December 15, 2012

Academics for Israel Part 1 - Martin Robb

I've tried commenting on a few zionist blogs lately but with no success at all so I decided that rather than waste my comments, which after all do take a bit of work, checking, etc, I'd post them here in a series of posts on Israel advocating academics.

The Bob from Brockley blog is quite a useful one-stop shop for Israel advocacy sites and I'm fairly certain that's where I found the blog of an academic called Martin Robb.  The blog is called Martin in the Margins.  I don't know what the "in the margins" bit is a reference to because, in common with most Israel advocates, the blog is pretty much an appendage to the pro-Israel mainstream media.  A sure way of knowing that a blogger is an Israel advocate and probably (though not always) a supporter of western wars abroad is when they get profiled by former leftist, Norman Geras in Normblog.

I tried commenting at Martin in the Margins recently on a post condemning the condemnation of Israel's latest assault on Gaza back in November.  The condemnation which Martin Robb was condemning was from a bunch of academics and published in the Irish Left Review.  My comment was disallowed and yet I have commented there before and the comment was allowed. I can't remember what the allowed comment was but I think it was in the clear realm of opinion rather than fact.  If you express and opinion a blogger can simply counter-opine with no loss of integrity or honour. If we're countering facts then at least one person's facts are falsehoods, ie, not facts at all.

So what did the academics against Israel say which so troubled this academic for Israel?  And what did he say back?
We the undersigned watch with horror yet another ruthless and criminal Israeli assault on the defenceless people of the Gaza Strip.

You would never know from this that Israel’s ‘assault’ came after a week in which hundreds of rockets were launched indiscriminately from Gaza towards residential areas in Israel. Surely, if anything was ‘ruthless’ or ‘criminal’, it was this series of unprovoked terrorist attacks on innocent civilians. This lack of informing context is, to say the least, surprising from a list comprising so many expert social scientists. And in what way was Israel’s response, carefully targeting terrorist leaders, arms dumps, communication centres, and going out of its way to avoid civilian casualties, ‘criminal’: do states not have a right to protect their people against terrorist attack? ‘Ruthless’ and ‘criminal’ might better describe Hamas’ strategy of siting their military hardware among civilians, using their own people cruelly and cynically as human shields. And ‘defenceless’? What about all that firepower aimed at Israel in the past few weeks, including sophisticated weaponry supplied by Hamas’ paymasters in Tehran? 

Moving on:

The assassination of the Hamas’ military commander, Ahmad al-Jabari, by Israel was intended to disrupt any chance for a permanent cease fire between the two sides and caused the current cycle of violence.

This is quite breathtaking. Remember: before Israel targeted al-Jabiri, there was no two-sided conflict requiring a 'ceasefire', just a one-sided campaign by Hamas and its proxies.
I quoted a little chunk and made my own points thus:
just a one-sided campaign by Hamas and its proxies?
From the start of the new year, one Israeli had been killed as a result of the Gazan attacks, while 78 Gazans had been killed by Israeli strikes. You might want to check that Martin but I think you know it's accurate without checking.
using their own people cruelly and cynically as human shields.
Your own source exposes the fallacy of this statement.
His source was Examiner.com whose headline supported Martin's bogus thesis but whose article did not:

"On Sunday, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) hit a high-rise building occupied by several European media outlets, but the actual target of the missile strike were the offices of Al Aqsa, the television station of Hamas, as well as those of Al Quds, a Lebanese-based broadcaster, sympathetic to the Muslim terror group."

"Well, where my bureau is, there are residential accommodation around, and there are rockets going off — I think the thing about Gaza, to be honest with you is, it’s an incredibly small place and there’s a lot of people in it. So pretty much everywhere in Gaza is a residential area unless you’re going right up to the kind of "no man’s land" area between Israel and where Gaza kind of properly starts. So there certainly are things being fired off from residential areas but it’s almost, probably, impossible to get entirely away from a residential area if you want to fire something off."

Martin was effectively saying that Palestinians have no right to any kind of resistance, certainly not armed but not even broadcasting.

