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Mr. Catsam is Assistant Professor of History at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He writes about race, politics and social movements in the US and South Africa. He has also worked in Northern Ireland and South Africa. He recently traveled to Israel on a fellowship from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

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Early on the morning of April 30, 2003, two terrorist bombers, who had crossed into Israel using British passports by catching a ride with a credentialed Italian journalist, tried to enter Mike's Place, a popular nightclub near the American Embassy and just across the street from the beach in Tel Aviv. The standard eclectic group that frequented Mike's Place - out-of-towners, embassy staff, and a loyal group of regulars - were enjoying the bar's weekly jam session and many were out on the sidewalk trying to catch their breath. The club looks out onto the Mediterranean, and the line between inside the bar and outside of it is intentionally blurred, adding to the welcoming atmosphere and affirming the beachfront location.

Among those wounded in the blast was Avi Tabib. Avi was not only a member of the "Mike's Place family," a phrase and idea that certainly existed prior to April 30th, but which also has much greater currency since then, he was also a security guard for the bar. On April 30th, when he noticed something suspicious, he wrestled the corpulent terrorist, Asif Hanif, who was a British citizen but a Pakistani native, to the ground. Hanif's Hamas-provided explosive went off, and while the result was tragic, Avi Tabib's heroism surely saved countless casualties. Just a few weeks later, Avi Tabib returned to Mike's Place (for the website go to http://www.mikesplacebars.com/) and rejoined the family.

Mike's Place presents as good a starting point as any for someone trying to understand the sense of craziness and hope and tragedy and optimism and paranoia and faith and loss and love and good and evil that marks day-to-day life in Israel today. Just a month after the attack, three weeks after the reopening of the bar (Israel has a strict policy of rebuilding the sites of terrorist attacks as soon as possible, an emphatic show of defiance to those who think that the Israeli people will succumb to the murderers within their midst), I sat with a group of colleagues at one of the picnic tables of Mike's Place that front the nearby street and look out over the horizon of the Mediterranean Sea. In fact most of us returned to Mike's Place more than once, caught up in the conviviality of the place, in the high-spiritedness of the staff, and the free-flowing libations.

I was in Israel on a fellowship from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a Washington, DC-based organization that emerged in the wake of September 11th with the hopes of fighting terrorism through a range of means, not the least of these being through education. We were the first group of academic fellows - 19 college, university and professional school professors from across the United States plus one journalist - and we went to participate in a comprehensive seminar on terrorism, but also to get as much hands-on access as possible. And so our seemingly creepy voyeurism-cum-solidarity trip to Mike's Place was firmly in keeping with the mission of the trip.

In the weeks since the Mike's Place bombing, the Middle East and Israel are once again front-and-center in the global political discussion. In part this was probably inevitable once the American military started rolling into Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein, hopefully to restore democracy, and maybe to cleanse that pariah state of Weapons of Mass Destruction that may or may not be there. But in the end, long after the festering sore of Iraq scabs over (it may never heal) the epicenter of global focus in this stark region of the globe will be the tiny strip of land that is Israel, land made slightly larger, but still tiny, in the wake of the Six Day War of 1967. (Although as one of the speakers who came to us at Tel Aviv University reminded us, for the Palestinians and Arabs, who embraced Abdul Nasser's proclamation from Egypt that Israel was going to be wiped off the face of the planet, "Six Day War" is a rather humiliating name; they much prefer to call it the "1967 War." Naturally.)

We had amazing access to political, military, intelligence, and police officials on our trip, not to mention some of the premier scholars of terrorism, Israel and the Middle East in a part of the world where such scholarship is far more than merely academic. One of the more impressive meetings that we had was a briefing in the Prime Minister's Office for which Sharon's people rolled out the proverbial red carpet. The most remarkable aspect of this briefing was that it happened on the day that Sharon was meeting with Mahmoud Abbas/Abu Mazen prior to their important talks with President Bush. This happened on May 29. In the midst of preparations for this meeting, which occurred just days after Sharon had secured (by a 12-7 vote with four face-saving abstentions) his cabinet's support for the Roadmap, and Sharon's subsequent seeming concession that perpetual "Occupation" of the 3.5 million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank was simply untenable.
And so this was the situation on the ground when we had our briefing with several of Sharon's main advisors. There were the 20 fellows, the FDD support staff, several members of the media, and a table set up in the front with microphones. Over the course of an hour and a half we received briefings from Ami Orkaby, the Advisor to the Government Secretary, Ephraim HaLevi, Advisor to the Prime Minister for National Security, Major General Yoav Gallant, Military Secretary to the Prime Minister, Dr. Raanan Gissen, Foreign Press and Public Affairs Minister to the Prime Minister (you've seen him on CNN - a lot), and Arthur Lank, a legal advisor to the Prime Minister. Halfway through his presentation to us, Major General Gallant was summoned from our meeting to confer with Sharon. It was that sort of setting.

That meeting, like many that we had with military, police and intelligence officials throughout our trip, came with a healthy dose of spin doctoring. Even the most ardently pro-Israel among our group had to be well aware of the fact that the Israeli government saw us as opinion makers, and as an opportunity to develop something that is fairly rare in those parts - good publicity for the Israeli cause. To my knowledge, everyone in the group was "pro-Israel," defined broadly, and we all, liberal or conservative, hawk or, well, semi-hawk (there were no doves in the group that I know of) thought of that as a good and necessary thing. We all went prepared to engage in the hard questions of terrorism and to bring that experience back not only to our writing, to op-ed columns and television interviews, but also into the far less receptive atmosphere of our college campuses. In any case, even in the midst of the varying levels of spin that we received, I think we learned, or had reinforced, a number of truths.

First among these truths is that, whatever the impression of Israel as an uncaring state bound and determined to subjugate the Palestinians within its midst, the fact is that unlike any other state in the Middle East, Israel is and considers itself to be a liberal democracy. And as such, Israel as a state is constrained in what it can do. Furthermore, Israel, whatever its imperfections when it comes to its Arab minority, provides more liberty for those citizens than any state in the Middle East does. The State of Israel is a secular democracy, but the fact remains that even in military and police circles officials not only talked the talk about Israel's political system, they also showed us how they walked the walk. That is vitally important. There are plenty of things for which Israel can be criticized. Crucially, however, within Israel, a land with remarkable diversity of opinion for a state nearly constantly under siege, all of these criticisms are levied - not only from the Arab minority, but also from a whole political spectrum of Israeli Jews. Would that any of Israel's neighbors show any of the same commitment to free speech. Compare Israel with Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, or even Jordan, and then say with a straight face that Israel somehow fails its citizens.

Second among these is that more and more Israelis realize that whatever the merit of the explosive term "Occupation," the Israeli involvement in Gaza and especially West Bank must change. There are those on the right who refuse to concede their historic claim to Judea and Samaria, the ancient names for the territory of the West Bank (and a sure fire way to determine someone's politics is how they refer to that contested land) but on the whole, more and more Israelis believe that the time has come when a Palestinian State is inevitable, and that state is going to involve conceding parts or all of the West Bank, including the highly contentious areas of the Jewish settlements.

Third, however, among the truths that we learned from the highest ranks of Israelis across a relatively (though not universally) broad political spectrum is that this recognition of change does not change one basic fact. Israel too often has followed the chimera of pursuing peace in the hope that with peace would come security. No more. Since the declaration of the latest intifada in September 2000, the radical fundamentalists have escalated their suicide attacks. Almost every single one of these attacks has come from the porous borders in the West Bank, and not from the secured, fenced, easily monitored borders of Gaza. Until there is security, Israelis know that they will have to live in fear. And fear will undermine the peace. Therefore, before Israel is going to make concessions, it must have assurances that the terrorism will stop. If the terrorism does not stop, they will have to continue to take whatever steps are available to them to keep radical murderers from killing innocent civilians. And let there be no doubt - suicide bombers are not martyrs, they are not heroes, they are not merely using the only weapons at their disposal. They are targeting innocent children, women and men and they are killing them. This means that until their communities stop providing cover and support and infrastructure for terrorists, they are going to pay a tremendous price at the hands of the Israeli Defense Forces and the police apparatus. This may sound callous. It is not. Stop murdering and stop supporting murderers. When it is clear that this is happening, in massive numbers the Israelis will be more than happy to get out of the territories. Until then, the IDF is going to do what it takes to protect its beleaguered people.

Fourth: Israel has the right to exist as a secular democratic state. There are those who use the term "theocracy" to refer to Israel. People who do this reveal a peculiar misunderstanding of both Israel and the very meaning of the term "theocracy." Overwhelmingly, Israelis do believe in the right to have a Jewish state. Their case comes less from historical claims to the ancient land than from a more recent history that coincided with their claim to an ancient land. In other words, Jews do not deserve Israel, at least in my mind, because of claims of several thousands of years, but rather for events of the last century. Let us keep in mind that the land now under such controversy was a British protectorate from World War I until 1947. After that point, the United Nations set aside an allotment of land for Israel. If anything, then, Israel is among the most legitimate nation states in the world. Further, it is a fact on the ground that Israel exists. There are lots of states whose borders exist with a lot less moral validity than Israel - consider the entire map of Africa, for example. In any case, Israel exists, and sage Israelis and others are now trying to transform that reality on the ground into a livable arrangement with their Palestinian neighbors. There is a lot of disagreement about how this will happen, and on the far right in Israel, as to whether it should happen. But what Israel will not concede is on the question of a right to Palestinian return. It will not concede to a Palestinian State only to see Palestinians go instead to the state of Israel. It will not allow the Palestinians to overwhelm them with numbers, to eradicate their state demographically where they cannot do so militarily or, more to the point, through the use of terror.

But perhaps the most important truth that I learned in Israel is that the Israelis refuse to yield to the threat that surrounds them. It is a reality in daily life in that beautiful, tough, contested, historic land that horrible things happen because they are hated. But hatred is nothing new to a people who survived the Shoah, who survived the worst of what humanity has to offer. Israelis are as horrified by bus explosions that kill seventeen people (as happened in Jerusalem last week) or at nightclubs that kill 3 (as at Mike's Place) or 21 (as at the Dolphinarium, which had a two-year commemoration of an attack on it while we were there, early in June) as any of us would be. They were devastated by the Passover bombing that killed 19 and seriously wounded, mangled, and incapacitated about fifty others, mostly elderly, at a hotel in the seaside city of Natanya. But they responded.

You see, one of the main mistakes that those who hate Israel made was to believe that they were weak, just as Osama bin Laden and others believed that the United States, with all of its affluence and leisure time and secularism, was weak in the late summer of 2001. But the Israelis are not weak. They have suffered too much. And so when Israel responded with Operation Defensive Shield after that horrible massacre as a crowd of mostly elderly people sat down to eat the meal signaling the start of Passover, it showed its resolve. When Israelis show up at shopping malls and cafes and bars, when they continue to ride the buses and celebrate their most holy holidays, they reveal to the rest of the world and especially to those who would do them harm, who would talk in hushed tones or loud pronouncements about the eradication of the State of Israel, that their democratic, secular state will not be cowed. It will not be terrorized, and it will not be defeated.

And so I come back to where this essay began, at Mike's Place in Tel Aviv. Nightly one can take the route that I took in part or in full many times during my stay in Tel Aviv., a route that follows the promenade along the Mediterranean Sea, which fronts the hotels and restaurants, the busy city street, the beach with its beautiful people wearing few clothes (and its less than beautiful people wearing, well, few clothes). You'll come to the United States Embassy, a barricaded and somewhat nondescript building, and then down another few feet on the right you'll see the sign: "Mike's Place," a "Live Music Bar." If the sun is starting to go down, you can grab a seat facing the Sea and lose yourself in the wonder of nature's beauty. And if you'll look around you'll see Israel - full of energy, beautiful, often bruised but always healing, friendly and most importantly, alive. Always alive.

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Elliott A Green - 11/25/2003

First, let me apologize for not responding earlier to my critics. Don Williams deserves our thanks for his lengthy quotes from Tacitus, as well as from the San Remo resolution. What Tacitus writes that is germane to the present issue is that Judea [IUDAEA in Latin, the Roman name for the Land of Israel as a whole, before Emperor Hadrian changed it to Palestine] was inhabited mainly by Jews. See especially The Histories, Book V. Also see The Annals [esp. Michael Grant translation]. The various ancient theories that Tacitus cites re Jewish origins may disagree with the Bible in specifics, but they agree that the Jews/Israelites came from somewhere else. Most writers -pace Tacitus- say the Jews came from Egypt. This agrees with the Exodus story, although not in details or background. The theory that the Jews came from Crete reminds us that the Philistines are believed to have come from there [Kaftor/Caphtor in the Bible]. Perhaps Tacitus' ancient source confused Philistines with Jews.
As to the Canaanites, they were not Arabs. Their language was close to Hebrew. Linguists call Hebrew, Phoenician, Edomite, Moabite, Ammonite all forms of Canaanite, whether as separate languages or as dialects. Isaiah calls the language spoken by the Jews, Canaanite [cities in Egypt inhabited by Jewish refugees speaking Canaanite]. Further, various Biblical passages imply that the Canaanites surviving in the Israelite areas were assimilated by the Israelites. Tacitus does mention the Arabs as ancient enemies of the Jews. How did Don Williams miss this? In Histories V:1 he writes that Arab detachments were fighting on the Roman side against the Jews "because of the enmity common between neighbors."
As to Williams' quotes from San Remo, they only prove that non-Jews were to have civil and religious rights in the Jewish National Home --which was given the Western geographic name "Palestine"-- but San Remo does not mention NATIONAL rights for the non-Jewish communities. Bear in mind that San Remo explicitly meant the adoption of the earlier Balfour Declaration into international law. As Jonathan Dresner points out, Israel has fulfilled this stricture.

