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Dec 23, 2023Liked by Yassine Meskhout

>The calls for an Israeli ceasefire are directly implicated by this question. I’ve repeatedly asked and desperately searched for any suggestions for how Israel should conduct its war differently, and it’s near-impossible to get a straight answer because so many ceasefire advocates outright reject the premise that Israel has any justifiable objectives whatsoever.

I've had variants on this argument several times in the past few weeks. People will confidently state that Israel is being too aggressive in its retaliation to October 7th. I'll ask them, what should Israel do instead? "I don't know, but not this." My mother says "I'm not a pacifist, I know you have to respond with force sometimes, but this is too much." I ask her, what should Israel do instead? "I don't know, but not this." My brother explicitly told me that Israel's military action in Gaza is genocidal, which just strikes me as absurd.

I get the distinct impression that anything Israel does is seen as intrinsically wrong. They drop bombs on Gaza with the goal of killing Hamas operatives, which has the inevitable byproduct of killing civilians as collateral damage. People cluck their tongues and say that they should have gone after Hamas operatives in surgical strikes rather than killing civilians. Mind you, every time Israel has assassinated a known Hamas operative in the last 20-30 years, westerners were outraged.

The security checkpoints also came up in a debate with my mum. She told me how my grandad visited Israel in the early 2000s and described being appalled by how humiliating the checkpoints and physical searches were for the Palestinians. I pointed out that Palestine were already using child suicide bombers, and doesn't that factor into the risk calculus at all? No, apparently not for whatever reason.

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"I don't know, but not this." is the modal response

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Dec 24, 2023Liked by Yassine Meskhout

For people making extreme claims that Israel is engaging in genocide, I would flip it - if Israel was really trying to maximize death and destruction among the Gazan civilians, is this how they would go about it? Wait for a massive Hamas atrocity, then tell all the civilians to evacuate before engaging in strikes with precision weapons? Israel is not Syria, they are not double-tapping barrel bombs out of helicopters here.

The only honest answer is that Israel, while maybe not doing literally everything possible to prevent civilian casualties, is not particularly going out of their way to cause them either.

In other words, “avoid civilian casualties” is on their list of goals - it’s just below “protect Israeli civilians, destroy Hamas’ materiel and personnel, and protect IDF soldiers”, in that order. Which is a very logical ordering of priorities for a state engaged in a military conflict.

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Just ask them if instead of firing bombing Dresden (or Frankfurt, Berlin etc) and killing 25,000 civilians in one night they believe we should negotiated with Hitler or done something “different”?

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Jan 2Liked by Yassine Meskhout

A lot of people are against the bombing of Dresden - the president of Genocide Watch considers it a war crime, for example. It was controversial at the time too. Churchill famously described it as an act of "terror and wanton destruction". Some members of the British military disagreed and Churchill later framed his disagreement with the damage to infrastructure making the future occupation of Germany more difficult, rather than as sympathy for Germans.

The counterargument is not that we should have negotiated with Hitler or bombed Dresden differently. It's that some bombings did not contribute to winning the war and simply shouldn't have been done unless there was a well-proven strategic reason to do so. Similarly, some of the criticism of the Israeli bombings are about their efficacy in eliminating Hamas or other stated Israeli goals.

Personally, I'm surprised that you (and some politicians) have found comparisons to Dresdren to be pro-Israel, because of the decades of controversy about the bombing. Like many, I read Slaughterhouse-Five as a teenager, was affected by the descriptions of the bloodshed and find it a baffling thing to reach for in an extenuatory way.

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I agree. It's really not a comparison that should elicit sympathy. It's useful as a thought exercise to draw out potential distinctions between the scenarios (as you have demonstrated), and useful insofar as it showcases some people's unwillingness to engage with hypotheticals.

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Jan 3·edited Jan 3Liked by Yassine Meskhout

While I could imagine a good faith discussion of Allied bombing policies and how it relates to the current war, I wouldn't expect it with a stranger online. I read his comment as evoking the Nazis as a way to end a conversation.

Ironically, I usually associate this tactic of "oh, so violence isn't justified against Nazis" with pro-Palestine people. I've often heard Gaza described as a concentration camp and Hamas itself has described October 7th as another Warsaw Uprising. I've never really taken these comparisons as a serious invitation to discuss Polish resistance movements but thought they were just a succinct way to cynically set up a transitive argument of Israelis=Nazis=Evil, therefore Israelis=Evil. Similarly, I read his initial comment as just mentioning the first WWII bombing he could think of in order to set up Palestinians = Nazis, rather than inviting a deep discussion about someone like Curtis LeMay, how he would treat Gaza and if it would be justified.

