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Blind Trials

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Plus, you have to control for the fact that some people are into being blindfolded.
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3496 days ago
The Limitations of Blind Trials
Nakagawa, Hokkaido, Japan
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... what kind of... pills?
3505 days ago

“As an American writer” (Toni Morrison on Colbert)

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Toni Morrison is delightful on Colbert, and it was a fun thing to watch. And it’s It’s a small thing, but I was interested to note that Vox Dot Com has a headline in which they declare:


I saw a few people passing that framing around on twitter, and I was surprised. I thought, huh, what a surprising thing for her to say! I’d never heard her say that. Has she said that before?

A little digging around gave me  gives us this Paris Review interview, from 1993:


This is Morrison rejecting the terms of the question, the implication that one is not the other, and the demand that she disclaim being specifically African-American. long the same lines,

And in a 1981 Newsweek – ”Toni Morrison’s Black Magic,” by Jean Strouse — it is reported that “Morrison hates it when people say she is not a “black writer.”‘ Her response, much more widely quoted than the setup, is pretty clear. She says:

Of course I’m a black writer. I’m not justa black writer, but categories like black writer, woman writer and Latin American writer aren’t marginal anymore. We have to acknowledge that the thing we call “literature” is more pluralistic now, just as society ought to be. The melting pot never worked. We ought to be able to accept on equal terms everybody from the Hassidim to Walter Lippmann, from the Rastafarians to Ralph Bunche.

It’s interesting, because she’s certainly not averse to being an American Writer, but it’s definitely not post-racialism either. This is not post-racialism. This is America as a category containing multitudes that contradict each other; if they didn’t, it wouldn’t be pluralist. You only have pluralism with distinction. In other words, this is an “American writer” which contains categories like “black writer” and “white writer” but which does not melt them together. A = {B + W}, but it doesn’t therefore follow that A=B=W or that B =! A.

The Vox headline is clickbait, it will shock you to learn. clickbait. Vox adds no value to the clip itself; there is no commentary here, no analysis, just a brief description of the embedded clip. So to get the ~2000 people who have shared the Vox headline to do so, they put words into her mouth that she did not really say. She did not say that she was “not an ‘African-American Writer.’” She did say that she was an American writer, but the notion that this is irreconcilable with “American” seems to me to be a baseless implication. is an invention. If she said it, it would be an interesting thing for her to say. But she didn’t. She said something similar, and something much more complicated. And since what a site like But since what Vox wants is circulation–and for that, you need something simple and surprising–they framed what she said in ways that mislead you. and people have clicked.

Here is how the interaction actually went:

Colbert: “You have said you don’t necessarily like to be pigeonholed as an African American writer. What would you like me to pigeonhole you as? (Audience laughs) Because I have to categorize everybody. Do you want to be pigeonholed as a Korean pop star? How should I just see you as a category? If you don’t want to be an African American writer, how should I think of you?”

Toni Morrison: “As an American writer.” (Audience cheers)

It’s a fascinating little moment. Out of context, the Vox reading is a stretch, but it’s not a wholly unreasonable interpretation of what she said, especially since she goes on to talk about how race doesn’t exist (only racism). But it’s more important to notice that she doesn’t really say very much. The headline “Toni Morrison told Stephen Colbert she’s an ‘American writer’” would be accurate, but boring; the addition of “not an ‘African-American writer’” makes it interesting, at the cost of putting his words in her mouth. Especially if we put her in context of thigs she’s said in the past–if we know that “don’t necessarily like to be pigeonholed as an African American writer” is accurate, but very far from implying “not an African-American writer”–then the Vox reading comings into focus as the interested distortion that it is.

Another way to look at it would be that the Vox headline takes seriously what Colbert says as a joke. When he asks “What would you like me to pigeonhole you as?” the point is that this is a stupid question. He is misunderstanding her point: she is persistently pigeonholed as one thing (and therefore not the other things), and she wants to be all of them at once. The joke is this misunderstanding, his leap to assume that she just wants to be pigeonholed as something different (perhaps, something as arbitrary as “Korean Pop Star”). The audience laughs at this joke, because he is making fun of himself (“Because I have to categorize everybody” he reminds us; “How should I just see you as a category?”). It is not a real question.

