My diminished respect for Tariq Ali

Really, this essay by Tariq Ali verges on the comical here.

A month earlier, the un Fact Finding Mission set up to look at the invasion of Gaza reported that the IDF had not always acted by the book, though naturally rocket-attacks by Hamas had provoked it. Chaired by one of the most notorious time-servers of ‘international justice’, the South African judge Richard Goldstone, a prosecutor at the pre-orchestrated Hague Tribunal on Yugoslavia and self-professed Zionist, the Mission’s complaints against Israel could hardly have been feebler, in startling contrast to the testimony they heard in Gaza and which was made available on their website. [2]

This is really a joke. Tariq Ali seems to be friends with Finkelstein – Finkelstein should advise him to read the report. Firstly, it does not say that rocket attacks provoked the invasion. It discusses the leadup in great detail establishing what happened, but without making judgements. Secondly, the report says the attack plainly was not about rockets, it was about terrorising the civilian population, a policy of which the blockade was a key part. Thirdly, to complain that the complaints could hardly have been feebler is kind of ridiculous. It accuses Israel of massive state terrorism. The only reservation might be that it says Israel might be guilty of crimes against humanity, rather than making the accusation outright (it is phrased as, “a competent court might find…). Fourthly, the report goes at length into human rights violations by Israel – including the occupation regime, and even discrimination against Palestinians inside Green Line Israel (in practice and in law).

Fifthly, the brazen and unsubstantiated attack on Goldstone is a bit much. He also doesn’t address Goldstone’s work in South Africa, or on the Rwandan Genocide.

I want to add – I don’t believe in saints or people without sin. I’ve criticised Richard Goldstone before here. However, criticisms should be based on evidence, and someone with a record that really should be considered one of distinction deserves better than such unsubstantiated slurs. (for example, there are criticisms here that if accurate, make his work as a judge in South Africa seem unimpressive [to put it mildly])


Look at Ali writing on Iran too. “Factional struggles in the clerical establishment escalated over the presidential election in June 2009, when a bid by its most openly pro-Western wing to take power on a wave of (mostly) middle-class protest was suppressed by an incumbent counter-strike that combined electoral fraud and militia violence.”

Moussavi is pro-Western? Is he serious? I don’t even know if I accept his claim that it was mostly middle class protesters who opposed Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad’s policies have not helped the poor. (In Ali’s defence, what he says here is virtually unmentioned anywhere else: “With the Western media in full cry behind the President, the thwarted candidate in the Iranian contest—historically one of the worst butchers of the regime, responsible for mass executions in the 80s—was converted into another icon of the Free World.”) [Though Moussavi’s ultimate responsibility is not clear, given the theological basis of power in Iran, certainly he presided over the biggest slaughter of dissidents in Iran’s post-revolutionary history.]

One Response to “My diminished respect for Tariq Ali”
  1. Vince Caruso says:

    I read a Tariq Ali article in the Guardian where he does actually argue that Ahmadinejad’s biggest disappointment can be found in the impoverished population of the country that haven’t been affected positively by his policies.

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