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30 April 2010


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“A 'natural feature of this overall outlook,' he writes, is: 'an image of the Arab/Muslim world, and the Palestinians in particular, as irrational, brutal and violent, imbued with intractably anti-Semitic hatreds fortified by deeply anti-Western, Muslim-fundamentalist fanaticism.'”…

In 1965 Alabama was (and still is) part of ‘Western civilization’. The attitude of the members of ‘civilization’ who live there is certainly different now.


Even Governor Wallace changed his views:

George Wallace was elected a 4th time as Governor of Alabama with African American support. Of course some members of the ‘Tea Party’ spat upon Congressman Lewis recently. The Congressman was on of the first men beaten attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965.

Perhaps we should see that Islam IS a western religion and that the countries whose population is mostly Muslim are also part of Western civilization.

Jane, 9/11 was no more an attack upon America by adherents to Islam than Timothy McVeigh’s attack in Oklahoma City was an attack upon America by Christians.

David Habakkuk

Adam Silverman, mo,

Both your comments take me into areas where my knowledge of the relevant history is inadequate.

My training was as a journalist and television current affairs producer -- which makes me a jack of a few trades and a master of none. However, it did imbue in me a conviction that to make sense of any complex political situation one had to attempt to reconstruct how the different actors involved saw the problems they were facing, and the appropriate solutions to them, and that doing this usually involved an attempt to acquire some grasp of the relevant history. Moreover, an understanding of how people define their problems and the solutions they find to them is necessarily evaluative.

This may sound like gobblegook, but the questions you both raise about Ian Lustick's account of the history of the 'Iron Wall' conception illustrates what I mean rather well. The Zionists may well have regarded Arabs as brutal and violent, but what I take him to be saying was that the 'Iron Wall' analysis in no way depended upon any such perception -- that it was a perfectly rational response to the evident and unsurprising fact that the existing population of the area was violently hostile to the establishment of a Jewish state.

In that sense -- and I am not implying approval by this -- it was the right answer to the problem: a brutal, but calculated, use of violence to achieve results that could only be achieved with violence.

As to its failure, I have tended to think -- subject to correction -- that this may well have been because at a time when the positions of Israel and Arafat were not actually irreconcileable, the Camp David summit was bungled: with Dennis Ross playing a major role in mucking things up.

And then, catastrophically, the failure of the talks was interpreted, by the Israeli leadership and most mainstream Western opinion, as having resulted from the Palestinians having -- as Robert Malley put it -- 'turned down a generous Israeli offer, rejected the Jewish state's right to exist, then turned to violence'.

But this was the wrong analysis of the problem -- and led to catastrophically miscalculated policies. In fact, both the 'no partner' theory adopted by Barak, and the view of the intifada as a war preplanned by Arafat for ideological reasons, were directly contradicted by what Israeli Military Intelligence researchers knew to be the case -- but in Israel as elsewhere, key intelligence figures preferred to tell their political masters that these wanted to hear, rather than 'telling truth to power'.

Since then -- as Akiva Elder chronicled in Haaretz in January last year -- what we have had is a policy of unilateral actions and mindless violence, with at each stage Israeli intelligence hopelessly miscalculating the effects of their actions.

(See http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1053882.html.)

Will Israel 'left to its own devices collapse on itself?', mo asks, and suggests that it would only 'drift evermore to the right, making it even more attractive to the US right wing evangelists and garner their protection.'

A similar confidence in the durability of American support was expressed at the time of the invasion of Gaza by one Marcello, with whom mo and I discussed the implications of changes in missile technology three years ago.

He wrote:

'It seems evident to me that for most american conservatives palestinians are subhuman scum that should be exterminated. On the other side there are sufficient israeli supporters to make any rating conscious democratic politician balk. IOW the overwhelming majority of politically active people are firmly on the israeli side. The rest don't care or, like the sort of people who are here, don't count.'

If Israel can maintain support for the directions down which it is going because of an alliance with thugs with a taste for mindless violence, then disaster looms.

