occupied West Bank city of Jenin early Thursday, killing at least nine Palestinians, according to the Palestinian health ministry, and prompting the Palestinian Authority to suspend security coordination with Israel.

The number of dead has now risen to ten

How to describe what just happened? A Palestinian friend just wrote me, describing what happened in Jenin as an “invasion.” And if we took the charade of “full Palestinian civil and security control in Area A” seriously, that’s what we’d have to call it. When the forces of one country forcibly cross the borders of a regime in “full control” of the territory within those borders, “invasion” is usually the word we give to the action in question. The Russians don’t control all of Ukraine, or even all that much of it. But no one not employed by RT or the SVR doubts that the Russians have invaded Ukraine. Maybe the same principle should apply here. Maybe my friend is right: the Israelis have invaded Jenin. 

The reporters’ use of “raid” softens this impression: a raid is just a brief, militarily superficial skirmish. Is that what this was? Nothing in the article provides evidence for or against. But that’s the impression most American readers will get. And my impression is, that’s the impression they’re meant to get. 

The reporters’ use of “occupation,” though perfectly accurate, raises a puzzle: how can an area under full Palestinian civil and security control be “occupied”? Obviously “occupied” can’t mean “occupied by the Palestinian Authority”; it means “occupied by Israel.”  Spelled out, we get the following: 

Jenin, a city under full Palestinian civil and security control, is militarily occupied by Israel. 

That makes no semantic sense, but it’s the way the news is written, at least in the US. One can’t, after all, expect American reporters to describe Jenin as a city given the illusion of Palestinian control but held hostage by the Israeli army. Put that way, the Israelis begin to sound like terrorists. And putting things that way would complicate an elaborately-devised script to give the contrary impression.

jenin freedom theaterJenin Freedom Theater, Jenin Refugee Camp, August 2019

So what exactly happened? Who, in particular, started this phase in the “cycle of violence”? This paragraph struggles valiantly to explain: 

A gun battle between the Israeli troops and armed Palestinians broke out during the military raid, the Israeli Army and a local armed Palestinian group said. The Israeli military said it had responded with live rounds after coming under fire during the raid, which it said was aimed at apprehending members of the Islamic Jihad group who were involved in planning and executing multiple attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.

Both parties agree that a gun battle “broke out” during an Israeli military raid. But that’s too vacuous to be of much help: the causality involved is what gun battles have in common with acne. Both “break out,” but in very different ways. 

Who fired first? That’s unclear for two separate reasons. 

For one thing, the whole paragraph relies exclusively on the testimony of the Israeli military. It’s easy to forget, but “what the Israeli military said” is not a first-hand description of indisputable eyewitness fact. It’s a journalistic regurgitation of the official version of an invasion by the invading party. That version might end up being accurate, but it might also end up being somewhat inaccurate. In fact, it might end up being very inaccurate, or even being a wholesale pack of lies. American readers tend to forget that there’s a range of possibilities here, not just one. They also tend not to notice that despite this, the Israeli version of almost any such event quickly becomes both the first draft of history and its last. For just that reason, they’re liable to forget that both the first and last draft of the histories they read might very well consist largely of lies. Given this amnesia, they’re not bothered when the Israelis are given center stage and the Palestinians shoved off it. They’re primed to give credence to virtually any sound that comes out of an Israeli mouth. 

But set testimonial veracity aside for now. Let’s assume that the Israeli military is entirely to be trusted. The problem remains: even so, we’re given no evidence to decide who fired first–Israeli or otherwise, trustworthy or not. Whether you read the paragraph on its own, or put it in the larger context of the article, the verdict remains the same: we can’t be sure who fired first.

Not that “who fired first” necessarily disposes of the matter. Being the first to start shooting in a given encounter is often, but not always, what makes for aggression. It usually does in the case of ordinary crime, but there are non-ordinary cases where it doesn’t (and even pretty ordinary cases where it doesn’t). The party that fired first could be firing in self-defense at a party that while not firing first, was still the aggressor.  Smith’s illicitly crossing a morally significant boundary could justify Jones’s’s firing first against Smith, and render Smith wholly culpable for the encounter. To unravel the moral logic here, we first have to unravel the logic of the boundaries in place. What are they? How did they get there? How do we decide the moral ramifications of crossing them? But that’s exactly what you won’t find in a news article: what we need is moral philosophy, not journalism. That’s why news about the Israel-Palestine dispute seem so recalcitrantly inscrutable: the “facts” are unclear because the moral boundaries are. 

happy thoughts“Happy Thoughts”: from the market in Jenin Refugee Camp, August 2019

Let’s look again. I said it’s “unclear” who fired first, but a suggestion does poke through the haze. It comes through in this convoluted sentence: 

The Israeli military said it had responded to live rounds after coming under fire during the raid which it said was aimed at apprehending members of the Islamic Jihad group who were involved in planning and executing multiple attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians. 

