Mark Gardner on Mark Steel

It is neither CST’s desire nor role to act as a public relations outlet for Israel.

However, when antisemitism arises, directly, because facts have been deliberately omitted from an anti-Israel article, we will say so.

Today’s Independent provides one very small example of this. In this instance, the anti-Israel criticism, with not a word about Jews, is provided by columnist and comedian, Mark Steel.

Steel’s article is a disgraceful perversion of a Jerusalem Post interview with Israeli commandoes from the Turkish flotilla clash. Steel claims that Israeli “Sgt S” said the six people he shot “were without a doubt terrorists”.

Read the rest on the CST blog.

92 Responses to “Mark Gardner on Mark Steel”

  1. Brian Robinson Says:

    Mark quotes a commenter from the comments chain to this article, but I can’t find any comments. Are they under a separate link?

  2. Bialik Says:

    I’d rather not read it.

    Comedians have been doing it for years. In Harry’s Game, 1999 edition, just repeated on R7, there is a circle of hell just for extremists: fascists, Christian fundamentalists, zionists etc. Zionists?

  3. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Mark Steel’s piece is all of a piece with the efforts of The Guardian and Radio 4 News’s report of the Prime Minister’s comments on Gaza: leave out the sentences which reduce the “nasty” element and quote only the bits that make your case (and, how odd) come out as anti-Zionist/anti-Israel.

    It’s called spin, but Alistair Campbell did it to _support_ not undermine the Labour Government. Here, it’s used to (arguably) promote what looks suspicious;ly like race hatred. Somewhat different.

  4. Philip Says:

    As Brian Robinson points out, there don’t appear to be any comments on the article. This somewhat weakens the QED that Gardner reaches. (Though perhaps the comments have been disabled due to misuse?)

    But beyond that, are we really to believe that a devastating satire on the inquiry represents something ‘suspiciously like race hatred’? Please be serious.

    Steele’s piece lampoons the inquiry for what people see it as: a joke. He makes fun of its ridiculousness. That is the role of satire, from Voltaire, to the Now Show to Have I Got News For You. If people find it disturbing, disgraceful, etc., then surely that is because they are so invested in the idea and their minds so closed that they cannot conceive that they might be wrong. Anyone else would just have a good chuckle.

    Far better to turn around and say to Steele, ‘yep, you made us look silly this time – we’d better buck up our actions and excuses for the next time’.

  5. Mark Gardner Says:

    Not sure what’s happened with those comments on website – its possible that they have been taken down after I complained, or perhaps its just no longer directly under that link.

  6. Don’t F***ing Tell Me What To Do. « ModernityBlog Says:

    [...] had this gem, and many more informative [...]

  7. Absolute Observer Says:

    A pity Philip missed the point of Gardner’s post; but, no doubt, if true to form, he will turn the subject away from the temptations of antisemitism to Israeli policy at the earliest opportunity.

  8. Philip Says:

    As I understood, the point of the post was to say that Steele’s piece is a polemic. I am saying it is nothing of the sort: it is satire. And jolly good satire at that.

    Since it doesn’t actually mention Jews I find it hard to see how it can be in any way anti-semitic. And since there is a big difference between causality and moral responsibility, I would suggest that to argue that this article could have an anti-semitic ‘impact’ is far-fetched in the extreme.

  9. Absolute Oberver Says:

    “I would suggest that to argue that this article could have an anti-semitic ‘impact’ is far-fetched in the extreme.”

    My what a surpise; especially since you label the very point Gardner was making as a “misuse”.

    As in this “misuse”,

    “The antisemitic outcome of Steel’s hatchet job on the Jerusalem Post article was this comment from Flydlbee on the comments chain that followed the article on the Independent website

    “A splendid article.

    I will now be frightened to go to my Jewish optician in case he sees terrorism in my eyes and shoots me. Will I be safer if I leave my mobile phone at home?”

    No antisemitic “impact” there, just a jolly bit of fun that connects a member of the reviled IDF and a “Jewish” optician in the UK.

    Mind you, compared to this comment,
    “Since it doesn’t actually mention Jews I find it hard to see how it can be in any way anti-semitic”
    anything else Philip says cannot but take on the aura of profundity.

    Good to know that, no matter how busy you are, what with all your travelling and the like, you still find the time to to express your denial of antisemitism (unless, of course, it appears in the most vulgar of forms and with the word “Jew” in capiral letters no doubt.

  10. Philip Says:

    I think you make three mistakes. First you make the mistake of associating Mark Steel with comments that he didn’t make. Stephen Walt deals with this sort of criticism very well (http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/07/21/the_problem_with_judging_a_blog_by_its_commenters):

    ‘First, people of all persuasions write in to disagree — sometimes vehemently — with my views on Middle East policy, and that includes individuals who defend Israel down the line. So, one could just as easily use the comments thread to argue that I am providing a platform for pro-Israel hasbara. Second, any website that deals with Middle East subjects, especially Israel, will inevitably attract some wing-nuts. Just take a look at the comments on New York Times or Washington Post pieces dealing with Israel, or even better, check out the “talk-backs” in the Jerusalem Post or Ha’aretz. There is virtually no difference between what you will find at those sites and what you will find on the Greenwald, Weiss, and Walt sites. Does Smith also believe that Ha’aretz and the Jerusalem Post are “mainstreaming hate?” Third, if we judge bloggers not by what they write but by what some of their readers write in response, we would be giving opponents of those bloggers an easy way to discredit them. If you don’t like what a particular blogger says, write an anonymous comment praising him or her, add some bigoted statements of your own, and then send Smith an anonymous email and tell him to check out the comments thread.’

    The second mistake is to confuse moral responsibility with causality. So it’s true that if Mark Steel had not written this piece, then there would have been no comment from Flydlbee. In this sense he can be said to have caused the comment. Does that make him responsible for it? No. What if the British government decided to legislate to make life better for homosexuals, and some nuts who didn’t like the new laws took it on themselves to go around and beat a group of camp men senseless to take out their anger. The government could be said to have ’caused’ that action, but is it morally responsible? Should it not have enacted the legislation? Of course not.

    Third, you fail to give the Independent credit for removing the comments thread as a result of misuse. So actually, it was sensitive to criticism it might receive, and therefore chose to remove the thread. I would have expected you to applaud this (despite it being a curtailment of free speech, and therefore subject to debate). A pity you didn’t.

    I don’t deny anti-semitism exists. Indeed it does. It’s just that I think if you want to take something like it seriously, then that involves not seeing it in places where it is not, and not blaming people for things they are not responsible for. I know that Engage goes out of its way to stress that it does not equate criticism of Israel with anti-semitism. I guess you are not an official representative of Engage, but your last comment goes somewhat against the spirit of that idea.

  11. Absolute Oberver Says:

    Hmmmm – citing the author of the now almost universally discredited thesis of “Israel Lobby” in your attempts to discredit claims of antisemitism. Somewhat of a tautology, if I may say.

    “In this sense he can be said to have caused the comment. Does that make him responsible for it?”

    Please re-read Gardner’s post which, again, you seem willfully not to understand.

