HonestReporting gets a juicy quote from The Dish … and just repeats it politely

I didn’t write about this yesterday, because it was a strange post that required two separate commentaries, with (1) the Dish’s deficient critique of a bad Op-Ed by a settler and (2) The Dish’s radical musings about the possible necessity of U.S./NATO troops in handling Israeli settlers or maybe Israel itself. I hadn’t figured out yet what I wanted to say.

Sullivan’s funky quote was being linked to everywhere, accompanied by different amounts of bile. HonestReporting, the anti-anti-Israel press watchdog/gadfly, even noted it. Their post:

Andrew Sullivan Said What?

Reacting to Karni Eldad, Andrew Sullivan suggests Western military intervention against Israeli settlements:

Increasingly, it seems to me, NATO or US troops will have to intervene on the border to enforce a separation and an end to these settlements for good and all.

They didn’t even include the sentence right before — “Any Israeli government beholden to these people will be incapable of making peace on its own” — which is the part of Andrew’s quote that makes it seem like he might mean the State of Israel will have to be addressed by NATO or U.S. troops.

Andrew might be disappointed that HonestReporting just left him hanging in the wind with his quote instead of calling him names or making any implications he might have predicted (antisemite, anti-Israel, etc.) about his character. They seemed to want to leave open the possibility that he had a brain fart.

(BTW, if any group is pro-AIPAC and sympathetic to neocon views on the Middle East, it’s HonestReporting. The neocons continue to fail Sullivan.)

My own comment on this issue is that Sullivan did indeed have a brain fart. It was an embarrassing one, and he’s not going to want to defend himself on it, not even after his Atlantic colleague Jeffrey Goldberg noted that it is quite a peculiar, militaristic statement. Rather Sullivan will continue along like it didn’t happen. Not a big deal, he’d say. Don’t overreact to one statement, right?

I think if a pundit like William Kristol made such an surprising remark about engaging a new country with our military, Andrew would want the whole blogosphere to demand a response or a public shaming. Although Kristol is a pundit read by McCain and many other republicans, Andrew is a pundit read, for good and for ill, by our President.

Andrew may be in favor of moving tenacious settlers out with the IDF, but I don’t think he’s really in favor of moving any settlers out with NATO because of alleged Israeli intransigence. That would probably mean our military getting into conflict with Israel’s over the bodily safety of maybe 100,000 of their citizens. (And Israel would probably stop supplying the U.S.’s now superior vehicle armor … The only benefit of that might be the production of “The Hurt Locker 2”, but sequels rarely live up to the originals).

As for the rest of his post on Karmi Eldar’s op-ed on the settlement freeze, I’ll start by naming some problems in Eldar’s piece:

(a) This is not a question of ignoring citizens’ democratic say over their government’s decisions. Israel did not “elect a right-wing government.” They elected a center government and the right-wing government was able to form a coalition, one that is beholden to stay closer to the center than it would like.

(b) It is not “apartheid” to have primarily Jewish-occupied and primarily Arab-occupied areas of land. It takes a bit more than reinforcing ethnic polities to signify apartheid. Otherwise every Middle Eastern country, among many others in the world, would be an apartheid. Look at the Kurds in Syria or the Arabs in Iran for people experiencing something closer to apartheid.

(c) She didn’t mention the Palestinians, so we can’t tell if she means that preventing “natural growth” unfairly undermines Jews’ rights to develop a normal life, in territory that is contiguous with pre-’67 Israel and distinct from Arab population enclaves, ’67 until now, or in territory that will disrupt the autonomy of a future Palestinian state. If she means the latter, her not mentioning the Palestinians signifies something closer to what Andrew Sullivan assumes and is way more than a faux pas.

Regarding The Dish’s disbelief that

the settler is analogizing the seizure of other people’s land, slow expulsion of much of the population, erection of massive walls to contain and police them … as the equivalent of the fight against Jim Crow

see (b) above; Kardi hasn’t mentioned such things as being required to fulfill her rights.

I know the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem is a problem for The Dish. When it was announced that building of housing units would go ahead there, The Dish also referred to “taking other people’s land,” even though nothing of the sort was happening or would happen there. A news story on Abbas’ unserious attempts to engage Olmert’s peace offer even showed the PA negotiators claimed no interest in Gilo.

