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Middle East

Oct 19, 2012

'Making beer is a form of resistance': brewing West Bank tensions

Beer brewers in Palestine lost many of their customers when the Israeli walls went up. But one defiant ale maker says it's all part of a resistance fight for freedom.


The most famous section of the Israeli-West Bank separation barrier is also the shortest: the eight-foot-tall concrete slabs festooned with anti-Zionist graffiti, the vast majority of it written, somewhat tellingly, in languages other than Arabic, make up only 6% of the structure’s total length.

But this nevertheless remains the stretch of wall that most people are likely to encounter on their travels, as they cross from Jerusalem to Ramallah or Bethlehem, and its impact is not to be understated. As Bus 18 to the former of those cities proceeds along the Israeli side of the wall towards the eventual bottleneck that connects it to the Palestinian one, the unadorned grey of the slabs rushing by not a foot from the reflection of my face in the vehicle’s dirty windows, a feeling of physical sickness comes over me. Whatever you feel about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whatever you think the solution might be, you cannot help but feel, as you cross this particular rubicon, that you are entering a prison.

“Tall, isn’t it?” the young man sitting across from me asks. “Very,” I say.

“I jumped it,” he says. “You what?” “On Friday morning.” He smiles broadly. “I wanted to visit the Dome of the Rock for Ramadan.”

The Israeli government made a point this year of allowing a greater number of West Bank Palestinians to visit Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, together constituting the third holiest site in Islam, ostensibly as a show of goodwill following a period of relative calm, the result of a security arrangement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but more likely to help release some of the tension that has built up as a result of that very arrangement.

But Shehada, as the young man introduces himself, was not one of those allowed to make the crossing. Only those over 40, like his parents, were granted automatic access, while those between 35 and 30 were allowed to apply for it. Shehada’s siblings, who are all under 15, were also allowed to cross. Shehada, who trained as a violin-maker in Britain before returning to Palestine last year, is the only member of his family who falls within the Israelis’ feared demographic of angry young men. Not that he was going to let that stop him.

“A friend and I decided to go anyway,” he says. “We made a grappling hook and jumped the wall in A-Ram [a Palestinian town northeast of Jerusalem].”

“Didn’t it hurt? That thing’s eight feet tall.” Shehada nods and holds up his hands for me to see them. His palms have been cut to ribbons. “Things were worse for my friend, though,” he says. “The Israelis caught him. We don’t know where he is.”

But as he leads me from Ramallah’s central bus station to the Al-Wehdeh Hotel, where I have booked the cheapest room in town, Shehada says he doesn’t regret going over at all.

“I was there for Ramadan, the best month of the year. Oh, man, it’s so good. You wake up and you’re just excited to be alive.”

“I hadn’t been to Jerusalem for 14 years before Friday,” he says. “The last time I was there, my grandfather took me, and he’s been dead for years. And I was there for Ramadan, the best month of the year. Oh, man, it’s so good. You wake up and you’re just excited to be alive.” He invites me to share iftar, the fast-breaking meal, with his family the following evening.

I meet Ala Jaradat, a researcher at the Ramallah-based Institute for Palestine Studies, at the upscale Beit Anisa later that night. Thin-lipped, bald by choice, and with Russian-accented English picked up while studying in what was at the time still the Soviet Union, Jaradat, who is drinking alone, joins me at me table entirely by chance in an attempt to avoid having to listen to the the group of American NGO workers sitting a few seats behind him. “Well-meaning people who don’t know what they’re talking about,” he explains.

Over rather too many glasses of Palestine’s own Taybeh beer, the activist, former political prisoner and scholar explains why he thinks the Friday passes are a ruse. “The Arab-Israeli conflict is at its lowest ebb in quite some time,” Jaradat tells me, echoing the sentiments of a number of Israelis on the other side of the separation barrier. “But there is tension building on another front, another conflict brewing, and that is here at home. The Israelis are aware of this and are trying to ease that tension.”

Where is the tension coming from? “From the fact that we live in a police state,” he says. You mean the occupation? He shakes his head.

“We are living in a Palestinian-controlled police state. Mahmoud Abbas is the head of that police state. Critics are abducted from their homes, escorted out of their lectures at university and jailed, disappeared. Whether the Palestinian Authority is doing this at the beck and call of Israel or on its own initiative, so that its members can keep lining their pockets, is beside the point. I would not rule out either possibility, but it’s beside the point. The point is that we are living in a police state, period, and we must rise up to dismantle it. The third intifada,” Jaradat tells me, “must be a struggle against ourselves.”

He laughs. “Actually, places like this are likely to be the first targets in that struggle. When your enemy is economic inequality and a culture of graft, this is precisely the kind of up-market place you’d want to firebomb.” He points at Beit Anisa’s high wooden wall, which blocks the street entirely from view. “There’s a reason they’ve designed this place as a fortress, you know.”

