Archive for Gaza

Israel’s “existential” struggle

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on June 5, 2010 by spinoza1111

The problem is that we’re supposed to see everything from the Israeli point of view. This is most obvious when we’re told that Israel is engaged in an “existential” struggle and will (must) (must be allowed to) do “anything” to survive including what’s ordinarily considered aggression:

Clearing the area between Haifa and Jerusalem in 1948 by deliberate terrorism in order to create refugees

Pre-emptive attacks in 1967


Boarding ships on the high seas and killing their occupants (Mavi Marmara)

Boarding ships and forcing them to divert (Rachel Corrie)

Whether or not it is true that Israel’s struggle is existential, this issue is also moot.

Don’t we all have an “existential” right to fight for our existence? According to Hobbes, we do.

“And because the condition of Man, (as hath been declared in the precedent Chapter) is a condition of Warre of every one against every one; in which case every one is governed by his own Reason; and there is nothing he can make use of, that may not be a help unto him, in preserving his life against his enemyes; It followeth, that in such a condition, every man has a Right to every thing; even to one nothers body. And therefore, as long as this naturall Right of every man to every thing endureth, there can be no security to any man, (how strong or wise soever he be,) of living out the time, which Nature ordinarily alloweth men to live.”

Israel and her public relations firms argue for a truth, but one that’s moot because the right they claim is shared with the Palestinians.

In the case of the Mavi Marmara, the passengers felt, rightly, that their lives were endangered by an IDF commando style raid which had nothing of the dignity of a traditional boarding party.

Indeed, Israel seems to have contempt for military and diplomatic dignity.

The passengers’ feeling was justified despite after the fact claims that the IDF were using “paintball” guns, since one of the victims, a 19 year old American of Turkish ancestry, was killed with five rounds, four to the head and one to the chest. The Israelis were a threatening presence to which a small subset of the passengers responded to in self-defense, and in defense of the women, children and activists below decks.

Israeli PR deliberately obscures the fact that we’re all involved in existential struggle by structuring the narrative using Hollywood subjectivity and over-identification by the smart, spunky, sexy protagonist. This allows the Palestinians to be represented as the stupid, cowardly, unattractive antagonist. But there’s nothing particularly smart about descending one man at a time [1] from a helicopter to be picked off retail by an angry mob. There’s nothing spunky about pumping rounds into kids. And anyone who still gets off on the Israeli narrative is a porn addict.

[1] The IDF’s intention was to descend two men at a time, but in self-defense, the passengers belayed the rope from one helicopter. It of course is just as stupid to descend even into a small riot two men at a time.


The Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara: the violence of “violence”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on June 1, 2010 by spinoza1111

The carefully managed and expensive PR campaign starts to “prove?” that the IDF commandos descending on the top deck were subject to “violence”. The footage, which we have no reason to believe was doctored, shows:

A commando being thrown from the top deck one deck down
A smoke bomb being thrown (back?) at the commandos
Passengers (not more than 20) fighting commandos with metal rods and one or two deck chairs
The Israelis shooting military ordinance to kill

The concept of “violence” is overstretched if it is made to apply to the takeover of a peaceful passenger vessel by commandos and the unarmed defense of terrified women and children in orange jackets below decks, who can be seen in al-Jazeera footage.

On the high seas, the crew and passengers retain a natural right of self-defense when outside the protection of a modern state. The Turkish citizens were the responsibility of Turkey, which has protested their treatment. The US and British citizens, although the responsibility of the USA and Britain, seem to have been abandoned, as was Rachel Corrie, the activist murdered by an armored bulldozer in 2003 in Gaza.

Palestinian Christians have little or no sympathy from US Christians of the religious right; the Israeli public relations machine has made US lives of less value than Israeli lives as in the case of Rachel Corrie.

The Palestinians, whether in Gaza or on board, are a set of people inverse to the concept of hostes omnium gentium. They belong to a set of people with no standing in international law and no name.