Elliott A Green - 11/25/2003

First, let me apologize for not responding earlier to my critics. Don Williams deserves our thanks for his lengthy quotes from Tacitus, as well as from the San Remo resolution. What Tacitus writes that is germane to the present issue is that Judea [IUDAEA in Latin, the Roman name for the Land of Israel as a whole, before Emperor Hadrian changed it to Palestine] was inhabited mainly by Jews. See especially The Histories, Book V. Also see The Annals [esp. Michael Grant translation]. The various ancient theories that Tacitus cites re Jewish origins may disagree with the Bible in specifics, but they agree that the Jews/Israelites came from somewhere else. Most writers -pace Tacitus- say the Jews came from Egypt. This agrees with the Exodus story, although not in details or background. The theory that the Jews came from Crete reminds us that the Philistines are believed to have come from there [Kaftor/Caphtor in the Bible]. Perhaps Tacitus' ancient source confused Philistines with Jews.
As to the Canaanites, they were not Arabs. Their language was close to Hebrew. Linguists call Hebrew, Phoenician, Edomite, Moabite, Ammonite all forms of Canaanite, whether as separate languages or as dialects. Isaiah calls the language spoken by the Jews, Canaanite [cities in Egypt inhabited by Jewish refugees speaking Canaanite]. Further, various Biblical passages imply that the Canaanites surviving in the Israelite areas were assimilated by the Israelites. Tacitus does mention the Arabs as ancient enemies of the Jews. How did Don Williams miss this? In Histories V:1 he writes that Arab detachments were fighting on the Roman side against the Jews "because of the enmity common between neighbors."
As to Williams' quotes from San Remo, they only prove that non-Jews were to have civil and religious rights in the Jewish National Home --which was given the Western geographic name "Palestine"-- but San Remo does not mention NATIONAL rights for the non-Jewish communities. Bear in mind that San Remo explicitly meant the adoption of the earlier Balfour Declaration into international law. As Jonathan Dresner points out, Israel has fulfilled this stricture.

lourdes cuadra - 9/27/2003

If the truth be told The United States and Israel have alot in common. The religious fanatics who came to the United States believed they where the Chosen Ones, and that America was the the New Israel. Both the Zionists and early Americans invaded countries committed genicide against the indigenous of both countries. Both felt justified in these crimes because both had suffered persecution in other countries.They both have much in common but religious freedom and real democracy are both a fallicy. Racism and facisim are what they a really about.

Derek Catsam - 7/15/2003

Josh --
Are you serious? I don't know much about your mommy, or what sort of Oedipal deal you have going on there, and I sure have no idea what on earth the fact that I have a PhD would have to do with this one way or the other except that yes, I do have one and I suppose it is something I am proud of, though more to the point, it is simply a professional imperative -- do you mock lawyers for having law degrees and doctors for having MDs? I suppose you were attempting to be sarcastic, and far be it from me to tell someone a thing or two about writing, but your message came across as being not clever or ironic, but as being shrill and vacuous. But as you seem to aver, apparently I am not a competent writer, despite the fact that me have PhD from book learnin'.

In any case, hopefully some day you and I can meet for a beer, and I'll gladly find out if you'd mock me the same way face to face. Then maybe you can ask mommy if a doctor goes to school for a really long time and gets an MD, will they be able to give you stitches.

dave - 7/13/2003

I'm not a neo-con.

I think somebody already mentioned that the plans for September 11th started before the start of the intifada, the election of Bush and Sharon. But don't let the facts get in the way of your simplistic understanding of the conflict. If only Israel wasn't there...

As to me mistating your comments, I'll paste them again.

"Israel is the US government's creation...[Israel oppresses Palestinians] The Islamic world holds us responsible for the actions of our government."

"Most of all, we need to spare some of our hatred and fury over Sept 11 for those bastards who provoke such acts." Okay. Here is the big step. Put this statement next to the one above. Not tough to see where your animosity is directed. Israel. Why is this such a stretch? Why am I lying?

As to your assertion that there are financial reasons to support Israel, wouldn't it be much more financially beneficial to amorally support the policies of the Arab countries, floating as they are on seas of oil?

I'm done, Nobody else is posting anymore.

Don Williams - 7/13/2003

1) In my opinion, dave's comment illustrates the deceit that neo-cons use in public debate --deliberately misstating the
arguments of critics and attacking the misstatements they make up.

2) I personnally think it is anti-semitic to dump the guilt for
the actions of Sharon, Bush, and some wealthy power brokers onto
America's Jews. Bush is not whoring for Israel because he desperately wants the votes of Jews -- at 6 million in a nation of 290 million, they are a drop in the bucket. Most of them are middle class professionals, so they are not a huge source of campaign funds either.

3) No, Bush is courting the big game -- donors like Haim Saban, the Israeli with dual US citizenship who gave over 12 million to the Democrats in the 2002 election cycle. Every such donor that Bush recruits not only puts huge sums in the Republican war chest ,it also takes huges sums out of the Democrats fundings.

4) Plus there are the congruent interests of the defense contractors and oil boys. See my earlier post at
http://hnn.us/comments/14455.html and the post I linked to in
that comment -- http://www.hnn.us/comments/13865.html

5) Given my explicit comments earlier re who I thought provoked Sept 11, "Dave"'s comments re me seem to me to be a deliberate lie.

dave - 7/12/2003

"I hate neither Jews nor Israel."

Then explain this...

"Most of all, we need to spare some of our hatred and fury over Sept 11 for those bastards who provoke such acts, who cover up the truth , and who wrap their selfish business deals in the American flag."

You direct your hatred against the Jews because they cause people to hijack planes and fly them into our buildings. Nevermind who perpetuated the act, if we look deeper, we see its the fault of the Jews. And, on top of it all, they are selfish, amoral businessmen. Say, where'd you get that one?

You really think you are just progressive don't you?

p.s. So, you've attended a Bar "Mitsvah." Do you have a black friend too?

Don Williams - 7/12/2003

1) First, Mr Catsam states above that Ismail Royer is a "terrorist" --after first stating that " terrorism is the targeted killing of civilians". Yet, the government has not charged Mr Royer with terrorism and a federal judge let Royer out on bail --
noting that "The government's argument that he should be denied bond because of concerns for community safety simply does not hold water,"
-- see my earlier post at http://hnn.us/comments/14616.html .

Mr Royer has not even stood trial for the heinous offense with which he is charged-- as USA Today describes it "The men are accused of training for combat while on paintball outings in the Virginia countryside."

2) Next, Mr Catsam states re me: "We all know that you hate Israel, hate Jews, hate, apparently, America"
Actually, as I noted at the beginning, I support Israel's right to exist. I hate neither Jews nor Israel and have attended a bat
mitsvah. I think it slanders America's Jews to suggest that they support the misery heaped on the Palestinians --that they support such tactics as dropping a 2000 lb bomb on a three story apartment building in a heavily populated area.

I question whether a majority of them support the Likud --the Likud which recently came close to voting against the creation of a Palestinian state.
There have been many prominent Jewish critics of the Palestinian occupation -- recently deceased Israel Shahak,Ned Hanauer,Noam Chomsky. See Rabbis for Human Rights at http://www.rhr-na.org//index/id6.html . See http://www.incite-national.org/issues/jewishantiwar.html .
See http://www.tompaine.com/feature2.cfm/ID/4243 .

3) The people I do despise are those who betray America for the sake of a few million in campaign dollars --or to promote business agendas like foreign military sales or access to Caspian Sea or Iraqi oil.

I despise those who lie to cover up their actions when it brings disaster on this country as occurred on Sept 11--who shed crocodile tears for Todd Beamer's wife and orphaned children -- and who then continue the same deceitful, manipulative games.

I despise those who wrap their selfish political agendas up in the flag or Judism -- and who respond to criticism by falsely accusing their critics of "hating America" or anti-semiticism.

I despise those who would betray America --and American values of honesty, humanity, and justice --for the sake of a political group on the other side of the world.

4) Mr Catsam seems to prefer cheap ad hominems as a way of evading the facts I presented in prior posts. It seems to me that he lacks credibility --no matter how many Richard Perle trips he takes to Israel and no matter how many PhDs he has.

Bill Heuisler - 7/11/2003

Mr. Greenland,
Going from 12 exclamations to 35 is very impressive. Are you just now learning to type? Good boy. But no matter how well you do in your new lessons you'll never equal Derek Catsam's skills.

Know why? Derek has accomplished a degree few can aspire to; Derek has traveled and written extensively; he's worked very hard and is respected even by people of opposing views.
Most important: Derek can think.
Bill Heuisler

Josh Greenland - 7/11/2003

"...you are both a moron and an ignoramous.... any asswipe who has paid more than a little bit of attention realizes .... you hate Israel, hate Jews, hate, apparently, America. The fact that you so blindly would slander someone you do not even know reveals so much more about you than about any of the rest of us....those of us who actually put our opinions on trial loathe those of you who won't."

Good going, Derek! Hahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gee, Mommy, if I go to school for a lo-o-o-ong, lo-o-o-o-ong time, and get a great big prestigious PhD, will I be able to write like Derek Catsam?


Derek Catsam - 7/11/2003

Don --
This last post of yours shows how you are both a moron and an ignoramous. He and I have banged heads more than once, me the lefty he the righty, but any asswipe who has paid more than a little bit of attention realizes that Bill's military bona fidas are beyond reproach. We all know that you hate Israel, hate Jews, hate, apparently, America. The fact that you so blindly would slander someone you do not even know reveals so much more about you than about any of the rest of us. Please, write something that the rest of us can subject to scorn, because those of us who actually put our opinions on trial loathe those of you who won't.

Jerry West - 7/8/2003

Bill Heuisler wrote:

Who is to say which line or legend is right? Only history can tell and history has no opinion. Israelis have the right of conquest because they won wars. Why should they be different?


The bigger issue is not about Israelis or Palestinians, it is about whether we want the rule of aggression and conquest or the rule of law as the fundamental principle of conduct.

History itself does not tell us what is right or wrong, those are value judgements we interpret history through, and as you say, history has no opinion, though historians certainly do.

It is not only the Israelis that should be different, most of us should be different, and it is something that we have officially recognized at least since WWI, though following through is more often than not abandoned in favour of another conquest of one kind or another.

Your logic does justify bank robbing, or any other crime. Who is to say a bank robber is wrong if force is a justifiable mechanism for achieving a goal?

You could have included Hitler, Cortez, Napoleon, Osama or any number of people in your example. They all fit the criteria. Up close and personal the reality of all of them is bloody and terrible. We can do better.

Besides, one might be more precise to say that the Israelis have won battles in an ongoing war. From the looks of things it is not over yet, and if decisive and unconditional victory is the goal, then perhaps the final solution to the Palestinian problem may be the only answer.

Bill Heuisler - 7/8/2003

Mr. West,
The connection? These men fought for their land...or to conquer another's. Each created a line on a map or a legend others fought for. And each destroyed another line or another legend.

Who is to say which line or legend is right? Only history can tell and history has no opinion. Israelis have the right of conquest because they won wars. Why should they be different?
Bill Heuisler

Jerry West - 7/7/2003

Bill Heuisler wrote:

Leonidas, Hector, Charles Martel, John Hunyadi, George Washington, all criminals? So the Persians settle in Greece, Scaevola owns Rome, Moors erect mosques in Paris , Batu parks his yurt in Vienna and we bow to a Queen. When would you begin this New Grand Transformation? 9/11?


You may have to sketch in the details here, Bill. Leonidas defended Greece against the Persians, Charles Martel did so for France against the Moors, and we all know the George Washington story. These are people defending their country against invasion and colonization except maybe GW who was taking his country out of colonization.

One could argue that the Palestinians are doing the same with a little help from their friends. One could argue otherwise too, although it is hard to argue that a wave of newcomers over the last century into Palestine/Israel/Whatever are not colonists. But all of that is beside the point of whether might makes right.

I am puzzled by the Hector/Scaevola Hunyadi/Batu comparisons. Are they comparisons? Hector who defended Troy against the Greeks, Scaevola who burned his hand off for Rome, Hunyadi who stood up to the Turks and Batu the Mongol who ravaged Europe more than a century before? What is the connection.

As for when to begin the transformation, I think that we have been at it for quite some time, though relapses are frequent. It is never too late to build on it. And, it is not necessarily Christian, at least not exclusively.

If we continue to allow conquerers to retain their conquests we validate agression. Better for all of us as a whole if we move towards a system of negotiations and compromise. Killing is not a good policy.

As you say, this is a history site. Of course in addition to learning history, we can also learn from it, and one thing that we can learn is that "reality" can change. Better to work towards positive change than be a slave to a past "reality."

Bill Heuisler - 7/7/2003

Mr. West,
Bank robbers? What a leap. Leonidas, Hector, Charles Martel, John Hunyadi, George Washington, all criminals? So the Persians settle in Greece, Scaevola owns Rome, Moors erect mosques in Paris , Batu parks his yurt in Vienna and we bow to a Queen. When would you begin this New Grand Transformation? 9/11?

You're a better man than I, Gunga Din. Dream your Christian Utopia all you want, but we're dealing with human beings, we're dealing with reality. And HNN is a history site.
Bill Heuisler

Mayer Freed - 7/7/2003

Re Jonathan Dresner's observations about Israeili democracy: it has long been recognized that Israel's electoral system is structured in such a way as to create excessive power in smaller parties, which tend to be on the political fringe--right and left. along with this system, which Israel tried to change when it moved--temporarily--to a system of direct election of the prime minister, has come an incredible seesaw effect politically. From Begin and Shamir to Rabin and Peres, then to Netanyahu, back to Barak and now to Sharon. And in all this, up until the recent election, the religious parties received increasing support and wielded increasing power. When Israeli governments bow to the religious parties, they are doing that which is virtually dictated by their electoral system. No doubt we could imagine a better system, but unfortunately, changing it is not our decision.

In the meantime, within the constraints of its structure, Israel's politics is varied, lively, and free. Sometimes democracy doesn't work out the way we want it to (even in the US).

I was also a colleague of Derek's on the FDD trip, applaud his lucid and eloquent article and his patient response to some truly crackpot comments.

