Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I remarked some time ago that those who are ardently committed to one side in a political conflict rarely simply change their minds when faced with the moral or empirical unsupportability of their position, but rather tend to become more and more vehement in their partisanship, until they reach a "breaking point" at which they can no longer tolerate their own stance. The classic example, of course, is the process by which many devoted Soviet Communists eventually broke with their ideology--often swallowing numerous hard-to-reconcile outrages (the show trials, the Nazi-Soviet pact, the Hungarian and Czech invasions) before their cumulative effect, or perhaps a final straw, caused them to recognize their error. I suggested at the time that the continued eliminationist radicalism of Palestinian terrorist movements in the face of Israeli concessions during the Oslo peace process was having a similar polarizing effect, causing many to abandon their pro-Palestinian leanings, while others maintained their continued allegiance by redoubling their hatred for Israel.

Since then, as the fanaticism and barbarity at the core of the various Palestinian factions (and their anti-Israel allies such as Hezbollah and its sponsor, Iran) have become even more conspicuous in the West, the Palestinians' Western base of support has been both eroded and radicalized, to the point where it now openly and frankly echoes Palestinian/Hezbollah/Iranian calls for the complete elimination of the state of Israel. Increasingly, though, the latter have incorporated blatant expressions of crude anti-Semitism, in the form of Holocaust denial, invocations of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and ugly ethnic slurs. How, then, will Western eliminationists reconcile themselves with this unsightly aspect of their allies' public image?

Why, the same way as they reconcile themselves to Palestinian terrorism, of course: by excusing it as a natural reaction to "Israeli oppression". I first sighted this tactic recently among the comments to this Crooked Timber posting. Note that not one peep of protest is uttered when one commenter offers, and another echoes, the "Israel made him do it" justification for Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's anti-Semitic tirades.

The readership of Crooked Timber itself appears to have radicalized somewhat in the three-and-a-half years since I noted their unwillingness to condone Palestinian terrorism. (Compare, for example, this more recent discussion, in which the defenders of Palestinian terrorism are much more forthright and aggressive, and its critics much more timid and equivocal, than in the previous case.) It may therefore no longer be representative of current liberal thinking on the Arab-Israeli conflict. However, it does provide a useful window into the current thinking of the remaining rump of diehard leftist enemies of Israel, among whom I predict that the defense of virulent Middle Eastern anti-Semitism as an understandable reaction to Israeli depredations will before long be a routine rationalization.

10 comments:

Dan Simon said...

This is rather pointless, but I'll respond anyway...

1) I put "Israeli oppression" in quotation marks because "oppression" is a completely subjective term. As far as I know, Israeli rule over the West Bank and Gaza was far milder than the Jordanian and Egyptian rule that preceded it. However, since many of the local inhabitants have long hated Jews, they may well have considered (only) the Israeli rule to have been "oppression".

2) Not every disagreement about historical judgments involves one side engaging in Holocaust denial. For example, the fact that you implicitly justify the Holocaust (see below) doesn't mean that you've necessarily denied it.

3) According to your logic, the mass anti-Semitism that led to the Nazi extermination of the Jews of Europe during World War II must have been a "reaction to oppression"--presumably by Jews, of Europeans--since the only other explanation is a "Protocols-style conspiracy theory". I suppose it's not surprising, really, that the sentiment to which you grant the most credibility is murderous hatred....

Dan Simon said...

Here we go again...

1) "Oppressees" are certainly entitled to decide what kind of "oppression" they feel themselves to be under. But nobody else is obligated to take their complaints at face value. For example, I find your comments on this blog to be brutally oppressing me, but others are free to evaluate my claim as they see fit. Likewise with any Palestinian claims.

2) Anti-Semitic pogroms in then-Mandatory Palestine began long before Jews had any political power there. They correlated much more closely with the increase in the Jewish population of the region than with the rise of "political Zionism".

3) I haven't denied any "atrocities"--how could I have, when you didn't mention any? I simply claimed that the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza by Israel was, overall, less oppressive than the preceding Jordanian and Egyptian annexations. We can discuss the details, and perhaps you will even be able to cite evidence to the contrary. But comparing this sort of historical dispute with Holocaust denial is simply of a piece with the rest of your foul, offensive, anti-Semitic rhetoric.

4) I'm glad you've at least implicitly admitted that not all racism is a reaction to oppression. (Perhaps you'll one day recognize that racism is virtually never a reaction to oppression--but I don't want to set my sights too high, here.) Now, it's perfectly clear to me that the massacre of Jews in Hebron in the 1920's, and all over Palestine during the 1930's, had nothing to do with "oppression" (which was all British, at that point), and everything to do with plain, old, garden-variety anti-Semitism. If you want to argue that it was some kind of anticipatory reaction to future "oppression" under Israeli rule, then go ahead--but I expect most people will simply laugh at you.

