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Keeping colleagues out of the frame

I am suspicious of almost all political state apparati. But I make an exception for the State of Israel. My attitude towards the State of Israel is one of unconditional positive regard. Their fight is my fight, and they are actually fighting it. Whenever I hear that Israel has done something bad, I assume that (a) if it was bad they definitely had some very good reasons for doing it, but that (b) it almost certainly wasn’t that bad, and that whoever is telling me that it was that bad is deceiving me, either because he is himself deceived or because he is a malevolent fool.

This article, by Matti Friedman, explains some of the many reasons why I think and feel as I do about Israel. The article focuses in on, so to speak, a subject that has been very dear to my heart for the last decade and more, which is the vital role in the modern world played by photography, professional and amateur, and especially in its digital and hence instantaneously communicable form. Friedman includes a very telling photograph in his article, of a sort you don’t usually see, of a rally in Jerusalem in support of Islamic Jihad. Does the camera ever lie? It certainly squirts out a stream of lies by omission.

Says Friedman:

Hamas is aided in its manipulation of the media by the old reportorial belief, a kind of reflex, according to which reporters shouldn’t mention the existence of reporters. In a conflict like ours, this ends up requiring considerable exertions: So many photographers cover protests in Israel and the Palestinian territories, for example, that one of the challenges for anyone taking pictures is keeping colleagues out of the frame. That the other photographers are as important to the story as Palestinian protesters or Israeli soldiers – this does not seem to be considered.

In Gaza, this goes from being a curious detail of press psychology to a major deficiency. Hamas’s strategy is to provoke a response from Israel by attacking from behind the cover of Palestinian civilians, thus drawing Israeli strikes that kill those civilians, and then to have the casualties filmed by one of the world’s largest press contingents, with the understanding that the resulting outrage abroad will blunt Israel’s response. This is a ruthless strategy, and an effective one. It is predicated on the cooperation of journalists. One of the reasons it works is because of the reflex I mentioned. If you report that Hamas has a strategy based on co-opting the media, this raises several difficult questions, like, What exactly is the relationship between the media and Hamas? And has this relationship corrupted the media? It is easier just to leave the other photographers out of the frame and let the picture tell the story: Here are dead people, and Israel killed them.

Mick Hartley, at whose blog I first learned of this article and first read the above quote, thinks that Friedman’s article is worth reading in full. I agree.

76 comments to Keeping colleagues out of the frame

  • Mr Ed

    How about Israel supplying weapons to Argentina during the Falklands War?

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Me too. I’ve little doubt that Israel,like most places, has some fairly bad people among those living there and running the place. I’ve absolutely no doubt at all that the most powerful men among its enemies are genocidal maniacs.

    I once saw a striking pair of photographs that, if someone could track them down, would illustrate this post perfectly. The first one shows a Palestinian boy throwing a rock. The second one shows the same instant from the opposite direction. The boy is being photographed or filmed by about twenty reporters.

    Loosely connected is this article in today’s Guardian by Jonathan Jones: The touching hug photo from Ferguson protests is a blatant lie. The article itself is a blatant lie, but if Jones had been able to control his troll-nature he could have made a similar point which would not be a lie. The photograph concerned, showing a white cop in riot gear hugging a crying young black man, is certainly atypical of the protests about the shooting in Ferguson. If anyone had been claiming it was the whole story, they would have been lying. As things were, Jones was lying in calling it a lie.

    The press are right to show photographs of, for instance, dead and wounded Palestinians after Israeli attacks in the recent small war. It is the depressingly consistent nature of what they do not show – e.g. how the press is intimidated into silence about Hamas rocket launches from civilian areas, as described by Matti Friedman – that amounts to a lie.

  • CharlieL

    It all boils down to this: The Israelis have an absolute right to self-defense, and are good at it. If they were not, they would be long gone.

  • Orcadrvr

    This is far from an original thought, but it bears repeating:

    If the Arabs laid down their weapons, there would be peace.
    If the Israelis laid down their weapons, there would be another Holocaust.

    The Arabs have started numerous wars, lost them all to a numerically inferior opponent, and continually demand concessions based on, or possibly in spite of, their losses.

    Why anyone gives them any serious attention is beyond me.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Mr Ed, I’m not happy. Even less happy about the bombing of the King David Hotel. But events in 1982 and 1946 don’t change the fact that Israel is beset by unashamed would-be genocidaires in 2014.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Much less controversially, but still I hope closely enough related to Brian’s post that it won’t annoy him, I’ve often wished that documentaries would show the help more often than they do. Even though I’m an indifferent cook and have absolutely no interest in fishing I quite like TV shows like “Nomad Chef” with Jock Zonfrillo and “Extreme Fishing” with Robson Green where an everyman-type British guy goes to the Amazon to cook lizards or Mongolia to catch specially evil pike. But it bugs me to see the bloke presented as staring meditatively at the horizon in solitary communion with the vast Mongolian skies. No he’s not. There’s a camera crew four feet away.

