Oh, and, following Jim's formula, here's a YouTube. Leonard Cohen speaking his "Democracy".


"Zizek is a typical pinko-leftist who believes “that there is a genuine liberating potential in Islam.”

This re-inforces my own view that Zizek either does not know what he is talking about, or he does know but hopes others do not know much about Islamic rules and democratic liberality. I once wrote about it:

...if we take into consideration what we know about Islamic regulations concerning minorities, this observation that "historically [Muslin rulers] were definitely the most tolerant" makes some sense.

There was not an ongoing state of perpetual agitation and attrition of minorities and therefore violent confrontations and pogroms were relatively less common than in Christendom. Which led to a sense of harmony. But what kind of harmony and at what cost?

Minority members knew who they were, in relation to the dominant majority, that they were legally bound by a set of laws and rules which dictated to them every nuance of their obligations, conduct and rights relative to the Muslim owners of the land. When your own inferiority is inscribed into law, and when you know that any breach of it may entail painful judgments, and maybe death, you are not likely to walk with your head held high when you pass your Muslim neighbour in the street. Nor are you likely to pursue justice in court when your Muslim partner cheated you, since by law, your testimony counted for half the value of your adversary's. When a system is slated against you, legally, you adjust your ways and expectations and forgive a multitude of insults, slurs and crimes committed against you. It is an excellently efficient way to maintain the "tolerance" of a bellicose majority...


Whenever I read or listen to Zizek, I easily identify a few lubricated untruths hidden among his words when he makes an effort to support his positions with facts. He is never, ever challenged on these, either because the moderator doesn't know shit about the subject or because he or she simply doesn't give a hoot for truth. I have been intending to write a more substantive overview of Zizek's very fleeting familiarity with realities and records. I may yet do so, once I get out of my present mood, not unlike an overloaded computer.
Jenny said…
Hi there Bob, I found your blog via Louis Proyect. I have to say I disagree with you on a few things, namely on Desmond Tutu* and Israel**. However, you make some really good points on the Iranian protests,Cockburn and even Chomsky(He's quite redundant in his philosophy). However, I'd like to correct you and say that he didn't in fact praise Pol Pot and his regime as seen in an 86 article by none other than Hitchens: http://www.chomsky.info/onchomsky/1985----.htm
Read it and see what you think.

*despite the grevious use of Jewish lobby and the rather generalizing comment about the holocaust, he stands for a lot of good stuff.

** I too think the word Zionism is thrown around a lot namely in places like Jews Sans frontieres, but I think, much like Islam, this philosophy can be used in a negative manner and I think that's what the Israel government is doing in this case, Gaza blockage and all.
Zionism is not a philosophy. It was a national movement of Jewish self-determination and it fulfilled itself when statehood was granted and established.

In Hebrew,in Israel, to be a Zionist is to be patriotic, no more no less.

Israel's policies are meant to protect its Israeli citizens, Jews for the most part, from the relentless violence which is preached and perpetrated by its Arab neightbours. These policies are rooted in necessity, not any philosophy.

The Gaza blockade will remain until Gilad Schalit is restored to his family. His life and physical and mental integrity are no less valuable than Palestinian life.
bob said…
Thanks Noga and Jenny.

Lots to reply to! For now, can I be clear what I said about Chomsky and Pol Pot. In my post about Chomsky, I wrote of "his minimising away of Pol Pot’s genocide". http://brockley.blogspot.com/2005/11/whats-wrong-with-chomsky.html In an earlier post, I defended Chomsky against a young conservative attacker, and wrote: "Chomsky did not support Pol Pot, even though he relativised away his genocidal crimes." http://brockley.blogspot.com/2006/07/habermas-on-web-20chomsky-in-iranhardt.html And in an earlier post, I quoted another blogger talking of Noam "spend[ing] the past quarter century downplaying and minimizing the scale of the Khmer Rouge terror, most notably by comparing it, grotesquely, with French vigilanteism after the end of the Second World War - thus neatly equating the fate of the innocent victims of these horrific crimes with Nazi collaborators." http://brockley.blogspot.com/2007/09/genocidal-stalinism-in-cambodia.html

Actually, I've still got a couple of minutes more, so I'll do Desmond Tutu as well. I have a certain amount of respect for the man, and once saw him as a truly great figure, but his obsession about Israel increasingly disturbs me, and undermines the good things he has done.

On Israel in general, the topic is too big. I am certainly not a defender of everything it does. I am an opponent of many things it does, and a defender of others.

