The Drift towards War

Adam Shatz

Benjamin Netanyahu first met Donald Trump in 1986, when they were introduced by Ronald Lauder, the heir of the Estée Lauder cosmetics fortune and a Republican donor. They became friendly, but Netanyahu, who was Israel’s ambassador to the UN at the time, doubted that the real-estate entrepreneur would be very useful to his future political aspirations. He added Trump to his handwritten list of millionaires to whom he might turn for favours, but ‘he was in the lowest category,’ Anshel Pfeffer writes in his new biography of Netanyahu, ‘indicating that he was good for an occasional favour, but not much more.’[*]

Like many people, Netanyahu underestimated his new friend. On Tuesday, Trump fulfilled a long-held wish of the Israeli prime minister when he declared that the United States would be withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and imposing harsh new sanctions on Tehran. Trump’s announcement lifted a number of points from a recent speech of Netanyahu’s on Iranian deceit.

The next day, Israel carried out a series of strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, killing 23 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Israel said that the assault, its largest inside Syria since the 1973 war, was in response to Iranian rockets fired at the occupied Golan Heights, although none had hit their targets, and there were no casualties. ‘They need to remember the saying that if it rains on us, it'll storm on them,’ Israel’s defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said.

It was a classic example of 'active defence', Israel's policy of responding to small provocations with disproportionate force, and is all but designed to escalate confrontation. Over the last quarter century of shadow warfare with Israel, Iran has steered clear of direct clashes, preferring to respond via proxies such as Hizbullah. But with both Hizbullah soldiers and Iranian advisers deeply involved in efforts to prop up Bashar al-Assad in Syria, it has become increasingly difficult to avoid direct confrontation. Over the last few years, Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes inside Syria, mostly aimed at Hizbullah military convoys suspected of transferring advanced weapons into the Bekaa Valley. In February, however, after intercepting what it claimed to be an armed Iranian drone in its airspace, Israel struck for the first time at Iranian targets, killing at least seven members of the Quds Force, the external operations unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The possibility of an Israeli-Iranian war is now higher than it has ever been, since Iran feels encircled, and Israel believes that it has a green light from Washington for further military adventures.

Averting this scenario, which the protracted Syrian quagmire has made increasingly likely, was one of the reasons Barack Obama pursued the nuclear agreement with such single-mindedness – even to the point of ignoring his own 'red lines' on the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. As Pfeffer reports, Obama and his advisers were so terrified that Netanyahu might carry out a pre-emptive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities that they stepped up their spying on their Israeli allies. The late Mossad chief Meir Dagan, sharing their fears, leaked intelligence on Netanyahu’s war plans to the Americans.

Netanyahu knew that a deal might limit his room for manouevre against Iran, and launched a campaign against it as soon as he learned of meetings between the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (the so-called P5+1) and Iran. After an interim agreement was reached in Geneva in 2013, he denounced it as ‘not a historic agreement, but a historic mistake’. He repeated this claim in his March 2014 address to the US Congress, for which he received 26 standing ovations.

The ‘historic mistake’ worked: UN nuclear inspectors verified Iran’s compliance with its JCPOA obligations, European firms moved into Iran, and Iranians began to experience a measure of relief, as their conditions improved. But that was just the problem in the eyes of the deal’s adversaries. For Netanyahu and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, who told Jeffrey Goldberg that Iran’s supreme leader ‘makes Hitler look good’, the main issue was never – or never merely – Iran’s pursuit of a bomb, but its pursuit of international legitimacy.

Obama and the other leaders of the P5+1 had offered Iran an end to political isolation and economic punishment, in return for ending its efforts to go nuclear, without obliging it to cut its ties with Hizbullah, Hamas or the Houthis in Yemen. This was what the Israelis and the Saudis could not abide, and the Trump administration couldn’t either. As a French official quoted by the International Crisis Group put it, ‘the Trump administration's problem is not with the deal; it's with the Islamic Republic of Iran. We are in 2018, but the US is stuck in 1979.’

For all his impulsiveness, Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran deal in search of a ‘better’ (non-existent) one was never much in doubt. It was the pillar of Obama's foreign policy legacy; if only for that reason, Trump found it intolerable. He fulminated against it with his usual invective (‘horrible’, ‘one-sided’, ‘rotten’); his aides hired an Israeli private intelligence firm called Black Cube to smear two of Obama's negotiators and other supporters of the agreement.

But while the destruction of Obama's legacy might explain the intensity of Trump's animus, his decision is consistent with his overall posture of unconditional alignment with the Israeli-Saudi axis in the Middle East. Under Trump, the US has deepened its involvement in the Saudi war against the Houthis in Yemen, sending Green Berets to advise clandestine operations; ended any pressure on Egypt, a key Saudi and Israeli ally, over its abominable human rights record; and given Israel free reign as it kills unarmed protestors on the Gaza border, and deports researchers from Human Rights Watch and academics who oppose the occupation.

Even so, the withdrawal from the Iran agreement is especially dramatic, and especially reckless. 'I wanted to break it or do something,’ Trump said after firing Rex Tillerson, ‘and he felt a little bit differently.' The defence secretary, James Mattis, also argued against withdrawal, but was outvoted by the national security adviser, John Bolton, and the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, both of whom have called for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. Their hope is that by weakening Iran economically, the US government may force Tehran to its knees and compel it to break off relations with Hizbullah, Hamas and the Houthis, or provoke a popular uprising against the Islamic Republic.

But, in the absence of full normalisation, the Iranian government is not going to surrender its military assets, which have helped it expand its regional influence and provided a deterrent against Israeli attack; nor can it be expected to adhere to the terms of an agreement that the US has itself abandoned. And no matter how angry they may be with the regime, Iranians have little appetite for another revolution, particularly if it can be depicted by the deep state as a plot hatched in Washington, Tel Aviv and Riyadh. This would leave Iran’s opponents with only one other option, namely the use of military force, a policy that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia quietly championed in 2008, when, as Wikileaks revealed, he urged the Bush administration to launch strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities and 'cut off the head of the snake'. There is little reason to think this is off the table, any more than it was with Iraq in 2003.

Trump's withdrawal has emboldened hardliners in Iran, who have invoked it as proof that America can never be trusted, a view that has seemed reasonable to most Iranians since the overthrow of Mossadegh. A group gleefully burned the American flag in parliament. President Hassan Rouhani and his foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, who represent the regime's pragmatic, internationalist wing, have been humiliated and are not likely to remain in power for long. Some Iranian conservatives, sensing that their moment has arrived, advocate pulling out of the agreement; a nuclear bomb ‘is increasingly seen as the the rational option’, according to one. They will want to avoid the fate of Muammar Gaddafi, who dismantled Libya's nuclear programme only to be removed from power and murdered in a Nato intervention.

Iran’s economy is on the verge of collapse, and the patience of Iranians with their government's foreign adventures is wearing thin, particularly if they result in extensive Iranian casualties. Still, Iran plays a long game, and it isn't likely to continue to absorb strikes against its positions in Syria, or on its infrastructure, without commensurate response, however delayed.

This does not mean that war is inevitable, but the drift towards it is unmistakable and accelerating, whether or not anyone actually wants it. Trump, who has done nothing to stop gun violence in the US, has shown no more inclination to prevent regional warfare in the Middle East. The only country that could potentially restore calm is Russia, which has good relations with all the parties to the conflict: Israel, Iran, Syria and Hizbullah. But, as Robert Malley, the president of the International Crisis Group and one of Obama’s advisers on the Iran deal, told me, ‘Putin usually prefers to step in after the explosion has taken place, rather than try and regulate and manage things beforehand. Trying to set rules of the road in advance would be a hazardous gambit for him, because he doesn't want to take the risk of showing that he might not deliver. If he fails, it will be evidence of the limits of Russia's power, and at least some of his power is based on the exaggerated perception of his influence.’