Hostes omnium gentium (enemies of all men) are the well-known “terrorist” and the Pirates of the Caribbean, men and women who may legitimately be pursued and executed by any legitimate state actor.

Victimae omnium gentium consists of the people who are deprived of the protection normally afforded by the modern state’s monopoly of force. If state actors have a right to use high-tech state violence (well-trained commandos) against hostes (which the innocent, activist, humanitarian passengers of the Mavi Marmara were not by any means), then people who are left even partly outside the protection of the state’s monopoly of force have a natural right of self-defense.

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, which I support, gives this right to Americans in writing. It is a natural right. How dare conservatives deny this to the passengers of the Mavi Marmara?

The top deck fighters of the Mavi Marmara were courageously exercising this right since they were not under the protection of the Turkish navy or US Sixth Fleet, which they should have been under; we seem to afford more protection to goods off the pirate coast of Somalia than to these people.

We need a distinct name for high-tech equipped and highly trained specialists exercising state violence on people who are not recognized by Israelis as fully human citizens when resident in Israel, or human beings with rights to be let alone when in Gaza.

We need another name for the violence of the temporarily or permanently stateless when attacked by pirates. “Hero” would do nicely.

When John Wayne or Harrison Ford exercises violence, Americans want to see the victim die messily; but when the black or brown or young or unemployed get rowdy, this is “violence” of the second form which by some strange rule gives the high tech state actor to coldly use overwhelming specialist force.

We might observe that there is a complete ban in American media outside of YouTube on early pictures of American victims of 9-11. A Japanese news account is available somewhere on YouTube showing a policewoman being led from the scene sobbing unable to perform her duties; since this goes against the narrative grain, it has not been shown. A sculptor tried to memorialize 9-11 with a falling woman; his installation was said to be in extremely poor taste.

Whereas Americans view with equanimity the suffering of the non-American, and try to justify it with footage of men reacting as they would in self-defense if they have any balls whatsoever.

The IDF attacked the ship on the high seas. The passengers, outside the protection of any navy whatsoever, fought back as did the heroic passengers of United Flight 93, the highjacked flight of 9-11 that crashed in Pennsylvania.

In other words: there is a growing class of people world wide, the poor, the black, the brown, the Muslim who can be defined by expensive public relations, not globally, perhaps, as hostes omnium gentium but as punching bags and targets, for whom the protection of civil society, taken for granted by us in the west and here in Hong Kong, can be quietly suspended.

If a member of this class speaks out, that is a threat of violence and therefore an assault; but a commando, representing Jews and Jews only, descending on your boat is the government, and he’s there to help you.

Get real.

Most Americans encounter uniformed “responders” as benign angels of mercy and assistance, which of course most American cops and military are almost all the time, with regards to their fellow citizens. Most of us who behave ourselves never are in the position of being in the presence of l’homme arme, who will kill us or imprison us. And we lack the empathy to know what it feels like.

Women and children flee: we men get rowdy in defense of women and children.

(Sexist? I don’t care anymore. Let us not speak falsely now the hour is much too late, and Israel’s brand of Fascistic feminism is an affront to the folkways of the Middle East.)

Violence, concedes Franz Fanon, is a tragedy. The first IDF commando was seized in his helmet and body armor and thrown, not in the sea, but to the next lower deck. I’m not a military specialist, but it seems to me a bad idea from the IDF’s point of view to send one man at a time down on cables or ropes, since the first men can be handled one at a time. In all of its cold, vicious planning, the commanders of this operation never seemed to have expected that they were sending men, not onto a Carnival Cruise ship, but into an instant riot, and you don’t quell a riot one cop at a time.

Israel’s consistent folly, of course, has been to militarize police matters such as its response to Qassim rockets; the lives or safety of the commandos didn’t really matter.

The passengers fought back. Good for them.

Arguably, Ghandi’s passive resistance in 1919 may have so angered Sir Reginald Dyer that he was able to command Gurkha troops to fire several hundred Lee-Enfield rounds into unarmed and fleeing men, women, and children at the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar that year. The Intifada and today’s events may be the reason why Israel has not yet tried to destroy the Palestinians.

