"What becomes clear, when one looks closely at [Sheridan's] ouvre is that [he] is an ideologue, a crusader and an apologist for one of the most barbaric regimes on the planet and for the acolytes who, without question, back the war crimes and despotic violence that this regime visits on those who disagree with its religious fundamentalism and lust for world domination. In Sheridan's worldview it is also legitimate to vilify, denigrate and misrepresent your intellectual and political opponents, while maintaining your position in the face of competing facts and analysis." (Getting the story straight: Greg Sheridan in the shifting moral sands of Iraq, Martin Hirst & Robert Schutze, espace.library.uq.edu.au, 1/1/04)
The Australian's foreign editor and self-styled "most influential foreign affairs analyst in Australian journalism"* Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan has just published the ultimate paean to Israel, for which his earlier effort, Deep inside the plucky country (19/1/08), was just a warm-up. It seems that the more Israel's stock plunges, the more obvious that something is indeed rotten in the State of Israel, like some demented diehard Stalinist, the more ardent he becomes. Being feted and stroked by the right people, or being on Murdoch's payroll, has nothing to do with it. It's quite simple: Sheridan's in love.
[*From Sheridan's bio on The Australian's website.]
Israel still looks good, warts & all (The Australian Literary Review, 6/5/09) is a ringing defence of the beloved against all who would look sideways at her (most of the planet by now). But I'm reluctant to touch it. After 36 posts hosing down Sheridan's ardours, I'd love nothing better than to let another such steamy display go by. However, considering his alleged influence (do Kevin and Stephen and Joel and crew really hang on his every word?), not to mention the sweep and breadth of this one (do I see a book coming on?), I feel have little choice but to unwind the hose once again. Still (I hate homework like the best of them), it'll be bit by bit, in a series of not necessarily consecutive posts:-
"I have my very own Israel problem and it is this: the Israel I know... bears no relation to the Israel I see in most of the Western media." IOW, the Israel Sheridan "knows" is the real Israel, the rest a mere figment of the Western/Arab imagination. But what kind of Israel can a cosseted, ideologically-blinkered News Ltd 'journalist' get to know?
"That Israel of the Western mind (and indeed of the Arab mind) is a hateful place: right-wing, militaristic, authoritarian, racist, ultra-religious, neo-colonial, narrow-minded, undemocratic, indifferent to world opinion, indifferent especially to Palestinian suffering. Yet the Israel I know is mostly secular, raucously, almost wildly democratic, has a vibrant left-wing, having founded in the kibbutz movement one of the only successful experiments in socialism in human history. It is intellectually disputatious... it is multi-ethnic, there is a great stress on human solidarity, there is due process. And I've never heard an Israeli speak casually about the value of Palestinian life."
Platitudes, form a queue! One at a time, please:
Mostly secular? How can a 'Jewish' state, a state where religion and nationality are one, be mostly secular?
Wildly democratic? Yes, democratic in a fashion. There are parties and elections, but how can a state which uses religious criteria to decide citizenship be wildly democratic? And how can a state that has ethnically cleansed most of its non-Jewish indigenous inhabitants (1948) and subjected the rest (since 1967) to decades of brutal occupation be wildly democratic? Wildly ethnocratic, perhaps, but certainly not wildly democratic. Nor did 66% of Israelis think Israel was wildly democratic when they registered their disatisfaction with Israeli democracy in an Israel Democracy Institute poll in 2007 (66% of public dissatisfied with Israeli democracy, ynetnews.com, 6/10/07) And nor is Israel wildly democratic enough for Israel's minority non-Jewish population: "Amidst the increasingly precarious situation of Palestinian citizens of Israel, prominent and broadly representative members of that community published in 2007 a series of documents setting out visions for Israel as a state of all its citizens with equality for all. The response of the Israeli body politic was overwhelmingly to view these initiatives as an unwelcome threat to the 'Jewish character' of the state. Israel's Shin-Bet secret police, responsible among other things for many 'targeted killings' in the Occupied territories, went so far as to warn that it would 'disrupt the activities of any groups that seek to change the Jewish or democratic character of Israel, even if they use democratic means'." (Anti-Arab racism & incitement in Israel, Ali Abunimeh, thejerusalemfund.org, 25/3/08)
The kibbutz movement - vibrant and socialist? Sorry, Greg, this is 2009 and the kibbutz movement is neither vibrant nor socialist. And anyway, weren't these pre-67 settlements Jews- only?
Intellectually disputatious? Really? Here's Israeli historian Ilan Pappe: "I was boycotted in my university and there had been attempts to expel me from my job. I am getting threatening phone calls from people every day." (Ilan Pappe leaves Israel for England, cites harrassment, muzzlewatch.com, 6/4/07) Ditto for the late Tanya Reinhart who had to leave for the US. (Not, of course, that Sheridan would even bother to read either scholar.) One thing's for sure though: Israel won't tolerate intellectual disputation among its neighbours. This year it bombed the Islamic University of Gaza, and in 2006 it bombed over 20 publishing houses and research centres in the southern suburbs of Beirut (Israel's war on intellectual life among untold stories of summer conflict, dailystar.com, 20/7/07)
Multi-ethnic? Maybe. But harmoniously so? How about the Border Guards of Ethiopian descent who cop such racist abuse from Israeli settlers as "Niggers don't expel Jews! This isn't what we brought you here for!" (Settlers to Ethiopian troops: Niggers don't expel Jews, ynetnews.com, 4/12/08) Which I suppose is preferable to the ubiquitous cry of 'Death to the Arabs'.
A great stress on human solidarity? Er, shouldn't that be 'tribal solidarity'?
Due process? *Sigh* I'm getting lazy. See my 21/7/08 post The 'Motiveless Malignancy' of Samir Quntar.
Nary a bad word about the Palestinians? In its 2007 Israeli Democracy Index, the Israel Democracy Institute found that 87% of all Israeli citizens rated Jewish-Arab relations in the country as being 'poor' and 'very poor'; 78% of Israeli Jews opposed having Arab parties or ministers join Israel's government; Just 56% of Israeli Jews supported full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel; 75% of Israeli Jews agreed with the statement that 'Arabs are inclined to violent behaviour'; 43% of Israeli Jews agreed that 'Arabs are not intelligent'; 55% agreed that 'the government should encourage Arab emigration from the country'. And Greg must've somehow have missed those wonderful t-shirts worn by Israeli soldiers with slogans such as Better use Durex (next to a dead Palestinian baby and his weeping mother) or 1 shot, 2 kills (next to a bull's eye superimposed on a pregnant Palestinian woman), or the comment by the Israeli soldier returned from the Gaza massacre: 'The lives of Palestinians, let's say, is something very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers'. (See my 22/3/09 post Ubermenschen)
Hey, but what's a love letter without platitudes? Stay tuned for Sheridan in Love 2.