    Your point about “homosexuals” is, of course, the very opposite to the issue at hand. There, the government has sought to limit homophobia and the beating up of a “group of camp men” [sic] is against the spirit of the originating cause. Here, Steele’s point leads without contradiction to the antisemitic comment noted which, again, you deflect as “misuse”.

    I am not interested in “moral responsibility” – whatever that means, in ths slightest. Steele’s comments provided the environment and opening for the type of “misuse” that appeared. As Gardner says, no-one is saying that Steele cannot offer his comments. The point being made is that a little more sensitivity is needed when dealing with issues that people will usurp for their antisemitic agenda; that is, to write one’s satire and criticisms of Israel with an awareness of one’s audience, which, as you note, comprises antisemites (and not only those who are “wingnuts” – a correlation often made by those who spend their time denying claims of the prevalence of antisemitism).

    And, thanks for the accusation that I have conflated “criticism” of Israel with antisemitism. You are not the first nor the last to do so. It is a tactic often used to delgitimise legitimate concerns. A bit like the repetitive use of the word “misuse”.

    • Philip Says:

      I look forward to your comments on points 1 and 3.
      On your response to point 2, when you ask people to self-censor because some nut wants to usurp your agenda, you are curtailing free speech. Which is something one shouldn’t do lightly.

      And your comment about not being interested in moral responsibility is quite remarkable! Never mind trying to make sure we hold people to account for the things they’re responsible for, let’s chastise them for things out of their control! What a wonderful world that would be!

      But since you appear to believe that I have missed the point of Gardner’s piece, can I suggest that you may have missed the point of Steel’s piece? Which is that to say that a murderous optical rage is a laughable piece of evidence, even in conjunction with others, and that to say that people hell-bent on violence would deliberately have armed themselves quite so amateurishly borders on the idiotic, whatever the other circumstances.

      It may be that you don’t like it when the Israeli army is made to look like a laughing stock. But as I said in my initial response, the best way for the Israeli army not to be made to look like a laughing stock, is for it not to act in such ridiculous ways.

      I make no general accusations against you, by the way. It was simply that your comment, ‘you still find the time to to express your denial of antisemitism’ in response to my contention that Mark Steel’s article was not anti-semitic appeared therefore to be conflating Steel’s mockery of Israeli institutions with anti-semitism. Perhaps you didn’t mean to, which is why I have carefully used words like ‘appear’ to nuance the position.

  12. Absolute Oberver Says:

    btw – an example of antisemitism that doesn’t mention the word “Jew” once,

    Saul by email asks :

    John Demjanjuk is accused of the murder of 29,500 people in Poland in
    1943 as part of the planned systematic extermination of Jews.

    Antisemites deny the Holocaust happened.

    I have two genuine questions about this letter published in today’s Guardian.

    “What kind of justice is it that proscribes the normally accepted
    right of the accused to challenge the assumption that a crime had, in
    fact, occurred? Normally the prosecution is obliged to prove beyond
    reasonable doubt that the crime of murder had taken place. This is not
    the case in the trial of Demjanjuk. The court will, without proof,
    arbitrarily accept that the crime took place. Being stripped of his
    most powerful defence, the accused is reduced to pleading mistaken
    identity or that he had nothing to do with an unproved murder.”

    1. Is this letter doing what I think it is doing, that is, denying the
    facts of the Holocaust? Or is some other interpretation possible?

    2. If so, why did the Guardian think it fir to publish? or is
    Holocaust Denial now part of “legiitimate debate”?

  13. modernity Says:

    “I don’t deny anti-semitism exists. Indeed it does. It’s just that I think if you want to take something like it seriously, then that involves not seeing it in places where it is not, and not blaming people for things they are not responsible for.”

    Philip,

    I look forward to your first blog post expressly on the topic of antisemitism :)

  14. Mark Gardner Says:

    I’m grateful to others for pointing out the errors in Philip’s attempted pigeon holing of my article.

    I increasingly lack the motivation to counter such silliness, because it just seems so futile.

    For instance, you can see from the few lines quoted from my article at the top of this page that I expressly state that Steel doesn’t mention Jews once – and then Philip thinks he’s oh so clever to point out that Steel didn’t use the word Jews. Groan.

    Or, what about this insistence that Steel is “satirical” not “polemic”, and that this somehow makes a difference to life and the universe. Satire can’t be polemic? A polemic can’t be satirical?

    Philip, its enough already. (Which I mean in all of its overlapping English, Jewish, dismissive, polemic and satirical ways.)

    • Philip Says:

      The English word polemic comes from the Greek ‘polemikos’ meaning ‘hostile’ or ‘warlike’. I find it hard to see how a piece that is making fun of something is being hostile or warlike towards it.

      We can all agree that racism should be confronted, which is why I’m surprised that you haven’t commented on the Indie’s decision to remove the comments thread due to misuse. Doesn’t this address the very point of your article?

      I don’t know what your opinion of the flotilla incident is, nor your general opinion of the Israeli army, judicial system, inquiries, etc. But whatever your opinion of them, surely one can sit back and have a chuckle at the amusing curiosities thrown up by such ridiculous claims as were made about the Turks on the flotilla? We’ll see in due course the results of the UN inquiry into the matter, so it’s fair not to rush to judgment, but with evidence like this (even in conjunction with other evidence) it doesn’t look like Sgt S has too strong a case.

  15. Brian Robinson Says:

    Did anyone watch Jane Corbin’s Panorama report last night (16 Aug)? You can still catch it on BBC iPlayer (at least in UK, don’t know about elsewhere). I know that already there have been lots of complaints to ‘Auntie’ about it, but I thought it was good and despite the complaints I’ve read, I thought it balanced bearing in mind that it had only 30 mins.

    I came away with two over-riding impressions. The first was there really was a very serious failure of Israeli intelligence as to the nature of a sizeable group of people on the boat. The second, perhaps ‘impression’ is the wrong word — I found the programme very convincing that there were some 40 people among the 600 participants bent on confrontation, who really took control of the boat.

    There are still of course very many unanswered questions (as there always are in incidents of this kind the world over).

  16. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Words are funny and often slippery things. They have a habit of changing their meaning (or the way in which they are used and understood, if this is different from “changing their meaning”) over time. Most of us who are or have been in education are very well aware of this linguistic drift. It is quite often the bane of our lives, trying to work out what others mean by their use of particular words in particular contexts.

    However, Philip is being particularly contentious (“given to contention; prone to strife or dispute…” Shorter OED, p. 411, Vol 1, in my edition), when he says, above, that “The English word polemic comes from the Greek ‘polemikos’ meaning ‘hostile’ or ‘warlike’.” Now, the SOED (Vol 2, p 1619) agrees that this word is from the Greek, but defines the word – as it used in English, remember, not in its original meaning – as “Of or pertaining to controversy; controversial, disputatious” and goes on, as a secondary definition, “A controversial argument or discussion, aggressive controversy…”

    Mark Steel’s article is all of these things, and to try and pretend otherwise is akin to saying that “satire” means (as it did to the 16th Century French literati) “verse composition treating of a variety of subjects…” rather than its modern meaning of “The employment…of sarcasm, irony, ridicule, etc, in denouncing, exposing, or deriding vice, folly abuses or evils of any kind” (all in SOED, Vol 2, p. 1888).

