Editorial from Irish Political Review, March 2003
Affairs: A State Of Chassis
Denis Halliday says that the Irish Government is hiding behind the United Nations on Iraq. It is fortunate for it that it has come off the Security Council and is able to hide.
But what Halliday says is not quite accurate. The Government is a Coalition, and the leading party in it is not skulking behind the UN. The Progressive Democrats are out there warmongering in their own right. Only the Fianna Fail majority are skulking.
Mary Harney, having no hope of ever gaining a majority, has learned that this is a world in which majorities don’t matter, and are usually wrong—the only exception being the Unionist majority in the Six County sub-state of the United Kingdom.
The total vote for the PDs in the General Election was less than the number of people who came out on the demonstration against war on 15th February. But Harney, freed from the fetishism of numbers, denounces the demonstrators as a lunatic fringe. (The PDs got 73,000 votes. There were over 100,000 demonstrators on the Dublin demonstration.)
The PDs hold the Ministry of Justice. The Minister, Michael McDowell, who lost his seat at the previous election, got it back last year by conducting a venomous anti-Fianna Fail campaign. In Office he has ignored Fianna Fail, much as the Democratic Unionist Party ignored the other parties in the late devolved government at Stormont. And he has launched an inquiry into the suspicious majority of the populace that opposes war.
One line of inquiry into the subversive tendency of the populace has to do with “anti-Zionism”. McDowell has put the Gardai onto it.
Not anti-Semitism, mind you. Anti-Zionism—an opinion which is not a crime anywhere else in the world—not even in Israel as far as we know. Anti-Zionism is taken to be anti-Semitism.
When the PD burst on the scene with great expectations, they presented themselves as the godless party. They said they would take God out of the Constitution. But they over-estimated the unpopularity of God and learned to keep quiet on the subject. And their Zionist enthusiasm has brought them back into a very intimate relationship with God.
Zionism is a philosophy of conquest authorised by God. He gave Palestine to the Jews three or four thousand years ago, and it remains theirs regardless of who happens to inhabit it at a particular moment. The story of the first conquest is told in the Book Of Joshua, which might be sub-titled, the Book Of Genocides.
The latest Jewish reconquest of Palestine, begun under the auspices of the British Empire after the First World War, was conducted in a kind of time-warp, beginning with Deuteronomy (the speeches of Moses inciting to conquest) and now progressing through Joshua.
The gross conflict between Zionist conduct and the formal ideology of our time arouses feelings of revulsion, despite the best efforts of propaganda systems to prevent them. These feelings are declared by Zionists to be expressions of anti-Semitism. The charge of anti-Semitism has been developed into a magic formula for stopping thought. But Zionist conduct last year was felt to be so outrageous that some very respectable people in England said the equation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism was intolerable and that there must be freedom to criticise Israel. The Chief Rabbi in Britain was obliged to concede that it was possible, in principle, to distinguish between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. But he went on to say that, in practice, the one shaded into the other, and that the theoretical distinction was unrealisable: criticism of Israel was in effect anti-Semitic.
If it is held that there is a tight practical identity between Zionism, Judaism and Israel, such that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, it follows that the rise of anti-Semitism is inevitable, given the conduct of Israel. The idea has got about that there is a general standard of conduct applicable to all states and peoples. Israel necessarily falls under heavy censure if that standard is applied. If such censure is held to be anti-Semitism, and anti-Semitism is held to be abhorrent and not to be tolerated, the only solution is to discard the common standard and restore the particularism of the Bible (which is pretty well what the US Government has done):
“If ye shall diligently keep all this commandment which I command you…, then will the Lord drive out all these nations from before you, and ye shall dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves. Every place whereon the sole of your foot shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness, and Lebanon, from the river, the Euphrates, even unto the hinder sea shall be your border.”
“Of the cities of these peoples that the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth, but thou shalt utterly destroy them: the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite; as thy God commanded thee.”
“This day I will begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the peoples that are under the whole heaven, who, when they hear report of thee, shall tremble, and be in anguish because of thee” (Deuteronomy, 11, 20 and 2, from a translation by the Jewish Publication Society of America).
How up to date that sounds, three thousand years on!
The modern Zionist Organisation was founded by secularist or atheist Jews at the end of the 19th century. Its breakthrough into power politics came with the Balfour Declaration of the British Government in 1917 (establishing Palestine, which was 93% Arab, as the Jewish homeland). A group of liberal English Jews responded with horror to the Balfour Declaration. The Zionist Organisation was more a secular power structure than a fundamentalist religious movement at that time, and it could be argued that the injunctions of Deuteronomy and the practices of Joshua were of no account. But the Jewish critics of the project held that the construction of a Jewish State in Palestine could only be accomplished through a regeneration of Biblical fervour. And so it has proved.
