by Ted Honderich

This piece, prompted by an interview with Ted Honderich by Nick Cohen in the New Statesman, and by a right-to-reply television programme by David Aaronovitch, is from the website of The Guardian, 'Comment is Free'. 

    We cannot settle such fundamental questions of right and wrong as that of Palestine and so on by the common recourses to international law, UN resolutions, doctrines of human rights, or our hierarchic democracy. Rather, for consistency and other reasons, we need a fundamental principle of right and wrong. This is the Principle of Humanity. It is, in short, that we must take actually rational steps, as distinct from political pretences and the like, to get and keep people out of bad lives, the latter being defined in terms of lacks and denials of the great human goods.

    This morality of humanity includes certain propositions. It justifies Zionism, not vaguely understood but taken as the founding and maintaining of Israel in roughly its original 1948 borders. The morality of humanity also condemns neo-Zionism, understood as the taking from the Palestinians at least their freedom in the last 5th of their homeland. It gives to them a moral right to their liberation-terrorism against neo-Zionism in historic Palestine, including Israel.

    The morality of humanity judges 9/11 to have been monstrously wrong, an irrational means to ends that included resistance to neo-Zionism. It condemns our Iraq War as moral barbarism for our intentional killing of many thousands of innocents. It as entirely condemns the terrorism of 7/7 in London. It maintains that Blair is not effectively an enemy of such horrors as 7/7, since he is not tough on both terrorism and the causes of terrorism.

    All this involves the judgement that neo-Zionism and American and British policies and actions in support of it have been a part, one part, of the explanation of 9/11 and of a good deal else. They have of course not been the whole explanation. They have been necessary conditions rather than a sufficient condition. Certainly they have been necessary conditions of particular significance.

    If you state this common belief, you may find other propositions assigned to you. "Al-Qa'ida isn't the fault of poverty, it turns out. It's the fault of the Jews." Thus the journalist Nick Cohen in a recent piece on me in the New Statesman. This is more than the raising of the question of whether the common belief is anti-semitic. It is more than the raising of the question of whether I am an anti-semite. Yet more is done by what follows, the report that I blame all of a lot of violence on "the Jew".

    What this comes to, then, is an unveiled if safeguarded imputation of anti-semitism based on a ludicrous falsehood about my common beliefs as to the explanation of 9/11, the weighting of necessary conditions, shares of responsibility, and so on.

    In a television programme another journalist, David Aaronovitch, was first concerned to argue that judgement on neo-Zionism is inconsistent with a lack of judgement on other crimes against humanity.

    Well, there there is a uniqueness about neo-Zionism. There has been 39 years of the violation of the only indigenous people of a place by another people, violation by a people of knowledge and experience, in two centuries of history when the violation could be seen for what it is. A violation of the weak by the strong. A violation unhidden by impertinent pretences about the course of ancient history. A violation whose attempted justifications lack numbers for populations at relevant times and also for deaths. A violation not made weakly defensible, even, by the proposition that it has been required for the good or security of a larger society of the same people, as in the case of the Russian crime against Chechnya. A violation almost without precedent for wider consequences in the world. A violation supported by religious affirmations of the sacredness of Jewish lives against others.

    To come round to Iraq, not much consideration is needed of  the piece of moral stupidity that to do a thing in the knowledge that it will kill innocents is not intentionally to kill innocents -- and so we are not intentionally killing innocents in Iraq. An introductory word will do.

    Think for a start of the husband whose wife leaves him and who cannot handle the fact. He goes to the house she is in, with glue for the door locks and petrol to start the fire. He sees a cleaning woman go into the house. He goes ahead anyway. Think a little bit of the judge's verdict on his claim that he only intended to kill his wife, and so is guilty of only one murder, and is sorry about the cleaning woman. Think a little about the family of the cleaning woman and their view of his prate of his intention, and his note of condolence.

    It needs asserting and repeating that it is Jews first of all who must without equivocation condemn that necessary condition of Iraq that is neo-Zionism. They can have a little more effect on it than others. They have the special obligation that comes with that fact. They have a special obligation that must overcome the plain fact of special kinship, loyalty and other connection that understandably unites Jews, owed in one part of the history of anti-semitism. They have more obligation than anyone else to resist change away from decent Jewish moral attitudes, to maintain their membership in the high tradition of Jewish realism and compassion -- to resist change in those attitudes owed to the pressure of being Jewish.

    They need to look to their proper and great leaders, including leaders of us all, Noam Chomsky at their head. Those who are of a reflective turn of mind need to get onto their bookshelves The Case Against Israel  by Professor Michael Neumann. It offers the clarity, perhaps the Jewish clarity, that the Palestinian problem is not complex, not difficult, not a problem. The decent solution is simple, without need for bargaining or hesitation or qualification.

    It is of course that Israel withdraws without negotiation or any other delay from the last 5th of the historic homeland of its indigenous people, the Palestinians. To declare that without caveat is the part of Jews actually against neo-Zionism.

There is also a fuller consideration of the Cohen interview, as well as the interview itself, and a short reply to the interview on the New Statesman website, and a look at the two television programmes, with the transcripts of the programmes.

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