Saturday, 24 November 2012

Groundhog Day in Gaza?

The major violence in and around Gaza appears to be over; the ceasefire is holding.  This is to the good.  Unfortunately, multiple factors are still in place which will very likely make such horrendous bloodshed happen again.  Why?

None of the structuring or framing features of the Gaza situation which I drew attention to in my 'Eyeless in Gaza' blog-post are altered by the ceasefire.  The illegal Israeli siege and blockade on the Strip has not been lifted, though border crossing is meant to become easier.  The Strip remains a densely populated, semi-starved, non-sovereign ghetto, where half the population are minors and where more than 80% of the population are 'food insecure', according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.  Gaza still remains technically under Israeli occupation, and Israel's legal obligations to an occupied territory and the population of that territory have not changed: collective punishments of such a population, whether by food and aid restriction, or by drone strikes, are war crimes under the terms of the Geneva Conventions.

'Conflict', as the mainstream Irish media quaintly like to call the hell unleashed principally on the Palestinians of Gaza over the last 10 days, will erupt again because Hamas and other militias in the Strip will come under pressure from their constituencies to show resistance to Israel - and it must be admitted that an occupied people is entitled to resist that occupation - and because Israel feels it has a free hand in meting out overwhelming violence to the people of Gaza.  

Yet Operation Pillar of Cloud has revealed a couple of things, militarily and politically, that make it a little different from Operation Cast Lead.  It has revealed the effectiveness of Israel's battlefield anti-missile missile system, 'Iron Dome' - Israel's main success emerging from Pillar of Cloud.  Otherwise, the bombardment has mostly shown that Israeli leaders will continue cynically to use violence against Palestinians as an election strategy, and that Israel has no other serious strategy vis-a-vis the Strip.  Regarding Hamas, the struggle has shown that it can fire rockets into Israeli cities, and that it can go on firing rockets even when under Israeli bombardment, even if many of those can be brought down by 'Iron Dome'.  But more importantly, Hamas has been able to take advantage of the new political cleavages and alignments in the region, an adjustment Israel seems as yet unable to make.  Hamas has worked effectively with the new regime in Egypt (being an outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood in its origins in any case), it has won implicit recognition by the United States (which still officially regards Hamas as a 'terrorist' organisation but which nevertheless negotiated with that organisation by way of Egyptian proxies) and it has wrested from Israel an abrogation of the policy of 'targeted assassination' (though it must be said that this was always illegal anyway).

Israel still thinks it can bestride the stage of the Middle East, and smack the Palestinians around when it pleases.  It has 'a right to defend itself', after all, as the New York Times likes to remind us.   But the ground is shifting under Israel's feet, and no amount of belligerence or naked brutality can alter this.  Adam Shatz has written about Israel/Palestine for the London Review of Books (one of the few British or American mainstream journals to take a seriously critical view of the Middle East and of the question of Palestine) for some years, and his column 'Why Israel Didn't Win' is well worth reading in full:

Eyal Weizman is one of the most striking and imaginative writers dealing with the Israel-Palestine conflict at the moment.  His books - A Civilian Occupation, Hollow Land, and most recently The Least of all Possible Evils - are fascinating and appalling accounts of the spatial and topographical logics of the discipline of detail that characterises the Zionist project of conquest, colonisation and politicide as it is practiced today.  'Another acre, another goat' used to be an old popular Zionist formulation of the colonial undertaking.  The technology has changed, but the ideology has not, and Weizman illustrates this in the most compelling way:


Friday, 16 November 2012

Eyeless in Gaza

Violence once more soars in and around Gaza.  This blog is not capable of offering sustained regular reporting or commentary on the situation, but I will put up some posts or links which I think will help people understand what is happening.

The first thing that needs to be said is that in a very real sense the Gaza Strip is constituted in violence: that is, violence is part of its structures.  By this I mean several things:

1) the great majority of the population of the Strip are refugees or the children and grandchildren of refugees of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians attendant on the creation of the State of Israel in 1947-49;

2) Gaza has long  been a site of Israeli punitive violence, for example the raid in 1955 which 'punished' Egypt for its alleged sponsorship of Palestinian 'infiltration' of southern Israel from the Strip;

3) Gaza was for a long time the site of the institutionalised and incremental violence embodied in illegal Israeli colonisation, land confiscation, settlement construction, and population-transfer;

4) Israel's unilateral withdrawal of its settlers has not, in fact, altered the juridical status of the Strip in international law, which is still held to be that of occupied territory, towards which (along with its denizens) Israel as the occupying power has a legal duty of care and protection.  Israel has built a 'fence' around its entire border of the territory, and illegally controls and seeks to exploit Gaza's maritime industries and potential hydrocarbon resources in the Mediterranean;

5) Gaza has been under continuous siege since the creation of its Hamas government: that government has no sovereignty over Gaza's borders, over its territorial waters or its airspace.  The territory is routinely subjected to Israeli shellfire, airstrikes and incursions, mostly carried out with impunity.  In 2011 alone, over 100 Gazans were killed in such interventions;

6) By controlling all trade, movement of persons and of goods and food, Israel has reduced most Gazans to the condition of what the renowned Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben (who recently spoke at Trinity College Dublin) has termed 'bare life' - a largely inert, legally and discursively 'semi-human' population almost entirely without rights, deprived of basic human needs, and which it is possible to persecute, maim and slaughter with no serious risk of reprisal, either by Gazans or (even less) by the 'international community'.

It is within this barbaric framework that all that is currently happening in the Strip must be considered.

A great deal of discussion, even now as Israeli airstrikes shatter Palestinian lives and infrastructure, and as Palestinian rockets continue to be fired into southern Israel, turns and will continue to turn on the chronology of the breaking of the most recent ceasefire.  Adam Horowitz has published on the excellent Mondoweiss website information from the Institute for Middle East Understanding which clarifies this matter and which contextualises Israel's handling of ceasefires in the past:

Two new resources: Timeline of Israeli escalation in Gaza and Israel’s history of breaking ceasefires

I have invoked the name of John Mearsheimer, one of the most clear-eyed and brilliant contemporary American International Relations theorists, on this blog already.  In 2007, he and Stephen Walt authored a major study of the Israel lobby in the United States, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.  Mearsheimer and Walt underwent the usual barrage of criticism as anti-Semites for having had the temerity to challenge one of the most invidious and enduring pillars of American foreign policy.  Yet it should be stressed that Walt and Mearsheimer are not wild-eyed leftists; they are mainstream establishment academics.  Honorably and impressively, this has not prevented them describing the situation in the Middle East and its echoes inside the Beltway starkly and ruthlessly.  Mearsheimer has a short article on the current Gaza situation on the London Review of Books website:


John Mearsheimer: The War on Gaza



Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Shatter Shattered

Alan Shatter is Ireland's Minister for Justice and Defence (formerly separate ministries).  He is a partner in one of Ireland's leading law practices specialising in family law.  He is also one of Israel's foremost 'friends' in Ireland.