The Jewish authorities have made a hard identification between Judaism, Zionism and Israel. If the growth of anti-Semitism is to be prevented in these circumstances, some way must be found of getting it across to the people who have been indoctrinated with the ideology of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights that a reverse ideology applies in the case of Israel. The need is pressing, in view of the hundred and thirty thousand anti-Semites who came on the streets of Dublin, Belfast and elsewhere on February 15th and after.
Conor Cruise O’Brien came out strongly against the Dublin anti-war fanatics, explaining that their position “links up with various unpleasant things in Ireland, such as lingering anti-Semitism and resentment of the American-Israeli alliance” (London Times 17 Feb). He has now spent more than twenty years combatting the anti-Semitism implicit in generalised human rights ideology. Having been a strong nationalist in government in the mid-1970s, he revalued his values on losing his Dail seat in 1977, becoming an Ulster Unionist and a Zionist. He denounced Irish irredentism and took up Jewish irredentism.
We spent many years in a vain effort to persuade the generality of Ulster Protestants that their identification with racist colonial movements was self-destructive but, when they engaged in politics, they gravitated irresistibly towards apartheid South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Zionism. (We had to cut off a very brief and superficial contact with David Trimble’s Young Unionists in Queen’s University when they began issuing diatribes against Nelson Mandela while the old system was still in place. And, of course, O’Brien went to the old South Africa in deliberate breach of the boycott declared by the Congress Party.)
When O’Brien became active as an Ulster Unionist, he encouraged the tendencies in it which we had tried to displace. And, naturally, he had much more success than we had. Ulster Loyalism has no problem at all with double standards.
Last year’s anti-Catholic upsurge in Belfast coincided with the Jenin pogrom. Two symbols appeared on the walls in the Donegall Road and other places: the Swastika and the Star of David. Given that that was a strong expression of sympathy with the Jewish State, is there still some way it could be described as anti-Semitic?
Denis Halliday said Ireland’s two-year stint on the Security Council was a failure and that the Taoiseach’s view that war should be supported to protect American investment in Ireland was “simply disgusting”. This would be all very well if the structure of the United Nations made it possible for small States on the Security Council to exert some influence on the conduct of international affairs by protecting them against the vengeance of Great Powers whom they offended. But it doesn’t.
The case of Yemen in 1990 has now become notorious. Bush’s long delay in going to war this time round, and the focussing of media attention on the stalemate on the Security Council, have caused many things to be discussed which are usually brushed aside in the normal course of events. At the time, very little notice was taken of the incident.
Yemen had the misfortune to be on the Security Council in 1990, and to be a democracy (real, rather than apparent, that is). A dictator would have known better than to cast his vote in defiance of the will of the United States at that juncture. But the Yemeni democracy voted conscientiously on the merits of the issue as it saw them. It voted against war. And, although the vote counted for nothing, the USA—there, in the supreme court of justice in the world— told the Yemeni representative that Yemen would be punished. And the first measure of punishment, delivered instantly, was the cutting off of aid.
If Ireland played a part in thwarting the will of the USA at this juncture, it would certainly be punished. In olden times, the time conjured up by the name De Valera, an Irish Government might have had the moral resources to do what it saw as its duty and to take the consequences. But that was in the days of credulity and superstition. In these enlightened days money has displaced morality as the medium of life and, in official life at least, there is no resource which could motivate the Government to endanger a major source of money and enable them to bear the consequences.
The PD Ministers are the politicians most adapted to this new condition of things. And, from their more progressive viewpoint, they are entirely rational in regarding the large section of the populace which displays a moral sense as subversive.
Ireland And The United Nations
The United Nations is made up of two parts: the Security Council and the Agencies. There is also a third part, the general Assembly, but that is entirely powerless. (The only thing it has ever done in more than half a century is allocate more than half the territory of Palestine to a Jewish state in 1947 and then stand idly in 1948 while the Jewish nationalists ethnically cleansed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from that territory, as well as conquering half the territory the UN allocated to the Palestinians. The General Assembly had the handling of that matter because Britain, having funnelled a large Jewish population into Palestine in the 1920s and 1930s, washed its hands of the resulting conflict and turned tail in face of a Jewish terrorist campaign against the British Occupation for an independent Jewish State. Britain withdrew and referred the matter to the UN. It could not refer it to the Security council because it was itself a Permanent Member of the Council and would have had to deal with it there. So it referred it to the General Assembly, an entirely irresponsible body, which completed the business of making a mess of the Middle East.)