For all of his criticisms of Palestine’s past and present leadership — Arafat was a “terrible” leader, he says, “a one-man barrier to peace” — Jaradat is hardly uncritical of Israel. To the contrary, he is a staunch supporter of a one-state solution. “I support the establishment of secular state called Palestine,” he clarifies, “not a nominally Jewish state called Israel in which Palestinian Arabs are citizens.” He dismisses out of hand the concerns of those like The Jerusalem Post‘s Jonathan Spyer, who told me that the end of Israel’s Jewish majority would mean the end of the Jews in Palestine, period.“This idea of pushing the Jews into the sea …” Jaradat says and dismisses the idea with a wave of his hand. “Muslims, Christians, Jews. We have been living together for thousands of years and, where we haven’t been living together, we’ve at least been living alongside one another. This is not primarily a confrontation between Judaism and Islam. There are Israeli Muslims, there are Palestinian Christians, and so on. This is about land. If it has become a religious confrontation, it is only because Zionist ideology has become increasingly bound up with the messianic Judaism of the settlers.”

But surely there must be some validity in the concern, I say, when both Hamas and Hezbollah have previously called for the destruction of Israel? “The destruction of Israel,” Jaradat says, “is not the same as the destruction of the Jews. This is a Zionist confidence trick, this idea that the destruction of Israel as a Zionist enterprise would be comparable to a second Holocaust. It gets its power from the guilt that Western liberals feel for that tragedy. Israelis themselves shunned Holocaust survivors for a long time. The Zionist pioneer of the twentieth century was the Jew to look up to, not the Eastern European victim of the gas chambers. It was only once the West Bank was occupied that the Holocaust was embraced. It became a useful excuse.”

This may be partly true — Thomas Friedman, writing in From Beirut to Jerusalem, discusses Israel’s turn towards Holocaust-justified self-pity at length — but does it preclude the possibility that these organisations’ official platforms might nevertheless be anti-Semitic? Jaradat demurs. “This is not a chicken-and-egg situation,” he insists. “The occupation came first. The anti-Semitism followed.”

The next morning, somewhat hungover from the Taybeh beer, I head to the town that gives the beverage its name to indulge in some hair-of-the-dog. Taybeh is Palestine’s last 100% Christian village and its eponymous ales and stouts are the only such products brewed on this side of the separation barrier. Nadim Khoury founded the microbrewey following the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, predating Israel’s first microbrewery by about 10 years, and while residents in the surrounding Muslim villages were initially unimpressed with the godless enterprise, Arafat immediately saw the benefits of encouraging Palestinian entrepreneurship and gave the family of brewers his blessing. As the sherut drives towards Ramallah’s city limits, we pass one of the company’s ubiquitous billboards: “Drink Palestinian. Taste the Revolution.”

On the outskirts of town, signs point out various international aid projects: a German-funded road here, a Swedish-bankrolled government building there. A girl’s school, overlooking a rocky valley, is being reconstructed with funds from the US government. Shehada will later insist, to the point that I give up and let him, that the phrase “a gift from the American people” literally means a gift from individual Americans, rather than from the federal government. “The American government would never send us money,” he says.

“The second intifada made things difficult, but the construction of the wall made them nearly impossible. Israel used to account for nearly 70% of our sales. Today it accounts for less than 30.”

The sherut also passes a number of Israeli settlements, the blue Star of David fluttering serenely above the razorwire that encloses and protects them. The whole thing strikes me as surreal. On this side, detritus. On that, a couple dressed in clothing from The Gap, walking what appears to be a purebred collie. Pete Seeger’s “little boxes made of ticky-tacky” come to mind, with a few pillboxes made out of it, too, for good measure.

The dog-walkers do not appear, from the window of the bus, at least, to be the messianic ultra-Orthodox settlers who believe that every inch of ancient Israel must be settled as a necessary precondition for the Messiah’s arrival. (To Maimonides’ wry observation that the Messiah “may tarry,” such zealots coldly reply, guns cocked, “Not if we can help it.”) They appear to be ordinary, even boring suburbanites: perhaps those who have taken to the West Bank, not for religious or ideological reasons, but for economic ones.

In August, Al Jazeera reported that lower rents and higher education subsidies were increasingly drawing non-religious Israelis into the territories, especially recently-arrived migrants. Why else would such non-messianic types want to live out in here in a heavily-fortified chicken coop? It’s like Texans from El Paso willingly going to live in Mexico’s Ciudad Juárez, the one-time murder capital of the world: either you believe you’re on a mission from God or else you constantly and consciously lie to yourself, insisting that your little slice of heaven isn’t smack-bang in the middle of hell, where people resent you at best and want to kill you at worst.

Palestine’s first and only female brewer, Madees Khoury, is putting the finishing touches on a batch of ale when I arrive at the Taybeh microbrewery. As I wait for her, beer in hand, I peruse the walls: Khoury’s father and uncle, in near-identical pictures, smiling and shaking hands with Arafat; a flyer advertising this year’s Taybeh Oktoberfest, the village’s annual festival of beer and music; her father smiling wildly in the pages of a New York Times from a couple of years back. Khoury herself has spent most of her life in the United States — she speaks English with an American accent, which is more common of Israelis than it is of Palestinians, and wears a Boston Red Sox cap that breaks my Yankee-supporting heart — but decided to return to Palestine and try her hand at the family business five years ago.

