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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar Roque Nuevo
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    says:

    this assault on top of a blockade, carried out with an “iron fist” as the US was in transition from one president to another was backed by a resolution carried by unanimous consent in the Senate, and with only 5 votes against in the House. American public opinion, as Glenn Greenwald noted, was evenly divided, and Democrats sided more with the Palestinians enduring a blitz with some white phosphorus thrown into the mix. Is there any plausible explanation for this discrepancy apart from the Walt-Mearsheimer one?

    “This assault on top of a blockade” was not an assault—an assault is an an aggressive attack. Israel was acting in self-defense so the phrase should read, “this counterattack on top of a blockade.” It’s not a trivial point—Sullivan (and you) are skewing the debate with such tendentious wording. The blockade was declared because Hamas refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce violence, and abide by previous agreements between the PA and Israel. Just so readers can see that Israel might have a point here in blockading an entity intent on destroying it and its people—indeed, intent on destroying Jews everywhere. It’s been shown that the white phosphorus was used for illumination of the battlefield and not as a weapon against the Palestinians.

    What is the Walt-Mearsheimer explanation for this? Am I correct in assuming that this would be that the US government lives in the Jew’s pockets? Jews have corrupted the US government somehow to obey their will, which is antithetical to US interests in themselves? Therefore support for Israel is because of their malevolent influence in pursuit of dark and hidden ends? Stuff like that? Stuff like an updated Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

    I have no doubt that some of Sullivan’s best friends are Jews, but how can this uncritical echoing of another blood libel (the white phosphorous canard), on top of the Elders-like “theory” of power not be called anti Semitic?

    You profess to be “shocked, shocked” by the fact that the Senate does not vote according to the latest opinion polls. The key fact (to you and your fellow “mild supporters of Israel”) is that the Gaza operation “felt so pointless” and it wasn’t considered in the resolution. Very odd, what? Smacks of dishonesty. Is there really a nefarious conspiracy afoot here?

    So I checked by copy of the Federalist so see what Madison (Federalist #62) thought of the Senate: “… at once a constitutional recognition of the portion of sovereignty remaining in the individual states, and an instrument for preserving that residuary sovereignty.” The Senate represents the national power of the states, not opinion polls. In fact, Madison thought that an important purpose of the Senate was to check the very tendency, which you hold up as an inalienable duty, to “yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions.”

    But, let’s check this “wrong-headed resolution” in some detail and see why it’s so wrong-headed. I’ve looked at it and I can’t find anything I can call wrong-headed so easily as you can. Can you explain?

    The resolution says

    That Israel was acting in self-defense
    That Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel and is designated by the US government as a terrorist organization
    That Hamas has not complied with the demands of the Quartet (the same three demands I referred to above)
    That Hamas has launched thousands of rockets indiscriminately against Israeli population centers and is acquiring more powerful rocket technology
    That the Israeli operation was to improve security of Israeli cities under Hamas rocket attacks
    That Hamas places its military installations near schools, hospitals, mosques, etc
    That Israel has facilitated humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza

    the Senate therefore

    Supports the continued existence of the state of Israel as a Jewish state within secure borders
    Supports the two-state solution

    Another question: define “mild supporter” of Israel.

    Your quasi aesthetic analysis of the situation as being some noble/pointless dialectic is very confusing. It seems to be derived from some lit-crit “theory,” not politics. The “tough love” angle is too trite to take seriously. Naturally, if a friend is going to hurt himself, I’d be obliged to “point it out.” But I’m not going to dictate how my friends defend themselves from attack.

    Now that you mention the “cheerleader administration” and the “chorus of yes-men,” who are these people? As far as I know, everyone criticizes Israel’s policies, not just the ones you “cheerlead” for.

    Chas Freeman has had his work financed by Saudi Arabia and China. His opinions verge away from legitimate criticism in many ways. Calling him a “realist” is so much of a stretch as to be disingenuous. Imagine the hissy fit Sullivan would throw if Israel was financing him.

    I know you’re going to bring this up somehow anyway, so remember that Israel offered to withdraw from 95% of the West Bank, and cede another three percent in swaps in 2000. The West Bank was not conquered. It was occupied in defending against conquest by the Arab states. Even so, the US government has consistently pronounced against the settlements and applied pressure on Israel to dismantle them. But this is hardly the root of the issue.Report

  2. Avatar Max
    Ignored
    says:

    The senate is out of step with the American people on a wide number of issues, not just the Gaza operation. When it comes to a vote on a symbolic gesture, are senators going to analyze the newest opinion polls, or lean toward Israel when they know that, generally speaking, Americans are more supportive of Israelis and Palestinians?

    I disagree with Roque’s suggestion that Walt and Mearsheimer are the equivalent of the Protocols, but I too am getting more and more frustrated by this new insistence to read the dark work of AIPAC in every set of tea leaves coming our way. To answer Andrew’s hypothetical — yes, there are many other explanations. And not to do the unthinkable and suggest that any of us is capable of stereotyping, but maybe it’s time to take a step back and ask yourself why you’re so quick to see legislative manipulation, when a far more likely cause is simply the slowness of representative government to react to the fickle opinions of the country.Report

  3. Avatar E.D. Kain
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m not quick to see “legislative manipulation.” In fact, I didn’t even mention the AIPAC option or the “Israel Lobby” option at all. I stated that the distorted voting in the senate had to do with expectations of American public affinity with Israel, and with a strange inability for legislators to connect with the American public.

    And Roque:

    See, I just missed your comments. Every now and again I just have to write something mildly critical of Israel so I can read them again, in all their glory.Report

  4. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    Hey, ED Kain,

    Good one! Very funny! You’re showcasing your dry irony here on me and it hurts!

