Looking on the bright side…

Israelis sit in lawn chairs and eat popcorn while cheering on the slaughter in Gaza

… is normally not my style, but even I get tired of being Eeyore all the time.

It seems rather horrible even to suggest that something good may have come out of Israel’s latest murderous rampage in Gaza, but I think it has.

For some time now I’ve been aware of a steady erosion in the hypnotic power of the Israeli narrative among my fellow Amurricans. But there has always remained a certain reluctance among my Gentile friends to say what they really think. They’re very happy to see Jewish groups like Jews Say No and the like taking on Israel, but there’s been a certain sense of relief in leaving the job up to them. Presumably because Jews are more or less inoculated against the old anti-Semite trope, whereas a Gentile might have to undergo the unpleasantness of being called a Cossack by some crazed, spit-spraying Zionist fanatic.

The latest news from Gaza, however, is so revolting that people who until now would have contented themselves with a furrowed brow and a look of deep concern are starting to acknowledge, in some stumbling form of words or other, that Israel is, well, kind of a horror show.

The image above shows Israelis sitting in lawn chairs and (according to the photographer) eating popcorn, while cheering on the slaughter in Gaza.

Here’s a little item from the other side:

56 thoughts on “Looking on the bright side…

  1. Just Pallywood staging another fake shooting in a properly demolished illegal building. For most these primitive lies seem to suffice, so I wonder to what extent people outside certain internet circles are really questioning what Israel is doing.

    It is the custom that people who fancy themselves critical thinkers pretend to be unable to see through the more sophisticated lie, which is never that Israel is a progressive democracy, but that Israel and its supporters have no real power in our society, despite all appearances to the contrary. Israel does this or that because America demands things that are demonstrably against its own interests, for some bizarre and never revealed reason.

    Everyone knows the real score, of course. You will never see Israeli politicians grovel before the US like you see the dog warden of Elk Creek, Alaska and our entire congress grovel before Israel. Even at the local level a public display of obeisance to Israel is often a requisite for any elected office nowadays. Rather gives the “Who’s the Boss” game away.

    But the standard if-then statement is that if you actually say what everyone knows about Jewish power and how it is exercised in the US and Western Europe, then you are a rabid anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist. Of course no rational person believes in the relentlessly propagated strawman concept of “The Jews” ( or “Joos” as it is sometimes spelled when the strawman is invoked). The Joos are hardly a monolith on anything. But the power of organized Jewish interests to achieve outcomes favorable to their agenda on a regular basis is beyond compare.

    Israel the Evil on some levels serves as a distraction from taking on the real issue, which is a discussion of the power structures that make unqualified support for Israel a reality. What may seem like progress in people awakening to Israel may simply be political judo turning the liability that is Israeli behavior into an asset, much the way the ADL and other Jewish orgs distract from their long history of anti-Muslim propaganda by denouncing Pamela Geller.

    • I pledge to refrain from rehashing this beyond this one post, but you are aware that there is a very efficient explanation for how Israel is quite clearly doing Uncle Sam’s bidding in the region. Irrelevant chaos (anything that avoids the democratic nationalization of “our” petroleum reserves) is in “our” interests. Israel is chaos incarnate. Without it stirring the pot, domestic oil climbs the agenda.

      Put differently: Why would the United States (meaning the nation’s corporate overclass) bend to an Israel that acted against its interests? It doesn’t make such moves in any other area. The only possible answer is a variant on the old claim that Jews are especially evil.

      FWIW, I also doubt that there is much change in US mass views of Israel. The big news-prop dealers are atrocious sources of information and perspective. CBS last night showed _Israeli_ funerals with a mournful fallen soldiers voice-over!

          • It could be. Hope so. Given the quality of the information available, it’s a miracle anybody favors the Ps.

            As for me, I’m actually of the view that the American masses, while host to a Lunatic Third, is majoritydecent. With almost zero leadership, to boot. The problem is the political system and cocoon culture has long since excluded forces and processes that could set a match to the dry hay.

      • In response I’d suggest that “US interests” — or “our interests”, as the Opedniks say — aren’t understood in the same way by every faction and fraction of the US elites. Our oligopoly is not a monolith. All elements of it are pursuing their own interests, not ‘ours’ or even each others’ or even some subset of common interests. Uncle Sam, you might say, suffers from multiple personality disorder.



