Posts Tagged human rights

Ivory tower watch: sure you hate the homosexuals, but if you kill Americans you are in the ‘global left’

Pro-BDS, ‘post-structuralist’ academic Judith Butler has controversially been given some German award that nobody had heard of until they decided to give it to her. But apparently is a big deal in the city of Frankfurt.

I, for one, am completely indifferent outraged!

Well, when I say ‘for one’, what I mean is ‘as one of many’. This incident seems to have sparked a bombardment of Frankfurt the likes of which have not been seen since… the Allies dropped 12,197 tons of explosives on the city in the World War II (more like: World War TOO soon).

Anyway, as Kenan Malik explains, Butler is known less for supporting BDS and more for her godawful writing, which is almost impossible to understand and, for those who have the patience to get their heads around it, says nothing very interesting anyway.

Oh, and there was also this little doozy that seems to have been brought-up a fair bit during said bombardment of Frankfurt:

Benjamin Weinthal and Richard Landes: The Post-Self-Destructivism of Judith Butler – WSJ.com.

Participating in an “Anti-War Teach-In” at Berkeley in 2006, Ms. Butler answered a question about Hamas’s and Hezbollah’s place “in the global left.” These are two of the most belligerent movements within the warmongering, anti-Semitic, homophobic and misogynistic world of Islamist jihad. Yet while criticizing violence and “certain dimensions of both movements,” Ms. Butler told the students that “understanding Hamas [and] Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important.”

And there we go: exactly what I’ve been complaining about all this time! This is a self-proclaimed ‘progressive’ claiming two groups to her cause that are not merely conservative, but are actually bent on returning to a 7th Century society in which homosexuals were hung, adulterers were stoned to death and women were neither seen nor heard unless they were being beaten or raped, in which case it was probably their fault and they may be liable for death by stoning since they did technically commit adultery while they were being raped.

Oh and that’s not to mention the whole ‘driving the Jews into the ocean’ thing. Or the part about going to heaven for killing a Jew.

Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty damn progressive to me. Lucky we have people on the global left to fight against injustice by firing rockets towards civilian areas and hoping to hit something.

*sigh*

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Shameless propaganda hurts pro-Israel cause

I am often a spokesperson for the pro-Israel community in Australia. I do deliberately put-forward a line that is favourable of Israel and I admit that, from time to time, I will downplay information that runs contradictory to that line.

It is not an attempt to deny or whitewash anything, more a necessary aspect of being a part of a public debate. Ceding ground can have severe consequences, so must be done very carefully. It is made especially difficult for people like me to give honest criticisms of Israel when faced with opponents who are unrelenting, intolerant and even genocidal.

Any small criticism of Israel made by someone in my position is taken to be vindication for views that I find abhorrent. A common and very prominent example can be seen in comments made by now Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak a few years ago that Israel could become an apartheid state if action was not taken on the peace protest.

Barak was playing domestic politics — trying to malign his right wing rivals for not taking enough action on the peace process. However, I cannot count the number of times I have heard that Barak quote followed by something like ‘I agree with Mr Barak, I just think that Israel already is apartheid’, as though this were a perfectly natural conclusion to come to and there was just a minor disagreement between the speaker and Barak.

And of course, as a certain Jordanian BDS group reminded us recently, many of my opponents have some kind of racial prejudice thinly masked by their adopted rhetoric. In a charming Facebook discussion, several Jordanian Palestinians made it perfectly clear that, to them, any Jewish presence in ‘historic Palestine’ is illegitimate and the Jews should all ‘go home’. No, none of them could answer where exactly ‘home’ is.

Anti-normalization and the Israeli Left – a Facebook debate | +972 Magazine.

ALL CITIZENS OF THE ILLEGAL STATES OF “ISRAEL” ARE A PART OF THE ZIONIST COLONIAL PROJECT, EXCEPT THE ORIGINAL PEOPLE OF PALESTINE, AND SO, ALL THOSE WHO SERVE THE ZIONIST PROJECT ARE ZIONISTS FOR US, REGARDLESS OF THEIR RACE, RELIGIOUS BELIEVES OR DISBELIEVES OR POLITICAL VIEWS, FOR DISAMBIGUATION, ANY NON-ISRAELI JEW IS NOT A ZIONIST, ANY PALESTINIAN JEW IS NOT ZIONIST, AS LONG AS THEY ARE NOT SERVE THE ZIONIST COLONIAL PROJECT BY OTHER MEANS THAN CITIZENSHIP

That said, I think it is extremely important to be credible when speaking on these issues. Using ‘their’ tactics against them is not a strategy that I can follow in good conscience.

While I may write carefully in order to give a certain impression, I am not dishonest, I do not lie, and I do not manipulate the truth for convenience’s sake. This is why I am extremely bothered by people like Maurice Ostroff, who has done all of the above in an op-ed in today’s Jerusalem Post regarding a group of African asylum-seekers who were trapped between Israel and Egypt for the past week.