    And then he has this profound conversation with the local shaman and it’s like Han Solo talking to Chewbacca: the shaman addresses our hero in Mongolian and he without a pause replies in English. He should work for Linguaphone, because he did the same with an Australian aboriginal language last week.

    I realise that showing the interpreter talking, and continually turning round to show the camera crew, would probably slow the program down too much for most viewers, but if someone would put an extended edition on the internet, I’d certainly watch it. I’m often just as interested in the difficulties of getting a film crew down the Amazon as I am in how to get a meal from witchetty grubs.

  • Mr Ed

    Israel is beset by unashamed would-be genocidaires in 2014.

    Yes but the Falklands were invaded in 1982 by unashamed would-be genocidaires, who were aided in maintaining that endeavour by arms from Libya and Israel. Of course, many Israelis weren’t born then, still fewer responsible, but I don’t see Israel as a friend to the UK.

    However, from Karachi to Casablanca, if only one country were defendable from a freak mega-meterorite shower, I suppose Israel would have the best arguments in a ‘balloon debate‘.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)


    This is a piece I did here, way back, making the exact same connection you just made:

  • …but I don’t see Israel as a friend to the UK

    Dunno, could be because a few decades earlier the UK did its darnest to prevent the state of Israel from materializing, reneging on its prior obligations on the matter, not to mention the keeping of Holocaust survivors from reaching a safe haven and stuff like that? I mean, if we are going to go down the memory lane, lets go all the way down. Or maybe rather not?

  • Nicholas (Natural Genius) Gray

    No, couldn’t be any of that, since Britain was acting under UN stewardship, and the UN wanted two lands there, and the area could not possibly be called a safe haven at that time. (Or were the Israelis hoping that the British would clear all the local inhabitants away before handing it over?) If you are thinking of Lord Balfour’s declaration, did that come with a timetable?
    As an Australian of British descent on once-Aboriginal lands, I know these are thorny issues, and as a Christian, I have a pro-Israeli bias. Israel is probably the friendliest of the places to visit in that region. That doesn’t mean I approve of all that it does.

  • Rich Rostrom

    At The Augean Stables, Richard Landes analyzes the Palestinian infowar in great detail. There are two main themes.

    First, only the Palestinian narrative is valid and should be reported, while the Israeli narrative is false. Anything which contradicts the Palestinian narrative, or confirms the Israeli narrative must be suppressed. This is an attitude which the western press has thoroughly internalized.

    Second, that vast foreign press corps is entirely dependent on Palestine handlers and minders, and on Hamas/PLO for “access”; any journalist who contradicts the Palestinian narrative risks losing “access”. The foreign press also relies on Palestinian stringers, who, even if they are honest, are subject to physical intimidation from Hamas and Fatah.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    The biggest problem I think the Israelis have is that they really need foreign support and diplomatic cover. That’s why so many Jews invested resources into AIPAC so that it can fight for Israel’s interests in the US government.

    However, it has gotten so powerful that critics can justifiably claim that AIPAC no longer fights for common interests (as it had originally), but Israel’s interests only, with US resources and objectives subordinate to Israel’s.

    For all of the rumored Jewish control of the media, it’s interesting to see the media invested so heavily on the Palestinian side. Which is interesting as it shows the stark split in opinion between the Democrat politicians (pro Israel generally) and the media (prop Palestine) who are nominally on the same side. It’s a nice wedge issue the Right should use more often to split the ranks in the Democrats.

  • That last one really baffles me. One cannot go into Gaza without those minders and handlers, and there are implied threats if you attempt to see things they don’t want you to and/or write a story that goes against their narrative. On the other hand, in Israel you can go anywhere you want and write whatever you want without anyone stopping you. As a consequence the Palestinians get their story written mostly as they waant it, and the Israelis get a lot of scepticsm. The fact that Israel gets more sceptial coverage actually indicates that Israel is freer and deserving of more positive coverage. That meta-srory is the real story.

    It’s fairly easy to wander around the West Bank and look around without those Palestinian minders and handlers. (I’ve done it a number of times). It’s impossible in Gaza. This may have something to do with the fact that the West Bank is under Israeli occupation and Gaza isn’t.

  • Rob

    I think the BBC and the Guardian might have a different attitude if an Islamic state in, say, Tower Hamlets was able to reach their offices with missile strikes, and frequently did so.

  • Mr Ed

    I think the BBC and the Guardian might have a different attitude if an Islamic state in, say, Tower Hamlets was able to reach their offices with missile strikes, and frequently did so.

    Oh, I don’t know, they’d more likely blame UKIP for making the rocketeers desperate and anxious. You are not dealing with people amenable to reason or assessment of evidence and making decisions on the basis of what is obvious and decent.

  • Snag

    @Nicholas (Natural Genius) Gray

    They got their two lands out of Mandatary Palestine, because Britain handed 75% of it to the Hashemite family, which is now known as Jordan. And which is, by law, Judenrein.

