Saturday, March 21, 2015


"Until now, Washington has always acted as Israel’s diplomatic protector, blocking hostile resolutions at the UN and the like. Now the White House, still smarting over Netanyahu's Republican address to a Republican Congress, wants to remind Netanyahu that such support is not unconditional. The core message, and it should not be delivered by the US alone, would be simple. It would say, of course the world has to respect the decision of the Israeli electorate. But if this is the path Israel is taking, there will be consequences".

- Jonathan Freedland, the Guardian, 21 March

I've always liked Jonathan, who seems nice and genuine in a very "Hey gang, let's stage a complete reinvigoration of social democracy right here in the church hall!" kind of way but really, I suspect that even he knows how wishful this kind of thinking is.  

Look, Washington's support simply is "unconditional", and barely even disapproving to boot.  For all the grumpy, unattributed grouching from Pennsylvania Avenue, you'll notice that money talks, and that the flow of cash and weapons hasn't so much as stalled for a second during any of the terrible events in the region, this last few decades.

The hard truth here is that when the Israelis turn up the violence and start blowing shit up, the US leaps immediately into action and mails them more missiles, just in case they run out.  That's been the situation for my entire life and I assure you that it's not going to change just because the Prime Minister rashly said exactly what he thinks, and has clearly always thought, in public.

Where Jonathan says "we cannot go back to mouthing the same old platitudes about two states", I respond - of course we can.  It was obvious a week ago that talk of two states amounted to platitudes, and "we" had no trouble pretending that it was otherwise then.  It's no different today and although the Obama administration is making sad faces and harrumphing noises, you'll notice that there's no talk of turning off the cash taps.

The only "consequence" that will ensue from Netanyahu plainly stating his goals will be this - it will now be a bit more difficult for people who generally back the Israeli government when it stomps on the Palestinians to pretend that it has some passing interest in not stomping the Palestinians.  Somehow, I imagine that those people will manage to overcome that particular obstacle.

I think that Jonathan's difficulty in grasping the reality of the situation here stems from a basic misunderstanding of his own role in this particular pantomime.  He seems to see himself as a reasonable, if critical, observer whose job it is to speak unpalatable truths to powerful people.  Bluntly, it is not so.

The role of western liberals in the continuing immiseration of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank is to observe how very unpleasant it all is; to tut and cluck as required, and to rein in their more excitable comrades if they get a bit too uppity, by denouncing them as if they were Nazis.

And that's it. Nothing more required, thank you.

Jonathan and other earnest types who, I'd say, want nothing but the best for everyone involved in this ongoing travesty can continue to make as many boo-hoo noises as they like about it, and the only concrete "consequence" that they'll see for their painfully sensible and measured arguments will be the  avalanche of shitty, accusatory comments under their articles.


Matthew said...

Do you think all that Sharon is man of peace can really be naïvety?

flyingrodent said...

I think that was Martin Bright rather than Freedland, although that one was definitely a hilarious example pissing on the public's leg and telling them that it's raining.

Matthew said...

No, it was definitely Freedland

flyingrodent said...

God, how embarrassing - I now realise that I not only read that at the time, but I actually commented on it

I think I was a bit harder on the dude that time than was necessary since it looks like his essential point is to acknowledge that, if Sharon had miraculously come out of his coma, it would've been into a country whose government openly despised his previously hardline politics as now dangerously seditious and borderline racist, at best.

It's probably worth noting that Freedland probably didn't choose that title, and that his main idea - that the original generation of Israelis may have been more amenable to some kind of agreement than the current shower of screeching lunatics in government are - is probably correct.

Nonetheless, it's also an impressive feat of imagineering, as the Silicon Valley twats might say. I imagine that Sharon's idea of "peace" was just a slightly kinder version of Netanyahu's, filled with ultimatums and barbed wire and huge concrete walls. Bluntly, these are men who have done little to deserve the benefit of the doubt in these kinds of hypotheticals, and I really doubt they'd get it from Freedland if they ran e.g. the UK instead.

