Saturday, July 2, 2011

Who does Medea Benjamin blame for Gaza flotilla delays?

As most readers of this blog will already know, boats participating in the current Gaza flotilla have been held in port in Greece for the past several days by Greek maritime authorities. On one of those boats tweets Medea Benjamin, head of flotilla cosponsor organization Code Pink.  She has issued a statement via twitter which seems to conflate the flotilla issue with Greece's financial meltdown, blaming "western banks" and stating that Greece has "sold out to Israel".

Readers of her tweet may legitimately ask what purpose it serves, other than to capitalize on anti-bank anger and link it somehow to anti-Israel anger. By doing this, Benjamin feeds into the unfortunate tendencies toward conspiracy mongering and anti-Semitism associated with both issues.

Twitter / @medeabenjamin: @USBOATTOGAZA Iceland Parl ...

Benjamin has offered no evidence of Greece "selling out to Israel" other than a link to a Haaretz article quoting an anonymous source as saying that Netanyahu has lobbied the E.U. on Greece's behalf.  (Everyone knows just how much influence Benjamin Netanyahu has within the E.U.)  For her purposes, making the charge is enough.  For a true-believer in the flotilla cause, any opposition to the flotilla must derive from corrupt sources.  Those who accept such allegations of corruption and conspiracy without real evidence do so for the feeling derived from believing in them.  Discussions of whether or not they're true divert them from that pleasure.

What does it mean for Benjamin to group "western banks" into a single entity?  Based on the disgraceful role played by certain banks in creating Greece's problems (Goldman Sachs in particular), does she reject any solution involving banks as a "sell-out"?  What would a solution not including banks look like?  I don't ask those questions in the expectation that Benjamin will answer them, because she can't.  I do so to point out that Benjamin's comment exists within the zone of political expression where thought has stopped, and that, within precisely that area of non-thought, conspiracy theories and bigotry take root.  That's something we should guard against regardless of our opinions about what's best for Greece's financial woes or for the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.  We shouldn't stand by as reckless advocates pour fuel on the already smoldering fires of resentment associated with both of these issues in the hopes of starting a single, larger fire.

UPDATE:  The "sell out" meme has been picked up by Dror Feiler, one of the flotilla's main organizers.  He tells the Guardian (read here) that

"Greece sold its body to the banks and its soul to Israel and the United States. I don't think – I know – that Israel and US pressure caused this."

By saying that he "knows", not just believes, this conspiracy to be true, Feiler means to say that he has absolutely no evidence, but very strongly believes it to be true. His use of the phrase "I don't think -- I know" to mean the opposite of its plain language meaning falls precisely under Harry Frankfurt's definition of Bullshit.  It is more dangerous than an ordinary lie in that it is deployed precisely to blur the distinction between truth and falsehood and make the difference less important.  Those who hear in a receptive way such claims as those made by Benjamin and Feiler don't want to pursue the facts which would either confirm or refute them, they just want to consume assertions which confirm their prejudices.  By playing this game, Benjamin and Feiler dishonor their cause and delude their followers.


Anonymous said...

Good old Dick Silverstein has decided to jump onto the 'Israel buying out Greece' bandwagon. Of course, he'll deny saying it's true, merely that

'I can’t help the feeling that Greece is so insolvent that Israel has agreed to pay for all the expenses of mounting this military operation to sink the Hope.'

I have to say, Silverstein's blog is always worth looking at for a laugh.

Adam Holland said...

Silverstein writing "I can't help feeling" is like a road sign reading "Caution. Bullshit ahead."

Anonymous said...

To be fair, that's a fair characterization of his blog as a whole, as well as his debating style. Recently, he declared that Michael Weiss has no soul, for... some reason.


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