Blogger’s note: I’m using this space to place a number of quotes from the late international relations professor, Fred Halliday, on a bulletin board of sorts. My plan is to add my own thoughts and comments, as well as other quotes from him and those in dialogue with his ideas, as I continue to process these ideas. By placing this content here I am not implying agreement or endorsement of these views – only a strong interest in learning more.
Selected Quotes I am studying:
One should not accept at face value what people who are struggling say: they may well be committing atrocities of their own. At the extreme end you have the PKK, the Shining Path, the Khmer Rouge and so forth. They may often be involved in inter-ethnic conflicts where they use a progressivist language to conceal what is in fact chauvinism towards another community. It goes for both Israelis and Palestinians. It goes for the IRA in Northern Ireland. It goes for the Armenians and the Azeris in Nagorno-Karabakh, and other cases. So solidarity should not be taken at face value. Solidarity should be critical of what people say and do, while also being guided by the longer-term evaluation of people’s interests and rights and material social progress.
One should not accept at face value what people who are struggling say: they may well be committing atrocities of their own.
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
You got away from the stuff about which one was there first, or who was massacred most, or what their holy books say, or who were collaborators with imperialism—all such questions were secondary. The key question is, you have two communities which meet minimal criteria of self-determining peoples. And on that basis, you accord them equal rights. And secondly, you critique the chauvinism and the fake justifications and the violations of the rules of war of both sides.
The level and tone of polemic in the U.S. and in Europe on the Palestine question has degenerated enormously since the collapse of Camp David and the rise of the second Intifada. I find that much of the stuff put out in the name of Palestine is so irresponsible and sometimes racist. I also find the degree of anger and the one-sidedness of Israelis, and from pro-Israel people in the West, very disturbing.
What the Soviet invasions of Hungary in 1956 and of Czechoslovakia in 1968 were to the cause of international communism, the US enterprise in Iraq in 2003 was to the ideals and legality of humanitarian intervention.
The war over Lebanon of July-August 2006 offers an example. The crimes of the Israelis (in wantonly attacking the infrastructure of Lebanon, and denying Palestinians their national rights) and those of Hizbollah and Hamas (in killing civilians, placing the lives and security of their peoples recklessly at risk, hurling thousands of missiles at civilian targets in Israel and fomenting religious and ethnic hatred) do not require particularist denunciation: that the one killed Arabs or Muslims, and that the other spilt Jewish blood. They are crimes on the basis of universal principles – of law, decency, and humanity; and should be identified as such. Particularism undermines the very basis of the denunciation, which presupposes universal principles.
Many movements of “solidarity” invoke universal principles of war to justify support for (for example) Hamas or Hizbollah, yet fail even to attempt to apply such principles to the guerrilla groups they favour, even though many of the latter are guilty of murder, intimidation and violation of civilians, and fostering of intercommunal hatred. Some prominent voices of the left, high on “anti-imperialist” rectitude, revelled in the slaughter of civilian UN officials in Iraq; others condone the killing of civilians in Israel and the wanton sacrifice of the Lebanese people’s security in the name of a self-proclaimed “national resistance”. Such distortions of solidarity come even more ill when exerted on behalf of groups that for years sought to destroy the one chance for coexistence and peace between Israelis and Palestinians that did arise, in the Oslo accords of 1993.
Solidarity, to be true to its universalist premises, cannot be embodied in partisan and morally selective campaigns of support for one or other group of combatants. It must rest on a range of qualities – including moral authority, intellectual integrity, consistency of principle, and factual accuracy – that transcend the sectarian world of “solidarity” groups.
Such qualities are to be found in the work of journalists, researchers, scholars, diplomats and human-rights organisations that seek honestly to document and highlight human-rights violations, and that condemn the crimes and political follies of all sides.
The most recent manifestation of this trend arrived during the Lebanon war of July-August 2006. The Basque country militant I witnessed who waved a yellow Hizbollah flag at the head of a protest march is only the tip of a much broader phenomenon. The London demonstrators against the war saw the flourishing of many banners announcing “we are all Hizbollah now”, and the coverage of the movement in the leftwing press was notable for its uncritical tone.
All of this is – at least to those with historical awareness, sceptical political intelligence, or merely a long memory – disturbing.
The true and the false
This melancholy history must be supplemented by attention to what is actually happening in countries, or parts of countries, where Islamists are influential and gaining ground. The reactionary (the word is used advisedly) nature of much of their programme on women, free speech, the rights of gays and other minorities is evident.
There is also a mindset of anti-Jewish prejudice that is riven with racism and religious obscurantism. Only a few in the west noted what many in the Islamic world will have at once understood, that one of the most destructive missiles fired by Hizbollah into Israel bore the name “Khaibar” – not a benign reference to the pass between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the name of a victorious battle fought against the Jews by the Prophet Mohammad in the 7th century. Here it is worth recalling the saying of the German socialist leader Bebel, that anti-semitism is “the socialism of fools”. How many on the left are tolerant if not actively complicit in this foolery today is a painful question to ask.
“The anti-imperialism of racists and murderers in a perverse programme.” -from Two Hours that Shook the World. He’s referring to the leaders of Al-Qaeda.