Thoughts on Israel-Gaza war 2014 edition

August 2, 2014 Leave a comment

Once again Israeli is bombing and invading Gaza in the cycle of retaliations. This time I don’t feel so miserable though. Somehow I feel much less neurotic and anxious than in 2012. I’m not sure why, maybe because in 2012 I thought it was quite clear that the justification for attack was flimsy and based on a very weak breaking of a ceasefire.

This time around however I think I have some more clarity in my head on how to think about the latest event. The Norman Finklestein lecture provided a good starting point for my thoughts. The final point for me is that this war is one aimed at eliminating Hamas by targeting and inflicting suffering on the Palestinian population so that they overthrow the Hamas govt or yield and submit further. Not sure how much further they can submit. In any case the war is inevitable based on the conflicting ideologies of what the future of this land ought to be. A state for the Jews has no room for Palestinians. A secular state for both has no room for Zionism. An Islamic state has no room for minorities. A two state solution has the backing of intl law, but Israel won’t accept it because it doesn’t trust the Palestinian side and Palestinians don’t trust Israel to withdraw settlers. In any case the two state solution is going to require great political will and it’s unpopularity doesn’t help it. It is clear that the West Bank is still occupied, and Gaza is surrounded and an open air prison with tunnels. International law gives the right to those who are occupied for armed liberation. The Israelis do not think they are occupying Gaza, they argue they are retaliating against a foreign attacker. Even in this description of events the equivalence of attack is ridiculously absent, more than 1600 Palestinian dead in 25 days and 3 Israeli civilians and 30+ soldiers.

Finklestein’s main argument is the following: Israel’s attack on Gaza is attempting to break the recent unity governemnt because it poses a diplomatic threat to Israeli policy of refusing to implement the two state solution. Bibi was looking for a pre-text to attack to disrupt the recent unity government. When Hamas joined the unity government, it implicitly accepted the Fateh agreements to a two state solution etc… including the Arab League peace proposal. FInklestein made several points that Hamas was not a threat to Israeli citizens until the Israeli state provoked them. The kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers and their murder was blamed on Hamas. No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but it is thought that a Hamas affiliated group that is not under the leadership of Hamas performed it. In any case, Israel mobilizes its security apparatus in the West Bank, arrests almost all the prisoners exchanged for Shalit and further harasses the West Bank population.

Hamas is under pressure in the WB. Then a Palestinian teen is kidnapped and killed in Israel. Rockets fly from Gaza, and the pretext needed is used to eliminate Hamas. Finklestein argues the Israeli government says it is going in to stop the threat of Hamas. FInklestein says there is no threat. First, the rockets are harmless in proportion. In 2008 a 22 day conflict left 3 civilians dead, in 2014 after 22 days it was the same thing. Iron dome did not exist in 2008. So Iron dome does nothing, the rockets are “fireworks”. The threat from rockets does not justify the scale of the bombing.

Second the Israeli government argued that the tunnels are a threat to be eliminated. Finklestein argues that Sisi destroyed 90% of the tunnels and that the rockets in Gaza are home-made. So Israel’s attack is not to eliminate a threat, since Hamas kept up the ceasefire since 2012 surprisingly well (even created a special force for this purpose), but to destroy unity government.

Third Finklestein states that Hamas’s ten demands for a ceasefire are reasonable. The Tony Blair ceasefire fed to the Egyptian president was a farce intended to make Hamas look reactionary. It required that militias in Gaza be disarmed (or some other language) that basically required Hamas to surrender or for regime change. This is a similar tactic to Iraq intended to entrench not to reduce tensions. This is part of Bibi’s media campaign prolonging the bombing run Israel is taking in Gaza.

Finally Finklestein argues there is no proof of weapons hidden among population centers, bombs are targeting people not weapons. The scale of the dead indicates there is little concern for civilian casualties. The UN has found no evidence of weapon hiding among civilian buildings.This all leads to the conclusion that this war is intended to punish civilians. Finklestein concludes by saying that a two state solution is something Israel does not desire and it takes steps to undermine any movement towards it. In this case it is the Palestinian unity government.

