Year: 2014


I have three amazing kids, and two of them turned 10 Tuesday!

Also on Tuesday, an election happened. The result made some people mad, others happy.

One party tried hard to be like the other party, so that the other party’s voters would vote for them, but nobody was fooled.

And now we only really have one party’s ideas. Good job all around.

And…. winter is coming.

A photo posted by Tim Ungs (@timungs) on


A photo posted by Tim Ungs (@timungs) on

Belcampo’s bubble: cow whispering and R.O.I. (hold the head cheese)


Been slowly digesting Elite Meat (heh), in the New Yorker food issue. I found Dana Goodyear’s  profile of Anya Fernald, CEO of sustainable meat purveyor Belcampo, pretty appealing–most of it, anyway.

“I live in a bubble and I’m trying to create a bubble,” Fernald told me. “I recognize that we’re creating a product that is financially non-viable for a lot of people. But I’m also prepared for when the health impact becomes undeniable and people decide to reprioritize their budgets. I think my bubble’s going to get bigger. Not because I’ll find more rich people—I think more of the rest of America is going to decide this is worth it.”

In most respects, I am all thumbs up about her venture. She seems charismatic, savvy and energetic, and has worked with diverse food economies and systems dating back to the late 90s, when she advised a consortium of Sicilian cheese makers. Belcampo meats are not cheap, and yet her declared (perhaps contradictory) goal is to bring sustainably raised meat to the widest possible public. “I want to be the next Safeway,” she states at one point.

I happen to be a big fan of some of her specific approaches to raising beef:

Unlike some grass-fed purveyors, who make a virtue of leanness, Fernald slaughters her animals later in their lives, when they have put on more weight and show the marbling usually associated with the feedlot.

Me too! I keep a herd of cows, and don’t slaughter till around the two-year mark. I love fat! Also, I religiously rotate pastures (though I lack the resources for the more intensive mobbing practiced at Belcampo. Would like to try someday, though). I have a stack of back issues of Stockman Grass Farmer. Often, I market my steers directly (as Fernald did once, from the back of a van).

So … Fernald and I are in the same line of work. Basically. But for the minor matter of a $50 million investment from Todd Robinson, she could be me, I her.

Parts of this profile read like something you’d see in Vogue:

On the morning of the meeting, I found Fernald, wearing a silk wrap dress and snakeskin heels, at a standing desk in the middle of Belcampo’s office in Oakland, her laptop propped on a pile of cookbooks from the high-integrity British mini-chain Leon.

Elsewhere, Goodyear describes a kids’ lunch as “bias-cut hot dogs, meant for the under-fives” and recounts savoring a “sausage, packed in a pig bung, which had cured for three months in a nineteen-forties root cellar.” Pretty easy to make fun of, I know. In the past I’ve written about how that sort of foodie preciousness has led to attacks on the whole idea of challenging the conventional food model (also, here).  (To be clear, I’m more or less pro-food, anti-foodie.)

Even benign things like humane care of animals can be taken to absurd extremes:

The last sounds a Belcampo animal will likely hear are “Sh-h-h, sh-h-h, sh-h-h,” whispered by a handler it has known since birth. After that, the “knocker,” equipped with a bolt pistol and headphones, renders it unconscious with a pop.

I’m never at ease with the idea of sending off animals I’d raised since birth to the building that turns them into meat. (Worse, of course, is having to dispatch them yourself). I can usually turn my back and walk away when I bring my steers in for processing. Once, though, when dropping off an old cow at the stockyards, I remember watching the hands unload her, and felt a major pang of guilt/sadness/regret as she hurried her gait up the ramp, eager to please, a good cow to the end. Hey, killing intelligent animals you spend a lot of time with is a sad thing. But saying “Sh-h-h, sh-h-h, sh-h-h” to a steer before stunning it? (… “the animal-whispering results in meat that is pure of stress-induced dark streaks.”) Well, if it makes you feel better about what you’re doing, fine. But this is more marketing point than science. A modest amount of stress is not going to ruin your meat. (I’m a big softie with my herd. Maybe this is me being defensive about not whispering to my cows in their final moments….)

