We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Consequences does not have to mean coercion

AJ Edelman, OLY, MBA
I received an email asking me to contribute to Yale for my class reunion.
My response:
“Last year I faced suspension and a trespassing charge if I returned to campus without proof of a 5th COVID shot.
Perhaps you can ask one of the fine Yalies bravely harassing their Jewish peers instead. They’re easy to find; they’re hosting a Jew hatred festival in the middle of campus and calling for violent intifada.”
12:30 AM · Apr 30, 2024

Now that’s what I call an effective non-violent protest.

Another reminder of how evil Iran’s regime is

For some reason, this story about Iran and its intention to execute a rap artist has gone “under the radar” of a lot of the news channels, and I only came across it when listening to a podcast from Yaron Brook.

Reuters: Iran’s judiciary confirmed the death sentence of well-known Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi but added that he is entitled to a sentence reduction, state media reported on Thursday. Salehi’s lawyer Amir Raisian told Sharq newspaper on Wednesday that an Iranian Revolutionary Court had sentenced his client to death for charges linked to Iran’s 2022-2023 unrest. Salehi was arrested in October 2022 after making public statements in support of the nationwide protests, sparked by the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman arrested over wearing an “improper” hijab.

None of the shitheads behaving so badly on the campuses of US universities, or in the streets of other Western capitals, have, I suspect, any regard to the plight of this young person. I haven’t picked up on a lot of condemnation from major Western governments, either. Maybe what we are seeing here is the “soft bigotry of low expectations”: we expect Israel to strictly observe certain “laws of war” in self defence, for example, but the supposition seems to be that Iran, a theocratic hellhole, cannot be expected to behave with regard to respect for individual rights, so being angry is a waste of time.

The Occupy Paradox is back, this time at Northwestern U

“Which is it? Do you want to occupy the public space to express your dissent and invoke your absolute right to speak? Or do you want to beat on anyone who then exists in that same space and invokes their absolute right to document it?”

– a tweet from David Simon referring to a video posted by Logan Schiciano with the accompanying text “Unfortunately some protesters at Northwestern’s newly-formed encampment weren’t too thrilled with us reporting” in which a masked protester assaults the person filming them.

Remember the “Occupy” movement? The Occupy Paradox is this: “Upon what basis can an Occupy protest ask someone to leave?”

… because “This is private property” or any other version of “You have no right to be here” are open to some fairly obvious ripostes.
“We were here first” – “Er, not quite first. The actual owners of the space were there before you.”
“We are the 99%” – “We’re poorer than you, you middle class ****-ers”
“We represent the 99%” – “Who voted for you, then?”
“We are the official accredited Occupiers” – “We refuse to be defined by your oppressive structures, and hereby declare ourselves to be Occupying this Occupation!”

The Metropolitan Police would like to apologise for the wording of their previous apology for threatening to arrest a man for being “openly Jewish” near pro-Palestinian demonstrators

Courtesy of the Telegraph, here is the video of a policeman warning a man that being “openly Jewish” in the vicinity of pro-Palestinians was “antagonising”. The Daily Mail has a pretty good account of the affair here.

I can feel a smidgen of sympathy for the cop. It was, as the Metropolitan Police say in their apology for the wording of their previous apology, a “hugely regrettable” choice of words, and typical of the abandonment of policing without fear or favour when it comes to Muslims, whom they fear and favour, but people talking under stress often do use words they later regret.

I feel no such sympathy for Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, the person wrote the first apology. He was not on the street trying to think on his feet while being shouted at. He was sitting in an office with time to choose his words. The words he chose were these.

The video posted by the Campaign Against Antisemitism will further dent the confidence of many Jewish Londoners which is the opposite of what any of us want.

Bad Campaign Against Antisemitism for posting the video that dented the confidence of many Jewish Londoners by making them aware of something that actually happened!

Assistant Commissioner Twist continues,

The use of the term “openly Jewish” by one of our officers is hugely regrettable. It is absolutely not the basis on which we make decisions, it was a poor choice of words and while not intended, we know it will have caused offence to many. We apologise.

