Complicity

Sometimes things are so complicated that we forget that they don’t need to be.  There are certain things that are just wrong, and we do the right thing when we make it clear that we think it is wrong.  The ‘Israel-Palestine conflict’ is a case in point.  Although both Israelis and Palestinians have suffered in ways we elsewhere cannot even begin to imagine, and although the whole thing is horrendously complicated, there is nevertheless a truth that I believe cannot be denied.  Take, for example, what has been going on in Gaza over the last few years.  One of the most sophisticated militaries in the world (I would argue that Israel – from what I can tell – is pretty much a militarised society in that over there the military is part of the everyday) is imprisoning, controlling, slowly suffocating Gazans, who literally have no way to defend themselves other than to attack with rickety old rockets from Hizbullah in the North, or stones, or by blowing themselves up. By all accounts, people aren’t blowing themselves up as much as they were because the illegal wall between Palestine and Israel has been built, so not only have lives been saved, but the only potent weapon of the Palestinians has been rendered useless.  The desperation of Palestinian people is illustrated by the fact that many of them were prepared to blow themselves up.  We in Western Europe should note that this is not necessarily a religious thing, but a political one, an existential one even – it is the ultimate act of desperation, the ultimate cry of pain, and the final scream in the face of an oppressor that will not recognise your pain, will not acknowledge that you have no future. The only weapon they have is their life.  It is claiming one’s right to exist by ending one’s own existence http://press.princeton.edu/titles/7699.html  Of course, like in so much of life, the innocent are exploited by others who organise – in this case  the bombings – but of course don’t do the job themselves.

There are many arguments to be had about the conflict between Israel and Palestine:  why, how, what for and so on, but the basic truth is that Gaza is now pretty much a very large prison camp.  And if this was happening almost anywhere else in the world, it probably wouldn’t be ‘allowed’ to happen.  I don’t want to get into why this is allowed to happen, but the Israelis are very good at keeping US politicians who want to win elections on side.  I remember wondering how Obama would deal with this issue before he ran for the presidential candidacy. I remember being so disappointed in him but understanding why he chose not to criticise Israel.

http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article6619.shtml

Whatever one’s politics may be, whether one is pro-this or anti-that, fundamentally it is morally inexcusable that this is being allowed to happen.  This is not only for peace and freedom in Palestine of course. Currently Israel is isolationist, it’s rhetoric is pretty radical and it continues to build illegally on Palestinian land.  It is morally corrupting itself. Peace and freedom for the Palestinians would mean that Israel would also be free, from its prison of moral corruption and from it’s fear of attack.   However at present, Israel continues to be in breach of international law and it knows that it will never be held to account.  And, Israel’s leaders justify its actions in a discourse of fear:  the ongoing vulnerability of a Jewish state surrounded by Arab countries / Iran who, it is claimed, question it’s right to exist http://www.enduringamerica.com/march-2010/2010/3/23/full-video-transcript-benjamin-netanyahus-speech-to-aipac-co.html

Anyway, as I see it there is a simple truth.  The simple truth is that what is happening is wrong in the eyes of international law, and wrong on humanitarian and ethical levels.  Perhaps the right thing to do is to acknowledge  this simple truth, whilst recognising the pain that both communities have suffered.  However, this basic fact can easily lost in the complexities of a long and bloody battle.

As we live in a 24 hour media age, the conflict is of course being fought in the media.  The propaganda war is key to success in any war, and in this particular ‘conflict’, the true story rarely gets out, mainly because the media is lazy and expects us, the audience, to be too (we can’t explain why this is happening as it’s too complex so let’s just use stereotypes to explain).Often in a propaganda war, the perceived complexities are reduced down to the lowest common denominator  – namely whatever sells, whatever ‘angle’ is deemed suitable for the public’s current tastes – and the basic ethical truth is lost.  In this process, the media becomes complicit.  It’s complicity is complex but it is, nonetheless complicit. And we are used to it now.  We accept it.  Why? Why doesn’t anyone speak out?  Maybe they do, but of course the media never reports it.  We could do with a few more George Orwells, Robert Fisks or John Pilgers.