    • So you know the old joke —

      Intrepid Nazi-hunter, after years of searching, finally runs down Adolf Hitler. The ex-Fuhrer, now fabulously ancient, is crouched over a small campfire deep in the Amazon jungle. Long unkempt hair and beard, a tattered, faded Nazi uniform. His old reptilian evil eyes gleam as he takes in our hero’s arrival. ‘Zo!’ he says. ‘Here you are at last. Vell, I suppose you intend to kill me. I am ready. But first, is zere anysing you vould like to know?’

      Our man already has his Browning at the ready. But curiosity gets the better of him. “If you could go back and do it over — would you do anything differently?”

      “Tsertainly. Next time — NO MORE MR NICE GUY!”

      • That seems to be the position of Chomsky too whose advice to anyone seeking justice is to “think carefully” the effect their Civil Society type non-violent protests might have on Israelis lest they go totally apeshit and bludgeon every last Palestinian to death:
        A French thinker may have been on to something he wrote more than a generation ago during a regular (every 3-4 years) Israeli rampage against Lebanese or Palestinian peasants:

        Today Israel is conducting an experiment. It has invented a model of repression that, once adapted, will profit other countries. There is great continuity in Israeli politics. Israel believes that the U.N. resolutions verbally condemning Israel in fact put it in the right. Israel has transformed the invitation to leave the occupied territories into the right to establish colonies there. It thinks sending an international peace-keeping force into Southern Lebanon is an excellent idea… provided that this force, in the place of Israeli forces, transforms the region into a police zone, a desert of security. This conflict is a curious kind of blackmail, from which the whole world will never escape…

        • Although I yield to no one in my admiration for Noam Chomsky, this is a topic on which he has an unfortunate but well-known blind spot. It’s a matter of personal history, I think.

          • I would joust you for that title, Sir Mike. Nonetheless, I think this may be a sign of age and overwork, rather than old commitments, with our fair betrothed. I think Chomsky’s main contention has always been that stopping Israel means defunding and deligitimitizing it here, where it gets its spending money and its only cover for crime. Whether that might be achieved via SA-type actions is certainly debatable, especially given the sorry state of the left, compared even to then. NC’s main argument is that we have to do the educational work before we start demanding things. I don’t think that’s so crazy.

  4. I think something resembling humanity or empathy is beginning to seep through — ever so slowly — a seemingly impenetrable wall of propaganda in the Amurrican consciousness, regarding Israel but also even regarding Amurrica’s “role in the world.” Thank you, in no particular order: Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan; even, to some degree, now-long-repressed ‘Nam.

    • I saw watched that yesterday and almost threw up. But I was also very encouraged to see that the video had gotten “shares” in the 100s of 1000s. 150,000 at least.

  5. To my knowledge, Chomsky has also yet to speak out on this latest and perhaps worst (“Move Out!”) Israeli crime. Let’s give him a chance, shall we? Things have changed, as an actual sell-out once said in his own senescence.

    • Chomsky, as he’ll readily admit, has not changed his position much over this matter for about 75 years. Michael Neumann summarized the main contours of this line of thinking which at one time was even labeled “Zionism” in certain little-known groupsucles whose public stances Chomsky used to place great faith in although they fell into the dustbin of history generations ago (“Achdut Haavodah was the mainstream of the Kibbutz movement for years and of the Labor coalition. They do not exist any longer, but as long as they existed they held that they did not accept the 1922 partition, let alone the 1947 partition.”):

      …the intentions of a tiny exclusive minority with nebulous plans for some implausibly cooperative two-people government had no point of contact with political realities. This dogged lack of realism reflects on the bi-nationalists themselves. Their vague ideas were not policies or platforms but mere attempts at self-deception, at believing that they could have their cake of a homeland in Palestine without eating the conflict that such ambitions inevitably produce. They could see for themselves, that in contrast to their own ineffectual moderation, the most extreme forms of Zionism were on the rise. The bi-nationalists were a testimony, not to the possibility of a “decent Zionism”, but only to the prevalence of idle, wishful thinking among a few Zionists. To say that Zionism wasn’t necessarily a project to establish a Jewish state is like saying that, because a few guys buy Playboy only for the articles, Playboy isn’t essentially a soft-core porn mag.