Dan Simon said...

1. I have absolutely no idea what "atrocities" you're talking about. You'll have to be specific if you want me to "not deny" them.

2. Where I come from, engaging in "ethnic clashes", as you so delicately put it, with legal immigrants or their descendants because you resent the nearby presence of people of their ethnicity is known as "racism". It happens all over the world, wherever immigrant communities find themselves living near violent, hate-filled nativist racists. It's condemned by all right-thinking people as despicable, whether it's directed at Filipinos, Jews or, for that matter, Muslims. And when it's directed at Jews, it's often referred to by the special name used for group hatred of Jews: anti-Semitism.

3. Please use the Blogger comments feature, not BackBlog, for future comments. All future comments using the BackBlog feature will be deleted.

Anonymous said...

I have absolutely no idea what "atrocities" you're talking about.

I did specify some of the atrocities and oppression in my very first comment, but see, this just makes it obvious that you are not being serious and don't really want to discuss this.

2. Legal immigrants? You've gotta be kidding. They were "legal immigrants" in the same sense the American colonists were legal immigrants as far as the Indians were concerned. That's just silly.

Also, I would like to point out to you that when an ethnically homogeneous group motivated by ideology or religion or greed (or pretty much anything else) comes from afar and encroaches on your turf, resisting and even hating these people is not racist. It may or may not be despicable (typically it isn't), but it sure ain't racist. One is a racist when he hates people for what they are, not for what they do.

And since (once again) Jews lived in Palestine for hundreds of years without a problem (unlike Europe), I have to conclude that there was no racism directed at them by the local population.

Obviously the local population just didn't care about the Jews - try to imagine that, if you can.


abb1

Dan Simon said...

1. Our definitions of "atrocities" are quite different. The sporadic driving off of some of the local Arab residents from the future state of Israel during the 1948 war was certainly unfair and wrong--but then, so was the far more thorough, more deliberate "ethnic cleansing" of Jews from the future West Bank and East Jerusalem. In contrast, the closing of Israel's borders to returning refugees, at a time when Israel was still at war with its neighbors, was a perfectly sensible security measure, and not dissimilar to what many other countries have done under similar circumstances. (Consider India and Pakistan, to take a famous example, or Greek and Turkish Cyprus.)

The post-1967 military occupation was, again, perfectly reasonable, given the refusal of the countries from which the territories were actually captured to accept a land-for-peace deal. (Jordan--whose twenty-year occupation of the West Bank you apparently see no reason to complain about, presumably because of the ethnicity of the occupiers--didn't actually relinquish its claim on the territory until the 1980s.) And the "racist colonization" of which you speak was far less of a hindrance to Palestinian national aspirations than the Jordanian and Egyptian annexations that preceded it. Again, the mere presence of Jews in the area seems to be more of an issue to you than actual conquest and annexation of the territory by a despotic foreign government. Could it be that you object to foreign interlopers "oppressing" Palestinians only when they're....Jewish?

Finally, the occupation of Lebanon followed years of rocket attacks on northern Israeli villages, was initially welcomed by much of the local population, and was to the best of my knowledge unaccompanied by any Israeli "atrocities" (as opposed to the ones committed by Lebanese factions against each other's civilians throughout the Lebanese civil war).

That you rail against Israel for these "atrocities", while ignoring decades worth of real atrocities perpetrated on Jewish civilians by Palestinian terrorists and their allies, starting well before the state of Israel even existed--speaks volumes about your attitude towards Jews.

2. Funny how you condemn the "hatred for a defenseless ethnic minority" (the Chinese) who immigrated to colonized East Asian territories such as (Dutch-ruled) Indonesia, but think it's perfectly okay to hate a "homogeneous group" that "comes from afar and encroaches on your turf" by immigrating to colonized Middle Eastern countries such as (British-ruled) Palestine. Could the difference be that the second group is, uh, how shall I put this....Jewish?

Anonymous said...

There are a couple of obvious differences between Jordanian annexation and Israel occupation and racist colonization of the territories. The difference is so blatantly obvious, that it isn't worth discussing.

Despotism is in the eye of the beholder. Again, your opinion of Jordan is predictable and irrelevant; we are not discussing Jordan or Egypt, so you're just wasting space or trying to divert attention.

2. Well, fair enough: if it's indeed the fact that ethnic Chinese moved to Indonesia to colonize it and oppress the local population, and if they indeed acted accordingly - then the backlash is quite understandable. If that's the fact. It's just that I've never heard about this theory.