The Dish hasn’t kept to a universal standard of not supporting a policy that is unfairly invasive on other people’s ability to pursue a normal life. Most Palestinians know they are not going to be moved. They are worried about losing houseless land that could form a potential state and that could allow them to visit friends and family without military complications. Israeli settlers across the hazy ’48 Armistice Line (i.e., the Green line) do not have that particular sense of security, for all the burdens they do not share with the Palestinians.

Settlers could be moved from their homes at the discretion of the government, even if they are nowhere near Arab towns, and the fear of that increases when they hear stentorian calls about places like Gilo, from foreign pundits like Andrew Sullivan. I’m sure the prospect of being forced to move by the government for no other reason than accommodating someone else’s “religious and tribal fundamentalism” (in AS’s phrase) feels not so great. Eldar’s is passing along the perception of her fellow settlers that no matter what they do, the government could come in with riot gear and an order for them to leave their homes, as happened in the Jim Crown South and in South Africa — and to some Palestinian communities who tried to return to Israel after the 1948 War.

If I can adapt a high-horse passage in Sullivan’s post, we end up with the core of something sensible in Eldar’s hopelessly out-of-touch Op-Ed:

What I notice in this [post on the Dish] is no reference at all to the [Jewish settlers who live in areas next to Israel developed away from Arab population enclaves]  and their claims and their rights. To these [foreign pundits and their governments], [all settlers are blut-und-botten fanatics, as bad as jihadists, and] are non-persons; they do not exist in their narrative so they are utterly invisible. There is no one to compromise with — just land promised by [foreign diplomatic] diktat, against which there is no appeal.

Spoken in the voice of a person who would actually be affected by the movements of power, it sounds humbler than the passage on The Dish.

And speaking of “foreign diplomatic diktat” … When Netanyahu goes a different way than Obama on current settlement policy, we could paraphrase it as Andrew did, “Go fuck yourself,” I guess. But whenever any other ally who gets financial aid has gone on a different path from us in a big way (examples, Turkey with Iraq, Pakistan with almost everything, Palestinians with their side of the peace process, etc.), The Dish didn’t identify a brazen insult from their leaders to our President as pure as “Go fuck yourself.” Clearly, he should not attend a dinner with this Netanyahu guy.

Besides a grievous insult to our President, Andrew calls Nentanyahu’s approval of 692 housing units in some Jewish neighborhoods of what is officially designated East Jerusalem, more “ethnic social engineering in East Jerusalem.” Jeffrey Goldberg says that everyone (Palestinians included) know that these areas will go to Israel, and Sullivan doesn’t mention what he thinks of the 500 housing units Israel approved in the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, communities that have been desperate to build for their own natural growth. This building for both Jews and Arabs seems more like “ethnic social maintenance work,” putting aside whether it’s detrimental to the peace process.

According to Sullivan’s arguments, how would this building in Arab neighborhoods not be a bad on Israel and Netanyahu, and a “GFY” to Obama? I hope The Dish wouldn’t simply add to its previous line of argument that, “social engineering” aside, it’s self-evidently just to build for  Palestinian Arabs in any land ( — regardless of where it is relative to Israel and Palestinian communities, who’s been living on it, whether anyone lived on it before, and who developed it — ) which the Palestinian Authority hasn’t publicly surrendered claim to.


Someone must have wanted a “Von Hoffman award”

Yesterday, I pointed out The Dish’s incredible prediction, or assumption, that the Iranian regime couldn’t continue to blame America for the Ashura protests, as we are now in an Obama presidency. AS wrote:

It’s all an MKO terrorist plot! From Press TV:

A source with the Iranian Intelligence Ministry has announced the arrest of a number of Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) terrorists in anti-government protests that occurred in central Tehran.

But they couldn’t blame the Great Satan. Not as long as the neocons are out of power.

That was the news yesterday according to the neocon-centric universe of The Daily Dish. In contrast, the lead story on PressTV’s website today is “Ahmadinejad says protests, ‘US, Israeli scenario’ ” :

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday said that the US and Israel were behind the anti-government protests on Ashura.
Describing the deadly events on Ashura as a “nauseating play,” President Ahmadinejad said “Americans and Zionists are the sole audience of a play they have commissioned and sold out.”

