Swans Commentary » swans.com September 11, 2006  



Ecstasy Of Blindness
Jacob Amir's Suicidal Neurosis


by Gilles d'Aymery





(Swans - September 11, 2006)  There are times when I am reminded of the adage that there is no blinder person than one who refuses to see.

What to make of Jacob Amir's latest missive? The good doctor has become totally obtuse to any rational discourse. While glaciers are melting all over the planet, his mindset remains frozen in whatever antediluvian past, within the confine of a dusty citadel surrounded by hordes of barbarians bent on its destruction. Or maybe, just maybe, unbeknown to him, he is afflicted by some kind of Pavlovian syndrome -- the urge to respond to violence with overwhelming force and rage.

I recall the comment made by Mrs. Miriam Adams on March 13, 2006 to the effect that I had "far more patience and skill" than her to engage in the debate with Jacob Amir that took place between December 19, 2005 and April 6, 2006. So much for patience and skill, for which I've taken a lot of flack...they have come to naught.

Where to begin? Jacob is not even capable to grasp the figures of speech used by Alouette Arouet -- le sens figuré behind her style. The answer to her question, whether the good doctor "can fathom the hatred that this horror is going to create for generations to come?", is a straight NO. He is more interested in deconstructing an "unholy ass" than facing the immense strategic, moral, material, and human damages and losses caused by the Israeli violent military intervention. Damages and losses to all parties.

He dismisses almost with contempt the generous, sound, and humane comments made by Michael DeLang, utterly misapprehending the context in which Michael uses the word lies. "I will," writes Michael, "however, characterize all of [Jacob Amir's] statements as lies, in the sense that they are gathered and presented in service to the ultimate lie, that the violent and deliberate imposing of suffering on a targeted group of human beings can be, in certain circumstances, an acceptable and appropriate response to a legitimate given grievance." Jacob sees in this sentence an accusation: "Michael DeLang accuses me of lying..." Then again, if he cannot grasp Arouet's simple figures of speech how could he integrate Michael's more subtle and elaborated message?

His response to Dimitri Oram resembles that of a child that points the finger to another kid lying in blood in the schoolyard and tells his father: "Daddy, daddy, he started first by giving me a kick in the ass. I had to defend myself and retaliate. Thanks for the baseball bat, by the way." Of course, in this case the baseball bat was a panoply of cluster bombs, 500- and 1,000-pound bombs, artillery shells by the tens of thousands artfully signed by sweet little cuties (perhaps in Jacob's world only Arabs cheer death and destruction), F16s, helicopters, etc. And for good measure the kid adds, "see, all the referees say that he started it. He was responsible. Even one among his gang acknowledged it." Pathetic...

Can one be more pitiable? Is there a cure for such a mental blindness? Is this patient terminally incurable? Does the disease have a name?

Beside logical fallacies and glittering generalities, Jacob is getting dangerously close to name-calling; indirectly, mind you, but it's there. Referring to the point I made that initial reports indicated that the capture of the two soldiers and the death of three more had occurred within Lebanon, not inside Israel, the good doctor states that "some people will eagerly accept any anti-Israeli claim, regardless of how ludicrous it is."

In addition to the AP, AFP, and the Hindustan Times, which I mentioned, Asia Times, Bahrain News Agency, Deutsch Press Agency, the Forbes Web site, Newsweek's Michael Hirsh of MSNBC, also reported that the clash occurred in Lebanon. Trish Schuh reported in "Operation 'Change of Location'?" that Israeli news sources such as Cybercast News Service, the Voice of America, Jerusalem, did report the same. Even on July 13, Australia's ABC News quoted an IDF source saying the soldiers had been seized in Lebanon. As late as July 31, in the New Republic IDF Brigadier General Moshe Yaalon wrote: "The present crisis was initiated -- in Gaza by Hamas and in southern Lebanon by Hezbollah -- from lands that are not under Israeli occupation." And there are more sources coming from the Lebanese government and from Hezbollah telling the same story (read Schuh's article). So, how ludicrous is this "claim"? And why should it be immediately denounced as anti-Israeli?

What other accusation will come next from Jacob -- Judeophobia, anti-Semitism? (1) A Rumsfeld-like "intellectual or moral confusion"?