  • NickM

    Ah, c’mon! A lot of US mil support for Israel is a pork barrel. So the US partially funds 100 F-16I fighters for final assembly in Texas using largely US parts made in a number of states you think Congressmen are going to vote for factory closures in their states. Despite the pig in knickers that is the F-35 the F-16 program is still massive and rolling on. It employs loads of people in largely very good jobs. Yup, a Jewish pork barrel.

    Having said that the US presumably benefits tech-transfer. So do I. This computer is driven by an Intel Core i5. The basic design was done in Israel.

  • Mr Ed

    Ah, c’mon! A lot of US mil support for Israel is a pork barrel.

    So it is a net cost to the US, to pay people to make things and export them is a drain on the US economy. What is seen and what is not seen. If those jobs were not pork, there might be genuinely productive economic activity in their place with the resources staying with the original owners.

  • NickM

    Mr Ed,
    And that is why I called ’em pork. They are “bridges to nowhere” territory. OK, in these circs it could be argued that it serves a US strategic porpoise. It could be argued but is Israel really currently threatened by a heavy metal war. The usual suspects (aka Egypt and Syria) are in such a state of utter chaos I doubt it. Of course Erdogan in Turkey might go Tonto but I suspect the Turkish Army will explain to him in a 9mm way this is not on.

    Of course I take your point about the opportunity cost. I was trying to make that point.

  • Of course it is a net cost to the US – more precisely, to its defense budget, which may well be the only legitimate budget from a libertarian POV. Not that I personally would not give all this US “assistance” and the strings attached thereof in a heartbeat. But still, the point remains.

  • Should read ‘give up’ – sorry.

  • Dom

    Here’s an interesting update from Mick Hartley’s blog:


  • Paul Marks

    Very good Brian.

    As for the conflict between pro and anti Israeli British people.

    Some of the things the anti Jewish British people did were hateful – such as, at the recommendation of the socialist Webb husband and wife team, keeping Jews out of the Holy Land in the 1930s, when Mr Hitler was making no mystery of his intentions, and even during the 1940s – yes people with numbers on their arms were turned back by the Royal Navy.

    At this time no effort what-so-ever was made to keep out Muslim immigrants, of which there were very large numbers, and no effort had been made since anti Jewish immigration policies had first been introduced, by the “liberal” Sir Herbert Samuel in the early 1920s – ironically he was a man of Jewish heritage, it was also Sir Herbert who appointed the Grand Mufti, the future friend and ally of Mr Hitler.

    Does this mean blowing up the King David Hotel was right?

    No it does not – and I would say that even if a cousin of mother’s had not been killed in the explosion.

    Does it mean that the hanging of two British soldiers, in revenge for the hanging of two Jews, was correct? No it does not.

    But these actions can not be laid at the foot of the state of Israel – they were the actions of individuals who allowed their suffering, and the suffering and death of friends and families, to warp their judgement and warp their morality. Those who have not suffered do not know how tempting it is to take comfort in hate – as the old saying goes “hate keeps you going – when nothing else will”.

    As for those two British soldier – one was a Jew, he decided not to mention it, even at the time he was killed.

    On Argentina – yes a large body of the American and French establishment felt the same. But it was still wrong.

    One should not sell arms to a military dictatorship that has invaded somewhere.

    Although it is not true to say that the Argentine military dictatorship in 1982 was “Fascist” – in fact the Argentine Fascist party, the Peronists, did not get on well with the military dictatorship.

  • Patrick Crozier

    Out of interest what did Israel sell the Argentines pre- and post-invasion?

  • Mr Ed

    Well pre-invasion the UK got in on the act too and sold 2 x Type 42 Destroyers and Tiger Cat missiles. Israel supplied the Dagger (a rebranded Nesher – Mirage derivative) so that the Sea Harrier could get some Sidewinder testing sorted.

    (Navy joke at the time: ‘What’s the difference between a Mirage and a fruit pastille? A fruit pastille lasts longer).

    Israel supplied a lot of ready for use kit.



    Peru were in on the deals, presumably resentful of the loss of Paddington Bear.

    (Actually they wanted to have a go at Chile with Argentina after an Argentine victory). Chilean Air Force General Matthei gave a candid interview about the situation that Chile faced and said he did whatever he could to ensure that Argentina lost. RAF planes flew to Chile via French Pacific airbases and Easter Island.

  • NickM

    This goes way back. Ever read “Greenmantle” by John Buchan? It is casually anti-semitic by which I mean it doesn’t seek to make anti-Jewish points but assumes the readership is appraised of them already. The plot involves the attempt The plot centres on trying to smuggle a Islamic scholar/preacher/leader into the heart of the Ottoman Empire during WWI in an attempt to forment revolution and take the Turks back to the true path of Islam. He is frequently referred to as “saintly” and in similar terms.

