Friday, June 18, 2010

"Would we have the moral courage to stand for anything again?"

Many Canadians will remember when police were reluctant to intervene in incidents of domestic violence because what took place there at home was "private." Similar arguments surface today when we raise our voices about violence against women in other countries. We are told that violations of women's rights are part of someone else's culture, and that we have no business interfering. We should just mind our own affairs.

In fact, it is those of us inclined to believe that human rights are a Western invention who are most vulnerable to this argument. If the right to food and dignity is as cultural as casual Fridays at the office, it may indeed seem offensive to criticize others for alternative practices. But this is like suggesting that the need to eat is a peculiarly Canadian characteristic. The right to equal treatment, education, and freedom from violence are not specific to one culture. They are universal entitlements that are valued as ardently among Afghan women as our own.

- Eva Sajoo.

39 Comments:

Blogger vildechaye said...

Unfortunately, the reactionary left will skewer her as they do you Terry. Why the mainstream media also takes this view is a different matter. My take, for what it's worth, is that it's because (a) most media people don't have the stomach to take the heat from the strident Lefties, especially those at the universities; and (b) because they are so wedded to the standard journalistic practice of trying to get a "gotcha" on the govt. of the day that all common sense goes out the window.

Unfortunately, this leaves Afghan women, even more than Israel, as the canaries in the coal mine.

4:24 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Colvin said...

Bs Vilde. I don't know a single "lefty" who thinks that repression against women is OK, here or abroad, whether it is patriarchal Muslims killing their daughters for the family "honor", Africans genitally mutilating their daughters, or the Taliban blowing up girl's schools. And you can add to the problem the repression against homosexuals in most African and ME countries, where you can get sentenced to death for loving another man. Who are these "lefties" saying we have no business interfering? Certainly none I've ever heard from.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Bernard von Schulmann said...

Melanie Butler - she even made an academic thesis out of it

https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/5157

6:29 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Colvin said...

The author of that paper starts with describing the Taliban are "one of the most misogynist regimes the world has ever known". The rest seems to be mostly the usual orientalist bullcrap so favored by a very small proportion of pomos. The author states explicitly that her aim is not to discredit what has been achieved for Afghan women; nowhere do I see a call to abandon Afghan women. I still see a straw-woman.

7:39 PM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

They are the lefties who continually protest the so-called "illegal" war in Afghanistan, that's who they are.
Who root for Al-qaeda in Mesopotamia and Sadr to boot the Yanks out of Iraq. They make common cause with the Islamists against the so-called Imperialists. The lefties who give succor to Hamas and chant "we are all Hezbollah." That's who they are. Don't be so wilfully obtuse.

As for your comment re: Butler, her idea about how to support Afghan women is to show them that WE (i.e. Canadian women) are just as oppressed as YOU (afghan women, try selling that line to an Afghan woman), where as Women for Women in Afghanistan -- who actually do something for Afghan women -- are just a bunch of orientalists.

8:19 PM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

Oh and incidentally, talking about straw men (and women), your response to me is just one giant straw man, seeing as I never mentioned anything in the original post about the left thinking repression against women is OK (though they must think that if they support the Taliban); never said anything about honor killings (which incidentally i don't blame on Islam since Hindus and Sikhs do it in great numbers too as anyone living in B.C. knows all too well); ditto Africa, homosexuals, etc. But those lefties who say we have no business interfering? They're everywhere, see my previous post.

8:22 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Colvin said...

Vilde: Perhaps you didn't read the article Terry referenced: "Similar arguments surface today when we raise our voices about violence against women in other countries. We are told that violations of women's rights are part of someone else's culture, and that we have no business interfering. We should just mind our own affairs." As I said, I don't see any lefties saying we should "mind our own business". That's the strawman. There may be lefties who think you can't bomb a medieval culture into modernity, or who object to using said oppression as a marketing device for wars. That's not at all the same as saying "we have no business telling islam not to oppress women". It is the means that they differ on, not the ends.

8:37 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Colvin said...

And who are these lefties who root for al-quaeda in mesopotamia? You can flail wildly with your tar-brush and the only thing it will stick to will be made of straw.

8:45 PM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

I see. so in one sentence or paragraph, you mush terry and me together, cherrypicking and not really dealing with each argument separately. Nice.