“The Iranian nation has seen many such events,” President Ahmadinejad was quoted by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) as saying.

I would have thought this position was easily predictable by anyone who’s read anything about contemporary Iran.

Sorry, this is not “Orwellian language” … D- on your paper. Next vocabulary lesson: “ressentiment”

“Orwellian language” refers to using a word that connotes more socially acceptable ideas as a euphemism for something monstrous. It can refer to a radical inversion of concepts, such as “War is peace.” But one thing “Orwellian language” does not refer to is leaving something out of discussion and not wanting people to hear about it. (Would anyone say that The Dish has never been guilty of that?) A fulminating post today on The Dish:

One failed bomb attempt on a plane and one of Cheney’s flunkies is already banging the drums to bring back torture. He uses Orwellian language, of course, the kind we became used to under Cheney’s criminal regime:

Instead of looking for ways to release these dangerous men, we should be capturing and interrogating more of them for information on planned attacks. But that is something the U.S. no longer does. President Obama has shut down the CIA interrogation program that helped stop a series of planned attacks — and in the year since he took office, not one high-value terrorist has been interrogated by the CIA.

My italics. […]

What he is really saying is that we are not hooding them, freezing them to near death, waterboarding them, hanging them from shackles to create excruciating pain, exploiting phobias, stripping them of clothes, beating them and hounding them with dogs.

That’s putting words in Thiessen’s mouth. Thiessen might be saying a tad less than that. I have no doubt that I disagree with Thiessen on what constitutes torture, but I wasn’t aware that made him in favor of hooding, freezing, waterboarding, hanging from shackles,  etc.

Sullivan’s post is called “Thiessen: Bring Back Torture.” What The Dish flagrantly neglects is that most of the people who are in favor of morally wrong interrogation routines are not of the belief that those routines represent “torture.” To get them to change their minds, it doesn’t help to do what Andrew does and unleash one’s ressentiment by comparing them to the worst torturers throughout history. Andrew has only discussed Nietzsche’s idea of ressentiment in the context of American torture and the insecurity of hostile Republicans. Yes, these are good examples of ressentiment but Andrew, who has a first-class intellect, has totally missed the central point about ressentiment in Nietzsche’s work!

A while back — when I was starting to get disenchanted with a growing portion of content on The Dish — I commented under a League of Ordinary Gentlemen post on Sullivan:

When Nietzsche wrote about torturing convicts [in On The Genealogy of Morals], he saw it as a symptom of the torturers’ resentment, but he also saw the same instinct of resentment at work in religious moralism, the sadistic desire of a clergyman to torture the conscience of peoples with the idea that they are reprehensible creatures, unless they follow his creed. Andrew has that unhealthy instinct.

The Dish loads invective and condemnations on people who disagree with Sullivan about interrogations, and this involves accusing them of supporting tortures they are not in favor of and accusing them of torture as a cardinal sin, torture in toto, evoking the guilt of every torture imaginable (and imaginable by those clerics of different faiths who extensively theorized/rhapsodized about tortures in hell).

And to find an example of this psychology of not-sublimated-enough cruelty, we don’t have to look farther than the end of Sullivan’s post:

[…] beating them and hounding them with dogs. This is what Thiessen and his comrades yearn to get back to: the tools of torturers. One overwhelming reason to hope that Obama manages to keep terror attacks at bay – by luck or design – is that the neo-fascist wing of the GOP is chomping at the bit to get their hands on the machinery of cruelty once again.

Well, something about this post does evoke the idea of “chomping at the bit” … But I digress. How would almost any Republican — note that I said almost — in disagreement with Andrew Sullivan react to this. He might say, “That’s ridiculous, I’m not in favor of putting violent dogs in people’s faces or stripping people nude. I’m certainly not in favor of igniting lighter fluid in people’s belly buttons like in that Stephen King book. It’s clearer than ever to me that what I’m in favor of is not torture or even like it.” It’s not like Sullivan is persuading people to a more moral judgment. In some cases he is merely helping them confirm their old judgment even as he would protest that he is only fighting for The Good in this life.