On Zizek: later!
About Desmond Tutu:

Jenny said…
Centerist: I understand your concern,but in this case the blockage of Gaza has denied Palestinans of medicine and other Aid. This and why must the government go after civillians when they simply dislike the government? Hamas rocket attacks were rather low compared to Israel's phosphorus bombs. That and Israel may be guilty of using human shield as seen here:http://www.counterpunch.org/cook09072006.html
I don't like hamas either,but I think it's really important they be involved in the peace process, they have proposed 1967 border treaties. I have nothing against Israelis, there have been many who have spoken out against the attrocities, but the government needs to realize their actions are bringing much more harm than good.
kellie said…
Thanks for the link Bob.

On Žižek:
I agree it's important to correct any distortions of history in his argument. And more widely, historical accounts which show the conflict between Jews and Arabs, and between Judaism and Islam, to be older than the Holocaust, older than Zionism, and geographically wider than the Levant, these fundamentally challenge widely held views of the Israel-Palestine conflict, which is good.

But correcting and elaborating the history still leaves open questions of the future, and of whether positive change can come from within Islam.

The piece you posted earlier criticising Žižek seemed to be attacking something he hadn't necessarily said. To point out that the problem with the Khomeni revolution was centrally Khomeni doesn't in itself contradict Žižek's argument that many of those involved at ground level may have had something better in mind. The Principia Dialectica article linked to above may be right that Z is a deluded idiot on the topic of a "liberating potential" in Islam, but the reference in his recent Iran article seems to me too brief to judge exactly what he has in mind.

The nightly chant of "God is great" would seem to give some support to Z, though there are at least two ways to interpret it, possibly as a genuine declaration that the regime does not hold a monopoly on the divine, but possibly also an appropriation of words that are untouchable by the laws of the regime, as lawless as they are. I expect both are true.

The recent Christopher Hitchens piece on interaction between clerics in Iran and in Iraq points also to wider possibilities, as do the words of Iraqi cleric and politician Iyad Jamal Al-Din. What I find interesting about him is that he argues for what can be described as liberal values from within a religious point of view, for example on the veil, arguing that "People are free to do as they wish, and I respect any free human being, and despise those who are not free. I despise a woman who wears the veil in order to get a job, or because of social pressure, or the pressure of the state […] I respect a woman who wears the veil even if she is in New York, and a woman who does not wear the veil even in Najaf – as long as it is done out of conviction and free choice. No religious commitment has any value if it is the result of duress."

To go beyond events of the present and speculate as to future possibilities, the ultimate point that one can reach in arguing from a religious point of view against religious dogma and repression is Tom Paine's argument for Deism. One can imagine that there are many degrees short of that where religiously based argument can be used to undermine theocracy.

I'm not religious, and I've some sympathy for the view that it would be better to just sweep all that rubbish away. But it's not necessarily a realistic or even positive approach. There was a little bundle of posts by TNC and Dave Kasten I linked to a while back on the interplay between religion and culture, and what I took away from them was the idea that the best path out of religion for a community or society was not a 'year zero' one of outright rejection, but a transformation of religion into culture, into folklore and tradition without the need for belief.

Belief, that's the part I have trouble with. While a lot that's problematic in Islamic cultures is cultural, and not part of core theology, it's reinforced by religious belief. Without belief the culture could become more easily negotiable, and more enriching.
kellie said…
Two anecdotes:
When my mother returned to religion, around the time she became terminally ill, she expressed that choice as something more to do with a need for closeness to her family than in a desire to believe in an afterlife.

And the second anecdote, when my daughter was only three or four I read her some original versions of Grimm's fairy tales, including the gruesome eye-plucking bits, and she very much enjoyed them. But she knew they were stories. They were fantastical, imaginative, stimulating, the very opposite of repressive. But when she was five and was told the crucifixion story in school, this was much more disturbing, because it was presented as reality.
What a surprise from clicheoid Jenny: the blockade is not justified because there were not more dead Jews as a result of the qassams. Had there been more dead Israeli kids, she wouldn't have minded so much the now mythical posphorous bombs.

FYI, medical aid is allowed in, as well as other humanitarian supplies. But the lies have not changed:

TNC said…
Bob, apologies for the long comment...

Jenny, you are misinformed when you write:

“[T]he blockage of Gaza has denied Palestinans of medicine and other Aid.”

