Tuesday 13 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie

Fraternité: Of the three great founding principles of the secular French state, it was the third, fraternité, that united France in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Fraternité: that healing warmth, born of human fellowship and empathy, without which the two other animating principles of the democratic republic – liberté and égalité – remain empty and impotent.
THE THIRTY THOUSAND PARISIANS who braved the mid-winter cold in the Place de La République last Wednesday declared they were “not afraid”. I didn’t believe them. Horror, fear, and anger clamped hard around my heart as I absorbed the news of the deadly attack on the offices of the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, and the equally deadly sieges that followed. Had the French people not been gripped by very similar emotions, they would not have been human.
Especially unnerving was the Parisian demonstrators’ silence. Clustering protectively around the towering statue of Marianne, personification of the French Republic, they gave no audible expression to their feelings. Instead there was an intense stillness. People lit candles. Some carried hand-lettered signs. Many read, simply: “Je suis Charlie.”
I am Charlie.
Of the three great founding principles of the secular French state, it was the third, fraternité, that bound this vast crowd together: that healing warmth, born of human fellowship and empathy, without which the two other animating principles of the democratic republic – liberté and égalité – remain empty and impotent.
It was the violation of fraternité that took France’s breath away. The coolly proficient murderers who gunned down two gendarmes, a janitor, and the core of Charlie Hebdo’s editorial team, spoke in accentless French. It was this chilling fact that punctured the nation’s heart. That these young men, nursed at Marianne’s breast, felt not the slightest tremor of brotherly feeling as they gunned down twelve of their fellow citizens.
The killers’ pure and utterly merciless manifestation of religious outrage was as shocking as it was, perversely, awe-inspiring. Their absolute certainty about doing God’s work freed them from every social obligation and legal restriction. In a world made luminous by the eternal and unchallengeable injunctions of the divine, they’d turned themselves into holy instruments: as impervious to remonstration and remorse as the cutting edge of the Prophet’s sword, or the 7.62mm rounds of their AK47 assault rifles.
If there is a design fault in the human animal then, surely, this is it. Humanity’s ability to conjure itself into the dissociative fugue state of religious and/or ideological rapture. A state in which all awareness of personal responsibility falls away and we are driven to the most extreme acts by the conviction that, in hastening the arrival of the heavenly – or earthly – paradise, we are doing good.
To bring the whole of humankind into the body of the faithful. To advance social justice through the dictatorship of reason and virtue, Aryan genetics, or the proletariat. To establish the sovereign individual within a perfectly free and unfettered market economy.
In the name of perfecting humanity, everything is permissible.
The West is delusional if it believes itself immune to this deadly condition. We may congratulate ourselves that the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition lie safely in our past and that, as heirs of the European Enlightenment, we have moved beyond the reach of religious extremism. But this is to overlook Robespierre’s Reign of Terror, Stalin’s gulags and Hitler’s death camps. Or, if these seem too far away, the IMF’s structural adjustment programmes and George Bush’s “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”.
Charlie Hebdo itself falls squarely into the long European tradition of exposing the rank hypocrisy of those who set themselves up as the inerrant judges of human frailty. From Chaucer to Boccaccio, Voltaire to Swift, the failure of individuals and institutions in authority to live up to their own moral precepts has inspired artistic works of satirical genius.
The French, in particular, have an historical aversion to “clericalism” – i.e. the unwarranted interference of religious institutions in education and politics. Indeed, “anti-clerical” French republicans have been doing battle with the French religious authorities since at least the Eighteenth Century. The French Left is, accordingly, forever on its guard against any threat – be it Christian, Judaic or Muslim – to the cherished principles of the French Revolution’s secular republic.
France is also the home of the expression “épater la bourgeoisie” (shock the middle classes). Alarming and/or outraging the fatuous and far-too-comfortable beneficiaries of the political status quo has been a favourite sport of iconoclastic and revolutionary French artists and writers since the mid-Nineteenth Century. In this, too, Charlie Hebdo is as French as frogs-legs.
A curiously symmetrical symbolic relationship thus embraces both the holy warriors who gunned down the staff of Charlie Hebdo, and the latter’s militant secularist mission. On either side of this tragedy stand fervent believers in, and unflinching defenders of, compelling religious and political traditions.
Perhaps the great mass of Parisians in the Place de la République remained silent in conscious acknowledgement of the deadly consequences that follow when we make ourselves captive to the battle-cries of uncompromising conviction. A charge upon which both the slayers and the slain, fused now forever in death, must – tragically – stand convicted.
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 13 January 2015.


Frank Black said...

"That these young men, nursed at Marianne’s breast"
I think the only breast these young men would have nursed at is Mohammed's. They certainly did not believe in freedom, equality or fraternity for all.

Charlie (E) said...