It reminds me of another SSC article (https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/04/ethnic-tension-and-meaningless-arguments/) I'm sorry for bring that blog up so much, but I associate you with the Motte. I think the dynamic he describes is what explains the anger at the posters and is more charitable than assuming some sort of pestering gnat strategy.

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SSC Links are always welcome here, and that essay is especially apt (on multiple dimensions). I agree that these types of comparisons are most often deployed to incite an emotive transitive property.

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Pick any of the bombings in WWII if that makes you feel better. Should we not have bombed at all and negotiated with Hitler, as people want Israel to do today? Or should we have forced Germany into unconditional surrender as we did? If the former then Hitler would have remained in power. If the latter then people should stop demanding Israel cease fire.

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Jan 3·edited Jan 3Liked by Yassine Meskhout

Your continued insistence that there was only a choice between:

1. Not changing any aspect of Allied policy,

2. Allowing Hitler to remain in power

does not make it seem like we have much to talk about. Your initial example of Dresden has often been singled out as completely unrelated to German surrender, including in the post you're replying to. I'd understand if you think that the description is unwarranted, but you don't seem interested in the concept of an unnecessary bombing at all. Your blithe suggestion that people just pick whatever bombing is appropriate also does not give me high hopes that you're very interested in any response.

To repeat, the thing with Dresden (according to the harshest critics) is that it did nothing to force Hitler into unconditional surrender. It served no military purpose and did not shorten the war, it merely killed Germans. It could have been collective punishment for Nazi war crimes or maybe it was to prove a point to the advancing Soviets about British military strength. Or maybe it was just military-industrial complex justifying itself If this is an apt parallel to current Israeli strategy regarding Gaza, then I'd be against it.

A more nuanced justification for the bombing of Dresden came from a British general who justified the mass casualties with "I do not personally regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British Grenadier." This calculus - that British lives are worth thousands of German lives - was also criticized, especially if the bombings didn't actually save any British lives.

I think the second is more descriptive of the Israeli outlook. I believe that they could adjust their strategy to greatly decrease Palestinian suffering while still accomplishing their stated goals of dismantling Hamas, but (similar to the British general) place little to no value on the lives of enemy civilians. I don't support that.

(I also realize that I don't have any skin in the game and that if I had family in the IDF maybe I would consider all Palestinians to be worth less than a single Israeli soldier. But if I adopt the framework that all enemy civilian casualties are justified if it possibly reduces personal risk, I'd probably feel differently about a lot of things.)

Finally the strongest argument for the bombing of Dresden is that it was necessary to end the war. If that's applicable to the war in Gaza, and every bombed hospital is a step towards Peace in the Middle East, then I guess I don't see any reason to have any complaints.

Edit: To be more specific about possible changes, consider that some IDF units are being told to to open fire on any adult man that comes close to them. While in some ways this could reduce risk to the IDF soldiers, I'd advocate for a higher bar for killing people. This policy was revealed during the investigation into the accidental shooting of hostages by IDF soldiers, so it's possible that it doesn't even save Israeli lives.

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This is a great response, I appreciate your input.

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I brought up that example with my brother. I was trying to quantify at what point military action in an urban centre becomes "genocidal", and if what's happening in Gaza qualifies, surely the firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo does as well. My brother accused me of changing the subject.

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His accusation is accurate, but not in the way he intended. You're being a buzzkill by changing the subject away from "Let's figure out why Israel is bad" to "Let's figure out why anyone in a comparable scenario is bad"

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“Kill civilians and destroy their cities to eliminate their will to support the war” was an explicit, open goal of strategic bombing of world war 2. Yea their bombs were less precise, but that’s not the only reason so many more civilians died.

You’re absolutely right - the contrast between what Israel is currently doing and what an actual genocidal bombing campaign would look like is pretty clear.

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Dec 23, 2023Liked by Yassine Meskhout

I find it somewhat telling when people (correctly) point out that Israel is an ethnostate, while eliding the fact that Palastine is *also* an ethnostate. They're both ethnostates! This is a fundamentally ethno-religious dispute about which historical group of similar people is the "rightful owner" of the land, and both factions have very similar motivations.

