It’s Already Happened There

A Facebook post (copy/pasted with permission) by Jeff Halper, Co-founder and Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, on the results of the recent Israeli election:

The most surprising thing about the Israeli elections is the surprise and “disappointment” expressed by liberal Zionists, in Israel and abroad. “How could this happen?” Shock at “the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.” As if anything has really changed except that Israelis no longer feel the need to dress up their settler regime in liberal, “democratic” terms. The fact that people are surprised means either that they have never grasped the meaning of Zionism – a case of mass self-delusion – or that they are embarrassed by the public exposure of their violent Judaization of Palestine.

In fact, the outcome of the elections was a natural consequence of the Zionist enterprise – indeed, the very culmination to which Israelis have aspired since 1948 (and well before). From its very beginning some 130 years ago, Zionism has been up-front over its intent to Judaize Palestine. To displace the indigenous population and replace it with Jews. To turn an Arab country into a Jewish one. To transform Palestine into Israel.

Casting Zionism as a settler colonial enterprise is not merely an academic exercise; it explains the necessary and ongoing the violence of conquest, displacement, land grabbing and ultimate repression, if not elimination, of another people whose very presence poses a challenge to exclusivist Jewish national claims to Palestine. Ben Gvir, odious as he may be, is simply the true face of Zionism that has been well hidden behind the suited and “moderate” politicians: Gans, whose election video a couple years ago featured him boasting of having killed 4000 “terrorists” in Gaza; Kohavi, the IDF Chief of Staff who just launched a billion dollar plan to boost the “lethality” of the IDF; Bennett, whose government oversaw an unprecedented peak of house demolitions; Labor and Meretz, the (Zionist) “Left” parties that never mention the occupation; and of course Netanyahu and all the others.

As long as people continue to view Israel as a normal country that just happens to be beset by a “terrorism” problem, they will continue to be surprised by election results and the heights of violence against Palestinians that Israel is capable of. Ben Gurion, Settler-in-Chief, would have been pleased by those results, but not surprised. Zionism’s supporters, American and European leaders at the head, might be less pleased because the unleashing of Netanyahu, Ben Gvir and Smotritch will expose their complicity in permitting Israel to carry out its settler agenda with impunity. They must reject the accusation of apartheid presented in painful detail by Amnesty, HRW, B’tselem and the UN.

Apartheid is today a fact. Zionism’s decades-old campaign of replacing Palestine by Israel has, in Israeli eyes, been accomplished. Israel is now in the process of mopping up. Prime Ministers Netanyahu and Bennett publicly support the annexation of the West Bank (not Gaza, God forbid). Only two things remain: breaking once and for all Palestinian resistance, a task Gans and Kohavi have readily accepted, the IDF and the settlers given a free hand; and the normalization of Israel’s apartheid regime over all of historic Palestine with the help of the international community, including the corrupt and repressive Arab regimes who rely on Israeli surveillance and technologies of repression to stay in power.

So let’s stop pretending that we didn’t know. Ben Gvir, Smotriych and their cronies are not an anomaly. The upcoming Netanyahu/Ben Gvir government is the “most right-wing” one only in its rhetoric, not in its policies. They are merely the product of Zionism’s 130 years of colonization. Only by formulating a program of decolonization, of thoroughly dismantling the structures of Israeli control and establishing a state of all its citizens (refugees included) can the Zionist project be defeated. The required intellectual honesty and political courage on the part of liberal Jews and “Left” Israelis is, however, totally lacking. It is incumbent upon Palestinians, supported by anti-Zionist Israelis, to mobilize the international grassroots towards the end of decolonizing Israel and liberating Palestine through an inclusive, shared civil democracy.

For a more decorous mainstream take, there’s always Thomas Friedman at The New York Times. But Friedman’s reaction is in a sense what Halper is referring to. Incidentally, note Friedman’s sly, subtle suggestion that Israeli settler violence is a problematic vigilante reaction to Palestinian violence.