Fine piece of writing. Pity The ChCh Press cut out some of it. I hope you were asked first. Otherwise it is just rude to do that apart from risking a change in meaning.
To me it's also a pity your last two paragraphs go a step too far, towards humouring the killers’ sympathisers, not that I think you would do that like Fox has.
You appear to say (am I wrong?) there is a smidgeon of moral equivalence between the cartoonists and the Islamist murderers. No. I wonder why you had to take that one further step in your argument.
The crowd’s silence was more likely in shock and mourning, combined with deep anger, not remorse as I think you say. The French love their lampooning and sometimes extremely offensive & politically radical cartoonists, mostly of the far left. I do too, and I'm a conservative.
One party fully supports liberty, equality and fellowship, and does so sometimes offensively, brazenly but without discrimination. That is not extremist. It’s at worst excessive and crass, bad taste. However there is always humour and that redeems it. Note how lacking in humour the other side is.
This other side is a killer, bent on submission, oppression, bigotry, chauvinism, sexism, and most of all, racism. Pure utter poison.
There is not even slightly any moral equivalence.

Anonymous said...

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on
Monday that last Wednesday's attack on a French satirical magazine
was committed by militants who had fought in Syria for the
West-backed aim of ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from

[with the West on counter-terrorism] has been suspended. Meanwhile,
terrorists do not suspend cooperation with each other. Terrorist
activity knows no bounds,” Lavrov said. “The two brothers who
attacked the editorial office of the Paris magazine had mastered ‘the
art of terror’ in Syria, fighting with those who had been trying to
oust Bashar al-Assad - an aim supported by our Western counterparts,”
he added." Blowback is certainly a factor here.

guerilla surgeon said...

Hm. Stylistically, to me it looks more like Der Sturmer than mad magazine.

Richard Christie said...

We may congratulate ourselves that the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition lie safely in our past and that, as heirs of the European Enlightenment, we have moved beyond the reach of religious extremism. But this is to overlook Robespierre’s Reign of Terror, Stalin’s gulags and Hitler’s death camps

Well, no. Robespierre, Stalin and Hitler were not motivated by religion. In fact, most religious apologists wrongly assert the opposite, that the actions of latter two, at least, were the consequence of their alleged atheism (Robespierre being a member of the cult of the supreme being, a confused mishmash of political and psuedo-religious concepts).

While the West cannot claim to have moved beyond the reach of fanaticism, it is reasonable to assume we have moved beyond the reach of wholesale christian religious oppression. In fact it can be strongly argued that the West's secular systems have done a good job of removing the hands organised religion from the levers of state governance.

I enjoyed this piece, but note that you refuse to squarely look at the elephant in the room, that elephant being the role of medieval religious dogma in the current clash of cultures.

Brewer said...

"Charlie Hebdo itself falls squarely into the long European tradition of exposing the rank hypocrisy..."

We-ell, Charlie Hebdo likes itself a little hypocrisy too.
In 2009, followed the engagement of Sarkozy's son to a Jewish heiress, Hebdo columnist Maurice Sinet wrote: "He'll go a long way in life, that little lad."

For this "anti-Semitism" he was fired.

Netanyahu parading himself (uninvited) in the media circus is the ultimate hypocrisy. Here is a list of journalists killed by the IDF while working in Gaza:

1. Hamid Abdullah Shehab – “Media 24″company.
2. Najla Mahmoud Haj – media activist.
3 Khalid Hamad – the “Kontnao” Media Production company.
4. Ziad Abdul Rahman Abu Hin – al-Ketab satellite channel.
5. Ezzat Duheir – Prisoners Radio.
6. Bahauddin Gharib – Palestine TV.
7 Ahed Zaqqout – veteran sports journalist.
8 Ryan Rami – Palestinian Media Network.
9 Sameh Al-Arian – Al-Aqsa TV.
10 Mohammed Daher – Editor in al-Resala paper.
11. Abdullah Vhjan – sports journalist.
12 journalist Khaled Hamada Mqat- Director of Saja news website.
13. freelance journalist Shadi Hamdi Ayyad.
14 photojournalist Mohammed Nur al-Din al-Dairi – works in the Palestinian Network.
15. journalist Ali Abu Afesh – Doha Center for Media.
16 Italian journalist Simone Camille – photographer in the Associated Press.
17. Abdullah fadel Murtaja.

....and an article on death threats received by Haaretz for publishing cartoon:

Guerilla Surgeon said...

You realise anonymous that various Islamic terrorist organisations hate each other's guts almost as much as they hate the West right? Cooperation is usually within the loose group usually rather than with other groups.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Well Richard, the Lord's resistance Army, and the massacres in Rwanda are firmly in the Christian tradition rather than the Muslim. No one has ever been killed in the name of atheism. And the levers of governance are firmly in the hands of religious people in the American South and West.

Jamie said...

Here get a little bit of this in ya Trotter


White genocide


You know where to find me

Richard Christie said...

@ Gueruilla surgeon.

the massacres in Rwanda are firmly in the Christian tradition rather than the Muslim.

...sure they were, just as those of Boko Haram in neighboring Nigeria are. And I always think of these places when wanting good examples of Western democratic structures.