As for your other issue, if a "leftie" or anybody else supports the "resistance" in Iraq against the imperialists, and let me tell you that all you have to do is look at any telephone pole in vancouver to see a lot of that, or talks about the Iraqi "puppet" govt., then by implication they are supporting Sadr and al-Qaeda. I would have thought that was obvious, even for you.

Finally, it may not be the same as saying "we have no business telling islam not to oppress women", but in fact, how many lefties do you actually hear telling islamists not to oppress women. Beyond the perfunctory opening sentence (after which they move on to the real target, imperialism/zionism etc), it's rarely mentioned. And the exceptions (not that I can think of any) prove the rule.

9:09 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Colvin said...

Fail. You can be against war /violence without being in support of al-quaeda. What a ridiculous argument.

10:00 PM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

It's your argument that's ridiculous. In Afghanistan, for example, if you're against "war" and the so-called "occupation",then you're for the Taliban coming back. Unless, of course, you live in cloud-cuckoo land and think there is a third option available to Afghans. Of course, there isn't.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Colvin said...

Really, Vilde, use your noggin. The third option is negotiation, as happened with the Sunni uprising in Iraq, where the moderates were brought into the fold and the al-quaeda element left in the cold; as happened in Northern Ireland; etc etc. It's perfectly possible to be against war without being for al-quaeda.

10:54 PM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

Right. Go negotiate with the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Sadr's fundamentalist Shiite army, etc. Hezb and Hamas. And good luck with that.

12:35 AM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Setting aside idiotic comparisons between the IRA and the Taliban, and the IRA and Hamas - for all its sins, the IRA's program was comprehensible to reason, negotiation and consistent with the demands of conventional national liberation struggle - can we please stop pretending that there is anything "progressive" or "left-wing" about the default position of Canada's self-proclaimed "left" in the matter of Afghanistan? "Withdraw troops and negotiate with the Taliban" is the position of the extreme right in Afghanistan. It is opposed by all women's groups in Afghanistan, and by all Afghan secularists, reformers, and progressive democrats.

And can we please stop pretending that the "anti-war" movement in Canada has not counseled abandoning the women of Afghanistan to barbarism? Can we please at least stop pretending that "anti-war" politics of this kind is not directly connected to a gruesome preoccupation with rolling back the prime accomplishment of Zionism in the establishment of the state of Israel?

"MAWO is by far the busiest "anti-war" group on the West Coast. Its position on Afghanistan goes like this: "Wherever Islam is fighting against imperialism, 'The Left' must join with Muslims in this fight . . . the Muslims of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine who are fighting on the front lines against imperialism."

"Two weeks before the NDP convention, an immigration board hearing in Vancouver found that [Alison] Bodine, an American, had misrepresented herself to Canadian border officials to get into Canada. The ruling brought an end to a MAWO campaign, endorsed by such respected NDP figures as the MPs Libby Davies and Bill Siksay, that based its claims on a government plot to target "anti-war" activists.

"Bodine was ordered to leave Canada. Her opening- night NDP convention speech was her last activist gig in this country. She got a standing ovation.

"Meanwhile, back in Toronto-Danforth and its environs, the Toronto Stop The War Coalition, the Canadian Peace Alliance and several affiliated groups are busy making good on their oath, which 20 of their delegates pledged to Hamas and Hezbollah in Cairo a few months ago, to redouble their efforts against Zionism and imperialism, here in Canada. . ."

http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/editorial/story.html?id=7f644573-dd8c-4e31-99fe-2ea0489031fc

12:08 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Colvin said...

That's an oversimplification, Terry. If you dig a little past the tiresome "anti-imperialist" rhetoric, MAWO's position is far more nuanced that simply "abandoning women to barbarism"; it seems to be that the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan is *fueling* the Taliban, and that if the foreigners left, the Taliban would loose much of their raison d'etre; to the extent that the Afghans could deal with the issue themselves. That's not at all the same thing as just "abandoning the Afghans".

Now it may well be totally unrealistic (and I'd agree that it probably is, at least at present); but it can't be denied that having American "infidels" running round the country dropping bombs left right and center, half the time on the wrong targets, acts as a tremendous recruitment tool for the Taliban. Would the departure of foreign forces pour water on the Taliban's powder, to the extent that their extreme elements could be marginalized? I don't claim to have that answer, but it does seem to be happening in Iraq, doesn't it? The Americans are leaving, and the Iraqis are taking charge. So no, I can't agree that your characterization of the anti-war forces is entirely justified.

