Monday, January 5, 2009

The role of power in justification

From Eve Garrard:
Some people like to argue that morality is really just an attempt to dupe and exploit the poor and the weak by their strong oppressors - a view that is intended to produce in its hearers a frisson of excitement at the bold cynicism, the fearless stripping-away of power-based delusions, displayed by the view's proponents.
It is true that the powerful can manipulate conversations in subtle ways to justify their own self-interest. It's also true that this doesn't automatically invalidate everything said in defense of the interests of the powerful.

But more than that, something often overlooked in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is that both sides are oppressed. In addition to the problems Eve points out, the stances she takes issue with are particularly unsuited for dealing with the conflict, though they are (it seems to me) constantly invoked by Palestinian supporters.

It requires either a claim that the oppression of Jews isn't worth bothering with or the claim that Jews are the global oppressors. The second is too often made (see, for example), but it is plainly antisemitic. Yet I think it's clear the first is nothing but a rationalization for antisemitism.

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