The US has strongly enforced protocols keeping religion out of government, despite its majority being practicing christians.

JanM said...

Its interesting, isn't it, that those on the right of the political spectrum don't really seem to understand what you've said, Chris. I can never really decide whether it's deliberate or just a failure in perceptual ability

Victor said...

An excellent piece, Chris.

French republican anti-clericalism, though far preferable to most of the ideologies it has combated, can itself be an intolerant beast.

Moreover, we have yet to see whether these truly, heart-rending and atrocious events will serve more to bolster the republic and its culture or to strengthen the electoral hand of that faux Marianne, Mme le Pen.

Meanwhile, I was struck by the slogan adopted by some French Moslems of recent days, in homage to one of their number, a police officer:

"I am Ahmed. Charlie insulted and demeaned my faith and culture. But I gave my life defending his right to do so!"

Je suis aussi Ahmed mais je suis aussi Juif!

Pardon my grammar. It's been a long time.

Charlie (E) said...

So Brewer, do you understand moral equivalence? Perhaps you do but your prejudices are so overwhelming you can't help yourself.

Nor do you appear to know the difference between racism and cultural/religious intolerance. CH is not racist but it is intolerant of many, especially those who push their culture or religion or their status, yet are hypocrites.

Re Israel:
If someone tries to kill you, and your family and anyone of your race, and you kill them instead, that is self defence. The laws in most nations & cultures will support you and so will most civilised people not full of hate and prejudice. If you also kill innocents in the same act you risk losing a lot of support but mostly the law is still on your side.
That's Israel. Losing support, with the help of those who lack a sense of moral equivalence.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I can't see how Boko Haram could be in a Christian tradition considering they're Muslims. And the separation of church and state in the US is honoured more in the breach than the observance. There are at least 6 states I think, that will not allow an atheist to stand for public office for a start. "Western democratic structures" don't always protect people from religious nut jobs.

Jigsaw said...

I doubt that it matters much to the victims of such attacks as to whether the perpetrators are politically or religiously motivated. People who collectively believe that they have such moral certainty in their cause that it enables them to do such a thing are well beyond reason. The religious or political philosophies become almost interchangeable. I am always interested in what you leave out Chris and it seems Derek Fox's comments in so far as they could impinge directly upon us are worthy of comment. He seems to think (if the reports are correct) that his particular cause is beyond satire and that nothing Maori should be 'attacked' in such a way-that it is beyond criticism.

Guerilla Surgeon said...


Jesus Jamie that website sounds just like you :-). Pretty much incoherent. Thank you for letting me know where you are. Now I can avoid you like the plague :-).

Guerilla Surgeon said...


More bullshit.
1. Depends how you define white.
2. Who says it's a bad thing? :-)

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Charles: re-Israel. If an organisation you have nothing to do with and hardly know exists, gives away your country/land, and people with no connection to that country for the last 800 years or so settle their, taking your land in the process, you are entitled to resist. If these people KEEP taking more and more of your land and spite of UN resolutions, you are also entitled to resist. As much of Europe did when invaded by Germany. You should get support from civilised people not full of hate and prejudice. But rarely do, at least from governments, because of the politics of one very powerful country which gives the invaders a free pass.

Brewer said...

Charlie (E)
Not sure I fully understand your post. Are you suggesting that the journalists killed by the IDF (in some cases targeted) were trying to kill Israelis?

In common with most Israels you seem to have bought into a distortion of the timeline in order to support your thesis with regard to offence/defence. The conflict began when an invasion of European-born immigrants (mostly illegal), with the stated aim of wresting sovereignty away from the indigenous people, put their plans into effect. This History is no longer disputed and places the Palestinians (now firmly established by DNA evidence as the remnants of the area's Jewish and Christian population before the advent of Islam) in the role of defender.

One other indicator that cannot be ignored is the victim count. Since 2001, a total of 33 Israelis (all ages) have been killed by rockets. During that period, 2,061 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli forces in "retaliation". What does "moral equivalence have to say about that indisputable statistic?

In my view, rockets are miscast as aggression. The casualty rate alone indicates that they either ludicrously ineffective, exacting a toll less than 1% of the Israeli road toll but it needs to be understood that they are not fired at Israel per se. They are fired at land that is still legally owned by Gazans, driven to (and imprisoned behind the barbed wire of the concentration camp that is now Gaza. Sderot for example, is built on the ruins of Najd whose residents were driven out by the Israeli Negev Brigade on May 13 1948.You can read that story here:
For "moral equivalence" here we need to ask ourselves where our sympathies would lie - with rockets fired into the Warsaw Ghetto or out.

jh said...

Guerilla Surgeon said...
Jesus Jamie that website sounds just like you :-). Pretty much incoherent. Thank you for letting me know where you are. Now I can avoid you like the plague :-).
Yes defending whites is pejorative:
slavery whites:blacks etc,etc
White is evil?

jh said...

