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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Monday, September 24, 2012

Romney and the Palestinians

Mitt Romney couldn't have done a better job of showing his utter ignorance about the Palestinians if he had tried. On his recent visit to Israel he explained the economic disparity between Israel and the Palestinians territories by saying "culture makes all the difference." (Occupation? What occupation?) And in a follow-up, undoubtedly ghost-written article in National Review, "Culture Does Matter," he elaborated, "[W]hat exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture?"

 But then--incoherently--he added on Fox News, "I'm not speaking about, did not speak about, the Palestinian culture [!!!], or the decisions made in their economy. That's an interesting topic that deserves scholarly analysis, but I actually didn't address that [!!!]. I certainly don't plan to address that during my campaign. Instead, I will point out, the choices a society makes have a profound impact on the economy and the vitality of that society."

What about a society under occupation and oppression by a foreign power, where every aspect of life--including trade--is under the heel of the Israeli military? Where a fortified wall snakes through the victimized people's land, separating their homes from their farms and cutting their towns off from each other? As the Christian Science Monitor put it, "No mention from the would-be US president of the trade and mobility restrictions that Israel maintains over the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza–restrictions that both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have said for years are key factors in hampering Palestinian economic growth."

Never mind that when they have the chance, Palestinians engage in entrepreneurship and open universities. Can't mention that, though. It would destroy the narrative in which the Palestinians are The Other, alien creatures undeserving of rights and basic dignity--subhuman.

 As if that didn't show enough ignorance, the notorious clandestinely videoed May speech to donors surfaced, in which Romney said, "[T]he Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace."

How ignorant can one man be? Or maybe it isn't ignorance at all.


JOR said...

I suspect it really is ignorance, but of a very deliberate and willful sort.

Louis T. Kellner said...

Have you considered the possibility that both you and Romney are partially correct, and partially wrong? Have you considered that the difference may be due to culture and to the occupation?

Romney is no more wrong than you are. You are both set in your ways.

Sheldon Richman said...

Splitting the difference is an effective way of not having to think about things.

Louis T. Kellner said...

That's a stupid thing to say, considering that I stated that you are partially right. Perhaps it is you who would like to avoid thinking about what Romney said? Who's avoiding thinking about things? Are you denying that culture affects standards of living, or that Israeli and Palestinian cultures are different?

Sheldon Richman said...

I said something about Palestinian culture in the post, and you ignored it.

Louis T. Kellner said...

Yes, you said something positive about it. Is there nothing negative about it, which to some degree is responsible for the Palestinians' plight? Are you incapable of accepting that the picture in the Middle East is not just black and white?

Sheldon Richman said...

If you grasp the nature of the occupation--the day-to-day comprehensive and arbitrary control and humiliation--it is ridiculous, not to mention invidious, to be looking for a cultural explanation for economic stagnation.

Louis T. Kellner said...

Is it? How well are the "free" (from Israeli occupation) Arabs of Egypt are doing? Of Yemen? Of Saudi Arabia? Of Libya? Of Syria? Of... you get the gist.

One good explanation does not automatically rule out other good explanations. Some things have more than one cause. Those who look at things with an open mind get that.

Sheldon Richman said...

Those others are under domestic occupation, namely, home-grown tyranny against a background of imperial intervention past and present.

Louis T. Kellner said...

So where's the moral indignation at the occupation of those other peoples? How is that you don't seem too concerned about the democide going on in Syria?

And how is it that all Arab peoples seem to find themselves under domestic occupation, but Anglo-Saxons have somehow avoided that path? Culture has no role here whatsoever?

And is "imperial intervention" responsible for every Arab tyrant in the world? The Indians were under imperial occupation. How is it that they managed to escape tyranny?

Imperialism and Israeli occupation cannot explain everything. You really need to educate yourself about the interplay of genes, behaviors, cultures, and economies, and the many ways in which they shape one another.

But why would you? Painting the world black and white is easier.

JOR said...

Keller, do you think if the US government effectively placed all of its subjects under house arrest and tripled its regulatory burdens on all economic activity, it would have no effect on Americans' productivity? Maybe you could blame that on America's culture; fine. What if the Chinese invaded and occupied the US and carried out such a regime, then? Now, maybe you can blame that on American culture, in a sense, too (i.e. allowing themselves to be invaded and occupied); but in that case the problem with Palestinian culture is that they're not resisting Israelis effectively enough - so why object to attempts to increase the effectiveness of their resistance? Isn't that precisely the enhancement of culture that they require to thrive?

Also, Keller, why was it that "Anglo-Saxons" spent the vast majority of their history much poorer and less liberal than modern Arabs? Did their genes just suddenly stop sucking 50 years ago?

Louis T. Kellner said...

Note that Richman dropped out of the discussion once he encountered questions he cannot answer.

