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

Dining with death « Previous | |Next »
March 24, 2004

It is a dicey hand that Ariel Sharon is now playing:
David Rowe

The liquidation policy is a military solution for a political problem.

Here is a round up of the Arab media's reaction to Israel's assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin courtesy of Abu Aardvark.

Consider this argument from Senator Brett Mason under Matters of Public Importance in Federal Parliament on Monday(22nd March):

"It is not difficult to see why the Left has now picked up the mantle of anti-Semitism from the far Right. After all, the Left sees the free, liberal, capitalist United States as a source of evil and, conversely, lionises America's every enemy. The nation of Israel and the Jewish people represent all that too many on the Left despise: the unapologetic commitment to democracy, free market, nation-state and military strength. It is a miniature United States, a Western enclave on the sea of the developing world. Let me reiterate this point for it is an essential one: those who hate Jewish people and hate the state of Israel almost without exception also hate liberal Western democracies, such as Australia and the United States, hate all our values and hate all that we stand for and all that we cherish. Anti-Semitism is only the other side of the anti-American and anti-Western coin. Those who want to destroy Israel and vanquish Jews also want to bring the Western world to its knees. What this means in practice is that we—the Jews and liberal Gentiles—are all in it together."

This a lovely slide from being critical of the Likud Government to hating the nation of Israel and the Jewish people to hating democracy is it not? The left is non-liberal, totalitarian, racists, anti-American and anti-Western. The left is the same as the fascist right.

What is happening to liberalism? Why is it developing a fortress/seige mentality when it has been so triumphant over its enemies?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:49 PM | | Comments (21)


Dicey hand indeed. A huge gamble. Perhaps Sharon reasoned that militant fundamentalists who glorify death and believe martydom to be the ultimate entry ticket into Paradise should receive a little help in getting there? Who knows, but there seems to be two kinds of terrorism in the Middle East now: Random and Strategic. Fighting fire with fire.

Where's Jimmy Carter when you need him?

I think if Colin Powell brought a Frisbee to the Temple Mount, this could all be worked out in a jiffy.

Actually Gary, if you read Mason's statement, he is not talking about those who are critical of Likud. He is quite clear that he is talking about those who HATE Jews and Israel, then he makes the 'almost without exception' connection with hating the West and democracy. In that sense its almost a factual statement, like the sun will almost certainly rise tomorrow.

Brett Mason is absolutely correct. One only had to observe last year's anti-war demonstrations to see how deeply anti-semitism has taken root in the contemporary left. Placards equating the star of David with the Swastika were commonplace at marches against the war, yet there was no statement of disassociation from that contemptible analogy made by any public figure on the Left.

Criticism of Israel crosses the line into the realm of anti-semitism when:

A) it would deny the Jewish people the same rights of ethno-national self-determination that are taken for granted elsewhere in the world. In other words, when the criticism is so harsh and severe that it would challenge Israel's fundamental right to exist as a Jewish state.

B) it involves a hypercritical stance that imposes upon the Jews or Israel standards of behaviour that are not applied to others, especially the Arabs. The double standards that result from such a discriminatory attitude towards Israel engender news coverage that is so skewed that it completely warps Middle East reality.

Thus, reasoned criticism of Israel and its policies are one thing, denying the very right of Israel to exist is something else, entire. It is unfortunate that the modern left has become a repository for such extreme anti-Israel sentiments to the point where it is socially acceptable to call for Israel's destruction. This is antisemitism in the guise of anti-Zionism, but in practical terms there is no distinction to be made between either "ism." The effect of both would be catastrophic for the Jewish people.

He starts with the left (in general) who have picked up the mantle of.... etc etc.

Voice of Sanity,
one could, and I do, question the ethno nationalism as a basis for citizenship.

Why do you imply the argument here is the denial of Israel's right to exist when it is the Likud policies that are being placed in question.

Where is the call for Israel's destruction on this weblog? It is Israel's colonial attitude to the Palestinian people that is being challenged.

"Stop grinding down the Palestinians" = Destroy Israel.

