Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Universal principles

Norman Geras has finally got round to addressing the question of war crimes in Gaza. Except he doesn't examine any of the evidence about whether this happened or that happened. Instead, he directs his fire at the motives of Israel's critics, silent as they (allegedly) are about Hamas war crimes. Same old same old.

29 Comments:

Blogger Alex said...

Is he asserting moral equivalence? I think he is! Will you condemn?

2/04/2009 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

There's an annoyingly insipid argument from Jonathan Freedland today . Complaining on not too dissimilar Geras-esque grounds, that the "liberal left" have been "eerily silent" in denouncing antisemitic attacks in the UK.

2/04/2009 07:08:00 PM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

But Freedland is right to say that there's been a lot of very nasty antisemitic stuff going on in the UK, including verbal abuse, physical attacks, graffiti etc (I've heard first-hand testimony supporting this). That's rather different from Geras attributing antisemitic motives to critics of Israeli war crimes.

2/04/2009 07:28:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

"But Freedland is right to say that there's been a lot of very nasty antisemitic stuff going on in the UK, including verbal abuse, physical attacks, graffiti etc (I've heard first-hand testimony supporting this). That's rather different from Geras attributing antisemitic motives to critics of Israeli war crimes."

Absolutely correct and my comparison was perhaps unfair.

But (and I should have been more clear) I'm not sure if the liberal left has been silent in its condemnation apart from the two examples he cites:

"..the silence has not been absolute. In a very welcome move, a group of leading Muslims wrote an open letter condemning apparent Gaza-related attacks on Jews. Meanwhile, Labour's Denis MacShane, in a passionate article for Progress magazine, urged those on the left not "to turn criticism of Israel into a condemnation of Jews".'

Which, I believe, is the gist of his (Freedlands) argument.

2/04/2009 07:44:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Come to think of it I'm not sure I'd call his two examples of "leading Muslims" and Denis McShane "liberal left".

So, hasn't he just removed them? So, absolutely no-one from the liberal left has voiced their concerns/condemnation about the anti-semitic attacks in Britain. I find this somewhat unlikely and the whole piece a straw man and a Decency argument.

2/04/2009 08:14:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Denis MacShane, in a passionate article for Progress magazine, urged those on the left not "to turn criticism of Israel into a condemnation of Jews"

a shame that most of McShane's mates think that the two things are one and the same - and a shame that he equated the two in his (awful) book.

I like Freedland generally and he has a point - to an extent. But once again it feels as though the piece is built on attacking what are, essentially, imaginary targets:

Those who in 2001 or 2005 rapidly spoke out against guilt by association have been mute this time.

I'm not sure this is true. and since this is Freedland's first intervention on the subject, is he similarly guilty up til now of a shameful silence?

Put simply I am wary of criticising people for not speaking out about anything. If they don't want to, they don't have to, and equally, just because someone doesn't speak out against something doesn't mean they approve of it.

and if he's not even going to name them, aside from Galloway who is quoted tangentially and (again, an unquoted) Ken Livingstone, I'm sure sure how fast the 'hypocrite' tag is really going to stick.

2/04/2009 08:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

As long as we're on a Will-you-condemnathon, Freedland should've also condemned the (self-appointed) spokepersons for the Israeli cause for consistently equalising criticism of Israeli actions with anti-semitism and therefore helping create the climate in which Israel's actions in Gaza lead to more anti-semitism in the UK (if it did).

2/04/2009 08:53:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Crikey. Norm's artcle started badly, got worse then drifted into borderline nutjob territory. How on earth did he segue from Israeli war crimes to Che and Chavez. This stuff is really barmy. Does he not realise he's making himself look completely nutty?

2/04/2009 11:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

Oh Christ, it's in four parts? No, I certainly can't be bothered to read that.

2/05/2009 12:51:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

He also seems to be missing the fact that Hamas' military leaders are for the most part actually internationally wanted criminals who are unable to travel outside Gaza because they would be arrested and extradited to Israel for trial.

(By the way, I really must write an inflammatory article about some of this hideous bollocks about "human shields". There is a Protocol on the subject, but it's absolutely not true that it a) forbids the location of military emplacements, barracks etc in towns (which when you think about it would be a totally ridiculous thing for it to say) or b) forbids troops from taking cover in urban areas and attacking from that cover.

