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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What He Said

I chanced on a curious blog yesterday, called Head Wide Open, which made me laugh and gasp in turns. The blogger certainly has an original take on life, which I appreciate because I think I do too. Of course, people like us won't always please everyone -- but that's rather the fun of life, don't you find?

When reading over his post on the Israel/Palestinian question (about which I do not comment a lot on Sundries) I am struck by how much I agree with him about this. Not everything, therefore requiring a comment below; but enough.

I reproduce the blogpost called "Plight Makes Right", which furthermore, is a perfect title for the situation.

The line between left-fascism and right-fascism gets blurrier every day. I refer to the recent proto-Kristallnacht in Venezuela. I am not of the belief that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are synonymous, but there is no doubt that the left has been cheerfully exploiting if not subsuming the latter sentiment under the guise of the former for some time. This shouldn't be all that surprising. The left's attitude to Jews may be summarized by a line from a Leonard Cohen song: "You loved me as a loser, but now you're worried that I just might win." Leftism is a Christian heresy, and as such attributes automatic virtue to the beaten party. As the Jews in general, and Israel in particular, stopped being so beaten and learned to do some beating themselves, the left transformed the Jew on the crucifix into the Palestinian on the crucifix; with the added bonus that there was a large cultural mine of Jew-as-crucifier motifs to draw on. That the Palestinian on the crucifix would be happy to crucify the Jew if their places were switched does not affect leftist thinking. For leftists, whoever has more power is automatically in the wrong, and whoever has less power is automatically in the right.

This makes the current alliance between disaffected leftists and disaffected Islamists all the stranger. Leftists back the Palestinians because they are victims; Islamists back the Palestinians because they are Muslims. The Iranian revolution also began as an uneasy alliance of convenience between leftists and Islamists. Yet once the Islamists took power, the leftists were persecuted and exiled. The alliance was always uneasy because one side, the left, opposed the Shah for the sake of being a dictator; the other side, the Islamists, opposed the Shah for the sake of being an insufficiently Muslim dictator. Dictatorship itself was not the problem for them. Similarly, the Islamists don't have a problem with persecution of minorities (Iran's persecution of Bahai's, to give one example), they have a problem with persecution of Muslim minorities. This is particular so because Muslims have traditionally never been minorities in non-Muslim countries, so even the idea of a Muslim minority is offensive to them. Leftists have not been able to grasp the concept that some minorities, some beaten parties, are not content to wear a crown of thorns forever; they don't oppose power, they oppose not having power.

How then does left-fascism arise, when fascism is distinguished by idolization of the strong? The answer can be found in the human capacity for self-delusion. The vandals of the Venezuelan synagogue no doubt thought of themselves as protecting the weak (the Palestinians) from the strong (the Israelis), even though in actual fact they were terrorizing a small and weak group (Venezuelan Jews) from the standpoint of the strong (the ruling party). Similarly, the Soviets imagined themselves protecting weak peasants from strong oppressors as they persecuted the kulaks (in actual fact slightly less poor peasants). The difference between minority and majority, oppressor and oppressed is often a matter of perspective. Israel looks like a powerful oppressor when the map is simply of it, the West Bank and Gaza; when the map is zoomed out to include the surrounding, larger Arab countries, it looks much less powerful. Yet the question of who is comparatively weaker and thus more deserving of sympathy leads to a pageantry of competing victimhoods that does not settle the question of who is in the right, because losing does not equal being right.

I must add that winning does not equal being right either. Rather than might makes right or plight makes right, I prefer the ideal of noblesse oblige. The Dictionnaire de l’Académie française defines it thusly: Whoever claims to be noble must conduct himself nobly. From this perspective I may be critical of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, or France's treatment of Algerians. However, this is because those nations hold themselves to a higher standard than say, Iran does with its minorities. Left-fascists feel normally despicable acts are justified if the aggressor has some claim to be oppressed; right-fascists feel normally despicable acts are justified if the aggressor has some claim to be naturally superior. However, under the ideal of noblesse oblige, it is not that a majority is automatically wrong and a minority is automatically right, but that a civilized majority is marked as such in part by how it treats its minorities. That being said, as Muslim countries have extremely poor records when it comes to treatment of minority groups, regard for noblesse oblige requires one to ask: when the Muslim population of France is bigger than the non-Muslim population, will it conduct itself as nobly?

