Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Response to Frank Steiner

Response to Frank Steiner, "The Philosophers’ War on Israel," The Beacon, Aug. 20, 2014, <>.

The Israel lobby displays a staggering level of disdain for the intelligence of the American people. Whenever Israel is in the news, you can rest assured that the well-heeled coalition of pro-Israeli propagandists are working overtime trying to ensure that vacuous slogans like "the freest state in the Middle East" endlessly circulate to offset the negative PR-value of images documenting the collective punishment of the subjugated Palestinian population.

The self-serving whining of professional pro-Israel lobbyists (like American Israel Public Affairs Committee President Frank Steiner*) belies their pretended contempt for the petitioning efforts of academics that they shamelessly smear as "third rate."

Despite this transparently politically-motivated and sanctimonious lecturing, reasonable people do not consider near-genocidal military reprisals to be "morally praiseworthy" methods for quashing the Palestinian campaign for national autonomy. In fact, as professor Norman Finkelstein points out: "International law prohibits an occupying power from using force to suppress a struggle for self-determination, whereas it does not prohibit a people struggling for self-determination from using force." [1]

Regarding the incessantly repeated Israeli motto "freest state in the Middle East," this - to the extant that it comes out true at all - is of a piece with "complimentary" statements such as "Mickey Spillane was the noblest of the mobsters." Doubtless the gangster Spillane did seem noble in comparison to psychopaths like Meyer Lansky, Louis Lepke, and Bugsy Siegel. But even "gentleman gangsters" are unquestionably criminals.

Israel is an apartheid state that systematically relegates non-"Jews" to the status of second-class citizens (at best). According to the late Professor Israel Shahak:

"Israel 'belongs' to persons who are defined by the Israeli authorities as 'Jewish', irrespective of where they live, and to them alone. On the other hand, Israel doesn't officially 'belong' to its non-Jewish citizens, whose status is considered even officially as inferior. This means in practice that if members of a Peruvian tribe are converted to Judaism, and thus regarded as Jewish, they are entitled at once to become Israeli citizens and benefit from the approximately 70 per cent of the West Bank land (and the 92 per cent of the area of Israel proper), officially designated only for the benefit of Jews. All non-Jews (not only all Palestinians) are prohibited from benefiting from those lands. (The prohibition applies even to Israeli Arabs who served in the Israeli army and reached a high rank.) The case involving Peruvian converts to Judaism actually occurred a few years ago. The newly-created Jews were settled in the West Bank, near Nablus, on land from which non-Jews are officially excluded."[2]

Likewise, it may well be the case, historically speaking, that "no state facing the existential threats on par with those facing the state of Israel has ever demonstrated the level of respect for human dignity and worth as has the government in Jerusalem...".

However, translating this into straightforward English, it is simply a declaration that, in past Empires, rock-throwing protesters exhibiting insufficient obeisance (i.e., committing lèse-majesté "crimes") to the Imperial rulers would be summarily exterminated. The modern manifestation of this is the defiant Palestinians who, despite the futility of their gestures, lob the equivalent of model rockets at the military behemoth that is the American-funded Israeli state.

That Israel does not just wipe out the oppressed Palestinian population is hardly to be credited to Israeli self-restraint. The fact is that there are simply too many eyes on Israel for it to do so.

Israel's "moral superiority" is attested by the declaration of Rabbi Yaacov Perrin, who "eulogized" the mass-murderer Baruch Goldstein (who slaughtered 30 Muslims while they prayed [3]) by saying: "One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail." [4]

So much for the "singular beacon of freedom."

The notion that "Israel's right to defend itself" - a favorite line for pro-Israeli partisans - is being "violated" by those who insist that Israel not be immune from International Law, was put paid to by the esteemed Professor Noam Chomsky. Chomsky highlighted the seldom-noted (by the aforementioned pro-Israeli propagandists) logical leap obscured by the insipid phrase.

"The mantra that is endlessly repeated is that Israel has the right to use force to defend itself. The thesis is partially defensible. The rocketing is criminal, and it is true that a state has the right to defend itself against criminal attacks. But it does not follow that it has a right to defend itself by force. That goes far beyond any principle that we would or should accept." [5]

"But let’s not bother with rigorous intellectual inquiry."

No, let us deemphasize the sober analyses of philosophers such as Jeff McMahan and Jason Stanley and turn for our moral advice to professional pro-Israel lobbyists from AIPAC. How can we doubt that their caviling is anything but the impassioned entreaties from a disinterested party? I mean, it's not as if AIPAC was "the most important organization affecting America's relationship with Israel." [6] It's not as though AIPAC was playing with hundreds of millions of dollars - and with much to lose, financially and politically, should the tide of American public opinion turn against Israel. Oh, wait.

For more information, see Michael Hoffman's book The Israeli Holocaust Against the Palestinians, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho: Independent History & Research, 2002, .
* "Frank Steiner," C-Span Biographical History, <>.

1. Norman G. Finkelstein, "...The Law Supports Hamas...," normanfinkelstein[dot]com, Jul. 20, 2014, <>; citing James Crawford, The Creation of States in International Law, 2nd. ed., Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006, pp. 135-37, 147; Heather A. Wilson, International Law and the Use of Force by National Liberation Movements, Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1988, pp. 135-36; and A. Rigo Sureda, The Evolution of the Right to Self-Determination: A study of United Nations practice, Leiden: Bril, 1973, pp. 331, 343-44, 354.

2. Israel Shahak, Jewish History, Jewish Religion, London: Pluto, 1994, p. 3; Brooklyn, N.Y.: Baruch Spinoza, p. 4.

3. "1994: Jewish Settler Kills 30 at Holy Site," BBC, <>.

4. Clyde Haberman, "West Bank Massacre; Israel Orders Tough Measures Against Militant Settlers," New York Times, Feb. 28, 1994, <>.

5. Noam Chomsky, "'Exterminate all the Brutes': Gaza 2009,", Jan. 19, 2009, rev. Jun. 6, 2009, <chomsky[dot]info/articles/20090119.htm>.

6. Quoted in John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008, p. 154.

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