Tuesday, October 13, 2015

13-Oct-15: Thoughts about rocks through the windshield

File photo
Robert Fisk, a writer for The Independent UK, was driving his car in a remote part of Pakistan in December 2001 when something mechanical happened and he had to stop. While pushing the broken down vehicle off the road, he became aware that
a group of 40 to 50 people gathered. "At first they were reasonably friendly but then a little kid threw a stone at me. More stones followed and then I find myself being punched and beaten in the face... ["UK journalist beaten by Afghan mob", BBC, December 9, 2001]
He wrote that he thought he heard the mob shouting the word "kaffir", an Islamic/Arabic word meaning infidel, a non-adherent to the beliefs of their religious values. Much later, he recorded his feelings about what was happening in a confessional that is a classic of its kind:
They started by shaking hands. We said "Salaam aleikum" – peace be upon you – then the first pebbles flew past my face. A small boy tried to grab my bag. Then another. Then someone punched me in the back. Then young men broke my glasses, began smashing stones into my face and head. I couldn't see for the blood pouring down my forehead and swamping my eyes. And even then, I understood. I couldn't blame them for what they were doing. In fact, if I were [them], I would have done just the same to Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find. ["My beating by refugees is a symbol of the hatred and fury of this filthy war", Robert Fisk, The Independent (UK)]
In a merciless critique ["The pathology of Robert Fisk"] at the time, the British/American writer and conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan tore Fisk's mea culpa to shreds, calling it
a classic piece of leftist pathology. You have to read it to believe it. Even when people are trying to murder Fisk, he adamantly refuses to see them as morally culpable or even responsible. I’ve heard of self-hatred but this is ridiculous... What it means is that someone – anyone – is either innocent or guilty purely by racial or cultural association. An average Westerner is to be taken as an emblem of an entire culture and treated as such. Any random Westerner will do. Individual notions of responsibility or morality are banished, as one group is labeled blameless and another irredeemably malign. There’s a word for this: it’s racism. And like many other members of the far left, Fisk is himself a proud racist, someone who believes that the color of a person’s skin condemns him automatically and justifies violence against him... [Andrew Sullivan, December 9, 2001]
Sullivan's take-down of the Independent's war correspondent gave rise to the emergence of the now-widely used and useful term "to Fisk". That's defined by The Guardian to mean the practice of
"savaging an argument and scattering the tattered remnants to the four corners of the internet ["Archbishop on end of a good Fisking", The Guardian, June 19, 2005
All of that is offered as intro to a small, barely-noticed piece of news reported late last night in Times of Israel over the anonymous byline TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF. At this point, as far as we can tell, it is published nowhere else:
UN official hurt in stoning: ‘Allah will forgive them’
Mounir Kleibo, who heads the UN bureau of the International Labor Organization in the Palestinian Territories, sustained serious injuries to his jaw after coming under attack by Palestinian rock throwers in East Jerusalem on Friday.
The UN coordinator for development and humanitarian activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, Robert Piper, condemned the attack “on a clearly marked United Nations (UN) vehicle traveling on Route 50 in East Jerusalem, which seriously injured a senior UN official..." Piper’s statement did not identify Kleibo either by name or position. A report in the Hebrew-language NRG website noted that Kleibo’s Facebook profile was overtly pro-Palestinian, despite his being a UN official. Kleibo’s cover picture shows the dome of the al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and his profile picture is the word “Shuhada” (“Martyrdom”) on a black background. In one of his posts, Kleibo wrote, “We mourn not only our shahids but also ourselves, our eyes, our hearts, our consciousness and our humanity.” After the attack - in an update apparently posted from his hospital bed at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem neighborhood - Kleibo said that both he and his wife, Tamara, were fine, and then added, “May Allah forgive those who throw the rocks at night”... [Times of Israel, October 12, 2015]
Kleibo's Facebook page
There's some sympathetic background about Kleibo here ("Mounir, you see, has a passion for Palestine and carries an ambitious vision").. His Twitter account appears not to be active (and probably hijacked as well to judge from what's posted there).

We're not psychologists, but it would make our hearts sing to see a professional in the field explain to the rest of us what it takes to bring a successful professional to the state of mind that produces a Fisk-full of self-demeaning and eventually dangerous nonsense.

In the end, if murderous hatred is dumbed down by smart, relatively powerful people into forgivable and perhaps understandable temper tantrums, then what becomes of ordinary notions of right and wrong, good and evil, life and death, and the well-being of our families and our children and our societies? At what point can it be said that a person's moral compass has ceased to function? Or his common sense?

As for the notion of forgiveness as a response to terror, that's something on which we have spoken publicly several times in the past, generally in response to journalists quoting statements made on that theme (statements we reject completely) by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. We will try to pull together a blog post about them in the wake of this Kleibo affair. Sullivan's caustic observation in that 2001 piece gets close to it:
You know the expression: you wouldn’t understand a culture if it actually hit you in the head? [Some people] won’t recognize reality, or abandon their racism, or moderate their spectacular condescension to the inhabitants of the developing world – even when reality, literally, crushingly, punches them in the face.  [Sullivan, December 9, 2001]
If anyone knows anyone in the human resources department at the United Nations or the ILO, this might be a good time to reach out and express some sympathy.

Or fury.

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