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Upon reflection, aren't most non-Western nations in fact ethnostates? Japan, Korea, China, and volumes could be written on even just recent ethnic issues in Africa about who controls where.

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Yes. I'd say most countries around the world can be fairly described as ethnostates because even where they lack explicit legal provisions, their homogenous population demographics fulfills the same function. If you expand the definition slightly you can even include Western nations/provinces like Belgium and Quebec where political parties are explicitly structured around ethnic or linguistic identity.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnocracy

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Mar 29Liked by Yassine Meskhout

I think that “ethnostate” generally refers to a state where citizenship is restricted to a particular ethnic group like Liberia and not a state with an ethnic character or with ethnic preferences for citizenship.

For whatever it’s worth Israel has lots of affirmative action for Arabs. It’s de jure affirmative action for people from poor neighborhoods, but de facto AA for Arabs, an Israeli friend tells me in practice it’s not really about poor Jewish neighborhoods. There was even a scandal once where Ben-Gurion University tried to waive requirements for Arabs to increase their numbers.

For sufficiently liberal definitions of ethno state you could even say that the Us is a black ethno state due to affirmative action in government contracting and institutionalized pro-black discrimination of the kind Hanania et al talk about.

At some point I had the thought that since Israel made special attempts to vax more skeptical Arab citizens, as a Christian Arab someone like Hanania would certainly have been vaxxed in Israel earlier than in America (Israelis vaxxed first), where as a “white” person he’d be later on the list for monoclonal antibodies. In which country would he have more civil rights? It depends on how you look at it.

I don’t really disagree with anything you’re writing, if you define “ethnostate” to be a country that has an explicit or implicit ethnic character, then most countries including Israel are ethnostates. The US would not be; there’s institutionalized affirmative action but not in our immigration policy.

But the whole idea that liberals are against racial or ethnic preferences of any sort is ridiculous. They don’t want to abolish affirmative action either in Israel or in the US.

Anyway good piece and I agree with everything you write, except for the fact that I wouldn’t consider Israel an ethnostate and I wouldn’t consider most countries ethnostates. For me an ethnostate is a country like Liberia that bans some ethnicities from being citizens. But again this is a purely semantic disagreement.

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Can someone articulate how Western nations like Spain, Italy, Norway, etc are not ethnostates? Or even more places like Albania, Greece, Poland, Latvia... 19th century nationalism, and Wilson's culmination of it with the 14 points, was explicitly about creating ethnostates (or, nation-states as we learned it in school): political entities with relatively culturally homogeneous populations, common language, etc.

I'd argue that new world countries like America, Canada, and maybe Argentina, Brazil, etc are wildly exceptional (historically) in having explicitly open multiculturalism within a unified polity. Other multicultural states have been explicitly imperial, like Austria-Hungary. The question of what/who constituted the nation that is (or ought to be) associated with the state in places like France and Germany helped motivate events like the Franco-Prussian War, WW1, the Holocaust, etc. It took massive post-WW2 ethnic cleansing to get Europe's borders to (mostly) match ethnicity, and 21st century mass immigration to shake that up again.

For better or worse, the world today is basically made of ethnostates. I've just never understood how ethnostate is a bad thing, when it is the model for nearly everywhere on the planet. Or if it *is* a bad thing, why only Israel gets criticized for it.

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I believe we're all human and equal. In my ideal world, anyone should be allowed to live anywhere. And yet I kind of like ethnostates. (Does this make me a terrible person?) I love that Mexico is full of Mexicans and lots of folks speak French in Quebec. I don't want things to get so mixed up that places lose their special ethnic character, often the essence of what makes them special. At the same time, I'm conflicted as I understand how this view can slide into abominable intolerance.

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That's part of the issue. The term is a descriptively accurate term that is also a slur not used against other countries for whom the description is accurate. I don't like the euphemistic treadmill at all, but I also think it's naive to assume the term is used without trying to associate its target with unforgivable evil.

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I agree with you completely. I didn't clarify, but what I meant was, it's apparently chill to pick and choose which ethnostates are problematic. It's fine to sneer at a Jewish ethnostate for being one, but I can't recall ever hearing criticism of, say, South Korea because of its ethnic makeup. I also get annoyed when the Discourse fails to keep at the forefront the reason why a Jewish ethnostate would be necessary in the first place.