Don Williams - 7/6/2003

1) Israel is the US government's creation -- it gave the Israelis $91 Billion, gave them advanced weapons like the F16s, let them build 400 + nuclear bombs, made them into the premier military power in the Middle East--then stood by and let them inflict enormous misery on the Palestinians. The Islamic world holds us responsible for the actions of our government.

2) The fact that Congress and the President are whores for Israel --due to the huge campaign donations available from some supporters of Israel -- is not the whole story, of course. Defense contractors and oil companies stand to profit as well. The defense contractor Lockheed Martin received roughly $2.5 billion from the sale of the 52 F16s in June 20001. Lynne Cheney, Dick Cheney's wife, was on the Board of Directors of Lockheed from 1994 to Jan 2001 and Lockheed makes large political donations. The invasion of Iraq not only removed a threat to Sharon but will be very lucrative for the oil companies in decades to come.

3) The problem is that a small group of people reap the profits from these games, while the American people pay the price: 3000+ dead in New York, $1 Trillion stolen from our Trust Fund for Social Security/Medicare, the loss of Trillions more due to the economy, and 3 million unemployed.

We need to knock the crap out of the Republicans in next year's election -- and to demand our leaders beat the hell out of Sharon and the Likud if they continue to sabotage the peace talks. The least the US government could do is cancel the $3 billion/year in aid to Israel.

Most of all, we need to spare some of our hatred and fury over Sept 11 for those bastards who provoke such acts, who cover up the truth , and who wrap their selfish business deals in the American flag.

Mr Heuisler's lighthearted acceptance of the horrors of war suggests that Mr Heuisler is some fat-ass civilian who, like George Bush, has never gotten within 500 miles of a battlefield.
Mr Heuisler should hope that God never decides to inflict the misery on him that the Palestinians have suffered-- that Mr Heuisler never has to hold an 8-year old son that's just been shot by an occupational army.

Jerry West - 7/6/2003

Bill Heuisler wrote:

Might makes right.


It also makes injustice and a mockery of the rule of law. We have to ask ourselves if we wish to continue this outmoded modus operendi in the modern world or move to one predicated on principles more civilized.


The point is, men fight and die for land - and to protect their land.


Some would say that is why the Palestinians are still fighting.


When the blood has dried and the armies rest it's foolish to pretend blood never flowed and status quo ante still exists.


Kind of like letting a bank robber keep his spoils. :)

I don't disagree with your historical observations. I do, however, question whether we want to continue along this same path in the future, or build a world order less violent. Asserting that people have a right to what they conquer validated future conquests and provides an incentive to engage in them.

Bill Heuisler - 7/6/2003

Mr. West,
Might makes right. There have been few if any times of lasting peace resulting from negotiation. After the third invasion of Israel it's foolish for the defeated peoples to pretend nothing happened. War and victory has written the map of the world.
Am I wrong? Cite an instance.

Take your side of this to logical conclusion. Wars become like the "Flower" Wars indulged by Aztecs. Each side enters and leaves with no other purpose than taking a few prisoners for sacrifice. So the Arab Legion assaulted the Mount of Olives for temporary advantage; any real land transferral was destined for negotiation. When Egyptian tanks overran the Bar Lev line, their objective was not to retake the Sinai, but to gain a bargaining position at some future negotiation. But wait, why fight at all?
Why not go directly to negotiation? Has it ever been so?

The point is, men fight and die for land - and to protect their land. When the blood has dried and the armies rest it's foolish to pretend blood never flowed and status quo ante still exists.
Bill Heuisler

Jerry West - 7/6/2003

Bill Heuisler wrote:

We've been over this before, but the Eastern Med is not a traditional Arab homeland. They drove out the Byzantine Greeks in the early 600's. They conquered and took the land from other peoples who had conquered and taken the land and so on.


Using your logic we can conclude that it is basically nobody's land since its history from time immemorial is one of conquest and displacement. That still leaves us with the people who were living there when certain groups began pushing them out during the last century. One might even say terrorist groups if what little I have read is anywhere near factual.

If you are saying that all of the Arabs living in what is now Israel had their property rights protected and those that wish to be are still there living happily as Israelis and that the problem is only Jordanian and Egyptian trouble makers who never lived in this place and are now seeking to colonize Israel, then I might change my attitude to this problem.

The stand that you are taking is that might makes right and to the conquerer goes the spoils. Historically the modus operendi for most groups with expansionist ambitions or the desire or necessity to survive by plunder.


You state, "I don't agree with the targeting of civilians, but it is a military tactic". So be it. The war evidently continues. Unleash the damn dogs.


A sure recipe for decades more of killing on both sides.

Jonathan Dresner - 7/5/2003

Mr. Williams,

Tacitus is a great source on Roman politics, and he was trying to be a good historian. But his sources on non-Roman history and culture stank, and consequently his narrative is not reliable or even all that interesting in this context except as a reminder that anyone can use history to their own advantage (since it was clearly to Roman advantage to delegitimize Judaism and Jewish control of Israel).

Perhaps the most interesting thing you've pointed out with this is that history is not necessarily a useful tool in solving contemporary problems.

Jonathan Dresner - 7/5/2003

Mr. Williams,

Your citations from the San Remo Resolution are interesting, but not at all conclusive. In fact, one could argue that Israel has carried out these strictures more fully than any comparable neighboring government.

Bill Heuisler - 7/5/2003

Mr. Williams,
Although I appreciate your halting attempts at courtesy, there's no need to address me as Herr Heuisler.
"His Excellency The Honorable..." will suffice for now.
Bill Heuisler

John Moser - 7/5/2003

The attempt to compare this to the Holocaust is truly disgusting. Jews in Germany wanted nothing more than to be left alone and be good German citizens. By the way, there are millions of Palestinians living in Israel proper (not the occupied territories) who are doing the same, and enjoying a far higher standard of living than any other Arabic people in the Middle East. In fact, what is frequently overlooked is that such people are as likely to suffer from the terrorism of their Palestinian brothers as are the Israeli people.

The real question is to what extent the Israelis can be expected to tolerate terrorist attacks in the name of creating yet another Islamo-fascist state--one in which Palestinians themselves will be worse off than those who remain in Israel.

Don Williams - 7/5/2003

Another extract from Book V of Tacitus's Histories:
"While the East was under the sway of the Assyrians, the Medes, and the Persians, Jews were the most contemptible of the subject tribes. When the Macedonians became supreme, King Antiochus strove to destroy the national superstition, and to introduce Greek civilization, but was prevented by his war with the Parthians from at all improving this vilest of nations; for at this time the revolt of Arsaces had taken place. The Macedonian power was now weak, while the Parthian had not yet reached its full strength, and, as the Romans were still far off, the Jews chose kings for themselves. Expelled by the fickle populace, and regaining their throne by force of arms, these princes, while they ventured on the wholesale banishment of their subjects, on the destruction of cities, on the murder of brothers, wives, and parents, and the other usual atrocities of despots, fostered the national superstition by appropriating the dignity of the priesthood as the support of their political power.

Cneius Pompeius was the first of our countrymen to subdue the Jews. Availing himself of the right of conquest, he entered the temple. Thus it became commonly known that the place stood empty with no similitude of gods within, and that the shrine had nothing to reveal. The walls of Jerusalem were destroyed, the temple was left standing. "

Don Williams - 7/5/2003

Writting around 109 AD, Tacitus described the dispersal of Jews from Palestine circa 70 AD by the Roman Emperor Titus. Prior to describing the siege of Jerusalem in Book V of his Histories, Titus gives some background on the Jewish residents of Palestine, noting that they were not native to Palestine and that the country had largely been held by other nations. See http://classics.mit.edu/Tacitus/histories.5.v.html . An excerpt:

Some say that the Jews were fugitives from the island of Crete, who settled on the nearest coast of Africa about the time when Saturn was driven from his throne by the power of Jupiter. Evidence of this is sought in the name. There is a famous mountain in Crete called Ida; the neighbouring tribe, the Idaei, came to be called Judaei by a barbarous lengthening of the national name. Others assert that in the reign of Isis the overflowing population of Egypt, led by Hierosolymus and Judas, discharged itself into the neighbouring countries. Many, again, say that they were a race of Ethiopian origin, who in the time of king Cepheus were driven by fear and hatred of their neighbours to seek a new dwelling-place. Others describe them as an Assyrian horde who, not having sufficient territory, took possession of part of Egypt, and founded cities of their own in what is called the Hebrew country, lying on the borders of Syria. Others, again, assign a very distinguished origin to the Jews, alleging that they were the Solymi, a nation celebrated in the poems of Homer, who called the city which they founded Hierosolyma after their own name.

Most writers, however, agree in stating that once a disease, which horribly disfigured the body, broke out over Egypt; that king Bocchoris, seeking a remedy, consulted the oracle of Hammon, and was bidden to cleanse his realm, and to convey into some foreign land this race detested by the gods. The people, who had been collected after diligent search, finding themselves left in a desert, sat for the most part in a stupor of grief, till one of the exiles, Moyses by name, warned them not to look for any relief from God or man, forsaken as they were of both, but to trust to themselves, taking for their heaven-sent leader that man who should first help them to be quit of their present misery. They agreed, and in utter ignorance began to advance at random. Nothing, however, distressed them so much as the scarcity of water, and they had sunk ready to perish in all directions over the plain, when a herd of wild asses was seen to retire from their pasture to a rock shaded by trees. Moyses followed them, and, guided by the appearance of a grassy spot, discovered an abundant spring of water. This furnished relief. After a continuous journey for six days, on the seventh they possessed themselves of a country, from which they expelled the inhabitants, and in which they founded a city and a temple.

Moyses, wishing to secure for the future his authority over the nation, gave them a novel form of worship, opposed to all that is practised by other men. Things sacred with us, with them have no sanctity, while they allow what with us is forbidden. In their holy place they have consecrated an image of the animal by whose guidance they found deliverance from their long and thirsty wanderings. They slay the ram, seemingly in derision of Hammon, and they sacrifice the ox, because the Egyptians worship it as Apis. They abstain from swine's flesh, in consideration of what they suffered when they were infected by the leprosy to which this animal is liable. By their frequent fasts they still bear witness to the long hunger of former days, and the Jewish bread, made without leaven, is retained as a memorial of their hurried seizure of corn. We are told that the rest of the seventh day was adopted, because this day brought with it a termination of their toils; after a while the charm of indolence beguilded them into giving up the seventh year also to inaction. ...

Don Williams - 7/5/2003

Herr Heuisler's solution will need to be ..er.. comprehensive.

Don Williams - 7/5/2003


Bill Heuisler - 7/5/2003

Mr. West,
We've been over this before, but the Eastern Med is not a traditional Arab homeland. They drove out the Byzantine Greeks in the early 600's. They conquered and took the land from other peoples who had conquered and taken the land and so on.

Most current Palestinians are sons and daughters of either Jordanians or Egyptians from Trans-Jordan's west bank or Egypt's Gaza. Both countries lost at least three wars they started with Israel. Under international law, losers of wars seldom have any rights, except to be treated as prisoners of war, resident aliens or to be repatriated. You state, "I don't agree with the targeting of civilians, but it is a military tactic".
So be it. The war evidently continues. Unleash the damn dogs.

If Israel were my country and had driven back invading armies of Arabs, Syrians and Egyptians on three occasions, the conquered lands would still stretch from the Golan to the Suez and the Jordan would be my Eastern border. Any "military" killing of civilians would be treated as an act of war and whole groups would be repatriated to their (or their parents'} country.

You can't have it both ways. War - particularly an aggressive war - creates new realities for the losers; they die, leave or learn to live with their conquerers.

There should be little pity for those who roll the dice, lose their gamble and then want to act as though the game had never happened.
Bill Heuisler

Jerry West - 7/4/2003

An interesting report Derek. It may have profited, however, from a visit to the Palestinians to hear their side of the story too. In places it has the tone of a PR piece coming from within the Israeli government.

You highlight the fact that Israel is a democratic state. What does that matter concerning whether or not the Palestinians are being treated fairly? The issue of democracy or lack of it is a diversion when the real issue is human rights. And the fact that the Arab states may be less democratic or less respectful of human rights than Israel is irrelevant when it comes to discussing Israel's policies towards its own citizens and those that it has displaced.

The issues to be raised when judging Israel are:

Is it right that colonists should displace indigenous people, driving them off of land that they had been occupying; and

have these indigenous people, who were displaced by the colonists, been treated fairly and adequately compensated for their displacement?

You say "If the terrorism does not stop, they will have to continue to take whatever steps are available to them to keep radical murderers from killing innocent civilians."

Does this mean if the Palestinians were only attacking military targets they would not be radical murderers and the Israelis would not have to take whatever steps necessary to stop them?

I don't agree with the targeting of civilians, but it is a military tactic, and one not unknown to even the US. Also, where to draw a line between those who attack civilain targets and those who kill women and children incidently while attacking (according to them) military targets is a very subjective exercise. Both sides are killing civilians, in most cases neither side has a good excuse to do this. Both are using terror as a weapon, and those responsible on both sides belong in the dock at the ICC.

You say that " sage Israelis and others are now trying to transform that reality on the ground into a livable arrangement with their Palestinian neighbors."

My question is livable for who? Particularly when you point out that "what Israel will not concede is on the question of a right to Palestinian return."

My thought is why not? If Israel is a true democracy then it should not matter who lives there or what their cultural background is. Excluding people from land that their families have lived on for who knows how long does not seem either democratic or respective of human rights.

You say "It will not allow the Palestinians to overwhelm them with numbers, to eradicate their state demographically...."

I ask, what is so democratic about this policy where population is manipulated in order to rig political results? We had a civil rights movement in our country because of policies like this one.

Bill Heuisler said "the only things thriving in the Jordan Valley before the Zionists were goats, Bedu and pilgrim hostels."

My question is do goat herds and Bedu have no rights? Is there nothing good to be said for open spaces and pasture lands?

