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

The Banal Hypocrisy of the Western Coverage of Israel

So, I see the usual suspects, in response to a large attack by Israel on Iranian targets in Syria, are saying the usual, “I support Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Really what they mean, of course, is “I’m scared of the Israeli lobby in my country, and of being called an anti-Semite if I dare say the truth.”

The truth is that Israel attacks other countries far more than other countries attack Israel.

The truth is that the Iranian missile attack the to which the Israelis were responding was actually in response to routine Israeli attacks on Syria.

The truth is that Iran is an invited guest in Syria and Israel is not.

Modern Iran has not attacked multiple neighbours over the course of its history. Israel has, and taken territory from them to boot.

The Golan Heights was taken from Syria, by Israel.

And, of course, Iran has no nukes, and Israel, which claims Iran wants them, does have nukes.

Our entire “conversation” about Israel and the region around it is based on hypocrisy, fear and guilt over the holocaust, as if because Germany killed millions of Jews, it’s ok for Israel to treat Palestinians and everyone else in the neighbourhood monstrously.

Israel should remember that “the powerful do as they will, the weak suffer what they must” was replied to “what you do to us, will one day be done to you, because seeing how you treat us, no one will trust you or have mercy on you.”

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  1. different clue

    The Israelis who remember this and know it are a minority in the country now. The last time they had any power was when they elected Rabin as prime minister. And Rabin and the Rabinists gave every indication of co-moving in step with Arafat and the Arafatists to a compromise peace in the middle. Whether left wing intellectuals think the Rabinists “meant it” is irrelevant. The Netanyahoodlums and the Likudists believed Rabin and the Rabinists meant it, so they engineered the assassination to stop it.

    Canadian journalist and semi-left-wing social observer wrote a post about this on his Rigorous Intuition blog, called The Violent Bear It Away. It used the Rabin Assassination as a window into Cheney-Bush Administration support for chaos-generating violence all over the Middle East. And circled back to how deep fascist establishments within countries neutralise or assassinate counter-fascist leaders to keep their countries on track to fascist social organization. Here is the link.

    There is another problem. The largest single plurality-of-descent among the Jewisraelis is Arab-Jewish descent . . . the Arab Jews who for whatever the reason left the Arab countries. Most of them went to Israel. What they remember is the traditional state of dhimitude they were kept in by their Arab overlords until European colonization. Those of them and their descendants who live in Israel now probably remember the ancestral dhimitude and can only think of never ever allowing their Arab “friends and neighbors” to recapture them and restore them to their former dhimitude ( “put them back in their place”).

    These Arab Jews mostly supported Likud and now divide their support between Likud and parties to the right of Likud. Maybe someone did a study of how many of them voted for Rabin and then for Peres after the assassination . . . from a sense of hope. But that is all gone and the fading relict population of Rabinists will never have power again. If they decide that Israel is flunking its Darwin Finals and will flunk them completely, they may all move away, leaving Israel to the Likudists and right-of-Likudists and an ever-rising Palestinian population.

  2. Tom

    Ah the Siege of Melos that you referenced by those quotes. The Athenians would have been better off leaving it alone. Attacking Melos caused the other Neutral Cities to side with Sparta and the Achaemenid Empire to throw funding to Sparta.

    Athens paid dearly for it and lost its Empire as a result.

  3. EverythingsJake

    “I and the public know
    What all schoolchildren learn,
    Those to whom evil is done
    Do evil in return.”

    September 1, 1939, W.H. Auden

  4. Really what they mean, of course, is “I’m scared of the Israeli lobby in my country, and of being called an anti-semite if I dare say the truth.”

    Maybe some of them mean that, but far more really mean, “I support Israel’s aggression.” Just as the entire US political and media class fully support US aggression.

  5. Not clear – Iran has invited itself into Afghanistan and Iraq – and Syria is a rump state. This does not leave Israel as pristine, even Jew in the US are leaving the cause. Then there is the de facto alliance between Saudi Arabia and Isreal.