JOR, I've never argued that the Palestinians' plight is not caused by Israeli occupation to some (perhaps great) degree. If you read my questions to Richman you'll see that my point is that Arabs seem very good at creating hells for themselves without any Israelis around.

As for your last point: are you comparing life in England in 900 AD to life in Cairo in 2012? Wow, great point!

Sheldon Richman said...

Or, believe it or not, I have opportunity costs.

JOR said...

I said 50 years ago, not 500 years ago, let alone 1100 years ago. Don't be a tool.

Louis T. Kellner said...


You said "vast majority of their history." The past fifty years aren't the vast majority of Anglo-Saxon history. I'm not sure that at this point even you understand what the point of that foolish comment was, so I can't really respond to it. Do try again.


It's just like you to throw around an economic excuse when you run out of arguments. Do try again. Neither you nor JOR seem capable of answering the very simple questions I raised.

Sheldon Richman said...

Nothing personal, Mr. Kellner, but I have more pressing things to do than to answer the same question over and over. Readers are perfectly capable of reading up on the grand civilization the Arab Muslims built. For evidence that Palestine before 1948 was a bustling place, not a backwater, see the video attached to this post.

Louis T. Kellner said...

You haven't answered any of these questions even once, because you can't. Your claim that somehow you're tired of proving the same point is laughable--almost as laughable as that three-minute collection of still photos which in your mind proves something. Yeah, those houses and orchards really impressed me. I wish Socrates were alive so he could admire the Palestinian civilization.

Pray tell me about the great universities the Palestinians have built; about the scientists and philosophers they've produced; about the great doctors and humanitarians they've nurtured; about their achievements in any field whatsoever, pre- or post-1948.

Let me guess: you've answered these questions already, and you have other things to do, right?

Anonymous said...

To Louis:

Yes, culture plays a part, but to what extent has the culture been affected by the oppression? Here is a 90 second animation of the "Imperial History of the Middle East":


Note the area known variously through the ages as Canaan/Israel/Judea/Palestine. Compare that rule of empires to the history of North America, and N. America's corresponding impact/influence on the rest of the Western World (due to shared relationships). It shouldn't be surprising that the West built "great universities", & produced "scientists and philosophers" & nurtured "great doctors and humanitarians".

The Palestinians, however, have had the cards stacked against them for some time. But even with that, here is a wiki listing of a couple hundred prominent Palestinians throughout the ages (including modern times):


They did, and do, exist!

Richard G.

Sheldon Richman said...

List of of Palestinian universities and colleges.

Louis T. Kellner said...


You crack me up. I ask you for a list of "great universities the Palestinians have built," and you give me a Wikipedia list of universities. I guess everything the Palestinians do and build is great by definition, right? Next you'll tell me that the difference between Hebron University (who? what? where) and the Technion is due only to the occupation, right? Or maybe you shall go a step further and tell me that there is no difference anyway.

You stopped trying, Richman. Just when you insisted that we stick to the subject.


"Yes, culture plays a part, but to what extent has the culture been affected by the oppression?"

Excellent and difficult question, for which I have no answer. That is what we should be discussing, those of us who can develop a thought beyond "Israel bad, Palestinians good."

The occupation has definitely been influencing the Palestinians' culture (and the Israelis'; occupying and abusing other people can do nothing but harm to your culture and psyche).

Several important questions to ask to attempt to get an answer:

1. How have Palestinians fared before 1948? Richman would have you believe that they lived in Arcadia, and he has some nice photos of orange trees to back this up. Really?

2. How are those who share the Palestinians' culture, religion, and ethnicity faring? Let's be blunt: show me an Arab country that is not a shithole and we'll talk. Richman would have you believe that Imperialism and foreign policy are the only explanations for the Arabs' condition, but perhaps you can think more clearly.

3. There can be no doubt that the occupation screws up Palestinians' lives and development, but it does not mean they are completely helpless to change their condition. Even oppressed people have some power and some ability. The Indians chose to follow Ghandi; the Palestinians voted for Hamas. When the Jews crawled out of the death camps, they appointed Chaim Weizmann, a renowned scientist, to become the first president of Israel. Before that, they asked for Albert Einstein's help in their Zionist efforts. Whom are the Palestinians following? Whom are they looking up to? What are they doing to improve their lives?

Anonymous said...

Louis, what are YOU doing to improve the Palestinian's lives? Don't you care about them? You should offer yourself as their leader, as one who will bring them to new heights. Go on - do it. You know you want to. You can show us all that you're not the arrogant jerk you seem to be.

Louis T. Kellner said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for so clearly proving your point. I think you speak for all of you there when you admit so clearly that you have nothing to say, can't answer a few simple questions, and are confused and angry when someone points these facts to you.

If any of you there still have any steam left, perhaps you could answer the following question: would you apply the same principles to American society that you apply to the Mid-East?