      I found the thoughts of another person familiar with the ideological foodfights of the era more enlightening than Chomsky’s unchanging views dating from the 2nd term of FDR.

      • I’ve read Chomsky’s position on BDS many times and I can’t honestly make sense of it. Seems uncharacteristically muddled and incoherent to me, given how sharp he usually is, not least about Israeli crimes.

      • Good stuff, that.

        Indeed it’s true that Chomsky’s position has never changed, so far as I know. What makes this fact the more striking is that the climate of opinion has changed around him.

        Since I’ve admired the guy so much for so long, it’s disappointing, in one way, to see this perseveration. On the other hand it seems like a very human failing, considering his age and background, and it doesn’t make me admire him any the less. Et aliquando bonus dormitat Homerus.

        It’s quite true, btw, that his reasoning is quite tortured and flimsy and unconvincing — not at all up to his usual standard. In a funny way it goes to show how honest he is. When he’s got a bad case he doesn’t know how to make it look plausible, unlike a professional liar of the Dershowitz variety.

        As for why one should care — well, I do, but it’s not because he’s some kind of authority. It’s partly because I have a genuine liking for the guy — to say no more than that — and partly because of a general fascination with the labyrinth of the human heart and mind; no less a labyrinth, perhaps more, when the heart and mind are as illustrious as Chomsky’s.

          • Well… ’cause I like him? I’m not sure it’s a waste to engage with the thinking of somebody you generally respect, even when you think he’s dead wrong, as I do in this case.

            But you’re right in the sense that I wouldn’t spend much time trying to refute him on this topic. His stance is sort of self-refuting and irrelevant; I doubt that anybody who might otherwise endorse BDS will be talked out of it by the Chomsky argument.

        • It does indeed show how honest he is — as well as how dishonest, as in both extent and quality. A contrast with Dershowitz’ valley of mendacity doesn’t cast a pleasant shadow and doesn’t mean one cannot describe Chomsky’s dishonesty on this issue as brazen, just to choose one adjective.

          And it’s not like this is the sole issue. Still, one need not abandon admiration for his work and accomplishments in order to question his position on this or any other matter.

          • Someone who finds more in common between rhetorical tactics of Chomsky and Dershowitz than is commonly assumed:


            The rhetorical tricks of pilpul make true rational discussion impossible; any “discussion” is about trying to “prove” a point that has already been established. There is little use trying to argue in this context, because any points being made will be twisted and turned to validate the already-fixed position…The contentiousness of the Middle East conflict is intimately informed by pilpul. Whether it is Alan Dershowitz or Noam Chomsky, both of them Ashkenazim who had traditional Jewish educations, the terms of the debate are consistently framed by pilpul…It is this agitation that continues to mar a political process that has long abandoned the rational understanding of the issues involved in its construction.


          • Thanks for that sk.
            In an otherwise thought-provoking intro to the term pilpul and its tradition, however, the author would do well to cite specific examples and demonstrate how it is employed by those he accuses of employing it. Otherwise he shouldn’t be citing the examples and flinging casual accusations.

            By his on account, it would appear that he is Dershky Chomowitzing.

          • I’m not quite sure the term is accurate as applied to NC, but I certainly see it with Dersho the Clown. His favorite tactic is to get the conversation bogged down in irrelevant historical minutiae, like what the Mufti of Jersusalem said in a radio broadcast in 1935.

  6. The world has gone nuts, and I am depressed.

    It’s become quite clear that both Israel and America are collectively insane, reacting in totally insane ways. Maybe it doesn’t matter if Israel is controlling America, and I’m of the opinion that America is controlled by a handful of _very special interests_.

    But _control_ doesn’t mean anything if the players are all completely insane.

  7. Who gives a fuck about what Chomsky thinks, what he means or doesn’t mean? It only matters because people are concerned of it’s effect on their own thinking. So maybe that’s a better place to concern one’s self. Noam’s line of thought is going to continue having zero effect on the events on the ground, only in the minds of those looking for someone to do their own thinking and confirm their own opinions does his words hold so much sway. I don’t mean to come off as a some mean asshole, but I think it’s pathetic and I think that everyone that comments here is far beyond pathetic.

