The Reasons Behind the Rockets: Why Yossi Klein Halevi is Wrong about Hamas

An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in  Ashdod July 9, 2014. Photo by Reuters

An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in Ashdod July 9, 2014. Photo by Reuters

Jeff has a PSA: he will not be co-opted by some dubious Limey health-kick.

The thousands of rockets that plummeted into Israel this past summer must have had a grave psychological impact on the hearts and minds of Israeli citizens, even if their physical impact was somewhat more limited. Yossi Klein Halevi writes movingly of this psychological impact in his article “I Have Two Nightmares About a Palestinian State,” but he seriously misconstrues the psychology of Israel’s aggressors. Halevi’s piece, published in this past September’s New Republic, is profoundly reductive, even myopic, in its account of Hamas’ motivations in the latest Israel-Gaza conflict. His contention, that Hamas’ chief incentive was the breaking of Israel’s sprit, that “Hamas’ goal in this war isn’t military but psychological victory,” ignores the political and economic developments that fully explain why Hamas and Israel were driven to a new round of hostilities.

Halevi rightly points out that in “this last decade, Hamas has fired thousands of rockets at Israeli communities along the Gaza border,” but in 2013, the year following the last Israel-Hamas ceasefire in November 2012, fewer rockets were fired from Gaza than in any year since 2003. In other words, Hamas was upholding the ceasefire that ended Operation Pillar of Defense. The terms of the ceasefire ran roughly as follows: an end to attacks from Gaza in exchange for the same from Israel, plus a relaxation on border closings when it came to the transfer of people and goods. But, as Nathan Thrall reported in The London Review of Books, Israel did not hold up its end of the deal. The IDF infiltrated Gaza repeatedly, fired on Palestinian farmers and drove Palestinian fisherman away from the majority of Gaza’s waters. Nor did Israel relax its stranglehold on the border; imports and exports were limited and exit permits for Gazans wishing to travel were harder and harder to come by.

Meanwhile Hamas was becoming increasingly alienated abroad. Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were ousted from power in Egypt, depriving Hamas of an important ally and effectively sealing off its access to yet another crucial trading partner. As Gaza’s situation became desperate—electricity and fuel shortages, aquifer contamination, sanitation plant closings—Hamas turned to Fatah and agreed to enter into a unity government. This involved a number of significant concessions for Hamas, including the party’s tacit support for a government committed to non-violence, past agreements and the recognition of Israel.

The rubble of a home destroyed by Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip, Aug. 12, 2014.

The rubble of a home destroyed by Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip, Aug. 12, 2014.

Then came the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers. Netanyahu and his administration linked the kidnapping to Hamas, despite the dissent of several Israeli security officials. Indeed, The Forward’s J.J. Goldberg has made a persuasive case “that the kidnapping was a Qawasmeh family production from start to finish,” that is, plotted and executed by a renegade Hebron-based clan—not operating under the aegis of Hamas. But Hamas or no (some say with Hamas as a pretext), Israel launched its largest West Bank operation against Hamas since the Second Intifada, arresting hundreds of operatives. The raid and arrests sparked widespread protests and rockets from Gaza militants unaffiliated with Hamas. Emboldened, Hamas began encouraging a third intifada, and when the rockets grew more frequent they realized they couldn’t very well be seen as policing the attacks and calling for an uprising at the same time. Then, when an Israeli retaliation resulted in the death of seven Hamas militants, Hamas began taking credit for the attacks. It wasn’t long before Operation Protective Edge was announced.

If we want to have any real sense of what gave rise to the latest Israel-Gaza clash we must see Hamas’ involvement as determined by the foregoing narrative. The rocket fire did not stem from a wish to sow fear and despair, or at least, not solely from that wish. It emerged out of intractable political, and economic isolation, isolation exacerbated in part by Israeli intransigence.

Halevi recounts, stirringly, how his wife tells him, in the throes of the Second Intifada, that she finally understands what her “rabbis meant when they warned me I was risking the lives of my future children by [converting and] becoming a Jew.” But the anecdote tends, once again, to reduce a highly complex political predicament to a simplistic ideological contest: there are the Jews and the anti-Semites, and after, all how do you negotiate with anti-Semites? Certainly occluding large swaths of history and ignoring the political and economic grievances in play cannot be the way.