We work our way through the formal part of the tour — this machine does this, that machine does that — before I ask about the map on the wall. It shows the West Bank, that familiar half-butterfly, and the commercial crossing points between it and Israel. Khoury is adamant: the construction of the separation barrier has been terrible, almost cataclysmic, for business.

“The second intifada made things difficult,” she says, “but the construction of the wall made them nearly impossible. Israel used to account for nearly 70% of our sales. Today it accounts for less than 30.”

Were it not for exports to countries like Japan, and the licensing of Taybeh’s brand and methods to a German brewing company, the operation may well have gone under, Khoury says. Many other, smaller companies have.

“We’re here,” she says, pointing at Taybeh on the map. “Most of our Israeli-side customers are in Jerusalem. But,” she wiggles her finger around over the contested capital, “there’s no commercial crossing in Jerusalem. We have to drive all the way down here, to the Tarqumia crossing, await inspection, cross over, and then drive all the way back up on the other side. The crossing inspections can take hours. Sometimes we’re asked to open every crate in the truck. You should see the crossing guards when we’re moving kegs. You’d think we were smuggling bombs or something.”

The result is that a beer run that once took several hours can now eat up a whole day or more, drastically limiting the numbers of runs that can be made to Israeli suppliers each week. Even as we speak, Khoury says, Taybeh’s latest business venture is being held up at an Israeli port: after producing a stellar little homemade vintage last year, the brewers are now looking to branch out into winemaking, but the state-of-the-art equipment they have imported from Europe is raising Israeli eyebrows. “It’s the same thing every time we import a new beer vat.” She rolls her eyes. “They act like we’re importing a nuclear reactor.”

Khoury has no doubt that the inconveniences experienced by Palestinian businesses are a product of Israeli design. “It’s better for them if we’re dependent,” she says. “We can’t even keep a small business on track and we’re asking to run our own country? That’s why it’s important to we keep doing what we’re doing.”

“Making beer is a form of resistance.”


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29 thoughts on “‘Making beer is a form of resistance’: brewing West Bank tensions

  1. SoAnyway

    No ant-semitism at all to worry about? “The occupation came first, the anti-semitism followed”???

    What about the the second class status of Mizrachi Jews in Arab lands over the past 500 years, the rabid Nazi Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the convenient scapegoating of the “Zionist Entity” by generations of the corrupt Arab ruling class who find anti-Jewish racism very handy for deflecting the anger of the masses.

    And no reason whatsoever for Israelis to be a teensy bit edgy about imported kegs?

    A bit of stretch surely? Nevertheless it is heartening to hear that mainstream Palestinians are taking positive steps towards their future, despite the cynical provocations and warmongering of their leadership.

  2. Tom Greenwell

    Fascinating article – thanks.

  3. Kevin Herbert


    In my view,there’s no such thing as ‘anti-semitism, which is a Zionist (Thomas Herzl) late 19th century confection to curry pity for the Zionist cause.

    There’s only racism..it the same for all peoples..why should a small group of Jews i.e. the Zionists, have the right to create a loaded term for racism against them.

    Isn’t racism in itself exactly the same evil against any minority?

    Careful in your answer…you’re on the shaky ground of a race supremacist i.e. someone who sees their suffering as automatically more important than the suffering of other minorities.

  4. SoAnyway

    Anti-semitism is the name for the most ancient and vicious form of European racism. Racism is itself a misnomer, being based on last century eugenicist misunderstandings of genetics. Nowadays most Australians are proud of our culture’s Judaeo-Christian heritage, although the virus of classical anti-semitism still occasionally finds a refuge in people with conspiracist leanings and an unhealthy, obsessive preoccupation with Jews and Israel. This is particularly odd coming from Anglo Australians who have no ancestral connection, mythology, language or culture to justify their colonialist appropriation of Aboriginal land.

  5. Kevin Herbert


    If you’re relying on Daniel Goldhagen’s widely debunked premise that the most ancient & vicious form of European racism is ‘anti-semitism’ (aka ‘racism’), then you’re at loggerhreads with the great majority of Jewish scholars, including Raoul Hilleberg the accepted leading global expert on the genocide against European minorities by the Nazis, as well as the widely respected Dr Norman Finkelstein et al. Both these reknowned Jewish scholars commented that Goldhagen’s attempt to contruct a centuries old narrrative of entrenched European racism against Jews only, reflected very poorly on the scholastic standards of the Harvard history department who’d approved his thesis, as well as on Goldhagen himself. In short, Goldhagen’s work is considered by the majority of Jewish scholars to be racist tosh.

    As a general comment, your absence of any supporting data for your views, is emblematic of a bigot’s response.

    Your fatuous use of moral relativism in regard the current Australian population’s lack of an ancestral connection to this land,is most revealing.