I have a few thoughts about this. First calling the bombs fireworks is a mistake. They reach Tel-Aviv. Sure they are basically projectiles emptied of any explosive power, the odds of actually hitting anyone are really low, but still not fireworks. Second, generally I think this is right to the point of being uninteresting. I guess it is still important to establish point by point that the Israeli bombings are aimed at civilians. But for me this has somewhat of a so-what factor. Yes, it is in violation of international law. But Israel already is in violation of multiple international laws. International law itself is only used when it benefits those already in power. I think as a tactic to stop the immediate killing by putting pressure on Israel, international opinion is important. And in as far as international opinion cares about international law then that is a good tactic (short-term) but a useless strategy (long-term). Third I think it misunderstands the Israeli psyche of being under threat. Even if Hamas is feckless it doesn’t mean that it is not perceived as threatening. The real threat is from the ideas held by Hamas and Palestinian resistance groups. There are anti-semites, and these terrify Israelis and people all over the world, but the real threat to Israel is the alternative political project.

My main point of dissent is that the reliance on international law is not logical given everything else FInklestein says about the conflict. If, as it appears, the strong do what they will (with some window dressing), then the logic for both sides should lead to further entrenchment and resistance. This means armed struggle and conflict is the only way to achieve anything. Talks and negotiations save lives and that has merit. But this will recur until, either the ideologies change, or one side eliminates the other. Each time this will happen the same pattern will repeat itself. It’s not important who fired the first rocket, or made the first move, in the latest exchange. At this point it is easier for Israel to eliminate the other side than to negotiate.  I think in this case the only option for both sides is to increase violence. There are Israelis and Palestinians from either side who are looking for  another solution, one where coexistence is possible, but I do not think they are very popular. We can hope that they triumph, but the better option is strengthening the Palestinian hand to reach a settlement.

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Wen Tiejun The 8 Crises

Secular patterns in CHinese adoption of capitalism in which each crisis is diffused by relying on the agricultural rural sector to soak up inflation and the failed investments of the urban areas.

2008= 25 million lay offs in China. Huge social source of unrest, investment in country-side as he recommended allowed the absorption of the unemployed. But China at the same time is short for labor, it needs to import labor from NK.

There are 8 crises in the history of Chinese devpt:









Each investment cycle turns into 2 debt crises.

Urbanization has high risks, when risk turns to crisis, rural base softens the crisis. If we destroy rural China there is no place for soft landing.

Government critics say preventing people from going to urban areas is violation of HR.

Every crisis creates unemployment which is turn creates social unrest. cost of capital center is defrayed to the rural area.

The 1982 boom is not a result of the market reforms but from the social foundations set in 1960, the movement to send the unemployed to the countryside under the guise of reeducation could not have been done individually

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Random points

How did the silver get to China if as Braudel says they had no grand finance fairs or markets, or if as Arrighi says they shut down all but one port?


In 1960 Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon had growing economies. Iraq had a growing economy till 1990. Saddam provided education, healthcare etc… How accurate of a picture is this? What caused the decline of this growth trend?


Braudel, in the Hppkins symposium book p88, the origin of counterfeit labels and labels of origin like “made in china” have parallels with the “Venetian Seal” with Levantine traders trying to fake venetian seals to get higher prices. Noting that the Italians had previously faked levantine seals to sell higher in Europe.


A lot of articles seem to be returning to the pre-state human societies to make claims about contemporary human politics. Is it useful to go back to the pre-state past for insights into the present? An example is in justice where we look at behavior to understand what we think is just or unjust at a universal level. Another example is the use of the “natural” adjhjective to argue for a particular vision of sexuality. It isn’t useful, we do not actually know about living styles but can only speculate, we don’t know if primal behavior is good for us today or if it works, we do not know if it is actually universal and assume there is no culture in the past, 

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East India Company

As a side-note, the official language of the EIC in India was Persian until the 18th century (I think). All officers had to be trained in Persian. This gave a large inflow of persian poetry into English literature which led to a golden age of English poetry.

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Berkley’s ideas

March 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Interesting to think that some Polisci people believe they can resolve a 400 (4000) year old debate.

Locke on the existence of objects in the world, they contain properties in of themselves but we also attribute to them properties that only make sense in the human mind. Things like smell, color, taste. On the other hand things like shape and size are in of itself. Example of apple.