Setting the record straight: Migrants… JPost – Opinion – Op-Eds.

Contrary to the claim that the Convention obligates Israel to permit these refugees to enter the country, there is no provision at all in the Convention requiring a contracting state to allow entry of refugees who are not already in its territory. Article 33 refers only to refugees who have already entered, whether legally or illegally.

This omission of a requirement to admit refugees not already in the territory was evidently deliberate, as described in the judgment in the matter of Regina v. Immigration Officer at Prague Airport [2004].

The judgment refers to the important backdrop to the Convention as described in “Refugees under International Law with a Reference to the Concept of Asylum” (1986), as follows: “States the world over consistently have exhibited great reluctance to give up their sovereign right to decide which persons will, and which will not, be admitted to their territory and given a right to settle there. They have refused to agree to international instruments which would impose on them duties to make grants of asylum.”

As regular readers will be aware, I make a habit of checking sources.

Here is the UK House of Lords case to which Ostroff was referring (European Roma Rights Centre and others v Immigration Officer at Prague Airport [2005] 1 All ER 527). The passage that he quoted was not a ruling by the Court, it was one judge quoting an Australian case that the court had been referred to by counsel for the appellants.

In fact, referring to that case at all is disingenuous to say the least. The case concerned Czech citizens who were trying to claim asylum without leaving the Czech Republic — meaning they could not possibly be considered ‘refugees’ as they were not ‘outside their last country of habitual residence’. This was also at a time when the UK was being flooded with asylum seekers from the Czech Republic, the majority of whom were not valid refugees.

There is not really any comparison to a group of African asylum seekers fleeing from Egypt, which is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention and which has some rather unnerving practises like shooting asylum seekers as they try to reach Israel.

In fact, the Prague Airport case was brought by Roma who claimed to have been discriminated against when British immigration officials would not let them board planes to the UK — and they won! The Court ruled that British authorities could not refuse to allow Roma into the country on the premise that they might claim asylum once there.

Meanwhile, this was just sickening:

In terms of Article 33, a refugee (as defined in Article 1) may not be expelled or returned (“refouler”) to territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Clearly this does not include threats by common criminals. If this were the case it would apply to citizens of all countries suffering from a high crime rate like Colombia, Mexico and South Africa, which was plainly not the intention.

It is therefore obvious that the Convention does not cover the circumstances of refugees seeking admission to Israel from Egypt.

‘Common criminal’ is a broad and meaningless phrase. Let’s look at the actual situation and see if it fits.

Ostroff was referring to these comments by the UNHCR representative in the region:

UN refugee envoy: Eritreans trapped at Israel-Egypt border must be allowed in – Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper.

“The most worrying thing to me is the discussion of pushing them back into Egypt, which is highly irresponsible, because if they go back to Egypt there is a high risk these people will fall in the hands of human smugglers, and it is well known, it is all documented, that many of these people have been abused, there are cases of torture or rape, and if you send them back you are sending them to a situation with a very high degree of insecurity.”

The Sinai is a largely ungoverned and chaotic region of Egypt. Its local population is mostly Bedoin and they make their money through organised crime, exploiting their convenient location on the land-bridge between Africa and Europe/Asia.

They also like to dabble in things like the human slave trade and kidnapping for ransom. They particularly like to target the vulnerable Africans trying to escape the continent as they know that these people have no real protection.

The Egyptian authorities have struggled to control this at the best of times and right now is probably the worst of times in this regard.

There is no ambiguity for Ostroff to hide behind, sending the asylum seekers back to Egypt would have meant that their “life or freedom would be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership”.

Attacking Egypt for turning a blind eye to inhumane treatment is entirely valid, however it is completely unjust to try and pretend that Egypt is an acceptable place for these people and Israel is under no obligation to take them in.

The worst part of Ostroff’s polemic, however, was this:

The lack of credible information from the Foreign Ministry and the IDF spokesperson is a sad reflection on Israel’s public diplomacy. While admiring the valuable humanitarian work performed by Israeli groups like “We Are Refugees” that filed a petition in support of the migrants, I am disturbed by the ill-founded criticism which has been disseminated worldwide by them and by William Tall, the UNHCR representative in Israel.

Clearly, Ostroff does not admire the petitioners who managed to convince the High Court that Israel had to let the refugees in. He is essentially advocating that the Government of Israel do everything it can to oppose them and then take credit for their work when it loses.

That is dishonest and contemptuous. It does the pro-Israel cause no favours at all.

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Oh the humanity!

English: Abortion protest sign on North Table ...

This was too good not to share. Although I do take mild offence to the term ‘abortion holocaust’.

