Why ethnic campaigning can be unethical
by Mary Rizzo
This blog recently has had some attention from Tony Greenstein. Taking a detour from his general direction of activism (sic) which boils down to exclusively attacking a growing list of other Pro-Palestinian activists – posting the same article that has been proven to be a misrepresentation consisting of a series of out-of-context quotes and insinuations about Gilad Atzmon – he’s using the same method, wallpapering every spot he can think of with his rantings using an identical post (to get the most mileage out of it, I suppose) that my blog is an Anti-Semitic sewer because it had this:
“Under a title ‘Peacepalestine Offers Prisoner Exchange’ are four photographs of Ariel Sharon, Gilad Shalit, David Hirsh and myself, with what presumably are supposed to be wanted posters bearing our names, photographs, the title ‘human being’ (presumably this is disputed) and then, in reverse video the word ‘JEW’. All that is missing is the yellow star, but I’m sure Rizzo will manage to find a graphic artist up to the task.”
He then emphasizes that this is “clearly racist and anti-Semitic”.
Well, finally Tony Greenstein and I can partially agree on something. Gilad Atzmon and I have been stressing for years now that asking people to take action or to influence them by merit of some ethnically-based criterion is simply a racist way of thinking and operating, and Tony finally admits as much. If we are people, it shouldn’t matter one iota what group we are born or raised into. Ideologies are mindsets that are not “genetically instilled” and can be adopted or cast off or used at will. We can’t accept an objective ethnic belonging that carries no merit or defect as such, as an ethical device or even a way to persuade people. Ideologies matter, ethnic belonging does not. Belonging to one group or another should be irrelevant when trying to persude people of the value of an argument and influence their opinions. We should move beyond the stage of focussing on a person according to race, sex, religion, nationality or political leaning, and listen to their arguments.
It is too bad that Tony feels the need to continually insist on telling us that he was “The only Jewish speaker” at this meeting or that. Gosh, I didn’t know that there is a census made of the ethnic or religious belonging of the people who speak at meetings and that Tony was privy to that information. He also believes that Jews have special sensitivity to racism. “Jews, of all people, should be the first to oppose racism, whoever the victims and the perpetrators,” he says. While at the same time, he knows how (presumably all) Blacks must feel about it, refering to one of his interlocutors, so that he can be easily identified, apparently, as “a Black Sudanese guy”: “But again Black people have better understanding of racism than white ex-councillors”. (Following this logic, if the white ex-councillors are Jewish, they should be the first to oppose the racism, but other whites certainly are lacking in this moral characteristic.) If one were to judge the way he writes, it seems he does indeed think in racial stereotypes and categories and can’t resist mentioning it as if it were the normal thing to do. Yet, on the other hand, he insists that race does not exist, er… rather, it is a political construct. “Just to be clear. Zionism isn’t based on a race, nor is German anti-Semitism for the simple reason there are no such things as race. Race is a political construct.” (Alef message 5 January, 2008) Whether or not there is such a thing as race seems to be a matter of debate for geneticists, and we’ve all seen acceptable arguments from both sides of the debate. Tony is extremely “ethnically aware”, and this is absolutely crystal clear in almost every intervention he has on internet. One might say that it borders on an obsession. Whites, Blacks, Jews, Non-Jews, hardly a single thing he has written escapes this ethnic (or racial, if you like) labeling, complete with a categorical judgment of the sensitivity each group must have to racism issues a priori of their personal experiences. What DOES seem interesting is the fact that when TONY stresses his ethnicity, in his worldview, it’s a good and positive thing. When OTHER people do it, as the Shalit campaigners do, or those who spoof it, as Peacepalestine has done, it’s clearly racist and anti-Semitic. I wish he would make up his mind one way or the other.
I agree that the campaign for Gilad Shalit is clearly racist, but it is far from being anti-Semitic. They will have to presumably find someone to paste in that Yellow Star as Tony suggests, not because the campaign is anti-Semitic, but because it represents to perfection the Jewish Victim role, the only way we are supposed to feel about Jews, especially Israeli ones. To justify what Israel does, we have to know they are clearly victims of some irrational hatred based on the simple fact that they are Jews in an Arab world hostile to their very existence. The Yellow Star would be an apt symbol of the victim paradigm that we should never forget or place into any context, no matter what. Jews are and will be the eternal victim, and you better get the idea that they act only out of reasons of defense. Being victims, we have to empathise with their plight in all instances.