Perhaps Jacob is unaware of the role of propaganda in war-making, or, in light of his repeated use of logical fallacies, glittering generalities, and name calling, he is quite adept at it, but in any case, he may want to, and readers should, read my November 2001 article, "Propaganda: Then And Now," and delve into the formidable personal work of Anup Shah on his thoughtful and highly documented Web site, globalissues.org -- particularly, in regard to propaganda, his "War, Propaganda and the Media" dated March 31, 2005. Further digging, Jacob would be well advised to read Harold Evans's "Propaganda vs. Professionalism." He'll find a trove of judicious information among these three pieces; however, again, I strongly suspect that the good doctor is quite cognizant about propaganda, for since I've interacted with him, he's made an overwhelming use of it, from syllogisms galore to unending repetitions.

If they had not attacked us we would not have attacked.

If the Palestinians has accepted the existence of Israel they would have had their own state in 1948, 1967, 1973, 1982, 1988, 1993, 2000, one, two, three, four, five, six, and counting.

If the Arabs had no arms there would be peace, but if the Israelis had none they would no longer exist.

If it were not for Iran and Syria, the Middle East would be quiet and peaceful. In earlier years, the list included Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc., "moderate states" that are "oases of democracy" in the Levant -- add, of course, the anti-Israeli French, as we all know, and the message is being distilled time and again in deep background briefings -- see Ambassador Freddy Eytan's "Europe and the War in Lebanon" in the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) August 16, 2006 "Jerusalem Issue Brief." The JCPA is a rabid right-wing Israeli think tank, headed by Dore Gold, former Ambassador to the U.N. under the Binyamin "Bibi" Netanyahu government, both great friends of the Christian Right -- those who strive for the "rapture." Just for the record, the JCPA is financed by the good ol' US-based Wechsler Family Foundation, of which practically nothing can be gleaned on the Web.

In Jacob's narrative Israel would not have launched this devastating war had she not been attacked by the gruesomely terroristic, child-eating cannibals, the Hezbollah -- these horrifying personages of Grimm's tales. The aims of the "retaliation," of the war, as we were all told repeatedly, were about freeing the two valiant soldiers, "kidnapped" no less, within the sovereign state of the peaceful and democratic state of Israel -- a state that would never, ever break the sovereignty of another neighboring state, never, ever; a state that would never, ever abduct citizens of another state, never, ever; a state that, like America, is all about peace, freedom, democracy, and the ultimate defense of the "civilized world," always...swear me g-d. It was, secondly, and ultimately, about crushing the cannibals (remember the Serbs?).

Always link Hezbollah with Hamas, Syria, Iran, and Jihad. Then follow closely with the mortal danger of the alleged Iranian nuclear bomb program to Israel AND the West (always add in the talking points "and the West"). The folks at the JCPA, like Jacob, have mastered the genre, e.g., this "Jerusalem Issue Brief" of August 20, 2006 by Brig. Gen. (res.) Dr. Shimon Shapira; or, if one is not yet convinced, then please read this little propaganda package put together by Dr. Raanan Gissin, a former senior advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Gissin's short bio says that he "is one of Israel's leading spokesmen to the foreign press and the international community on security and strategic issues, and the peace process." Peace process, no less. Gissin concludes his presentation thus: "The Iranians are coming, and we better read the writing on the wall. It is not in Arabic; it is in Persian, and it is still not too late to learn." I suppose that when you keep repeating the same talking points hundreds of times, most of them having been meticulously crafted by PR firms or governmental agencies, you end up believing them too.

Jacob Amir is no friend of George W. and the Christian Right, says he, because, see, he is an agnostic. As though there were no objective alliances among agnostic right-wingers (à la Jacob, Gold, Netanyahu, the "Olmerta" gang, and all the crazies that will ally themselves with the agents of death in order to keep their little lives humming). Perhaps Jacob could do himself the favor to go read the thoughts of Brad Brooks-Rubin on this unholy alliance in "Israel! Israel! Praise the Lord!" posted on Semitism.net, a site that is "pro Jews, pro Arabs, and pro peace" -- a site Jacob could learn from, assuming, which I do, he is still a human being and not a zombie.

While there, he could take a few minutes of his highly valuable time to listen to the site's creator, Andrew Schames, who visited the Occupied Territories last year with his mother Stephanie (who used to live in Israel). The June 16, 2005 interview on WAMC (Northeast Public Radio) may be an eye opener to Jacob in spite of his blindness. Here, no need to read. Just listen. Andrew Schames shares both Judaism and the medical profession with Jacob but not the mental blinds.

Furthermore, Jacob would be well advised to read with the help of his mental magnifying glasses, the piece by Max Blumenthal, "Birth Pangs of a New Christian Zionism," in The Nation of August 8, 2006. (The Nation is a rather mild, US-Democratic-leaning outfit). Possibly, that piece will breach a tiny hole in his mentally-closed mind.