As for Israel, the shouts I hear are "end the occupation", not "end Israel". So no, I don't at all see a "preoccupation with rolling back Zionism". I see a preoccupation with ending occupation. Can't agree.

12:31 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Colvin said...

Then again, those same anti-war movements would likely have been against the initial attack on the Taliban that ejected al-quaeda from the region. So I don't want to give them too much credit for nuance. 1/2 the time they are still out to lunch.

12:40 AM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Oversimplification? Nuance?

"Wherever Islam is fighting against imperialism, 'The Left' must join with Muslims in this fight . . . the Muslims of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine who are fighting on the front lines against imperialism."

MAWO, the Canadian Peace Alliance, StopWar, Libby Davies, the lot: They have adopted a very clear and unambiguous position that is directly opposed to and lethal to the position and the interests of the Afghan women's movement, the Afghan reformers' movement the Afghan democratic opposition, and the Afghan human rights movement. The "anti-war" movement in the rich and privileged countries of the world is objectively pro-fascist, and its leadership is subjectively pro-fascist.

I am intimately familiar with the self-congratulating justifications the "anti-war" movement employs to tart up its rancid politics, and I am wearily familiar with the excuses supplied by its morally squalid apologists, like you - 'oh yes, but things are more nuanced, one mustn't oversimplify. . . yes, but what about the bombed wedding parties . . .'

You want us to pretend not to notice the disgraceful purpose you are serving here. You want us not to notice the "anti-war" movement's own slogans - Against "Imperialism and Zionism," actually exist. You "can't agree." Here is the self-described "international alliance against imperialism and Zionism" (and don't give me the usual crap about stragglers at rallies; this is about the core leadership):

http://www.straight.com/article-87427/peace-and-politics-make-for-strange-fellow-travellers

"Toronto's James Clark, told the gathering that Canadian activists use incidents of Islamophobia in this country to 'educate and mobilize people'. Clark is reported to have uttered the lie that the Canadian government actively and deliberately enflames Islamophobia in order to wage war in Muslim countries. Clark vowed that "the Canadian peace movement, inspired by the Arab resistance in Lebanon and Iraq, would work with Muslims to defeat imperialism."

You want us to pretend that you are merely disagreeing with an "opinion" that this is so, when it is a fact that this is so. Either you don't have the guts to face it, or you are an idiot. Either you are a moral coward or a moral illiterate.

In any case, your "comment" is disgusting, made only worse by your lame attempt to distance yourself from your bedmates with "1/2 the time they are still out to lunch."

You're out to lunch. You should go away now.

7:47 AM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

Bravo. And you didnt' even mention the Nazi slur. As it happens, in my reply to that in the earlier thread, i should have noted how revealing your remark that merely labelling someone (whose views alone, no actions involved, annoy you) a "fascist is so undergrad."

Well congratulations. You've got a post-grad degree in over-the-top, historically ignorant hyperbole. Planning a teaching career?

9:12 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Colvin said...

Terry: I won't pretend there aren't idiots and anti-semites in the anti-war movement, and you've done a great job at exposing them. My objection is tarring everyone active against war with the same brush, which is how I read your arguments. There is hyperbole on the left, and hyperbole on the right. If you interpret my arguments as apologism for the true loons on the left, of which there are many, that is not what I intend.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Colvin said...

And if you want to talk about hyperbole, implying that Libby Davies' views are the equivalent of "judenrein" (and that she is therefore a Nazi) really crosses the line. Slipping into hyperbole is easy to do (as I admit I did with Dershowitz). But at some point it just starts discrediting one's argument.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Colvin said...

Look, the trouble with these organizations is that they are loose confederations of people sharing very divergent aims and views, some moderate, so not. They are not monolithic hierarchies with a consistent voice. I saw some things I agreed with at MAWO. And then I also saw a load of absolute bollocks, like: "As for reconstruction, one only has to read the news to see that the occupation forces aren’t constructing clinics or schools, and rather they are bombing villages and homes." Which is an out-an-out lie and a complete slander on our forces. So, I do completely agree with you that many of these organizations could use a severe house-cleaning. Are there *any* moderate organizations not contaminated with the loony left?

