Anti-Semitism: A Pro-Palestinian Rejection

In case anyone had missed the message, the cause of and movement for Palestinian rights is flatly incompatible with anti-Semitism. Put differently, there is no justifiable way of being in favor of Palestinian rights on anti-Semitic grounds or for anti-Semitic ends. When anti-Semites try to appropriate the Palestinian cause for their own purposes, or hijack the cause by attacking innocent Jews, consistent defenders of Palestinian rights are among the first–and loudest and clearest–to call them out. Here’s a piece from CommonDreams for anyone who still has doubts about the supposed “connection” between anti-Semitism and Palestinian rights (ht: Kevin Carson). There is no connection, just the wholehearted disavowal of one.

Continue reading

Auschwitz: Some Reminders

This Monday, January 27, marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. We’re constantly being enjoined “never to forget” the significance of this day. Just to remind you of what actually happened on January 27, 1945: the Red Army defeated the Wehrmacht, wresting Auschwitz from the Nazis, liberating its inmates in one sense, and “liberating” Poland in a somewhat different one. Recall that it was the Soviet government that, in league with the Nazis, carved up and invaded Poland to start the war in the first place. Had they not done so, there might never have been an Auschwitz. And recall that we then spent the Cold War fighting the government of this same Red Army, which arguably went on to instigate the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, and commit genocide in Afghanistan. Continue reading

Consent to State Legitimacy vs. Voluntary Obedience to Law?

Sorry to be so convoluted about the attributions and citations here, but Brandon Christensen over at Notes on Liberty drew my attention to this post by Arnold Kling on Yoram Hazony’s recent book on nationalism. I haven’t read Hazony’s book, but Kling’s post is meant to be an explication both for readers and interested non-readers alike. Here’s what he (Kling) says:

A long post, below the fold, offering my [Kling’s] charitable interpretation of what he [Hazony] is saying.

1. We have three options for government, two of which are very unpleasant: anarchy; repression; or legitimate government. With anarchy, people don’t obey the law. With repression, they obey with great reluctance and only if carefully watched. With legitimate government, they obey the law voluntarily.

2. Legitimate government means that people willingly make sacrifices, such as paying taxes and serving in the armed forces, to help sustain that government.

3. Contrary to the theories of John Locke and others, legitimacy does not come from consent. It first requires that people have a sense of commonality. This comes from common traditions and cultural focal points. These might include language, religion, holidays, moral codes, social narratives, etc. Without this sense of commonality, a state has to default to anarchy or repression.

I don’t understand this. Does anyone? Not a rhetorical question. Maybe it’s laid out in the book, but at face value, this set of claims makes no sense to me.

Claim (1) says that if we put aside anarchy or repression, we’re left with a legitimate government whose laws we obey “voluntarily.” That sounds to me as though the laws of a legitimate government are consented-to. If the government’s constitution is law, we would, presumably, consent to that, too.

Claim (2) says that if our government is legitimate, we “willingly” make sacrifices for it. That seems to imply that the sacrifices we make are consented-to along with the laws.

But claim (3) says that legitimacy does not come from consent. It seems to imply that consent is not a necessary condition for legitimacy, either. To avoid tangles about such jargon as “legitimacy,” “authority,” and the like: it says that no one need consent to a government before that government can justly or permissibly govern those it governs.

Maybe there’s no overt contradiction there, but the claims obviously do not cohere. If we obey the laws (including the constitution) by consent, and sacrifice for government by consent, why wouldn’t we consent to the legitimacy of government itself? What rationale is there for saying that people who consent to the constitution of a government don’t consent to the government itself? At a minimum, why wouldn’t we consent to the legitimacy of a government that does all and only legitimate things, or at least approximated doing so? Without an answer to such questions, it’s hard to see how claims (1)-(3) make even minimal sense.

Nothing in Kling’s explication of (3) addresses the relevant issue. You could reject Lockean consent theories and still endorse the claim that consent was a necessary condition for legitimacy. Rejection of Lockean consent isn’t rejection of consent. You could say that consent requires ethno-national “commonality” and still think that consent was a necessary condition for legitimacy: X’s being a necessary condition for Y doesn’t imply that Y can’t be a necessary condition for Z. So my bafflement remains.

Coming the other way around: People could have a sense of ethno-national “commonality” but fail to consent to the state. For instance: lots of Jews have lots of things in common without consenting to the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Is the legitimacy of the state then underwritten by ethno-national commonality sans consent? Does the state govern people simply because they belong to the same ethno-national group, whether they consent to it or not?

Questions in the same vicinity: a majority of the people on some territory might have a sense of commonality and, invoking that, consent to the state while leaving an ethnic or other minority outside of that perceived sense of ethno-national commonality or consenting cohort. Does the state then have the right to govern the minority community that fails to consent? Supposing they do, what did consent have to do with anything? How can it be said that a minority community that happens to live in the same territory as an ethno-national majority “willingly” obeys the laws of the state and “willingly” sacrifices to the state even if it actively refuses to consent to the state and actively rejects the functional equivalent of that state’s constitution?

This isn’t the first time I’ve read Hazony and been baffled, not just by what he says (or in this case, is understood to say) but by others’ reactions to it. I guess the first time was when Hazony brought Meir Kahane to my undergraduate institution, had Kahane defend the proposition that the Palestinians of the West Bank be driven out or killed in the name of “the virtue of nationalism“–and then defended him as the audience nodded in agreement and laughed at Kahane’s jokes. I’m disinclined to show such a person “charity” of any kind even thirty years after the fact, and don’t really see why anyone should. Cruel, I know. But in the world we currently inhabit, prudent.

