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  • Stop the clash!

    by Sunny
    8th March, 2007 at 5:18 am    

    A group called Avaaz (meaning ‘voice’ in Hindi/Urdu) have created this video and so far gathered 42,000 signatures in support of people asking their political leaders to sort out the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

    I agree with their sentiments and believe neither in the ‘clash of civilisations’ nor the ‘civilisation v barbarism’ narratives. But. Although the conflict needs resolving, I hardly think it is the source of world problems. It’s a fight over land! Neo-con unilateralism and Al-Qaeda are far more to blame (though may not equally).

    It should be sorted out because the locals are being shot or blown up, not because arm-chair activists all around the world (who have nothing directly to do with the conflict) carry little icons of the Palestinian (or Hizballah) flag, or carry ‘support Israel or else…’ banners. They are the ones who elevate it to a clash of civilisations narrative. And if these activists really cared about people dying then they’d be more stressed about the dead in Darfur and Iraq (at the same time, not according to their politics).

    That said, the video has a poignant (but obvious) message.

                  Post to

    Filed in: Middle East,The World

    22 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. ally — on 8th March, 2007 at 10:52 am  

      Global geo-politics explained through the medium of Athena posters.

      If only Bush, Olmert, Bin Laden and Abbas understood that a stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet, then everything would be fine with the world.

      Sorry, I seem to have my cynical head on today.

    2. sonia — on 8th March, 2007 at 10:59 am  

      “They are the ones who elevate it to a clash of civilisations narrative”. Yes that’s interesting. There are definitely people contributing to keeping that narrative alive. we’ve seen it mushroom post 9-11 and the war on terror rhetoric.

      But it’s doesn’t necessasrily apply to everyone, or concern for things happening somewhere else in the world. one can be in favour of a peaceful resolution for Israel -Palestine on the basis of human rights, and concern for everyone involved. I don’t think in terms of matter of ‘priority’ or what’s ‘worse’. Having lived through war myself I think the fact that any one human being is/may be suffering at this moment in time is bad enough.

      Different people have varying amounts of time they dedicate to ‘pet causes’. Of course the issue still remains that sometimes people only ‘support’ one sort of thing for reasons which may not be so wholesome.

      And of course it’s hard to not get drawn into the “opposing” camps - I’d say that’s the problem, the “opposing” camps want to smear everyone and get them drawn into the wider argument they’re, which often turns out to be nothing but spiteful tittle-tattle for the sake of it, and the sake of ‘taking sides’. which is pretty disappointing.

    3. Leon — on 8th March, 2007 at 11:06 am  

      They are the ones who elevate it to a clash of civilisations narrative.

      They are? Not the corporate media, or governments etc? The lowly activist have created this propoganda framework? You don’t think that these activists (I note you’ve given no examples of who you mean) are just feeding into that framework rather than the authors of it?

      Also, the put down of “arm chair activists” is a little unfair, not everyone can go and become a human shield in the occupied terrorities. Not everyone can make it to a demo. Hell, not everyone has time to go leafleting in Southall as once was discussed we do on here.

      Sunny, I think you’re slightly off the mark with this one…

    4. sonia — on 8th March, 2007 at 11:28 am  

      Leon makes valid points. there are a lot of people feeding the ‘clash of civ’ frenzy but we have to recognize how governments and other powerful institutions are setting the scene and ‘feeding in’ just as much.

      It’s difficult to hold some of these institutions to account easily - and given that the supranational institutions have managed to not be accountable!

      i think accountability is something people are very interested in. as it is one of the key planks of democratic governance. often people read about events happening around the world and yes, whilst it might not directly affect them, and they may not be able to articulate necessarily why it bothers them so much, still I think there are common areas of concern. the aim of global civil society - if we want to generalize, can be seen to be about people wanting greater accountability of powerful institutions and their ilk.
      for example, a lot of valuable activism got stuck under the label of ‘anti-globalization’ ( see the ‘Clash’ narrative in another form) when really if you think about it, people wanted clarity and transparency, and accountability of institutions like the WTO, IMF and World Bank. All of which affect ALL our lives and are very difficult to hold to account, and are not very transparent.