A few days ago, Shatter opened a conference at Trinity College Dublin on the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg, the courageous Swedish diplomat posted in Budapest, who in 1944 devised ways of escape for tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust. The Irish Times took the unprecedented step of publishing Shatter's speech in its 3000 word entirety.  It contains a number of dubious elements, including his assertion of the ahistorical 'uniqueness' of the Holocaust, and, egregiously, the recruitment of Wallenberg's illustrious name to the defence of Israel and to the legitimation of a potential Israeli attack on Iran.

Raymond Deane has written an excoriating and brilliant critique of Shatter's speech for Irish Left Review.  Read it here:

Exploiting Wallenberg



Monday, 17 September 2012

Israel, Iran and the Bomb

There has been a lot of talk lately about Israel, Iran, and nuclear weapons.  Obviously this is not a new story, but it is getting ratcheted-up in its news profile and in its intensity.  This is happening for at least a couple of reasons.  One would be that the Israeli political leaders who are keen on an airstrike to destroy or at least set back the Iranian nuclear programme - Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak - maintain that the time remaining before Iran manages to locate its most important nuclear facilities in hardened - un-bomb-able - locations is shrinking quickly.  Whether this is true or not is hard to determine. 

The other reason why this issue has attained prominence in the last two weeks is because of a speech by Netanyahu arguing that the United States has no 'moral' right to hinder Israeli action when it is slow or reluctant to take action against Iran.  Most of the media coverage of this has focussed on Netanyahu's 'unprecedented' attack on Obama, or on his seeming intervention in the US presidential race.  Fewer commentators note how revolting it is to hear Netanyahu discuss politics in moral terms: Israel, after all, has a nuclear arsenal but never officially acknowledges its existence, is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, yet seeks to attack Iran which has no nuclear weapons and is a NPT signatory still operating within its rights.  Yet these are mostly trivial matters: Israel has always been prepared to go it alone in aggressive foreign policy, and the question is more whether this occurs with explicit or tacit American support.  The real issues at stake lie elsewhere.

For we must remind ourselves that the whole Iranian nuclear weapons scare is largely a red herring, albeit one which Israel is very keen to pull out every so often.  The fact is that the only significant nuclear arsenal in the Middle East is that of Israel itself, which possesses an estimated 200-300 nuclear warheads, and has ample means to deliver them.  Furthermore, Israel is one of the few countries on the planet that has threatened to use its nuclear weapons since 1945:  in the early days of the Yom Kippur War, when it looked like there might be a Syrian breakthrough in the Golan Heights and down into the Galilee, and both the Syrian and Egyptian armies were knocking Israeli planes out of the sky with modern Soviet-made anti-aircraft missiles at an exceptional rate, one of the ways that the Israelis extorted more and faster resupply from the United States was by threatening to use nuclear weapons in Syria, possibly even on Damascus itself. Very quickly the United States was resupplying the Israeli Defence Forces with combat aircraft simply requisitioned from US Air Force service, and repainted in IDF colours, and flown straight to Israel.

There are indications, however, that the tectonic plates of foreign policy consensus in Washington regarding Iran might be shifting.  Travelling from Montreal to Dublin a month ago, I was browsing the current issue of Foreign Affairs in the Dorval airport newsagent.  Foreign Affairs is a solidly mainstream American foreign policy journal, published by the Council for Foreign Relations. Yet there as the lead article was a piece by Kenneth Waltz, the great doyen of International Relations 'realism', advocating that Iran should have the bomb, in order to balance Israel. This is the logic of Mutually Assured Destruction - maybe not altogether so mad as Stanley Kubrick wished to argue all those years ago.

People like Waltz, and his greatest contemporary inheritor John J Mearsheimer (author of one of the best, and most pessimistic, discussions of post-9/11, post-Cold War interstate relations, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics), make the point that the whole Iran scare is predicated on an idea that the Iranian leadership is itself bent on suicide, that it is irrational, and that it has no concern either for its allies or its own people. But this is wrong; in fact it's an ignorant and racist assumption. Any Iranian nuclear strike on Israel would have the following consequences: 1) a massive and catastrophic nuclear counterstrike by Israel, which could kill millions of Iranians, which would wipe out Iran's economy and shatter the state apparatus, and prostrate the country for decades to come; 2) a massive and maybe nuclear counterstrike by the United States; 3) very likely enormous 'collateral damage' - due to clouds of fall-out -  in casualties in the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon i.e. amongst the allies Iran would purport to aid; the disastrous consequences could be maybe even the collapse of some of those states; 4) diplomatic and political ostracism for decades to come; 5) enormous economic turmoil in the region more generally; 6) massive and unpredictable social and political turmoil in the region also, much of which might not necessarily redound to Iranian political advantage.  In other words, the crudest cost-benefit analysis shows that Iran has much more to lose by the use of nuclear weapons than to gain.  Accordingly, we can say that no Iranian leadership is going to use the bomb.

Furthermore, just to the east of Iran sits Pakistan, which does possess a nuclear arsenal.  Yet Pakistan is a state in a perpetual condition of near-collapse, and which houses many radical Salafi or other Sunni guerrilla groups of the most virulent anti-American and anti-Israel disposition, a state which supported the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and which offered some kind of succour to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.  This is a regime and political milieu vastly more dangerous to the region, to Israel, and to the world than Iran, and yet we hear no talk of disarming Pakistan.  The reason for this is partly that Pakistan already has the bomb, but also that Pakistan is held (extraordinarily) to be an ally of the West.  Accordingly, we hear no blather from Israel about 'taking out' the Pakistani nuclear programme.

It is, of course, the political significance of a military nuclear capacity that would be useful to Iran.  Possession of nuclear weapons would confirm Iran's status as the major power in the Persian Gulf, and as the only power in the region capable of standing up to Israel and its American ally and occasional proxy.  Possession of nuclear weapons would also compel other regional powers, such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates, to be much more circumspect in their approach to Iran, and to reform their repressive policies vis-a-vis their own local Shia populations.  