I suspect the crowds weren’t shouting as they don't know who are vthey and who is us?: only a few get the brotherhood of man meme.
Here is nationhood from an evolutionary psychology perspective:
The significance of the nation, of national identity, can more properly be considered in evolutionary terms or in the light of recent history. E.O.Wilson sees nationalism as a natural extension of tribalism, which, in turn, is a product of kin selection; nation connotes a group of people who believe they are ancestrally related and connotes identification with and loyalty to one's nation as just defined. It endows the members of a national population with an identity which is thought to be unique and distinct from other population groups, thought to be a relatively homogeneous entity. Nationalism holds the nation and the state together. The resurgence of nationalism over the last few years is hardly surprising: 'national identity' makes it possible to locate oneself in the world. A "native nation" is a people of common heritage, language, geography, culture, political system, and desire for common association; there are relatively few nation-states, less than two hundred, but many "native nations", more than three thousand. The scope for ethnic friction is obvious; only ten per cent of states in the United Nations consist mainly of one ethnic group; in Europe the desire for a national identity has re-asserted itself as a key features of collective human nature; long suppressed European nations have suddenly reappeared, a movement directly opposed to the supranational ambitions of European Union. The new emphasis on the nation is in part a reaction against pressures towards homogenisation, the reduction of national differences, and particularly globalisation.

Victor said...

Richard Christie

"Well, no. Robespierre, Stalin and Hitler were not motivated by religion. In fact, most religious apologists wrongly assert the opposite, that the actions of latter two, at least, were the consequence of their alleged atheism....."

Under Stalin, the Soviet Union was officially atheist rather than just secularist. Many thousands of Russian Orthodox and other clergy were slaughtered or perished in the Gulags against a background of officially sponsored anti-religious agitation, the destruction of churches etc.

Now, of course, there were lots of non-theological reasons why the Soviet state would have wanted to get rid of the clergy, e.g. they had too much sway over the minds of the peasantry, might have been Tsarist sympathisers or (in the case of Catholic priests) might have been agents of foreign powers and of Poland in particular. And, clearly, they didn't fit into the ideological and political monolith that Stalin was creating.

But you would need all the agility of a medieval theologian (irony intended) to insist that the state's commitment to atheism played no part in these persecutions.

As to Nazi atrocities, these were certainly not directly inspired by atheism but were nevertheless heavily influenced by two of its regular bedfellows in the cultural climate of early twentieth century Europe, viz: Darwinism and Nietzscheanism.

Of course, it was bowlderised, racist versions of Darwin and Nietzsche that the Nazis pressed into service. But their influence, however misconceived and misrepresented, was unmistakeable.

BTW a persistent red herring in current-day discussions of Nazism and Christianity is the notion that Hitler remained a Catholic till his dying day.

He certainly never formally renounced his official registration as a Catholic. But, as anyone who's lived in a German-speaking country knows, residents there are formally required to state their religious affiliations for tax and other purposes.

For Hitler to have declared himself "kirchenlos" in a largely Christian country would have involved sacrificing the support of millions of respectable, patriotic, conservative Germans.

For this reason, shortly after the Nazis came to power, Hitler ordered party leaders to remain members of the churches of their birth and to put an end to the anti-clerical agitation that they had, up to that point, been prone to engage in. However, his "Table Talk" and other sources give ample evidence of his hostility to religion in general and "Jewish" Christianity in particular.

Victor said...


It seems to me that reducing the ever-more complex Israel/Palestine conflict to a simple narrative of invasion might raise questions as to the legitimacy of other "settler" countries such as New Zealand.

There comes a point, though, at which we have to deal with the situation that exists now and not at some date in the past, be it 70 AD, 1947 or (for that matter)1840.

I agree that Netanyahu (like many of his predecessors in office) has a shocking record in connection with human rights issues, including but not limited to media freedom.

The same is true, to a greater or lesser extent, of others present or represented at the march in Paris, including King Abdullah II of Jordan and the governments of Turkey and Bahrain.

But, as Oscar Wilde pointed out: "Hypocrisy is the compliment that vice pays to virtue".

Meanwhile, every time there are Jewish victims of Jihadi violence in the West (and there have been far too many of these in France of recent years), the numbers of Jews emigrating to Israel increases substantially.

Is this not something of a "home goal" for the Jihadis?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

JH. Defending whites is just dog whistle for attacking non-white people on the whole. You find it on all those stupid neofascist websites. I think we can safely dismiss it as crap.

Wilson is more interesting, but unfortunately for you I do happen to know a bit about nationalism. His ideas basically reduce human society to biology. A rather extreme position, but often found useful by neo-Nazis and other eugenic types.
In this area there are 2 forces at work at the moment. One is globalisation, one is localisation. Neither of which I suspect have a huge amount to do with biology, though I wouldn't go as far as some sociologists and suggest it has no influence.
There are numerous theories about the rise of nationstates too complex to go into here. But personally I think it was a combination of the influence of printing i.e. newspapers, and industrialisation. The old agrarian states had vertical loyalties rather than horizontal ones, which were thrown into confusion by industrialisation. An interesting study is the development of Papua New Guinea's nationstate. An ongoing laboratory :-). But enough of that :-). Sorry, Wilson is an interesting character, but basically an expert on ants :-).

