Friday, June 04, 2010

While ignorant armies clash by night

This video isn't entirely relevant, but Helen Thomas is what I call a journalist (and I think that filming the White House Press briefings is such a good idea, compared to our system of non-attribution and rumours), and it sort of illustrates two points: Israel did frame the debate by filming the commandos boarding, knowing that all television news needed footage, and that some people will believe practically anything - or rather believe anything other than their side behaved badly). I was actually looking for the video I can't see on this page because I'm in the UK. (Why would Glenn Beck claim that other networks hadn't used the IDF videos? But then, why does Glenn Beck do anything?)

I'm not entirely happy with Gaza’s waves will crash on Turkey’s shore, David Aaronovitch's thoughts on the flotilla. For one thing, he uses terms like 'East' and 'West' rather atavistically, to be kind. (E.g. "For many years, to say that Turkey was an ally of the West was not to claim any great pleasure in the association.") What is the 'West' here? NATO? the EU? if either, why not use the name? It's more than 20 years since the Berlin Wall came down. There isn't an 'East' any more. Nor am I sure what the 'Pakistan-Taleban war' is. I'm sure Dave's thinking of the Ahmadi massacre, but I don't the background to that is anything like as simple as conflict between the armies of two bordering states. (From the comments, Pakistan terrorist violence spiked 45 percent in 2009. It all sounds horrific, and perhaps DA is just ahead of me here.)

Mostly, though, it's the first paragraph that I don't like: at least some of the passenger on board the flotilla are described as "fanatics who welcomed victory or martyrdom without discrimination." I accept the whole thing is a mess, and Palestine seems to attract fanatics, so DA may be right. I'd prefer to see some evidence first before concluding that he is, however. I mean, it's not surprising that armed troops boarding a ship in the middle of the night aroused violent hostility, is it?

(Conspiracy theory break. Are Israeli military commanders really that insane, blinkered, or stupid? Or was the point further polarisation of Israel-Palestine argument? I read somewhere recently (citation needed as they say on Wikipedia) that Jews in the US are less interested in Israel than previous generations were. Could the point have been to arouse anti-Semitism worldwide, and so make US Jews feel more Jewish than American? No, that's too loopy.)

Yet despite my reservations, the sensible side of Aaronovitch wins, which is to say that he supports bridge-building politics. Alliances are good things, Israel and Turkey should be friends. Not everyone thinks this way. "Latek" on Harry's Place (31 May 2010, 8:03 pm) wrote "Shocka! Relations between antisemitic Turkey and Israel may suffer. No big loss."

Flying Rodent said in the comments to the last post, "After following Aaro's tweets for a while, he seems like a very nice and rational man, doesn't he? I might have to buy his latest book, just to see what he has to say." Indeed.

@yorkierosie look, I think some of the people on the boats were very violent. It doesn't justify shooting nine of them

June 1st. And I only slightly disagree with him a bit later:

Same old same old between Israeli ambassador and John Humphrys. Ron Prosor throws in Gilad Shalit, JH offers 'a knife is not a weapon'. Eek.

Humphreys did say, "a knife is not a weapon, necessarily". The issue of the Red Cross and Gilad Shalit is of course a point against Hamas rather than against the Red Cross for being willing to co-operate with Hamas so as to treat their prisoners.

Title has not much to do with anything, just the best I had. Those are my thoughts, provisional and disconnected as they are. Yours?

I'll delete any comments I consider to be racist or excessively trolling, BTW.


Blogger cian said...

Well Gilad Shalit was a soldier engaged in shelling Gaza when he was grabbed, so there's that. Maybe Hamas should treat him according to the Geneva convention, but then Israel doesn't follow it either, so that doesn't seem like the most productive of debates...

I think the Israeli video was obviously released to make the Israelis look good, and given they confiscated all the activists media and have not released all of their own video (I mean they clearly videoed the whole thing), the reality is going to be much worse than they're saying, otherwise why bother going to all that trouble?

The accounts from the activists seem to suggest the following:
1) The boats below had objects thrown at them from the boat, and so were unable to land safely as planned. This led to plan B, which was stupid and led to them getting beaten up as they landed [1]. So these highly trained creme de la creme lost it and started executing people on the boat.

I base the last point on the fact that some of the dead were fairly old (60 in one case), and one bullet in the stomach and five in the head from short range sounds like an execution to me.

