Friday, February 13, 2009

Better debates on Israel

The philosophical society in Trinity College Dublin hosted on Wednesday night its second debate in a week on the situation in the holy land. I was not there this time unfortunately because I was busy in Croke Park watching Robbie Keane making Rafa Benetiz look like a complete clown. The motion was that This house believes that Israeli actions in Palestine are justified. Speaking against the motion was Dan Boyle, TD for the Greens and Harry Brown the American born journalist who writes for Vincent Brown's The Village magazine. In favor of the motion was My buddy Tom Carew of the Ireland Israel friendship league (this guy just loves to be hated) and interestingly Professor Steven Weinberg, the Jewish American Nobel Prize winning physicist.

Dr Steven Weinberg, defended Israel at The Phil

From what I can gather from reports in the paper and chatting to a few people in attendance the debate followed the similar pattern that I constantly moan about where one side accuses Israel of war crimes and of being the modern day Black n Tans and the other side hurl claims of anti semitism, yawn yawn fucking yawn. However Dr Weinberg's contribution did appear to add something of an edge to the debate which makes me think I should have gone to Trinity instead of croker. Weinberg, by no means a fanatic seems to believe that Israel is on the front line of a wider struggle between Western democratic values and the Eastern Islamic tradition. He makes the very logical point which I must say I agree with, which is that if anybody out there thinks that if Israel ended its occupation completely or indeed ceased to even exist that Arab hatred of western liberal values would end there and then, then they are dreaming. The attacks in London, Madrid, New York, Washington, Bali, Mubai, Beslan, and Darfur were all unrelated to Israel as far as Weinberg is concerned. They were all attacks by Islamic fascists aimed at liberal western targets.

Meanwhile Wednesday also produced a fascinating clash during a joint committee on foreign affairs meeting in Leinster house. Fine Gael TD Alan Shatter came face to face with Professor Ilan Pappe of the University of Exeter in what was a classic battle between two Jews, both of whom view Israel in a completely different light. Now I definitely would have given up Robbie Keanes double strike for this. Professor Pappe was born in Israel but at some stage during his life he turned his back on Zionism. Today he is a revisionist historian who rejects the Israeli version of events surrounding the creation of the Jewish state which he claims was founded at he expense of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians that were violently expelled from their homes. Naturally this interpretation of events has not gone down well with his conservative fellow Jews who view him as a sort of Quisling figure. Alan Shatter as all Gubu World readers will know is Ireland's only Jewish TD and a stong supporter of Israel.

Professor Ilan Pappe, above, argued with Alan Shatter in Leinster House

These type of confrontations occur regulary in America where right and left wing Jews are constantly at each others throats each claiming that the other's politics is less Jewish. But in Ireland such a polictical and academic collision is rare. In Israel and America Professor Pappe would be known as a self hating Jew, somone who is embarrassed at their heritage. I do not believe that Shatter used the term in this instance but no doubt he thinks it. It did however get nicely heated by all accounts. Professor Pappe claimed that Israel had a "genocidal" plan for Hamas and Hezbollah and that the people of Gaza were confined to a prison camp similar to a bantustan in apartheid South Africa. Shatter responded by accusing Prof Pappe of "putting forward historical inaccuracies and exaggerated statistics in an effort to fit the past into an ideological perspective". This was no doubt a dig at Pappe's famous book The ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

I am going to try to download this debate and put it up here because I have no doubt it will provide a definite insight into the Jewish mindset when it comes to Israel. My early thoughts about this episode are as follows. There are so many people throughout the world, anti semites who like to blame just about everything on the Jews and the Jewish agenda who do not realise and probably do not want to, that Jews are the same as every other race in the following respect. They argue among themselves. There are right wing Jews, left wing Jews, religious and secular Jews. There are hippy Jews, there are sporty Jews, there are greedy Jews and there are generous Jews. There is no collective Jewish agenda. Those who think there is are looking for some sort of scapegoat for the worlds problems. In any case I must say I am pleased at how these two events on Wednesday were a stark departure from the usual lazy minded ramblings and hope it is the beginning of a new era of quality debate in this country when it comes to Israel and Palestine. Ah well, I'm done, rant over.


Anonymous said...

i, as a member of the public i attended the debate addressed by professor wineberger. I, not understanding the ritual involved in these debates was rudely ejected from the meeting. i had to endure one speaker mention what she termed as adisproportionate response. i insisted she define what she would call a proprtionate response. without permission to speak. And then another speaker ranted on about how he knew prominant jews who disagree with israeli policy. i told him that there are 15,000,000 jews in the world and you found two who agreed with what! i'm a jew and i
agree with israeli policy. The security man then showed me to the door, to the derisive laughter of the students.

Ted Leddy said...

I know how you feel. The rituals in these debates can be irritating and hard to follow. They shouldn't have thrown you out and let me assure you that you can say whatever you want here any time and I wont throw you out. You made two good points about proportionality and Jews supporting Israel. I would be interested to know how the speakers would have responded. Thanks for the comment and feel free to drop by any time.