We need not have “second thoughts” when we see the IDF footage used to justify murder and piracy. Yes, the lads on the top deck fought back. Good for them. I wish I was there. They are the Hungarians, fighting Soviet tanks in 1956. They are the Man of Tianamen Square.

If your government gives you merely formal recognition as a citizen with no nonsense, it is indecent to fight its police as long as the cops are following procedure. But the monopoly of force is over once the government treats you as a second-class person or the government you elected as moot, as does Israel with respect to Gaza’s Hamas administration.

Wait a minute. “Asymmetric” warfare?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 25, 2010 by spinoza1111

Edward G. Nilges
25 Jan 2010

To: International Herald Tribune

To whom it may concern:

In Ethan Bronner’s article “Israel Poised to Challenge a U.N. Report on Gaza” (IHT 25 Jan 2010), Israel’s war is labeled, in an Orwellian fashion, “asymmetric warfare”. The very word means “war” by a big country on a small people.

Asymmetric warfare isn’t magnificent and it isn’t war, no matter whether there is paperwork announcing daily ceasefires and ad-hoc cover stories claiming that Hamas destroyed a wastewater plant (for a good reason? A bad reason? For no reason at all?)

If people are enclosed in a concentration camp next to a country club (which is the situation in Gaza, obvious even on Google Earth) their natural response might be low-power rocket attacks. To respond to what is a police matter with warfare is itself a violation of international law. Dignifying it with Newspeak doesn’t change this. Asymmetric warfare is Orwell’s “boot stamping on a human face”.


Edward G. Nilges

International Herald Tribune letter re: Yaron Bob’s “art”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 11, 2009 by spinoza1111

Boris Artzybasheff (2)Edward G. Nilges

10 Oct 2009

International Herald Tribune

To whom it may concern:

I find your coverage of artist and computer teacher Yaron Bob in “Along Gaza, a Quiet (But Still Tense) Life” (Isabel Kershner, IHT 8 Oct 2009) very objectionable.

Yaron Bob, it seems, fashions sculptures out of low tech Qassam rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli towns, and claims that his works are “an answer to death”.

Another Israeli answer to “death”, unfortunately, was the use of white phosphorus in an attack on January 15 of this year on UNRWA headquarters, and a separate attack on a Gaza school on January 9th. In each of these attacks alone, the casualties matched the total number of Israeli casualties from rocket fire since 2001, and thousands of civilians in Gaza and the West Bank have died as the result of Israeli use of high tech heavy weapons on civilians, weapons vastly more deadly than Qassam rockets.

The casualties from Qassam rockets are low not only due to their limited range and power. They are also low because Israeli civilians can be easily relocated during periods of attacks…or may leave Israel voluntarily. These options are simply not available to Gaza and West Bank civilians most of whom cannot leave the zones allocated to them by Israel.

Sderot, a town subject to the largest number of rocket attacks, was built on Palestinian land seized in 1948, Najd, whose inhabitants were forcibly expelled in that year.

For Israelis to act and to make art as victims is, I think, what Theodore Adorno may have been thinking about when he said “no poetry after the Holocaust”. A glance at Google Earth alone makes it plain that Israel adjacent to Gaza is a country club adjacent to a concentration camp. Let us have no more of this “art”.


Edward G. Nilges

Israel: a country club next to a concentration camp

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 9, 2009 by spinoza1111

Read this BBC story about how the West Bank is deprived of its own water supplies. It appears from the article that Israel is taking underground springs that lie partly or wholly underneath the West Bank.

OK, this is really unacceptable: WATER.

Water that children must drink.

This is in violation of two UN conventions:

Principle 2 of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child:

The child shall enjoy special protection, and shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and by other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity. In the enactment of laws for this purpose, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.

Article 22 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality

Israel’s response is that the Palestinian Water Authority has failed to apply join the Israeli water grid (this is disputed by the Palestinians) and has “mismanaged” its water resources.

