“Little Drummer Girl”: The Lowdown

I spent a fair bit of my Thanksgiving holiday watching the “Little Drummer Girl” mini-series on BBC/AMC, apparently the second film version of the John LeCarre novel of that name. Whether you’ve seen it or not, I’ve done the hard work in this post of distilling everything about it that you need to know.

On the plus side:

  • Yes, the cinematography is as lush and captivating as everyone is saying.
  • Yes, Florence Pugh is hot, and does a great job portraying her character, Charlie.
  • Yes, Alexander Skarsgard is hot, and does a great job portraying his character, Gadi.
  • Yes, they have good chemistry.
  • Yes, Michael Shannon is credible as a Mossad agent, or at least as credible as he needs to be to an audience consisting primarily of non-Mossad agents.
  • Yes, the series is worth watching, even with all of its flaws and at 6 hours’ showing time, and yes, it whets your appetite for the book (which I haven’t read).

Continue reading

What Friends Are For

…if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend I hope I should have the guts to betray my country. Such a choice may scandalize the modern reader, and he may stretch out his patriotic hand to the telephone at once and ring up the police….Love and loyalty to an individual can run counter to the claims of the State. When they do–down with the State, say I, which means that the State would down me.

E.M. Forster, “What I Believe

How are you dear friend?

Did you hear about the closing [of] the American consulate in Jerusalem that provide[s] services for Palestinians?

This means a lot for us as Palestinians because this denies our presence as if there are no Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West [B]ank. Imagine that my son wants to travel and study in the USA, where can he apply for his visa? I am very disappointed my friend. My dream is that my son will study English literature in the USA. Now, it’s impossible.

What Trump is doing against us is unbelievable! He is contributing [to] making our life harder.

Please dear friend we need your support to stop this.

A Palestinian friend of mine from the village of (Arab) Tekoa, outside Bethlehem, not to be confused with the nearby Israeli settlement of that name

Continue reading

No More Tears: The (Elizabeth) Warren of Identity Politics

So Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test is outrageous identity politics, but “Birthright” tours to Israel aren’t. I guess this is because it’s socially-approved virtue signaling in this country to attack a fake Cherokee, but anti-Semitism to attack the fake descendents of King David. Or maybe because DNA tests for tribal membership are racist identity politics, but Zionist archaeology is a fitting riposte to the Nuremberg Laws.

Here’s a thought: if Elizabeth Warren is Cherokee, and the Cherokee are one of the Ten Tribes of Israel, doesn’t that mean she’s Jewish and has a right of return to Israel? If so, maybe she can go to the West Bank and re-enact the Trail of Tears from Andrew Jackson’s perspective. Wouldn’t that be payback? And wouldn’t the contradictions involved shut just about everyone up in this stupid controversy?

BDS, Rawls, and “the Reasonable”

I’m curious what readers think of this New York Times piece on opposition to the BDS movement by the philosopher Joseph Levine (U Mass, Amherst). I myself don’t have a single univocal view on BDS; I agree with some aspects of it, and disagree with others. But I agree with Levine’s criticisms of the anti-BDS movement, which strikes me as sinister, dishonest, and dangerous (in part for the reasons he gives). Given that basic agreement, however, what struck my eye was Levine’s use of and reliance on Rawls’s conceptions of pluralism, comprehensive doctrines, and “the reasonable” to make his case. Is it uncharitably anti-Rawlsian to say that Levine’s appeal to Rawls is a pointless fifth wheel that does no useful work in his argument?

I’ve read my fair share of Rawls, but have never seen the point of (or argument for) the Rawlsian claim that appeal to comprehensive doctrines in political argument–in the context of “public reason”–is “unreasonable” simply qua comprehensive or unshared-by- others. The examples of unreasonability that Levine adduces are indeed examples of unreasonability, not because they appeal to “comprehensive doctrines,” but because they involve fallacious appeals to authority, poison the well, and are underdetermined by argument. As far as I can see, neither comprehensiveness nor not-being-widely-shared-by-others explains their unreasonability. So Rawls aside, it’s not clear to me why comprehensiveness is invoked. Continue reading

Letters to Our Ruling Class (2): Protesting the Gaza Killings

Jewish Voice for Peace Northern New Jersey Chapter

Call to Action on May 30, from 12-2 pm.:

Place: One Gateway Center, 7-45 Raymond Blvd, Newark, steps from Newark Penn Station.
Date and Time: Wed., May 30, from 12-2 p.m.