Israel/Palestine/Whatever is a nightmare bequeathed to us by almost a century of bad decisions and mistakes by the UK, the UN and others, and kept alive by the inability of the parties involved to find a solution to the problem. One has to wonder whether a number of the parties find it more convenient to have a problem than tho have it solved.

For a view somewhat different than mine, and for those that like a little froth with their viewpoints, here is a website:


Don Williams - 7/4/2003

In the current (May/June 2003) edition of Foreign Affairs, Martin Indyk has an article "A Trusteeship for Palestine" in which he proposes a US trusteeship to create the Palestinian state. In a footnote on page 56, he states:
"Legally, sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza remains in the hands of the United Nations, which inherited it from the United Kingdom, which inherited it from the League of Nations, which took it from the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. Jordan's claim to sovereignty over the West Bank after 1948 was never recognized, and although Israel administered the territories after the 1967 Six-Day War, it has never claimed sovereignty over them."

This shows a map of lands given to the Palestinians by UN Resolution 181 but taken over by Israel:

Earlier, in 1922, the Jewish portion of Palestine's 750,000 population was only 11%--see http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/in_depth/world/2001/israel_and_palestinians/timeline/1936.stm
and that after immigration. 300,000 immigrated in the next few years.

After the British Army left in 1948, Jewish terrorist organizations began massacring Palestinians , causing hundreds of
thousands to flee to the West Bank --see http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/in_depth/world/2001/israel_and_palestinians/timeline/1948.stm
and http://www.wpni.com/wp-srv/inatl/longterm/me_peace/me_peace.htm

Don Williams - 7/4/2003

An extract of the San Remo Agreement is given here. It doesn't say the Israelis can have all of Palestine --quite the opposite, in fact. For example:
"it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine"
"he Mandatory shall be responsible...for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion."
"nothing in this Mandate shall be construed as conferring upon the Mandatory authority to interfere with the fabric or the management of purely Moslem sacred shrines, the immunities of which are guaranteed."
" Respect for the personal status of the various peoples and communities and for their religious interests shall be fully guaranteed. In particular, the control and administration of Waqfs shall be exercised in accordance with religious law and the dispositions of the founders"

Elliott A Green - 7/4/2003

These critics of Israel have very superficially investigated. Iraq under Saddam Hussein sold oil to South Africa. Communist Poland sold coal. Communist China traded with South Africa. FRance under the Gaullists traded with South Africa in military goods. But only Israel is condemned.

Elliott A Green - 7/4/2003

I appreciate Derek Catsam's sincere impressions of his trip to Israel, and the various briefings, etc. My comments: First, on the issue of international law and rightful sovereignty to the whole country. The San Remo conference of 1920 recognized rightful Jewish sovereignty to the whole country [which under Ottoman and earlier Muslim rule was not recognized as a separate country and had no borders, being divided among various Ottoman --or earlier, Mamluk-- administrative divisions]. San Remo set up the Jewish National Home. This was endorsed by the League of Nations in 1922, recognizing the Jewish historical connection to the country. In 1939 and 1940 the British illegally issued the White Paper and rules which limited Jewish immigration to the country (on the eve of the Holocaust) and Jewish land purchase rights. Most of Judea and Samaria of today were in the zones forbidden to Jews. The League of Nations Permanent mandates Commission ruled that the British policy was illegal. Nevertheless, this policy was a British contribution to the Holocaust. No act of international law since 1920 has changed the international law status of the Land of Israel. See my article in Midstream [New York, February-March 1999] on this matter, as well as more recent publications by Howard Grief, Esq., issued by Ariel Center in Sha`arey Tiqvah, Israel. The demographic status of Israel and the Jews would be much better if not for the British policy. Secondly, the Arabs traditionally considered the country an indistinct part of Syria [bilad ash-Sham in Arabic]. Yet they now have invented a false history of a "Palestinian people" which never existed in history. Derek says that Israel's rights depend on recent history, not ancient. The problem here is that the PLO insists on the Arab character of the country going back to the stone age, adopting the Canaanites as Arabs, etc. This Arab claim is false of course [for example, the Canaanites spoke a language nearly the same as Hebrew, etc]. But it can only be countered by a truthful history. A Pragmatic approach leaves the way open for falsifiers, of which the PLO has many experts. The Israelite/Jewish presence is documented in Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek, and Roman inscriptions, writings, etc. Those who want to make peace have to counter the Arab falsfifications of history. Pragmatism does not work. Thirdly, Jews were a major part of the population in the country up to the Crusades, when the Crusaders massacred most Jews in the country. Previously, during the early Arab period, the oppression and exploitation of non-Muslims [dhimmis] by the Arab-Muslim rulers, and the frequent chaos as Arab tribes fought Turkomans, etc., led to major Jewish emigration to Europe [during the Early Arab Period, pre-Crusades]. The Arabs too had ghettos for Jews, just as did the Europeans. Dhimmi status meant inferiority of rights, humiliation, physical victimization, etc.

Bill Heuisler - 7/3/2003

Mr. Horsedung,
When was the last time you said something positive about anyone except Eric Foner and that miserable terrorist? You don't like W the US the Republicans, Newt etc. etc..
And now you don't like Derek Catsam.
The best part: most of us don't care what you like.
The worst: you said you taught a class - passing the poison on.

Most posters on this site are your betters. We are here to learn and share and discuss. You are on HNN to scorn and spread anger. To be so consumed with hatred and bigotry would be acceptable if you could just keep the poison to yourself. Otherwise, suffer the contempt of normal people - your betters.
Bill Heuisler

Josh Greenland - 7/3/2003

I don't doubt what you're saying, but Israeli policy seems quite complex. Hasn't the Israeli government also cut off essentials to selected Palestinian communities in the West Bank, including electricity and water?

Jonathan Dresner - 7/3/2003

Mr. Baumann and Prof. Catsam,

I'd like to echo Mr. Baumann's praise of Derek Catsam's patience and energy in participating in this discussion (and others, I've noticed). I was a member of a Jewish-Arab discussion list almost a decade ago, and it takes a lot of psychic energy to delve into these issues as anything resembling a moderate: you get it from both sides and then some.

And you're right, there is a wider spectrum of political thought and discussion in Israel than in most other societies (anywhere, not just the Middle East) including people whose positions and opinions are even more radical and pacifistic than my own. That's great.

But they never seem to win the arguments or the elections in enough numbers to affect things much. Your aunt is right, but the balance of power and policy is not in that direction. Not even close.

Don Williams - 7/3/2003

whereas the roughly 4 million Palestinians are stuck in deep poverty with $1600/year. I wonder how that can be given that the Palestinians have benevolent, humane neighbors like the Likud and Ariel Sharon.

Don Williams - 7/3/2003

The facts are the Palestinians have been living in refugee camps for almost 60 years while the US has given Israel an estimated $91 Billion in aid. The UN Resolution giving the Palestinians has been ignored all that time, and the Palestinian per capita income is a small fraction of Israelis. It really takes deep hypocrisy for posters here to be utterly indifferent to that situation and to then talk about humane values.

It also takes deep hypocrisy for people like Heuisler to look at the 3000+ dead from Sept 11 --the result of Republican whoring for Israel -- and to then suggest that I am unpatriotic for asking why
special interests should be allowed to bring such harm on the country.

I was particularly amused by Mr Heuisler's comment re
" scorning their betters and their country.". I draw a sharp distinction between love of my country/fellow citizens versus
the Bush Administration. To paraphase Newt Gingrich, Mr Heuisler's President is just not that important to me.

I particularly do not know what Mr Heuisler means by "scorning their betters" -- the idea of "their betters" is foreign to those citizens of the US republic like myself who do not have their nose buried in some rich man's butt.

Derek Catsam - 7/3/2003

Fred -- thanks so much.

fred baumann - 7/3/2003

(I am a klutz and I unintentionally hit the submit button. Just a little more.)
Another, similar point. While I was there I learned that Israel is going to build a huge desalination plant. It'll cost a ton and of course it'll make a great target for terrorists. And of course they plan, I was told, to share the water with the Arabs.
In sum, go there and look at things close up Mr. Dresner. It's more complicated than it looks from here. But one of the complexities is how, in all the harshness that is required of an anti-terrorist policy, and with all the excesses that undoubtedly do occur in it, the Israelis show a concern for the well-being of their neighbors that is not only not reciprocated but that they themselves, unjustly, often make light of. That is, they are closer to your way of thinking than you realize.

Fred Baumann - 7/3/2003

I was on the trip with Derek and am, politically, well to his right. Derek, I thought your piece was terrific. You made the obvious sensible points in very clear and persuasive way, but you also captured some of the tone and feeling of Israel as we saw it--the mingled hope and despair, the underlying resolution and, at the same time, the humane concern among so many Israelis even for those who are out to kill them. That you have then chosen to deal again and again in a rational manner with two such impervious self-caricatures as Williams and Piper (Orwell's description of a commissar comes to mind--half man, half megaphone)shows a degree of patience that, kindly as you were in all our arguments, seems almost excessive. Better to have been able to deal with someone thoughtful like Mr. Dresner.
He can't believe, he says, that the Israeli way of fighting terror is the only way. I understand that a high-minded person doesn't want to believe such things. Furthermore, it may well be that in this and that respect the Israelis could do better. They certainly think so and try hard to improve. But I think what you mean is that you don't think they are operating in the right spirit.
I wonder then if you would have been affected as I was by the visit we made to the cargo crossing point between Gaza and Israel. There the Israelis have constructed at great expense a remarkable site where, under the most rigorous surveillance, truck cargos are tranferred so that Gaza can enjoy easy access by land to Arab markets in Jordan and Saudi Arabia and can get goods from them and from Israel in return. The risks Israel runs of arms smuggling in both directions are great as are the risks of the occasional terrorist getting through and, as happened recently, gunning down whoever was in range. The economic gain to Israel is close to nil; the Gaza trade means very little to it. The costs, by contrast, are quite high as are the risks. Why do they do it? Let my leftist Israeli aunt tell you why. "Of course we do this out of self-interest" she said. "If we are ever to have peace with them, we have to treat them well."

Derek Catsam - 7/3/2003

By the way, it was Mr. Royer and his group that first posed the utterly groundless and clearly anti-Semetic idea that somehow Mossad was responsible for 9-11.

Derek Catsam - 7/3/2003

I found your post to be thoughtful and insightful. I also agree with most of it. I do not think that Israel necessarily always takes the best approach in terms of policy in the West Bank or Gaza. Reasonable people can disagree about what exactly Israel should do, how they should ensure their security. I maintain, however, that Israel has the right to protect itself, and dealing with terror is an ongoing war. As such, these are questions that will not always deal with the niceties of simple legal questions and will cross over into the realm of the ugliness of war -- a war that has been declared on Israel, and a war that Israel thus must and will fight.
I especially agree with you about the influence of the most conservative Orthodox jews in issues both of security and domestic policy in Israel. What many of the critics of Israel really do not want to understand is that there is a political spectrum in Israel that ranges from the hardline Orthodox on the right to a very pacifist leftyism on the other side. There is huge discussion and concern over how to deal with the current situation in Israel, a wide array of opinions and tremendous dissent. Everywhere we turned we heard about how important democvracy was, and how living in a democratic state in some cases handcuffed how Israel could respond. Was some of this simply rhetoric for the edification of our group, who were seen as American opinion shapers? Sure. But was most of it sincere? Of course. People in democratic societies who talk about democracy teand to really mean it, even if sometimes it seems that such talk is platitudinous, and even if at times all democracies fall short of their promise.

Derek Catsam - 7/3/2003

Once again, thanks, Bill.

Jonathan Dresner - 7/3/2003

Mr. Catsam commented, in a much earlier post "In fact I am, by most other standards, a fairly solid lefty liberal who does not understand why the left has decided to abandon Israel." I'm a "lefty", as well as a Liberal Jew (for those of you who haven't been following the nomenclature of Judaism, that means that I'm a non-Orthodox Jew who doesn't care to divide the category of Jew any further into strains, sects or movements).

I can't speak for everyone, but my own relationship to Israel has indeed grown strained over the years. I know that Israel is the most liberal, most democratic state in the Middle East (actually, you could include most of Africa and a few other regions, too), and the best example of a multi-ethnic society. As a Jew I have a powerful desire to see Israel succeed and thrive.

But the successive governments of Israel have surrendered religious decisions to fundamentalist Orthodox Jews who have made it clear that my Judaism is not respected (which places my family in a very tenuous position regarding Israeli citizenship, etc.). Judaism hasn't had a central religious authority since the First Diaspora, and I think even the ultra-Orthodox should be concerned about the attempt to create one under state authority. We Jews are not a nation of priests anymore, but a nation of teachers and thinkers.

But the crux of your question is about the liberal left. Over the last quarter century (since I wasn't really politically aware much before that) Israel has been faced with a variety of problems and crises related to its neighbors, displaced Palestinians, and terrorism. Each decision it has made about these problems has been a move further away from liberal ideas or methods. Every "security" decision has been tactical, not strategic; practical, and effective in a blunt sort of way (and I'd sure love to know if that 80-90% success rate Israeli security forces were claiming had any basis in reality, but that's the historian in me looking for independent sources), but lacking vision or hope or humanistic perspective.

I don't want to see Israelis hurt or Israel destroyed. I'm as happy as anyone when Israel manages to identify and arrest or assasinate terrorist leadership (and I do distinguish between collateral damage, which Israel really should be working harder to reduce and apologizing for, and deliberate targeting of civilian populations) But I can't blithely support a state which punishes guilt by association, destroys the lifeblood of its subjects (since the West Bank/Gaza Palestinian population can't be called citizens) by destroying olive groves and homes, which supports fundamentalist settlement construction and their subsequent abuse of palestinian people and resources, etc.

I am surprised, frankly, that the Israeli security establishment doesn't realize that security is not just a matter of force and intelligence. I am disappointed that the Jewish Israeli population has allowed conditions in occupied territories to deteriorate to the point that Hamas could be a viable social services provider. I can't believe that the Israeli way is the only way.