I want you to meet my friend and fellow abortion abolitionist, 11-year-old Zoe Griffin. In a world when grown adults ignore, deny or just don’t care about the abortion holocaust that has claimed over 55 million of Zoe’s generation, she is willing to take a stand no matter what people think. Zoe joined her mother and friends to lay thousands of roses outside the site of the Democratic convention and pray for the babies, the politicians and this generation.

There is then a short monologue from said 11-year-old Christian warrior herself:

“The pro-abortionists turned to us and started pointing at different people, saying, “You’re a person! You’re a person! Fetuses are not!” Then the woman saw me crying and said,” You are making this girl cry with your bull____”. I couldn’t stand any more of those lies. They pushed it too far. In the highest-pitched voice I have ever spoken in, I screamed, “THEY ARE NOT THE ONES MAKING ME CRY! YOU ARE! WITH YOUR DARK HEARTS, YOUR DARK MINDS TURNED AGAINST GOD!”

Traumatic hey? But I guess there is hope.

I will never, ever forget what happened last night. I had a dream that night that they all converted to pro-life activists. I hope that dream becomes a reality.

Gotta love self-parody.

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Fear of new immigrants: just part of the process?

I had a thought today related to an argument that I have often seen against hysteria around Muslim immigrants. Here is Lainie Anderson giving an example:

There’s no such thing as the bogeyman, just a scapegoat | Article | The Punch.

Australia has a bogeyman. His face changes every few decades: once he was Russian, then he was Asian.

Right now he’s Muslim, probably a queue jumper with bags of cash to pay people smugglers, but definitely a new arrival.

The argument is that the previous waves of migrants (Irish, Italians, Jews, Asians) were all subjects of some kind of hysteria too and they turned out ok, so we should give the Muslims the benefit of the doubt because they will also turn out ok.

What if that is missing a part of the picture? It could be that these groups are now “ok” (read: assimilated into Australia) not in spite of this widespread fear and suspicion, but because of it.

What if the demands from the public to “prove” that they were “really Australian” compelled the community to accept Australian culture and expedited the assimilation process, so that they could put the fear to bed?

Is this whole process a method that our society has developed for self-correcting when a group arrives with clashing values?

I’m not convinced, but it seems like an interesting idea. I would welcome any thoughts one way or the other.

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Note: I am aware of how offensive this may sound to some people, so I probably need to disclaim that it is just a thought exercise and does not reflect any opinion that I hold.

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It’s about the victims, not Assange

Do the names ‘Sofia Wilen’ and ‘Anna Ardin’ mean anything to you? No? Well then, keep reading.

Ever had that feeling where you’re watching someone on TV and every second brings you closer to throwing something at the screen? I came quite close to breaking my beautiful 47″ LCD last night watching the Julian Assange love-in on ABC 24’s The Drum TV.

The whole thing was abysmal, but I was particularly bothered by Assange biographer Andrew Fowler at 5:00,

Julian Assange is a journalist seeking political asylum from Australia, saying that Australia won’t protect him.

And at 5:20,

I think, you know, the issue of the third party, which is the issue of national security, would appear to be what we’re talking about. We’re not really talking about an extradition for sexual molestation.

He’s right, we are not talking about an extradition for sexual molestation. What we are in fact talking about is an extradition for sexual assault, which is a more serious crime than “molestation”.

But that’s not really what our friend Andrew meant, and we all know that. Yes he was trying to make “rape” sound more palatable by using softer language like “sexual molestation”, but what he was really saying was that there is a US conspiracy to extradite Assange once he reaches Sweden and the rape charges are all a fabrication.

Now where does that line of thought come from exactly? Well, you see, Fowler thinks that Assange is a pretty good guy. Assange seems to be a hero for a lot of people around the world who think that pissing off the US government is more important than the lives of US collaborators in Afghanistan or maintaining good diplomatic relations around the world. I personally don’t agree — I think dumping all of those cables was completely irresponsible and a real hero would have gone through them first and only published ones that were actually important — but Fowler is entitled to his opinion.

Here’s the thing though, there’s this old trope that nice, upstanding guys couldn’t possibly be rapists. When women who were clearly throwing themselves at Assange later accuse him of rape, that must be false — they were obviously asking for it.

It is telling that I get 340 words into this post before I mention the two women who are at the centre of this whole affair. Want to know something ridiculous? I had to look up the names Sofia Wilen and Anna Ardin — who, by the way, are the victims. All of this media coverage over the last two years and I did not even know their names off-hand. I do feel a little guilty about this (pun not intended), but then you probably had no idea who they were either.

See, this notoriously egotistical Assange character has managed to convince the world that it is all about him.

This is some huge conspiracy to persecute poor little Julian. It’s really the US, UK, Australian and Swedish governments all secretly coordinating to get him into an electric chair in CIA HQ. He‘s the victim.

Bullshit.

