We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Beneath politics

Where do political ideas end and terrorist acts begin? Is every destructive behaviour in the name of any political ideology just dandy, fine and justified, or are some societies distinguishable from others precisely because they employ civilised means of political expression and government (voting, debate, free speech) as opposed to ruling and arguing by violent threat and patently, deliberately, terrorising violence?

Call me a pro-life extremist but in my view, organisations cease to be mere political debating circles as soon as they reject real opportunities for reasonable discussion in favour of blowing people’s heads off.

The United Nations does not agree. Peter Hansen, the UN relief agency chief in Gaza, says:

Hamas as a political organisation does not mean that every member is a militant and we do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another.

Israel begs to differ:

Israel’s ambassador to the UN criticised Mr Hansen’s comments. “The very idea that individuals with clear links to the Hamas terrorist network may be on the Unwra payroll is totally unacceptable and should be properly investigated,” Dan Gillerman said.

Now, I may be wrong about this, but I was under the vague impression that Hamas had actually committed acts of violence that represent a widening of the ‘political’ arena beyond reasonable limits, into, for example, murdering innocent people to further their aim of destroying Israel. Little clues like Hamas’ own words seemed to point that way:

Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it

If I was an Israeli, and Hamas was trying to obliterate me, and the UN was employing members of Hamas and their method of guaranteeing that they would not abuse their privileges in order to further their cause was this…

We demand of our staff, whatever their political persuasion is, that they behave in accordance with UN standards and norms for neutrality

… I would not be feeling particularly secure. I might even be inclined to think that Hamas/UN members were even capable of using ambulances to transport rockets instead of just sick people.

On the other hand, maybe I just missed the part of the Hamas declaration that says,

Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, but of course we will behave in an entirely neutral fashion should we happen to lay our hands on any United Nations marked ambulances.

Both Hamas and the UN think they are above politics. One rejects it by engaging in terrorism, the other sniffily ‘demands’ neutrality and rejects ‘political vetting’. Meanwhile, the people who actually govern countries, trying to maintain citizens’ very basic freedom not to have their children blown to pieces, are obliged to deal with both. Perhaps one day they will no longer need to lower themselves so far.

(hat tip for both links and story: Not a Fish)

22 comments to Beneath politics

  • Is it time to declare literal war on the UN yet?

  • Julian Morrison

    “Where do political ideas end and terrorist acts begin? […] as soon as they reject real opportunities for reasonable discussion in favour of blowing people’s heads off”

    If you’re going to put it in such plain terms, then I disagree.

    1) Blowing up who? An atack on an agressor is not morally equivalent to an attack on an innocent third party.

    2) To what end? An evil motive (communism, theocracy, etc) is not morally equivalent to a good one (eg: deposing a tyrant).

    3) Is this discussion negotiation, or hot air? Are the offers intended to be acceptable, or are they deliberately unacceptable? Worse, is it a tactical ceasefire? See how this applies in reverse – terrorists are prone to making peace overtures when they’re losing, in the hopes of a bit of respite and a chance to shuffle their deployments.

    In other words, sometimes the enemy wants to talk, and you want to shoot, and that’s reasonable.

    Consider Saddam, for example…

  • Julian,

    Right. I had those points in mind when I referred to real opportunities for reasonable discussion. Tyrants full of hot air with evil motives don’t offer that, and nor do terrorists seeking to destroy Israel.

  • Sandy P

    & sometimes the enemy has had 12 years to talk, just look at Saddam.

    And NorK’s 50.

  • Sandy P

    And Islam’s 1000……….

  • GCooper

    The repellent Eddie Mair (another bloody Scottish Marxist BBC hack) on Radio 4’s PM this evening insistently described Hamas as a “political” organisation, feigning surprise when the Israeli Defence spokesman he was interrogating (I’m sorry, I think I meant to type “interviewing”) accurately described it as a terrorist organisation.

    The relentlessly pro-UN/Palestinian interview was one of the more disgraceful recent examples of BBC bias.

  • veryretired

    The UN is one of those great ideas that just never seemed to work out the way it should have. Instead of becoming a “liberalizing” force, and forum for peaceful nations to work out their problems, it has been, and is, a massively corrupt cover machine for every conceivable flavor of tyrant to milk legitimacy from, to the detriment of the poorest of the poor, and facilitating the repression of the weakest and most vulnerable.

    Allen Drury wrote a series of books several decades ago, starting with “Advise and Consent” and continuing for three or four more, which ridiculed the UN, and the hypocritical mindset that allowed it to become the opposite of everything it was suposed to be. ( For those who thought the animosity of the world towaeds the US was something new, it is an integral part of these novels written between the 1950’s and 1970’s).

    I don’t have any handy little solutions for the problem. The mythology of the UN as a “meaningful” organization is so deeply embedded in the conventional wisdom that, like social security, any attempt to reform it or withdraw from it is met with instant howls of outrage from those who want so desparately for it to be something worth while.