I asked Malley if, as one of the architects of the deal, he felt disheartened by its sudden unravelling. He said it was preferable to ‘a muddle-through where Iran no longer gets the benefits of the deal and might decide to walk away’. This way, because America's responsibility for the deal's failure is ‘unambiguous’, and because the attempts of European officials such as Macron to reason with Trump have been shown to be folly, ‘it’s very clear what Europe has to do to ensure that the deal is maintained.’ Whether Europe will show the necessary resolve is an open question, however: the Trump administration is already threatening sanctions against Europeans who do business in Iran.

[*]Adam Shatz will review Anshel Pfeffer’s book in a forthcoming issue of the LRB.


  • 11 May 2018 at 12:16pm
    Fred Skolnik says:
    Adam Schatz'e reading of Israeli thinking is so far removed from reality that it goes even beyond plain and simple stupidity. The idea that Israel's responses to Iranian provocations are "all but designed to escalate confrontation" is nonsensical. They are designed to convince Iran that Israel will not allow a country that has repeatedly declared that it must be wiped off the face of the earth to stockpile short- and medium- range ground-to-ground missiles across its border, take potshots at its settlements or military positions, supply Hizbollah with the means to threaten Israel's civilian population, and certainly not to develop a nuclear capability. It is also meant to convince Iran that any military confrontation between the two countries will be disasterous for Iran. If Iran is rational, it will abandon its dream of destroying the State of Israel. If it is irrational it will continue to do what it was doing in the absence of an Israeli response – testing the waters and preparing for a great war. The last thing on earth that Israel wants is escalation or confrontation. Simple logic should tell you that.

    • 11 May 2018 at 1:55pm
      semitone says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Change the record, Fred.

      There are any number of ways a country can promote it and its region's stability and security. But a policy of responding to small provocations with disproportionate force will tend to escalate confrontations.

    • 11 May 2018 at 2:10pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ semitone
      Your evaluation of what Iran's intentions are and how Israel should respond is next to meaningless. Once again, be a hero with your own children, not mine. If you think Iran's threat to destroy Israel is a small provocation, something is seriously wrong with you.

    • 13 May 2018 at 10:43am
      semitone says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Oh. Well.

      I didn't think I had expressed a view on Iran's intentions. I only meant to echo Adam's observation that disproportionate responses tend to cause conflict. This applies to comments on blogs as much as to geopolitics, so Fred I'll just say I hope you and your family are all safe. Your post made me wonder, though: do you or they live in an Israeli settlement or military position? No particular reason, I'm just asking.

      And congratulations on the Eurovision win last night, I just looked it up and it really is three minutes of glorious weirdness.

    • 13 May 2018 at 11:24am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ semitone
      I live in Jerusalem and my very large family, including 20 grandchildren and more nephews, nieces and cousins than I can count iive all over the country.

      What a provocation entails, whether you define it as big or small, certainly involves an intention, and that is what the Israeli army and intelligence services are equipped to decipher, far more so than armchair quarterbacks.

    • 14 May 2018 at 9:03am
      SamGamgee says: @ semitone
      Why do you blame Israel for responding disproportionately? Why do you not denounce _Iran_ for launching the attacks in the first place? Why do you hold Jews to a higher standard of morality than Muslims?

    • 14 May 2018 at 2:00pm
      Camus says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Why do you never point out that yes, Israel has attacked Iran and yes Israel does possess nuclear weapons and is therefore in the position to destroy Iran if its leaders decide to? Have I shown anti-semitic leanings here?

    • 14 May 2018 at 6:16pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Camus
      I don't know if it can but I do know that it won't. Israel has never threatened or thought to destroy another country. Only Iran and the Arabs have. Even the Nazis didn't threaten to destroy France and England. And what is there to point out? This whole discussion is about why Israel responded to Iran's actions by attacking its military installations in Syria.

    • 15 May 2018 at 6:25am
      Camus says: @ Fred Skolnik
      You are ingenuous here. It is documented that Israel has attacked Iran‘s nuclear installations.

    • 15 May 2018 at 7:48am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Camus
      No, it is alleged, and what is alleged is not that Israel attacked Iran but that "Kurdish and Israeli commandos" sabotaged Iranian nuclear facilities. I hope it's true. Iran after all has delared time and again that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth.

    • 22 May 2018 at 4:18pm
      Dectora says: @ Fred Skolnik
      I agree, this is alarmism for its own sake.
      For a start Iran's last experience of war was very unhappy, Khomenieni snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and when the end came admitted that it was like 'drinking poison'. He then quickly launched his fatwa against Rushdie, to take evryone's mind off his disastrous strategy.
      Iran sent child soldiers into battle, an Iranian friend watched troop trains of excited adolescent boys waving guns head for the front, only to return as corpses or badly wounded.To put it simply, if you were an unhappy 14 year old boy ,you could defy your family and sign up for death or glory, many did.
      Certainly Iran is surrounded by enemies, the worst being Saudi Arabia, not Israel.

    • 22 May 2018 at 5:41pm
      Varenik says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Kindly point out when and where " Iran after all has delared time and again that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth."

    • 23 May 2018 at 12:06am
      John Cowan says: @ SamGamgee
      Why, indeed, should we hold democratic governments to a higher standard than authoritarian ones? The answer should speak for itself.

    • 23 May 2018 at 3:04pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Where have you been? I'm sure you can find these a lot better than I can.

  • 11 May 2018 at 8:10pm
    Graucho says:
    The Iranian regime are a despicable bunch and no decent person will shed a tear if they meet their just demise. That said, there are two questions that folk who don't inhabit the Middle East need to consider. Do these events make it far more likely that the Iranians will obtain nuclear weapons ? Will our children live safer lives if they do ? The answer to the first would appear to be yes and, given a mindset that regards suicide bombing as a noble form of human self sacrifice, the answer to the second is no.

  • 13 May 2018 at 7:46am
    Harry Stopes says:
    Fred do you manually check the LRB blog or do you have some kind of Google alert set for stories that interest you?

    • 13 May 2018 at 8:05am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Harry Stopes
      I check it periodically because a website with the prestige and circulation of the LRB blog should not be allowed to get away with the kind of malicious and distorted allegations that are constantly being directed against the State of Israel. The time is long past when Jews are going to put up with this kind of thing.

    • 17 May 2018 at 12:37pm
      CarpeDiem says: @ Fred Skolnik
      The time is also long past when non-Jews (and plenty of Jews) are going to put up with this kind of thing. Cheerleaders of the State of Israel trying to drown out voices critical of SoI by shrill rancour and falsehoods.

    • 22 May 2018 at 4:22pm
      Dectora says: @ CarpeDiem
      OK Carpe Diem, I suspect that you know bugger all about Iran. I have at least spent two months there. I am Irish and so you can call me a 'cheerleader' if you like. I am in fact a realist and know what the war with Iraq cost Iran.

  • 13 May 2018 at 8:48am
    Alasdair says:
    Thank you very much for this balanced review.

    For the US, the problem with Iran is neither its nuclear capabilities nor its mullahs. An independent powerful country in the Middle East is not tolerated by the US. Only Israel has the legitimacy of being a major player so Iran must go regardless of who is ruling the country.
    Just look at the US policy towards Iran in the past couple of decades. Dismantling (with Britain’s help) the democratic government of Mosaddegh in 1953, helping mullahs to topple the Shah in 1979 (Shah had a very good relationship with Israel) and then trying to get rid of mullahs since then when they realised they could not be trusted.

    The problem with Iran is that it is too big and powerful - for the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia - to be tolerated. So there is only one “final solution”: Balkanisation - destroying Iran by attacking its infrastructure and breaking it into several tiny countries none of which could possess any real power. Israel is incapable of achieving this goal (let alone Saudi Arabia); if they knew they could win, they would have invaded Iran years ago. The only country who can perform this task successfully is the US. Are Americans prepared to go to war again, this time for the sake of Israel and Saudi Arabia?