It’s not like we’re talking about an extraordinary rendition to Guantanamo Bay here, he’s being extradited from the UK to Sweden. Both are European countries with very strong legal institutions and the rule of law. In fact, there is no logical argument that I can see for Sweden being easier to extradite him from, or why the US wouldn’t be trying to extradite him from the UK right now if that was the intention.

It especially bothers me that so many people seem to be attacking the Swedish legal system for being too easy on rape victims. Seriously. Now that’s the argument that the pro-Assange left is using — end Sweden’s draconian anti-rape policies!

Put simply, Julian Assange is doing everything that is humanly possible to avoid standing trial for rape in a liberal, democratic country. Of course he’s entitled to the presumption of innocence, but his victims are also entitled to justice. If the Swedish prosecutors believe that they can prove the charges, Assange must have his day in court and if he continues to avoid doing that, it only makes him seem more guilty.

In a way, it feels similar to the people who are willing to overlook the horrific culture of abusing women amongst Palestinians because it doesn’t fit their anti-Israel narrative. Because it’s Assange and they like Assange, he is being treated as an oppressed hero and not an accused rapist.

Here’s the reality: nothing you may like about Assange or Wikileaks means that he is not capable of committing sexual assault. Nothing about the behaviour of those women towards Assange means that they were Asking For It.

If you have any credibility, stop making excuses for Assange, it’s not about him. If Julian Assange had sex with Sofia Wilen and Anna Ardin and they did not consent, he is a criminal and should go to jail. The only way to resolve the situation is for him to stand trial in Sweden, which he must do by law. That is all there is to it.

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Free speech, hate speech and arresting that Twitter boy

English: DUI of Darnall Army Medical Center

English: DUI of Darnall Army Medical Center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

For anyone who hasn’t been following, 17-year-old Twitter user @Riley_69 (the ’69’ in the username was a bad omen in the first place) was a little disappointed in British diver Tom Daley for only coming fourth place. He expressed his opinion rather crudely and was later arrested for his thoughts.

See, Daley had previously said this in an interview with the BBC, referring to his deceased father:

Teenager arrested over ‘abusive’ tweets to Tom Daley – Telegraph.

Winning a medal would make all the struggles that I’ve had worthwhile. It’s been my dream since a very young age to compete at an Olympics. I’m doing it for myself and my dad. It was both our dreams from a very young age. I always wanted to do it and Dad was so supportive of everything. It would make it extra special to do it for him.

So when Daley did not win a medal, @Riley_69 figured this was the appropriate thing to say:

You let your dad down i hope you know that.

Daley expressed his displeasure, but @Riley_69 did not seem to care much for Daley’s feelings:

Hope your crying now you should be why can’t you even produce for your country  your just a diver anyway a overhyped prick.

What struck me about that tweet was the choice to omit the apostrophe in “you’re”, yet include it in “can’t”, and the omission of any punctuation other than the full-stop at the end. I think this actually justifies the use of the term ‘half-literate’.

Moving along, our keyboard warrior later had this to say:

i’m going to find you and i’m going to drown you in the pool you cocky twat your a nobody people like you make me sick

And in response to criticism from others:

i dont give a shit bruv i’m gonna drown him and i’m gonna shoot you he failed why you suporting him you cunt

For this, Mr Riley was arrested. In fairness to him, when he saw the outcry that his tweets had caused, he did tweet an apology:

 @TomDaley1994 I’m sorry mate i just wanted you to win cause its the olympics I’m just annoyed we didn’t win I’m sorry tom accept my apology.

please i don’t want to be hated I’m just sorry you didn’t win i was rooting for you pal to do britain all proud just so upset.

Kenan Malik doesn’t approve of the arrest (my bold):

DIVING INTO THE ABUSE POOL « Pandaemonium.

… I am simply pointing out that once we allow concepts of incitement and threat to become so elastic, then we open up a broader problem for free speech. The reason for being wary of police action against someone like @Rileyy_69 is not because one wants to defend the abuse of Tom Daley, nor because one is sanguine about death threats, but because if we lose sight of the fact that threats have to be both credible  and understood in context, then free speech in a broader sense becomes endangered. @Rileyy_69’s tweets, and not just to Tom Daley, were vile, abusive, obnoxious. But read in context, and with a bit of common sense, no one would take them as genuine death threats.  This might be an individual craving attention, and perhaps even, as some have suggested, needing help, but not someone who is about to commit a murder.

I get where Malik is coming from, but I have to ask what makes him so sure and if he has really considered the consequences of Riley_69’s behaviour.

I completely understand the argument about free speech and I instinctively feel that curtailing any expression is a bad thing, however it is equally wrong to be absolutist about these kinds of rights. In many situations, absolute free speech will conflict with other fundamental rights and it is a fallacy to suggest that free speech must necessarily trump other rights in every situation.