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This is fair criticism but the proper response shouldn't be to deny the label but to instead provide the context you do.

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To be fair, Israel was a uniquely “constructed” ethnostate, in that it was explicitly set up as a place for all the worlds’ Jews to migrate to (a place already occupied by another ethnicity), as opposed to other ethnic nation building which was more like “hey let’s all of us similar people already living in this place act as a united polity”.

Also Israel did its nation building in 1948 instead of 1848 (when it was all the rage in Europe) and the West considers this somewhat of a faux pas.

Also antisemitism.

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These are all more than fair points, although some Jewish people are ethnically indigenous to the region as well.

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Yes, a lot of the immigration into Israel was from Jews living elsewhere in the Middle East (to various degrees, they could be described as victims of ethnic cleansing themselves).

I think a lot of the people pattern matching “Zionists” to white Europeans ignore or are ignorant of this, so it’s a good point to bring up.

Still, I think it’s fair to say Zionism was an “external” movement in a way that a lot of other ethnonationalism has not been.

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Right. Every time I bring up Germany to someone slinging ‘ethnostate’ to slur Israel they throw a fit. Germany gave automatic citizenship to millions of ethnic Germans expelled from and persecuted in the Soviet Bloc post WW2 (Volga Germans). Those citizenship laws only got repealed in the early 2000s when they found that most remaining ethnic German claims to be weak (didn’t speak any German or have other cultural ties), basically they already absorbed all ethnic Germans into Germany. When the “but, but, but” starts I point to pro Hamas violence around the world as proof that the rational for Zionism is very much alive, that antisemitism makes Israel, still, a refuge to prevent persecuted Jews from becoming stateless.

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Especially when it’s a term being pushed by Freddie DeBoer, who I think secretly hates Israel and probably feels less than lukewarm about Jews.

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Mar 24Liked by Yassine Meskhout

I personally perceive a very large difference between nations that actively promote the dominance of their dominant ethnicity (e.g., preferencing immigration of people sharing that ethnicity over those who do not, giving more rights or better welfare to people with that ethnicity, etc.) and those that have a dominant ethnicity only due to historical factors.

I wouldn't quite say that a nation either is or is not an ethnostate, but that it is a spectrum, and any given nation might become less or more ethnostatey over time. And yes, some European countries definitely do qualify as being at relatively ethnostatey (e.g., those that offer citizenship on the basis of ancestry), and I do think they deserve criticism for those policies.

However, I am not prepared to call it an ethnostate if a country that has a homogeneous population due to, say, historical isolation or due to a poor economy that makes it an unattractive destination to immigrants. That really feels like a misuse of the term.

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I agree. Like in many other areas, debating whether the label should be affixed is far less important than describing the conditions directly.

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Not only that, but “Palestinian” seems to be itself an “ethnicity” largely constructed in opposition to Zionist nationality. Before that they were just Arabs.

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Isn’t it more accurate to call Israel a religious state? Anyone of any ethnicity that converts to Judaism has the right to live there. And then there are various Jewish ethnicities like Ashkenazi, Sephardic, etc.

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The Islamic Republic of Iran has a religious supreme leader. Israel is a democracy with no such overlord, and a very large portion of the population is secular. Nobody requires Israelis to live a religious life or appear religious in public like in Iran and Afghanistan. It’s not a religious state.

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This is an interesting question, because normally when you hear "religious state" you think of a theocracy, which Israel certainly isn't.

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Or how about the older nomenclature of ‘nation-state’? Recognising that most states are dominated by one particular nation/ethic group and large multi-ethnic liberal democracies like the United States and Australia are outliers is comparative politics 101.

‘Nations’ are also the most fundamental large-scale political unit that emerge from the family-clan-tribe-nation sequence and have been for as long as humans have had the social and cognitive capacity to form complex social organisations.

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“ Israel meanwhile, as a country explicitly founded as a refuge for Jews from across the world, would be unwilling to absorb the voter demographic shock.”

I don’t think this (maintaining Israel as an ethnostate) is the only concern of Israelis. Absorbing the current Palestinians wouldn’t be merely converting Israel from an explicitly Jewish state to a modern multiethnic democracy, it would, in all likelihood, be consigning Israel to being an Islamic authoritarian state. I think you could get a lot of Israelis on board with being France. Being Iran, not so much.

