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.