Friday, January 16, 2009


I've been following with horror the news from Gaza (at least as much as my current personal preoccupations will allow, which isn't nearly as much as I would normally focus on an issue such as this.) I haven't blogged about it because I don't really have anything all that original to say about it. And on issues involving the Middle East, one always has to be extremely careful, since so many basic facts (e.g. in the current situation, who broke the cease-fire?) are disputed by the partisans on both sides.

But two American Jews -- Richard Silverstein and an American-born Israeli who writes pseudonymously under the nom de plume of the Magnes Zionist -- have put together a statement, intended to be from American Jewish progressives speaking as such, in protest of Israel's current actions (and our own government's role in supporting those actions). I just signed it, and thought I would urge my readers to consider doing so too.

I will admit I hesitated before signing it. These things are never quite phrased as one would phrase them oneself -- and in particular I found this one to be rather showy and silly in its invocation of (the biblical) Jacob and various Talmudic figures. But whatever. It's basic thrust -- that what Israel is doing (regardless of whether or not one finds the ultimate cause to be an example of jus ad bellum) is criminal in its disregard for civilian lives (i.e. is a terrible violation of jus in bello) -- is clear, is right, and is important to say.

If you consider yourself an American Jewish progressive (I suppose all three of those words are disputable in various cases), then I urge you to consider signing the statement yourself.

(Also, both the blogs of the statement's creators -- Silverstein's Tikkun Olam and the pseudonymous blog of the Magnes Zionist are good places to read articulations about why this war is, in fact, so terribly wrong, and to get links to further information and points of view. I recommend them to those who would agree with the statement linked above -- and recommend them doubly to those who do not.)

Apart from this, I am unlikely to have time to write about the current situation further. But several of my posts from the time of Israel's last war, which also involved disproportionate force resulting in many civilian casualties, are, I think, relevant, so I'll link to them here:

The Problem with Disproportionate Response
The Enemy of My Enemy is Not Necessarily My Friend
Lo Tirtsach

In particular, any potential commentators who want to reply with some variant of "what's wrong with disproportionate force?" are urged to read the first piece prior to commenting, and any commentator who wish to point out that Hamas does evil things too is urged to read the second.

Update: The list of signatories has now been posted here. (I don't know if this means it's too late to sign, or if additional signatures are still being accepted.)


C. L. DeMedeiros said...

Gertrude Stein said: " a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose"

I say a human is a human is a human and act not so human with other humans in specific periods of human history
we can name the vicious circle of persecution inflicted time to time from A to Z group of human ( again )

a human is a human is a human

Awesome blog

Jerry Haber said...

I am the principal author of the statement. It's not perfect, and I even suggested cutting some of the Jewish references. Since I am a professor of philosophy, I would like more argument, less rhetoric.

But some Jews are increasingly sick of seeing their tradition (at least the elements they like) hijacked by apologists for war crimes. So those stayed in.

Most of the criticisms I have received from the left have been because of the condemnation of Hamas. We left that in (because of their human rights violation) but we affirm the right of Palestinians to self-defense and self-determination.

Thanks for the support.

Stephen said...

Jerry Haber --

Thanks for stopping by. As indicated in the post, I regularly read & benefit from your blog. So I apologize if my criticism of the statement was unkind.

My main problem with the Jewish references is that they seemed a bit personal. I liked your *blog* post about Jacob's curse of Simeon and Levy; it just seemed a bit individual for the statement.

But, as I said above, it doesn't much matter. These things are always about consensus. And the general thrust of the statement is spot-on.

Good luck in your good work. If you ever choose to de-pseudonymize, I'd be interested in looking at your work (I was a philosophy major as an undergrad, and still like to dip into it from time to time.)


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Yehuda said...

Little Dickie Silverstein is one of the worst anti-Semitic bloggers on the web, widely referred to as a kapo. A site that exposes him is now at

Stephen said...

Note: I have deleted the comment from anonymous, above, because it was a personal attack on Richard Silverstein. I welcome debate on ideas from all points of view, but this blog is not a forum for personal attacks.

I seriously considered deleting Yehuda's comment for the same reasons, but decided, for the moment, to leave it, since it is more of a link to a set of personal attacks (plus a silly nickname) then an attack itself.

Please, everyone, be respectful. Debate ideas, rather than insulting people.