    Now, can you at least respond to some points and show the world you’re a big boy? For example, what, exactly, about the Senate resolution is so “wrong-headed?” I can’t see it myself and you think it’s so obvious.Report

  5. Avatar E.D. Kain
    Ignored
    says:

    Hey Roque, we’re always going to have to agree to disagree. If you can’t see how unanimous support of one country’s government for another country’s asymmetrical war is wrong-headed then I don’t know how to convince you, and I don’t really care to.Report

  6. Avatar James
    Ignored
    says:

    The West Bank was not conquered. It was occupied in defending against conquest by the Arab states.

    I don’t care what you call it, the place is full of IDF troops and colonists. That seems like the aftermath of a conquest to me, but the problem is not the name but the troops and the colonists.

    Even so, the US government has consistently pronounced against the settlements and applied pressure on Israel to dismantle them. But this is hardly the root of the issue.

    Yes it is the root of the issue and no they haven’t “applied pressure”. Pressure has not been applied since George Bush I, and even then it was remarkably mild. Unless the West Bank is purged of colonists a two state solution is impossible, due to the colonists (typical) tendency to seize land from local Arabs.Report

  7. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    I don’t care what you call it, the place is full of IDF troops and colonists. That seems like the aftermath of a conquest to me, but the problem is not the name but the troops and the colonists.

    I care what you call it because what you call it determines what you do about it. We’re not talking about territory conquered in a war of aggression. This has policy implications.

    Yes it is the root of the issue and no they haven’t “applied pressure”. Pressure has not been applied since George Bush I, and even then it was remarkably mild. Unless the West Bank is purged of colonists a two state solution is impossible, due to the colonists (typical) tendency to seize land from local Arabs.

    If it’s the root of the problem, then what were they fighting about in 1948-49? In 1967? There was no “occupation” and there were no settlements. Maybe it was too “mild” (for you) that Clinton got Barak to offer 95% of the West Bank plus another three percent in swaps for a Palestinian state, but Barak himself didn’t think it was in any way “mild,” nor did his group of advisers, nor did the Israeli public in general.

    I agree that the settlements must be dismantled in a final solution but dismantling the settlements in itself will not generate such a solution. Again, this was tried in 2000 by Clinton and Barak.

    Where’s ED Kain? Can’t he speak up and tell me what about the Senate resolution he considers so “wrong-headed?” Or his he going to give his dry wit another workout. Report

  8. Avatar E.D. Kain
    Ignored
    says:

    Roque, haven’t you figured this out yet? We’re not actually arguing with one another. You’re set in your very crystal clear view of the way things are, and I guess I am too. If this resolution had passed with even a nominal dissent I wouldn’t be talking about it. But the fact that not one single Senator can call out Israel for an unjust war speaks for itself. Hell, that only one Senator could call out the United States on our own stupid war speaks for itself.Report

  9. Avatar Rusty
    Ignored
    says:

    The response you hear to what seems to be an obvious argument — that if someone bombed your home/kids/etc. you wouldn’t restrain yourself responding — is that if you were in the shoes of the average Gazan you’d have bombed too. Except this is a lie — if most westerners were in the shoes of the average Gazan, they would have taken the deal in 2000, or at least kept negotiating and not launched a whole second intifada because Ariel Sharon took a walk near a holy mosque. The problem, and it’s a huge one, isn’t the radicals in Hamas and their supporters, it’s the “moderates” who a) don’t speak up for non-Muslim minorities ANYWHERE in the Middle East and b) don’t speak up against the genocidal violence (real genocidal violence) perpetrated by Muslim regimes outside the Middle East (Darfur, East Timor, etc.) 400,000 have died in Darfur. How many died in Gaza? No, the former doesn’t excuse the latter, but there’s some ugly lessons in what received the world’s hand wringing and moralizing.

    Yasir Arafat was once quoted cited the Koran to say that any peace deal with Israel would be temporary, until they were strong enough to retake Palestine somewhere down the road. Nobody protested this. Even the “recognition” of Israel was by a dubious voice-vote by the PA. Why wasn’t any of this a “final straw” (until changed at least)?Report

  10. Avatar E.D. Kain
    Ignored
    says:

    The problem with this line of argument, Rusty, is that you are in denial of some very basic facts. First of all, talk is cheap. Of course the Palestinians talk tough. It’s only natural. A good few Israelis talk tough, too. A good few Israelis advocate expelling all the Arabs. Many “deny” the right of Palestine to exist. In fact, occupying the West Bank is Palestine-denial in practice.

    In any case, your comment is full of straw men. The West Bank deal was denied because Arafat thought he could do better. The second intifada was launched because he thought he could force a better bargain. He didn’t count on dying quite so soon, I’m sure. It’s all politics. Even saying that any peace deal is temporary is just a way to pacify the more extreme elements. Once a Palestinian state is actually created we will finally see the move of the Palestinian people and government to where most other governments and populaces in the region have shifted – away from war with Israel, toward peace.Report

  11. Avatar jm
    Ignored
    says:

    How could you call 1967 a good war? The war was over the moment it started, with Israeli-employed, American-made war planes gutting the entire Arab air force…on the first day! The American/Israeli position was that Nasser’s inflammatory speeches and threats (among other Arab leader’s pronouncements) against the fledgling Jewish nation in the Middle East was enough evidence for Israel to launch a pre-emptive strike against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

    If Iran is making those threats now, why isn’t Israel launching a pre-emptive attack against Iran? Because it knows it will receive worldwide condemnation for any unilateral action taken against a nation that adopts a ‘talk is tough’ and ‘talk is cheap’ attitude.

