Sunday, May 11, 2008

End of last month The Independent's columnist Johann Hari wrote a calumny against Israel, quoting Ilan Pappe, no less, as an authority on the state's founding. Now personally, I happen to think that it's not unlikely that Hari simply wanted an excuse to use the word "shit" in the pages of a major publication -- oh how British English standards have fallen.

See, sewage is a problem in the West Bank. One may jump to various conclusions on the causes. The most obvious is the one we've noted many times here for the lack of a decent civil infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza -- because a lot of people have been more interested in stuffing their pockets, paying out graft, building McMansions, funding terror groups and dreaming of destroying the Zionist Entity than they have been interested in building a fully functional civil society.

Now, I don't discount the possibility that some Jews living in the West Bank may actually be callously, even intentionally pumping their poop out over the fence and into their neighbor's yard. I don't know. I'm not an expert, and I can only go by what smells right and what doesn't.

Thing is, same with Johann Hari, even though he, after all, informs us with all vehemence that he smelled the shit! He smelt it! It filled his nostrils says Hari, and, fortunate for him, why he had a Palestinian expert there to guide him on his odor-rama adventure and explain just whose fault it all was. No prize for guessing whose...

Honest Reporting, among others, called him out on the many problematic issues with his piece, and our man Johann was none-too-pleased to be criticized. Seems it's all a big conspiracy by you-know-who to silence columnists. After all, he was only being "critical," how dare he be criticized in turn? The nerve of those Je...people! Honest Reporting has come back with another response, taking on Hari's claims to persecution (and Jews know persecution Johann, and this ain't it).

In fact, Hari's colleague at The Independent, Howard Jacobson came back with his own rejoinder: invoke the spectre of a campaign, a front mobilised with aforethought to defame anyone who speaks ill of Israel. Indeed, accusing your detractors of carrying out a campaign often amounts to carrying out one in return - for it is a smear in itself to accuse people who disagree with you of acting out of no other motive than malice. He who says I smear him when I don't smears me.

Something else doesn't feel quite right to me about Johann Hari's unearthing of this "campaign", and that is his assertion that "it is an attempt to intimidate and silence - and to a large degree it works". To my ear, that answers intimidation with intimidation, since it impugns the intellectual honour of those of whom he speaks, and coerces us into thinking the worst of them.

Furthermore, it is patently untrue that "intimidation" has worked. Johann himself is demonstrably not intimidated. Nor is it easy to see who else is. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it cannot surely be argued that the Palestinian case is not heard...

Funny thing, that. It would seem quite natural for a flawed thesis, perhaps disgracefully flawed, delivered in unmeasured tones as Hari's was, to meet with a like response. In fact, given Hari's original, I'd say the response was muted in comparison. Seems quite natural for any group, not just a national or religious group neither, to rise to their own defense, or others who know the truth or are at least ready to be honest to do likewise on their behalf, and Jews have labored long and hard to master the intellectual Western traditions -- gained great notoriety at universities, founded them, even -- and have cast the critical eye inward perhaps more than any other People.

Yet here they go, speaking out, and no matter how factual their argument, no matter how reasoned their defense, no matter how justified their indignation, or studied their positions...and they're still just saying that because...well, they would, they're Jews after all. It's all a bit exasperating.

People become upset about some of the "criticisms" printed against Israel because some of those criticisms aren't criticisms at all, they're smears. Smears from a sewer. And some of us have gotten past the ghetto Jew (or the silence of the country club token if you prefer) mentality and we will speak our minds about what we hear. It ain't a conspiracy, you're not being silenced, and Mr. Johann Hari will just have to lump it.

There is a collective I claim full membership in, however, and that's the American collective, such as it is, and that brings me to Robert Fisk, who only belongs as a part of this entry in so far as he is another colleague of Hari's. He's penned some poop of his own about what's going on in Beirut: Hizbollah rules west Beirut in Iran's proxy war with US. Here are the bits that caught my eye:

...The Lebanese army watches the Hizbollah road-blocks. And does nothing. As a Tehran versus Washington conflict, Iran has won, at least for now. Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader and MP and a pro-American supporter of Mr Siniora's government, is isolated in his home in west Beirut, but has not been harmed. The same applies to Saad Hariri, one of the most prominent government MPs and the son of the murdered former prime minister Rafik Hariri. He remains in his west Beirut palace in Koreitem, guarded by police and soldiers but unable to move without Hizbollah's approval. The symbolism is everything.

When Hamas became part of the Palestinian government, the West rejected it. So Hamas took over Gaza. When the Hizbollah became part of the Lebanese government, the Americans rejected it. Now Hizbollah has taken over west Beirut...

Fisk means it all as an insult, that's how I take it. You can almost see the smirk as he types it. We support the wrong guys, the unpopular guys and that's why they lose. Or maybe he means it that because we're involved, the guys we support become unpopular and then they lose.

In any case, I take his list as a sort of point of pride. Our guys are set back because we, and they, aren't as ruthless as the people we both stand against. That's a consequence of who we are -- that is, we are not the murdering rampaging colossus of the posh post-colonial theorists and their wild fantasies. That's why we are, in fact, the good guys more often than not. And our friends are our friends precisely because they match up with our own values. Do we support bad guys from time to time? Yes, but only out of the necessity born of the least bad of a series of bad options, and sometimes we lose because, in order to keep our support, those bad guys are less bad than they'd otherwise be and may need to be to live in their worlds.