    • I, for one, give a fuck, both because Chomsky is a major resource for insight and information, and also because it matters if he is right or wrong about BDS. What’s your view? That nobody should rely on anybody else for ideas and analysis?

      As for pathetic, you know what’s pathetic? People tearing into their comrades like you do here. This is a complex situation that deserves thought and debate. Do you have all the answers? Do tell.

      As for anybody’s ideas affecting events, how do you propose we make that happen in this market-totalitarian society? Are we supposed to stop thinking because our ideas aren’t leading to immediate change? Are we to value ideas by the extent to which they lead to immediate change?

    • I don’t like the way Chomsky’s (confused, incoherent) opposition to BDS is used as a cudgel: “See, EVEN NOAM CHOMSKY opposes BDS, you morons!” And I am admittedly fascinated with his apparent opposition, because I don’t understand it — and his “explanations” leave me more confused. It’s just out of character, and in my opinion, noteworthy as such. Something is amiss there.

      • It’s used as a cudgel by people who are unalterably opposed to BDS — people whose blood pressure spikes dangerously whenever the subject comes up, and who would use another cudgel if they didn’t have this one. Very little point in engaging people like that.

        I used to argue with Zionists, but haven’t for years. There’s no point, unless they happen to be family members and you just can’t avoid it. I have evolved a routine now which pleases me. They ask, in one form of words or another, whether I support Hamas or don’t believe the Jews are entitled to a state, or whatever. I answer, candidly, that I do support Hamas and don’t believe the Jews, or any other ethnic group, are entitled to a state. Or whatever. Then they start to get mad, and I say, in a very good-natured way, “But this is a highly emotional topic. Neither of us will convince the other. Let’s leave it alone.” And change the subject. Drives ’em crazy.

        • I tend to avoid that particular subject. It’s one of the few political issues over which I’d lose some friends, and it’s not worth it — right, I won’t change anyone’s mind. However, I’ve always been encouraged over the years but the number of Jews who share my anti-Zionist sentiments, and often outflank me on the matter.

      • I’m confused by it, too, to admit it. After rehearsing trying to defend it last night, I still don’t get the distinction he relies on, which is that the SA situation was somehow much clearer. I don’t think it was until boycotters made it so. Maybe NC was trying to say, in too many words, that it takes an actual movement, not just words, and that words alone are especially dangerous on the topic of Israel (See Paul, not Paul Alexander, above)? I don’t think anti-Jewism is a myth. Far from it.

        But I see no reason to not give Israel both barrels of whatever we can muster. What a fucking bad actor (and bad idea)! I think it could be done with principle and precision.

    • Paul, you may have crossed the line there at the end, but it’s a sensitive issue, so everyone will probably excuse it after a while. You do tease out the edges of an interesting issue there, which is our tendency to want leaders.

      Say we’re a bunch of manly cavemen, and we won’t go hunt the mammoth until Hugh, the biggest, hairiest guy, shows up with his lucky club. How long do we wait for Hugh before we decide we’re hungry and just go start digging a spike pit?

      Even here in the 21st century, we’re so learned and intellectual, yet we’re endlessly intrigued by what a certain subset of media-favored intellectuals is doing and saying. We talk about Celebrity’s position in as many and varied ways as a bunch of our Republican friends might analyze a touchdown pass. For us, it’s filling that social function. It’s giving us some imagery to work with; a reassurance or a basis for comparison. And of course, it gets nothing accomplished, except to help us more easily process the things we hear from the media.

      So we might as well be a collection of steampunks working out the kinks on our latest 3-person mechanospider costume. But then, we know that already, don’t we, Paul? The only people left who can make a claim to absence of guilt are those who have already been imprisoned or killed for fighting back. Those of us who intend to only comfortably critique from inside the belly of the beast already know how badly we are in need of forgiveness.

      • Love ya, Arkie, but have you read Chomsky? One assumes so, but, it’s an insult to somebody like me to claim, or even imply, that I’m just waiting for NC’s directive. Balderdash. For one thing, in my puny way, I was an “activist” for many years before I discovered Chomsky. And, since then, I count him as a hero.

        I reverse all this on you Chomsky dismissers: What’s your game? You jealous? That seems to be the theme.