Hamas quite notably took the “one man, one vote, one time” approach after the Gazan election, going to war against the losing Fatah party and not holding another election since. Israelis would be crazy to ignore the risk of exactly that happening again if the current, highly radicalized Palestinians were just straight up given a vote for the Knesset.

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Dec 23, 2023Liked by Yassine Meskhout

Haven’t finished this yet, but that alternate wording “Palestine is Arab” reminded me of one of my favorite sayings, that the past is a different country. You don’t live there anymore.

But for this sort of situation I might go further: the past is Austria-Hungary or the Confederate States of America. No one lives there anymore.

There’s a bit in the cheesy but glorious Ridley Scott film Kingdom of Heaven, where Orlando Bloom’s character addresses the defenders of Jerusalem, saying that no one now living had been born when Jerusalem fell to the Crusaders, that the besieged had not been alive to give offense to the besiegers, who had not been alive to be offended, and who all might never have given a thought to even older peoples they had displaced, such as the Jews or Aramaic Christians. He concludes, naturally for Scott, with the classic 2005 normie liberal sentiment that no one and everyone has claim to the city and the Holy Land, which is true up to a point but not at all helpful.

Of course, with modern medicine, the precise statement about the living and the dead is not true in the present. But the sheer inability to live in reality that I perceive from both the Palestinians (though this may be changing as Israeli resolve shows no sign of weakening) and their dilettantish Western defenders is not only infuriating to me personally but probably their greatest vulnerability going forward.

We all must live in reality. There can, in the long run anyway, be no exceptions.

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Dec 22, 2023Liked by Yassine Meskhout

At this point the only path forward with any chance of success imo is if the US, EU, and surrounding Arab nations jointly decide to demilitarize and administer a temporary Palestinian state long enough to deradicalize the populace, akin to the occupation of Japan and Germany in the post WW2 period.

Of course, this would never happen and there’s no political will to do it, but boy would it be nice if we could

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I would agree, but it would be aspirational. The British Empire retreated from the area in 1946 because they got fed up with being the targets of violence from both the Zionists and Arabs. If those hard-nosed colonial overseers couldn't stomach the situation then, it's difficult to see who could today when the fanaticism seems to have only gotten worse.

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British control was in part romantically-inspired zeal for the Holy Land, but mostly strategically driven by the need to keep the Suez Canal open as a trade route to India. It wasn't profitable in itself, especially with the constant fighting and political tension. Indian independence and the poverty of Britain after World War 2 made the withdrawal decision easy, since there was no further strategic value in controlling Palestine.

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Agree that is the only way it would work but “temporary” would be decades and as you postulate no one has the appetite for that. In lieu of that one side needs to be the clear victor and the other side needs to surrender unconditionally. Anything less and we’ll be having this discussion again within 5 years.

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No one other than Iran and China has patience for decades long plans. And this would take decades of controlling education.

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Dec 23, 2023·edited Dec 23, 2023

India and Pakistan are in great part on "stolen land" from the exact same era. Nobody's trying to return all those refugees. Sometimes wounds are raw because you've been enabled by your terrible friends to pick at your wounds non-stop.

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There's both no choice, and, the only option bears with it a very high degree of difficulty and many possible points of failure. The more martial-plan like the results, the better. How to negotiate the power of the forces who are tasked with enforcing it, and all the other aspects of a regime like that that's accountable to seriously go about its mission? Hope all the stakeholders can continuously re-impress themselves that their interests are very much in making things go as well as possible and putting in the effort and seriousness needed.

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It’s interesting that you bring up both Freddie deBoer, which I assume you like for his critique of Wokism, and Inverse Florida. By the excellent definition of Inverse Florida, Freddie is exactly that type of leftist who should be read with a lot of suspicion on the topic of Israel. The man tweeted and published endless denials of a Hamas atrocity, blathered about there being no proof, threw a giant fit about how he’s closing comments in 2024 because of people daring to remind him about Hamas killing babies and raping girls and women, and in general steered debate again and again from the problematic existence of Hamas to his “evils of Israel”:

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I don't know what you're referring to. DeBoer has not tweeted in several years, and his post from Oct 16 explicitly denounced Hamas and its actions:

"Hamas is a theocratic body, and I am opposed to theocracy, and whatever your perspective on political violence, they have harmed the interests of Gazans and all Palestinians. They killed innocent people, which I can’t ever countenance, and by the way they’re contributing to terrible outcomes for their own side in doing so. The attack made greater Palestine more violent and less free. I don’t need to denounce the attack because it comes pre-denounced by my moral values."

https://freddiedeboer.substack.com/p/goliaths-will-to-be-david

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Dec 23, 2023·edited Dec 23, 2023Liked by Yassine Meskhout

Sorry, I had to pick up bagels from the farmer's market, like the dirty Jew that I am, so pardon the delay.