Bill Heuisler - 7/3/2003

Watching two Leftist morons try to cannibalize a decent, well educated Liberal has become revolting. My friend, you are a fine writer; your article depicted issues lucidly and entertainingly. You are attacked not engaged; insulted in ways that would result in blood, spit and teeth on the floor of most Tucson watering holes. But you patiently answer them.

Don't bother acknowledging defective personalities who, ignorant of the most basic history, cannot even put together organized, grammatical sentences. Ignore the intellectual wannabees who defend terrorists while scorning their betters and their country.

Both Williams and Piper have used terms like whores for Israel and Kosher Nostra; they talk about occupation and call people Nazis without really understanding the terms and then whine about libel when answered. Pathetic. Clearly they write to wound, not to communicate - typical behavior of poor powerless souls whose only triumphs are anonymous and masturbatory.

At first it was amusing to watch you get the treatment we on the Right have become accustomed to, but don't dignify Jew-hating, uneducated defenders of terrorists with your time.
Bill Heuisler

Derek Catsam - 7/3/2003

The difference being that I am none of the things that I have ben called, but Mr. Royer has been indicted for being a terrorist, which makes it peculiar to think I could have libelled him for, er, being a terrorist.

R. Piper - 7/3/2003

Mr. Flotsam, having lost the debate would now like to switch to the battle of credentials to see if he can make up for the losses that way. Here is the bad news for you, sir:
Our credentials (both yours and mine): knowledge, intelligence, bias, etc. are on full display right here; it is irrelevant what either of us has hanging on the wall.

Or in plain Latin: "Hic Rhodos, hic salta!"

As you have already shown your utter ignorance, limited intelligence and unlimited bias, whatever credentials you may have are not worth the paper they are printed on, so perhaps you should tuck your tail between your legs and quietly go away hoping no one would notice.

So, Mr. Flotsam, "went to Israel with the support of an organization that opposes killing civilians".
Very amusing.
Which civilians, Mr Flotsam?

That lame agitprop line, together with always putting Occupation under quotes (and calling it an "explosive term") is sure to make your idol Herr Sharon and his FDD lapdogs (your sponsors) proud of their investment in you.

I am closing my book on this case of stinking flotsam floated by the puny Israeli whore Catsam.

Tom Bruscino - 7/3/2003

A little consistency Mr. Williams: where was the indignant response to Mr. Piper calling Mr. Catsam a racist, Nazi, or fascist? Oh wait, I see, we only care about libel when it comes to defending those who help fund terrorism.

Derek Catsam - 7/3/2003

Wow! two British MPs. (How many British Parliamentarians are there?) One Israeli MP (How many members of the Knesset are there?). And Bishop Tutu to boot. And yet, where does Great Britain stand? Where does the Knesset stand? You obviously have no idea about the intellectual life at Israel's universities. Meanwhile I have stated both my admiration for Tutu and the fact that i think he is wrong on this point (please let me know your position on the Cradock 4, Mr. Piper, or at least your work on apartheid South Africa).
You continue to condemn my credentials (and what are yours, Mr. Piper, Mr. Willams?) and the fact that a group such as FDD supported me? You assume no independent thought on my part, and you assume that FDD is wrong. Meanwhile you support the words of indicted terrorists. How about this, Mr. Piper -- rather than "Flotsam" you give me a modicum of respect as someone who actually published what I believe, as opposed to merely standing in criticism.
But yes. I went to Israel with the support of an organization that opposes killing civilians. Damn me and my rightous pose.

Don Williams - 7/2/2003

--being a gentle soul, I will give you one day to apologize here and correct yourself. I would also like an apology for your slur above:
"You get with your terrorist-endorsing self, Mr. Williams."

1) My understanding is that that Ismail was indicted, not tried and convicted, and that he was not indicted for terrorism. You yourself have defined terrorism above: " terrorism is the targeted killing of civilians "

2) You might look at this USA Today article --
A short excerpt:

"4 'jihad' defendants granted bail
By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Four men accused of being part of a "jihad network" were granted bail Wednesday. The move raises questions about allegations that they were Muslim warriors preparing to fight against U.S. allies overseas.

U.S. Magistrate T. Rawles Jones Jr. said none of the defendants pose a threat to the community. The men are accused of training for combat while on paintball outings in the Virginia countryside.

In the case of one defendant, Hammad Abdur-Raheem, 29, Jones referred to a solid work history, strong family ties and military service that he said appeared to defy the government's claims.

"The government's argument that he should be denied bond because of concerns for community safety simply does not hold water," Jones said.

He ordered the men released after they met bail conditions, including a requirement that they submit to electronic monitoring while awaiting trial.

The decision appeared to undermine the government's terror-related claims in a 42-count indictment unsealed last week. The court documents allege that the defendants were among 11 people who obtained weapons and trained to fight in Chechnya, Kashmir, the Philippines and elsewhere.

The release order, however, was tempered Wednesday in a separate decision by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, who revoked bail for a fifth defendant, Masoud Ahmad Khan.

Khan, 31, had been granted bail earlier this week. The government appealed that decision, reasserting that Khan represents a safety and flight risk.

Federal prosecutors also signaled their intention Wednesday to appeal the magistrate's release order for three of the four other defendants. Those men, Hammad Abdur-Raheem; Randall Todd Royer, 30; and Caliph Basha Ibn Abdur-Raheem, 29, were all ordered released pending appeal. "

R. Piper - 7/2/2003

I've given up on you re apartheid:
-- 2 British MPS compare Israel to apartheid,
-- An Israeli MP compares Israel to apartheid,
-- Desmond Tutu compares Israel to apartheid,
yet Mr. Flotsam is adamant that he is the only one qualified on the issue (aside from someone teaching at, you guessed it, an Israeli University).

And now we know why:
Mr. Catsam went to Israel sponsored by a Kosher Nostra lobby.
Unsurprisingly, he does not mind the sponsorship one bit and, also unsurprisingly, his conclusions are:
wait, the suspense is killing me...
Israel is an innocent democracy victimized by terror.

Thanks for the laugh, Mr Jetsam.

derek Catsam - 7/2/2003

The post that linked to the Ismail Royer article. Are you not paying attention?

Derek Catsam - 7/2/2003

I see. So it is relevant who Nir Boms is, but not who a terrorist is? And you are equating Mr. Boms with your guy Ismail? Wow. Talk about your moral equivalence.

And again, not to belabor a point, but since you do not seem to get it,I shall -- at what point have I denied FDD's agenda? At what point have I denied that it was pro-Israel? Wait, hold on -- in fact it is right there in the article! You know --- the article right up there about which you have yet to formulate any substantive criticisms! But am I forced to stand in lockstep to that FDD view? In fact, is it not just possible that I supported Israel --GASP-- prior to May 23 of this year? Is it just possible? Is it not possible, in fact, that among the 20 of us there was considerable variation of opinion, lots of earnest exchange of ideas, lots of disagreement? Or are you going to impugn the intellectual integrity of the whole lot of us?

FDD is pro-Israel. I am pro Israel. Bill Kristol is conservative, I am liberal. George Bush is pro-Israel and a Conservative. Harry Truman was pro-Israel and a liberal. Is this that hard? Do you only acceopt ideological purity when you take on a position -- only knee jerk pro-terrorist types for you? -- or do you discern what is right and wrong and then go forth with your views? After all, I bet there are a lot of Aryan Nation types who oppose Israel too. Surely if my strange bedfellow Bill Kristol and I must be tainted by association, so should your own?

By the way, I did not include the link to the Post article because I did not have it -- I have a hard copy of that, if you can imagine that for a second, hard to link to.

But in the end, I am certain that FDD made me do it. After all, no way some automoton like me could manage to string together a few coherent sentences. Thank God for guys like Don Williams (Who someone is does not matter! Unless I say that it does!)

Don Williams - 7/2/2003

"leade to an article written by a terrorist", Mr Catsam?

Derek Catsam - 7/2/2003

I very much admire Desmond Tutu, and he plays a crucial role in my work on the murder of the Cradock 4, but Tutu is not exactly an authority on matters Israeli. I would prefer to look at the views of (liberal, left of the spectrum in Israeli politics, believes that the settlers must get out, that there must be a Palestinian state, very anti the religious right who insist upon maintaining biblical ties to judea and Samaria, etc.) South African expat and esteemed scholar in Israel, Asher Susser at Tel Aviv University, who made mention of the South Africa analogy in a lecture he gave us and simply put it this way: "I lived through Apartheid. I have seen apartheid. People who make this anlogy do not know of which they speak."

As for switching the subject, let's keep in mind exactly whose article we are discussing. I do not think you get to dictate what the themes are -- if you mention both South Africa and Israel, both are legitimate topics on the table. You made the analogy, not me, much as you hate to be held responsible for your own words.

FINALLY you present actual evidence, not insults. I am more than willing to argue on this level. I refuse to accept being compared with a Nazi, call;ed an idiot, or any of the other nasty things you have said. More people should follow a simple credo -- don't say anything you wouldn't say to a stranger at a bar. You far surpassed that line throughout this whole dialogue.

I simply disagree with the British MP's and before you get too excited about their exalted status, let us keep in mind that the majority of British MPs also support Israel.

Under apartheid, 85% or so of South Africans were not allowed the vots. That is not the case in Israel where voter turnout is far higher than in, say, the US. furthermore, tell me of the black members of South Africa's legislatuve bodies under apartheid? because Arab-Israelis can vote and do vote for members to represent them. The apartheid analogy does not work. It is historically inaccurate, it clouds more than it proves, and in the end, it perpetuates argument by ad hominem.

Don Williams - 7/2/2003

Leaving aside for the moment whether Ismail Royer is guilty of anything more than being a Muslim who plays paintball
(unlike Mr Catsam, i will include the link to the Post article:
see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A40662-2003Jun27.html )

could Mr Catsam point out what was false in Ismail Royer's description of FDD? That is the issue, is it not?

As noted above, the FDD membership includes such objective, even-handed observers as Richard Perle, Bill Kristol, and Charles Krauthammer.

a) I notice that many of the names on the FDD membership list
( see http://www.defenddemocracy.org/biographies/biographies.htm )
have links to short biographies. However, the FDD page does not give a bio for Mr Nir Boms, the Vice President, for some reason. Why not?

b) When I google on Nir Boms, I see
"Nir Boms

Nir Boms is the officer of public affairs and education at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Boms earned his B.A. in education and political science from the University of Haifa and Kent State University in Ohio.

Mr. Boms has extensive experience working with teens and college students. He has taught in England, Bulgaria, Hungary and the U.S., working to strengthen the ties between the State of Israel and Diaspora Jewish communities. "

Derek Catsam - 7/2/2003

Sure, and as I believe I have written at least twice now, FDD is far more conservative than I am. But they are right on Israel. For all of your chortling and tee heeing, I see nothing of substance about my piece. What I do see is three consecutive posts, one of which leade to an article written by a terrorist, and one of which implies that because a group has conservative supporters it can do no good. You are being no smarter than those people who automatically dismiss anything Howard Zinnor Noa Chomsky might have affiliations with. I doi not know how else to say it but to repeat what I have written before -- I am a liberal, yellow dog Democrat. But I agree with FDD's fundamental antiterrorism views. So far you have cited tons of articles, including those written by terrorists, but you have not actually engaged a single point in my article. Stop bravely fighting straw men, stop going after FDD, (yes, I guess Bill Kristol, Richard Perle, and Charles Krauthammer have ABSOLUTELY nothing to say that any of us should have to hear, so keep chortling) and hit on something about my article, just a mouse click or two above the comments. Or would you rather continue to find other people's work to speak for you, even those justifying Jihad? You get with your terrorist-endorsing self, Mr. Williams.

R. Piper - 7/2/2003

Unsurprisingly, you are still clinging to tactics of switching the subject, which has already failed you several times.
Whether you haven't noticed or are mereley pretending not to have noticed, the issue is Israel's, not S.A's apartheid.

If you ever get interested in the subject itself, rather than shamelessly peddling your apology of modern day Nazis, I'll leave you to ponder these opinions:

1) Two British Members of Parliament who visited Israel recently came with impressions completely opposite to yours:

"MP attacked for Nazi comparison"
Israel's Holocaust memorial council has accused two British MPs of malicious distortion of history for comparing conditions endured by a million Palestinians trapped in Gaza to the Warsaw ghetto under Nazi occupation.

The Yad Vashem council has written to Oona King, who is Jewish and the Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, and Jenny Tonge, the Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park, who said they were shocked by what they saw during a visit to Gaza earlier this month.
Ms King wrote a commentary nearly a fortnight ago in the Guardian drawing the analogy with the Warsaw ghetto to which Jews were confined by the Germans.

"The original founders of the Jewish state could surely not imagine the irony facing Israel today: in escaping the ashes of the Holocaust, they have incarcerated another people in a hell similar in its nature - though not its extent - to the Warsaw ghetto," she wrote.

Ms Tonge compared the situation in Gaza to apartheid.
. . .
Yesterday Ms King stood by her views.

She said: "I have visited Yad Vashem and was profoundly moved by the experience. That's why it distresses me all the more that some of the policies used to control the Jewish population are similar in nature to the policies used to date to control the Palestinian population.

"Anyone who denies that is not addressing the facts honestly."

2) An opinion of an ISRAELI Member of Knesset (from the AufBau article):

Schocken, considered by many to be a mild mannered liberal, was apoplectic.
"To declare Israel today as a democratic state is equivalent, though with certain differences, to the definition of South Africa during apartheid as a democratic state," he said.

3) And, one who lived through apartheid gets the last word:

"Apartheid in the Holy Land" by Desmond Tutu
. . .
What is not so understandable, not justified, is what it did to another people to guarantee its existence. I've been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about.

On one of my visits to the Holy Land I drove to a church with the Anglican bishop in Jerusalem. I could hear tears in his voice as he pointed to Jewish settlements. I thought of the desire of Israelis for security. But what of the Palestinians who have lost their land and homes?

