MondoWeiss vs MondoReal

I’ve wanted to offer support to Jerry Slater at MondoWeiss, but I don’t pretend to possess expert knowledge on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nor do I possess any direct experience of the famous facts on the ground.  I do however possess some small experience with the “Ideas” part of the “War of Ideas in the Middle East.” I also happen to have served in the trenches and even a few battlefield command posts in other political wars, including at political web sites:  Both in the 3-D world and on the internet, I’ve seen “wars of ideas” deteriorate into “ideologues on the war path.” It’s never a pretty sight. The only saving grace is that sooner or later hardly anyone’s looking.

So, like Jerry in this regard, but without his credibility and track record on these issues, I’ve also been questioning participation at MondoWeiss, wondering if the site as it stands isn’t in danger of embarrassing rather than advancing its supposed aims.  One thing I’ve found particularly troubling is that the “fix” seems to be in in the comment threads, in the form of the quiet exclusion of good faith criticism.  Since I’ve become aware of this problem – which suggests both a symptom and a path of infection within a familiar political-ideological syndrome – it has meant that whenever I read an MW discussion I automatically correct for bias.  I assume that alternative views and supportive evidence have been pre-empted.  Statements may have been removed, as a result of some combination of collective and administrative misapplication of the comments policy and reporting system, or the dissenters themselves may have already either quit the scene or been banned, possibly without ever having been warned or informed, much less given a reason and a chance to appeal.

Since I know that the last – systematic comment removal leading to silent banishment – has occurred in at least one instance, I’m left to assume it has been the basic M.O., and I am therefore suspicious of all discussion at the site.  In a word, it’s all just propaganda to me now. If I were a judge and these were legal proceedings, I’d declare the case tainted by prosecutorial misconduct, and I’d throw it out.

The concrete effect of this syndrome on the discussion is typified by the reaction, eventually filtering up through the comments into the posts, to Jerry’s pieces, but it has hardly been limited to them.  It can be seen in a pervasive reinforcement and accentuation of emotionalism, fanaticism, fantasism, and lynch mob aggression, all under a skewed approach to the supposed un-mitigatable evils of Zionism and the Zionist state (not necessarily the same thing, incidentally).  Within the “2ss v 1ss” discussion, the last tendency is tied to a rather bizarre and contradictory line of argumentation:  Some imaginary perfect constitution of the ideal One State is expected to erase decades, generations, millennia of contention, prejudice, bias, xenophobia, self-preference, and violently imposed, enforced, and protected inequality.  The Holy Land, of all places, is to be perfectly secularized and equalized, ahead of everywhere and everyone else, because wishing says so.  Somehow, the demonic Zionists capable of all and only evil are supposed to support, vote for, and eventually half-operate the world’s one perfect bourgeois liberal state.  Finally, we’re also supposed to believe, and are self-righteously attacked if we decline to assume, that a state that retained an open immigration policy for Jews but was in all other ways a model secular democracy, next to a similarly constituted state for Palestinians – Jerry’s proposal – would be a conspicuously oppressive atrocity… in a region dominated by theocracies, autocracies, dictatorships, and monarchies, with one weak and civil war-ravaged “confessional” system as the pseudo-democratic standout.

But never mind the rest of the world, or the actual history of a multi-sided conflict, or all of known human history:  Being aware of the context and multiple sides of an issue is, I have learned from the MondoWeiss comment threads, “hasbara #4” or something.  So I won’t commence a world tour with an emphasis on national policies regarding immigration, ethnicity, and religion:  That might be for another web site (MondoReal?).  Instead, I’ll just briefly explain why I believe that the 2-state solution is more real than the 1-state solution:

The Two-State Solution

  • is the consensus of the international community;
  • has been validated by international agreements with force of law in member states;
  • has been signed off on in principle by all major direct parties to the dispute (supposedly though not formally even by Hamas, at least according to its advocates);
  • is inherent in ongoing efforts to gain pre-emptive recognition for the Palestinian state; and,
  • is the only practical “next step,” especially given committed, sizeable, and well-armed factions dead set against sharing one state with the other side.

None of the above means to me that One-State proposals are necessarily useless or counterproductive.  For instance, it’s possible to imagine a social, cultural, and political evolution, perhaps as facilitated by economic community and eventually by confederation, to something resembling a just, peaceful solution.  E pluribus unum is a wonderful motto (on the coins in my pocket as I write), and a perfectly good intoxication, but, one way or the other, constructively or destructively, highway or detour, the path will have to be carved through 1), as above, the 2-state political and ideological consensus, by now embedded at the level of primary assumption worldwide, and, 2), a present reality so confused and contentious that any mere description of it already puts you in a minority faction for everyone else to gang up on.