What has Andrew accomplished with this kind of discourse other than rallying up the anger (and probably, the ressentiment) of the choir and elevating his own sense of spiritual worth? Not so much, I think. From a religious standpoint, isn’t that seen as some kind of sin too and somehow unhealthy for the world?

Rosenthal’s vs. Oren’s conduct

The Dish tries to bypass the bulk of Jeffrey Goldberg’s slam yesterday — including Goldberg’s major point that Sullivan consistently refuses to acknowledge the mainstream of the American Jewish polity and Goldberg’s salient remark:  “It seems lately that ‘neocon’ has become Andrew Sullivan’s term for any Jew who disagrees [about Israel] with… Andrew Sullivan.”  Instead, Sullivan wants to handle this sliver:


The real question is: Why is an American diplomat criticizing a foreign ambassador for his choice of speaking engagements in America?

Because she is allowed to answer questions in a press interview

Sure, she’s allowed. Should she have answered a question about antisemitism with a long discourse about how the United States has exterminated Native Americans and marginalized the survivors and how this compares to Europe’s treatment of Jews and Israelis? I mean, she would be allowed … but keeping topics that don’t belong in your job’s focus out of official interviews is considered a measure of competence and good judgment for our government officials.

Don’t Americans who care about antisemitism not spreading, Jews and non-Jews alike, deserve the same standards of conduct for the anti-antisemitism envoy as for their other officials?

and because the ambassador [Oren] should stay out of domestic American politics and not join in a campaign to torpedo a rival to AIPAC. The way in which Oren acted as a faction leader in American Jewish politics, rather than as a neutral representative of his country, open to all people of good will toward Israel,

Um… this is not “domestic American politics.” The American political groups in this case are lobbying groups for a foreign power, Israel, the country Oren is representing. It was entirely professional for him to talk about it.

And Oren’s point was that the conference was plainly attended by many self-professed anti-Zionists, not “all people of good will toward Israel.”

Of course, Sullivan uses the phrase, “open to all people” … It is true that a lot of pro-Labour and pro-Kadima people could have paid the fees and swarmed the J-Street conference to drown out the people there who were against the existence of Israel. They could have handed out literature about the revolting views of some keynote speakers such as Salam al-Marayati. Yes, Oren could have gone, hoping this would have happened — it didn’t.

was obnoxious and undiplomatic. And his position is of far more importance than Rosenthal’s.

I don’t know whether Oren’s utterances were “obnoxious” ( — although I know they did not involve a Mork from Ork impression). As to whether they were more “undiplomatic” than Rosenthal’s … Oren wasn’t talking about an emissary of the United States, or any representative of a foreign country. Rosenthal was.

Rosenthal wasn’t talking about a pro-Obama lobbying group in Israel and its view on world antisemitism. Israeli Ambassador Oren was talking about a “pro-Israel” lobbying group in America. On the face of it, Oren was being less “undiplomatic,” in the professional sense of the word, than Rosenthal in their respective positions.

I’m not going to get into whether Oren’s position is “of far more importance” than an official whose job is anti-antisemitism. It’s a weird comparison. But Sullivan might mean that Oren’s diplomatic professionalism is more important than Rosenthal’s by virtue of their positions. The thing is, Andrew Sullivan has wanted to be an American citizen for a long time now — prevented by unjust laws that have recently been repealed — so Rosenthal’s professional conduct should be the important one for him on that count.

Taking government scalps … shouldn’t incompetence be a non-ideological issue?

The Dish is calling for Janet Napolitano’s resignation today because of her initial emphasis on Homeland Security’s procedures after the Nigerian student was apprehended, as opposed to the debacle that allowed him into the United States and on a plane.

Competence is a clear issue for him, despite what neoconservatives will make out of the call for resignation. But when it comes to Hannah Rosenthal or Charles Freeman, Sullivan sidelines the discussion of competence. In another post, called “The Neocons next scalp: Rosenthal,” Sullivan writes

The Pro-Israel Lobby, having purged Chaz [Charles — are Sullivan and him buddies?] Freeman, and helped neuter Obama’s attempt to stop more West Bank settlements, are now out for fresh violators of the party line in the Obama administration.