Now, if you don't mind, I would like to examine closer this other theory of yours: that my assessment of historical and current events far-away in the world somehow depends of what the group of particular actors calls itself - 'Chinese' or 'Jewish'. I find it fascinating. How do you think my brain manages to process this: is this some kind of a Freudian thing, is it a super-natural phenomenon or something on physiological level? Inquiring minds want to know.

Thanks,
abb1

Dan Simon said...

1) There is indeed a big difference between annexation and occupation. Annexation is permanent, and offers no hope of political independence. If the annexing power is a dictatorship, then annexation also offers no hope of political freedom. In contrast, occupation is temporary, and allows for future political developments, including independence.

As for "racist colonization", it's just a rude term some racists (such as yourself) like to use to describe immigration by people they hate. (See below.)

2) I have no idea what relevance people's motives have to this discussion, or why you choose to harp on them. Jews moved to Palestine for different reasons, and Chinese moved to various East Asian countries for different reasons. That you glorify the hatred and slaughter of Jews, citing as an excuse the existence of the Jewish-majority state of Israel, but condemn the hatred and slaughter of Chinese, despite the existence of the Chinese-majority state of Singapore, simply proves once again what your corpus of writings has already amply demonstrated: that your animus is directed specifically at Jews.

3) I neither know nor care how or why you hate Jews. I simply note that you've expressed many, many anti-Semitic opinions--for example, defending as unobjectionable a Lebanese political leader's comparison of Jews to pigs--and draw the obvious conclusion.

Anonymous said...

1. No, in fact annexation makes the local population equal citizens of the state, while military occupation is a pure form of oppression. Difference between immigration and racist colonization (with ethnically pure towns and roads) is obvious to any reasonable individual; there is no need to discuss this.

2. Zionists moved to Palestine to create a homogeneous ethnocentric Jewish territory or state, I hope this is not a big news to you. This plan was obviously in contradiction with legitimate interests and rights of the local population and a clash was unavoidable.

Now, I'm sure that Jews who simply wanted to live in Palestine among Arab majority according to the 'when in Rome behave like the Romans' rule - I'm sure they didn't have any problems. Ideological and militaristic Zionists sure did, and that's quite natural and not racist or anti-Semitic at all, as far as I am concerned.

And this is still the case, because the population of Palestine still has the right to self-determination.

3. Like I said in that thread at CT: why would you blame the guy for buying Israeli government's racist propaganda line that Israel=the Jews?

If you don't like it - tell them to stop doing it and, once and for all, to declare Israel a state of its citizens, regardless of their ethnicity and religion; and while at it, tell them also to dump their racist immigrations laws and other racist policies. Once this happens, I'll gladly agree with you that the guy is out of line, otherwise he gets the benefit of the doubt.

Abb1.

Anonymous said...

For example: the greatest American hero of all times Sen. McCain still refers to the Vietnamese as "gooks" - that's 30 years after the war in which Senator's country was never attacked or occupied.

Now, some people find it normal, others (myself included) find it distasteful, but - hey - no one says that the guy is an anti-Vietnamese bigot.

So, why should Mr. Nasrallah be judged by a different standard?

Dan Simon said...

Wow--your last reply is such an efficiently compacted stream of offensive garbage that I can't even respond with a few specific points. Instead, I'll have to fisk it line by line.

No, in fact annexation makes the local population equal citizens of the state, while military occupation is a pure form of oppression.

Actually, Palestinians residing in the Gaza Strip from 1948-67 were not offered Egyptian citizenship, despite Egypt's annexation. So much for that bogus assertion.

Palestinians residing in the West Bank were, it's true, offered Jordanian citizenship. But that citizenship afforded them fewer rights and freedoms than even non-citizenship under Israeli occupation, since Israel is a democratic state with an independent judiciary. Palestinians under Israeli occupation have won all sorts of concessions from the Israeli government by appealing to Israeli courts. Such recourse is effectively unavailable in Jordan, even to full citizens.

And, as I pointed out earlier, the occupation has always been intended to be temporary, pending a political settlement and peace. It's been tried several times, and each time the relevant partner (first Egypt and Jordan, then the Palestinian Authority) walked away. It seems that at least the leadership among the Palestinians prefer what you call "pure oppression" to independence.

Difference between immigration and racist colonization (with ethnically pure towns and roads) is obvious to any reasonable individual; there is no need to discuss this.

