Another experiment gone by

Well, I’m pre-emptively calling off big gay january, as it appears that thematic concerns, while great for making me do even longer pieces requiring lots of research, have also left me with a raft of half- or quarter-completed posts. It doesn’t help that this idea doesn’t really fit my off-the-cuff analytical writing preference. In that spirit, let’s talk a bit about race instead.

Anyone with at least half a television set has probably heard several times by now about the story of the Israeli woman who was barred from a Turkish restaurant in Invercargill. There have been several forays ’round the bloglines into pro-israeli and pro-palestinian positions, and even some on the incident down south.

Firstly, I’m glad to see so many people realise that throwing someone out of your shop just because they might be associated with a cause you fundamentally oppose is ritualistically insane. The woman involved was not a supporter of the war, she was not saying or doing anything to imply that she was, so this is one man’s (two men’s now, I suppose) attempt at blanket punishment. It’s stupid, it’s petty, and it violates the idea that he has opened a public restaurant. If I lived my life along similar principles there would be few people left who I could actually get along with. This is not the kind of thing that adults do.

I hesitate, however, to call it racism1. Not because there was no element of pre-judging someone by race- clearly there was. But because this was not some systemic attempt by arabs to dominate and oppress Jews. This wasn’t about systemic oppression. This was about an active and violent conflict that people on both sides oppose. And we’d do well to remember that in our condemnation of the incident over here: that this person is someone who took their reaction to what’s happening in their homeland a little far.

On the wider conflict: I disagree with David Farrar on the warcrimes bit, but while respecting his view that Israel has a right to exist and defend itself. Israel has clearly issued a disproportionate response without clear justification, their allegations that Hamas is coaching little kids en masse to lie to Western media is impractical at best, and there is already an internal investigation underway into whether phosphor bombs were used on civilians. (These bombs should only ever be used as smokescreens away from combatants, as they literally melt the skin and lead to an excruciating death that makes the end seem merciful.)

My general take on the wider conflict is that Israel is ignorant and stupid. They are fighting terrorists, not a war. When you fight terrorists you’re essentially fighting a political battle to deplete their funds, shut down their businesses, and tank their popularity. Why? Because there is no viable military solution to the type of terrorism that goes on in the middle east, where suicide-bombing is common, and where Hamas declares victory after Gaza gets the shit blown out of it. That is what makes their response so mind-numbingly unnecessary: not only was it wrong even if it had defended themselves, but in the medium-term it has made the situation worse. These orphaned children will now be prime recruits for the military wing of Hamas. Already weapons and fuel are being smuggled through tunnels, both old ones re-dug and new ones. The only way to end this is to go beyond ceasefire into meaningful and co-operative peace, with two tightly co-operative nations forming in the area that was once the British Mandate of Palestine.

But let me give you no illusions that I support the Palestinians, either. They’re in many ways worse than the Israelis in this conflict. Hamas’ military wing is a terrorist organisation that already has too much international support. Even the socio-political wing of Hamas has this obscene suicide-pact view of victory where they can sacrifice their citizens for a claim on more land that currently is under Israeli control when they sit down to negotiate for real. (Because none of them are under the illusion that they will win by force of arms. They clearly cannot, and terrorism isn’t stopping Israel either.) There is too much concern with “reclaiming what is theirs” and not enough concern with the welfare of their people, even if they have in many ways done a better job than Fatah.

1 I agree that in theory this is racism. I disagree that in practice calling it such is productive, due to the associations people make with racism. (Which reminds me, I need to make a “But I’m not a racist!” post. Or, to be more precise, a post about people who utter that line as a defense against allegations that they’re being racist.)

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