"Don't steal land from the Palestinians using tanks and a hugely powerful army" = Destroy Israel

"state-sponsored assassinations of hostile political figures causes more far more trouble than it solves" = Destroy Israel

"Israel has more than 100 nuclear weapons and as such is in little danger of being overrun by any Arab state" = Destroy Israel

"Advantaging Jews over people of other faiths is discriminatory" = Destroy Israel

Bit hard to win with you lot.

Well, Gary, you are hoist by your own petard. You say that you do "question the [sic] ethnonationalism as a basis for citizenship." By this, you presumably are challenging the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign Jewish state.

And, then you ask "where is the call for Israel's destruction on this weblog?" I would argue it is contained in your own preceeding statement.

The denial of Israel's right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state equates to a call for the dismantlement of Israel. This is because the infusion of millions of Palestinians into Israel proper would set in train a demographic shift that would bring about an Arab majority in short order. And, once the Arabs were a majority, you can rest assured that the country wouldn't be called Israel anymore.

Moreover, if you think that the conversion of Israel into yet another state with an Arab majority (this would be the 22nd Arab country) would be a recipe for comity and good will between people, you are hopelessly naive.

The influx of millions of Palestinians into Israel proper, i.e. the Palestinian "right of return" would be tantamount to a death warrant for Israel's Jews because it would sow the seeds of inter-ethnic conflict that would make the Balkans of the 1990s look like a strawberry social by comparison.

You liked Sarajevo circa 1994? Then you'd love post "right of return" Tel Aviv. You think the present fighting in Gaza is cool? Just wait until 4 million hostile Arabs innundate the Jews living in pre-1967 Israel. What you seem to be proposing is a recipe for the oppression of Israel's Jews on a monumental scale.

Why? Well, look at the Arab world. 21 members of the Arab League, and nary a democracy to be found among'em. Political oppression reigns supreme throughout the Arab world, and ethnic or religous minorities fare particularly badly.

Note the killing last week of Syrian Kurds at the hands of Bashar Assad's security forces. Don't forget the oppression of Egypt's Coptic Christian community at the hands of the Muslim majority. And, remember the oppression of Iraq's Kurds and Shia by Saddam Hussein. Given the utter dearth of democracy anywhere in the Arab world, it is highly likely that another Arab state in the former Israel would adhere to this pattern of political repression and autocracy.

Thus, if you think that the fate of Israel's Jews would be any different after the post-right of return Arab population attained majority status, then I have a bridge over the Yarra River I'd like to sell you.

Finally, there are any number of states throughout the world that define themselves on the basis of ethno-nationalism. The Federal Republic of Germany, which today grants preferential immigration status to "ethnic Germans," for example. Moreover, Egypt and Syria are formally known as "Arab" republics, a clear case of ethno-national self-definition.

But I don't hear you challenging the right of modern Germany to exist, or the legitimacy of the Egyptian Arab Republic to define itself in ethnic national terms.

Thus, the very selectivity of your criticism towards Israel makes your entire agenda suspect. If your true concern were human rights, then one would think that your expressions of outrage would be directly proportional to the severity of repression. Yet, you are mum on the much more henious and blatant human rights abuses that take place in countries adjacent to Israel, while waxing grandeloquent about the evils of Zionism.

Strange argument Andrew.

Some premises are missing if you want claim that discrimination against a religion equals destroying a nation state.

A religion and a nation state are two separate things.

Something is needed that connects religion to a nation-state.

Voice of Sanity,
you write that I am hoisted by my own petard. 'You say that you do "question the [sic] ethnonationalism as a basis for citizenship." By this, you presumably are challenging the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign Jewish state.

I do not see this. I can challeging basing Australian citizenship on ethno-nationalism--ie Anglo-Saxon ethnicity. That does not challenge the right of the Australian nation state to exist as a sovereign state.

It says that citizenship could, and should be based, on liberal rights.

Now you are right that I am questioning the sovereign Jewish state. I am. I have argued that a Jewish Israel is not a liberal nation-state. It is a theocracy.

Similar to Iran. I am disputing the identification of Israel with a western liberal democracy not the existence of a sovereign nation-state.

The implication? The defenders of a Jewish nation state are not liberals. They are conservatives antagonistic to liberalism.