This is very interesting, because in my direct experience, when people’s rights are violated in everyday life, they are often counseled to a better job of “management”, where “management” is a Platonic abstraction or deus ex machina.

The following digression is an attempt to come to terms with the Israeli use of the concept “management”, because I believe it’s being used to justify the unjustifiable.

I noticed in business software that “management” was whatever was left, whatever precipitated out, after technical skill, mathematical knowledge, and even a work ethic were factored-out.

Management was never a matter of knowing what turned out to be the nontrivial science of programming (computer science). Even more strongly, it had nothing to do with mathematics. And managers were in my experience fond of saying that they worked “smart and not hard”.

Platonism in fine is a conjuring trick in which high-level abstraction appears to explain unfairness.

In the case of Israel, elites in that country have refined this Platonism to a high art, ironically in view of the fact that in ancient times, Hebraic thought as it appears in Torah was opposed to Platonism and Hellenist neo-Platonism, taking into account a need to be just (in excess of abstraction) in specific cases beginning with the story of Abraham and Isaac.

Israeli elites are unable to explain how you manage water correctly when Israel is taking (according to the BBC story) 80% of available supplies. They are also hard put to explain how Palestinian police can control Palestine-based terrorism or religious conflict when the Palestine police are attacked as enemy combatants.

It’s like the rich man advising the homeless beggar that he has mismanaged his money and should buy a house.

Israel is a country club located next to a concentration camp.

Children, for the free development of their person, need to drink eight glasses of clean water per day. Israel is taking this water from the chidren of Gaza and the West Bank.

Thou shalt not be righteous on my time, saith Stanley Fish

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2009 by spinoza1111


From this week’s Stanley Fish blog

“What should not be in dispute is that those actions, however salutary and productive of good results, were and are antithetical to the academic enterprise, which while it may provide the tools (of argument, fact and historical research) that enable good and righteous deeds, should never presume to perform them.”

Antithetical? Strong words. Is the value-neutral academic enterprise the thesis? And is Loretta Capeheart’s academic activism the antithesis?

Was there a value-neutral academic enterprise when men were men, the women were glad of it, the sheep were nervous, and all departments, even English, happily sawed away like unfall’n angels at building the palace of objective truth?

Only to meet the old Serpent at the crossroads of the 1960s?

Thus Satan, talking to his nearest mate,
With head uplift above the wave, and eyes
That sparkling blazed; his other parts besides
Prone on the flood, extended long and large,
Lay floating many a rood, in bulk as huge
As whom the fables name of monstrous size,
Titanian or Earth-born, that warred on Jove,
Briareos or Typhon, whom the den
By ancient Tarsus held, or that sea-beast
Leviathan, which God of all his works
Created hugest that swim th’ ocean-stream.

I find this myth hard to credit, although there is indeed a myth left over from the Sixties, of the attractive, intelligent, charismatic and rebellious male who made women go weak at the knees, and led the Rebel Angels. Because feminism picked up on this myth, one never finds any attractive, intelligent, charismatic or rebellious males. Martha Nussbaum is the first three, and of necessity as a woman a rebel angel: but Richard A Posner is as far as I can see (having seen him emerge snarling from the Chicago Club: having read his stuff) a nasty piece of work. Women complain about meeting nasty or clueless blokes: the destruction of male self esteem by a misunderstood feminism is the reason.

Like so many men who, whether they like it are not, are children of the Sixties which allowed them to be Bad Boys in the first place, and to fright the ladies with at first left-wing opinions, and then when they tired of that game, with conservative views, Fish don’t seem to know much about history.

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the french I took

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be

(Sam Cooke)

This is because his strange conclusion hasn’t been tested against the time before the dreamtime.

In the 1950s, the issue wasn’t whether to boycott Israel. It was signing a loyalty oath to keep your academic job…or staying silent so that your department chair didn’t get a hair up his ass about having his faculty sign a loyalty oath.

The faculty member, importuned to sign, might well demur on the basis of “objectivity”: that his loyalty had “naught to do with Mistress Shore”, that he was a New Critic, exclusively concerned with determining the meaning of the Poet.