    The 1967 wasn’t a good war. It wasn’t even a war at all. All it told the international community was that now, from 1967 onwards, the United States and Israel would have a “special relationship.”

    This “special relationship” is re-affirmed in the Senate’s resolutions dating AFTER 1967 and, of course, the resolution passed by the Senate after the 08-09 Gaza incursion.Report

  12. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    Hey ED Kain,

    So your response is something like, “I can’t argue with you because you’re wrong.” Doesn’t this contradict your mission statement somehow? I.e.,

    a deep and abiding commitment to the exploration of ideas outside the foray of rhetorical and ideological cul de sacs. The entries are less posts than they are dialogues with an aim towards sustained discussion on topics and issues that lay at the foundations of our lives.

    Can’t you at least call out parts of the resolution that you would have dissented from? Or that you think senators should have dissented from? Or that you believe that an important percentage of the public dissents from?

    Don’t call it “arguing” if you don’t want to. But it’s just not enough to say that it’s obvious that there should be dissent because it isn’t obvious once you read the resolution. What is there to dissent from? Or what is omitted that would make you vote against it? That’s a reasonable question and readers would expect a reasonable answer.

    You say,

    The West Bank deal was denied because Arafat thought he could do better. The second intifada was launched because he thought he could force a better bargain.

    What evidence do you have of this? I haven’t seen any myself. If anyone uses straw men, it’s you, not Rusty. Why don’t you bring some facts to bear on this issue and show us why he’s wrong?

    You assume that Arafat was just playing politics and he really didn’t mean what he said. Again, this is just pure speculation designed to accord with your own world view. It is not based on anything empirical. Policy makers cannot give themselves the luxury of basing their decisions on such idle dreaming for obvious reasons.

    You believe that all the Palestinians/Arabs need is a nation-state of their own and peace will come naturally afterword. Another noble speculation. But, then, why didn’t they accept the state that was offered to them by the UN in 1947? Or in 2000? What’s missing here in your analysis that would explain these events?
    Rusty says that the PA should have taken the deal they were offered and “not launched a whole second intifada because Ariel Sharon took a walk near a holy mosque.” This is not accurate. “Intifada” means something like “uprising.” This was no uprising—as in the ’80s—since it was planned in advance of the 2000 Camp David talks. Later it was coordinated by Arafat himself.

    Rusty’s point about the lack of engagement by moderate Muslims is right on.Report

  13. Avatar Marc R
    Ignored
    says:

    The whole premise of Kain’s posting is based on the following faulty statement from Sullivan (who is too cowardly to have comments on his own site):

    “American public opinion, as Glenn Greenwald noted, was evenly divided, and Democrats sided more with the Palestinians enduring a blitz with some white phosphorus thrown into the mix.”

    This statement is central because: (1) it allows Sullivan to suggest that Congress is controlled (er, guided) by lobbyists notwithstanding American public opinion; and (2) it allows Kain to make grandstanding pronouncements on what kind of wars “Americans” support. (I will concede, however, that the American Left has a proclivity of supporting the weaker power in a war, notwithstanding any moral considerations. Hence their support for Israel in 1967 and before, but not since.)

    Anyway, was/is American public opinion evenly divided? Let’s see.

    To the contrary, polls also suggested that Americans widely supported Israel’s actions in Gaza and blamed Hamas for originating the conflict and believed Israel’s response was appropriate:

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1231950870818&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/world/story/59628.html
    http://jta.org/news/article/2009/01/15/1002282/americans-favor-israel-in-gaza-conflict
    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1076/modest-backing-for-israel-in-gaza-crisis-no-desire-for-greater-us-role
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/116308/Americans-Support-Israel-Unchanged-Gaza-Conflict.aspx

    So the question is, who are these “Americans” that Sullivan believes are not represented and who Kain believes opposed the Gaza war? Sullivan and Kain, certainly, but not the majority of Americans.

    But wait, you may say, those polls are sponsored by groups friendly to Israel (not McClatchy, Rasmussen, Gallup, or Pew, but one of them certainly). What about the poll that Greenwald cites? It must be honest since he cited it and he wants to give more “tough love” to Israel.

    Well, as far as I can tell, the poll Greenwald cited was the Rasmussen poll I cited above. http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/01/02/israel/index.html

    The “close divide” in that one poll that Greenwald cites is on the question of whether Israel should have taken military action or pursued more diplomacy first. There was no such divide as to who was to blame for the hostilities, with Americans overwhelmingly believing that the “Palestinians” were to blame.

    So, to sum up, ONE of several polls had ONE question which suggested a division of opinion on whether Israel should have taken military force immediately or used diplomacy first with Hamas.

    ALL of the polls show an overwhelming opinion, before and after Gaza, among Americans supporting Israel vis a vis the Palestinian leadership. And ALL of the polls show that Americans overwhelmingly believed that the violence in Gaza was caused by that Palestinian leadership.

    Now, this opinion is not unanimous, and the senate voice vote on the resolution apparently was. So there is some disconnect. But, we’re talking about a voice vote. On a resolution of support. Retired postal workers get similar treatment from congress and these voice votes aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.Report

  14. Avatar Marc R
    Ignored
    says:

    “Once a Palestinian state is actually created we will finally see the move of the Palestinian people and government to where most other governments and populaces in the region have shifted – away from war with Israel, toward peace.”

    “Most other governments and populaces in the region”? You mean two of them?