  6. Hugh

    Israel acquired nuclear weapons through illegal purchases and a clandestine program. Nor is it a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Its nuclear history is far shadier than Iran’s. And the sanctimony and hypocrisy. For years after Israel acquired the bomb, it was still selling the
    line of Israelis being menaced with “being driven into the sea.” Why does a country the size of Israel with all the advanced technology and military aid it gets from the US need an arsenal of 150-200 nuclear weapons?

    Israel is an apartheid state whose political spectrum runs from something like run of the mill fascist to loony tunes fascist. I used to believe that Rabin and the Oslo process represented the last chance at a two-state solution. Netanyahu is, by the way, the guy who dismantled the Oslo Accords. Now I think the two-state solution was always a non-starter. Israel-Palestine is one country with one group ruthlessly suppressing the rights of half its citizens even to the point of denying them their citizenhood, their freedom, and often their lives.

    With the move of the American Embassy to Jerusalem and Trump’s dumping the Iranian nuclear deal, Netanyahu feels he has Trump in his pocket. And with all the corruption scandals Netanyahu is involved in, I think his attacks in Syria and Lebanon on Iranian targets are his way of changing the subject. Nothing like a good war to distract from all the dirty laundry.

  7. Jon Rudd


    It was right after the Melos Affair that Athens launched that grandiose effort to conquer Syracuse, a state on the other side of the Greek world that was no threat whatever to Athens.
    But who reads Thucydides any more?

  8. someofparts

    I’ve been thinking about how something like this plays out generationally.

    The Americans who were alive during the Holocaust are almost gone and their children, my cohort, will be gone too within the next couple of decades. For my millennial nephews and their children, those WWII crimes will not even be something that was spoken of by their parents. To them and their descendants, it will be an artifact of official history, of which they will have no evocative personal memories.

    Meanwhile, the ongoing aggression and bad faith of the Israeli state will be the reality that they do experience in their lifetimes. Eventually and gradually, at the pace of generational change, Israelis will cease to be seen as victims and come to be understood as aggressors.

    When that day arrives, the very Israeli leaders who chose this unfortunate path will be the ones to shout the loudest about the injustice of such opinion. In this, they will be just like the Americans who are currently shocked that a creature like Trump could emerge from the glorious legacy of Saint Reagan.

  9. realitychecker

    Honor killings. Genital mutilations. Routine subordination of womens’ human rights. Endless internecine warfare against other Muslims. Oh, and which side was favored by the Muslims in WWII? And why was that?

    I’ll take Israel, thank you.

    Always makes me laugh to see lefties simultaneously voicing support for woman AND for Muslims.

    When you pretend to be everybody’s friend, you are really nobody’s friend, IMO.

  10. realitychecker

    Hmmmn. I forgot to mention, which side persecutes homosexuals? (And, again, funny how the left uncritically supports both the gays and the Muslims.)

    Which side routinely calls for the total extermination of the other side?

    Reality checks all around, I submit.

  11. Chiron


    When that Malaysian airplane was shotdown between Ukraine and Russia border there was also another Israeli attack on Gaza going on.

    There is a study about Israeli attacks and how they’re overshadowed about other event sites happening at the same time.

  12. WheresOurTeddy

    With “allies” like Israel and Saudi Arabia, who needs enemies?

    Thank you for this post.

  13. different clue


    Your feeling in hindsight that the two-state solution was always a non-starter may be correct and may always have been correct.

    All I know is that Netanyahu and the Likudists thought it was a starter and were afraid it was the finisher, so they killed Rabin in order to stop the starter from finishing.

  14. nihil obstet

    Zionism was part of the explosion of nationalism in the 19th c. The multi-ethnic empires didn’t have the compelling narrative for the transition to modern industrialized society that the national “self-determination of peoples” did. The inevitable social and political conflict of the changing times was blamed on the friction between ethnic groups rather than the need to address problems productively. However, “peoples” in the minds of Western developed nations didn’t include non-Europeans. Britain first offered Zionists land in Uganda, almost certainly because black Africans counted even less than brown Mediterraneans. During the World Wars, Britain dealt with the Zionist settlers to Palestine to work against the Ottomans and their successors who were suspected of German sympathies.