    As usual, as it is the case all over the world, ordinary people will pay the price of their rulers' follies.

    • 14 May 2018 at 4:30pm
      SamGamgee says: @ Alasdair
      The US helped the mullahs to topple the Shah in 1979? What are you talking about?

    • 15 May 2018 at 3:21am
      Alasdair says: @ SamGamgee
      "From November 1978, the American Embassy was quietly working behind the scenes to facilitate what political scientists call a “pacted transition” between some in the opposition and the Iranian military.
      As newly declassified American documents show, the U.S. Embassy not only acted as a facilitator for these negotiations but also decided whom the military should negotiate with.
      In the months before the revolution, Khomeini and his allies initiated extensive contacts with the American government and embassy in Tehran and Paris. William Sullivan, sadly ignorant of the history of Iran and of Shiism, concluded in November 1978 that the only force capable of creating a democracy in Iran, and also standing up to the Soviets, was that of Khomeini and his supporters.”

    • 18 May 2018 at 9:30am
      SamGamgee says: @ Alasdair
      Interesting. Not something I was aware of at the time.

      But surely a "pacted transition" (much like what we in South Africa had in 1990-94) is different from "helping to topple"?

    • 21 May 2018 at 12:53am
      Alasdair says: @ SamGamgee
      Yes, that phrase is probably too strong. Please note however that there are a lot to be discovered in the future if all documents get declassified.

    • 22 May 2018 at 3:38pm
      Lamidupeuple says: @ Alasdair
      By November 1978 any ideas the Americans had for Iran's future were pipe dreams. They had no idea of the strength of the Khomeini revolution and the tidal wave that would sweep the Shah and themselves out. They were in no position to dictate to the Iranian military or anyone else. It is interesting to know what they may have fantasised about, but it would be wrong to suggest they had any clout.

  • 13 May 2018 at 10:54am
    Jerry Haber says:
    Fred, with due respect, nobody who reads the London Review of Books is going to prefer the opinion of an uninformed amateur who is a partisan for one side to that of people like Adam Shatz and Rob Malley. You are free to leave a comment here, but it’s more therapy for you than it is enlightening for others (and that goes for my comment as well!) You (and I) should be doing more worthwhile things than leaving comments. The Iranian regime is indeed a despicable bunch when it comes to human rights, but the Israeli regime has its own well-known problems in that regard.

    • 13 May 2018 at 12:03pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Jerry Haber
      Adam Shatz is not a Middle East scholar, does not, as far as I know, speak any Middle Eastern language and therefore has never in his life seen a primary document pertaining to the conflict, and his anti-Israel bias is as clear as day, as is the link you gave me from its first sentence on. As the LRB blog is a magnet for Israel haters, it is certainly not being read for enlightenment but for new arguments and the simple pleasure of seeing Israel vilified. Whether I am informed or an amateur can only ne judged by the substance of my remarks and my frame of reference. In any case, as I wrote above, I am here because "the LRB blog should not be allowed to get away with the kind of malicious and distorted allegations that are constantly being directed against the State of Israel."

    • 13 May 2018 at 1:55pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Jerry Haber
      As for your suggestion that you and I have better things to do than offer comments that in any case won't measure up to the standards of Adam Shatz, you are being disingenuous in the extreme, because that is exactly what you are doing in your blog, which I have had a quick look at and find myself just a little appalled by your venomous anti-Israel stance. I mean your quickness to ascribe every measure Israel takes to protect its population against barbaric terrorist attacks to self-serving motives, and a great deal more in that vein.

    • 14 May 2018 at 5:35am
      Graucho says: @ Fred Skolnik
      But for Fred's comment I would never have heard of Jerry Haber or read his stuff. It's rather good, I would commend others to read it.

    • 14 May 2018 at 5:42am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Graucho
      Yes, anything billed as Israel hatred will immediately get your eager attention. That's why you're here, isn't it - for the vilification.

    • 14 May 2018 at 9:28am
      Graucho says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Describing criticism as hatred and vilification betrays a sense of proportion commensurate with that shown by the IDF when dealing with unrest.

    • 14 May 2018 at 9:45am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Graucho
      I am the one who characterized the blogsite as venomous and you of course immediately ran there to get your rocks off. I certaintly wouldn't run to an anti-Arab blogsite that you described as venomous.

      There is a difference between criticism and hatred and it is easy enough to tell the difference. When people start pontificating about countries they've never seen where people speak languages they don't understand on the basis of three-minute "items" on the telly and second- and third-hand English- languages sources that they are unequipped to verify or evaluate, that certainly arouses suspicion.

    • 14 May 2018 at 11:42am
      Graucho says: @ Fred Skolnik
      I and others criticise Putin without speaking Russian or having visited the country, we just count the bodies, as do many of the Likud's critics. Being able to speak Hebrew is a novel qualification for being able to comment on a situation which has put all of us, Hebrew speaking or not, in danger.

    • 14 May 2018 at 11:59am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Graucho
      What is novel is uncritically repeating assertions and allegations that you are unequipped to verify or evaluate. It is also novel to characterize firing 4500 rockets into Israel or 40,000 hysterical Arabs trying to overrun Israel's border and tear apart whoever stands in their way as "unrest."

      Most Israel haters, by the way, are Russia lovers, because they are America haters too, so they bend over backwards to rationalize whatever Russia does.

      It isn't enough to count bodies because in war it is generally the losing side that sustains the greatest losses and it is often the losing side that is the aggressor. But if you like counting, start with Dresden and then maybe you'll understand how England makes war and how Israel makes war.

    • 14 May 2018 at 1:12pm
      Graucho says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Not hard to find Brits who regard Dresden as a dreadful mistake including this one. Certainly not as hard as finding a scintilla of doubt in your contributions about the wisdom of the Likud's policies. At least you have inadvertantly admitted that your government is at war with a people under its direct and indirect control.

    • 14 May 2018 at 1:30pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Graucho
      It is at war with the terrorist organizations, as I'm sure you know.

      And by the way, you are not really criticizing Putin. You are repeating whatever you pick up on the telly or read in other people's blogs. You don't know enough about Russia to talk about it intelligently, just as you don't know enough about the Middle East to talk about it intelligently. I also don't know enough about Russia to talk about it intelligently, so I don't talk about it at all, and I certainly don't spend my time feverishly combing the Internet to get some dirt on it. I confess though that I sometimes talk about England, but then again I've been there, know the language, know the people, know the culture, know the ethos, know the history, know the literature. On the other hand I wouldn't presume to pontificate about France, though I have also been there, know the language, know the history and the literature, but not so much the people. I'm just not as presumptuous as you are and am not boiling over with your resentments and animosities.

      My contributions are not about the wisdom of the Likud's policies but about the ignorance and malevolence of the Israel haters.

    • 23 May 2018 at 1:18pm
      Walter10065 says: @ Jerry Haber
      Fred, you don't need my support, but after reading Shatz's annoyingly biased reports it's satisfying to see your responses. On a side note, I always wonder why these discussions about Israel and the Palestinians omit any mention of Jordan, the made-up "kingdom" which was posited as a home for Arabs affected by the original partition.

  • 14 May 2018 at 12:58am
    judgefloyd says:
    'UN nuclear inspectors verified Iran’s compliance with its JCPOA obligations'
    In other words, Iran kept their part of the bargain, but the Americans (well, the ones urging Trump on) got greedy. As is often the case.
    Good to see the lrb blog fulfilling its' usual therapeutic function!

  • 14 May 2018 at 5:41am
    Joe Morison says:
    Fred, the world is full of Israel haters, a group I assume to be almost equivalent to Jew haters, and I am sure some of them end up here; but the vast majority of people reading this blog are haters of Israel’s current policies, not the country or her people - it’s a distinction you seem to find hard to make.

