Monday, January 19, 2009

"Reading Gaza"

You will not read anything on the subject better than this, anywhere.

It's by Peter Ryley. This guy:



UPDATE: More clear thinking, with references to Orwell's Politics and the English Language, and some interesting antecedents which I did not know about.

27 Comments:

Blogger The Plump said...

I never knew that photo would come back to haunt me :-)

Bit better than the one on my blog though.

Thanks Terry - glowing.

2:27 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

A good article. Beware, though, many of these arguments are being used by both sides.

2:32 PM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

The mother of a friend of mine passed a way a few years ago. She was 85, and suffered from Alzheimer's. She was cared for very lovingly and thoroughly in her son's home, at Mevasereth Zion, Jerusalem, a mostly religious neighborhood. She could no longer recogonize any of her children. In her last years, though she was warm, well-fed, surrounded by family and friends, she re-lived her Auschwitz years and I guess, as far as she possessed any capacity for rational consciousness, this is the place in which she let out her last breath.

I suppose what I want to say is that some things cannot be easily relegated to the mantelpiece of "This is a left blog". It's all very fine to choose sidelineship, for you. You have nothing to risk by maintaining neutrality by triangulation. To choose neither side and follow a carefully demarcated path, so as not to be accused of leaning too much to this or that side, this is the solution offered in this so wise an article. Such a perfectly Canadian solution.

Dante reserved a special space for these prevaricators in his Purgatory. He tells us what fate awaits when injustice masquerades as universality, when false balance becomes an ideal:

"In the world they receive no mention;
Mercy and justice show them no regard:
We too will pass them by with little attention."

There is no middle way and no third way between Israel and Hamas. Not choosing between the two makes about as much sense as not choosing between sickness and health.

4:50 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

There is no middle way and no third way between Israel and Hamas. Not choosing between the two makes about as much sense as not choosing between sickness and health.

The problem with democracy is that sometimes people elect idiots. But in this case, I regard Hamas as more of a symptom than a root cause. When the roads toward self-determination are all blocked, extremists are rewarded, as we have seen time and time again as one side or the other sabotages the good work being done by intelligent people on both sides of this issue.

The Occupied Territories are an extremism factory, and as each generation becomes scarred, frustrated, and then radicalized, the problem perpetuates itself. As a first step, those conditions need to change.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

"Such a perfectly Canadian solution."

Actually, Peter is British, the sides available are not "Israel and Hamas," Peter is not neutral - he has taken sides - and he's not triangulating, and I'm on his side.

5:18 PM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

"Actually, Peter is British"

Well, then, he ought to be flattered that I mistook him for a Canadian.

6:44 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

Dante reserved a special space for these prevaricators in his Purgatory. He tells us what fate awaits when injustice masquerades as universality, when false balance becomes an ideal:

Well, no. It's not from Purgatory, it's from Inferno. And the space outside of hell is not reserved for "prevaricators", it's reserved for "the dismal souls who [...] had lives neither odious nor commendable; having embraced neither of the two, they mingle now with that chorus of cowardly, self–serving angels who were neither faithful to God nor rebellious."

/literary nitpick

6:45 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

If you hadn't made it sound like an insult, perhaps he would (insert weird punctuation-mark smiley face thing here).

6:46 PM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

ungood:

"having embraced neither of the two," is exactly the position I was criticizing, so you must be agreeing with me...

In the Pinsky translation which I'm looking at, there are no angels, only "the loathsome cowards neither
God nor his enemies could endure."

5:09 AM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

"having embraced neither of the two," is exactly the position I was criticizing, so you must be agreeing with me...

Only if you're not reading carefully. This passage is often misinterpreted in the way that you have. Dante was objecting to those who had lead undistinguished lives, not those who refused to make decisions. And, in the original, Mischiate sono a quel cattivo coro de li angeli che non furon ribelli né fur fedeli a Dio, ma per sé fuoro. It's pretty hard to not translate "angeli" as angel. Are you sure you're looking at the right canto? It's in Inferno, not Purgatario.

7:43 AM  
Blogger The Plump said...

CC

To say I was offering a "third way between Israel and Hamas" is a spectacular misreading (far worse than thinking I was Canadian). The post is not a form of triangulation. It is a comment on methods of argument and the criteria a leftist would use to evaluate the conflict in Gaza.

If you use the standards of the left as I lay them out NONE would apply to Hamas.

