The ‘Tent of Nations’ Tragedy (1)

The Tent of Nations (aka “Nassar’s Farm”) is, or perhaps was, a small produce farm located southwest of Bethlehem, Palestine, and has been the subject of a decades-long property dispute with a set of Israeli settlers. I visited the farm back in August 2019, and had intended to return some day to do volunteer work there.

Given recent news of the farm’s tragic destruction by fire, very likely arson (see below), I now wonder whether a return to Nassar’s Farm is possible. I post the Facebook announcement below as an indication of what everyday life is like for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories–the undiscussed and unacknowledged injustices and tragedies that make up their everyday lives.

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Anti-Semitism, Complicity, and Palestine

This piece by Jonathan Cook offers a straightforward defense of moral responsibility with respect to Israel (or, in principle, anything else): if you defend what it does, you share moral responsibility for what it does. Because “the West” collectively defends Israel so uncritically (particularly “Western” governments that give Israel both material and moral/political support), “the West” is complicit in Israel’s crimes in ways that it’s not complicit in other, equally unjust, or worse crimes. It’s legitimate in this context for citizens of “Western” governments to single Israel out for special criticism.

One legitimate motive for doing so is to avoid moral complicity in Israel’s crimes via support given to the governments that abet these crimes. There certainly are other, illegitimate motives as well, e.g., anti-Semitism. But the illegitimate motives don’t negate or cancel out the legitimate ones. Their existence just requires disavowal–once again, to avoid complicity in them. In fact, responsible partisans of the Palestinian cause have always disavowed anti-Semitism. It’s pro-Israel organizations, in North America as well as Europe (not to mention in Israel itself), that have served up endless rationalizations for Israel’s crimes, and endless defamations of its critics.

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Hamas, Civilians, and Hypocrisy

It’s become common wisdom in American political discourse that what distinguishes Hamas’s military tactics from Israel’s is that Hamas deliberately targets civilians while Israel does not. Both halves of this assertion strike me as highly dubious. It’s hardly clear that Israel doesn’t target civilians, whether deliberately or recklessly, but let me save that topic for another day. What’s also unclear is that Hamas deliberately (as opposed to recklessly) targets civilians, but I’ll leave that one for another day as well. The assumption I want to focus on here is whether the targets Hamas is hitting are as unambiguously “civilian” as is widely assumed.

Put more precisely, the issue is whether the targets make or don’t make a causal contribution to combat, and if so, to what degree. A civilian leader who issues a command to his military may  ex hypothesi be a “civilian,” but in his role as commander-in-chief of his country’s military forces may also be responsible for military commands, and in that respect be a morally legitimate target in warfare. An ordinary civilian who makes a self-conscious moral or material contribution to combat undertaken by others, but shrinks from engaging in combat in himself, does not by his reluctance to fight immunize himself from being targeted. He’s taken actions of a kind that mark him out for targeting.

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Historical addendum to “Universals and Measurement”

Grandson Julian, who shared his development with me from age one to two while I was producing U&M

Firstly, my usual caveat on the theory.

There are, I say, some indispensable concepts we should not expect to be susceptible to being cast under a measurement-omission form of concepts. Among these would be the logical constants such as negation, conjunction, or disjunction. The different occasions of these concepts are substitution units under them, but the occasions under these concepts are not with any measure values along dimensions, not with any measure values on any measure scale having the structure of ordinal scale or above. Similarly, it would seem that logical concepts on which the fundamental concepts of set theory and mathematical category theory rely have substitution units, but not measure-value units at ordinal or above. The membership concept, back of substitution units and sets, hence back of concepts, is also a concept whose units are only substitution units. Indeed, all of the logical concepts required as presupposition of arithmetic and measurement have only substitution units. Still, to claim that all concretes can be subsumed under some concept(s) other than those said concept(s) having not only substitution units, but measure values at ordinal or above, is a very substantial claim about all concrete particulars.

The notes below do not go to the truth or importance of Rand’s theory (and its presuppositions), only to its originality or uniqueness and its relations to other theories in the history of philosophy.

Woke Conspiracies and Zionist Ones

People on the American Right sincerely seem to believe that “woke” ideology is so terrible and pervasive a phenomenon that it can be compared to a conspiratorial form of totalitarianism sweeping the country.

David Brooks, in The New York Times:

My friend Rod Dreher recently had a blog post for The American Conservative called “Why Are Conservatives in Despair?” He explained that conservatives are in despair because a hostile ideology — wokeness or social justice or critical race theory — is sweeping across America the way Bolshevism swept across the Russian Empire before the October Revolution in 1917.

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A Welcome Tension: AOC, the Democrats, and Palestine

So it looks like decades of activism are finally, very gradually, starting to pay off in the form of polarization within the Democratic Party over Israel and Palestine. This didn’t happen by activists’ genuflecting before the prevarications and dogmatism of the mindlessly pro-Israel wing of the party, including Joe Biden. It happened through open, unapologetic confrontation.

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Tomfoolery in the Overhead Compartment

The Agoric Cafe is serving once again!

In my latest video, I chat with globetrotting, gunslinging, contraband-smuggling libertarian scholar Tom G. Palmer on the legitimacy of self-defense; the militarisation of police; prison abolitionism; the wars on drugs, guns, and gays; the economics and ethics of bounty hunting; the French liberal demystification of the state; lawlessness vs. anarchy; the perversities of the FDA and CDC; Afghan libertarianism; hatred as a treacherous muse; how to sneak a photocopy machine into the Soviet bloc; and the height of the sky.

GoFundMe Request: Tanya O’Malley

I wanted to share this GoFundMe request, a fundraiser for the equivalent of a scholarship for a young woman named Tanya O’Malley.

I met Tanya on a flight home from Rome back in 2016, after I’d spent the summer in Palestine, and she’d spent hers in Italy. We were total strangers to one another, mere seatmates on a nine-hour flight.

Instead of ignoring each other, or sleeping through the flight, we had an intense nine hour conversation…about education! And she initiated it, not me. She was at the time a 17-year-old high school student, and I was a 47-year-old college professor, but our thirty-year age difference melted away in nine hours (sooner, really). We became friends, and remain friends five years later.

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Character-Based Voting Revisited Yet Again

Readers of this blog know of my obsession with the topic of character-based voting. Suppose that we accept some workable distinction between matters of character and matters of policy with respect to politicians and political candidates, each a potential consideration for or against their continued stay in office or their candidacy.* What role should judgments of character play? Is it ever justifiable to vote for or against a candidate (or support or remove a sitting candidate) on grounds of character abstracted from considerations of policy? Clearest version of the question: can a person’s moral character ever be bad enough to disqualify him or her from office independently of anything we know about their views on policy, or even in defiance of the knowledge that they have the “right” views on policy?

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