    The simple truth is much of British society had a deranged and romanticised view of Islam and in particular of Islam specifically contra the Worldly, money-grubbing, concerns of Jews. Take this from Hanny’s “The Thirty Nine Steps”. This is what a spy tells the hero, Hannay…

    “‘Take any big Teutonic business concern. If you have dealings with it the first man you meet is Prince von Und zu Something, an elegant young man who talks Eton-and-Harrow English. But he cuts no ice. If your business is big, you get behind him and find a prognathous Westphalian with a retreating brow and the manners of a hog. He is the German business man that gives your English papers the shakes. But if you’re on the biggest kind of job and are bound to get to the real boss, ten to one you are brought up against a little, white-faced Jew in a bath-chair, with an eye like a rattlesnake. Yes, sir, he is the man who is ruling the world just now, and he has his knife in the empire of the Tzar because his aunt was outraged and his father flogged in some one-horse location on the Volga.”

    Hannay, the hero, takes this as chapter and verse and this of course winds-up being the course of WWI.

    Sound familiar? Whilst Christmas shopping in Manchester Yesterday someone had chalked a Pro-Palestinian slogan (really an anti-Jewish one) which concluded with the statement, “The Rothschild[sic] Rules the World”. That was near the Arndale Centre which is about as central as it gets.

    At a very basic level the British establishment (and those that follow them) is very anti-semitic. From TE Lawrence and his infatuation with his “noble Arabs” to similar noises coming out of Prince Charles it is all the same. And as I said above when Buchan was writing in the early C20th this was clearly nothing new even then. In a very depressing sense the success of British Jews into fitting into British society and frequently doing well worked against them. Damned if you assimilate and damned if you don’t.

    And just one other thing. There is the snobbery of the British elite at those who prosper by wit and hard work against romanisation lie of the “Noble Savage” but there is also something else that is difficult to define. Jews commit the sin of being an ethnoreligiocultural minority that generally look European.

  • Jacob

    “a few decades earlier the UK did its darnest to prevent the state of Israel from materializing”

    There was a very interesting documentary on Israeli TV1 (a couple of days ago), in which a bunch of History Professors, Jewish, Arab and Christian, gave their version of recent history of Palestine and the birth of Israel, from 1917 to 1948.
    One Arab (Israeli) professor (forgot his name) said: if it weren’t for the British, the Balfour declaration and the British Mandate in Palestine, there would have been no State of Israel.
    I think he is correct.
    The UK vacillated, zig-zagged, tried contradictory policies at different times, but on the whole – I think the Arab historian was correct.

  • Julie near Chicago


    It has been said in books and weblogs here over the past many years the the British have always (for some value of “always,” but then when did Britain start being “Britain” in her public’s terminology, as opposed to, mostly, I guess, “England”?) — the British have always been pro-Arab and rather anti-Semitic.

    I was pretty disillusioned when I first came across this statement. As I had always thought well of the Mother Country, as consisting mostly of tolerant people. I thought the British (or at the very least the English) differed from the benighted Continent in that they recognized evil horse mess for what it is.

    Not just the Brits. It is said that our own State Dept. is also of a pan-Arabic, closet-anti-Jewish mindset; also pretty leftist when you come to it. It did seem to me that Condoleezza Rice became almost a different person when she moved from NSA Director to Secy. of State.

  • Jacob

    Mr Ed,
    So Israel sold some military junk to Argentine, with the most important items – 23 warplanes, delivered about 6 months after the Falklands war ended. Big deal…
    Seems it was a personal (secret) decision of PM Begin (who hated the British for good historical reasons) and some Argentine born high Israeli officials… Israel sells a lot of arms, wherever it can, which is mostly third-world countries. These sales support Israel’s military industry, which is a very important factor in Israel’s defense.
    By the way, Britain did sell a lot of advanced arms to the Arabs, like Chieftain tanks, which it refused to sell to Israel… so…

    Mr Ed – I think you are too sensitive…

  • Jacob

    A very good book on Britain and the Jews is: “Bible and Sword” by Barbara Tuchman…

  • NickM

    Oh, yeah, Julie. It is simple romantic idealism. The celebration of the mystic Orient coupled with a misplaced belief in Islamic asceticism. It is a kind of strange marriage of contradictions. The lushness of the harem mixed with the harshness of the desert held a transfixing thing over the Brits. I can’t really explain it much more than that. Apart from a strange (in my view), in recent decades, view of the Arabs as the underdogs. It really is as simple as feeling sorry for the Jews herded into the death-camps evaporating very quickly and being replaced very rapidly when Israel showed itself more than capable of fighting like a cornered tiger and comitting the terrible sin of using high-tech as well. You see a lot of people here think there is something glorious about the Palestinian yoofs chucking rocks but find the Israelis firing Hellfire missiles abhorrent. It offends their British sense of fair play you see. Well, the Hell with that I says!

    We saw this when the IDF waxed Saruman…


    Yeah, he might have been an elderly quadraplegic but he was an evil SOB.

  • It’s always more complicated than it seems. There was a countervailing strain of Christian Zionism during the late Victorian and early twentieth century periods, particularly among military men – for instance, Lt-Col John Henry Patterson. Apparently Benjamin Netanyahu’s brother Yonatan, who was killed leading the Entebbe commandos, was so named after Patterson.

