Blogs > HNN > Confessions of a Supposed Marxist Rockstarophile

Apr 4, 2005 10:57 pm

Confessions of a Supposed Marxist Rockstarophile

Mr. LeVine is professor of modern Middle Eastern history, culture, and Islamic studies at the University of California, Irvine, and author of the forthcoming books: Why They Don't Hate Us: Lifting the Veil on the Axis of Evil; and Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv and the Struggle for Palestine, 1880-1948. He is also a contributor, with Viggo Mortensen and Pilar Perez, to Twilight of Empire: Responses to Occupation.

It seems I've done something to someone at because for the second time in a few months they've done a profile on me. I'm not sure if this is intended as a compliment or not, but it's worth looking at the piece as a case study in how the Right uses factual distortions and inaccuracies to attack those it deems to have gone over to the dark side.

The article, "Academic Marxist Rock Star," by intern Tvi Kahn, is in general a recycling of an earlier and better titled piece by Robert Spencer, also on this website, "Mark LeVine: Noam Chomsky as Rock Star." I wrote a detailed response to Spencer's largely inaccurate portrayal of my views that appeared on Juan Cole's blog, Informed Comment,
which led to several exchanges between us. Mr. Kahn seems not to have taken note of it, for he makes the same accusations as Spencer without addressing my rebuttals. But there's enough new to make a new rebuttal worth the effort in order to provide an example of just how extensive the misinformation campaign of the Right is and how much effort is necessary just to keep a story somewhere approaching factually accurate.

To begin with, Kahn accuses me in the title of being a Marxist. But I'm not a Marxist. I don't even think I know any Marxists, although I really couldn't care less whether a person is a Marxist or any other political or religious idelogy. Yet now that I think of it, much the same accusation has been made against Stanford Professor Joel Beinin by Right wing accusers (as I've documented in earlier postings), also without foundation. I suppose this is still the best opening salvo they can come up with; even better than accusing someone of being "liberal." What I don't understand is why Mr. Kahn would make such a ludicrous charge in the title. Indeed, he accuses me of envisioning a"quasi-communist utopia," which is a world"free of class" in which racial, ethnic and other identities have been"expunged." I didn't know that this was my vision for the world. In fact, it sounds a lot like John Lennon's"Imagine;" but while I do critique nationalism as an ideology I don't remember saying that these various identities should be"expunged."

In fact, what I advocate is" culture jamming," which is a process that brings together these various identities in a manner that, like the best musical jam session, creates previously unheard of yet more holistic and positive identities than were possible before. But such nuance--if I can consider my thinking here as possessing at least a measure of nuance--seems to be indigestable to conservatives (and many hard-core leftists (Marxists perhaps?) Fundamentalists all to be sure) who live in George Bush's black and white universe where the only thing more dangerous than the axis of evil is the axis of arrogance and ignorance that makes it possible and indeed necessary. At any rate, I don't remember ever envisioning a"quasi-communist utopia." In fact, while I don't have my well-worn copy of the Marx-Engels Reader at hand, nor my first German edition of Marx's collected writings (who's value, ironically, is so high I've been forced to store it at the local museum), I'm pretty sure there's no such think as a"quasi-communist utopia" in Marx or Engel's writings. If I was really a Marxist worth my salt, wouldn't I envision a properly communist utopia, or at least use the correct terminology (if i remember correctly, Marxists are pretty anal about terminological correctness).

It would be nice if in reviewing one's work a critic waited at least till the second paragraph before venturing so far away from reality in (mis)representing their views and writings.

Continuing on, Kahn then pretty much quotes the Spencer article (without any attribution, which in my business is called plagiarism, although perhaps in the world of Right-wing web journalism and Frontpagemag specifically the standards are lower) that I have a "penchant for ageing rock stars." What does this mean? That I prowl the clubs looking to pick them up? How many ageing rock stars do I even know? What does "penchant" even mean here, aside from the vague sexual innuendo of the word (so I'm a star-struck homosexual Marxist; even juicier!)

He further accuses me of "renouncing my Jewish faith" after my father died when I was a teenager. That's news to me; especially since he died in my twenties and I have never renounced my Jewish faith. Perhaps he means that I'm not a religious Jew? But if this is his standard for renouncing one's faith then more than half the Jews in the world are apostates. Anyway, does it really matter where and how one concocts these fantasies? All that matters is that I'm a self-hating Jew; and the intended effect was achieved, as I've already received one email from someone castigating me for abandoning my heritage, as if the very process of accusing me of doing so means that I must have done it (I though this logic went out of style with the Inquisition. I guess it's coming back.) One thing is clear, neither Mr. Kahn nor his colleagues on the Right, so many of whom are publicly religious, have read the Hebrew Prophets.

Then comes the main thesis of the piece:

"Meet Mark LeVine, an academic known not for his music but for his steady stream of anti-American and anti-Israel diatribes from a Marxist perspective that present Washington and Jerusalem as aggressors in a war against Islam."

So here's the point. I am "anti-American and anti-Israel." But where's the proof? In fact, a student of mine told me he was watching O'Reilly in late February when the Ward Churchill affair was all the rage and a guest listed me first as the most anti-American and anti-Israel professor in the country. Very nice, but as an old TV commercial once said, "Where's the beef?" Perhaps it's because after the elections I called American a "criminal nation" for reelecting a man who led the country into an illegal war that killed over 100,000 people? Well, as far as I know, that's one big war crime, and if Americans voted for Bush with this knowledge at hand—and the realities of Iraq were undeniable on November 2, 2004—then this would seem to make the country a criminal nation, however unpleasant such a reality might be.