And then there’s labor relations. In one anecdote, Fernald pays a visit to the processing facility, “the part of the company with the most failed drug tests and the greatest turnover” and can’t get the damn rustics to partake of the joy that is head cheese. One employee politely declines a sample of the brain delicacy, and returns to his repast of ketchup and spaghetti.


My bigger problem with Elite Meat is the quasi-messianic fervor the entrepreneur (and the scribe) have about what is at bottom a business venture.

“Our goals for 2014 and 2015,” Hanna-Korpi, an upbeat woman in her thirties wearing oversized eyeglasses and a short black dress, said. “Achieve eighteen million in revenue in 2015. How do we do it?”

The subhead ponders whether steak can Save the Planet. Where does that even come from?

That’s something for another post, I guess. At bottom, I have to address the fact that I am jealous –yes, I said it–of Fernald’s ambition and scale, and the fact that she can get 10 grand out of a single steer…. or that she has a $50 million stake from a single backer.

I find some aspects of her operation highly questionable, like  spending $1.3 million on a single winter’s hay just so she can raise cattle in California, where there is basically no water. Ah, but $50 million can cover up a lot of strange decisions….

Seriously, as a farmer, I’m watching what Fernald is doing with interest. She’s passionate and connected and I do hope she succeeds in her populist goals–in making sustainable and humanely raised meat into something ordinary families buy for weeknight dinner (just not every night). The food movement needs charismatic salespeople. Me, I can’t convince my neighbors to pay $15 for pasture-raised chickens. If she can change American attitudes towards meat and make her revenue goal of $18 million, more power to her. Also, I bet her parties are a lot of fun.

Reflections on one’s team getting screwed by the refs

The talking about the penultimate play of the Notre Dame-Florida State game Saturday night will go on for years, decades. Like arguments about JFK assassination conspiracy theories, or about how the towers fell in 2001, pretty much nothing will be achieved by the endless back and forth, but that never stops the obsessed. Check any comments section in articles about this game. Occasional substantive points do come up, but the comments invariably devolve into your basic trolling abusiveness. The guy who painstakingly makes his case in one post, tells another poster to suck his dick down the page.

I’ve had a couple of days to think about it. For what it’s worth, in my personal Zapruder film of the game, this grainy screen cap tells the whole story. PJ Williams, FSU’s #26, is the man on the grassy knoll, or the guy with the umbrella. (Were they the same guy???) Williams appears to be responsible for Corey Robinson (#88)* and for reasons known only to him, he chose to move to the middle on the snap. I don’t think he was on the same page as his teammates (#3 and #8). His move inside left two defenders to cover three ND receivers on the right side of the field. LOOK WHERE WILLIAMS IS RELATIVE TO HIS MAN ROBINSON. (ALL CAPS–another indicator I’ve become one of the crazies)….

Prosise and Fuller, the two ND receivers “engaging with” FSU’s defenders, could have stepped back off the line, bowed, and waved Williams through, and Williams would never have come near Robinson. This contact everyone is yammering about, which to me looks pretty clearly initiated (and sustained) by FSU’s backs, is irrelevant. Williams lost his man, who was wide open and walked into the end zone. All the TV talking heads in the world saying The Refs Got It Right won’t nullify that.

So there. I’ve spoken my piece. FSU won. They played great. Both teams did. It’s over.  A big setback for Notre Dame, no doubt. If they are to have a chance of making the four-team playoff, the Irish will have to win out, which they would have had to do that even if they got the W in Tallahassee. With Arizona State and USC road games looming (and believe me, they could still stumble against Navy), that looks like a pretty tall order. But not an impossible one.

College football is one of the great grotesque and excessive but infinitely appealing spectacles of the western world, like rock ‘n’ roll or the World Cup or Paris Fashion Week or the Academy Awards. All that training, all that extreme body modification, all that money. ND’s program looks pretty pristine compared to FSU’s, but that’s a long way from saying it’s clean, or even a remotely rational use of resources.

My senior year at ND, back from a Year Abroad, which turned me into an intolerably affected pseudo-European, I sold my football season ticket booklet for something like $49, face value. I used to think I was above it all. But the older I get, the more I realize I’m not.

And see, I haven’t even mentioned THIS!!!!