Berkeley: Crucial role of group of thinkers who argue against the revealed nature of religion and transcendent truth.


We come to know the world by perception and what we perceive are different kinds of ideas. The world is not a world of material objects, for all we know and can say the world consists of bunches of sensory ideas which we combine. Objects are collections of perceptions.

Conta Locke Nothing in of itself or in the material object causing the ideas we perceive. Rather the object itself is the bundle of ideas. But ideas  cannot exist outside of the mind. Example of smell of apples, not the chemical but the sensation of the smell. That idea could not exist outside of the mind, it is intrinsically sensory, requires awareness. And that is how we know the world. We cannot conceive of the smell of lavender outside of the mind as a sensory experience. Whatever there is in the outside world, there is no way it could resemble the sensation of lavender, or the color of red, or the primary qualities like shape and size. We cannot conceive of something without giving it sensory qualities (like something being rough).

The nature or essence of objects is to be perceived.

Apple collection of qualities, each of those qualities is based in perception could not exist outside of mind, stopping there we have apples. Not turning things into ideas, but ideas into things. Sensory experiences are all that matter to us, all that we experience, we do not need to go farther in  questioning the world. You cannot prove anything is more than sensory experience. If something really was unperceived by any mind at all, it wouldn’t matter, it would make no practical difference. Things don’t exist unconceived is not a bad consequence.

There is no way out of Locke’s material world, objects cannot do anything, Locke cannot explain how physical objects cause ideas in the mind. Berkeley argues ideas have no agency, but Berkely can appeal to mind of god and human mind as active. World consists of spirits and passive ideas. Ideas exist only by being in the mind of spirits. Physics cannot explain how matter causes effects in matter.

Perception of our own minds not through perception, we get a notion of it by experiencing its output. By inference I get an awareness there is something inside me called the mind. We become aware that there is a mind through a different way than we become aware of other things.

He is a dualist, there is a deep divide in the world between mind and things, the things are composed of sensory bundles/experience but the mind is a spirit that experiences that senses. Unlike Descartian materialism where the mind is a substance as well.

Problems: Continuity of things when they are unperceived. Asteroids out of nowhere? He uses the continuity of things when they are not perceived as weak evidence of existence of God who continues perceiving things. How do we change the world, I look at an apple go away, come back the apple is eaten, someone else ate it, my sense perceive the apple different. Is it that another person changed that bundle of ideas? Why can’t we arbitrarily change our subjective experiences.

Religious dimension: Idealism as best antidote against materialism and atheism, attempt to reduce world to material objects, matter in motion. Idealism as best argument for existence of God. Physical world consists of non-material objects, objects are bundles of ideas, where do ideas come from if not from the object?  Then they come from God who imparts ideas on us, guarantees that they are regular, follow laws of nature. Means we are directly in contact with God. Newton’s space and time distances God from humanity, idealism brings god into everyday life by sensation.

Why fall out of favor? Scientific work received well, but accused Barkley of sliding into Pantheism, world as spiritual entity. God source of ideas, then god source of sins. Berkeley put on the table a view called idealism that was bound to stay. But transcendental idealism is different from Berkeley’s but he introduced the concept of idealism. Radical nature of his views. Cannot prove it is fales but no one is really convinced by it.

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Solzhenitsyn on Eurocentrism

February 25, 2014 Leave a comment

“But the persisting blindness of superiority continues to hold the belief that all the vast regions of our planet should develop and mature to the level of contemporary Western systems, the best in theory and the most attractive in practice; that all those other worlds are but temporarily prevented (by wicked leaders or by severe crises or by their own barbarity and incomprehension) from pursuing Western pluralistic democracy and adopting the Western way of life. Countries are judged on the merit of their progress in that direction. But in fact such a conception is a fruit of Western incomprehension of the essence of other worlds, a result of mistakenly measuring them all with a Western yardstick. The real picture of our planet’s development bears little resemblance to all this.”

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Is there an intrinsic human tempo?

December 4, 2013 Leave a comment at 11:00 minutes

According to this it seems that humans all tend to 94-96 beats per minute as the tempo that they can keep up with and count to.

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