all my friends "On The Blanket",
a happy, peaceful (maybe) and progressive New Year.
In a certain Sunday newspaper from last weekend (December
29th) that I dare not mention there is a telling photograph
which Mr Brian Kelly should check out. It depicts
three bare breasted lesbians marching along a street
in Tel Aviv. The picture was taken during the only
gay pride march to take place in the Middle East last
year. Emblazoned in Hebrew across the Israeli's lesbians'
nipples are slogans denouncing the Israeli Defence
Forces' occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. When
I saw this image, I wondered what would happen if
women across the Arab dictatorships and the wider
Islamic world attempted something similar. The answer
of course is obvious: at the very least they would
be jailed; at worst and more likely they would be
killed. In Israel at least there is an opposition
to the policies of the present government. Human rights
organisations such as B'tselem and Peace Now stand
up against the brutalities of Occupation. Intellectuals
from Amos Oz to David Grossman challenge the national
consensus and call for a Palestinian State on the
West Bank and Gaza. Where are their equivalents in
the Arab and Islamic world calling for recognition
of the State of Israel (pre 1967 border) or toleration
of the Jewish people? Any that do are either dead
or in exile.
I mention this startling picture because it seems
to me that Mr Kelly's denunciation/presentation of
my article in The Observer
recently was not only deliberately misleading but
the epitome of the muddled thinking that afflicts
the Irish ultra left regarding international issues.
For the record once again, my Obs column was
not an apologia for Ariel Sharon and his cronies.
Unlike Mr Kelly I have long standing experience of
working in the Middle East, particularly Lebanon where
I spent ten years on and off reporting on Israel's
occupation. Having been on the receiving end of Israeli
firepower and having witnessed at first hand their
heavy handed, often at times gratuitous, use of military
superiority in the region, I can well appreciate the
outrage generated by what the IDF gets up to on the
West Bank and Gaza. However to make ludicrous, ahistorical
and frankly deeply insulting analogies to the Warsaw
Ghetto is an act of total intellectual dishonesty.
When I read Mr Kelly's tirade I was reminded of the
sheep in Animal Farm, who bleat out "Four legs
good, two legs bad." Those in the so-called "anti-imperialist
left" have a rather simplistic two-dimensional
approach to complex problems in the world, but particularly
the Arab-Israeli conflict. "Palestinians good,
Israelis bad" they bleat with no appreciation
of the venality, stupidity and downright "anti-semitism"
(call it anti-Jewish bigotry if you want) that is
prevalent throughout the Palestinian Authority.
What Mr Kelly did not tell you was that the Irish
ultra in conjunction with their counterparts in Britain
and most of Europe do not recognise Israel's right
to exist under any form, pre or post 1967 - a year
by the way in which four Arab armies unilaterally
attacked the Jewish state with the aim of wiping it
off the face of the earth. Anyone who has studied
or reported on the conflict knows there is only one
solution: two states. Alternatives such as the old
canard advocated by Isaac Deutscher in the 1960s of
a Socialist Middle are as chimerical as a mirage in
the Negev desert.
Moreover, what the left has failed to confront, due
in large to the guilt of post-colonialism, is the
fundamental fascistic nature of extreme Islamism,
a growing phenomena not only in the Occupied Territories
but also throughout the Arab and Muslim world. It
is an ideology that denies women, gay men and lesbians
basic human rights. It preaches hate crime against
other religions notably the Jews. It rejects the Enlightenment.
It threatens the freedom of the individual. It stifles
intellectual curiousity and discourse. Of course there
are fanatics and bigots at the edges of the Jewish
community in Israel, particularly on the settlements.
Amos Oz had the courage after the murderer Baruch
Goldstein slaughtered scores of Muslim worshippers
in Hebron to denounce this tendency as "Hisbollah
in a skullcap." Why does the left-allies of the
PA remain silent over the overt anti-semitism and
eliminationist tendencies of the Islamists?
Yours sincerely, Henry McDonald, Ireland Editor, The
PS. The views expressed above are those of myself
Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews +
Letters + Archives