More specifically, would you contend that the only reasons blacks are not doing as well as whites in the US are racism, discrimination, and slavery?

While you're at it, perhaps you could explain why Jews and Asians are doing better than "general" whites in the US.

I'm just dying to red your reasoning on these issues.

Sheldon Richman said...

Mr. Kellner, thanks\ you. It's now crystal clear to all what game you're playing. It was fun for a while, but now it has grown tiresome.

Anonymous said...

Louis, you haven't given us any facts.All you've done is bitch and whnie about the facts Sheldon presents, without saying anything to refute them. Your entire argument is just trying to change the subject. You basically conceded most of Sheldon's points in your response to JOR. You're the stupid one, you just wrap it up in fancy verbage.

Louis T. Kellner said...

You grow tired quite quickly, Richman. Have you noticed that? There's always some excuse for you not to respond in any meaningful way. You can never answer a question, but you always have a cute retort that suggests that you're above the question somehow. This may work on your feeble-minded acolytes, but not on me.

I do commend you, however, for not closing and deleting this thread, which exposes you at your worst. Someone less self-absorbed would have realized what a fool he makes of oneself, but not you. You actually believe that your reasoning triumphed here. You're amazing.

Angry Anonymous,

If I conceded most of Richman's points, then why are you so angry? I concede points because I am a rational person who can break an argument apart and say, "this makes sense, but that doesn't." Is that what makes you so angry?

I've never denied that the Israelis are screwing the Palestinians, or that this has influenced the Palestinian culture. All I argue is that there are other factors in play. Are you angry because I refuse to accept that all effects have exactly one cause?

Anonymous said...

Louis, pointing out how ridiculous your comments are does not equate to being angry. You're jumping to conclusions - again.

Louis T. Kellner said...

Angry Anonymous,

My point, which I made in my first comment, was

"Have you considered that the difference may be due to culture and to the occupation?"

Have you, or are you not in the habit of considering ideas that contradict your prejudices?

That was my point, and that only. Richman's response what that "splitting the difference" (i.e. acknowledging more than one explanation for a phenomenon) is a way of not thinking about things, where in fact it is quite the opposite: it's an attempt to think about things from more than one preformed point of view, and to acknowledge that the easiest explanation is not necessarily the correct one, or the only correct one. Is that what you find so objectionable, Angry One?

Anonymous said...

Louis, does the character of the Arab culture in any way negate the injustices that Israel is imposing on the Palestinians? That seems to be what you're trying to argue. It doesn't wash.

Louis T. Kellner said...

"Louis, does the character of the Arab culture in any way negate the injustices that Israel is imposing on the Palestinians?"

No, it doesn't.

"That seems to be what you're trying to argue."

No, it's not. I've worked very hard to make my point abundantly clear, to the point of repetition and superfluity. I've even repeated my first comment, verbatim, just for your benefit. And still, you don't seem to get my point.

I can't be any clearer than I already have been. Perhaps you should ask an adult to help you with reading comprehension, and then try again.

Anonymous said...

Sure, Louis. The problem is that your "point" has nothing to do with Sheldon's posting. It's just you acting like a spoiled brat child who doesn't like what he is hearing, but he can't refute it, so he changes the subject to create an argument where none need exist. For example, you assume that because Sheldon doesn't write about each and every oppressed group that he doesn't care about them. Where is that stupid nonsense coming from?

Louis T. Kellner said...

So now you pretend to get my point? Five minutes ago you had no clue, and now suddenly you get it? What was it, then? Can you spell it out?

I've never changed the subject, and I responded to Richman's point directly. If you read the post and then my comments, you'd see that I never steered away from the subject.

As for your point about other suffering peoples, you missed the point there, too. My point was not that he doesn't care about the Karen of Myanmar (he doesn't), but that he doesn't care about the Palestinians. He cares about bashing Israel.

The Palestinians are not holy people; their lives are no more sacred than those of the Karen. Any reasonable person who is neither Palestinian nor Karen would care as much about one as about the other. For Richman, the whole thing is just an self-serving, anti-Israeli trip. If tomorrow every single Palestinian was wiped out by a meteor, Richman would blame the meteor on Israel, and then move on to whine about Israel's treatment of the spotted owl. The Palestinians are just pawns to him, as they are to the Arab world and to the left. This is yet another reason they're so miserable: no one really cares about them, and everybody uses them as pawns. Everybody.

I can't explain every single point to you. It's too tiresome. I'm afraid that's it for me.

Sheldon Richman said...

I advise against feeding trolls.

Anonymous said...

Now you're really making yourself look like an idiot, Louis. It's entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Sheldon I'll drop it. I just don't like seeing people disrespect you like he did. You deserve better than that.

Charles N. Steele said...

Good grief -- not a one of you is seriously responding to LTK's arguments.