[1] Some people claim that they were firing weapons as they came down. I kind of doubt they were firing real bullets, or there would be more casualties. But given given that they had riot control guns, that flash grenades had already been thrown on board by this point - then its possible there were firing plastic bullets. But if you're a protestor below you're not going to realise this...

6/04/2010 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Hmm, that's not one of Aaronovitch's finest moments. The Turkish leader was right to accuse Peres of lying, 'cos he was. And Aaro's gloss of Israel's snub of the Turkish ambassador doesn't really capture how much of an insult it really was. Wars have been started for less. And "wealthy Turkish backers" includes several western NGOs from ireland, Norway, Sweden, etc. Plus individual donations (they were collecting in Brighton, for example).

6/04/2010 08:00:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

And seriously, why shouldn't Turkey embrace Asia Minor over Europe? Its based there after all? I don't particularly see why it and Europe, or the US, should have common interests. Or for that matter, why the US/Europe should have significant interests in the region...

6/04/2010 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger hardindr said...

Why would Glenn Beck claim that other networks hadn't used the IDF videos? But then, why does Glenn Beck do anything?

Read this book and know all!

6/04/2010 08:23:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

We had a meeting and a collection for them in darkest Somerset.

Perhaps this blog should keep going as a foreign policy blog. Is there a decent leftwing blog discussing British fp, especially in relation to Labour?

6/04/2010 09:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

Er, the US media has just the same problem with non-attribution and rumours. You only need read Glenn Greenwald to realise this (he calls it "Royal Court gossip"). He also likes to point out that when the press does that, they're usually ignoring their own editorial policy. It was particularly evident in the case of the Iraq war:

Anyway, I hope this blog does stick around. In Gove form or on British fp form as suggested above (but why Labour?) or whatever. Just keep it coming. Could be particularly relevant if the Iran situation rears its head.

I think it is wrong anyway to have suggested before that the Decents are irrelevant now we have a new government. Look at how the neocons in Washington complain about libel tourism, clap their hands, and suddenly British geeks are desperate for radical libel reform.

6/05/2010 01:14:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

I read somewhere recently (citation) that Jews in the US are less interested in Israel than previous generations were.

Even if some of the flotillistas were fanatics, what harm were they doing delivering reconstruction materials to Gaza. As Jeremy Hardy said on the News Quiz, this just makes Israel look anti-cementic.

One of the IDF captions has "man thrown overboard" when he is clearly just thrown onto a lower deck.

I don't think it is too loopy to think that there are those in Israel who might think that going over the top not only helps to encourager les autres, but to shift the argument for those whose professed first priority is Israel's security (i.e.Washington) towards allowing more outrageous action by Isarel. I don't think it will help keep the wavering elements of the diaspora onside, but they aren't as important.

I remember reading somewhere recently that the BBC had Shalit down as "kidnapped" for a couple of months before shifting to the evenhanded "captured". Perhaps one reason why Hamas are cautious about Red Cross access is the fear that the Israelis will track his whereabouts through them.

6/05/2010 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Why Labour?

Its just that in the past the blog's specialized in Labour inclined Decents.

But the Tories seem to have as many neo-cons (if not more) than Labour. Though to date the Coalition seem to have acted in a more balanced way to Israel than Nu Lab and Milliband would have.

6/05/2010 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Indeed, I have some sympathy with Labour inclined Decents, so there's a sort of debate there. I don't really have much interest in Liam Fox. If I read something by David Aaronovitch, it could go either way; that's interesting, to me at least. Like the Decents, I'm kind of a believer in trans-national democratic ideology, if you will, and I'd largely like to see an 'ethical foreign policy'. However, I don't believe anyone can ever escape pragmatic (ie strategic and economic) interests.

I really believe that Amnesty and similar organisations are the only way to take human rights to dictatorships or less, shall we say, tolerant nations. I hate trying to summarise my, er, credo, but I'm very much a 'bottom-up' thinker; fix enough things, and you'll find the system has changed. A country with equal rights for women, religious freedom, laws against torture is on the right path, whatever its political system calls itself, IMO. Roughly, I suppose you could characterise the Decents as more 'top down': install 'democracy' and these things will follow. I'm really not convinced about that. And whatever else you can say about Neo-Cons, they have no interest in social equality; I can't think of a US Neo-Con who thought that economic levelling was anything other than rank communism. Why British socialists (like Norman Geras, Nick Cohen, David Aaronovitch, David T) would trust bastards like Cheney or Rumsfeld to set up a fair kind of government is beyond me.

