Monday, January 12, 2009

Placing more value on Jewish lives

Eamonn McDonagh and I have something in common: we're both Argentina-based bloggers who write in English on the Israel/Palestine conflict. Other than that, our worldviews differ radically as he believes all criticism of Israel can be explained away as antisemitism. Of course he will make the usual disclaimers stating there can be anti-Zionists who aren't antisemites, but he will never provide an actual example.

Eamonn's method to prove an anti-Zionist's antisemitism is simple: first, check his location and ethnicity; next, compile a short list of human-rights violations affecting his country or ethnic group; and, finally, conclude that he is an antisemite because he talks about Israel's crimes but not about those other violations he should be more concerned with.

In his latest post, Eamonn discusses a recent incident in the city of Resistencia, in Northeastern Argentina, where a group called Túpac Amaru protested Israel's actions in Gaza by painting graffiti on Jewish institutions. A despicable and irrational action that must be thoroughly condemned, certainly, but one that must be seen in the context of a country where vandalization of public and private property enjoys wide impunity. Eamonn comments:

Some will respond by saying that this is a non-story about a non-event, just slogans painted on a few buildings, not exactly the end of the world. I don’t agree. In a province with some of the nation’s gravest social problems and with a large indigenous community, the bulk of which lives in conditions of abject poverty, at least one small planet in the vast constellation of the country’s social and human rights organizations decided last Thursday night that of all the problems with which the world is afflicted, the most urgent is Gaza and that the best contribution it could make to resolving it was to harass the tiny Jewish community of Resistencia.

McDonagh mixes one reasonable assertion (the Jewish community should not be attacked because of the Gaza op) with one unreasonable one (Túpac Amaru should not protest about Gaza because there are other more urgent problems) in the hope that the reasonableness of the former will make up for the ludicrousness of the latter.

In fact, Túpac Amaru is addressing all the time the grave social problems Eamonn wants them to tackle, as is known to any habitual reader of the Chaco press (but not to Eamonn himself, who only gets interested in the province when he smells the possibility of charging someone with antisemitism).

The suggestion that Túpac Amaru can't talk about Gaza so long as poverty and discrimination against indigenous peoples persist reminds one of the argument (unfortunately often made) that the State shouldn't finance universities so long as there exist hungry people that could be fed with that money.

Eamonn proceeds then to draw his conclusion:

The idea is taking hold in some very remote places that every Jew is jointly and severally responsible for the actions of every other.

Which, of course, is thoroughly disingenuous. Jewish institutions in Argentina are pro-Zionist to the marrow of their bones, and what was attacked in them was their support for Israel, not their Jewishness. Nonaffiliated Jews were not attacked; secular Jewish university professors were not harassed over the Madoff scandal; bearded and hat-covered Haredim were not punched in the face over businessman Enrique Eskenazi's dubious dealings with the Kirchner presidential family. It was Israel-supporting institutions (not random Jewish citizens) that were attacked over what Israel (not an isolated Jew) did.

But Eamonn McDonagh demands very high standards from us. The question is: does he meet them?

From his bio, Eamonn is an Irishman who came to live in Buenos Aires in 1999. We could expect him to write about the national healing process in Ireland, or about the many socioeconomic issues Argentina faces. But that's not the case. He hardly ever mentions Ireland, and, while he writes a lot about Argentina, it's only when the story can in some way be connected to antisemitism.

Why is he so obsessed with antisemitism, and with criticism of Israel?

Is it because he's concerned about the status of minorities? No; that can't be: the Bolivian minority is widely discriminated against in Argentina. Unlike the Jewish community, the Bolivian community has had members killed in the last five years because of their ethnicity (see, for instance, here, here and here), yet Eamonn has remained quiet about it. And despite his pretended interest in the country's indigenous communities, he has said nothing about the Argentinian State's attempt to swindle the Mapuche Curruhuinca people in connection with a touristic resort built on their lands.

Is it, then, because McDonagh wants a balanced reporting of conflicts? That can't be either. When on 6 March 2008 eight Jews were murdered by a Palestinian in Jerusalem, Clarín, Argentina's foremost daily, reported it on its cover:

When on 6 June 2008 21 Sinhalese were killed by the Tamil Tigers in Sri lanka, on the other hand, Clarín did not devote cover space to the incident:

Yet Eamonn did not write a post in condemnation of Clarín's unfair treatment of the Palestinians, lambasting the daily for giving far more prominence to their terror attacks than to the Tamils' much worse mass killings.

Is it, then, because he is concerned about religious persecution? Again, that can't be; otherwise he would be writing post after post about the Hindu persecution of Christians in India.

What's the origin of Eamonn's obsession, then? I can't tell for sure, but I'll make an educated guess. Eamonn, like some Jews and, indeed, like many non-Jews imbued with an irrational adoration of the Jewish people, believes a Jewish life to be more valuable than a non-Jewish one. It's true that many people in his adoptive country suffer much more than the Jews. But they're brown, monotonous, uninteresting people who haven't won any Nobel prizes.

That's why spray-painted graffiti on a Jewish center or, in his words, the "new, cool, fat-free, environmentally responsible anti-Semitism" worry him more than the real death, suffering and dispossession of peoples that committed the original sin of not being Jewish.


Ernie Halfdram said...

Excellent point. This is one of the most trusted tropes of the hasbara crowd - accusing critics of Israel of antisemitism on the grounds that we don't criticise other atrocities. In fact, most of us do, although usually in a separate paragraph. Furthermore, in trying to implicate all Jews in their crimes, Israel confers the right, and imposes the obligation, on all Jews to proclaim, 'Not in my name, you don't!'

That they themselves are susceptible to precisely the same criticism, and on more robust grounds, is an observation well worth making. Not that it will influence Israel's apologists themselves. Emabrrassing a hasbarist with accusations of hypocrisy is like embarrassing a dog with accusations the he licks his own balls.

Ben White said...

I learned my lesson a while ago - there's no point debating with a man who sees what he wants to see, and attributes to the target of his critique a future predicted opinion.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

Of course, Ben; his analyses are completely valueless, displaying "logical inferences" full of fallacies, and making the most preposterous claims based on his hunches and gut feelings. One is at first annoyed by his didactic tone, but ends up actually amused by the man's conceit and bogus scholarship.

Medicine said...

Some will respond by saying that this is a non-story about a non-event, just slogans painted on a few buildings, not exactly the end of the world.