    The history, the mindset, hasn’t changed much, and I don’t see a path to a good outcome. As Hugh notes above, Israel is an apartheid state (remember it was the sole supporter of the white South African regime); it claims justification by the need for an ethnically pure state. The leaders of Western developed nations still see the country with European heritage leaders as better than the brown people with the savage customs. They also see Israel as a good, reliable military base to maintain Western dominance over the Middle East.

    As I understand it, the majority of Israeli Jews are now of Arabic descent rather than European, and that might slowly erode the racism, if the situation doesn’t implode first.

  15. Hugh

    I agree, different clue. American policy is still based on a two state solution which was likely never viable and definitely wasn’t after Rabin’s assassination in 1995. It shows the hostaged and/or hypocritcal and/or cynical nature of US policy that the US has been beating this dead horse for more than 20 years since the assassination.

    It is interesting that when some have no answer to the outrageous and evil nature of Israeli policy toward Palestinians, its eternal warmongering, all they’ve got is look over there bad Arabs.

  16. Willy

    I’ve seen Rick Steve’s travel shows for Israel (including the Arab parts) and Iran. As honest descriptions of everyday people, they’re not half bad. It seems that regular folks from all those places aren’t that far apart from each other in most of their behaviors and values.

    But we’re not talking about the everyday people now, are we?

  17. Willy

    @ realitychecker

    In the movie Hancock, the hero couldn’t help causing immense collateral damage during his otherwise well-intended heroism, and wound up being called an “asshole” by most of the people he was trying to help. Maybe Israel is kinda like that?

    Personally, I’m not seeing many lefties trying to specifically proclaim Israel to be the bad guys, and all the surrounding Arabs to be the good guys. They know that situation is far more complicated than that. Maybe they just want “the good guys” to be more good goyish?

  18. Watt4Bob

    Please excuse my re-posting this, I cannot say it better than I did the first time at FDL.

    Before we had asymmetrical warfare, we had asymmetrical access to the press.

    When I was researching the seeming impossibility of understanding the lack of progress toward a peaceful solution to the conflict in Palestine, I was surprised to find some scholarly work that focused on exactly this issue. For our purposes here, it’s enough to say his book investigated the parallels between the Irish/English, Palestinian/Israeli and the South African/Anti-Apartheid situations.

    Much of the difficulty IMHO, and the author makes this clear in this analysis also, is that the power of the occupier is such that they control the way the world sees the issues framed, and of course it is in their interest to make sure that from the perspective of someone ‘outside‘ the conflict, everything appears to based in ‘mindless hatred’ and ‘centuries old tribal warfare’ or ‘deep religious divisions’.

    The occupied are not only fighting the occupiers, but also the collective mis-understanding of the whole world, that insists it ‘knows‘ that the ‘problem‘ cannot be fixed because the ‘bad guys’, (read IRA, PLO, or ANC) are irrational players who refuse to ‘get with the program‘ ‘be reasonable’ or ‘civilized‘ or what ever false reason is being foisted on the consumers of the co-opted press who after all have no real stake in the conflict itself but none the less feel very strongly that they ‘know what is going on’.

    What they inevitably think they know, is that the occupied and their leadership are irrational people with unrealistic demands, and it’s obviously impossible to ‘make them happy’. The other side of the false narrative is that the occupiers are civilized people with reasonable expectations who face extermination if they are not allowed to deal in a pragmatic manner with the imminent threat.

    It’s become clear after the fact, that allowing the Irish Catholics to share power in Northern Ireland has not resulted in mass emigration of Protestants, and the political inclusion of black Africans in South Africa has not resulted in the extermination of white South Africans, and so I believe that at some distant time, Palestinians and Israelis will probably live together in peace.

    This will not come about because the world decides it’s important to understand the truth about the roots of the conflict before voicing strong opinions. The co-opted press will continue to spread dis-information right up until the peace-treaty papers are signed, and the killing ends. At that point, all the folks who right now firmly believe that there is no way to make peace with the Palestinians will suddenly be greatly surprised, and will forever after deny that their collective ignorance had anything to do with the fact that peace took so long in coming.