What you are doing here is using two more rhetorical tricks. The first is a classic that we see the whole time. You reinterpret what I said to be something other than what I said it was and then attack your reinterpretation rather than my original statement. It is a politician's stock in trade - 'what my opponent is really saying ...'

The second is the use of a false dichotomy. In this case that the choice is between Israel and Hamas. No it isn't. Israel is not a monolith, there are a range of opinions from the religious right and the Revisionists to the left and the peace movement. Similarly, Hamas only speak for SOME of the Palestinians not all (the confusion of some with all is another classic logical fallacy). As well as Fatah as a political movement, there is a wide range of opinions amongst Palestinians - including those active in One Voice and other peace movements.

As a leftist, I reject the prescriptions of the Israeli right and deplore Hamas. Instead my support is for both the Israeli and Palestinian left. They both converge around a two-state solution, which is still achievable though I fear it has been set back by Gaza (read Yossi Alpher in the latest bitterlemons.org). Such a solution is, in the long run, the only sure guarantee of Israel's existence.

DPU

I know those arguments are used by both sides. That is what I was trying to say in the post.

9:08 AM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

(far worse than thinking I was Canadian)

Hey!

9:20 AM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

I know those arguments are used by both sides. That is what I was trying to say in the post.

Sorry, I missed that. The literary dust-up with CC has left me a bit befuddled.

9:21 AM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

"Are you sure you're looking at the right canto? It's in Inferno, not Purgatario."

inferno iii

You are looking, I think, at Seth Zimmerman's translation. Mine is Robert Pinsky's. No angels in mine. Maybe he wanted to universalize Dante by avoiding referencing the fallen angels' myth. It's an interesting case of a conflict between translations, not quite so irrelevant to the I/P conflict as might seem. I like that. The intranslatability of translations.

10:27 AM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

"Israel is not a monolith, there are a range of opinions from the religious right and the Revisionists to the left and the peace movement. Similarly, Hamas only speak for SOME of the Palestinians"


I just don't know what to make of this formulation. The recent conflageration was a conflict between Israel and Hamas. While your observations are correct, they don't help much in unraveling the ethical issues of this particular event, which is what I thought you were talking about. Israel was quite united, left, and even far left, right etc in support of the necessity of this war (See A. B. Yehoshua's letter to Gideon Levy). Hamas was acting Hamas among Palestinians who elected them. They are not a gang of murderers that takes over a reluctant population. Even so, Palestinian complicity in their own oppression would not be a good reason to target them militarily. But Hamas presence among them, with their permission, makes these accusations of massacres a bit false, don't you think?

10:47 AM  
Blogger The Plump said...

Palestinian complicity in their own oppression

Another rhetorical trick. It is called blaming the victims. Again it is very common.

They are not a gang of murderers that takes over a reluctant population.

OK Palestinian elections.
Change and Reform - the Hamas led block - 44.45% (440,409 votes)
Fatah - 41.43% (410,554 votes)

That looks like a split society to me. The result was distorted by the distribution of the vote in the district seats, and Fatah beat Hamas in Rafah. On the party lists, Hamas were only 1 seat ahead of Fatah and with 6 seats reserved for the Christians could not have formed a government without the distortion of the district seats. Strict PR would have barred their way to power.

Hamas control in Gaza is based on an armed coup against Fatah after the elections, since when they have made a mess and have harassed Trade Unionists, persecuted Christians and murdered dissidents.

On the Israeli peace movement - I take it this did not happen then?

http://tinyurl.com/9zk57t

Your last sentence shows that you either haven't understood what I was trying to say or that you disagree.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Will said...

The Cuntentious "Centrist" (ha ha ha ha 'Centrist') is a national chauvinist.

Obviously.

Oh -- and a cheer leader for collective punishment and State terrorism.

What a slimeball.

5:09 PM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

"The Cuntentious "Centrist" (ha ha ha ha 'Centrist') is a national chauvinist."

Didn't you once say I was a Stalinist?

Interesting chance here to climb into the mind of a "socialist" and take a look at the monstrosities that furnish it.

5:29 PM  
Blogger Will said...

Oh -- a right wing tosspot as well.

slimeball.

5:45 PM  
Blogger SnoopyTheGoon said...

Noga, leaving Will's shortcuts aside, I too don't think Peter is trying to remain somewhere in the middle. Since I (to take one example) rarely applaud our freaking politicos, you can conclude then that I'm a Hamas supporter? Nah, it's not that simple.

And Will... aw, what the heck...