The identifying label of the righteous victim is used to influence people and suspend any other kind of rational thinking or judgment. The innocent victim status is used in the Shalit campaign to instill an idea that goes against reality. We have to suspend our judgment on the role that he fulfilled. We have to think that a soldier who was in an Occupation army, in occupied territory AS an occupier, not a journalist or excursionist, there to render the lives of the people under Occupation a hell on earth and endanger their very safety with his presence, was just an innocent child who needs to be returned to his worried parents. He has become the centre of a “humanitarian” campaign that has very little to do with humanity, despite the text one can read on the banner.
This campaign has been going on for a while. Anyone who has seen even one blog by Israel supporters has bumped into it. It’s really hard to remain indifferent to. Indeed, the graphic artists felt it NECESSARY to point out that Shalit is a Human being. Oh, yes, and a Jew as well. Generally, members of Homo Sapiens Sapiens ARE considered to be Human beings and we don’t need to be told, even though the pictures of Shalit bring more the idea of a lost puppy to mind.
And we all know that if Shalit was an IDF member, well, he could have been nothing other than Jewish. Tony was shocked at the horrible sort of racist labeling. As a matter of fact, he thought it was something I dreamed up myself and not a parody. He was unaware of this campaign. Where has he been hiding? The amount of posts he leaves around would indicate that he’s online a hell of a lot of hours in a day. A legitimate question to ask is what precisely does he do other than post his own repetitious text? He claims that he fights Zionism, but he has NEVER seen a Zionist site or blog since the day of the campaign??? That is longer than a year. How can one fight the enemy if one does not even know what the enemy is up to? Or maybe he’s seen it, but is pretending righteous indignation in order to influence people who may not be familiar with the propaganda tools of Zionism so that they come to think of my blog in the same jaundiced way he does. He obviously detests it, because it exposes his endless smear and silencing campaigns against Gilad Atzmon. Yet, to call it a rightwing blog with an anti-Semitic and conspiracist agenda is really pushing it. Apparently, he may need to convince himself more than he does others. And with the three-person following he has, he has to work harder on it, apparently.
But, leaving aside this provincial matter for the moment, I shall return to the issue of humanity and the Gilad Shalit campaign. I had the good fortune of working for several years in a major advertising agency as a copy editor and then copywriter. Our clients would show us their new product and we would have to come up with an appropriate campaign. The first thing one has to do is to “frame the target”. You have to know who you are trying to convince, and you have to use a language that will appeal to them on even a subconscious level. You have to reach them, then you have to influence them. Later, they will become an additional and correlated (not to mention cost-free) advertising element, by driving around on your motorcycle (in the case of the campaigns I managed).
Bringing that knowledge to the Shalit campaign, we see this: our target probably is NOT the group or individuals that hold Shalit. Most likely, they would not be overly sensitive to the fact that he is a Jew, or at least, this would not be the aspect of his being that would influence them the most. Perhaps those who created the campaign feel that those holding him in captivity are unaware that he is a human, so they have to spell it out, but I tend to believe that since the advert is in English and in Hebrew, our target is the Zio-blogosphere. So, the banner gets picked up and distributed on sites where people go who support Israel or at least aren’t blatantly or even latently pro-Palestinian. I have never seen the banner on a single pro-Palestinian site. Correct me, someone, if I am wrong and it is posted on some site of the sort.
The language then, has got to appeal to the crowd that follows the Zio-blogosphere. It is “normal” for them, I guess, to believe racial profiling is acceptable. If you are a Jew, anyway, and you are a Jew who is doing it, however. I doubt they would be convinced that Tony is right and that it is anti-Semitic. If I were still in advertising and worked on this campaign, I am pretty sure they would like the Yellow Star, though, and should consider integrating it into future versions of the campaign (all campaigns require a refresher in order to remain effective).