5:30 PM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

RE: Are there *any* moderate organizations not contaminated with the loony left?

Sokath, his eyes uncovered!

(star trek next gen fans will understand).

5:47 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Colvin said...

engage! now there's something we can agree on, finally.

6:41 PM  
Blogger ahmed said...

Interestingly enough Johann Hari accepts your premise about the universality of human rights, and rejects the excuse making he hears in the name "cultural differences. He just wants to extend the argument to Palestinians. Worth reading

http://www.johannhari.com/2010/06/04/the-movement-to-smother-solidarity

5:45 PM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

Johann Hari has really lost the plot, and Ahmed thinks his article is a must-read. I think that says it all.

2 MAJOR Problems with Hari's article, the first is in the first paragraph, where he thinks that everyone agrees with all his absurd misstatements about the flotilla, Gaza, the Goldstone report etc etc, and the big problem there isn't that none of it is true as much as it is that he believes it's all proven fact, most probably because everybody in the weird bubble he and Ahmed inhabit is an echo chamber.
To parse quickly: "Everyone now knows the Israeli navy committed a machine-gun massacre" -- no, sensible observers agree the soldiers were defending themselves; logic alone dictates that if the soldiers had opened fire on the Mavi Marmara unprovoked, they would have done the same on the other five ships. They didn't;
"on a ship in international waters ... Irrelevant, they clearly stated their intention to break the blockade, so Israel had thelegal right to board the vessels."
"The boat was armed with Holocaust survivors, Nobel Peace Laureates," -- none of whom were attacked, it should be noted. However it was also "armed" with members of IHH, an Islamist outfit that claimed to wish for martyrdom and shouted Jews Kaibar as they embarked on their pathetic mission."
"food, medicine, cement to rebuild bombed-out homes,"-- which Hamas rejected after it was cleared by the Israelis after they inspected it.
"and a couple of metal bars"
more than a "couple," and knives, and tossing soldiers off decks and into the sea
that were grabbed at when armed gunmen illegally boarded the boat."-- no Israeli soldiers legally boarding a vessel intentionally trying to break a legally recognized blockade.
"Several of the photos released by the IDF "proving" there were other weapons there have already been exposed as old images that have been on the web for years. Some even still had tags on them identifying them as having been taken in 2003."-- the latest lefty canard, spread and believed only in the echo chamber/bubble that Hari now chooses to associate himself with. The video evidence is clear, the Israelis landed with paint guns (hardly the weapon of choice if you want to perpetrate a massacre), and is in large part why the furor over the attack has subsided (the other reason being the Turkish murder of 120 Kurdish rebels after castigating Israel for enjoying "killing" -- what a laugh!)
But all of the above is old stuff; what really sets this article apart as a tale told told by an idiot is the moral inversion Iwill explain in my next post

8:42 PM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

Addendum to previous post:I should also have parsed this ridiculous sentence two paragraphs down: "When it was published, authored by a Jewish judge, it proved to be a meticulous and accurate documentation of what happened: it rightly also condemned Hamas's war crime of indiscriminately firing rockets at Israeli civilians.

"authored by a Jewish judge" -- nice touch. Finklestein and Ilan Pappe also are Jewish. But of course he meant Zionist (which Goldstone purports to be). Not that it matters. Although some (including Dershowitz, as Ahmed continues to remind us) have attacked Goldstone personally, which I believe is wrong, the simple fact is that the report has been widely discredited on its merits, its far from "meticulous and accurate documentation" (see my discussion on Isseroff's demolition of the report);
and that it "rightly also condemned Hamas's war crime of indiscriminately firing rockets at Israeli civilians" -- yes, for about 5% of the report, the rest of which was spent bashing Israel; no mention of human shields, etc. etc. This is why, after the initial hubbub, it has had little if any traction and has discredited Goldstone (as a dupe of the Anti-Israel UNHRC) more than Israel.

Now on to what makes hari's article really silly, next post.

8:55 PM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

The first portion of Hari's first paragraph starts off sensibly enough: "Should you shut up about human rights abuses because they are happening far away, to people you don't know, who have a different culture or colour or creed? There is now a growing movement across the world saying that, yes, empathy should be cauterised at national borders. The world is carved into cultures, and they should not try to comment critically on each other. Instead, they should be "respectful." You can criticise Your Own Kind, but not Foreigners, because they are unbridgeably different to you."