Halliday was a United Nations man on the Agencies side. The Agencies are humanitarian bodies set up by the League of Nations in the late thirties and then tacked onto the United Nations Organisation, when it was put on a formal basis in 1945. The United Nations proper is the power structure, the Security Council, with its five Great Powers.
Halliday, an Agency man, resigned from UNO because the Security Council policy on Iraq was genocidal. (Its continuation of sanctions for years after the 1991 war, and after the deliberate destruction in that war of the utilities necessary to urban life, was causing the death of very large numbers of Iraqis, particularly children.) And he has made this statement about the Secretary General: “Kofi Annan is no model to follow. He has been completely irresponsible by supporting ongoing sanctions against Iraq even though they are killing children and he keeps standing behind America”. (Irish Times 12.2.02)
This is misconceived. The Secretary General has no independent standing. He is an agent of the Security Council. And, if he stands over genocide caused by Security Council policy, that is his job as its servant. And as to genocide—the Security Council may do what it pleases without incurring the censure of law. Insofar as international law exists—and its existence is tenuous—it exists under the Security Council and every Permanent Member is beyond it. Halliday’s criticism applies, not to the Secretary General, but to the UN itself.
He is further reported as saying that, while an American war on Iraq would undermine international law, “a UN war would be worse because it damages the UN and is incompatible with its work in the area of human rights”. Perhaps he is inadequately reported, because this is incoherent.
The UN was set up as a power structure. It would operate something called law, but the Permanent Powers would not be subject to this law. Humanitarian considerations were secondary.
If it had not been set up on that basis it would never have existed. Neither the USA nor the USSR would have agreed to a system to which they themselves were subject. Britain (by then a secondary power, Churchill acting as messenger boy between Roosevelt and Stalin on the issue) would probably have agreed, confident that it would always find a way around it.
A world without the United Nations is held to be unthinkable. It is authoritatively stated that it would be a world in chaos or anarchy. In fact, it would be what the 19th century was: a world of alliances. And indeed that is what it was during the forty years of the Cold War, when the UN as a universal organisation was reduced to a mere semblance by the conflict of systems.
The universalism took on a degree of substance after 1990, and the highly unstable condition in which the world exists at present is a product of that universalism. World terrorism, rogue states etc. arise from the world in one form confronting the world in another form.
This is not a new discovery we have made. The comments of this journal on world affairs have always been made in line with the realistic conception of possibilities set out two centuries ago by the German Idealist philosopher, Kant. And we can say that we never encouraged a single illusion about the UN, but said in 1990 that it was about to overstep its limits.
In a world made up of alliances there would be no rogue states. A rogue state is a state which does not meet the requirements of the master of the universalist system—and the universalist system must have a master. In a world consisting of alliances, states of various kinds would find their places.
In the late 1930s, De Valera, who had played a prominent pat in the League of Nations, concluded that the existence of the universal body was a source of dangerous illusions because it discouraged states from making their own arrangements. (Speech of 18th June 1936, quoted in Elizabeth Bowen: Notes On Eire, Aubane Historical sociey 1999, p90.)
We can only hope that the present crisis breaks the universalist strait-jacket, and that the Franco-German alliance heralds a return to a more stable arrangement of things.
C O N T E N T S
Affairs: A State Of Chassis ?
Europe & Ireland: Half A Letter To Valery.
Talk Of The Town.
Cor Tuathail: The Jolly Nitwit
(compiled by Pat Muldowney)
(Reed: Germany In The British Web; US & Irish Tax Rates; 1930: New Irish Labour Party; Mandela on Iraq; Housing Markets; Joe Cahill; Landlords; Pat Cox & Iraq; Home Help Pamphlet)
Arms Crisis & Its Aftermath (Capt. Kelly lecture)
report: Julianne Herlihy
1969-1970: Ambassadorial Government (Part Two)
Major McDowell & Downing Street (3 unpublished letters)
Americana: Four Horsemen.
Rabbitte, Run Rabbitte…
Cutting A Dash In Macroom!
Some Imperial Reflexes From Strange Quarters
Clarifying Words About 'Thought'.
Crime Against Casement.
Sean McGouran (review)
Northern Ireland: January/February News
The Boer Fight For Freedom by Michael Davitt
Labour Comment, edited by Pat Maloney:
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