        BTW, the claim that the left’s problem is that we’re all waiting for Chomsky’s green-light? ROFLMFAO.

        • And it’s an insult because Chomsky’s work is, if you have an actual brain, transcendent. He has clarified more important things than anybody ever, not least how the media works. You can, of course, deny this. I would take such denial as a major sign of somebody being an enemy.

          Who complains about Noam Chomsky?

        • <3

          Well, you have to be jealous of his income stream, secure position, and ability to disseminate a message–but by that logic, we're jealous of BO also.

          In the Mao sense of things, how many intellectuals does it take to stop one war? 10 thousand? 50 million? How many niche journals or scathing media critiques does it take to save even one Palestinian life? Apparently, more than we have to offer. Perhaps infinity. So yeah, Chomsky has interesting stuff to say, and for those of us who can understand it, what he helps do is make us more culpable in our verbose, thoughtful inaction, because we understand even more what we're up against, and yet, all we wanna do is type. (Hey, I'm with you. After all, look where I am right now. Rachel Corrie may be able to claim the mantle of justice, but not I.)

          All the stuff Chomsky has discussed regarding the framing of language is useful, correct and interesting. Beyond that, it's useful, correct, and interesting to discuss how intellectual dissections of genocidal empires do not put a stop to the workings of those empires–and how those very discussions may, in fact, be an integral part of imperial maintenance. ~le

          • Well said. Studying the beast only has so much value. We get it, we’re dealing with a beast. How about spending some brain power figuring out how to slay the beast?

          • I’m open to suggestions. BDS seems to me like a good place to start. You?

  8. Paul, you seem somehow to be suggesting that humans are capable of thinking and forming notions in a vacuum — and that that’s somehow even to be desired.

    The ghastly Harold Bloom wrote of the “anxiety of influence.” I prefer Jonathan Lethem’s version: the “ecstacy of influence.” I will gladly cop to being influenced by Noam, and even to having little arguments with him in my head. And it’s to experience the joys of influence that I come to this site … and to read not only the blogger but the comments…yes, even yours!

    • Harold Bloom is a little like Louis Proyect: believing the opposite of whatever he believes is not an infallible canon of method, but, like ‘cui bono’, it’s surprisingly good.

      • If this one may combine the pair of your observations: forming ideas in a vacuum may not be an infallible method, but it would be surprisingly good compared to forming them based on a combination of first-world media and social networking posts.

        • You think so, really? I’m not so sure. Bad as they both are — social media, I mean, and Times reportage — doesn’t the mill need some grist to work upon?

          I suppose we all have our own ways of working and thinking. I kinda think you can get a lot of good stuff even out of the Times, even now, if — and this is a very crucial ‘if’ — you consider the source. Sometimes it’s as important what they don’t say as what they do say. And of course, as I’ve often said, you have to get to paragraph 17 before you really get anything useful.

          Social media… mostly useful for getting a sense of how people are reacting. But that’s not a negligible thing.

          • Well, what kind of vacuum are we talking about, here? This one’s essentially making the “appeal to innocence.” For example, if we take a human being completely ignorant of our world, and show them a war, the person is horrified. “Stop that! Those people are making faces that I would only make if I were in incredible pain! Those other people are dead! This is the worst thing ever and must never happen again!”

            Or, show our hypothetical person a rich man and ten homeless men. “Oh, easy!” she says. “They will all share the first man’s plentiful food and shelter. Then no one will be unhappy.”

            It takes a whole lot of education to make us think that these issues are complicated. That complication is true from a certain vantage point, but the essential elements of justice and decency resolve the situations correctly whether they are presented in full complexity or full simplicity. So there, the vacuum trumps immersion–the majority of, say, Americans would adopt better viewpoints about Earth policy if they hadn’t been educated here before being asked for their opinions on colonialism.

            For those of us already exposed to this crap over the course of our lifetimes, does reacting to each new issue after first absorbing a battery of media and Facebook help us, or hinder us? Facebook is a certain kind of barometer, but all it really tells you is what is being presented in the media, since the people chiming in there are only reacting to what the news corps have decided to release.