Jacob's objective alliance with the fundamentalist crazies, both Jewish and Christian, is frightening enough, but when conflated with the ratcheting up of war against Iran and his statement that "we, in Israel, (including Gideon Levy, Ze'ev Maoz, Daphna Baram's family, etc.) will not commit national suicide to please you or anybody else," the mixture is plainly terrifying. I take no issue to Jacob's accusing me of wishing the disappearance of Israel. It's an emotional statement. I've made quite a few myself (though never, ever the wish for the disappearance of Israel). In each instance, it's an expression of pain more than anything else and a demonstration of weakness. I take it for such an instance and won't let his insult offend me. Nonetheless, his positions are terrifying. Why?

I have no doubt that Jacob truly believes what he is saying. I regard him as an honorable and cordial man (to a point with me), convinced of his positions, ready to defend them with tooth and nail, to death if necessary -- to death if necessary... That's the last part that troubles me deeply. The policies he has advocated and fought for have failed miserably decade after decade. Violence has bred hatred year after year. Almost sixty years in this misery, the country keeps feeling existentially besieged and people like him live under the spell of some genocidal threat. They have become a mental and physical fortress unto themselves. Yet, they keep repeating the same failed policy. It reminds me of what Daniel Quinn said in Beyond Civilization: "The greatest discovery any alien anthropologist could make about our culture is our overriding response to failure: If it didn't work last year, do it AGAIN this year (and if possible do it MORE)." (2) Jacob does not understand that he -- and the people who think or believe alike -- are the ones leading Israel to suicide. Or maybe, he agrees with Golda Meir as reported by Alan Hart:

At a point I interrupted her to say: "Prime Minister I want to be sure I understand what you're saying... You are saying that if ever Israel was in danger of being defeated on the battlefield, it would be prepared to take the region and the whole world down with it?" Without the shortest of pauses for reflection, Golda replied: "Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying." (Source: "The Lebanon War, a Post-Mortem," by Alan Hart, Counterpunch, August 17, 2006.)

Maybe Jacob wants the U.S. to destroy Iran the same way Afghanistan and Iraq have been taken care of in the name of corporate American interests. Maybe Jacob considers that the US interventions in these two countries are an unmitigated success and that Iran deserves the same recipe. Maybe Jacob keeps good company with the likes of Bradley Burston -- there are quite a few Bradley Burstons in Israel -- who does all he can to fuel the flames of war by goading the Americans to attack Iran, by playing on the machismo of the Bush administration. "Simply put, a government which is unwilling to use its power - and whose enemy knows of its unwillingness - has no power. . . . A nuclear superpower that is unwilling to use the Bomb - and whose enemy knows of its unwillingness - has no bomb." ("Will Bush make Iran the only superpower?" Haaretz, August 25, 2006.)

Evidently, Jacob Amir appears to have fallen into the general paranoia that has taken grip of the Israeli polity, so brilliantly reflected in another piece by Bradley Burston, "If Israel had only a year to live" (Haaretz, September 01, 2006). Paranoia? Neurosis? Again here is Jacob Amir: "We, in Israel, (including Gideon Levy, Ze'ev Maoz, Daphna Baram's family, etc.) will not commit national suicide to please you or anybody else."

Nobody wants Israel to commit national suicide with the exception of people like Jacob who I am afraid unconsciously wish for an Armageddon self-prophecy. What he cannot see from the top of the ramparts on his walled fortress is that people are simply leaving, quietly but surely. Jacob once said he was sorry I had walked away. Guess what, more and more people are walking away. Calls of anti-Semitism will not do. A growing number of Israelis is seeking dual citizenship. The majority of Jewish Americans is walking away. The majority of Jewish Americans opposed the American war in Iraq and was appalled by the latest Israeli rampage on Lebanon. Jacob appears to be relying on the official Jewish organizations in America, but he neglects his greater constituency, including me. People are silently walking away. When all the friends of Israel have walked away and don't look back, Jacob will be left with his objective allies: Corporate America, the US Government, and the Fundies -- profits (which will drop Israel when she is no longer relevant) and doom. How sad... I wonder not how Gideon Levy or Amira Hass would react to our respective discourses. Their frame of references are so distant from that of the good doctor that, were not the situation so tragic, one would have to smile. Gideon, who tells of "a cancer that eats [Israelis] away, more threatening that all terrorisms: the occupation of another people. . . . . I cannot bear that so many unspeakable acts are committed in my name." (3) "Can you really not see?" asks Amira on August 30, 2006... Has Jacob Amir ever gone to Rafah and see for himself?

