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Razib Khan's Unsupervised Learning

Mar 22, 2024

Today Razib talks to Murtaza Hussain about the social, cultural and political context of recent fissures in the US around the conflict in Israel and Gaza. Hussain is a reporter at The Intercept and has his own Substack. They begin their conversation talking about Hussain’s response to the 10/7 Hamas attacks on Israel, and Israel’s subsequent invasion of Gaza. Hussain discusses his bewilderment and disappointment at some commentators who he saw being knee-jerk and tribalistic in their response. He also talks about the generational divides on Israel that have become apparent: while American Boomers and Gen-X tend to support the Jewish state overwhelmingly, while Millennials, and especially Zoomers, are more divided, or perhaps even a pro-Palestinian, perspective. Hussain, a Pakistani Canadian Millennial, though now a naturalized US citizen, does not approach the subject of the Israel/Palestine conflict with a reflexive sympathy for any particular side, but does believe that many Americans are unaware of the broad support that Palestinian nationalism attracts worldwide and especially among the youth.

Razib and Hussain then discuss the intellectual history that led up the conflict between Hamas, an Islamist movement, and the state of Israel, and how the Palestinian national struggle is positioned within the global Left. They discuss the various connections between Palestinian nationalism in the 1960’s and 1970’s and the Soviet Bloc and Left-wing national liberation movements like the IRA, and how that might impact sympathies of activists. Hussain contends that in many ways the Palestinian liberation movement is a leftover of 20th-century struggles, with the end of apartheid South Africa and the peace accords in Ireland. He outlines the multi-decade relationship both the Palestinians and Israelis have had with the non-aligned movement and postcolonialism. Though today Israel is coded as a Western nation (they participate in Eurovision), Hussain notes that as Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion attempted to send Israeli delegates to the non-aligned Bandung Conference in 1955, a move that was blocked by Egypt.