    Either quote your sources for your view, or apologise for your bigotry.

  6. Mike R

    The articles by Matthew Clayfield and Jack Davies are fascinating in that they illustrate the complexity of the Israel/Palestine situation by relating on the ground discussions with protagonists from both sides. It makes a refreshing change from the mono-dimensional opinion pieces that we use to be regularly subjected to by commentators safely ensconced on the other side of the world from the conflict.

    Kevin, you are at it again.

    Your opening salvo “If you’re relying on Daniel Goldschlager’s..” is an obvious attempt to verbal SoAnyway . Who knows what SoAnyway’s opinion of Goldshlager’s book or whether has read of or even heard of the book?
    As you point out Daniel Goldschlager’s book regarding the complicity of the everyday German people in the holocaust has been rightly condemned for its biases and inaccuracies and poor scholarship by Holocaust historians of all persuasions whose views on Israel are highly divergent.
    Its relevance to the existence or non-existence of anti-Semitism is limited.

    Kevin, your red-herring-manship ,as distinct from your scholarship, is much to be admired.

    As for your view regarding the non-existence of anti-Semitism.

    Anti-Semitism describes a particular form of racism which involves an irrational hatred of Jews. It has other connotations due to its historical prevalence and geographical diversity and the etymology of this form of racism also includes words like pogrom and ghetto that originated from the Jewish experience in Europe over many centuries.

    Kevin, are your objections to the term based on your belief that that the hatred of Jews is not irrational (i.e. the Jews deserve every misfortune and every calamity that has befallen them) or that the hatred of Jews does not or has not ever existed? This is not a rhetorical question and I would be interested in Kevin further elucidating his views regarding the non-existence of anti-Semitism.

    As I have discussed with Kevin in several of our previous interminable exchanges on Crikey,the term anti-Semitism originated by Wilhelm Marr almost two decades prior to Herzl’s rise to prominence, so your claim that it was manufactured by Herzl is bizarre.

    Interestingly you have again, as you have done several times in the past, referred to Theodor Herzl as Thomas Herzl. The only Thomas Herzl I can find using a Google search is a Tom Herzl on Facebook who resides in Austria. I will warn him that you are gunning for him for coining the term anti-Semitism and provoking the current turmoil in the Mid-East.

    As for the chicken and egg argument advanced by Jaradat in the above article itself. The implication that the state of Israel is the cause of anti-Semitism suggests that If Israel was eradicated then the level of anti-Semitism would revert back to the days prior to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 ( or back to the levels seen in Europe pre Herzl -see pogroms). These indeed were the good old days for the Jews.

  7. Kevin Herbert

    Mike R: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  8. Mike R

    Kevin, I was puzzled by your response to my question as to your reasons for the objecting to the term anti-Semitism. I originally thought the use of a series of ‘z’s was simply meant to convey a degree of boredom. This seemed reasonable as it took you several days to formulate your monosyllabic response at a rate of less than one character per hour. Did you agonize over the number of ‘z’s and continually edit and re-edit your response worrying whether it was too verbose or conversely too brief?

    However maybe your response was more profound than I first thought. Subjecting your response to sub-textual analysis to search for a hidden meaning I realize that your use of the letter ‘z’ being the final character in the alphabet was actually indicative of your struggle to find a final solution to the Jewish question as to whether the Jews brought their well-documented misfortunes upon themselves.

    But using the principle of Occam’s razor, I could be over-interpreting and you were just falling asleep at the keyboard. Sweet dreams Kevin and send my regards to Tommy Herzl.

  9. SoAnyway

    Love your response Mike R!

  10. Kevin Herbert

    Mike R: you’re suffocating under the weight of your irrelevant attempts at wit.

    You’ve conveyed nothing in your posts save for the fact that you have nothing of substance to offer.

    Maybe you can enlighten us as to what SoAnyway was basing his claims upon? It’s noteworthy that apart from repeating his/her facile,discredited Israeli Government talking points,we’ve heard nothing from him,/her since.

    Why don’t you explain what SoAnyway is trying to convey to Crikey readers….with supporting documentation.

  11. Kevin Herbert

    Mike R: I can’t let your following statement pass without comment:
    “The articles by Matthew Clayfield and Jack Davies are fascinating in that they illustrate the complexity of the Israel/Palestine situation by relating on the ground discussions with protagonists from both sides”.

    As often stated by Dr Norman Finkelstein, Australia’s Antony Loewenstein, Peter Slezak & Les Stillman, plus Gideon Levy of the leading daily Israeli newpaper Haaretz, there is no complexity whatsoever in the Palestine/Israel conflict. These eminent Jewish & Israeli commentators believe as I and tens of millions of decent people do, Israel illegally invaded the Palestinina lands in 1967, and it should leave immediately i.e. today.

    That’s no so complex after all is it?

  12. Mike R

    Kevin, Welcome back from the land of Nod. I hope you have not overexerted yourself again with your latest comments. I cannot be as presumptuous (unlike yourself) to speak on SoAnyways’s behalf. I will leave it to him if he would like to engage in debate with yourself .

