“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Wrong Answer To The Wrong Question

with 13 comments

My brief post on a Hamas leader’s racist comments seems to have provoked more comment than this blog is usually accustomed to, so I thought that I would deal with the comments of TheIrie, a HP regular.

I think there are major three points:

  • the acceptability of some forms of racism;
  • arms-control;
  • and Western dual standards.

The acceptability of some forms of racism

Whilst I accept that there is brutality in the occupied territories and Israel’s conduct is not beyond reproach, that does not justify open racist sentiments as so often pour out from some leaders in the Middle East.

I should say from the outset and I don’t normally document all these outbursts otherwise they would be little else on this rather feeble blog. There are plenty of web sites, which document racism in the Middle East, the indoctrination of children and the appalling conditions that many Palestinians live under.

My previous point was to re-emphasise the fact that many in Britain are in denial about the counterproductive racism articulated by some Palestinian “leaders”, and that a resolution to the conflict will not be achieved by wasting vast sums on rockets, rifles or bullets (on either side).

Taking TheIrie’s points concerning Ireland and South Africa. As far as I know there were no political movements in Ireland which called for the eradication of the English, nor was there any longstanding racism towards the English which threatened to wipe all of them out.

The dispute in Ireland was a political one and one of self-determination, and has been largely resolved in the South. Where sectarian poison persisted in Ireland (mostly in the North), violence has continued. So the political lesson of Ireland is avoid sectarianism (racism) and lower the political temperature, which might allow these disputes to be resolved peacefully.

Despite Ireland being occupied by the English from 1170, you will find 100,000s of Irish who make a conscious choice to live in Britain and you would be hard put to hear any significant Irish political leader, etc say that “they hate the English” or wish to kill all of the English, wholesale.

Turning to South Africa, as far as I know, the ANC did not advocate racist attitudes towards whites, even though whites may have been perceived by some as “oppressors” (rather simplistic view as many of the most vocal critics of apartheid and activists against apartheid were in fact “white”) .

So I don’t think that those parallels work, nevertheless, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if people directly involved in a conflict held heated views about the opposing side, with varying degrees of hostility.

That is entirely different from wanting to wipe out ALL Jews in the world, as Hamas, Hussein Nasrallah, etc wish to do.

I believe that people in the West should not try to excuse away the utterances of political leaders in the Middle East. Bearing in mind that most of leaders haven’t really suffered much, are probably part of a ruling elite who simply use anti-Jewish racism for their own political ends.

So there is a difference between a stupid racist comment and a document which details how some leaders in the Middle East would like to eradicate all Jews in the world.

Hence, there is a quantifiable difference between Anglophobia or a few minor remarks made against whites in southern Africa, and that of political leaders in the Middle East expressing clear antisemitic statements, who might, if they actually had the means would carry out their murderous intent.

Antisemitism is not just anti-Jewish racism, antisemitism has a long and nasty history going back over 2,500 plus years and it comes in many forms, many shapes and many intensities, so it can not always be treated in the same simplistic fashion as other forms of racism.

History has shown us why anti-Jewish racism it is quantifiably and qualitatively different from other forms of racism, if nothing else the past 130 years have shown us that.

Oppression doesn’t justify racism, it is always the wrong answer to the wrong question.

In the circumstances of the Middle East, racism only makes the situation worse that is why it is so poisonous for the any Palestinian or Middle Eastern leader to indulge in it.

If you’re in any doubt of the parallel, ask yourself the question:

did the provocative and sectarian conduct of the Loyalist leaders (provoking sectarian strife and violence, etc) in the Six Counties, prolong or shorten the conflict there?

I would say that sectarian violence in Ireland prolong the conflict, and brought untold suffering to so many.

In parts of the West, there is an idea that some forms of racism become more acceptable, or even excusable simply because of some grievance. That is utter nonsense, either you’re opposed to all forms of racism, we are not really opposed to racism at all.

An example, would you be more acceptable if some BNP member or skinhead in the Midlands firebombed a refugee’s asylum, simply because he felt some “grievance” against refugees or foreigners?

No, of course, not.

If people wouldn’t accept expression of racism and violence, in say Wigan, then why are such sentiments somehow more acceptable in the Middle East?

They are not. Not, if you apply universal values, that is.