    In the comments on Neve Gordon’s blog piece, you complained that Israel is being held to higher standards than the countries around her. That's true but does not in any way negate the validity of the criticism, and it is not unfair. First, because Israel claims such a position for herself, that she is part of the Western family of nations - when I was a boy and naively believed in ‘our’ superiority, I saw Israel as an island of civilization in a sea of barbarism; absurd, but I still believe in Enlightenment values and I still believe that Israel could be the greatest force for the spread of those values in the region. Israel expects more of herself, and so do those of us outsiders who believe in her. Second, we have considerable responsibility for the creation of Israel (this, after all, is the city in which the Balfour Declaration was drafted) which means we cannot help but feel concerned about her actions in a way we aren’t for her neighbours’. And, finally, there’s the cultural affinity: the democracy, the wide spread use of English, and our leisure - when I was young, working on a kibbutz was one of the more popular holidays; in Israel, Shakespeare is part of the curriculum and the Eurovision has been won, again. There are so many reasons why people over here want to support Israel; mostly, the vehemence of the criticism towards you comes not from anti-Semitism but disappointment.

    I’m not going to engage you in any arguments about specifics because you know so much more about what is happening that you can win any argument. But I compare you to an Israeli friend of mine: she’s an academic in Tel Aviv, her parents were camp survivors and as a little girl in Poland she would creep down at night and listen to her parents’ and their friends’ stories (“you would not believe what I heard, Joe, you would not believe it”); they came to Israel when she was still little. So her love of Israel is deep, every bit as deep as yours I guess; but her despair with what Israel is now doing almost led her to leave the country for good a couple of years ago, and she is glad that her son and grandchild are in the US. She wouldn’t lose any arguments with you and her love of Israel cannot be doubted, you should understand that most of the people here are in her camp and hate the Jew haters as much as any gentile can.

    • 14 May 2018 at 7:03am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Joe Morison
      This is all fine but it is not a question of who wins the arguments but of acknowledging the part played by the Arabs in the conflict. I find absolutely nothing of the sort here - not in a single blog entry and not in a single comment from people "in her camp." My feeling is that Israel's response to terrorism is legitimate and is not aimed at killing as many civilians as possible or making the Palestinians miserable but at protecting Israel's civilian population. The kind of despair your friend described to you also fails to acknowledge what the Arabs are doing and therefore it reflects what might be called an extreme left-wing view, because anyone seeing Israeli women and children blown apart in buses and restaurants and zeroing in on Israel as the culprit must have a very strong ideological bias. I don't, to tell you the truth. I am prettry much in the center and lean to the left socially.

      As for the settlements, the peace process and all the rest, the parameters are understood by everyone and it is up to the Palestinians to resume the negotiations. If Netanyahu refuses to sit with them or makes new or unreasonable demands, then Israel's detractors will have a legitimate cause to complain.

    • 23 May 2018 at 1:27pm
      Walter10065 says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Why isn't Israel gentler with its enemies? Because they've been driven a little bit mad by them. Usually the Palestinians get that alibi, but it applies to Israel as well.

      When it comes to the British role in establishing Israel, perhaps remember that for every Briton that wishes the country well there's one who resents it for defeating British forces to establish the new state.

  • 14 May 2018 at 4:51pm
    semitone says:
    Fred, I hope you and all your clan are safe from the violence in your beautiful city (though naturally I'm not really qualified to call it beautiful, as I've only seen it from my armchair and anyway I am not fluent in Hebrew so haven't read many primary sources).

    A thought experiment for you. No need to say that Palestinians or others in the region should stop firing missiles at Israeli civilian positions, or that it is wrong for governments or people to say Israel has no right to exist: there, I've said it for you. So, without using the words "Arab", "suicide" or "bomber", would you like to comment on the fact that today Israeli forces killed 41 Palestinians and wounded at least 900 in Gaza, about half with live bullets? Any criticism of Israeli policy or policing?

    If not, care to speculate how many Palestinians Israeli security forces would have to shoot in a day for you to criticise them?

  • 14 May 2018 at 5:29pm
    Fred Skolnik says:
    Actually I've already replied, at the start of the riots, on the Neve Gordon piece:

    "Uninformed people who have never seen an Arab mob in action but hate the State of Israel, if not worse, are eager to buy into the idyllic fiction that the Gaza demonstrators are flower children quietly singing antiwar songs with a few oldtime spirituals thrown in as well. The Gaza demonstrations were organized by Hamas with the declared aim of overrunning the border and marching on Jerusalem. Most of the demonstrators are Hamas activists. The demonstrations have been accompanied by rock throwing, Molotov cocktails, gunfire, and attempts to lay explosive charges at the security fence and even to fly burning kites into Israel to set fields on fire. 30-40,000 hysterical Arabs allowed to advance on soldiers or civilians is an immediate danger to life and limb and reason enough for Israeli soldiers to use live ammunition to stop them, because if they didn’t, anyone in their path would be torn to pieces. If Israel was firing indiscriminately, hundreds if not thousands would already be dead. The fire is directed at the Hamas ringleaders and other hotheads in the vanguard of the demonstrations. It is inevitable that “innocent” or unarmed individuals are going to be hit. The remedy is to keep their distance within the parameters laid down by Israel. In the meanwhile, Hamas has made the “mistake” of posting photos of its fighters in full battle dress who were killed in the clashes, and duly rebuked by its supporters for giving the game away."

    Since then Hamas has changed its tactics slightly, not identifying those killed as their own people but still maintaining pockets of armed fighters with explosives and guns inside the mobs. Do you really not understand what 40,000 hysterical Arabs are capable of and what would happen if the army didn't stop them.

    • 14 May 2018 at 6:15pm
      semitone says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Was just wondering whether you could do it. Guess not.

      In the same vein in which climate deniers, creationists and flat-earthers are often asked to identify the hypothetical piece of evidence that would lead them to change their views and accept the scientific mainstream, could I ask please Fred as a special favour to all of us that you hold off commenting for a little while - just to give us all a breather, you know, from your special viewpoint - until you are able to answer the question: how many Palestinians can Israel shoot before you criticise the Israeli security forces?

      God bless,

    • 14 May 2018 at 6:28pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ semitone
      You are being absurd. From the point of view of soldiers under attack it is legitimate to keep shooting until the threat is removed. There is no number, there is only the amount of force required to eliminate a lethal threat. I will criticize the security forces if they shoot when there is no longer a threat. I have explained above what that threat is. You are trying to be clever. I will give it a rest when the hatred of people like yourself burns itself out.

  • 14 May 2018 at 6:29pm
    Stu Bry says:
    "Do you really not understand what 40,000 hysterical Arabs are capable of and what would happen if the army didn’t stop them."

    I'm sure you are having a great day today Fred but that is a disgusting, racist comment. You are a shameful human being.

    • 14 May 2018 at 6:43pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Stu Bry
      What is racist or disgusting about describing what I have seen? Have you ever faced an Arab mob? Have you ever seen an Arab riot. You are playing at being offended by politically incorrect language but I'll bet you never opened your filthy mouth when Israeli women and children were being blown to pieces by barbaric Arab terrrorists. Isn't that so?

    • 14 May 2018 at 7:51pm
      Stu Bry says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Good to see your true colours coming out Fred.

      Albert Einstein and Hannah Ardent recognised your pathology 70 years ago.

    • 14 May 2018 at 8:00pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Stu Bry
      You're pathetic with your little collection of I Hate Israel links. Talk about pathology. What normal or healthy person spends the time that you must put into getting the dirt on Israel

    • 14 May 2018 at 8:58pm
      semitone says: @ Stu Bry
      I thought it might be interesting to draw Fred out a bit, on the more human or subjective questions rather than geopolitical ones, but now I just feel a little bit sick.