In this charming comment from December 9, FdB stated: "No 40 beheaded babies, whoops. No babies in ovens, whoops. No evidence for the claims of widespread sexual assault, whoops. Great job guys. This is why we're going no comments in 2024."

So like I stated above, FdB is exactly that type of Leftist who denies, or minimizes, or distracts from Hamas, so he can keep ranting about "Israel Bad" while acting as if the existence and actions of Hamas aren't the prime mover of these events, the collapse of the two-state peace process, and the misery of the Palestinians, especially in Hamastan Gaza. He behaves in the way Inverse Florida wrote, and it's not just this comment, it's many such comments, and trolling Jewish writers.

Other than this point, let me state again that I appreciate your writing on the topic, and in general I love your substack.

https://open.substack.com/pub/freddiedeboer/p/i-assure-you-i-am-permitted-to-oppose?utm_campaign=comment-list-share-cta&utm_medium=web&comments=true&commentId=45090826

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What I respect about deBoer is his willingness among leftists to plainly articulate principles rather than offering commentary on an ad hoc basis. An example is in the piece you linked directly, it's logically consistent to be against Israel for being an ethnostate if you are also against all other ethnostates. As long as it's applied consistently (and it almost never is) that's an anti-Zionist position I can respect.

I admit that comment and others by him in that thread count as Hamas denials (unless the terse nature of the comments elides some other meaning). I would be willing to write him off as an apologist, except those comments contradict what he's written about in his posts. I don't know what to make of his reaction.

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Dec 24, 2023·edited Dec 24, 2023

I think the problem is that FdB’s critiques of Israel, and Hamas denialism, are clearly *not* coming from a place of logic and rationalism. He’s doing *exactly* the “pestering gnat” thing you write about here.

Any rationalism he has on the topic is inch deep, a facade he can only maintain in his longer form writing, which is why he refuses to engage with even good faith pro Israel commentary, instead basically blowing up and closing comments in a huff.

FdB is what finally convinced me of a position I thought was way too cynical - much of the current pro-Palestinian sentiment on the Western left is a Cold War era hangover. There’s no rational reason for a Marxist/socialist to support Islamic authoritarians against liberal, even socialist Jews (the main target of Hamas on Oct. 7 was a bunch of collective farms!!!), but the Soviets were allied with the Arabs and America was allied with Israel. So all the good tankies and fellow travelers (FdB apparently included) lined up against Israel 50 years ago and have been post hoc rationalizing that ever since.

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I’m not telling you what to think. Obviously I had previously subscribed to his writing because I appreciated his writing too, but that’s also why I was offended by his behavior since October 7th. Hamas apologia has permanently turned me off to quite a few intellectuals.

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I did not interpret your comment as you telling me what to think.

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"An example is in the piece you linked directly, it's logically consistent to be against Israel for being an ethnostate if you are also against all other ethnostates."

There's a difference between opposing nation-states as the paradigm of global order, and opposing the existence of specific nation-states within that paradigm. DeBoer doesn't actually argue that destroying Israel's Jewish identity will do anything to further his goal of dismantling the nation-state paradigm (to the contrary he explicitly resigns himself to it when discussing Irish unification), at which point his argument becomes akin to claiming that because I dislike the designated hitter rule, my proposal to take the DH away from the Yankees (and only the Yankees) can't possibly come from a place of anti-New York sentiment. It's pure sophistry.

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It struck me as something of an isolated demand for rigour (https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/08/14/beware-isolated-demands-for-rigor/).

If Freddie says he's against nation-states on general principle, I believe him. If he says he's against nation-states on general principle, but is pragmatic enough to recognise that you can't just abolish every nation-state in one fell swoop, I believe him. But it sure is weird that he's been writing and getting things published for well over a decade, and (to my knowledge) the only specific nation-state whose existence he's ever questioned was Israel.

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He was also an ass about Ukraine.

I’d consider the possibility that his Marxism makes him an anti-Western campist in the inherited tradition for Cold War campism on the left which was either pro-soviet (old left) or anti-western and never anti-anti-western (new left, 60s and on). A more pungent Chomsky basically. Lots of that type, including among anti-woke leftists. Check out stupidpol subreddit if you truly have nothing better to do for more examples.

Being in that camp does make you susceptible to antisemitism or at least antisemitic-like exceptionalism, conspiracism, and demonizing thinking about Israel. Old Soviet antizionist propaganda patterns - which were more clearly antisemitic if you studied them - are very common in modern antizionist thinking. Izabella Tabarovsky is worth a look on this stuff.

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I thought that the general consensus now is that there wasn't 40 beheaded babies or at least no documentation of it? Pretty normie sources like the Washington Post, Politifact and Business Insider regularly call the reports "unverified" or "unsubstantiated".

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/11/22/biden-yet-again-says-hamas-beheaded-babies-has-new-evidence-emerged/

https://www.politifact.com/article/2023/nov/21/israel-hamas-war-what-we-know-about-beheaded-babie/

https://www.businessinsider.com/biden-pictures-terrorists-beheading-children-white-house-2023-10

I wouldn't conflate skepticism of these claims with excusing Hamas. As the articles point out, the well-documented atrocities are more than enough to condemn the organization. Some skepticism of unverified reports from a war zone is healthy and shouldn't be considered inappropriate in any context or excusing any behavior that did happen.

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I agree that skepticism is warranted, but claiming "no 40 beheaded babies" is not the same as claiming "no evidence of 40 beheaded babies". I'm willing to grant him *some* allowance since he's writing a comment instead of an essay, but he's normally extremely precise with his words.

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https://www.astralcodexten.com/p/the-phrase-no-evidence-is-a-red-flag

Sure, I've always liked this SSC article.

I think that I'm a little more open to using "no proof that ___ happened" and "____ didn't happen" while talking about current events than the context of that SSC article. I've also found that skepticism of reports has made me more sympathetic to Israel overall, rather than less, since some stories tend to quote Palestinian casualty numbers from questionable sources. After all, I'm comfortable saying that October 7th wasn't an inside job, while precision would demand simply saying that "there are unproven claims that October 7th was orchestrated by Netanyahu to maintain power".

(only tangentially related, but I thought that was the framing of this Onion article:

https://www.theonion.com/netanyahu-i-don-t-know-about-you-but-the-timing-of-t-1850915770

Really disappointing satire that shows a desperate attempt to map Israeli politics onto American ones)

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> After all, I'm comfortable saying that October 7th wasn't an inside job, while precision would demand simply saying that "there are unproven claims that October 7th was orchestrated by Netanyahu to maintain power".

I see your point and concede this is fair pushback to my hair splitting.

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Jan 1Liked by Yassine Meskhout

I wanted to also post this excellent rejoinder to that FdB article. https://open.substack.com/pub/lorenzofromoz/p/marxism-is-a-dreadful-framing

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Freddie doubled down on anti-zionism because his values are against ethno states. No mention of WHY Jews need an ethno state, which is kind of important.

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Germany is an ethnostate, and had valid reasons to be one after WW2, with the mass expulsion of ethnic Germans from all around Eastern Europe. I don't remember a single anti-ethnostatist (if that's a word) saying a thing about Germany, but Israel, OMG, the worst country in the universe!

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What country in that region isn’t an ethno state? Or most of the non western world for that matter?

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Thank you for pointing this out.

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I have never understood the complaint about ethnostates. Basically all of Europe is composed of ethnostates to one degree or the other, and almost all conflicts WITHIN Europe derive from different ethnicities fighting over resources. In the UK the Scots, Welsh and English bicker politically with the numerically powerful English almost always winning. France has some smaller ethnic communities but its basically a large ethnostate (with a Muslim minority which causes friction). Spain is also an ethnostate, but has many minorities, and each of them complains loudly about their rights, most notably the Catalan people around Barcelona.

Nobody cares that these places are ethnostates, why should I care that Israel is one? I'd argue all of its neighbors are ethnostates too; non-ethnostates are the exception, not the rule.

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Similarly, nobody brings up Estonia and the legal state of its Russian minority, the fact that Hungary has a Romanian minority but doesn’t have Romanian as a legal language and Romania has a Hungarian minority and Hungarian is not a legal language there, while in Israel Hebrew and Arabic are both legal languages. The “I oppose Israel for being an ethnostate” I hear every so often is a canard. They oppose Israel because it’s a Jewish state, and that’s it.