Iran, Syria, Hizballah, Hamas...they have no such limitations. They are as ruthless as ruthless can be, and a feckless West lets them get away with it, and our allies suffer for it. So I'll take Fisk's list as a repudiation of Fisk's anti-American mind-set, and a point of pride.

As I write this, another excellent piece comes through my inbox by Barry Rubin which makes this point and more:

...The "best" are often too innocent indeed, sunk in constant self-criticism, persuading themselves they must atone for having done too much in the past by doing nothing in the present, trying to convince the other side of their niceness and sensitivity. Their priority is to ensure no one will accuse them of being imperialistic. And to prove it they will let another country fall into the enemy camp...

...While Iran and Syria provide guns and strong backing to their friends, the West responds with words backed by nothing. Who can blame Hizballah and Damascus and Tehran for laughing with contempt, believing they are the tide of the future, assuming their "passionate intensity" will inevitably triumph over the weak-willed West?

The historic great powers act as pitiful, helpless giants but their enemies will take no pity on them...

...Why should Lebanese Sunni, Druze, and Christians risk their lives when the West doesn't help them? Every Israeli speaking nonsense about Syria making peace; every American claiming Damascus might split from Tehran; every European preaching appeasement has in fact been engaged in confidence-breaking measures...

I'm proud of what we are, though it occasionally be a weakness. We do need to wake up and win in spite of ourselves once in awhile, though.


Mick Hartley had a similar post, about the way the Guardian covered the story. It's all US fault:

"You can get a fair idea of the way the Guardian editorial on Lebanon is going to go from the very first sentence:

The gun battles that have erupted across Beirut between Hizbullah fighters and militias loyal to the US-backed government have broken a 17-month stalemate."

It's that "US-backed" which gives the game away. And soon enough the true villains reveal themselves:

"The Lebanese army stayed neutral throughout. Hizbullah's show of force left the government even weaker than it was at the start of the week. The government had bitten off more than it could chew in confronting Hizbullah over its fibre-optic cables. The government cannot now retreat, because if it did it would be finished, but nor can it impose its authority on the ground.
Behind a weaker Lebanese government lies a Bush administration which has alternated between periods of neglect and urging direct confrontation. Neither has worked. Nor has its isolation of Syria. George Bush arrives in the region for his final tour next week. His programme has more to do with paying homage to Israel on the 60th anniversary of its founding than it has with dousing the flames of conflict that the US and Israel keep on fanning. Lebanon is just one more of Mr Bush's failures in the Middle East."

Guile and meta-guile are Johann Hari's artifice and craft, along with some meta-meta-guile to cap it off, certainly so as judged by the two or three pieces he's written on the subject in question.

Robert Fisk has always cheered for the enemies of civilization, even when they literally beat his head in with a rock. He's walking proof that Darwin's theory of natural selection has a few holes in it.

Johann Hari is different. Of Muslim persecution of apostates in Britain, he says:

Women such as Mina expose a hole in the stale logic of multiculturalism. She shows that secularism is not a "Western" value: she thought of it all by herself, in a rural village in Iran. Yet the attitudes that lead to the persecution of apostates are widespread even within British Islam, because we patronisingly assume it is "their culture" and do not challenge it. Some 36 per cent of British Muslims between the ages of 18 and 24 think apostates should be murdered. The younger British Muslims are, the more they believe it – a bad sign for the future, unless we start arguing back. This isn't just kids sounding off. Some act on it: a Despatches documentary this year, Unholy War, found dozens of cases of apostates having their cars blown up, their kids threatened and even being beaten and left for dead, on British streets.

He's also spoken out against the Muslims and leftists who use charges of "Islamophobia" to silence critics.

He is, however, an anti-capitalist Britsh leftist who is opposed to all religion, even Buddhism. (but that may be because, during an interview, the Dalai Lama made jokes about Hari's weight).

In general, British journalists tend to believe that anyone who expresses serious religious devotion is a nutter. If his Palestinian guides appeared to be secular, and if they told him tall tales about settlers who were portrayed as religious zealots, he'd probably be more likely to believe what his guides told him.

Hari is different than Fisk, certainly, but in terms of the three pieces he wrote on the subject at hand, he's incurious, self-flattering, benighted and positively purile in terms of what he forwards as "fact" and the general terms of the debate.

And that is to be kind. To be less kind, but no less accurate, in those three articles he is laden with guile and meta-guile and it's layered on so thick you couldn't fire a depleted uranium tipped shell into it.


in terms of the three pieces he wrote on the subject at hand, he's incurious, self-flattering, benighted and positively puerile in terms of what he forwards as "fact" and the general terms of the debate.

True, but I'm pointing out ways that certain types can be manipulated by the good guys as well as by the bad guys.

One's anti-Americanism is directly proportional to one's physical repulsivity.

Law of nature.

"Syme: It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. You wouldn't have seen the [Newspeak] Dictionary 10th edition, would you Smith? It's that thick. [illustrates thickness with fingers] The 11th Edition will be that [narrows fingers] thick. Winston Smith: So, The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect? Syme: The secret is to move from translation, to direct thought, to automatic response. No need for self-discipline. Language coming from here [the larynx], not from here [the brain]" -1984 (film)


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