            (Given how clever the entertainment & media masters are, this one would suggest to you that of course they design page 17, and subtly don’t mention certain things, because they want people of your targeted intelligence level to draw conclusions about those omissions. You’re just a different quality of mark. But we’ll put that aside for now. :-))

            Really though, how much news do we all need to evaluate anything? There are a lot of pretty trinkets around here, but the essential nature of political news hasn’t changed much in, what, 500 years? Which rich bloodline is squabbling domestically with which other rich bloodline? Which guild is sponsoring the latest attack on the darkies? Which priest just avoided punishment for stealing from the vault while mounting the vestal virgins?

            Given the go-around, it seems legitimate to question whether “paying attention” has any value at all.

  9. About the Chomsky.

    I _presumably_ spent most of my awful life laboring in the electronics ghettos. But I was always really interested in obscure mathematical stuff that I would just make up. I fell in love with the great Rudolph Carnap’s second order logic (which everybody else seems to hate). So I have a couple of theories about _classical_ information theory (not the goofy quantum version). I took a few courses in linguistics, and began to view Chomsky as a third-class hack. This was reinforced when, about 20 years ago, this genius non-teaching professor doing computer modeling of neurons in a dank basement in the university told me that Chomsky’s linguistics stuff was complete bullshit. So I quit with mathematical logic for twelve years to try to understand how human languages really work. This, eventually, was totally successful. When I went back to visit some of the professors, they seemed enthusiastic about parts (subsystems) of the theory, and convinced me to send some stuff to the great Chomsky. (The folks who taught me in the linguistics department were not enthused at all. They first said I must have just replicated stuff that had been done before. When that turned out to be untenable, they said it had nothing to do with what they were doing, and that I should have lined up with the rest of their herd “on the shoulders of the giants.” Since folks in some other departments urged me to send some stuff to the great Chomsky, I did. Well he sent back an email that was quite subtly yet definitively dismissive, exactly as I had expected. It’s really subtly nasty, dismissive, so I won’t share it.

    I read some of Chomsky’s political books, and there was significant value to them, but he always claimed that politics was essentially a simple matter, and all we really had to do was just “organize.” Yeah right. I had “organized” with other folks to protest this and that, but when the groups became larger than about five to ten people, the co-opters would always come in and try to take over. So much for Chomsky’s “just organize” theory. We gravitated to the tactic of keeping to “small circles” of five to ten. The great man has built a fine interstate highway that goes many miles and then just comes to an abrupt End!

    I’m kind of old and now lack some of the sparkle of my early years, but plan to use my vast linguistics theory (which nobody will read my book about) to write a computer program that thinks. I plan to use the new Rust language to do that, but Mozilla hasn’t quite finished it yet. I want to use a website to document my struggles to learn it, and maybe will start learning Racket Scheme in the mean time. More on that later.

    Meanwhile I’ve started to write a little about classical information theory at:


    And also a little about voting systems at:


    I guess I could use a little encouragement.

  10. As none of us lives in a vacuum or in any possible pre-propaganda state of innocence, it’s basically useless to debate that point, as it’s pure theory, of little or no application to the world in which humans actually live. In that world, Chomsky is an invaluable dissident —- who relentlessly exposes the lies, propaganda, and murderous crimes of the powerful — and an inspiration to millions here and everywhere else in the world. I can’t begin to quantify his influence on my thinking and actions.

    I was an activist for about 30 years before ever reading a word he’d written, so it’s not like I was waiting for him to act. But he explained a lot of things I didn’t quite grasp in those three decafes — or didn’t grasp as cogently as he does — and has always inspired and challenged me.

    So of course I am interested in his view on something like BDS, even if I reject them. Though it’s hard to reject what you don’t quite understand!


  11. Things have turned around. I just came from a bar here in Brooklyn where both the–from what I could tell white trash–bartenders where wearing Palestinian flags. I try and be pessimistic as much as possible, but I think this time they may have actually gone too far. I have more notable examples, but you’ll have to PM me for those–let’s just say I have ample exposure to both sides of the coin.

    Either way, image how this imagery will look in the not-too-distant future. At least white South African’s didn’t have the legacy of Twitter screen shots. Hell, even Bill Clinton thinks–on duly pragmatic grounds–Israel’s not the horse to bet on.

    *By the way, the “SlimStat” user agent/IP address log is showing publicly.

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