If the answer is no, this creates a number of political and ethical problems which the left is not equipped to deal with. The sometime feminist view that burqas are actually liberating from the tyranny of the male gaze is one such muddled response. Another is that Islamophobia is equivalent to anti-Semitism; a comparison which is useful up to a point, that point being that Jews were never in a position to become numerically dominant in Christian countries with low birthrates. Since leftists are resentful of all claims to nobility, they are loathe to recognize how dependent they are on the noblesse oblige of the society they criticize. When they lose sight of this they lose sight of the elementary fact that there is always a majority and a minority in any given society, and some majorities treat minorities better than others. Thus a leftism consistent in its concern for minorities would, for instance, criticize Israel while taking into consideration that its checkered noblesse oblige is better than Hamas's complete lack. More typical is Hugo Chavez worship; a left-fascism which is completely different than right-fascist Augusto Pinochet worship because, of course, Chavez is opposed by the Americans and has darker skin.

I recall reading that anti-semitism was almost non-existent in the (Far) East, although in India, Jewish dynasties had been a part of their trading empire for hundreds of years.

That is, it was non-existent until the Left began injecting anti-semitism in the form of "rich capitalist pig" rhetoric into each country. That was the case with Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, as well as incredibly, Mao Tse-Tung in China. Their Jewish populations were miniscule, even entirely unknown, but the perceived economic and intellectual superiority of the Jewish man made him suspect for them. And as the blogger suggests, it's not so much money that bothers leftists, but the wicked triumphalism of anything considered "superior".

When something triumphs, even if it is good, goes Leftist thinking, one has almost reflexively to think of those who are vanquished in the process. Unfortunately, this leads to a paralysis of morality which was recently never more apparent than the days leading up to the Iraq invasion.

This mindset is what allowed Oscar Award winning actor, Sean Penn, as well as the blustery buffoon of the British Left, George Galloway to visit Saddam Hussein, a butcher of millions, a sadist with no love of democracy, to treat him and anything he had to say about the situation, with respect, even kindness.

This mindset is what allowed Oscar Award winning British actress, Glenda Jackson, to have a booth at an anti-war rally which sought volunteers to act as human shields for Iraqi buildings -- the same Iraqi buildings which were Ba'athist torture chambers, including Abu-Ghraib, need I add...

All because, in their twisted analogies, Saddam was the one at the time being oppressed by the hated American Empire.

But back to the blogpost above.

The claim of Leftism as a Christian heresy is, of course, hyperbole. It makes for a good declarative sentence and as such, I admire its style.

The further imagery of the modern Jew being crucified is no less, but that on the other hand, has more meat on its philosophical bones.

As Joschka Fisher, the German Foreign Minister under Gerhard Schröder once noted, young Germans who detest their nation's Nazi past are almost unwittingly reproducing it by their utter collective contempt for the State of Israel. The same vitriol leveled by Nazis towards Jews as unfairly moneyed, has now given way to the contempt of the unfairly landed.

This attitude goes across party lines, but no where is more visible today than in the Left.

I also agree with the blogger that anti-semitism and anti-Zionism are not one and the same, but the lines are extremely blurred when anything touches Jews.

(I half recoil when I have to write the word "Jews" like that. Almost reflexively, I want to "soften" the word, but find "Jewish people" and such to be clunky in the English language. But this feeling I have is partly a product of my own political philosophy, one which has a delicacy towards anything Jewish)

The sentence, "For leftists, whoever has more power is automatically in the wrong, and whoever has less power is automatically in the right" I think is also hyperbolic.

Clearly, Leftists are supportive and enthusiastic whenever they gain power.

You have to look no further than the election of Barack Obama as US President, to see that in action. Overnight, countless slogans in blogs and posters that "dissent is patriotic" and the flinging of Dr. Samuel Johnson's aphorism that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, transformed themselves into anti-Obama heresy, and those of us who dislike the President's POLICIES were chided for being unpatriotic (!). The hypocrisy. It kills.

That much vaunted dissent they had clamoured about for 8 years, has become as silent as a breeze.

But it's not exactly patriotism that they are backing now, but rather, and this is a crucial difference, the path a nation is going when there is suddenly a Leftist at the helm. It now becomes a nation that is subservient to the precise political philosophy it practises, having had its ills cleansed by purity of jargon. It may even behave similarly, so long as it doesn't speak similarly.

You'll notice that very little anti-China sentiment was offered by said groups before that enormous country, which is still nominally Communist, allowed itself to become a runaway capitalist success. Same country, nearly the same political actors, different attitude the moment it careened away from acceptable ideology.

