11 June 2011

Peter Beaumont and Israel's legitimacy

Peter Beaumont, Observer's foreign affairs editor, published in The Guardian's CiF a strange piece, titled Israel's right to exist does not mean its government can act with impunity. This here blog has already had a few run-ins with Mr Beaumont, due to his strange way of interpreting some obvious facts. This recent article is not an exception, but looks much more cryptic. It starts with:

Last year the Israeli Reut Institute published a report examining what it said was the agenda for eroding Israel's legitimacy in the international arena – an aim, it argued, whose end was to turn Israel into a "pariah" state and challenge its "very legitimacy of its existence as a Jewish and democratic state".
OK, so how does the author deal with that issue? By offering a learned discourse on three "overlapping concepts" that together are supposed to cover the concept of legitimacy (by Ian Clark, author of Legitimacy in International Society).
First is the notion of the sovereign integrity of countries as states recognised by the international community and enshrined in international law.
A second notion of legitimacy – familiar and well-studied from Hobbes onwards – is the legitimacy a government claims through the support of its citizens, in the case of a democracy via an electoral mandate, to represent for a period of time the policies of a given state.
The third crucial notion of international legitimacy is Clark's category of "appropriate forms of ... conduct". It is in precisely in this area that the government, a regime or series of governments of a state can be seen to relinquish legitimacy both through its acts and how they are perceived over a period of time.
So, OK, you may ask, but where does Mr Beaumont go with these cutting edge definitions? I wish I knew is my answer. The only hint he offers is:
The distinctions are crucially important because in the deliberate conflation of the competing spheres of legitimacy by some of those who support Israel, they are making an essentially undemocratic argument utilising Israel's right to exist as an argument for impunity.
I don't know who are meant by "some of those who support Israel" and what kind of "undemocratic argument" they are making, "utilising Israel's right to exist as an argument", according to this elliptical article. And of course, impunity being so dear to my crusty Zionist soul, I smell a rat.

It (the rat) smells suspiciously similar to the one that carries the ubiquitous "I don't have anything against Jews, but them freaking Zionists..." slogan.

Oh well, let's see where it goes. Or do you already know?

Update: Much better here, by Norm. Thanks to Pisa.


Francis Sedgemore said...

<p>Beaumont's piece is indeed strange, but more importantly it is entirely vacuous, adding nothing whatsoever to the debate (if one can call it that). Clarke's overlapping concepts thesis may have some use in the discussion, though it is hardly original. But what of Beaumont's synthesis? I wouldn't go quite as far as you in impugning Beaumont's motive, but he is I think using a well-worn rhetorical device to stir things up a little, and round off what is otherwise a pretty tedious read.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Yep, synthesis there ain't. As for my suspipcions, they are not going very far: I just see Beaumont and other Guardian scribes in the future heavily relying on what he calls "notion three" and stressing they are in no way interfereing with notion 1.

I was also quite uneasy about defining a country's legitimacy based on "perception over period of time".

But of course, all this is just CiF.

shira said...

<span>I have a family member with a form of Autism, the talkative kind and his title kindof reminds me of that relative... after I don't know how many people have given evidence that criticism of Israel is not always criticism and that criticism is fine... I'm not gonna go through the whole schematics (Norm has a sane and thoughtful answer to his piece) of the arguments over the years but, like... stating the obvious much dude??? (the claim itself)</span>
<span>if it ended there than whatever but to use it to try and drip more poison (trying to prove his claim) to the pipes of propaganda is just low. </span>
<p><span> </span>

SnoopyTheGoon said...

I don't feel very excited by the article, Pisa, although my post may have conveyed that impression. As I put in that other comment, it very well could be a preparation for another barrage from The Guardian, but I agree with Francis, and I have very much said so myself: this piece is too vacuous to mean much.

So let's take it easy.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

It is a variation of the "complex question" fallacy. The classic example is "Do you still beat your wife?" This one would be, "Your right to exist does not give you the right to beat your wife."

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Yep. How true.