The real issue is: How does one defend oneself against such an accusations as those leveled by Kahn? I could challenge Mr. Kahn to document such a view; but of course the proof is all in how one defines "anti-". For the Right, any criticism of the US or Israel automatically defines one as anti-America or Israel. A time-worn tactic to be sure and thoroughly at odds with the heart of both Jewish and American history (both of which are founded on strong dissent against the status quo of oppression and injustice). Apparently, however, they're still considered effective. And what's a "Marxist perspective"? Who cares, as long as I have it while also hating America and Israel. What a trifecta! Should I be making reservations for a long stay in Cuba in the near future?

"Most menacing" of all to Kahn is that I have a “long history of blending art, scholarship and activism.” Ah-hah! Now we have it. If I blend together these three activities I can not be "objective," like all those great Right-wing scholars who are of course, by definition, objective (since their version of the truth is of course the only objectively valid one—Ayn Rand is surely smiling…). But please Mr. Kahn, tell me what's wrong with blending them together? If it's so bad, what are you doing working for At least I can argue by the facts at hand that my activism is derived from what is accepted by the vest majority of the scholarly community to be the most accurate understanding of the history and contemporary dynamics of the region I study. Can we say the same thing about the contributors to your website? No. Ah, but we know the reason why we can't, don't we? Because the left-wing cabal who have taken over academia have largely succeeded in running honest and God-fearing scholars who happen to have a conservative view point out of town.

I hope I'm not boring the reader, but this isn't a matter about defending one's honor or integrity. It's about how people can write things that are factually inaccurate in every single paragraph and then circulate to the entire world via the internet, morally, politically and otherwise cost-free. So Mr. Kahn continues his argument by claiming that I believe that "There is only one cause [of the world's problems], capitalism, that produces every effect. This is a simplification worthy of a rock musician." Let's put aside the slander of rock musicians (as the good and especially great ones produce music that is far from simplistic). It would indeed be a simplification if I argued this; but in the previous sentences he quotes me as arguing that in fact there is a four-fold matrix of forces—modernity, colonialism, capitalism and nationalism—that can only be understood together if we want to get a grasp of the causes of the problems of the Middle East and larger global south.

So which is it? Well, in order for Kahn to accuse me of being a Marxist, of course, he must say that I argue that capitalism is the "only" cause. This despite the fact that in my writings I have said specifically that in the Middle East it is colonialism that is the most important "coefficient" of what I call the "modernity matrix" while arguing, based on the research of Israeli geographer Juval Portugali, that at the same time in a place like Palestine/Israel nationalism can be the "generative order" of historical dynamics of the conflict from a spatial perspective, capitalism can be determinative (as argued by Israeli scholar Gershon Shafir in his seminal Land, Labor and the Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict) in the country-side, and modernity as an ideology and colonialism as a process can be most important in the cities and larger political arena. All of this I have argued in numerous published articles and book chapters, but I guess Mr. Kahn didn't think it necessary to read most of what I've written before making definitive pronouncements about the essence of my "oeuvre."

Moving to the present, Kahn attacks a critique I wrote of the first Arab Human Development Report in which I accused the authors of uncritically buying into the Orientalist stereotype of Middle Eastern societies as being uniquely backward, undemocratic and undeveloped largely because of their own cultural and historical failings, not because of the power and policies of the West. He thinks that my "patronizing attitude absolves Arab societies of the responsibility that the AHDR wishes to restore" for their problems.

That's a nice argument, except it's once again totally wrong. First, because I don't absolve Arabs for their problems. Rather, as the article in question clearly reflects, I try to show how all groups interact and feed off each other; that's quite different than his accusation. And indeed, that kind of nuanced position led to my being invited to meet with the senior UNDP personnel who wrote the Report, who in fact agreed with my critiques and distributed it widely amongst themselves. What's more, they explained that they hoped to rectify the problem in later reports. What Mr. Kahn doesn't mention, however, is that when the authors did just that with the 3rd Report—that is, focused attention on the role of the US and the history of colonialism in producing the region's problem—the US refused to allow it to be published, much to the chagrin even of the series' biggest booster, the Times' Thomas Friedman.

To be honest, I'm getting tired. Every single sentence is rife with inaccuracies. How much time am I supposed to spend to setting the record straight? And when I do, will the website print it and challenge the author to respond? And who will read such a piece, especially without a sexy title and lead-in featuring a mix of accusation of rock-starphelia, Marxism and menacing of our children's undeveloped minds? (No wonder one conservative student group at my university put a sign outside my office building asking "Who's more dangerous to America, Osama bin Laden or your professor?")

Yet I think it's important to point out a few of the outright distortions in the rest of the hatchet job because they are a common theme in attacks by the Right that I've encountered lately. First is the accusation of "exaggerated reports" of civilian casualties in Iraq. I wish this were true, but of course it isn't. The study that argues for 100,000 civilian deaths (which doesn't even include the number of dead from Falluja and ended the body count before the bloody second half of 2004) was conducted by several of the leading medical schools in the US, peer-reviewed, and published in one of the top three medical journals in the world, The Lancet. It was attacked fiercely by the Right but its methodology was judged solid and the numbers agree with accounts by all the Iraqi medical personnel I met with in the country and have been in touch with since then. But like the attacks on John Kerry's Swift Boat tour of duty, it matters little whether the accusation has a shred of truth; as long as you repeat it enough it will plant enough of a seed of doubt in the public's mind about the event to convince millions of people to suspend judgment of their government and move on to more important issues like the Jackson trial or the latest cast-a-way from "Survivor" or "American Idol."