– Daniel Schwartz

Photo of three Israeli teenagers who were abducted and murdered by a group of Palestinians. Tel Aviv's Rabin Square June 30, 2014. (Reuters/Nir Elias)

Photo of the three Israeli teenagers who were abducted and murdered by Palestinians shortly before Protective Edge. Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square June 30, 2014. (Reuters/Nir Elias)


Why I read the news — and you should too.

The Great Bubble Machine - Matt Taibi's notoriously controversial takedown of Goldman Sachs.

            “The Great American Bubble Machine”              Matt Taibi’s controversial takedown of Goldman Sachs.

Jeff can’t be bothered.

I graduated from college at a time of great political and economic uncertainty. Two wars, congressional gridlock, and a global financial crisis had all taken their toll. For the first time, there was a sense that America was on the wrong side of history. Then I began paying attention to the news, poring over it in fact for hours at a time. What were the adults all talking about, now that I was one?

They were talking a lot about corruption. Matt Taibbi, it seemed, was raking up another example of corporate malfeasance every other week. And not just tax evasion. These were enormously complicated schemes involving unfathomable sums of money. After following several stories like this one I started to catch on. We weren’t simply on the wrong side of history. There were immensely powerful actors shaping history.

Steven Brill’s seminal exposé, “Bitter Pill,” drove the point home. It tells the story of how hospitals often engage in unconscionable price gouging, bankrupting the uninsured on even the most ordinary items. For one patient, gauze pads came in at $77 a box as part of his $348,000 hospital bill.

None of this is to say that individuals, or even individual institutions, can be blamed for the rash of challenges now facing this country. Nor is it to say that media outlets have the last word on the cause of the financial crisis or the integrity of the healthcare industry. But keeping abreast of the issues is essential to comprehending how the world works and why we are forced to operate under the conditions we do.

It is also essential to changing those conditions. If America is indeed in decline, it is not merely because it is subject to some inscrutable, inexorable historical process. History is made. And the first step to making history is to know how it develops out of the present.

I read the news because I want the “reality-based community” to be “history’s actors.”

Journalism is not just educational; it is political. Not because it can be partisan (though of course it often is) but because it can be empowering. If politics doesn’t excite you intellectually, if you have no sense of civic duty, then read the news to satisfy your own self-interest. Read it so you can practice informed consent when it comes to the decisions that will affect you and the future of this country the most.

The March 2013 issue of Time dedicated its entire feature section to Steven Brill's 24,105-word article. It was a first in magazine's 80-years history.

The March, 2013 issue of Time dedicated its entire feature section to Steven Brill’s 24,105-word article — a first in the magazine’s 90-plus years of circulation.

– D. Schwartz

Why No One Should Have to Change Their Name


Jeff  wonders: is there a word for feminism, but for men? Is there even room for such a word?

Jill Filipovic’s recent piece, “Why should married women change their names?” is thoughtful and well written.

It’s also myopic and misguided.

Granted, no woman should be obligated to take her husband’s surname, and the fact that 50% of Americans disagree on this point is astonishing. But I find Filipovic’s suggestion—that a man ought to do what she herself will not—symptomatic of a widespread disregard for male issues in contemporary feminist discourse.

If “putting a word to the most obvious social dynamics is the first step toward ending inequality,” can Filipovic put a word to her contention that men “don’t grow up under the shadow of several thousand years of gender-based discrimination?” My own word for this would be misandry (a term, by the way, that one rarely encounters outside of a gender-and-sexuality seminar).

Much thought has been given to man’s own sense of socially conditioned “psychological impermanence.” The fact that Filipovic makes no mention of this is, again, what I find so asymmetrical about current gender debates. Any productive conversation about gender has to begin with the acknowledgment that there are more than one, that both men and women face discrimination because of their sex.

Has history been more discriminating toward women in this regard? Of course. But to take men out of the discussion entirely is to perpetuate the kind of intolerance Filipovic undoubtedly abhors.

