Friday, August 28, 2009

The Land of Mordor

I was sitting in town today, waiting for my wife to return from shopping in Marks & Spencer. To keep things balanced, I now do a second round in Waitrose, so we get the best of both worlds. I was sitting on a bench opposite a window of John Lewis, where they were displaying large-screen televisions, and the televisions were playing clips from films. The first one was that bit during the siege of Helm's Deep, where the Riders of Rohan, led by Gandalf (returned from his fight with the Balrog), charge down upon the massed orcs of the Uruk Hai. Stirring stuff. I first read Lord of the Rings when I was thirteen, forty-seven years ago. It was my first real book, and it gripped me night after night for week after week. It's not great literature, but that's not what JRR Tolkien set out to write. He was a specialist in Old and Middle English. I also specialized in Middle English as part of my first degree. There are great books from that period, but they don't all set out to be literary masterpieces. Many of them, from Gawain and the Green Knight to the Arthurian legends, are about myth, and that's what The Lord of the Rings is about too.

Tolkien's masterpiece tells a myth of great power. In the simp;lest terms, it describes a battle between good and evil, between the Dark Lord Sauron and the forces of good (exemplified by the future king Aragorn, the Elves of Rivendell, and the Hobbits of the Shire). Good wins in the end, as it does in all great myths. The Land of Mordor is ruined and the Shire cleansed. There are echoes here of the Bible, of Arthur, of the Mabinogion.

From the beginning, we know how things stand. There is no mistaking the goodness and strength of Gandalf, the evil of the Ringwraiths. Sauron is evil through and through, as are his orcs, as are the nine Nazgul. The Hobbits epitomize goodness and simplicity, and Aragorn (despite a rocky start) reveals himself as a dedicated enemy of the Dark.

Real life is not as easy, of course. What appears good often turns out to be evil, what seems ill often turns out well. We spend our lives tussling with moral dilemmas, learning who to trust, who to be cautious with. more often than not, people get it wrong. The Germans fell in love with Nazism, learned to hate the Jews, came to put their trust in brute strength and murder. Throughout Europe, communists extolled the People's Paradise of the Soviet Union even as Stalin sent millions to their deaths. Misplaced faith hurts and kills, leads whole nations to commit crimes they will later regret.

I don't have to explain the relevance of this to Israel. Today, millions across the globe self-righteously wish the worst possible harm to befall this small nation. It is not mild criticism, it is a global effort to portray Israel as Mordor, a land whose soldiers, dressed as orcs, march from the Iron Gate to slaughter innocent Palestinians (and harvest their organs). Of course, the myth has been created in reverse. Just as it isn't hard to know who, in The Lord of the Rings, is a good guy or a bad guy, so it should be clear to anyone with a working moral compass who is on the good side or the bad side of the Middle East conflict.

I'm not talking about perfect evil set against perfect good. The real world isn't like that. I'm just looking at the broad picture and our ability as human beings to recognize good and evil within it. When one side uses suicide bombers and bombs set in caf├ęs, buses, and restaurants, rants about how much they want to kill their foe, rejects all forms of peace-making, trains its children in hate, and turns its guns on its own people; and when the other side treats its enemies in its own hospitals, willingly departs from territory, builds a security fence that keeps the bombers out, and supplies its enemy with goods, fuel, and equipment, why is it so hard to tell which side of the border Sauron is on and which Aragorn? When one side has struggled through war and terror to destroy the other, and the other has offered its enemy a state of its own again and again, does it take the brain of a genius to see which way the horses of Rohan are riding?

Tragically, many of the world's finest brains keep failing this moral test. Intellectuals in America, Europe and elsewhere have come and continue to come to the startling conclusion that Israel is the one truly evil state in the world. This astonishing notion marches alongside many other failures of the moral compass. Intellectuals, the media and government are more and more often apologists for radical Islam. Feminists defend female genital mutilation and round on other feminists (like Phyllis Chesler) who condemn it. I recently took part in a TV debate in which one person after another spoke up loudly for a woman's right to wear a full face veil, despite the very obvious disadvantages this has for the woman and the society round her. Just looking at a woman in a burqa or a niqab, it's clear she is being treated as an inferior being, yet plenty in the audience applauded her 'choice'. Intellectuals (rightly) condemn the Transatlantic slave trade, but no voice is ever raised to condemn the larger and longer-lasting Arab and Ottoman slave trade. It has become commonplace to denounce Western empires and colonialism, but when did anyone last speak out about the many Islamic empires and their often devastating impact on countries like India.

Political correctness and multiculturalism have wrought and continue to wreak havoc in our universities and in government. Anti-racists parade their credentials everywhere, but not one of them will ever be seen to condemn Arab and Islamic anti-Semitism. Movements for the establishment or re-establishment of nationalities, from Sri Lanka to Ireland tell us that every people, however small, has right to its own homeland; but the Jews are denied that same right.

During World War II, there was never any doubt where one's loyalties lay. Apart from a few self-serving individuals, like Oswald Mosley and Lord Haw Haw, everyone knew who the enemy was. When bombs were falling every night on British cities, it was hard for anyone's moral compass to swing far off north. The more we knew about the Reich, the more obvious it was that we could not afford to lose the war, because Hitler was a Dark Lord who would enslave or kill us.

And that's the puzzling thing. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn't going on in someone's backyard. It's out there for everyone to see. Hamas rockets fell on Sderot, and any visiting journalist (if any had cared to visit) could have been there when they landed. But when Israel moved in to stop the barrages after many years, the world seemed not to know of any provocation and portrayed Operation Cast Lead as an unprovoked attack. All the photographs and film of destruction in Gaza made the front pages and TV screens; but there were no shots of the Gaza that had not been harmed. We all know about this, about this dishonest reporting that is more interested in keeping wounds open than in telling the truth.

But aren't these the same reporters who have been in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv in the aftermath of a terrorist attack? Don't they look at the walls in Gaza and the West Bank and see the posters making heroes of young people suborned into killing Jews? Don't they ask themselves, who hero-worships a murderer? What mother sends her children to die in this way, and hands out sweets afterwards? Desperation? Devotion to Palestine? Or simply evil? Not the mother, perhaps. But the men (and women) who send children out with bombs round their waists and who put remote controls in the package so they can detonate the vest should the child have second thoughts. Why should anyone experience a moment's hesitation in calling such people evil?

Frodo carried the ring of power to the Crack of Doom, and Gollum's greed finally carried it into the depths of the mountain, where it was destroyed and Sauron's power lost for ever. If only we had a ring like that and a Crack of Doom to throw it into. What we have instead is Israel itself. Whatever its flaws, it's a healthy country. It stands for values like democracy, freedom, human rights, and a balance between secularism and religion. Set beside its neighbours, it stands out. Good amidst evil may be overstating it. But it needs to be recognized for what it is: a land that promotes good and stands against evil.


Anonymous said...

I agree with every word

Anonymous said...

you forget to mention that israels expansion is the single greatest reason for radical islam. israel is not a good example of good verses bad; for it was always going to end in violence with jewish colonialism of a arab country.
my concern is the jewish terrorist aka illegal settlers who are provoking the non jews and the illegal land grabs by them and country. when the impotent arab world does nothing to resist these illegal acts it was always going to strengthen the position of these radical groups- muslim and jewish .

Anonymous said...

Absolute baloney anon! The muslim brotherhood and it's ilk were established decades before Israel. The Arabs need to be more self-critical and become enlightened, i.e. criticise the power of Islam and the power of their leaders, and stop passing the buck onto one small country!

Anonymous said...

wow, yeah actually anyone with a slither of intelligence would be able to tell you that the people who are "evil" in this conflict are none other than the Israelis. You're right, it must be terrifying for Israelis to have to get rocks thrown at them as opposed to the massive manslaughter and violent acts against humanity the palestinians have to endure in THEIR OWN COUNTRY from colonialists who think they have the right to go into a country that already had its own people and force them out. yeah, we get it, the holocaust was a HORRIBLE thing anyone who says otherwise is messed up in the head, however i find it quite ironic that the very people who endured such tragedy turned around and did the SAME thing and still are doing the same thing to Palestinians today. It is genocide, no matter what you say or how you try to sugar coat it, although I don't see how you could but it is quite easy to twist things around as it is evident that you do so throughout your blog. I can't believe you even have the audacity to go into another country, try and take it as your own, try and justify your actions, and then ONTOP of that try and make out the Palestinians to be the "terrorists" for fighting back. that is just sick and twisted.

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RepublicanStones said...

Mr MacEoin care to explain why Israel uses archaic Ottoman laws to evict people? Care also to explain how for some strange reason...those poor evictees tend not to be jewish?

Or how about the annexation of east jerusalem? Or what about, the house demolitions? Or how about the rather strange marriage laws?

Arjuna Fan said...

"Established decades before Israel"?! WHAT?!?!? Israel is over 3000 years old! I just don't understand this! Is this sort of rhetoric "Taqiyya"? Israel is ANCIENT! What is wrong with this nut job world?! What about History? Archaeology? Empirical Science?! TRUTH?! They talk about Israel like it never existed before 1948!!!!! WHAT?! At any rate this post is absolutely awesome and as a Hindu who completely agrees with it I could not have said it better myself....EVER! Israel IS Gondor! Minas Tirith! If Islam's opposition fails then these nut jobs shall receive barbarity as per their karma. Israel IS the light house and these nut jobs are S-C-A-R-Y!!!!!!
What an awesome blog post!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I think you misread. I meant the Islamic supremacist group the Muslim Brotherhood was established before 1948. This was a rebuttal to the previous poster's argument that Israel was to blame for Islamic terrorism.

I know Israel existed before Arab imperialism. I am very much aware of Arab Imperialism as my former husband is an Algerian Berber who sees himself as separate from the ruling Arabs. He also saw the brutality of the Islamists first hand when he fought in the Algerian civil-war.

I also see Israel as a light unto the nations, and I view the Jews as the original anti-imperialist. With you being Hindu I know you understand this as India was subjugated by Islam and the West, and still managed to retain it's original identity. India is also the world's largest democracy who, as I believe, is on the side of angels in this battle against Islamic-fascism.

Jai Hind!

calgacus said...

Denis MacEoin wrote "What we have instead is Israel itself. Whatever its flaws, it's a healthy country. It stands for values like democracy, freedom, human rights, and a balance between secularism and religion. Set beside its neighbours, it stands out. Good amidst evil may be overstating it. But it needs to be recognized for what it is: a land that promotes good and stands against evil."

You start off claiming you're not using a fantasy with a simple, clear divide between good and evil as your explanation of Israel-Palestine. Then you repeatedly claim that it is as simple as Israel "promoting good" and "standing against evil" - and that "it's clear which way the horses of the Rohan are riding".

JRR Tolkein would be sickened by your attempt to use his work for incredibly one sided political propaganda.

The One Ring represents power in the Lord of the Rings - being moral involves rejecting absolute power because it corrupts.

There are many crimes against innocent people and much extremism on both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though more by Israel for the simple reason that Israel is massively armed and funded by foreign powers and so massively more militarily powerful than the Palestinians, who, even with all their allies in the middle east, present no serious threat to Israel (still less it's US superpower ally).

I have no way of knowing how Tolkein would have viewed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today, but my own view is that the Israeli government and military have adopted ruthless use of force to promote the interests of one nationality over others, at any cost in the lives of others - which is the same attitude that began inter-war Germany's slide.

calgacus said...

Israeli forces have never yet begun systematically trying to exterminate Palestinians on the timescale of a few years with gas chambers.

They have done everything short of that though - from indisrcimate shelling of entire towns and refugee camps, to shooting Palestinians as young as 9 years old in the head with sniper rifles for crimes such as throwing stones, protesting against attacks on Gaza - or often for no reason at all; to reducing the entire population of Gaza's food and medicine rations to a quarter of what it requires according to UN figures, resulting in growing malnutrition and an increase in the rates of stunted growth among children; to shooting entire families as they try to leave the zone of an Israeli assault while waving white flags.

The Israeli government does not recognise the right of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state to exist and never has. The Oslo Accords allowed only for a series of Apartheid style townships in which Israeli forces could arrest and hold any Palestinian at any time, without trial ; but Palestinian Authority officials and police could not arrest any Israeli, no matter what they had done in their territory.

The Accords allowed continued Israeli settlements inside the West Bank and these and Israeli military forces would split the various pockets of Palestinian territory from one another.

Nor would the Palestinian Authority (not a state) have more than a tiny fraction of the water supplies and farmland of the West Bank, which continue to be annexed today one piece at a time at gunpoint by Israeli forces, with Palestinian homes demolished and any resistance or complaint met with summary execution or jail.

I wonder what Holocaust survivors would have made of watching this kind of behaviour? We know that many who had great humanity before their suffering, like Primo Levi, did not lose it as a result - and were greatly critical of actions like Begin's invasion of Lebanon in the 80s and the many war crimes committed in it.

The current Israeli government is headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose party's 2009 election platform "flatly rejects" any Palestinian state "West of the Jordan" , saying any "self-rule" for Palestinians will not be permit an "independent or sovereign" state - and that Israelis must be allowed their "inalienable right" to settle "Judea and Samaria" (the Israeli Jewish religious fundamentalist term for the West Bank adopted by Israeli governments) and Gaza.

So please drop the pretence that Israel's government and military are morally superior to Palestinian leaders and armed or terrorist groups - they're not.

Stop pretending Hamas has always refused to negotiate when it offered to repeatedly before "operation cast lead" killed 1,400 Palestinians, at leat half civilians, supposedly to stop Palestinian rockets that had killed a handful of Israelis - and managed to actually increase rather than reduce rocket fire out of Gaza as a result.

Hamas has an armed wing guilty of targeting civilians ; the Israeli government has an armed wing known as the IDF, equally guilty of targeting civilians - and killing far more of them with its massively greater armaments.

Only negotiations without preconditions, like those in the past with Jordan and Egypt, have any chance of ending the deaths caused by both sides - and at the end of those negotiations, for them to have any chance of success, the Israeli government will have to offer Palestinians either their own sovereign independent state in 95% of the West Bank and Gaza, or else give Palestinians and Israeli Arabs citizenship in a single state in which Jews and non-Jews, Arabs and non-Arabs are equal citizens.

Steven said...

It is a fact that Israel has risen from the ashes. "Israel Returns" search it out and believe it!