I would hope that this is an inaccurate assessment of American political reality. I would also hope that very many American Jews -- like all of the British Jews I know, without exception -- would not want to be seen dead with the kind of 'conservative' who regards Palestinians -- or anyone else for that matter -- as 'subhuman scum that should be exterminated'.

As mo says, if would be interesting to meet in real life some time. If either of you are ever in London, get in touch.


I still think the question to ask Israel is, "what more do you want, what circumstances would be your ideal?"

Once that is known, and I suspect it will never be known, we can solve the problems.


I'm wondering if there is any scenario in which the Israel's arrogant, militaristic leadership might talk tough but actually read the writing on the wall and not provoke a catastrophe.

I'm wondering if Operation Cast Lead was undertaken with such severity largely because Israel has come to realize that there are no longer that many dogs that it can kick with impunity. If that is the case, then the Palestinians are in for some exceedingly tough times, while others will be abused verbally but not physically.

As a result, Israel could stay intact longer than expected.

FB Ali

Excellent post (and a very good discussion). DH said, referring to Iran:

Very often, if one sees signs that an adversary may be preparing to set a trap for one, the sensible response is to take steps not to fall into it....

I would suggest that it is this that led to Gen Petraeus’s surprising public statements about the problems that Israeli policies could cause the US, and his reported attempt to extend his responsibilities to cover that area. He has been faulted here off and on for being ambitious and career-conscious, but waving this red rag at the Israeli lobby also shows that he can put his country’s interests above his own.

It is interesting to speculate what led him to such a strong conviction of danger to the US from Israel’s policies. As part of his command functions he interacts a lot with the military hierarchies in many Muslim countries (and they usually have a decisive say in determining national security and foreign policies). It is probable that the views he heard expressed by them made him realise what a huge price the US would pay if Israel attacked Iran (no one believes that this could occur without US complicity and, probably, assistance).

Petraeus probably realised that, if such an attack occurred, the US could write-off the Muslim world for the next decade or two.

Patrick Lang

FB Ali

Perhaps pl



"Jane, 9/11 was no more an attack upon America by adherents to Islam than Timothy McVeigh’s attack in Oklahoma City was an attack upon America by Christians."

When McVeigh has as many imitators among Christians as Osama has had among Muslims, I will consider your argument seriously.

When I first wrote my post I included the obligatory and sound disclaimer that the vast majority of Muslims profoundly disagree with and abhor Osama's beliefs and actions but lost that post as I attended to other matters. It remains the case that Osama's actions are predicated on his beliefs as a Muslim and that he inspires a small cult. When some 19 people with box cutters and back up can cause such destruction, it is irrational to write off the impact of such a cult. It is also the case that the Taliban fundamentalist were willing to shelter him.

Clifford Kiracofe

David Habakkuk,

1. On Camp David, yes it was sabotaged by Ross etal. one can well argue.

For example see, Akram Hanieh "The Camp David Papers" for the Palestinian perspective. Hanieh, editor of Al-Ayyam, was an adviser to Arafat. Persons I know with first hand knowledge of Hanieh and the negotiations recommended his account to me. It is available online although my personal copy is the original published by Al-Ayyam.

There is a book by a US journalist, Clayton Swisher, about Camp David although I have not read it.

2. It is too bad that the Taba Summit talks are forgotten these days. It was the very last ditch Clinton Administration effort.

When I was in Egypt in 2002, I asked the Egyptian Foreign Minister His Exc. Ahmed Maher about Taba. He told me and I do quote "We were 95% there" and indicated that further negotiations could well have been fruitful.

3. But what happened to Taba? The Bush Administration took office and its policy was to kill any serious negotiations and proceed with faux diplomacy. This was under the ever present Neocons naturally in touch with Ross etal.

For me, the nullification of Taba by the Bush Administration, and subsequent Israeli behavior, spelled the end of any hopes for a negotiated two-state solution.

That Ross is in the Obama Administration playing a role on the Middle East is one indicator of the Obama Administration's true intentions, IMO...if Obama was serious about the Middle East, Ross would not be a player.