    In books from the 20’s and 30’s you sometimes see mention of British Israelism once a substantial force among the many fringe religious movements that bubbled up after World War I, now almost disappeared, although there are still a few Elim Chapels around where I live. The Wikipedia page presents it as simply Anglo-Saxon supremacism, and its modern American offshoot Christian Identity is strongly anti-semitic – but the early British Israelites such as Edward Hine were philo-semitic.

    And Nick M, I’ve got to say in defence of John Buchan that though he was highly prejudiced in every possible direction including contradictory ones (his ups and downs on that would be a post in itself), the speech you quote from Franklin P Scudder is later revealed not to have been his true opinion, and it isn’t the Jews behind the attempt to assassinate Karolides at all. Buchan presents a much more positive portrayal (though still wincingly within stereotype to the modern reader) of a sneaky Jewish string-puller in A Prince of the Captivity. The character concerned is a passionate and ultimately heroic Zionist who sees Britain’s victory in World War I as God’s instrument to bring about the restoration of a Jewish homeland.

  • Mr Ed

    Mr Ed – I think you are too sensitive…

    Believe me, I’m not sensitive, I couldn’t care less what happens to a country that sells arms to our enemies during war, be it Switzerland, Lesotho or anywhere else. I’m not sensitive at all. Just a fact, Israel has no alliance with any Western country except a minor pact with the USA over Syria in the event of Soviet aggression, a rather moot pact.

    By the way, Britain did sell a lot of advanced arms to the Arabs, like Chieftain tanks, which it refused to sell to Israel… so…

    So what? Not during war, there isn’t time to ship them out to the Arabs anyway, the wars end too quickly.

    Were it not for the UK, Israel would never have existed, and not just that it allowed the partition when the Mandate ended, in WW2 the British (and Australians and New Zealanders etc.), kept Rommel from crossing the Suez Canal and racing up into Palestine. Not altruism, just that there was a bloody war on.

  • NickM

    When Scudder’s stuff is revealed to be bunk Hannay does still muse that it has a “ring of truth”.

  • How about Israel supplying weapons to Argentina during the Falklands War?

    Well, it is not as if the UK was ever a great friend to Israel. The Colonial Office was staffed by Arabists after all, and Jews were not all that popular there, or in the government.

  • Vinegar Joe

    British officers commanded the Arab Legion in combat against Israel.

  • I truly regret having assisted in taking the conversation down the path of collectivist generalizations (even though he started it, mom!). Even if we assume the existence of such a thing as friendship between states (as opposed to individuals or societies), the states in question – Israel, UK, Argentina, whatever – and at different times discussed here, were not what they are today: different people are making crucial decisions, just as different people are not being consulted prior to making such decisions (currently, you and me, among others), just as it was back then.

    That said, there is the cultural thing, and I would feel pretty safe arguing that the Anglospheric culture is historically closer to the Jewish one than most others in terms of preference for individualism, freedom and all that other good stuff. That, not withstanding antisemitism, orientalism, socialism, and all the other silly isms well-known to have been poisoning all western cultures – including the Jewish and the Israeli ones – since god knows when.

  • Vinegar Joe – Yes, “Glubb Pasha”. But then again, Orde Wingate. I wonder if they ever met, and if so, what they said to each other?

  • You have a point, Alisa. Getting back to the apolitical part of Brian’s post, about the strange convention that the presence of the camera crew, fixers, translators etc. makes no difference, I’m trying to remember an entertaining clip I once saw from a documentary** about a tribe in Africa. Some people are shown painting their bodies in a leisurely fashion while chatting. Unusually the chat is translated. I can’t remember the exact words but the general meaning of one remark was “Oh, don’t bother getting the design perfect, it’s only for the foreigners and they won’t know.” It was a bit of a mean trick to translate a conversation they had intended to be private, but both funny and revealing.

    **Don’t mention the war, but I think the documentary concerned may have been either made by or about Leni Riefenstahl.

  • Which gets us to the first rule of multilingual situations: never make the assumption that you are not being understood, no matter how obsure the language you are speaking and how unlikely you think it is that the other people in the room do not understand it. I have seen people make this mistake so many times.

  • Michael, I have seem myself making that mistake more than once 🙂

    Wingate was a fascinating figure BTW, Israel or not.

  • Jacob

    Mr Ed,
    “Were it not for the UK, Israel would never have existed”. Of course. I said as much a few comments above.

    But, time passes, people change, circumstances change… and it is not the case that Britain was in any danger, mortal or otherwise, during the Falklands episode…
    On the other hand, any advanced military hardware supplied to Arab states (by Britain) was a real danger for Israel, whether there was an active war or not at the exact moment of delivery. Israel was, at that time, in a permanent state of war, with fighting episodes breaking out every few years, and the threat of annihilation permanent.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Once again i am late to the party, but there is much worth commenting about, here.
    Let’s start with the OP. Basically i am in complete agreement with Brian, except for the obvious point that strong support for Israel’s foreign policy does not imply support for Israel’s economic policies, which apparently were quite socialist until recently.
    However, Israel has been moving in the right direction, which cannot be said for most other Western countries.