He then gets into some basic and crude zionist apologetics in response to this:
We call upon our governments, which have stood aloof and indifferent, in the face of Palestine’s  dispossession and colonization since 1948 to take immediate and effective action. No other people in the world has been subjected, for more than sixty years, to such relentless acts of collective punishment and military brutality as have the Palestinian people.
Martin loses it at this point:
‘Dispossession and colonization’ – these are not the words of people seeking a two-state solution, one in which Israelis and Palestinians live peacefully side-by-side in two legitimate nations. No, this is precisely the language of rejectionists who deny the legitimacy of the Jewish state, who seek to deny the Jewish people, alone in the world, a right to a homeland of their own. 
Actually acknowledging that Israel has done nasty things to establish itself with a Jewish majority does not negate that the idea Israel can continue to exist though many, including me, think that it shouldn't exist.  But Martin clearly thinks that the truth is an enemy of Israel and he's probably right. Anyway, here are chunks of him and my responses:
‘Dispossession and colonization’ – these are not the words of people seeking a two-state solution
But they're true whichever solution is sought.
this is precisely the language of rejectionists who deny the legitimacy of the Jewish state, who seek to deny the Jewish people, alone in the world, a right to a homeland of their own.
This is meaningless. Most Jews have "a homeland of their own" outside of Israel and the occupied territories. If you mean Jews as a collective identity group then you need to consider the many identity groups - Sikhs, Roma, Sinti and many many more - who are not the titular community of a "homeland of their own".

Actually, under a combination of international law and Israel's racist Law of Return, Jews as individuals are different from the rest of humanity in that we generally have an automatic right not to a homeland but to a spare homeland and, of course, because we have a spare homeland the Palestinians have no homeland.  So whether you look at Jews as individuals or collectively, Martin is talking tosh.

There was other stuff in the post. Apparently the Jerusalem Post rushed in where others feared to tread when it pointed out that Palestinians had been killed by the Assad regime in Syria.  Here's Martin:
I don't recall seeing any letters to the left-wing press protesting this particular massacre of Palestinians. 
Well you can't know what people have written to the press because they don't publish all that they receive but I'm guessing Martin doesn't read the Socialist Worker which reported on the Assad regime's repression, including killing, of Palestinians back in March this year.  The Jerusalem Post saw a hole in the market for such news in September and it took Martin two months to notice that.

But it's on the issue of collective punishment that Martin gets totally weird.  See this:
 it’s a downright, ugly lie. Even if Israel’s admittedly imperfect treatment of the Palestinians could be accurately described using terms such as 'collective punishment' and military brutality' (terms with, one suspects, deliberate and offensive overtones of Nazism and fascism - and by the way, did you see the actual collective punishment meted out by Hamas to suspected collaborators this week? - there's real fascism for you) - how can any sensible person say this is worse than (say) the treatment of the Kurds and Marsh Arabs by Saddam, or the Tibetans by the Chinese, or the East Timorese by the Indonesians? The list could go on indefinitely, and the more examples are adduced, the more absurd and offensive this letter's claim becomes. To accept that Israel's treatment of Palestinians could be compared to these brutal, genocidal campaigns would be to acknowledge that words have lost their meaning - again, surprising for a group of academics whose writings are often concerned with the precise nuances of language.
Wow! I always admit to skim-reading and so I missed that load of nonsense first time I read the piece. Israel is taking actions in Gaza which are calculated to hurt the whole population. Even the zionist Judge Goldstone said so in statements which he didn't retract. Many observers have noticed this and Israel has admitted as much.  Remember "putting the Palestinians on a diet"? Remember Sharon on the disengagement being a "punishment and not a reward" for the Palestinians? No one is saying that it's worse than the treatment of other people who have suffered collective punishment and no one likened the practice to nazi behaviour but if the cap fits etc....

And how does Hamas killing individuals accused of collaboration amount to collective punishment? And he lectures others on the "precise nuances of language". He got five comments praising his ludicrous post and he won't even allow one counter-comment.

This is a typical case of an academic for Israel. Funnily enough in his Normblog profile he claims to have once upon a time been a supporter of the Palestinian cause.  A lot of rightists claim to have been leftists when they were young. I wonder what happens to them along the way.

UPDATE 18/12/2012: My comment has now been allowed through...twice.

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