    Philip clearly takes us for ill-educated poltroons who have no knowledge of the meaning of words. And no desire to bring linguistic order to the chaos he would prefer to create.

    He compounds his errors when he goes on to say “I don’t know what your opinion of the flotilla incident is, nor your general opinion of the Israeli army, judicial system, inquiries, etc. But whatever your opinion of them, surely one can sit back and have a chuckle at the amusing curiosities thrown up by such ridiculous claims as were made about the Turks on the flotilla?”

    Oh yes, Philip, let’s chuckle about a situation in which 9 people died and at least 6 others (probably more) were seriously injured. It’s a real satirical moment, isn’t it, and Mark Steel is so rib-tickingly funny about the whole issue. Let’s laugh uproariously about the claims that many of those on board the flotilla were being funded by an elimitanitionist organisation, shall we? Why don’t we, while we’re about it, roll on the floor, helpless, while we consider why the flotilla refused to enter an Israeli port, for the cargo to be examined. And then let us ask ourselves why the Hamas authorities, unarguably in charge of Gaza, refused to accept any of the flotilla’s aid, after the Israelis released it or at least some of it.

    And let us also determine _never_ to have a serious debate about whether or not the blockade of Gaza (supported by Egypt, with _its_ control of the southern crossing points) is legal under international law or not.

    That would never do. It might bring some rational light to the situation.

    • Brian Robinson Says:

      I’m sure I read this in a medical textbook several decades ago:

      Dysdiadochokinesis
      is a word that will bolster my thesis
      that tis folly to seek
      such perfection in Greek
      when confusion it only increases

    • Philip Says:

      Words usually retain nuances of their original meaning. I believe they teach this even in sociology classes. In the case of polemic, it is usually used to describe something that is hostile towards another position, deliberately arguing for the sake of arguing, as you say above: aggressive controversy. I have to say, I saw nothing aggressive in Steel’s piece. Though we may disagree.

      As to whether we might chuckle at the flotilla incident, indeed you’re right that it’s a serious matter. But when 9 lives are needlessly lost, and the response of Israel’s great institutions of state is to pre-judge the outcome (see, eg, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/netanyahu-gaza-flotilla-probe-will-show-the-world-israel-acted-lawfully-1.296074), even though it appears that some of the evidence for such a finding is lamentable pathetic; and when one is utterly powerless to do anything in the face of such a farce – I would ask, what better response can there be than satire? If we can’t laugh about it, then we would have to cry.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        I’ll tell you what, Philip, you keep indulging in your Humpty Dumpty attitude – “words mean what I want them to mean” – while the rest of us stay in the real world. And you know what happened to Humpty Dumpty, don’t you?

        And as for “Words usually retain nuances of their original meaning. I believe they teach this even in sociology classes”, words may or may not do so, but to ignore contemporary dictionary definitions is to insult the other 99.9% recurring of us who do believe that any one time, words have a particular meaning, and that the original one, from the root, may well have (and very often has) lost its significance. Or do you believe that a “scapegoat” actually has to be a goat of the four-legged and shaggy coat variety?

        You clearly accept the current definition and meaning of satire, not the original, but refuse to do so for polemic. To do otherwise would undermine your last hope for continuing to comment on this thread, which is already threadbare (bad joke intended) anyway.

        I shall ignore the insult of the word “even” in the second sentence as beneath contempt.

        As to whether “9 lives are needlessly lost,”, please stop stating as fact that which is opinion. Who, of those views available, you choose to believe is up to you. It is not up to you to assert that something is factual when it is, to say the least, contested.

        • Philip Says:

          I think the word meaning is something of a digression. It really isn’t a contentious point to make that words can have different nuances, and that the reader and the writer can therefore struggle to have the same meaning. Michel Foucault pointed this out, and any English professor will surely confirm this.

          In this respect, when there is confusion and / or misunderstanding, we should go first to Mark Gardner to clarify exactly what he meant.

          Alternatively, did you have any thoughts on my other point, which is the one I consider most relevant?

  17. Absolute Observer Says:

    “We’ll see in due course the results of the UN inquiry into the matter, so it’s fair not to rush to judgment

    Indeed, it does not

    http://hurryupharry.org/2010/08/17/death-in-the-med-a-detailed-analysis/

  18. Absolute Observer Says:

    And, as I thought, Phillip changes the subject,,,,,,,,,,,,,what a surpirse!

  19. Mark Gardner Says:

    Philip, I don’t have an Oxford English Dictionary at hand, so apologies (well, sort of) for going to ‘net for an answer that suits my purposes:

    WikiAnswers – How do you use polemic in a sentence

    Sentence and Word Structure question: How do you use polemic in a sentence? Polemic means an arguement about a subject,especially against that subject. It frequently is angry, biased, and explosive.

    On Indy removing the comments thread, I’ve thought about that quite a bit in recent days and I’m a bit conflicted over it – I’m not happy with everybody else’s freedom of speech being disappeared because a few nutters joined the chain. The answer is for Indy to moderate properly, not simply go for the nuclear option every time someone steps out of line on a chain. I mean, if CiF had that policy, they might as well shut down the site!

    I’m happy to joke about serious subjects, but jokes, depending upon place & audience, can normalise racism and the like. (eg everything from dieudonne to that rotten old itv sit com about the language school.)

    • Philip Says:

      I see what you mean. I don’t know what the budget trouble at the Indy is like since their takeover, but I know that before they simply wouldn’t have had the money to moderate properly. I guess also that, even if they did, perhaps they simply didn’t want the hassle of having to do so, especially given that there will always be people, from all different angles who will disagree. Perhaps this was the simpler decision.

      I remember reading a piece recently on the Comment is Free Belief blog, which had the comments closed because of abuse. It’s a pity this has to happen in some cases. But in the world of budget and time constraints, it’s probably for the best.

  20. modernityblog Says:

    Philip,

    Again, please, why not compose a thoughtful and considered post on your blog on the topic of antisemitism?

    I, for one, would find it helpful to read your insights into the matter.

  21. modernityblog Says:

    Philip,

    You can do whatever you wish, but please be DIRECT.

    You have discussed these issues for ages, both at my blog and Engage, and rarely do you ever clarify your own views.

    That’s all I am asking for, but if you feel that you can’t blog on antisemitism I would understand :)

    • Philip Says:

      Ok, let me be direct: I think anti-semitism is disgusting; as is all racism.

      • Toby Esterhase Says:

        Interestingly it appears you are not able to be direct. It appears you can only say that you are disgusted by antisemitism alongside a statement about other racisms. It appears you are not capable of saying “I think antisemitism is disgusting” all on its own.

        In any case, the point is not whether you say you oppose antisemitism, everybody says they oppose antisemitism, from George Galloway to Nick Griffikn. The point is whether you are capable of recognizing antisemitism.

        If you can’t recognize antisemitism then you can only fail to be disgusted by it.

        • Philip Says:

          ‘Engage – the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism’ – seems like my statement sits nicely with that formulation. But if you prefer: I think antisemitism is disgusting.