The Israeli military said: we might question their say-so, but fine, let’s take it at face value for now. The Israeli military said it had responded to live rounds after coming under fire: at first sight, that certainly makes it sound as though the Palestinians had fired first. If the Israelis were “responding,” surely the Palestinians must have been attacking. But a closer look at the passage reveals either an editing snafu or a descent into gibberish. The Israeli military was responding to live rounds after coming under fire? What does that mean?

Consider phrases of the form 

A responded to x after y took place.

The phrase implies both that x and y are distinct events, and that A’s response to x took place after y took place. In other words, first y took place, then x took place, then A responded to x’s taking place. In the case at hand, that yields:

First the Israelis came under fire. Then there were live rounds. Then the Israelis responded to those live rounds.

But coming under fire just consists of coming under the fire of live rounds. What sense does it make to describe coming under fire and the presence of live rounds as though these were distinct things?  

shahidNotice of martyrdom, Zakriya Az-Zubaydi, Jenin Refugee Camp, August 2019

My hunch is that what the reporters were really trying to say is that the Israeli military responded with live rounds after they came under fire. Perhaps their intention was lost in the over-editing that required to generate this ill-begotten sentence. The intended implication, however, is pretty clear. It’s something like this: 

The Israeli military, sauntering innocently around the vicinity of Jenin, was regrettably forced to respond in kind to live rounds that were fired at them by Palestinian gunmen. 

Now go back once again to the original sentence. To be fair, the reporters do not simply say that the Israeli military said it it had responded to live rounds after coming under fire, full stop. They say that the Israeli military said it had responded to live rounds after coming under fire during [a] raid. If we ignore the fact that I’ve just inserted an indefinite article before “raid,” we might be led to conclude that the Palestinian gunfire was the response, and the Israeli raid the aggression. A raid, after all, is the kind of thing that might justifiably provoke a violent response. Read that way, the sentence almost seems fair and balanced. The Israeli military said it responded to live rounds, but then, those rounds were fired precisely because the Israelis were engaged in raiding the place. 

That’s if we read the sentence as saying, “the Israeli military responded to live rounds after coming under fire during a raid.” But this is not just “a” raid. This is a very specific raid, a raid so specific that a whole universe of unsupported facts has to be crammed into it like stuffing crammed into a discursive turkey: it is the raid which it said was aimed at apprehending members of the Islamic Jihad group who were involved in planning and executing multiple attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians. Oh what clauses must be laid when an army decides to invade.  

I would translate as follows: 

The Israeli military, sauntering innocently around the vicinity of Jenin, was regrettably forced to respond in kind to live rounds that were fired at them by Palestinian gunmen. And not just any gunmen, by the way, but members of Islamic Jihad, a group whose very name implies terrorism. As one would expect, Islamic Jihad, acting true to type, was, as per usual, involved in planning and executing multiple attacks on innocent people, which the Israeli military was trying, good Lord was it trying, to nip in the bud.

How do we know that this was the case? Well, only a fool would ask for evidence here; haters gonna hate, jihadis gonna jihad. Why else would they have a name like that?

And which innocent people was it planning to attack? Well, axiomatically innocent Israeli soldiers, for one–for instance, the kind that come inexplicably under attack when they raid cities under full Palestinian control. Also helpless, unarmed Israeli civilians for another: beautiful, thinking, feeling innocents; people with whole lives ahead of them, people like you and me. For instance, Israeli settlers in the general area of Samaria, aka Jenin, and members of the civilian self-defense organizations that protect them. 

There is, however, another way of translating all this:

The Israeli military, an occupying force, decided for its own unknown reasons to invade Jenin. The ensuing invasion was met by gunfire by unknown Palestinian gunmen. It is speculated that some of these gunmen were members of Islamic Jihad, a civilian self-defense organization famous for its rigidly conservative religious outlook. Islamic Jihad is thought by the Israeli government to have been involved in the planning and execution of attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians. But neutral observers point out that attacks on Israeli soldiers might well qualify as self-defense. Such observers also point out that attacks on members of paramilitary forces, though nominally “civilian,” might also qualify. 