(Apologies, couldn’t get the “Continue reading” tag to work on this post.)

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

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 Balfour Declaration: 100+ Years of Ethno-Nationalist Apologetics

Some food for thought, in “commemoration” of the Balfour Declaration, drafted 31 October 1917, adopted by the British Government 2 November 1917.

(1) Lord Arthur Balfour, speech to Parliament on the need for the British to retain control of Egypt (1910)

First of all, look at the facts of the case. Western nations as soon as they emerge into history show the beginnings of those capacities for self-government…having merits of their own…You may look through the whole history of the Orientals in what is called, broadly speaking, the East, and you never find traces of self-government. All their great centuries–and they have been great–have been passed under absolute government. All their great contributions to civilisation–and they have been great–have been made under that form of government. Conquerer has succeeded conqueror; one domination has followed another; but never in all of the revolutions of fate and fortune have you seen one of those nations of its own motion establish what we, from a Western point of view, call self-government. (Quoted in Edward Said, Orientalism, p. 33)

(2) Balfour Declaration, Zionist Draft (July 1917)

  1. His Majesty’s Government accepts the principle that Palestine should be reconstituted as the national home of the Jewish people.

  2. His Majesty’s Government will use its best endeavours to secure the achievement of this object and will discuss the necessary methods and means with the Zionist Organisation.

(3) Balfour Declaration, Final Draft, (finalized 31 October 1917, adopted 2 November 1917)

His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. (Both drafts quoted in Charles D. Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents, 8th ed., p. 94)

Continue reading

Philip Weiss’s “The World the Settlers Made”

When I was in Palestine last summer, I mentioned that I was going to be spending some time visiting Jewish settlements in the West Bank. I ended up doing less of that than I had planned. And though I did some, I never got the chance to write about it here. Since then, I’ve just let the experience fester in some dark corner of my brain, watching the “third intifada” from afar with that experience in mind. Part of the reason for failing to write was, as usual, lack of time. But part of it was that I met people out there who knew more than me, had spent more time there than me, and were likely to do a better job than me at saying what needed to be said.

Continue reading

Stereotypes and Muslim Presidents

Jose Duarte has an intelligent blog post on the Ben Carson/Muslim President controversy over at Medium. I respond to some of Duarte’s critics in the combox of his blog.

Carson’s comments are all over the place, but here’s a link to the CNN version.

I’m not a believing or practicing Muslim, so my comments at Duarte’s blog shouldn’t be construed as a defense of Islam per se; they’re intended as criticism of the incredible hypocrisy and culpable ignorance of people like Carson and those who agree with him.

For documentation of my comments on political Catholicism, I’d suggest reading Geoffrey Robertson’s The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Violations. For documentation of what I say about political Judaism, I’d suggest reading John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s much-derided but in my view unrebutted The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.  Here’s Robert Menendez on the holiday of Purim. This is how Menendez’s thoughts on Purim were received by some of my supposedly civilized Jewish neighbors here in New Jersey–a rabbi, no less.* For a mind-blowing defense of the Book of Esther–including an explicit defense of collective punishment and mass murder–I would suggest reading Yoram Hazony’s The Dawn: Political Teachings of the Book of Esther. And here is the full text of the Book of Esther itself, which you can probably get through in about half an hour or so.

The more of this anti-Muslim hypocrisy I hear, the more I feel like reverting back to Islam and declaring a jihad against the unbelievers. If I could get over the whole God thing (heaven, hell, angels, Satan, miracles, prophets, etc.), I’d do it in a heartbeat.

Wow, I should probably be careful with these cardiac metaphors.  “Know that God comes between a man and his heart…” (Qur’an, 8:24).

*Postscript: I had originally said “Menendez’s comments” rather than “Menendez’s thoughts.” Just to be clear: the author of the blog post begins his post by praising a 2015 Menendez speech at AIPAC, but then goes on to praise Donniell Hartman’s claims about Purim in 2015, not Menendez’s comments as voiced in the 2014 speech I link to above. (Actually, Hartman goes farther than Menendez in endorsing the claims of the Book of Esther.) So the author wasn’t literally responding to Menendez’s comments on Purim.

This ends up being a distinction without a difference, because Menendez 2014 and Hartman 2015 are saying virtually the same thing about Purim. Anyway, since “thoughts” is a little more precise than “comments,” I’ve modified the post.

Postscript, October 7, 2015: It’s hard to know how to comment on something like this, except to wonder out loud how “mainstream” political discourse in this country has descended to a level this idiotic. How did we get to the point at which well-paid people shovel pure garbage onto the nation’s airwaves, regard it as political commentary, influence the electorate, and get taken for granted for doing so?

Postscript(s), October 10, 2015: A useful item worth reading on this topic. Hat-tip: Fauzia Qureishi and my Mom.

Things just keep getting better.

Rally organizers in New York City suggest demonstrators target mosques in all five boroughs. In Dearborn, Michigan, protesters are being asked to bring their weapons for an “open carry, anti-mosque, pro-America rally.”

I’m just waiting for the pro-gun types to say, “Well, if the Muslims want to protect themselves, they should just make sure to be as heavily armed as the protesters.” Actually, shouldn’t Ben Carson be saying that? Maybe next week we can look forward to the Retaliatory Rally Against the Judeo-Christian Tradition, featuring large mobs of armed Muslims gathering in front of churches and synagogues.

I’m trying to remember why my family fled the insanity of sectarian strife in Pakistan for the U.S., but it’s not coming to me at the moment. All I know is that escape to Israel or Turkey is not an option. Or Pakistan, India, or Syria. Even Canada is becoming iffy.  There’ll always be an England? 

Puerto Rico?