Because traveling such a path seems to call for almost superhuman effort against prejudice, lust for vengeance, avarice, ignorance, parochialism, and sheer bottomless impatience before abject suffering and humiliation, a just and peaceful Israel-Palestine seems like an infinitely distant dream for the never-arriving era of the grand harmonic convergence, when the underlying unity of all humanity and all ideologies is realized on Earth.  I’m all in favor of it!  But from that perspective the nation-state itself is also obsolete, meaning that 1 state, 2 states, 3 states, n states, multiple statelets in confederation, Muslim, Jew, Arab, European, black, white, sovereignty, occupation, maybe even rich, and poor, maybe even Zionist and Islamist, would all be matters of complete indifference, would no longer mean much of anything, or would all mean the same thing anyway.  That age would be the one in which government would no longer always mean “a small amount of injustice… but for a worthy cause,” as one regular commenter described Jerry’s proposal, thinking he was condemning rather than validating it for all pre-apocalyptic intents and purposes.

Which brings me back to the point, or meta-point, where I began. I tend to find visionary utopianism, its revolutionary and religious variants, and all concrete and graspable, present tense intimations of a better world, rather more credible, and I think most people find them more attractive (or minimally admissible), when they come from advocates whose conduct embodies the precepts they claim, whose self-confidence and openness can be taken as the truest and most undeniable signs of the dispensation they seek. The more negative way of saying the same thing is that I wouldn’t want to live in or help create a polity – in the form of a new state, or merely in the form of a web community – that deals with dissent from mandatory half-truths by disappearing some dissenters in the real or virtual dead of night, and subjecting the survivors to the bullying of hate junkies.

You don’t need a conspiracy theory to understand why political activism of this type has trouble catching on with a broader public, even when it may have good intentions, a substantial factual basis, and moral necessity on its side.

24 comments on “MondoWeiss vs MondoReal

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  1. I guess a variation on O’Sullivan’s law, is order, any organization, media organ, that is not at least neutral toward Israel, ends up being
    virulently anti Semitic, and don’t tell me that isn’t what is going on
    at MW. Weiss, let this milieu fester, and enforces the rules, in similar
    fashion, to the fiefdom of Charles Jhonson. Now I happen to think that Slater is somewhat naive, as we see with the example of the Goldstone Report. and Pappe’s twisting of the events at Tantura, and the tragedy of Al Dura, those were not accidental, they were purposeful omissions and misrepresentations, designed to put Israel on the dock, vis a vis, some very loathsome regimes

  2. @ miguel cervantes:
    That’s a theory, but I think it still implies, or has to comprehend, a transformation in the meaning and function of anti-semitism under altered conditions.

    I also wonder whether it’s possible to be neutral about Israel for even a moment. It could be a pure, quantum +/- question. That’s what Slater is arguing against. If he’s wrong, then maybe you have to agree with the MWers: In the end, being a little bit “for” Israel is functionally the same as being all for Israel, and being a little bit against Israel is functionally the same as being for the destruction of the Jewish state. Which is why someone like Benny Morris ends up saying things that make him sound like Arnon Soffer, and they both end up sounding a little like Lieberman, and all three sound like you on the other thread criticizing Cast Lead for not having gone far enough, early enough.

  3. Morris, is kind of like Horowitz and Radosh, in this country, they let the revisionist genie out of the bottle, and the likes of Schlaim and Pappe, ran with the ball, As the Morris piece on Pappe re the Hussaini’s, there is a reason why he didn’t go to the original source materials, because the bankruptcy of a whole branch of Palestinian nationalism from Haj Amin to Arafat to at least the early period of Abu Mazen, would be shown, Now I think Fayyad honestly wants a break with that past,

  4. @ miguel cervantes:
    Also, as far as I know, Charles Johnson let people know directly when they were banned, made it crystal clear that he was all about banning people who gave him trouble, and doesn’t really pretend that his site stands for anything but footballs that are small and green, and Charles Johnson.

  5. Yes but it’s an open question, what that means anymore, maybe he is a bad example, because MW never made any pretense about what it
    was about, there really hasn’t been a transitition as such. Israel is a young ‘settler state,’ about where we were in 1849, News continues to come in, that the Egyptian revolution will on balance, ‘not be good
    for children or other living things’ as the Rousseaian over the Lockeian
    pattern take it’s course,

  6. gee, Mondoweiss’ comments policy sez this……

    We want Mondoweiss to be a place that everyone feels comfortable visiting, to read and comment, regardless of political perspective. People might not always like what we post, but everyone should feel invited and encouraged to join the discussion, share their opinions, and engage in debate.

    one might visit the site and come (or be driven) away with an entirely different understanding of how they operate and what they’re willing to do. one might think that they are entirely closed to debate, possibly due to the amazing amount of dishonesty that they offer in both commentary, featured articles, and certainly from Weiss’ writing.

    one might think that they disgrace themselves and are unfit to claim that they pursue justice as they can’t bear its strictures.

    or one could think worse of them, particularly as Weiss refuses to even answer e-mails from someone who had hoped for better things than were encountered.

    takes a lot of chicken to put out that much chickenshit.