Now this has been a big and legitimate complaint. That human rights violations by other cultures are somehow given a pass. So one could be forgiven for thinking that Hari has seen the light, and was going to condemn the easy time that the Left gives regimes like Burma, China, Congo, Sudan, Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah, Cuba, Turkey, even Russia, while dumping on the U.S., Britain, the West in general and, of course, Israel, for much less severe HR violations.

But no! In a breathtaking moral inversion -- breathtaking in its obtuseness, that is -- Hari manages to select three "examples" that include NONE of the countries mentioned above. No, in Hari's inverted moral universe, the "brown people" whose human rights abuses are indulged are Honduras, Ethiopia and -- wait for it -- those european colonizer zionist pigdogs in Israel. Only Israel could manage to be a european colonizer and distinct culture that can only be criticized from within, but I digress.
That Hari is aware of the REAL problem is evidenced by one meagre but significant paragraph further down, when he states that "These arguments crop up in more unexpected places. Whenever I write articles supporting the rights of Muslim women or African gays or Iranian trade unionists, I get a pepper-spray of critics claiming I am being "imperialist". It's not "your culture". You're not Muslim, or African or Iranian. Stick to your own kind. These arguments usually come from people who consider themselves to be liberal, and would be astonished to discover they are using the same arguments as the Israeli right and the Honduran junta."

That only makes involving Israel -- or Honduras and Ethiopia -- all the more egregious. Which is not to say that there aren't human rights abuses in HOnduras or Ethiopia, or that the Israeli right he goes on and on about isn't overreaching by trying to restrict "foreign" criticism, but that this is an issue that applies first and foremost to the Media/Intellectual class in the West relating to the countries I listed above. Whatever problems Honduras has had since the overthrow of the president and Ethiopia has had pale in comparison. As for Israel, the fact that the hard-rightists want some restrictions is more than offset by the fact that Israel is the most criticized country in the world these days, and comes in for plenty of legitimate and illegitimate criticism within its own borders, whereas the states he omitted sail through with nary a blemish, despite horrific HR crimes that make an attack on a blockade-breaking boat look like a party on a lake.

This article is sick and twisted. Why anybody would recommend it is beyond me.

9:20 PM  
Blogger ahmed said...

From Vilde we discover that the article and perhaps Hari himself is "sick and twisted", that Goldstone is "discredited", and that attempts to hold Israel accountable to in international law has lost "traction". Maybe like the unannimous International Court of Justice ruling in which all the judges including the US one said that Israel has no right to build the wall around the settlements and on Palestinian land. Why these attempts dont lose "taction" because the US (now joined more and more with Canada under Harper) torpedoes all such attempts and that Israel steafastdly refuses to cooperate with internatiaonal investigations. I imagine that Golstone's credentials were not in question when he was investigating the crimes of Yugoslavia but on Israel. this lifelong liberal Zionist, produces only nonsense. And that Human Rights Watch USA or Amnesty are to be taken seriously when they catalog the abuses of the Iranian theocracy or the Saudis but the very mention and evidence proving Israel-an illegal occupier- systematically violates Palestinian rights warrants howls of outrage. Maybe its not Hari who has lost the plot. He seems on the right track, Israel's "friends", not so much.

Vilde then brazenly asserts that Israel, as always- the side doing the bulk of the killing-acted in self defence, as it attacked the flotilla. Right. That the boat with a Nobel Peace Prize winner was stopped, its passengers deported, while the Islamists got what they deserved for attemting the crack a symbolic hole in the siege that dozens of aid organizations and human rights groups have called ghastly. I think that Jeet Heer writing in the often naudea inducing National Post has correctly characterised people who write apolegetic after apologetic for Israel. Here's Jeet

"Israel is the Hemingway of nations. Like the great writer, Israel is admired by many for its courage and fighting prowess and indulgently allowed to go on pursuing those elements of its behaviour that can only end in disaster. And just as Hemingway had his bar-room buddies who cheered on his alcoholism, Israel has its enablers, foreigners who encourage the Jewish state to follow the self-destructive path of keeping the Palestinians permanently immiserated."

10:46 PM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

Ahmed why don't you learn to read. I don't question goldstone's credentials or anything else about him. I question the REPORT. not only that, i make it quite clear i question the report and only the report.