Now, what is the most interesting aspect of the entire campaign, attempting to appeal to the humanitarian aspect of the crisis, is we see just how the people who support this campaign think. Take a look at http://giladshalit.blogspot.com/ and see that there is a poll asking the following question:
What action should the Israeli Government take now that Hamas has clear control of Gaza and it has been 1 year since Gilad Shalit was been kidnapped
Negotiate with Hamas
Negotiate with Hamas, release as many prisoners as it takes
Hold the Hamas Leadership directly accountable
Hold the Leadership accountable and give them one final deadline before military action
Hold Leadership accountable, give deadline for military action and total cessation of all Israeli supplied electricty and Water.view results
Well, how do you think that the public answered as of today’s date?
Let me show you the results:
What action should the Israeli Government take now that Hamas has clear control of Gaza and it has been 1 year since Gilad Shalit has been kidnapped
Negotiate with Hamas 18% 127
Negotiate with Hamas, release as many prisoners as it takes 14% 97
Hold the Hamas Leadership directly accountable 10% 72
Hold the Leadership accountable and give them another final deadline before military action 10% 73
Hold Leadership accountable, give deadline for military action and total cessation of all Israeli supplied electricty and Water. 47% 327
total votes: 696
More than half of them (58%) demand that there be military action taken (raids, presumably resulting in deaths of innocent civilians, as is often the case), and a whopping 47% call for total cessation of Israeli-supplied electricty (sic) and Water. (As if it comes from someplace else).
What would the result of such a call be? It isn’t too hard to comprehend, given that Israel has already begun the cessation of supply to the people they keep confined in Gaza. It means treating human beings like their lives are expendable, and actually turning a deaf ear as one hears their cries that they are dying. I would hope that people who care about Shalit would think before they push a little button to state their opinion, and consider that it is very inhumane to cut off basic utilities services of the people who you have made depend on them. It is a form of torture and duress. It certainly is how a complete sadist would operate. Animals in a zoo are treated better than that.
Are the people who are so concerned to show the world that the IDF soldier captured while he was in operative duty is a Human being (oh, and a Jew too), able to even see or feel that the more than one million men, women and children in Gaza are Human beings as well? Or does the fact that there are no longer any Jews in Gaza mean that genocide and collective punishment is acceptable? Was the last human removed from Gaza with the unilateral withdrawal?
But, I don’t know why any of this surprises me. We all have heard that the reason for the breakout of the so-called Second Lebanon War was the capture of two IDF soldiers and the killing of eight in the border zone between Lebanon and Israel. This is theIsraeli Government version of the war. Therefore, untold death and devastation is a normal and acceptable price to pay for the lives of a Human being (and Jew) wearing an IDF uniform? We know how many innocent Human beings were killed in the war Israel started. This is the page of the Israeli deaths, and this is a listing of all the casualties. Take a look at it carefully. The civilian casualties are 1,233+ (the plus meaning countless and unknown numbers of those whose death was not immediate, and we can probably add a great deal more to this list, given the situation of utter devastation that Israel created in Lebanon. The civilian wounded tops 5,089 people. The military deaths are 438 – 888+ (given the variable reports) and more than 512 wounded. The situation of devastation caused over one million people (human beings, as far as I know) to have been temporarily made into refugees, “with an unknown number of missing civilians in the south”, as was stated in several articles referenced but no longer available in an online version. It is important to mention that the southern zone of Lebanon, a residential area, was cluster bombed, meaning, the resettlement of humans is quite unlikely, due to the remote possibilities of returning to a land that has been wilfully disseminated with unconventional (and illegal, even in an activity as unholy as war) weapons that will bring about devastation for years to come. These weapons were dropped there precisely for that inhumane purpose by the Israeli army.
So, are we to deduce from all of this that you are only a Human being if you wear an IDF uniform? Or if you are a Jew? Is calling for carnage and devastation to other Human beings a proper response to the capture of a soldier? Judging by the “humanitarian” mode of thinking by those who support the Free Gilad Shalit campaign, I think we can come to some of our own conclusions.
One thing is clear, and that is that we are anaesthetized into thinking that if it is a Jewish activist, campaigning as such, calling for action, be it to “fight anti-Semitism”, “bring down Zionism” or to collectively punish millions of non-Jews (non-Humans?) it is something “normal”. It is indeed not something normal, and it is about time we started to stop expecting people to think in pre-masticated ways, expecting them to assume that a Jew certainly should know better or act in a way that is beyond judgment. This is a call for the end, once and for all, of ethnically based campaigning. It’s just another aspect of racist campaigning, and it treats us all like we are racists and need to be told what is right and what is wrong.