Malik does recognise this, however I question why this particular instance is such an “elastic” interpretation. The boy very explicitly issued violent death threats against Daley amid very hurtful personal abuse. That kind of harassment and intimidation would be illegal if it were to take place in person or over the phone, the only reason that everyone is up in arms over this is that the communication took place online – a medium that is generally perceived as more remote and impersonal than other forms of communication.

I think that it is about time we drop this assumption that online communication is necessarily less harmful or serious than the same communication offline. Unfortunately, if Mr Riley did decide to go after Daley offline, he would not be the first psycho to take an online obsession and act on it IRL (see, eg, HEREHERE and HERE) and there have been quite a few cases of online harassment that have led to the victim’s suicide (see, eg, HEREHERE and HERE).

On a slight tangent, online communication is the primary means of radicalising

Western individuals who later commit terror attacks. The late Anwar al-Awlaki from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the recent subject of one of Obama’s drone strikes in Yemen, was particularly adept at finding vulnerable Muslims online and coaxing them into committing acts of terror – the Fort Hood shootings being an example.

I say ‘slight’ tangent because, while the attacks wouldn’t have occurred but for Awlaki’s communicating with shooter Nidal Malik Hasan directly, most of the vile antisemitic/anti-American extremist propaganda that Hasan had access to before Awlaki approached him was distributed online.

The argument that people should just “challenge” these points of view are valid to an extent, but this method is limited. Open debate does not sway the kind of extremists who believe that all of society is lying to them and it is their duty to kill others; it will not prevent a psychotic stalker from chasing-down a victim; and it does not make victims of harassment feel any less harassed, so will not prevent their being driven into depression and suicide.

Free speech and open debate is vital for our society, but we have to recognise that the cost of not punishing some forms of speech is higher than the cost of prohibiting them.

It’s a grey area, but from where I sit, “i’m going to find you and i’m going to drown you in the pool you cocky twat your a nobody people like you make me sick” is over that line.

Thoughts anyone?

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Palestinian women, silencing domestic abuse and unconscious antisemitism

When I read the article this week in the Forward by Jay Michaelson on his break with the extreme anti-Israel “left”, I knew that I had to write something about it. Michaelson has been active for years in the LGBT movement and is well-versed in the social science theories of discrimination that are popular with the far-left and that I have been reading a lot of recently, so I recognised straight away what he was referring to and really connected with the striking observations that he was making about the anti-Israel movement.

I recommend reading the full piece, but I also want to concentrate on the following points:

When the Right Is Right About the Left – Forward.com.

Just as I try to remind myself of my white privilege, my economic privilege and my male privilege in my anti-oppression work, so, too, anti-oppression activists should be aware of the reality of anti-Semitism and the way it informs political discourse. If you single out the Jewish state for criticism among all countries in the world, the onus is on you to demonstrate that your discourse is free from conscious or unconscious anti-Semitism. Even if you’re Jewish.

For those who don’t quite follow, what Michaelson is referring to is a phenomenon known as “unconscious oppression” — people who are not members of a disadvantaged group are often completely oblivious to behaviour that is actually prejudiced towards someone from one such group.

This is the source of all of the arguments against things like black people being constantly portrayed as thugs and gangsters in movies, or the amount of scenes on TV showing a woman falling apart and crying hysterically while a man comforts her, or joking about how your new Asian friend must be good at maths. It’s the kind of subtle prejudice whose criticism has certain people saying things like “come on love, we were just joking!” or “oh God, the PC-brigade are at it again!”

Michaelson makes the point that the people who champion this idea more than any other at the same time are doing precisely the same thing to Jews. This links in to another point that Michaelson made and a news item from today.

Michaelson:

But the flattening of Palestinian society is even worse. Ironically, given the critics doing it, it’s Orientalist to depict the Palestinians … as noble victims of European colonialism, free from blemish and fault. Such oversimplifications are no different from those of noble “Indians,” noble poor people, or noble savages in general and are offensive to Palestinians and Israelis alike.

For example, in one of the accounts of an LGBT trip to the Palestinian territories last year, one participant expressed dismay at being told not to be visibly affectionate with her female partner. This naiveté is revealing. Palestinian society is patriarchal, homophobic and conservative. The Palestinian Authority has done little to prosecute so-called “honor killings” (that is, murders of LGBT people or unmarried women suspected of sexual activity), and there are hundreds of LGBT Palestinians living, legally and illegally, in Israel as a result. … There’s pinkwashing on both sides of the political fence.

As if on cue, Angela Robson had this story in the Guardian yesterday on the terrifying prevalence of domestic abuse in Gaza (my bold):

Women in Gaza: how life has changed | World news | The Guardian.

