Thursday, September 22, 2011

John Pilger fights Israeli commando incursion into London's East End

Pilger in New Statesman blames "former Israeli commando" for building a purportedly evil shopping mall

John Pilger is not one to miss an opportunity to point an accusing finger at Israel, regardless of the wrong he's addressing. Pilger has a column in today's New Statesman which focuses on a newly opened shopping mall in London's East End to decry consumerism, ill-treatment of workers, and bad shopping mall design. He's also upset that he couldn't find a bookstore that he was looking for.  Pilger chose to headline this column:

"War and shopping – the extremism that never speaks its name: The Westfield Stratford centre, backed by a former Israeli commando and touted as the future face of London by the likes of Boris Johnson, makes a mockery of the East End’s history of productive work."

Apropos of nothing else in the column (other than that headline), he includes the following paragraph, focusing for some reason on one of several co-founders, whom Pilger oddly calls "the" co-founder.

The co-founder of Westfield is Frank Lowy, an Australian-Israeli billionaire who is to shopping what Rupert Murdoch is to media. Westfield owns or has an interest in more than 120 malls worldwide. Lowy, a former Israeli commando, gives millions to Israel, and in 2003 set up the "independent" Lowy Institute for International Affairs which promotes Israel and US foreign policy.

Pilger may feel strongly about protecting the rights of workers and raising the standards for the design of shopping malls, or he may merely be using those good causes as an excuse to bash Israel on the most tenuous of bases. You be the judge.

From Wikipedia (grain of salt alert) I reprint the following thumbnail sketch of Frank Lowy's early life:

Lowy was born in Czechoslovakia, and lived in Budapest, Hungary during World War II. He made his way to France in 1946, where he left on the ship Yagur, but was caught en route to British Mandate of Palestine by the British and deported to the detention camp in Cyprus. After a few months, Lowy was allowed into Palestine and was brought to the Atlit detainee camp. Lowy then moved to Sde Yaakov a small yeshiva school [sic] near Qiryat Tivon [and] eventually joined the Haganah and then the Golani Brigade, fighting during the Arab–Israeli War in the Galilee and in Gaza.

Those who oppose Israel's existence, as does Pilger, view the role played by the Golani Brigade in repelling the Arab invasion of the newly formed state to be an evil one. That a brave young man who barely escaped the death camps of Europe and survived British "Displaced Persons" detention camps in Cyprus and Palestine would choose to defend his new homeland from aggression should, in Pilger's view, forever ban him from the development of shopping malls in London. Pilger, forever the would-be freedom fighter, would have it that a small part of London's East End is now Zionist occupied territory and the workers there are Britain's Palestinians. If Pilger was standing on a soapbox at the Westfield shopping mall spouting this rubbish he would be regarded by most passersby to be a madman. Because he instead publishes it in the New Statesman, he's considered a pundit.



the_last_name_left said...

I always liked Pilger in my youth. I think his assertions about "objectivity" being a false and irresponsible notion are true and important.

However, I've been growing increasingly uneasy about his position re Israel: he's failing to make his position clear such that haters find it impossible to exploit. So much so, that again, one has to wonder why.

Doesn't Pilger realise that some of his tracts about Israel can appear in full as propaganda for the far-right?

I've been meaning to write to him about it, actually, but haven't done so yet.

I wish he'd be more careful, and more assertive of a position defending Israel's (and everyone else's) right to self-determination. I don't think anyone (but especially lefties) are justified criticising Israel without making such a position absolutely clear because their criticism will be exploited by anti-semites and the far-right (which it always is).

Joanne E. Gerber said...

It seems to me that people who say that objectivity isn't possible often use that as an excuse to fully indulge in distortion and bias. They seem to think that, since objectivity is an illusion anyway, why bother even trying.

Of course, total objectivity isn't possible. On that Pilger is right. But perfection of character is impossible, yet we all try to follow our values as much as possible. Omniscience is likewise impossible, yet many people pursue learning as much as they can.

In aiming for an objectivity that we know we cannot reach, we can at least achieve a measure of fairness, accuracy, thoroughness, and insight that we would not have achieved otherwise.

Regarding the first comment here: As for Pilger's being more "careful," what does that mean? Pilger is simply being himself. As for his defending Israel's right to exist, he doesn't believe in Israel's right to exist, so why should he do that? And as for his articles providing fodder for the right, I suppose he doesn't care. He makes his living writing for left-leaning audiences in leftist publications.

the_last_name_left said...

Good points, Joanne, I'm happy to accept them.

On "careful", I mean I expect him (Pilger) to care. About how his words and renown are used. About the entire issue.

As he's writing for the left, I would imagine it'd be a serious concern to him that the far-right can publish it uncritically. It'd be a major concern to me, as a leftie. So I imagine it would (or at least should) be to Pilger. I guess he's already guilty though - because his work *is* being used by the far-right to propel anti-semitism and he isn't making it impossible (or even problematic) for them to do so.

Does Pilger refuse to accept Israel's right of exist? I'd be astonished if he did - but maybe he does. What makes you say he does?

I imagine that his position is mostly based around an 'anti-imperialism' that sees Israel as the (by far) more powerful party, and so his support goes to Palestine/Palestinians. That seems the default "leftie" view. I have some sympathy but I don't think it's the proper perspective.


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