You're right to point out his mistake about the left. He should have made the same distinction he did with the 'hard right'. Clearly those on the left do not necessarily hate Israel, although some on the hard left may. Mason's comments should only be seen to apply to those who hate Israel, whatever the political spectrum of their other views.


Let me first state that I find nothing offensive about your characterization of my views as "conservative." Au contraire, in fact.

As for your demand that Israel dismantle itself (this is what, in essence you require), I don't see you asking the Federal Republic of Germany to do the same, much less those Arab nations that similarly define themselves ethnically.

Your mis-characterization of Israel as a theocracy merely reveals the paucity of your knowledge on the subject. A solid majority of Israeli Jews are secular. They drive on shabbat, they don't attend synagogue on a regular basis. Yet, these religiously unobservant Jews are passionate Jewish nationalists, aka Zionists. Your implicit equation between Judaism and religion ignores the ethn-national dimension of Jewish peoplehood that makes the Jews unique.

There is no comparison between the Mullahs who govern Iran according to strict Sharia law, and Israel, which has a secular legal code on all issues except personal matters like marriage and divorce, where Jewish religious law is determinative.

I write that I am challeging basing Israeli citizenship on ethno-nationalism, and that I'm in favour of citizenship being based on liberal rights.

You say that the essence of my argument is that Israel dismantle itself as a sovereign state.

I don't see it myself.

How does Israel citizenship based on liberal rights=the dismantling of Israel as a nation state?

I would have thought it meant Israel as a liberal nation state myself.

Well, Gary, given that you haven't provided any specific policy proposals, I am forced to extrapolate from your words. One would presume that your opposition to "citizenship based on liberal rights" would translate into the abolition of the law of return that grants automatic citizenship to Jews as a function of Israel's role as refuge of last resort for the victims of anti-semitism. True?

And, while this is troubling, far more of a menace is the second half that usually accompanies demands such as yours - that Israel accept the Palestinian "right of return" that would permit 4.5 million Arabs to settle in Israel-proper.

I don't know whether your platform extends this far, but if it does, for reasons previously articulated this translates into a demand for Israel's self-dismantling.

For obvious reasons the overwhelming majority of Israelis will never agree to such a proposal. And, for equally obvious reasons such a demand for Israel's self-demolition is tantamount to anti-semitism.

Now, you still haven't answered my question whether you would apply the same standards to Germany, Hungary and 21 Arab states that define themselves in ethnic terms.

Are all these nations, as well, undemocratic and illiberal? Given the generousity of Germany's welfare state, I think you would have trouble making that argument stick.

My opposition to citizenship based on liberal democratic rights?

I'm defending liberal citizenship against your ethnonationalism.

Sorry Gary, typo. That obviously should have read opposition to "ethnonationalism as a basis for citizenship."

Which begs the question whether you support affirmative action for aborigines in Australia, and blacks in the United States?

Affirmative action, of course, is a regime of preferential treatment for designated racial/ethnic/gender categories that is designed to compensate for past discrimination and oppression.

If you do support affirmative action, which is the position would I extrapolate from your general weltanschauung, why is that program legitimate for American blacks and Australian aboriginals, but not for Jews?

Either you must try to deny that Jews were oppressed as an ethnic nation, or that anti-semitism wasn't such a serious phenomenon. History, of course, reveals the spuriousness of that argument.

Or, alternatively, you must argue that Jews should not benefit from preference programs that are provided as a matter of course to other ethnic/racial groups with similar histories of oppression.

But, then, isn't that perpetuating discrimination against Jews by denying them similar treatment?

And, isn't that the textbook definition of anti-semitism?

I never mentioned affirmative action.I'm talking about classical liberal citizenship.

A civic nationalism if you prefer.

No Gary, you didn't. But I did because Israel's citizenship policies are a classic case of affirmative action for Jews.

Jews were repressed in the past and they didn't have a nation state of their own to give them haven from their oppressors. Millions of Jews died when the world turned a blind eye to genocide. Israel was created to ensure that such a scenario will never recur. And, to that end, Jews receive preferential treatment in citizenship over non-Jews. Again, a classic case of affirmative action.

So, if you support affirmative action policies for aborigines and blacks, why not for Jews?

