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(DV) Petersen: Israel and the Duty to Obey Conscience







Progressive Principles
Israel and the Duty to Obey Conscience
by Kim Petersen
March 4, 2007

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The Anglo-Irish politician and philosopher Edmund Burke is frequently cited as the source for the quotation: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” However, this quotation is probably apocryphal. [1] The general sentiment, though, is fine when viewed in reverse paraphrase: that goodness reigns by struggling against evil.

Goodness is a quality that defines humans. It is a quality that is expected of leaders, and those leaders who are perceived, rightly or wrongly, as having been part of the struggle for good against evil tend to be revered. Even president George W. Bush is considered by his deluded supporters as being a leader for “good” in the absurd “war on terrorism.”

But the struggle against evil is not limited to just leaders; the struggle calls upon all humans of conscience. The very least that all people can do about evil is to speak out against it. Silence abets evil. To speak out against evil should be a guiding principle for all people.

Progressivism is a movement that incorporates various -- generally leftist -- ideologies and activism under one umbrella. The cornerstone of progressivism is the principles that underlie it.

Speaking out against evil can carry a price. People who side with evil, intentionally or unwittingly, tend to have minimal argumentation in defense of their position and instead seek to defame others through slurs and innuendo.

Zionists typically engage in the seemly ad hominem tactic of labeling critics of Israel as being anti-semitic, hatemongers, and anti-Israel.

At one discussion forum a participant stated, “I’d have a hard time finding a current nation that she wouldn’t call ethnically cleansed.”

This was a silly comment as Iceland, Korea, Japan, Switzerland, Denmark, etc. clearly demonstrate. Even if all countries were ethnically cleansed, that still wouldn’t legitimate the nefarious act.

Another participant maintains “the right of the State of Israel to exist even within its pre-1967 borders.”

Some take exception to any criticism of Israel or questioning of its legitimacy. I have previously described Israel as “a terrorist entity spawned in hatred and disregard of other humans.” Is not the uprooting of almost 800,000 people and the destruction of 531 villages terrorism? [2] Can terrorism be an act of love? Can it be a demonstration of compassion for other humans?

As an anarchist, I do not profess a love of the state. In fact, I abhor borders and the dementia that so often accompanies patriotism. I do not focus my efforts upon a geographical entity but for humanity -- all humanity, regardless of nationality, color, race, religion, ideology, etc. A love of all humanity is a non-negotiable principle of progressivism.

However, when one segment of humanity victimizes another segment of humanity, the actions of the victimizing group must be denounced and opposed.

In the case of Israel, it is undisputed that Zionists created their state upon the homeland of indigenous Palestinians by terrorizing them, driving them from their homes, and preventing their return. [3] These are crimes against humanity, committed then and now. If opposing such crimes causes people to smear defenders of the victims, then the smear becomes a badge of honor.

Another sacred principle is in the inviolable right of Indigenous Peoples to continue to live on their territory and follow their chosen way of life. Zionists deny this right to Palestinians. Morality demands all progressives and people of conscience to denounce this victimization of Palestinians. It is not about denunciation of Zionists as people (this is hatred) but rather denouncing the wickedness of their actions.

Territorial theft, ethnic cleansing, and colonization must be opposed wherever they occur. As well as criticizing the ethnic cleansing of Israel, I criticize the ethnic cleansing of Canada. This makes me a self-hater in some people’s eyes although Canadian citizenship is something thrust upon me by happenstance of birth. Unless one holds that the creation of a country through ethnic cleansing is legitimate (like Zionist leader Ben-Gurion [4]), then Canada, like Israel, is also an illegitimate state.

The malevolence of imperialism, colonialism, and capitalist-driven exploitation is widespread. I oppose the mass murders and occupations in Afghanistan, Haiti, and Iraq. Does that make me anti-American, anti-Brazilian, anti-British, anti-Canadian, anti-French, etc.? Opposition to occupation does not make one anti-a country or anti-a person from that country -- especially an anarchist who prefers no countries.

For example, to be opposed to capitalism does not mean that one is opposed to people who support capitalism. Some people sincerely believe that capitalism is the best economic system for humanity. I maintain that they are misguided, but to label them negatively or hate the person is wrong.

Patriotism can be as innocuous as rooting for your country in an international sporting event. But such patriotism becomes insidious in the case of warmongering. When soldiers defend their homes and villages, fighting is arguably understandable. But when the soldier begins to kill other non-threatening people overseas and deprive them of their sovereignty, this is unacceptable, and justice demands that such morally repugnant behavior be effectively dealt with through institutions that have legitimacy with the people.