What “neutral” observers do I have in mind? I’ll leave you guessing. If you didn’t ask after the identity of the Israeli military spokesperson, why ask here?

I’ve written a veritable disquisition on one badly written paragraph in one short article in one American newspaper. But this little disquisition, if successful, tells you something useful about the way news about Israel and Palestine is written in the US. It’s written with a presumption of authority that conceals its tendentiousness. It neither comes out and defends Israel, nor comes out and condemns Palestinian armed resistance. Instead, it gives the impression of steering a middle ground between unreasonable extremes while systematically working to promote the Israeli narrative. 

ya jeninJenin Refugee Camp, August 2019; note the graffiti-like marking on the right-hand wall (an arrow with “009”), which is a directional sign for the Israeli military, indicating that incursions into the refugee camp are mapped out well in advance

The impression it gives is that the West Bank is a lawless place governed in a de facto way by Muslim jihadis. Sometimes these jihadis get completely out of control, and when they do, the Israeli military is forced, regrettably, to bring things back under control. When it does, people regrettably get hurt. But, alas, the Israelis have no choice. They can’t surrender to jihadis, can they? They can’t accept Auschwitz borders, can they? They can’t be expected to turn the other cheek as violent gunmen run loose in the violent hinterland that happens to abut their peace-loving nation. 

No part of mainstream American coverage gives readers the resources to contemplate a very real possibility: that every claim in the preceding paragraph is bullshit–not just false, but the unashamed expression of a self-conscious, decades-long campaign of deception. What is “lawless” and “out of control” is the Israeli occupation. The only real “surrender” we’ve seen is the world’s surrender to that occupation, now in its 55th year. It’s the Palestinians who live in walled ghettos. It’s the Palestinians who are bombed to oblivion. It’s the Palestinians whose apartheid-defined borders condemn them to ethnic cleansing at Israeli hands. It’s Palestinians who are expected to turn the other cheek by the citizens of nations, like the United States, that glory in and were founded on violence. And the “violent hinterland” in question here doesn’t abut Israel: it now is Israel, and the violence that stalks it is largely Israel’s own creation. 

Americans are in denial about all this, and it’s no surprise why. After decades of news coverage consisting of puff pieces for the Israeli military, they can almost be excused for believing the bullshit they’re fed. Almost, but not quite. One way to avoid being taken in by propaganda is to take a hard look at what one reads or watches, and ask some fundamental questions of it: What happened? How do we know? And what moral norms are we presupposing in asking and answering those questions?

Eventually, as far as Israel and Palestine are concerned, you’ll come to a couple of unavoidable conclusions. One is that the story you’re hearing in the mainstream American press is radically incomplete. Second is that the people telling that story are radically unwilling to consider that very possibility. And third is that there’s a universe of discourse out there, beyond the mainstream, that’s radically willing to provide answers to many of the questions you may have. 

We’ve spent the last five-plus decades both financially and morally underwriting the Israeli occupation. We owe it not just to the warring parties but to ourselves to figure out why. That requires taking both a microscope and a sledgehammer to the mainstream narrative, subjecting it to a pathologist’s scrutiny, and smashing parts of it to pieces. The good news is that the coming generation seems increasingly willing to do that. The sad news is that so many of their predecessors weren’t.  

16 thoughts on ““A” Is for Occupation

  1. I agree with your analysis. Would it be true to say that Israel couldn’t survive without US help? Or perhaps it’s built enough relationships with surrounding states to be able to do so now. Morally I have no idea why we, in Australia as well as the US, take support for Israel as a given no matter what they do. Heart warming I suppose to see unconditional love flourishing among nations. In practical political terms I can see why we do, the Jewish vote being pretty influential. Plus the attraction of having a nation ‘like us’ as an ally in the midst of all those ullulating middle eastern types.

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    • “Would it be true to say that Israel couldn’t survive without US help?”

      Hard to say for certain, but I suspect so.

      “Morally I have no idea why we, in Australia as well as the US, take support for Israel as a given no matter what they do.”

      If you add France to the mix, I think you get a clear explanation. All three of these countries have histories that render them neurotically incapable of straight thought about racial or ethnic matters. By “neurotically incapable of straight thought,” I mean that all three oscillate between irrational extremes of shamelessness and self-flagellation without being able to find the rational mean between them. Three things tend to provoke this irrationality–settler-colonialism, anti-Semitism, and slavery. And two of the three are involved when it comes to Israel and Palestine.

