Many of us who identify ourselves as belonging to ‘the sane Left’ – in that we are deeply, and consistently, concerned about such issues as human rights, freedom, social justice and equality – find ourselves opposed to the Guardian’s blatant anti-Israel stance precisely on those grounds. It is important, however, to retain some perspective by keeping in mind that the Guardian’s abhorrent relativism is by no means confined to Zionist Jews and that it also extends to many other issues world-wide, not least the important subject of women’s rights in underdeveloped countries.
In recent weeks we have seen the publication on ‘Comment is Free’ of barrel-scraping articles by Jasbir Puar and Priyamvada Gopal which highlight the shameful cultural relativism of the editors of ‘the world’s leading liberal voice’ and some of its contributing authors, as well as reminding us that Nick Cohen’s words from his 2007 book ‘What’s Left?’ are regrettably still very pertinent.
“If the liberals and leftists are wrong, and there are good grounds for thinking that they are horribly wrong, history will judge them harshly. For they will have gazed on the face of a global fascist movement and shrugged and turned away, not only from an enemy that would have happily killed them but from an enemy which already was killing those who had every reason to expect their support.”
Ruth Sherlock’s CiF article of August 6th is no better than the others mentioned above. This privileged, Western-born, female freelance journalist sacrifices the rights of women less fortunate than herself on the altar of liberal left hypocrisy by describing the latest all-women Lebanese ship about to try to break the naval blockade on Gaza as a “humanitarian mission.” Sherlock takes the cowardly opt-out of pandering to Guardian group-think instead of choosing the more challenging route which any journalist really worth their salt would have done.
This start-stop Lebanese publicity stunt is clearly exploiting women in order to gain column inches: would Sherlock have bothered writing such a sugary article if the ship were all male or mixed? Would there have been mentions of trivialities such as the fact that “[t]here will be no showers, no skirts and no makeup” if the ship were not an exclusively female project? More serious is the fact that Sherlock deliberately ignores the fact that these women passengers are being cynically used in the campaign to bolster up a regime which oppresses other women.
The entire ‘Free Gaza’ project, under the umbrella of which these flotillas or individual ships operate, is nothing more than a political campaign to strengthen the hold on power and influence of an Islamic theocratic dictatorship by means of the delegitimisation of those it aims to eliminate. Supporters of attempts to break the Israeli naval blockade on Gaza, whether they be misguided Westerners or Middle Eastern female puppets, are deliberately prolonging the existence of a repressive regime which ensures day after day that there is nothing ‘free’ about the status of women in Gaza who face ever-increasing restrictions on their personal liberties.
From what they wear, through who cuts their hair , what they smoke or ride or inherit and indeed, whether they live or die, the women in Gaza have their lives strictly controlled by a select group of thugs who regard them as second-class citizens. This is not the type of cause which any liberal should be supporting and no amount of navel-gazing ‘third-age feminism’ should be effective in persuading us otherwise.
Equally, Sherlock could have cast aside the Guardian-style post-feminist assertion (which denies any continuing justification for the cause of women’s rights) and written a brave article about the rights of women in the countries to which the financier of the ‘Mariam’ has well-known ties. The subject of women’s rights in Syria and Iran could provide ample material for dozens of Guardian columns if only it could rediscover its ‘liberal voice’.
Just as fascinating to the genuinely liberal reader would have been an article in which Sherlock challenged these Lebanese women volunteering to sail to Gaza about their own human rights in their own country where only 17 women (mostly from elite families) have ever served in the Lebanese parliament, where homosexuality is still illegal, where women cannot pass their nationality onto their children and where the law does not protect women either from sexual harassment, domestic violence or so-called ‘honour killings’.
More interesting still would have been any attempt by Sherlock to challenge these ‘human rights activists’ with regard to the human rights of the female Palestinian refugees in Lebanon: the fact that they are not entitled to Lebanese citizenship and are barred from certain professions, their suffering of high rates of domestic violence and poverty and even the fact that Lebanon does not allow construction materials into some Palestinian refugee camps .
“Most Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have had little choice but to live in overcrowded and deteriorating camps and informal gatherings that lack basic infrastructure. The amount of land allocated to official refugee camps has barely changed since 1948, despite a fourfold increase in the registered refugee population. The residents have been forbidden by law from bringing building materials into some camps, preventing the repair, expansion or improvement of homes. Those who have defied the law have faced fines and imprisonment as well as demolition of the new structures. In camps where additional rooms or floors have been added to existing buildings, the alleyways have become even narrower and darker, the majority of homes receive no direct sunlight and, despite the best efforts of the inhabitants, the pervasive smells of rubbish and sewage are at times overwhelming.
The ghettoization of Palestinians is intensified by the constant military presence around the camps in southern Lebanon. Each time refugees want to leave or return to their homes, they have to pass an army checkpoint and show their documents, reinforcing a perception that they are outsiders and a potential threat, rather than refugees in need of protection.
The discrimination and marginalization they suffer is compounded by the restrictions they face in the labour market, which contribute to high levels of unemployment, low wages and poor working conditions. Until 2005, more than 70 jobs were barred to Palestinians – around 20 still are. The resultant poverty is exacerbated by restrictions placed on their access to state education and social services.
Much of the discriminatory treatment Palestinians face is rooted in their statelessness, which has been used by the Lebanese authorities to deny them equal rights not only with the Lebanese population but also with other foreign residents of Lebanon.”
The above Amnesty International report makes it quite obvious that the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are, to say the least, no better off than the residents of Gaza. Yet, in the eyes of too much of the world, the Guardian, Ruth Sherlock and even the Lebanese women taking part in this latest attempt to sail to Gaza, there is apparently no need to even mention their human rights or organize international campaigns to better their lot. Instead it is that contagious and enduringly fashionable blind hatred of Israel which causes the spotlight to be constantly and hypocritically trained upon one tiny area of the world to the detriment of the human rights of children, men and, in particular, women in many other regions.
To allow the kind of cultural relativism and third-wave post-feminism so often employed on the Guardian’s pages (and in other media venues for ‘liberal’ discourse) to go unchallenged not only jeopardises the principle of continued Jewish self-determination in the face of mounting Islamist threats, but also abandons the millions of ordinary people already suffering the negation of their human rights under such totalitarian regimes to a horrible fate.
Those who identify with the Left, true liberals, and genuine feminists simply can not pretend otherwise.