Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Lenin vs Linda Grant: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.

Here is the full exchange between myself and Linda Grant. It is only fair to remark that, although I concerned myself with the argumentative points in Linda's retorts, she has been very gracious and even complimentary, despite all.


Over 1.6 million Tibetans have died as the result of their occupation by China, according to this source

And more

all very quiet on the Tibetan front, the most successful and enduring occupation, predating the Israeli occupation by over a decade, murdering more people, but hush, do not speak of it, it would only complicate things for the left.. Sssshhhhhh. That’s right, nice blanket of silence. We knew we could rely on the left to leave it to a few vapid movie stars to say a few vapid things and then nothing.

Ssshhhhhhhh, nothing going on in Tib. . .

(Sorry to be so sarky, but the left’s hypocrisy is no better than the neo-cons on Iraq on this one. )

Linda, mon choux,

I'm not that bothered about sarcasm, and I can dish it in abundance if
that's what the situation requires.

Let me be clear about one thing: the occupation of Tibet is a moral
and political disgrace, and I am with those who want to fight that
occupation. In my personal life, I contribute to the cause as far as
I can and I am happy to say that I have joined protests. I would even
go so far as to publicly support the Tibetan Liberation Army if such a
thing emerged.

But if you are having a go at my blog, you need to be aware that I
generally don't deal in the obvious or the uncontroversial - I
polemicise. I don't believe there is any misunderstanding about what
is being done to Tibet (although I was surprised by the figure of
deaths you cited and will have to examine that further - one assumes
we are talking excess deaths rather than direct execution...). There
is, however, massive misunderstanding about the Israel-Palestine
conflict, even though the facts are, at an academic level, fairly well
understood and not in dispute. Hence, attention and bloggery. I
might also mention that as a taxpayer I feel morally implicated in the
oppression of Palestinians because my government uses that money to
fuel israeli state terror, which I don't think is true of the
oppression of Tibetans although I could be wrong.

Another thing, if you really must insinuate hypocrisy, then where are
your articles about the oppression of the Acehnese? Where are your
articles about the slaughter in Chechnya? Or the brutality of the
Colombian military? I can't find any mention of the recent coup in
Haiti on your website...?

We all specialise, and you more than most. So as a polemical attack,
yours was not impressive.

Incidentally, the problem with the neocons on Iraq is not that they
are hypocritical - if they meant every word they said and followed it
through, it would be much much worse for Iraq and every other country
they feel like liberating.

One last thing: the Zionist occupation of Palestine began in 1948, two
years before the annexation of Tibet. That doesn't entail any
value-judgement on my part, it simply happens to be the case.

I think there is almost no knowledge about Tibet to have any
misunderstanding of! How often is it in the news? When did you last read
about it? Most people I know don't even know it's occupied.

I don't write about Chechnya or Acheh because the Guardian never chose to
send me there. I did write about what the Turks were doing to the Kurds in
Hasankif, what the Czechs are doing to the Roma, what the Austrians were
doing to immigrants under the baleful influence of Haider. Because the
Guardian asked me, so I went. On a blog you're as free as a bird to write
about anything you like. I go where I'm sent.

Meanwhile, under international law Israel was not occupying or annexing
anywhere until 1967; meanwhile your (our) government has all kinds of trade
and arms deals with China which no-one ever complains about. Are there any
campaigns for sanctions? For boycotts of Chinese academics? The Chinese have
obliterated Tibetan culture, have flooded the country with Chinese far more
successfully that the Israelis have done in the West Bank obnoxious as that
is. So when one talks about Israel as the most successful and enduring
occupation, you are feeding into the hands of the Israeli right, who suspect
double standards among the goyim who they also suspect of being
anti-semites, and then find those double standards in such statements. And I
really, really hate giving the Israeli right the satisfaction.