To speak out against evil, one must be free to speak. Progressivism treasures the principle of freedom of speech. This freedom must be for all views, and if it is to mean anything, it must especially be applied to those views anathema to progressives. An important distinction must be made: defending someone’s right to free speech is not equivalent to defending a person or accepting his views. The views of Nazi sympathizer Ernst Zündel [5] are not held by me, but I defend his right to express his views.

Moreover, to call for an end and reversal to ethnic cleansing does not insinuate a call to remove newcomers. The world is a changing place, and I certainly don’t see the solution as being another massive uprooting of people. I do not call for immigrant Jews to leave historical Palestine or for non-Indigenous peoples to vacate their new countries. As an outsider, though, I have no right to impose my solution. The Indigenous Peoples must determine this, and history reveals that Indigenous Peoples have usually been most obliging and generous to newcomers -- too often to their detriment.

Freedom is a fundamental principle of progressivism. It follows, then, that borders that interfere with the freedom of people’s movement should be erased. But freedom does not come without responsibility. When entering new lands and encountering local people, deference to local sensitivities is requisite.

Respect for the Indigenous Peoples (accepting diversity; sharing resources, know-how, and labor equitably; and establishing cordial, peaceful relations) is a core principle.

Freedom as a principle is obviously not absolute. But principles when applied rationally provide a foundation for guiding our actions -- to do good.

If Canadians, Israelis, Americans, Iranians, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, atheists, etc. all treated Indigenous Peoples and each other with such respect, then criticism of the actions of any groups would be obviated. But until that time, progressives and people of conscience have a duty to speak out against evil.

Kim Petersen, Co-Editor of Dissident Voice, lives in southern Korea. You can e-mail him at:


[1] Martin Porter, “‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’ (or words to that effect): A study of a Web quotation,” January 2002. The commonly cited version of the quotation is illogical and this illogic argues against its being uttered by Burke. By virtue of being “good men,” it should be axiomatic that such men would not stand by in the face of evil -- to do otherwise would dispel the notion of the “goodness” of such men. They would be reduced to ordinariness.

[2] Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford, One World Publishing, 2006), xiii.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, xi.

[5] See Kim Petersen, “The Martyring of a Nazi Sympathizer: In Defense of Free Speech,” Dissident Voice, 18 February 2007.


Other Recent Articles by Kim Petersen


* Google-ized: An Interview with Adam Engel
* The Martyring of a Nazi Sympathizer: In Defense of Free Speech
* Zionist Appeasement: A Blight on the Canadian Political Landscape
* Money Trumps Democracy
* The Evil of Collaboration
* Zionists Lay the Groundwork for a Military Strike Against Iran
* An Uncompromising Leftist Position
* Elephants Not in the Room
* Platitudes Are No Defense Against Zionist Terrorism
* Principles Over Realism: The Zero-State Solution
* Let’s Not Support Lesser Evilism: Much Ado About Nothing Election Results
* The Reciprocity Principle: Questions That Need to be Asked
* Genocide in Iraq
* Going Nuclear: Northern Korea’s Ace
* An Unacceptable Nuclear Gamble
* Canada: The Honest Broker?
* Progressive Duty is to Speak Out Against Oppressors Not Excoriate Resisting Victims
* Subtle Loyalties to Zionism
* Inside the Madhouse
* A Higher Standard
* Whither Elementary Morality?
* Optimistic Progressivism
* The Analytical Skewer
* Inequality Matters
* There is No “Israel Lobby”
* South American Paradigms: Revolutionary Change Through Mass Social Movements
* "Insurgents": Hermeneutics Are Not a Substitute for Clarity!
* The Inalienable Right to Self Defense: Balancing the Power

* This Is Not Progressivism
* Europe's Free Speech Paradox

* Remembering with Shame and Horror
* Before Columbus: Revisionism and Enlightenment
* Desperately Seeking Victory in a War Already Lost
* Progressivism, Skepticism, and Historical Revisionism
* Resisting Capitalist-Imperialist Assimilation: Interview with Stewart Steinhauer
* The Morbid Symbolism of the Yasukuni Shrine
* Elementary Morality and Torture
* Darkness Over Empire
* Anti-Israel?
* Syria in the Imperialist Crosshairs 

* The Struggle to Restore the Dignity of Labor
* Gizen: Perverted Principle in Japan
* The Need to Speak Out: Canada’s Governor Generalship
* Antithetical Heroism
* Progressives and the Imperialist Line