Saturday, May 29, 2010

Open Thread for Joe and N. Friedman to Yell At Each Other

Y'all may have noticed that I post a lot on Israel, Jews, and anti-Semitism-related topics. Y'all also might have noticed that the comments to these posts have of late rapidly devolved into endless shouting matches between "joe" and "N. Friedman". These battles rage within a comment thread approximately forever, or until my next post on the topic, at which point they migrate seamlessly to the next thread and continue afresh.

Truly, their stamina is amazing. But it is also quite inefficient for the rest of us -- having to try and follow dozens of posts at a time to grasp every subtle maneuver and cutting insight. It would be far more convenient to have these arguments collected in one spot.

Plus, it might allow other folks to help develop a comment thread on what those posts are actually, you know, about (which, contrary to dominant belief, is not an overarching theorization of rights and wrongs in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict).

So, take it away boys. Be assured we're reading carefully.


joe said...

I take your point, David. Sorry for being so pugnacious. And indeed I doubt there's a new overarching I/P discussion under the sun.

N., in answer to your last couple posts, all I have to say is that your argument lacks a crucial link. You stress again and again the threat of eliminationist Islamist ideology exemplified by Hamas. But moral outrage does not a solution make.

You need to explain why your preferred plan will work. Why should we take it as given that the key to defeating that ideology lies with the hawks? After all, the U.S. has already been sold a bill of goods on "stopping Islamofascism" with the Iraq War. You'll forgive my skepticism of any kind of quick (let alone a long, drawn-out, and bloody) fix for a conflict that, as you have noted, has been going on the better part of a century.

N. Friedman said...


I do not recall advocating war. I am not a hawk and I certainly did not support the idea of going to war in Iraq. I do not think that democracy is coming to Iraq any more than it has come to the far more Westernized Lebanon. That is a fantasy. And, I do not see that we are serving any useful purpose there. Likewise, I think that the Afghanistan war is a waste of time and lives, even more so than the comparatively modernized Iraq.

My suggestion is that people check their views about what is right and wrong and their personal and business preferences at the door and, instead, look at the Arab regions as they actually are. That would save engaging in follies, as the Clinton and Bush administrations have both engaged and as the even less clearheaded Obama administration is engaging.

I recall reading some time back a NY Times article from WWI, which described how Britain had won back Jerusalem for Christianity. That was a startling article which, today, sounds like it came from a different planet, surely not from The New York Times. Yet, if you explore the matter, the article captured how educated people of that era really thought about the world.

I mention this point to note that, compared with the way educated people in the West thought at the time of WWI, the Arab regions continue to employ language which sounds even more distant, time wise. Reading what comes from the Arab regions includes a great amount of rhetoric which is akin to what appeared in Europe many, many centuries ago - enough that I think it is fit to say that there are a great many Medieval men in the Arab regions including among Palestinian Arabs. Surely, that is what we read in the blood curdling sermons, speeches and political covenants that come out of the Arab world as the norm and from establishment and Islamists as well.

At present, the ascending group - the group which seems to speak to what Arabs of Muslim background want - are Islamists. Islamism is a religious revival movement that takes traditional Islamic notions of Islamic supremacy and of a war to expand the House of Islam and combines them with Nazi formulations about what to do with Islam's enemies - actually, imaginary enemies that they have concocted - and about who the most important enemies of Islam are. Those enemies must, in their formulation, be eliminated - as in killed off - in order to save Islam from total destruction. And, Islamism makes eliminating the world's Jews into their God's highest command.

The problem that exists - even for a peacenik like me - is one that is likely to lead to war. Islamism is not capable of peace because it is an ideology that demands its followers triumph over and eliminate Islam's enemies. So, my view is that, in the end, my preference to find a peaceful way out will not prevail. For Israel, that means that, like it or not, if it wants to survive, it has to expect a lot of war.

So far as finding a way to resolve the Arab Israeli dispute, I do not think there is a resolution so long as the Islamists are ascendant. I think that it is a folly to push on the matter and will only serve to get a lot of Israelis and Palestinian Arabs killed. My solution is for the West to withdraw interest in the matter, treating it no differently than we treat the fight over Kashmir, which also has essentially no possibility of being resolved and for pretty much the same reasons - i.e. Islamism.

joe said...

Well then I am just very confused by your suggestion I should be backing the measures most likely to make Islamism less ascendant. But you never really state what those measures are beyond making analogies to Axis-era Germany and Japan. Now it seems like you're kind of suggesting a vague strategy of waiting Hamas out, so you've got me confused.

N. Friedman said...


My earlier suggestions were directed at specific comments you made, in particular about consequentialism. Which is to say, if one looks at the moral consequences of the matter - something I rather clearly reject as noted immediately above ("My suggestion is that people check their views about what is right and wrong ... at the door") -, the moral consequence of helping the Palestinian Arabs, most especially in Gaza, is to support an eliminationist party with widespread support among Palestinian Arabs. That, to me, is a morally abominable thing even to consider, one born of complete ignorance or by eliding what the Hamas and the other Islamists are really about.

My comment in the above post was directed to what I think should be done by the West, which is to walk away their interest in the matter - as in remove it as a cause célèbre and as not covering the ins and outs of the matter in the paper as if it were local news (as for example, the British left wing paper, The Guardian does) and as not allowing the Arabs to push it to the top of the UN agenda and as basically not caring one way or another who does what to who.

Were the dispute to be dialed down in the West, it would send the message to Hamas that their strategy does not work. That would have the benefit of potentially de-internationalizing the dispute and would force the parties either to deal with each other or not. Either way, it would be their problem to solve or not. If they deal with each other, they might work something out or not.

Now, it is possible that a genocidal movement like the Hamas will attack the West to advance its cause. If that occurs, the West will have to deal with them violently. But, that should be made clear beforehand so that there is no misunderstanding of what the response from the West would be.

My proposal has no chance of being accepted. Elements of the Left have made Israel central to their understanding of righting the world's wrong. However, there is movement by some intelligent people on the West whose views I find largely attractive. Among them are the flamboyant but, in fact, rather brilliant Bernard-Henri Lévy. His recent book, Left in Dark Times, is must reading for understanding the failures of the today's Left, a political philosophy which, as Lévy shows, has adopted largely extreme right wing positions, often consciously although at times unwittingly. The book is a must read, by the way, although a good portion of it is of interest only to people interested in France. However, the portion on the intellectual corruption of Left wing intellectuals and their complete betrayal of Left wing humanitarian principles in the face of Islamism and neo-Antisemitism is among the best pieces of intellectual writing in many, many years.