Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Beyond the pale

I attach below a letter I wrote late last night in response to one from Michael Kransdorff who, together with Steve Magid, is a co-author of that excellent blog, "It's almost supernatural". I've tidied my original up somewhat and slightly expanded it, but otherwise it is identical. Kransdorff's letter may be available on his blog or perhaps from him directly.

There is one issue which I have not examined here - that is the question of "loyalty" in a political context. What does it mean, what are its limits (if any) and what actions are appropriate or otherwise? I hope to take up this issue in a talk I have been invited to present to WIZO.

Please read on...

Dear Michael

While I admire your commitment to civil discourse, I fear that in this instance the beneficiary (or beneficiaries) of your goodwill do not merit it.

Let us be clear: this is not some academic debate being conducted between scholars in which normative standards of mutual respect are in order. Geffen et al are "activists" in a context in which Israel (a tiny Jewish state of less that 6 m Jews) is under constant, potentially genocidal pressure from those who hate not only the "Zionist" (ie. Jewish) state but Jews in general. Part of the strategy of such groups, given the military superiority of Israel, is to mobilise world opinion against Israel.

This has a number of ends in view. One is to pressure countries and political leaders to adopt at worst neutral stances in this struggle but, even better, to adopt actively hostile policies towards Israel. So far it hasn't really worked to the full, but it has stopped the West from openly labelling a spectrum of groups mainly, though not exclusively, from within Islam as the atavistic, fanatical and genocidal movements that they are. The second is to demoralise and divide Jews both within Israel and outside so as to wring "concessions" and hopefully, eventually, see the disintegration of the entire Zionist enterprise - and in the even longer term who knows? Of course, such tactics include economic pressure as well as political and social pressure.

Thirdly, such tactics help mobilize the Arab street – and immobilize Arab leaders who might otherwise wish to see the wider threat posed by Hamas and its like brought under control.

Given the general backwardness of these groups (state and non-state), the strategy of demonisation is in fact a primary objective. This is why Hamas, as a matter of calculated policy, is prepared to continually compel Israel into measures which inevitably kill civilians. It is for this simple reason that a dead Palestinian (especially a child) is worth immeasurably more to Hamas than a live one.

To achieve this level of sacrifice in the host population it becomes necessary to create a culture of Jihad and martyrdom and also to inculcate an unquenchable sense of bitter grievance and hatred. It is also out of the inevitable images of death and destruction that world opinion can be mobilised against Israel and an apocalyptic climate of global fury can be constructed. Thus every miltary response by Israel brings with it this inevitable side-effect - a painful fact of which Israel and we are only too aware.

This strategy has been extremely successful. The mass rallies and the kind of threats and violent actions we have seen in the last couple of weeks bear ample witness to the mob reaction of righteous indignation which is a pre-condition for ALL genocidal behaviour.

It is in this context that the Geffen-Isaacs axis operates. They state their purpose quite clearly "Doron and I are trying to effect change in the Jewish community by strengthening the hand of progressives." They do this by openly, very publicly and repeatedly declaring their opposition to those Jews supporting Israel, by stigmatising us and by associating themselves with those who have labelled Israeli actions not only disproportionate but "worse than Apartheid", worse than the Nazis, diabolical and so on in an endless stream of invective. To give some flavour here are extracts from a letter published in that sober journal, the Financial Mail, on 16 Jan 2009:

"The unilateral granting of statehood by means of the Balfour Declaration in November 1917, the subsequent terrorising of the legitimate owners of the land, the savage butchering and ethnic cleansing are clearly recorded as historical fact...

No less a Zionist butcher than Yitzhak Rabin, then Israel's chief of staff,...

History is replete with the authentic history of Palestine and its brutal usurpation, which the recorded sayings and biographies of the very perpetrators of this Zionist plot later admitted to... Scripturally, historically and politically Israel's existence is illegitimate and Israel and Zionists will know no peace until they accept that reality... This belligerence has now exceeded all bounds, and the worst tragedy of our "civilised" world is staged in full view of an astounded humanity - barring, of course, Israel's illegitimate step parents."

Further useful evidence of just what kind of sentiment is being stirred up in the South African street (over an intractable and immensely complex dispute taking place thousands of miles from our shores and our interests), here are extracts from a report from David Saks:

“The dichotomy between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Jews came out very strongly during last week’s COSATU solidarity rally for Palestine in Lenasia. It also witnessed what might be the first instance of public Jew-baiting by a member of government in over half a century as Deputy Foreign Minister Fatima Hajaig informed a deliriously cheering crowd that America, as well as other Western countries, was in the grip of Jewish money power.

What the Honorable FJ actually said was: “They in fact control [America]. No matter which government comes in to power, whether Republican or Democratic, whether Barack Obama or George Bush. The control of America, just like the control of most Western countries, is in the hands of Jewish money and if Jewish money controls their country then you cannot expect anything else”

And “Another speaker praised “our Jewish brothers and sisters” who had come out against the Israel Defence Force, assuring them “there is a place in the world we are building in South Africa for you”. Those who had not done so, he warned, had “better watch out because the winds of change are blowing”.

Regarding local Jews allegedly serving in the IDF, another presenter shouted (again to rapturous and sustained applause): “We are going to become impimpis, We are going to become impimpis the business that we are going to carry out with the Jews, with these Zionist entities. We are going to talk to them, were going to find out if their sons have gone to fight our brothers and sisters in Palestine and then we’ll say to them come and fight us at home”.

Of course Geffen et al do not use such language; nor do they burn Israeli flags or scream "death to Israel and the Jews" or "send them to the ovens" - as recorded in a street demonstration in Fort Lauderdale in the good ole USA. But they pass the ammunition via measured phrases, via selective and decontextualised "facts" (now which famous right-wing politician used a similar strategy?) and via carefully calibrated spin to those who do, and to those who would destroy Israel and, if luck came their way, the Jews with it. They do this assiduously and quite successfully.

Such Jews, and they are neither insignificant in number or in influence, are beyond the pale of polite discourse. "Useful idiots" is too polite and they are, in one sense, not idiots. They are a 5th column within Jewry.

Let us be clear on this. It is not their views which are the primary issue. They are entitled to these (even where grievously mistaken) just as others are entitled to vigorously challenge them. Nor are the actions and attitudes of Israel immune from debate and even opprobrium (though I would recommend a measure of humility in the face of complexity and distance).

It is their actions - their public, persistent, insidious participation in the demonisation of Israel in the prevailing political context which renders them beyond the pale of our consideration. It is their political evangelism within the Jewish community and especially the youth which deserves unambiguous repudiation.

I do not believe Geffen et al should be provided with any legitimacy or platform whatsoever by the Jewish community and the community's desperate attempts to appear broadminded and even-handed are not commendable - they are misguided and weak.

I greatly admire your blog...don't dilute it out of a false sense of PC.

respectfully yours

Mike Berger