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Saturday, September 04, 2010

The lie that keeps creeping into the mainstream: now Israel is accused of genocide in the Big Issue

'During the trial Osmond cited cited the words of Rachel Corrie - the US activist who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Rafah in 2003 - as inspiration, specifically her diary entry: "I'm witnessing this chronic, insidious genocide and I'm really scared, this has to stop. I think it's it's a good idea for all of us to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop."' (the emphasis is mine; for the trial in question see this and - deserving a companion post in its own right - this)

Let's keep this simple. First point: Corrie's words are simply untrue - still as untrue now as when she wrote them. Untrue by any definition of the word "genocide" that does not reduce it to a Zimbabwean dollar of political discourse, that does not leave us needing a new word to describe the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

Second point: it is no small matter to make a false allegation of genocide specifically against a state founded as a home for a people who have suffered the real thing. "Offensive" is a grossly overused word which I do not resort to lightly, but if ever there was a case to which it was appropriate, this is it.

Third point: the quote is from an article in The Big Issue (July 26 - August 1 2010, p. 25).

There is nothing in the article that questions the truth of Corrie's allegation. On the contrary, the passage quoted is immediately followed by allegations of war crimes committed against civilians by Israeli forces in Gaza. And let us be absolutely clear about this: I am not denying that any war crimes were committed in Gaza, but even if it were true that the Israelis had deliberately attacked a hospital and UN compounds, "genocide" is not a synonym for "war crimes".

The article is also notable for containing not the slightest hint that anyone other than Israel and its allies bears any responsibility either for the fighting in Gaza or for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a whole. The only points at which it provides anything remotely resembling balance are where it concedes that there is actually no proof that the arms firm EDO MBM supplies Israel at all, let alone supplying kit for use in war crimes. I suspect we have the magazine's lawyers to thank for this.

None of this is surprising given that one of the co-authors is Richard Purssell. He is a long-standing member of the International Solidarity Movement, the group to which Rachel Corrie belonged. In fact, he was with her when she died. I know this because I have googled him, not because The Big Issue told me. Evidently the reader was not meant to think that the article was partisan. The other co-author is a journalism lecturer and evidently knows a trick or two.

Let there be no misunderstanding: whilst I think that diary entry paints Rachel Corrie in a very unattractive light, and I see no reason to doubt that the primary cause of her death was her own foolhardiness, her death was untimely, unmerited and tragic. However, it doesn't make her use of the "g" word any whit more justifiable. Or rather, it shouldn't do - but it's always fascinating to see how religious patterns of thought persist among the theoretically most secular-minded of people. Corrie, we are to understand, speaks from beyond the grave with the moral authority of the martyr (as the early Church knew, the best martyrs are young and female).

A good gauge of how justifiable the charge of genocide is the fact that even the ISM don't - at least officially - make that accusation. They prefer the still highly contestable but comparatively speaking reasonable charge that Israel has created an apartheid system.

So have they written to the Big Issue dissociating themselves from Corrie's claim? Are they moving to expel Richard Purssell? If they have, it will give me great pleasure to withdraw what follows. But I'm not expecting anything of the sort before the inauguration of porcine aviation.

If you hold an extreme and irrational belief which you would like to insert into the mainstream of political discourse, what is the best way of going about it? Guerrila tactics are likely to serve you better than conventional ones. Don't issue a manifesto and get imbroiled in arguments in which the weakness of your case will be exposed. No, let Rachel the martyr state your case for you, for nobody can start an argument with a martyr. Dress up your propaganda as an objective news feature, and get it published in a magazine sold by homeless people. For who will want to hear that the Big Issue is not on the side of the angels?

The lie is worthy of Der Stürmer (for, huff and puff as you may, it is a lie specifically about Jews). But was Der Stürmer ever half as a slick?

As for the Big Issue, I would hope they could be induced to feel ashamed of themselves. My fear, though, is that we have already passed beyond that point.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well put.