UPDATE: Today (Monday) I just came upon a pretty good video analysis of The Play from South Bend sports talk host Darin Pritchett, that describes the FSU defensive assignments differently. He may well be right. Doesn’t change my point much, but just wanted to mention it.

“Breeze blows leaves of a musty colored yellow”

Fall Break! Heather and the kids have gone south, to Pine Mountain, for a couple of days, and I am on my own.

I shock myself by how I take advantage of this opportunity–by doing pretty much what I would do otherwise.

I did cook a massive ribeye, for myself, smoking up the entire house. It was of course delicious, and I probably made little snorting noises while wolfing it down, but I could not even finish it! I pretty much fell asleep in front of the teevee while watching the replay of Alabama vs. Ole Miss on ESPN, and then felt compelled to rewatch Stanford vs. ND on DVR.

College football is still an evil enterprise, a gross misuse of tax dollars, particularly in poor states (like Alabama and Mississippi) that could otherwise go to improving the living conditions of tens of thousands. But this weekend I brushed all that aside. College football was a massively entertaining spectacle. (“I like my football, on a Saturday”)…. And Katy Perry surfaced, bizarrely, in Oxford on Saturday to make it even more so.

Is that great, or what? I should add that my liberty, such as it is, is constrained by the mixed blessing of having a young puppy in the house to entertain, to feed, to keep out of mischief, and to clean up after. What kind of freedom prohibits one from sleeping in? Or to get any serious reading done…


Puppies are inherently anti-intellectual

View on Instagram

*** *** ***

The colors have been gorgeous in the pasture and I have taken some nice shots, if I do say so myself….

Today, Sept. 19, 2014

Today is simply glorious weather-wise. 75 and sunny. The cows are in the field closest to the house, so I’m always aware of them munching away in the background.

I had a go at the wood pile for a couple of hours. Preparing it so that the kids can stack it neatly, their big chore for the week. I have a feeling it won’t go well the first time, but I’m determined to get them involved in the process. I’ve got a fair bit put up, but a lot of it is fairly green.

Threw a bunch of stuff away. Came upon an old commonplace book from the early 80s, where, among other things, I noted every word I didn’t know in Ulysses, wrote down the definition, and used it in a sentence. Hierophantic. Entelechy. Archon. Parturiate. The attention span is not what it once was….

A few years ago I went Goodwill-crazy and bought lots of clothes items I had no need for (but they were SO CHEAP!) Today I put about two dozen dress shirts into a big contractor bag.

This cardinal has been banging into the same window every day for over a week now. I imagine it is misinterpreting its own reflection.

Out there in the world, Scotland voted “No!” Air strikes in Iraq. People on twitter are talking about Adrian Peterson’s beating two of his children.

Ted Rall has written a piece called A Hillary Clinton Candidacy is an Incredibly Depressing Thought.

I’ve had the tab open all day. Have a feeling I’ll close it before getting around to reading it.

My jam today is Funky Kingston, by Toots and the Maytals.

“Yet with far less fanfare,” Obama’s actions undermine climate change rhetoric

Yeah, right.

Look, you know that I am not exactly a fan of Obama. I do think most of the venom directed his way is … confused.

But it works both ways. Those who denounce the president as a secret socialist Black Muslim revolutionary, well, nothing’s going to change what they think about THAT, no facts or evidence anyway.

Not surprisingly, there is a corresponding hardheadedness among pro-Obama partisans. I have had dozens of fruitless arguments over the past seven years with a certain type, someone who decided long ago that Obama was a good man with the best interests of the country at heart. Full stop. This notion is more postulate than something that can be tested or changed by things that happen in the world. A key sub-precept of this mindset is that Obama “gets” global warming, and that were it not for the bravery of the man in the Oval Office, America would be overrun with predatory despoilers of our land, waters, and air.

So maybe it’s pointless to offer up this excellent piece from yesterday’s Boston Globe, In mining country, ‘war on coal’ hard to see. Or maybe not.

SOMERSET, Colo. — The desolate stretch of Highway 133 crests a Rocky Mountain pass and settles into a valley where some of the world’s most valuable coal is located — and the landowner is the US taxpayer.