To begin with, Sullivan is using the phrase the “Pro-Israel Lobby” as a much larger, more abstract thing, as opposed to actual lobbies, like AIPAC, or the right-wing ZOA. This is more like Walt-Mersheimer’s usual vocabulary than The Dish’s. What if Sullivan had just written “pro-Israel figures”?

In fact, if you search on AIPAC’s website, there is nothing about Hannah Rosenthal’s controversial interview of Ha’aretz. Instead, there is an article there about Iran’s violent repression of political demonstrations, which The Dish was complaining has not been the news interests of conservatives at all.

No statements from AIPAC on Google’s news search either. (Rosenthal is actually a member of AIPAC.) And the ZOA’s website has no statement on Rosenthal’s interview with Ha’aretz either. So although some Jewish interest groups have offered their criticism of Rosenthal’s remarks as representative of the mainstream Jewish-American opinion, both the most powerful and the most conservative pro-Israel lobbies have said nothing.

( When Sullivan says the amorphous “pro-Israel lobby […] helped neuter Obama’s attempt to stop more West Bank settlements,” I guess I can agree since “helped” can mean a lot. But Sullivan ignores the report The Dish linked to which said that Hillary Clinton had made her first remarks way too expansive and accidentally set the bar on the first round of settlement restriction more high than Obama was intending. Obama couldn’t back down — and neither could Abbas, without seeming to want settlements gone less than Obama. It appears that Obama’s policy was “neutered” down from ballsiness he hadn’t intended. )

But back to Rosenthal, Freeman and competence. During the debate around Charles Freeman’s appointment, Sullivan made absolutely no remark about questions about the man’s past judgments. Having linked to Reason’s Matt Welch during the Freeman debate, Sullivan referred only to Welch’s objections of Freeman’s views on China. He didn’t touch Welch’s focus on Freeman’s generally questionable judgment. For example, this goes more to the thrust of Welch’s posts than what Sullivan alluded to in them:

I just don’t fancy the kind of mind that, when asked in 2003 to name factors in the deterioriation of U.S.-Saudi relations, pinpoints as reason numero uno “changes in U.S. visa policy and entry procedures. Who, in the same interview, says this:

I should also say I’ve been very impressed by the extent to which Saudi Arabia, in the wake of 9/11, has engaged in introspection and taken on some tough problems that it had avoided addressing for many decades.

Sullivan did not quote or allude to any of Welch’s list of opinions that represented bad judgment on behalf of Freeman. He did not link to Martin Kramer’s list of spectacularly bad predictions by Freeman, which Welch had linked to, nor did Sullivan allude to any of Freeman’s bad predictions by mentioning them directly or by linking to them somewhere besides Kramer’s blog.

Not once, did Sullivan ever address, by way of direct mention or links to other posts, the issue of whether Charles Freeman had demonstrated incompetence in thinking about a number of regional theaters … not hostility toward Israel, but simple incompetence.

Freeman seemed to many to be fickle and not a useful contrarian intellectual spirit, but only a pseudocontrarian when it helped inflate his own ego. What responsible American would want anyone like this (a Charles Freeman, or a Scott Ritter) at a high-level intelligence position, regardless of whether the official was neoconservative or paleoconservative or internationalist or isolationist? But Sullivan didn’t seem to mind an appointment of a pseudocontrarian as long as he/she were anti-William-Kristol no matter which way he changed their mind.

As Jeffrey Goldberg retorts to Sullivan today (Goldberg’s post I will get to soon),

I wish that Andrew wouldn’t try to preclude debate over her qualifications for what could be an important job by bringing up a charge [antisemitism] no credible person has made.

Just like with Freeman, The Dish evaded the discussion of competence/qualification and instead doubled down, following up with more posts repeating the same position in different rhetorical variations. It wasn’t the model discussion to show your friends The Dish can be a great example of nonpartisan critical thinking; it was a model of callous animus.