    However my recommendation for SoAnyway would be against engaging as it is clear it is a futile exercise to as witnessed by Kevin’s persistent delusions regarding Thomas (Sic ) Herzl ( despite this being debunked on 2 prior occasions). Kevin seems to be a believer in the polemic device so favoured by propagandists ( I can think of one that springs immediately to mind who employed that tactic some 70 years ago) that if you repeat the lie often enough it will eventually stick.

    Personally, I am reluctant to engage another tit for tat set of exchanges with Kevin as from previous experience it may precipitate a sequence of exchanges (in the order of dozens) akin to a war of attrition.

    Despite the above reservations and against my better judgement I am going to succumb and take Kevin’s red herring bait regarding some of SoAnyways’s comments . Kevin hasn’t specified his objections to SoAnyways’ comments other than his attempt to dismiss anti-Semitism as a beat up. What irked Kevin, may have been ( I admit I am guessing) SoAnyways’s references to Arab anti-Semitism and the Grand Mufti’s of Jerusalem’s Nazi sympathies.

    I cannot vouch for the veracity of all that is found in Wiki ( I doubt if anyone can ) but the Wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism_in_the_Arab_world#Pre-state_anti-Semitism has much material that illuminates Arab anti-Semitism prior to the establishment of the state of Israel. Kevin (or anyone who else is so inclined) can read the Wiki and make up one’s mind as to the veracity of the claims in the Wiki by going to the 68 references, reading the 11 books in the bibliography and following the 7 external links.

    Similarly as to the Grand Mufti’s Nazi sympathies one can read all about it in the Wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haj_Amin_al-Husseini) which has some 220 notes and a bibliography of around 100 books (some interestingly by Anti-Zionists such as Ilan Pappe and journalists such as Robert Fisk whose sympathies cannot be described as pro-Zionist by any means) . Again you are free to make up your own mind, if you haven’t already.

    I make the above points to illustrate the immense complexity of the Mid-East debate and why it is hard not to be irritated by the simplistic narrow minded prejudices of Kevin and his ilk.

    Kevin, sorry about the injection of humour in my comments but I would treat you more seriously if you didn’t employ your usual modus operandi , that is to ignore previous comments that you cannot adequately address and attempt divert attention by going off on a new tangent unrestrained by the centripetal forces of consistency , logic etc..

    One thing you can say about Kevin , despite his deficiencies regarding consistency and logic, he makes up for it with dogged persistence. For those Monty Python fans he is highly reminiscent of the Holy Grail’s black knight. Kevin has long been bereft of limbs and has only his residual appendage to maintain his rage.

    I expect another critique of my sense of humour from Kevin. I know my humour is not to his liking, possibly too much parody and hyperbole and not enough litotes?

  13. Mike R

    Re your comment that precedes my one above.

    Yes Kevin, when it comes to you ‘simplicity’ is the keyword that springs to mind. I happen to agree that the occupation should come to an end as soon as possible (and the article in today’s Crikey by Mathew Clayfield reinforces this), but patience, especially when it comes to the Middle-East, is a virtue.

    Do you have a mechanism in mind when you suggest that the Jews/Zionists leave as of today? The only mechanisms I could conceive of this either involves mass expulsion or the wholesale slaughter that is currently in vogue in the Middle-East or alternatively do you think a polite request will do? Do you actually know whether Dr Norman Finkelstein Antony Loewenstein, etc. have some other mechanism in mind or also think along the same lines as yourself when it comes to a final solution to the Palestine/Israel question?

    Look I just hope it will eventually happen (maybe not in my lifetime) that the extremists on both sides (the extremes of the Likud on one side and Hamas, Islamic Jihad etc.) will come to, or be forced to compromise and a viable two state solution arises that conceivably satisfies both parties to the conflict but it is going to require an enormous amount of good will on both sides. The kind of inflammatory rhetoric which appears to be your specialty is not likely to engender such good will.

    The last thing the unfortunate Palestinians need are friends like yourself.

  14. SoAnyway

    Kevin Herbert, the Jews you quote are an extremist minority. You need to read more widely instead of looking out for people to confirm your biases. The fact that Gideon Levy appears in Haaretz is a testament to the tolerance of Israeli society for dissenters. The Arabs invaded Israel in 1967 and lost. It would be great if they got over it, and tried to do something constructive and creative instead of continuing to snipe at an ancient culture that they ought to respect as the well-spring of their own.