      The US is a frontier nation established through a genocidal form of settler-colonialism. The fact of this genocide is regularly denied and forgotten today, as is its existing legacy. Americans tend to be relatively indifferent to the plight of our “Native Americans,” and over-compensate through self-flagellation over the legacy of slavery/segregation and anti-Semitism. I don’t mean that the latter two things weren’t shameful. I mean that Americans tend to fixate on them in ways that enable them to ignore how this continent was settled, and how the original acts of settlement continue to have real-life ramifications.

      At some point, the American civil rights movement forged an alliance with American Jews, and the two fought together against anti-black and anti-Jewish racism. But one tacit condition of this alliance was that advocates of black civil rights were never, ever to compare Israeli Zionism with the segregation they themselves suffered in this country. Instead, they were to defend Israel and police the anti-Semitism that sometimes cropped up in the black community. Until very recently, they kept up their end of the bargain.

      Until maybe five or ten years ago, if a non-black non-Jew had compared Israel to apartheid or American segregation (“Jim Crow”), they were considered guilty, not just of anti-Semitism (since anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism), but of appropriating Black History in a problematic way. A non-black person is obliged to pay obeisance to Black History, but not to use it in unconventional, non-accredited ways. You can make comparisons of Jim Crow to apartheid South Africa, but not of Jim Crow to the Zionist enterprise in Israel/Palestine. This has very recently started to change, but too recently to make a real difference to culture or to policy.

      As for ordinary non-Jewish white Americans, they see Palestinians in much the way their forbears saw Native Americans: as primitive sub-humans who don’t matter, and can be killed or relegated to ghettoes or reservations at will. These same Americans are typically indoctrinated in a very heavy dose of “Holocaust education” with unapologetically pro-Zionist overtones. Despite the US role in liberating Europe from the Third Reich, they’re also taught that “we did nothing to stop the Holocaust.” So, they conclude, the least we can do is to protect Israel unconditionally against The Barbarians. The result is just the neurotic reaction I mentioned. On the one hand, an acute hypersensitivity to the evils of anti-Semitism; on the other hand, total obliviousness to the consequences of Zionism for its victims. If you then add the outright Machiavellianism of the American political establishment, you get unconditional support for Israel.

      I know less about the Australian scene, but enough to know that the dynamic is basically similar. Australia has a complicated, sordid history vis-a-vis its indigenous population. Like the US, it’s a frontier nation established through a murderous form of settler-colonialism. But here we are, centuries later, and it’s not fully clear how to react to the past. One way is to engage in denial about the brutalities of history; another, for lack of anything better to do, is virtue-signaling self-flagellation. And from what I see of Australian discourse, both tendencies exist.

      The result, though, is that rational discourse about ethnic matters becomes difficult in a general way, and that starts to affect how Australians think about such matters as Israel and Zionism. Australian discourse about those things is just slightly less crazy than the American version. It’s really just a watered-down version of the same thing, subject to a similar dynamic.

      Something similar is true in France (maybe Belgium as well), except that in the French case, it’s the (guilt-laden) French reaction to Vichy and the (ambivalent) reaction to the settler-colonial enterprise in Algeria that does the work. Both of them distort the French response to Israel. Again, French discourse is not quite as crazy as American discourse, but it’s far from rational. And though French support for Israel is not quite as unconditional as ours, it’s close.

      For whatever reason, British discourse is much saner than any of these (but naturally, widely accused of anti-Semitism). Oddly, I don’t know the Canadian case all that well.

      Sorry, I had not meant to write such a long essay, but it’s a topic on which I have a lot to say. I’ve literally spent forty years studying American discourse on this topic–often from inside of Jewish institutions or arenas of discourse–and racking my brains for answers to the questions you’re asking. I’m more confident of my claims about the US than about the other cases, but I think the French and Australian cases are similar.


      • What you say about Australia is on the money. The discourse becomes about race, because either ‘we white Australians can never wipe out the stain of our colonising past’ or ‘you indigenous Australians are clearly a backward and incompetent underclass’. Whereas it’s really about how people live and how people want to live and how to bridge that gap or at least achieve some sort of equality. Indigenous people probably don’t aspire to sitting around in parks getting drunk and bashing each other up, and neither do white people. Yes it’s the result of horrific cultural disruption and a host of other things… economic disadvantage, racism, aspects of indigenous culture, geographical remoteness, etc… but we have to deal with the situation as it is now. Not the white we, necessarily, but the people concerned. Anyway, in Australia the situation is also largely ignored and ignorable outside the discussions on Sky News, liberal dinner tables and country truck stops. Because it’s all tucked away in outback towns mostly, and urban ghettos. Our current conversations about the Voice and the situation in Alice Springs is a good illustration of how conflicted we find ourselves, on the white side mostly but to a lesser extent on the indigenous, split between wanting symbolic gestures and actual change.