As for the "wall," i personally think it should have been built on the green line.

It's clear that echo chamber you reside in has made you deaf and hard of reading. Hari takes a good point about universal human rights and twists it so that the only countries he chooses to mention are Western-oriented and allied with the U.S. And when most of the world's human rights violations come from other countries, not those allied with the U.S. or linked to the West -- and when he can barely manage a paragraph that includes iran and one that include the Taliban or Burma, that's sick and twisted. If you don't think so, and clearly you don't, what does that say about you.

Jeet Heer, obviously another denizen of the bubble, has got it ass backwards. It's enablers like him who keep the Palestinians in misery, condoning or rationalizing their rocket attacks, attacks on civilians, attacks on troops, raids into Israel, etc etc, and then supporting them when they whine and complain about the consequences of those actions. It's pathetic.

12:31 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Colvin said...

Vilde: I don't think it is "sick and twisted" to be more concerned about the actions of friends than strangers. To use a domestic analogy, I should be more concerned if my friend is a murderer than if some complete stranger on the other side of the country is. As I wrote before, we expect countries like Burma and Sudan etc to be loathsome because that is what they are. We must hold those countries that are supposedly "fiends" to higher standards. There is nothing "sick and twisted" about this; indeed, it should be encouraged. What should really concern supporters of Israel would be if we stopped caring about how it behaves, and threw it into the bin along with the Sudans and Burmas of the world.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Colvin said...

Sorry. "Fiends" in my last post was a typo, not a freudian slip.

12:31 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Colvin said...

Add "democracies" to my comment. When a dictatorship like Burma or Saudi Arabia abuses human rights; well, that is dictatorships do. When a democracy like Israel, the USA or Canada does the same, that is immeasurably worse. It is neither sick nor twisted to be more concerned about the latter than the former.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Colvin said...

I really want to emphasize this point, since it so common to hear the argument "why are you picking on Israel? Look at what does". One answer might be anti-semitism. But I don't believe this is usually the case (although clearly it is the case in some circumstances). More often, the reason is that we care more that a friendly democracy not behave like .

12:46 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Colvin said...

Sheez. So you can't use angle-brackets in a reply. What my post was supposed to read like was:

I really want to emphasize this point, since it so common to hear the argument "why are you picking on Israel? Look at what (insert name of repressive dictatorship here) does". One answer might be anti-semitism. But I don't believe this is usually the case (although clearly it is the case in some circumstances). More often, the reason is that we care more that a friendly democracy not behave like (insert name of repressive dictatorship here).

12:47 PM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

JC: Your point often is made and has some merit. But it doesn't really apply in the case of Johann Hari's article.

Let me elaborate. You are talking about a situation like the flotilla, where Israeli soldiers kill 9 "activists." I say, look, Iran has killed x times more. You say Israel is a democracy, we hold it to a higher standard. OK, i don't agree with this argument for several reasons, which we've discussed previously. (another reason is how quick the anti-Israel crowd is quick to say that Israel ISNT a democracy, but that's an argument for another day.)

But that isn't what Hari's article is about. It's about cultural relativity, about not labelling something a human-rights crime because it was done "by another culture." This is an argument supporters of Israel, and the U.S., and the West in general, make all the time. Hari has inverted the argument -- logically as well as morally -- to impugn Israel (and Honduras and Ethiopia). AT least HOnduras and Ethiopia are third world countries comprised of brown and black people -- though the reason he chose those 2 is clear enough, they are allied with the West. That is bad enough. But to somehow imply that Israel gets a pass because of cultural relativism is sick and twisted because it's precisely the opposite: Its enemies get the pass from the cultural relativity crowd, whereas Israel is firmly lumped in as a Western colonial/settler/European etc state. He himself acknowledges that it's the Left who skewer him for "imperialism" when discussing Iran or Sudan, yet he only devotes part of a pargraph to that, whereas three paragraphs to Israel, and a couple each to Honduras and Eth, when these are -- in the case of Honduras and Ethiopia -- rather weak examples, and, in the case of Israel, no example at all. The right in israel may indeed be trying -- ultimately unsuccessfully, as it happens -- to stifle the Left in Israel, but that has nothing to do with cultural relativism, and it's more than a stretch to try and make out that it's the stellar example of it no less. He's trying to have it both ways, which is absurd, sick and twisted. Do I need to elaborate further. Or have I clarified why your explanation simply doesn't apply whatsoever in this instance.

