James Howard Kunstler: We’re all antisemites now

A brief exchange with James Howard Kunstler, Peak Oil expert and foe of suburbia; following his rather extraordinary recent post in which he basically claims that:

1) Israel – a country with 200 nuclear warheads – is engaging  in existential self-defense by bombing what is essentially a huge concentration camp of its own making (an area half the size of County Kerry, containing 1,500,000 people), destroying its physical infrastructure and civil institutions, killing 900 people, wounding 4,000, 40% of all which casuaties are children, because

a) Some Palestinians believe the state that created the Ghetto they now live in, is illegitimate and ought to be removed by violence if necessary;

b) Approximately 14 Israelis have died, 4 of whom shot each other by mistake, as the result of over-the-fence bazooka attacks from inside the Ghetto;

2) Despite his own writing style being deliberately caustic, provocative, and outrageous – but because he has been verbally and nastily attacked online:

a) Essentially, all critics of Israeli policy are either American crypto-nazis or American Left-wing traitors to western civilisation, in addition to which;

b) Those Gazan kids deserve whatever they get, and it’s all very pragmatic and simple.


Dear Mr. Kunstler,

I sympathise with your response to any anti-Jewish nonsense that you have been subjected to (I don’t actually want to read the garbage, I take your word for it), however you should know that rational critics of Israeli policy get the same sort of hysterical prose – check out the comments Phillip Weiss gets. May I also please remind you that Arabs are a semitic people too, and that the charge of anti-semitism can equally apply to anyone who would so casually and flippantly dismiss the suffering in Gaza as you seem to have done in your recent article.

I’m also a little fed up with otherwise intelligent American-based commentators, assuming that the peculiar cultural manifestations of their parochial left-right pathologies are somehow of universal application to all intellectual discussion on any topic worldwide (I’m not a big fan of HuffingtonPost either). I couldn’t care less about the hang-ups of rightwing fruitloops or the hypocricies of American leftwing academics, for example, when discussing the morality of what is happening in the Gaza strip, because they are and ought to be of no consequence to a rational consideration of presumptive fundamental decency – none. Unless, that is, one’s moral compass is merely some sort of emotional pinball machine that simply bounces around in reaction to other people’s fixed talking points.

The Irish, like the Israeli’s, also gained their (three quarters) independence from Britain by blowing stuff up on the fly. The Zionists even called one of their operations after Michael Collins, since he invented modern urban guerilla warfare. So I’m not innately hostile to the Israeli project (there is also a forestry plantation in northwestern Ireland named after its late sponsor, an Irish American lawyer – who with his Jewish law colleagues, smuggled guns to the early Israelis).

Gosh darn it though, I have this thing about how these other people were also dispossessed of their own homes, much as the Indians were in the US, and the Irish were in their own country – and the Jews were throughout history. This doesn’t make me a hypocrite, it makes me consistent. And I don’t see how the deaths of 13 Israelis (four killed in “friendly fire”) – may God have mercy on them – really justifies the deaths of 900 Palestinians, with 4,000 wounded, and about 40% of all of them children, inside a giant open-air concentration camp.

I have followed your weekly writings eagerly for sometime – often the highlight of my week, intellectually. It doesn’t bother me that you are cantankerous, or bitchy, or over the top. It does bother me however, that an otherwise smart person could so childishly take personal umbrage at what some obvious idiots had written, that you would callously and unthinkingly condemn an entire, unrelated, imprisoned population to such barbaric conditions.

They didn’t ask to get their homeland invaded, and you’d probably be pretty pissed off too if you were confined to a ghetto on the outskirts of your own homeland. I understand that the Jews in 1948 were a desperate people, much like the Irish immigrants in the US circa 1848 – and after the man-made famine, the brutality, and the coffin ships, how could we blame desperate immigrants for signing up to Manifest Destiny (a concept courtesy of one Mr. O’Sullivan) in their new homeland, if it meant land and freedom – even if this meant the brutal dispossession and ghettoisation of the native tribes? I don’t blame desperate Jews for essentially signing up to a Zionist Manifest Destiny either. But we are still faced with the issue of this land’s dispossessed native people, also ghettoised, and barbarised, in the here and now as a result. Irish patriots also fought with the Boers against the British for South African independence in the nineteenth century. This does not mean that we were dishonourable in recognising the immorality of apartheid later.

Israel is essentially a delayed nineteenth century pan-ethnic/religious nationalist european project, much like the other nationalist projects of the time – pan-slavism, Irish nationalism, the Boer war etc. It’s tragedy is that it has had the contradictions of european polity vs. dispossession of non-european natives telescoped into two decades rather than two centuries, right after experiencing the horror of it’s own people’s near annihilation. It is also, now, the French Algeria of the Western World – the West here primarily being its main material sponsor and political fountainhead, the United States. Much like the French Algerian Ultras, it is claiming to be upholding the best of Western Civilisation while engaging in the worst aspects of that civilisation’s practice against outsiders (the so-called outsiders actually being natives); and like the Ultras, also yelling betrayal and infamy at any dissent in the mother country.

You often declaim against exurbs and suburbs and Las Vegas; but doesn’t it occur to you that Israel itself is the ultimate Western exurb in the Middle East? A national counterpart to the wealthy fraccionamientos of Latin America: with their armed guards, shopping trips to – and kids in college in – “the States”; ever higher electrified barbed wire fences against the poverty outside; and the neighbourhood air-raid siren to alert of armed attacks by thieves and kidnappers? Don’t the crumbling, empty buildings of the Tel Aviv advance capital give you pause for concern? If you genuinely care about the fate of the Zionist project, shouldn’t you be concerned about its near total reliance on massive subventions – military, political and economic – from it’s American sponsor and european watershed? The massive influx of ex-Soviet immigrants, unenculturated by Western norms of liberal democracy or even the ideals of the early Zionist project? The proto-fascist fanatics who insist on the continued theft of private Palestinian land, the humiliation and subjugation of it’s people – and the Orwellian use of “settler” as though this private property was empty? The Israeli soldiers who risk their lives to guard goatherds, and exurbs with no economic or social reason for existence other than pure colonisation? How can you condemn the wasteful yet peaceful “Inland Empire” of the US and not see the parallel with the colonial exurbs – by gunpoint – of Israel?

Can you please form and articulate your own, independent and intelligent analysis of Israel – pro or con – that does not simply rely on reacting to what other people say, and without the casual, Stalinist airbrushing of its native population from the pages of history? You can do far, far better than by simply stooping to the childish tone of your most idiotic attackers. Please do.

Sincerely


May I also please remind you that Arabs are a semitic people too, and that the charge of anti-semitism can equally apply to anyone who would so casually and flippantly dismiss the suffering in Gaza as you seem to have done in your recent article.

That’s too fine a distinction.
The Palestinians have declared that the destruction of Israel is their official policy.
They need to change their policy.

Jim
James Howard Kunstler
“It’s All Good”


Mr. Kunstler,

I’m sorry you didn’t seem to get past the first paragraph; and the “Palestinians” (and the 40% casualties who are children) are not Hamas, or the rocket firers, just like the Israeli militarists and expansionists are not all Jews. And it is anti-semitic – or how about just inhumane – to assume otherwise.

Sincerely

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