January 13, 2004

Brad Delong's blog makes me want to cry

This and this in particular, although this and this aren't exactly uppers either.

The entry on the failures of free international capital movement is awful when you realise how many lives and how much misery it implies, but there are at least alternatives. The failures of the neoliberal regime to create the growth its supporters usually quite sincerely desire can at least serve as the backdrop to some new synthesis. The same can be said of the collapse in employment growth in the US.

The Mahar Arar case is infuriating and threatening, not for the least reason because my passport was issued by the same people as Arar's. His case is pushing me more and to a decision I've been putting off: to end my legal relationship with the US Immigration service once and for all and not go back. I had hoped to procrastinate about it until November.

But the Benny Morris interview is too depressing for words. This bit is the bad one:

[M]y feeling is that [Israel] would be quieter and know less suffering if the matter had been resolved once and for all. If Ben-Gurion had carried out a large expulsion and cleansed the whole country - the whole Land of Israel, as far as the Jordan River. It may yet turn out that this was his fatal mistake. If he had carried out a full expulsion - rather than a partial one - he would have stabilized the State of Israel for generations.
My... well, disappointment isn't strong enough... new-found disdain and repulsion for Morris does not come from merely stating that a full expulsion might have left a more secure Israel. As a statement of historical and political judgment devoid of moral judgement it may, in fact, be true. What turns me against him completely is stuff like this:
"Ben-Gurion was right. If he had not done what he did, a state would not have come into being. That has to be clear. It is impossible to evade it. Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here."

"But in certain conditions, expulsion is not a war crime. I don't think that the expulsions of 1948 were war crimes. You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs. You have to dirty your hands."

"A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on."

"Remember another thing: the Arab people gained a large slice of the planet. Not thanks to its skills or its great virtues, but because it conquered and murdered and forced those it conquered to convert during many generations. But in the end the Arabs have 22 states. The Jewish people did not have even one state. There was no reason in the world why it should not have one state. Therefore, from my point of view, the need to establish this state in this place overcame the injustice that was done to the Palestinians by uprooting them."

"The Israeli Arabs are a time bomb. Their slide into complete Palestinization has made them an emissary of the enemy that is among us. They are a potential fifth column. In both demographic and security terms they are liable to undermine the state. So that if Israel again finds itself in a situation of existential threat, as in 1948, it may be forced to act as it did then. If we are attacked by Egypt (after an Islamist revolution in Cairo) and by Syria, and chemical and biological missiles slam into our cities, and at the same time Israeli Palestinians attack us from behind, I can see an expulsion situation. It could happen. If the threat to Israel is existential, expulsion will be justified."

Benny Morris' analysis confronts him with a clear choice between his nation and his humanity, and he has chosen his nation. I find that unconscionable. There are other analyses of Israel's circumstances that do not force such a choice, but Morris' puts it in as simple terms as I have ever seen. His claim that "[r]evenge plays a central part in the Arab tribal culture" without ever talking about how many Israeli reprisals are rationalised as "an eye for an eye", going on to make "Palestinian society" an actor in this conflict in order to justify expulsion, and painting Arabs as barbarians who must be kept at bay is just small potatoes for someone who has put his decency below his state.

Posted 2004/01/13 14:03 (Tue) | TrackBack

I love Brad's site and I like Brad, but he's exasperating about the failures of globalization, which he seems to acknowledge without in any way moderating his attacks on "anti-globalists" -- he recently accused someone of wanting third world people to starve.

He's also evasive about the consequences for labor in general of a competitive world labor market. Bush's new immigration proposal basically gives us cross-border free labor movement with Mexico and Latin America. And yeah, it will be good for the Mexicans, but it's a race to the bottom.

P.S. Linguistics note: "Mexicans" in that sentence was the only correct word, but notice how often we feel impelled to correct it to "Latinos", "Hispanics", or "Chicanos".

I am not a nativist or an anti-immigration activist. But everyone working in the US should be protected by the same labor laws as everyone else.

Posted by: zizka at January 13, 2004 16:23

I agree entirely about the inadvisability of guest worker programmes. I'm pretty pro-immigration, but if somebody is able to make a productive contribution to society, why should we want to send them back? Immigrants should earn the prevailing wage in the country where they work for the kind of work they do and should have every bit as much protection and right to organise as everybody else. In fact, they ought to have more protection, since their situation is uniquely likely to be abused.