When she answers “As an American writer,” of course, she is giving a real answer. And it might be worth noting that she chose one point of emphasis rather than another; she could have said “No, I am an African-American writer,” but she didn’t say that. It might also not be worth making too much of that. She’s having fun. The part where she reads his questions at the start of the interview is kind of great, but it’s also just fun. To turn it into a sober announcement of her identity seems a very lazy way to interpret the exchange. /VoxBashing

There is one more thing I thought was interesting in the clip, though. After she says “as an American writer,” the audience cheers, loudly, and Colbert repeats what she said; you can hear him stalling, working at his next move, working up the next joke. When it comes, I read it as a sly rebuke of the audience’s cheering. After all, she declares herself an American and they’re delighted to hear her claim them: rather than being reminded of racial difference, she claims American unity, and they like that. White Americans are often very pleased by these kinds of claims, the appeal to a sense of American identity which melts all divisions (leaving white behind). So Colbert instantly leaps into a full-throated parody of exactly this kind of American post-racialism, declaring that he doesn’t see race, that he’s evolved beyond it. The way they are glad to hear her seem not to see race–and their quickness to read that into her words–becomes his own transparently self-interested desire to un-see racism. But on him, it’s a performance, a joke.

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3531 days ago
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Against Carceral Feminism


Relying on state violence to curb domestic violence only ends up harming the most marginalized women.


“Prison Blueprints.” Remeike Forbes / Jacobin

Cherie Williams, a thirty-five-year-old African-American woman in the Bronx, just wanted to protect herself from her abusive boyfriend. So she called the cops. But although New York requires police to make an arrest when responding to domestic violence calls, the officers did not leave their car. When Williams demanded their badge numbers, the police handcuffed her, drove her to a deserted parking lot, and beat her, breaking her nose, spleen, and jaw. They then left her on the ground.

“They told me if they saw me on the street, that they would kill me,” Williams later testified.

The year was 1999. It was a half-decade after the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which deployed more police and introduced more punitive sentencing in an attempt to reduce domestic violence. Many of the feminists who had lobbied for the passage of VAWA remained silent about Williams and countless other women whose 911 calls resulted in more violence. Often white, well-heeled feminists, their legislative accomplishment did little to stem violence against less affluent, more marginalized women like Williams.

This carceral variant of feminism continues to be the predominant form. While its adherents would likely reject the descriptor, carceral feminism describes an approach that sees increased policing, prosecution, and imprisonment as the primary solution to violence against women.

This stance does not acknowledge that police are often purveyors of violence and that prisons are always sites of violence. Carceral feminism ignores the ways in which race, class, gender identity, and immigration status leave certain women more vulnerable to violence and that greater criminalization often places these same women at risk of state violence.

t_9Casting policing and prisons as the solution to domestic violence both justifies increases to police and prison budgets and diverts attention from the cuts to programs that enable survivors to escape, such as shelters, public housing, and welfare. And finally, positioning police and prisons as the principal antidote discourages seeking other responses, including community interventions and long-term organizing.

How did we get to this point? In previous decades, police frequently responded to domestic violence calls by telling the abuser to cool off, then leaving. In the 1970s and 1980s, feminist activists filed lawsuits against police departments for their lack of response. In New York, Oakland, and Connecticut, lawsuits resulted in substantial changes to how the police handled domestic violence calls, including reducing their ability to not arrest.

Included in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, the largest crime bill in US history, VAWA was an extension of these previous efforts. The $30 billion legislation provided funding for one hundred thousand new police officers and $9.7 billion for prisons. When second-wave feminists proclaimed “the personal is the political,” they redefined private spheres like the household as legitimate objects of political debate. But VAWA signaled that this potentially radical proposition had taken on a carceral hue.

At the same time, politicians and many others who pushed for VAWA ignored the economic limitations that prevented scores of women from leaving violent relationships. Two years later, Clinton signed “welfare reform” legislation. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity and Reconciliation Act set a five-year limit on welfare, required recipients to work after two years, regardless of other circumstances, and instated a lifetime ban on welfare for those convicted of drug felonies or who had violated probation or parole.

By the end of the 1990s, the number of people receiving welfare (the majority of whom were women) had fallen 53 percent, or 6.5 million. Gutting welfare stripped away an economic safety net that allowed survivors to flee abusive relationships.

