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

Burchill's moral decomposition thesis « Previous | |Next »
June 7, 2010

In Flotilla rallies terror cheer squad David Burchill continues his weekly campaign in the pages of The Australian against his former political friends----the left intelligentsia. These are now his enemies. Burchill's frame in this op-ed is the terror-friendly, nay pro-terror, flotilla.

He says:

Of all of the sad, tawdry features of the Gaza flotilla incident, surely none is sadder or tawdrier than the immediate assumption, leapt upon by so many people of good intentions, that the Israeli state is in the business of killing unarmed civilians, for the pure sadistic pleasure of it. This view of Israel as a kind of devil-state, the spirit of evil made incarnate in the world, has been around in educated opinion since at least the late 1960s, when it buttressed the then-enthusiasm of the Western Left for the Palestine Liberation Organisation....Two generations of militants taught themselves that intoxicating Manichean logic, according to which the blacker one paints one's spiritual enemy, the more sheer awfulness one can tolerate in one's friends. And all the while one can feel oneself to be as pure and unsullied as a Cistercian monk.

Burchill's big theme is the moral decomposition of the progressive intelligentsia in his lifetime. What he forgets to add is that many of the Western Left defended Israel in the 1960s and slowly become more critical as a result of the conduct of successive Israeli governments towards the Palestinian people.

This kind of history is of no concern to his moral decomposition thesis. His argument is that the western Left now supports Hamas and al-Qa'ida, but they do not have the moral courage to chant Viva Hamas! Victory to the throat-slitters! Go the child-bombers! In other words they have joined the jackals.

There is not one word in Burchill's op-ed about the awful conditions in Gaza, the Israeli blockade of Gaza, or the settlements which can be distinguished from the actions of Hamas, a fundamentalist Muslim organization that was created by Israel in the 1970s and 1980s to split the Palestinian movement and fight Fatah. We can also distinguish Hamas from the idea of Palestinain human rights.

Such messy considerations do not fit into Burchill's Manichean view of the world. Nor does he have any criticism—not a word--of Israeli policies and behavior towards the Palestinians. Does that mean Burchill thinks that Israeli violence against Gaza is justified?

Presumably, Burchill is in favour of the blockade of the evil doers. The neo-con justification would be that it prevents Hamas, and its backer, Iran, from triggering a larger war from Gaza; it isolates Hamas and allows Israelis to live in (relative) safety. The Australian Right stands with Israel (a free nation) as it tries to enforce the blockade against terror. William Kristol in Murdoch's The Weekly Standard states the Right's sentiment:

The dispute over this terror-friendly flotilla is about more than policy toward Gaza. It is about more than Israel. It is about whether the West has the will to defend itself against its enemies. It is about showing (to paraphrase William Gladstone) that the resources of civilization against terror are by no means exhausted.

On this account the flotilla was an act of aggression rather than a political statement aimed at weakening Israel’s embargo of Gaza.

The implication of this position is that a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would actually increase the threats to Israel in that a Palestinian state ight create a sanctuary for terrorist organizations, which could use its territory, with or without its knowledge and cooperation, to develop and deploy a nuclear bomb on Israel's borders and near major population centers.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:05 PM | | Comments (6)


One of the difficulties we have in Australia is that we have very little idea what Israeli society is really like. We are told by the lobbyists that it's a democracy with shared values. The mainstream media go along with this, even though events suggest that Israel is closing down, becoming more fortress like, turning inwards and becoming more intolerant of dissent.

An example of Israel's turn to the right at the London Review of Books blog.

lan Pappé in the The deadly closing of the Israeli mind in The Independent says that the Barak-Netanyahu-Avigdor Lieberman government does not know any other way of responding to the reality in Palestine and Israel than violence.

The use of brutal force to impose your will and a hectic propaganda machine that describes it as self-defence, while demonising the half-starved people in Gaza and those who come to their aid as terrorists, is the only possible course for these politicians. He adds:

What is probably most difficult to explain to readers around the world is how deeply these perceptions and attitudes are grounded in the Israeli psyche and mentality. And it is indeed difficult to comprehend how diametrically opposed are the common reactions in the UK, for instance, to such events to the emotions that it triggers inside the Israeli Jewish society.

The Wests two state solution is rejected in favour of an offer to imprison the Palestinians in stateless enclaves in return for ending their struggle.

There is no peace process.

People like Kristol constantly amaze me. They always see the USA as on the verge of defeat by the shadowy shapes lurking in the fog. Sure it might be the richest and most powerful nation the world has ever known, but apparently it's such a fragile creature that it could fall crashing to the earth in the face of a few terrorists with primitive rockets and suicide bomb vests.

What I see in these people is a deep-seated distrust of their fellow citizens and an utter lack of confidence in the merits of the values they trumpet so shrilly and so often.

"'s such a fragile creature that it could fall crashing to the earth in the face of a few terrorists with primitive rockets and suicide bomb..." vests.

Never mind the bomb vests, Ken. It seems that our glorious western civilisation is probably going to be extinguished by the humble hijab wrap!

It would be interesting to find out in which parts of the world the Australian "brand" is most damaged.
Would we be as surprised as some Israelis, relative to the rest of the West, as to "others" reactions, in turn, to us?
Particularly when we always fall in behind the US so supinely as to its Palestine/Israel double standard?