Friday, April 11, 2014

2 + 2 = 5 for sufficiently large values of 2

Empress Trudy

Image and video hosting by TinyPic There are problems you can and want to see addressed, problems you can, but don’t want to see addressed, problems you will never be able to address and problems which aren’t intended to ever be addressed at all. It’s important to understand which one you’re dealing with.

1) Problems that you can and want to see addressed.

2) Problems you can, but don't want to see addressed.

3) Problems you will never be able to address.

4) Problems which aren’t intended to ever be addressed at all.

To many Israelis their problems are of the first type. They want some resolutions with the Arabs and genuinely believe that somewhere there’s a mix of different things which more or less can result in something resembling a resolution or management of the problem to some vague point in time in the future.

The key difference between Israel and John Kerry is that’s it’s likely that the US sees this as an issue of the second type; as something which can be managed but their intent isn’t to ‘solve’ it only to leave it out there as a bludgeon to beat the Israelis over the head with for whatever the US happens to need this month or this year.  Politicians are after all, politicians, and what they do is shaped by today’s need, yesterday’s poll and next year’s election. This is also why the US almost reflexively supports the Arabs blaming Israel for pretty much whatever does or doesn’t happen or won’t happen or hasn’t happened. The Arabs see this too as an issue that must never be ‘fixed’. Having a ‘state’ is the last thing they want.  A state isn’t useful to the oligarchs and criminal terrorists to rule over the Arabs like the Sopranos. This one gets taxicabs, that one gets cigarettes, that one gets cement, the other one gets cell phones, and so on.  And with a reliable stream of several billion dollars and euros flowing in each year sufficient to create the most heavily armed, per capita society on the planet today, they use a judicious mixture of criminality and violence to keep things just as they are.

But I diverge. The issue is that the US and the Arabs don’t see this as anything other than a weapon to wield against Israel to keep this status quo operating.

This will eventually force the Israelis into a position from the first type to the third. Eventually they will come to see this as irresolvable.  Not even manageable in the long run as some see it now since the point to managing something is to eventually move the status forward. But if you come to believe that whatever whenever it’s no more likely than teaching an octopus to fly then only one of two things will occur – either the Israelis will stop engaging them at all, or they will adopt a highly cynical approach of tacitly agreeing with the Arabs and the US that they know they know there’s  no point in any of this theater.  Keep Calm and Carry On as it were.

Then we come to the last type, the problems which aren’t supposed to be fixed. We call these bellwether issues. Politics is thick in bellwether issues: abortion, gun control, first amendment, global warming, illegal aliens and Israel. These are never supposed to get fixed because they aren’t truly ‘real’. They’re signposts that signify where one generally stands for a whole host of other political issues. They’re proxies. Moreover they CAN’T be solved because any solution will guarantee 100% dissatisfaction of whomever views they got the losing end. You can’t partially come to terms with people who 100% oppose abortion. You can broker a deal with people who never want any conceivable form of gun regulation at all. You can’t argue with people who say global warming deniers should be censored then put in prison. And you can’t hammer out a deal with student groups who openly embrace genocidal anti-Semitism.  But what you can do is scream slogans at one another which is more for your own fellow travelers’ benefit so you know they know you’re one of them.

In college life in the US and the UK and I’m sure other places as well, adopting this is a kind of one size fits all shorthand for the whole basket of anarchist protest one is expected to adopt when one is a college student.  This week Brandeis offered then withdrew an honorary doctorate from Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch politician, feminist and critic of Islam originally from Sudan who’s written and spoken for years not about the dangers of Islam per se but the cruelties created by political Islamism upon the very same people and groups those college students purport to embrace; women, children, the marginalized, the poor, the powerless.  Once we introduce criticism of Islam though, the bellwether crowd trots out the same tired tropes – “Islamophobia” which itself is a bellwether for “be afraid we might rise up and hurt you”.

What it boils down to is Israel has adopted one approach, a mindset that their issues with the Arabs are social-political problems much like those between any two other people’s who ultimately see a need and benefit to coming to terms.  It’s unlikely, as some of Israel’s internal critics assert, that this is just craven surrender, appeasement to give up give in and hope for the best. No it’s more likely that Israel’s leaders more as a matter of choosing to take specific unpalatable actions each one fairly small to make some kind of slow progress – more of a scattershot approach of “well we tried that now try this see what happens”. Because that’s how negotiations work in the real world .

