Wednesday, October 13, 2010

About That Falling Man

Surprise! Surprise! The Australian has bookended Christopher Hitchen's Dear Virginia, there really is an Israel lobby in its Saturday edition with Benny Morris' Look at moi, look at moi, Chrissy, look at moi please... in its Monday edition.

While Morris hearts Hitchens on his fingering of those bloody Arabs/Muslims as corrupt, violent, autocratic, nihilistic, medieval etc, he complains that, alas, "he still has a soft and blind spot for the Palestinians, who can apparently do no or little wrong..." (Portraying Palestinians as victims who can do no wrong is one-eyed, 11/10/10)

"In Hitch-22," moans Morris, "Hitchens approvingly cites (and expands) a metaphor coined (I think) by Jeffrey Goldberg, a correspondent for The Atlantic* : a man (the Zionist Jew), to save himself, leaps from a burning building (in anti-Semitic and Holocaust Europe) and lands on an innocent bystander (a Palestinian), crushing him. To which Hitchens adds - and the falling man lands on the Palestinian again and again (the conquest of the West Bank and Gaza, the suppression of the intifadas, the construction of settlements in the territories, etc). But the metaphor is disingenuous, and it requires amplification to conform to the facts of history." [*Wrong. It was coined by Isaac Deutscher.]

Now Morris is correct about Hitchen's metaphor being disingenuous, but not for the reasons he thinks. The falling man metaphor is based on the false premise that the Zionist project in Palestine was first and foremost a rescue mission for persecuted European Jewry, when, as American academic M Shahid Alam argues convincingly, it was more of a Jewish power-trip:

"It is unlikely that anti-Semitism was the chief catalyst in the thinking of the Zionist precursors. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Jews of Western and Central Europe were moving toward legal equality with the Gentiles; they were making their mark in Europe's finance, industry, politics, science, academia, and in artistic and literary circles. At this time, Jews were keenly aware of their success; they were acquiring a sense of their growing economic and social power. The Zionist precursors wanted to leverage this power, only recently acquired, to claim nationhood for the Jews. Anti-Semitism may not have been too far from the minds of these Zionist precursors, but, primarily, they were seeking Jewish national self-expression, a chance for the Jews to become important actors on the stage of history." (Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism, 2009, pp 55-56)

IOW, to place Alam's insight in the context of Hitchens' misleading metaphor, the crushing of the innocent Palestinian bystander did not arise as the result of a desperate leap from a burning building, as this self-serving Zionist fairytale would have it, but rather as the inevitable result of a colonial-settler project set in train by the latest and strangest of all the species of toxic, ethnic European nationalisms.

Erstwhile historian, now unbuttoned Zionist propagandist, Morris continues: "In fact, as the leaping man nears the ground he offers the bystander a compromise - let's share the pavement, some for you, some for me. The bystander responds with a firm 'no' and tries, again and again (1920, 1921, 1929, the Arab revolt of 1936-39 and the 1947-48 War of Independence), to stab the falling man as he descends to the pavement. So the leaping man lands on the bystander, crushing him. Later, again and again, the leaping man, now firmly ensconced on the pavement, offers the crushed bystander a compromise ('autonomy' in 1978, a 'two-state solution' in 2000 and in 2008), and again and again the bystander says 'no'. The falling man may have somewhat wronged the bystander, but the bystander was never an innocent one, he was an active agent in and a party to his own demise."

Ho hum. What gives the game away here, though, is Morris' reference to the falling man somewhat wronging the bystander. Somewhat wronging! Ain't that a doozy? Morris was actually far more forthcoming in a 2004 interview with Haaretz journalist Ari Shavit:

"I feel sympathy for the Palestinian people, which truly underwent a hard tragedy... Even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians. There are cases in which the overall, final good justifies harsh and cruel acts that are committed in the course of history." For the real Benny Morris, as opposed to the crafty apologist for the Zionist project on display in Monday's Australian, see my 11/5/08 post Benny Unhinged.

What a fraud!

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