Monday 22 December 2014

Ian O'Doherty: What part of ‘war’ don’t you grasp?

Published 21/07/2014 | 02:30

Israel launched a large-scale ground offensive in the Gaza Strip
Israel launched a large-scale ground offensive in the Gaza Strip
Jonah From Tonga is a spoof documentary series following the exploits of rebellious Sydney teenager Jonah Takalua, played by immensely talented writer and star Chris Lilley

So, now it's collective punishment. Now it’s a disgraceful act of oppression and ethnic cleansing. Now it’s a clear policy of genocide. Now it’s another act of terrorism, by a terrorist state, against the inmates of The World’s Largest Prison Camp.

Even more disgracefully, now the world’s largest terror state is actively targeting peaceful Palestinian children whose only crime was to play football on the beach.

That’s the narrative we are once again faced with in Gaza. And it’s one that has a certain grisly appeal. But there’s just one slight problem with that analysis — it’s wrong and what’s even worse, plenty of the people peddling these mendacious sound bites know that it’s wrong.

But they will continue to peddle their lies because they know that nobody ever lost kudos, or friends, or their jobs, for having a pop at Israel. In fact, the easiest way to assert your impeccable liberal credentials is to purse your lips and spit phrases like “apartheid state” or “baby killers” or, if you’re feeling particularly brave, you might even throw in a few digs about them learning a thing or two from the Nazis.

That was the bizarre sight that faced the Israeli ambassador on TV3 a few nights ago when Tom McGurk started waffling on about the supposed “collective punishment” of the Palestinians and how the Israelis, of all people, should know better.

McGurk was right to go after the ambassador as hard as he could. That, after all, is the job of anyone who is interviewing a high-level diplomat whose country is at war.

But the not-so-subtle allusions to the Holocaust were either deliberately and shamelessly provocative or profoundly historically ignorant. What McGurk did — and he is hardly alone in the Irish media on this point — was to not so subtly imply some sort of equivalence between the Holocaust and what is happening in Gaza right now. And that is beyond shameful.

Apart from anything else, the “collective punishment” dispensed out by the Nazis was hardly conducted against people who had sworn to drive every German into the sea.

Furthermore, to use “collective punishment” in relation to the Shoah implies that there were some ‘guilty’ Jews.

But guilty of what, other than the crime of their own Jewishness?

In contrast, and this why the Israelis are always going to lose the international PR war, they are fighting an existential war of survival. When Israel’s many enemies in the region lose a war, they lose land. If Israel ever loses a war, that country will simply cease to exist and a Caliphate will be built on its bones. That’s the difference.

For all the emoting and lofty feelings and woolly headed rubbish about the Israelis being a brutal occupying force and Hamas being some sort of species of Middle Eastern hobbits, the difference between the warring parties is clearly defined by the death of the four Palestinian kids. After all, that act will remain a stain on Israel’s military reputation and has caused fury amongst many of its civilians.

But if Hamas had killed four Israeli children in the same circumstances, they would have regarded it as a result.

If Hamas wants the violence to end, they can stop raining missiles on to the Israeli civilian population.

If Israel wants the violence to end, they must cease to exist.

And that’s not going to happen.

Fainting with damn praise...

QMary Mitchell O'Connor has, unsurprisingly, come out and defended Enda Kenny's recent Cabinet reshuffle, despite failing to get a place at the table.

She was as gracious as you can expect of any disappointed politician, but I was particularly struck by her remarks, in these pages, that she believes any of the women on the back bench would, “have made an excellent Minister for State... In their different ways, they are competent, ambitious and able”.

Maybe I’m not entirely clued in with the subtle code used by politicians and I am well aware that I’m entirely clueless when it comes to the subtle codes used by women.

But I know that if one of my colleagues said that I was competent “in my own way”, I’d be having some serious words with them in the car park afterwards.

In my own way, of course.

As funny as a man in a frock?

QI'm a huge fan of Summer Heights High and Australian comedian Chris Lilley is certainly a comedian who takes things to the edge in his portrayal of women, men, Asians, blacks and anybody else he decides to lampoon.

But as much a fan as I am, and I genuinely think he’s a remarkable talent, many of us who saw his most recent series, Jonah From Tonga, on BBC3 were left disappointed.

Of all his characters, the young tearaway from Tonga is probably the weakest. But as HBO prepares to air the show in the States, there’s already a campaign to have it banned because it sees Lilley ‘browning up’ to play the Polynesian reprobate.

The usual critics have come and accused him of being racist and, the latest thought crime, “cultural appropriation”.

Critics such as HuffPo say it’s outrageous to have a 39-year-old white guy playing a dark-skinned Tongan teenager. But maybe the critics should look back at his past characters — white women, spoiled girls, a completely demented Japanese ‘tiger mom’ and a black rapper called S. mouse.

In other words, it’s called ‘acting’. In fact, people have been doing this ‘acting’ thing where they pretend to be somebody else, for quite some time now.

In fact, in the whole debate about whether Lilley’s character is ‘acceptable’ or not is problematic for two very distinct reasons.

We should be terrified of any culture which allows self-appointed cultural guardians to decide what is ‘acceptable’ for the rest of us to watch and the second, and equally important question, is simply... is this funny?

And that’s where the only problem that matters with Jonah From Tonga kicks in — this show is his weakest yet.

But the next time some tedious worthy starts to talk to you about Lilley’s “cultural appropriation”, just ask them what they think of Panti and his drag act and the many women who despise drag queens.

They tend to go rather quiet when that point is raised.

 

Ian O'Doherty

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