Affirmative action? That is a liberal concept not a consevative one.

That presupposes liberal citizenship. Affirmative action aims to counter the blindness of equal rights to social discrimination.

Are you not supposed to be defending an ethnically pure Israel cleansed of Palestinians? You are supposed to be arguing for an ethno-nationalist Jewish state based on the myths of national unity.

We are talking about a non-liberal Israel here.

Or is your conservatism merely a Lockean liberalism?

I hate to point it out but you are all over the place.

I'm a big fan of Locke, as a matter of fact. His treatises on civil government are classics.

But, no, I'm not "defending an ethnically pure Israel cleansed of Palestinians." Other than the lunatic right wing fringe, which is miniscule, no one in Israel is talking about cleansing Palestinians. In fact, Israel has about one million Arab citizens, who are the only Arabs in the Middle East to enjoy the blessings of democracy (free speech, free press, freedom to peacefully demand redress of grievances, etc...)

Those quintessentially democratic rights are what make Israel a very liberal nation, indeed. The only party to the Middle East dispute that is talking about ethnic cleansing is the Palestinians, a majority of whom demand the "right of return, which for reasons already discussed is tantamount to a demand for Israeli national suicide.

So, your wrath seems to be misplaced.

And, as for "myths of national unity," the Jews' sense of Jewish nationhood has been around since the time of Moses. Don't you think it's up to the Jews to decide what it means to be Jewish? Isn't it a bit hutzpadik for outsiders to presume to dictate to the Jews how they should define themselves?

On the liberal vs conservative taxonomy of ideas that you cite, you seem to have a rather narrow and dogmatic view of what is and isn't politically acceptable.

You call it being "all over the place." I call it intellectual independence and eclecticism which are the hallmarks of a truly mature thought process. Sorry, Gar' but I don't fit neatly into any partisan niche. True, most of my views could be fairly characterized as right of centre, but some of my opinions are centrist, while a few others might even be categorized as centre-left.

If that level of sophistication is difficult for you to process, that's too bad. But, as Martin Luther once said, "here I stand, I can do no other."

'Your implicit equation between Judaism and religion ignores the ethn-national dimension of Jewish peoplehood that makes the Jews unique.'

Oh you hopeless goose. Judaism IS a religion. And Gary isn't making such an 'implicit equation'; he's commenting on people who do.

And while we're at it, do you feel that this 'uniqueness' justifies their dominance of territory that legally belongs to other people?

'the law of return that grants automatic citizenship to Jews as a function of Israel's role as refuge of last resort for the victims of anti-semitism'


'that Israel accept the Palestinian "right of return" that would permit 4.5 million Arabs to settle in Israel-proper'

So they are unique, eh? Right of return for Jews good. Right of return for Palestinians bad.

On a related matter, should Swiss banks be compensating Jews who had their assets stolen (and then deposited with said banks) by Germans and Austrians during the Nazi period? Do you feel the same courtesy ought to be extended to Palestinians who can prove they were dispossessed by Jewish terrorists mid last century?

'Either you must try to deny that Jews were oppressed as an ethnic nation, or that anti-semitism wasn't such a serious phenomenon. History, of course, reveals the spuriousness of that argument.'

Who cares? I mean, who gives a fucking toss? What in God's name has it got to do with any bloody thing, especially in this thread? It's HISTORY for God's sake! We are on about NOW.

The Jews WERE oppressed. Not ARE. WERE. The Palestinians ARE oppressed. Now. At this moment. A significant difference that appears to be lost on you.

The latter is an injustice, an evil, that I am party to by virtue of my membership of the Free World. The former had NOTHING to do with me but I, along with everyone on the planet, will be paying the price for it for a long time to come.

Are the rest of us supposed to pay the very high price of -

an increased threat of terrorism here at home, and

the undemocratic gagging of comment on Israel's illegal behaviour

just so that oversensitive Jews don't get upset? Stiff shit I'm afraid. We're all upset now.

I'm sick of this constant refrain from uber-Zionist apologists like you - that somehow Jewish victimhood is special, unique even. It is not.