But the Arabs and the US aren’t really playing the deep game they pretend to. In fact they’re not playing much of a game at all. They’re playing a no-move game. One where any next move is as good as any other because NONE of them matter.  That’s not the objective. Their objective is doing nothing and keeping the static line in place. For as long as it’s useful to extract and extort something out of the Jews.

The Arabs don’t have a single government – the PLO/Fatah in one place and Hamas in another. Hamas itself it’s entirely in control of Gaza either. No one inside their leadership is ever going to make a move to change that either. For two reasons, 1) anarchy works to their continued benefit, 2) they will never overtly impose their political will on each other because some outsider told them to.  Not having a unified government and openly admitting that half the Arabs concerned will never not only accept Israel but they won’t even accept the other half of the population and their leadership speaking for them.

Meanwhile with 30 months left on the Obama administration all the US cares about is what if anything they can accomplish for themselves inside that window. I guarantee there’s never been a US President who worried for 3 seconds what happens to Israel on the day after he leaves office. US support of Israel is a policy issue that has always originated from Congress not the Executive Branch. It has never been and will never be a matter of personal affinity between the US President and Israel.  The issue for the US such as anyone can tease out any issues that are critical, is what the US can do to lean on Israel as an ‘ally’ to get what the US wants out of that exercise.  Perhaps Obama needs to lean on Israel for something with Iran or Turkey or Russia or who knows? Maybe it’s purely domestic and Obama’s only goal is to threaten Congress with harming relations with Israel so that Congresspersons feel it in their local districts. I don’t know.

Lastly, what to do with the bellwether crowd? That angry ignorant gabble of useful idiots who tell each other they never saw a Jew they couldn’t enjoy kicking in the teeth? Is it worth engaging them at all? Most people would say yes. I remain not 100% convinced of this. It’s possible that this can useful as long as we understand who the intended audience is. Certainly none of these glint eyed zealots will ever be swayed; they don’t want to. It’s possible to convince some of the people who don’t have a firm opinion but generally hasbara has been a failure. Either we don’t know how to educate people or we’re getting the wrong message out. Bellwether loons appeal to the emotions not the mind so stating facts and figures might not mean anything. But emoting doesn’t appear to afford much benefit either. I’m not close enough to campus life to recognize how BDS motions get rejected. Someone should look into how that happens.

I am not suggesting here to take one approach over any other. I am not even suggesting that concluding this is something that can never be solved and we should no longer even try. That is your own conclusion.  What I am suggesting is that it’s vital to understand how your opponents view the nature of their own 'arguments'. 


  1. BDS gets repeatedly rejected because the vast majority of Americans in general don't spend three seconds of any given day thinking about Israel either way.

    When the facts are reasonably presented, BDS loses. And when they can't even win on campuses or in food coops, they're left with goofy aging rockers, useful idiots like Peter Beinart and such luminaries from the literary world as Alice Walker, who, in between taking Mediterranean terror cruises, promotes the works of a man who believe that Jews are intergalactic lizards, and that the president of the United States of America is a shape-shifting, time-traveling CIA agent from Mars.

    There will always be antisemites, who now have the choice to dress up in more respectable garb than just the pointy white hoods and sheets of the cross-burning past. They can choose whichever flavor of the political spectrum suits them anymore.

    They will of course never be convinced that they are just bigots, but that's what they are, and I don't think anybody proposes even trying to reach out to them. Not convincing the hardcore antisemitic BDSers isn't an indication that we're failing at anything, or that spreading the truth doesn't help. In fact, telling the truth demonstrably does help in defeating them something like 99.99999% of the time they try to force their agenda on others.

    Their increasing tendency towards intimidation and thuggery is a sign of their further radicalization, as Jon Haber notes, which will finish them off for good, at least in this incarnation (there will certainly be another "Boycott the Jews!" movement waiting to pick up the baton in the wake of the rubble of BDS), within the next few years.

  2. "promotes the works of a man who believe that Jews are intergalactic lizards, and that the president of the United States of America is a shape-shifting, time-traveling CIA agent from Mars."

    Wait! Are you telling me this isn't true????? I lovvvvvvvvveeee Lizards. Dang!