Tuesday, June 29, 2010

When he's cranky, he hits hard...

Max Ajl from Jewbonics, that is. Sometimes a bit OTT but always hard hitting, incisive and in parts real funny, his latest piece is simply called:

hey Eric didn’t I tell you you were too dumb to write about Palestine?

I have just seen Eric Alterman’s response to the response to the Nation’s cool-tempered editorial on the massacre on the Mavi Marmara:

You know, it's funny. Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority are all engaged in this blockade (which I strongly oppose). But if you read The Nation's editorial on the topic, "Free Gaza," you'd have to assume that they are all doing this because it's fun, or because they are big meanies or, at best, for no reason at all.

Never mind priorities, that the siege in intolerable and must end. Never mind reality, which is that Israel is engaged in a terroristic blockade to overthrow a democratically elected government. Never mind that Egypt complies because it does what America and Israel tell it to do, or that Fatah complies because its policy-making component is populated by a group of collaborators who do whatever Israel tells them to do. Never mind that senior Israeli officials openly admitted that the blockade was a failed policy on its stated terms, and that they kept it in place in the face of the flotilla to assert the inviolable principle that Israel will not give in to resistance, because they are the boss—or, in Alterman’s cutesy rhetoric, precisely because they are “meanies.” Never mind that pace Hamas’s charter it’s not a particularly anti-Semitic political movement in practice, nor is it opposed to “liberalism in all its forms,” since it has repeatedly attempted to sign reconciliation agreements that would have created a legislative council with representation from both Hamas and Fatah, while impossible Fatah demands scuppered them.

Alterman is afflicted with a serious case of White Liberalism. This disease turns the pseudo-intellectual into a very picky consumer of resistance movements. Not that one, they have funky red beards, and those folk aren’t very nice to their brown women, who we do the honor of bombing without gender discrimination. This complex suggests that resistance movements must fit into the box we construct—white, secular, liberal, Western—to receive principled, unqualified support for ending the suffering of the groups on whose behalf they resist.

None do.

Hamas doesn’t have to placate Alterman’s audience at the 92nd Street Y in order to justify ending the suffering of the people who voted for it, any more than those expressing sympathy for American suffering on 9/11 and who were concerned about its causes needed to quibble about the fact that America was a barbaric country that executed children, condones penal rape, and in which half the population believes the Earth is around 6,000 years old before saying so. Such facts are irrelevant except to those who think that Palestinian suffering must be gingerly framed to be sure not to offend American Zionist sensibilities. This is racist anti-universalist thinking, and it’s intolerable and even “illiberal.”

Reading Eric, you think that perhaps he saw Senator Ribbentrop Schumer speaking in front of the Orthodox Union and decided that so long as he was several picometers to the left of a call for outright “strangulation” of the Palestinians in Gaza he could grandstand about the “complications of the conflict.” Eric, here are the complications: American Zionists have been indoctrinated with a victimization complex from a tragedy that almost none of [them] directly experienced. We think our people died because we were weak, intellectual, effeminate. We think the solution, more psycho-social than practical, is a fascist Sparta in the Middle East, because none of us go to live there except the haredim from Williamsburg and Borough Park. That Sparta does good work for the Empire, its intellectual backers in Brooklyn collect money from the Empire, their egos are assuaged, and the merry-round keeps going round and round, while Israel descends into madness and Palestinians are more and more mired in misery and hopelessness, and the Erics of the world prance around podiums in New York, so distant imaginatively, morally, and intellectually from the conflict that it becomes totally clear that the people living there—the Jewish Israelis too, living in a fantastically unequal racist society—aren’t even the point. The point is positioning within a native community, the point is social status to be gained by transcribing and condensing the consensus of that community rather than challenging it. And who cares that Israel prevented oxygen machines from coming into Gaza this week, or that Gazans can’t leave for medical treatment? Not them, for sure, despite not even remotely convincing parenthetical avowals of concern.

7 Comments:

At 8:06 AM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

So this guy is saying Hamas should be supported no matter what it does, because it's fighting for political independence. The means it uses in this fight, and the way it treats its own people don't matter?

On the one hand, you don't mind that Hamas is super-illiberal, but you criticize Israelis for not accepting the "one liberal state for all, including Palestinian refugees, from the Jordan to the sea". Israelis need to be liberal and Palestinians don't need to be?

 
At 2:43 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Emm:

As Max points out, whether or not Hamas is 'liberal' is largely irrelevant: the US/West position isn't particularly 'liberal' either, it isn't 'pro-democracy', it's mainly pro-Zionist.

My position on Israel not being very liberal herself is of course in response to claims about it being 'the only democracy' in the region and to how 'liberal' it is, when clearly we see a decline in the latter. And regards Israel being democratic, that's both contentious and irrelevant.

Regarding just how 'illiberal' Hamas is, is also a matter of perception. You claimed months back that they were installing Sharia law. Well, they didn't, at least not going by my eyewitness Dalia El Massri...