          No doubt I don’t have the most finely honed skills for scenting out racism. I tend to try to avoid making those sorts of accusations and insinuations against people, especially people I don’t know. It’s always nice to be bracketed with clowns like Galloway and Griffin. What’s particularly striking about your last two paragraph is how polemical they are. Fortunately for me, that just means I needn’t take your comments too seriously.

  22. Mark Gardner Says:

    (Just to clarify – Brian’s post wasn’t up when I sent in my comment re not having an OED.)

  23. Brian Robinson Says:

    I really would like to know what people thought of Jane Corbin’s Panorama piece on the Flotilla. I’ve actually written to her in hopes that my contribution may help to stem the hatemail a bit. Of course there were flaws in the programme and PSC et al have lost no time in homing in on them — but I’m interested in building on the positives in the programme to move the debate forward. I don’t think this is off-topic since Steel’s piece was originally to do with the flotilla. (Incidentally, one of the things I said to Ms Corbin was that I wondered what sort of programme her hostile critics would make, given only 30 minutes.)

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Brian R.: sorry, I haven’t watched the Panorama programme (via iplayer) – at my age, life’s too short. But I did check out AO’s link to Harry’s Place and follow all the active internal links in that piece. What I’ve read is fascinating.

      By the same token, while coming back on a long car ride from friends, we listened to a BBC Radio 4 documentary (on Sunday 9 August, 5.00-5.45 pm – so it’s probably long gone) on Mossad. Surprise, surprise, it was well-balanced. The reporter himself made all the anti-Mossad points about it being an organisation structured for assassination, leaving the Israelis (some of UK origin, so native English speakers) to make the balanced positive points. That is, they acknowledged that Mossad _did_ carry out killings, but preferred to avoid them, and mostly pereformed the “usual” intelligence roles of spying, information-gathering and spreading misinformation.

      What is the BBC coming to? Two balanced documentaries in 2 weeks?

  24. Sarah AB Says:

    Brian, I haven’t seen the programme but (in case you didn’t spot Absolute Observer’s link) there are quite a few different posts about this, with comments of course, on Harry’s Place. The general thrust seemed to be that it was a good programme, and that it upset the world view of some people who had only followed the story in mainstream media – Mark Steel for instance. I remember talking to people just after the flotilla story broke – people who aren’t ‘Guardian reader’ types and who have no strong views about Israel – who were talking about Israel in a highly critical way based on the coverage they’d heard/read – I’m sure there are many people like them for whom the programme would come as a surprise in throwing a different light on events/motives.

    Here are the HP links, starting with the most recent.

    http://hurryupharry.org/2010/08/17/islamists-communists-nutters-are-incensed-with-panorama/

    http://hurryupharry.org/2010/08/17/death-in-the-med-a-detailed-analysis/

    http://hurryupharry.org/2010/08/17/guardian-reviewer-confused-by-panorama/

  25. Sarah AB Says:

    As I woke up early – I thought I’d catch up with Panorama. I thought it was pretty good – seemed reasonably fair, bringing out important criticisms of the IHH, attitude of (some of) those on board etc. I thought a lot of other coverage tended to play down such problems so it was a useful corrective – for example zooming in on a knife carried in an activist’s hand which was cropped from many versions of that shot used in the media. The uncertain things (such as the authenticity of the Auschwitz comment) were flagged appropriately. But was there a slightly unnecessary emphasis on Islam – eg Corbin said that she was going into the “most Islamic area of Istanbul” to see Yildrim? Perhaps it would have been helpful to have a bit more on the legality, or otherwise, of the Israelis’ initial actions.

  26. Brian Robinson Says:

    Thanks Brian G and Sarah for comments, and especially for the links, which I’ll follow

  27. Isca Stieglitz Says:

    For what it’s worth, here’s my take on it; hope link works:

    http://www.thejc.com/blogpost/panorama-–-death-med-–-credit-where-credit-due#comment-10966

    With regard to the Mark Steel article, I just thought it was amateurish. Not-big-not-clever territory, I couldn’t even be bothered to ‘counter’ it. Even ‘satire’ or ‘polemic’ approaches have to based in some kind of intelligent analysis. Must admit, I did the groan/yawn response!

  28. Absolute Observer Says:

    “No doubt I don’t have the most finely honed skills for scenting out racism”

    Ah, the power of all those noses.

  29. Absolute Observer Says:

    ” I tend to try to avoid making those sorts of accusations and insinuations against people, especially people I don’t know.”

    That’s right Philip, antisemitism is something subjective, and we have to know the person first before anyone dare say anything lest they be accused of nosing out antisemitism.
    For those who know anything about the subject, and who use the word “recognise” as opposed to “scent” (like pigs for truffles, per se), antisemitism is a political ideology and, as Engage has explained, people often express or articulate without in any way considering themselves antisemitic or being an antisemite.
    However, as per the norm, whenever people point out your errors, you fall back on, well, if you were there, or if you knew them. Well, in a world of 6 billion, it is hard to know everyone, or to be everywhere, now isn’t it.

    • Philip Says:

      The reason I picked the word ‘scent’ was because of connotations with police dogs and detectives. Many people can recognise racism. Sometimes it’s easy to spot, other times less so. What I was objecting to was when people point to racism that is in fact not there. That is a very damaging thing to do.

      Mark Gardner was pretty clear to point out that Mark Steel was not being antisemitic. Other people on this thread have been less so.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        “Mark Gardner was pretty clear to point out that Mark Steel was not being antisemitic. Other people on this thread have been less so.”

        Come on, Philip, why so coy? You should name names, so that no-one can accuse you of a smear campaign, which I’m sure is far from your intention.

  30. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    “so don’t worry, I am not making general accusations, especially not against you.” Why should I worry, Philip? Did I ever accuse you of accusing me of saying that Mark Steel was being antisemitic?

    However, the reason I raised it at all is because of the ever-present shade of the Livingstone Formulation: ‘A’ criticises Israel in a manner perceived as less than reasonable (but is NOT accused of antisemitism, and may even be stated with absolute clarity as not being antisemitic) by ‘B’, ‘C’…who say this. ‘A’ then rushes into print saying that anyone who criticises Israel is then accused of antisemitism. Ken Livingstone was the first to employ this tactic (at least in the UK during the life of this website), thus the name. Numerous others have done so since Livingstone.

    However, no-one has ever accused you of so doing (and you have never claimed that you have been so accused), but making what appear to be sly accusations or verging on a smear do need to be clarified. This you have now done, but given that you had AO in mind, you should have referred to him/her at once. AO will either or not respond.

    That would have been the proper thing to do.

    • Philip Says:

      Hmm, not sure if you’re thanking me for the clarification or not. Well, it’s done, so there we have it.

      Now, just to pick on your use of this ‘Livingstone Formulation': it seems rather bizarre. In this case, the test is this: (1) was Mark Steel’s criticism of Israel anti-semitic? (2) did anyone accuse Mark Steel of anti-semitism? If we answer yes and no (hypothetically) then we are left with an incorrect and damaging conflation of criticism of Israel with anti-semitism. Yet I don’t see any problem with pointing out. And as Tony Judt said, pointing it out is essential, since it actually damages those who want to tackle genuine anti-semitism.