    5. Linda Grant — on 8th March, 2007 at 11:41 am  

      Suppose there were some kind of grand peace conference, and the Israelis and Palestinians worked out a resolution which would involve Israel withdrawing all settlments, returning to the 67 borders, dividing Jerusalem, resolving the question of who’s in charge of the holy places, and a deal which involve the refugees being offered compensation and recognition and apology of the ethnic cleansing which took place in 1948, how would this affect:


      The Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan

      Iran’s nuclear ambitions

      Pakistan’s potential take-over by fundamentalism

      Al Qaida’s holy war against the west?

      I’ve always been interested to hear how, concretely, this situations would be affected because I agree with Sunny, the conflict needs resolving for the sake of its suffering populations. But I am unable to comprehend how it would resolve any other problems. I undrstand that it is a deep grievance, a running sore etc. But what would be the actual knock-on effects in practise?

    6. sonia — on 8th March, 2007 at 11:55 am  

      realistically, people who want to cause trouble will always look for an excuse to do so, and do it anyway. the issue is one of moral and social justification

      they will also look for support from others for that trouble. if you can justify it in the name of some grand cause, it is easier to co-opt others into that trouble. So, therefore, the problem is realistically, that the Israel-Palestine situation is probably the easiest thing for ‘troublemakers’ to put forward in any attempt to justify violence against the ‘West’ -”look how the West is supporting Israel and screwing Muslims over”. Similarly, I would say the existence of Al-Qaeda is a similar tool for certain troublemakers to say ‘look how the Muslims are against you. Now do you want to come and fight’

      The knock-on effects in my opinion would be that it would be less easier to justify violence. Of course, the real problem is there would no doubt be other reasons found. That is what the cynical side of me thinks. Societies always seem to manage to produce something we should be afraid of.

    7. Kulvinder — on 8th March, 2007 at 11:56 am  

      But what would be the actual knock-on effects in practise?

      In an immediate sense it would have no impact, but longterm it would obviously take away what has become a fairly big ‘recruiting tool’ for extremism.

      nb i don’t think Pakistan is in any danger of being taken over by fundementalism.

    8. sonia — on 8th March, 2007 at 11:59 am  

      But forget the fancy social theories.

      *Think of it in terms of a brawl outside a nightclub*

      there’s an ongoing fight every night outside the Roxy. different nights different people get pulled in cos they think their ‘mates’ are getting hurt, and it just gets bigger and bigger. after a while no one thinks about why they were fighting in the first place, and just throws punches around.

      Violence tends to beget more violence - again - we don’t need fancy theories, anyone who’s ever experienced violence can see that, others can work it out intuitively. No one is saying stop one fight there will never be more fights, but there’s certainly sense for people to try and stop the nightly fights outside Roxy, would we not agree.

    9. sonia — on 8th March, 2007 at 12:01 pm  

      of course, we might not agree, we might realize that the nightly fight outside Roxy is good for selling guns, good for the nightclub business, good because we can then use that to further our own goals etc.

    10. Linda Grant — on 8th March, 2007 at 12:02 pm  

      So it isn’t really a ‘root cause’ ideologically, but a pretext for recruitment?

    11. soru — on 8th March, 2007 at 12:15 pm  

      ‘Not the corporate media, or governments etc? The lowly activist have created this propoganda framework? ‘

      Thing is, when you start throwing around terms like ‘corporate media’ and ‘propaganda’, you are talking about thing that exist everywhere (except perhaps places like North Korea, that have worse things (or so the corporate media tells me, anyway)).

      Wheras the Israel-Palestine conflict doesn’t exist everywhere. So it seems to me obvious if you blame the one on the other, something is wrong with your thinking.