Israel, however, is the regional superpower, and wishes to retain the strategic, qualitative and symbolic edge that possession of the bomb, while not admittting it officially, confers.  This is why Israel is keen to destroy Iran's nuclear capacity.  It has nothing to do with 'morality' - a term soiled in Netanyahu's mouth - or the threatened new 'holocaust' which Bibi says he is trying to prevent.


Thursday, 30 August 2012

Germany and the Critique of Israel

For a variety of reasons - not all of them actually obvious or honourable - the space for speaking out in Germany about Israel's crimes against the Palestinians is particularly narrow and contested.  My friend and admired comrade Raymond Deane has written on this topic - pertinent most immediately to the situation regarding Judith Butler and the Adorno Prize - with great lucidity and intelligence.  Here's a piece of his on Irish Left Review:


Dissident Jews: Unwanted in Germany?

Raymond Deane is one of Ireland's most important contemporary classical composers.  More than any other living Irish artist, he exemplifies the engaged intellectual, through his brave radical political activism.  Would that we had more like him.  Here is Raymond's blog:


The Deanery


Judith Butler and the Adorno Prize

Starting this blog last April, I took my example from two great writers - whom I will never match.  Alexander Cockburn, who died recently, and Theodor Adorno both produced significant writing in a style akin to that of a diary: Adorno's work that I referred to was his wonderful Minima Moralia.  Of course, this book is not a diary as such, but it is composed in jottings - not 'loose jottings', but frequently aphoristic musings so tight and dense that reading them you can almost hear the whiplash crack of Adorno's relentlessly dialectical mind as you parse and re-parse his sentences.

Adorno was one of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century.  He is best known now as a leading figure and latter-day director of the Frankfurt School, or the Institut fur Sozialforschung, whose early members included luminaries such as Max Horkheimer (with whom Adorno wrote Dialectic of Enlightenment and to whom he dedicated Minima Moralia), Leo Leowenthal, Herbert Marcuse, Friedrich Pollock and Franz Neumann, and whose more recent alumni include major living German philosophers such as Axel Honneth and Jurgen Habermas.  The Institut carried out a wide array of social and political research, most of it informed by the brand of Hegelian humanistic Marxism initiated by an earlier generation of writers such as Georg Lukacs, Karl Korsch and Antonio Gramsci, and boosted by the discovery of Marx's Paris Manuscripts in the 1930s.  Adorno himself wrote extensively and brilliantly about society, literature and culture, politics, philosophy, and music most of all.  The Institut, and Adorno, also wrote importantly about anti-Semitism.   Many of the Institut's staff were Jewish, and in fact during the Second World War, it decamped first to New York, and then to Los Angeles: an academic institution in exile.  Tragically and famously, Walter Benjamin, an older associate of the Institut, and a good friend of Adorno's, did not escape, taking his own life whilst fleeing the Nazis in France in 1940.

In 1977, the city of Frankfurt established the Adorno Prize, an award given every three years to a major philosopher.  Previous winners include Habermas, Jacques Derrida, and Zygmunt Bauman.  This year, the winner is to be the American philosopher Judith Butler - the first woman to win the prize.  She is due to receive the award on September 11 next.

I have already referred to Butler's work on this blog - her essay 'No it's not anti-Semitic', published in the London Review of Books in 2007.  The thinking behind this piece has now issued in a new book, Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism (New York: Columbia University Press) where she turns back to her own Jewish education, and, while also in critical dialogue with Palestinian writers - Mahmoud Darwish and Edward Said principally - seeks to scour the work of great modern Jewish philosophers and writers - Martin Buber, Emmanuel Levinas, Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin and Primo Levi - for the resources of a Jewish critique of Zionism.  Butler even goes so far as to suggest that in our times Jewish thought might be most itself when criticizing Zionism for its crimes of ethnocratic domination and state violence.  She seeks to derive an ethic of 'cohabitation' that would be pertinent to the situation of Jews and Palestinians and which would not be predicated on a simple universalism, but would eventually issue in a binational state.  Ultimately, her philosophical message is that a properly effective Jewish ethics must be prepared to transcend itself, and leave its Jewishness behind.

And now she is paying a price: multiple campaigns, letter-writings, Facebook maunderings, and other hypocrisies are underway, in Israel and Germany, to deny one of our most important contemporary thinkers an honour that is her due.  Copious character-assassinations and accusations of Jewish self-hatred have already been flung: the quickest google search will reveal this.  Here's an example, from Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (one notes immediately that fairly unpeaceful 'scholars' such as Efraim Karsh and Daniel Pipes are members or former members of this grouping):

German Jewish leader: Rescind Israel hater's prize

And here is Butler responding to her critics generally, and at the Jerusalem Post specifically - this is taken from the excellent liberal Jewish website, Mondoweiss:

Judith Butler responds to attack: ‘I affirm a Judaism that …

Butler, I reckon, is an exemplar of an all-too rare quality in thinkers and writers: she does not become conservative, or lax, or repetitive as her career develops and her work expands and gets older.   She gets tougher, harder, more radical, more rigorous, and she steels herself to the most formidable and difficult tasks.  She is a courageous and brilliant woman, and deserves support and recognition.


Sunday, 29 July 2012

Adieu to Alexander Cockburn

Little did I think, when setting up this blog only 3 months ago, and taking as one of my guides the great Alexander Cockburn, that I would soon be mourning his passing.  Cockburn died on July 20 of cancer, having kept his illness secret for the last two years, all the while continuing his wonderful coruscating writing.

Disgracefully and sadly, Alex's death was barely covered at all in the Irish media.  I published this tribute on Irish Left Review, an excellent leftwing website edited by Donagh Brennan.  Warm thanks to Donagh for his help with this piece.