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I would not make sweeping claims, but overall I’ve never been impressed with most of the arguments against Israel as a country

Now; Israeli actions in the war? Plenty to not like there

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Dec 23, 2023Liked by Yassine Meskhout

A fun overview of some of the historical gods of the area, and how they have come and gone, can be found in James Michener's novel "The Source." (If you're unfamiliar with Michener he writes historical fiction that attempts to go from the very beginning to the time he's writing it.) It also has the curious perspective of being published in 1965, meaning it was written in the atmosphere that eventually gave birth to the short-lived legal equality of 1966-67. The book closes with some "this place is really going to be something once the Israel/Arab relationship settles down" stuff that is hilariously grim in retrospect.

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Dec 24, 2023·edited Dec 24, 2023

Re "this place is really going to be something once the Israel/Arab relationship settles down": A lot of (not-utopian-idiot) people still think this is true, like, when it actually happens, whenever the hell that will be.

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given advances in desalination and big ideas like the Qattara Depression Project I wouldn't go so far as to say it's never going to be something, but I admit my imagination lacks the strength to see the path from here to there

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I'd love to be wrong, but it's difficult to see any real resolution to this conflict without either (1) world opinion and especially Middle East/Muslim opinion on Israel and Jews changing dramatically and unexpectedly or (2) Israel achieving such a total, crushing victory over Hamas that it establishes a kind of deterrence that even its fanatical enemies recognize for a long time to come. The fact is that the international community has consistently prevented this decades long conflict from being decisively resolved time and time again, to the detriment of everyone involved.

At the end of the day, the scenario people don't want to talk about is that unless those living in Gaza and the West Bank are permanently relocated to neighboring Arab countries, there will never be peace.

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This is an Arab-Israeli news anchor expressing her solidarity with this fight:

https://www.instagram.com/tv/C1QQETKAN2a/?igsh=azd0ZGl5MjI5d2J2

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I also read something today (not sure how true it is) that the Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia and UAE asked Abbas to step down and elect a governing body for the PA that would be approved by them. Would that piss of Iran too much? 🤷‍♀️

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I don't know if it makes sense to respond this much time after the post appeared, but I just read it now. I would like to point out that your description of the tragic case of the 13 year old Iman Darweesh is the version of events of the prosecution. The officer in question was acquitted precisely because the court rejected this version of the events! The commander in question was vindicated again in a civil defamation trial, so this is not just a matter of military (in)justice.

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As far as I can piece together, the officer was acquitted because he claimed he only fired at the ground (meaning at Iman's body) in response to being shot from militants 300 yards away. That explanation makes no sense to me. Cops in the US have been "cleared" on similarly inane and generous grounds so I don't place any weight on the tribunal's acquittal. I acknowledge the officer was successful in a subsequent defamation lawsuit, but I don't know enough about Israeli defamation law or the details of the case for that to sway me.

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What’s an example of a US cop being cleared on inane grounds?

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There are so many examples. The killing of Philando Castile stands out to me, especially because the cop claimed that the odor of marijuana near Castile's car was evidence that Castile didn't care about the wellbeing of a child passenger, which meant he was likely to be dangerous. The officer said: "I thought, I was gonna die, and I thought if he's, if he has the, the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the five-year-old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front seat passenger doing the same thing, then what, what care does he give about me?"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killing_of_Philando_Castile#Yanez_statements

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You appear to have more experience than me on such matters (meaning how courts work) and I don't have much more information than you on the specific case, so I won't argue. I do wish to point out there is no comparison between soldiers guarding a post in an active combat zone and a cop acting in a civilian environment. Soldiers are routinely subject to elaborate ruses designed to get their guard down and have them killed. For this reason they are trained to act quickly and make veru few assumptions when confronted with anything out of the ordinary. The amount of judgement you can expect of them is very little.

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Not having read much of either of your posts -- though they're bookmarked for later perusal -- but having read about many of the points you've raised yourself, one might reasonably tender a relevant quote -- from Wikipedia 😉🙂:

"Kill them all. Let Gawd sort them out" -- or variations thereof. More particularly, the Latin & less pithy translation:

"Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.

Kill them. The Lord knows those that are his own."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caedite_eos._Novit_enim_Dominus_qui_sunt_eius.

Pretty much the same sentiment as Shakespeare's "a pox on both their houses".

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