Before the blockade, my husband used to make good money working in Israel,” she says. “With the blockade, that all stopped. When he can’t find any work and we have nothing to eat, he blames me. He is a like a crazy animal. I stay quiet when he hits me. Afterwards, he cries and says, if he had a job, he wouldn’t beat me.” …

Violence against women has reached alarming levels. A December 2011 study by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, PCBS, revealed that 51% of all married women in Gaza had experienced violence from their husbands in the previous 12 months.

Two thirds (65%) of women surveyed by the PCBS said they preferred to keep silent about violence in the home. Less than 1% said they would seek help. Mona, my 22-year-old interpreter, is astonished when I later ask what support there is for women such as Eman. “If her husband, or in fact anyone in the family, knew she had talked about this, she’d be beaten or killed. As for places for a woman to run to safety, I don’t know of any.”

Clearly, the implication is that Israel is responsible for this abuse because it imposes a blockade on Gaza. As a letter this morning from one Abdul Hamed demonstrated, this was not lost on the Guardian’s readership:

Letters: Israel, Hamas and blame for the plight of women in Gaza | World news | The Guardian.

Reading Angela Robson’s depressing report (Behind the blockade, G2, 31 July), one could be forgiven for thinking that the horrors she describes are self-inflicted and largely attributable to the election of Hamas. This would be wrong, because long before that election the Israelis were systematically making any cross-border movement, particularly economic activity, unpredictable and arduous. … As a result, economic conditions in Gaza worsened, ensuring the election of Hamas. Today, that election is held up as the stumbling block to peace by the Israelis, just as Yasser Arafat was before his death.

Hamed believes that Israel deliberately stifled Gaza’s economy to get Hamas elected so that there could be an excuse not to negotiate a peace deal with a Palestinian Authority that is currently refusing to negotiate with Israel. Riiiiiight.

Putting to one side the crazy conspiracy theories and the argument over whether or not Israel is justified in blockading Gaza, Hamed seems to be implying that Hamas is responsible for all these abuses anyway. Well this is true to an extent, but unfortunately the other side of the Palestinian divide does not seem to be faring much better:

Palestinian women outraged by Bethlehem market murder | The Times of Israel.

The brutal killing of a battered wife in front of horrified witnesses in an open-air Bethlehem market prompted angry accusations Wednesday that Palestinian police and courts ignore violence against women. Nancy Zaboun, a 27-year-old mother of three, had her throat slashed Monday after seeking a divorce from her abusive husband of 10 years. …

Zaboun was regularly beaten by her husband … at times so severely that she had to be hospitalized … Even so, [he] was never arrested. Police only made him sign pledges he would stop hitting his wife …

But see, the PA are better than Hamas. Sure they do nothing to prevent husbands from beating their wives, but they at least punish husbands for killing their wives rather than killing the wife for speaking-out about being abused.

Last year, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed a decree that ended a long-standing practice of treating killings within a family with leniency. Justice Minister Ali Mohanna said such killings are now treated as any other slaying, and claims of assailants that they were protecting “family honor” are no longer taken into account.

Before I make my final point, I want to note these disgusting comments by an Arab-Israeli Member of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and the Jerusalem Post editorial accompanying it:

Zoabi’s incitement – JPost – Opinion – Editorials.

It sounded quite unthinkable, but Knesset member Haneen Zoabi (Balad) blamed Israel for the recent slaying of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. “Israel is not a victim, not even when civilians are killed,” she declared in an interview with Channel 10.

Zoabi elaborated: “Israel’s policy of occupation is at fault. If there was no occupation, no repression and no blockade, then this wouldn’t have happened.”

This, again, is a common theme amongst anti-Israel groups that has been adopted by the anti-Israel “left” — the idea that innocent Israelis and Jews who are killed by terrorists claiming to act on behalf of the Palestinians somehow had it coming to them because of what Israel does. (I say “and Jews” because, as Mohammed Merah made very clear a few months ago by shooting some kids at a Jewish school in France to “avenge Palestinian children”, most terrorists do not see any difference.)

Remember that line I highlighted before where the abused wife’s husband blamed his unemployment for his beating her? Could there be a parallel mentality, in that the criminals are represented as the victims?

Put it this way, in blaming all evil on Israel and absolving the Palestinians of any of their own wrongdoing, the narrative of the anti-Israel “left” is horribly similar to the way the Nazis used to blame all of Germany’s woes on the Jews using many of the same tropes.

In saying that, however, I am opening myself up to the very common accusation of trying to silence critics because “to Zionists, any criticism of Israel is antisemitic”.

This is why Michaelson’s criticism was so incredibly perceptive and on-point. For the feminist movement — with which most of the anti-Israel “left” identify — “lighten-up love, we were just joking” is one of the worst things that a man can say. No one knows better when they are being discriminated against than the victim and, often, no one knows worse than the perpetrator. Discrimination is not something that is always done consciously, it flows from internalised preconceptions of how a group of people “must be”.

The anti-Israel “left” know this, and yet they still dismiss every charge of antisemitism that is raised at them.