2/05/2009 07:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Der Bruno Stroszek said...

Oh Christ, it's in four parts?

Norm was inspired by Steven Soderbergh's four-and-a-half hour Che Guevara biopic. Anything the Liberal Islamic Communists can do, Norm can do better!

(The crucial difference is that, despite my reservations about spending over a fifth of a day watching Soderbergh being perverse, Che is dead good. Little chance of that from Norm)

2/05/2009 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

In part three of the Geras piece and starting with "I offer merely a sample of such evidence here." He gives various examples of Hamas using human shields. If you check his sources (I checked the first 6 of them then got fed-up) three of them are based on a piece in the Corriere della Sera whose source is an IDF commander. Well he would say that wouldn't he? Nuff said.

One is an even report from channel four. The other two are more even pieces where he has skim-read them and lifted out the parts that back him up.

That this is "I offer merely a sample of such evidence here." is just bollocks. It's unsubstantiated, sloppy and secondary source and shameful of an academic.

And... word verification was "proff"!!!

2/05/2009 10:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

Yes, dear old Norm once again uncritically repeats the old slurs about Hamas using ambulances as cover, which older readers will remember Israel also accused Hezbollah of during the War on Lebanon. Those claims were almost immediately discredited, but that doesn't stop Norm from repeating them it seems.

2/05/2009 10:47:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Somebody who works in the academy should respect basic principles in relation to the use of evidence. Norm has clearly violated these in his use of sources. He cherry picks evidence that supports his view and discards that which doesn't. He's a propagandist and a dishonest and disingenuous one at that.

However Norm has not been responsible (yet?) for the most absurd argument in relation to Operation Cast Lead. This, which has been used repeatedly by some Decent bloggers, is to complain that that many more people have died in Darfur or Congo or Sri Lanka and to report so prominently on Israeli violence and Palestinian deaths is scandalous, if not anti-semitic.

But think about this for a moment. What do you think would have been the response from the Decent blogosphere if someone had used this arguement in relation to 9/11?

2/05/2009 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

War on Lebanon? I remember them from Operation Defensive Shield (hell of a name for an offensive involving more armoured brigades than exist in the entire British Army) in 2002...

Meanwhile, the term "TL;DR" is made for Norm...in fact it could be his new nickname.

2/05/2009 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous saucy jack said...

The Corriere del Sera report should be taken with an especial pinch of salt since the reporter in question, Lorenzo Cremonesi, pretty much flagged up in advance his intention of doing a snow job on the casualty figures. In an article in Haaretz on 12/1/09, Cremonesi argued that if foreign journalists were not allowed into Gaza, "We have no choice but to rely on the reports coming out from victims and witnesses in the Strip. For the most part, they will be are mainly Palestinians or sources close to them. There is no alternative”. A horrendous prospect, indeed.
He continues “I recall the exaggerated data about victims among the Palestinians during the first intifada, the perpetual comparisons between the military repression and the Holocaust, and the baseless reports about civilians dying of hunger during the previous siege of Gaza. Yasser Arafat and Palestinian sources in Beirut and Tunis were grand masters in the dissemination of this kind of disinformation”. One gets the impression our man might be somewhat parti pris, which should be of concern to those like Norm who treasure objective reporting and got so antsy about Orla Guerin’s tears over Arafat.
Talking about the Jenin operation of 2002, he says in relation to those pesky Palestinian witnesses “the stories they told were indeed heart-rending. "I saw a woman and three children who were shot close by here," one of them told me. Nonetheless, when they were asked for the names of the dead and to show where the bodies were, the responses became evasive. In short, it was all talk and nothing could be verified, nothing was concrete. At the end of that day, I wrote that the death toll was not more than 50 and that most of them were combatants”
The Israeli government should allow journalists into Gaza so that unreliable Palestinian testimonies could be validated, then. What’s interesting is that once in Gaza our bulldog like investigative reporter seems to have confined his investigations to interviewing IDF men and uncritically recounting their testimony, something he could have done from Israel. He did, however, uncover one significant witness - a doctor at a Gaza hospital who declined to be named. And would you believe it, the doctor told him "The number of deaths was between 500-600...Most were young men between 17 and 23 who were recruited into the ranks of Hamas, which sent them to be slaughtered...It was strange that the non-governmental organizations, including Western ones, repeated the high number without checking, but the truth will come to light in the end."
"It's like what happened in Jenin in 2002," the doctor said, "At the beginning they spoke of 500 dead; afterwards it was clear there were only 54 dead, at least 45 of them fighters."
Now what are the chances of that happening? You discover an individual, entirely at random it would seem, who doesn’t want to be identified and parrots almost verbatim the words of an article you wrote a few days before. I think the Italians have a phrase for it – ben trovato.