      Nobody is saying that all accusations of anti-semitism are an attempt to silence critics of Israel., Such as assertion would in any case by ridiculous. But there are certainly cases in which it is the case. It’s damaging and needs to stop.

      • Richard Gold Says:

        Philip , the main problem is that many people use the Livingstone Formulation which is dishonest. The number of people who claim that all they are doing is criticising Israel (when they are making antisemitic statements) or who falsely claim that they have been accused of being an antisemite for criticising Israel (when they haven’t) is the main problem. There are so many examples from people who should know better. It has to stop.

      • Richard Gold Says:

        Philip – the next time somebody tells you that they have been called an antisemite for simply criticising Israel then ask them what they said and who accused them of antisemitism. You’ll often find that they refer to anonymous commenters on websites who represent nobody but themselves. Let’s take the main Jewish groups and also Israel advocacy groups in the UK – the Board of Deputies , the CST, Bicom, The JC, Jewish Leadership Council. Can you show me how these groups (which are the main players with the most mainstream support) accuse people of antisemitism in order to silence critics of Israel ?

        • Philip Says:

          The next time I hear or see such an assertion, I’ll definitely try to ask the question you suggest.

          I can’t say I’m familiar enough with what those groups you mention to be able to voice an opinion. And in those circumstances I certainly couldn’t make an assertion against any of them. Innocent until proven guilty as far as I’m concerned.

          What I would say is that there are groups and people outside who do make such claims. Now, they may not do so often, and they may be a fringe. I think it’s important for mainstream and moderate groups to point out the foolishness of their positions, just as pro-Palestinian campaigners should condemn antisemites within their ranks and who try to hold on to their coat-tails. I appreciate it’s a difficult line for a group like Engage to walk (when you think, rightly in many cases, that antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment can be closely tied up), but I think it’s necessary all the same.

  31. Absolute Observer Says:

    Brian,

    When this,
    “The point being made is that a little more sensitivity is needed when dealing with issues that people will usurp for their antisemitic agenda; that is, to write one’s satire and criticisms of Israel with an awareness of one’s audience, which, as you note, comprises antisemites (and not only those who are “wingnuts” – a correlation often made by those who spend their time denying claims of the prevalence of antisemitism).”

    becomes this in Philip’s eyes

    “when you ask people to self-censor because some nut wants to usurp your agenda, you are curtailing free speech. Which is something one shouldn’t do lightly.” as well as his belief that my comment conflates criticism of Israel with antisemitism.

    he ceases to warrant my (serious) attention.

    It is obvious that Philip is simply one of those trolls who thinks that denying antisemitism in all but its most “vuilgar” forms (hence, his constant repitition of his alleged opposition to “antisemitism) is somehow commensuate with defence of the Palestinians. Such a view is premised on the idea that Jews or “Zionists” are being duplicitious when they raise the question of contemporary antisemitism; hence, his unfortunate use of the word “scent”.

    http://www.play.com/Books/Books/4-/990650/The-Jew-Body/Product.html?_%24ja=tsid:11518%7Ccc:%7Cprd:990650%7Ccat:Books+%3E+History

    “Drawing on a wealth of medical and historical materials, Sander Gilman sketches details of the anti-Semitic rhetoric about the Jewish body and mind, including medical and popular depictions of the Jewish voice, feet and nose.”

    From a book review of another work,
    “In the Middle Ages, Jews were held to be whiffy – but not, presumably, after they converted to Christianity.”

    “later the first President of Israel, who as a result became an admirer of Chesterton: Weizmann would certainly have sniffed out an anti-Semite if Chesterton had actually been one. ” From the Catholic Herald

    Note also that the idea of a “scent” of a Jew is a common theme in antisemitic discourse, as in,

    “The most famous power of which is the Jewish Nose, the jewish nose can sniff out any and all money you have on you or had on you, this includes credit cards, checks, and various other sources of income.”

    So, regardless of what Philip meant (subjectivtely) the connection with Jews. nose and “scent” has a long (objective) history. which he is obviously ignorant of (why am I surprised – not!) – and is, therefore, not an antisemite.

    But, as common with his ilk, rather than saying, whoops, bad choice of word, he attacks, telling me how “low” I am, and only after, clarifies his use of the word “scent” (via use of the term “police dog” – apparently without irony).

    • Philip Says:

      That’s very interesting. It seems as though the metaphor is mixed in its use, however. That is, sometimes it’s passive and sometimes active.

      But I don’t think that’s the point here. The point is that you are trying to categorise me unfairly: as a troll, as someone who conflates defence of antisemitism with defence of Palestinians, as someone who thinks that Jews are duplicitous (for the record, I have no idea who on this discussion forum is Jewish or not, especially not those who are anonymous – I hold that criticising antisemitism is something all of us should do, whether Jewish or not).

      All this is unfortunate, because it basically seems you are making me out to be someone and something I am not. It seems very much like an attempt to discredit me.

  32. Absolute Observer Says:

    Let’s invert Philip’s argument.

    Philip is forever going on about “real” or “genuine” antisemitism and then accuses “Zionists” of lying about contemporary antisemitism.

    Now, as far as I am aware, Philip has not cited one instance of where what passes for “criticism” of Israel is actually “really” or “genuinely” antisemitic.

    Wonder why?

  33. Absolute Observer Says:

    Richard Gold,

    I am afriad that you are missing the point somewhat.

    Of course you are right that some greeninkers see criticism of Israel as antisemitic.
    However, like me, I assume you know that to be wrong, as in incorrect.

    For Philip and those like him, these greeninkers are not merely “wrong” (as people are wrong on a whole host of matters – yes, even on the internet), but they are all dishonest, liars and cheats whose “real” or “genuine” aim is to silence debate on Israel (as if the label of “antisemitism” really or genuinely had such power).

    This notion that “Zionists” inkers are not wrong, but malevolent liars, reflects itself in the authoritan pose struck by Philip Blue at the end of his comment, “It’s damaging and needs to stop.”

    I guess freedom of speech is not so sacrosanct to Philip as would at first appear.

    • Philip Says:

      Absolute Observer, you’re quite right that it’s wrong to attribute the worst motives to people who may simply be factually wrong. Or perhaps even right—I could be the one in the wrong. And then there are also all sorts of position in between.

      I think an indication (and it’s only an indication, of course) is to see how outlandish their claim is. But perhaps given your comment, a certain caution is in order, and I apologise if I’ve made accusations that, on reflection, were not accurate.

  34. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    “Nobody is saying that all accusations of anti-semitism are an attempt to silence critics of Israel.,” Ok., Philip, who is saying that _any_ accusations of antisemitism “are an attempt to silence critics of Israel”? Names, dates and complete references are required here, otherwise you _are_ threatening to start a smear campaign.

    As David Hirsh said on an earlier comments thread, when just this sort of statement was made: who has said it, when did they say it, and what did they say?

    If all three of these questions cannot be answered in full, then this is _exactly_ what the Livingstone Formulation does: never offers chapter and verse, merely general statements of the sort you have just made. It really is put up or shut up time, Philip.