      Sure you don't want to try again, Fred? How many Arabs have to die before the threat is over and you're happy? Go on, pick a number. Doesn't have to be exact, to the nearest six million will do.

    • 14 May 2018 at 9:04pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ semitone
      You are pretending that I am avoiding your question when I have answered it in the only way it can be answered, because there is no number. About 5 million Germans were killed in World War II. Now tell me how many would the Allies have had to kill before you criticized the Allied armies? 1 million? 2? 4? 6?...
      Go on, pick a number.

  • 15 May 2018 at 12:03am
    Graucho says:
    Well the only thing that I do agree with Fred about is that contributions on the Middle East here are unbalanced and the editors should invite someone from the Likud to write a piece or failing that, Fred himself. As far as I can see LRB is a magnet for persons who lean to the left politically and as the Likud are unrepentently a party of the right, it's hardly surprising that they get a hostile reception. For myself I got the Likud's number when the Israeli airforce murdered 4 Norwegian UN peacekeepers during one of their periodic invasions of the Lebanon and I then listened to the Israeli ambassador's speech on the matter to the UN. After that the executions on board the Turkish ships, the bombing of a school in Gaza and so on were pretty much par for the course.

    • 15 May 2018 at 5:06am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Graucho
      Airforce murdered 4 Norwegians? You're stretching it now. You're also faking it a little. Your hatred of the State of Israel, if not worse, surely goes back a long, long way.

    • 15 May 2018 at 7:47am
      Graucho says: @ Fred Skolnik
      My memory really is playing tricks with me it was a Canadian, a Chinese, a Finn and an Austrian.
      Here is the a piece from the Israel hating Independent.
      and another from the Israel hating Guardian
      I can't find the speech made by the Israeli ambassador to the UN at the time, but its arrogant and unapologetic tone sealed my contempt for the Likud. If you equate that with hatred of Israel fair enough, because thanks to the settler movement the two are becoming synonymous, to the despair it has to be said to many of your countrymen.

    • 15 May 2018 at 9:17am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Graucho
      The attack was not deliberate and Israel expressed its regret. There is nothing arrogant about responding to allegations that the attack was intentional Likud politicians don't fly planes and don't tell pilots where to drop bombs during operations.

    • 15 May 2018 at 9:33am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Graucho
      I call you a fraud and a hater because there is nothing resembling this kind of "indignant" response coming from you when the Palestinians leaders celebrate the deliberate murder of Israeli civilians in the terrorist attacks.

    • 15 May 2018 at 11:03am
      Graucho says: @ Fred Skolnik
      I lived through the IRA bombings, the tube bombings and now the ISIS inspired terror attacks. Acts of terrorism are utter anathema to me whoever the actors, whatever the cause.

    • 15 May 2018 at 11:12am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Graucho
      Show ne what you had to say when the Palestinians were celebrating the murders. You've already told me what you had to say about the "contemptible" Israelis.

    • 15 May 2018 at 3:03pm
      Graucho says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Correction - the contemptible Likud and if LRB publishes a piece celebrating Palestinian/Hamas/Hisbola terrorism I will certainly comment.

  • 15 May 2018 at 6:10am
    Fred Skolnik says:
    I always say that Jew haters hate Jews first and then find the reasons to. The same holds true for Israel hatred. In both cases, which are usually the same case, the hatred has very little to do with what the Jews do. That is why I say that if Israel wasn't Jewish it wouldn't be hated. If Israel was an Arab country and the Palestinians were indigenous non-Muslim Sudanese, let us say, and you had the same conflict and the same occupation and the same "ethnic cleansing," hardly an eyebrow would be raised.

    To sum up, unless the haters wish to go another round: The phenomenon of Israel hatred has less to do with the Palestinians as victims than with Israel (and America) as culprits. The will to criminalize and delegitimize Israel has bred an army of blog crawlers who spend their days combing the Internet for incriminating evidence which they then uncritically and a little mindlessly cut and paste or "reference" in their vicious comments on anti-Israel blogs like this one. Remove Israel and America from the equation and these people couldn't care less how many Arabs or Africans or Asians or Slavs are slaughtered in local wars. You certainly won't find them bouncing around the Internet "sticking it" to the truly genocidal nations.

    As for the substantive issues, I have dealt with them, so honest readers can decide for themselves what is going on in Gaza or in Syria.

    • 22 May 2018 at 6:23pm
      J P Roos says: @ Fred Skolnik
      It seems to me that Fred describes himself when talking about "blog crawlers". And he is most probably a professional Israel propagandist with a moderate degree of racism and emotion allowed in his discourse. Who else would go on with his replies endlessly? What I find most galling is his comparison of the Gaza selective executions as a war situation where it is legal for armed soldiers to kill other armed soldiers, but not civilians.

  • 15 May 2018 at 6:24am
    Fred Skolnik says:
    Maybe this will help some of you understand yourselves a little better:

  • 15 May 2018 at 8:38am
    CarpeDiem says:
    Thank you Fred, for providing moments of levity. Perhaps unintended on your part. I can see that you really think you are correcting people's "misguided" notions about the actions and ideology of the State of Israel. But you have to really naive to think that tarring everyone who is critical of Israel with the brush of antisemitism is not inherently disingenuous.

    But perhaps you are not naive at all. Why give up on a strategy which has worked perfectly well so far ?

    • 15 May 2018 at 8:45am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ CarpeDiem
      You're just pretending that it provides moments of levity since you're all here with your teeth bared. I understand that pretending to find things amusing is the British way of attempting to deflect critics

    • 15 May 2018 at 10:00am
      CarpeDiem says: @ Fred Skolnik
      I do wish you would calm down, Fred. How do you get through the day with so much hatred and derision pumping in your veins ?

    • 15 May 2018 at 10:38am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ CarpeDiem
      Certainly not by feverishly combing the Internet like yourself to get some dirt on the "enemy." As for hatred, look who's talking, so why don't you calm down, and maybe get some help, because as I've already written, it is nether healthy nor normal to devote so much time and energy to "going after" Israel.

  • 15 May 2018 at 9:45am
    XopherO says:
    Fred, I am a bit shocked at the violence of your language and insults thrown at people like me who try to be fair in our reflections on what is happening - it isn't easy, and you throwing out 'jew-hater' or 'anti-semite' at people who dare to question the actions of a government is unfair and unhelpful, particularly as you are obviously extremely erudite. Surely you do not need ad hominem abuse.

    Like Joe Morison, I was brought up on the left and knew/know many Jewish comrades. Back in the 50s when I was about 10 I saw film of the aftermath of the Holocaust, and it gave me nightmares. I saw some of the same film used in Alain Resnais 'Nuit et Brouillard' and was shocked, and indeed troubled by the ending. I used this film in my teaching - there are many ways it can be used in 'communication' or film study, but I wanted my students to know what happened.

    We saw Israel as potentially the first socialist state, and quite a few went on a kibbutz to experience something of that spirit. However the 6 day war came as a shock - suddenly facts, long hidden, about the creation of the state of Israel started to come out. I and my Jewish girlfriend at the time were very troubled, and undoubtedly we were confused - where did we stand?

    I have since been to Israel and worked with Jewish partners (mostly Labour voters and atheists or nearly), who were very critical of Netanyahu and the Likud, and unhappy with many things done supposedly in their name. I loved Tel Aviv, but not Jerusalem, where I felt very uneasy among the religious 'frenzy'. I don't like what the Israeli government and its forces are doing to the Palestinians and the ongoing theft of their land and livelihoods, the contempt for United Nations resolutions. I am not against the existence of the State of Israel (behind borders more like those of 1948, or whatever the parties can agree to) but in hindsight, it probably wasn't a good idea, to say the least. Of course the situation was exacerbated because the UK and the USA put very low quotas on refugees who then had nowhere to go - there was latent anti-semitism in both countries. I don't like being labelled anti-semitic (I was on the demos agains Mosely and his later incarnations) because I dare to express an opinion. But I expect you will throw such abuse at me unfortunately and not to your credit. Here is one of your despised websites. It is in French, but you speak it. Apparently three Jewish Isaeli researchers were given access to the national achives. They went in believing the revisionist history you espouse; they came out shocked that they had been told many lies and halftruths.