  7. @ miguel cervantes:
    time marches on, dude. In the mean time, we’re in no kind of position to assess the Egyptian pseudo-revolution. The only thing we know for sure is that people will try to define various outcomes in self-serving ways. Otherwise, everything good, bad, and indifferent about the situation in Egypt follows more or less inevitably from elements already present, but not yet fully apparent to the world, prior to the Tahrir protests. Do you have some idea about what the U.S. should done differently? Sustain the 83-year-old autocrat for another year – or maybe just whine about his fall conspicuously? Obama did everything he could to position the US as advantageously as possible, given the limited range of alternatives open to him.

  8. @ CK MacLeod:
    Had Obama not allowed all those people in Egypt to have grown to adulthood under the conditions that the Egyptian government and society imposed upon them, things would surely have turned out differently.
    All that time Obama was pretending to be a community organizer, and never did he bother himself with organizing the Egyptian community.
    He left it too late and now where are we? The American people deserve a better class of Egypt then we’re being asked to endure.

  9. @ fuster:
    What you point out is sheer hypocrisy, and we’re not the only ones to have noticed.

    But let’s not go TOO far, if only for the sake of seeing things accurately: They’re not entirely closed to debate and alternative POVs. Look at the comments from Witty, DBG, GuiltyFeat, and others on the AH Goldstone thread. They may function as props for the purpose of creating the appearance of dialogue and fair debate, but they ARE there. A Potemkin village may be a fraud, but it’s still a village.

    I think PW leaves operation of the site to AH, who, not to put too fine a point on it, comes across like a far-left ideologue – I’m not sure how ultra. In addition, there is a clique of commenters who make a point of singling out people like you, possibly exploiting the “report this comment” system. You may have drawn their ire because unlike Witty and the others, you believe in confronting them directly on the facts and also in tit-for-tat. If Chaos, Annie, Avi, and the rest are going to aim for your privates, you’re more likely to block and reply in kind.

    So, there’s not exactly a conscious plan of censorship, but there is a ready acceptance of the results.

    That you’ve gotten no response to your e-mails and were handled in the way you were handled is just plain bad and stupid and wrong, even before any political crap.

  10. take the comment out the trash, ya wanna look at it, but put it back in when you’re done.

    I thought it was nothing that you deserve and that any third party would likely think that I was busting your bunions.
    didn’t want to leave that imp..

  11. fuster wrote:

    any third party would likely think that I was busting your bunions.

    aint no one here but us unwanted chickens. As for your trashed comment, it wouldna hurted my feeling. Don’t know how far PW woulda let me go. Decided didna even want to give him the chance to say yes. When I next e-mail him on my own account, I may link to this post. If he feels like addressing the issues, well, who knows what the future may hold? Wondrous retreating snake visions or something.

  12. We should take comfort in knowing that when politicians have grown hoarse in declaring a slam-dunk vindication of Israel’s policies and actions in the Gaza War, and editorial writers grow tired of demanding that Richard Goldstone spend the rest of his life in penance, this will remain:

    Knowingly or not, every member of the Israel Defense Forces, and certainly every commander, will be carrying excerpts of the Goldstone Report into combat, into the next war we fight, and the next, and into every battle, raid, and incursion in between.

    If Benjamin Netanyahu is right in saying that there are no armies more moral than the IDF, and that the military acts in accordance with international law, it will be because Israel takes heed of the moral issues raised by the inquiry, and makes every effort – a much more vigorous effort than it did during the decade just past – to take into strict account the welfare of civilians in areas targeted by Israel.

    We needed Goldstone after that horrible war, and we need him now.

    And like it or not, Goldstone has become an integral part of us.

  13. @ fuster:
    Not saying the evidence doesn’t exist – I may just have missed it since my mind was very elsewhere at the critical times – but I’ve never much noticed Yglesias and Ackerman as opinion leaders, or even conspicuous opinion followers, on “I-P.” Was there some big coming out moment of them as ultra-neo-post-anti-Zionists?

  14. @ CK MacLeod: amazingly to me, considering their relative shallowness, the boys (along with Ezra Klein) are influential inside the hothouse hive of young DC.

    Mostly unknown to us oldsters, but even people that are very, very far from the hearts of Ackerman and Yglesias cite them.
    Here are two of them talking about a third.

    Jewish youth have played a key role. A group of young bloggers, notably Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, Spencer Ackerman and Dana Goldstein, have criticized Israel to the point that Marty Peretz of The New Republic felt a need to smear them during the Gaza fighting, saying, “I pity them their hatred of their inheritance.”

  15. Goldstein, seems the odd one out, but they did earn a certain sobriquet, ‘the juice box mafia’ that was a subset of the Journolist
    or something

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