5:40 AM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

"Since I (to take one example) rarely applaud our freaking politicos, you can conclude then that I'm a Hamas supporter? "

Since I remember a few tirades directed at the freaking politicos for not doing anything or enough(?) to protect Sderot from qassams, I can't see how anyone could possibly conclude you were pro-Hamas.

11:32 AM  
Anonymous iheartjacquelinerose said...

I guess that I'll put myself out on a limb and suggest that professor Jacqueline Rose's response to the war in Gaza represents, to me, the most insightful commentary that I'veread. If her overarching moral understanding were universally adopted there would be no conflict in the middle east

"The only abiding law for Israel in this onslaught seems to be the ethics of self-defence, and yet Israel’s defence cannot be secured by such a path and there are, it would seem, no ethics. How can such unrestrained and indiscriminate violence – a hundred, and more, dead for every Israeli, including hundreds of children – be justified? ‘We are very violent,’ the commander of the Yahalom unit observed, according to Ha’aretz. ‘We do not balk at any means to protect the lives of our soldiers.’ Another senior IDF officer was reported as commenting on the offensive so far, ‘It’s not the movie, it’s only the coming attractions,’ with a knowing smile.

If it sometimes seems as if a new limit has been breached, we need to trace this language back to the creation of Israel and before, to the founding belief that Israel would be the redemption for the historic suffering, and passivity, of the Jews, a belief given new urgency by the genocide in Europe and which would lay the grounds for the ruthless dispossession of the Palestinians. At a rally in support of Israel’s war in Gaza in Trafalgar Square, one banner read: ‘We will not be victims again.’ As the rally dispersed, those of us protesting as Jews against Israel’s actions were spat at and met with cries of ‘Kapos’. The Holocaust is still the felt justification, in the midst of this new war. Israel is the fourth most powerful military nation in the world, yet it lives in a permanent state of fear, always fighting the last war.

So while everyone is asking ‘Who is the aggressor?’, another equally important question is going unasked. Who claims the monopoly of suffering? Whose suffering is felt to warrant a form of state power that is above the law? Already we are being told that there will be no legal reckoning. Faced with war crimes allegations in the past, Israel has blocked all attempts by the UN to investigate its conduct and it is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court.

To say this is in no way to diminish the traumatic impact of the Holocaust but to register it all the more powerfully. The effect of trauma is precisely to freeze people in time. There is a psychological dimension to this conflict that seems almost impossibly difficult to shift. In its own eyes, Israel is never the originator and agent of its own violence, and to that extent its violence is always justified. The Palestinians do not count. Even when the worst of what has been done to them is registered inside Israel, it is still the Israeli who suffers more.

We are all waiting to see what Barack Obama will do. My hope is that he is ring-fencing his new appointees (Rahm Emanuel, Hillary Clinton and, it seems, Dennis Ross) so he can intervene more forcefully to change the US’s unconditional support for Israel. But even if he were to do so early on, a single breach of any agreement by Hamas – even if, as most likely, provoked by Israel – might be enough for him to adopt Israel’s language of state security as the justification of all means. ‘As soon as anyone mentions security,’ Miri Weingarten of Physicians for Human Rights commented on a visit last year to Britain, ‘everyone stands up straight and stops thinking.’

5:13 PM  
Blogger Will said...

In the interpretation of shit offered by the Cuntentious one (Centrist -- ha ha ha ha ha ), someone like Hitchens is turned into pro-Hamas scum (or an idiot).

Wot a stupid fucking racist piece of shit she is.

a Stalinist. A right wing piece of shit and a fucking moron.

You disgusting cunt. I would have you made into a mannequin and burned at a stake. For a laff like.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

I see the tenor of discussion has not improved with Peter's essay.

Does anyone know if I can disallow comments on some posts but not all, or from some people but not all?

6:17 PM  
Blogger Will said...

No -- fuck that shit

Let us tear the throat of the stupid NAZI-Zionist bitch from it's body.

worra dimwitted racist cunt she is.

Stalinist as well of course.

6:23 PM  
Blogger The Plump said...

I told you, stick to cat blogging - or you could always bring up the Swilers again :-)

3:06 AM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

"Let us tear the throat of the stupid NAZI-Zionist bitch from it's body.

worra dimwitted racist cunt she is.

Stalinist as well of course."

_____

"George and Jerry are in the back of a limo. George is giddy with excitement.

George: This is incredible! This is one of the greatest things I've ever done in my life! I'm gonna call my mother."

4:10 AM  

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