You also claimed that you (paraphrasing) 'wouldn't be surprised that Hamas was using the basement of the University as a weapons lab' (thereby justifying bombing it). Well, were any weapons labs/factories found there?

 
At 6:30 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

Israel is definitely a democracy. We're imperfect, and our current government is probably the most illiberal we've ever had, but we're still democratic. We have free and fair elections, free speech, a free press etc.

There have been media reports of Hamas harassing and killing Christians and cracking down on journalists, not to mention what they do to anyone suspected as a Fatah sympathizer or a collaborator with Israel. Hamas has made several failed attempts to impose religious rules - like forbidding women to go to male barbers and to wear pants in public.

But wait a second - why are you trying to convince me they aren't as illiberal as I think they are if their liberalism/illiberalism is irrelevant?

 
At 8:49 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Emm:

Media reports by whom? Ethan Bronner? Jeffrey Goldberg? Name and I'll read.

The stories about harassing Christians are also refuted by my contact.

Regarding you last point: the truth still matters. But I don't believe Hamas' 'liberalness' as measured by Western standards has much to do with the validity of their resistance. That was Max' point, see here:

"Alterman is afflicted with a serious case of White Liberalism. This disease turns the pseudo-intellectual into a very picky consumer of resistance movements. Not that one, they have funky red beards, and those folk aren’t very nice to their brown women, who we do the honor of bombing without gender discrimination. This complex suggests that resistance movements must fit into the box we construct—white, secular, liberal, Western—to receive principled, unqualified support for ending the suffering of the groups on whose behalf they resist.

None do."

 
At 8:34 AM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

Here's a report from the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency about persecution of Christians and people who dare to have extramarital sex.

Here are some more reports about different attempts at Islamization:

* Hamas Bans Women Dancers, Scooter Riders in Gaza Push (Bloomberg)

* Male hairdressers banned from women's salons in Gaza (BBC)

But I don't believe Hamas' 'liberalness' as measured by Western standards has much to do with the validity of their resistance.

There are two issues here. One is that there's validity of resistance and then there's validity of the methods of resistance. Is terrorism against civilians a valid method?

Then there's the question of what their resistance is intended to achieve. Is it merely independence for Gaza and the West Bank or is it restoring Muslim rule over all of what used to be Mandate Palestine.

I'd say "White Liberalism" is absolutely right to pick and choose their resistance groups. Otherwise, anything goes and every group resisting some form of oppression deserves support, no matter what its methods are and no matter whether or not they intend to be oppresive themselves once they win.

 
At 3:18 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Emm:

Thanks for the links.

As regards the question 'Is terrorism against civilians a valid method?' the simple answer is in my view 'NO!'

But the question becomes a little muddled when it's nigh impossible for a resistance group to fight a large regular army: how would Hamas fight the IDF? What with? How? Where? Considering the nigh impossibility of Hamas to put even a small dent in Israel's military machine (so far they've killed the grand total of two Merkavas, off the top of my head), the temptation to bomb civilians then becomes all too real. See also the Irgun's terrorist activities: terrorists or freedom fighters? That depends solely on one's perspective, no? Both sides will claim they're fighting for their lives and acting in self-defense.

"Is it merely independence for Gaza and the West Bank or is it restoring Muslim rule over all of what used to be Mandate Palestine."

Let me remind you that much of the early Palestinian resistance focused on RoR, NOT the creation of a Palestinian state. Palestinian national aspirations came later, partly due to lack of support by Arab states for their cause.

But if I show clear evidence of Hamas' position now being essentially the PLO's, with acceptance of a roughly 1967 TSS, E.J'lem as capital and honouring of previous accords, you'd claim it's not true...

'Liberals' being picky with regards to whom they support? The self-proclaimed 'Leader of the Free World', and eternal 'champion of Freedom' supports the wacky anti-Mullah Iranian 'resistance group' MEK (testimonies from escapees show just how nutty and repressive these people are). They were harboured for a long time by Saddam Hussein (when he was still 'our Dictator', remember that?) and post-Saddam, shall we say 'tolerated', by the US. Since as much of Israel perceives Iran to be an 'existential threat' (thereby falling into a geopolitical trap set by Western leaderships) perhaps you don't think support for this 'destabilising force' is unjustified?

 
At 5:51 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

The Irgun was a terrorist group. The Stern Gang (Lehi) even more so. Their attacks on civilians were horrendous crimes.

"But the question becomes a little muddled when it's nigh impossible for a resistance group to fight a large regular army: how would Hamas fight the IDF?"

Well, shooting at soldiers isn't that hard. There are plenty of soldiers walking around openly in the occupied territories, not in armored vehicles. Now that there are none of them in Gaza Hamas can't do that there, but it still can in the West Bank. Still, even if they absolutely couldn't harm the army in any way that would not justify targeting civilians.

As for the MEK, that just tells me liberals should be pickier than they are now. The enemy of my enemy shouldn't always be my friend.

 

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