    When peace finally comes to the Middle East, all the dopes in the world will think it’s because the Palestinians suddenly decided to be reasonable.

  19. Tom W Harris

    BTW, there ain’t no such thing as Israeli apartheid. Take it from one who knows:

    Kenneth Meshoe, South African Member of Parliament from 1994 to 2013, President of the African Christian Democratic Party since 1994, Reverend of the 3000 strong Hope and Glory Tabernacle, and a former teacher who was brought to Canada by StandWithUS to speak about apartheid.”

  20. Tom


    Honor killings. Genital mutilations. Routine subordination of womens’ human rights. Endless internecine warfare against other Muslims.

    All of these are actually banned by the Quran. Even ISIS prosecuted honor killings as murders, passed Fatwas against female genital mutilation, and enforced womens’ economic rights.

    The Quran mandated that women should be taught to read, to have a definite share of inheritance, be allowed to testify in court, and banned female infanticide. Pre-Islamic Arabia didn’t educate women, didn’t allow them to inherit, didn’t let them testify in court, and practiced female infanticide.

    Islam greatly improved the status of Women in the Middle East when it launched its conquests. That Muslim nations have degenerated is not the fault of Islam, but the failure of those nations’ leadership.

    As for WW2, the majority of Muslims sided with the Allies. Also Jews fought with the Axis Powers, even waging an active insurgency in Palestine while Rommel was pushing into Egypt. Jewish collaborators with the Axis Powers knew full well what was going on in those camps, and collaborated anyway, even helping the Nazis to select who would die in the camps and who would be spared and shipped to join their insurgency.

    Overall, the failures of the modern world aren’t the fault of religion or idealogy per-se, they are the failures of the World’s leaders in-ability to be realistic and adapt.

  21. different clue

    @nihil obstet,

    My understanding is that the North African and Middle Eastern Jews are of pre-Arab descent, often having lived in the areas they lived in for a thousand years or more before the Arab-Islamic invasion and conquest. So looking brown to a white-identified viewer might make them less racist.
    But bad memories of dhimitude under the Arabs might leave them with bad memories. The manner of their leaving their countries in the 1950s and 1960s might also leave them with bad memories regarding their Arab “friends and neighbors”. So hoping for less racism from them might be reasonable, but hoping for less anti-Arabism from them might be a vain hope, especially if their anti-Arabism is like the various anti-whateverisms of the Balkan peoples.


    I suspect most of the Muslims who sided with the Allies were from India, Africa, etc. I remember reading of quite a bit of pro-Axis siding and sympathy on the part of Syrians, Iraqis, etc. Not North Africans though, or at least not very much.

    How many Jews fought on the Axis side? How many Jews fought on the Allies side? Has anyone thought to compare the brute numbers to see what is how significant?

  22. realitychecker

    The propaganda is strong on this thread lol. Nothing bad happens in Muslim world, only Jews are the problem./s

    Sure, Israelis can be assholes, but they are surrounded by much worse. Much worse. Expecting them to be angelic is just ridiculous, and only easy to advocate from a distance.

    Anybody seen what’s happening in Europe these days?

    Everybody’s got their own tastes and preferences, I guess. I like mine, and they are mostly about being left alone. 🙂

  23. Fascinating.

  24. Donald

    Israel is not much better than its neighbors. They stole the land and run an apartheid state. I am old enough to remember how some Westerners claimed apartheid South Africa was much better than its neighbors. It wasn’t. It helped fuel at least one of the civil wars there ( Angola).

    The Syrian War is much bloodier than the Israeli Palestinian conflict. But the Syrian War has been fueled in large part by the US and its close buddy Saudi Arabia

    That is why the war has dragged on so long. If in some parallel universe the US or some other superpower had been funneling enough weapons to Hamas so they could inflict 100,000 deaths on the IDF, how do you think Israel would react? There wouldn’t be anything in Gaza but rubble. And any Palestinian in the WB or Israel itself who expressed the slightest sympathy for Hamas would be in jail.