Adieu to Alexander Cockburn


Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Nazi Past of Yitzhak Shamir

This week witnessed the death of Yitzhak Yezernitsky, better known as Yitzhak Shamir, at the age of 96.  Though other Israeli prime ministers are remembered more immediately - Begin, Rabin, Meir - the fact is that after David Ben-Gurion, Shamir was Israel's second-longest-serving leader.  He served as Prime Minister of Likud governments, after the resignation of Menachem Begin in the wake of the 1982 Lebanon War, and also at the time of the Madrid Conference, organised by the United States after Iraq was beaten out of Kuwait in 1991.   He had a reputation as a hardliner, though he did not always show political nous: determined that the PLO would not be represented at the Madrid Conference, he and his government demanded that any Palestinian representation should come only from within the Territories, and as part of the Jordanian delegation.  But this proved to be a diplomatic blunder, as the Palestinian leaders who attended the Conference - people like Hanan Ashrawi, Haidar abd-al Shafi, and Faisal Husseini - proved to be vastly more able than the Fatah hacks that Israel might otherwise have found itself debating.  Of course, the downside of this was that Israel then stonewalled so determinedly at Madrid that eventually the Oslo process began, behind the backs of the Palestinian delegation, between Arafat and Israel, and we all know what emerged from that.

What many people are less likely to know of are the (pretty minor) Irish connection Shamir had, and his extremely dubious ideological background.  Born in Poland, he became involved in Betar, a rightwing Zionist youth movement, some of whose activities were recently mythologised in a ghastly Edward Zwick historical epic film, Defiance (which can be read as a clunky allegory of the creation of the State of Israel).  In 1935, he made aliyah to Palestine, and there became involved in the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the main 'Revisionist' or rightwing Zionist militia in the Yishuv.  When it split in 1940, he joined the even more aggressive splinter, the LEHI, or 'Stern Gang', named for  its first leader, Avraham Stern.  The Irish connection is that Shamir took a nom de guerre - 'Michael', after Michael Collins.  The fact is that the Jewish guerillas in Palestine greatly admired the IRA and its struggle against Britain during the Irish War of Independence.  Funnily enough, this admiration did not extend to the IZL or LEHI being particularly in touch with the Irish situation - some years ago, Ben Briscoe, Fianna Fail TD and ex-Lord Mayor of Dublin, revealed that a delegation from the IZL arrived in Dublin in 1948, hoping to make contact with the IRA and learn from it, but clearly not knowing that by this time, the IRA was a proscribed organisation, many of whose current members had been interned during WW2 by their erstwhile colleagues now at the head of the Free State. 

But the real clue to the make-up of rightwing Zionism of Shamir's kind is illustrated by the fact that whereas the Haganah, the main Zionist militia in Palestine, observed a ceasefire during Britain's struggle with Germany during the Second World War, the IZL and the LEHI regarded the war as their opportunity.  Most strikingly of all, the LEHI made two overtures to the Nazi regime to enter the war on its side, suggesting that the creation of a 'folkish-national' Jewish polity in the Middle East would be mutually beneficial. Stern, with Shamir among his chief colleagues, put forward a document entitled 'Fundamental Features of the Proposal of the National Military Organization (NMO) in Palestine Concerning the Solution of the Jewish Question in Europe and the Participation of the NMO in the War on the Side of Germany', which noted inter alia that 'Common interests could exist between the establishment of a new order in Europe in conformity with the German concept, and the true national aspirations of the Jewish people as they are embodied by the NMO', and, furthermore, that 'The establishment of the historic Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis, bound by a treaty with the German Reich, would be in the interest of a maintained and strengthened future German position of power in the Near East'.

That this idea was advanced well after the murderous and anti-Semitic character of the German regime had been revealed, and after it had conquered most of Europe, shows the alarming symbiosis between Zionist ethnic exclusivism, and the most brutal strains of European Fascism, and their mutual moral degeneracy.

Yitzhak Shamir was a representative of an older world of Zionism, but his cynical and racist attitudes are reproduced today, in the Liebermans and Netanyahus at the head of Israel, with only a little more polish.  He will not be missed by anyone who wishes to see justice in the Middle East.


The last two months have revealed to me some of the difficulties of blogging!   I mean by this that it seems to  me that for a blog to be of interest, it must be updated reasonably frequently.   That 'reasonably' is open to interpretation, but every few days, or once a week, might be 'reasonable'.

However, I have failed to write on my blog for nearly two months.  Ordinary work intruded, but also the fact is that the accumulating controversy involving the cultural boycott of Israel, Dervish, Gerard Donovan, the slanders on the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign and on my comrade Raymond Deane, the yet-again-revealed bias of the Irish Times in the course of the whole business (not to mention the rubbish published on this matter by Independent Newspapers) produced a concatenation of issues which I simply could not keep up with.

I hope to add to this blog more frequently in the coming months.  Friends and foes alike will note that we are now in what is called in Irish and British media circles 'the silly season'.   I'll try not to be too silly.


Thursday, 17 May 2012

Anti-Semitism and Criticism of Israel

Along with my letter and those of Laurence Davis and Raymond Deane in yesterday's Irish Times, there was a 'pro-Israel' letter from David Fine.

Mr Fine asserts that there is 'something wrong' with Irish democracy 'if cultural groups are prepared to boycott the only functioning democracy in the Middle East', and if these groups support instead 'a quasi-state whose party in power has enshrined the demand in its own constitution to "drive the Jews into the sea"'.  He endorses Minister Alan Shatter's description of efforts by Palestine activists to persuade Dervish to give up its planned Israel tour as 'cultural fascism'.  Fine goes on to assert that 'Any form of opposition to the Jewish state ...  can only be interpreted as a veiled form of anti-Semitism'.  He then notes that Israel, 'unlike the Palestinian state', guarantees the vote to all its citizens, regardless of their ethnic background, gender identity, and so on.

This statement is problematic in various ways.  Firstly, it denounces 'cultural fascism' and then, without missing a beat, suggests that any form of opposition to the Jewish state is anti-Semitic - a formulation that is awe-inspiring in its totalizing reach. Secondly, the statement is factually incorrect.  Let's deal with the facts first.

Israel is not 'the only functioning democracy in the Middle East'.  Turkey is another democracy in the region, albeit also with serious flaws.  Israel is better characterised as an ethnocracy, because of the priority given in its Basic Laws to the Jewish people.  In that Basic Law, Israel is defined not as the state of its citizens, but as the state of the Jewish people.  This has the immediate and practical result of rendering all non-Jews in Israel as second-class, in juridical terms.  Furthermore, under the terms of the Law of Return, it means that a Jewish person living in Paris or Miami has the automatic right to citizenship of Israel, whereas a Palestinian person living in Cairo, whose parents left in 1948, has no such right.  Uri Davis has pointed out how at its inception the state of Israel transferred certain functions pertaining to the state over to organisations which are constituted only to assist or work for Jewish people.  A good example of this would be the administration of state lands by the Jewish National Fund.  Because the JNF continues to see its function as, indeed, the Judaization and 'redemption' of the land of Palestine, the ability of Palestinian citizens of Israel to buy or trade in land is fundamentally restricted.  A more recent example of this kind of structural racism would be the 2003 Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law.  This law prevents Palestinians from the Territories who marry Palestinian citizens of Israel themselves becoming citizens of Israel. It was renewed by the Supreme Court in 2006 and extended to persons from Syria, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.  The publisher of Ha'aretz, Amos Schocken, said in 2008 that the existence of this law on the statute  books turned Israel into an apartheid state.

Fine's statement is completely unclear as to what Palestinian 'state' he refers to.  Neither the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, nor the Hamas government in Gaza could be said to exercise anything like true sovereignty, so there is no Palestinian 'state'.  Neither the PLO Charter, nor the Covenant of Hamas (which is deeply problematic, and shot through with elements of anti-Semitism) make any mention of an ambition to 'drive the Jews into the sea'.

As to the idea that any opposition to the  Jewish state is a veiled form of anti-Semitism, well, the intention of such a statement is to delegitimize and block any criticism of Israel by the use of one of the worst slurs or aspersions that can be cast in the post-Holocaust world.  But there is a number of problems with this strategy:

1) it seeks to block all opposition, of any kind - be that militant or written or verbal or political or cultural or religious, violent or non-violent. We should note that it even blocks criticism of Israel by Jewish people, and by Israeli citizens.  This kind of blanket suppression of opinion is, surely, one of the essences of fascism; 

2) it elides the differences between the Jewish state and Jewish people everywhere.  Far more Jews live elsewhere in the world than in Israel.  Not all Jews identify with the 'Jewish state' - many of the most courageous and powerful critics of Israel are Jewish.  Not all Jews inside Israel identify with or fully endorse government policy.  Not all Jews fully identify with Zionism.  This statement in fact arrogates to Israel the right to represent all Jews everywhere, whether they like it or not.  This too is hardly democratic;

3) the fact is that the charge of anti-Semitism is thrown so often, and so easily, these days means that it has become profoundly and dangerously cheapened.   Its use by someone like Fine elides the gulf of difference between Nazi advocates of genocide and non-violent protestors who demonstrate outside Israeli embassies.  This elision, too, is characteristic of the fascism Fine purports to oppose.

One excellent point of reference in discussion of this kind is the work of the brilliant Jewish-American philosopher and cultural theorist Judith Butler.  Butler teaches at UC Berkeley, and is best known as a theorist of gender and sexual identity working at once in the Hegelian and poststructuralist traditions.  But she has also written influentially on hate speech, and she has long been an anti-Zionist activist.   In August 2003, she published an essay in the London Review of Books, 'No it's not anti-semitic', which she then re-published in extended form in her collection of political essays, Precarious Life (2006).  It starts off from statements made by Larry Summer, president of Harvard University, about campus 'anti-Semitism', and proceeds, carefully and politely, to demolish positions such as that of David Fine.  Anyone interested in the debate about Israel and Palestine should read it.


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Letters in the Irish Times

In today's Irish Times, my letter replying to Ivor Shorts, along with letters by Raymond Deane and Laurence Davis, is published.  I am pleased, of course, though it must be noted that up until now the IPSC-bashers and proponents of 'balance' have had the field.  I am leaving my letter up here.

The link to today's letters is


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Failed Arguments

When it comes to the Israel/Palestine conflict, bizarre, illogical and incoherent arguments are often produced to 'defend' Israel.  An example appeared in the Irish Times last Saturday May 12.  One Ivor Shorts suggested that criticisms of Israel would have greater credibility if they acknowledged the warlike intent and efforts of the Arab states against Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973.  Here's his letter:

Here's the text of a letter I submitted to the Irish Times by way of reply, which has not been published:

May 12, 2012

Dear Sir

Ivor Shorts (letters, Saturday May 12, 2012) argues that criticism of Israel has more credibility if it's preceded by criticism of wars launched by the Arab states against Israerl in 1948, 1967 and 1973, and rockets launched at Israel more recently.

Mr Shorts' argument is deficient on at least two counts, historically and logically. Historically: by the time that the Arab armies attacked Israel in May 1948, Jewish guerillas had already ethnically cleansed 250, 000 Palestinians, and assaulted the areas labelled as the Palestinian state to come under the UN partition plan. Everybody knows that Israel attacked Egypt, Jordan, and Syria first in 1967, arguably unnecessarily, by destroying their airforces on the ground. 1967 was a 'war of choice' for Israel. Even the 1973 war, launched by Egypt and Syria, never touched pre-1967 Israeli territory, but only territory conquered by Israel in 1967.

Logically: the barbarous crime of the 45 year occupation was not erased or exculpated in anticipation by the 1948, 1967 or 1973 wars. Who started those wars is irrelevant to the occupation now.

Yours sincerely

Conor McCarthy

I think that these points stand.  There are multiple  complications with Shorts's suggestion that Israel was the victim in 1948 and 1967.  Not only were the Haganah and the Irgun Zvai Leumi involved in offensive operations in the areas of the 'Palestinian state' envisaged under the UN Partition Plan as early as March 1948 - two months before the 'declaration of independence' after which the Arab armies intervened -  but infamous episodes such as the Dayr Yasin massacre of Palestinian villagers took place before the arrival of Arab troops.  Further, the Jewish militias were never outnumbered - by the end of the war in 1949, they outnumbered their Arab opponents by 2:1 - and after a crucial shipment of Czech armaments arrived during the first truce (June-July 1948), they were much better-equipped.  Jewish/Israeli forces successfully beat off their attackers, while the Palestinian exodus continued.

In 1967, similarly, the lead-up to the war was characterised by both Israeli and Egyptian brinkmanship.  As late as May 1967, Israel was told by American intelligence sources that it could successfully defeat any combination of the Arab armies.  Israel famously attacked first, in the swift and devastating 'pre-emptive strike' on the airforces of its Arab enemies, almost completely wiping out the entire strength of the Egyptian air force, and putting in strikes on the Jordanian and Syrian air forces later on the same day.   Israel's rapid and tremendous victory was due to its taking the initiative in this way.  Of course, what Shorts also fails to note is that during the fighting, another 250,000 Palestinians were expelled from the West Bank into Jordan.

Shorts fails to mention the 1956 Suez War, where Israel, Britain and France attacked Egypt, and he fails to mention the 1982 Lebanon War, where Israel invaded Lebanon, laid siege to Beirut, precipitated the Sabra and Chatila massacres of Palestinian civilians, and occupied large swathes of Lebanon for many years after.  

Having surveyed the historical record, one nevertheless then must note that the wars of Israel and the Arab states, started by one side or the other, in no way justify the occupation.  Are Israel's current crimes of illegal population transfer and colonisation, collective punishment, ethnic prejudice, extra-judicial execution, water and resource theft somehow wiped off the record by the fact that the Egyptian Army crossed the Bar-Lev Line in 1973?   Of course not, and to argue that they are is illogical and incoherent, a non sequitur on the grand scale.  So why does the supposed national newspaper of record  publish such crassly inaccurate and badly argued missives as that of Ivor Shorts?


Monday, 14 May 2012

Palestine Is Still The Issue

Here are links to three articles I've written touching on Palestine in the last few years.  Inevitably, they are already dated, but might still be of interest.

The first is a review of Norman Finkelstein's Beyond Chutzpah in Village MagazineVillage, both in its more recent low-profile manifestation, and in its original version edited by Vincent Browne with Sarah Burke, was one of the few Irish publications to take the question of Palestine seriously, and to be open to critical views.  Norman Finkelstein has been a radical historian of and commentator on the Israel/Palestine conflict for 30 years, since his brilliant debunking of Joan Peters's From Time ImmemorialBeyond Chutzpah, which has since gone to a second edition, remains useful as a critique of the political use of the 'anti-Semitism' slur, and as a powerful human-rights-orientated rebuttal of Alan Dershowitz's The Case for Israel
Beyond Chutzpah in Ireland

The second article is an essay I published in 2010 in The Citizen, the magazine of the Ireland Institute, a think-tank on modern republicanism in Ireland based in the Pearse Centre in Dublin.  The essay's endorsement of the Goldstone Report would seem to have been rendered out of date by Judge Goldstone's subsequent recantations.  Yet the furore the Report created at the time, the immense pressure then put on Goldstone, and the perceived propaganda victory for Israel of his turn away from the implications of his work perhaps bear out its original power. 

Palestine, Once Again the Issue

The third piece is a review of Gideon Levy's The Punishment  of Gaza, written for the Irish Left Review in 2010.  Levy is a columnist with the Israeli daily, Ha'aretz.
The Punishment of Gaza

Diary May 14

The Dervish controversy rumbles on.  FullSet, the support band for Dervish's planned tour in Israel, has issued a statement regretting the cancellation. The Irish Times has run several articles on the debate, which reveal as much about that paper's elite orientation and about the slanted 'objectivity' characteristic of power, as anything else of substance.  Kevin Myers, always acutely attuned to the agonies of the potentates, has published an article on Ynet, the internet arm of Yedioth Ahronoth, portraying the episode as 'the war on Israel, Irish-style'Such is the general level of Irish discussion.


Wednesday, 9 May 2012

An eloquent indirect riposte to Alan Shatter

Today, the IPSC organised an intervention at the AGM of Cement Roadstone Holdings, the Irish company which has a 25% share in the Israeli company which in turn owns the supplier of 90% of Israeli cement.  This is an example of intelligent, cogent and non-violent action of the kind Alan Shatter can't stomach.

This is the IPSC press release:

Palestinian women confront CRH Board, submit 10,000 strong petition urging divestment from Israel

Ireland Solidarity Palestine Campaign

Press Release, Wed 9th May 2012, 6.30pm

This year’s CRH Annual General Meeting in Dun Laoghaire was again the scene of calls for the company to divest from its Israeli business interests which are involved in building the illegal wall and settlements in Palestine. Two Palestinian women made impassioned pleas from the floor asking CRH to heed the 10,000 signature strong petition calling for CRH to “Stop Cementing Misery in Palestine”. The petition and demonstration were organised by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC).

Outside, over 50 human rights activists created a colourful spectacle along Marine Road. 33 activists each held a single placard with one letter of the campaign slogan calling on CRH to divest while others held aloft 25 feet high Palestinian flags and 30 feet long Palestinian banners.

John Dorman, Divestment Officer of the IPSC, said that the intervention was because “CRH owns 25% of the Israeli company Mashav Initiative and Development Ltd, which in turn owns Israel’s sole cement producer Nesher Cement Enterprises Ltd. Nesher provide up to 90% of all cement sold in Israel, including cement used in the construction of Israel's illegal separation wall in Palestine and illegal settlements and checkpoints.”

Palestinian human rights lawyer, Huwaida Arraf, drew a round of applause in the meeting after her heartfelt entreaty to CRH, which left board members stony-faced and decidedly awkward looking. In her speech, Ms Arraf implored CRH to divest from Israel. She said, “I am here to plead with you not be complicit in building Israel’s ghettos of the 21st Century that my family is living in right now. You say that CRH has no control over the end use of the cement that the Nesher company produces. I’m sorry but Palestinians simply can’t accept that. We cannot accept it because you knowingly invested in this company, and you are aware that the company has built this wall and these settlements, declared by the World Court to be a violation of international law.

Ms Arraf concluded with a warning for CRH and its shareholders, saying that “CRH should divest from Israel like other companies are doing right now, or else they face the loss of massive contracts as companies like G4S and Veolia have seen recently as a result of their complicity with Israeli apartheid. It is tainting the reputation of your company, so please do as other companies, who care morally and ethically about their investors and investments, have done and divest”.

Next to speak on the issue was Fatin Al Tamimi, a Palestinian woman from Hebron in the West Bank. Ms Tamimi pointed out that her “hometown is now an apartheid city because of the illegal settlements and checkpoints in its centre, built with cement from Nesher. CRH says it is committed to the highest standards of ethical, legal and moral standards. All I have to do is look at my home town, and CRH’s facilitation of Israel’s apartheid regime of occupation in Palestine, to see that this is a hollow claim. And I am not the only one.”

To prove her point, Ms Tamimi concluded: that she “would like to present the Board of Directors with a petition which has over ten thousand signatures calling on CRH to stop cementing misery in Palestine and to divest from its Israeli business interests. While most signatories are Irish, there are names here from Jacksonville to Johannesburg to Jerusalem, all united behind this call. The question is, will you listen CRH?”

At this point the petition was handed to the Board in cardboard boxes decorated to represent the Apartheid Wall, while Ms Tamimi held aloft a large placard calling on CRH to listen to the call.

During his intervention, John Dorman of the IPSC questioned whether falling profit rates for CRH were due to their continued investment in Israel. He also noted that the IPSC would be distributing a “CRH Annual Comic” in the lobby, but that it came with a health warning that “you may not find it funny that CRH profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestine”. 200 copies were distributed and the comic is available to download here:


The Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territories - Resources

Neve Gordon is a distinguished Israeli political scientist teaching at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev.  His book Israel's Occupation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008) is probably the most complete, and one of the most alarming, accounts of the conquest, occupation and colonisation of the Palestinian Territories.  His personal website collects articles, book reviews and is updated regularly: Israel's Occupation | Neve Gordon

Here is a website I discovered only recently.  It brings together a very strong collection of archived documents, commentary, analysis and information for activists.  Its contributors include Amira Hass, Rashid Khalidi, Bashir Abu-Manneh, Noam Chomsky, Irene Gendzier and Gideon Levy: Israeli Occupation Archive




Dervish, Alan Shatter and 'fascism'

What is one to make of the IPSC/Dervish/Alan Shatter barney?

The plain facts of the case are as follows.  Highly-regarded Irish traditional band Dervish planned a tour of Israel.  Palestine solidarity activists called upon the group, via its website, to reconsider.  The band announced on Monday April 30 that it had cancelled its tour.  And then Alan Shatter, Ireland's Minister for Justice and for Defence, weighed in,  with two statements attacking the 'IPSG' (sic).

On closer examination, a few more interesting things emerge.  Dervish's members come across as well-meaning, but politically naive and a bit dim.  They say in their original statement that they were not aware of the cultural boycott of Israel, but 'We now feel that we do not wish to break this boycott'.  The band's lead singer, Cathy Jordan, says in a separate statement posted the next day that 'venom' was directed against the band, in 'an avalanche of negativity'.  She claims that she is a 'humanitarian', one who 'abhors all violence for whatever reason', who 'loathes any violations of people's human rights and dignity'.  It is not clear in Jordan's statement where the 'venom' and 'negativity' actually came from, though the general public assumption has been that it came from Palestine activists.  Looking at the band's 'notebook' on the evening of May 9, I could find only two comments criticising the band for playing in Israel, and a great many more lambasting it for cancelling its tour.

Alan Shatter comes out of the melee principally as a cynical opportunist, but also as a paranoid bully.  His first statement accuses the 'IPSG' (sic) of 'cyberbullying'.  He says that it is 'absolutely understandable' that the group would bow to the pressure put on it by withdrawing from its tour, but that of course the 'IPSG' (sic) has no interest in 'peace and reconciliation' of the kind hoped for by Dervish.  He notes that, 'worryingly', declassified documents from Osama Bin Laden's last hideout in Pakistan 'indicate that the actions of the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Group (IPSG) and its associates have caught the attention of some of Osama Bin Ladens followers who now see Ireland as promising ground for support'.  The IPSG's appeal to human rights 'rings hollow', Shatter declares, as it ignores the constitutional rights of Irish people 'to get on with their lives, to travel, and to perform around the world free from bullying'.

So where are we?

Dervish wishes to recognise the boycott - fair enough.  Equally, if it feels it was put under horrendous and wrongheaded pressure, then it could stick to its original intentions, damn the begrudgers, and go ahead with its tour.  Clearly, the pressure was considerable but if Dervish was truly principled it could ignore it and get on with its tour.

Shatter, of course, deliberately overlooks the fact that the band has said that it wishes to recognise the boycott, and rushes unbidden to the group's defence.  His protection of Dervish 'rings hollow', to say the least, because his real purpose is to attack the IPSC, which he misnames, and which he smears with the linkage with al-Qaida.  The briefest examination of the documents referred to shows no reference to the IPSC or 'its associates' (whoever they are), but refers simply to the 'the sympathy of the Irish people to the Palestinian issue'.  He vapours about the constitutional rights of the Irish people, but there is nothing in Bunreacht na hEireann about a right 'to get on with' our lives.  There is, of course, a constitutional right to travel, but the IPSC and the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel nowhere seek to prevent anyone travelling to that country - the question is what one does when one gets there.  Furrthermore, Israel blocks entry to persons it opposes for political reasons all the time - notable recent examples were the denial of entry to Noam Chomsky in 2010, and the 'Flytilla' activists either denied entry or eventually deported last summer, but, unsurprisingly, Shatter has nothing to say about that. 

In today's Irish Times, Shatter is quoted in his second public statement on this matter as accusing the IPSC of 'cultural fascism'.  But more notable are Shatter's own threats and posturing.

By having a website, Dervish enters the public sphere.  The IPSC, or any other group of activists, is entitled to respond to Dervish in the public sphere in a respectful and responsible manner.  It is not the fault of the IPSC if Dervish cannot handle being made aware of the voluntary cultural boycott, or of Israel's frequently 'fascistic' approach to dissenting opinion, including dissenting cultural opinion.  Alan Shatter, a powerful minister holding two important portfolios, with much greater and easier access to the media than the IPSC, is using the Dervish story, and that group's narcissism, immaturity and ignorance, as a pretext to beat up on a respectable civil society organisation going about its campaigning business by accusing it of bullying and insinuating its alliance with the most reprehensible and intransigent kind of militancy.  It is he, not the IPSC, who is practicing the methods of 'fascism'.


Saturday, 5 May 2012

Hallo everyone -

I write that in the full knowledge that 'everyone' so far is only a handful of people!  However, Adam's ability to find the blog and comment on it is encouraging, even if I do not agree with his views.

I want today to put up links to some websites I find useful, interesting and stimulating.  Most of these will be political.

The first of these is Counterpunch - - edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St Clair, one of the best, sharpest and often funniest leftwing websites emanating from America.  I have long been an admirer of Cockburn's.  His book Corruptions of Empire, invoked as an example on this  blog, came out in 1988, and was the first book of journalistic reflections I ever bought.  It remains a source of information, hilarity, and splendid prose.  Alexander, of course, comes from an extraordinarily talented family of writers.  His father, Claud, was a brilliant Scottish radical journalist in the 1930s, a writer for the Daily Worker, and a founder of The Week.  He was a columnist on the Irish Times after he moved with his family to Ardmore Co. Waterford, and it was there that he later noted at one point that 'Wherever there is a stink in international affairs, you'll find that Henry Kissinger has recently visited'.  His sons, Alex, Patrick and Andrew, are all important journalists.  Patrick is one of the most distinguished Anglophone Middle East correspondents, and one of the bravest, staying on in Baghdad right through the 2003 invasion and its chaotic and murderous aftermath, and writing books on the occupation and on Muqtada al-Sadr.  Patrick and Andrew co-authored a very fine study of Saddam Hussein ('An American Obsession', it's subtitled) well before the Bush administration decided to make Iraq safe for democracy.