As I don’t watch the Fox news channel, it is quite rare that I am gobsmacked by brutally insensitive, incompetently researched and, basically, stupid journalism.   However, a recent BBC programme has really sunk the corporation to new depths.  The BBC is often (I really don’t know why) accused of being biased, but this is generally because it is criticised as too ‘left-wing’ (I think critics of the BBC think it is too close to the state, which funds it, but then it’s hardly likely to be ‘left-wing’), but there is a programme it showed recently which was very biased.  In fact, because of this programme I would argue that the BBC is complicit in the suffering of the Palestinians and the Israelis.  This is because of it’s stupid, ill-researched journalism, it’s lowest-common-denominator, sensationalist approach and it’s extraordinary bias, most viewers will believe the lies in this programme to be true, thus the status quo in this situation is perpetuated, thus nothing changes and the horror continues. An opportunity to tell the truth has been missed.  Again.

Panorama is rarely a seriously critical / journalistic 30 min of TV – although it is the BBC’s main investigative Journalism programme –  but this episode actually made me laugh. The programme was about the storming of the Mari Mara ship by Israeli Commandoes and the subsequent killing of a number of peace activists on board.   It makes a series of statements which argue essentially that the people on board the Mari Mara, and behind the whole peace convoy were ‘Islamic extremists’ (whatever that means), that the activists were preparing a violent clash with the Israelis, and that the Commandos themselves were the victims on the whole shambles.  There are constant claims and insinuations that are unfounded, and never explained, so any casual viewer would go away thinking that the claims in the film are true.  What little context there is, is essentially lip service.

You can watch it here and decide for yourself what you think: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yEi1B5xb_E

I have already bored my loved ones about this issue and I finally found someone who agrees with me, and not just to shut me up.  He has done a short study of the programme and it’s appalling journalism.

http://www.counterfire.org/index.php/features/46-video/6612-bbc-bias-the-gaza-freedom-flotilla-

Here are some more people that agree: http://www.demotix.com/photo/417278/bbc-panorama-death-med-protest

And more: http://bpc-world.co.uk/2010/08/bbc-panorama-an-exemplary-work-of-clumsy-journalism/

Here is the BBC’s response to BPC world: http://bpc-world.co.uk/2010/08/death-in-the-med-panorama-response/

Anthony Lawson who made the film calls for an inquiry into ‘who is really in charge’ of the BBC. I would argue that it’s not really about conspiracies, or who is in charge of the BBC. Essentially the inquiry should be about why we find it acceptable that institutions can be complicit in propagating our lack of understanding about – and therefore the suffering of those involved in –  some of the worst things that people do to each other.  And why this is allowed to continue.  And why we don’t care.  And why if we do care, we feel powerless to change it. It’s not just about the media either.  In various ways, we are all complicit, in our own and each others’ various repressions and supressions, and our suffering.

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  1. crazybones
    September 16, 2010 at 07:25

    South Koreans are psychologically oppressed by both their Northern cousins and their American friends. They are, as a consequence, socially hobbled, dogged by fear and sorrow and quite a lot of bitterness too, quite naturally. Upwards of 20 million North Koreans are in a giant prison, too – and the People’s Republic of China holds the key. Who’s going to “resist” the PRC?

    Israel was “militarized” by the Nazis. Assuming we’re all going to stick with nationalism, have the Germans really discharged their debt to Jews and Arabs, both? Can they, even? Herzl was right to advise European Jews to seek their own homeland, surely? Hannah Arendt thought that Jews had better have become politically active, militant, really, in order to hold on and get their rights in Europe, to which they had contributed greatly – that they had been seduced into seeking “assimilation” in “the social”, politely refraining, shying from the admittedly very scary arena of politics, remaining permanent parvenus. So, with only one foot in the world, they were all too easily ejected from it and into the artificial, ultraviolent wilderness of the railway trucks and the camps. But even by 1933, it was already too late. The horrible algorithm of deception and terror that led to the gas chambers and crematoria (Dresden had its own flashy innovation – an electric guillotine!) was devised and arranged by a shell-shocked German political class, perverted by hatred and in possession of unprecedented technical means (developed in no small part by the British imperial project) to act out a collective psychosis. And they did so – with all the bells and whistles. It took the atomic bomb to stop what this German “National Socialist Party” started (and to open a new frontier in terror). Are the Israelis mad? You bet. Do I blame them? No. Europe must pay – in territory if need be.

    The dreadful consequences of the collapse of “civilization” in the continent that coined the silly word have bred like really, really bad debts, evil debts in fact; like Pol Pot’s “microbes”, like cancer cells. Just one of the great streams in this confluence of illness flows from the alliance the US and UK were forced to make with Stalin. Another stream flows from the construction of the Pentagon and the Lockean stand-off American citizens find themselves in at home, never mind their permanent (?) military deployment around the globe.

    Palestinians are pariahs among wealthier, luckier Arabs, who also like to use them, as domestic help, as punchbags, as suckers and instruments of an anti-Semitism radiating from Mecca, which is perhaps the silliest “holy city” in the world, although Rome is pretty damned silly, as is Lourdes. And Jerusalem, “the city of peace”? Hardly. The Vatican should be sold or leased to sort out Italy’s sovereign debt problem (perhaps there should be a website devoted to gauging and recording public perceptions of how silly any given holy city is on any given day – is Lhasa sillier than Umritsar, for example?). The C of E should be cloistered and god help us we’ll have to have a crack at de-centralized cosmopolitan federalism, integrated in some chimerical way with the EU, if it doesn’t go nuts all of a sudden – it does have a history, oh yes a history… At least the Germans are enjoying rude economic health. What is the name of the French foreign minister? La Louche?? The louche?

    Now, that Turkish humanitarian, the Capt. Pugwash who was apparently in charge of the decidedly motley shipload of “peace activists” until the Israeli kids went on their shooting spree (how mortifying for the mothers of these once nice boys, and for their incompetent commanders) was interpreted and voiced by the Beeb as making this pledge:

    “If we organized another boat and Israel attempted to illegally invade it, we’d use our right to passive resistance: we’d throw them into the sea.”

    But we really need to verify the translation, because, on the face of it, he has no idea at all, or just doesn’t care, what the word “passive” means.

    It seems there was a failure of leadership on the boat and among the pistol-packing Israeli acrobats. The “peace activists” worked themselves into a froth and changed their minds mid-voyage! Perhaps the sea is to blame. If you are expecting to fight, you bring weapons. It’s exceedingly silly to go cutting steel bars from the ships rails when you run into “one of the most sophisticated” bunch of military nutjobs in the world. Yes it was piracy, clearly, by the way, if it took place in international waters. Like the Achille Lauro. But the good ship MM was expecting to meet trouble, while clearly in several minds as to how to respond. On a SHIP in the open sea you need clear leadership and clear-eyed discipline or you place the lives of all, crew and passengers, in grave danger.

    Everyone learns from everyone else in this game, just as the grief-crazed bunch of killers who blew up the King David Hotel taught the world a masterclass in terrorism. And the sense of self-worth of the groups who try to barter hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for single Israeli hostages is related to the broken spirits of those who can be persuaded to blow up themselves and other people. If you take the definition of “radical evil” to be crimes that are beyond both punishment and forgiveness, that are thereby irremediable (although thankfully finite), the suicide-bombing fits the bill, as the perpetrator leaves existence unpunishable and unforgivable. But clearly these individuals have been pre-punished and there goes that horrible chain of causality back to the camps, back to the trenches, back to the Boer War, the Opium Wars, the Punic Wars, the first dust-up between primordial chemical replicators over some needful, some passionately wished-for molecule.

    We also have to consider the mutation or maiming of this TV show’s format. “Panorama” used to be 50 minutes long or more. It has been truncated (40% lopped off!) and thereby disabled from dealing adequately with its subject matter. The programme opened with a spiralling tracking shot, showing off a pimped-up talking waxwork called Jeremy Vine against the lurid backdrop of medialand. A key factoid, in great need of careful investigation and explanation, was just chucked in at the end, like an iffy, secondhand grenade – as the presenter showed us a packet of medicine with the expiry date clearly overrun. How much of that shipment was useful, how much useless, how much, if any, dangerous? Sorry, out of time.

    A quasi-pornographic sheen came over BBC TV news sometime in the last decade or so. In the early nineties they experimented with a digitally-generated fake news studio. In later years they hobbled Jeremy Bowen and forced him onto BBC Breakfast, where he looked as comfortable as if he knew that everyone suspected him of getting blowjobs off his co-presenter (sorry!). The man was in agony. So was the world. I stopped keeping a TV in the house back in 2005. I don’t regret it. The BBC needs to be well-funded enough to buck the trends and speak truth to power: it needs to be somewhat unruly, (unless the British are really in a full-on state of war, in which case they should start drafting their feckless, hapless, jobless youth). If it really is politically impossible for the BBC to risk its audience share, it is no longer useful but dangerous. The reason why it might be politically impossible is its “national” status, when the form of the nation-state is again/still in deep crisis all over the world, with no clear successor – hence the great metaphysical-religious fog-out that started in the late 70’s. Meanwhile “Panorama” had better make the shift to a lifestyle format than try to tackle anything genuinely complicated in half an hour of TV.

    Gazing, as I do, at the tundra of fogey-dom ahead of me, I have no fear of voicing my preference for radio. The BBC’s production costs could be radically reduced if it left TV altogether. As a radio and text provider, production costs could be lowered but talent (and courage!) rewarded. People who want their faces on TV could work elsewhere!

    Here are some jokes I’m getting almost serious about…

    • Give the Palestinian Arabs Bavaria.
    • Level the Pyramids.
    • Give the Champs Élysées to the Roma as a permanent European hub.
    • Make Morrissey Queen of the Britons and forcibly relocate him and his followers to a gulag in Northumberland or Ala Shan.

    Just as neither Iraq nor Afghanistan are Vietnam, so Israel/Palestine is not South Africa, which has its own quite different problems and achievements.

    And finally, take another look at the first essay of “the genealogy”. N’s assertion that he is “for the few” is undermined by his choice of a mass medium (print) to express himself. William Blake was a stranger talent and etched his own limited editions. He even etched (?) the immortally silly lines “Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand/Till we have built Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land”. Metaphors get silly. You can’t build cities with swords, Willy. However metaphorically multi-layered Nietzche is, to the casual browser, the grazer, in the second-hand bookshop (or in the blogiverse, the blogmos, or blog-o-shite), his assertion that “Israel itself” did “nail to the cross” “[t]his Jesus of Nazareth” also constitutes a repetition of a mis-telling of an already very doubtful tale. Whether or not “Jesus” ever existed, only the Romans were nailing people to crosses in 1st century Judea. Ask your local Spartacist.

    And this “philosopher” Nietzsche’s most famous work, TST, is… a novel. Franz Kafka supposedly preferred Nietzsche’s fictions to Freud’s – but both N and F were artists. And what a racehorse, what a thoroughbred of a scribe N was:

    Among the priests, everything simply becomes more dangerous—not only the remedies and arts of healing, but also pride, vengeance, mental acuity, excess, love, thirst for power, virtue, illness—although it’s fair enough also to add that on the foundation of this fundamentally dangerous form of human existence, the priestly, for the first time the human being became, in general, an interesting animal, that here the human soul first attained depth in a higher sense and became evil—and, indeed, these are the two basic reasons for humanity’s superiority, up to now, over other animals! . . .

    I have noticed Sinéad O’Connor suffered an interview recently – her 1992 action on SNL spectacularly vindicated. The interviewer seemed ignorant of her early songs, which mystified me a bit: journalists, what do you call them?

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