I have experienced Palestinians pointing to what were their homes, now occupied by Jewish Israelis. I was walking with Canon Naim Ateek (the head of the Sabeel Ecumenical Centre) in Jerusalem. He pointed and said: "Our home was over there. We were driven out of our home; it is now occupied by Israeli Jews."

My heart aches. I say why are our memories so short. Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?
. . .
But you know as well as I do that, somehow, the Israeli government is placed on a pedestal [in the US], and to criticise it is to be immediately dubbed anti-semitic, as if the Palestinians were not semitic. I am not even anti-white, despite the madness of that group. And how did it come about that Israel was collaborating with the apartheid government on security measures?

People are scared in this country [the US], to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful - very powerful. Well, so what? For goodness sake, this is God's world! We live in a moral universe. The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust.
. . .

Don Williams - 7/2/2003

See FDD's Board ,etc here:

Richard Perle? Bill Kristol? Charles Krauthammer?

hee hee
ha ha ha ha ha ha ha (cough) (choke) (gasp) ha ha ha ha

Derek Catsam - 7/2/2003

Don --
I would like to thank you for bringing Ismail Moyer's piece to everyone's attention. Moyer is a self-described communications specialist for the Council on American Islamic Relations. He has attacked FDD several times in association witht he Saudi Institute (my allies and yours, ladies and gentlemen). He has spent a great deal of time smearing FDD.

So you will all appreciate what happened to Mr. Williams' guy Ismail last week. Well, let's start with the Washington Post's Headline: "Area Muslims Charged With Conspiring With Terrorist Group." Seems that a federal grand jury in Virginia had charged 11 Muslim men "with conspiring with a foreign terrorist group to engage in jihadist combat in foreign nations friendly to the United States." Hmm. Among those arrested and indicted? Mr. Williams' guy, Ismail Royer. Quite an interesting story.

So, folks, continue to choose sides. I guess the decision is yours -- Ismail Royster and his ilk, supporting jihad against the United States and our allies (for you, this inspirational line from one of the members of the conspiracy: fighting US troops in Afghanistan "was a valid jihad for Muslims.") or else the stance of an antiterrorist group like the Foundation for the Defense of democracies. FDD is not perfect, many of the politics are too conservative for me, but on this issue they are right.

By the way: For those of you who care about the plight of Palestinians, as all of us should, you should probably decide if an end to terrorism promises them a better life than continued acts of murder against civilians in Israel. With an end to terrorism should come the promise of a Palestinian state free of Israeli intercession. Without an end to terrorism that will never happen. You decide.

Don Williams - 7/2/2003

Go to http://www.intelligenceonline.com/p_index.asp and search for
"Foundation for the Defense" --include the quote marks -- to access
June 6,2003 article-- opening intro is :
- Will the FDD Manage to Tear Up the Road Map?
An official from the State Department has told an Intelligence Online correspondent in Washington about lobbying efforts undertaken by an organization calling itself the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD)..."

Don Williams - 7/2/2003

See http://www.antiwar.com/orig/royer1.html

Derek Catsam - 7/2/2003

Josh --
The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies is a Washington based organization that emerged to confront terror in the wake of 9-11. It is a think tank, basically, that nonetheless tries to be on the ground in Israel by bringing groups in to the country, including our faculty fellows group (we were the first group of fellows), college students, and high school students.

We were there to learn as much as possible about terrorism and the Israel situation as possible, and then to bring what we learned back to the US. FDD is far more hardline than I am on the Israel question, but like any think tank, it was not a process of thought control or inculcation or anything -- the group of fellows ran across the ideological spectrum, though I was one of the few lefties on domestic politics. FDD has a political stand, but we are free to write, say, think what we want about the trip, even if it goes against what FDD believes. obviously many think tanks have ideological agendas, but no legitimate ones try to dictate what people write -- thus Brookings or the Cato Institute or whatever usually (bot not always) draw pretty like-minded folk, but those people are free to disagree on a range of issues and their work certainly does not have to meet the approval of some Big Brother.

I hope that helps.


Derek Catsam - 7/2/2003

Yes, that must be it. I am an unvarnished idiot. You make a declarative statement, I take issue with that statement, then you say that in fact you meant something else. Furthermore, my work on antiapartheid is clear, has been in the years since I have been writing about this, and I would put my antiapartheid credentials on the ground against yours any day of the week. I will certainly place my work on this issue up next to yours if you would like.

Believe it or not, my comment on AufBau was a mistake. I was wrong. i knew that it had German links, but those links were German-Jewish, and thus substantially different and thus wrong. I am not above admitting my own errors (ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD).

Yes, Germans should perhaps keep their opinions to themselves on Israel. They have done enough damage on the Jewish question.

It's nice to be called an "unvarnished idiot" by one who has presented such a reasoned, airtight case. In another post you say you "know what side" I'd have been on in 1939. Yes, I would have been on the side that went to war against German. As a left wing liberal born into the New Deal tradition, I would have pushed for FDR's foreign policy, only that we enter sooner than we did. I would have embraced a wartime foreign policy that became Truman's foreign policy. I would likely have suupported much of truman's post-war policy, and in so doing I would have recognized the State of Israel. I would have recognized and taken the side of Israel just as Truman and Eisenhower and Kennedy and Johnson and Nixon, and Ford, and Carter and Reagan and Bush and Clinton and Bush did and have done. I would have pushed even harder than Truman did on Civil Rights, and I'd have recognized South Africa for what it was in 1948, and not more than five decades later -- after it was an ally for most all of that time, by the way (only country in the world).

You do not know my politics. In fact, in making me defend Israel in the way you have, you have not even bothered to find out some of the fine points of my views on Israeli politics which, political parties I most sympathize with, where on the spectrum I fit. No, instead it is easy for you to loathsomely hint something idiotic about where I would have stood in 1939, to call me an "unvarnished idiot" and to decide that you and opnly you know the path to righteousness. And thyen you come up with this utterly inane "Bible Thumper" srgument, which is the absolute dumbest thing I have ever read. My relationship on every issue on domestic politics is the exact opposite of the religious right, I am also not Jewish. So unless you know something about me that I do not, how about sticking to what I have written and said? Is that so hard? I mean, I realize that you like to run away from what you write as soon as you write it (Oh, I did not mean what I wrote, that simple statrement of what I averred to be fact even as I insulted your character; I meant something else; but I wrote what I wrote because . . . wait, why did you write what you wrote? I suspect that you wrote what you believed to be true, because I suspect that you don't know a whole hell of a lot about South Africa.)

I await the next round of personal attacks masquerading as, well, personal attacks.

Josh Greenland - 7/2/2003

From the article:

"Even the most ardently pro-Israel among our group had to be well aware of the fact that the Israeli government saw us as opinion makers, and as an opportunity to develop something that is fairly rare in those parts - good publicity for the Israeli cause. To my knowledge, everyone in the group was "pro-Israel," defined broadly, and we all, liberal or conservative, hawk or, well, semi-hawk (there were no doves in the group that I know of) thought of that as a good and necessary thing. We all went prepared to engage in the hard questions of terrorism and to bring that experience back not only to our writing, to op-ed columns and television interviews, but also into the far less receptive atmosphere of our college campuses."

Derek, what exactly is the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies? And what is supposed to be accomplished by the fellowships? The picture I'm getting from a quick first look at its website somehow doesn't feel complete:


Derek Catsam - 7/2/2003

Er, I am no Bible thumper. In fact, I'd be curious to know from you just what religion you think I am. Hint: I promise you you are wrong.

I am not going to dignify the 1939 comment. That goes beyond the pale, is clearly libellous, and anyone who knows my record knows my politics.

R. Piper - 7/2/2003

This is not just an academic exercise:
Catsam is an apologist for ONGOING genocide and "cleansing" operations of Israel, happening as we speak, all day every day.

It is clear to me which side Catsam the Bible Thumper would have been on in 1939.

R. Piper - 7/2/2003

You sir are an unvarnished idiot.

First you latch onto a minor point (whether Israel was the only, when the real issue is support for apartheid), then you show clear lack of common sense by insisting that you can only deal with literal quotes, all the while childishly trying to deny the undeniable:
Israel was THE ONLY COUNTRY LEFT SUPPORTING -- worse yet, OPENLY AND BRAZENLY and in repeated defiance of international community, South Africa's apartheid.

Then you resort to lying and trying to pull the lame sources game.
-- None of the links I provided are to a German paper (AufBau is a Jewish paper, The Times is in UK, Synthesis/Regeneration is a US based Greens journal, Sydney Morning Herald is in Australia.)
-- Even if some link was to a German paper, so what?
I thought you were claiming to be a scientist.

You can keep thumping your bible and proselytizing genocide and racism found therein, but I won't be listening anymore.

Derek Catsam - 7/2/2003

By the way -- let us keep in mind that in April, 1975 the Washington Post reported that the United States had sent 97 pounds of highly enriched uranium to South Africa. Washington later claimed that the uranium was not for use for developing nuclear devices, but they also knew that it would be impossible to stop South Africa from doing so. A State Department talking point in 1981 began with the statement "The United States places a high priority on the resumption of nuclear cooperation with South Africa." Reagan acted on this and expanded the nuclear technology sharing arrangement. This cooperation continued apace until it became public in 1985. So now are we arguing that Israel was the only country in the world after 1985, even as constructive engagement was still the stated course of the administration? And apparently we do not count Taiwan as a country? West Germany and France also contributed to South Africa's nuclear program. But Israel was the "only country in the world." Hmm. I guess we'll need a clarification on what Mr. Piper really meant, since I cannot read his mind and was foolish enough to think that when he wrote that Israel was the only country in the world that supported apartheid South Africa he actually meant it. Instead he meant something completely different. Silly me.

Derek Catsam - 7/2/2003

I think I was very clear in my comments on Israel and South Africa that I opposed Israeli policy in the 1980s, and that I opposed the US policy for the period after 1960 and the killings at Sharpeville. I am not sure how much more I have to do to condemn that, and if you need more evidence of my own work on these matters, do a simple web search and I bet you can even find one or two of my papers on apartheid South Africa.

As for Mr. Piper's point -- don't tell me I am playing semantic games. You made a straight out declarative statement, I refuted that statement, and then you claim that while you said A you meant B. You are responsible for your own incoherence. I directly quoted what you said. DIRECTLY QUOTED. Your point was so bad that I did not feel that I had to waste any more of my time going point by point over your arguments.

That said, I love how to justify your anti-Israeli democracy arguments you link to a German newspaper. I find that fascinating. Here is my simple view when it comes to German views of Israel -- they can support Israel wholeheartedly, or they can shut up. Four million dead is enough. The fact that you would instantly go to a German source once again reveals more about you than about me, or, for that matter, Israel.

Don Williams - 7/2/2003

What I believe Mr Piper was referring to --and the issue that Mr Catsam dodged -- was Israel's transfer of medium range
missile technology to the white apartheid regime of South Africa and Israel's assistance reportedly provided to that
regime in the development of nuclear weapons.

1) From UN Resolution 42/44 at http://domino.un.org/UNISPAL.nsf/0/81fb46cbf6bd668385256a81004fc326?OpenDocument
" The General Assembly,....
... Aware of the grave consequences that endanger international peace and security as a result of Israel's development and acquisition of nuclear weapons and Israel's collaboration with South Africa to develop nuclear weapons and their delivery systems,...
... 2. Reiterates also its condemnation of the co-operation between Israel and South Africa;"

2) From the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report at http://www.ceip.org/files/projects/npp/pdf/CH09.PDF

"a) Missile Program. With Israeli assistance, South Africa developed a medium-range ballistic missile during the 1980s under the guise of a space launch vehicle program; South Africa tested this missile in July 1989. In October 1991, the United States imposed missile proliferation sanctions on Armscor, the South African firm developing the MRBM."
"A report emerged in 1997, however, citing South Africa’s Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad and former South African chief of staff General Constand Viljoen, that Israel had aided South Africa’s nuclear weapons complex program.30 In return for natural uranium, Israel purportedly supplied tritium for use in boosted fission weapons.31 ....
30 ‘‘Israel Reportedly Helped South Africa Develop Nuclear Weapons in the Early 1980s,’’ Associated Press, April 20, 1997.
31 Yosi Melman, ‘‘Israel-S. African Nuclear Tie,’’ Ha’aretz, April 21, 1997, in FBIS-NES-97-082. "

Another example of Israel's supporters two-faced hypocrisy is ranting about Irag's apparently non-existent (and vaguely defined) "Weapons of Mass Destruction" while ignoring Israel's development of 400 nuclear weapons and refusal to sign the Non-proliferation Treaty.

Ralph E. Luker - 7/2/2003

R. Piper, Derek Catsam's essay, far from being a "sophomorically pathetic article," is an eloquent and evocative piece which can be appreciated on its own terms. You don't have to be a single-minded admirer of Israel's conduct to appreciate it as such. It is entirely possible to learn from people with whom you disagree. You don't need to respond with the kind of rhetorical overkill in which you have engaged here.

R. Piper - 7/2/2003

Mr. Catsam tries to float more jetsam and, drumrolls please... says 'facts are stubborn'.

Two quick points (more than plenty to sink your flotsam):

1. Your attempts at semantic games are laughable.
Anyone with common sense (which does not seem to include you) understands that "Israel was the only country supporting S.A. apartheid" means "the only country that supported S.A. all the way to the end", ie. left standing when everyone else bailed out.
So, try your sophistry elsewhere.

2. You have not addresses ANY OTHER of my numerous points.
You have replied to only one point (and failed miserably at it), and your complete silence on dozens of other points is telling.
(And almost each of my points is sufficient in itself to demolish your sophomorically pathetic article.)

Tom Bruscino - 7/2/2003

Speaking of facts: all of the Scandinavian countries, as well as Great Britain, Switzerland, India, Japan, and South Korea must be theocracies because they have religious symbols on their flags.