Elsewhere today, see this for more hilarity -

I suppose it's likely that there are people who thought Netanyahu might be the man to strike a lasting peace deal. These people, however, are the same ones who consistently imagine that he's somehow reluctant to blast the shite out of Gaza whenever the opportunity arises, so I think we can discount their opinion.

The more interesting question is - if Remnick is correct, then how did otherwise intelligent humans convince themselves that Netanyahu was a potential Nixon, just gagging for a bit of detente?

I suggest they managed it because the reality of Netanyahu as Tricky Dick scuttling the peace talks with North Vietnam was too unpleasant, politically inconvenient and too obviously correct to consider.

organic cheeseboard said...

While in America a while back I read quite a few articles which more or less made the same point - that the Palestinians, while obviously opposed to settlement building etc, are happy enough to wait it out, because they know what the 'state of Israel' will look like in no more than a few years (i.e. apartheid South Africa), and it won't be possible for anyone to prop it up any more - even the USA. I'm with you on all these columnists feigning surprise and indignation when since 2003 (if not before), every party elected to govern Israel has been opposed to a 2-state solution; but what I think is different is that, unlike in previous elections, it's pretty much impossible to ignore the fact that Israel is dominated by the far right.

I really like David Remnick but the ME is a bit of a blind spot for him - his portraits of ME leaders in 'Reporting' are well-written but obviously favour Israel (actually, that's true of Freedland as well - he's another one who follows the US model of 'sound all critical but then get behind the missile lobbing with minimal questions asked). Mind you, it was in 'Reporting' that i learned that Netanyahu pere has a map of 'greater Israel' on his tombstone. I wonder what the Decent guilt-by-association tactic would make of that, given their views on the important of family history to e.g. Tariq Ramadan?

Off topic, but I see our old favourite Ayaan hirsi Ali has a new book out. Apparently Islam needs a reformation like Judaism and Christianity had, and one of the main beliefs they've got to get rid of is the idea that the afterlife is more important than life on earth. Because clearly the Christian reformation went that far (?). Another reminder that for all her 'bravery', she's not exactly a genius.

gregorach said...

... the only concrete "consequence" that they'll see for their painfully sensible and measured arguments will be the avalanche of shitty, accusatory comments under their articles.

Don't forget the continued arrival of their paychecks.

flyingrodent said... won't be possible for anyone to prop it up any more - even the USA.

Maybe so, but you're more optimistic than I am on that score. I think past experience shows that this pantomime can be strung out a lot longer, even more angrily than ever before, and that's before we consider the possibility of an impending Clinton or Random nutty Republican dipshit administration.

A quick look at what the current White House has put up with, even after being personally and repeatedly told to go fly a kite, suggests to me that e.g. Hillary isn't about to start knocking heads together.

I see our old favourite Ayaan hirsi Ali has a new book out.

It's never a good sign when it takes the band ten years to release a new record, but I suppose the reviews will be worth reading, even if the book isn't.

Christ, if Timothy Garton Ash and Ian Buruma caught a whirlwind of shit for some very mild criticisms, you can imagine what the next batch of reviewers are going to get when they inevitably smear the lipstick on this particular literary porker.

Anonymous said...

'I see our old favourite Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a new book out.'

I wonder if our Hero of Decency and NeoConnery is going the route of Alexander Solzhenitsyn? His usefulness as a vulgar anti-communist propagandist ran out of steam when people realised that not only was he virulently opposed to Marxism (or what he thought was Marxism) but to modern society as a whole, of which Marxism was merely the logical outcome. He then became an embarrassment, and was left to vegetate in New England until he could return to Russia and bore the pants off everyone there. Maybe the world has had enough of Ms Ali: the reviews will permit us to know.

It's one thing to acknowledge and condemn the treatment that Solzhenitsyn and Ali received at the hands of their tormentors; it's another to give, on the basis of that treatment, uncritical backing to the ideas they have promoted.

Solzhenitsyn's writings were a massive step back into vulgar Cold War clichés. I won't comment on Ms Ali's works, as I am not qualified to do so, but they are certainly used as propaganda in today's Culture Wars.

Dr Paul