Mainstream feminists have also successfully pressed for laws that require police to arrest someone after they receive a domestic violence call. By 2008, nearly half of all states had a mandatory arrest law. The statutes have also led to dual arrests, in which police handcuff both parties because they perceive each as assailants, or they can’t identify the “primary aggressor.”

Women marginalized by their identities, such as queers, immigrants, women of color, trans women, or even women who are perceived as loud or aggressive, often do not fit preconceived notions of abuse victims and are thus arrested.

And the In addition, women who fight back — by throwing an object or physically defending themselves — risk arrest and prosecution.

This was the case for twenty-two-year-old Kortney Ryan Ziegler, whose girlfriend frequently beat her. “One time I defended myself and the neighbors heard — they called the police,” she recalled in an interview with Colorlines. “I guess because I was not considered the more femme in the relationship, I was the aggressor. I spent the night in jail on felony charges of domestic violence.”

The threat of state violence isn’t is not limited to physical assault. In 2012, Marissa Alexander, a black mother in Florida, was arrested after she fired a warning shot to prevent her husband from continuing to attack her. Her husband left the house and called the police. She was arrested and, although he had not been injured, prosecuted for aggravated assault.

Alexander argued that her actions were justified under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Unlike George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin three months earlier, Alexander was unsuccessful in using that defense. Despite her husband’s sixty-six-page deposition, in which he admitted abusing Alexander as well as the other women with whom he had children, a jury still found her guilty.

The prosecutor then added the state’s 10-20-LIFE sentencing enhancement, which mandates a twenty-year sentence when a firearm is discharged. In 2013, an appellate court overturned her conviction. In response, the prosecutor has vowed to seek a sixty-year sentence during her trial this December.

Alexander is not the only domestic violence survivor who’s been forced to endure additional assault by the legal system. In New York state, 67 percent of women sent to prison for killing someone close to them had been abused by that person. Across the country, in California, a prison study found that 93 percent of the women who had killed their significant others had been abused by them. Sixty-seven percent of those women reported that they had been attempting to protect themselves or their children.

No agency is tasked with collecting data on the number of survivors imprisoned for defending themselves; thus, there are no national statistics on the frequency of this domestic violence-criminalization intersection. What national figures do show is that the number of women in prison has increased exponentially over the past few decades.

In 1970, 5,600 women were incarcerated across the nation. In 2013, 111,300 women were in state and federal prisons and another 102,400 in local jails. (These numbers do not include trans women incarcerated in men’s jails and prisons.) The majority have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse prior to arrest, often at the hands of loved ones.


Carceral feminists have said little about law-enforcement violence and the overwhelming number of survivors behind bars. Similarly, many groups organizing against mass incarceration often fail to address violence against women, often focusing exclusively on men in prison. But others, especially women of color activists, scholars, and organizers, have been speaking out.

In 2001, Critical Resistance, a prison-abolition organization, and INCITE! Women of Color against Violence, an anti-violence network, issued a statement assessing the effects of increased criminalization and the silence around the nexus of gender and police violence. Noting that relying on policing and prisons has discouraged organizing community responses and interventions, the statement challenged communities to make connections, create strategies to combat both forms of violence, and document their efforts as examples for others seeking alternatives.

Individuals and grassroots groups have taken up that challenge. In 2004, anti-violence advocate Mimi Kim founded Creative Interventions. Recognizing that alternative approaches to violence need to be demonstrated, the group developed a site to collect and publicly offer tools and resources on addressing violence in everyday life. It also developed the StoryTelling and Organizing Project, where people can share their experiences of intervening in domestic violence, family violence, and sexual abuse.

In 2008, social-justice organizers and abuse survivors Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani, and Leah Lakshmi Piepnza-Samarasinha compiled “The Revolution Starts at Home,” a 111-page zine documenting various efforts in activist circles to hold abusers accountable. Piepnza-Samarasinha described how trusted friends helped devise strategies to keep her safe from a violent and abusive ex who shared many of the same political and social circles:

When he showed up at the prison justice film screening I was attending, held in a small classroom where we would have been sitting very close to each other, friends told him he was not welcome and asked him to leave. When he called in to a local South Asian radio show doing a special program on violence against women, one of the DJs told him that she knew he had been abusive and she was not going to let him on air if he was not willing to own his own violence.