6/05/2010 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

There's a wider question, related to that last point: I've never understood why people who deeply distrust governments, whether they be individual governments of governments per se, so often trust them when it comes to war. (The Iraq War was very much an exception in that regard, and far from a full exception even then.)

6/05/2010 12:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

Well, there's the Blair factor to consider.

6/05/2010 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

Unfortunately Helen Thomas, who has done a lot of excellent journalism in the past, has now rather blotted her copybook by saying that "the Jews should get out of Palestine and go back to Germany and Poland" in front of some cameras. The usual suspects will be calling for her job and I have to say that on this occasion, I will find it hard to disagree with them (not that I think one mistake invalidates a whole career, nor am I particularly keen on the business of trying to rush people out of their jobs, but she's the author of her own misfortunes - it was an amazingly silly and unpleasant thing to say)

6/05/2010 05:03:00 PM  
Anonymous KB Player said...

I can't get onto The Times (London) site to read one of my favourite columnists, David Aaronovitch. They're flashing loads of graphics at me. Does anyone know what's going on?

6/05/2010 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

KB, this link works for me. But the paywall is coming and silence will fall...

6/05/2010 05:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That paywall is going to be a bugger for those of us who like to read Aaro but don't like handing over money to Rupert. And I don't know how I'll do without my fix of Ruth Gledhill. We have a local analogue in that the paywall around the Irish News has basically taken some of our best columnists out of public debate.

I agree with CC about why we like reading Aaro. He's a bit unpredictable, and you may well find yourself agreeing with him where you thought you wouldn't. There are other columnists with whom you can just read the title and know exactly what they're going to say, and that's no fun.

And also yes, because there's some common ground there in basic concepts. I think a GoveWatch blog is a great idea, but it would best be done by a non-neocon Tory of the Peter Oborne variety - I'd lose interest in him too quickly. You tend to do that if you've absolutely no sympathy for your targets.

6/05/2010 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Isn't the best way to get past the Rupewall to stick the article's title into Google news search?

I do that with FT articles.

6/05/2010 06:25:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I believe that won't work with the Times (I'm not entirely sure why it works with the FT, is it deliberate policy on their part to allow it?

6/05/2010 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I don't know.

6/05/2010 09:59:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Eric joyce on Foreign Policy being Labour's blind spot:

"But take a look at last week’s Queen’s speech debate on defence and foreign affairs and give some thought to which party looks the more conservative in its approach.

On Afghanistan, for example, the Tories are now studiedly ambivalent, with defence secretary Liam Fox sounding a note deeply sceptical of the present state of the mission. This week, David Cameron has hosted a Downing Street summit on exactly this issue. Moreover, many senior Tories are openly questioning whether trident replacement is the right priority for scarce defence resources.

But no such qualms for Labour. In fact, there is so little evidence of new thinking in Labour’s foreign and defence policy, so little deviation from our line while in government, that while senior Tory backbenchers are deeply concerned about the corruption of President Karzai’s drug-baron brother, Labour’s line is that: “the investigation and any prosecution of Ahmed Wali Karzai, far from being the first step, will be a step rather further down the road” (official report, column 192).

At present, the main opposition to the government, the more radical ideas on foreign policy and defence, are coming from Conservative and Liberal Democrat backbenchers. This is a profound weakness for Labour. If ‘reform’ is needed anywhere it is in Labour’s foreign policy."

6/06/2010 08:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Alex said...

Moreover, many senior Tories are openly questioning whether trident replacement is the right priority for scarce defence resources.

Which Tories are those?

6/06/2010 10:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Alex said...

And I must say, the more I look at Labour's policy, and how their leadership candidates have responded to their loss (chanting "immigration, immigration, immigration!"), the more I wonder how much further can there possibly be for them to triangulate before they fall into the sea.

6/06/2010 10:50:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Might post more on Cohen's latest, later on - but my god, it is awful.

6/06/2010 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

OC - Can't see a comedy angle on Nick's column, really. Tasked with responding to the flotilla debacle, he mentions it not once and focuses 100% on the horrible racist thoughts that unnamed, non-specific liberals think inside their tiny minds.