    Anyway, why didn’t this happen in Gaza once the Israelis left?Report

  15. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    I should let ED Kain speak for himself here, but I want to show him that I don’t disagree with him just to disagree. Jim says,

    The American/Israeli position was that Nasser’s inflammatory speeches and threats (among other Arab leader’s pronouncements) against the fledgling Jewish nation in the Middle East was enough evidence for Israel to launch a pre-emptive strike against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

    Jim needs to read some history of the war. Nasser’s pronouncements were not the causus beli of the ’67 war (although they certainly did enter into the buildup towards war). This was Nassers closing the Red Sea to Israeli traffic in violation of signed treaties. This was based on troop mobilizations by Egypt and Syria. This was based on intercepted communication between Nasser and Syria that made it clear that an invasion was imminent. It’s a classic example of the preemptive attack, which is self-defense. Otherwise, Jordan entered the war later, in response to pressure by other Arab states.

    Jim thinks he has a “gotcha” moment here in that Israel should launch a preemptive attack against Iran for its inflammatory statements to be consistent. But Iran is not mobilizing and Israel has no information that an Iranian attack is imminent, so this is truly a straw man. The Arabs lost the ’67 war not because Israel had US-supplied weapons—this is just part of the Arabs’ pretexts—but because Israel had better intelligence and organization. After all, Nasser was well-supplied with weaponry by the USSR. It needs to be said that the USSR was entirely disgusted with Nasser for his debacle and the waste of so many millions in weaponry. But they couldn’t cut him loose since his government served them in other ways since the KGB had penetrated the highest levels of his government.Report

  16. Avatar Mark Thompson
    Ignored
    says:

    Roque:

    I think it’s pretty obvious what E.D. is complaining about with respect to these resolutions. Neither measure contains a single word of criticism of Israel’s actions – despite the fact that a rather large percentage of Americans held highly critical views of the way in which Israel handled the Gaza campaign this winter.

    Now, it’s certainly arguable that Israel’s actions were entirely justifiable and normatively deserved the support of the U.S. Congress. But that’s not really the point here – the point is that there was an unbelievable disconnect between American public opinion of Israel’s actions, which was divided at best, and Congress’ near-unanimous and unquestioning support of those actions.

    Don’t get me wrong – few Americans would disagree with the anti-Hamas sentiments contained in the resolutions. But the resolutions go beyond simply expressing anger at Hamas and provide what can only be described as a whole-hearted endorsement of the Israeli invasion of Gaza.Report

  17. Avatar jm
    Ignored
    says:

    Point taken, Roque.Report

  18. Avatar Marc R
    Ignored
    says:

    Shoot. I wrote a very long post that somehow got lost after I pushed the “Submit” button below. I apologize for my sloth, but I really can’t reprint the whole thing again. So, I’ll give you the gist. (By the way, I commend you for having the courage, unlike Sullivan, to have comments on your site.)

    The central assumption, unchallenged so far, is that American popular opinion was split as to Gaza:

    “American public opinion, as Glenn Greenwald noted, was evenly divided, and Democrats sided more with the Palestinians enduring a blitz with some white phosphorus thrown into the mix. ”

    This alleged split in public opinion provides a justification for (1) Sullivan’s claim that there is a disconnect between American opinion and their representatives’ actions; and (2) Kain’s claim that Americans have changed their opinion of Israel because Gaza was the “last straw”. The only problem, of course, is that there is no such split.

    The polls taken during and after the Gaza war, demonstrate that Americans overwhelmingly supported Israel, blamed the Palestinian leadership for the outbreak of violence, and believed Israel responded about right. Here are the polls:

    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics2/voters_still_say_palestinians_to_blame_but_50_say_israel_should_accept_truce

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/world/story/59628.html

    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1076/modest-backing-for-israel-in-gaza-crisis-no-desire-for-greater-us-role

    http://www.theisraelproject.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=hsJPK0PIJpH&b=4183369&ct=6501629&tr=y&auid=4410719

    Indeed, strong support for Israel compared to the Palestinians was unchanged after Gaza:

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/116308/Americans-Support-Israel-Unchanged-Gaza-Conflict.aspx

    So who are these “Americans” that Sullivan believes aren’t represented by their leaders and Kain believes changed their opinion of Israel after Gaza? Well, Sullivan and Kain, perhaps, but not many others.

    But wait, you may say, those polls were from pro-Israel organizations (not McClatchy, Pew, or Gallup, but certainly ONE of them anyway). Greenwald’s poll must be more accurate since he’s neutral and only wants to provide “tough love” to Israel.

    OK, let’s see. I believe the poll that Sullivan is referring to regarding Greenwald is the Rasmussen one above, based on this post from Greenwald:

    http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/01/02/israel

    The lone question in that poll on which Americans were divided was on the question of whether Israel should have taken military action or tried to reach a diplomatic solution with Hamas first. (Note that more Americans believed there should be military action, but it was close.) Even in this Rasmussen poll, however, Americans overwhelmingly supported Israel in the conflict and believed that the Palestinians were to blame for the situation in Gaza.

    So, to sum up, ALL of these polls demonstrate that Americans believed that the Gaza violence was caused primarily by the Palestinian leadership and there is no evidence of any reduced support for Israel. ONE of the questions suggests that 41% of Americans believed that Israel should have tried to find a diplomatic solution first. NONE of these polls indicates that a majority, or even a divided amount, of Americans believe that Israel acted too harshly.

    Finally, I agree that SOME Americans obviously believed that Israel was at fault, acted disproportionately, etc. Yet the senate “voice vote in support of a resolution” was apparently unanimous. There’s an apparent disconnect there, it’s true.

