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Friday, December 21, 2007

Human sacrifice and weasel words

If you've read David Hirsh's impressive paper on Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism, you'll know all about the 'Livingstone formulation' (if you haven't, do). The exact wording of the formulation varies, but without ever straying very far from Ken's version: 'for far too long the accusation of antisemitism has been used against anyone who is critical of the policies of the Israeli government'.

Can anybody think up a name for the formulation exemplified over the past week or so by the following?

'None of the donors has disputed Israel's right to protect its people against suicide bombers and rocket attacks. It has every reason to point out how often those followed broken promises by Palestinian leaders. But'

'The bank acknowledges Israeli security concerns, but'

(both from here)

'The ICRC says it recognises Israel's right to take measures to defend itself.

(from here)

The first quote is actually untypical in the extent to which it calls a spade a spade. Whereas the second is absolutely typical - the bland bureaucratese of 'security concerns' ('legitimate security concerns' is another popular variant) smoothing the transition to the inevitable 'but', and minimizing any danger that the reader will be troubled by upsetting mental images of streets spattered with body parts.

Blockaded Gaza is run by people who are unashamedly at war with Israel. They're at war because they want to wipe it off the map. For want of anything more effective, they fight with home-made rockets which subject the population of Sderot to constant stress and anxiety, and now and again kill somebody. From their point of view this is better than nothing. Does anyone really need to be told what their number one reason for wanting the blockade relaxed is?

And as their groupies constantly remind us, they are the People's Choice. Hard to argue with when they can mobilize 20% of the population for a demo.

So Israel reacts with a blockade, and normal economic activity is throttled. It's an impasse from which, ultimately, only the extremists - Hamas and still worse - are likely to benefit.

How to break the impasse? There's a consensus, extending from Christian Aid via the World Bank and the International Committee of the Red Cross to Bronwen Maddox of the Times, that Israel must make a sacrifice. A human sacrifice.

There is, unfortunately, a serious case to be made that this course would really be in Israel's best long-term interests. If you want to make that case, fine. The situation is serious enough that every option needs to be examined. But your good faith will be more evident if you can make it without using weasel words.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Can anybody think up a name...?"

Christopher Hitchens already did, quite some time ago. He called it "throat clearing" and it would be hard to better that.

Paul M.

Oh—and a very Merry Christmas to you, the missus and little Grumpy.