      That means that the struggle against corporate media and propaganda, or any other struggle you may choose to engage in to improve modern liberal democratic society, has at best a very loose symbolic connection with Israel/Palestine.

      Meanwhile, there are real people in those countries who would, on the whole, prefer not to be blown up, even if that means they don’t get to validate some point made in a media studies PhD.

    12. sonia — on 8th March, 2007 at 12:21 pm  

      hmm i dont think that Leon was suggesting that the corporate media and governments are responsible for israel-palestine, but rather to contributing to keeping up the ‘clash of civilisations’ narrative.

    13. Kulvinder — on 8th March, 2007 at 12:35 pm  

      So it isn’t really a ‘root cause’ ideologically, but a pretext for recruitment?

      Not a pretext as such, i don’t think theres any deception or pretense involved. Its more a cause celebre that ‘unifies’ people seperated by vast geographic and cultural (mainly language) barriers.

    14. Jagdeep — on 8th March, 2007 at 12:48 pm  

      It’s trendy to keep this conflict on the boil. Transvestites in Reykjavik, racists who hate immigrants, gay men in bedsits, inadequates with inferiority complexes who fantasise about a Universe ruled by the Ummah with spaceships that can defecate on the Houses of Parliament, neo-cons and orientalists who subliminally rejoice at suicide bombing (only half kidding), luvvies in Belsize Park who suddenly realise their irrelevance to society and pumped full of self importance decide to ‘make a stand!’ —-> like sonia says, it’s a brawl outside a nightclub. Let them deal with it. And it’s not just the ‘corporate media’ who perpetuate this bullshit narrative — it is partly generated from the grassroots too.

      By the way, what is the difference between the corporate media and in-corporate media? I don’t know.

    15. Sunny — on 8th March, 2007 at 1:46 pm  

      Leon, I ddi point out that neo-cons and Al-Qaeda have a bigger part to play in it.

      But on top of that you’re only seeing the ‘activist network’ from one side. I mean people on both sides - not only those who make it their cause celebre without any deep justification (where were the marches against the Sudanese govt?), but also who support only because it is ‘standing up against the arabs’ etc etc.

      And Linda has a point too, the Taliban, Iran etc would be sorry if there wasn’t any conflict… as probably would be Bush’s men.

    16. sonia — on 8th March, 2007 at 1:50 pm  

      heh. ‘corporate’ media as in media companies -who are effectively large corporates. the media sector is one of the highly conglomerated ones - waves of merger and acquisition activity and buzzwords like ‘convergence’ have meant there are a handful of companies of actually own staggering amounts of varied media outlets - across the world - and across the spectrum of print to broadcasting to internet. Take Bertelsmann for example: they own Random House which is now the world’s largest general-interest book publisher. AOl Time Warner. NewsCorp. Clearchannel owns about 1200 radio stations across the USA, owns a huge chunk of outdoor advertising in the UK.

      ‘non-corporate’ media - i.e. whatever would constitute independent media. indymedia?

      theories of the internet have focused on the fact that it allows many-many communication rather than the kind of one to many communication e.g. broadcasting - which some say is more democratic.

      why would that matter? well that would depend on your theories of political economy surrounding media ownership, theories around media and power etc., political communication etc.

    17. Jagdeep — on 8th March, 2007 at 1:55 pm  

      And you think indymedia or whoever don’t have their own agendas?

      Anyway, there is a gimp somewhere in the world hunched over his keyboard right now with his fingers tingling — his google alert has just buzzed an alarm bell about this thread and he’s writing a post about Pickled Politics corporate agenda or something. These people are good.

    18. douglas clark — on 8th March, 2007 at 3:01 pm  

      Well, I thought the video did make it’s point quite well. If the internet is going to be good for humanity, it will be though this kind of near direct appeal across cultural divides.