Derek Catsam - 7/2/2003

Of course you have many more facts. Many more facts such as this one:

A. Israel was THE ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD supporting South Africa's apartheid.

And with the capital letters and all, well, this must be a damned satrong point. Capital Letters! The only problem is that it is, ahem, wrong. Every word of it, save perhaps the articles and prepositions are wrong, and at least one of those is wrong too. First off, perhaps it would be useful to know that Apartheid as an official policy began in 1948, though obviously it has historical antecedents. But the policy known as Apartheid (an Afrikaans word, by the way, which I never even apply to my work on American Civil Rights because to me apartheid has very specific time and place implications, But then I don't just throw historical terms around devil may care)began in 1948 when Malan (who actually just a few years before had broken from the more moderate among the South Africans and formed the Gesuiwerde Nasionale Party, but you being so into facts and all, well, you knew that) and the National Party narrowly won the election on the apartheid platform. And interestingly, for someone who says that Israel was the only state that supported apartheid South Africa, you may be surprised to note that SOUTH AFRICA WAS PART OF THE BRITISH COMMONWEALTH. Only nation in the world indeed. But I guess when you say "apartheid" you don't mean during a time when apartheid reigned, and when you say "only copuntry in the eworld" you mean, well, what on earth do you mean.

Facts are stubborn things.

And so throughout the 1960s, even as South Africa creeped closer to pariah status, it still had economic and military relations with the former commonwealth nations , with the US, with taiwan, with Japan, and, yes, with Israel. I have written lots and lots of words about how wrong i think it was for these nations to be involved with South Africa, so I do not need to defend myself here, but the fact remains that if by "supported" you meant had diplomatic ties, political ties, economic ties, cultural ties, and military ties, well, then once again, you are wrong, at least for the period up until 1976 or so.

Facts are stubborn things.

So, my factmeister friend, so concerned with accuracy and truth and facts, maybe you meant that Israel was the only nation in the world to have supported apartheid from 1976 on (odd that you would not say such a thing, given your intimate knowledge of apartheid South Africa, but I am sure it was not intentional). That would be an interesting point. But still wrong. See, a bright guy like you, so concerned with truth and accuracy, would recall that the United States in fact had an underssecretary of state for African affairs by the name of Chester Crocker. This was during the Reagan Administration. And Crocker, in a piece that he published in Foreign Affairs, advocated a policy of "Constructive Engagement." That is, America should continue to engage with South Africa (and namibia, then known as South West Africa. But you knew all this.) to, in a sense, support it, in hopes that this engagement would bring the fruits of change to South Africa. Now again, I have written elsewhere that I am a strong opponent of Constructive Engagement, and this is a debate for elsewhere. But here is an interseting thing. Guess what country signed on to Constructive engagement? Yup -- and on this one, i agree, your moral fur should be raised, as I am outraged too and find it to be a blotch on the escutcheon of Israel and the United States and other allies (Great Britain too, you'll be interested to know) ["ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD"].

Facts are stubborn things.

Meanwhile, in the period after 1978 several countries still even sold military equipment to Israel. These included the US, Israel, Taiwan, Japan, and several European nations. ("ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD.")

Facts are stubborn things.

I'll throw my antiapartheid credentials out on the table with you any day of the week. I'll throw my record of work and experiences in southern Africa up against yours any day of the week. I think the fact that the international community did not completely crack down on South Africa is loathsome, a huge historical black mark. But for you to say that Israel was the "ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD" to have supported South Africa reveals a great deal about your historical ignorance, willful misrepresentation, and agenda.

Now all of this was intended to refute one line, one sentence, in your screed about my article. You asked for facts, claimed it was a sign of flotsam and or jetsam when I did not dignify it all with a response. Facts are stubborn things, my stickler for details critic. I can't wait to see the blistering array of facts you have at your disposal, because obviously I am incompetent when it comes to defending my "racist biblical" views. Yes, my work on race relations in the US amnd South Africa apparently are not quite enough for the esteemed R. Piper, who finds lying about historical facts and then calling people unjustified names to be an edifying way to spend his time.

R. Piper - 7/2/2003

Of course you didn't respond to substance of my post, because you can't defend your propaganda in face of facts.

(I do have MANY more facts in support of my points but, as you claim to be skilled with crystal ball to peer into my soul, you should be able to figure them out yourself.
Of course, this is an entirely irrelevant point as you are obviously uninterested in facts that counter your racist biblical beliefs.)

Tom Bruscino - 7/2/2003

By the way, the words "democracy" and "democratic" appear no where in the American Declaration of Independence or the United States Constitution.

Derek Catsam - 7/2/2003

No, I did not bother dealing with a shrill attack that cited internet articles that did not in fact say what you said they said, or that were far more moderate and expansive than what you made them out to be. I did not bother to engage with someone who so blatantly misuses historical terms such as apartheid, fascism, democracy, terrorism, and others. I did not bother responding to someone who thinks calling someone names (is "agitprop" the new word of the day Mr. Piper? -- and by the way, you are utterly misusing that one too. No surprise.) I did not bother responding to someone who won't dignify someone else's arguments with a modicum of civility. I did not respond to someone who clearly has no concept of history -- Israeli Jews as fascists? What political agenda could you possibly have? -- In sum, I did not respond to someone whose utter misuse of language, history, facts, and reason do not warrant it. We all see through you, Mr. Piper, and your utter gracelessness in delivering your arguments makes it all the easier for us to dismiss you as the angry little person that you are.

R. Piper - 7/2/2003

devoid of any facts, thus proving my point that you are just a lame agitprop shill for Israel.

Derek Catsam - 7/2/2003

Yeah, boy, I asked for it. And if what I asked for was a whole lot of misusage of historical terms, a whole lot of misrepresentations of fact, a whole lot of name calling, a whole lot of willful ignorant historical analogies, a whole lot of hyper-active, shrill, bleating, babbling, hysterical nonsense, I got it. Yup, you nailed me. Fortunately a whole lot of actual historians seem to have written in in support of a whole lot of what I have written.

Stephen Tootle - 7/2/2003

I suggest that Mr. Piper pick up a dictionary and look up the following words: theocratic, racist, balanced, terrorism, fascist, apartheid, democracy, constitution.

R. Piper - 7/2/2003

It is laughable that someone claiming to be a professor is not only a stark raving racist, but is so utterly ignorant of facts and history to try to rely on smoke and mirrors in a debate.
I'll briefly reply to each point and let the readers decide:

1) Israel is a theocratic fascist apartheid, not a democracy.

Most of the relevant facts are well known and indisputable:
-- Lack of constitution,
-- No mention of democracy in the declaration of state,
-- State flag is a religious symbol,
-- Citizenship and full rights are reserved solely for those of Jewish religion/ethnicity,
-- Most of the land is reserved solely for those of Jewish religion/ethnicity,
-- Israel has killed or ethnically cleansed millions of non-Jews,
-- Non-Jews are regularly subjected to both legally sanctioned and extra-legal discrimination and harrasment without any cause (much less due process):
from land stealing,
to destruction of means of production,
to house demolition,
to indefinite imprisonment without charges,
to expulsion,
to torture,
to outright killing without charges, judge or jury.

And you don't even have to take my word for it, take it from the horse's mouth:

A. Israel was THE ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD supporting South Africa's apartheid.

B. A recent study by the Israeli Democracy Institute found that Israel is really not a democracy. The study cited:
-- Low political participation,
-- High social inequality,
-- Social conflicts (Jes/non-Jews)
-- General instability,
-- Jews don’t think democracy is the best form of government,
-- Decline in the freedom of the press.
See [http://www.aufbauonline.com/2003/issue11/5.html].

2) Israel is a terrorist state.

This one is a no-brainer, assuming one has a brain.
Israel was formed by terrorism and fascist genocide.
For one account of this indisputable fact see: [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,690-5823,00.html].

The objective of terror is to terrify the population, and the means to that end are irrelevant. It makes no difference whether a bomb is strapped on someone's belt or delivered from a tank, or a helicopter or a jet.
As Israel has killed thousands (and wounded tens of thousands) of civilians recently, I'll simply rest my case here.
(And don't waste my time on the lame "self-defense" argument; when one knows that an action will result in deaths of innocent civilians, then he is a murderer, period. For a recent example see "Israel 'knew militant's wife would be killed in strike'", [http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/06/24/1056449245189.html]).

3) Israel has been led by terrorists and war-criminals since its inception.

This one is also a no-brainer, assuming one has ever seen a history book.
(Note above how Israel was formed by terror and genocide.)

See "Israel: A Terrorist Success Story" [http://www.greens.org/s-r/29/29-05.html] where Rob Miller says: "Israel has its own special way of recognizing the achievements of its great terrorists —- by electing them its prime minister."

Not to mention the fact that the current leader of Israel, Herr Sharon, is a well known war-criminal (even found liable by an Israeli court.)

4) "Israeli Patriot" does not mean "Jewish".
It means what it says: You're blindly in love with the criminal state of Israel and you can't be counted on to present a balanced viewpoint.

Have a nice day.

Dere3k Catsam - 7/2/2003

ER, one would think that voting has something to do with democracy, as would a free press, as would multiple political parties, as would transitions from one government to another, peacefully, I might add, as would a turnout rate that shames that in the US, as would the fact that Arab Israelis both vote and are represented in the Knesset. I wait with baited breath to hear Mr. Piper's definition of democracy.

Israel is not a terrorist state. Terrorism is the targeting oif civilian populations for a political goal. Israel does not do this. Yes, it has sadly killed civilians in the process of preventing the hundreds orf terrorist attacks aimed at it in the last 33 months. But its goal has neverbeen to kill civilians.

People who use the term "apartheid" in the context of israel manage to show a masterful ignorance of both what apartheid was (and I write and teach and publsih on South Africa, Mr. Piper, so don't waste my time on this one) and what Israel is.

Isarael is led by war criminals? How so? I am curious if you think every member of the Knesset is a criminal? Every Prime Minister Israel has ever had? What is your definition of war criminal?

Your calling my posts substanceless does not make it so. Your dismissing my thoughts and writing and work as "agitprop" do not make it so. You sneeringly referring to me only by my last name reveals your contempt for an earnest discussion of ideas.

By the way, to clarify any questions (and to reveal your utter ignorance) the very nature of your initial post's title is fallacious. I am neither Jewish nor Israeli. In fact I am, by most other standards, a fairly solid lefty liberal who does not understand why the left has decided to abandon Israel. All your name calling aside (and you can say what you will, I am confident enough in the caliber of my work to know that it is not fluff, and it is a whole hell of a lot less knee jerk than your vacuous piffle) i realize that words have meaning, and that people who throw around words like "agitprop" and "apartheid" without actually knowing what they mean are either ignorant, which is excusable except when you use that ignorance to engage in namecalling, or else are simply vacuous twits. My guess is that the rest of the readership here can split hairs as to which category you fall into.

Tom Bruscino - 7/2/2003

Since Mr. Williams numbers things, let me respond in kind:
1) I'm not sure who is more hypocritical: Mr. Williams for writing on an earlier post, "One day earlier, a leader of Hamas had proposed a halt to suicide attacks if Israel withdrew from the West Bank" or the leader of Hamas for talking of peace as his organization deliberately murders Israeli civilians.

2) What exactly about Israel being the Middle East's strongest military power, based in part on U.S. aid, makes Israel's supporters "two-faced" hypocrites? As a supporter of Israel I am perfectly happy that my government gives them military and monetary assistance, though I certainly do not have the hubris to assume that they are not perfectly willing and able to defend themselves by means other than American aid. And while it is always terrible when civilians die in war, I am more than happy to share the 'blame' (credit) for Israel targeting a terrorist leader in a military attack. Would supporters of the Palestinians be willing to make a similar statement about the moral (and sometimes financial) support they offer to all those attacks that deliberately target civilians? Again, who is two-faced? Who is hypocritical?

3) If President Bush had not sold those planes to Israel, are we to assume there would have been no September 11? Please.

4) I will let Mr. Catsam answer this one, oh wait, he already has in both the article and his responses.

5) While Mr. Williams may think that Israel's actions are not in the United States' interests, and that American supporters of Israel are somehow more loyal to that country than their own, I am not sure I see the connection. For a variety of reasons, economic, moral, domestic politics, and especially after September 11, national security, the Middle East is not an area the United States can ignore. In the real world of international relations, not all of America's allies will be perfect, but for most of the reasons listed above--except, interestingly, economics--Israel is the clear first choice of allies in the region. Now, once Israel starts deliberately targeting civilians in their wars, and once Israeli citizens begin terrorist attacks against the United States (or even celebreate those attacks in their streets), then we will see where loyalties lie. Until that day, be careful whose loyalties you question when you support, for all to see, the actions of those who actually do threaten the United States.

Ryan - 7/2/2003

"As my earlier post noted, Bin Laden cited US government support for Israeli killing of Palestinians as one of three reasons for Jihad in several interviews with US TV networks in 1998."

Okay I got it lets all listen to what that terrorist wants us to do. What if he says that he wants all non-Muslims to become Muslim too? Would you be the first to convert?? Well maybe you should because he already has.

J.D. Wyneken - 7/2/2003

Professor Catsam,

Congratulations on your excellent article and on your responses to those who have criticized it (fairly or unfairly). You treat the issues involved with the sensitivity and nuace they deserve, while your most virulent critics seem to respond only with the worn polemical tirades (devoid of perspective, evidence, or both) that so often have characterized academic discussions of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Those who have tired of such polemics owe you thanks for your intellectual honesty here, whether or not we agree with your overall conclusions.

That said, I agree with you. Excellent work.

Don Williams - 7/2/2003

1) It seems utter hypocrisy for Sharon --and SHaron's supporters -- to tell the US they're willing to negotiate peace and to then sabotage the peace talks by attacks on Palestinian leaders.

2) I'm sick of the two-faced hypocrisy of Israel's supporters. Israel is the Middle East's most powerful military power because the US government has given her advanced F16s and Apache helicopters, roughly $91 Billion in past aid, and $3 billion/year in current aid.

This makes the US responsible for Israeli actions, including Sharon's deliberate bombing of a three story apartment building with a 2000 lb bomb from a US-made F16.