    But a voice vote is a voice vote. And a resolution is a resolution. Neither is very much.Report

  19. Avatar Marc R
    Ignored
    says:

    Shoot. I wrote two very long post that somehow got lost each time after I pushed the “Submit” button below. I’ll try again, breaking it into two posts. (By the way, I commend you for having the courage, unlike Sullivan, to have comments on your site.)

    The central assumption, unchallenged so far, is that American popular opinion was split as to Gaza:

    “American public opinion, as Glenn Greenwald noted, was evenly divided, and Democrats sided more with the Palestinians enduring a blitz with some white phosphorus thrown into the mix. ”

    This alleged split in public opinion provides a justification for (1) Sullivan’s claim that there is a disconnect between American opinion and their representatives’ actions; and (2) Kain’s claim that Americans have changed their opinion of Israel because Gaza was the “last straw”. The only problem, of course, is that there is no such split.

    The polls taken during and after the Gaza war, demonstrate that Americans overwhelmingly supported Israel, blamed the Palestinian leadership for the outbreak of violence, and believed Israel responded about right. Here are the polls:

    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics2/voters_still_say_palestinians_to_blame_but_50_say_israel_should_accept_truce

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/world/story/59628.html

    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1076/modest-backing-for-israel-in-gaza-crisis-no-desire-for-greater-us-role

    http://www.theisraelproject.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=hsJPK0PIJpH&b=4183369&ct=6501629&tr=y&auid=4410719

    Indeed, strong support for Israel compared to the Palestinians was unchanged after Gaza:

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/116308/Americans-Support-Israel-Unchanged-Gaza-Conflict.aspxReport

  20. Avatar Marc R
    Ignored
    says:

    Shoot. I wrote a very long post that somehow got lost after I pushed the “Submit” button below. I’ll try again, breaking it into several posts. Here’s the first. (By the way, I commend you for having the courage, unlike Sullivan, to have comments on your site.)

    The central assumption, unchallenged so far, is that American popular opinion was split as to Gaza:

    “American public opinion, as Glenn Greenwald noted, was evenly divided, and Democrats sided more with the Palestinians enduring a blitz with some white phosphorus thrown into the mix. ”

    This alleged split in public opinion provides a justification for (1) Sullivan’s claim that there is a disconnect between American opinion and their representatives’ actions; and (2) Kain’s claim that Americans have changed their opinion of Israel because Gaza was the “last straw”. The only problem, of course, is that there is no such split.Report

  21. Avatar Marc R
    Ignored
    says:

    [Here’s a continuation of the previous post]

    The polls taken during and after the Gaza war, demonstrate that Americans overwhelmingly supported Israel, blamed the Palestinian leadership for the outbreak of violence, and believed Israel responded about right. Here are the polls:

    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics2/voters_still_say_palestinians_to_blame_but_50_say_israel_should_accept_truce

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/world/story/59628.html

    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1076/modest-backing-for-israel-in-gaza-crisis-no-desire-for-greater-us-role

    http://www.theisraelproject.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=hsJPK0PIJpH&b=4183369&ct=6501629&tr=y&auid=4410719

    Indeed, strong support for Israel compared to the Palestinians was unchanged after Gaza:

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/116308/Americans-Support-Israel-Unchanged-Gaza-Conflict.aspx

    So who are these “Americans” that Sullivan believes aren’t represented by their leaders and Kain believes changed their opinion of Israel after Gaza? Well, Sullivan and Kain, perhaps, but not many others.Report

  22. Avatar Marc R
    Ignored
    says:

    The polls taken during and after the Gaza war, demonstrate that Americans overwhelmingly supported Israel, blamed the Palestinian leadership for the outbreak of violence, and believed Israel responded about right. Here are the polls:

    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics2/voters_still_say_palestinians_to_blame_but_50_say_israel_should_accept_truce
    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/world/story/59628.html
    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1076/modest-backing-for-israel-in-gaza-crisis-no-desire-for-greater-us-role
    http://www.theisraelproject.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=hsJPK0PIJpH&b=4183369&ct=6501629&tr=y&auid=4410719

    Indeed, strong support for Israel compared to the Palestinians was unchanged after Gaza:

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/116308/Americans-Support-Israel-Unchanged-Gaza-Conflict.aspx

    So who are these “Americans” that Sullivan believes aren’t represented by their leaders and Kain believes changed their opinion of Israel after Gaza? Well, Sullivan and Kain, perhaps, but not many others.Report

  23. Avatar Marc R
    Ignored
    says:

    The polls taken during and after the Gaza war, demonstrate that Americans overwhelmingly supported Israel, blamed the Palestinian leadership for the outbreak of violence, and believed Israel responded about right. For some reason I’m unable to post a link to the polls themselves, but they’re from Rasmussen, Pew, McClatchy, and The Israel Project. You can find them through Google.

    Indeed, strong support for Israel compared to the Palestinians was unchanged after Gaza, according to a Gallup poll after the war.

    So who are these “Americans” that Sullivan believes aren’t represented by their leaders and Kain believes changed their opinion of Israel after Gaza? Well, Sullivan and Kain, perhaps, but not many others.

    But wait, you may say, those polls were from pro-Israel organizations (not McClatchy, Pew, or Gallup, but certainly ONE of them anyway). Greenwald’s poll must be more accurate since he’s neutral and only wants to provide “tough love” to Israel.

    OK, let’s see. I believe the poll that Sullivan is referring to regarding Greenwald is the Rasmussen one above, based on a post from Greenwald.