So the speeches and words of an active political leader, such Nizar Rayyan, have a great deal more significance than a throwaway comment or an expression of annoyance from people in the street.


I don’t think that a resolution to the conflict in the Middle East will be achieved by wasting vast sums on rockets, rifles or bullets (on either side).

Taking up this point closer to home, many people in the West rightly condemn the immoral arms industry in Britain and how British arms are often used to fuel conflict around the world. Correctly, they point to the utter immorality of wasting millions of pounds on useless armaments, when such resources could be focused on poverty relief, providing sanitation or basic education in developing countries.

So it seems to me that it is a bit ridiculous for some people in the West to condemn the arms industry in Britain, and then go on to support Hamas and other violent militia who spend an inordinate amount of money on armaments, explosives and rockets. Particularly when such money could be used to relieve the suffering of many of people in the Middle East.

It’s as if there are two standards, on the one hand, it is not acceptable to waste vast sums of money on armaments in Britain and yet somehow people justify sordidly needed money being used to purchase AK47s in Gaza, instead of food and medical supplies.

If butter before guns is a good policy in most countries, then why should we exclude the Middle East from such a principle?

Dual standards.

I think these issues arise because many in the West don’t treat the occupants of the Middle East as if they were adults, but rather as children or someone to be pitied.

There seems to be the expectation that racism, violence and weaponry are accepted in parts of the Middle East and therefore somehow understandable, and I frankly don’t think they are.

If universal values apply to people in the West, the people in the Middle East are no less deserving and should be treated as human beings rather than some “noble savages”.

I hope that clarifies why I think the racism (combined with a political ideology and weaponry) articulated by groups in the Middle East should be exposed, and why people in the West should not excuse such conduct.

PS: that’s a long longer than I had intended, Jim Denham explains the matter much more succinctly in the comments.

Written by modernityblog

04/06/2007 at 13:57

Posted in Uncategorized

13 Responses

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  1. Very good poste. By the way the UK uoccupied the eastern sea board of the United States from 1607 to 1783, and then you burned Washington in 1814, and tried to occupie New Orleans. Despite all of your evil deeds, we don’t hate you, at least not all of the time!

    Charles Barton

    05/06/2007 at 02:27

  2. Thanks Charles, but I believe historically speaking the English did all that nasty stuff to North America until 1800, then the British took over (Act of Union)

    either way I am glad you don’t hate the English, neither do I !

    and I wouldn’t dream of arguing about America history, it is far too impolite 🙂

    I confess that I did like parts of Mel Gibson’s (spit on ground) The Patriot, but my cinema view is none too high brow


    05/06/2007 at 02:46

  3. In response to you.

    1. Racism. There may be differences in the language, but I think my Ireland/SA comparison is basically correct, and the key point is both of these conflicts have been to a large extent resolved. But, you points are simply holding back progress by resorting at every opportunity to repeating the mantra – they want to kill all Jews. Look at this opinion poll of Palestinians:

    Majorities want Hamas to re-write their charter, they want peace with Israel. They want it. There are negotiations. But no. Don’t talk about that. Don’t talk about Hamas statements like this one: “Hamas has announced that it accepts a Palestinian independent state within the 1967 borders with a long-term truce”, talk only about they hate the Jews. The Hamas convenant from 1988! Why! You are literally holding progress back with this mantra. Can you not see that?

    I don’t know what your arms control and dual standards points relate to – I don’t think they addresses anything I said.

    To sum up – I agree that we ought to be aware of the nasty ideologies and the racist’s that lurk out there. But I think we should also seek to isolate them, rather than strengthen them, and I think your approach does strengthen them! Hamas is not monolithic – they wanted to change post election, and the Palestinians also want them to change. Are we going to refuse to allow them to change by constantly citing material from 1988!


    05/06/2007 at 21:06

  4. … and what’s more, what would you say if Israel was dealt with only in terms of its worst elements. I could post this video up to balance yours. I could say “look at the Israeli’s treating the Palestinians worse than animals – is it any wonder that they want to kill the Jews”. But does that move us forward? You understand that Israel is not represented solely by the settlers, and taking only in terms of them is not a constructive approach. Why can’t you see the same is true for the other side?


    05/06/2007 at 21:53

  5. TheIrie,

    It is strange but when I wrote the original article, I thought to myself “shall I spell out the obvious distinctions between different forms of racism?”

    I decided not to, because I would have thought that it was bloody obvious, anyway here goes:

    Firstly, in terms of racism, it is to use your expression not “monolithic”, there is a distinction between a nasty racist comment, said on the no. 12 bus, to that of the utterances of neo-Nazis whilst calling for the death of gypsies, gays or Jews

    Why is there such a difference? One may be a chronically stupid and thoughtless comment whereas the other is integral to the person’s ideology (neo-Nazism)

    So we need to make a distinction between the intent and venom of racist uttering, otherwise we could not distinguish between a stupid person on the number 12 bus and David Duke.

    Contrary to your wild assertion, I think if you read the article with some care you will see that I do not accuse all Palestinians for being racist or wishing to kill Jews.

    why? because I don’t believe that to be true

    however, it is different when it comes to the leadership, they have an ideology ( a world view) and when that ideology is based on the hatred of Jews then it’s entirely different (P.S. Look up the history of the Protocols and who believes it)

    let’s look at two examples:

    1. is the occasional animosity of an ignorant white Southerner at the turn-of-the-century the same as a Ku Klux Klan member who is hanging an African-American in a lynching? Or throwing dynamite into a black Baptist Church?

    No, of course, not, because racism comes in different intensities and is a spectrum phenomena.

    2. is the casual racism of the German Junker class in 1932, the same as a zealot Nazi SS member participating in the Holocaust in 1943?

    No, in some ways the outward appearance may be similar but the intensity of hatred and underlying attitudes can be different.

    So when looking at racism and fascism, it is helpful to distinguish between incidental racism, casual racism, indoctrinated racism and ideological racism.

    The latter is present amongst the leadership of various militias in the Middle East.

    I don’t believe that the Palestinians, as individuals, as people are racist, any more than I believe that all British people are racist or Norwegians.

    Therefore, I differentiate between animosity from Palestinians towards Israelis, to the outspoken racism of their leaders, the two are not the same.

    I hope that you understand that point, now.

    Secondly, I’ve already covered the point concerning the Hamas covenant elsewhere.

    I think it is a PR trick because they now realise how detrimental it is for them to spell out the true thinking. As far as I can tell, and I would welcome been proven wrong, their attitude towards Jews had not dramatically changed. The Hamas leadership is merely tailoring their documentation for the consumption of Westerners.

    Concerning the truce, many other people have dealt with this, it is believed to be a tactical ploy, nothing more.

    I am not holding anything back, I am saying we should be realistic about the racist utterings of various Middle Eastern leaders.

    I hope that Hamas will change their views, but I suspect they won’t, because they are mostly ideologues.

    I hope that Israel opens a dialogue with Hamas, either way.

    Thirdly, arms control, for many years guns, rockets and other useless weaponry have been pouring in to the Gaza Strip and yet in the West few people have been bold enough to criticise this.

    And strangely enough, if I lived in America, I would argue for gun-control and I find it hard not to think that the Palestinians are equally entitled to gun control and money spent on infrastructure and medicine rather than guns and useless bullets.

    Fourthly, my whole point is to isolate them, thus we must be realistic about their intentions and the underlying ideology.

    If the Hamas leadership happy to see the Palestinians cut off without aid, when they could have simply 1) recognised Israel 2) agreed to see commitments of the previous regime (a common governmental norm) then I think they place the hatred of Israel before their alleged concern for the Palestinians, and that has been the problem all along.

    So to summarise, I don’t think Palestinians are necessarily racists, I think many of their leaders are, and that is true across the Middle East. The intensity of the leadership’s hatred is one of the major impediments and if we fail to acknowledge that we are being naïve and foolish.

    PS: did you trouble to get any of the books that I suggested on the Middle East?


    05/06/2007 at 22:45

  6. Actually the Act of Union was passed in 1707, and many sons of Scotland, all most depraved, fought for the UK during the American Revolution. The Patriot whitewashed the British in my oppenion, Mel Gibso is notorious for his use of under statement.

    Charles Barton

    06/06/2007 at 02:00

  7. damn it charles, I am embarrassed I should have said the Act Union of 1800, which created the United Kingdom 😦

    ok, ok, er… shall we agree that Mel Gibson stinks? in the spirit of American- European unity? PLEASE!


    06/06/2007 at 02:24

  8. As a youth I spent my summers reading the encyclopedias, that my parents so kindly provided for my education. You never know when all that information might come in handy I suspect we would agree on a lot more than Mel Gibson., but that might be a start. However, the older I get, the less impressed I am with Europe, and Europeans. I am not sure if Europe is an Idea whose time has passed, or if it is no longer fashionable to talk about class differences, so when the Euro upper crust puts down Americans, perhaps the real target is the lower orders of European society, from whence the ancestors of most Americans originated. Just a thought.

    Charles Barton

    06/06/2007 at 21:39

  9. ahh Charles, anyone that likes books can’t be all bad.

    I confess the reverse, I have always been a bit sarcastic with our cousins across the pond, having worked with a fair few Americans and American companies but as I get older I feel (in spite of my constant sarcasm) the need for greater tolerance, and that applies even to Canadians and citizens of the United States.

    I know it’s wrong of me, as the European, I should be shouting “Bush is Hitler” “Americans are Nazis” and “Cheney is ruling the world” but I can’t, when I hear or see vulgar anti-Americanism (as opposed to a few tasteless jokes across the pond) I get annoyed, and have even been accused of being pro American, because I listen to American talk radio too much!

    as one of the lower orders, I see your point 🙂


    07/06/2007 at 00:14

  10. You have to spend time in America to realize how many exceptional people we have here. Just remimber that 70% of the Nobel Prize winners in the 20th century came from the United States. There were more Norwegian-American Nobel Prize winners than Notwegian Noble Prize winners, and the Norwgian-Americans were people that Norway did not want.

    Canadians are a very decent people too. Every few months I devote a post in my blog to Canada or Canadians. It is almost always humerous. A lot of it has to do with how difficult it is to identify that someone is a Canadians rather than an American. There are actually a good number of Canadian undocumented workers in the United States and no one ever guesses.

    We have a long history of uninspired political leadership in the United States. The country has so far survived a whole bunch of incompetent, narrow minded, and even demented – Ronald Reagan – Presidents. Bush is one of the worst if not the worst, he is in my estimation mentally ill. The Republican leaders in Çongress for the last 6 years have been an amazing lot, corrupt, unprinciples, totally dishonest with themselves and the voters. Worst of all none of them have a clue how badly they are doing. Eventually the voters started to catch on, and the Democrates generally run candidates who are a little bit more substantial and a little bit more intelligent, so we start to see a slight improvement.

    Eventually excesses get corrected. The Republicans make a mistake an name a truly capable man to be vice-president, and then the President has a stroke, and has to go through a 2 year rehabilitation, so the copable Vice-President gets bounced into the presidency.

    Or the Democrats actually win a Presidential election and although the President is a sex addict, he is also the most intelligent and talented politician in the country.

    Our crimes and vices are minor compared to Europeans. For pure evil George W. Bush cannot compare with Leopold II of Belgium who was responsible for the deaths of 8 to 30 million people in the Congo. Europeans need to think about how bad there worst is, before they point their fingers at us Americans.

    Ordinary Europeans are, like Canadians, much like most of the people of the United States.

    Charles Barton

    07/06/2007 at 03:07

  11. Charles,

    you are pushing at an open door, I was being flippant, as I frequently am.

    I have visited the Americas number of occasions, and have only praise for those Americans I met.

    and please let’s not get into a America versus Europe blame game, it is rather childish at our age 🙂


    07/06/2007 at 19:26

  12. What a relief to find a Left blog that sets out some of the stark and obvious points about the tragedy in Palestine. So – good old Hamas might just be softening their line, eh? It doesn’t look like that will be happening in Gaza now………..

    I am sick of comparisons between Israel and South Africa and the like, or blaming all American people for George W Bush. Much of it is barely disguised anti-semitism. Time some people on the Left did some hard thinking.

    Thank you for clearly setting out the sort of argument that should be on every part of the Left.



    17/06/2007 at 00:25

  13. thanks for the kind comment, I enjoyed your contribution at Dave Osler’s (I was deliberately staying out of the debate there, to see how it unfolds)


    17/06/2007 at 17:24

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