  25. steeleweed

    The two-state solution was dead in the water from Day One. And by now Israel has invested so much and taken over so much – land, water, Arabic villages and farms – there’s no going back. Israel has very little to do these days with Judaism – it’s all about Zionism, which has been racist from the beginning. Many Jews, in Israel and abroad, recognize this but are condemned as ‘self-hating Jews’ and accused of anti-Semitism. Netanyanu and the Right don’t give a damn about the Holocaust – they just use it to justify their barbaric rule.

    Read Miko Peled sometime – and talk to Israelis who aren’t brainwashed.

    @realitychecker – re homosexuality:
    A famous Afghan lovesong says “There’s a boy across the river with a bottom like a peach”. And if you read the literature from Arabic countries, you’d realize
    homosexuality is rife. Islam ‘officially’ condemns it, just as does Evangelical Christianity. So what?

  26. Hugh

    South Africans do not own apartheid. Just as Israel does not own genocide. These are forms of victim exceptionalism. The Palestinians are disenfranchised. Their resources are expropriated. The West Bank has been carved up into a series of bantustans that look like gerrymandered Congressional districts. Gaza resembles more and more the Warsaw ghetto. Many Palestinians live as stateless exiles, but no, we are not supposed to draw any inconvenient historical parallels because apartheid©

    So when Israelis run a fascist, racist state, wink, wink, they’re just being assholes. Double standard, much?

  27. Hugh

    On an entirely different subject, the BLS report on real wages is out for April. It shows that real (inflation adjusted) average hourly wages for the lower 82% of workers were identical to April a year ago, while average weekly wages for this group increased $1.07 over the same period. So much for wages heating up.

  28. realitychecker

    @ Hugh

    Comparing is a dangerous game, when there are pros and cons on both sides.

    I always like to ask the question, “What would I (we) do if placed in the same situation as Israel is, and was from it’s inception?

    It’s also worth dwelling for a few moments on the idea of change over time, and how that bears on one’s views about the permanent ownership of territory.

    I know the uselessness of being an Israel defender on a left-oriented blog, so I’m not trying to persuade anybody, just to remind that, like all other stories, there is more than one side to this story.

    Certainty should not be purchased at the expense of accuracy, IMO.

  29. realitychecker

    @ Tom

    You seem to be in denial about a lot of actual events and practices.

    I can’t fix it all for you, but I will just try to fix one little thing. Go and read about the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in the WWII era.

  30. Donald


    Of course there are two sides to the I- P conflict. It is extremely rare to find a situation where one side is pure good and the other pure evil. Or anyway, pure good is rare. If one side is completely innocent, it is probably because it is some group with no power whatsoever facing a group which is pure evil.

    Anyway, on the I- P conflict, at least some of us have read a fair number of books and know the skeletons in the Palestinian closet. It would be impossible to be an American who follows the subject at all and not know about suicide bombing. Going further back, I know about the pogroms in the 1920’s, for example. I wish there had been Palestinian leaders who had been willing to work with those Zionists like Judah Magnes who genuinely wanted to live in equality with Palestinians. I know about the Mufti. Yes, he was a nasty sort, but that era was one where a great many people and groups either lined up with Stalin or Hitler or with their colonial oppressors or against them. Yeah, I wish every Palestinian had been a saint and had accepted Jewish refugees and temporarily sided with the Brits against Hitler. I wish the Allies had not bombed civilian populations and that some American lefties had not been fans of Stalin, that Churchill had not been such a racist and that Jews who had seen what racism leads to had more sympathy for the Palestinians that they drove from their homes.

    But the fact remains that Israel is a settler colonial state and its history is similar to the history of other similar states, with atrocities committed in both sides and the end result being a form of apartheid. I wish Americans had been clear and honest about this from the start, instead of accepting an Israeli framework where Palestinians were at best an embarrassing obstacle and where you had to denounce as antisemitic anyone who said Palestinians have a right to live in their own homeland.

  31. Willy

    If I was Israel I’d get a sugar daddy like the US to help fund health care and gun control systems lefties would be proud of, and an Arab-enraging military and police force righties would be proud of. Let the poor little US taxpayers duke it out amongst themselves over all the little ironies.