    The lone question in that poll on which Americans were divided was on the question of whether Israel should have taken military action or tried to reach a diplomatic solution with Hamas first. (Note that more Americans believed there should be military action, but it was close.) Even in this Rasmussen poll, however, Americans overwhelmingly supported Israel in the conflict and believed that the Palestinians were to blame for the situation in Gaza.

    So, to sum up, ALL of these polls demonstrate that Americans believed that the Gaza violence was caused primarily by the Palestinian leadership and there is no evidence of any reduced support for Israel. ONE of the questions suggests that 41% of Americans believed that Israel should have tried to find a diplomatic solution first. NONE of these polls indicates that a majority, or even a divided amount, of Americans believe that Israel acted too harshly.

    Finally, I agree that SOME Americans obviously believed that Israel was at fault, acted disproportionately, etc. Yet the senate “voice vote in support of a resolution” was apparently unanimous. There’s an apparent disconnect there, it’s true.

    But a voice vote is a voice vote. And a resolution is a resolution. Neither is worth very much.Report

  24. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    So, Mark and ED Kain, what “words of criticism” are missing from the resolution? That’s all I’m asking and that’s what you’re not answering.

    Marc R shows that the “unbelievable disconnect” is not accurate. But much more importantly, it’s fodder for the Elders-like “theory” that ED Kain and Sullivan cite so approvingly (Walt/Meersheimer). A weird disconnect between the congress and the public to support the Zionists against the true interests of the nation, which is “explained” by the diabolical power of the “Israel lobby.” How is this different from the Nazi “explanation” for WWII, in which “International Jewry” was pulling the strings of Roosevelt’s and Churchill’s governments so that they joined the anti Axis alliance?Report

  25. Avatar Marc R
    Ignored
    says:

    I’d rather that Godwin’s Law was not invoked, but I think Sullivan, Kain, Walt/Mearsheimer all are just looking for an explanation as to why Americans, and their leaders, don’t agree with what Sullivan, Kain, Walt and Mearsheimer believe is so evident. Since their, to their minds, superior arguments don’t carry the day, it must be some sort of nefarious influence that is at work.

    I don’t think, or care, if any of the above are anti-semitic. I just wish they would entertain the notion that maybe they’re wrong and that’s why their opinion is not carrying the day.Report

  26. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    Goodwin’s law is not appropriate here:

    Godwin’s Law applies especially to inappropriate, inordinate, or hyperbolic comparisons of other situations (or one’s opponent) with Hitler or Nazis or their actions. It does not apply to discussions directly addressing genocide, propaganda, or other mainstays of the Nazi regime.[citation needed] Wikipedia

    Report

  27. Avatar Mark Thompson
    Ignored
    says:

    Roque, Marc R:

    Here is a list of polling data on the subject:
    http://www.pollingreport.com/israel.htm

    You will find that the number of Americans who thought Israel’s actions were excessive hovered around 35-40%, depending how the question was asked, and those who thought Israel’s actions were perfectly appropriate hovered between 40 and 50%, depending how the question was asked. Additionally, there was an even split (39-38%) between those who thought the US should support Israel or publicly say nothing about the conflict, with an additional 9% thinking that the US should have criticized Israel (I would probably personally fit in the 38%).

    In my mind that demonstrates a pretty clearly divided American public. But what bothers me is not that the resolutions passed – it’s that they passed with virtually no dissent. There is just something troubling when there is that kind of unanimity amongst policy makers in a situation where there is really quite a bit of public disagreement. It leads to an unhealthy group-think. And yes, I realize this is simply a relatively meaningless resolution; but it nevertheless is evidence of the near-unanimous consensus that exists amongst our policymakers.

    Roque: As for me specifically, I would have rather there was no resolution at all as I say above. But if a resolution was to be passed, I would have liked at least one line expressing concern about Palestinian civilian casualties.Report

  28. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    Mark,

    Here’s your line (actually, there are five lines):

    (4)
    17 believes strongly that the lives of innocent
    18 civilians must be protected and all appropriate meas-
    18 ures should be taken to diminish civilian casualties
    19 and that all involved should continue to work to ad-
    20 dress humanitarian needs in Gaza;

    ED Kain: How would you have expressed the idea that the Gaza operation was an unjust war, like you say, above

    But the fact that not one single Senator can call out Israel for an unjust war speaks for itself.

    Report

  29. Avatar Marc R
    Ignored
    says:

    Mark-

    Thank you for the link. It’s an excellent resource. I have to disagree with your interpretation though.

    First, when only 9% of a poll thinks that America should criticize Israel and 77% thinks American should support Israel or do nothing while Israel attacks Gaza, I don’t see how that reflects a split.

    Second, I may not have been reading closely enough, but I don’t see where “the number of Americans who thought Israel’s actions were excessive hovered around 35-40%”. I saw three such questions, and the number of Americans who thought Israel’s actions were excessive was 38%, 36%, and 24%. In each case, the number of Americans who thought the response was just right or not forceful enough was 57%, 44%, and 57%, respectively. Those are pretty big splits, in my mind.Report

  30. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    As for the polling data that Mark links to, 60% say their sympathies lie with Israel, 18% with Palestine and the rest (22%) are say they don’t know or that they favor both or neither.

    The Senate resolution expresses this overwhelming US support for Israel quite well. I say that if a Senator wanted his vote to reflect the sentiment in his or her state, then he or she should have voted “yes.” But it just isn’t true that a vote of this nature is by tradition or by law designed to reflect the vagueness of public opinion so the “disconnect” is only a product of fevered conspiracy theories.

    63% percent thought that Israel was justified in taking military action and 31% thought it wasn’t. That’s over two to one, which is yet another reason for a senator to vote “yes.”