If there is a “war on coal” by President Obama, as his critics say, then this might be a place to wage it. Obama has, after all, approved regulations designed to cut global-warming carbon emissions by nearly one-third, and he is preparing to attend a Sept. 23 United Nations climate summit at which he will renew his call for world action to fight climate change.

But here in the Rockies and across much of the West, Obama may be the coal industry’s critical, if unlikely, ally. The administration has rejected calls to place a moratorium on leasing public land to mining firms — even though such leases account for 40 percent of coal mined in the United States. Nor is the administration much interested in blocking exports of coal from such leases to countries where it could be burned without antipollution controls. Or in significantly raising the price of the billions of tons of publicly owned coal now sold at what critics consider bargain rates.

This is war?

The story takes us back to June, when Obama, laudably defying Congressional inaction, “approved regulations requiring a cut in carbon emissions from power plants from 2005 levels by 30 percent in 2030.” Not surprisingly, that made his supporters feel quite superior while simultaneously getting Boehner’s knickers in a twist. Predictably, the speaker denounced, via a spokesman, the president’s “devastating war on coal.”

Yet with far less fanfare, 17 days after the regulations were issued, a scene unfolded in a Denver courtroom that would have surprised those who believed Obama a coal industry foe.

The Obama administration’s lawyers (from the Bureau of Land Management and Department of the Interior) sat at the same table as lawyers for Arch Coal, and supported a shady land deal that would enable Arch to extract 12 million tons of coal.

The central issue in the case was why the Obama administration had failed to account for the impact of global warming from the coal lease, sometimes known as the social cost of carbon. A key piece of evidence worked in favor of the environmentalist legal team. A Bureau of Land Management economist had written an e-mail that said “placing quantitative values on greenhouse gas emissions is still controversial.” He wrote that estimates on the impact of methane emissions, which routinely occur during mining, ranged anywhere from $5 to $800 per ton of coal. Rather than strike a middle ground, as it often does in calculating the cost-benefit analysis, the bureau opted to leave out the “carbon cost,” while including the positive economic impact of mining.

US District Judge R. Brooke Jackson sounded stunned by the government’s actions.

“If you only look at the problem from the standpoint of the great benefits to employment and taxes and all those things and you don’t even try to look at what it’s going to cost in terms of global warming, the day is going to come when it’s too late to think about global warming,” Jackson said, according to a court transcript. (The Globe paid for the transcription, which otherwise was not publicly available. [Hmmmmm….])

But the Obama administration’s lawyer, David Glazer, stood with Arch Coal. Glazer told Jackson that the government should not “monetize” the impact of global warming.

The judge sounded incredulous.

“Doesn’t somebody sometime need to take very seriously what the effect that these greenhouse gases is on the world that we live in?” the judge asked Glazer.

Glazer sought to shift the blame away from the administration.

“Absolutely, and I would say that that’s Congress,” Glazer said. “Obviously it’s something that a lot of people care deeply about, and a lot of people have different opinions about, and I think it’s going to take that kind of level of activity on the political level.”

Congress, of course, had failed to pass legislation to control greenhouse gases, which is what prompted the Obama administration to maneuver around the congressional inaction by issuing regulations to cut carbon emissions.

In the end, Glazer and the Obama administration lost the case. Glazer did not respond to a request for comment.

In a scathing ruling issued on June 27, the judge wrote that the administration’s failure to consider the impact of carbon emissions was “arbitrary and capricious.” Jackson ridiculed the administration for insisting that predicting the impact of carbon emissions was “impossible” because tools to assess the impact “are presently unavailable.” In fact, the judge said, such tools are available but the administration failed to use them. He accused the Obama administration of delivering a “factually inaccurate justification for why it omitted the social cost of carbon protocol.”

The government “prepared half of a cost-benefit analysis, incorrectly claimed that it was impossible to quantify the [carbon] costs, and then relied on the anticipated benefits to approve the project,” Jackson wrote. He ordered that work on the mine be suspended.

…. The case, while receiving little national notice, has shaken the coal industry and the Obama administration. As the White House decides whether to appeal, environmental groups are planning to launch lawsuits against the Obama administration in an effort to stop much larger leases in Wyoming and Montana.