As many of you, we have been horrified, anguished, and grieved to witness Israeli snipers shooting down Palestinian protestors who posed no threat to their lives or the lives of those Israelis they claimed to be protecting. More than 100 Palestinians have already been killed and more than 10,000 wounded, many with bullets that shatter bone such that amputation may be the only outcome, given the limitations of treatment available in Gaza under siege for a decade. Children, women, people walking away from the fence, people just standing around, people clearly marked as Press, have all been targeted. We have held two protest vigils in Montclair to raise public awareness.

jvp.montclair

JVP Gaza Protest: Montclair, New Jersey (May 12, 2018)

As the largest recipient of US military aid, Israel should be subject to the US laws prohibiting the commission of such human right s abuses by those countries receiving military aid. Only 14 US Senators, led by Senator Bernie Sanders, signed on to a letter calling for such sanctions. Sadly, neither of our NJ Senators were signatories.

We will be bringing a letter to the Senators, and meeting in front of their Newark offices, to call on them to condemn actions of the IDF, and call for sanctions, at the same time, informing people of these issues. Please join us and bring others with you.

“An Enmity to One’s Being”: A Murder in Palestine

Put in mere prose, the event sounds so humdrum and everyday that the reader is apt to let it in through one ear, and let it out the other:

AFTER A TRIAL that lasted nearly four years, Ben Deri, a former member of Israel’s paramilitary border police force, was sentenced to nine months in jail on Wednesday for firing live ammunition through the chest of an unarmed Palestinian protester without having been ordered to do so.

But sometimes, seeing is believing, and sticks with you awhile:

People sometimes complain, justifiably, that video footage of a crime or atrocity distorts the event by truncation: you miss what preceded the footage, and what came after, to fixate unfairly on the slice in between. Harder to make that claim here. Continue reading

Fred Schlomka on Holocaust Remembrance Day

I’m taking the liberty of copying and pasting this (public) Facebook post by Fred Schlomka, the founder and director of Green Olive Tours in Israel/Palestine. I’ve gone on maybe five or six of Green Olive’s tours over the past few years, and have made lifelong friends on them while learning things I would never otherwise have figured out about Israel and Palestine. I’m profoundly grateful to Schlomka as well as his staff and guides for enriching the experiences I’ve had there, and admire his willingness to speak his mind on topics that so often elicit silence and evasion.  Continue reading

Hang ‘Em High: Abortion, Gaza, and the Gallows

This has now become the standard conservative line on the Kevin Williamson affair, care of Bret Stephens of The New York Times. The “you” refers to Kevin Williamson.

The case against you, as best as I can tell, rests on three charges. You think abortion is murder and tweeted — appallingly in my view — that doctors and women should perhaps be hanged for it. You believe “sex is a biological reality” and that gender should not be a choice. And you once boorishly described an African-American boy in East St. Louis, Ill., “raising his palms to his clavicles, elbows akimbo, in the universal gesture of primate territorial challenge.” …

Weighed against these charges are hundreds of thousands of words of smart, stylish and often hilarious commentary, criticism and reportage. …

Shouldn’t great prose and independent judgment count for something? Not according to your critics. We live in the age of guilt by pull-quote, abetted by a combination of lazy journalism, gullible readership, missing context, and technologies that make our every ill-considered utterance instantly accessible and utterly indelible. I jumped at your abortion comment, but for heaven’s sake, it was a tweet. When you write a whole book on the need to execute the tens of millions of American women who’ve had abortions, then I’ll worry.

We also live in an age — another one — of excommunication. This is ugly because its spirit is illiberal, and odd, because its consequences are negligible. Should The Atlantic foolishly succumb to pressure to rescind your job offer, you’ll still be widely read, presumably at National Review. If you’re really the barbarian your critics claim, you’re already through the gates.

The Atlantic did eventually rescind Williamson’s job offer, so I guess the barbarian has been ejected from the gates. Question in passing: if the consequences of the current spirit of excommunication are “negligible,” why the fuss? Continue reading

The “Borders” of Gaza

The violence in Gaza is too recent and sparsely reported to permit substantive comment. Having traveled to that “border” last July, however, and spent some time exploring the region around “it,” I would offer the following bit of advice to anyone who wants to follow the news about “it.” First get clear on what “it” is. Then figure out whether the reporting you’re following is as clear as it ought to be on what “the border” is, where “it” is, who is allowed to do what “there,” and how “it” works in practice.

This is the relevant point, as described by B’Tselem:

Israel treats an area inside the Gaza Strip, near the border fence, as its own territory, using it to create a “buffer zone” inside the already narrow Strip. After the second intifada broke out, the military declared a vast area near the Gaza-Israel border, much of it farmland, off-limits to Palestinians. It never officially announced this policy or clarified to the residents which areas exactly were off limits to them, which increases the danger they face.

I highly recommend reading the whole B’Tselem page on Gaza (the source of that excerpt), and indeed, reading as much of their material as possible.  Continue reading