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Ira Katz: Barnes and Groubert on Israel

Two of my favorite internet personalities are Robert Barnes and Mark Groubert. I have written before about Barnes and his partner David (Viva Frei) Freitheit at VivaBarnesLaw.Locals.com. Groubert teams with Eric Hunley on America’s Untold Stories, found on Hunley’s Unstructured.Locals.com. I have annual subscriptions to both of their Locals sites.

Barnes is a big time lawyer who can explain the law’s intricacies not only based on theoretical study like an academic “expert,” but also from his exceptional experience trying hundreds of cases around the country. He is like a knight errant, always taking on the role of the defender of the underdog. From humble beginnings in Chattanooga, TN, he has become, perhaps, the most important leader of the populist movement in the United States today. His wide ranging interests in history, popular culture, and sports and political betting add gusto to his penetrating analysis.

Groubert is a master raconteur. I would pay for a ticket to hear him discuss anything including going to the market to buy groceries. He is from a Jewish, middle class working family in Brooklyn. He has held a wide range of jobs from a coffee shop manager, to National Lampoon editor, a screenwriter, and an investigative journalist. He seems to have had some connection to everybody from Richard Nixon to the Grateful Dead. He is an expert on both the Kennedy assassinations, even testifying before the last parole board meeting on Sirhan Sirhan. I have been informed and entertained by everyone of his podcasts, often to the point of laughing out loud.

The insights of Barnes and Groubert are inspired by their wide experience at all levels of society giving their positions a palpable humanity that is missing in so much of modern discourse. I can state with no hesitation that the world would be a much better place if millions more were watching them regularly instead of the thousands that are today. Thus, I applaud Charles Burris for often posting links to many of these podcasts on LRC.

Please keep the effusive praise I have made above in mind when considering the following comments on Barnes’ and Groubert’s positions on the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors. In other words, this article is not a critique but my approach to a discussion with them if I would ever have the great pleasure to have that opportunity.

Groubert has admitted he is hypersensitive on the subject of Israel. Barnes has stated that he has “lost all sympathy for the Palestinians.” In particular, they tend to attack critics by labeling them anti-semetic, Jew haters, or Nazis; unfortunately, much like their left wing opponents so often do for every subject. Overall, they make the similar case that peace with the Arabs is impossible, implying that Israel’s “knee in the back of the Arabs,” is necessary for their security.

I would be a total idiot if I thought I had a solution to such a complex problem as the Arab-Israeli conflict. But I can state some characteristics I would expect to be present in a solution such as mutual respect between the parties and for each other’s property rights. I present this discussion in the context of the excellent review by Barnes of the “Peace Speech” by President John F. Kennedy and the recent campaign speech of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Here I edit a portion of President Kennedy’s speech with excised words struck through and replacement words in italics to make my point.

“But it is also a warning — a warning to the American Israeli people not to fall into the same trap as the Soviets Arabs, not to see only a distorted and desperate view of the other side, not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than an exchange of threats. No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue. As Americans Israelis, we find communism Muslim triumphalism profoundly repugnant as a negation of personal freedom and dignity. But we can still hail the Russian Palestinian people for their many achievements in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture and in acts of courage.”

I realize that Barnes and Groubert have relatively large public personas, so it is understandable that they get exposed to people who really have anti-semetic views. Nonetheless, the standard I would hold them to is the one Kennedy expressed in this speech.

Russia can provide a model. Their implacable enemy Chechnya has been transformed into the tip of the spear of the Russian army in less than a generation through generosity and respect. Putin never denigrates the Ukrainian people, or for that matter, the people of the West.

Barnes notes that leaders of the Palestinians have aligned with the Nazis. Perhaps, but context is necessary. During the Nazi regime the Palestinians were under British rule. It is common to support the enemy of your enemy. The US supported Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Syria. An interesting Indian writer, Nirad Chaudhuri, described in his autobiography that he hated the British and dreamed of terrorist acts against them. Yet he ended his long life living in Oxford wearing a bowler hat and extolling traditional British culture. Somewhere, I don’t recall in which book, he explained how he would cheer for victories of the Wehrmacht over the forces of the British Empire.

The justice of each side of the conflict was debated by the Jewish (but not religious) libertarian scholar Walter Block and the Palestinian free market economist and Bitcoin enthusiast Saifedean Ammous. I think Ammous has the better of the debate, but it is not my goal to attempt to judge who is in the “right,” but to propose that a change in attitude, like Kennedy explained, would also be good for Israel. Israel’s security will improve with friends on their borders, or at least not active enemies. I think to make this transformation even some added risk can be worth accepting as the status quo always entails risk itself.

Now consider the conflict from an American’s point of view. A problem for imperial powers is that subordinate nations or their diaspora can inordinately become influential on specific issues. But it is not only for Israel where this problem exists, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, and now Ukraine are other examples. It is no accident that there is US involvement in Ukraine by the amount of Ukrainian money passing into the hands of the Bidens, Clintons, Kerrys, etc.

It is typical for the Congress to give unanimous support for Israel. By now all LRC readers and followers of Barnes and Groubert should have grave suspicions of the uni-party in Washington. It is not necessary to delve into the “Israeli Lobby” to recognize many wealthy supporters of both parties who make Israel an important issue regarding their donations.

Every American, in fact, every person in the world, should watch this video where General Wesley Clark describes how the US was planning to “take-out seven countries in five years,” just after 9-11 starting with Iraq and ending with Iran. He asks his Pentagon source why but is not given a response. The official mainstream opinion if offered most likely would be to combat terrorism. Certainly the control of the oil markets should be considered. By now most of us understand that simple enrichment of the military-industrial-complex is always at play. But war instigated for Israel’s security needs cannot be disregarded. Probably all of these influenced, more or less, the decisions that were made.

This article is my written expression of the thoughts that are instigated in my mind when I hear what sounds to me like an out of tune note played during the symphonies of expression orchestrated by these two maestros. My respect and admiration for them both is in no way diminished because I am not in accord with their views on this topic.

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