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        • I sat down last night, and read up a bit on the Alice Springs controversy. I can’t claim to understand it in all of its complexities, but I know more than I did yesterday, and it occurs to me that I ought to know more than I do now.

          In its general outlines, the controversy is very familiar. In American terms, it’s a cross between the debates we have here about the plight of African Americans in the inner city, and Native Americans on what we call “reservations.” Both the black inner city and Native American reservations are plagued with poverty and crime. In both cases, a similar dynamic arises: because the practical problems seem intractable, there’s a temptation to set them aside in favor of symbolic solutions. Once people opt for symbolism, the symbolic solutions become proxies for actual solutions. (As I write this, in the basement of Princeton’s Firestone library, I can hear a demonstration outside over the killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis. I sympathize, but the problem we actually face in this town is homelessness, caused in part by the university’s tax-free property holdings.)

          We actually have a nearly exact instance of the Alice Springs controversy in the town of White Clay, Nebraska, just outside of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Alcohol is banned on the reservation itself, but when reservation Indians get their welfare checks, they often just walk across the reservation border to “border towns” designed to sell them alcohol. They then drink themselves to death a few yards outside of the reservation.


          In the Alice Springs case, of course, the immediate problem is not passive suicide, but mayhem. There are no easy answers here. One obviously can’t have 300-400 lawless kids rampaging drunk through town. And yet such phenomena can neither be resolved long-term by police action, nor short-term by installing an indigenous “Voice” in Parliament. I’m not opposed to either thing; I’m just skeptical that either thing will really resolve the problem. Eliminating alcohol sales may help, but hasn’t really helped in the American case, and raises the uncomfortable question of whether it’s right to impose wholesale paternalism on a single ethnic group or in a specific location. There’s a kind of Taliban-like air to it.

          On the one hand, much of this is the legacy of settler-colonialism, but on the other, repeatedly invoking that fact doesn’t actually solve problems. Neither does dismantling offensive statues.

          I hesitate to say more, since I know so little. The one thing I would say is that the cases of African Americans, Native Americans, and Indigenous Australians are more similar to one another than any of the three is to the situation of West Bank Palestinians. West Bank Palestinians are a militarily subjugated population, treated in effect as enemy aliens even in the homes they inhabit. American reservations and inner cities are depressing places, but not literal theaters of war. I suspect that the Australian case is similar. The West Bank, by contrast, is a war zone, and is only going to get worse in the near future.

          For the uninitiated:




          Not on Alice Springs per se, but related:


            • I just ran into this article on Alice Springs. Just to forewarn you: it’s from a neo-Nazi website, and the author is an all-out white nationalist racist. But it’s the only in-depth discussion of Alice Springs I was able to find in an American source.


              I didn’t do a very extensive search, but the only in-depth discussion I saw from a normal publication was this one, dating back to 2018.


              The CounterCurrents piece is frankly disgusting, but it has a certain diagnostic value. For one thing, if ever you think that the Left has gone too far in its “woke” pieties (and it often does, I admit), just re-read “Jim Goad,” and you’ll be able to put things in perspective. Even at its worst, the Left isn’t quite as bad as that.

              Coming the other way around, I find it interesting that for all its talk about trauma, the Left seems unable or unwilling to deal directly with the dysfunctional nature of Aboriginal society. The Griffith Review piece gives no hint of what’s to come in Alice Springs–an ungoverned, alcohol-fueled crime spree. But that surely didn’t spring into existence one fine desert night. It’s been a long time in the making.

              So the neo-Nazi Right wants to explain things by eugenics, and the Left wants to explain things by the economics of discrimination. What’s lost here is any sense that trauma gets passed on from generation to generation, and creates psychological dysfunction. It would do so to people of any genetic makeup, and it will not be resolved if you change the economic variables. Things are just not that simple.

              The Alice Springs controversy is remarkably like the one over White Clay and Pine Ridge in the US. The interesting difference is that Alice Springs is a national controversy whereas White Clay is a regional one. But the issues are basically the same, as are the responses.