    I keep hoping the UNscam for oil will cause enough disgust to bring about some resolution, but most people don’t even know about the massive corruption being revealed ever so slowly and grudgingly by the investigations.

    Hamas is just a small element of the extensive misuse of the UN by those whose agenda have nothing to do with the betterment of humanity.

  • The U.N. is an organization of and for rulers of countries. It’s never represented people. When countries with democratically elected leaders dominated the organization (for about its first fifteen minutes of existence) it had promise.

    Obviously the majority of the world’s ruling elites want the U.N. to think of Hamas as a political, humanitarian organization. If they instead preferred the U.N. to think of Hamas as composed of aardvarks, it would accommodate. If I were a Hamas terrorist who wanted to postpone my martyrdom as long as possible, a U.N. ambulance would be my preferred missile transport vehicle. I’d especially like it if my Hamas buddies who worked for the U.N. could procure one for me on a regular basis.

  • “The UN is one of those great ideas that just never seemed to work out the way it should have.” Much like communism:-)

    To paraphrase Clausewitz, terrorism is just politics by other means. Hamas is a political organization, just like the Third Reich was a political entity. The question whether Hamas is a political organization is beside the point for people like Hansen, who ally themselves with those bent on destruction of a nation. It should be beside the point for the rest of us as well.

  • alvin_day

    Your 1st paragraph is very apt. Its odd how very few people notice.

    Regarding Hamas is a “political organisation” rather than a terrorist one. Its clear that most terrorist organisations have (or had) poitical goals. Be it Hamas or Al-Qaeda, the IRA or ETA. One can discuss Hamas’ political objectives as stated in their manifesto (essentially consisting of the destruction of Israel and the killing of every Israeli). Being political cannot discharge from the vital point that they’re terrorist! The question isn’t whether they’re a registered party somewhere. Al-Qaeda has some popular support in various places. In the Palestinian Authority, in Pakistan and in Afghanistan (to name just a few). If they opened up an official party, would they be able to continue their terrorist attacks but would only be described as a “political party! Not a terrorist organisation” by Radio 4? And if they wouldn’t be allowed to register as a party, would Radio 4 assert they’re a “supressed political organisation but NOT a terrorist organisation”?

    As for Hansen. since his interview, he’s trying to backpeddle, and begins saying “Hamas sympathisers” rather than “Hamas members” (as he originally said). It’s really a little late for this hypocritical reversal. We heard him loud and clear.

    Anyway, if he now wishes to pretend it’s only Hamas “sympathisers” he doesn’t mind employing, then I really can’t wait to see which actions he’ll take to avoid hiring actual members of Hamas.

    Someone tried to let him off the hook by saying “It is likely the consequences of sampling a Palestinian population containong a large proportion of Hamas supporters”

    According to that excuse, the UN could happily employ Al-Qaeda members in Pakistan and Afghanistan while explaining that they don’t think it is a problem.

    IF the UN were to employ Al-Qaeda members to teach Muslim children in schools set up and run by the UN? Could the UN then express surprise at the news that these teachers, actually teach Muslims to become terrorists? Could the UN express surprise at the thought that these Al-Qaeda members they employ actually construct bombs in the UN agency’s buildings?

    However, countries like America are principal financers of UNRWA. They CANNOT allow their money to finance members of terrorist groups! It’s even more outrageous when you consider these countries (perhaps unlike Hansen) actually admit that Hamas is a terrorist organisation.

    The sad thing is, that the Hamas gains popular support by providing help to the general Palestinian population (while murdering the Israeli population). UNRWA could show the Palestinians that they do not need to rely on the Hamas to be helped. Instead, UNRWA helps to perpetuate the notion that it’s the Hamas which assists the population. This also signals the Palestinian population that the world community and the UN see Hamas as legitimate (which Hansen probably does).

  • The UN is a holdover from the Cold War and should have been disbanded when the Soviet Union broke up. Even during the Cold War, it was relentlessly anti-American. Its supporters boasted that the UN provided the only neutral negotiating arena to keep the great powers from blowing each other up. In reality, it never prevented any war and never kept any peace. When will our political system produce a leader courageous enough to order these thieves, thugs and murderers out of New York City?

  • Julian:

    Personally I try to avoid getting into questions of motivation and the like. I prefer simple absolutism. Killing people is wrong, whether carried out by Hamas or the IDF. Once you start “justifying”, you are going down a very slippery slope indeed.

  • Or perhaps I should say “killing people is a crime, whether carried out by Hamas or the IDF”. Less room for argument, that way.