I assume you keep insisting "there is no need to discuss this" because you have no distinction to offer. "Ethnically pure towns" is presumably a reference to towns in the West Bank populated entirely by Israelis. In fact, many Israelis who moved to the West Bank actually moved to neighborhoods of existing cities, such as Jerusalem and Hebron. In general, they've been on the receiving end of far more grief, both from local Arabs and from the "international community", than those who moved into brand new towns far away from Arab-majority ones. Under the circumstances, then, it's hardly surprising that most of them wanted to stay away from cities where they've been so clearly unwelcome.

As for the "roads", I assume you're referring to the fact that some roads in the West Bank have been reserved for Israeli vehicles only. That development is very recent, and has nothing to do with "racist colonization", and everything to do with anti-Semitic terrorism. You see, at some point during the intifada (I don't recall whether it was the first or the second), Palestinian terrorists took to driving along West Bank highways and attacking random cars with Israeli license plates. It eventually got so unsafe for Israeli-owned cars to drive on the West Bank that the government decided to set aside a few roads for Israeli vehicles only, so that Israelis living on the West Bank weren't completely immobilized. This solution was inconvenient for everyone, and it obviously would have been far better all around had the terrorists simply been crushed. But, sadly, there are a great many bleeding hearts in Israel who would rather see the entire population, Jewish and Arab, massively inconvenienced than countenance a serious crackdown on terrorists.

(By the way, we know that the terrorists are anti-Semitic because a few times they've accidentally attacked a car carrying Israeli Arabs rather than Jews. In those cases, the terrorists have invariably apologized profusely for their mistake.)

Now, I'm sure that Jews who simply wanted to live in Palestine among Arab majority according to the 'when in Rome behave like the Romans' rule - I'm sure they didn't have any problems.

Once again you demonstrate your anti-Semitism with bracing frankness. This sentence, with appropriate substitutions, could easily have been taken out of the mouth of an Indonesian racist torching a Chinese-owned shop in Jakarta, or a European skinhead beating up a Muslim immigrant. Of course most bigots don't object to immigrants who quickly become completely indistinguishable from locals, including adopting the local religion, customs and mores (not to mention the local xenophobia). Likewise, what bothers anti-Semites about Jews is that they stubbornly insist on remaining Jewish, rather than simply becoming like those around them in every respect.

(It's true that there's a certain particularly virulent brand of racist or anti-Semite who identifies targets by genetic heritage, rather than affiliation. The Nazis, for example, were obsessed with inherited characteristics, and targeted their victims accordingly. But they're the minority in the history of anti-Semitism, and of bigotry in general. For centuries, for example, European Jews could usually avoid slaughter by converting to Christianity. That hardly made the religiously motivated perpetrators of pogroms and massacres of Jews any less anti-Semitic.)

And this is still the case, because the population of Palestine still has the right to self-determination.

And no doubt that's a right you'd grant to the population of any country or territory, with one glaring exception: Israel. Gee, could that be because the majority of the population of Israel is....Jewish?

why would you blame the guy for buying Israeli government's racist propaganda line that Israel=the Jews?

That's not the Israeli government's racist propaganda line--it's your anti-Semitic propaganda line. Ever heard of the term, "projection"?

If you don't like it - tell them to stop doing it and, once and for all, to declare Israel a state of its citizens, regardless of their ethnicity and religion; and while at it, tell them also to dump their racist immigrations laws and other racist policies.

Israel's religious policies--they don't have policies based on "ethnicity"--are no more tilted towards Judaism than are those of many European countries towards their favored form of Christianity. (And, I might add, many European countries have immigration policies that do explicitly favor one ethnicity.) And none of them even comes close to the strict Islamic character of many of the countries surrounding Israel. (In Saudi Arabia, for instance, Islamic faith is a requirement of citizenship.)

Perhaps you don't complain about European and other Middle Eastern governments' policies because you only object to policies favorable to....Jews?

For example: the greatest American hero of all times Sen. McCain still refers to the Vietnamese as "gooks" - that's 30 years after the war in which Senator's country was never attacked or occupied.

Now, some people find it normal, others (myself included) find it distasteful, but - hey - no one says that the guy is an anti-Vietnamese bigot.


Actually, the uproar over McCain's comments soon forced him to apologize for his remark. And McCain has long been an outspoken advocate of peace and reconciliation between the US and Vietnam. Had he, instead of apologizing, decided to lead a terrorist group lobbing rockets at Vietnamese villages, he'd probably be in jail right now, instead of in the Senate.

Still, I'm glad to hear that you found McCain's remark "distasteful". That makes two groups so far--Chinese and now Vietnamese--that you'd rather not see being attacked. Perhaps one day you'll add Jews to that list.