    I repeat my question for ED Kain: How would you have expressed the idea that the Gaza operation was an unjust war, like you say, above? A follow-up: if something like this had been in the resolution, then why wouldn’t there be the dreaded “disconnect” between it and the American public opinion, as expressed in the polling data Mark links to?Report

  31. Avatar James
    Ignored
    says:

    I care what you call it because what you call it determines what you do about it. We’re not talking about territory conquered in a war of aggression. This has policy implications.

    GTFO is the bottom line. GTFO.

    If it’s the root of the problem, then what were they fighting about in 1948-49? In 1967? There was no “occupation” and there were no settlements.

    Well yes, the root of the problem was the land-grab that was Israel’s birth. I’d refer you to Illan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine here, you can buy it here:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ethnic-Cleansing-Palestine-Ilan-Pappe/dp/1851684670

    I agree that the settlements must be dismantled in a final solution but dismantling the settlements in itself will not generate such a solution. Again, this was tried in 2000 by Clinton and Barak.

    Funny, to me it looks like there are still colonists in the West Bank…

    Where’s ED Kain? Can’t he speak up and tell me what about the Senate resolution he considers so “wrong-headed?” Or his he going to give his dry wit another workout.

    You’re lucky that even I bothered with you.Report

  32. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    James,

    I know I’m lucky you bothered with me. I attribute ED Kain’s silence to his lack of knowledge on this issue, which he insists on writing about anyway. How in the world can his argument be called in any way consistent? He wants the Senate to reflect the latest public opinion polls and to include the idea the the Gaza operation was “pointless” and not “noble.” But then, opinion polls show overwhelming public support for the justice of Israel’s Gaza operation… and so forth. Does he want us to believe that the vote should have been 60 “yes,” 18 “no,” and the rest “abstain” or something like that, in accordance with the latest Pew survey? What a joke!

    I agree that Israel must dismantle the settlements and withdraw from the West Bank. I believe that they will, or would, in the case of a peace settlement. But it’s just unreasonable to demand such a thing without any negotiations with the PA—especially in the face of how the Gaza and Lebanon withdrawals ended up. With this kind of history, how on earth do you get the nerve to demand further unilateral withdrawals? It would mean a possibly catastrophic attack since the West Bank is in easy striking distance by rockets of densly populated Israeli territory. Resolution 242, after all, expresses the formula, “land for peace.” It has two parts, not just a demand that Israel GTFO.

    So now we get to the bottom of this, which is why I’m so lucky you bothered with me:

    Well yes, the root of the problem was the land-grab that was Israel’s birth.

    Let’s remember that the “land grab” you refer to happened during the 48-49 war, which five Arab states declared on Israel as they invaded, and even before, as Palestinian Arabs began an insurgency as soon as the November 1947 UN vote came through by attacking Jewish traffic on the roads and so on. Some seven or eight hundred thousand Palestinian Arabs were refugees by the time the war was over. Some were expelled by the IDF, some were told to leave by their leaders, some fled in fear of Jewish atrocities, others in fear of being called a traitor by other Arabs if they stayed. It’s not as simple a situation as you want to imagine. For example, about an equal number of Jews were expelled from Arab/Muslim nations and into Israel at the same time. There were massacres against them as well but there is a big difference here: the Jews in Iraq, for example, posed no threat to the government at all. They were not insurgents. They had lived in Iraq since before Islam even existed. So the Arab/Muslim nations that expelled Jews engaged in a lot of “land grabbing” themselves. Nobody is the innocent victim here. Everyone is a “righteous victim,” to use the title of Benny Morris’s book.

    I haven’t read the Pappe book you link to but I have read Benny Morris’s The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem. He’s another of Israel’s “new historians.” He set out to prove your “land grab” thesis and couldn’t do it. He could not find evidence of any design for ethnic cleansing by Israel. The book is over six hundred pages of densely written history so it’s really not fair to summarize it like I just have. It must suffice here to say that the issue is much more nuanced than you want us to believe with the inflammatory description, “land grab.” For one thing, such “ethnic cleansing” was common in the aftermath of WWII—millions of Europeans were ethnically cleansed from one country or the other. Read, Tony Judt’s Postwar if you don’t believe me. As strange as it may sound today, such practices were thought to be somewhat humane back then, or at least more humane than leaving them where they were, which would have subjected them to violent reprisals and so forth. In Israel’s case, they had to consider security as well. In the face of an invasion by five Arab states, their large Arab minority was a possible fifth column and Israel was in a war for its survival.

    The point is that if Arabs had accepted the UN partition, there would have been no war and no “land grab.” That’s why your explanation of the root of the problem is a fallacy. It assumes the consequences of the war as the root. But obviously the consequences cannot be the root of anything. The root is the war.

    So the “land grab” cannot be the root of the problem, either. Do you have any other roots up your sleeve?

    So, to repeat myself, What were they fighting about in 1948-49? Why didn’t they accept the UN Partition plan? They would have had twice as much territory as they could get today. Israel would have had a much larger Arab minority. We wouldn’t be arguing about any Senate resolution, etc etc.

    You say, with fine irony, “it looks like there are still colonists in the West Bank.” Is this supposed to show that Clinton and Barak did not offer a reasonable solution to Arafat in 2000? I don’t see how. There are still colonists there because Arafat said “no” and unleashed the so-called second intifada. There was no deal. This history shows, along with everything else, that the settlements are not the root of the problem. If they were, then why not take the deal they were offered? The settlers would have GTFO for sure then.Report

  33. Avatar James
    Ignored
    says:

    I haven’t read the book you cite, I’m afraid, so I’m not in a position to either defend it or accept your assessment. Frankly, though, I see a good deal of this as distraction. At the moment I’m a historian by occupation, so I’m giving you some leeway here. But what relevance has this? Previous little. The Arab states have been at peace with Israel for many decades, the sole state still a threat to it is a Persian one.

