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.
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