Yaba Yaba

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Me on PressTV: “Palestine, the ethics of resistance”

with 8 comments

Last week I was invited to participate in Tariq Ramadan’s “Islam & Life” show on PressTV. The title of the show was “Palestine: the ethics of Resistance”, but in fact the main topic of discussion was the boycott campaign in the UK. I shared a panel with Faizal Dawjee, who was introduced as a former journalist from South Africa, and Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead, secretary of BRICUP (pronounced like hicup).

There was no pretence of balance – PressTV identifies itself as the first Iranian international news network, Tariq Ramadan has his clear views on the subject, and the panel had two pro-boycotters on one side and myself on the other. Nevertheless, there was an honest, respectfull and open debate. I was given the oportunity to resopnd to every argument by my peers, and ample time to present my positions. Whether I did a good job of that is for you to judge.


Written by yishaym

February 16, 2009 at 3:37 am

8 Responses

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  1. The fact that it was just you on the other side of the table isn’t necessarily that bad – by being the focus of their criticism you got more room to elaborate on your points.
    Overall, i think you did a good job, yes. 🙂


    February 16, 2009 at 3:31 pm

  2. At one point, 39.22, Ramadan says “between 80% and 90% of Israelis support the Israeli government” when just before he had been speaking of 85% of French Jews.


    February 16, 2009 at 8:19 pm

  3. […] balance on the part of the host. Read Yishay’s short background description of the discussion on his blog, and watch the embedded video while you’re there. Yishay comes in at about 11 minutes. And […]

  4. As you say, Yishay, there is no pretense from Tariq Ramadan. In fact, anyone who is familiar with his writings and beliefs, can not believe that he is ‘balanced’. Not that there is any ‘balance’ in this conflict.
    I think this is a welcome debate and one of a highly intellectual nature. Such debates are rare on the so-called mainstream media in the ‘West'(BBC, CNN etc.). The fact that this is an Iranian media, doesn’t mean it is less legitimate than a British or American media.
    As for the ‘balance’ of the choice of panelists, would it be more ‘balanced’ if there was another panelist putting forward your points of view? Probably not as far as Zionists and pro-Zionists are concerned, who would probably say it is a completely anti-Zionist (ie. anti-semitic!) panel. After all, Yishay, you are yourself resisting the actions of the Israeli state.
    I don’t personally have a clear-cut view on the boycott. I don’t think it is immoral. It could be counter-productive. However, as Faizal Dawjee said, it seems perfectly reasonable to say, that those who are innocent in Israeli (and Palestinian) society should clearly side with those who are resisting. This shouldn’t mean that they should support armed resistance and violence against innocents if this goes against their ethics. On the other hand, I don’t believe that there can be a pretense at a balance of power between the protagonists of this conflict. One cannot honestly condemn the armed resistance of one side when the occupying force is going on unimpeded and indeed financially and materially supported by the greatest powers on earth.

    Now, when you say, that the boycott is not helping YOU as a peace activist, and you say you DON’T THINK that it’s helping the people in N’ilin, B’ilin who are supported by many internationals and Israelis. What do you say to these Palestinians and Internationals and Israelis who DO believe in the boycott? You say you are not a specialist on Apartheid in South Africa, but it doesn’t take a specialist to know that the boycott was an important aspect of the resistance and it had a role in bringing Apartheid to it’s knees. It would have been seen as crass to say the least to claim the boycott was wrong because it made it difficult for anti-apartheid whites to talk to their fellow whites. At some point, Israeli activists have to realise that it is not simply a matter of polite conversation. Israel is practicing criminal and murderous occupation of another people.

    I have to say that this idea that there are pro-palestinians and pro-israelis is a false one. The fact is one people is being oppressed by a foreign power. Resisting against this oppression is not a matter of being ‘opposed’ to Israeli people. You surely know that. I don’t have to pretend that I am ‘balanced’. I don’t have to support the Israelis or be ‘pro Israelis’. Israelis are not an oppressed people. It is very dishonest of you to pick on the idea that you are not responsible for the oppression. The fact is, that you are not a victim of the oppression and you are a citizen of a state which oppresses and occupies. I will say it: I believe you have a moral duty – as an Israeli citizen more than as human – to resist this oppression. My point is not that you must absolutely agree with a boycott. What I am saying is that it is dishonest to try to create an equilibrium between the Israelis and the Palestinians, when it does not exist. If a boycott of an oppressive state is ever morally justifiable, there is no reason why it should be less morally justifiable for Israel, even if the Israelis will suffer because of it. Next to what the Palestinians suffer it would be peanuts.

    Now, I am not sure myself whether it would be productive or not. The main difference between the plight of the Palestinians and that of black South Africans under Apartheid (and indeed most oppressed people in the world) is that the oppression of Palestinians is morally justified by the major world powers in the name of a colonialist state for the Jews. The Palestinians are not allowed to resist in the name of some sense of guilt (though more likely in the name of having a safe ‘western’ presence in the Middle East). I am not against the people of Israel (whatever their ethnic or religious group) when I say that, but I am definitely against the colonialist, Zionist state of Israel. There will hopefully be peace if and when a Palestinian state is created alongside the Israeli state, but the wrong that was done to the non-jewish people of Palestine upon the creation of the zionist state will not be corrected until there is a non-religious, non-ethnic state on the land.
    Finally, you may think it is patronising to claim that change can not happen from within, but that is not an argument. I certainly hope that change WILL come from within, but what if it doesn’t? You may not like non-Israelis/Palestinans meddling in Palestinian-Israeli affairs, but you and other Israelis (and some of them are close to me) must one day realise, that we are also concerned, not simply as humans, but mostly as citizens of colonising countries which directly AND indirectly support the colonialist Zionist state. When I see images of a french ship off Gaza collaborating with the Israeli forces of occupation, I can not ignore that my government is guilty as well.


    February 19, 2009 at 9:47 am

  5. As for the figures, it would certainly have been interesting if somebody (Yishay, perhaps) could have questioned T.R. as to where he got those figures from. I have not checked them, but for all we know they could be correct (actually in the case of French Jews he was just quoting the head of CRIF…).


    February 19, 2009 at 9:50 am

  6. Jez, very thoughtful comments. thanks. A few quick notes:
    I never asked for balance, and I never – in all my public speaking or writing – claimed any symmetry between the oppressed and the oppressor.
    I was hinting at the suggestion that any media facade of balance is just that – pretense. I see Tariq’s lack of such as a virtue.
    Some Palestinian and Israeli ogranisations have called for Boycott, some have spoken against it. If you want to get the numbers, ask Engage. The whole boycott issue is not my pony. To be honest, it slightly bores me. My only concern is that it distracts energy from more productive activities.
    But, since you mention SA. Two points: yes, there was a boycott, yes Apartheid was abolished. Correlation does not imply causation. The South African resistance also adopted a policy of violent resistance at some point, and that brought it close to annihilation. My intuition is that what really brought about change is the massive civic uprising.
    The second point is, as you noted, that the situation in Palestine / Israel is radically different. Not less unjust, in some senses worse – but just not easily comparable.
    There’s one phrase you use that worries me. I don’t want to bring anyone down to their knees. That expression, for me, sends an aggressive message. That is not my way. Besides, if you bring someone to his knees, the minute you turn around they will get up and either run or stab you in the back. Been there.
    I want change, true and honest change. And such a change can only come from within. Whether in Iraq, in China or in Israel. The west has embraced the paradigm of “enlightening” other nations for too long. Colonialism – physical, cultural, military, intellectual – its still Colonialism. And its so 20C.


    February 19, 2009 at 12:16 pm

  7. Yishay,

    I did not mean that correlation implied causation. I simply intended to express my opinion, that one could not discount the boycott as a major factor in the fall of the Apartheid regime. I do not offer any proof of that, any more than you offer proof of the contrary.

    To ‘bring someone to their knees’ is an expression you are no doubt familiar with. We say (and I think it is fairly accepted), that the Allies brought Nazi Germany to it’s knees. In the same way, one would like to believe, that the resistance (from within and without) brought Apartheid to it’s knees in SOuth Africa. I feel no shame in saying, that Zionism must eventually be breought to it’s knees. You shouldn’t, as an ‘innocent Israeli’, feel threatened. It is not at you or your fellow-citizens that this anger is aimed, but at the colonialist ideology and policy that is Zionism and at it’s perpetrators and supporters within and without.
    I happen to believe, that without US but aso without EU support, Israel wouldn’t be able to carry on it’s policies for very long, and certainly not with ease. That is why I think change could well come from without. As I said, this conflict afflicts us Europeans and Amercians, often directly. We have a moral duty to react, if not against Israel’s policies (that we do as humans), then at the very least against our governments’ support of such policies. There are some countries where change can and does happen from within. China definitely does not seem to be one, and Israel…well, the picture isn’t positive!
    Finally, don’t make the mistake of confusing ‘The West’ and it’s citizens. When ‘western’ governments claim to bring democracy and enlightenment to other countries it has nothing to do with when citizens campaign in favour of an oppressed people.
    Furthermore, it would be a little dishonest for Israel to complain about ‘western’ intervention. After all, Israeli society as well as the state has always seen its self as ‘western’ and fairly ‘un-oriental’.


    February 19, 2009 at 8:24 pm

  8. If you want me to inject some practicality into my argument, I would say, that for the boycott to really have effect, Israeli society would need to be convinced of its usefulness.


    February 19, 2009 at 10:06 pm

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