But let me point out that if you grasp the nature of the threat of extermination that Israelis live under, it is ridiculous, not to mention invidious, to be pretending this is a one sided affair with Israelis wrong and Palestinians right. Richman ignores Hamas' call for a final solution, "final solution" final solution, or that the Palestinians could have had an independent country in 2000 but Arafat and Fatah refused. (Which means Romney was right!)

Richman pretends his cranky anti-Israelism is libertarianism; but it isn't. It's his pretense that this nonsense is "libertarian" that irritates me, and LTK.

Anonymous said...

Charles, exactly how would the Arabs be capable of exterminating the Israelis? Lay it all out for us. (Compared to the approximately 80-200 nuclear warheads the Israelis have, how many nuclear warheads do the Arabs have? Answer = zero.)

Charles N. Steele said...

Sure, I'm happy to do this. In return, I have a question for you (at the end).

Consider first that Hamas and Hezbollah have both consistently called for the elimination of Israel. Within Hamas there's been a debate over whether the Jews would subsequently be killed, deported, or simply oppressed; Hamas' founding documents call for killing. Similarly, numerous Iranian government officials have repeatedly called for the elimination of Israel.

The point of mentioning this is to first establish that extermination is not an unrealistic fear. The intent exists.

Second, in both the Six Day War and Yom Kippur War, Israel would have been destroyed save for the effectiveness of the IDF. Again, establishes intent, but more importantly that it is simply Israeli military capabilities that prevent this destruction.

Third, in today's world, 4th generation warfare is a real threat. Nuclear weapons are of next to no use in such conflict. Suppose, just as an example, that Iran manages to arm to arm Hamas and Hezbollah with heavy conventional weaponry (e.g. in the case of an end to the Gaza blockade) with heavy conventional weapons or unconventional weapons (chem, bio, both are with Iran's current capability). This would be an existential threat against which nuclear weapons are useless.

This ought to be enough to establish my point. It's hardly a complete account, though, and I am happy to explain additional existential threats faced by Israelis if anyone wishes.

My question: why is the fact that Arabs have no nukes at all relevant? Iran has a nuclear weapons program, and among nation-states it is the Iranian leaders, not Arabs, who are currently most vocal about destruction of Israel.

Charles N. Steele said...

Might as well identify a second existential threat. "Right of return" is still apparently considered non-negotiable by Fatah (the more moderate of the two main Palestinian political parties). (RoR is also considered nonnegotiable by groups such as "Free Gaza." I gather Mr. "I am a Palestinian end the siege of Gaza" Richman would agree.

If RoR were implemented, it's probable that Israeli Jews would be a minority population among a majority Palestinian Muslim population. Given what appears to be strong support for Hamas among Palestinians, it's reasonable to expect that Hamas candidates would be elected, and not unreasonable to think they'd treat political opponents the same way they did after they won elections in Gaza. Hence it's only Israeli intransigence on the RoR issue that keeps them from destruction.

It's easy for Richman to point to Israeli crimes. It's hypocritical of him to ignore worse Palestinian crimes, it's dishonest of him to pretend that this is one-sided issue, and it's despicable of him to pretend that he's representing a libertarian viewpoint in all this.

Sheldon Richman said...

To read some of the comments (thanks for the traffic surge!) you'd think Palestinians were occupying Jewish land!

Louis T. Kellner said...

Let us take a more general view of this debate. The comments written by me and by Steele are long, detailed, and to the point. They answer questions raised by other commenters, and they pose questions (which are always ignored). Richman and Co. respond with short comments, usually one-liners, which claim that they are above the questions and above the issues. I and Steele attempt to engage in a dialectical discourse; Richman et al do not and cannot. We can concede some of our interlocutors' points; Richman et al cannot.

This is another example of difference of cultures: those who reason versus those preach; those with an open mind versus those who are brain-dead; those who may be right versus those who cannot be right because they are impervious to reason, logic, or fact; those who make arguments versus those who cut and paste Wikipedia articles and believe they have made a point.

That is what I take from this discourse, and that is what any rational person would take from it. Thank you, Richman, for providing us with such clear evidence of who and what you really are.

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand the need to trash Israel by some libertarians.

Mr. Richman, you say that Romney is ignorant in saying the Palestinians have no interest in peace. Can you provide ANY proof that Palestine wishes to coexist in a peaceful environment with Israel? Just because Palestine has universities hardly means they want peace.

(BTW, here's a list of universities in North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, and Afghanistan...seems as though the presence of universities is completely irrelevant to whether Palestine wants peace, and if it's even got a chance of being a prosperous, free market country).


Another question Mr. Richman. Why does Israel have all those walls, those military barriers and those blockades? Is it really just to oppress and discriminate the Palestinians?

What would happen if they tear down those walls? Will the Palestinians welcome the change, and live peacefully amongst the Jews? Should the Israeli government give more representation to Palestinians? I hardly think a libertarian scholar such as yourself would agree that the Palestinian people are more likely to elect a free-market, inalienable rights protecting government.

So what should Israel do? It's easy to trash them for something that happened 64 years ago, but that was then and this is now. Should they pack up and go home?

Sheldon Richman said...

In many posts on this blog I have recommended readings that elaborate on points I have made along the way. Interested readers can pursue those leads and make up their own minds. If they decided I am wrong, so be it. A blog and its comments section is not the place for an extended detailed dialogue, especially with commenters who are determined not to recognize an answer as such when it stares them in the face. Repeating questions while insisting you're being ignored does not an argument make. Neither does impugning the motives of people you don't know.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Richman,

I don't know if you were responding to me or one of the other commentators.

Would you mind linking to some of your posts that answer my questions - especially ones that deal with possible steps Israel could take. Also, any evidence that Palestinians (or more accurately, their leaders) want to peacefully coexist with Israel.

Anonymous said...

Michael, if someone ran you off your property, tore down your house and build another on your property, and refused to let you or your children return, would you want to peacefully coexist with them? Your request that Sheldon provide you with evidence that Palestinians want to peacefully coexist with Israelis has got to by one of the dumbest things I have ever heard. That goes for you as well, Charles.

Anonymous said...

You're right about not feeding the trolls, Sheldon. They're out in full force on this site. Lucky you.

Sheldon Richman said...

Mr. McDonald, I am not trying to be uncooperative, but the blog is set up with labels so you can search for particular topics. If you put in the appropriate words, you'll be rewarded with many post.

For the record, I have not set forth a plan for peace in Palestine/Israel. That would be presumptuous. It is for the parties to determine. I would hope a resolution would embody individual rights and secular liberal values, including equality under the law. What I have said is that Israel's leaders, most of its population, and Israel's American supporters need to change their attitude on the entire matter. Despite undeniably indefensible acts of violence by Palestinians, the Israelis do not constitute the essentially aggrieved party. A good introduction can be found in Jeremy Hammond's brief but valuable The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination.

Sheldon Richman said...

Anon, despite what you say, a majority of Palestinians has long been willing to make peace with the Israelis and accept 22 percent of pre-1948 Palestine. There are posts related to that on this blog.

Anonymous said...


Help me clarify what it is you're trying to say. Are you saying the Palestinians are justified in not peacefully coexisting with them - again, for something that happened 64 year ago? Very few Israelis are alive today that were responsible for the initial occupation. Do the sins of the father pass onto the son in the case of the Jews?

I don't understand why it's dumb to ask for evidence that Palestinians (again, especially their leaders) want peace. It seems to me you're saying they shouldn't be asking for peace.

But then what do you want the Israelis to do?! Do you want them to pack up and go back to Poland? What about the millions of jews who fled to Israel because they got kicked out of their Arabic homelands? Are they supposed to return home?

I have been very respectful...I don't see how I'm a troll.

Sheldon Richman said...

Mr.McDonald, on the matter of Arabic Jews being kicked out of their homes, I recently posted something of interest.

It is true that Israel was established 64 years ago (the territories have been occupied since 1967), but didn't the founding take place on the basis of a biblical claim that is thousands of years old? (And that assumes you accept the Bible as an accurate historical record.) Sixty-four years ago seems like yesterday in comparison.

At any rate, most Palestinians have resigned themselves to Israel's existence. They don't want war. Israel has taken far more of their lives than vice versa. It is Israel's leaders and most of its population that insists on ignoring their rights, gobbling up the West Bank and East Jerusalem while claiming it wants to negotiate a just two-state solution. It also treats its Palestinian "citizens" like third-rate residents.

Anonymous said...

You're right, Michael. My troll comment was not justified as applied to you. My apologies.

You asked what should the Israelis do. They should return to the Palestinians what they have taken from them over the past 65 years. If I stole land that belonged to your father and gave it to my son, then it still belongs to your father or his heirs.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Richmond,

You said:

"What I have said is that Israel's leaders, most of its population, and Israel's American supporters need to change their attitude on the entire matter."

And what about the Palestinians? Where are your demands that their leaders change their attitude?

You see, I think this is the problem the other commentators, Kellner and Steele, have with your argument. It is completely one-sided. I've looked through almost all of your links on Israel and Palestine, and every one of them trashes Israel.

I know about the abuses the Israeli government committed against the Palestinians and continues to commit to this day. But Hamas and the other Arab countries are doing NO favors to the Palestinian people...quite the contrary, they're using them as propaganda tools, like all despots do.

I don't doubt most Palestinian people want peace. But I also don't doubt that most of these Arabic dictatorships and the Hamas leadership want power more than they want freedom for the Palestinians. That's why Hamas hides in schools, hospitals and churches when it conducts attacks. That's why Palestinians were forbidden to work in Israel. That's why a fatwa was issued by the PA forbidding emigration from Gaza or the West Bank. As Steele already pointed out, Arafat rejected peace a decade ago.

You said you have no plan for peace. I'm curious though, which state do you think is going to have more respect for liberty, Palestine or Israel?

I will check out the Hammond book you recommended. In response to your article about Jews leaving Iraq because of Mossad conspiracy, I will recommend you a book: The Jewish Exodus from Iraq by Moshe Gat. I have not read the whole book, but I have spent the last hour or so looking through it, and it presents a very balanced view.


I guess our conversation is over if you're going to resort to lunacy. Two wrongs don't make a right - and forcing all the Jews out of their homeland is wrong...not to mention that a Palestinian state would likely follow the same anti-liberty trend as every other Middle Eastern state.

Louis T. Kellner said...

Let me clarify that contra Steele and McDonald, I actually think Arafat did the right thing when he rejected the 2000 plan. The Palestinians deserve their homeland on 100% of the occupied territories, and there's no reason for them to give up even one square inch of that land.

Despite what some of you may think, I am actually very critical of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, and of the occupation in general.

My point was far more limited than what has developed here. My point, to reiterate, is that culture is responsible, to some degree, to the Palestinians' sorry state, and that Romney wasn't altogether wrong in what he wrote.

My secondary point is that Richman et al are apparently incapable of processing any argument that is not one-sided, and that when they are faced with such arguments, they go insane (Anonymous) or drop out with idiotic excuses (Richman).

Anonymous said...


I agree with your main point - that culture is to some degree responsible for the state of Palestine, but I refuse to agree that the Israelis who currently reside in Israel, the vast majority of which had nothing to do with the initial occupation of Palestine, should be coerced to pack up and leave, especially when the regime that would likely replace them is likely to be a totalitarian dictatorship.

Louis T. Kellner said...

I was talking about the occupied Territories--the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Israel should get out of there. Only a loon like Richman would want to dismantle Israel proper, i.e. Israel of the 1948 borders.

Sheldon Richman said...

Let us recall what this post was about. When Bibi has his boot on Rashid's neck, it is unseemly to lecture Rashid on how his culture is holding him back.

All the name-calling and impugning of motives is intended to distract.

Sheldon Richman said...

P.S.: Would some please show me where I called for the dismantling of "Israel proper"?

Louis T. Kellner said...

Rashid? The guy who sells seafood in the Faneuil Hall Marketplace? I just bought shrimp from him the other day. He never mentioned anything about Bibi.

I'm beginning to think you're making things up, Sheldon...

Anonymous said...

Michael, if you receive stolen property and the party it was stolen from demands the return of the property, then you have a duty to return the property to the rightful owner, even though you were not the one who stole it. Your claim, if you have any, is with the person that transfered the property to you, and not with the person who the property was stolen from. If the Palestinians demand their property retruned to them then it should be returned. That's not lunacy, it's basic fairness and decency. Yes, it's very complicated, but the Palestinians are entitled to have their property returned to them. If they want to compromise, and from what Sheldon said above most of them do, then it should be up to them.

Todd Andrew Barnett said...

As Justin Raimondo pointed out on Antiwar.com*:

"Israel, which privileges its priestly caste, has a state religion, and bases its national mythology on a “promise” from G-d, is as medieval as any of its neighbors. Aside from being a lie, however, this statement is interesting because it evokes the very same supremacist spirit that animates the controversial pro-Israel public relations campaign launched by the Jewish state’s extremist American supporters. Posters in the public transport system, from New York to San Francisco, proclaim:

'In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.'

No wonder the Israeli consulates in New York and San Francisco won’t disavow those vile subway posters: Pamela Geller is the new public face of Israel.

Yes, Israel protects the rights of all citizens – unless they’re Palestinians who happen to own property coveted by the 'settlers,' in which case it doesn’t. And the key word here is citizens: of course, the Palestinians in the occupied territories are not citizens, but helots, with no rights, and no protection from fanatical Jewish fundamentalists who have launched hundreds of attacks on their homes, and sought to displace them at every opportunity, with the active complicity of the Israeli government.

This idea that Israel represents 'modernity' is rich, considering that every day Israeli society is sinking lower into the morass of religious and cultural fundamentalism, a regression that has not gone unnoticed in the West. Bibi opened his speech with biblical references, describing Jersusalem as the 'eternal capital' of Israel and declaring that 'the Jewish state will live forever.' Yet as we secularists know, nothing lives 'forever,' and the idea of a city being the 'eternal' capital of anything is a metaphor, at best, at worst a dangerous delusion. If this is the 'modern' then one wonders how much it differs from the 'medieval.'"

*URL: http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2012/09/27/bibis-crazy-un-speech/

Mr. Kellner, go to hell. Take your vile, statist allies with you and rant and rave about how "diabolical" and "evil" we are and how "vile" and "villainous" the Arab world is and how glorious Israel is.

In advance that you don't give a fucking damn (pardon my Swahili, Sheldon!) about my First Amendment-protected rights, the sentiment's mutual. Leave us and never return.

Begone, evil spirit! Begone!

Todd Andrew Barnett said...

I will be issuing further comments about this debate and Mr. Kellner's gross and distorted bullshit claims he makes about Sheldon at a later time (perhaps either tonight or tomorrow, whichever comes first).

Anonymous said...


You said:

"Mr. Kellner, go to hell. Take your vile, statist allies with you and rant and rave about how "diabolical" and "evil" we are and how "vile" and "villainous" the Arab world is and how glorious Israel is."

First off, when did he say Israel was glorious? I also don't think Kellner called Richman, Anonymous and yourself "diabolical and evil" (assuming that's who you're referring to when you said "we"). Yet YOU are telling Kellner to go burn in eternal damnation - a command that sounds quite evil.

And do you disagree that the Arab world is quite full of vile and villainous regimes? Do you think the Palestinian state will be anything remotely approaching a free society - even compared to the "fanatical Jewish fundamentalists"?

Sheldon Richman said...

I'd appreciate it if everyone would keep it civil. Thanks.

Charles N. Steele said...

This is quite a "debate." There's not been a single response to my arguments that Israelis face existential threats, and that this ought to be taken into account. And not a single serious response to Kellner's point that culture no doubt is a factor in differing economic outcomes between Israelis and Palestinians (his argument should be extended to include economic & political systems, btw). And not a single person here has excused Israeli crimes or advocated any statism, yet we're accused of such, I gather b/c we don't share your one-sided hatred of Israel and insistence that Israel is 100% of the problem.

I suspect McDonald and Kellner are right, that this is a religious faith we are confronting, nevertheless, one last attempt at reason.

Who stole whose land? The entire history of the "Holy Land" is one of repeated land thefts. If you insist on returning the land to the descendants of all its original Lockean homesteading owners, best of luck. They were neither Jews nor Arabs.

If you want to deal with a real issue, like Right of Return (to pre 1948 boundaries & ownership) you should pay attention to the real history of what happened. It was not simply the Israelis driving Palestinians off their lands. It was often Palestinians themselves leaving, and at the request of Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, & Syria whose armies were attempting to eliminate the Israelis. Read the serious historical work on this; the claim that it was simply Israelis stealing Palestinian land is wrong.

If you do insist on ROR to pre-1948 you dohave to dismantle Israel, and yes, this will result in the Jews being driven into the sea. There's no justice in punishing Sabras born since 1948, nor is it libertarian.

If you don't insist on RoR, then you can begin to think seriously about a solution that might permit everyone to live in peace. You can't possibly do this if you persist in the fiction that one side is the aggrieved and entirely innocent party; the other evil.

(Richman will no doubt tell us he's done this and is very even handed and just read everything on his blog. But I can't find anything on this subject that's even handed, and he refuses to show us any.)

Anyway, for the Americans among you who are so adamant about returning everything to original owners as a matter of principle, I anxiously await hearing what you are doing to return the land you are standing on to the Indians. One hundred percent of America, I insist!

Anonymous said...


As Sheldon mentioned earlier, a comments section in a personal blog doesn't lend itself very well to a debate (despite the many comments here). I, "Richard G.", have commented only a few times (not to be confused with other anonymous posters), yet I find some of your comments towards Sheldon rather unseemly, especially coming from a libertarian and professor (of economics). I haven't seen any evidence that Sheldon (or the "et al") claim that the Israelis are "evil", and the Palestinians are "entirely innocent". He does contend, though, that, overall, the Palestinians are the aggrieved party. He's linked to many writings and videos also making that contention.

Here's a comment he made in another thread (in response to a different poster):

< I don't mean to suggest that this is a simple matter. However, it might be made more simple by strong indications that most Palestinians would be happy with a state comprising the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, and would not seek a return to their homes inside the "green line." Over the years many offers along these lines have been tendered by the popularly supported leadership. What most appear to want is an acknowledgement of the Nakba and their right of return. As Jeff Halper (pdf) of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions writes, "But they have said repeatedly that when it comes to addressing the actual issue, a package of resettlement in Israel and the Palestinian state, plus compensation for those wishing to remain in the Arab countries, plus the possibility of resettlement in Canada, Australia and other countries would create solutions acceptable to all parties." >

< Of course public opinion polling must not take precedence over individual rights. Palestinian individuals should not be at the mercy of majority rule in the disposition of their cases. >

Me again (Richard G.):

I hope you check out that Halper article, as it gives a good overview of why many people contend that Israeli gov't policies have been the primary source of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,


BTW, I also recommend Sheldon's article on his own grandfather, "My grandfather sparked my interest in debate over Zionism", reprinted here (& the comments are also worth a perusal):


Richard G.

Sheldon Richman said...

CNS: What existential threat? Not even Israel's military and intelligence leaders believe that. The American Enterprise Institute's foreign policy experts don't believe it. Neither does the American intelligence community. Israel by far has the most powerful military in the region, including hundreds of nuclear warheads, some on submarines, assuring a powerful second strike. The hypocrisy of Israel warning Iran is obvious.

No intelligence agency thinks Iran has even made the decision to build a nuke. The US agencies say any move was scrapped in 2003, when Saddam was ousted.

Regarding the land, no on disputes that Palestinians have lived there continuously for over a thousand years. The Nakba is well documented. Much progress would be made if Israel's leaders, population, and US boosters would say what David Ben-Gurion once said: "Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country.... We have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?"

Acknowledging the historical is separate matter from the resolution. That should be between the parties. The Palestinians (and the Arab states) have voiced a willingness to cooperate countless times. It is Israel that is intransigent because the ruling ideology holds that this is Jewish land ... period. Why do you scoff at 64-year-old claims when you appear to honor a far more dubious biblical claim that is thousands of years old.

The culture thing is a red-herring. It is not enough to say in effect, "Culture is a factor too. Prove it's not." I've provided indications that the Palestinians have had an entrepreneurial and education-oriented culture. As I said before, when Bibi has his boot on Rashid's neck, it's unseemly to lecture Rashid about his culture. On the other hand, we might pay a little more attention to Israel's warrior culture.

Louis T. Kellner said...

"The culture thing is a red-herring. It is not enough to say in effect, 'Culture is a factor too. Prove it's not.'"

Who ever said "Prove it's not," in effect or not in effect? Asking an interlocutor to prove a negative has long been a standard tactic of Freeman commenters, so perhaps you've gotten so used to it that you spot it where it doesn't exist.

"I've provided indications that the Palestinians have had an entrepreneurial and education-oriented culture."

You have not, and you cannot. You provided a Wikipedia list of Palestinian universities and a three-minute presentation of still photos of houses and trees. Your standards for evidence are so low that you may use them to make any point about anything.

You consistently ignored all questions about Palestinian culture, and when you were asked about the somewhat equivalent situation with American blacks, you pretended that you've just exposed a white supremacist, even though as editor of The Freeman you published this book review, which, I suppose, makes you a white supremacist and W.E. Williams a self-hating black.

Or perhaps you're just unconvincing, inconsistent, and incoherent?

Charles N. Steele said...

Richard G., you are a welcome exception among those supporting Richman, in that you actually engages arguments and do so reasonably. I'll read the items you've suggested.

Here's my objection. Richman claims that he's presenting a balanced account of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and that it's a libertarian one. It's neither. He has 100 plus posts tagged "Israel." I didn't see one that wasn't anti-Israel...maybe I missed them? His two (to date) posts on Hamas manage to be anti-Israel. It's one thing to criticize Israeli crimes; quite another to declare oneself a "Palestinian" and demand an "end to the siege of Gaza" and call for an undoing of the "Nakba."

Can you seriously think he's even vaguely objective or that his position is libertarian? It's that, in particular to which I object. I'm a libertarian, and deeply concerned that libertarianism is increasingly associated with shallow and often crackpot political views. SR is doing contributing to this here, partcularly b/c he's a figure of some prominence in libertarianism.

Charles N. Steele said...

SR: You're suggesting I made up the two existential threats I mentioned? You're kidding, right? Both have been discussed in foreign policy/middle east debates. For heaven's sakes, Yassir Arafat recognized the demographic threat associated with Right of Return. And there's nothing controversial about Iran arming Hamas and Hezbollah as proxies for war against Israel.

You say "No intelligence agency thinks Iran has even made the decision to build a nuke." I don't why you think you know what every intelligence agency thinks, but if you are right (my guess is you are), so what? IAEA believes there's substantial evidence that 1) Iran is undertaking numerous actions that are consistent with developing nuclear weapons and inconsistent with purely civilian activity, and 2) Iran is trying to hide this. See the IAEA reports of Nov 2011 (esp. the Annex) and Sept. 2012 (esp. section H).

I suggested Israel faces existential threats and was then challenged to document these. I've done that. You responded "What existential threat? Not even Israel's military and intelligence leaders believe that. The American Enterprise Institute's foreign policy experts don't believe it. Neither does the American intelligence community."

Let's see you document that.

Sheldon Richman said...

"Let's see you document that."

Sorry my need to make a living doesn't leave me more time, but as to the last request for documentation, see this.

As for the intelligence agencies view, look up the 2007 and 2011 National Intelligence Estimates, which are compiled by the 16 US agencies. These have been widely written about.