    • Philip Says:

      Brian, please be gentler in your comments. Your tone is over the top and you appear to be allowing inappropriate and, dare I say unwarranted, personal animosity towards me to be guiding your responses.

      I have hardly made a controversial point. In fact, the point I was making was negative, and broadly in support of what the consensus here would be, ie, that plenty of times when people allege anti-semitism, it is not an attempt to silence criticism of Israel (and I wasn’t simply referring to this website). It was a nuanced statement, and did not veer to extremes. Yet you jump on it and require me to prove that there are ‘any’ instances in which such an outcome has happened. I find this an odd response, to say the least, since what I was saying pointed in the other direction.

      But since you insist.

      Above, Absolute Observer said that I was expressing my ‘denial of antisemitism’. What had I said? Simply that Mark Steel’s piece was not antisemitic, simply a criticism of Israel. So in my mind (and also everyone who agrees that Mark Steel’s piece was not antisemitic) he is conflating criticism of Israel with antisemitism. (Now, perhaps Absolute Observer was referring to my more general denial of antisemitism, but so far he hasn’t clarified, so we don’t know. Equally plausibly, he may have simply been wrong rather than malevolent. In these cases I would have to rethink whether this instance fits the pattern.)

      Another example, you can find here: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-the-loathsome-smearing-of-israels-critics-822751.html. Johann Hari is accused by ‘Honest Reporting’ of recycling antisemitic myths of poisoning wells when he recounts that Israel has been pumping sewage onto Palestinian land.

      Or here: http://mondoweiss.net/2009/04/antisemite-smear-is-losing-its-effectiveness-in-countering-appeals-to-american-interest.html. Or here: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/711997.html.

      As I said before, I am not saying that all accusations of antisemitism are an attempt to silence criticism of Israel. In fact, as Absolute Observer points out quite rightly is it necessarily the case that people are trying to silence criticism. It’s entirely feasible that people have seen what they think is antisemitic, but they are simply wrong about it; no nasty motives involved. The ridiculousness of the claim is perhaps an indication here of what is going on.

      Even in those cases where the motive is clear, I am not saying that these antics come from the reputable sources. (Though if Alan Dershowitz is placed in the reputable sources column one has to rethink that statement.) But surely it is not controversial that there are some instances where it is the case? And surely we can all agree that it’s a bad thing?

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        “Brian, please be gentler in your comments. Your tone is over the top and you appear to be allowing inappropriate and, dare I say unwarranted, personal animosity towards me to be guiding your responses.”
        Stop being so patronising, Philip, it is, to say the very least, rude. Nothing I said in the previous comment is at all harsh, unless, of course, you are seeking yet again, to avoid a direct response. Which is, as I note below, exactly what you appear top be doing.

        “I have hardly made a controversial point.” In fact you have made an extremely controversial point. What you actually said was ““Nobody is saying that all accusations of anti-semitism are an attempt to silence critics of Israel.” I asked you, becase the logic is that if it’s not all, then it’s _some_ accusations, “who is saying that _any_ accusations of antisemitism “are an attempt to silence critics of Israel”? Names, dates and complete references are required here, otherwise you _are_ threatening to start a smear campaign.

        As David Hirsh said on an earlier comments thread, when just this sort of statement was made: who has said it, when did they say it, and what did they say?”

        At least two other commenters on this thread have repeated my last words to you: it’s time to put up or shut up. This you have signally failed to do. It is blatantly obvious that the reference was and is to the comments threads on Engage, and not to the columns of The Independent, Ha’aretz or anywhere else. Your failure to follow this up make it plain that you cannot find any commenter who makes such accusations here on Engage.

        To try and turn the reply elsewhere and pretend, at the same time, that I am being rude, showing unwarranted animosity, or any other inappropriate attitude towards you merely demonstrates your inability to answer the questions, or, if you prefer, charges.

        So once again, Philip, who is saying that _any_ accusations of antisemitism “are an attempt to silence critics of Israel”? Names, dates and complete references are required here.

        References to any source beyond the columns of Engage are another effort to avoid answering the questions.

        • Philip Says:

          Brian, I am not trying to be patronising, simply trying to have a civil discussion, not coloured by ill-will, aggression or animosity. An academic discussion, if you will.

          I think you may have misunderstood. Or I may not have made myself clear enough. The only person I have said is making that claim on Engage (as I reference in my previous comment) is Absolute Observer. He hasn’t responded to clarify yet, so we’ll have to wait to pass full judgment.

          The point I was making was wider than Engage, and was not aimed at Engage. I don’t believe my formulation of words, when read carefully, gives this impression. Perhaps you have jumped the gun as you did with Imam al Hams the other day?

          The point I was making (widely, about these discussions as a whole)is that it’s no good banging on about a ‘Livingstone Formulation’ every time someone says that someone says that their criticism of Israel is being interpreted as antisemitism, because actually, as I show above with my references, there are cases, even if not on Engage, where this does happen.

  35. Philip Says:

    I find it odd how there are some people commenting here who seem to come to a consensus, to discuss things politely and to be generally nice. Mark Gardner and Richard Gold being good examples of this.

    Others just seem keen to antagonise. Brian Goldfarb and ModernityBlog fit more into this camp. Absolute Observer is sometimes like this, though in other threads I’ve noticed him being more reasonable.

    Why is this? Perhaps someone can explain? What have I done that makes these people so antagonistic to me when others seem happy to deal with me politley?

    • modernityblog Says:

      An irrelevant observation.

      I can’t speak for Brian Goldfarb, whom I have always found polite.

      Possibly he, like me, finds it frustrating when these discussions go all around the houses and when contentious interlocutors, such as Philip, can’t really state their case with any lucidity, or deal with any criticism of their muddle thinking,

      As Brian wrote:

      “If all three of these questions cannot be answered in full, then this is _exactly_ what the Livingstone Formulation does: never offers chapter and verse, merely general statements of the sort you have just made. It really is put up or shut up time, Philip.

  36. Absolute Observer Says:

    “I find it odd how there are some people commenting here who seem to come to a consensus,”

    Well, you know how it works, all Zionists think the same and/or receive their orders from the Lobby. Zionists are incapable of independent though, don’t you know.

    Having insinuated that some Zionists are malevolent liars conspiring to “silence debate” on Israel.
    Having accused Engage of “sniffing out” antisemitism when it is not there,
    Having completely misconstrued what has been said to him
    Philip is now complaining that I/we is not being polite to him.

    Well, tough, deal with it. I am bored, bored, bored with this crap and myths that Philip harps on again and again and again, as if it has not been said a million times before. (Jews silence debate via the abuse of the claim of “antisemitism”, Jews are duplicitous, Jews look for antisemitism when it is not there for support of their indefensible brethren)

    Philip libels many, many people, including Engage, and expects people to be polite to him. Yeah, right!

