This is a guest post by MoreMediaNonsense
Yesterday a poster on HP put forward a concise version of a particular argument that needs to be addressed :
“In my opinion, the vast majority of those who protest do so, not because Israelis are Jewish, but because Israel is an advanced democratic state with a similar moral code to our own, and we are naturally more appalled by injustices in societies similar to their own than those which occur in other types of state.”
To be fair the poster ( “By The Same Token”, whoever that is) went on to say they didn’t agree with this argument.
This argument is still widely in use, how else do we excuse the recent rantings of the “anti-Israel-defending-itself” brigade ? Their position is either a variety of this argument, one-sided pacifism or just pure anti-semitism.
I think this “diffrent strokes” idea is an intellectual disgrace and the effects it has had on the world are truly evil.
Now, how is this baleful idea formulated and defended ? There are arguments from the far Right and the far Left.
1. From the far Right there is the racial supremacist / nationalist argument, where you don’t care about any country apart from your own, indeed savages from other nations can do what they like internally, why should we care ? Perhaps they are just at a lower form of evolution. This is a the oldest and nastiest form of nationalistic conservativism
2. From the far Left , there is a racist paternalism that excuses bad behaviour by non Western societies as a response to the vestiges of colonialism. Homophobia is excused in Africa and the Caribbean because of its supposed inculcation by Western missionaries, for example. This view although appearing to be “progressive” treats Third World people in essentially the same way as they are by Right Wing nationalists, ie they do bad things because they have no moral sense and are backward. The only difference is the Right thinks the backwardness is innate while the Left thinks it is reactive to colonialism and outside influences.
Now it cannot be denied that there are great material differences between the West and poor Third World societies but does this mean that governments in those countries are to be excused for gross human rights abuses ? If so why and at what level do we stop excusing the abuses?
The difference between Western societies and Middle Eastern societies are not so great in material terms but we still hear paternalistic excuses for the lack of democracy and human rights from some on the Left. Look at the excuses for Hamas and its brutal crimes for example.
Although its easy to despair at the apparent popularity of this argument and its effects on the world, there are perhaps signs that the intellectual climate is changing. In a welcome move Obama in his speech poured scorn on the relativist trope and the leaders who use it :
“To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the west – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history”
Let us hope such statements make people on the Left start to look at where the really big important issues in the world now are.