“This could have a big impact,” said Nathaniel Shoaff, a Sierra Club attorney involved in similar lawsuits. “This is the first time I’m aware of that a federal court has invalidated a federal agency decision because it didn’t take into account social cost of carbon.” If the Obama administration doesn’t start taking into the account the climate-change impact of coal leases, Shoaff said, “we will start using this decision to force them to do it.”

That is exactly what alarms the coal industry.

What alarms me is that Obama is going to bat for them.

It also alarms Senator Ed Markey, who has been fighting for more than 30 years to put a moratorium on coal leases which he argues, persuasively, are sold far too cheaply, undercut Obama’s stated greenhouse gas goals, typically are awarded to lone bidders, and amount to taxpayers subsidizing the coal industry.

And then there’s this:

Markey said he is frustrated that he has had less success with his supposed allies in the Obama administration than he did during the Reagan era.

Fragmentation of the self on social media. Discuss.


I re-upped my annual hosting charge for this blog, or rather I let the automatic renewal happen. With all the many free ways to express oneself online, I’m already feeling a little buyer’s remorse…. But hey, Blogging is back! (Maybe…) What’s old is new. And the war that never ended is beginning all over again!

In lieu of actually writing something, an announcement. I have made a few small changes.

The “dowackiest posts” was a little out of date, so I added a couple of my more recent pieces.

Took down my “blogroll”, which is kind of an outdated concept in this age of twitter feeds and RSS, no?

And I’ve gathered in one place a list of all manifestations of my fragmented social media self, such as it is, appear. I am much more of a twitter person these days. I don’t know if it’s a good thing. I am probably more au courant, but maybe I don’t want to be that way. On days where I own the Slate news quiz, I’m often thinking, “These things are really not that important…”

It’s weird that, having always been an early adopter, it took me so long to become a user of smart phones. Yeah, they’re ok, I guess. I admit I love taking pictures of cows with my Moto X. Never felt comfortable lugging around my D-70 in the pasture. But now I can go “Cow crazy,” in my wife’s apt phrase…..

Still here. Keep checking back. Really.

And now, some cows….

Two ten-year-old boys talking

Riding together in the back seat. I (dad) am driving.

Theo: Yeah, Daniel’s bowling ball is really cool.
Leo: (after a long pause) I got my roller blades fixed.
Theo: (pointing at back of my head) I like dad’s haircut. It’s cool.
Dad (me): Do you like it like this, or did you like it long? Leo, I know you like it long. (I say this because Leo has long hair)…
Theo: Oh, no. Leo told me he wants to cut all his hair off.
Leo: (after another pause): Well, yeah, I do want to get a hair cut. I just don’t want it to be painful.

“No time to be dancing”: Memorial Day Wendell Berry

Re-upping a thing I wrote after finishing To End All Wars last summer. Seems an apt thing to share on Memorial Day weekend….

To me it’s amazing that any of the generals and leaders of The War To End All Wars–one hundred years old today!–had statues built in their honor. The elites of western civilization, whose slight brainpower kindled by their limitless arrogance erupted into the conflagration that came to be known as the “great” war. A war so great that two decades later they did it all again.


During a visit with my aged father not long before he died, I found myself thumbing through a volume of my family’s genealogy I didn’t know existed. I came upon an entry for a distant relation whose family had immigrated from what is now Germany in the mid-nineteenth century.  He lived his entire life on a farm not far from the Mississippi River in a gorgeous corner of Iowa. When the United States entered the First World War, my distant relation left the farm and went back to Europe, where he lasted a few months. What happened? He died. How? Blown to bits by a shell? Forced at gunpoint to go over the top and mowed down? The record does not say. Just birth date and place, where he grew up, and when and where he died.


Here is Wendell Berry reading “Making It Home” from That Distant Land: The Collected Stories. It makes me think of my own distant relation.

Reading or listening to Berry read this story is something I plan to do every year on Memorial Day.


By luck, one of the sample pages on happens to contain some of the most powerful writing.



“They talk about victory as if they know all them dead boys was glad to die. The dead boys ain’t never been asked how glad they was. If they had it to do again, might be they wouldn’t do it, or might be they would. But they ain’t been asked.”

“Strangling, siege and isolation”: A few things to read about Gaza


There is a depressing air of plus ça change about this siege of Gaza, but there is something else as well.