    Going beyond the OP: whenever i see reality distorted by the media, i ask myself (cynically): how does this distortion benefit the ruling class?
    In some cases the answer is easy. Take Ferguson, MO: isn’t it obvious why the media played up the incident, in the runup to an election with a Black President as figurehead for the ruling class?
    In the case of Israel, however, i cannot find a plausible reason for the ruling class distorting reality. The ruling class always benefits from demonizing “the other”, but why Israel? i can think of several possible answers, but none that satisfies me.

  • Snorri, if you substitute ‘the ruling class’ with ‘socialist progressive transnational establishment’ you may get your answer.

  • NickM

    And your distinction Alisa is…

  • Rich Rostrom

    Snorri Godhi @ December 5, 2014 at 8:29 pm:

    In the case of Israel, however, I cannot find a plausible reason for the ruling class distorting reality. The ruling class always benefits from demonizing “the other”, but why Israel? i can think of several possible answers, but none that satisfies me.

    Part of the basis of Western liberalism, from its classic origins to its modern distortions, has been willingness to question and even denounce the doctrines and actions of one’s own country or race. They have been, in general, opposed to colonialism and imperialism, and denounced colonialist and imperialist crimes, even (perhaps especially) by their own country (or related countries – leftists from any Western country are equally eager to denounce the Middle Passage, the Opium Wars, the displacement of the Indians, ”apartheid”, or the conquistadores). This is not bad – these things were evil or at least problematic – but this attitude has led to extreme credulity about almost any allegation against white colonists or settlers.

    Two cases in point.

    Australian historian Keith Windschuttle examined the received history of the displacement of Tasmanian natives, and found that most of it, including the most lurid bits, was fantasy. For this well-documented discovery, he was excoriated by Australian leftists.

    Meanwhile, in the U.S., Ward Churchill posed as an Indian, went about brandishing an AK-47 and denouncing Columbus, and emitted a stream of fraudulent “scholarship” about U.S. frontier history. For this he was rewarded with appointment as a department head at a major university.

    What has this to do with Israel?

    Israel is, functionally, a white settler colony. The early Zionists (all Europeans) considered themselves “pioneers” (halutzim) settling wilderness. The founding of Israel included the displacement (not originally intended by the Zionists) from Palestine of most of the Arabs.

    These facts have been used by Arabs to cast themselves as victims of white oppression, and Israel as perpetrator of that oppression. This narrative has been eagerly embraced by the same Western leftists who rejected Windschuttle and embraced Churchill. (Facts which don’t fit the narrative, such as the displacement to Israel of a comparable number of Jews from Moslem countries, are ignored. But then, one almost never hears anymore about the endemic violence and cruelty practiced by Indians against white pioneers – and other tribes.)

    Nothing can be done to punish Colonel Chivington, or Cecil Rhodes, or Leopold of Belgium now. The pieds-noirs are gone, the Afrikaners have surrendered. The Indians aren’t going to get Manhattan back, nor the Aborigines Bondi Beach. Atonement for the crimes of the distant past is impossible. But Israel stands, to be the scapegoat for all that displaced guilt.

    I think this is the best explanation for the deep hostility to Israel of Western leftists.

    It doesn’t help that Israel is a nation proudly founded on ethnic identity, in which military prowess and patriotism are virtues. In Western Europe, intellectuals have come to identify such principles as the cause of two gigantic wars and the crimes of Nazi Germany; even the most benign manifestation of them triggers distaste or repulsion.

  • Alisa

    It is not a distinction, Nick, just a more precise description – leading to a short summary of the full explanation so well presented above by Rich Rostrom.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Most likely Rich Rostrom is correct: i did not think of this difference, that while Americans and Australians are still there in “occupied land”, they are not at war with the “natives”. Violence by non-westerners legitimizes itself in the eyes of a certain sort of “liberal”.

    However i still do not feel fully comfortable with this thesis, because, while the Ferguson propaganda can lead directly to gains at the ballot box, the way from anti-Israel propaganda to the ballot box is more tortuous.

    Another thing that bothers me is the suspicious coincidence that anti-capitalists happen to pick on Jews for completely different reasons before and after the Holocaust.
    Coincidences do happen, however.

  • Because it is not about the ballot box, Snorri, not at the fundamental level. It is cultural and even psychological.

    As to antisemitism, it is entirely consistent with the Tall Poppy Syndrome.

  • Jacob

    “I think this is the best explanation for the deep hostility to Israel of Western leftists.”
    As usual there is no “one best explanation” – there are additional explanations, especially historical ones.
    Israel has been denounced, vilified and condemned in the most poisonous way by the huge communist (Soviet) propaganda machine, for many decades. There was also the not less huge propaganda machine of the “non-aligned” countries (of which Nasser, Tito and Nehru were the leaders). There is also the incessant Arab propaganda, from the Arab countries, but also from within Europe. All these actors always exerted a huge influence on the “Western leftists”, especially the Soviets.
    Alisa said: “It is cultural and even psychological.” I would add: also historical.