Clifford Kiracofe

Here is Mearshimer's latest, although nothing new to our discussions at SST:

"The story I will tell is straightforward. Contrary to the wishes of the Obama administration and most Americans – to include many American Jews – Israel is not going to allow the Palestinians to have a viable state of their own in Gaza and the West Bank. Regrettably, the two-state solution is now a fantasy. Instead, those territories will be incorporated into a “Greater Israel,” which will be an apartheid state bearing a marked resemblance to white-ruled South Africa. Nevertheless, a Jewish apartheid state is not politically viable over the long term. In the end, it will become a democratic bi-national state, whose politics will be dominated by its Palestinian citizens. In other words, it will cease being a Jewish state, which will mean the end of the Zionist dream."...


Ali Mirza

FB Ali

Ironically, The National Review echoes your views but spins it to a different conclusion.
"The upshot of this could not be clearer: Petraeus is echoing the narrative peddled incessantly by leftists in the government he serves and by Islamists in the countries where he works. According to that narrative, Israel's plight is not a struggle for survival against immovable foes spurred by an Islamist ideology that must be discredited and defeated. To the contrary, this view holds, it is the result of a mere political conflict. It could be resolved, so the theory goes, if only Israel weren't so intransigent - ie, if it would just stop taking so seriously its need to secure its citizens against enemies pledged to its destruction. Israel's stubbornness (which is to say, its insistence on existing as a Jewish state in what Muslims regard as Islamic land) creates tensions that "flare into violence" (Palestinian terrorist attacks undertaken with the approval and encouragement of the region's most influential Islamic authorities)."
This appears in an article on Asia Times online written by David P Goldman.
I would also recommend articles by Syed Saleem Shezad on the same site.
Interesting reading regarding the Taliban.
I do wonder though how a Pakistani journalist can have such access without being backed by some security agency within Pakistan.
I tracked down the article referenced;

On an unrelated note, found this little nugget on the national review site referencing Col Lang:
"Sources remain anonymous when they have something to hide, or when they do not have the courage to speak their convictions outright. The records of frequent anonymous intelligence and defense sources give cause to doubt. Former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Patrick Lang, for example, has argued that Likud controls America. He told associates that Undersecretary of Policy Douglas Feith sought to make the Middle East safe for Jews by a process of "de-Arabization." Several journalists have relied on Lang as a source as did television networks that used him as an analyst. Most did not mention that, in the run-up to the war in Iraq, Lang was a registered agent of a foreign government."
This has been discussed extensively here so I had a good laugh.
Don't you stop blogging Col Lang. Too many kool aid drinkers would breath sighs of relief.

Patrick Lang

Ali Mirza

For years now, scum like Rubin and Perle have called editors, producers and media executives to spread lies about me in the best agitprop tradition. pl

Patrick Lang

Ali Mirza

I almost forgot that my lawyer forced a printed retraction of that particular calumny. If they had not retracted I was prepared to sue National Review on line. pl

FB Ali

Col Lang

I presume the doubt you implied in your comment relates to the motive that I ascribed to Petraeus for his position on this matter. It is difficult to conceive of any other. Adopting such a strong stance on an issue so critical to the Israel lobby amounts to a career-ending move (as Chas Freeman, and, indeed, you yourself in a way, have experienced).

Some time ago there were reports that Petraeus had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Such experiences often lead to a reordering of one’s priorities.

Patrick Lang

FB Ali

I had not heard those reports. I earlier thought that DP was looking to replace Biden. but now, I think not. I agree that this is likely to be a career ender unless a sea change really is occurring as the Israeli crowd fears.

Actually, that is very specifically what happened to me. It took years to reconstruct the evidence of the occurrence. pl



Camp David was never going to be a success because if Arafat had signed what was offered he would have been lynched on his return.

Echoing Clifford's post, Taba was much more closer to getting a result but this time was scuppered by the right wing both in the US and Israel.

Since then however, the Israelis have been offered the Saudi plan (referred to without irony as the Beirut Proposal) which they have studiously ignored.

To better summarise my thoughts on The Iron Wall, it worked well until 91. After signing peace deals with Arafat and Jordan, the Israelis most likely believed it was no longer necessary as all they had left to deal with were the Syrians and their obsolete hardware and the Lebanese; And Lebanon, being such a small nation was never going to give them any trouble surely......

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