    Interestingly, though, he comes up with his passive aggressive “be polite to me” precisely when asked to support his arguments with actual examples and evidence – none of which he has supplied. So, as the nice Brian says,
    “It really is put up or shut up time, Philip.“

    • Philip Says:

      Absolute Observer, I can happily deal with having plenty of abuse thrown at me—my skin is quite thick. I was simply reflecting on why. I can understand that you may disagree with me. That’s fine. It’s the intemperate nature of some of your comments on this thread (as I said, on other threads I have seen you to be much more reasonable) that puzzles me.

      Let me clarify a couple of your points here, though. First, I am not accusing Engage a whole of seeing racism where it is not. In fact, on this thread it’s only you who I think has been doing that.

      And second, I do not believe that there is an Israel Lobby that ‘orders’ people to think in particular ways. Nor have I ever said so.

      What is going on is that you are trying to smear me. I hope people can see that.

      • Philip Says:

        And third, I have not made any comments about ‘Jews’ ‘silencing debate’, nor any of the other accusations you make in that paragraph. In fact, I have no idea who you are, and therefore no knowledge of whether you are Jewish r not. So I could not be making such an accusation against you. Moreover, I wouldn’t make such an accusation generally against Jews because it would be ridiculously wrong and racist to do so. I have never done so, and you should retract that statement.

        • Brian Robinson Says:

          Philip writes, “In fact, I have no idea who you are …” I’d like to ride my hobby horse on that (I’ve actually ridden it here before, a few years ago). That’s the trouble with our modern blogs and other online discussion groups. In several cases, here as well, several commenters are transparently identified, but a problem can arise, well, several problems, with pseudonyms. Indeed one of the papers (Guardian? Independent?) recently carried an article (followed of course by comments) on its website on this very matter.

          If you don’t know who your colloquor is, you’re dealing — in contemporary psychoanalytic terms (I’m not a psychoanalyst) — not with people but with ‘objects’. The space is then ripe for projection, misattribution, and so on.

          I can quite see why whistleblowers must be granted the privilege (yes, perhaps it should be a *privilege*) of pseudonymity, and the same would go for some people writing in certain ways from, say, Iran or China. But in the general run of things is it not bad for our democratic conversations that we should have foisted upon us the political opinions of “MickeyMouse”, or the racist rabblerousing rantings of “Atillathehun”?

          If “Atillathehun” had to write under his or her own name, he’d never be so brave. (Apologies to any real Mouses or huns if I’ve inadvertently misrepresented them — if they step forward and identify themselves, I would be delighted to engage.)

  37. Absolute Observer Says:

    Philip asks,

    “What have I done that makes these people so antagonistic to me when others seem happy to deal with me politely?”

    Fortunately, Philip has earlier supplied the answer to his own deflective question.

    “when you ask people to self-censor because some nut wants to usurp your agenda, you are curtailing free speech. Which is something one shouldn’t do lightly.”

    What more needs to be said?

    • Philip Says:

      Even if you disagreed with my statement, it wouldn’t be justification for impoliteness. My issue is not that you disagree, it’s the way that you’ve done so.

  38. Absolute Observer Says:

    Philip, Cut the crap.

    You’ve made allegations against Jews, Zionist or not.

    You have claimed that Engage “sniff out” antisemitism with the implict notion that Zionists make up such claims to “defend” Israel.

    You imply Jews are duplicitous as oppsed to empirically wrong.

    You have been shown how your language taps in to a very unfortunate genealogy.

    You have been called on these matters.

    You have been asked to provide evidence for your claims and have come up empty.

    Instead, all you can reply is that you don’t like the tone in which your myths have been dismantled one be one.

    Philip, it’s interesting that for all your verbosity,for all your passive aggresiveness, for all your sanctimonious bulllshit that apart from regurgitating populist nonsense that is so common a feature of the internet, you have said absolutely nothing.

  39. Absolute Observer Says:

    “And third, I have not made any comments about ‘Jews’ ‘silencing debate’, nor any of the other accusations you make in that paragraph.”

    Philip says, (note the “but”)
    “Nobody is saying that all accusations of anti-semitism are an attempt to silence critics of Israel., Such as assertion would in any case by ridiculous. But there are certainly cases in which it is the case. It’s damaging and needs to stop.”

    “Let me clarify a couple of your points here, though. First, I am not accusing Engage a whole of seeing racism where it is not”

    Really/ Philip says,
    “No doubt I don’t have the most finely honed skills for scenting out racism. I tend to try to avoid making those sorts of accusations and insinuations against people, especially people I don’t know.” (Philip late explains that what he really meant by “scenting” was that of a “detective” or “Police Dog” – sniffing around in people’s private affairs, nosing, ready to bark, if not bite; trapping the unwary, etc.)

    This notion of antisemitism as a subjective opinion as opposed to a political ideology is used repeatedly as Philip’s “get out of jail card”……………
    “In fact, I have no idea who you are, and therefore no knowledge of whether you are Jewish r not. So I could not be making such an accusation against you.”

    Who cares a bugger what “religion” I am? (Interesting though, that, for Philip, once one’s religion is known, then he can cite them as a “Jew” who is acting duplicitoulsy in lying about their raising of the question of antisemitism; not that he’s cited anything so far, despite being asked several times to do so.)

    Finally, just when Philip is asked to substantiate his claims about Jews’ duplicitiousness – that they use and lie about antisemitism as a cloak to stop criticism of Israel – he first talks about how rude people are and, when that fails to deflect from his lack of substance, he goes on the offensive with the “I’m being smeared” line. Always a good tactic when called to account for claims, lies and myths that he appears unable to substantiate.

    You’ve made claims. You cannot answer them. Don’t make a bigger fool of yourself than have are already.

    • Philip Says:

      What you are saying is untrue nonsense. I think most people will be able to see that. Making such wildly inaccurate claims under a secret name is not acceptable.

  40. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Philip, September 5, 8.27 am responds and asks, re opinio juris, “And what is your opinion of the point that he makes? Is it fair for Netanyahu to prejudge the outcome of the inquiry? Does it give you confidence that the inquiry will produce a just outcome?”. Philip, the opinio juris comment doesn’t actually _make_ a point other than saying that something or other is interesting. What are you looking for? A pat on the back for finding an obscure website?

    If you want a debate, find some proper evidence, not a 6 or 8 line evidenceless comment. Which I’ll quote in full, if you really want me to.

    • Philip Says:

      It looks to me like you’re avoiding the question…

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        Philip: “It looks to me like you’re avoiding the question…”

        This would make sense if there was a serious question to answer. As three (or is it now 4?) times before, it’s a comment, an opinion, not a statement containing evidence. And just because it’s by a noted academic lawyer doesn’t make it a legal opinion, which is a very different animal. If you need me to, I’ll explain why, Philip, though I’m sure I don’t.

        So stop asking for a response, and stop telling me I’m avoiding answering. You’re better at that than I am, you’ve been doing all through this thread.

    • Philip Says:

      Opinio Juris is probably the world’s top international public law blog. It is run by academics at a number of prestigious universities. Kevin Heller, the writer of the post I sent you, is in fact a senior lecturer at Melbourne Law School.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        This is exactly what was on the opinio juris site when Philip linked to it:
        Israel’s Idea of an “Independent” Inquiry into the Attack on the Flotilla
        by Kevin Jon Heller

        Someone should tell Mr. Netanyahu that he is supposed to wait until after the inquiry to announce its predetermined findings:

        Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of Monday’s cabinet meeting that the main goal of the Gaza flotilla probe is to prove to the world that the Israel Navy operation on the Gaza-bound aid ship was appropriate and met international standards.