  • Snag

    Israel is, functionally, a white settler colony. The early Zionists (all Europeans) considered themselves “pioneers” (halutzim) settling wilderness. The founding of Israel included the displacement (not originally intended by the Zionists) from Palestine of most of the Arabs.

    The majority of Jewish Israelis are, and always have been, of majority non-European heritage, being North African, Iraqi, Egyptian, Persian, Syrian, Yemenite etc. And of course those native to what is now Israel, which has never been devoid of Jews.

  • The majority of Jewish Israelis are, and always have been, of majority non-European heritage, being North African, Iraqi, Egyptian, Persian, Syrian, Yemenite etc.

    Actually, the opposite was true until recently – but it may well have changed, “oriental” Jews traditionally having tended to have more children than European ones.

    Jews native to Palestine prior to the establishment of Israel were a very small community, and so I doubt that they count for much in that regard. Plus, they were also of mixed extraction – both European and Middle-Eastern. I suspect that the number of those whose ancestors never left the region is very small indeed.

  • Mr Ed

    The Sephardim are of Spanish extraction, or rather, ‘expulsion’, having moved from Spain (Sfarad) to Ottoman lands after Isabella and Ferdinand decreed their expulsion along with the others who did not like ‘cataplana’ (a Portuguese ham and clam stew reputedly invented as a none too subtle test for ‘dietary preferences’).

  • The Sephardi as a category are not relevant to this discussion, Ed, as many also moved to Europe, and not into the Ottoman lands.

  • Mr Ed

    Alisa, i understood that they were regarded as differing from the Ashkenazi. Presumably there has been a study of Israeli DNA by population geneticists to try to shed some light on origins etc. i saw a documentary on Cyprus where a geneticist told a Greek Bishop thatnthe DNA of Cypriots, be they Greek or Turkish was basically from the same population, the Bishop looked rather surprised at the ‘news’ but welcomed it.

    We are all GATC in 3,000,000,000+ or so pairs, but also more than that.

  • Yes Ed, but I remind you that this discussion into which we were led by Rich Rostrom, has little to do with genetics. Rich wrote: ‘Israel is, functionally, a white settler colony’, where ‘white’ should factually connote cultural, rather than biological ancestry. As you may be aware, many Arabs are blond with blue eyes, and many Europeans are dark-skinned and dark-eyed – including European Jews, and including yours truly.

  • Mr Ed

    Well the first four sentences of the post led me to kick off. The fixation on who is or is not blond and blue eyes is the last revenge of a saturnine, short, runtish Austrian on a world that he hated.

  • He only hated it because his father may have been Jewish 🙂

  • Snorri Godhi

    Since this debate is still going on i’d like to add something about the UK-Israel relationship.
    It is true that British support for the Zionist enterprise has had its high and low points. In particular, i remember a historical essay in The Economist (when it was still worth reading, about 10 years ago) which iirc said that, initially, the US, the USSR, and France supported Israel, with the UK being the main enemy of Israel amongst the Great Powers, and France the main ally up to the 7 days’ war. (The UK and USSR switched sides by the time of the Suez crisis, of course.)

    As for the King David Hotel, i seem to remember reading that the bombing was meant to destroy some documents stored in the hotel: the bombers actually called the hotel to warn about the bombing, but the reception told them that they won’t listen to Jews or something to that effect.
    I suppose i could check on wikipedia, but i expect Paul Marks or somebody will be better able to correct me.

    As for US financial support of Israel, i feel that the US has an obligation to Israel after the Camp David Accords: surely Israel deserves more than just promises from Egypt in return for the Sinai?

  • Snorri Godhi

    Sorry, i meant 6 days war.
    Though it’s nice to have an extra day.

  • Snag

    On the seventh day, He rested…

  • Jacob

    Curiously, both the US and the USSR recognized Israel immediately when it was established or declared as a state in 1948. It was the USSR (and not the US) that provided Israel with vital arms during the Independence war 1948-49 (via Czechoslovakia). But, soon afterwards the USSR changed sides, and embraced the Arab cause. France supported Israel while France was at war with the Arabs in Algeria. This support stopped and was reversed when Gen. de Gaulle retreated from Algeria, more precisely: in 1967. The US started it’s support for Israel (and supply of arms) from about 1967-8.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Snorri, you are quite right about the bombing of the King David Hotel, according to the Jewish Virtual Library. Their article is brief but packed:


    The Wikipedia article is more detailed and less exculpatory in tone:


  • Snorri Godhi

    Thank you, Julie. Apparently the story is not as simple as i thought.

    Maybe i can reciprocate: a comment of yours, a few weeks ago, mentioned a site that you can’t find anymore. From what you wrote i thought it might be this:

  • Wow Snorri, that site looks like something I may well dig into – thanks!

  • Nicholas (Natural Genius) Gray

    The left is anti-semitic because Israel moved to the right! Where are the collectives now? Where are the Kibbutzim? Perhaps Israel is the perfect rebuke to the idea that a nation can stay left-of-center.