At times I think this will play out much like the previous Israeli operations that sound like they have been named by children who will grow up to be psychotic adults. Israel will kill five hundred or a thousand more civilians and find some pretext to stop and get out, and we will wait a year or two for the next atrocity. But maybe not.

The world’s media are more horrified and outraged with each passing day. Israel’s spin is along the absurd lines of “self-genocide” (Naftali Bennett) and that Hamas is “deliberately wag[ing] war so that your own people can be telegenically killed” (Krauthammer, quoted approvingly by Netanyahu). The message the Israelis are putting forth  is transparently weak, tone-deaf, and odious. So far, the US political establishment and mainstream media are toeing the line, but perhaps not for long. (Among mainstream reporters, Anne Barnard has been terrific for the Times, not known for its balance on Middle East topics). Reading reports from inside Israel, it is scarily apparent that the nation has descended into mad racial panic and aggression more quickly than the most pessimistic could have imagined.

Netanyahu, monster that he is, certainly deserves his day in front of an international criminal court. But, in no small part thanks to his genius for racial incitement and provocation, has been eclipsed by his one-time followers. In the landscape of Israeli fanaticism, he has become something he never imagined, a moderate. His ugly rhetoric now appears to be weak sauce compared to that of Moshe Feiglin, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, with his steely-eyed and lunatic idea to expel all residents of Gaza into the Sinai before flattening the place, and rising Home Party star Ayelet Shaked, who quoted Uri Elitzur charming words about Arabs on her facebook page (to thousands of “likes”:BsxyG8EIMAEqUoj

they are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.

Again, I have absolutely no sympathy for Netanyahu, but I can see his predicament clearly now. From behind, in Israel, there is a loud call for blood. Abroad, he knows there are limits on how far he can take his butchery. He has to find that Happy Place where the Israeli right is satisfied with his cull of Arabs (for that is what this operation is, at bottom), without horrifying the west to the point of taking meaningful action. Complicating things is that Hamas is putting up a much better fight than was expected, and in spite of the heavy losses it is sustaining, is emerging as the clear leader of the Palestinian resistance. Samantha Power is making noise about partnering with the hapless Abbas.

I don’t know how this will play out. I don’t think anyone does.

All I can do here is share what I have been reading.

About ten days ago, at the beginning of Israel’s assault on Gaza, JJ Goldberg, self-described “devout Zionist” published an incredibly damning piece on Netanyahu’s machinations. Its main points have turned up elsewhere since then, but for me it was the first laying out of a chronology that has been (purposefully) blurred. No, Hamas did not break the ceasefire. Netanyahu told two egregious lies about the kidnapping  of three yeshiva students — one, that Hamas was responsible, and two, that that a massive hunt for the kidnappers was necessary. And so it came to pass. Mouin Rabbani, in another essential essay, described the hunt as ” really an organised military rampage” that involved

the killing of at least six Palestinians, none of whom was accused of involvement in the disappearances; mass arrests, including the arrest of Hamas parliamentarians and the re-arrest of detainees released in 2011; the demolition of a number of houses and the looting of others; and a variety of other depredations of the kind Israel’s finest have honed to perfection during decades of occupation.

And, as another piece, this one by Matt Duss in The Week:

At a security briefing on July 9, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said the attack on Gaza “will expand and continue until the fire on our communities is over and the quiet is back.”

But the key thing to note here is that Israel already had quiet. In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority provided years of quiet through security cooperation with Israeli security forces. Yet Netanyahu’s response to this unprecedented calm — which Israel had long sought — was to undermine his ostensible partner Abbas at every conceivable opportunity through settlement construction, incursions into Palestinian cities, on top of the daily harassment and humiliations of Palestinians that are the reality of the occupation.

In Gaza, Hamas had largely held to the terms of the cease-fire signed in 2012. While rocket attacks did occur, they were usually launched by competing extremist groups. Israeli forces also carried out their own periodic attacks and incursions inside Gaza during that time. But in general, things were very quiet for Israel.