  15. Mike R

    Apologies to Kevin, I appear to misread your previous comment above and see you are only referring to 1967 borders not 1948 as I had mistakenly assumed. I am glad that you seem to have scaled back your rhetoric. Some of the comments I made were inappropriate in light of your reference to 1967. You certainly caught me off guard, as from all your previous comments (advocating the bombing of Tel-Aviv, Israel is a Nazi Fascist etc. state) and your espousal of the views of Mr Ahminedjad ( He of the ‘Israel is a cancerous tumour that will be soon to be excised’ and other bellicose statements), I assumed you were of the fervently anti-Zionist faction whose preference for a solution to the conflict was the obliteration of Israel, without any nuances re 1948/67.
    It now appears that you support the idea of a Jewish homeland within the 1948 borders and hence you appear to have developed Zionist leanings. In this case I suggest you might want to contribute to the planting of a tree in Israel in your honour which will only require a small donation ($18 will do).

    I have made my Mea Culpa and in the spirit of reconciliation would Kevin like to withdraw his laughable ( who said I was the only one who attempts to lighten the debate up with a bit of humour?) claims re Thomas Herzl and his invention of anti-Semitism? That would be a small, but good start, and would also indicate that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, Kevin’s cerebral cortex retains some residual activity.

  16. SoAnyway

    Mike R, clearly we need to talk about Kevin. I had already preemptively taken your advice not to engage, and was about to counsel you to do the same, taking as my text a highly relevant quote from Jesus, see Matthew 7:6 . But I was worried that not knowing the quote was from Jesus, the moderator might have excised me for being “offensive”.

    So anyway, there I was mildly taking issue on a few points in Matthew Clayfield’s pleasantly ahistorical color piece, when I somehow conjured up The Kevin from far left field. (Or is it far Right? Hard to tell where Jews are concerned. Historically both take the view that “The Jews have Got to Go”. Though calling all Jews except Loewenstein, Finkelstein, and a few Notquitesteins “Zionists” is a nice try)

    Generally it’s not a good idea to take on angry, black-and-white thinkers. A huge waste of time and energy. But then sometimes, the temptation of taking a potshot at such juicy ignorance is overwhelming. Seriously, I reckon, let’s toss this one back, though I admit, it’s good practice for refining one’s own satirical skills, and I reckon you have real talent. Why not submit a piece to Crikey yourself? Better use of time. Get yourself read! Same goes for me. Over and out. May my typing finger wither if I ever darken this thread again.

  17. Kevin Herbert


    it’s telling that your one source quoted in support of your ‘Israe at any cost’ views ia a quote from the Bible.

    As I’m sure any fair-minded and/or educated Crikey editor or subscriber would agree, your views are literally worthless without supporting data.

    “Views presented without data
    May be rejected without data”

    Don’t waste mine & others time

  18. SoAnyway

    Then there’s peddling hate disguised as “data”. When Mike R showed up your so-called “data”, your response was “zzzzzzzzzz”. There’s factual intelligence, (you couldn’t even get Herzl’s name right, and it’s all downhill from there). But before “facts”, there’s got to be emotional intelligence,and with it, the maturity and willingness to be challenged by a wide-range of sources. And BTW, perhaps because I’m not male, I prioritise character judgments as a means of evaluating the validity of arguments backed up by selective use of “facts”.

    While I too think I’m wasting my time as this thread is read by noone, you have got under my skin, as you exemplify, for me, the modern Jew-hater masquerading as an anti-Zionist, albeit one who hides behind the trousers of a couple of similar nerdy Jewish guys with similar character disorders.

    Yes, let’s talk about Kevin and Antony and Norman and Noam et al, and acknowledge that just perhaps they are emotionally defective. Oh, OK. I concede one point. I like neanderthal jocks like Netanyahu and Abbott as little as I like weedy nerds like the above. A plague on both extremists’ trousers!

  19. Mike R

    SoAnyway, I am glad you are enjoying my comments. I am never sure how many people could be bothered reading this stuff. I have tried, admittedly on only one occasion, to submit a piece to Crikey but it was probably too long and possibly unduly vexatious.

    When dealing with narrow minded bigotry you can either laugh or cry (or ignore, but I am not predisposed to do this). To avoid depression I like to go the humour route. However enthusiasm usually gets the better of me and my comments are often over-elaborate responses in need of editing. If you want to see this in play just search though the annals of Crikey for numerous examples (see BDS, Iran , Zionism etc..) where I have had altercations with Kevin and a variety of others of a similar mentality. My comments usually get a chuckle from my acquaintances and they have urged me to create a blog. Maybe when I retire and have more time on my hands.

    As for Kevin, beyond being an adversary, he has been of some use as the straight man generating one liners ( sometimes more than one if he is not exhausted) that I can work with. Sometimes Kevin can be humorous in his own way. His ability for self-satire sometimes goes beyond my ability to parody. The use of the quote ” Views presented without data..” without irony (as if he is doesn’t realize that the quote also includes his own contributions which are invariably data free zones) is just the latest.
    Kev’s great with data free accusations, relying on an extremely limited subset of the facts and outright distortions. However when confronted with facts contrary, or outside his ambit, his only mechanism of coping is avoidance by introduction of a red herring or another non sequitur.

    Yes SoAnyway, I agree that debate with Kevin is tedious and accomplishes little other than providing a little light entertainment for myself and my acquaintances (and any others who may have stumbled upon these exchanges). I am hoping, as per some of the previous engagements with Kevin, the moderator will invoke the ‘Mercy Rule’ on Kevin’s behalf and terminate the current proceedings and Kev can then resume his slumbers.

    Spring is upon us and this (not so young) man’s fancies definitely does not turn to spending days basking in the glow of a computer screen. I am calling it a day and will not return to the fray(except if unduly provoked).

    p.s. For my last comment re Kevin and his desire to view the mid-east devoid of any complexity, I am reminded of the saying ‘To a simpleton everything appears to be simple’.

  20. Matthew Clayfield

    You guys should go and read, comment on, and debate the Hebron piece, too!

  21. Kevin Herbert

    MIKE R:

    There’s no shame in being patronised by bigots such as yourself & SoAnyway

    You need to take a course in critical path of analysis development & then process.

    Until then, I realise that it’s no use trying to conduct a constructive dialogue with a person who argues on the level of a belligerent child. You’re apologetic presentation of Wiki data as your leading source is most revealing, although I’m reasonably sure that you wouldn’t understand what I mean.
    Look up the term ‘cognitive dissonance’ and the associated term “belief disconfirmation paradigm”.

    For the record, I am a firm supporter of the maintenance of the 1967 borders of Israel provided US$100 billion reparation (indexed) is paid to the Palestinian people for the extraordinary pain & suffering they’ve endured since their homelands lands were ethically cleansed in 1948.

    Based on your input to date, you deserve no further comment from me.

  22. SoAnyway

    Matthew – thanks for the invite. Do you have any comment on the responses to this piece?

  23. Mike R

    Grrrr! I was hoping never to darken these halls again, but due to Kevin sticking his head up for yet another bollocking, I have invoked my ‘unduly provoked’ caveat and returned to the fray.

    Firstly I have no idea what “critical path of analysis development” referred to in Kev’s comments above means but I suspect Kevin may not be sure either. He must be a graduate of the course he recommends for me and maybe Kev could disavow his pact of silence and care to pass on information regarding the course so I can rectify my shortcomings in this area.

    Secondly I see Kevin claims some expertise in psychology. I am not sure why he introduced these matters with his references to ‘cognitive dissonance’ and ‘belief disconfirmation paradigm’ other than to impress with his erudition but possibly it was intended to suggest that I suffer from these conditions. Unfortunately he did not provide specific details (must be too complex).
    However from my limited reading, cognitive dissonance appears to be a common human frailty. Upon being pricked I have on occasion bled, and I indeed admit to being subject to this condition.
    As a long suffering supporter of the Collingwood football club, I know all about cognitive dissonance, having endured almost 50 years of disappointment ( with only two exceptions) and despite this I still cling to the belief that next year will be different. Additionally, in my current state of cognitive dissonance, I have also continued to think(despite all the evidence contrary) that Kevin may one day be amenable to reason. Admittedly I have to continually reduce my expectations.

    Kevin himself is probably immune to this cognitive dissonance. The use of the term indicates that the sufferer will adapt his belief systems to fit contrary facts( i.e believers in the end of world fantasies will modify their theories to account for world continuing to exist) . Kevin’s thinking is so rigid that he will not yield a nanometer, let alone an inch. His attitude to facts (and data) that contradict his own, does not result in modification of his inflexible belief systems. Kevin simply avoids any dissonance by a ‘head in the sand’ approach (witness Tom Herzl).

    Thirdly I gather that the point that Kevin, attempted to make above (in his own idiosyncratic way) , was that Wiki can be unreliable. I am in total agreement with him that the information contained within a Wiki cannot always be relied upon but he seems to have totally missed the point, as per usual. I thought I made it abundantly clear (but still too obviously complicated for Kevin) that I was referring to the Wiki’s inclusion of an abundance of references, books etc. which illustrate the complexities of any issue related to the Mideast and makes a nonsense of simple solutions.

    To give him credit Kevin has modified his original ‘Simple Plan’ (reminds me of the movie of the same name) by including an additional level of detail i.e. a compensatory payment alongside Israel’s immediate return to its pre 1967 borders. The payment of 100 billion ( I am assuming US ,not UK billion?) dollars appears to be a bargain even if adjusted for inflation. This is only 7 times Israel’s annual military expenditure so, amortized over 7 years, this is cheap ‘at half the price’ for peace and security.

    I am also wondering about the figure of 100 billion dollars that Kevin uses. Why did this number spring so readily to his mind? Is this purely a co-incidence or a Freudian resonance (rather than dissonance) with Dr.Evil’s demands for a ransom of the same amount?- see http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/doctor-evil?before=1343755542 . Could Kevin be a love child of Dr Evil?

    Lastly, because of Kev’s ability to generate simple solutions I am happy to nominate him as Australia’s peace envoy (with a bucket load of money) to the Mid-East. He could start with Syria and sort it out for a fraction of the above price . A Nobel Peace Prize awaits.