It is slightly different with the USA, given that it is still a "hyperpower" in the phrase of de Villepin, because of its current historic nature, but at least people around the world perceive that Obama's election has set it on a right course. What that 'right' course is, however, is disputable. There is an almost unspoken belief that a more Leftist President is less nationalistic, more internationalist, and therefore will make it weaker as a singular power.

In other words, it has been weakened from within, and its implosion as a hyperpower is that much more likely with a Leftist at its helm. Anything which debilitates it, such as the cost of a social welfare system, including nationalised health care, the eunuching of business, and redress owed towards oppressed peoples in terms of reparations but also of wide-open immigration, can only lead to its downfall as a military power -- as it did with most of Western Europe.

Britain, once the loathed hyperpower of its day, is now seen as a rather inocuous little island, generous to all newcomers, harbouring those who frankly hate it, content to play second-fiddle to its former child across the sea. The same people are there, the same political ethos reigns over it, but once they let go of their empire, they transformed themselves from pariah to paragon.

(Or at least to peons, to continue the alliterativeness)

Unlike the USA and the United Kingdom, a mere cleansing of the political palate is not enough for dear little Israel. Oh no. For many Leftists, their unholy alliance with Islamic peoples who wish a different kind of "change" for Israel, does not allow them to see past a shared idea that Israel is a bully in the area, backed by a preening USA, which gives them money to survive.

That's a combination of actual strength PLUS money, the two most deadly sins in the eyes of hard-line progressives.

Never mind that they would be the first to be marched up the guillotine, if they didn't have the protection of sharing the majority of people's beliefs about Israel, because their views on the socially progressive would make them instant targets for death.

No, at this moment, the two have cosy shared world view about Israel.

Perhaps on one side, many Leftists around the world wish nothing more than for Israel to give back all the land they "took" from the Palestinians after World War II, whereas the others wish quite simply for the total annihilation of the State of Israel (and nothing less will suffice or be tolerated, so don't kid yourselves).

This first view includes many Jewish people around the world, who do not wish to remember that an Holocaust was able to happen PRECISELY BECAUSE they had no "homeland" to be transported to, and were at the mercy of nations who didn't want to risk war with a blackmailing rogue power.

"Just give the land back! Maybe we can have peace then", said one 70-something Jewish friend of my mother, who voted for Obama, echoing the thoughts many other Jewish people around the world have about this. Interestingly, her daughter also voted for Obama but less enthusiastically, and is less sanguine about the State of Israel. I think she was raised to believe that Jewish people were always politically on the side of the oppressed, being themselves an oppressed people, but casting a glance at the surrounded Israeli State, she doesn't see its geographic realities or history as neatly as her mother does.

This is what the blogger referred to, quite correctly, as competing victimhoods.

Who is more the victim here...

Is it the traditionally reviled 'wandering Jew', kicked out if they are lucky, killed if they were not, who have a tradition of elevating themselves despite every vissicitude, but whose power then became hated and whose people became suspect in one god-awful daisy chain of history? Or is it a querellous tribal people whose oil now gives them untold modern wealth and that unquantifiable power known as "leverage", and a faith which once tolerated the Jew as dhimmi, but only because they were top dogs?

Now let me pose a question:

For an Iranian mullahs, can Israel exist if every Jewish person there would suddenly cease to practise Judaism? No. It would still be offensive since unbelievers desecrate previously held Muslim land.

Because this situation is and yet isn't about the Jewish faith, nor its practioners, per se. That's why it can be defined as yet another anti-Semitic outburst, and yet, not. In turn, this is cynically used to muddy the waters of anti-semitism by those who claim they are against the political entity that is Israel, not Jewish people themselves.

The blogger above has got it slightly wrong.

For many, it's not the Jew who is impaled on the modern cross that is Israel. It's the Arab who has been dispossessed, kicked and brutalised, with Pontius Pilate looking on as a powerful, and yet distant American abitrator. This modern passion play is what motivates each party to behave the way it does, but the only catch this time is, the one expected to sacrifice is not the crucified but the crowd.

A mere man is born, lives, dies and is buried. But land...land to many is what gives man his meaning on earth.

Arabs have always lived on theirs, and their sense of self is tied to it almost in toto. (The Christians in Lebanon are a response to those who think it's only about Islam). This goes a long way to explain the desperation of wanting their land back, since nomadism is one thing, but loss of face due to conquest is another.

Jewish people, on the other hand, have ample experience in ceding an inch to all cultures, losing much face in the process. What they do not have is experience in ceding acres.

I fear for Israel and the safe haven it represents for so many, given this mindset to see victims all around. There is no good guy, and bad guy here, people. There is no triumphalism versus the oppressed. Strong versus weak.

