Stuff and Larry Stillman

It’s weird – one of my most read posts was on Hamid Dabashi. Has he googled himself? Where did the interest come from?

I’d like to recommend two books I’ve just read. Walter LaFeber’s Inevitable Revolutions, and Fake and Funk’s Scramble for Africa. The former is an outstanding study of US policy towards Central America during the 20th century, and the latter is a study of Darfur activism in the West, placed in political context. The research and analysis is outstanding.

Most interesting is – at Galus Australis, they printed an article by Larry Stillman, which says Israel practices apartheid. I think he very cautiously hints at the end for a preference for a one state solution.

Phil Mendes, of course, writes in to complain. He remarkably says the apartheid analogy (and it is not an analogy – there is international law which criminalises apartheid) – “is based on essentialising all Israelis – academics, sportspersons such as Shahar Peer etc – as uniquely evil by virtue of their nationality and ethnicity.” Unsurprisingly, Mendes thinks another critic of the Israeli occupation is anti-Semitic. Remarkably, Mendes then says “there are some similarities with Indonesia and East Timor”. It is remarkable the extent to which Mendes moral compass has no North. The occupation in East Timor was genocidal. About a third of the Timorese population was wiped out. Presumably, the only reason Mendes would prefer this comparison is that it would not have the same political implications as the apartheid comparison, given that most people thought boycotting apartheid in South Africa was legitimate.

But then, Mendes goes on:

“But these are legitimate debates unlike the apartheid analogy. Those who propound the latter demonstrate that they have moved well outside the boundaries of the mainstream Jewish Left.”

So this is not a legitimate debate. Presumably, because such views are anti-Semitic, and we can’t debate anti-Semitism can we. Saying its outside the boundaries of the “mainstream Jewish Left” is a joke. The Jewish left isn’t mainstream. Mendes is comfortable within the Labour/Kadima/Likud fold where he belongs on the Israel/Palestine question. The liberal/progressive/left is perfectly comfortable with the apartheid comparison. In Israel, let’s say the progressive liberal end of the spectrum (not the left) is haaretz, Akiva Eldar, B’Tselem, Meretz. They’ve all used the apartheid comparison. (for the last, see Aloni and Sarid). None of them even should be considered the Left. The left is people like Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein (etc). The Left in Israel is (at least arguably) Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Anarchists Against the Wall, Jeff Halper,  Gush Shalom etc.

But I want to make one point. Mendes describes “the inconvenient fact for some on the pro-Palestinian Left that the East Timorese resistance never blew up Indonesian children in the discos and pizza parlours of Jakarta.” This is a fundamentally reactionary point – that Palestinian rights are somehow less worthy because of the atrocities of Hamas. (one could oppose rights for blacks in South Africa on the same basis. In fact, Mendes has counterparts in the case of Apartheid South Africa who would make exactly the same argument. Why grant rights to such savages as would practice necklacing?). It reminds me of a passage I’m reading in a book right now (David Day (2001) Claiming a Continent. Sydney, Harper Collins. p 60)

The military technology of the Aborigines, limited mainly to spears and waddies, was well suited for hit and run attacks on small parties of Europeans, particularly if they could be taken unawares. But it was incapable of defending their territory in a sustained way against European attacks using guns and horses. The Aboriginal use of such guerilla tactics helped to undercut any sympathy that their plight evoked among the Europeans. It painted them as treacherous savages who did not merit the respect they might otherwise have conceded to foes adopting more conventional methods of warfare.

One Response to “Stuff and Larry Stillman”
  1. Larry Stillman says:

    No, I’m not arguing for one-state, two-states, or any states. It’s not for me to decide. It’s the quality of the outcome that I am concerned with.

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