“antisemite” is now meaningless, when spoken by people The Dish calls neoconservatives

The post on Jeffrey Goldberg’s blog right now that should be most important to Andrew Sullivan is a response to Sullivan’s cries about “neocons” looking to brandish Rosenthal’s “scalp” and his seeming to align Jeffrey Goldberg’s criticisms of Rosenthal with the neoconservative line. Sullivan chooses to cowardly bypass Goldberg’s direct response and critique of The Dish, by highlighting a different post on Goldberg’s blog, more specifically one line from a Goldblog reader:

Now Jeffrey Goldberg Is An Anti-Semite!

Or, at least, according to one of his readers, moving ” towards the gutbucket swampland of blood libels” because he dares to criticize some settlers who are “a more or less normal group of people who are living in the land of their forefathers.”

Actually, Goldberg’s reader was not accusing him of being an antisemite, just contending that he was falling back on a good-people-vs-bad-settlers argument that seemed to map on to other people’s blood libels. (And the reader doesn’t allude to an impulse of “self-hate” at all.)

Furthermore, Sullivan is misrepresenting this reader, who did not base his argument on “the land of their forefathers” but rather on the demographic and colonial problem the settlers bring upon the Israeli state:

You completely misrepresent the situation – and move towards the gutbucket swampland of blood libels – when you claim that Israelis have lost patience with the settler movement because it’s murderous. That’s simply not true. Many Israelis are fed up with the settlers because of the demographic problem, the pressure of international opinion, and the moral problems that arise from ruling over another people. And judging from the results of the last election, many more Israelis believe that giving up the West Bank means missles over Ben-Gurion Airport.

So the reader’s argument is in fact based on a different way of criticizing the Israeli’s settlers, having to do with the dangerous potential of Israel’s settlement policy. Sullivan agrees with those ramifications. Yet his eyes don’t let him see his area of agreement with the reader but rather a degree of disagreement that somehow signifies “the neocons” for him. Sullivan continues:

The neoconservative use of the anti-Semite card is so ubiquitous and so vile and so cheap it has become meaningless.

Q: Where is the elaborate political ideology in the Goldblog reader’s email that exposes him as a neoconservative? A: Nowhere … err, except in Andrew head.

So the take-home implication of this post is, unfortunately: if you disagree with Andrew Sullivan about Israel, just one degree closer to Israel’s current settlement policy, he has the right to call you a neoconservative … and reject anything you see as antisemitism.

The Dish tries a pivot on the “Sanctions Question”

Here Sullivan seems readying to move toward a policy of sanctions against Iran:

The Green Movement has strongly resisted all sanctions against Iran,

Well, not every member of the Green movement. And of course the leaders will had to be publicly against any sanctions to protect themselves against accusations of aiding the enemy.

and even more passionately opposes any military strikes. If Israel strikes, it will effectively kill the Iranian opposition movement,

That’s a Maybe. The opposition definitely will lose much of the sense of its own power it has had in feeling its strength according to its own natural evolution. (BTW, what if Israel kills Ahmadinejad? Will that be as likely to kill the opposition movement as an attack on nuclear sites?)

and set off a global wave of Jihadism which will kill many American soldiers and civilians.

That’s quite a prediction, that Americans will be frequently/massively attacked in the United States or around the world for Israel’s actions. As for American soldiers, it’s a much more reliable prediction to assume an increase in attacks on those stationed in Iraq.

So how to respond to the Revolutionary Guards’ continuing and mounting brutality?

The obvious answer, aired by Spencer Ackerman here, is very targeted sanctions designed to hurt the pocket-books of the regime’s leadership, not its people. How one does this without appearing to hurt the very people we want to support is above my paygrade. But I’d be eager to air any specifics. What I do oppose is the “crippling” sanctions favored by Howard Berman and Hillary Clinton.

In fact, Sullivan has not previously aired this as an “obvious answer.” Quite the contrary, he has hedged his bets on “targeted sanctions” and until now posted no discussion about them that doesn’t undercut their effectiveness or the possibility of such sanctions not affecting the Iranian people.

What The Dish seems to be doing here is attempting a pivot and trying to get a foot a different side of the debate, rather than keep on ra-raing the Green Opposition (which comes with patting one’s own back for avoiding more active paths toward Iran that Sullivan associates with “the neocons” … their path being the one The Dish marched in over Iraq).