Finally, Kahn accuses the International Solidarity Movement of "overtly endorsing terrorism" in criticizing my description of the ISM as true soldiers of peace. Again, this is utter rubbish; but who cares? And anyway, what's terrorism? However he defines it so that whatever the ISM says, it endorses it? Please Mr. Kahn, can you provide some clarity and/or proof of your accusations? Or do accusations need no supporting evidence at

If I can find some free time not spent rebutting the kinds of attacks featured in this article I will devote my next post to discussing some interesting articles in the Arab press on the topic of "The End of Arab History" in the wake of events in Iraq and Lebanon.

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Jim Mamburger - 4/26/2005

FYI, on April 7 Kahn wrote a response to this post. It appears here:

Given the time that's elapsed since this rejoinder was printed, is it safe to assume that LeVine will not be responding to the points made in Kahn’s second piece?

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

I was just gonna ask Prof. LeVine how his "research" on ISM was going! I'm sure he's uncovered evidence that all the well-documented links between them and terror are fraudulent--he's merely too modest to make a big deal of it.

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

If LeVine actually called ISM "true soldiers of peace" (can he be that much of a putz?) then he has to answer what they were doing protecting weapons smuggling tunnels in Gaza.

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

Nice catch Diana! I'm sure LeVine will have an excuse--probably that Arraf and Shapiro are actually Mossad agents designed to make ISM look bad.
If LeVine spent less time fantasizing about anti-suicide bombing demonstrations held by Palestinian(s), and more time listening to what the enemies of peace are saying, he might be less of a putz.

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

The obfuscation involved is fashioning this apology for violence against Israeli civilians is mind-boggling. So ISM supports terror, but recognizes that it should not publically go on record actually engaging in provable acts of violence. That would be a strategic error. LeVine, of course, "disagrees" with this--he prefers non-violence. OK, then why associate with these thugs? They don't support non-violence (you putz!). It would reduce the amount of weseling you have to do.
By the way, if the IDF argues something is it necessarily nonsense? How many IDF soldiers have been killed by non-existant missiles/gunfire/suicide bombers? It seems to me you start from ideological assumptions that are irresponsible.

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005


Thanks for compiling this impressive list. I expect that LeVine will either ignore it, or create some ad hominem attack against Israeli Jews.

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

If you don't read my comments, how do you know that I'm not engaging with your ideas? I called you on your Orange County anti-Jewish ideology, that's all.

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005


I've asked a number of questions that you have not answered, and yes, your avoidance and obfuscation have proven frustrating. I'm more intlerested in your answer to Diana's last question, though.

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005


Who said it was a waste of time?!

P. E. Bird - 4/15/2005

It can't be too much of a waste of time - you seem to spead a lot of time here.

Diana Applebaum - 4/12/2005

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

Jerusalem----April 5......The Israel Beit She'an Magistrate's Court has dismissed a lawsuit for libel brought by a foreign International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist against an Israel journalist. The American plaintiff alleged that Jerusalem reporter, Judy Lash Balint had defamed her in an article posted on an Israel Internet website which maintained that members of the ISM were in close contact with the Palestinian terrorist organizations.

The Israel Prime Minister's Office declared in June 2003 that the International Solidarity Movement had been directly related to acts of terrorism. In describing the activities of the terrorists who took part in the Tel Aviv suicide bombing of the popular nightclub "Mike's Place", the Israel Security Agency stated: "the two terrorists were careful to base their presence in Judea and Samaria by forging links with members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM)."

The report continued: "ISM members take an active part in illegal and violent actions against IDF soldiers. At times, their activity in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip is under the auspices of Palestinian terrorist organizations." "Foreign left wing activists, especially ISM members, who seek entry into Israel, often do so under false pretenses, via cover stories i.e. - entry for matrimonial, tourist, religious, etc. purposes which they coordinate prior to arriving in Israel," the Israel Security Agency reported.

Foreign volunteers in the International Solidarity Movement said in May of 2003 that they had tea with two Britons later involved in a Tel Aviv suicide bombing, but said they had no idea at the time of the assailants' intentions. One of the Britons, Asif Hanif, 21, blew himself up in a Tel Aviv bar in April, killing a waitress and two musicians. The second man, Omar Khan Sharif, 27, fled when his bomb failed to detonate and remains at large. Both were British citizens. Israel's defense minister said that in the wake of the bombing, Israel would have to tighten checks on foreigners visiting Palestinian territory. In recent weeks, Israeli officials have said they intend to be even stricter about letting these activists into the country. The ISM openly declares on it's web site that it recognizes the Palestinian right to resist Israel via 'legitimate armed struggle.'

In June 2003, the IDF arrested a foreign "activist" during its search for arms smuggling tunnels in the Gazan town of Rafah. Army sources said the woman was inside a house that was slated for demolition. The woman was later released and allowed to remain in the country, though she was barred from returning to Gaza. The IDF had also discovered and arrested a member of the International Solidarity Movement who was hiding an Islamic Jihad terrorist (wanted for planning and executing several terror bomb attacks against Israeli civilians) in Jenin.

The plaintiff claimed that Balint had implied in the piece that her presence in the territories assisted the terrorist groups in perpetrating attacks. Balint was defended in the case by Shurat HaDin Director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner. Balint expressed her satisfaction with the dismissal of the action viewing it as a confirmation of the accuracy of her reporting: "The judge's decision to throw the libel case against me out of court underscores my assertion about the true nature of the International Solidarity Movement. Hopefully this decision will prevent further frivolous legal action against reporters who try to tell the truth about extremist groups."

The case filed in December 2003, was initially delayed when the attorney for the plaintiff, Shamai Leibowitz, represented to the Court that he had served Balint with a complaint and not received an answer. At the time, however, the Israeli court system was on strike and the time periods for answering court papers had been suspended in place. Nonetheless, the Court mistakenly granted the plaintiff a default judgment. However, after the error was brought to the Court's attention it swiftly vacated the default. The defense then requested that the Court instruct the foreign plaintiff to post a bond to ensure court costs in the event that the case was to be dismissed, as is required by Israeli law. However, attorney Leibowitz boldly stated to the Court that under an "existing treaty" U.S. citizens were not required to post bonds in Israeli courts. The defense, however, researched the matter and discovered, in fact, that the U.S. was not a party to any such treaty.

After being presented with this finding, the Court ordered the plaintiff to post the bond in thirty days. When this period of time passed and the plaintiff still had failed to post the money, the defense moved to have the nuisance suit dismissed. In December 2004, Attorney Leibowitz inaccurately wrote to the Court that the two sides were negotiating a settlement, while in fact no such compromise would be entertained by Balint who insisted that she wanted to take the case to trial and publicly establish the accuracy of her article. Based upon Leibowitz' misrepresentation, however, the Court granted a further extension in time. In January, Attorney Darshan-Leitner wrote to the Court informing it that the defense would not accept a compromise in any event and asked that the suit be dismissed for the plaintiff's failure to post the required bond.

Finally last week, the Israel court dismissed the baseless lawsuit. Leibowitz is the grandson of the late controversial Israeli philosopher, Rabbi Yeshaiyahu Liebowitz. Since the outbreak of the current round of Palestinian violence in September 2000, Israeli troops have conducted thousands of counter-terrorism operations in the towns and villages of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, in the heart of hostile and dangerous Palestinian population centers.

The Israel Defense Forces' ability to operate effectively in these areas against the Palestinian terrorists has been systematically and intentionally obstructed by groups of foreign volunteers, who are used by the Palestinian Authority as "human shields". The most dangerous of these groups is the Palestinian-financed ISM The ISM recruits anti-Israel radicals, primarily from Europe and American college campuses, and sends them to Judea, Samaria and Gaza to disrupt Israeli military operations. The presence of these foreign civilians in the midst of the Palestinian population obstructs the IDF's ability to fight Palestinian terrorists. By interfering with Israeli counter-terrorism operations, the ISM directly endangers the lives of Israeli civilians. In April 2003, Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that: "ISM members take an active part in illegal and violent actions against IDF soldiers. At times, their activity in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip is under the auspices of Palestinian terrorist organizations."

In the past, ISM members have been arrested vandalizing and destroying Israeli security fences and equipment. In March 2003, fugitive Islamic Jihad terrorist, Shadi Sukiya, was arrested in a house in Jenin rented by the ISM Shurat HaDin is also representing the family of an Israeli soldier currently on trial for the alleged shooting of ISM militant, Tom Hurndall, in April 2003. The Israel Law Center has called upon the Knesset to outlaw the extremist ISM.

"We are at a time of war and they are going into enemy territory," said Tova Ellinson a spokesperson for the Israeli Interior Ministry, noting that this policy has been in effect for over a year and that dozens of people have been deported "for breaking the law." Danny Seaman, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister's Office stated: "members of the ISM have been knowingly aiding and abetting terrorists and disrupting the activity of the IDF meant to prevent the murder of Israeli civilians." "Far from aiding peace, their behavior is encouraging the terrorist element in Palestinian society, " Seaman said. "Some of them are misguided and being cynically used by the Palestinians and many of them know exactly who they are supporting and what they're doing, and no country facing the terrorist threat of the proportions such as Israel can tolerate this kind of behavior," Seaman concluded. According to a senior security government source, the International Solidarity Movement receives funds from both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

mark safranski - 4/9/2005

I still want to know how he works at a major American university without knowing any Marxists.

Perhaps Mr. LeVine is bending the laws of time and is teaching circa 1952 before popping into a wormhole to warp back here in order to blog.

Diana Applebaum - 4/9/2005

When Mark Levine is presented with evidence that an organization that he supports and that he characterizes as working for peace - the ISM - actually works actively in support of terrorism (defined as targeting civilians with random acts of violence intended to terrorize in aid of a political end) he promises to look into it, but never does. Instead , he stops posting.

I submit that Levine is unwilling to grapple with factual evidence that contradicts his preconceptions. Presenting facts to the closed mind of Mark Levine is a waste of time.

mark safranski - 4/7/2005

Hi Mark,

I can understand your being annoyed at being attacked online but I'm having a difficult time believing, unless perhaps you are teaching this semester at, say, Hillside, that you don't know any Marxists.