Hamed’s letter effectively absolves Palestinian men from the horrible abuse that they are perpetrating and encouraging. Worse, it lays the blame on a group of people who have historically played the role of scapegoat for all manner of crimes: Jews.

That Michaelson quote that I began the piece with spoke of putting-aside his privilege to see the discrimination that he was really perpetrating. As most feminists would tell you, the way to end domestic violence is for men to be able to put-aside their societal conditioning and stop seeing women as weak objects to serve and be controlled by men.

Sadly, it seems that these same people are unable to put-aside their societal conditioning that when things go wrong it is the Jews that are to blame. In fact, they refuse to even recognise it.

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UPDATE: I’ve been accused of not practising what I preach/being full of unconscious anti-Arab prejudice/not acknowledging Palestinian suffering. I did quote a few people speaking about this without contradicting them, but I guess that wasn’t enough for some people.

So apparently I need to say this: Israelis are responsible for a lot of Palestinian suffering, there is a lot of racism in the Zionist movement and here are some things that I have written on that subject. It just wasn’t the focus of this post.

 

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Gay marriage musing

In response to the debate that I have been having with commenter “Greg”, beginning here and then moving here, I thought that I would do a quick thought exercise to explain why I do not necessarily support the reforms to the Marriage Act that are being advocated by Greg, Labor left, the Greens and various other such groups.

1. The “equality” paradigm

The way that the gay marriage lobby is trying to frame the debate is “marriage equality”. The use of “equality” to push their agenda is an obvious choice given where they are coming from — fighting for “equality” for groups including homosexuals is something that people on the left are used to doing, so framing the discussion this way allows gay marriage to easily form a part of their broader agenda.

I am not entirely convinced by the “equality” idea, however. “Equality” implies that there is some form of inequality currently being perpetuated through the marriage legislation. In terms of actual rights afforded, the current marriage laws to not discriminate on the basis of sexual preference as the gay marriage lobby claims. Anyone can currently get married — homosexual or not.

The real issue is not that homosexuals are being prevented from marrying, it is that the definition of “marriage” refers only to couples comprised of one man and one woman, and so does not encompass homosexual couples. Introducing same-sex marriage into the Marriage Act would not be ending discrimination, it would be redefining the idea of marriage and introducing a meaning that “marriage” has never before had.

This is where the conservative argument comes from — they place a huge amount of value in marriage as it is and they do not want to redefine it.

2. Placing a value on marriage

Bearing this in mind, the point that the gay marriage lobby will raise (as Greg did) is that it is discriminatory for society to place more value on heterosexual couples than on homosexual couples and that, in being denied the right to be a “married couple”, homosexual couples are being told that their relationship is not worth as much.

This argument relies on the premise that a relationship is inherently of higher value if it is registered as a “marriage” with the state than if this is not the case. This is where I take issue.

3. The alleged primacy of state marriage

I do not see how being married by the state makes a relationship more valuable. There are many couples who are not formally married but have lived together happily for decades and are “married” for all intents and purposes, as there are many couples in “sham” state marriages for some kind of benefit. I see the former as far more valuable than the latter.

I gave Greg the example of a Jewish couple that I know who decided not to be married by the state because they believe that God and not the government is the appropriate authority under which Jewish couples should marry, and I tend to agree with them on that.*

Greg was repeatedly mentioning the importance of marriage in society and seemed to believe that I was dismissing this by not placing value in state marriage. This is where we fundamentally differ on the issue — he is unable to distinguish “society” from the state, whereas I do not recognise the state as an entity with any legitimate place in marriage. When he saw that I did not want the Commonwealth to grant licenses to conduct marriages, he assumed that I meant that the States would grant these licenses instead and did not seem to grasp that I was arguing for these licenses to never be granted.

4. Gay marriage, marriage equality and marriage freedom

To summarise: the debate is about redefining marriage under the law, the argument for doing so rests on the idea that state approval gives a relationship higher value, however it is not legitimate for the state to be accepting or not accepting peoples’ relationships as valid. If you accept these premises, you should be able to understand why I am not particularly supportive of the idea of codifying same-sex marriage — doing so would only further entrench the idea that the state should be the entity that decides whether or not my relationships are valid and I fundamentally oppose that idea (clearly, it should be Facebook).

As usual in such debates, the two sides are talking past each other — one is fighting a rights issue and the other is fighting to defend an institution that is extremely important and meaningful to them. The unusual fact about this one is that there is a solution that would allow both sides to have what they want. Why would anyone want to fight for one that would only continue to be divisive?

And more importantly, WHY DOES IT MATTER WHAT THE GOVERNMENT THINKS ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP???

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*UPDATE: just a thought, but maybe the current value placed on state marriage is a remnant of the time when the state was thought to be the embodiment of a Sovereign that was appointed by God. Our current system does come from when the Henry VIII made himself the head of the Church of England so that he could have the power to marry and divorce instead of the Pope.

