Ari Shavit is perhaps the slickest “liberal” apologist for Israel’s brutal policies working today. He at least acknowledges the Nakba but claims the ethnic cleansing, massacres, and terrorism were justified because it resulted in a Jewish majority state on someone else’s land, and he needed that state more than those backwards, disposable Palestinians did. (Cue every apologist for colonialism, ever.)
But he’s outdone himself in sheer absurdity this time, with the most stunningly un-self-aware piece of writing I’ve ever seen him write — and that’s saying something. In my opinion, this piece should discredit him from being listened to by any serious person ever again.
The article is called “Liberals, look at the new Middle East,” published in Haaretz on August 14. The full text is below, along with my comments.
The new Middle East is a brutal one. Many Sunnis hate Shi’ites and many Shi’ites hate Sunnis. Many Sunnis and Shi’ites hate Christians, Jews, women and homosexuals. In numerous countries in the region, a considerable part of the majority hates the minorities – Kurds, Druze, Copts, Turkmen, Yazidis. Monarchs and secular people hate members of the Muslim Brotherhood and members of the Muslim Brotherhood hate secular people and monarchs.
So, apparently everyone in the Middle East is full of hate except Israeli Jews. I’ll be sure to tell that to the groups of right-wing Israelis who march around Israel freely shouting, “Death to Arabs!” and occasionally lynch people for speaking with the wrong accent. I’ll also be sure to tell the anti-miscegenation group protesting at a wedding where a woman born Jewish dared to marry a Muslim man she loved.
These hatreds turn into violence. The violence becomes ferocious. Too many demons awaken and begin devouring people. Heretics are murdered, sinners are stoned, women are sold to slavery. A new Middle East is exposing its face these days, and it’s a face of horror.
Hatreds do indeed turn to violence. As 400 Palestinian children could tell you if they had survived Israel’s most recent spasm of apocalyptic violence, a savage act of collective punishment against mostly innocent civilians.
The Middle East was tainted with inter-religious fanaticism and inter-tribal hostility in the past as well, but the Ottoman Empire, the colonial powers and Arab nationalism forced members of other religions and tribes to live together and restrain the primeval hatreds.
Funny how he mentions “the colonial powers and Arab nationalism” but says nothing at all about the Sykes-Picot agreement or, say, the Balfour Declaration.
The collapse of modern nationalism in recent years led to the breakdown of the joint frameworks and to a horrific outbreak of hate crimes. This is why today we see hideous sights that seem to have been taken from the Middle Ages. That is why today we’re facing a Sambatyon river of barbarism. The chopped heads and limbs of innocent human beings are much more than a blood-curdling metaphor. In large parts of the new Middle East there’s no place for human rights, human dignity or freedom. In many regions in East Asia and North Africa there is no room for individuals, equality for minorities or compassion for the weak.
The chopped heads and limbs of innocent human beings are indeed much more than a blood-curdling metaphor. And sadly, there are most certainly parts of the Middle East where there’s no place for human rights, human dignity or freedom, no equality for minorities or compassion for the weak. You have to look no further than Gaza to see that.
Violent fanaticism has spun out of control in Iraq and Syria, but is also raging in Libya and Lebanon and threatening Egypt and Jordan. Only Tunisia and Kurdistan still hold up the torches of progress. In all other states in the region, the choice is reactionary monarchy, military dictatorship, theocracy or murderous chaos.
You forgot Apartheid in the West Bank and an open-air prison ghetto with no rights or freedoms in Gaza, subject to bombing campaigns any time it misbehaves.
You also forgot to mention why so many of those dictatorships are so powerful. Hint: It’s not because their own people love them. And why and how theocracy got a foothold in a region where secular nationalism was, for a long time, the most popular indigenous political persuasion.
It is difficult for the Western liberal to observe the new Middle East. His worldview is based on criticizing the West and granting sweeping amnesty to those who are seen as its victims. This liberal’s code of values forbids him to define Third World evil as such. So he demonstrated against the war in Vietnam, but kept silent in the face of the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia.
Seriously, is this guy for real? America’s brutal campaigns in Southeast Asia, including the war in Vietnam and carpet bombing of Cambodia, helped lead to the Khmer Rouge. And there wasn’t a hell of a lot we could do once those forces were unleashed and our exhausted, demoralized troops were called back home to a war-weary country.
Sound familiar? Hint: IRAQ.
He [a reputed naïve Western liberal] opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but kept silent in the face of the oppression in Iran.
HE WASN’T RESPONSIBLE FOR THE OPPRESSION IN IRAN. Except perhaps inasmuch as the American and British governments overthrew Iran’s democratically elected Mossadegh government in 1953 when he tried to nationalize Iran’s oil, which led inexorably to the Islamic revolution in 1979. However, our Western liberal’s government was directly responsible for the brutal, blundering wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Shavit might as well say, “I don’t understand why that South African dissident opposes Apartheid but gives a free pass to North Korea.” Uh, what? Are you even listening to yourself?
This is why he hastens to denounce Israel, while displaying leniency toward Hamas’ fascism. The Western liberal knows how to rise up against Western exertion of force and likes doing so. But at the sight of Arabs slaughtering Arabs, he is lost. Whom will he rage against? Whom can he demonstrate against? At whom will he feel holy fury?
Those dumb abolitionists. Denouncing slavery but saying suspiciously little about slave revolts, African slave traders, or African civil wars. They should shut their hypocritical mouths!
The American President Barack Obama did the right thing this week when he provided humanitarian and military assistance to the murdered people in northern Iraq. Secretary of State John Kerry did right when he said uncompromising things about ISIS. Leading media in the United States and Europe have done and are doing holy work to expose the horror. But all these are not enough. The new Middle East is now raising penetrating questions that must generate an upheaval in liberal thought. Liberals can no longer ignore the awful plague of Middle Eastern brutality and the fact that millions of Arabs live with no rights and no future.
Indeed they can’t! That’s why they are increasingly supporting BDS.
While voicing justified criticism against Israel (for the occupation, settlements, racist fringes), they must lift their eyes and see the expanse in which Israel is located. An expanse in which Yazidis are massacred and Christians are persecuted and women are stoned. An expanse in which there is no democracy, or peace, or grace. This is a Middle East that liberals must see as it is – and deal with its diseases courageously.
Yes, this Middle Eastern heart of darkness must be recognized for what it is: a cesspool of “sullen peoples, half-devil and half-child,” barbarians at the gate who must be repelled or destroyed until some day they may be graced with Ari Shavit’s shining white civilizing touch.
Meanwhile, unlike those simple-minded Western liberals, poor Shavit and other clear-eyed realists must suffer “The blame of those ye better, the hate of those ye guard.”
It’s hard out there for a colonialist.
Pamela Olson is happy to send a free PDF copy of her book Fast Times in Palestine to anyone who wishes to learn more about life under Israeli occupation. Please contact her through her website to request one.