Monday, July 26, 2010

Mad Dog Englishmen

An extraordinary court case recently occurred in England. Five men were on trial in England for causing $275,000 of damage, back in July 2009, to an arms factory that was supplying parts to the IDF. The men admitted to causing the damage, but said that it was for the purpose of preventing Israeli war crimes in Gaza. The judge told the jury that Israel was indeed committing war crimes, but asked them to put their emotions aside as they think about scenes in Gaza "which one would rather have hoped to have disappeared with the Nazi regimes." The men were acquitted. (See here, here and here for details and op-eds, and see especially here for a review of the judge's summing-up speech.)

At first I thought that this was further evidence for my feeling which I posted about a few weeks ago, that hatred of Jews is a phenomenon that transcends any rational explanation and must be metaphysical in origin. It turns out, however, that this case is more of a reflection on the madness of the British. Two years earlier, environmental activists who sabotaged a coal power plant were likewise acquitted, since they were engaged in the greater good of preventing global warming. (See here for more info.)

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Gaza case is in this write-up, by a Jewish friend of the judge, who laments the judge's appalling behavior, but notes that he is not an antisemite, and he sees this case as an illustration of how effective anti-Israel propaganda has been at swaying decent people to its cause. Over Shabbos I met someone who works for Stand With Us, an important organization that combats anti-Israel propaganda. Let's hope that they make some headway.


  1. Without dismissing the value of pro-Israel propaganda, there is a direct cause and effect between Israel's pursuit of peace via foolish territorial concessions and the world's treating us as pariahs.

    The best thing that we can do for Israel is to support those forces which seek to put and end to these pernicious concessions. The world may not love us then but the situation will be better than it is now.

  2. HaRazieli:

    While I'm also against territorial concessions for a variety of reasons, I doubt that our PR woes are really related to them.

    Things have always been this way, regardless of what Israel does. Just watch this interview to see how much things are the same:

    The Mike Wallace Interview - Abba Eban 1958.

    It's really worth watching the whole interview as it gives allot of historical perspective.

    Also remember that the American and British solution to the situation in May - June 1967 was to try and force Israel to cede the Negev desert to Egypt. Interesting trivia; it was Senator Gore, Al Gore's father who was key in pushing the cede the Negev peace plan in 1967. The American administration said it searched it's records and couldn't find any record of a 1956 agreement with Israel to keep the straights open in exchange for the British, French and Israeli withdrawal from Suez.

  3. While it is true that Israel has always had public relations problems they became precipitously worse in the post-Oslo, post-Gush Qatif era. When we convey to the world that Judea and Samaria are really Palestinian land then the world really believes that we are criminals.

  4. In an article bemoaning automatic prejudice against Jews, I do not think it is appropriate to use sweeping generalisations like "the madness of the British".

  5. I think that the context in which Rabbi Slifkin used the phrase "the madness of the British" makes it clear that not all British are thusly mad but rather that such quirkiness is to be found in larger quantities among them.

    I found it to be a breath of fresh air that Rabbi Slfkin would use such colourful terminolgy given the stiffness often caused by political correctness.

  6. I am assuming that HaRazieli is not British. I would dispute that "such quirkiness is to be found in larger quantities among them" - you should hear what Britons say about Americans.

    The point still stands, whether Rabbi Slifkin is implying that that British are mad, or just that they are madder than average.

  7. Matthew - Are you aware that Rabbi Slifkin is British?

  8. I have no doubt that there are some interesting character traits and habits which are more commonly found among Americans.

    I find the unwillingness of politically correct society to make generalizations about nations and ethnic groups unless they are positive to be quite irrational.

    Btw, I am of European descent. :)

  9. To further display the absurdity of the unwillingness to generalize-would anybody have a problem with someone saying that Britons tend to be more polite? It may well be that they also tend to speak a better English than Americans. My point is valid even if one happens to disagree with these particular generalizations

  10. A couple of points here: firstly in HaRazieli's latest comment, he adds in the words "tend to be" which were not in the original piece; secondly there is a world of difference between calling someone polite and calling them mad. Let's not generalise too much about generalisations.

    I don't particularly wish to continue this debate. I should say that other than this quibble, I thought this was a good and thought-provoking article, as are most of the articles on this site.

  11. Matthew and HaRazieli illustrate the absurdity and hypocrisy of the politically correct: they are quite willing to acknowledge the existence of national traits or charachteristics when it comes to positives, but when it comes to negatives, we must pretend they dont exist. Yet if we can acknowledge "teutonic precision" or "Scottish courage", why cant we recognize "black indolence" or even, between us, "jewish pushyness"? Likewise, if we can acknowledge the physical superiority of some races, should we not then recognize the mental deficiency in others?

    R Slifkin, as a scientist concerned with the truth and not politics, what do you think?

  12. I'm the one who made the comment in the first place! I certainly think that different nationalities/ cultures have strengths and weaknesses.

  13. I did say that I did not particularly wish to continue this debate, but I fear that I am being goaded to.

    1. I object to being called politically correct. I do not feel that I personally fit into the general understanding of that term, and the points I was making were not PC points.

    2. My original point was that R Slifkin was objecting to sweeping generalisations about Jews, but in doing this was making sweeping generalisations about British/English.

    3. I do not deny that nations have both positive and negative characteristics, but if one does apply derogatory words to a person or to a nation, it is best to do it in a polite way to avoid offence. This is politeness, not political correctness.

    4. Anonymous appeals to R Slifkin as a scientist. Scientists tend to draw conclusions (or posit theories) based on more than one or two examples. In this case, such examples might cover a) is there strong evidence that nation X is "mad"; and b) is there strong evidence that nation X is "madder" than nations A, B, C. I realise that this is not the point of the original article, but it is the point running through the comment thread.

  14. Where did I object to sweeping generalisations about Jews? I didn't say any such thing!

    And what I wrote about my fellow Englishmen was not intended to be a "sweeping generalisation" but to point out a tendency, a certain mentality that is prominent. There's a difference.

  15. You did not mention sweeping generalisations about Jews. I read it into your comments on feeling that "hatred of Jews is a phenomenon that transcends any rational explanation" and "how effective anti-Israel propaganda has been at swaying decent people to its cause".

    I apologise for this.

  16. Matthew, thank you and yasher koach; it's a breath of fresh air to see someone actually admit that they were mistaken in their representation of what I wrote!

  17. "Mad","polite","sophisticated"
    "advanced", "ingenious","backwards",these are all adjectives which can accurately be used to generalize about nations and ethnic groups, just as they can be used to describe individuals.

    There is no essential, logical difference between being willing to generalize regarding madness or regarding politeness.

    It is true however that as is the case regarding all areas of stating the truth-one needs to exercise discretion as to when and how one does it. In the case at hand I do not think that Rabbi Slifkin's post will incite ethnic rioting of British against anybody or anybody against the British and thus it is safe to assume that the proper discretion was exercised.

    Regarding prejudice regarding Jews, it is important to note that many generalizations regarding Jews during the course of our history have simply been false-such as claims that we poisoned the wells or that we oppress Palestinians. Further, anti-Semites have often manipulated generalizations with malicious intent to hurt Jews. Rabbi Slifkin's generalization neither was false nor designed to maliciously cause harm to Britons.

    Distinctions, distinctions, distinctions.....

  18. I wish to add that I do not think that there was any need for Rabbi Slifkin to use the phrase "tend to" regarding Britons.I think that this was implicit and clear.

    I just added this as a further point of clarification though I understand that Matthew P. no longer objects to that which was posted.

    One further point-the difference between unreasonable prejudice and justified generalization can often be judged by context and intent.


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