    I am sorry that I have yet again let loose on Kevin but his inane comments brings out the worst in me. As I have said before apropos Kevin, I have an unfortunate tendency to use a sledge hammer to crack a walnut.
    Kevin I hope my feeble attempts at humour do not encourage continuing silence on your part. You have been great in providing a rich mother lode of material to work with. If you didn’t exist you would have to be invented. I may be calling it quits for now but I am sure we will meet again some other time.

    On a much more serious note – with regard to Matthew’s article regarding Hebron , I mentioned in a previous comment that the current horrible situation in Hebron illustrates why the occupation must end as soon as possible. The only feasible solution that could end the occupation while hopefully avoiding inordinate bloodshed and mayhem and forcible expulsions is a two state solution. I am hoping against hope that the elections due in Israel in January will lead to a much more moderate government. Now if we could finally could get a rapprochement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (the Egyptians have been trying to do this for several years) then there may be a glimmer of hope that a workable solution can found that provides some justice and security for both parties ( I say ‘some’ advisedly as it is going to require a sh-tload of compromise from both sides).

  24. SoAnyway

    Hi B1, it’s B2 🙂

    Bigot 1, aka Mike R, a star is born! They don’t know what they’re missing on Crikey’s other threads. Perhaps you and I could go into partnership to fearlessly apply the sledgehammer of subtlety to the hardnut cases that fall out of the woodwork whenever there’s a chance of hissing out the Z-word.

    Matthew Clayfield, I agree with Mike R’s position on Hebron, but am still curious about your opinion on the kinds of thinly veiled hate-mail directed against Jews couched as caring a fig about the Palestinians.

    And did you seek out any of the organisations of moderate Israelis and Palestinians who are interested in working together towards a civil society, eg OneVoice, Combatants for Peace?

    Everytime you play the blame game, you add fuel to the flames of war. Although it’s not such a glamourous gig for a journo, for people who are neither Israeli or Palestinian, it’s better to support something positive than to add another drop of fuel to the conflict.

  25. Matthew Clayfield

    I didn’t seek out any organisation of any kind. Or any interviewee of any kind, for that matter. I went there, I travelled around, I spoke to people, and I wrote down what I was told, without comment wherever possible. (Don’t assume that because I have quoted people accurately that I necessarily believe their views are accurate.) I make no claim towards offering a complete picture of the region or the issues afflicting it, only the picture that happened to reveal itself to me in the time that I was there. As I have written in some of my other pieces, however, I did find that nuance and common sense were far thicker on the ground than many reports, from both sides of the separation barrier, would have us believe. I reject the claim that I’ve played any kind of blame game in this series of articles. Many views are canvassed, moderate ones included.

    As for your question regarding my response to this comments thread, I have to admit that I have only been skimming it. There have been rather too many ad hominem attacks for my liking, but then that’s par for the course with this debate. But I reject anti-Semitism absolutely, thinly-veiled or otherwise.

  26. Kevin Herbert

    Mathew Clayfield:

    You’re statement:

    “But I reject anti-Semitism absolutely, thinly-veiled or otherwise”.

    So what’s your definition of ” anti-Semitism ” and what is anti-semitism, “thinly veiled”?

    Some examples would be helpful.

    When answering, I’m sure you’ll take into account the words of a notable Aussie scribe who said on another occasion ” (the)real targets, in this analysis, are hypocrisy, intellectual dishonesty, and the suppression of liberty by tyranny. Pretty good targets, by any reasonable standard”

    As the great US humanist Louis Farrakhan says about far right Zionism, it’s a discussion we have to have.

  27. SoAnyway

    Fair enough Matthew. I didn’t read all your pieces, but from what I saw I got that your intention was to write a color piece and let random interactions speak for themselves. I know it works for travel journalism, though I have my doubts whether that can be transported to conflict zones. In journalism school we learnt that it was impossible to be without a pov, and it was best to reveal one’s biases. Perhaps you did elsewhere, and apologies if I missed it.

    On your other point, I’m glad you reject anti-semitism, but can you recognise it when you see it? Do you have any idea why Mike R and I were so wound up by Kevin?

  28. Matthew Clayfield

    I can recognise anti-Semitism as well as I can recognise any other form of bigotry. Go and read the dispatch from Jerusalem.

  29. Matthew Clayfield

    Again, I would point to my conversation with Isa, the old man in East Jerusalem, as an example of what thinly-veiled anti-Semitism might look like. An ugly mutation of genuine grievance into anti-Semitism? Perhaps. But an ugly mutation, to be rejected, nevertheless.

    I do think that this is a more complex issue than anyone in this comment thread has really allowed. The loudest voices on both sides, Arab and Israeli, tend to be the most extreme, and for some reason we in the west happily buy into this false dichotomy, assuming these to be the only positions we can choose between. We become more radical, one way or the other, than many of the people on the ground, who I constantly found rejecting the river-to-the-sea nationalism and religious fervour of both groups of extremists out of hand. The real dichotomy is the one that exists between those who would happily fight forever and those who would lay down arms and become neighbours, even unfriendly ones, again.


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