The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Enough with the Sanctimony over Israel, Jews, Palestine and the Holocaust

Look, enough. Let me lay it out really simply for the dense.

The Palestinians did not deserve to be colonized, displaced and turned into 2nd class citizens in their own land because Europeans tried to kill off the Jewish people.

The morality here is the same as the morality of Iraq and 9/11.  “Well, some folks attacked us, so we’re going to use it as an excuse to beat the shit out of someone who was completely uninvolved.”

So, enough with the sanctimony about Helen Thomas’s statement about Israeli Jews from the usual suspects on the left.

Telling the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors to “go back to Poland” is outrageous. I received a “defense” of Thomas’s remark from a leftwing blogger who suggested that if HE were a refugee in World War II he would not have wanted to live in Israel. Not helpful. Going back to 1948 — let alone suggesting the repatriation of the descendants of European Jews to the countries that annihilated them — is as absurd as it is hideous.

Oh really, is Germany or Poland as bad a place to be a Jew as Gaza or the West Bank are to be a Palestinian?  Why, exactly, did Western nations pay for their sins by giving Jews a nation in the Middle East instead of, say, a chunk of Germany and Poland?  Why take from, why punish, those who had nothing to do with the Holocaust.

Is it really as bad to be told to go back to a first world nation where you would have full citizenship, as it is to be forced to live in a slum where you have no rights, can be starved at will, can’t travel as you choose, can have your house bulldozed and your farm destroyed?  Is it really so “hideous”?

Of course it isn’t.

The fundamental truth of Israel’s existence is that it is a settler nation in the modern world.  Yes, there have been plenty of them, including Canada, the US and virtually every nation in the Americas, but is that an excuse to do it again?  To not learn from the past?  To turn our heads and say “well, too bad for the Palestinians, because we Western nations need to expiate our sins, and we intend to make them pay for what we did wrong?  And hey, whatever, it’s not as bad as what we did to the American Indians, so the Palestinians should just suck it up?”

Obama wanted Helen Thomas gone because she had a habit of asking questions he hated.  She was a fool to walk right into it, but hey, someone who was the soul of discretion wouldn’t have asked the questions over the years Helen asked.

You want eunuchs in the White House press corp?  This is how you get them.


Not Fighting Alito and Roberts Mean the End of Your Democracy


Catching Up with the Obama Dilemma


  1. Thank you so much for this posting. So much of the hostility towards Helen Thomas is based on racist attitudes towards Palestinians, ones which make it a heinous act to consider them human beings.

  2. anonymous

    The irony of the Polish ghettos and “lebensraum” just hits you over the head. But that sort of thing is really unspeakable here in the US. The Jews attitude is “it was ours first”. Nevermind that the Jews are one or two of the tribes of Israel, and the other 10 tribes are probably the Palestinians, at least if recent genetic studies mean anything.

    I wonder if the US and Israel will help me evict the Brits from Ulster and reclaim my ancestral heritage.

  3. Bernard

    amen. glad to see it said as you did.

  4. Lex

    I particularly resent being told that i should unequivocally support an extremely right-wing government in Israel…even by people who support left-wing governance here in the US.

  5. Emanuel Appel


    The Palestine Mandate as the home of the Jewish people was established by the San Remo conference in 1920. It had nothing to do with the Holocaust.

    The sign of a Jew hater is telling Jews to go back to their most miserable condition as stateless people (Helen Thomas). Perhaps Germans and Poles don’t wish to have Jews in their midst nor do we want to live with them.

    Israel left Gaza unblockaded until Hamas started to launch rockets into Israel. They always ahd the choice of war or no war.

    What you want , sir, is for Jews to be hit without the ability to hit back. No, not even Negroes are told that.

  6. As far as I can tell, most of the Jews in Israel don’t trace their ancestry to Germany or Poland, but perhaps to Russia and the rest of the former USSR, and also substantially to the various largely Arab nations in the region, from whom they were expelled in the decades since Israel was established. Would those places welcome them back?

  7. Ian Welsh

    Dear Emmanel,

    what I want is for Israelis to not steal other people’s land. What I want is for the majority of the children in Gaza to not be anemic due to the Israeli blockade.

    What I want is for the Israelis not to act like bullies, not to become monsters.

    What I want is for them to save their souls.

    What you and other apologists do is whisper “the evil you do is justified. Kill 100 of them for every one that they kill of you, kill their women, assassinate their leaders with missiles which kill innocents, become terrorists far worse than them, because you have the means. Punish, punish the entire population. They deserve it. Don’t they.”

    Oh yes, I know what you’re saying.

    And anyone who thinks the final creation of Israel was not substantially impacted by the Holocaust is just in denial.

    Nietzche wasn’t entirely right. It’s not just those who fight monsters who become monsters, not just those who stare into the abyss who find the abyss staring back into them: rather it is those who are hurt, who in their turn lash out.

    To see this happening to Israeli Jews of all people is incredibly sad.

  8. Ian Welsh


    many of them can’t leave. Neither can the Palestinians. And yet, the truth is that the occupants of the land were the Palestinians. The truth is that that land was stolen from them, that they were made second class citizens and treated abominably. Of course, as a policy prescription Helen’s words are a failure, yet the scream behind them had a point: the Israelis took another people’s land. They are a settler state, a state born through violence and theft.

    I fail to see it as a particularly abominable statement, certainly not as heinous as everyone is making it out to be. The countries they left treat them better than they treat the Palestinians, after all. Today, not 65 years ago.

  9. the response of king ibn saud when told about the creation of the state of israel out of the british palestinian mandate was very close to your own ian. he suggested “why not give them germany?” it would have been some rough justice, but justice nonetheless.

    micheal chabon did an amazing riff on one u.s. senator’s idea to carve out a section of then territory of alaska for settlement and homeland in “the yiddish policeman’s union.”

    one of the most frustrating things about israel, and the middle east in general, is that after a couple of millenia of folks from all over the world going there to fuck things up the mess is immense and maybe unfixable. there had not been a state of israel since vespasian, and even before him it was mainly what the romans called a “client” state, where they picked the rulers, who then collected the taxes and gave the romans their cut. the creation of israel by the victorious allies of ww2 was something that was doomed from the start.

    thing is. they are there. they will not go away, or “go home” without a big ass messy fight. a worse fight than the ones we’ve seen there already. so, “going home” for most israeli people is simply not a viable option. speaking as someone who has half his heritage from the apache nation, the idea is tempting. especially with the folks in arizona being so crazy right now, it would be nice to say to them, “time for you to go home, germany, poland, utah (no, not far enough), where ever, just go now.” it is not as viable or feasible an option as the idea that a 4th generation born sabra israeli has any kind of “home” anywhere else, even if that home is pretty messed up right now.

    all that said. had i been born a palestinian, i would be one rocket launching, stone throwing, bomb blowing up (hopefully not with me still attached) son of a bitch.

    the other half of my heritage is irish, maybe it’s a DNA thing….

  10. Celsius 233

    Ian Welsh PERMALINK
    Dear Emmanel,

    +1 Spot on!

  11. anonymous

    I suppose Emmanuel Appel and Celsius think it’s fine to CONTINUE stealing palestinian land in Gaza and the West Bank, and then chopping up those areas into smaller and smaller ghettos on the pretext of providing security for those illegal settlers/terrorists and collective punishment of a whole people for the actions of a few.

    Aside from your pathetic attempts to justify the unjustifiable, I’d like to hear how Emmanuel Appel thinks Israel’s action are going to lead to any sort of resolution. The only resolution I see is ethnic continued and escalating “ethnic cleansing”.

  12. Thank you for writing this, Ian – I’m surprised that you are inundated with more commenter like Emmanuel Appel.

  13. Emmanuel is sort of precious, in a backward and hateful way.

    FYI Em, the term ‘Negro’ isn’t, err, preferred nomenclature. You might want to update your vocabulary.

    As for the rest: while we can’t ever know what precisely Helen Thomas meant, it’s a complete fabrication to state that she, or Ian, or the rest of us opposed to the modern Israeli state’s brutal policies want Israelis to be reduced to statelessness, like their Palestinian victims. There is, as Ian said, simply no comparison between being a German citizen, with all the rights, power and wealth of the First World, and being a Palestinian trapped in Gaza, with no state, no functional government to protect you, slowly being starved into madness by soldiers armed with US money.

    The Red Cross just ruled that the blockade is collective punishment violating the Geneva Conventions, which Israel ratified in 1949. Israel’s never done a good job hiding that fact, with all the talk about putting Palestinians on a ‘diet’. You can’t have it both ways, Em. Either Israel is at war with Gaza, in which case there’s not much use complaining about rocket attacks, and the civilians there have rights that Israel is violating, OR Israel’s not at war with Gaza, in which case, they have no right to enforce a blockade. Pick one please.

  14. DancingOpossum

    It is true that the Zionist colonialists have been eyeing Palestine with lust (I should say bloodlust) in their eyes since well before WWII, at least since the 1800s if not earlier. But it’s also undeniable that WWII gave the project a humongous guilt-induced trump card it could play against the international community. Big winners all around–except the Palestinians, who have been subject to the Zionists’ terrorism, expulsion, massacres, land theft, illegal colonization–and worse–ever since.

    It’s a process of slow genocide, no less, and if Israel continues on its deranged and sociopathic way–as seems very likely, especially with the U.S. continuing to be its protector and enabler–then we may very well find ourselves watching a good old fashioned “fast genocide.” I think we’re already headed that way, frankly. The signs are all there. (And don’t give me any slop about a “good people with a bad government.” 90 percent of Israelis supported the massacre in Gaza and over 80 percent supported the raid on the aid ships. The Israeli government is doing exactly what the Israeli people want.)

    The one-state, binational solution remains the only viable option. One state, one citizen, one vote. Shared power. The United States is incapable of being an honest broker and needs to get out of the way and let the real grownups take over the negotiation of Israel into a new country with a new name and no more Zionist nonsense. The Israelis who don’t like the idea of a fair, democratic, multi-ethnic country can stuff it. They are welcome to go wherever they wish. The settlers can either accept the idea that they’ll have to share power with the hated Ay-rabs–who will be the majority–or they can go back to Brooklyn. Not that we want those ignorant, savage thugs here, but hey, we helped create the monster, it is our price to pay.

  15. alyosha

    I never thought about “give them a piece of Germany”, which should’ve been obvious. The creation of Israel following WW2 is analogous to the punitive war reparations imposed on Germany following WW1 – decisions made in the wake of a major war, that would turn out very badly off in the future. In both cases, something had to be done, but what resulted was a very poor design.

  16. b.

    Maybe Bygones Habeas Obama should offer to relocate all those surplus Palestinians to another place – say, one of the many Native American “reservations” (it’s not like Washington has never broken a contract there), Gitmo (it’s going to be vacant any day now), the Thomson Correctional Center (still vacant), Diego Garcia (why not just take it away from the British, fair is fair), around the Anti-Iranian Missile Defense sites in Eastern Europe. Or maybe it is time for a “charter city” over in Afghanistan. I am sure each and any would fit well into the 11-dimensional chess of his Middle East Initiative. Diaspora is like musical chairs, and right now it’s the Palestenians’ turn.

  17. DancingOpossum

    I had to laugh at “Bygones Habeas Obama.” HA! Sums him up perfectly!

  18. Quiddity

    Ian writes: “Europeans tried to kill off the Jewish people”

    I’ve prefer to say that Christians tried to kill off the Jewish people (which they did for centuries).

  19. S Brennan

    “I’m Jewish, if you can’t tell. And I’ve seen the video in which she made her so-called “indefensible” remarks. And I’ve just got to say it plain: there was no “there” there. She was being interviewed by a rabbi. She was friendly and smiling. She was asked “”Any comments on Israel”, and she said, “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.” This in itself is ambiguous, of course, since it could refer to all of Palestine previous to the arrival of any modern Jews, or it could refer to occupied Palestine (since the 1967 war). Either way, though, it’s simply a political opinion… In the land of fake journalism, she was one of the last authentic voices to be heard, and they just couldn’t wait for an excuse to get rid of her–particularly one that would make her look bad.

    Helen Thomas had nothing to apologize for. I don’t agree with her. But neither do I feel offended. I understand where her feeling came from…As an American Jew, I am deeply ashamed that such a remarkable woman was shamed into retirement and exile in my name, that I was used in such a despicable and dishonest manner. I do not just with to defend Helen Thomas. I wish to apologize to her. As an American and as a Jew, I stand for much better than that.

    Paul Rosenberg :: Defending Helen Thomas

  20. That said, I find some hope in the thought that it is becoming increasingly acceptable to voice comments critical of Israeli policy, at least marginally. Even five years ago the flotilla raid would have been lauded to an extent much greater than now.

  21. anonymous

    Even five years ago the flotilla raid would have been lauded to an extent much greater than now.

    Is anyone outside of Israel and its supporters in the U.S. defending the raid? Are there any actions (boycott, for example) that anyone else is planning? Does it matter what anyone or everyone else does if the decision makers in the U.S. continue to support Israeli policy?

  22. David H.


    No, no & no, sadly.

  23. anonymous

    No, no & no, sadly.

    Actually, the first ‘no’ (meaning no one outside of the Israelis and some U.S. decision makers are defending the raid) is good news. As for the other two, this situation sounds like the situation where bush&cheney decided to invade Iraq despite the fact that the majority of the planet opposed it.

  24. what DancingOpp said.

    thing is. they are there. they will not go away, or “go home” without a big ass messy fight. a worse fight than the ones we’ve seen there already. so, “going home” for most israeli people is simply not a viable option.

    very true. a secular one state is the only solution for this reason. jews can be in a minority, it’s not always a bad thing, esp given that they will retain most of the money and power, at least initially, in terms of the shape of the govt. but there hasn’t been a mass slaughter of white people in South Africa, and the Palestinians aren’t the Russians. i get really tired of the hysteria that screams that the Palestinian people are incapable of being peaceful, decent neighbors. stop shooting and starving them, for krist’s sake, and just let them work and trade and go about their business like everybody else. everything will be just fine, even if a few orthodox kids decide that they want to be friends with ‘the enemy’ after all, despite what the parents rave.

  25. Suspenders

    There hasn’t been a mass slaughter of whites in South Africa, but there has certainly been quite an exodus of skilled whites emigrating, something to the tune of nearly a million over the last decade. Those numbers tell me that it hasn’t been as rosy as we were led to believe.

    In any case, most people don’t want to be minorities if they can help it, and there are multitudes of secession wars and independence movements bearing witness to that. Even a country like Canada has trouble keeping its province of Quebec in confederation (and came a hairs breadth of loosing it in 1995), and that’s without all the extra baggage of years of relentless bloodshed. How people can honestly think there is a one state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli mess is beyond me.

  26. Then why does the Israeli government seem so enthusiastic about it, hmm?

    To anonymous: But the point is that Israel-lauding is more muted in US media than it was five years ago. Of course it is still massive lauding.

  27. anonymous

    But the point is that Israel-lauding is more muted in US media than it was five years ago. Of course it is still massive lauding.

    I guess that I don’t get the point of “the point”, then.

    1) No one else is going to take any action
    2) The decision makers in the U.S. are still going to support Israeli policy
    3) As long as the U.S. decision makers are still supporting Israeli policy, it will not be changed, even if anyone else was going to take any action, which they are not. (And as long as this is true, doesn’t it make it even less likely that anyone else is going to take any action?)

    Is there some other point? (Preferably some point that would make a difference to the people who are being slowly starved.)

  28. This has been going on for 50 years, not just the recent siege. It’s worth asking whether there are any positive signs of progress on this front. Signs of progress don’t only include actual policy changes, but changes in the likelihood of such changes in the future.

  29. anonymous

    It’s worth asking whether there are any positive signs of progress on this front.

    I think it’s worth asking whether there are any signs that things aren’t going to continue to get more negative. Since, say, the “Oslo peace process” in the 1990s, all signs that I have been able to see from my remote location have been in the negative direction. It almost seems as though the Israelis are following the U.S. path with respect to Iraq, starting back in 1990:

    – a war
    – followed by years of sanctions that cause lots of children to die

    Next, will the Israelis fabricate some “existential threat” that they use as an excuse for an invasion and occupation of the West Bank or Gaza? (And who will play the part of “coalition of the willing”?)

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén