Thursday, February 19, 2009

Legitimate Criticism of Israel

I. Howard Jacobson has a very powerful piece in "The Independent", a daily rag mostly known for its "independent" anti-Israel view (and that's putting it mildly). In it he tries to analyze the way anti-Israeli opinion has morphed into anti-Zionism, which in its turn is hardly distinguishable anymore from classic antisemitism:

A discriminatory, over-and-above hatred, inexplicable in its hysteria and virulence whatever justification is adduced for it; an unreasoning, deranged and as far as I can see irreversible revulsion that is poisoning everything we are supposed to believe in here – the free exchange of opinions, the clear-headedness of thinkers and teachers, the fine tracery of social interdependence we call community relations, modernity of outlook, tolerance, truth. You can taste the toxins on your tongue.

But I am not allowed to ascribe any of this to anti-Semitism. It is, I am assured, “criticism” of Israel, pure and simple. In the matter of Israel and the Palestinians this country has been heading towards a dictatorship of the one-minded for a long time; we seem now to have attained it. Deviate a fraction of a moral millimetre from the prevailing othodoxy and you are either not listened to or you are jeered at and abused, your reading of history trashed, your humanity itself called into question. I don’t say that self-pityingly. As always with dictatorships of the mind, the worst harmed are not the ones not listened to, but the ones not listening. So leave them to it, has essentially been my philosophy. A life spent singing anti-Zionist carols in the company of Ken Livingstone and George Galloway is its own punishment.

Read the whole thing. It's well worth the time.

Quite a few bloggers have commented on the article, since it has touched upon much of what Jews and Israelis feel most acutely these days.

II. On this blog , I found a pretty depressing prognostication about the future, here.

III. As I commented on it:

An antisemite's nightmare is the sight of Jews having a good life, fun, sun, beautiful women, days in the beach. The antidote for such a nightmare is the wishful imagining of dead Jews. I get the impression that many critics of Israel would be much happier if only there were more, many more, dead Jews in Sderot. Their main beef is that so few Jews were actually killed while their enemy methodically perseveres in the attempt to wipe them out. Such an inapt kind of genocide, wouldn't you say. Hamas and Hizzbulla may sound like Hitler but unfortunately, Hitler they are not. They do not have the industrial infrastructure to sustain their programme. The argument, then, taken in its literal translation, should read like this: Israel, of course, should calibrate its response to the Hamas level of sophistication. In other words, Israel should wait until they get enough weaponry and skill to carry out a more successful campaign of liquidation, and ONLY THEN attempt to stop them. Give them a chance at least to carry out a little genocide, for God's sake; it's the fair and decent thing to do.

And while Israel is waiting for them to acquire better weapons and get better at mass destruction, it is only a humanitarian basic that Israel should feed and care for the Hamas's people, ease the suffering of Palestinians so that Hamas does not have to worry about these inconsequential demands. Hamas must be allowed complete freedom from the petty concerns and selfish demands of their own population, and from the business of governing and providing for their people in order to be able to pursue their higher purpose of genocide and destruction, undisturbed and uninhibited.

Among these “Leftists” I count some of "the best" as snoopythegoon diplomatically put it in his blog. These "best"'s support for Israel was so half-hearted that, with the absence of enough Jewish "killees", it could not maintain a principled support for Israel’s right of self-defence.

The power of the pictures is irresistible. Perhaps it was a mistake for Israeli media to suppress the images of the aftermath of suicide bombings, mutilated lynched bodies, and such like. No one ever plastered them on the front pages of papers or showed them on TV news.

There is a pornographic aspect to human pity which cannot be waved aside when things get to this stage. When an image of a little girl's severed head impacts the minds of reasonable intellects, and not just what is called "The Arab street", then maybe it is time to reconsider the uses of such pornographic titillation of the pity muscle.

IV: Of peculiar interest I found the comments made by one poet-in-residence, who resides in Austria and seems to have some very decided views about a conflict he seems to know only a little about and mostly based on rumours that he reads God only knows where. Here are three excerpts from his rather short comment:

"Obama promised if Iran nukes Israel he will nuke Iran. Iran will therefore not nuke Israel. Not in the next 8 years anyway."

"In 2008 the Austrian film "die Fälscher" won an oscar. So it's not doom and gloom in the Kinowelt either."

"But I think Netanyahu will have to change his tune. He won't be able to short change Obama like he did Bush. If tries any of his old tricks you can best he'll lose his US aid package just quick as you like. T new Yanks in the White House are in no mood for Israeli funny business."

I didn't immediately cotton on to PIR's ruminations as articulated above. But something tugged at my level of comfort, beyond the slur upon Netanyahu which is pretty much a beloved meme in certain parts of the blogosphere and media nowadays. So I took another look and here is what I noticed:

The German film "die Fälscher" is known in English as "The Counterfeiters". Here is the trailer. The tagline is this:

"It takes a clever man to make money, it takes a genius to stay alive. A genius con artist put to work by the Nazis. A survivor's tale you've never seen before."

And what do you know, it's a film about a Jewish conman, who puts his talent at the service of the Nazis in return for his life. He manufactures for them counterfeit money.

Money. Funny money. Cheating money.

To shortchange, the dictionary tells us, means:

1. To give (someone) less change than is due in a transaction.
2. Informal To treat unfairly or deceitfully; cheat.

Money, again, allied to cheating.

"If tries any of his old tricks you can best he'll lose his US aid package just quick"

Again, money!

Funny how Netanyahu's "shortchanging" Obama follows hard on the heels of "die falscher" and the next relished thought is how money will be withheld from the conniving Netanyahu's grasping greasy hands: "he'll lose his US aid package just quick".

So a film about the Holocaust won an Oscar and this, PIR tells us, is a reason for hope that antisemitism is not so bad. And some cold comfort it is, coming from a presumably thoughtful poet, whose his own discourse, in the span of just a short and offhanded comment on the Internet, is so heavily laced with antisemitic undertones.

V: Any thoughts, anyone?

As Howard Jacobson says in the above linked article: "But I am not allowed to ascribe any of this to anti-Semitism. It is, I am assured, “criticism” of Israel, pure and simple."

Or what
Oscar Bronner - publisher and editor of Der Standard, a major Austrian daily newspaper, said with unerring precision back in August, 2002:

"If you talk to people who use anti-Semitic clichés without knowing what they are doing, they are shocked that somebody would think they were anti-Semitic. But it's everywhere. It's in print. It's dinner party conversations. When a dozen Israeli kids are killed because somebody throws a bomb in order to kill Israeli kids, then it's regrettable. If Israel kills a dozen kids as collateral damage when they try to kill a murderer who hides among children, then this is a war crime."

VI: I'd like to conclude by repeating what another Prime Minister of the Likkud party, Menachen Begin, said, in his speech to the Knesset on June 25, 1982:

“The children of Israel will happily go to school and joyfully return home, just like the children in Washington, in Moscow, and in Peking, in Paris and in Rome, in Oslo, in Stockholm and in Copenhagen. The fate of... Jewish children has been different from all the children of the world throughout the generations. No more. We will defend our children. If the hand of any two-footed animal is raised against them, that hand will be cut off, and our children will grow up in joy in the homes of their parents.”

I wonder if PiR would find something reprehensible about this.


Update: Solomonia reports of a very interesting response to Jacobson's article, here.


At 5:43 PM EST, Blogger George S said...

Thank you, Noga, but I'd rather not be patronised by you.

At 9:48 PM EST, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

I don't know what you found "patronizing" in my post but I removed the part that mentioned you and will make sure not to patronize your blog in future.


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