    We could argue about which historical character was to blame for what, pretend that the dead Arafat should be borne in mind while forging progressive solutions and so on, but we’re wasting our time. The facts pertinent at the moment is that Israel killed 400 children. I don’t give a fuck why that was, that in itself is something substantial and something which they deserve all the oppobrium they have received for and much, much more.Report

  34. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    My lucky cup is overflowing now that you have bothered with me twice now and on top of it you’re giving me some leeway—as an historian by occupation, no less—about citing an authoritative piece of research on the Palestinian refugee problem by an author of many other widely-cited books on Israeli history. How is it possible that an historian by occupation finds debate about history to be a distraction?

    Now you say my responses to your direct challenges to me are a distraction and you open up another topic: the unconscionable deaths of 400 children. Is this what you want to discuss? Why didn’t you say so before, when you were going on about the colonists on the West Bank, the Israeli “land grab,” etc etc? Then maybe I wouldn’t have been so distracted by your own challenges to me.

    How about the root of the problem? Is that a distraction as well? You brought it up twice when you said that the settlements were the root and then shifted to naming the land grab when I showed you that they weren’t. Then when I debunked the land grab theory, you claim that the whole thing’s a distraction. None of this depends in the least on anyone’s reading any specific book, or not. It’s just common sense to anyone with a minimum knowledge of the history of the conflict that the situation isn’t as simple as blaming anyone for a “land grab” or for the deaths of 400 children, for that matter. After all, children have been murdered by both sides. Why single out Israel for your opprobrium and not the Arabs?

    Let me refer you to the following: there are some 18 Arab nations currently boycotting Israel and who refuse to allow anyone with an Israeli passport or who has an Israeli stamp on their passport to enter their countries. Twenty out of 22 Arab league members refuse to recognize the state of Israel. The state-run media of most of these countries generate the most vile and despicable anti Semitic propaganda one could imagine on a daily basis and state education systems indoctrinate children with hatred for Israel and Jews. Is this what you call “being at peace with Israel for decades?”Report

  35. Avatar James
    Ignored
    says:

    My lucky cup is overflowing now that you have bothered with me twice now and on top of it you’re giving me some leeway—as an historian by occupation, no less—about citing an authoritative piece of research on the Palestinian refugee problem by an author of many other widely-cited books on Israeli history. How is it possible that an historian by occupation finds debate about history to be a distraction?

    By occupation I am a historian, but by politics I am no reactionary. In how you can forge progressive policies to advance the situation positively the past can only tell us so much. There are always events which are unprecedented occuring and this provides limitations for those trying to determine what is wise to do in the present: if we were looking backwards alone then would we really have predicted that Lousiana, the most virulent of the pro-segregation states, would vote for Barack Obama in the Democratic Primaries?

    Aha, you might counter, but they did opt for white man McCain come the election proper. But the country as a whole took the unprecedented step of electing a member of a former slave class.

    Unfortunately my degree doesn’t really cover the middle east.

    Now you say my responses to your direct challenges to me are a distraction and you open up another topic: the unconscionable deaths of 400 children. Is this what you want to discuss? Why didn’t you say so before, when you were going on about the colonists on the West Bank, the Israeli “land grab,” etc etc? Then maybe I wouldn’t have been so distracted by your own challenges to me.

    Well you haven’t read Pappe’s book & I haven’t read the one you cite. We can’t discuss a mutually read text and I suppose that we could engage in a historical debate with our shared knowledge, but I hardly see the matter as pressing. Already there’s been a misunderstanding as to whether I was seeking the source of agency for all Arabic States or specifically the Palestinian Arabs, which to be fair was not a matter I had made clear. Historical debates are lengthy, messy affairs and I suggest that one now would detract from the matter at hand.

    How about the root of the problem? Is that a distraction as well? You brought it up twice when you said that the settlements were the root and then shifted to naming the land grab when I showed you that they weren’t. Then when I debunked the land grab theory, you claim that the whole thing’s a distraction. None of this depends in the least on anyone’s reading any specific book, or not.

    Your efforts were a very, very long way from a “debunking”.

    It’s just common sense to anyone with a minimum knowledge of the history of the conflict that the situation isn’t as simple as blaming anyone for a “land grab” or for the deaths of 400 children, for that matter.

    I’m not intending to attribute blame, I am stating that Israel was birthed from an ethnic cleansing and seemingly can only be sustained through “operations” which result in mass death. They were aware of what the consequences would be of using massive amounts of high explosive in an urban environment would be and Operation Cast Lead proceeded regardless of that knowledge.

    After all, children have been murdered by both sides. Why single out Israel for your opprobrium and not the Arabs?

    Count the dead.

    How many Israeli children were killed during the same timeframe? To the wielder of the greater power will come the greater consequences.

    Let me refer you to the following: there are some 18 Arab nations currently boycotting Israel and who refuse to allow anyone with an Israeli passport or who has an Israeli stamp on their passport to enter their countries. Twenty out of 22 Arab league members refuse to recognize the state of Israel. The state-run media of most of these countries generate the most vile and despicable anti Semitic propaganda one could imagine on a daily basis and state education systems indoctrinate children with hatred for Israel and Jews. Is this what you call “being at peace with Israel for decades?”

    Yes.Report

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