When I among Israelis I tell them what's what. I tell them to stop it
already with the accusations of anti-semitism and to face the reality of
what they are doing. But when I hear claims that the Israeli occupation is
worse than Tibet I get a queasy feeling - the word is demonisation, it's
hard to pin down but it's dangerous and can lead to bad places, to real
anti-semitism. The Srab world is awash with holocaust denial, some stuff
that I find not just morally repellant but personally quite scary, I think
the Bitish left needs to be careful not to feed into hyperbole. There is too
much at stake here.

Let's be clear and factual. The Israeli occupation is awful, it should be
stopped for everybody's sake, most of the all the occupied, but as
occupations go it isn't the most successful and enduring. With the
withdrawal from Gaza it's already being rolled back and at some point (not
under this government) will end, no sign of that in Tibet.


Dear Linda,

You have not missed a single trick in that response. True enough,
there is woefully little knowledge about what is being done and what
has been done to Tibet. But there is no controversy - China is
illegally occupying Tibet. This salient fact is even represented in
Hollywood fiction, which I don't think is true of the Nakba or the
1967 war and what it entailed. Few in the Western press would expend
a second of energy defending that disgusting dictatorship, although
far too many are vigorously defending the Israeli occupation of

You write: "when I hear claims that the Israeli occupation is
worse than Tibet I get a queasy feeling - the word is demonisation, it's
hard to pin down but it's dangerous and can lead to bad places, to real
anti-semitism." If someone says that the Israeli occupation of
Palestine is worse than Tibet, I will deliver your warning to them.
As I haven't said that, I don't feel I am at risk of disappearing down
that unhappy road to anti-Semitism. (To get there, of course, one
would have to conflate Israel with Jewishness - a disreputable
political gesture not unknown to Zionists).

You write: "under international law Israel was not occupying or annexing
anywhere until 1967; meanwhile your (our) government has all kinds of trade
and arms deals with China which no-one ever complains about."

Under international law, there is no occupation in Iraq, so the
citation of UN authority doesn't impress me. The murder and ethnic
cleansing of Palestinians in 1947-8 was a planned component of the
theft of Palestinian land. The settlements, from WWI onward, were
contiguous with British colonialism in Palestine, and were often
co-opted into the occupation. The final success of the Zionist
movement was to replace the British occupation with a European settler

True, there is a largely secret campaign of continuing the sale of
repressive equipment to China, despite an embargo in force since 1989
on such sales. What China does not receive, however, is military
vehicles, hawk air-jets, machine guns, F-16s etc. The value of
British arms sales to Israel exceeds by many times what it sells to
China. And there is no embargo on arms sales to Israel, despite
extensive evidence of their misuse. This isn't to attenuate in any
way the force of one's judgement against any tacit understandings with
the Chinese dictatorship, but it is to suggest that Britain sees
support for Israel as a strategic priority, whereas dealings with
China are likely to be driven by economic self-interest. The record
of collusion at the UN at least suggests that this is the case.
Hence, in every measurable way - qualitatively and quantitatively -
British support for Israel is more significant and pressing than its
tacit support of the repression in Tibet. That is about as "clear and
factual" as it gets.

You write: "On a blog you're as free as a bird to write about anything
you like. I go where I'm sent." Linda, you have spent most of your
career discussing Israel and Palestine. I doubt this is purely as a
result of Guardian editorial prerogatives. I daresay it is because
Israel interests you more than Indonesia. It could also be that where
The Guardian chooses to send you has to do with where your knowledge
and interest lies. And there is nothing wrong with this: everything
that matters really does matter, and one has only limited energy at
one's disposal. You have to write about what gets to you.

And while we are all being shamefully ignorant, isn't it also a shame
that so few people know about the massive slaughter in the Congo that
preceded Darfur? British arms flows to the countries involved in that
conflict was stupendous, yet barely a word is spoken about it. The
phrase for your line of argument is 'whataboutery' - "yes, you talk
about this, but why not this instead"? It has never been particularly

Another thing: why does the lack of discussion of the tragedy in Tibet
redound only to the discredit of the left? Isn't that something the
right are also guilty of? Isn't it also true that, on the whole,
where demonstrations have occurred against Chinese aggression, they
have been populated by the left and not the right?