        “The government decision will make it clear to the world that Israel is acting legally, responsibly, and with complete transparency,” said Netanyahu.

        Kind of puts Israel’s desperate hand-wringing about the Goldstone Report into perspective, doesn’t it?”

        How, Philip, is this other than an opinion and not an in-depth, closely argued response? Actually, I was generous: it’s 4 (count them FOUR) lines, and it’s wrapped around a brief news item on Netanyahu. The fact that Heller is what he is is irrelevant, other than when he writes on law in an appropriate academic manner.

        This is just another opinion. The identity of the propounder of the opinion is irrelevant: what is relevant is evidence. And where is it? Perhaps I’ve missed a further line or two.
        Perhaps not.

        • Philip Says:

          I think the point he’s making is as following:

          – Inquiries should seek out the truth
          – Inquiries should be impartial
          – We shouldn’t prejudge the outcomes of inquiries
          – Mr Netanyahu has prejudged the outcome of the inquiry
          – Given the political nature of the inquiry, this bodes badly for the reliability of the findings

          Do you think that’s more or less correct? And given our powerlessness to do anything about it, what should our response be?

    • Philip Says:

      By the way, this doesn’t necessarily mean he’s right. I’m simply trying to show it’s not an ‘obscure website’. In fact, I want to discuss whether he’s right, which is why I put my questions to you.

      Let me repeat them: What is your opinion of the point that he makes? Is it fair for Netanyahu to prejudge the outcome of the inquiry? Does it give you confidence that the inquiry will produce a just outcome?

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        He doesn’t make a point, Philip, as I hope the moderator shows if my last comment is allowed through: it’s an _opinion_, and as such, evidenceless and pointless.

        How many more times do I have to repeat that? It’s the third time I’ve said the same thing.

  41. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    At 10.35 am on September 5, Philip finally responds on the meaning of words (especially ‘polemic’) that “I think the word meaning is something of a digression. It really isn’t a contentious point to make that words can have different nuances, and that the reader and the writer can therefore struggle to have the same meaning.” [This, note is to a set of comments dating to between August 17 & 19 - perhaps Philip is hoping we won't notice. Discovered almost by accident.]

    In which case, why make the point in the first place? Why insist on the original Greek meaning, which is much harsher than the current one? What it does suggest is that Philip is out of his depth or is, alternatively, conceding the point, but can’t say so, as it might indicate weakness. Actually, it would show intellectual honesty. But that’s another story.

    Then he goes on to say, inter alia, “Alternatively, did you have any thoughts on my other point, which is the one I consider most relevant?” Umm, what other point, Philip? Did you have one? I don’t see one. And if it’s “most relevant”, why didn’t you focus on just that, whatever it was?

    BTW,. I couldn’t find a “reply” button either, just like Brian R. I suggest that the gremlins of cyberspace are taking against us Brians!

  42. Philip Says:

    The main reason that it has taken so long for that reply was that the moderator wouldn’t allow through my comments for a long time. I apologise for that, but it was out of my control, since no one would explain what it was that was so offensive. There were certainly no other motives behind the delay.

    In any case, as I pointed out, the word has nuances of aggression. As you quoted: ‘aggressive controversy’. I stand by that. However, the discussion is best had between Mark Gardner and me.

    My other point, which I would love to have your input on, was: As to whether we might chuckle at the flotilla incident, indeed you’re right that it’s a serious matter. But when 9 lives are needlessly lost, and the response of Israel’s great institutions of state is to pre-judge the outcome (see, eg, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/netanyahu-gaza-flotilla-probe-will-show-the-world-israel-acted-lawfully-1.296074), even though it appears that some of the evidence for such a finding is lamentable pathetic; and when one is utterly powerless to do anything in the face of such a farce – I would ask, what better response can there be than satire? If we can’t laugh about it, then we would have to cry.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      “My other point, which I would love to have your input on, was: As to whether we might chuckle at the flotilla incident, indeed you’re right that it’s a serious matter.”
      You’re right, it isn’t a laughing matter, and it is crass to even attempt to inject levity into such a situation.

      Actually, I have already commented on your approach, when I said, way up there on this thread, “As to whether “9 lives are needlessly lost,”, please stop stating as fact that which is opinion. Who, of those views available, you choose to believe is up to you. It is not up to you to assert that something is factual when it is, to say the least, contested.”

      No more needs saying in my opinion: you often present opinion as fact. Iy isn’t.

  43. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    No reply button to the comment, so replying here. Philip says, Sept 7, 7.35 am:

    “Brian, I am not trying to be patronising, simply trying to have a civil discussion, not coloured by ill-will, aggression or animosity. An academic discussion, if you will.” If that’s you call being “civil”, you need a new dictionary. Your approach has also been far from being an academic one: to say nothing else, you consistently fail to respond to the direct points put to you. It has taken a couple of weeks to address the “put up or shut up” point. And you still don’t, as I note below: or not fully, anyway.

    Just imagine those words directed at you, especially when attached to my actual words.

    “I think you may have misunderstood. Or I may not have made myself clear enough. The only person I have said is making that claim on Engage (as I reference in my previous comment) is Absolute Observer.
    The point I was making was wider than Engage, and was not aimed at Engage.”

    But the point we (not just me) have made is that you have, until now, avoided this very point. Thus, _now_ you say that _only_ Absolute Observer (and AO will answer for themself) has come any where near this. More than us misunderstanding you, you have, perhaps wilfully, obscured the point.

    I think an apology is owed to all of us here on Engage for your failure to make it clear that you meant the accusation to apply _outside_ Engage. I don’t expect one. I expect you to provide another diversion or obfuscatory comment to avoid pursuing the topic.

    • Philip Says:

      Do you consider it a possibility that I may be something other than a disingenuous charlatan?

      I felt that I had made it clear that I was not talking about Engage. I honestly think that, if you go back and read my comments carefully, you’ll see that’s the case.

      However, if anyone else on this thread responds to this and tells me that actually I wasn’t clear about it, and that it seemed as though I was making accusations against Engage more generally, then I will be happy to apologise. (I realise I may be pushing my luck, but I will have to exclude Absolute Observer from this exercise, I hope understandably.)

    • Philip Says:

      Time and again you are ignoring the points I have made to you, and avoided answering questions that I have put to you directly. It’s time for you to put up or shut up.

  44. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Philip, you should know all about “ignoring the points I have made to you, and avoided answering questions that I have put to you directly.” This does rather smack of the pot calling the kettle black. I have _not_ done these things, and you are, yet again, choosing to avoid responding properly. If you are so convinced that Heller has actually made an argument, rather than stated an opinion with, in effect, no substance, on opinio juris, then please say what that point is.

    And while you are about it, given the number of people here who have made the same point about Engage and calling criticism of antisemitism, the apology requested of you is long overdue.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 128 other followers

%d bloggers like this: