Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Legitimacy Reconsidered

Yesterday, I wrote about Helen Thomas resigning and today I see Arthur Silber is having a little creative fun with it, plus, I’d like to discuss the article I linked to in my last post where I wrote:


I read today that Helen Thomas resigned because of her statement that the Israeli should get out of Palestine, gasp. Of course the reason Americans are upset is because Thomas was right. This is a moot point since Israel already controls almost every square inch and they are “recognized” by the United States and the rest of the West as a legitimate nation which is all that is actually important when it comes to statehood. That’s why Hillary Clinton always refers to the “International community” by which she means the United States, Britain and Europe mostly who all recognize each other as legitimate for various historical, monetary, and racial reasons, the international community. But you see the international community is an exclusive club which leaves out many nations though perhaps they are the lucky ones.

To me an important point was the so-called “international community” which if you imagine means all nations you imagine wrong. The reason I feel its important is because it is the basis of an agreed upon norm by those who hold power in the most powerful nations as Arthur Silber points out. In Silber’s post where he makes a mockery of a certain tactic used by those defenders of Israel which is if someone says the Israeli should leave Palestine then that is the same as saying all Blacks should go back to Africa, Silber points out with hilarious sarcasm how poor an analogy this is. And in doing so he mentions:

Link (emphasis added by me with apologies to Mr. Silber)

I've heard and read this a huge number of times in the last several days. I am forced to admit that the comparison is staggering in its power. It makes the point with concision, and the historic parallels are overwhelming. To review briefly, and despite the very painful familiarity of these facts: significant numbers of Africans voluntarily, indeed enthusiastically, migrated westward and took over large parts of the eastern seaboard of what was then the United States beginning in the mid-1800s. They were able to do this because they had the unending support in a multitude of forms of the most powerful Nation-States of the time. The Africans claimed that a special dispensation from ... well, something or other ... ordained that the land mass designated by the name "United States" was uniquely theirs. The Nation-States that made possible the Africans' conquest and domination agreed.

Part of that unending support is just the plain fact that Nation-States bestow legitimacy upon each other just by recognizing each other as Nation-States. I suppose that seems obvious once you state it yet how many people ever actually wonder at the source of what we call legitimacy? Not too many I’d wager. When Nation-States commit crimes, as in the Iraq War for instance, the Nation-State that commits such crimes always seeks to legitimatize their criminal actions through various means thus you have things like this article in the New York Times. In the extreme case of Israel you aren’t even allowed to mention that they commit crimes, regularly. Consider this statement:


“The rules have been different for Helen for many years, and only for Helen,” said Ari Fleischer, a former press secretary under George W. Bush who had called on Ms. Thomas to step down. “Helen earned that right, and she was treated differently. And I never minded it. I enjoyed my ideological thrust and parry with Helen, but this is in a category entirely of itself. And sadly she brought this on herself.”

Mr. Fleischer called her retirement “tragic and sad.”

So what the strange case of Helen Thomas boils down to is this important question: Does Helen Thomas have legitimacy? The answer is a resounding “no.” Legitimacy is given so it can be taken away again. Consider what Fleischer said: “Helen earned that right, and she was treated differently. And I never minded it. I enjoyed my ideological thrust and parry with Helen, but this is in a category entirely of itself. And sadly she brought this on herself.”

And yes, the poor and evidently insane Helen Thomas oh-so sadly brought it upon herself. Evidently legitimacy is a fickle finger of fate. But why should assholes like Fleischer be allowed to frame the discussion? I mean, people reading this crap that the NYT prints probably just read right along – “Hm, Helen Thomas, sad, hmm, brought on herself, hmm, Israel good, Helen bad, damn the roast is burning.”

Now let’s look at how the Times slants the story with a damning quote from the Rabbi Nesenoff:

“I recognized her and thought, ‘Oh this is interesting.’ I went and said hello I had told her what we were there for and I had been asking people about Israel,” Mr. Nesenoff said. Mr. Nesenoff said that while he was wearing a baseball cap, both his son and his son’s friend were wearing yarmulkes, which he said he believed Ms. Thomas, whose parents emigrated from Lebanon, could see.
“I couldn’t believe what came out of her mouth,” he said. “I was shocked and hurt.”

This is high hilarity at its best, the New York Times is writing morality plays? And what a tale it is. “Once upon a Time there was a very special journalist named Helen Thomas who was loved by all, even her respected foes. But then one day Helen Thomas lost her mind and said bad things about the magical kingdom of Israel. Now look at Helen, she is despised by all, It’s very sad. The End.”

Thank You Mr. All the News that’s Fit to Print.

Nesenoff sounds like a nut to me, I mean Helen Thomas saw those yarmulkes and you know what that means, ooh. But the NYT really lets the bomb drop with the fact that Thomas’s parents emigrated from Lebanon which of course just explains everything since Lebanon is one of the many nations that Israel likes to attack so naturally, well, you get the picture.

Maybe the NYT is in the wrong business, no, I take that back, writing fairy tales is what the news business is about. But the most noticeable attribute of the NYT article is the total lack of history regarding Israel. In fact there isn’t even one word mentioned regarding Israel’s brutal murder of at least nine persons aboard the Mavi Marmara. And they were just reporting on it the other day! But, as is so often the case with the NYT history either doesn’t exist or is malleable beyond imagination.

In the end “legitimacy” doesn’t mean very much at all other than recognition from one’s partners in crime.


At June 08, 2010 8:52 PM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

Silber's post is indeed great. Jay Taber often writes about the idea that countries bestow legitimacy one one another, and its arbitrary nature. I guess legitimacy means never having to say you're sorry.

At June 08, 2010 11:12 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


Both Tayber and Silber are gems.

Yeah, never having to say you're sorry is right. I think the Israeli leaders believe their own propaganda after a while. They really believe they did the right thing.

At June 09, 2010 3:54 AM, Blogger Mimi said...

I met Helen Thomas about 20 years ago when she spoke at Princeton. Sat with her and chatted, just the two of us, for a few minutes. She was very pleasant and down to earth and it seemed like just talking with a casual friend. I wish she hadn't "apologized."

At June 09, 2010 12:49 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Mimi,
Yes, in fact by international law the Israeli are actually required to leave Palestine since it is an illegal occupation under international law but then international law also says that Hawaii is an illegally occupied land, which it is. So there is nothing for Thomas to apologize for. But then we don’t live in a logical world.

Hey, that’s pretty cool that you met her Mimi. I’ve read that the Israel supporters here in the States have been after her for years and looks like they finally got her.

At June 10, 2010 7:35 AM, Blogger Ethan said...

Framing this whole hoo-ha in terms of legitimacy, and who gets to grant it, is a great way to think about it. Thanks!

At June 10, 2010 1:40 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Ethan,

Well thank you.


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