Boring Subversion

It’s out! The new issue of Ma’ayan, Israel’s most notorious literary magazine, lives down to its reputation. Here’s Dada without the humor, subway graffiti without the color. The prose reads like what you’d get if you transplanted George W. Bush’s brain into the body of Israeli anti-Zionist historian Ilan Pappe (I’m thinking of Bush’s wooden English style and cluelessness chimeraed with Pappe’s hysterical grandstanding and Hebrew kindergarten invective). Most of the poetry was, I suspect, written on Jerusalem’s infamous 15 (recently demoted to 13) bus, which wends its way irrationally and endlessly through streets that no one particularly wants to visit.

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The Land of Asylum

This idea that Israel should offer asylum to non-Jewish refugees – how new is that? Some crazy concept thought up by secular Tel Aviv liberals with no concern for Israel’s Jewish character?

Actually, no. Just a bit older than that.

After my post a few days ago on the need for a new policy on African refugees reaching Israel, I got an email from my son, who’s now studying at Ma’aleh Gilboa, the yeshiva of the Religious Kibbutz Movement. He sent me a text from Sefer Hahinukh, an anonymous 13th century religious text

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The Selfish Monk: Kim Ki-Duk’s “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter …and Spring”

The ancients asked a question we ask too seldom today: How can I live a good life? Not a happy, successful, or important life, but a good one? The answer the Korean director Kim Ki-Duk gives in his 2003 film, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter …and Spring is: live alone, in a house that floats in the middle of a lake that lies in a beautiful, deserted valley. Do not love, do not raise a family, do not seek out other human beings.

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The Intellectual Defense Forces

If you want to bone up quickly on any subject ranging from molecular biology to gender studies to Maimonides, where do you go? If you’re lucky enough to be able to read Hebrew, you know where—you pop over to the nearest book store or library and dig through the booklets published by the Broadcast University.

Israel’s universities may be in decline and their humanities faculties heading for intensive care, but this is one bright corner, and the light comes, of all places, from the army.

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Road to Annexation: The Paper Trail

Ethan Bronner’s article on Highway 443, the Israelis-only West Bank road, is now up at the New Yorks Times.

Bronner cites the documents first published at South Jerusalem, proving that the road was conceived from the start as part of settlement plans, contrary to what the government told the Supreme Court. As I’ve written:

…the road was planned in the mid-70s as part of a wider plan for Israeli settlement around Jerusalem. In turn, that plan reflected the original Allon Plan, drawn up by the-Labor Minister Yigal Allon in July 1967, immediately after the Six-Day War. The road’s purpose was to serve settlements and the eventual annexation of West Bank land to Israel. Everything else was purely a cover story…

My previous post on the subject, Lies, Damn Lies, and Supreme Court briefs, referred to the Yigal Allon’s July 1967 proposal to annex the area where the road now lies. Here’s the original document:

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Barak v. Barack: The Strange Case of Robert Malley

My new piece at The American Prospect explain what’s behind attempts to smear Barack Obama by smearing one of his advisers, former Clinton administration foreign-policy expert Robert Malley. There’s more at work here than the usual, nearly boring, attempts to slime a liberal candidate as anti-Israel for the “sin” of supporting what Israel needs most … Read more Barak v. Barack: The Strange Case of Robert Malley

Liberal Israel Lobby: Update II

Though organizers of the new, dovish Israel lobby are still not talking about their plans, James Besser has a report in the Jewish Week:

Dubbed the J-Street Project – “K Street” has become a cipher for Washington’s lobbying establishment and “J Street,” missing from Washington’s downtown grid, has become a local “in” joke – the new project kicks off with a hush-hush fundraiser next Monday hosted by former Clinton administration official Jeremy Ben Ami and Daniel Levy, director of the Prospects for Peace Initiative of the Century Foundation.

“For too long, the loudest American voices in political and policy debates have been those on the far right – often Republican neoconservatives or extreme Christian Zionists,” according to the invitation. “J Street aims to change that. We are the first and only lobby and PAC (political action committee) dedicated to ensuring Israel’s security, changing the direction of American policy in the Middle East and opening up American political debate about Israel and the Middle East.”

Besser quotes University of Florida political scientist Ken Wald making two points, both of which seem outdated to me:

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Up Against the Wall: Back at Gershom

Gershom, you’re right about a number of things in your“Politics of Measurement” post. Science is never free of social, economic, and cultural constraints, even if the scientific method offers, by and large, a good way to minimize those influences and approach the truth. And proving cause-and-effect relationships in politics and relations between nations is a hazardous undertaking. The influences are complex and interlocking, you don’t have a control group, and experiments can’t be repeated.

In the specific case at hand, the separation barrier, you are also correct that it is very difficult to isolate the anti-terror effect of the fence from other factors. As you note, political changes took place in parallel to the construction of the fence. And Israel also conducted an anti-terror offensive, using a variety of military measures.

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Liberal Israel lobby: Update I

Stephen Walt, co-author of “The Israel Lobby” complains that I misrepresented his views in a post on Tuesday. I wrote that “I reject the claims of Mearsheimer, Walt & groupies that a pro-Israel cabal controls American policy toward the Mideast.” He’s right that I should have avoided the word “cabal,” which implies a well-coordinated, secret group.

In fact, one of the infuriating aspect of the book is that the “the lobby” they attack is such a “loose coalition” that it changes shape from page to page. Is Tom Friedman part of “the lobby’s” media contigent, or a victim of “the lobby’s” efforts to silence critics? Is the dovish Israel Policy Forum part of the lobby, or opposed to it?

A serious work of scholarship would have chosen a specific organization or organizations, and closely followed their work – using primary documents and interviews with the people involved. Mearsheimer and Walt did not perform 

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The Politics of Measurement: Drugs and Fences

To continue a conversation with Haim about politics and physics: Faux pas, shmaux pas. In physics, action and reaction refer to motion. In Israeli-Palestinian relations, actions and reactions raise the temperature but, to our sorrow, usually produce absolutely no political movement. Hence the rule that for every action there is an opposite and unequal reaction is indeed the First Law of Political Thermodynamics.

Then again, maybe I should have avoided using a scientific metaphor for politics. Scientists can be touchy about metaphor. They prefer metaphors with a strict one-to-one relation between the symbol and the reality. Political metaphors are more likely to be suggestive than precise.

On the other hand, I do suggest applying some political analysis to science. For instance, random controlled testing of new drugs as a way of determining the best way to do medicine. On the surface, nothing could appear more objective.

But ever since Thomas Kuhn‘s 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, it’s been clear that science involves more than objective gathering information. There are subjective choices about the nature of the problem to be solved, and what constitutes evidence in solving it. The debate about Kuhn is vast. But I don’t think his genie can be forced back in the bottle.

If science includes subjectivity, it is also influenced by society, politics and economics.

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