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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Michael Walzer Interview « Previous | |Next »
September 19, 2003

In the light of what people call the development of the new anti-Semitism this interview with Michael Walzer, the political philosopher, is an interesting one. I will cut out the bit on the Israel Palestine issue because Walzer makes some good points in terms of just/unjust war. It helps to cut through some of the fog that surrounds this issue and to define a critical response to Israel and Palestine.

Walzer makes the distinction this way:

"These are the four wars: there is a Palestinian war to destroy and replace the state of Israel, which is unjust, and a Palestinian war to establish a state alongside Israel, which is just. And there is an Israeli war to defend the state, which is just, and an Israeli war for Greater Israel, which is unjust. When making particular judgements, you always have to ask who is fighting which war, and what means they have adopted."

How does this distinction apply in practice? We can say that Arafat's war is to destroy and replace the state of Israel whilst Sharon's war is for a Greater Israel.

The distinction can also be applied to tactics and stategies. Walzer is very clear:

"Palestinian terrorism, that is, the deliberate targeting of civilians, should always and everywhere be condemned. And Israeli settlement policy in the occupied territories has been wrong from the very beginning of the occupation. But this second wrongness doesn't mitigate the first: Palestinian attacks on the occupying army or on paramilitary settler groups are justified at least they are justified whenever there is an Israeli government unwilling to negotiate; but attacks on settler families or schools are terrorist acts, murder exactly....And similarly, Israeli attacks on Hamas or Islamic Jihad fighters are justified; dropping a bomb on an apartment house in Gaza was a criminal act."

Palestinian nationalism, therefore, is a problematic phenomena. It cannot be understood solely as the engine of a progressive movement for national liberation from a powerful country with a large army that is being used to sustain the occupation of another people. And Zionism, which poses as a national liberation movement, has become a colonial settler movement.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:04 AM | | Comments (1)


Hi Gary

'Palestinian nationalism, therefore, is a problematic phenomena.'

It wasn't problematic before the proto-Israelis arrived and booted them off their land. It only became 'problematic' when they tried to return the favour. Anyway, all nationalism is problematic and none more so than Israeli. Walzer is a thoughtful commentator, but his formulation, with the occupation as the 'second wrongness' is precisely arse about face. Zionist terrorism gave birth to Palestinian terrorism. Talk about reaping what you sow.