My safety plan included never going to a club without a group of my girls to have my back. They would go in first and scan the club for him and stay near me. If he showed up, we checked in about what to do.

In their article “Domestic Violence: Examining the Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender,” feminist academics Natalie Sokoloff and Ida Dupont mention another approach taken by immigrant and refugee women in Halifax, Nova Scotia, one which tackled the economic underpinnings that prevent many from escaping abusive relationships.

The women, many of whom had survived not just abuse but torture, political persecution, and poverty, created an informal support group at a drop-in center. From there, they formed a cooperative catering business, which enabled them to offer housing assistance for those who needed it. In addition, women shared childcare and emotional support.

As these examples demonstrate, strategies to stop domestic violence frequently require more than a single action. They often require a long-term commitment from friends and community to keep a person safe, as in Piepnza-Samarasinha’s case. For those involved in devising alternatives, like the women in Halifax, it may require not only creating immediate safety tactics, but long-term organizing that addresses the underlying inequalities that exacerbate domestic violence.

By relying solely on a criminalized response, carceral feminism fails to address these social and economic inequities, let alone advocate for policies that ensure women are not economically dependent on abusive partners. Carceral feminism fails to address the myriad forms of violence faced by women, including police violence and mass incarceration. It fails to address factors that exacerbate abuse, such as male entitlement, economic inequality, the lack of safe and affordable housing, and the absence of other resources.

Carceral feminism abets the growth of the state’s worst functions, while obscuring the shrinking of its best. At the same time, it conveniently ignores the anti-violence efforts and organizing by those who have always known that criminalized responses pose further threats rather than promises of safety.

The work of INCITE!, Creative Interventions, the StoryTelling and Organizing Project, and “The Revolution Starts at Home” (which sparked so much interest that it was expanded into a book) are part of a longer history of women of color resisting both domestic and state violence. Their efforts shows that there is an alternative to carceral solutions, that we don’t have to deploy state violence in a disastrous attempt to curb domestic violence.

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Breaking Up Fortunes

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The rich have too much. Hiking the estate tax would be a powerful tool in a broader anti-inequality campaign.

Samuel Ehrhardt / Georgia State University Archives

Samuel Ehrhardt / Georgia State University Archives

Forbesrecently released the latest installment of its “Where Not to Die” guide, an annual public service to geriatric one-percenters. The magazine knows that millionaires, as maximizers of rational utility, commonly decide where to spend their golden years based on projections of how much of their money the government will seize once they’re no longer around to use it themselves. This year’s news is good for the millionaires and bad for everyone else.

The guide helpfully includes a map that marks in bold colors all the oppressive states that impose an estate or inheritance tax, drawing particular attention to Maryland and New Jersey, which have both kinds. Eight states have decided to reduce or eliminate these taxes in the near future, and a similar proposal is now gaining ground in New Jersey, as the governor scrambles to impress tea partiers ahead of a possible presidential bid. Tennessee will wipe out its estate tax by 2016; five other states have done the same since 2010.

Rhode Island’s exemption is rising to $1.5 million and Minnesota’s to $2 million, meaning a Minnesota resident who dies with $2.2 million will only be taxed on $200,000. New York, Maryland, Hawaii, and Delaware are all gradually raising their exemptions to match the federal level of $5.34 million. In Maryland’s case, this means only the top 0.14 percent of residents will pay the tax, costing about $122 million in annual revenue once it’s phased in.

Often these bills are passed for reasons of political expediency; in Maryland, where I reported on this year’s legislative session, it was partially a compromise for a minimum-wage hike. But politicians are also antsy about millionaire tax flight. “It’s not rocket science,” New Jersey Assemblyman Jay Webber said at a recent rally. “If you punish people who are successful they will leave and go somewhere where they are more welcome.”

As it happens, these measures are daft economic policy, even from a Keynesian perspective. Rarely does anyone make major life decisions with the reductive motives in Mr. Webber’s fantasy, and serious academic research has repeatedly exposed tax flight as a myth.

In fact, estate taxes have a positive correlation with the concentration of millionaires. Maryland and New Jersey have the highest concentration of millionaires in the US, and in both states that concentration has grown every year since 2009, despite the taxes.