    The writer of this summary of their research is shocked to discover that Rabin was among those causing the Palestinians to flee through terror. For those who do not read French the maps are very revealing. The West Bank is now a series of Bantustans that would have made even the Apartheid regime blush with shame.

    I'll leave it there

    • 15 May 2018 at 10:11am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ XopherO
      I understand from this that you were pro-Israel until the Likud came into power, but then I see that you are quick to bring up Israel's sins in 1948, so I really don't know where you stand. Israel occupied the West Bank after Jordan attacked it in 1967, continued to occupy it because the Arabs refused to make piece, and initiated strict security measures to prevent terrorist attacks. Is this also revisionist history? The settlements occupy around 5% of almost exclusively public land and their final disposition will be determined in negotiations whose parameters are understood by everyone.

      It is not very difficult to distinguish between criticism and hatred. As for insults, note what I have been called here.

    • 15 May 2018 at 2:49pm
      XopherO says: @ Fred Skolnik
      I don't think you read my piece very carefully. To say when I was young I was 'pro-Israel'is silly. I saw it like many on the left as perhaps a place where socialist values might develop, hence my disillusionment (and my Jewish girlfriend's) in 1967. Nor am I anti-Israel and its people (some of the settlers leave quite a lot to be desired however!) I saw some hope in Rabin, like many people who wanted Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace - but a settler killed him in cold blood with what backup perhaps only the secret service knows. Since then, the Likud coming to power under Netanyahu has proved a disaster for all concerned.

      As I remember, Jordan gifted the West Bank to the Palestinians, but Israel (the Israeli government) blocked any possible moves towards peace. You do not comment on the web site and its exposure by Jewish Israeli academic researchers of the revisionist history you espouse.
      I do not know why you do it except to paint those critical of Israeli politics and military action as Jew-haters and anti-semites. (My paternal grandmother was Jewish). And I have to congratulate you - it is working. Maybe I could be charged as a conspiracy theorist, but it seems to be a concerted campaign, perhaps led from the office of Netanyahu himself.

      By the way, I am sure you know the website of Neturei Karta International (Jews United Against Zionism) which also challenges the revisionist history, and the stealing of Arab lands.

    • 15 May 2018 at 3:03pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ XopherO
      You're really rambling a little. so it's hard to understand what you mean to say other than that you became disillusioned in 1967. I don't know know why. Jordan attacked Israel and Israel occupied the West Bank. No Likud, no settlements, socialism still flourishing. How did Israel block peace efforts, The Arabs declared immediately at Khartoum: no negotiations, no recognition, no peace, while Israel virtually begged them to end the conflict, and if they had they would have gotten everything back within a few months with the exception of the Old City and maybe Gush Etzion

    • 15 May 2018 at 3:51pm
      XopherO says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Oh really. Don't you think the 'Old City' is central to the whole damned history? Nothing can be settled without settling this, which brings us right back to what is happening today, and the murder and wounding of hundreds of 'Hamas terrorists' nearly a Km from the wall! Still, I am glad you just call me a 'ranbler' rather than a Jew-hater! You still have not commented on either of the web sites I have directed you to.

    • 15 May 2018 at 4:05pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ XopherO
      To tell you the truth, what you wrote was so incoherent that I was not even aware that you were directing me anywhere. I still don't understand what happened in 1967 that disillusioned you. Once again: Jordan attacked Israel and Israel occupied the West Bank. No Likud, no settlements, socialism still flourishing. How did Israel block peace efforts, The Arabs declared immediately at Khartoum: no negotiations, no recognition, no peace, while Israel virtually begged them to end the conflict.

    • 15 May 2018 at 7:40pm
      XopherO says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Fred, it helps to read what folk say and reflect. You are so obsessed with your own views that you skim the other comments. That is obvious. There is nothing incoherent about what I wrote. 1967 is important because it began to highlight why the Palestinians and other Arabs, Muslim and Christian, were so upset and hostile to Israel, and that began to filter through to those in the UK who(Jews and Gentiles) had had such hopes for a fair and democratic state of Israel. We were ignorant of the earlier history. To that extent we should all accept some guilt for what happened, in that it was not stopped earlier. But I would still defend the right for Israel to exist, but not by ruthless killing, not by stealing the land, chopping down olive groves, expelling ancient tribes form their homes. But as ever you will have the last word, in an aggressive, implacable style. I am amazed that you are involved in historiography (as an editor) even if you are not really a historiographer yourself - you seem ignorant of the problems of historiography for such an intelligent and erudite man. As Trump would say: sad!

    • 15 May 2018 at 10:02pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Fred Skolnik
      You are so vague about Israel's past sins that I have to guess at what you are driving at. Are you saying that you suddenly discovered at the time of the Six-Day War that there had been a war in 1948 and were convinced now that while Israel had a right to exist the Arabs also had a right to attack it in 1948 because - what? What was Israel's sin that justified the declared aim of the Arabs to destroy it and massacre its Jewish population? There were no refugees in 1947. Nothing had been stolen. There was just a partition plan. If Israel had a right to exist, what exactly did you object to?

      Whatever it was, then, it obviously wasn't the settlements or the Likud or chopped-down olive groves. The animosity was already there, wasn't it? Try to explain specifically what you discovered in 1967 that turned you against Israel and what your sources of information were since, as you say, I am ignorant of the problems of historiography.

    • 16 May 2018 at 11:13am
      XopherO says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Fred, I give up. I won't bother you again. You have a habit of deliberately misconstruing contributions to continue to put forward you revisionist version. You still have not commented on the websites I directed you to, which both very coherently, by Jews themselves, destroy the 'official' revisionist version. But Netanyahu is a clever tactician, by keeping the people of Israel in deep fear he keeps himself in power. Some might call it 'a nasty cunning'.

    • 16 May 2018 at 11:41am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ XopherO
      Of course you give up. You certainly didn't get your information in 1967 about the refugees from the link you sent me. I asked you what your sources of information were. There were no blogs then, there was no post-Zionism, there were no New Historians, so everyone must have been completely taken in by Israel because all the world was praising it and celebrating its miraculous victory in 1967, except you, because you knew the truth. Is that it? So tell us what that truth was and where you discovered it in 1967, historiographically speaking.

    • 16 May 2018 at 11:43am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ XopherO
      I have commented here on the refugees often enough and that is my reply to your link. You can see mt first comment to the "Volunteers" post about 2 weeks ago to read what the Arabs themselves said about the fkight of the Palestinians. You can also read Benny Morris on the basis of the newly opened archives. His estimate is that most fled and were not expelled. The estimate of the Arab-sponsored Institute for Palestine Studies in Beirut is that “68%” left without seeing an Israeli soldier.” Resolution 194 rcalled for a return of refugees "willing to live in peace with their neighbors." That condition was never fulfilled as both sides dug in behind armistice lines in an ongoing conflict, and of course an equal number of Jews had in the meanwhile been displaced from Arab lands losing everything they owned and creating a de facto population exchangeas had occurred between Pakistan and Insia.

  • 15 May 2018 at 10:35am
    Martha12345 says:
    It is not likely, nor realistic to hope, that the LRB will print an article respecting Arab rejectionism or even mildly supportive of Israel when its editor (and as I understand its owner) has stated, "I'm unambiguously hostile to Israel because it's a mendacious state".

