Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Today In Stalinist-Style Apologetics

I have been obsessively following the fall-out from Israel's appalling assault on ships attempting to bring humanitarian aid to the people 0f Gaza. There are more good condemnations and analyses than I can really link to. But I did think that a notable good take was that of Peter "just-got-religion-on-this-question" Beinart in the Daily Beast. (His over-all take on the I/P question is different from mine, but I think his approach here is right (although I think I disagree, ultimately, with the Hugo-as-quoted-by-King bit he starts with.)) I'm sure, however, that you can (and probably have) found critiques on your own. (Hell, just open your newspaper.)

But I was particularly interested in what Israel's die-hard supporters would say about this incident. Several, interestingly, gave at best a half-hearted defense of the attack; Jeffrey Goldberg (from the proud and unrepentant team who helped bring you the Iraq war) questioned its wisdom, while Yaacov Lozowick thought it a PR fiasco. (Others are simply utterly but tellingly silent on the issue.) But some die-hards are willing to out-and-out defend Israel's assault; for example, Daniel Gordis does so here. But while I think that Gordis is wrong on both his facts and his moral calculations, he's at least speaking a language I can understand.

But to hit a level of denial that really hits the "Russia is a happy workers' paradise" level, you have to go look at Meryl Yourish's site.

Two bits stood out for me. Here's one:
And here’s an interesting tidbit from the above article:
Most of the inured activists are Turkish citizens, and the rest are citizens of Great Britain, Australia, Indonesia and the Palestinian Authority.
“Activists.” “Peace protestors.” “Civilians.”

(Emphasis in the original post.)

Note what Meryl's skepticism is triggered by: merely the fact that some of the in[j]ured activists are citizens of the Palestinian Authority. That fact, and nothing else, is enough to get her to dismiss the idea that they might be activists, peace protesters and/or civilians. As if it were obvious that no citizens of the Palestinian Authority could possibly be activists, peace protesters or even civilians. (That last is particularly pernicious; taken to its logical conclusion -- which Meryl, I should note, doesn't here; this is simply the implication of what seems to be off-the-cuff cynicism -- all Palestinians are legitimate military targets since none are civilians.)

Do I really need to explain why drawing the inference that someone is not a peace protester from merely knowing someone is Palestinian is racist? No? Good, I was hoping not.

Second example:
The United Nations is telling Israel that the fault for the attack on their commando force from the Turkish ship during the Free Gaza flotilla wouldn’t have happened had there been no seige of Gaza. In other words, if Israel hadn’t been wearing such a short skirt, she wouldn’t have been raped.
So let me get this straight. In this metaphor blockading 1,500,000 people, denying them access to construction materials and toys for their children, denying them freedom of movement and ability to conduct ordinary commerce, is compared to wearing a short skirt? A morally appalling act of war on a civilian population is like wearing a short skirt?

And the rape in this metaphor is not the murder, by Israeli commandos attacking in international waters a Turkish ship carrying humanitarian aid, of some still-unknown number of (yes) activists, peace protesters and civilians. No, the "rape" is the fact that some of the commandos who were engaged in assaulting a Turkish ship headed somewhere other than Israel were injured when the people on the ship (unwisely, in my view, but hardly immorally) fought back against those who would capture it?

Yes sir, Russia really is a worker's paradise, ain't it. And the show trials were fair, each and every one. No doubt any of them were guilty.

(Actually, you could almost make Meryl's metaphor work if you turned it around. Yes, the fact that you got a few scratches on your face (injured soldiers) was a consequence of the fact that you were engaged in an act of rape (blockade of civilians). And it's worth pointing out that while attempting to fight back against this rape the victim sustained far more serious injuries (dead peace protesters on the freedom flotilla) than you did in attacking her. -- Nah, doesn't quite work. But unlike Meryl's version, it is, at least, not appallingly callous to basic human dignity.)

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