The states with the lowest percentage of millionaires, such as Mississippi and Arkansas, have no estate or inheritance taxes. But economic evidence makes little difference as long as neoliberal logic suffuses legislative discourse. As far as state leaders are concerned, it’s in their best interests to weaken and eliminate estate taxes, and that trend may well continue until the “Where Not to Die” list is superfluous.

Meanwhile, the phantom of a solution has appeared in the US Senate, in the form of a bill filed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. The social democrat wants to impose a federal estate tax on multi-millionaires that would max out at 55 percent for the highest income bracket, and add a 10 percent surtax for estates worth more than $1 billion. The legislation would also close estate-tax loopholes and lower the tax exemption from $5.34 million to $3.5 million.

It’s a phantom because, first of all, it has no chance of political success (a similar bill Sanders filed in 2010 was smirked at and forgotten), and second, while laudable, it doesn’t go nearly far enough.

If the federal government taxed the estates of multi-millionaires thoroughly enough, either with a levy of 95 percent or a hard cap on total inheritance disbursements, it could equally distribute a portion of that revenue to state governments, ending the states’ race to the bottom and helping reverse the polarization of wealth.

The perils of extreme wealth concentration have become familiar. Perhaps most importantly, wealth translates into political influence. In an oft-cited study that tried to quantify the undue influence of the rich, political scientist Larry Bartels warned of a “debilitating feedback loop,” where the earning gap intensifies the disparity in political influence, which leads to more policies that hurt the interests of the poor, making the divide “augmented, entrenched, and immutable.”

This helps explain why taxes in the US do very little to ameliorate inequality, compared to the economic policies of many other rich countries, from the UK to the Slovak Republic to Japan. As for the hollow promise of equal opportunity, consider that almost half of Harvard’s students come from the top 3.8 percent of richest households, with incomes above $200,000.

Moreover, excessive wealth has an inherent tendency to multiply. Bloomberg Businessweek reported in April that since Bill Gates has quit his job, sold most of his stock in Microsoft, and poured $28 billion into his nonprofit foundation, his total wealth has still increased from $63 billion to $79 billion in just the past two years.

As a means of keeping inequality at bay, estate taxes are tested by time, dating back at least to the Egyptian Bronze Age. It’s traditionally been easier to tax a dead person’s estate than to track income on an annual basis. England has taxed inheritances since 1694, France since 1791. And in recent American history, heavy estate taxes have typically corresponded with the widespread dispersion of wealth.

The government imposed one in 1916, partially to fund the war effort, but also because a tax vacuum in the late 1800s had made the top earners sixty times richer than the bottom 99 percent. The estate tax was explicitly meant to seize their “swollen fortunes,” in Teddy Roosevelt’s words. It was also a way of making sure they paid taxes on capital gains, such as the appreciation of their art collections, which were never taxed in their lifetimes.

Later, as the economy recovered from the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt upped the estate tax repeatedly, ultimately capping it at 77 percent. By 1949, 1 percenters were down to owning 22.5 percent of the nation’s wealth. Over the next quarter-century, median wages rose by 95 percent, with a robust estate tax in place all the while.

Then in the 1970s, median wages and the estate tax started plummeting together. The estate tax fell in 1976, then again in the 1980s, and finally George W. Bush wiped it out completely. Since then Congress has raised it back up to 40 percent, with an exemption for the first $5.34 million.

This isn’t to suggest that any estate tax, even one that wiped out inheritances altogether, could suffice as a solution to the income-disparity problem. As of 2011, inheritances only accounted for 14.7 percent of the one-percenters’ aggregate wealth; more often members of that rarified group amass their fortunes in the finance and tech industries. Estate taxes won’t cure a system where the great mass of citizens is driven into debt, and more important, this type of levy can’t expropriate obscene fortunes, or otherwise shift the balance of power, among the living.

To solve these problems, we need both immediate remedies and structural changes. We could wipe out poverty and diminish the inordinate wealth of the rich with universal debt forgiveness, a better social welfare system, and a heavy tax on capital. We could equalize political power with an overhaul of our campaign-spending and lobbying policies. We could reduce privilege by restructuring our higher-education funding, and we could divert R&D spending from the military to our universities and public health.

Effecting a shift in political discourse is also important. American politics has long suffered from an attachment to what the historian Richard Hofstadter called the “sanctity of private property.” In reality, private property is just a way of talking about social relationships. There’s nothing linking a man ontologically with his Cadillac; to say he owns it means he’s the only person who can drive it, sell it, or dismantle the engine without repercussions. The extent of those rights is always negotiated within a social context.