  • 15 May 2018 at 2:02pm
    dmr says:
    When my daughters were little, we used to read to them a children's book called Horses. In it, the author wrote: "when my horse goes badly, I ask myself what I have done wrong."

    What a pity nationalists like Mr Skolnik, rushing to the defence of all that is indefensible in the behaviour of their adopted country, are never guided by such wise advice.

    • 15 May 2018 at 2:22pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ dmr
      You'll have to read a little more than children's books to understand anything about the Middle East.

    • 17 May 2018 at 12:30pm
      CarpeDiem says: @ Fred Skolnik
      It's called an allegory, Fred. Ever heard of it ?

  • 15 May 2018 at 3:37pm
    dmr says:
    Why read more - nay, why indeed anything at all - when I have Fred Skolnik for an infallible and superbly well-informed guide?

    Duly enlightened by his indefatigable interventions, I now understand as never before that Israel, by definition, is virtuous, humane, enlightened and responsible. "The Arabs", by definition, I am now forced to concede, are low, cunning, irresponsible, and hysterica. This too by definition.

    The scales having fallen from my eyes thanks to Fred, I now see that nothing untoward is happening in the occupied territories and that to call them occupied is to fall for a malicious lie.

    Mea maxima culpa re: the Gaza protests: they are actuated, Fred irrefutably has demonstrated, by murderous hatred for Jews, pure and simple. He has shown that 58 unarmed civilians shot on sight and thousands wounded simply got what they deserved. They, like me, have no grounds for complaint.

    Thanks to Fred's penetrating analyses, my subconscious has been laid bare: I see now that deep down and in a way hitherto unsuspected I am an an unreconstructed and vicious antisemite, like all of my fellows here on this blog and like those who write for and read the LRB.

    Have I missed anything?

    • 15 May 2018 at 3:59pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ dmr
      Unfortunately you've missed everything. Start with the Arab declarations in 1947 that they intended to destroy the State of Israel and massacre its Jewsh population and read forward from there.

  • 16 May 2018 at 3:56am
    Alasdair says:
    Fred Skolnik. Why are you so upset? LRB is a left-wing publication with a circulation of 70,000 which is published in the UK (not in Israel or Iran) where people are free to say what they want. Should we not be allowed to have one small publication free from propaganda? Why do you want to quieten people? What is it in for you? If you have something to say, write a letter to the LRB referring to the parts you think are “malicious and distorted allegations” and put forward your arguments against them. Your arguments obviously need to have evidence - independently verified – to back up your position. Otherwise you might be better off writing for Breitbart or Fox.

    • 16 May 2018 at 6:00am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Alasdair
      The "why" I've explained: because a public forum like the LRB blog "should not be allowed to get away with the kind of malicious and distorted allegations that are constantly being directed against the State of Israel. The time is long past when Jews are going to put up with this kind of thing." You have a strange idea of how a public forum should be conducted, though I understand that haters don't like to be contradicted or exposed. I see also that you have a double standard: where, may I ask, is the "independently verified evidence" to back up the allegations being made here?. Contributors here are writing as polemicists, not as historians, and the comments are being made by people who have never in their lives seen a primary document relating to the Middle East and are totally unequipped to verify or evaluate what they see on the telly or pick up from second- and third-hand English-language sources. And why are you labeling a viewpoint different from yours as propaganda? And why are you not proposing that the Israel haters themselves write letters to the editor instead of appearing here? And why don't you write a letter to the editor yourself?

    • 21 May 2018 at 12:59am
      Alasdair says: @ Fred Skolnik
      How much are you being paid for propagating Israeli propaganda, Fred Skolnik? I hope it is worth the negative health impacts it imposes on you.

    • 23 May 2018 at 1:39pm
      Walter10065 says: @ Alasdair
      Alasdair is losing it now

  • 16 May 2018 at 11:16am
    bluecat says:
    I am not nearly as surprised by Skolnik's numerous and familiar interventions - proving once again, if proof were needed, that there is no levels of turpitude that some one, some where, is not prepared to defend (though it does raise the question of what he does all day when not fulminating at blog posters) - as I am by the writer using the expression "free reign".

    Tsk, LRB!

    • 22 May 2018 at 4:35pm
      Dectora says: @ bluecat
      I think that you are worryingly anxious to bait Skolnik. Could it be because he doesn't follow the pro -Palestinian party line of the LRB?

    • 23 May 2018 at 1:40pm
      Walter10065 says: @ bluecat
      turpitude. what is this, elementary school?

  • 16 May 2018 at 1:22pm
    dmr says:
    Mr Skolnik -

    The views attributed to you in my comment: are they a misrepresentation?

    Are they false? Scurrilous?

    • 16 May 2018 at 1:37pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ dmr
      Of course they're misrepresentations. I never said:

      "that Israel, by definition, is virtuous, humane, enlightened and responsible. “The Arabs”, by definition, I am now forced to concede, are low, cunning, irresponsible, and hysterica. This too by definition" or "to call [the occupied territories] occupied is to fall for a malicious lie"

      or any of the rest.

      You sound a little crazy, to tell you the truth. When you get ahold of yourself, start your reading at the point I indicated.

  • 16 May 2018 at 2:23pm
    dmr says:
    An evasive and confused response, as always.

    Did I put these very words into your mouth? No. I asked you if you hold such views. If, that is, they reflect your thoughts mor or less.

    To make sure you understand now: I asked you if this is at bottom what you think.

    From all that you have written in reply to other comments on this blog, it certainly looks like it.

    • 16 May 2018 at 2:39pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ dmr
      You're a little too subtle for me. You were using these words in a figurative sense then, is that it? Because people usually express views in just those words that describe what they think. At least I do.

      Do I have these views? Not in the least. I have never and would never use those words to characterize Jews or Arabs, which means that I do not have the views that these words describe. I did call the rampaging mob in Gaza hysterical, though. That's about the only context in which I'd use the word. I addressed two issues: the Israeli attack against Iranian installations in Syria and the demonstrations in Gaza. In each case I explained how Israel perceives the threats and why it acted as it did. Apparently that's more than you can handle.

  • 16 May 2018 at 5:10pm
    dmr says:
    And the view attributed - albeit with a sarcasm that is lost on you - re: the (so-called, as you might say) occupation, Fred?

    All quite kosher, that? Nothing much to get upset about so far as you're concerned, I suppose? Or are we to be treated to more blather from you about "parameters," etc.

    The deafening silence on your part speaks volumes.

    • 16 May 2018 at 7:12pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ dmr
      You've really lost it, haven't you. "As I might say"?
      "Deafening silence"?

      I always say "occupation." Even above: "Jordan attacked Israel and Israel occupied the West Bank."

      All you're doing now is trying to save face. You're letting down the haters with all this sniveling.

    • 16 May 2018 at 8:35pm
      dmr says: @ Fred Skolnik
      As always: evasive and confused.

      I conclude that you're perfectly OK with Israel's atrocious behaviour in the Occupied Territories and certainly losing no sleep over it. On its part, so far as F.Skolnik's concerned, nothing untoward or seriously wrong is going on there, I suppose. Settler rampages, house demolitions, midnight arrests, arbitrary detention and imprisonment, outright theft of property, military rule of a people without civil rights or legal redress, the whole wretched business - nothing to get too worked up about, right?

      b.t.w., have ever considered taking an advanced English literacy class? I ask because plainly you have problems understanding what you read. In asking for your views, I should have thought it was obvious that I was thinking of Israel,qua an entity which apparently in your eyes can do and has done no wrong, and "The Arabs", seen by you (it seems not unfair to say as given collectively to irrational violence and incomprehensible murderous hatred.

      Note that I was not asking about "Israelis" vs. Arabs, Or about Jews vs. Arabs - a binary opposition on which you seem to be fixated. But then, making categorical distinctions is hard to do when one has got antisemitism on the brain.