This is an illiberal and dangerous idea. People suffer when oppressed. Not just Jews. People. They suffer in much the same ways. The inability of Likudnik thought to appreciate this is to me a massive ethical failure. Ugly, brutal and ultimately very counterproductive.

I feel like saying to these people - 'Hey, if you want to fuck up the future for your descendants, should they be lucky enough to exist, go right ahead. Just don't involve me or mine, OK?'

But this is impossible now. We're all in this together and it's about time Israel started pulling it's horns in and behaving with a modicum of the decency and respect for the rule of law that 'democracy' actually entails.

'So, if you support affirmative action policies for aborigines and blacks, why not for Jews'

And for (ahem) Palestinians?

'no one in Israel is talking about cleansing Palestinians'

Bullshit. A recent survey put the figure at around 50% of Israeli citizens supporting 'transfer' to Jordan, Syria, anywhere really. When Israeli historian Martin van Creveld was asked by Maxine McKew on Lateline last year how he thought the Palestinians might react to being 'transferred' he replied 'Who cares'? This attitude is distressingly common in people of whom you would expect better.

'I call it intellectual independence and eclecticism which are the hallmarks of a truly mature thought process'

I win and collect my $5. You are a pompous ass.

'but I don't fit neatly into any partisan niche'

Oh yes you do. Didn't you say you were an Arab or a Muslim or both? If you prove it, I'll run to Adelaide in my jocks, and back without them.

Ah, Glenn, Glenn...

I never said that I was Muslim nor Arab. I don't know where you whistled that up. Moreover, the fact is that no serious figure in Israeli politics is talking about transferring the Palestinians anywhere. The only member of Knesset who mentions it is Benny Elon, who is waaaaaay out on the right wing loony fringe. Van Crefeld doesn't represent any constituency but himself. He's yet another loony academic who has lived his entire adult life in the ivory tower.

By contrast, serious Palestinian political figures, from Yassir Arafat down to our own Palestinian representative in Australia, continually talk about the eradication of the state of Israel.

Yes, Glenn... the right of return for Jews to the Jewish state is good. The right of return for hostile Arabs bent on destroying that state is bad. Let the Palestinian refugees return to a Palestinian state that will at some point presumably be created in the West Bank and Gaza once the Palestinians get over this self-destructive obsession with wiping Israel off the map.

Moreover, your position is predicated on the erroneous belief that the land "belonged" to the Arabs and was illegally expropriated by the Jews. Nope. But, thanks for playing.

In fact, British mandatory land records reveal that 71% of Palestine wasn't privately owned at all. Seven tenths of Palestine was government land, owned for five centuries previously by the non-Arab Ottoman Turkish Empire, and controlled from 1918 to 1948 by the Brits.

Of the 29% of land that was privately owned, 8.5% was owned by Jews, and 20.5% was owned by Arabs. And, most of that Arab land was owned by absentee landlords who resided in Beirut, Cairo and Damascus.

The Peel Commission that came up with the 1947 partition plan studied the land ownership issue and found that, throughout the 19 years between 1918 and 1937, only 633 (if I recall the precise number correctly) Arabs lost the land they cultivated because its absentee Arab owners had sold it to Jews. Not a very high number. And it doesn't support the Palestinian contention that those rapacious Zionists dispossessed all those poor Palestinian fellahin (Arabic for peasants).

Finally, there are population patterns. When the Brits took the reins in Palestine, they conducted a census that found an Arab population of about 400,000. Yet, by 1948 that Arab population had tripled in size to about 1.2 million. Given the poverty and lack of access to modern medical treatment that characterized life in many Arab villages, and the resulting high rates of infant mortality, it is impossible that natural population growth could account for that 300% increase over 30 years.

Then how can that burgeoning rate of growth be explained? There is more than ample evidence that indicates the Arab population of Palestine during the British Mandate period expanded in substantial part because of a widespread influx of Arab immigrants from surrounding Arab countries who arrived in Palestine to take advantage of job opportunities offered by healthy economic growth.

So, how is it that an 1920s era Arab immigrant from Syria is eligible for status as a legitimate "owner" of Palestine, while a 1920s-era Jewish immigrant from Russia is an illegitimate interloper in your eyes?