Guerilla Surgeon said...

If everyone's going to be posting links, try this.


Charlie (E) said...

Well said Victor.
Brewer & GS we could litigate the Israel/Palestine mess forever but Chris wrote about something else so let's leave that much more complex topic for another day.
Save to say two minor things: Jews are indigenous to the area too. And in the Gazan wars, the Israelis have killed no-one because they are Arab, Muslim or Gazan.
And that gets us back on the topic of morality. The mortal enemies of Israel, and now many of us in the West, target people for their beliefs, their race and now their writings, drawings and thoughts.
With an enemy like that, I'm firmly on the other side, and that puts me on the Israeli's side too, whatever their crimes so far.

Anonymous said...

Do you mean like people who blindly support John Key in spite of overwhelming evidence he is as crooked as a dog's hind leg?

Brewerstroupe said...

" the legitimacy of other "settler" countries such as New Zealand"
I don't see a good analogy here. There are many practices now proscribed that were sanctioned a century or two ago, colonialism being just one, slavery another. By 1948, both colonialism and slavery had passed their use-by date. That is the process of civilization. Furthermore, NZ is a bad example to choose for, whilst there certainly were grave injustices, successive Colonial administrators championed indigenous rights and during the period in which Israel has continued to occupy and dispossess Palestinian land and people, NZ has negotiated settlement of the majority of grievances arising out of those injustices.

"we have to deal with the situation that exists now"
New Zealand has had no difficulty dealing with situations that originate over a century ago. The situation in Palestine began in 1948 (within my lifetime) and is ongoing. I suggest it qualifies as a "situation that exists now".

I'm not sure what is meant by "Jewish victims of Jihadi violence in the West". My impression is that the victims come from many ethnic/cultural groups. The criteria seems to lean more toward institutions and individuals supporting the West's foreign wars. The West employs precisely the same logic - they bomb enemy news sources which they legitimize by labelling them "propaganda outlets", civilian casualties are "collateral damage".

Let us not forget that Israel's genesis owes much to "terrorism" and assassination. Not just the now well documented massacres designed to put Palestinians to flight (Morris counts 24) but also black ops such as the Lavon affair, the Baghdad bombings. the Rome bombing, letter bombs sent to British officials, The Sergeants affair, Folke Bernadotte, Lord Moyne - the list is so long it puts current "Jihadi violence" into the shade and the perpetrators were defending a colonial enterprise, not reacting to the conquest of their lands by foreign powers whose religion and culture is alien to them.
I am a little envious of your ability to count History as irrelevant to "the situation that exists now". It must make it easier to count the "Jihadi violence" toll while discounting the civilian death toll in Palestine, Iraq, Libya and Syria as irrelevant. This is a skill I have not been able to develop.

Brewerstroupe said...

Charlie (E).
I'm sure Chris, even if he does not agree that Palestine is essential to this debate, will not object to civil discourse on the subject. I will happily withdraw should he require me to.

"Jews are indigenous to the area"
To extend the meaning of the term "indigenous" to include individuals whose forbears may or may not have once inhabited a territory millennia ago is to define the term out of existence. Considering descendants of Jews who left Palestine 1700 years before Maori arrived in New Zealand being indigenous to that land is, to my mind, a ridiculous notion. But we do not have to rely on such reasoning. Jewish identity is as more cultural than it is ethnic and it is Jewish identity that is the criteria, not blood. This is made clear by the existence of Cochin and Beta Israel Jews, the fact that Palestinians and Misrahim share closer genetic identity than Misrahim and Ashkenazi. Prof. Israel Bartal, dean of the humanities faculty of the Hebrew University has this to say:
"No “nationalist” Jewish historian has ever tried to conceal the well-known fact that conversions to Judaism had a major impact on Jewish history in the ancient period and in the early Middle Ages. Although the myth of an exile from the Jewish homeland (Palestine) does exist in popular Israeli culture, it is negligible in serious Jewish historical discussions. Important groups in the Jewish national movement expressed reservations regarding this myth or denied it completely."
I do not think the "indigenous" argument holds much comfort for its proponents.
Neither do I think much of "the Israelis have killed no-one because they are Arab, Muslim or Gazan." This is a shibboleth. To attribute a racist motivation to a people who resist massacre, occupation and dispossession is plainly and grievously wrong. Are you seriously contending that race-hatred is a greater incentive to action among a certain ethnic/religious identity than their having been dispossessed and exiled through a process involving massacre and mayhem? I know what would motivate me were I in their position. To characterise another race or identity as thus being morally inferior smacks of something rather nasty.

Victor said...


I think you’re mistaken if you regard the late 1940s as a time when civilization flourished and when, Palestine apart, mass expulsions were unknown.