In short, you misunderstand both my commissions and omissions, and
seem altogether too eager to impute some dangerous or disreputable
motive to me - simply for describing Israel (not, you will note, the
Israeli presence in WB and G) as "perhaps the most successful and
enduring occupation in history". Yet it seems to me that this is a
perfectly defensible proposition, and not to be confused with a moral
distinction. I noted - in the very sentence you quote from - that
Iraq was a failure as an occupation, but I don't regard it as being
any less brutal for all that.

I think I'm right in saying that under international law between 1948 and
1967 Gaza was occupied by Egypt and the West Bank by Jordan. None of its
population were given citizenship or rights. It's very worthwhile to have a
look at Resolution 181 which, under the UN, as far as I can make out,
proposed the transfer of Jewish and Palestinian populations a la India
Pakistan to form the two new states. What happened was that in the 48 war a
portion of the Palestinian population was ethnically cleaned by Israel and
100 per cent of the Jewish population was ethnically cleansed by Jordan.
Under international law Israel's recognized borders are the 1948 ceasefire
lines. So Palestine has indeed been continuously occupied since 1948, but by
neighbouring Arab states from 1948-1967.


Well, I won't infer or insinuate any possible drift toward sinister
positions here, but I will say that:

a) You have just made my point for me: the Israeli occupation began in
1948 - even if you accept international legal stipulations as the
appropriate yardstick.

b) The comparison between the experience of Jews expelled from Jordan
and Palestinians expelled from Palestine is hardly becoming of someone
so concerned with placing the proper moral import on matters.

You have a well written informative and interesting blog, I enjoyed reading it, and thought I don’t necessarily agree with your analysis, I’m always interested in keeping my mind open. You seem to have reacted very defensively and quite personally to a remark which was probably too sarcastic on my part, as I admitted. But the fact is, a year ago I did an event with Yasmin Alibai-Brown, the Iraqi artist Suad al Attar, the Palestinian activist, Ahlam Akram and Linda Melvern who has written a great deal on Rwanda. Linda started off with a description of the Rwandan genocide and the definition of genocide. When it came to the Q&A there was hardly one question about Rwanda or Iraq. Almost all the questions were about Palestine, the first questioner said that the Israeli occupation was worse than Rwanda, which made everyone on the panel gasp..

All the members of the panel, but particularly Linda Melvern were horrified by the session. Ahlam Akram said she was simply embarrassed and Yasmin said it made her re-think the way that columnists like herself had given so much attention to the conflict. She felt that it had become a fashion, drowning out everything else.

That was my point, and I think it’s a valid one.

You may well not agree, and I think the correspondence should therefore end, but I’ve enjoyed our exchanges. And will continue to look at your blog

Best wishes


I certainly didn't intend to seem defensive, Linda - but then, reading
is an active and not merely passive process. I can't necessarily
pre-empt your perception of my tone.

There is something very strange in all of this, however: You appear
to be directing criticisms at my blog that bear little relation to
what appears in it. Insofar as you have attempted to criticise what I
have actually said, I think I can justifiably say that you aren't
borne out by the evidence. For the rest, you make general comments
about 'the left' which allegedly relate to half a sentence in a single
blog-post I wrote a few days ago. I don't feel qualified to speak for
the left as a whole, but I do feel sure enough in my own political
outlook to support it.

In conclusion, I want to promise you I get more fun from a vigorous
argument than is probably healthy, and haven't been as displeasured or
discomfited by your criticisms as you might take it that I have. If
you do frequent blogs, though, you might like Mark Kaplan's blog, from
which I now quote:

"Notes on Rhetoric


"Always Psychologise


"Raw Nerve. If your opponent responds to you with anything like gusto/
feeling you have necessarily 'touched a raw nerve'. This can be used
against all but the most blandly neutral reply."



At 7:23 PM, Blogger Roberto Iza Valdes said...

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At 5:48 PM, Blogger Roberto Iza Valdes said...

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