Thursday, December 06, 2007

On Moral Equivalence and its potential calumnies:

Bob from Brockley directs to this competent analysis at the Augean Stables:

The “we are just as bad as… or worse than them” mentality

A pervasive argument appearing in the post-colonial paradigm is that of “Moral Equivalence.” In the case of Islamic terrorism the dynamics of moral equivalence can be seen among some figures of the western intelligentsia in their vociferous moral indignation at the behavior of Western nations that, they allege, led to acts of terror, and their understanding attitude towards the terrorist acts themselves (HRC). Even if they do not intentionally excuse terrorism, such writers produce the unhappy consequence of explaining Islamic terrorism in terms of “Western misdeeds and faults,” and of framing the debate in terms of “what the West did to deserve such attacks” and, therefore, reverse the moral equation. The West’s “wrongs” come to be seen as more reprehensible than the “reaction” (however “harsh” and “inexcusable”) by terrorists. The easy moral challenge is: “Are we not hypocrites, when we do the same thing?”

At some level, this is a pathology of self-criticism (MOS) – it is all our fault, and if we were better, then we could fix everything. Meanwhile, while we demand the highest standards of ourselves, we treat the terrorists as morally challenged, who can’t even understand the questions of intention and cannot be expected to self-criticize. We become incapable of making the distinction between victims and perpetrators, and end up blaming the victim.

Read the rest, here.

Norm directs our attention to a piece by Jeffrey Herf: "Where are the anti-fascists?":

Now, there is evidence that, under the impact of the war in Iraq, the terror stemming from radical Islamists, and the threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb, antagonism to the United States and to Israel occupy a disturbingly important place in parts of German public life, perhaps even more important than an ability to recognize and fight against new forms of anti-Semitism and possible threats against Israel with weapons of mass destruction.

The false moral equivalence which is dissected in the Augean Stables' article creates the mood, never far from the surface anyway, for the moral distortion described by Jeffery Herf.

I'll put it in very simple terms: It helps Germans feel better about their past guilt, if they can pretend two things:

1. That Israel, a Jewish state, commits crimes on a scale equivalent to their own Third Reich era.

2. That they, Germans, are being good, post-Nazi era Germans in making sure than "never again" will such crimes occur, with their approval.

So they are covered, on both sides of the issue of dealing with the memory and presence of antisemitism.

Here is Winston Pickett, putting it in no ambiguous way:

For many, tying Jews to the Holocaust has a special resonance that transcends the boundaries of classic antisemitic topoi. For it is not simply that the Jewish state is being falsely accused of genocide. It is specifically freighted with the same genocide of which the Jewish people were themselves the victims. Tying the Israelis to the SS seems to excuse—and summarily deny—the historical Holocaust. Binding together Israel and Nazi Germany in such a slanderous equivalence not only demonises the Jews: it implicates them as somehow to blame for their fate. Perhaps most disturbingly, it echoes Hitler’s own denigration of the Jews carried out through a campaign of lies that paved the way for the original Holocaust.

Christopher Caldwell (Weekly Standard, June 5, 2002) on same:

For anyone who inhabits Western culture, the Holocaust made that culture a muchmore painful place to inhabit – and for any reasonably moral person, greatlynarrowed the range of acceptable political behaviour. To be human is to wish ithad never happened. (Those who deny that it did may be those can’t bear to admitit happened,) but it did. If there is a will-to anti-Semitism – then the Arab style Judeophobia, which is an anti-Semitism without the West’s complexes, offers a real redemptive project to those Westerners who are willing to embrace. It can liberate guilty, decadent Europeans from a horrible moral albatross. What an anti-depressant! Saying there was no such thing as the gas chamber is, of course, not respectable. But the same purpose can be served using what Leo Strauss called the reductio ad Hitlerum to cast the Jews as having committed crimes identical to the Nazis’. They must be identical, of course, so the work of self-delusion can be accomplished. We did one, the Jews did one. Now we’re even-steven”.

It is because, as Nick Cohen explains in "What's Left,:

[b]eyond the release from the burden of the past, lay the relief ofletting out repressed emotion.... Once … a figure or group became an approved object of hatred, pent-up feeling burst over it. "


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