Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself

"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size

Today, on the other hand, although Dave is once more writing about "The Little State You Love To Hate", I am not so much a fan. The official line of Aaronovitch Watch[1] is that we are "tough on terrorism and tough on the causes of terrorism", but that doesn't mean that we can't spot a bit of crocodile-tears imperialism when it gets going.

My view of all Aaro columns on the subject of Israel is very much jaundiced by the fact that when shite came to bust in Lebanon last year, he was an apologist for war crimes. Bombing those tower blocks was a clear and simple act of collective punishment of a civilian population and anyone with eyes in their head knew it. Norman Geras saw it and said so. Aaro had the chance to say so and with a brief pause for "yes but", he staked out a position well to the right of the debate. This has caused me to view everything he's written on the subject with suspicion; although we rather like Decent Dave on this blog, we do have to remember that it was started for a reason, and that reason was that Aaro supports the regular and largely unconstrained use of state violence to promote his political views.[2]

Any road up, as you can tell I am still pissed off about that episode, but on to the actual column. If the Times were truncated by about three inches, there would be nothing to object to and we would be driving our readers mad again by saying it was an all right Aaro column. His summary of what happened in the Six Day War and how its aftermath has poisoned regional politics for the last forty years is more or less OK. I might even give him his cheap shot at the academic boycott, given that the alternative would have been to have written a whole column about that subject, which I think we can agree would have been a lose/lose situation all round.

But the sting's in the last paragraph, as it so often is. It's the thing that you so often have to watch out for in "reasonable liberal" commentary; once we have recited our paternosters about the two-state solution, the peace process, blah di blah, all too often comes the Great Lamentation:

"But Alack and Allay! Misere! There is Nobody On The Other Side To Negotiate With! Cruel Fate! To Be So Near To A Solution And Yet So Far! Lament! Lament!

This ritual utterance is probably not even made in bad faith most of the time, but its practical effect is horrible. It's a form of words that allows a well-meaning liberal to recognise the clear facts of the matter and the justice of the case, but to then walk away from any political consequences of those facts, by simply constructing a set of reasons to declare one side unfit to negotiate with, and therefore to implicitly endorse the status quo. You then round it off with a pious hope for a Palestinian Gandhi figure to appear at some point in the future beyond Scott Fitzgerald's ever-receding green light, and it's back to the bulldozers and tanks guys. Aaro's last two sentences in the column linked above are actually laughable.

Look, who the hell do you have peace talks with, if not your deadly enemies? There's not much point in having peace talks with your friends. There is simply no excuse for not supporting (or even demanding, since we have apparently just got into the business of putting a cardboard box on our heads and pretending to be Henry Kissinger) good faith negotiations, based on what Aaro is correct to point out has been the obvious solution that everyone's known about for years. And the activity of finding excuses for not having those negotiations is unworthy and bad, no matter how reasoned and reasonable the argument that precedes it might be.

[1] Note that I am not in a position to announce official lines on anything and nor are any other AW writers. So far from forming a coherent group, many of the AW team do not form coherent individuals. Don't go looking for consistency here.
[2] Actually it was started in a fit of pique over a joke about bruschetta, but look at the fucking big picture here will you?


Blogger ejh said...

A note: it's "very well then I contradict myself". (See 51.)

6/06/2007 07:00:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

It is, incidentally, a quite wonderful poem. I read it in Tromso on the occasion of my fortieth birthday and it was very much what I needed.

6/06/2007 07:02:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

right you are, apparently, although nasty things seem to happen in New Blogger if you try to change post titles so I think I will let the error stand.

A pal on a mailing list once wrote a fine parody:

"Do I repeat myself? Very well then, I repeat myself. I am large, I contain platitudes".

6/06/2007 07:24:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

What, by the way, was the joke that provoked the fit of pique?

6/06/2007 07:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would have thought that the irony of the 'nobody to negotiate with' line was that it was repeatedly wheeled out re. Arafat/Fatah, then the Palestiniansd democratically elected a Hamas-led govt., at which point the same line was wheeled out all over again, except that, suddenly, Fatah (sans the now-deceased Arafat) are the Good Guys (until, presumably, they are elected again, at which point...).

6/06/2007 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

yes, although for "irony" I would substitute "essential dishonesty"

6/06/2007 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

It might be (and obviously is) possible to ask the question "who are the Israeli partners for peace"? Who on the Israeli side is prepared to treat the Palestinians as equals, entitled to equal esteem, entitled to equal requirements that their security be ensured and entitled to an outcome from any process that puts them on an equal footing with Israelis?

6/06/2007 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

Interesting that Gandhi is always wheeled out as the example. In point of fact he chose peaceful resistance due to the fact that he couldn't persuade Indians to resist violently. It was very much a tactic contingent upon what he had available to him, rather than a strategy for all times and all places (though of course he claimed otherwise later).

And the Palestinians did try peaceful resistance for a while. It got them a whole lot of dead.

6/06/2007 10:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting that Gandhi is always wheeled out as the example.

I suspect these days it's Nelson Mandela (while conveniently ignoring the reason he was banged up on Robben Island in the first place, viz. a committment to armed struggle).

6/06/2007 12:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be fair (to anyone out there who was thinking of contrasting the ANC with Hamas), there was a big debate within the ANC about the precise nature of the armed struggle actions to be undertaken, which came down in favour of 'sabotage' (non-lethal damage to property, e.g. blowing up power lines) but against 'terrorism' (killing people). In the dock, Mandela made ethical claims for his methods as well as for his cause.

That's not to say that it's not possible to make a case for lethal violence in resistance to oppression - just that Mandela isn't the man to make it.

6/06/2007 01:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ta, Phil. I think what I was trying to say was that there's an expectation that any Palestinian representative ought to be as gracious as Mandela was re. the end of apartheid (I've dug out this from the Guardian as an example). Incidentally, I suspect that these days, even non-lethal 'sabotage' gets your branded a 'terrorist' (well, at least under British law).

6/06/2007 03:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

True enough. Since the 2000 Terrorism Act a DOS attack can be prosecuted as terrorism - or threatening a DOS attack, for that matter.

6/06/2007 05:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes a wish is expressed for a "Palestinian Mandela". Bit of an odd wish this - unified country, one person one vote, majority rule. Surely that is wishing for the "destruction of the State of Israel", inasmuch as it would nullify the Jewish character of the state.

If there ever was a "Palestinian Mandela", I think that the IDF dropped a 100-pound bomb on his house, blowing him and his kids to bits, ages ago.

6/06/2007 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Actually the closest the Palestinians ever had to a Mandela was assassinated by the Israelis back in the 70s (can't remember his name - sorry).

6/06/2007 08:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is anyone reading Brian Brivati's blogs from the Iraq Commission? Is this where the fantasy world of our political elite (and the Decents) is forced to come to terms with the reality of what they've done to Iraq?

6/08/2007 12:55:00 PM  

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