              • The moderate right here is in favour of alcohol and welfare spending restrictions and the like. Which do work, up to a point, but to some extent deprive people of agency. The left tend to see that as a restriction of human rights, which it is. Insofar as the situation has a context, and causes, aspects like multi generational trauma and cultural disruption have got to be relevant. But if you encourage people to think of themselves as oppressed victims, they’ll jump on like it’s the last train to paradise. And then, why bother doing anything, it’s the oppressor who has to act, by entering a treaty or apologising or providing more funding or whatever. The trouble with vile Nazi stuff like counter currents is that it would have little power to influence views if it didn’t contain a germ of truth, or at least, if the politically correct view didn’t involve some cognitive dissonance. On the one hand there’s a Rousseau like idealization of indigeneity and concepts like attachment to country and the dreaming. On the other hand people see drunken indigenous people strewing ‘country’ with rubbish and beer cans and leaving their kids hungry to buy alcohol. The problem as I see it is that we want to look at things in ideological terms, on both sides of the debate, and that gets in the way of actually improving the situation on the ground. That’s true of a lot of human problems. https://amp.abc.net.au/article/101921210 is interesting… there’s a lot of good perspectives on the ABC, if you can access it and can be bothered.

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                • That’s dead on. I wish I had written it. I will probably end up plagiarizing it somehow. It’s all dead-on, but this sentence is worth the price of the ticket by itself:

                  The trouble with vile Nazi stuff like counter currents is that it would have little power to influence views if it didn’t contain a germ of truth, or at least, if the politically correct view didn’t involve some cognitive dissonance.

                  Very true. And if we saddle speech with endless restrictions and taboos, the cognitive dissonance will never resolve, conveniently both for Nazis and for people in denial. We need to salvage the grain of truth in fascist discourse without adopting the terms of their discourse. But just saying that indicates the steepness of the climb involved for anyone who decided to give it a try.


                • Thanks for the ABC reference. I wasn’t previously familiar with it. You’ve now belatedly gotten me interested in Australia beyond AC/DC. I know Australians, I’ve taught Australians, and both friends and relatives have gone to school there, but I’m totally ignorant of the place. I don’t know what took me so long to get interested.


              • And yes, you’re absolutely right, the issues with reservations are the same. Treating people like shit has consequences for the victor as well as the victim, and it’s a pity the world’s great powers haven’t yet realised that ultimately, ethical policy is strategic.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Well, in the American case, Americans have taken two centuries to realize that Machiavellianism is what triumphs. Native Americans and their concerns are totally marginal in American politics. There are maybe 2.6 million Native Americans out of a total US population of 330 million. Of those 2.6 million, only a tiny fraction live on the poorest reservations. The total population of Pine Ridge is maybe 20,000, and of neighboring Rosebud, 11,000. It’s easier to wait for them all to assimilate or die.

                  When I went to White Clay a few years ago, and saw up close what the place was like, I could only think: “This is the meaning of conquest, victory, and defeat.” Reservations are only too obviously places where people are set up for failure. I’ve been in some of the poorest, angriest places in the world–slums and refugee camps–but had never seen despair quite like that. It was just a human dead end.

                  I drove past it, took a long, silent drive through northern Nebraska, and then back to the border town of Martin, South Dakota, where I was staying. I didn’t know what to think or say. I found that I couldn’t really write about it. The images just hung there in my mind with nowhere to go, like the people themselves.


                • That’s a perfect, terrible way to put it. This is the meaning of conquest, victory and defeat. Especially when the culture of the victor is materially and technologically millennia ahead. The Romans inflicted defeat and it must have been painful but really there were only a few centuries of ‘development’ for want of a better word between them and say the Gauls. Humans have never been confronted with such a huge cultural gap before the relatively modern age. It would make for an interesting sci fi scenario… the advanced aliens taking over earth, and humans coping as best they can with the aid of drugs, etc while the aliens ring their hands or write polemics about their inferiority.

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  2. I’d think not only “invasion” easily applies, but “aggression”.

    Firing the first shot at a foreign military force crossing one’s boundary is a routine and rightful act.

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    • I actually have video footage of the Israeli incursion into Jenin that I’m going to upload onto the blog sometime this weekend. It’s impossible to describe it as a “raid.” And it’s becoming clear to me that the action in Jenin is not an isolated one, but part of a coordinated attack on the whole of the West Bank. The American press is only reporting on Jenin, but the Israeli military is entering towns and villages across the West Bank. The police is stepping up its actions in Jerusalem. My suspicion is that this is the initial phase of an attempt to consolidate the Israeli hold on the West Bank, and eventually, to annex it.

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