Would Fish defend him? Certainly, he’s designed his strange theory in part to keep the university safe from right-wing takeover in addition to a putsch by some putz of the left like Rancourt in the unlikely event that that professor is ever in a position to mount one. But Fish is strangely silent on universities in the heartland which enforce Christianity such as “Bob” Jones.

No, I’m afraid that in the 1950s, Fish would counsel the academic, bullyragged in turn to sign a loyalty oath, to sign it, zip up, and go along to get along: for objectivity in the real world is overdetermined by schlamperei. Furthermore, under Fish’s employment model of academic work, the state legislature or board of directors has the final say.

I therefore see Fish, in the 1950s, counseling Arthur Miller, like Elia Kazan, to be “sensible”, to be “objective”.

Going back further, I am seeing something else.

Horatio: Where, my lord?
Hamlet: In my mind’s eye, Horatio

I see a 1930s Fish writing even-handed columns about you guessed it…Hitler. Mike Godwin, whom I’ve encountered and bantered with electronically, most notably on a Princeton University Press forum moderated by Cass Sunstein in 2000, may feel that I “converge to Hitler” to rapidly. But if Hitler’s miserable existence is to have any meaning at all, it must be as a negative touchstone of righteousness.

Mister Fish, the university community has to presuppose enough righteousness to allow people of different views to gather, and discuss their views. The “gathering” must not be Heideggerian, one of silent Nordic men who agree on so much they need not say a word as the clutch their pitchforks and torches. The staff members in a joint like Princeton have not only to be smart enough to work with students, they also have to be righteous enough not to want to whore themselves out to Wall Street (at such a time when Wall Street returns from its current degringolade) and work for peanuts.

Try teaching a survey class for a change, Mister Fish. See how much righteousness is needed to be patient with boneheads.

I find no model in Torah or Scripture for the man who is neutral even when paid. I find only the righteous and the wicked.

This just in: Avigdor Lieberman, expected to be named Israeli Foreign Minister by Benjamin Netanyahu, “campaigned on the need for a loyalty oath in Israel so that those who do not support a Jewish democratic state would lose their citizenship” (Ethan Bronner, “After war in Gaza, Israel reaches out to fight widening isolation”, International Herald Tribune 20 March 2009).

What is this objectivity, Mister Fish? Is it so easy to bring about this parousia you seek? And might it not be a bit of distraction from tikkun?


A “rain” of rockets my ass!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 13, 2009 by spinoza1111


Edward G. Nilges
Lamma Island
Hong Kong

13 March 2009

International Herald Tribune

To whom it may concern:

“In a city where rockets rain down, Israeli children get a safe place to play”, by Ethan Bronner [IHT 13 March 2009], constitutes journalism as hostage-taking and child abuse.

It is hostage taking because Israel had alternatives when, owing to its economic blockade of Gaza (an act of war still in effect), Hamas began firing rockets. Alternatives included the relocation of the non-essential inhabitants of Sderot and other towns in range, or a high-tech anti-missile system that would have been a test bed for the United States’ own anti-missile defences.

The United States and Israel demonstrated the ability to “take out” the more powerful Scud missiles used by Saddam Hussein in 1991. No word here of any such effort being made against smaller rockets. Why?

The article is child abuse because the publicists behind this journalism reason that to demur from the article’s framework would make the dissident the Wicked Grownup who haunts the postmodern collective subconscious and who bakes children into pies. Because people abdicate their common political sense they are haunted by Hannibal Lecter, and grownups, who should know better, who should be constructing antimissile shields or relocating children as was done in London in 1940, prefer acting, and here writing, like children.

A maximum of five rockets a day falling upon impermeable shelters that the children of Gaza cannot afford is not even metaphorically a rain of rockets. High tech ordinance made for war-fighting against an evenly matched enemy, used in densely populated areas pour encourager, is indeed a rain of blood, terrorism, and a war crime.


Edward G. Nilges