Utterly fails to notice the difference between "liberals" and "People who send Nick Cohen nasty emails"; entire column is some new and deranged species of opinion journalism that I'll call "Nick espies doom in yon chicken entrails," in which there is literally no series of non-sequiturs too ludicrous to be strung together in print. Mentions Godwin's Law in a non-ironic fashion that suggests he has absolutely no self-awareness whatsoever.

The big difference between Nick and Mel these days seems to be that Mel hates the Muslims and loves the Israelis, whereas Nick hates the liberals who live in his brain and loves himself.

6/06/2010 01:11:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

i like the way that he explains Godwin's law (this isn't the first time he's done it either - it's really not that amusing imo) before going on to essentially describe Hamas as Nazis.

I said earlier that this blockade stuff doesn't really provide him with much scope for his default position on Israel which is, er, not interested at all but anyone who is and doesn't love teh Israelis are antisemitic liberals. And so it proved, because this column makes absolutely no sense at all.

the column's taken apart very well by someone called 'exiledlondoner' on there. I'd just note this, to demonstrate Nick's utter lack of interest in the issues:

Israelis do not see why they should blink first. Their belief that they are on the receiving end of a hypocritical campaign sustains their siege mentality and nurtures the fear that if Israel pulls back from Gaza's borders, Hamas will grow in strength and arm itself with Iranian missiles.

Israelis are not being irrational. The same fears persuade the Egyptian government to blockade Gaza from the south, although we rarely hear about that.

The Egyptian reasons aren't really about Iranian missiles, though - we don't hear about this because it is simply not true. Egypt is blockading (at least in spirit - it lets the smuggling go on) because a) the USA insists that it does and b) because Hamas is linked to the muslim brotherhood, the main opposition to the dictatorship which runs Egypt.

there's also the conclusion:

If Israel were to relax the import restrictions and Hamas were to rearm, reasonable opinion, including reasonable Palestinian opinion, would see it for what it would be: a declaration of war.

As things stand, reasonable opinion, including reasonable Palestinian opinion, is merging with the opinions of every variety of conspiracy nut and Jew-baiter. Leaving all humanitarian arguments to one side, no Israeli government should tolerate that.

I'm not sure i really follow this, but i *think* he's saying that the blockade should be lifted in order to demonstrate that liberals are all anti-semites, or something.

It's just so incoherent. for example, the whole reason Israel was able to attack the flotilla is that it claims to... be at war with Hamas. god help the subs who worked on this one.

also, nick's patronage of 'just journalism' sits pretty oddly with this. See HP Sauce (a website nick admires openly) which is running wall to wall IDF propaganda, including JJ material...

6/06/2010 01:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to Adel Darwish, Nick C resigned from Just Journalism in the middle of 2009 (along with Darwish) because it wasn't neutral enough and too Israel focussed


- which is quite funny when you look at who remains on the Just Journalism board

6/06/2010 03:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

"If Israel were to relax the import restrictions and Hamas were to rearm, reasonable opinion, including reasonable Palestinian opinion, would see it for what it would be: a declaration of war."

I don't know about that, but what I do know about reasonable opinion is that it sees virtual bans on exports from Gaza and bans on imports of things like French fries have nothing whatsoever to do with preventing Hamas getting weaponry or munitions.

And what is this "rearm" anyway? I thought Hamas was already "armed", else why does Israel keep randomly attacking Gaza if not because of Hamas' rockets?

6/06/2010 10:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Al said...

@ Flying Rodent

I was chuckling in agreement with your post until the last two words, unless you made a typo and misspelled 'loathes'.

I've been posting to Harry's Place on and off for a couple of years as a nominally Labour, spitefully authoritarian, blindly pro-Israel and USA troll, but I had to hang my boots up after the hand-washing 'argue away' thread.

I always enjoyed posting views I found abhorrent just to see how many agreed with me (quite a few), but short of advocating turning Gaza, to quote Al Haig, into a 'fucking parking lot' I'm not sure where the challenge is anymore.

6/06/2010 11:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick C resigned from Just Journalism in the middle of 2009 (along with Darwish) because it wasn't neutral enough and too Israel focussed

What the fuck did he expect?

6/07/2010 08:31:00 AM  

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