A commenter was recently disappointed – having assumed that I’d agree with Peter Tatchell’s guest post – to discover that the best I could say about it was that 1) he seemed to be driven by good impulses and 2) I like a lot of his other stuff.
By contrast I generally agreed with the rather tough responses of vildechaye and mettaculture. I particularly like metta’s rejection (see the end of his guest post) of a kind icy moral purity which refuses to take into account the messy complexity of history and humanity. For pretty much the same reasons as metta (albeit backed up with less evidence) I hesitated over how to react to the UN statehood bid by the Palestinians last time it was canvassed.
I fully agree with Norman Geras’s reflections on the way in which Israel seems to have lost the propaganda battle:
This is not because there is no just Israeli cause. It is because for a wide swathe of left-liberal and ‘anti-imperialist’ opinion there is now no way Israel can conduct itself from which it will earn moral credit. It is irredeemably tainted in its origin. Conversely, and in the same quarter, there is nothing that Hamas or other representatives of the Palestinian people can do, no wrong or outrage they can commit, which will not be morally ‘cleaned up’ by the perception that these representatives are supposedly the pure vehicle of a struggle against injustice. Neither the codes of war nor the principles of international law nor the ordinary requirements of humanity count for a tittle or a jot against the volume of hatred that Israel incurs each time a new armed conflict breaks out. The double standards that underwrite all this and the stinking hypocrisy of it are one thing; but another is the rank failure of anyone to find the terms in which it can be rationally and convincingly explained. For want of such explanation, it is impossible to believe that anti-Semitism plays no part in it.
But it is a mantra of those who would combat antisemitism which manifests itself as antizionism that not all criticism of Israel is antisemitic, and so I want to introduce two criticisms of Israel I’ve recently come across which might repay attention. Gene asserted recently that Harry’s Place is opposed to settlements, and it was noted in the comments that this fact is not demonstrated terribly often. So the first criticism is this clip of a Palestinian from the West Bank discussing his experiences with settlers. The second is an observation made by Ben White on twitter – that if the fishing exclusion zone was set purely for security purposes, then why can it suddenly be doubled now?
Now it could be argued that the difficulties faced by Palestinians in the West Bank, even though they seem to stem most immediately from Israeli actions and might not unreasonably be resented, are the product of a situation for which the Palestinian leadership over the decades should take its fair share of blame. And, in response to the point about fishing limits, one might point out that White’s line of argument falls into the pattern whereby, for some, nothing Israel does can ever be welcomed or interpreted in a positive spirit– even the fact Israelis do not rape Palestinian women has been presented in a sinister light. And in any case, unless (as is so often done) Israel is to be held to standards of behaviour far higher than other states, such criticisms in no way invalidate the many good counter-arguments, made by metta and others, in response to Peter Tatchell’s guest post. But I did wonder whether metta had, to any degree, committed the same error as Peter Tatchell, by conflating the West Bank with Gaza. Metta refers to the ‘universal Arab rejection of any plans to partition Mandated Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab Palestinian state’. Although many Palestinians have purely eliminationist ends in mind (and for such people the two state solution is at best a means to that end) others do not. Michael Walzer discusses Israel’s relationship with the PA here in a piece recently flagged over on Normblog.