Up to half a million died in the partition of India and a somewhat larger number in the peacetime expulsion of Germans from Poland and Czechoslovakia. This does not excuse the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. But nor does it excuse the expulsion, shortly afterwards, of the ancient Jewish community of Iraq. It was an evil time, with sensibilities everywhere coarsened by the worst war in human history.

I would, of course, agree with you that New Zealand has a much better record than Israel in righting the wrongs it has committed. But the pressures were far fewer and the fact remains that ethnic cleansing was one of the ways in which this country came into being. The same is true, of course, of the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina, the Russian Federation etc. Even so, these countries exist and it would be foolish to expect them to cease to exist.

And , of course, I agree with you that the Israel/Palestine conflict is a "situation that exists now" and needs urgent resolution. What have I written to make you doubt that this is my opinion? The question is how?

Meanwhile, your apparent ignorance concerning Jewish victims of Jihadi violence in the West(and particularly in France) is barely credible. Are you truly unaware of last week’s shoot-out in a Kosher supermarket in Paris? Do you not recall the murder of Jewish school children in Toulouse a couple of years ago? In addition, just two months ago, a Kosher restaurant in Paris was firebombed and there have been a number of very well-publicised attacks on synagogues as well as numerous attacks on private individuals innocently going about their business.

Why do you think the number of French Jews moving to Israel has doubled over the last year? Might it not have something to do with the fact that (rightly or wrongly) they no longer feel safe living under the Tricolor? To suggest that it’s “institutions and individuals supporting the West's foreign wars” that are the main targets just doesn’t wash.

And, yes, I would certainly agree with you that these atrocities are all on a much smaller scale than the carnage in Gaza with far fewer innocent lives lost. But, just as in Gaza, these innocent lives are still taken needlessly. And I’m not denying that terrorism played a part in Israel’s genesis (or, for that matter, in the rise of Palestinian nationalism). Still less am I asserting that History is irrelevant.

But nor is the present irrelevant and, whatever the situation was 70 years ago, there are now two peoples established in the territory of the former mandatory Palestine, both with the normal human rights to self-determination, sovereignty and security.

Be it under one state or two, this has to happen eventually. But it’s not going to happen until the tide of hatred abates on both sides. Somehow or other, I don’t get the impression that you’re in favour of it abating. But, if I’m wrong about this, I most certainly apologise.

Oh, and one last thing: your notion that I’m discounting civilian deaths in Palestine, Iraq, Libya and Syria is totally without foundation. Nothing I’ve written should give you reason for making such an assertion.

Brewerstroupe said...

You (sort of) agree on the fallacy involved in the argument from analogy - then return to it. With respect to the Jews of Iraq, I am guided by Avi Shlaim , Iraqi-born British/Israeli historian. He is emeritus professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford. Here is his take:
“With few exceptions, however, these Jews left their native lands not as a result of officially sanctioned policies of persecution but because they felt threatened by the rising tide of Arab nationalism. Zionist agents actively encouraged the Jews to leave their ancestral homes because the fledgling State of Israel was desperately short of manpower. Iraq exemplified this trend. …....
We were not persecuted but opted to leave because we felt insecure. So, unlike the Palestinians who were driven out of their homes, we were not refugees in the proper sense of the word.
Naem Giladi, another Iraqi Jew (who had been imprisoned by Iraq for political activities) goes further:
“Jews from Islamic lands did not emigrate willingly to Israel; that, to force them to leave, Jews killed Jews; and that, to buy time to confiscate ever more Arab lands, Jews on numerous occasions rejected genuine peace initiatives from their Arab neighbors. I write about what the first prime minister of Israel called "cruel Zionism." I write about it because I was part of it.”
Yehouda Shenhav, an Israeli sociologist and critical theorist has written extensively on the subject. He is a founder of the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow Coalition, a social movement founded in 1996 by descendants of Jewish "refugees" from Arab countries. His conclusion: “Any analogy between Palestinian refugees and Jewish immigrants from Arab lands is folly in historical and political terms".

I agree that dismantling Israel is problematic even though it could theoretically be achieved with a fraction of the suffering imposed on the Palestinian people during its establishment. The point that emerges, perhaps unwittingly, from your apologetic however, is that in contrast to the colonial examples you cite, Israel is yet to acknowledge that an injustice occurred. Surely that step is the first requisite to stemming "the tide of hatred".

We are probably at odds as to what constitutes "Jihadi violence". Incidents of racially motivated violence occur in all societies. The incidents you cite such as attacks on synagogues and private individuals may or may not be politically motivated - they have been evidenced long before "Jihadi violence" became a popular term and might surely be retaliatory rather than racially motivated. Possibly in response to activities of settlers in the West Bank for example. The U.N. reports "From January to the end of August 2013, 277 settler-related incidents were recorded, including 69 incidents resulting in casualties, and 208 incidents resulting in property damage. During these incidents, 110 Palestinians (including 30 children) were injured by Israeli settlers, and 143 Palestinians (including 25 children) were injured by Israeli security forces. In addition, 7,714 trees were destroyed or damaged?' During the first six months of 2013, 7 incidents of attacks on schools and 11 incidents of denial of access to education were recorded, affecting 6,316 children. The report also states that "In numerous cases documented by Protection Cluster members, Israeli security forces have failed to protect Palestinians from acts of violence committed by Israeli settlers, even when these acts occur in their presence" - leaving us with the impression that these acts are State-sanctioned. By contrast, here is a partial list of Muslim organisations condemning what you term "Jihadi violence":

Victor said...


