Ahmadinejad, antiwar, and the focal points of power

Alan Dershowitz in Huffington Post destroys the assertions of Ahmadinejad of Iran at his Columbia speech that “Palestinian people didn’t commit any crime. They had no role to play in World War II” and had nothing to do with the Holocaust.

Not so, says Dershowitz, as he amply documents how the leader of the Palestinian people in the 1930’s-40’s, The Grand Mufti Hajj Amin Al-Husseini, backed Hitler from the beginning, thought exterminating Jews was a swell idea, orchestrated violence against Israelis, and received “millions” in support from Hitler’s Germany.

The Palestinians and their Arab allies were anything but neutral about the fate of European Jewry. The official leader of the Palestinians, Haj Amin al-Husseini, spent the war years in Berlin with Hitler, serving as a consultant on the Jewish question. Husseini famously posed with Hitler for a photograph that was proudly displayed in the homes of many Palestinians. He was taken on a tour of Auschwitz by Himmler and expressed support for the mass murder of European Jews. He also sought to “solve the problems of the Jewish element in Palestine and other Arab countries” by employing “the same method” being used “in the Axis countries.”

My jaw dropped when I read this. I didn’t know. (Dershowitz and HuffPo have excellent credentialshigh visibility, so I will assume the facts as stated are correct until shown otherwise.) Update: The facts appear to be partial. See end of article.

The atrocities committed by the Haganah and Irgun in the 1940’s when they drove Palestinians from their homes by terrorism, bombings, and murder were also hideous, violent, and cruel. And no, trying to determine which side has been the most brutal and violent is a) pointless, b) too often used as justification by one side for retaliation against the other, and c) implies one river of blood is somehow worse than another.

In my review of Buda’s Wagon. A Short History of the Car Bomb, I was struck by a quote from one of the founding fathers of Israel. The car bomb had its birth in America in 1921 and was refined and improved upon by Zionists in the 1940’s who used it against Palestinians and Arabs.

The use of car bombs by Zionists represented a major step forward both in the lethality of the bombs and their use as political weapons.

However, Palestinians and Arabs soon learned the technology and responded with the same, prompting one of the founders of Israel, Ben-Gurion, to say after the bombing of a Haganah headquarters, “I couldn’t forget that ‘our’ thugs and murderers had blazed this trail.”

Judging from email I received at the time, some apparently thought this was righteous bashing of Israel. Nope. Ben-Gurion seemed to me to be genuinely disturbed by what he saw coming; senseless killings and bombings by ‘thugs and murderers’ from all sides. Did he die with blood on his hands? No doubt. So have many others on all sides there too.

A Israeli Jewish friend who grew up as a child in Haifa in the 60’s responded to my question about what was it like there. She, a political moderate, sighed as if there was no way an American could really understand, but that “all I knew was that they were Palestinians and wanted to kill us.” The Palestinian family in the next town no doubt thought the same about Israeli Jews. Both were probably quite correct in their assessments too. (Well, a few on both sides wanted to kill, the rest presumably just wanted to live in peace.)

From The Washington Note, Steve Clemons discusses an essay by Matt Stoller about Emergence Politics and how the Left can effect change.

The essay is cerebral and cites a comment I made recently and have been making from time to time: “one of the characteristics of modern global politics is how organized minority factions are able to overwhelm majority views.”

If Bill Richardson is right and most Americans think that the war in Iraq is against their interests and want the troops to come home, then it’s clear that our political structure and the influence of a well-organized minority have been able to shrug off this strong public opinion.

In Israel, if the majorities of both Israel and Palestine want a negotiated peace settlement that has many of the features of the Geneva Accord (but without the name “Geneva”), then one has to wonder why the majority interest can be so successfully ignored for some time.

As Asymptotic Life has often noted about their peace work in Sri Lanka, the vast bulk of the population on all sides there just wants the civil war to end so they can get on with their lives and not have to step over pools of blood on the way to the market or worry if a car bomb will explode on their way to work. Yet the civil war continues.

Matt Stoller on how the few can control the apparatus of much larger entities, whether they be governments, media, or insurgents.

Hardliners control small institutions that control larger institutions that control most relevant national instruments of power.

Here in the US, he sees the Right as currently being more effective at using nonlinear Black Swan events (like 9/11) to further their aims, something the Left can learn to do too.

The point is that there are leverage points everywhere in our political system, once you stop seeing the fight as a fight between two teams and begin to consider politics as a dynamic system with regular nonlinear events that can be used for the institutionalization of our values.

Another reason Congressional Democrats are not effective in combating the Right is that many of them too often agree with the Right, a situation echoed in the Israeli Parliament too, no doubt. They don’t really want the wars to be over. Nor do hardline insurgent groups who oppose them. Warlords, whether they be transnational corporations or insurgent leaders gain power, influence, and money from war. AsympoticLife has certainly shown this is true in Sri Lanka, how the few can block the will of the many in ending war and conflict there – something which happens far too often elsewhere too.

It’s happening here in the U.S. The few are blocking the will of the antiwar majority. So, the question becomes, how do we stop them? Stoller has made an important first step by defining the problem.

Update: My phrase “excellent credentials” wasn’t meant to implied support of Dershowitz. As it turns out, the Grand Mufti was discredited by many of his own, something Dershowitz certainly has to know. Which neatly demonstrates the real point of this post – that multiple parties on all sides of a conflict may really not want an end to a conflict because it suits their purposes that it continues.


  1. Dershowitz and HuffPo have excellent credentials, so I will assume the facts as stated are correct until shown otherwise.

    I wish I thought you were kidding. Alan Dershowitz is one of the most rabid apologists for Israeli crimes in the United States, not to mention his advocacy of torture. Ugh.

  2. His article ignores Zionist on Palestinian violence, implies that since Palestinians backed the wrong side in WWII they got what they deserved, and is obviously self-serving, choosing only the facts he wanted to bolster his argument.

    Does he want peace there? I doubt it. Ditto for many others on all sides there. Which was the real point of my post. How do you get to the peace that most want when entrenched power bases block it at every step?

    The Sri Lanka civil war has been going on for decades. Politicians get elected by saying they’ll get tough on the insurgents. Insurgents build regional bases and support and get equally locked into the conflict.

    So when does it end?

  3. Clarification: In Sri Lanka, politicians get elected by promising to end the war. Once in power, they find reasons not to. And the former incumbents, who used to support the war, become Opposition and oppose it.

    Reminds me of a certain U.S. political party that came to power recently by promising to end the war… Yes, it’s happening here too.

    “once you stop seeing the fight as a fight between two teams and begin to consider politics as a dynamic system…” Amen!

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