      Have a look at Henry Siegman's article in the latest LRB. If you can understand it or have the patience to consider what he says, it will render you apoplectic I daresay. But I wonder whether Rabbi Siegman too is now classed in your mind among the "haters", bent on peddling malicious lies about Israel/Palestine.

    • 16 May 2018 at 9:36pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ dmr
      You're really ranting and I'm sorry to have gotten your goat. Go to sleep.

  • 16 May 2018 at 6:35pm
    stettiner says:
    Mr Skolnik, I admire your patience.

    • 17 May 2018 at 2:31pm
      Martha12345 says: @ stettiner
      Mr. Skolnik is perspicacious and I am glad he is here.

    • 17 May 2018 at 5:37pm
      deano says: @ Martha12345
      He's celebrating psychopaths, up to their chests in the blood of the wretched of the earth.

    • 17 May 2018 at 6:14pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ stettiner
      This is what our friends mean when they say it isn't hatred, it's criticism. Ask Mr. Deano if he opened his filthy mouth when barbaric Arab terrorists were blowing apart Israeli women and children in buses and restaurants.

    • 17 May 2018 at 6:42pm
      deano says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Nice try, Fred, but no one sees Israel as the victim.

    • 18 May 2018 at 10:22am
      stettiner says: @ deano
      I do.

  • 16 May 2018 at 7:13pm
    Fred Skolnik says:
    And as if to bear me out, we learn today from Salah Bardawil, a senior Hamas official interviewed on Palestinian TV, that 50 of the 62 Palestinians killed on Monday were Hamas activists.

    • 17 May 2018 at 2:12pm
      XopherO says: @ Fred Skolnik
      I said I was not going to dignify you with further comment, but here I am. They were apparently members of Hamas which is after all a political party, and has many members in Gaza, and indeed had been accused of sending 'innocents' to the front of the demo while they stayed behind! I suppose they were active in that they were demonstrating, quite legally inside Gaza. Apparently such deadly weapons as wire cutters and stones have been seen. They face hundreds of Israeli soldiers with such feeble devices as long range rifles with telescopic sights, automatic weapons, tear gas, tanks, etc. Many have been shot in the back which is as sure a sign as any in history of a deliberate massacre - remember Sharpeville. I don't deny that some Hamas militants (why are they 'terrorists' and the Israel killers 'soldiers') have tried to kill and have killed some Israeli soldiers and civilians over they years (but not during these demonstrations, which apparently justify soldiers firing live rounds - I don't suppose Israel has heard of the Geneva Convention). Such men join the fighters out of desperation. They are often deliberately provoked into action which gives Netanyahu a good excuse to cry terror and put fear into every Israeli heart, and keep him in power and justify his expansionism and repression - and killing. How on earth has Israel allowed itself to get into this state? It is surely counterproductive to its future.

    • 17 May 2018 at 2:37pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ XopherO
      I have accurately described above what was going on in Gaza. You are rationalizing an attempt organized by Hamas to physically overrun Israel's border, not to demonstrate inside Gaza, which Israel would have allowed. Your speculation about what the rioters were armed with has no basis in fact. If you don't understand that such a mob would have torn apart any Israeli soldier or civilian that it got its hands on, then you know very little about the Middle East. That was what the army was there to prevent, and the fact that Hamas itself announced that 50 of the 62 Palestinians killed on Monday were its own people - and Hamas is a terrorist organization by any definition - should tell you something about what they were doing there with their firearms and explosives and why they were shot.

    • 17 May 2018 at 7:17pm
      XopherO says: @ Fred Skolnik
      If Hamas is a terrorist organisation by 'any definition', then that applies to the Israeli army in this case. Its actions are designed to spread terror. But sadly the Palestinians feel they have nothing to lose but their lives.

      I really appreciate Stephen Sedley's 'Short Cuts' in the current LRB. I have never been a member of the Labour Party but the attempts by those on the right to paint those, like me, critical of the Israeli government and its politics and military actions, as anti-semites, is very nasty.

    • 17 May 2018 at 7:48pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ XopherO
      Your understanding of the intentions of the Israeli army is also baseless. Its intention is to protect Israel's population. That should be obvious even to you.

      You have only yourself to blame for how you are perceived. The fact that you cavalierly refer to the murder of over 1,000 Israeli civilians by the terrorists as the killing of "some civilians" and unleash a diatribe about the killing in Gaza of mostly members of these same terrorist organizations tells people exactly who and what you are, what your values are, what your humanity is, and how unbalanced you are in every sense of the word.

      No sane person would entrust his life to you on the basis of your understanding of what 40,000 Palestinian rioters intended to do.

    • 18 May 2018 at 9:16am
      XopherO says: @ Fred Skolnik
      At last I get some of your bile. You do not seem to understand that nobody criticising the actions of the Israeli government and military wants to see anyone die, Israeli or Palestinian. But apparently you don't mind, as long as they are Palestinian, and some kind of justification can be constructed. I can't see the killing ending while folk like you continue to bend, deny and reinvent the facts, and use the abusive language you do. I await your diatribe, but there is no point in anyone responding.

    • 18 May 2018 at 9:39am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ XopherO
      The justification for killing a terrorist is that he is a terrorist. You are avoiding every point that you can't handle, and also announcing more than once that there's no point in responding, to cover yourself in case you can't, though you'll be right back here if you think you can.

  • 22 May 2018 at 4:16pm
    RosieBrock says:
    New to this. Not convinced by Fred Skolnik's arguments . He throws epithets around about Israel-haters too easily so I sense his LRB antagonism is embedded in fear, engendered by a sense of isolation. Shame. So goodbye Fred. Now, I would like to know from Adam Schatz was he thinks an Iran Israel war scenario would look like?

    • 22 May 2018 at 4:31pm
      Dectora says: @ RosieBrock
      That is because those on the left have deemed Palestinians to be Top Victims, and the desire of Hamas to kill all Jews and occupy the whole of the former Palestine is passed over.

  • 22 May 2018 at 6:05pm
    RosieBrock says:
    Its not passed over in my view but could appear that way. I understand from my limited knowledge that Mahmoud Abbas is a disastrous leader. But when all Palestinians are labelled as Hamas, in response to death. When stones are met with bullets. When even little children and babies are deemed to be terrorists beofre they grow up, I am bound to ask questions and say I don't want it and do not like it. Your responses do not wash with intelligent people. If a Palestinian refuses to sign up to Hamas one presumes they are forced to do so. But what does Israel do to motivate them not to do so? If they are Palestinian it seems you are convinced they will grow up to be Hamas terrorists. That is a 'belief' so they are kiving in what has been called a toxic slum. Kill and kill, seems to be the mantra that eyes glazed,or eyes wide open, whichever, feeds the no-solution sentiment. Is it insoluble.Is the death of all Palestinians your answer? Kill them all. Kill kill kill? Because that seems to be the message from quite a few in Israel. Israel's aggressive stance brooks no riposte. It seems totally wrong to me. Now because of Gaza killings the other day, the disproportionate response over the days of protest, plus the disproportionate rhetoric, and the heightened interest former 'observers' of the issue, are getting themselves briefed. I discovered some of Israel's increasingly punitive laws against Israeli Arabs passed in the Knesset that could be designated as racist! Can you or anyone here suggest some excellent books I can read? This is the LRB blog after all.

  • 22 May 2018 at 10:51pm
    John-Albert says:
    Adam Shatz is correct and for those reasons, rather than be confused by Israel's 'existential' problem with Iran, we should be focusing on the real existential problem - life for all of us on the planet into the future. Major irony - the EU plus our supposed enemies of Freedom will have to prevent our being sidetracked into catastrophic war. IMNSHO, that fellow Trump is truly a wicked child, and those Jewish thinkers who were deepest and longest, who feared a developing racism and major strife for the project of Israel, are the ones who should have been listened to.

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