Wednesday, 7 January 2009

How not to criticise Israel...

. As regular readers will know I am a frequent critic of the policies of the state of Israel (and a few other states as it happens). However, when I saw Irfan Ahmed's highlighting of a comment by 'Pendle Truth' on Iain Dales Diary I felt the need to take exception. Pendle says;

"Firstly this is the first time I am commenting on this blog as I feel I can no longer breathe the dirty Zionist air that bloggers such as Dale have created or supported. It is a well known fact that Hamas has launched rockets into Israel, killing innocent people, yet I still do not support the action taken by Hamas, and Islam does condemn the taking of innocent lives."

I object strongly to the pejorative use of the term 'Zionist' to describe Israel's supporters mainly because it is a historically loaded-term. Critics of Israel have to do everything possible to distance themselves from anti-semitism; which is undoubtedly the hallmark of some of critiques of the Israeli state. Pendle's remarks are half-hearted in their condemnation of Hamas because they appear to concede the ground that Israel is not a legitimate nation-state while I, along with most of Israel's critics feel it is (regardless of the rights and wrongs of how it was formed).

Similarly, Charlotte Gore highlights the case of Old Holborn who has been forced to shut down his blog. Giving out bloggers details and making them the targets of death threats is deplorable and will be rightly seen as such however, Charlotte is rather 'soft-soaping' when she says Holborn was targeted for "expressing strong anti-Israel opinions". Holborn's comments on Iain Dales blog similarly came close to crossing the line;

"Israel is a supremacist society. It is a country founded on a religion. If you are not of that religion, you are not welcome."

Now, it is absolutely true that Israel is hardly a flower of virtue or the perfectly formed democracy that it is portrayed to be (partially due to the fact that ultra-religious parties hold so much sway in the Israeli political system). However, it still has the right to exist as a nation-state and the problem with that is that it will self-define as a majority want it too; is it acceptable for that state to then discriminate against minorities?? In my mind it is not and were I an Israeli I would be saying that part of winning peace is to change the culture of the nation as it is; however, how that criticism is made matters.

I fully except there is a reasoned non-'Zionist' case for supporting Israel's actions; I think that is the wrong case and I think Israel's supporters need to do Israel's critics the favour of admitting the same about the case against Israel; that it is not always motivated by prejudice.


Oranjepan said...

This is the problem when people speak with one voice - it is either one thing or another, no half-way houses, no nuance and definitely no equivocation.

It would be more democratic certainly if there were more than one 'jewish state' or more than one party to represent the Gazans.

But that would allow the people to hear and have their voices heard, it would mean a substantial debate existed, so it's probably too much to hope for.

Darrell G said...


I tend to agree with the top paragraph; it's something that simply plagues this debate. I think the liklihood of there being more than one Jewish state is slim to be honest because Israel has theological grounding in its location does it not??

What needs to be done is a program of full rights for Israeli-Arabs and a more liberal immigration policy but the problem is the grip of the ultra-religious parties...

Oranjepan said...

A theological basis for the current territorial location of a jewish state?

It might be 'god-given' but what this means depends on your definition of 'god', and opens the door to multiple claimants (it sounds like you are assuming a Christian definition, though I won't ask you to elaborate which).

A scriptural basis, one might reasonably argue, but if that was the case then again there are several equal claimants who have or continue to contest the region.

Alternatively you could make an historical or ethnographic case, but the question of legal claim requires an interpretation of legal right.

Is it a question of 'first dibs', or of possession is nine-tenths of the law?

Ultimately I think we agree that the conflict won't end until a more liberal and humanistic interpretation is agreed.

It's that old chestnut about it being the 'promised land' which has been promised to all and sundry.

I also don't think it is helped by everybody being familiar with a selection of politically expedient historical narratives, especially when the historical context is still being discovered. Is anyone unbiased in this debate?

Darrell G said...


I do apologise, 'basis' was the wrong word; theological claim was a much better phrasing. Yes I think we basically disagreement here....:)

Darrell G said...

I should just clarify that me view of Israel as a legitimate nation-state is not based on theology but is based upon the 50+ years of established history it now has which makes it's existence and the legitmacy of the rights of Israeli's undeniable to my mind...

Those rights exist regardless of the rights and wrongs of Israel's formation which it is not the business of a peace process to correct....most nations were formed on some injustice against some population or another...