There is just legality, property, legitimacy.

Deal with the factual, and the esoteric will have less chance to prey on your consciences, like they have for centuries.

Survival is not just for the fittest, it is for those who are willing to do anything to survive.

Hitler once tried to eradicate a whole people, having no nation willing to accept them en masse, he claimed. I have news for you -- he would've tried to exterminate Jews even if Israel had existed. So don't presume that Iran "merely" wants to eradicate the State of Israel, or if Israel should happen to be extinguished again as a nation, that all will be well. So long as one Jewish person survives, the fact that Israel could come back as a nation-state will be a silent threat to them.

That's why this situation isn't really about anti-semitism...and yet it is.

Labels: , ,

5 Comments:

  • I see a couple of problems with what this person is saying. Firstly, the misapplication of the word "fascist"--all too common these days. "Fascism" was unique to Italy of the early 20th century and hasn't been repeated since. I don't know what a better term would be. "Islamic totalitarianism" maybe or simply "theocracy".

    Secondly, in practice, there really isn't much of a distinction between "anti-Semitism" and "anti-Zionism". A few years ago there was that flap over a couple of profs who'd written a paper critical of the "Jewish lobby" in America. They made some good points and claimed to only be critical of Israel (anti-Zionist), not anti-Semitic. But it became pretty clear as the flap continued that there were anti-Semitic overtones to their arguments. It seems as though most anti-Zionist criticism of Israel has anti-Semitic roots. (Not that Israel is beyond criticism, they absolutely are not. Particularly when they start selling our military technology to the Chinese.)

    The one thing that always, always kills me (and can be seen in a lot Zombie's work) are the "useful idiots". "Queers for Palestine", "Jews for Palestine", and on and on. People who would be either executed or imprisoned if Sharia Islamists ever got their way. You'd think that most people would have learned by now that the first ones up against the wall when the revolution comes are the fellow travellers.

    Duh.

    By Anonymous Starless, at Wed Feb 18, 08:52:00 am GMT-5  

  • Starless, you made a lot of excellent points. Let me comment on this one:

    The one thing that always, always kills me (and can be seen in a lot Zombie's work) are the "useful idiots". "Queers for Palestine", "Jews for Palestine", and on and on.

    As everyone knows, there is a long tradition of self-hating Jews, in part, due to the fact that they do not wish to associated with a group of people who were reviled throughout history. I place Karl Marx in this category, the son of a rabbi who created an alternate view of history, one where his overriding identity as a Jew was completely non-important.

    Being as I am, a person with deep regard for Jewish people, I find dealing with that type of person extremely frustrating. I cannot tell you how many times I have met such variants...they project their situation unto that of other "oppressed" peoples, taking this sentiment to its most illogical conclusion.

    "Queers" would be killed in a true Islamic State, as you say. How can they possibly encourage that which would be unthinkable in their own countries?

    Where is the logic, where is the feeling of self-preservation, where is the sense of outrage?

    Victimhood leads to a twisted sense of morality, and that was my thesis in the piece.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Feb 18, 07:32:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Where is the logic, where is the feeling of self-preservation, where is the sense of outrage?

    Victimhood leads to a twisted sense of morality, and that was my thesis in the piece.


    Yeah, agreed. I'd add that living in a country where they know they are safe, where they know they will never be forced to pay the horrible price they'd pay anywhere else, they feel free to publicly, verbally, and loudly foist that twisted morality on everyone else.

    It's really just a childish attempt to get attention and they know that if anyone calls them on it they can cry "bigotry" and win. Outrage for the sake of outrage for the sake of having people notice them.

    It's the only sense I can make out of any of it.

    By Anonymous Starless, at Wed Feb 18, 11:49:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Where is the logic, where is the feeling of self-preservation, where is the sense of outrage?

    Victimhood leads to a twisted sense of morality, and that was my thesis in the piece.


    Yeah, agreed. I'd add that living in a country where they know they are safe, where they know they will never be forced to pay the horrible price they'd pay anywhere else, they feel free to publicly, verbally, and loudly foist that twisted morality on everyone else.

    It's really just a childish attempt to get attention and they know that if anyone calls them on it they can cry "bigotry" and win. Outrage for the sake of outrage for the sake of having people notice them.

    It's the only sense I can make out of any of it.

    By Anonymous Starless, at Wed Feb 18, 11:50:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Soryy about the double post. Blogger decided to have indigestion.

    By Anonymous Starless, at Wed Feb 18, 11:51:00 pm GMT-5  

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