Jacob does not dismiss, or ignore, these two Israeli writers, me, and other Swans contributors only. He ignores the fundamental questions asked by the Lebanese writer Dominique Eddé in his "letter to Israelis" of August 15, 2006 (translated from the French and published in Le Nouvel Observateur on August 8, 2006). He ignores the wise words of Azmi Bishara, a Knesset member and chair of Balad, who clearly explains that it is "Time for fateful decisions" (Haaretz, September 06, 2006). And we can go on and on and on. From George Soros (certainly not an Israel basher) "Blinded by a concept" in The Boston Globe of August 31, 2006, to Daniel Levy's "Ending the neoconservative nightmare" (Haaretz, August 15, 2006), or John Le Carré's "Lebanon, Lebanon" (OpenDemocracy.net, August 29, 2006 -- also in French as "Interpellation," Le Monde, September 6, 2006), a must-read article, as was Le Carré's piece, "The United States of America Has Gone Mad," published on January 15, 2003 in the Times/UK (worth reading on this fifth anniversary of 9/11). These are only a small sample of people whose views Jacob Amir treats like the three monkeys -- try blind and improvident.

Being oblivious to the obvious, Jacob asks what we would do. Totally closed to any strategy that is not dependent on overwhelming force and devastation he would find our view "interesting."

I am talking about peace and life -- the ongoing life on this planet, which is slightly bigger than him and me, or Israel and America -- as Jacob talks stubbornly about Armageddon, the survival of Israel, and throws in passing a haughty "interest" in our (well-known, and well-documented) views. Life for the few, the survival of the fittest, never-ending violence -- the waste of supposed no-good people that do not espouse the civilization that he and his ilk define in the boardrooms -- and hegemony, are his paradigm. Life for the many; justice; equality; cooperation; non-violence; and the relentless struggle for a different, more benign and humane social order, are mine.

I'm not sure they can ever be reconciled. Yet, in the next issue of Swans, I shall endeavor one more time to kindly offer Jacob Amir another vision of what should and could be done and what I would do.


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1.  Perhaps Jacob Amir will recall the e-mail the insufferable Jeff Blankfort sent on May 24, 2006 to a former Swans' contributor who never misses an opportunity to throw mud at me (behind my back, of course, like all good cowards do). How did the e-mail begin? Ah, yes, here, unedited and emphasized: The reason Swan's gives Airam so much play is that Gilles D'Aymery, host of the site, is a zionist who apparently considers anyone who seriously challenges the Jewish Israel Lobby to be an anti-semite.... ("Airam" is the first part, misspelled, of Jacob Amir's e-mail address -- "ariram"). Jacob's e-mail address was the second one in the cc field, joined by a substantial list of who's who in the small activist world, including George Salzman, Stuart Newman, John Mearsheimer, Joshua Holland, Joe Bageant, Bill Blum, Uri Avnery, Michael Neumann, Stephen Walt, the inescapable Noam Chomsky of course...all in all, some 43 recipients but not me -- eh, why would one include the person one slanders in the mailing when one can throw mud and have fun at the same time? Then again, to be fair to Mr. Blankfort, the man cannot spell right and I doubt he can read properly. Could he, we would have noticed what I told Miriam Adams: "I've always found the debate between Zionists and anti-Zionists intriguing but never felt the urge to participate in it." But what can I say? Brainless people, the louder they shout, keep carrying the day. Nothing new under the sky, I suppose. Jacob Amir keeps good company.  (back)

2.  Quinn, Daniel: Beyond Civilization, Three Rivers Press, 1999 - ISBN 0-609-80536-3, page 129.  (back)

3.  "Gideon Lévy : une épine dans le flanc d'Israël," Sylvain Cypel, Le Monde, September 5, 2006. (In French) "Nos jeunes ne sont pas des monstres. La plupart mettraient la main à la poche pour les victimes d'un séisme au Mexique. Pourquoi, dès qu'ils font face aux Palestiniens, se déshumanisent-ils ? Parce que la routine de l'occupation les pourrit, les amène à cesser de voir dans les Arabes des hommes comme eux. Depuis, il raconte, sans relâche, 'ce cancer qui nous ronge, plus menaçant que tous les terrorismes : l'occupation d'un autre peuple.'" . . . . " C'est parce qu'il se sent israélien qu'une 'culpabilité profonde' l'habite: Je ne peux pas supporter que tant d'actes inqualifiables soient commis en mon nom."  (back)

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Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.



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Published September 11, 2006