Conservatives rarely sound goofier than when they call an estate tax a “death tax,” or a “tax on dying,” as though the deceased were having something taken away from them. Transferring property rights to the dead person’s blood relatives is an arbitrary convention.

Hiking the estate tax would be a powerful tool in a broader anti-inequality campaign. And it would be an important symbolic gesture, affirming the importance of democracy and equality over private property rights. It’s time to soak the rich.

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3568 days ago
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“alternatives to Facebook and Android should be thriving right now”

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The Tower of David (and most free software) is what Bruno Latour would call a “Theater of Proof,” something that makes a persuasive argument through example. Your argument doesn’t necessarily have to appeal directly to morals, ethics, or some other abstract principle; you get past the “shoulds” and instead proudly display the “what can bes” of the matter. It is a kind of pragmatic, brass tacks debating style that I have come to really admire as I pursue a social science Ph.D. at an engineering school. And I know this practice is a fairly popular among open source developers and engineers because Biella Coleman(who I believe is the first to apply Latour’s concept to these communities), Chris Kelty, and others have witnessed similar styles of argument in their own research. I also know, having read these authors, that F/OSS communities really don’t want to pledge allegiance to any kind of spot on the political spectrum. I understand the tactical and rhetorical reasons for acting apolitical, (Google wouldn’t make up 98% of Mozilla’s incomeif the latter was avowedly and loudly anti-capitalist) but none of those justifications make it true. Every time a Fortune 500 company updates to the new version of Apache, the open source community demonstrates its politics.

It isn’t enough to say that software is a tool, and you can’t help it if you make a really useful tool and a corporation uses it to make a profit. The average person doesn’t have a use for complicated backend server software. They do need a social media network that isn’t out to exploit them for profit. The failure of the F/OSS community to come out with a polished, user-friendly, and user-run social media network, while Facebook run’s on open source server software is confounding. This arrangement turns inexcusable when those same people demand that other’s learn to code if they want to take full advantage of what F/OSS has to offer. At the very least, F/OSS usability and popular technological literacy should meet halfway.

Read More | “Open (Source) for Business” | D. A. Banks | Cyborgology

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3649 days ago
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A Plague on One House

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“Both sides” aren’t to blame in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel is.

An early refugee camp. Late 1940s, Palestine.

On July 15, Western media demanded that Hamas and other resistance groups operating in the Gaza Strip accept what they labeled an “Israeli-Egyptian ceasefire proposal.” called an Israeli-Egyptian ceasefire proposal. On the surface, the call sounds reasonable, which is exactly what allows it to disorient plea for calm sounds reasonable enough, but it disorients audiences largely unfamiliar with the details of the ongoing conflict.

The first objection is the obvious one: How can Hamas agree to a deal that it played no part in negotiating and that was crafted by two of its enemies? The mainstream media would be unlikely to demand that Israel agree to an arrangement jointly put forth by, say, Hamas and Iran — an imperfect analogy, since Hamas and Iran do not colonize and besiege Israelis. But the point stands.

Second, implicit in this criticism of Hamas is the idea that Palestinians are obliged to accept any offer, no matter its terms. Consider, for instance, Mouin Rabbani’s point that what the Gaza Strip’s militant groups and a huge number of [What] many Palestinians object to in the proposal is that it just puts back in place the same simply restores a 2012 ceasefire agreement which Israel has violated freely, that Israel has systematically violated and does not ensure that provide any guarantees such violations would

stop.What’s more, Rabbani suggests, “Hamas cease…More broadly, Hamas

and other Palestinian organizations are averse to returning to an untenable status quo, which lasts only until Israel once again decides to launch a major assault on the Gaza Strip,” Strip, and which does not point to “concrete include concrete steps towards lifting the ongoing and prolonged blockade of the Gaza Strip.” Strip.

The Israeli violations of the 2012 agreement that Rabbani mentions are a long-term habit of the country. Hamas has good reason to distrust Israel’s commitment to a ceasefire, but Western media has tended to ignore this point when it discusses the failure of the proposed truce.