      I agree with Sunny to the extent that it is not a ‘clash of civilisations’, for if it were, we’d all be conscripted or arrested or dead or whatever. It is though a clash of ideologies, with powerful figures attempting to weld their viewpoints onto the cultures. A continual process of demonisation of ‘the other’, is a crude but effective method of separating folk into those that are for ‘us’ and those who are against ‘us’. Whoever ‘us’ might be. To that extent, I think anyone who says that we share a common humanity is on the right side of the arguement. And it is an arguement that I believe is drowned out in popular media.

      Sonia points out that the internet is peer to peer, rather than moderated through corporates It is useful that there is a counterbalance to what has essentially become a battle, perhaps not so much of ideologies, but of their bastard children, propoganda and spin.

      I know this sounds naive but the more direct communication that people around the globe have with each other, the less likely they are to be willing to let their governments kill their internet chums.

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a point of view, and Pickled Politics certainly has one. Or indeed, many! To the extent that it resonates with folk, or heaven forfend, influences them, that is a good thing. Pity there isn’t the money around to move PP onto an 18 Doughty St footing. As I think that that media will be the next battleground for public opinion. And, before you all shout me down about content, it is the format and the interaction that I admire about 18DS.

      Jagdeep, I’ll unwind from my hunched position now!

    19. lithcol — on 8th March, 2007 at 11:32 pm  

      Hippie tosh. I remember the Concert for Bangladesh. The first concert to raise funds for a noble cause, primarily to mitigate the devastation wrought by the invasion of a barbaric regime. It also spread the message that human beings can be absolute inhumane bastards and it shouldn’t happen again. Love, peace.
      Did anything change? No.
      The issues in the crudely produced video are not simple. We can’t kiss and make up. Life is just not like that.

    20. Sunny — on 9th March, 2007 at 3:07 am  

      And to be honest I don’t see what the big deal is about ‘corporate media’. Every media set-up of a big size will become corporate, unless you mean a distributed system like the blogosphere. But then if you want some quality then you buy corporate media.

      Even the Guardian, owned by a non-profit making Scott Trust, is organised as ‘corporate media’. Inherently I’m not sure I see anything wrong with that (although corporations in general are given too much leeway by govts)… although of course there should be concern if there isn’t enough media diversity and there isn’t freedom of speech. We’re not in a perfect position but do we have it bad? I’m not so sure.

    21. sonia — on 9th March, 2007 at 10:37 am  

      douglas - 18 - good post!

    22. douglas clark — on 9th March, 2007 at 10:49 am  

      It is the extent to which the corporate media are in bed with the government over major issues. There was very little dissent in editorials to Iraq War 2. If I recall correctly, even the Observer came out, editorially in favour, at the time This is not a healthy state of affairs. The public did rely, and to a considerable extent still does, on the independent advice that it gets from media. When we are led up the garden path by collusion between politicians and media I think we are entitled to ask who benefits from the arrangement?

      A centralised media, where only a few major players have to be contacted in order to ‘spread the word’ is certainly a model that the state can work with. But in any relationship there is a quid pro quo, whereby the government is seen in policy statements to echo the wife that it misused in another area. Your comment about John Reid spouting Daily Mail editorials comes to mind.

      This might not appear to follow from the foregoing, but bear with me. What is different about the Internet is that it allows far wider connections across ethnic, geographical and political divides. If you have an interest in, say Jane Austin, then there are discussion groups you can join where a global community forms to talk about her. Usually in very civilised terms. After you’ve hung around a site like that for a while there might be a ‘ching’ moment when someone lets slip a bit of their own background. If you respected their views on Jane Austin, yet that person is on the other side of an ‘us’ and ‘them’ media debate, you are quite likely to be less antithetical to their background, and less willing to listen to the propoganda. If you are building peer to peer relationships on the basis of common interests, it is, just maybe, an innoculation against the memes out there that are designed to divide us. To the extent that we all have basic needs and maybe even ambitions, this is hardly rocket science.

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