Anyone wanting an example of the filth that has poured out upon Israel's head during the time since the flotilla incident would be spoilt for choice. I here highlight a column by Fintan O'Toole in yesterday's Irish Times, not because it is unusual in being odious in this general line, but merely because it will do; will do as a symptom of what 'progressive' opinion today permits itself, just like that, and without a squeak of complaint or protest from like-minded 'progressives' on the gesticulating segment (see post immediately below) of the Western left.
O'Toole begins the column by registering his understanding of the depth of the historical calamity experienced by the Jews of Europe. He does so with a paean to Claude Lanzmann's Shoah, reminding us of some of what we know about that calamity and which should separate us from any complacency towards genocidal hatreds. Indeed, to his credit, O'Toole goes further than most of Israel's one-handedly gesticulating critics generally do by acknowledging that, as well as the more usual recipients of this explanatory favour, the Jewish people may also have some root-cause-type reasons for its fears and its behaviour, reasons close within historical memory. It is a rare concession these days.
However, the worm in due course turns, and O'Toole gets to the danger of the marriage between a historic sense of victimhood, on the one hand, and possession of power, on the other. Israel is now the living expression of this marriage:
Watching Shoah, though, you also understand something else, something that is in tension with [the] first realisation. You understand the ways in which systems of violence, if they are unchecked, escalate towards a rationalisation of the unspeakable.
Once you decide that your group is especially exempt from the demands of common humanity, there is virtually no limit to what you will do to others. Lanzmann shows, through a slow accumulation of banal detail, the ways in which the attempted extermination of an entire people became normal. Shoah is, more than anything else, a description of the consequences of any group with power over others deciding that it is above the demands of humanity, and the others are below them.
In Israel itself, the tension between the two imperatives (safety and common humanity) has gradually weakened. The restraining influence of the memory of what it means to be treated as sub-human, to be written out of history, to be subject to arbitrary and lawless power, has slackened over time. Ghettoes, collective punishment, systematic humiliation, the fetishisation of military force, cynical propaganda machines, lebensraum - the post-Holocaust taboos against such things have withered to nothing. Without such restraint, the need for sanctuary has become monstrous and obsessive.
There you have it: the infamous crimes of Nazism invoked as a shorthand for the policies of the Jewish state. What is so odious about this is easy to expose. For everyone is familiar with the idea of the arrogance of power and the way it can lead to injustice, including by those who were themselves once the victims of unjust power or whose forbears were. There are a thousand examples one could give of the arrogance of power and its baleful effects: revolutions devouring their own children; reforming governments that have lost touch with their popular base; liberation movements corrupted by the spoils of office; democratically elected politicians who have come to think they are not subject to the same law as others; great powers going to war without just cause; and so on. But O'Toole bypasses all such other examples. Israel, for him, is an instance not just of the arrogance of power but of the power without limit - 'above the demands of humanity' and treating others as below those demands, treating them 'as sub-human' - that terminated in the Shoah. Today's Nazis are the Jews.
This is what may be written without a blush in the contemporary liberal press. Filth.
(See also Eamonn's post at Z Word.)