3) As my earlier post noted, Bin Laden cited US government support for Israeli killing of Palestinians as one of three reasons for Jihad in several interviews with US TV networks in 1998. His November 2001 interview, covered up in the US news media, reiterated that point. While Al Qaeda was making plans in 2000, the final go ahead signal was unlikely to have been issued at the point when Bush sold Israel 52 more F16s in June 2001. US intelligence might have gotten warning of the attack if the Islamic world was so fed up with the plight of the Palestinians and others.

4) Mr Catsam does not explain why US citizens should support the loss of 3000+ lives, $200 Billion in direct charges ,and roughly
$1 Trillion loss of wealth just to support Israel. He does not explain why we should continue to support Israel given Sharon's deliberate sabotage of peace talks after Sept 11.

5) I can understand why some members of COngress hurt the national interest. They are whores in pursuit of campaign contributions from donors like Haim Saban --the Israeli with dual US citizenship who gave $12.7 million in the 2002 election cycle. What I don't understand is why non-politicians put Israel above their loyalty to America.

R. Piper - 7/2/2003

So, your reply to what you call a "substanceless" post is what?
A substanceless tirade, of course.

And all you were able to come up with is the lame argument that Israelis vote.
Most other people also vote, so what? Is that your definition of democracy?
I guess it must be because Israel miserably fails on every other standard of democracy.

If you were really interested in substance you would have replied to my 100% substantial points:
-- Israel is a terrorist state,,
-- Israel is an apartheid, not a democracy,
-- Israel is led by war-criminals.
There's more but this should be plenty.

As your agitprop skills are fairly lame I am not holding my breath.

John Kipper - 7/2/2003

Mr Catsam:

Let me second Mr. Heuisler's welcome back. I have read your posts concerning other issues in this forum for over a year and, I must say I generally disagreed with your analyses and dismissed you as a liberal ideologue. Imagine my surprise to find that you are not only an accomplished wordsmith, but also that your obeservations in this article are "spot-on." I will, in the future, make a greater effort not to pigeon-hole or denigrate people who disagree with me on a specific issue. Thank you for the excellent reporting.
A couple of quick points. Why is it that many of the same people who deify the UN in 2003 Iraq totally ignore the legitimacy of the UN resolutions that created the State of Isael? Why is Israel the only nation in the world to be denied the right to defend its existence, despite imprimatur of the UN? And why is the scandalous lie equating the Jews/Israelis with the very Nazis/Fascists who almost obliterated their parents, not denounced as a falsity so corrupt as to be beyond the pale of discourse? Could there be an agenda here?

Tom Bruscino - 7/1/2003

Well done, Professor Catsam. This issue, like so many others, requires clarity of understanding before any solutions can possibly be found. Take heart at the attacks against your person, they are an indication that you have hit that most sensitive target called truth. In the face of what you write, and what confronts us all everyday on the television, in print, and on the web, pat retorts of terrorism on both sides, of moral equivalency among moral unequals, grow ever more absurd and ever more easy to move past on the way toward a real solution. Thank you.

Derek Catsam - 7/1/2003

Killing civilians is always unfortunate, but if it is done in the name of a war that is being waged against you, in what is known as occupoied territory, in the wake of a declared intifada against you, it is not terrorism. Words have meaning. It might behoove some of my critics to learn this. I do not buy the idea that killing noncombatants is terrorism -- terrorism is the targeted killing of civilians. Thus guerrilla warfare is a different thing from terrorism -- not necessarily right, but in a different category. But that liberation warfare or guerrilla warfare must target particular targets, and not civilians. Don, you can prattle on all you want. There is no moral equivalent between the terrorists and the state of Israel. Israel has killed civilians, there is no doubt, as has any state that has ever been at war. but it is the intent that matters. As for your pedestrian citations about population density and blindlingly insightful pieces from time.com, I'm familiar with it, as is any dope within clicking range of the mainstream press.

Don Williams - 7/1/2003

See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A45924-2003Jun28.html?nav=hptop_tb

-- it indicatest that 100 Palestinians civilians have been killed during Israel's assassination attempts.

Firing six anti-tank missiles from Apache helicopters into a crowded intersection in Gaza and killing five civilians, including an 8 year old girl, is terrorism.

Sharon's approval for dropping a 2000 lb bomb onto a 3 story apartment building in Gaza is terrorism.

At 3100 people per square km, Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth -- see http://www.photius.com/wfb1999/rankings/population_density_2.html

Stephen Tootle - 7/1/2003

Catsam's article is a wonderful example of how a writer of great sensitivity and clarity can bring a fresh perspective to an un-fresh subject. Really first rate.

NYGuy - 7/1/2003


Welcome back and I am happy you are safe and sound. In view of the intense hatred between Palestine and Israel I had some reservations about your publishing this article for I feared it could provoke the hatred we see between these two countries on this site and I believe some of that is beginning to show up.

I know you identified what FDD is but I was not familiar with its mission and philosophy. I did check out the site and found the information given below. If one recognizes what the purpose of FDD is, perhaps the personal attacks on you will cease, since you are operating within the guidelines of the group and your trip to Israel then becomes understandable. To accuse you or HNN as being the Jewish propaganda network is unfair to you, HNN and FDD, just as it would be unfair to call Palistinian terrorists. Neither of these approaches are what you went to Israel for. Hopefully such attacks will cease and the focus returns to the work that you and FDD are doing to protect innocent people.

If one takes the mission and purpose of FDD into consideration then I think this would reduce the debate to: Do we try to stop terrorism or don’t we, and not muslin against Jew.

Cheers and good luck.

From FDD Site: http://www.defenddemocracy.org/

Do you start with any assumptions?
We start with the basic assumptions that America and its democratic allies are worth defending, and that the terrorists who killed 3000 innocent people on September 11, 2001 will kill more innocent people the next time – if we don't stop them.

Is the American war on terrorism a war against Islam?
No. Bin Laden and those who he has enlisted in his jihad – his holy war – are to Islam what the Ku Klux Klan and Christian Supremacists are to Christianity. Their extremist interpretation of Islam, which calls for the killing of "infidels" as a religious duty, targets Christians, Jews, Hindus and non-believers, but also other Muslims who do not share their beliefs. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims were killed by Jihadists in Algeria. Bin-Laden and his ilk must be stopped not because they are Muslims but because they are terrorists.

Derek Catsam - 7/1/2003

You make three points --
One is that AN Israeli dropped A bomb on an apartment building in Gaza last spring. One incident does not a trend make. Assuming that all of the facts are correct. And in fact yes, all of my IDF briefings acknowledged that fighting terrorism is doifficult and that mistakes are made. But here's the thing -- that was an attack to hit a Hamas leader, which is to say a leader of one of the largest terrorist organmizations in the world, a terrorist organization whose purpose then (and I still believe now) was the destruction of Israel. That made him a legitimate target, though I perhaps would not have gone at him that way.
Two: One day earlier a leader of hamas proposed a halt to bombings. While that was big of him, it was all artifice. No one Hamas leader than had the ability to call such a cease fire. For another thing, there should at that time have been no quid pro quo, no negotiating with terrorist organizations. Stop doing x and then we will take the next step and stop doing y. There you go again, placing moral equivalence where it does not belong.
Three: I am not much concerned with your explainations of why you think the 9-11 attacks happened. Most observers correctly note that these plans were underway even before Bush was in office, so your link of causality between 9-11 and Bush's sale of B-52s to Israel is specious at best. Israel is an ally. We are not going to change that for Al Quaida any more than Israel is changing policy for Hamas, no matter what you may wish us to do for those wretched and evil murderers and sanctioners of murder.

Derek Catsam - 7/1/2003

Thanks Bill. That means a great deal to me. Even if I am, according to a few of my detractors, an Israeli propogandist writing agitprop. A gentile, liberal democrat, Israeli propogandist, apparently. As one of my advisors wrote me upon reading a draft of this piece, this is not a matter of left and right, it is a matter of right and wrong.

Derek Catsam - 7/1/2003

Ahh, a nice, dismissive, ad hominem, but substanceless attack from R. Piper. You see, I am not a guy trying to mwrestle with tough issues. I am a Propogandist! I'm not writing based on my experiences and my own reading and paying attention, I am engaging in agitprop!
Let's see, how do reasonable people define a democracy? Let me do some thinking on this. Perhaps by voting for thweir leaders? Perhaps by valuing allowing those leaders to debate and to vote on public policy? Does Israel do these things? Why, yes it does.
The fact that you do not believe that israel is a victim of terrorism says a great deal more about you than about me. When people walk into cafes or malls or onto busses and kill innocent people -- more than 750 in 33 months, and counting, not to mention the 80-90% of attempted attacks that have been stopped (in other words multiply the number killed by anywhere between 4 and 9 and you have a rough estimate as to what Israrl faces. But I guess those dead civilians deserved it, eh Mr. Piper?)
Furthermore, Israel does not dispense citizen rights according to religion, but rather according to nationality -- they see a larger Jewish community, irrespective of devoutness or even faith. One can be a secular Jew, one can indeed be a nonbelieving Jew, and still become a citizen. All nation states have standards for citizenship. We can debate about the merits of these standards (by the way -- there are Arab states where non-Muslims cannot even VISIT never mind live, but that never enters these discussions) but it is clear that people like Mr. Piper would rather call names and impugtn the integrity of people who disagree with them arther than engage in an earnest discussion of ideas. Then again, I'm dealing with someone who would actually use a hoary cliche related to buying the Brooklyn Bridge.

Ryan - 7/1/2003

Hey if this is the 'Jewish Propaganda Network, aka HNN' how come no one has censored your voice/comment? Hmmmmmmm...

Ryan - 7/1/2003

And America dropped a bomb on a restaurant where it was suspected that Saddam Hussein was eating. Also America almost completely leveled Afghanistan (well what was left of it). Now is America a villain... NO! Is Israel a villain... NO! War is dirty business. No one likes to see innocent men, women and children get hurt. However as things happen they do. But the difference here is that Israel and America do not have a policy of targeting civilians but Hamas and other terrorist organizations do. There is a big difference between. If you can't see it I can't help you. As for Israel claiming a big chunk of the Fertile Crescent, I have one question, have you ever looked at a Map in your life?

R. Piper - 7/1/2003

Nice observation how the terrorist state of Israel is actually the victim; I'll buy that together with the Brooklyn bridge.

And fairly amusing agitprop about a "democracy" which has neither a constitution nor the word "democracy" anywhere in its declaration of independence.
Not to mention that citizen rights in Israel are dispensed according to religion.
Not to mention that Israel has been led by war-criminals and terrorists from its inception.
. . .
I could go on, but you get the picture:
Welcome to the Jewish Propaganda Network, aka HNN.

Don Williams - 6/30/2003

1) I'm surprised that the IDF didn't brief you on this during your visit.

An Israeli dropped a bomb on an apartment building in Gaza last July. The attack, aimed at a Hamas leader, killed nine children and wounded 140 people.
(some of whom probably subsequently died.)



2) One day earlier, a leader of Hamas had proposed a halt to suicide attacks if Israel withdrew from the West Bank. See bottom of

3) In an earlier post, I explained why I thought Bush's sale of 52 F16s to Israel in the summer of 2001, coming after Israel attacked the Palestinians with F16s, helped motivate the Sept 11
attack --based on a Bin Ladin interview published in a Pakistani
newspaper. See http://www.hnn.us/comments/13865.html .

This information was covered up in the US news media after the Sept 11 attack.

Bill Heuisler - 6/30/2003

This is really annoying, you're half my age and already a better writer. Your slice of history was vibrant, immediate, very well written and you even managed to highlight the horror with well-placed humor. You nailed it in a few weeks. What struck me in the last Intifada was the electricity of every moment and the matter-of-fact bravery. You made me want to go back - next year in Jerusalem...and maybe the Romanian restaurants on Dizengoff.
Pay no attention to the Lefty with the Welsh name; he doesn't realize the only things thriving in the Jordan Valley before the Zionists were goats, Bedu and pilgrim hostels.
Welcome back.

Derek Catsam - 6/30/2003

Er, israel is the size of the state of New Jersey. That may not be small for Mr. Williams, but it is in the context of nation states across the globe, particularly of nation-states whose neighbors are bent on its destruction. Look at a map. Israel is a very small country. This is not a matter of interpretation. At one point, once the West Bank is presumably in the hands of a Palestinian state, there will be parts of Israel that are about 13 kilometers wide. Who is spewing misleading propoganda now? The size of New Jersey! Egads.
Meanwhile, it is not Israeli policy to "bomb occupied apartment buildings with F-16s." (Please cite examples?) Not to let facts get in the way, or anything. There have been hundreds of terrorist attacks in Israel in the last 33 months. (And Israeli intelligence and military officials with whom we met indicated that they estimate that they stop 80-90% of all attacks. Think about the numbers there for a while.) Israel has responded, sometimes using means that have gone too far. But let's not grant moral equivalence between the nterrorists and the Israeli state.
Take issue with my argument, Mr. Williams, but don't have the audacity to presume that I am writing "misleading propoganda" just because you do not agree with me.

Don Williams - 6/30/2003

While I support the rights of Israelis to have their country, it is misleading propaganda to refer to Israel merely as a "tiny strip" of
land -- it has water, fertile land, and access to the trade routes of the Mediterrean Sea. The Arabs in the desert wastelands don't call their locations the "Land of Milk and Honey".

The distinction between terrorist bombings and bombing occupied apartment building with F16s escapes me.

Rob Simler - 6/30/2003

This is one of the best articles I've ever read about the situation in Israel. We've been bombarded on a near-daily basis with accounts in the news of the terrorism that the Israeli people have to face and as such, I think we have become desensitized to the personal side of this conflict. It's easy to forget that real people have to deal with the horrific consequences of these terrorist acts when we hear about them every day and they happen halfway across the globe. It would be nice if more articles like this were written so we don't lose sight of how many people this conflict is affecting.