  • lucklucky

    That´s a shame Julius cant you understand the diference between a policy and unfortunate accidents?Hamas targets jews whether they are civilian or not. Israel target thugs and terrorists that use civilian cloths and use civilians like human shields.
    All Hamas thugs must be presented in a world court for extensively violating the Genebra Convention.
    Another prove that UN is a corrupt organisation.
    That fact that this didnt made the headlines is another prove that MSM is in bed with them.

  • thoughts on israel-palestine

    to me, the settlers in the west bank do resemble colonial elites as in 50s and 60s Kenya, Zimbabwe and S Africa. they live in prosperity in the midst of the large mass of poor people of whom they have taken land from.

    however, this doesn’t justify hamas murdering them……………………and it doesn’t justify some of the silly anti-israel statements some on the left come out with………..more about that in my nxt post………

  • VS

    I mentioned in my last post that the whole qn of Israel-Palestine is an odd one.

    I don’t understand why so many on the right are pro-Israel as the country has one of the largest state sectors in the non-communist world and the largest non-state employer is Histadrut (their equivalent of the TUC). The Israeli Labour party was also the dominent party in gov’t for the first 30 yrs of the country’s history.

    As someone who considers himself left-of-centre, it concerns me evenmore that too much of the left has got into bed with extreme muslims and arab-nationalists on this qn. despite the poor treatment of palestinians in the occ territories, Israel is (generally) a democratic and secular state – unlike its neighbours.

  • Lucklucky:

    Plainly both sides are guilty of crimes and other wrongs. Comparisons are odious since somebody else’s crime does not justify your own. If Israel wants to claim the high moral ground, it is not enough to point to the (undoubtedly heinous) crimes committed by suicide bombers and the like. Israelis must acknowledge the wrongs committed against the palestinian arabs and try to do something to make up. Until that happens, there is liittle hope for peace.

  • Julius, Israel did try it’s best to do something to make up by engaging in the Oslo process, which culminated in Barak’s final offer in 2000. The Palestinians rejected it. It seems that they’d rather Israelis paid for these wrongs (whether real or imaginary) with their lives and the lives of their children. I’m afraid that this is not the kind of deal that Israelis are ready to accept.

  • VS, are you suggesting that conservatives should be siding with those bent on a destruction of an entire nation just because this nation’s economy structure is different from their ideal at home?

  • VS

    Alisa, as someone who would not consider himself as someone on the Right, its not for me to say what conservatives should or shouldn’t think. My interest in the (odd) political alignments on the Israel/Palestine comes from being a leftie who disgarees with the _increasing_ anti-israel nonsense coming from the left (esp the SWP but also a lot of the Labour Party). I agree that a country’s right to self-determination doesn’t depend on what its internal economic policies are.

    However, it is interesting that Israel itself has chosen a quite dirigist form of economic management. In many ways it is more _effecrtively_ dirigiste than the Arab countries are. From what i know (which i admit is not much) about the Arab countries’ economies, although they have quite a large state sector and a regulated private sector, they are also (because they are so much poorer) dominated by agriculture [a sector that is more or less independent of the state]. The state is not able to practically regulate matters even in the advanced sector of the economies there because of administraive inefficiency, corruption and the sheer size of the underground economy. In contrast, Israel is (overwhelmingly) urban and so the state is able to regulate far more of the economy and to do it effectively thanks to a relatively non-corrupt and modern bureaucracy.

    You could argue that American loans and aid to Israel, of which i think right-wing politicians are keener on in the US than left-wing ones are, in some ways helping to support the way the economy currently runs (as it is easier to give aid to the state than to private enterprises in israel).

  • VS, my point was for you to try and understand the conservatives who support Israel not as a political/ideological group, but as regular decent human beings. When you consider the matter from this angle, what suddenly seems strange is how much many on the Left are blinded by their politics/ideology.

    Most of your assertions about Israel’s economy are true historically, and I am not going to go into that history’s origins here. Most of these assertions, however, are only partially true today, and an ever growing number of them are, I am happy to report, are increasingly becoming untrue. Again, this is not the place to go into details, but Israel is by no means what it was even 14 years ago (that is when I left it for the US, returning only a year ago). There is still a long way to go, of course, but this is true even for the US, isn’t it:-)

    A couple of quick notes nonetheless: during it’s “Socialist” period Israel was very much agrarian, although very quickly it so much advanced it’s agriculture through scientific research an innovation, that I guess the term “agrarian” could no longer apply to it in its traditional implication. Also, I am not sure that the agriciultural sector does not yeld to regulation by the state. As someone who is familiar with the history and the reality of life in the Soviet Union, I can tell you that it does just like any other sector, with results just as disastrous.

  • Jim Hash


    Call me a pro-life extremist but in my view, organisations cease to be mere political debating circles as soon as they reject real opportunities for reasonable discussion in favour of blowing people’s heads off

    That’s just priceless! Forgive me, but without your permission, I have forwarded this quote to several of my friends. I’m ready to marry you whenever you want.