In a way, it’s a subtle means of not allowing Church to truly separate from State.

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Malcolm Turnbull on gay marriage: so near and yet so far

There has been a lot of attention on Turnbull’s recent Michael Kirby Lecture but I only just got around to reading it. Overall, it’s very hard to fault him – he systematically goes through the different arguments against legalising gay marriage and quite convincingly debunks them. Whatever your views on gay marriage, it is worth reading as food for thought.

HOWEVER, he did not quite follow his reasoning to the logical conclusion – a conclusion that I reached a while ago. And no, I am not saying “so near and yet so far” because he said that he wanted civil unions rather than pushing a bill on gay marriage at this time. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Reflections on gay marriage – Michael Kirby Lecture 2012 | Malcolm Turnbull MP.

So there is a clear distinction already between what constitutes a valid marriage in the eyes of the state and in the eyes of the Church.

Of course this distinction is more clear cut in countries where a marriage is recorded by a civil official at a registry office or town hall and then, subsequently, by a religious ceremony where one is conducted. I don’t doubt that explains why the legalisation of gay marriage has been less controversial there.

In Australia however ministers of religion are authorised to perform both the civil function, on behalf of the Commonwealth, and the religious one on behalf of their denomination.

My point here is that the question as to whether same sex couples’ unions should be termed a marriage by the state is not one which calls for a religious answer. No denomination can be compelled to recognise any particular form of marriage – it is entirely up to them.

So here’s the question: if that is true (which it is), WHY IS THE STATE STILL TRYING TO DO JUST THAT? And why is Turnbull supporting it? So long as the state figures it should be defining the word “marriage”, there will be problems that will be unnecessarily divisive and create a lot of avoidable public outrage. Why not let people who get married define what “marriage” should mean for them?

He only briefly supports state-regulated marriage substantially once, like this:

Study after study has demonstrated that people are better off financially, healthier, happier if they are married and indeed, I repeat, if they are formally married as opposed to simply living together. [13]

And his footnote said this (my bold):

[13] There is widespread evidence that marriage leads to better mental health, greater wealth accumulation, more stable households and better well being of children raised in a household. A 1998 study by the RAND Corporation, for instance, found that the median household worth of married households was almost four times higher those who were never married, with a median wealth of U.S.$132,000 compared to $35,000. Lupton, J., & Smith J., (1999), “Marriage, Assets and Savings”, available online here. The study measured 7600 households containing a member born between 1934 and 1941 (so between 51-60 years old). A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found varying levels of serious psychological distress according to different the different categories of marital status. Among adults aged 18–44 years, 6 per cent of those who were divorced or separated experienced serious psychological distress compared with, 3.6% of those living with a partner, 2.5% of never married adults, and 1.9% of married adults. Schoenborn, C., (2004), “Marital Status and Health: United States, 1999–2002”, available online here. The study also found married couples enjoyed much greater physical wellbeing…

Did you see what was wrong? Turnbull is a highly-educated and very intelligent person, so I am a little disappointed that he would be making such a basic mistake.

Those results are not causative – they do not necessarily show that getting married has any benefits at all. What they could just as easily indicate is that people who are generally more wealthy, and who have better mental and physical health are more likely to get married and, if married, are less likely to be divorced.

I would put my money on the latter being the case, rather than the former – I see no logical reason why the piece of paper proclaiming you to be “lawfully wedded” would make one iota of difference to your income or wellbeing, however I can definitely understand why a couple in good health and with steady incomes would be more likely to spend their lives together happily than a couple living paycheck to paycheck while battling psychological illness.

STATE MARRIAGE is a harmful institution. Legal interests should be attached to demonstrated co-dependency and not on a ceremony conducted by an official with a license. Marriage should be conducted by the clergy, or by some kind of communal leader, or whoever the hell else wants to do it – that is not something that the Federal Government needs to have anything to say about.

Turnbull is definitely on the right track, he just needs to take that extra leap.

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Sunday quote: on tolerating intolerance

He drew a circle that shut me out–
Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

Outwitted, by Edwin Markham. I came across this little epigram somewhere recently, liked it enough to Google it and then completely lost the source that I got it from.

Markham highlighted something that seems obvious, but everyone who claims to fight intolerance constantly seems to miss. Intolerance cannot be defeated with more intolerance, convincing people to be more tolerant of you requires being tolerant of them. The debate will not be won until you understand where the other side are coming from and recognise that they are not bad people and they have a valid perspective.

The best way to not win a debate is to start shouting “BIGOT! RACIST! SEXIST! HOMOPHOBE!” or whatever it may be, based solely on their being against a policy that you are in favour of and without actually listening to what the person is saying.

Don’t draw your own circle and shut him out the way he shut you out, draw the circle that takes him in.

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