Smotrich is known for, among other things, suggesting that Israeli Jewish mothers should be separated from Arab mothers in the maternity wards of Israeli hospitals. He has long advocated outright Israeli annexation of the West Bank and argued that there is “no such thing as Jewish terrorism” when it comes to settlers retaliating on their own against Palestinian violence.

Where and when was it established that the Palestinians were or are the initiators of violence? It doesn’t need to be established. That it doesn’t is the axiom that facilitates the Zionist enterprise in the first place.

“Life After Privacy”: Thoughts on Big Data (1)

A couple of months ago, while attending a conference on social philosophy, a participant mentioned in passing that she needed to recruit panelists for an Author-Meets-Critics session for a book on the ethico-political ramifications of Big Data. The book was Firmin DeBrabander’s Life After Privacy: Reclaiming Democracy in a Surveillance Society (Cambridge, 2020); the session was to take place at the APA Central Division meeting this February

As an (erstwhile?) philosopher who now works in Big Data, I thought it’d be interesting to give it a shot, so I volunteered. So for the next couple of posts, I’m going to subject you to my thoughts on Big Data (privacy, etc.), thoughts I’ve been piecing together for the eighteen months or so that I’ve spent in the industry. I thought I’d begin in this post with a neutral summary of DeBrabander’s book, move in later posts to some criticisms, and maybe offer some thoughts on what one learns while working in the industry that can’t be learned as a spectator.

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“Sovereignties, World Orders, and the Federalist Option”

I wanted to draw attention, however belatedly, to Sovereignties, World Orders, and the Federalist Option: Reviving Libertarian Foreign Policy, an issue of Cosmos and Taxis, Studies in Emergent Order and Organization (10:9-12) edited by my friend Brandon Christensen. Brandon is editor of the blog “Notes on Liberty” (now at a new location on Substack), and a long-time friend of PoT. The issue looks great, and I’m happy to see libertarians thinking in innovative ways about this much-neglected set of topics. Contents below the fold, with clickable hyperlinks. Continue reading

“Cities After COVID”

For your interest: a mini-symposium on “Cities After COVID” in TPM: The Philosophers’ Magazine. Yours truly has a bite-sized contribution about two-thirds of the way down, “The Pedestrian Death Crisis at the Intersection”: hyper-applied philosophy offered pro bono publicum. Thanks to Ian Olasov for putting the symposium together, and to everyone who’s had to endure the traffic/pedestrian safety rants that led to my essay. But don’t stop at that particular intersection; drive through and check out the whole thing.

“Pedagogy Under Occupation” Revisited

I’m mentioning this mostly pro forma, given the cost of registration, but I thought I’d announce that I’ll be giving a paper at the forthcoming conference of the Peace and Justice Studies Association. The paper is called “Between Indoctrination and False Neutrality: Pedagogy Under Occupation,” and is a re-conceived 18-minute version of this post from way back in 2015. The conference takes place October 13-16 at the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio, but for financial-logistical reasons, I’ve had to drop my plans to attend the on-ground conference, and opted to do one of the Zoom sessions instead. My presentation will be in the Sunday, 11 am session (Panel 8A). (Conference schedule in the first link above.) Continue reading

Atlas Tugged

Eight years ago, every sophisticated critic had the same sophisticated criticism to make of (the admittedly terrible) Atlas Shrugged movie: how absurdly anachronistic it was to think that a modern economy could depend on something as coarsely physical as railroads. OMG. SMH. According to the wisdom du jour, then as now, the future is digital–a condition that renders the world of crudely physical things dispensable.

Here we are, eight years later:

Union Pacific, a major rail carrier, also expressed relief at the deal. “We look forward to the unions ratifying these agreements and working with employees as we focus on restoring supply chain fluidity,” the company said in a statement.

Mr. Walsh wrote on Twitter that the agreement “balances the needs of workers, businesses, and our nation’s economy.”