 The Rabbani essay makes the point that it was too quiet, and the thing that frightened Netanyahu the most was Palestinian cooperation and unity. First, with the April reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, and then,

on 2 June, when a new Palestinian Authority government was inaugurated, following the April reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas endorsed the new government even though it was given no cabinet posts and the government’s composition and political programme were virtually indistinguishable from its predecessor’s. With barely a protest from the Islamists, Abbas repeatedly and loudly proclaimed that the government accepted the Middle East Quartet’s demands: that it recognise Israel, renounce violence and adhere to past agreements. He also announced that Palestinian security forces in the West Bank would continue their security collaboration with Israel. When both Washington and Brussels signalled their intention to co-operate with the new government, alarm bells went off in Israel. Its usual assertions that Palestinian negotiators spoke only for themselves – and would therefore prove incapable of implementing any agreement – had begun to look shaky: the Palestinian leadership could now claim not only to represent both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip but also to have co-opted Hamas into supporting a negotiated two-state settlement, if not the Oslo framework as a whole. There might soon be increased international pressure on Israel to negotiate seriously with Abbas. The formaldehyde was beginning to evaporate.

At this point Netanyahu seized on the 12 June disappearance of three young Israelis in the West Bank like a drowning man thrown a lifebelt. Despite clear evidence presented to him by the Israeli security forces that the youths were already dead, and no evidence to date that Hamas was involved, he held Hamas directly responsible and launched a ‘hostage rescue operation’ throughout the West Bank. It was really an organised military rampage. It included the killing of at least six Palestinians, none of whom was accused of involvement in the disappearances; mass arrests, including the arrest of Hamas parliamentarians and the re-arrest of detainees released in 2011; the demolition of a number of houses and the looting of others; and a variety of other depredations of the kind Israel’s finest have honed to perfection during decades of occupation. Netanyahu whipped up a demagogic firestorm against the Palestinians, and the subsequent abduction and burning alive of a young Palestinian in Jerusalem cannot and should not be separated from this incitement.

This is a mess, and the incursion into Gaza continues to get bloodier. Protests are occurring all over the world, some of which might (or might not) be devolving into race-based rioting.

What more to read? There is a great deal of excellent writing and photography at +972 magazine. Mondoweiss as well. I often check the twitter feed of Emily Hauser, always current and humane. She also maintains a useful Israel/Palestine/MidEast public list.  I cannot recommend highly enough two Israeli writers for Haaretz, Gideon Levy and Amira Hass.

Levy, whose July 13 column, Israel’s real purpose in Gaza: to kill Arabs, begins like this:

The goal of Operation Protective Edge is to restore the calm; the means: killing civilians. The slogan of the Mafia has become official Israeli policy. Israel sincerely believes that if it kills hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, quiet will reign. It is pointless to destroy the weapons stores of Hamas, which has already proved capable of rearmament. Bringing down the Hamas government is an unrealistic (and illegitimate) goal, one that Israel does not want: It is aware that the alternative could be much worse. That leaves only one possible purpose for the military operation: death to Arabs, accompanied by the cheering of the masses.

“The most hated man in Israel” was right. Of course.

And then there is Amira Hass, whose Haaretz column from yesterday, Reaping What We Have Sown in Gaza, was angry and poetic and absolutely spot on:

I’m fed up with the failed efforts at competing with the abundance of orchestrated commentaries on Hamas’ goals and actions, from people who write as if they’ve sat down with Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh, and not just some IDF or Shin Bet security service source. Those who rejected Fatah and Yasser Arafat’s peace proposal for two states have now been given Haniyeh, Hamas and BDS. Those who turned Gaza into an internment and punishment camp for 1.8 million human beings should not be surprised that they tunnel underneath the earth. Those who sow strangling, siege and isolation reap rocket fire. Those who have, for 47 years, indiscriminately crossed the Green Line, expropriating land and constantly harming civilians in raids, shootings and settlements – what right do they have to roll their eyes and speak of Palestinian terror against civilians?

Hamas is cruelly and frighteningly destroying the traditional double standards mentality that Israel is a master at. All of those brilliant intelligence and Shin Bet brains really don’t understand that we ourselves have created the perfect recipe for our very own version of Somalia? You want to prevent escalation? Now is the time: Open up the Gaza Strip, let the people return to the world, the West Bank, and to their families and families in Israel. Let them breathe, and they will find out that life is more beautiful than death.

Scroll to top