– D. Schwartz

Wagner’s Anti-Semitism and Me: Struggling with an Artist’s Troubling Legacy


Living at home sucks. There’s just no getting around it. It’s the little things that get to you. Like when you bring home a six-pack of Weihenstephaner—yeah, it’s imported—and the first thing your dad says is, “German beer, huh? Not something I usually buy.” That’ll teach you for trying to earn his admiration through alcohol.

My Jewish baby-boomer parents were in the habit of bringing up the Holocaust whenever anything from Germany reared its head, effervescent or otherwise. They grew up in the shadow of the Shoah and were leery of all things German as a result. For me though, the moratorium on Teutonic culture had little pragmatic, or even moral, value. It seemed like collective punishment, nothing more.

Read the rest at

– D. Schwartz

A Paean to Proust


For me, Marcel Proust’s prose often outshined the objects they depicted. In Swann’s Way, a book I picked up shortly after graduating from college, flowers are likened time and again to stars. Chrysanthemums for instance, “kindle their cold fires in the murky atmosphere of winter afternoons.” The transmutation of ordinary landscapes into scenes of celestial wonder—this was one of Proust’s specialties.

It was partly his marvelous command of language and partly something else, a sensitivity that I couldn’t help but admire. This half-Jewish, highly asthmatic Frenchman was attuned to transcendence in a way few people are. He lusted after the beauty he saw in everything, and ultimately found salvation in its embrace. Proust’s descriptions don’t outshine beautiful things so much as they communicate their true worth, at least for us Romantics.

At regular intervals, amid the inimitable ornamentation of their leaves, which can be mistaken for those of no other fruit-tree, the apple-trees opened their broad petals of white satin, or dangled the shy bunches of their blushing buds. It was on the Méséglise way that I first noticed the circular shadow which apple-trees cast upon the sunlit ground, and also those impalpable threads of golden silk which the setting sun weaves slantingly downwards from beneath their leaves, and which I used to see my father slash through with his stick without ever making them deviate.

His sensitivity, his vital, ecstatic appreciation of everything from hawthorns to stained-glass windows, is something I admire, now more than ever, because I can feel it slipping away. When I was in school, when I was more or less paid to cultivate myself, this kind of sensitivity was not hard to come by. Everywhere professors pointed to this or that beauty; a vital, ecstatic engagement with life was inevitable. But when I left, when this ritual of appreciation was lost to me, it was only through Proust that I found it again. In a word, I admire Proust for his ability to, as another Romantic once put it, “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”

– D. Schwartz

Swann's Way is the first volume of Proust's seven-part masterwork In Search of Lost Time. The novel recently made a cameo appearance in the film On the Road, an adaptation of the Kerouac novel starring Kristen Stewart.

Swann’s Way is the first volume of Proust’s seven-part masterwork In Search of Lost     Time. The book recently made a cameo appearance in the film On the Road, an adaptation of the Kerouac novel, starring Kristen Stewart.

Happy New Year Jeff!

JEFF prepared a 2012 annual report for his blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,600 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

 Since stats are boring, JEFF also prepared a New Years themed sketch.


It Takes All Kinds

Written  by

 Daniel  Schwartz



MARK is standing.  He’s in his early forties, business suit,
black hair all in place.

HARVEY is sitting, business casual.  He’s fifteen years
Mark’s senior.

Mark is on his BlackBerry.

Mark Zamorski speaking.  Yes,
Z-a-m-o-r-s-k-i.  I’m between the
34th and 35th floor at
Seven-one-two Lexington Avenue.
712, that’s correct.  No.  No that is
unacceptable.  To whom am I
speaking? David please connect me
to your supervisor.

Mark is TAPPING his foot.

Yes, hello?  Mark Zamorski here, who
is this?  Yes I realize it’s New
Year’s Eve.  Yes– I’ll hold.
(to Harvey)
The super is on vacation.  How long
you think?

Who knows?

(at his BlackBerry)
C’mon, c’mon.

Could be awhile.

Don’t say that.

You got somewhere you have to be?

Anywhere but here.  Ooh, my heart is
beating fast.
(clutching his chest)
Oh, that’s fast.

Easy there, easy.  Where are you
from Mark?


Well alright, what part?

I know what you’re doing.  It’s not
going to work.  They’re not putting
me through.  What are we going to

I think we have to just ride this
one out.

Easy for you to say.
Oh, here we go again.  I think I’m
having a heart attack.

Sit down Mark.

Mark sits, still on hold.

You are not having a heart attack.

But we have to do something.  I have
to get out of here!
Oh Jesus.

You know I lost a million dollars
this week?

Mark stops short.

What?  Are you serious?

It’s not the sort of thing I joke

Jesus.  What happened?

Someone bet on the wrong horse, so
to speak.

My God.  What are you going to do?

Cut my losses.  Nothing else to do.

Can’t anyone be held accountable?
(into phone)
Yes?  Five hours.  Really?  Isn’t
there anything you can do?  I
understand you’re getting another
call, but– hello?

Mark lowers his phone.

You okay there?  Might as well get

Harvey begins untying his shoes.

Mark watches and then nervously undoes one of his own.

Did you really…

Harvey nods.

I’m so sorry.

It happens.

It shouldn’t.

Harvey leans against the wall and closes his eyes.

Mark thinks for a moment.

Let me just try something.

(eyes closed)
I’m warning you, I don’t know CPR.

(into phone)
Hello? Yeah hi Rich, how are you?
Well, I’m in an elevator at 712
Lexington.  Yeah, the super is God
knows where and I got maintenance
giving me five hours.  Can you?  That
would be swell.

Mark hangs up.

Got a friend in the FDNY.  He may be
able to help us.

No shit?

(rubbing his chest)
Yeah.  Ooh, that was a bad idea.

Mark, stay with me.

Yeah, yeah I’m here.

Mark’s phone RINGS.

Hey, what’s the word?  Richie, I owe
you.  No, I do.  Alright, happy New
(hangs up)
One half hour!

You sneaky son of a bitch!

What did I tell you?

You didn’t, but I’m impressed.
You’re a resourceful fellow.

Mark undoes another shoe.  He’s still a little shaky.

Still, half an hour?

Harvey takes off his coat.



So, You Think You Need Extended Time?

Dyslexic Cartoon

Sometimes, when he doesn’t do as well as he should have, Jeff wonders whether he has a learning disability.

The Diagnosis

I was diagnosed with a learning disability in kindergarten. It was the discrepancy between my verbal and performance IQ that ultimately sealed the deal, one significant enough to raise eyebrows even among the professionals conducting the evaluation—mine was the largest the team had yet encountered. When I think about that diagnosis, about the IQ assigned to me, I am reminded of how crude educators often sound in their attempts to explain a condition as complex as LD.

The cleanest definitions are often the most misleading. I have a visual-perceptual learning disability, that’s often how I start people off. That means I have trouble recognizing, reproducing and manipulating visual patterns. So there are certain puzzles, for instance, that I couldn’t put together to save my life. “That doesn’t sound like such a big deal,” a common response, and why not? The chances of being forced to assemble a puzzle at gunpoint are slim. But there are other things that go along with it.

I also have something called dyscalculia. That means I’m bad with numbers. “Oh yeah, me too.” And I have problems with executive function, in other words, staying organized. At this point in the exposition people often wonder if they too have a learning disability. Then begins the salivation over extended time.

All these designations I find myself running through, the attempts to delineate what a learning-disabled person can and can’t do, ultimately obfuscate the lived reality of being learning disabled. This, in itself, is nothing remarkable. Knowing the pathology of a condition doesn’t begin to capture what living with the condition is like. But as far as learning disabilities are concerned, I think the gap—between what people think they know, and what is actually the case—is especially wide.

When somebody says, “I have dyscalculia,” people don’t wonder if they have difficulty opening a combination locker. The paltriness of the traditional nomenclature is such that I often find myself resorting to an anecdotal account of what it means to be smart and yet inept, helpless at countless things to which most people never give a second thought.


The outline I prepared for this essay is telling. Elementary school is the first heading. Under it I have written some thirty bullet points, each indicating an area of difficulty, things like “copying from the board” for instance. Then comes the next header, high school, twenty bullet points, then college, ten. My story is ultimately one of success, as I suspect it may not have been for those who didn’t get the kind of support I did, or were saddled with a severer disability than my own. But this success was earned through effort, often with help, but more often without it, through sheer force of will.

Elementary School

In elementary school academic success was virtually unknown to me. I couldn’t write, or at least, not legibly. The words crowded together until there was no distinguishing one from the next. My mother would sit beside me as I did my homework chanting, “leave a space Daniel, remember to leave a space,” every damn sentence. Eventually I learned to put two fingers down after each word, writing the next one on the other side.

This was to say nothing of my letters, many of which were utterly unrecognizable. I confused bs for ds, because to me, they looked the same. Fitting everything into the lines was also a challenge. And because writing on the back of the paper was forbidden, more often than not, when I got to the meat of my answer, I was forced into the margins. I would end up breaking single words into three or four lines, bre on the first line of the margin, then aki under that, and finally, ng. The test would return in red: “I can’t read this!”

Script only made matters worse. I knew the letter was supposed to curve in some direction, but I could never tell which. Then came the persistent reminder, “go this way, go this way,” my mother intoned. She bought stencils of each letter, and eventually, the plastic grooves forced my fingers into submission. Hours and hours of those stencils. In middle school, after two years of occupational therapy, script more or less disappeared forever.

When I was copying from the board I copied two, three words at a time. When I looked up to continue I had lost my place, another few seconds to find it, another few words, another few seconds, another few words. Usually the board was erased before I had gotten down anything of value. Sometimes, I was lucky enough to have someone in the classroom who knew something about LD, an LDTC who copied what was on the board and put it on my desk for me to copy in turn. Those times were rare.

Reading presented similar difficulty. I would lose my place in a sentence or a paragraph constantly. Then I would reread and it would start all over. For awhile, I had to cover the line below the one I was reading to make any headway.

As of May 2007, thist study included a total of 171 respondents. Fifty-three percent of the respondents are male; 47% are female; their mean age was 22 years at the time of their first interview. A majority of respondents are:Caucasian (75%).

The 2007 study included 171 respondents. 53% were male; 47% were female. The mean age was 22  and 75% of respondents were Caucasian.

Math was easily my worst subject. I had the benefit of supplemental instruction until middle school, but I was often  close to failing. There just seemed to be a wall there. I spent much of my time thrashing against it, bored, frustrated and ashamed. When I finally did make some headway everyone else had already moved on. I remember stepping back periodically to observe my glacial progress: every five years or so I had a minor breakthrough.

At first, I couldn’t count. I would point to an object, say a number and then, without moving my finger, say the next number. It wasn’t a matter of counting the same object twice; it was a matter of grasping the one-to-one correspondence between an object and a move on the number line. With this as my point of departure, being able to add two-digit numbers in my head (middle school) or understanding that one quarter meant one of four pieces (high school), really were breakthroughs, even if they only came once every five years.

Then there were the puzzles, the conventional ones I did at home and the ones in school that were puzzles in disguise. At home, the trick was finding the edge pieces so that I could begin with a coherent frame. The problem was, I couldn’t tell the difference between an edge piece and the rest. Even when an edge piece was pointed out to me I couldn’t extrapolate.

My mother bought a “game,” to help, not with puzzles per se but with puzzle-type tasks that cropped up in school. The rubber-band game, as I called it, involved a pegboard over which one could stretch rubber bands to mimic designs in a book. The trick was to count the number of pegs in the design and match them against the number of pegs on the board, something it took me a long time to master. For a time, I did three to four of those puzzles a night.

In history we did different kinds of puzzles: maps, maps of the Fertile Crescent, maps of the United States. Every era was accompanied by a mess of black lines and white spaces. I couldn’t tell which part of the world was being profiled, or even, which part was water and which part was land. Telling time was another puzzle, a mess of black lines and hands that were hard to distinguish. Clocks were everywhere it seemed, and so were adults ready to drill you on where the big and little hands were pointing.

I was chronically disorganized. I discovered tests on the day I was to take them. I called someone every night to find out what the homework was—every night. Then there were the supplies to keep track of: notebooks, folders, pencils. Ms. Stinson wanted a red pen in addition to a black one so you could correct your homework. Ms. Caspe never allowed pen of any kind. I remember borrowing pens constantly. Mine were usually gone two weeks after being replenished. In fact, I lost most of the things that were removable. Mitten clips—those things that keep your mittens dangling from your jacket—I wore those till I was ten.

High School

In high school things got better. I wasn’t better, but I got better at compensating, and the world got better at offering alternatives. Instead of scribbling incoherently into a notebook I began taking notes on a Palm Pilot, three Palm Pilots actually, in startlingly quick succession. In elementary school I would break calculators when, after setting them up on my desk, I lifted the desk’s lid to get at something inside. In high school I broke Palm Pilots.

On a Palm Pilot, my typing could keep pace with the lecture, but I often didn’t know what to take down. When test time came around I found myself scrambling for the neatly written notes from the front row. I spent many of my free periods photocopying them. But even with Ms. Perfect’s notes in hand I managed to screw something up. I couldn’t keep the copies in order, or I’d missed the backside of a page.

LD chart 2

Essay writing was now less of a bother; I could backspace instead of erasing. (In the past I had tore up the page rubbing out errors—there were often several a sentence— and after a few pages like this I was in tears.) But I would spend ages on just two or three sentences, agonizing. Two-page essays that should have taken a couple of hours to write required the entire evening. Even in-class essays were like this. I would freeze, obsessing over what should come next, and knowing that the more I did the less it mattered. I always took the full amount of extended time, which, without a better system in place, meant missing class.

In high school I was able to move to the less-advanced classes for math and science while remaining in the more-advanced ones for English and history. This was a mixed blessing. My math and science classes were like something out of a teen comedy; pandemonium reigned. It was the same cohort from year to year so that, by the time we graduated, four of our six teachers had left. Needless to say, I wasn’t able to glean much.


In college I hit my stride. For the first time I was able to take the classes I wanted. I worked harder than I ever had before, for a lot of reasons, but chief among them was my interest in everything being taught. Suddenly I was Ms. Perfect. Of course I still had a learning disability, and college didn’t let me forget it. I read and wrote slower than everyone I knew. I took only one quantitative class and I took it pass/fail.

Juggling a full course load and tending to all of life’s little necessities was also a lot, in a way that it wasn’t for my peers. I was the only one carrying around iCal printouts of where I had to be and when. I set myself alarms constantly: pick up laundry, go shopping, send an e-mail. Things like mechanical assembly were beyond me, so my roommate put together all my furniture. I didn’t start cooking until my senior year. Again, my roommate.

I had to learn to try things my diagnosis suggested I might not be good at, like philosophy, which derives much of its methodology from logic. Or film, which requires a highly sensitive eye, something I feared I would have to do without. After all, the term visual-perceptual learning disability did not bode well.

These Days

These days my learning disability is more relevant than it has been for some time. Many of the entry-level jobs I come across are secretarial in nature, demanding precisely the kinds of skills I don’t have: making photocopies, organizing spreadsheets, scheduling appointments. I have been fortunate enough to find a writing position that doesn’t require such things. But that could change.

I started this essay by musing over the impossibility of writing it. And it is written. But it’s not often that I have the luxury of expressing myself in essay form. And it’s even less often that people take the time to listen. Academia could do a lot better for people like me.

When I was in kindergarten an administrator assured my mom that I might still go to college because there were some out there “for people like me.” When I was in high school I was accused of plagiarism because my Spanish teacher didn’t think anyone who wrote poorly in a foreign language could write well in English. Even in college I had a professor refuse to let me take notes on my laptop lest it distract me from lecture. These were all people who had devoted their lives to education, precisely those people who should have known better.

The Seed for This: My Learning Disability- A (Digressive) Essay

– D. Schwartz

LD cartoon