  32. different clue

    Well . . . wouldn’t you know it … Someone must have read my comment about the photo of Mustapha Kemal dropping out of the ” Yahoo Ian Welsh Images” search collection, so they put it right back in there. In the second row.

  33. different clue

    Unless . . . the digisphere has digital robots reading every blog’s every thread, including these ones . . . and if a famous name is mentioned in a comment here, it goes into the ” Ian Welsh Images” search collection. If I mention the name ” Moe Howard”, will the image of Moe Howard show up there? If this comment is deemed worthy of publishing for experimental purposes, we will soon know.

  34. Tom


    I suggest you check your facts.

    The majority of Palestinians joined the Allies and fought the Axis.

    The majority of Iraqis fought the pro-Axis Coup and helped put it down.

    The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem had little following outside that city and when he went to Europe and tried to raise Muslim Troops for the Nazis, most didn’t know who he was.

    Also the Germans were exterminating large numbers of Muslim Prisoners of War taken in the Soviet Union, which made Muslims very reluctant to join them.

    I also should point out European Muslims were active in hiding Jews from the Nazis unlike Christian Poles, who new research shows, turned in 500,000 Jews to the Nazis.

    We can go ad-infinitium on who was more evil. Or we can acknowledge no one has clean hands.

    Not even FDR has clean hands on the Holocaust given he knew what was going on and refuse to allow Jews to escape America and even fired on refugee ships trying to bring them America.

  35. Tom

    Forgot to add 2 to for: to America.

  36. wendy davis

    fortunately the hegemon’s media don’t own alternative media…yet, but they’re closing in it, closing websites and twitter accounts galore of those who dare to tell the truth in so many directions. jonathan cook writes from nazareth. yes, this is about palestinans’ march for return.

    but if one looks at the idf spox on those murdered today in gaza, (43), it’s a different story altogether. so defend israel as ye may; there IS no moral equivalence.

  37. wendy davis

    this as trump is being beatified at the opening of the US embassy in jerusalem;

    read the glory accorded T as a demi-god in the subtweets (click the tweet to stand alone).

    and of course it’s not all israelis who support the likuud government nor what bibi’s doing, including the largely figurehead (he says) president of israel.

  38. Hugh

    A lot of blood today on the hands of Donald, Jared, Ivanka, as well as Bibi and Israelis.

  39. realitychecker

    @ Hugh

    One cannot help but wonder, Hugh, whether you perceive any blood on the hands of the Hamas masters who organized and urged mass demonstrations that threatened to breach the border fence that separates the raging mob from Israeli civilians?

    The selective purification and the strictly binary mode of moral judgment favored by the left in so many different circumstances make one wonder about the reasoning ability of the left. As well as its good faith.

  40. Ché Pasa

    Some things have struck me about the actions of the IDF against the Palestinian protests near the Gaza border fence:

    1) it’s what the Nazis did when the inmates got too close to the inner fence of the concentration camps;

    2) the killings appear to be a form of human sacrifice. The killings intensify as celebratory acts — celebrations of the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, celebrations of Israel’s 70th birthday, etc. They’re not entirely random; the selected victims are “special” in some way: particularly bold individuals, media documentarians, youths, survivors of previous actions, and so forth. 

    3) referring to the protesters as “rioters” and “terrorists” reinforces the conception of Gaza as a prison camp. Gazans are “perfectly free” of Israel, right? No, they’re imprisoned, free only to submit, concede and prostrate themselves before their masters — die.

    4) the US and many other “enlightened” nations (and some not so) are fully complicit.

  41. Ché Pasa

    “…before their masters or die.”

  42. Willy

    I’d think that this situation would be a good analog for what could happen if some of us violently revolted against the PTB in our own country.

    Corrupt and dysfunctional fundamentalist organizations claiming revolutionary leadership… The PTB drawing on other financial resources, even foreign, but ghetto life for the poor losers… Kids with nothing to hope for throwing rocks at big tech firepower… The smiling beautiful wealthy being completely oblivious to all the fuss…

    Woohoo. Lets all go have a revolution.

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