'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Like Another Bad Penny 

UPDATE: Quick, someone tell Grossman:

Statements by senior Israeli military commanders made in the Hebrew media days before the massacre revealed that the raid was planned over a week in advance by the Israeli military and was personally approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak. The elite Israeli commando unit known as Unit 13 was tasked with carrying out the mission and its role was known by the Israeli public well before the raid took place. Details of the plan show that the use of deadly force was authorized and calculated. The massacre of activists should not have been unexpected.

INITIAL POST: More liberal rationalizations of Israeli brutality by David Grossman, even as he engages in a pretense to the contrary:

No explanation can justify or whitewash the crime that was committed here, and no excuse can explain away the stupid actions of the government and the army. Israel did not send it soldiers to kill civilians in cold blood; indeed, this is the last thing it wanted. And yet, a small Turkish organization, fanatical in its religious views and radically hostile to Israel, recruited to its cause several hundred seekers of peace and justice, and managed to lure Israel into a trap, precisely because it knew how Israel would react, knew how Israel is destined and compelled, like a puppet on a string, to react the way it did.

How insecure, confused and panicky a country must be, to act as Israel acted! With a combination of excessive military force, and a fatal failure to anticipate the intensity of the reaction of those aboard the ship, it killed and wounded civilians, and did so – as if it were a band of pirates – outside Israel’s territorial waters. Clearly, this assessment does not imply agreement with the motives, overt or hidden, and often malicious, of some participants in the Gaza flotilla. Not all its people are peace-loving humanitarians, and the declarations of some of them regarding the destruction of the State of Israel are criminal. But these facts are simply not relevant at the moment: such opinions, so far as we know, do not deserve the death penalty.

Israel was lured into a trap? Israel, the powerless victim of a Turkish conspiracy? Pure nonsense, as Norm Finkelstein recognized the other day:

What happened with the Gaza flotilla was not an accident. You have to remember that the Israeli cabinet met for fully a week. All the cabinet ministers discussed and deliberated how they would handle the flotilla. There were numerous reports in the Israeli press, numerous suggestions, numerous recommendations about what to do. At the end of the day, they decided on a nighttime armed commando raid on a humanitarian convoy. Israel is now a lunatic state. It's a lunatic state with between two and three hundred nuclear devices. It is threatening war daily against Iran and against Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah in Lebanon has already stated on several occasions: if Israel attacks it will retaliate in kind. Things are getting out of control.

Furthermore, it is essential to observe that the subject of concern in Grossman's article is Israel, and even more specifically, the IDF soldiers that were ordered to carry out the raid. He has perfected a style of literary expression that appears, at first glance, to recognize the autonomy of the Palestinians, but, upon closer inspection, subordinates them to the urgencies of the Zionist project at every turn. Like a kindly therapist, he seeks to identify the neurosis purportedly manipulated to such tragic ends by the Turks and propose appropriate treatment, in this case, the end of the siege of Gaza:

Israel’s actions yesterday are but the natural continuation of the shameful, ongoing closure of Gaza, which in turn is the perpetuation of the heavy-handed and condescending approach of the Israeli government, which is prepared to embitter the lives of a million and a half innocent people in the Gaza Strip, in order to obtain the release of one imprisoned soldier, precious and beloved though he may be; and this closure is the all-too-natural consequence of a clumsy and calcified policy, which again and again resorts by default to the use of massive and exaggerated force, at every decisive juncture, where wisdom and sensitivity and creative thinking are called for instead.

Admittedly, Grossman acknowledges that the populace of Gaza is innocent, but the issue of most pressing concern for him is that they will be even further embittered towards Israel because of the siege. There is a nationalistic narcissism on display here, wherein he hopes to relegitimize Israel, and, by extension, Zionism, as both a physical place and an abstract principle for ordering society, enabling people to wholeheartedly identify with them again: I would like to believe that the shock of yesterday’s frantic actions will lead to a re-evaluation of the whole idea of the closure, at last freeing the Palestinians from their suffering, and cleansing Israel of its moral stain.

Come again? Lifting the siege will free the Palestinians from their suffering? While settlement activity proceeds apace, and thousands of Palestinians remain detained within Israel? While settlers run amok in the West Bank, supported by millions of dollars of Israeli and American assistance, abusing an indigenous populace that lives in poverty? Paradoxically, it appears that Grossman craves a sort of special forces approach to the Palestinian problem, one that involves covert actions out of sight and out of mind even as he condemns such an action in the Mediterranean.

Beyond this obvious material aspect, there is the implicit characterization of the Palestinians as an inferior people only capable of achieving a live without suffering, like, say, feudal peasants, while the people of Israel, associated with the higher calling of Zionism, aspire to an attainment of moral perfection. Hence, Israelis are full bodied people, possessing all the human frailties of self-interest, morality and human agency. By contrast, Palestinians are merely passive participants who are either abused by Israelis as they play out their larger than life ambitions as the master builders of Palestine or irrational perpetrators of violence in response to these abuses. In short, they lack the capacity for self-determination.

But we shouldn't be surprised. He was more odious, lacking in any of the subtlety of expression encountered here, when speaking about the Israeli attack upon Lebanon in 2006, as related here and here. We should, however, be appreciative that, while he considers anti-Zionism a criminal offense ( . . the declarations of some of them regarding the destruction of the State of Israel are criminal . . ), he doesn't consider violations as warranting the death penalty. Perhaps, only 6 months county jail or work project, maybe he can elaborate in his next pronouncement. Fortunately, I live in the US, and for all of its obvious faults, it hasn't criminalized public expressions of anti-Zionism.

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