You obviously have a problem with my use of the term “Jihadi violence”. I chose it deliberately as the only alternative I could think of was “Islamist violence”, which might suggest (totally incorrectly) that I subscribe to the Islamophobic views now prevalent in much of the western world.

I agree that events of the sort I’ve been describing occurred in great number before the term became as current as at present. I don’t really see what that’s got to do with anything. If you’d prefer another nomenclature, feel free!

Nor have I suggested that these acts were “racially motivated”. But, clearly, if the victims of retaliation were chosen on “racial” grounds (as seems to be the case), the acts were de facto racist.

In any event, if it’s “retaliation”, it’s retaliation against ostensible innocents and wholly to be condemned, irrespective of the scale and undoubted horror of the events being “retaliated” against. Moreover, as pointed out in an earlier post, it’s something of a “home goal” for those seeking Israel’s dissolution, as it’s leading to an increase in the size of the state’s Jewish population, whilst also , of course, hardening attitudes.

Turning to other issues in your post, any argument by analogy with other settler societies is always going to be subject to a huge number of caveats. Even so, at some point you have to acknowledge that what is done is done and cannot be wholly undone, without piling injustice upon injustice and further elongating the conflict. The notion that Israel could be dismantled without huge violence and hugely violent repercussions is simply ludicrous.

That certainly doesn’t mean that the Palestinians should be forced to accept the status quo. There have to be other ways forward which meet the genuine needs of both parties, although I agree that it’s hard to see what these might be at this tragic juncture in History. And I would also agree that Israel’s failure officially to accept any responsibility for the Naqba is a stumbling block, as is the Likud-led government’s absurd insistence that the PLO recognize Israel as a specifically Jewish state as a precondition for further negotiations.

Finally, I’m well acquainted with Avi Shlaim’s work on Israeli foreign and military policy. I wasn’t aware of his statements on the Mizrachi exodus but would largely agree with his summary about the departure of Jews from most Arab countries in the late 1940s.

But I’m more than a little surprised that Shlaim uses this argument with respect to the land of his birth, as it seems in direct contradiction to the record of events (e.g. at one point Nuri al-Said threatened to dump Iraq’s Jews at the border if the Israelis didn’t speed up the migration process) and of what I’ve heard anecdotally from other Iraqi Jews, as well as from an Iraqi Armenian friend.

Could you please send me an exact citation so that I can check for caveats and context.

Brewerstroupe said...

Perhaps I have failed to elucidate.
The term is problematic as it, along with some others, gives what I believe to be a false impression - that the violence is primarily inspired by Islam. I believe this impression is fostered by (for want of a better term) "the War party" in order to maintain support for the horrors visited on the Middle East during the past half century or so.
When the War Party wants to make war for whatever reason, demonizing the foe is a proven technique. This sort of thing:
and this:
illustrates the level at which the "Jihadist violence" meme operates.

The violence we are witnessing is no different than that carried out by Jacobins, Sicarii, IRA, Tamils, Irgun - you name it. It is asymmetric warfare and attacks soft, often symbolic targets in response to real events. To characterise it as motivated by religious belief or race hatred is grossly misleading and counter-productive in that it stops dialogue and obscures the real causes of conflict.
So a Synagogue somewhere gets attacked. Does the man in the street link that attack to the betrayal of Arab States post WWII? The expulsion of a million Palestinians? The killing of civilians by drone? The attacks by Jewish extremists on mosques in Jerusalem and the West Bank?
No, it is those mad Jihadis and their rampant anti-Semitism. End of story, nothing to see here.

"it’s retaliation against ostensible innocents and wholly to be condemned"
In theory I agree but while millions of innocent lives are being destroyed by Western bombs and collective punishment is being meted out by Israel, its a hard case to make.

"Even so, at some point you have to acknowledge that what is done is done and cannot be wholly undone"
Rome wasn't built in a day but, as a mate of mine was wont to say, they started it in a day. For Israel to "acknowledge that what is done" would be a fine start.
At some point in the future the Palestinians will be compensated. The uptick in awareness since the advent of the internet is dramatic, hence the growth of BDS and many other initiatives. The price will never be cheaper:

Here's the link to Avi's piece:
...and Giladi:
I recommend exploring the mondoweiss site. There's good healthy debate among mostly Jewish academics, writers etc.