“Our rail system is integral to our supply chain,” he said in a follow-up tweet, “and a disruption would have had catastrophic impacts on industries, travelers and families across the country.”

Curious Soul Workshop on Alienation

My friend Monica Vilhauer, founder and owner of Curious Soul Philosophy, an independent philosophy organization, is running a series of workshops this fall on alienation. I’d attend myself, but I’m on a bit of a hiatus from things nowadays, so I can’t. That said, I would if I could, so I highly recommend giving it a shot: I can vouch, personally, for Monica’s acumen and skills as a philosophical interlocutor. Whether you want to re-live your long-lost glory days in grad school, or just figure out why alienation seems to be a ubiquitous fixture of our lives–or both–I think you’ll get more than your money’s worth. Information below, and via this link to Monica’s website.Picture

Even if you happen to miss this particular workshop, take a look around at CSP’s other offerings–there’s a bit of something for everyone. Incidentally, I asked Monica if she’d consider doing a workshop on Gadamer (her AOS, and the subject of her book, Gadamer’s Ethics of Play), and she said she would if I could get a handful of people to sign on with me. In other words, For a fee/She’s happy to be/Our Gadamer Girl. That’s where you guys come in, PoT heads. So get your truth and method on, and let’s take a ride down Continental Lane one of these days (but yeah, you’re going to have to wait until I’m back from my Exile in Hiatusville). Continue reading

An Exponential Corporate Tax Based on Market Share

Apologies that my posts are much shorter than Irfan’s. But sometimes I have only the nugget of an idea that still seems worth developing enough to warrant sharing at a preliminary stage. I’ve done a lot of reflecting in recent years on the growing problems of oligopoly and monopoly in American commerce — having taught about this in an interdisciplinary course on Market Failures and Public Goods. It is not a ‘sexy’ issue that draws a lot of attention like culture wars material. And that’s a shame, because it is a far bigger part of “structural injustice” than many of the things discussed in the culture wars (imho). And, because most people finish high school without even 10 minutes on what public goods are and what kinds of problems prevent markets from working optimally, less than maybe 2% of Americans understand why big tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook etc. now have so much power and are driving up economic inequality by buying up every competitor or driving them out of business via unfair advantages. The root cause is what’s known as a network externality in which the goods being sold are not merely non-rival, but even anti-rival: because they become a “standard,” the more people use them, the more valuable they become. They are also get a critical edge in visibility, and no competitors can get over the threshold to compete well enough with them. The result is a so-called “long tail” distribution in which one company in a sector may get 50% of the profits, the next-strongest getting 10%, the third strongest getting 3%, and so on down through thousands each getting much less than 1%.

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Poet of the Sociopath

Rand “is the cold, stony advocate of self-interest, the poet of the sociopath.” That quotation is from the book AYN RAND AND THE RUSSIAN INTELLIGENTSIA (2022) by Derek Offord. He goes straight to Rand’s various representations and condemnations of altruism and collectivism and to her holding high ethical egoism and attendant inversions of traditional virtues, such as the displacement of humility with pride. He sees the audacity of Rand’s vision of a guilt-free human life.

The author sticks to the clashes between Rand’s ethics and the traditional, altruistic ones, secular or religious. He takes no notice of continuities of the old and the new and ways in which the latter took up the old with redefinition and placement in an orderly account of value per se. By sticking to only the stark clashes and by ignoring facets of the psychology of Rand’s protagonists—indeed conjecturing that such things as empathy and concern for others are entirely absent in those characters (and in their creator)— Offord makes it easy on himself to slide from Rand being the poet for personalities asocial, to antisocial, to sociopathical. Even the asocial is in full truth not fitting of Rand’s protagonists.

This book is another distortion and smear of Rand’s philosophy. It is a smart one, by someone who actually has read Rand’s novels and The Virtue of Selfishness. He is of independent mind, not one repeating old critical reviews by others.

https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/ayn-rand-and-the-russian-intelligentsia-9781350283947/