2:57 PM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

JC: This article (from thejudeosphere.com) encapsulates (and eviscerates) your position stated earlier. But, again, it has nothing to do with Hari's argument.



"Writing in the Guardian, Robert Fowke, an author of science and history books, seeks to explain his 'disproportionate interest in Israel.'

The reason, he says, is not anti-semitism. ('I have many Jewish friends.') [Oh dear - VC]

No, the main reason, he says, is that Israel isn’t sufficiently foreign:

When things heat up, it is close to an addiction. Why am I not so worked up about Zimbabwe? North Korea? Sudan? Tibet? Burma?

I do not respond to [Israel] as I do to most other foreign states. It is, emotionally, almost an English county planted on the Mediterranean shores.

So I judge this by domestic standards, not foreign ones. I do not expect Israelis to behave like Burmese generals; I expect them to behave like Englishmen, like my friends.

The number of news items about Israel-Palestine has created a self-reinforcing cycle – my appetite for yet more items is whetted by each new article or drama. All of which would appear to vindicate the complaints of the pro-Israel lobby – except that they should consider how they themselves contribute to this.

One reason why Israel is singled out for so much attention is because its supporters are so very vociferous, pushing their agenda at every opportunity. As a consumer of news, the speed of their responses and their sheer ubiquity inflames my interest and my antipathy."

The judeosphere comments:
"I genuinely admire Fowke for this introspective effort. No, just kidding, he’s a schmuck and an epitome of orientalist bigotry. While I’m sure Israelis appreciate that they rank high enough on the civilization meter to be deemed British, I feel bad for the democratic activists and jailed dissidents in Iran, China, Zimbabwe and Burma who don’t merit as much attention since they’re, well, so foreign. More to the point, this type of double-think helps explain why Israel faces peril. By Fowke’s own definition, Israel might not be a 'foreign' country, but it is surrounded by 'foreign' neighbors—nations that are not held accountable for their authoritarian tendencies because they’re not Western enough for Fowke to take an active interest in their affairs. Which, of course, explains why Israel’s supporters 'are so very voiciferous'—because we have to deal with people like Fowke who, by his own admission, are obsessed with Israel and who never miss an opportunity to find ways to demonize, delegitimize and isolate the Jewish State."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

4:31 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Colvin said...

Vilde: I wasn't commenting about the flotilla part, where I generally agree with you. Merely the bit about it being "sick and twisted that Israel is singled out while Burma gets a pass". Pleased to hear that you think my position has at least a touch of merit.

Regarding Fowkes, I hadn't read his piece before, so thanks; but criticizing him for "orientalism" is more "post-modern" than "eviscerating". And when I use the term "post-modern" it is not a compliment. And it is not like Israel is the only recipient of Fowkesy criticism or obsession. Can you say "Guantanamo"? And to suggest that Israel's neighbors are not held accountable for their behavior is silly. Iran: sanctioned. Hezbollah and Hamas: illegal to do business with. Egypt and Saudi Arabia; well, here dictatorship is **encouraged** by Israel/USA, since the alternative is the Muslim brotherhood. So it is sheer hypocrisy to complain about the political state of Egypt, for instance. Egyptians would like nothing better than to get rid of Mubarak.

6:58 PM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

JC: I don't use the term post-modern in a complimentary way either. But I fail to see what's post-modern about labelling as "orientalist" the notion that better behaviour is expected from Brits than from those brown savages. Perhaps you can clarify.

As for Hari, I thought I already explained why his argument is sick and twisted, and it has nothing to do with Burma. It's sick and twisted because he's accusing Israel's defenders of resorting to cultural relativism, when in fact it's the anti-imperialist crowd who constantly resort to it, and the pro-West, Israel, U.S. crowd whatever, who decry it. In the case of Israel it's particularly sick since Israel is always accused of being white, colonist, European, settler, etc., so almost by definition, it's virtually impossible to excuse or rationalize Israel's behavior on the basis of a "different culture." I've already said all this, and since you didnt get it then, i'm not terribly optimistic you'll get it now. but hope springs eternal.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Dirk Buchholz said...

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1:20 PM  

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