2/05/2009 11:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe its just me, but I found Norms "those SWP birds are ugly that if you saw them naked you'd go all not-sexy in the head" comments more offensive than his pathetic apologia for Operation Cast Lead. I mean I know Professor Geras is totally sexy, and Mrs Adele Geras is utterly phwoar, and that their pure sex appeal makes me want to see them with their kit off and agree with his pathetic warblings, but surely he is being a bit unfair. And might indeed be one more sign that he has turned into a grubby old reactionary

2/05/2009 12:04:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

I note below that Norm links to a piece by Eric Reeves, about a potential attack on an urban area by a government which is targeting a terrorist group that has attacked its capital with rockets, and which is currently sheltering among civilians.

2/05/2009 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Put simply I am wary of criticising people for not speaking out about anything. If they don't want to, they don't have to, and equally, just because someone doesn't speak out against something doesn't mean they approve of it.

Given that once you speak out about something you apparently (as Bubby points out) have a moral obligation to speak out about every injustice anywhere, taking care to give each one due prominence according to its position in the International League Table of Atrocities, keeping quiet can seem like the best option.

2/05/2009 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Maybe its just me, but I found Norms "those SWP birds are ugly that if you saw them naked you'd go all not-sexy in the head" comments more offensive than his pathetic apologia for Operation Cast Lead.

Where does Geras say that?

2/05/2009 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2009/02/the-swp-stripped-naked.html

2/05/2009 02:04:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

If anybody is interested in a piece of serious research on Israeli and Jewish reactions to the Gaza attack I would strongly recommend reading this.

Personally I find the fact that Israelis are on the whole prepared to support war crimes less shocking than Norm's whaterboutery. He is an academic, he doesn't live in a prolonged conflict situation, and he has access to a wide variety of different source material.

2/05/2009 02:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

For Normblog to cite, as evidence of anti-semitic reasoning, out of context quotes, reported second hand, from the Lancet, Julie Flint, and Gerald Kaufman, amongst others, is pretty shabby, no matter how much decorous 'analytical political philosophy' academic-ese it's wrapped up in.

2/05/2009 03:11:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

"http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2009/02/the-swp-stripped-naked.html"

That was just shite; made Jim Davidson look like Gramsci.

2/05/2009 06:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

In Norm's defence, those lines were quoted (approvingly), not written by him.

2/05/2009 06:51:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Yeah, he didn't write them - but it's typical of Decency in general, which has always been about proving just how muscular and masculine you really are.

the fact that this objectification and denigration of women sits oddly with professed left-wing values is by the by. what matter is the maniliness.

2/05/2009 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Hmm... Decents as Muscular Christians I think there's something in that. It certainly would explain a lot.

2/05/2009 07:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Not Norm said...

I think the only Palestian causalities mentioned by Norm was the doctor, Izz el-Deen Aboul Aish, who managed to phone through to an Israeli tv show while it was on air as his house was being shelled.

Rather cynical of him

2/07/2009 09:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Dr Paul said...

This 'human shields' argument: did the French Maquis or the Soviet or Yugoslav partisans fight in the open field against the Wehrmacht, SS or Gestapo, or did they base themselves within their populations? Did the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto not do likewise?

Have not governments permitted the construction of military and key governmental, industrial and infrastructural installations adjacent to or amidst housing, where the last-mentioned would get damaged or destroyed, along with their occupants, in time of war?

2/09/2009 11:57:00 PM  

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