Israel *has* allowed aid into Gaza. You can read about this in the Jerusalem Post and other Israeli newspapers, even Haaretz. Here is an article from 2007:


More here from the Minister of Foreign Affairs:

“During the Israeli operation in Gaza:
•37,159 tons of humanitarian aid on 1503 trucks were transferred via the Kerem Shalom and Karni crossings (food, medication and medical supplies)

•1,535,750 liters of heavy duty diesel for the Gaza power station

•234 tons of gas for domestic use

•3,896 tons of grain, on 98 trucks were transferred via the Karni conveyor belt

•20 ambulances were donated by the governments of Turkey and Jordan, and 10 ambulances transferred to the Gaza Strip by the ICRC in order to meet the needs of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society."

The Palestinians have been given millions (hundreds of millions) of dollars in aid by the West over the years, but where has it gone? It has lined the pockets of the PA and gone to the terrorists of Hamas.

When the Israelis pulled out of Gaza and left those nice greenhouses, what happened? They were looted.

These are facts, not Zionist propaganda, as people like Proyect and other loony leftists would have you believe.

Secondly, when you claim:

“Hamas rocket attacks were rather low compared to Israel's phosphorus bombs.”

Rather low? How many rockets were launched at Israel and how many times did Israel use phosphorous? An honest assessment will show that the ratio of one to the other is there were hundreds of times more rockets launched by Hamas and the other terrorist groups.

And what purpose did the phosphorous shells serve? Intentional targeting of civilians or as smoke shells? This is from the Washington Post:


“The investigation is close to conclusion, and based on the findings at this stage, it is already possible to conclude that the IDF's use of smoke shells was in accordance with international law," the IDF said. "These shells were used for specific operational needs only and in accord with international humanitarian law. The claim that smoke shells were used indiscriminately, or to threaten the civilian population, is baseless."

More here from JPost:


“Regarding the IDF's use of white phosphorus during the operation, which drew international condemnation and accusations that Israel was committing war crimes, a probe discovered that in all cases it was used in accordance with international law…

In addition, the IDF fired some 3,000 155 mm artillery shells - which looked like exploding octopuses in the air - that are not white-phosphorus weapons and are used exclusively to create smoke to screens troop movements…
The weapon was also not used against terrorists, but for marking and ranging when the forces targeted Kassam rocket cells operating in open areas.
The IDF said it knew of only one case when white phosphorus was used for its burning capacity. That incident also took place in an open field, to burn away shrubbery and uncover tunnel openings.”

As to which weapons were more lethal (the IDF’s or the terrorists), that is another matter. I don’t think the notion of proportionality means that for every one of you killed by the enemy, you are clear to kill one of them. That is lunacy and no way to win a war.

Lastly, Counterpunch is not a reliable source on anything related to Israel or the Jewish people. If you have any actual evidence to support your claims--not simply opinion from places like Counterpunch, but actual evidence from primary sources--I am interested in reading it.

Kellie, thanks for the link.

--The New Centrist (no relation to the Contentious Centrist)
Jenny said…
Leftist; Yes, but that was in 07, this is different, this is a good site on the barriers and blockades: http://www.btselem.org/English/index.asp

As for the fighting itself, here: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/report/impunity-war-crimes-gaza-southern-israel-recipe-further-civilian-suffering-20090702

and here: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/israeli-troops-reveal-gaza-abuses-20090401

Okay,disreguard what I said about casualties between Hamas and Israel,but you really think all this will lead to better relations?
TNC said…
I'm not a leftist, I'm a centrist. I left the left almost a decade ago.

There are loads of reliable sources showing how much aid flowed into Gaza during the conflict and after. Google "Israel aid to Gaza" and you will find a lot of data for 2009, including the report from the Minister of Foreign Affairs that I quoted above. I provided the 2007 article from Haaretz to show that aid has been flowing into Gaza since Israel pulled out.

I recently read the Israeli government is even letting in the aid that dingbat Cynthia McKinney and her fellow useful idiots tried to deliver to Gaza.

AI reports on Israel? I lost any remaining respect I had for that organization when they termed the facilities at Guantanamo "The American Gulag." To compare GITMO, where far less than a thousand were detained, to the Soviet Gulag where millions lost their lives shows a tremendous lack of judgment (it's like comparing the situation in Gaza to the Holocaust, something Counterpunch does on a regular basis). So, no, I do not take anything AI publishes seriously. They are totally irrelevant.

As far as better relations, better relations with who? Hamas and the people who voted for that vile organization? What's the point?

The Israeli government is intelligent enough to know in order to have peace, you need a partner who is willing to negotiate in good faith. Not saying one thing to the Western press ("we want peace") while saying something completely different to the Arab Press and the Palestinian people ("we will destroy Israel and the Jews").

Thankfully, most Israelis are sick of the propaganda pedaled by groups like B'Tselem who have told them for decades i.e. "Just give up more land and you will have peace." They saw what happened in Gaza and are dealing with the consequences.
Frank Partisan said…
I don't think Zionism is any better, or any worse, than any other nationalism. With the world in an interwined economy, national solutions are quaint.

A nation/state founded in the 1700s, has a better chance than any new nation. Capitalism had time to develop in places like the US, France and UK.

Zionism is out of date. The material basis of its support doesn't exist. Jews hold no unique role in modern capitalism.

The most important development would be socialist Egypt and Iran.
ModernityBlog said…

I always find it astonishing that politicos who would normally, almost by instinct, disbelieve what others say, are so taken in by Hamas.

Any cursory investigation of their attitudes would surely reveal that the *leadership* are ideologues, with an intense hatred of Jews.

If you are in any doubt, see the SKY interview last year, there's a link on my blog.

I shall leave you with the words of a Hamas leader:

"We cannot, we will not, and we will never recognize the enemy in any way, shape or form," Mahmoud Zahar, one of the two leaders, said in a mosque sermon broadcast on the Islamist movement's radio station."
ModernityBlog said…
ops, the link:

ModernityBlog said…
and finally

"“Abbas hates rockets just like we hate the Jews,” Nizar Rayyan told reporters during a Hamas rally in the Gaza Strip."

TNC said…
RE writes:

“I don't think Zionism is any better, or any worse, than any other nationalism.”

This is a similar perspective to the one presented in the link from Anarchy mag that Bob posted. Of course there are nationalisms that are “better” and “worse” than other nationalisms just as there are internationalist ideologies and movements that are “better” and “worse” from one another. To fail to see this displays a clear inability to see variety and nuance in political ideologies and movements, something that is common among radicals (whether left-wing or right-wing). It is similar to right-wingers who fail to see any difference between (left) liberalism, socialism and communism. They say “they are all the same. None is any better or any worse than the other.” Hogwash.

“Zionism is out of date. The material basis of its support doesn't exist. Jews hold no unique role in modern capitalism.”

Funny. Articulating a form of vulgar Marxism and claiming Zionism is “out of date”.
Jenny said…
Look, I wasn't trying to be argumentive, I was trying to present another side. I think certain blogs throw around Zionism far too much, but the Israeli government is currently using this philosophy to block aid and allowing settlements in Palestine.

There are Jewish people who are aware of this: http://antonyloewenstein.com/


ModernityBlog said…
Jenny, neither was I trying to be argumentative, but frankly it is rather lazy thinking to attack the Israeli government.

There is no novelty or radicalism involved in that at all, it has been done for decades. Attacking an Israeli government is common place and predictable.

Rather it might be better to ask questions, such as, who benefits from the continued conflict?

The Israelis? No
The Palestinians? no

Hamas? yes?

Neighbouring states that can use the conflict to stir up racism against Jews? yes...

Local Militia that get funding for rockets and arms? yes

and so on.

Asking questions *is* radical!
TNC said…
Jenny, I followed the link to Antony Loewenstein's blog. Not surprised to see he has penned articles for Counterpunch. I am surprised you did not mention Richard Silverstein (the idiot who created the misnamed Tikkun Olam blog), Finkelstein and Chomsky.

There have always been Jews willing to sell their people out. Sadly, there probably always will. It is part and parcel of our history and I don't see it stopping any time soon. Not when people on the left continually present the Palestinians as victims (and therefore worthy of solidarity) and Israelis as imperialists, occupiers and European settlers. I am heartened most Israelis have finally recognized the extent of this nonsense on the left, even if far lefty Jews continue to believe it.

For the record, I am being argumentive because people who parrot these sorts of things (Israel has blocked aid to Gaza) need to be argued with. I don't expect them to come around to my perspective on the situation between Israel and the Palestinians but at least people can see how empty their claims are. Aid to Gaza from Israel continued throughout the recent conflict and continued after, full stop.

Mod, perhaps my use of the word "radical" was not appropriate i.e. the failure to see nuance is common among radicals. Ideologues would probably have been a better word.
ModernityBlog said…

No intended criticism, I was jesting with Jenny.

I am frequently shocked how so many would-be "radicals" are in fact rather conservative in their outlook, and don't like asking too many questions of their own preconceived ideas.
kellie said…
Via the comments at Terry's, Sohrab of Iranian Freedom on Žižek.

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