Alexander writes with equal verve and wit about subjects as various as American politics, PG Wodehouse, cookery, sex and the Israel lobby.  The roster of contributors he has assembled for Counterpunch is very impressive, including Noam Chomsky, Alain Gresh, Uri Avnery, Robert Fisk, Ralph Nader, Kathleen and Bill Christison, Mike Davis, Perry Anderson, Fidel Castro, among many others.  Irish contributors include Harry Browne and Mairead Maguire.  The website is updated daily, and St Clair and Cockburn also issue a hardcopy newsletter version.

For material specifically on the Middle East and on Israel/Palestine specifically, I admire Electronic Intifada - see The Electronic Intifada - Electronic Intifada was set up in 2001 by Ali Abunimah.  Abunimah has written for various Western papers including the New York Times, the LA Times and the Guardian.  He's also the author of a book advocating the 'one-state solution' to the Israel/Palestine conflict.  EI includes blogs, material on media coverage of the conflict,on development and human rights, activism and is open to contributions.   EI is a necessary corrective to the bland, ostrich-like and putatively 'objective' coverage of Israel/Palestine mostly available in Ireland.


Friday, 27 April 2012

Boaz Modai, Jeff Halper, and the Irish Times

A couple of days ago, the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, Boaz Modai, had a letter published in the Irish Times which disavowed any Israeli plan - motivating its activities in the West Bank - to prevent the emergence of a Palestinian state (Letters, IT, 26/4/12).  As is typical of this newspaper, Modai's disingenuous letter was 'balanced' by a 'pro-Palestinian' letter; as it happens, this turned out to be excellent.  Here is the link to both pieces:

Here also is the letter I submitted to the Irish Times by way of reply:

April 26, 2012

Dear Sir

Boaz Modai (letters IT, 26/4/12), clearly energised by the 'paralysis' afflicting Palestinians (Michael Jansen, World News, IT, 24/4/12), can nevertheless only sneer at your correspondent, and at the opinions of Jeff Halper, co-founder and co-ordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, whom she cites.  Israel has no plan to block a Palestinian state in the West Bank, he says.

What, then, are we to make of the growing settlements, the roadblocks, the Jews-only roads, the house demolitions, the evictions, the enclosure of the major :Palestinian population centres by the security wall, the quasi-ethnic cleansing of the Jordan Valley?  These are just random phenomena, presumably.  One then remembers that Golda Meir once noted that 'all the wars against Israel have nothing to do with it' - Israel is responsible for nothing.

Mr Modai, and the state he represents, are morally bankrupt.

yours sincerely,
Conor McCarthy

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Themes - Palestine

I've said below that this  blog will be concerned with culture and politics.  The political issue that will be most prominent will be the question of Palestine.  In the autumn of 2001, shortly after 9/11, I, along with Tom Hyland and Raymond Deane - see Raymond's new blog at
- and several other activists and academics set up the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (see  Our purpose was to raise the profile of the Palestine question in Irish public discussion and political discourse.  In this we succeeded admirably, to the extent that it is now well known that Israeli diplomats regard a posting in Dublin as one of the most strenuous in Europe, and Israel's self-appointed defenders have felt the need to create rival organisations of their own.

In spite of this, it remains difficult to put out information on the situation in Palestine unclouded by either pro-Zionist bias or liberal waffle about 'the two-state solution' or the equality of suffering 'on both sides'.  The real and terrible history of European anti-Semitism and the attempted and nearly successful genocide of the Jewish people also are taken to lay a burden of ethical complexity over attempts to understand what is going on in Israel/Palestine.  But, as Norman Finkelstein has often pointed out, the situation is not actually so complex.  A formidable state, aided by the material and political support of the last of the old superpowers, and the connivance of other newer 'powers' such as the European Union, is slowly choking another people and society, vastly weaker in resources monetary, military and diplomatic, in the full view of the world.  This should properly be seen as an outrage and a crime. 

Accordingly, I will regularly post links to important and useful websites touching on this issue, and occasional writings or reflections of my own.


Why Blog?

This blog will take the form of occasional diary entries, occasional writings, and links to material on the Web which I have read and found interesting or useful.

I am starting blogging principally as a way of circulating ideas and information which do not get much exposure in the mainstream media, and certainly not in the mainstream media in Ireland, where I live.

'Reflections from Damaged Life' is a phrase taken from Theodor Adorno's extraordinary book, written in exile in the United States during the Second World War and published in 1953, Minima Moralia.  Adorno's example is one worth considering, for this sort of 'diary', in a number of respects.  In his understanding of the culture of monopoly capitalism and liberal democracy, he reckoned that the conditions of life in the late modern world negated the possibility of teaching and living the 'good life', as originally advocated in Western ethical theory (beginning with Aristotle's Magna Moralia):  'Wrong life cannot be lived rightly'.  All modes of life are now 'damaged', for Adorno, but it may be that 'the splinter in your eye is the best magnifying glass'.  The point therefore is that in the midst of defeat and disappointment and frustration, perhaps because of them, thinking and criticism must continue.

Adorno's mode of writing Minima Moralia was to organise it in 153 notes, jottings, short essays, expanded aphorisms.  This open mode of writing produces an effect not unlike a diary, though it would be a foolish blogger who compared himself directly to Adorno, the density and bristling character of whose writing helps make his book one of the stylistic masterpieces of the twentieth century.

Edward Said, reviewing Alexander Cockburn's wonderful compendium of journalism, Corruptions of Empire, in the London Review of Books in 1988, noted that both Cockburn and Adorno intervened in and analyzed the 'consciousness industry'.  Much of Cockburn's book consists of diary entries, by turns mordant and hilarious, on life in America during the Reagan era, collected together in a section entitled 'In the Era of Good Feelings'.

Triangulating between these two great exemplars, this diary will explore occasional elements of Irish political and cultural life in the current era of bad feelings, which is just as capable of producing Orwell's 'smelly orthodoxies' as was the boomtime groupthink of the Celtic Tiger.