Also overlooked is that a ceasefire which does not lead to lifting the siege is no ceasefire at all. For the siege and the naval blockade on which it relies are acts of war. An agreement that only ends one aspect of the violence and not the others is not a ceasefire but a surrender. Israeli tactics for dealing with Hamas are ransom, not negotiation.

In that vein, Netanhayu also reportedly “suggested that the agreement would be used to completely ‘disarm’ the strip, a condition Hamas and other groups would not accept.” Such a proposal cannot be taken seriously unless Israel were to also agree to disarm, which is clearly not on the table.

The Western ruling class and Israel would react with laughter rather than rage if Hamas proposed that Israel surrender its weaponry. If Israel was  were sincerely interested in a ceasefire, it would offer terms that there is a chance of Hamas accepting. had a chance being deemed acceptable to Hamas.

Such accounts also play on racist notions of Arabs as creatures who prefer violence to the alternatives available to them. The imperialist trope is clear: the atavistic colonized subjects subject who will consent to their own people’s destruction rather than have a dialogue with their oppressors. The latter’s alleged preference for dialogue over bloodshed is proof of their civility, and so also justification for their rule.

The myth of Palestinians who refuse generous offers is longstanding within Zionist historiography — exemplified in the longstanding lie of Palestinians “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

This colonial inversion of reality is likewise present in Western reporting on the conflict, which must justify the Israeli assault on Palestine to its audience. For example, earlier in the current massacre we were frequently told that “both sides” fighting in historic Palestine are suffering and are in the wrong.

This rhetoric of “both sides” implies that pain and fault belong equally to Palestinians and Israelis. It erases manifold, unmistakable, qualitative and quantitative differences at play in Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip and the political-historical context in which this is taking place — most centrally, that what is occurring is part of a settler-colonial invasion.

“Both sides” rhetoric refuses to make even the easiest, most obvious judgment, to which any honest evaluation of the information points: that Israel is massacring Palestinian adults and children, 77% of whom are civilians, and subjecting them to collective punishment; that Israel evidently claims for itself a right to extra-judicially execute anyone who it says is a Hamas member, a practice too few among even Palestine’s allies have denounced; that Israel is bombarding what is essentially a giant refugee camp home to an imprisoned population of a people Israel has ethnically cleansed ethnically-cleansed , occupied, subjected to apartheid, and repeatedly slaughtered; that international law does not grant Israel a “right to defend itself” against the Gaza Strip. And that international law does grant Palestinians a right to resist using armed struggle.

To employ “both sides” both sides rhetoric completely misrepresents the situation. It is not “both sides” who take thousands of political prisoners. Both sides do not systematically torture each other. Both sides do not control each other’s freedom of movement, or access to the  sea, drinking water, and education.

Since Israel began its bombing campaign on July 7, only one side has bombed a hospital for the disabled and destroyed a place of worship. It was that same side who on July 9 killed a pregnant woman and her one-year-old daughter and then on July 11 killed two civilian municipal workers in a refugee camp, killed nine civilians watching a soccer game, and “fired four missiles targeting the fifth and sixth floors of a hospital.”

Only one side killed four children who were playing on a beach on July 16. At the time of writing, only one side has inflicted on the other the destruction or severe damage of 1,660 homes or the deprival of 900,000 people of water supply. Nor do Israelis and Palestinians bear comparable responsibility for the forty-seven United Nations Relief and Works Agency premises such as schools and clinics that have been damaged since July 7.

What is even more important about the “both sides” notion is what it conceals.

“Both sides” rhetoric means accepting the timeline the aggressor puts forth so as to make its  their claim to be acting defensively seem plausible. In this view, the current killing supposedly started with the June 11 disappearance and killing of three Israeli settlers rather than the murder by the Israeli military of unarmed Palestinian teenagers Nadeem Nawara and Mohammad Salameh on May 15.

Nor in this telling  conception was the starting point June 10, when Israel attacked a man alleged to be a militant and the ten-year-old he was with, instantly killing the man and causing the child to die from injuries three days later. That’s to say nothing of the accurate starting points: the 1947-8 Nakba, the 1917 Balfour Declaration, or May 2, 1860, the date of Theodor Herzl’s birth.

In addition to these distinctions, the “both sides” idea is dangerous because it is immobilizing. With its use, it becomes impossible to demand an end to colonial practices. And that is exactly the point. the occupation and the atrocities which follow from it.

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