Nuri al-Said toyed with the idea of expelling Jews in 1949 as retaliation for the expulsion of Palestinians but was dissuaded by the British Ambassador. I don't think it was a serious threat, more a rush of blood to the head. Very good account here:

Unknown said...

Guerilla Surgeon said...

JH. Defending whites is just dog whistle for attacking non-white people on the whole. You find it on all those stupid neofascist websites. I think we can safely dismiss it as crap.
I think that one is the fallacy of composition?
No points.

jh said...

Guerilla surgeon:

Wilson is more interesting, but unfortunately for you I do happen to know a bit about nationalism. His ideas basically reduce human society to biology. A rather extreme position, but often found useful by neo-Nazis and other eugenic types.
Whereas you (the narcisist) will make people behave(against their biology). That's like denying homosexuality.
The importance of Nationalism (as described by EO Wilson) is it's feel-good and motivating factor. People share a common history, culture and territory and sense of ownership. So we have Dick Whittington, Rob Roy, Big Ben, Sir Frances Drake,, etc, etc. The narcissistic left however would divide the nation up so over here you have people whose heros are Quing, Zong4th, Xing3rd etc etc
There are advantages in homogenous societies such as greater spending on social welfare; in the opposite people say "why should I give to them.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Unknown – I don't think you quite understand the fallacy of composition. But still – I have never seen the words "defending whites" in any other context other than a neo-Nazi site. And it is well known what it means. So precious informal logic points granted, but in the real world a fail.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

JH, if you are going to talk about nationalism perhaps you could slog your way through 176303 – "making the nation." as I did. It's hard work, but worth it. Wilson's theories about feelgood factors and common history are largely negated by history. Italy for instance – common history but divided up for much of its history into small states. Forcibly reunited by a small nationalist group, but the government was by no means confident of the loyalty of all the people when they went to war in 1914. Biology may play a part, but not necessarily a large part. Nationalism is quite hard work. And it almost certainly needs media, starting with print but of course now TV and the Internet.
A common history may be necessary, but it is not sufficient.
We are in fact human beings, and can act against our biology if we so wish. Biology also is not as deterministic as you seem to think. Even Steven Pinker realises this.

Victor said...

'"it’s retaliation against ostensible innocents and wholly to be condemned"
In theory I agree but while millions of innocent lives are being destroyed by Western bombs and collective punishment is being meted out by Israel, its a hard case to make.'

No. It's a very easy case to make.

Brewerstroupe said...

You will be interested in former Irgun and Knesset member Uri Avnery's piece on this affair which concludes:

"After a crime, the first question is “cui bono”, who benefits? Obviously, the only winner from this outrage is Israel. But to draw the conclusion that Israel is hiding behind the Jihadists is utter nonsense.

The simple fact is that all Islamic Jihadism on European soil hurts only the Muslims. Fanatics of all stripes generally help their worst enemies. The three Muslim men who committed the outrages in Paris certainly did Binyamin Netanyahu a great favor."

... which supports your p.o.v.

This however:

"What we see now is the continuation of this war between Algerian Muslims and Jews on French soil. All the four “French” Jews killed in the attack had North African names and were buried in Israel."

....tends to support mine.


Victor said...


I'd already seen Avineri's piece and am in substantial agreement with him (which isn't unusual for me).

And, btw, I of course accept that what (rightly or wrongly) I've called Jihadi violence is caused by a variety of factors, including the heritage of colonialism.

A French specific may well be the lingering aftermath of the Algerian war as well as the not so subtle racism of French society. High youth unemployment and the desperation of life in the banlieues may also have something to do with it.

Similarly, a UK specific is the quite vile racial prejudice experienced by the first two generations of Punjabi and other Moslem immigrants.

Even more obviously, the conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel/Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Chechnya and both Chinese and former Soviet Central Asia have provoked understandable anger and a sense that Moslems are globally under siege. Whatever one's views of desirable outcomes, it's undeniable that the Palestinians' plight looms large in this mix of factors.

And I also think it's fair to say that the export of a fairly militant and literalist version of Islam from Saudi Arabia to other parts of the Islamic world and to Moslem communities in Europe and beyond (initially courtesy of Jimmy Carter and Zbig Brezhinsky)has helped fan the flames.

The question is what to do about it. And there, I think, we will need to agree to disagree.

Brewerstroupe said...

"A French specific may well be the lingering aftermath of the Algerian war"

....very much so in this case I suspect. The role of the Algerian Jews in the OAS caused great resentment - it is remarkable that so many of the victims of Hebdo and the Kosher store were of Algerian origin.
I don't think we are that far apart. I'm sure you will agree that Lao-Tzu had great insight into affairs of this nature:
"Man's enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself." - Lao Tzu

Victor said...

The "Algerian war' hangover theory would, however, cut more ice if there was also a preponderance of French Catholic "Pieds Noirs" amongst the victims. They, after all, were the main movers and shakers of the OAS.

Victor said...

'"Man's enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself." - Lao Tzu'

Of course! To co-opt a phrase of Nietzsche's: "Human, all too human!"