  • Julie near Chicago

    It wasn’t that site, Snorri — but thank you very much. That one is also quite interesting. :>)

  • davidpeppiatt

    So Jews in Israel have the right, as Jews, to self-defence. But we English people don’t have the right to remove the 11 million foreigners colonising and replacing us on our soil because that’s “collectivist”; and anyway there are only individuals in England. Have I got that right?

  • davidpeppiatt

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    Goodness me yes, let’s not encourage free speech and open debate.

  • Goodness me yes, let’s not encourage free speech and open debate.

    A foolish remark for two reasons.

    First the utilitarian reason: your comment was moderated by a bot to keep out spam and other dross. Anyone who does not have a filtering system is an idiot. Half the comments would be adverts for porn sites or accident lawyers.

    And now the main reason you are a fool: your right of ‘free speech’ means you can set up a site and write what you like on your site, but you have no rights here whatsoever. The only one with any rights is me as I own the site and thus you comment on Samizdata at my sufferance.

    Thus your petulant comment is either born of ignorance or a sence of unjustified entitlement. Feel free not to come back.

  • Nicholas (Natural Genius) Gray

    He has raised an interesting point- are there really eleven million non-britons in Britain? do they have voting rights? Can Europeans just emigrate and demand the right to vote in local elections?

  • Paul Marks

    Snorri your comment has been drawn to my attention (I do not have time to follow threads any more – as the doctors have threatened to disown me if I just sit a computer all day every day).

    Yes there was a warning telephone warning call – but those with experience of such calls no they are often made without there being a real bomb – or they are made without enough time to evacuate people (or the bomb is planted in the very area that you will be evacuated people to).

    Jews were killed in the bombing – as were people of all religions and none.

    No group of people (including Jews) is without sin.

    And, no matter how savagely one has been treated in the past, choices are that – choices.

    Unlike Christianity (where the influence of Augustine is taken to an extreme by Martin Luther and John Calvin) or Islam (Sunni Islam anyway) Judaism is fundamentally anti determinist.

    No Rabbi (even a Rabbi with numbers tattooed on his arm) will say that people do not have a choice not to plant a bomb in a hotel – so the “determinism” defence is not allowed to a Jew. “I did this because of a series of causes and effects going back to the Big Bang” is not a Jewish defence.

    Nor is the moral relativism allowed. To a believing Jew the moral law is universal – even atheists are bound by the same fundamental principles (which is why believing Jews believe that some atheists go to Heaven). So the defence “I did not know what I was doing was wrong – the moral law is relative” is not open a believing Jew.

    “How do you know all this you are not a Jew”.

    I have not lived my life asleep. Even when I have done dreadful things, I made a choice to do them and I knew they were morally wrong.

    And the fact remains that British law was not needed – the people who planted the bomb were committing a crime under Jewish law (even if not a single Jew had been killed – it would still have been the same crime).

    “But if neither the determinism defence or the moral relativism defence is open to a Jew – then Jewish people must live lives burdened by guilt”.

    Of course – even more than sincere Roman Catholics do (especially as there is no easy ritual of confession and forgiveness for Jews, a Rabbi is not a priest, he has no special powers).

    “Freedom from guilt” is not a freedom worth having – for it is really “freedom” from a moral conscience.

  • Julie near Chicago

    “But if neither the determinism defence or the moral relativism defence is open to a Jew – then Jewish people must live lives burdened by guilt”.

    By golly, I disagree with this! If a given Jew has committed a mortal sin against another person, then it’s just that he feel some degree of guilt all his life (but the degree does depend on the circumstances and even the state of his knowledge at the time. God is just, but surely God’s justice above all would take the totality of factors into account).

    However, a garden-variety mundane transgression of the moral law is something which its committer would better examine, see why it happened, work out as best he can how to avoid doing the same in future, and understand that this “sin” — say he swiped an apple from the neighbor’s tree, or once lifted a 10¢´horse made of plastic beads strung on a wire from the dime-store to see how it would feel — is not something for which he should be self-punished for the rest of his life. As a former Christian, I think that even our Jewish God would say “Go forth, and sin no more.”

    It is also said that Catholics and Jews have made a career out of guilt; and I say that if so, it is not a good thing. I agree with Miss Rand that unearned guilt is to be reviled, and I note that parents who have absorbed the idea that Guilt Is Good (or Righteous, a different thing) (and that it gets you brownie points with humans, or at least can serve as a shield to ward off their accusations and punishments, if not the Evil Eye) have a very hard time teaching their children a more balanced judgment of guilt.

  • lucklucky

    The Marxist Left(does not remains much other Left…) hates Israel because it is an Icon of Western World.
    And the Enemy Icons are to be destroyed.

    Israel even have a worse sins:

    It is a testimony of Inequality. In 50 years a rich country was born. That hurts all the Neo-Marxist Left Mythology about Equality between Civilization,Culture,Cconomy.

    It also an Apostate for the Marxist Left, and the Apostates are worse than Enemies.