Posted by: Scott Martens at January 13, 2004 17:59

Nigel Harris has a good bit about revolving door guestworker programmes in his latest book; they at least are an improvement on the almost fanatical obsession with illegal immigration that is now going on in Western Europe. De Long, is obviously a competent economist, but having seen some of the things he has written about on politics outside the US as in India, has led to me to the conclusion that there are large gaps in his analysis and he is prone to suffer a mild form of ?engineer?s disease?.

I agree in many ways with your points about Morris but unlike many I am not too surprised. Many of these criticisms of his work had been made when the First edition of ?1948? came out and Finkelstein along with several others had teased out the implications of his scholarship and what it would mean. It seems that he has on many fronts accepted his critics? concerns; as for the rest I don?t know what to say apart from the fact that what galls me more than much else is that he can insist that he somehow remains a moderate Leftist while spewing all this stuff about the ?West and the Rest? unless I am missing something ahistorical, essentialised notions which rely on ?civilisational-type? clashes are not something that most socialist theories (if any) would accept as valid ways of thinking about history or political conflict. Norm Geras, makes some sensible points about this on his blog; though typically they are heavily qualified by an apologia that seem common these days. There are two issues as I can see it: (a) whether there was a simple choice between national self-determination or genocide in 1948 and (b) faced with such a choice is it always right to go for the former. I would disagree with Morris on both counts; for a number of reasons no such clear cut choice can be posited in the sense of (a) especially if the earlier history of conflict and Jewish colonisation, which made such a stand-off with the Arabs inevitable in the manner it was carried is ignored and as for (b) the usual Camusian defence of choosing between Justice and one?s mother can be wheeled out but it again presents a false choice between two things that are not necessarily mutually exclusive. It is ironic that this kind of rhetoric can creep in under the radar without too much protest, when couched in nationalist terms; but is always singled out when it exists on the left (not that this is anymore palatable or justifiable). I am always struck by Brecht?s line ?We who wanted kindness in the world / Could not ourselves be kind? this kind of thinking can take one down some very unpleasant alleyways. It also implicitly cedes the justice of the cause onto the other side and hence can only fall back on emotional appeals and primordial ties to shore its support up, having abandoned any universalist notion of justice. Morris?s persistent identification of Israel with the ?West? and the latter being made synonymous with ?civilisation, culture, refinement, human rights etc? is an indication that there is an uneasiness over the simple appeal to nationalism and hence the level of rhetoric is ratched up to that of a ?clash between civilisation or babarism?. Many would confronted with a simple choice of nationalism and the kind of violence being presented would simply say: no; it is however harder to reject the latter type of posited conflict, which is why it is rather cleverly slipped in and turns what should be a conflict between two antagonistic nationalisms into something much more grander and dare I say it ?world-historical?. The problem, apart from the obvious, is that I think this kind of move is almost a sign of desparation; in that normal and cogently argued assertions are now being seen an inadequate at drumming up support so apocalytpic scenarios are being presented to coerce acceptance for unaccetpable policies in the present. A distasteful and somewhat underhand form of arguementation, to say the least.

Ah well, loved your comment on Marx's Jewish question BTW; spot-on analysis.

Posted by: Conrad Barwa at January 16, 2004 13:59

'Engineer?s disease? Nice phrase.
I'm always annoyed by people who assume that what is static is by nature apathetic. Insular communities may be boring to outsiders but serve their members just fine. And what happens when free trade reigns and all systems are fully integrated? Oh yes! New markets on Mars. I'm with Marx when he says that for the sake of analysis, it all comes down to economics. But I'm sick of economists who say it is so for purposes of prescription. But if A=B, B≠A

On immigration I've said too much recently. I suppose I stand by socialism in one country. I worry about native born citizens of any country before immigrants. It's just in my country, the immigrants are more interesting; that's why I keep threatening to leave.
I've got nothing to say about Benny Morris that Scott hasn't said already, and said well.

Posted by: seth edenbaum at January 19, 2004 23:45
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