The issues at the heart of these protests are complex, contentious and polarising. When the challenges of public order policing are layered on top it becomes a very difficult environment for frontline officers to work in.

In recent weeks we’ve seen a new trend emerge, with those opposed to the main protests appearing along the route to express their views. The fact that those who do this often film themselves while doing so suggests they must know that their presence is provocative, that they’re inviting a response and that they’re increasing the likelihood of an altercation.

Consider those words “their presence is provocative, that they’re inviting a response”. What do they teach at Hendon Police College nowadays? Because three decades of universal condemnation of the phrase “she was asking for it” and the mindset behind it have clearly had no effect.

They are also making it much more likely officers will intervene. They don’t do so to stifle free speech or to limit the right to protest, but to keep opposing groups apart, to prevent disorder and keep the public – including all those taking part in or opposing the protest – safe. That is, after all, our primary role.

It is up to us to review these interventions and to determine whether we are getting the balance right, adapting our approach as we do so and making sure officers are supported to make the right decisions using all the powers available to the. We will continue to do so following this most recent protest and ahead of future events.

Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist.

Samizdata quote of the day – only Israel

It seems that the usual rules don’t apply when it comes to Israel. The atrocity that happened last October was a reasonable justification for turning Gaza into glass, frankly. Rooting out and killing Hamas, crushing it completely would have been a proportionate response, yet before Israel had responded, there were calls for a ceasefire and accusations of genocide (a grossly misused word and certainly not applicable here). What would any other country have done?


So, Iran, what was all that about really?

A suggestion I have heard, made almost in jest but it might be true, was that Iran launching more than three hundred drones and missiles at Israel might have been intended as some weird form of de-escalation. The reasoning behind this theory is Iran knew perfectly well that the main effect of its attack would be to demonstrate just how good Israel’s air defences are, but that the expensive gesture would satisfy their own hawks without giving Israel any emotional reason to strike back.

I read somewhere that in nineteenth-century France most professional men could expect to be challenged to a duel at some time in their career. To refuse meant dishonour. To accept meant the prospect of death or serious injury, or the lesser but still significant unpleasantness of inflicting it on someone else. To deal with this problem the custom arose that by silent mutual agreement the splendid-looking duelling pistols used would have been made in very small calibres and taking only a tiny amount of black powder. When fired they produced a reasonable bang which carried with it enough prospect of doing harm to satisfy the honour of the duellists – but in practice wearing a thick woollen overcoat was usually enough to deflect the slow-moving ball.

Perhaps Iran was, or thought it was, acting like one of those duellists. If so, we shall have to see whether Israel is on board with the “silent mutual agreement” part of the analogy.

What do you think?

Samizdata quote of the day – Gaza edition

“Hamas is perhaps the first regime in recorded history to fight a war designed to maximize casualties among their own population.”

Gatestone Institute.

“A Palestinian writer”

The above tweet from Amnesty International is still up. In case it disappears, here is the text:

Amnesty International
The death in custody of Walid Daqqa, a 62-year-old Palestinian writer who was the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jails after 38 years of imprisonment, is a cruel reminder of Israel’s disregard for Palestinians’ right to life

From amnesty.org
Last edited
6:39 PM · Apr 8, 2024

The tweet calls Walid Daqqa “a Palestinian writer”, as if he had been imprisoned for his writings – as if he were the sort of prisoner of conscience on whose behalf I used to write letters on that special blue Air Mail paper, back when I was a member of Amnesty International.

To be fair, although you would never guess it from their tweet, the linked article by Amnesty does make perfunctory mention of the non-literary crime that caused Walid Daqqa to be put in prison:

On 25 March 1986, Israeli forces arrested Walid Daqqah, then 24, a Palestinian citizen of Israel. In March 1987, an Israeli military court sentenced him to life imprisonment after convicting him of commanding the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)-affiliated group that had abducted and killed Israeli soldier Moshe Tamam in 1984.

Perhaps concerned about her wordcount, Amnesty’s writer, Erika Guevara-Rosas, did not say much about Moshe Tamam. She cited Walid Daqqa’s youthful age at the time, 24, but did not see fit to say that his victim Moshe Tamam was just 19. And she skips over some relevant details in that brief word “killed”. Daqqa and his PFLP comrades did not just kill Moshe Tamam, they tortured him to death. They gouged out his eyes and castrated him. Then they murdered him.

But Ms Guevara-Rosas found space in her article to write most eloquently about Walid Daqqa:

During his time in prison, Walid Daqqah wrote extensively about the Palestinian lived experience in Israeli prisons. He acted as a mentor and educator for generations of young Palestinian prisoners, including children. His writings, which included letters, essays, a celebrated play and a novel for young adults, were an act of resistance against the dehumanization of Palestinian prisoners. “Love is my modest and only victory against my jailer,” he once wrote.

Walid Daqqah’s writings behind bars are a testament to a spirit never broken by decades of incarceration and oppression.

46% of British Muslims say they sympathise with Hamas

“Only one in four British Muslims believe Hamas committed murder and rape in Israel, report reveals”, reports the Telegraph.

Only one in four British Muslims believe that Hamas committed murder and rape in Israel on Oct 7, a major report has found.

46 per cent of British Muslims said they sympathise with Hamas, according to a poll commissioned by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), a counter-extremism think-tank.

Later in the article Fiyaz Mughal, who has done as much as anyone alive to work against Muslim extremism, is quoted as saying, “The Government has got to provide better guidance for teachers, schools and education establishments.” He is not wrong as far as it goes but I don’t think sending even a really super government guidance circular to education establishments is going to be much help now:

Younger and well-educated Muslims were the most likely to think Hamas did not commit atrocities on Oct 7, with the proportions rising to 47 per cent among 18 to 24-year-olds and 40 per cent among the university-educated.


An Excel table giving the full results of the polling carried out by J.L. Partners for the Henry Jackson Society can be downloaded from this link. Two polls were conducted, one of British Muslims over the period 14th February – 12th March 2024 and one of the British public in general over 4th – 6th March 2024.

Cold machines versus hot blood

“The machine did it coldly: Israel used AI to identify 37,000 Hamas targets” – that is the title of a Guardian piece on Israel’s use of the “Lavender” AI-assisted targeting system.

The Israeli military’s bombing campaign in Gaza used a previously undisclosed AI-powered database that at one stage identified 37,000 potential targets based on their apparent links to Hamas, according to intelligence sources involved in the war.

In addition to talking about their use of the AI system, called Lavender, the intelligence sources claim that Israeli military officials permitted large numbers of Palestinian civilians to be killed, particularly during the early weeks and months of the conflict.

Their unusually candid testimony provides a rare glimpse into the first-hand experiences of Israeli intelligence officials who have been using machine-learning systems to help identify targets during the six-month war.

Israel’s use of powerful AI systems in its war on Hamas has entered uncharted territory for advanced warfare, raising a host of legal and moral questions, and transforming the relationship between military personnel and machines.

“This is unparalleled, in my memory,” said one intelligence officer who used Lavender, adding that they had more faith in a “statistical mechanism” than a grieving soldier. “Everyone there, including me, lost people on October 7. The machine did it coldly. And that made it easier.”

The article, by Bethan McKernan and Harry Davies, contains several howlers such as a reference to “the shockingly high death toll in the war”. Even if I believed Hamas casualty figures, which I do not, the death toll in this war is shockingly low. The Allied bombing of Dresden probably killed more people over three nights than have died over six months of the current Israeli-Hamas war.

Nonetheless, as the quoted passage shows, the authors have pointed out that one of the benefits to humanity of AI targeting in war is that it takes the immediate decision to kill out of the hands of humans.

And puts it… where exactly? I am all in favour of targeted killing, if the alternative is untargeted killing. I am in favour of the decision to kill being made according to rational military and legal criteria agreed openly in advance, if the alternative is the decision being made in a split second by someone who is angry and afraid. But I share the writers’ disquiet at the idea of the process of war becoming detached from human control entirely.

What is your view?

Gaza is in cultural crisis

How will you be celebrating International Women’s Day?

The name of the woman being led into captivity in this picture is Naama Levy. The photo was taken to celebrate her capture.