Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Denial would have been a river in Israel if the Six Day War had gone on a bit longer

Much, much disingenuousness here from Dave. It's not obvious what his actual point is – he gets angry when people chuck anti-Semitic abuse at him and reading between the lines I think that's what's happened here. I am also wondering if the Honderich reference implies that there has been some sort of communication between Dave and Nick, because David Aaronovitch (regular commenter on Israel and writer of a column in the Jewish Chronicle about his life in the British Hewish community) appears to have got himself confused with Nick Cohen (militant secularist and rarely if ever writes about Israel).

The underlying agenda is the same as it was when Dave was doing this number on the Mearsheimer and Walt paper, largely taking the ENGAGE line that although it is of course possible to have political opinions about of the State of Israel, the Middle East policy of the USA and UK and the importance of lobbying, one must express them without ever using the words "Israel", "lobby", "money" or "neoconservative", because these are all "classic anti-Semitic tropes". I think it is OK to say something like

"AIPAC is the self-styled banana banana organisation which claims to represent the voting interests of American bananas, but actually appears to have become a vehicle for a banana banana tendency in Banana politics and which arguably exercises undue banana with respect to US (and therefore UK) banana about banana banana."[1]

but not much else.

It is no more edifying now than it was then to see Dave lending his support to the annoying soi-Decent anti-Semitism police and it undermines whatever point he was trying to make about David Grossman's speech. Dave is also picking up the nasty journalistic habit (which I think started with Melanie Phillips, so watch out) of telling us all about the arguments he won with random students and dinner party guests. This is rather like boasting about the hundred birds you shagged on holiday during the summer vacation, and they were stunners every one. We don't care, we suspect that things might not have happened exactly as you say and whatever you did then, we can only judge what's before us now and it isn't that impressive. It is perhaps unfortunate that Dave chose to ridicule the view that the Israel/Palestine question is a significant cause of terrorism in the wider Middle East only a few days after it was endorsed by Tony Blair and it would have been much more interesting to see him take on Blair's version of this (IMO fallacious) idea than some random undergraddy's.

Numbered lists, we love them:

1. Dave appears to attribute a quote about "Jewish finance" to Baroness Tonge when she actually said "pro-Israel". This is why I think he's got a lot of this material second hand from ENGAGE[2]; IIRC, they made the same mistake too. He is right that JT is a bit of an apologist for suicide bombers, but since this detail is the whole point of the article I think he ought to have made the effort and got it right.
2. Dave is a "staunch defender of Israel", of course he is. He notoriously refused to condemn the bombing of Qana as a war crime rather than a "tragedy" and viewed the invasion of Lebanon as the equivalent of the Falklands War. Over the last twelve months, he has been a substantially more reliable and forthright supporter of Israeli government policy than Norman Geras, for example.
3. (an Aaro trivia obsessive writes): Q: why does Dave specifically pick Spain as a country that he's a stauncher defender of than Israel? A: Most likely because his brother the actor Owen lives there. He has written one article unfavourably comparing Israel to Spain, however, but this is something like the fourth article he has written this year broadly in defence of the policies of the government of the State of Israel, despite the fact that this government has for all of that time been of a political tendency that would normally be repugnant to him. Surely that's staunch if anything is?

I've mentioned in the past that Dave does seem to have a slightly uneasy relationship with the Jewish part of his heritage and this is another example. In his JC pieces, he refers to the British Jewish community as "we and opines on its future direction as if he was part of it from time to time, but then in between times (usually, it has to be said, when the question of Israel/Palestine comes up), he's "a bloke with a name like Aaronovitch". My guess is that the whole issue is uncomfortable for Dave; he is basically comfortable with his position on the fringes of what is apparently called "British Jewry", but much less so with respect to Israel itself. It is perhaps worth mentioning parenthetically for the sake of context that Aaro's first book, "Paddling to Jerusalem" was actually a travelogue of the British Isles, which sums it all up rather nicely. I think one of our Watchers has a copy of this one – does he expand on the subject?

I think we have a new Quote of the Month when I can be bothered to put it up:

" It’s all about identity, of course, and I can never decide whether the pulling on and brandishing of identity is thoroughly bad, or whether it gives comfort and support to human beings in their short passages through this life. Whichever, I still think that relying on it to make an argument is weak politics."

[1] It isn't of course. Everyone knows what "banana" is a code word for! A writer who cared about avoiding such blatantly anti-Semitic implications would have chosen a different word.
[2] Have I made the joke yet about ENGAGE being very concerned about anti-Semitism because they think that it is a cover for criticism of Israel? Well I'm making it again then.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The opening sentence is particularly good, especially if you glance at his picture to the right:
"There I was last Thursday night, addressing the Cambridge Union, going at it like a locomotive with a mouth"

I hope he cleaned up after himself.

11/21/2006 06:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"soi decent"! my little baby has learned toi fly!!

11/21/2006 11:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad someone noticed, although it would have been a bit better if I could have found somewhere to shoehorn in the "soi-Decent" phrase where "soi-disant" would have made sense rather than just basically serving to demonstrate that I know it isn't pronounced "soi-distant". Evil BB tends to wear his learning about as lightly as a pair of concrete underpants.

11/22/2006 12:43:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

hahaha! I have now managed to edit it so that "soi-disant" would have fitted, more or less! God I am so fucking proud of myself right now.

11/22/2006 01:49:00 PM  

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