Derek Charles Catsam - 4/5/2005

It seems to be a reaonable rule to say that if someone does not claim to be a Marxist (or a Nazi, or whatever), calling them such, especially once they assert not to be, is nothing more than an attempt to call them a name in place of engaging in debate. Levine can be wrong (or right) on the merits, but calling him a Marxist is certainly not an attempt to engage in the merits at all.


E. Simon - 4/4/2005

I don't think it's radical per se, merely radical in the context of resolving disputes regionally and given Middle Eastern political systems generally - which have at any rate been, admittedly, quite dysfunctional. The most important problem with two separate states is being able to find an accomodation on Jerusalem. And I think until the Palestinians shift largely to an economy more like Israel's in terms of dependending on a large degree of human or intellectual capital rather than largely by providing manual labor across the green line, then all ideas will remain problematic.

But I agree that constructing federal states which - by definition, retain a certain degree of autonomy within their constituent divisions - is an inherently more stable way of achieving an equitable and workable framework generally, and probably just as much so in the case of Israel and Palestine given their current interdependence, lack of natural boundaries between the two and not so easily resolved, competing claims for a common capital. The power sharing splits of unitary states like Lebanon, etc., are anachronistic and untenable attempts at resolution that are based merely on temporary demographic time points. They lack the kind of formal, long-term basis for mutual respect that exists within a geographically grounded federal framework.

Don Willis - 4/4/2005

For political reasons related to its leadership position in the so-called Non-Aligned movement, India chose to advocate on behalf of its migrant community in South Africa, but not in East Africa. So when Idi Amin expelled the Indian (and Pakistani) communities, I think that nearly all went to Britain, not to India. There may well be other factors to explain their affinity for London over India besides the geopolitical trends ofthe moment, but in any case their attachments were not necessarily uniquely to India. Indian migrant communities in other places, like Fiji and Guyana, became both economically and demographically significant, so the Indian experience in British colonies is varied.

Nevertheless, Zionists who migrated to Palestine can't really be faulted for shedding their attachment or acculturation to Eastern Europe, which was not a homeland for Jews in the same way that India or China were and remained for their foreign communities. The great wave of E. European Jewish migrants in the 1890's-1910's did not maintain any affinity for the old country (aside perhaps for family ties). Unlike Italians of the same era, or Chinese around the world before 1948, the Jews did not go back to their countries of origin. Obviously, the Jews did have some a priori historical association with Palestine. I suspect that those who elected Palestine over New York or Buenos Aires were more educated and more ideological, but they were only a small part of a much larger and permanent migration from Europe.

Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 4/4/2005

are you referring to camp david. then i'm afraid you are misinformed about what they were offerred. they were not in fact offerred anything by israel, as barak refused to put anything in writing or provide a detailed map. that arafat should never have said 'no' but rather a more diplomatic 'sounds good, where's the beef' is certainly true, but to imagine that the solution was 'on the table' in camp david is not supported by the accounts of participants at the talks. in fact, in a well known article in, if a remember correctly, yediot ahranot or maariv written two weeks before campd david, a veteran israeli journalist basically outlined what would happen: barak would go, not present something that arafat could accept, but make sure arafat got blamed for not accepting it. i have the citations for these somewhere but not handy at the moment, but they're easily findable on the web, and the latter one especially if you read hebrew.

Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 4/4/2005

this kind of swiss model would certainly be the ideal, but whether it's realizable in the near future is of course quite debatable. whether any other option is realizable either is also quite debatable so it's worth considering. lebanon has nothing to do with switzerland. it's not based on a canton model at all but rather a complex and outmoded system of divying up political (and to a varying extent, economic) power based on the maronite, shi'i and sunni split, but based on the 1930s era census which today far overcounts the number of maronites vis-a-vis especially shi'a. but at least all three groups in theory view themselves as part of the same lebanese nationality, which is the opposite of the isr/pal case. this of course is what makes a swiss model hard to imagine today in i/p, but this is why i suggest a radical reimagining of what it means to be israeli and/or palestinian is necessary before any viable solution can occur.

E. Simon - 4/3/2005

Of course, if two separate states can be stable, that's my first preference.

E. Simon - 4/3/2005

Of course, if two separate states can be stable, that's my first preference.

E. Simon - 4/3/2005

Unless the point wasn't put across as strongly as I meant it, that last "option" (perpetual...) in the last sentence/paragraph would also be an unfortunate one and, if not obvious, the second worst one.

E. Simon - 4/3/2005

It's not often that I find much in Mr. Levine's writings in which I'd be intrigued or with which I'd agree, and you're entirely right to point out the likelihood for unproductive regional interference in any non-two state model, but my inference is that a Swiss model would differ in a bit substantially from the Lebanese model. Specifically, the autonomy of the cantons in an explicitly federalist structure comes to mind. I don't know much about this but my guess would be that the legal framework of Lebanon was of a unitary nature. Correct me if I'm wrong or if you'd like to provide more detail, but I think if these respects hold, then I would look much more kindly to finding some merit in terms of autonomy and political stability in a possible Swiss model for a hypothetical Israel-Palestine.

I agree entirely that the Lebanese situation would have to be avoided at all costs, including, if necessary, perpetual occupation/hegemony of the West Bank and Gaza until such time as an otherwise long-term constructive and peaceful disengagement can be effectuated.

Diana Applebaum - 4/3/2005

A binational state along something like the Swiss model was in place in Lebanon. It no longer is. The immediate problem was that the Muslim birthrate so far exceeded the Christian birthright that the electoral allocation looked unjust to Muslims as they became a majority. The larger problem, however, is that despite the fact that Lebanon had a large, moderate, and even significantly secularized Muslim population, the radical and Islamist elements always seem able to wag the dog. Just as Hamas regularly overrides the will of a great many Palestinians to seek peace. In Lebanon, of course, the Iranians, Syrians, and PLO intervened - but I see every reason to expect that the Iranians, the Syrians, the Saudis, or some other regional power would attempt to disrupt the balance of any binational state set up in place of Israel.

So, while I agree that creative solutions are needed, I cannot imagine a workable binational state. Binationalism does require some degree of respect for the rights of the other. I see very little evidence of a Muslim/Arab will to recognize the rights of others in the Middle East. The Christian populations of Iraq, Syria, and Egypt continue to dwindle. And in Lebanon last week, four bombs blew up in Christian neighborhoods, and the Christian population continues to flee.

N. Friedman - 4/3/2005

Professor LeVine,

No confrontation was needed. The Palestinians were offered, without a shot needing to be fired, a state. They may not have liked all of the terms. However, the fact is that the offer placed on the table by President Clinton met Arafat's own stated demands - as shown by Prince Bandar -. So, frankly, what you are advocating is a big fraud.

N. Friedman - 4/3/2005


Only someone who hates Jews could support the ISM or the PSM.

N. Friedman - 4/3/2005


Nice find Diana. LeVine really does not understand.

Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 4/3/2005

i happened to see this under diana's question and so i am answering it to say that your use of the term 'orange county anti-jewish ideology', which is essentially meaningless apart from being yet another ad hominum attack--what evidence do you have that i'm anti-jewish? and what does it have to do with orange county?--proves my point that you are incapable of having a civilized adult discussion.

Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 4/3/2005

if you are referring to the advocacy of what could variously be termed a binational state or a civil democratic state across all of historic eretz israel/palestine, then this is not the same thing as a palestinian/muslim majority state today, although clearly within a generation it would be. personally, i find few good options for solving the conflict. i do not think that a two-state solution is plausible any more bc of the facts on the ground and the dynamics of the occupation and the economic and environmental/strategic need israel has for the resources of the west bank. my personal desire would be for some kind of binational solution along the swiss model, something that might resemble what was advocated originally by ahad haam/martin buber and the brit shalom people, but updated to fit contemporary realities on the ground. but i do not think this is perfect and may well be as equally unworkable on the ground as a two-state solution. but i am convinced that unless israelis and palestinians work together to imagine a different kind of political system for their shared country than the present so-called "viable" or "pragmatic" options then the only end to this conflict will be extremely bloody. i am happy to hear any proposals that you or anyone else might have. some creative thinking is certainly needed.

Diana Applebaum - 4/3/2005

Are you content with the ISM program of eliminating the Jewish State and replacing it with a single, Palestinian/Muslim majority state?

Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 4/3/2005

first of all, as for being a putz, since mr. lopescu seems unwilling to engage in debate free of personal attacks, i am no longer bothering to read or reply to his comments.

as the incident recounted by diana appelbaum shows, the ism did not knowingly hide a terrorist wanted by the idf. you seem to think that everyone the idf goes after is a terrorist and therefore the mere fact of being wanted by the idf was enough proof to turn someone over to them, or at least turn them away. but the sad reality is that the vast majority of people rounded up by or searched for by, or shot or otherwise injured or killed by, the idf are civilians, not terrorists. therefore the ism would have good reason, without having full knoweldge of the situation, to protect someone coming to them who's being sought by the idf or israeli intelligence.

this is not surprising, as it's the same thing in iraq, just as it was the same thing in vietnam, algeria, the american colonies and everywhere else that's under military occupation. this is why military occupations usually wind up turning populations against them, despite their lofty rhetorics of security and democracy.

as to your other pieces of information, i will investigate them and get back to you.

but let's look another part of the article by shapiro and arraf, where they write:

"In actuality, nonviolence is not enough. Rather, what is needed is nonviolent direct action against the occupation. This includes roadblock removal, boycotts, refusing to obey curfew orders, blocking roads, refusing to show ID cards or even burning them. Yes, the Israeli army and settlers will use violence. Yes, people will get killed and injured. They are now also. Hamas claims it has many men ready to be suicide bombers – we advocate that these men offer themselves as martyrs by standing on a settler road and blocking it from traffic. This is no less of a jihad. This is no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation. And we are certain that if these men were killed during such an action, they would be considered shaheed Allah. But an action like this cannot happen once and it cannot be the only type of action. Large-scale, mass popular participation must be developed in order for a movement to have an effect.

First a strategy of nonviolent direct action resistance must be developed. Palestinian leadership, civil society and political activists must work together to define such a strategy and then go about implementing it throughout Palestine."

we may not like the language--not less noble than suicide bombings, etc... as if suicide bombings have any inherent nobility. moreover, it's a bit strange for a jewish guy to explain to muslims how they can be martyrs/shaheeds. but the use of "i" instead of "we" later suggests the main writer was probably arraf, not shapiro. but the main point is that this was a text written to palestinians, not to outsiders, and the language and tone reflects this, otherwise it would fall on deaf ears bc of the incredible level of daily violence plaguing the society, most of it from the idf. this i know from personal experience, as the level of violence of the occupation, which i think most commenters of this blog seem to have no understanding, is such that palestinians grow up subsumed in violence from the time they are small children, and trying to come and preach pacifism is nearly impossibe.

i learned this most poingnantly trying visiting a refugee camp where a young activist who's home is bullet-ridden from random idf shootings but who himself embraces non-violence has opened a community center for young children in which one of the activities is teaching them the national dance. but the only song they would dance too--these are 6-10 year olds, was a song glorifying hand grenades. he hates this song, but it's the only way to get them into the community center and begin a process of educating them. if instead of this song he played, let's say, the palestinian equivalent of john lennon's 'imagine,' no one would show up and they'd be on the street instead fighting the idf or being indoctrinated by hamas. this is the reality that anyone doing peace work is up against in the occupied territories today. those readers who don't like it are welcome to help create a better atmosphere in the territories by going there and taking up the challenge. (if anyone can do it better than the ISM or the christian peacemaker teams, i'll be the first to cite them as a primary example of the best way to struggle for peace and justice.)

in this environment, however, can anyone deny that the ism strategy outlined here is far superiour morally and politically to the violence-based strategy of the al-aksa intifada? wouldn't it be better if palestinians took this example to heart? to me, for these people to come to the occupied territories and risk and sometime give their lives to help generate the kind of non-violent grass roots civil campaign to win national freedom makes them 'true' soldiers of peace compared with most armies i am aware of.

if there are any members of the ism who have knowingly violated this philosophy then i would condemn them vociferously and urge the movement to stick to its roots of non-violent direct action against the occupation. that is the only way this occupation, like that of iraq, can be transcended.

Diana Applebaum - 4/3/2005

The fact is that the ISM sees its role as providing an aggressive, non-violent movement in coordination with the "armed resistence" - read "terrorism" - undertaken by Hamas.

The ISM and Hamas share the same goal - the replacement of the Jewish State by a Paslestinian/Muslim State "From the River to the Sea" - as the ISM/PSM T-shirts and placards put it.

This goal, turning a Jewish population of 5 million people into refugees, is intrinsically violent. The fact that the ISM coordinates its activities with Hamas makes them open supporters of violence. The fact that the ISM openly supports "armed resistence" in a context where "armed resistence" means the bombing of civilian targets, makes them supporters terrorism.

Diana Applebaum - 4/3/2005

A recent demonstration serves as an example of the close cooperation between the ISM and the terrorist groups. The announcement read "Join the ISM, the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces and the Apartheid Wall Defense Committee on Thursday July 3 to block construction of the Apartheid Wall that will completely isolate three villages in the Tulkarem region: Nazlit Issa, Baqa Sharqiya, and Nazlit Abu Nar from the rest of the Palestinian villages." [ Ref9] The Palestinian National and Islamic Forces is a coalition, or an umbrella organization, that includes an long list of terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad. (Palestinian National Liberation Movement {Fateh}; Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine {PFLP}; Islamic Resistance Movement {Hamas}; Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine {DFLP}; Palestinian People's Party {PPP}; Palestinian Democratic Union {FIDA}; Palestinian Popular Struggle Front; Palestinian Liberation Front; Islamic Jihad Movement; Arab Liberation Front; Palestinian Arab Front; Popular Front-General Command; Islamic National Salvation Party; and Popular Liberation War Pioneers. [ Ref10]).

Diana Applebaum - 4/3/2005

Susan Barclay, the ISM organizer deported by Israel after she hid Islamic Jihad terrorist Shadi Sukiya in the ISM office in Jenin, told the Seattle Post Intelligencer that, "she knowingly worked with representatives from Hamas and Islamic Jihad -- terrorist groups that sponsor suicide bombings and exist, according to their charters, to demolish the Jewish state entirely." (Seattle Post Intelligencer, Thursday March 20, 2003, Activist's death focuses spotlight on Mideast struggle, By Sam Skolnik, Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter)

Diana Applebaum - 4/3/2005

In Oct. 2004, the PSM, the American, student arm of the ISM met at Duke University. The press spokesman said:

"We don't see it as very useful for us as a solidarity movement to condemn violence. That will not achieve any particular goal."

The official delegates then voted on a floor proposal torpudiate terorism. It was voted down to loud cheers. The voting down of a motion to repudiate terrorism has become an annual ritual at PSM meetings. To their credit, every year an official delegate proposes such a motion at the annual National Conference. To the Movement's shame, every year the motion is voted down to cheers and applause.

Diana Applebaum - 4/3/2005

Diana Applebaum - 4/3/2005

"i have never seen nor heard of a legitimate ism member involved in violence or supporting violence"

Well, Mr. Levine, you have not been listening very carefully.

In a widely publicized incident that made many doubt the ISM's claims that it does not collaborate with terrorists, Susan Barclay, an ISM organizer later deported by Israel, attempted to hide Islamic Jihad terrorist Shadi Sukiya in the ISM office in Jenin while the IDF searched the building for him. An ISM spokesman claimed that Barclay had no way of knowing who the man was—although that would hardly justify her attempt to prevent a search of the ISM offices by an officer of the law who was searching for an identified terrorist. The spokesman went on to say that he was not certain how he would behave if he were himself given the opportunity to shelter a known terrorist from the police.

Tom Wallace, 43, who has traveled from Boston to work as the ISM's spokesperson in Jenin, says the ISMers in Jenin had no idea who Sukiya was when they took him in that morning, and that they were only trying to help a man in distress. And if, in the future, someone who the ISM knows to be a terrorist shows up at the office door requesting assistance? "He's still someone who's hurt and needs help," Tom says, adding that ISM members in Jenin are now debating this very question. "Honestly, I don't know the answer." One year earlier, ISM volunteers went to great lengths to enter the Arafat compound for the purpose of acting as human shields for Arafat and for the terrorists that the ISM volunteer writing this journal

These actions were all taken by ISM members in support of violence and terrorism.

Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 4/3/2005

i am aware of the piece referred to by diana appalebaum, and you are confusing what ISM does and what it acknowledges that palestinians have the right to do. i have never seen nor heard of a legitimate ism member involved in violence or supporting violence. what they are explaining--which i don't agree with--is their view that palestinians have the right to use violence to free themselves. it is true that occupied nations have long been accorded the right to use violence to free themselves from foreign occupation, but i have long argued publicly, going back at least a decade, that the use of violence by palestinians is morally, strategically and politically wrong. when i discuss the ISM as true soldiers of peace i'm speaking of their work on the ground with israeli organizations as well as palestinians, using militant non-violence against the occupation. i think this way of struggling is much preferable to that of hamas or the al-aqsa martyr's brigade, or any use of violence, and i firmly believe that had palestinians developed the kind of large scale non-violenct movement that the ISM and even more important, the work of the christian peacemaker teams epitomize, they would be far closer to achieving their national aspirations than they are today.

that they are on record as supporting armed struggle is something that i object to. however, from my understanding, this position is tied to their belief that only by not judging any particular form of struggle by palestinians can they operate without suspicion in places like gaza or nablus, where other peace groups in countries like iraq have been targeted by resistance groups. nevertheless, this doesn't change the point that they are not making an "overt endorsement of terrorist groups like hamas", nor was ISM "preventing idf counter-terrorism operations," as kahn argues, unless one wants to argue that every thing the idf does, including the destruction of homes--which is a clear violation of the geneva conventions, even if an occupant of the home is convicted of terrorism (which is almost never the case when palestinian homes are destroyed)--in fact, the entire occupation, falls under the rubric of "counter terrorism operations."

this of course is an argument deployed by the israeli government all the time, but it's nonsense, since if israel had merely taken the territories for security it could have built its wall along the borders 35 years ago, retained security control of the jordanian and egyptian borders, and left it at that. instead, the policy of every government since 1967 has been to support the implantation of hundreds of thousands of settlers in the territories, making the possibility of a peaceful resolution to the conflict all but impossible.

Diana Applebaum - 4/3/2005

Why Nonviolent Resistance is Important for the Palestinian Intifada
Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro

"We do not advocate adopting the methods of Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. … The Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics - both nonviolent and violent." Shapiro and Arraf then describe their goal as the complete elimination of Israel and its replacement by a Palestinian State "by any means necessary." To that end, they do not argue for ending terrorism, let alone condemn terrorism as a tool for destroying Israel. Merely, they argue for augmenting terrorism with “non-violent direct action,” "This (non-violent direct action) is no less of a jihad. This is no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation."
posted on – the official ISM WEB page

Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 4/3/2005

thanks for the compliment. however you should know, if i remember correctly, that alfonse d'amoto lost a reelection bid for senator from ny for using the word putz against his opponent, so i assume from your message you have no plans to run for office anytime soon. second, as to the ism charge, i know of no members of the ism who have protected weapons smuggling through gaza. can you show me proof beyond an accusation by the idf?

Clare Lois Spark - 4/2/2005

I agree that LeVine is not a Marxist; his conception of "culture jamming" and holism suggests he was spawned by the New Age.

Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 4/2/2005

thanks for your comment. i totally agree that in many ways the zionist experience in palestine is suis generis. in my first book, "overthrowing geography", i argue just that and developed my modernity matrix model as an explanatory/heuristic device to help chart how each instance of colonialism is unique. i also think there are some very interesting similarities between the role of zionists in palestine (and other colonial situations, such as Algeria or germany's african colonies where many early Zionist leaders worked or at least visited) and indians in britain's other colonies (especially in africa). i am in fact planning at some point to do a project on just this issue. however the main difference is that the indians who were among the british empires best colonists abroad did not desire exclusive sovereignty over any african territory, nor come to define themselves through a specific historical-religious attachment to any country other than india.

Don Willis - 4/1/2005

It is only natural to defend yourself from this kind of profile, but I think you have dignified Frontpage by trying so hard to refute their "allegations". As to the question of whether they have read your scholarly output, are you kidding me? There are probably serious and knowledgeable Middle East specialists who could engage your research and formulate a reasonable critique, even a strong dissent, but they ain't doing that at Frontpage.

And some questions about colonialism. You say it has played a primary role in the development of the Middle East (which I don't doubt), but it seems that the generic term must be modified to describe different circumstances in the region. Understanding the development of a Labor Zionist settlement in Palestine under Ottoman and then British control would seem to require a different model then what happened in other parts of the region. And contemporaneously, hundreds of thousands of Indians were moving to Africa, SE Asia, and South America. Is it possible that Jews in Palestine were merely economic actors in roles similar to Indians in different parts of the world? Not having read much on the subject, I would be curious to know how elastic the term must be to encompass the range of both the ME experience and the global experience of the same time.