Interpretive politics
Posted by aogTuesday, 27 January 2004 at 09:18 TrackBack Ping URL

Over at Harry’s Place there is a discussion in the comments which contains references to statements by Sheik Yassin, a HAMAS leader, about driving the Jews in to the sea. The counter argument was that Yassin was just throwing some rhetorical red meat to the public. That raises one of two troubling issues.

The first, as mentioned by one of the commentors, is the soft bigotry of “re-interpreting” comments by non-Western leaders:

“Sheik Yassin has just said that he wishes to drive all the Jews into the sea. What he meant, of course, is that he would be happy to live in peace with the Jewish state within the 1967 borders.” Nobody takes it upon themselves to translate Chirac or Bush or Blair (or Sharon) into “what we think he should have said”.

Certainly President Bush has every statement parsed, no matter where he makes it. In fact, just his appearance at a place like Bob Jones University (regardless of what he actually said) is treated as a major transgression. Yet this same standard is hardly ever applied to people like Yassin.

The more troubling issue is, if we accept the re-interpretation viewpoint, why would Yassin make statements like that? Wouldn’t that mean that it’s not the leaders of Palestinians being intransigent, but in fact that a Judenrein Middle East is a popular goal among the Palestinian population? That would seem to destroy the whole “it’s just a few extremists” contention like a MOAB on Bedouin tent. Is that really the view supporters of the Palestinians want the rest of us to have?