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Thursday 19 February 2009
Letters: Wealth creation
Unfettered wealth creation leads to end of our world
In 1971, the Club of Rome, an international group of savants, published The Limits to Growth. They warned that, given the finite resources of the planet, human consumption must have upper limits. Without voluntary restraint (which has not been forthcoming), the precise manner of our predicted demise was moot but, given a mix of resource depletion, over-crowding and pollution (we can now add global warming), was inescapable.
The forecast has withstood the test of time. We are subject to the same ecological restraints that apply to all species and, in common with them, face eventual extinction. When we, and the ecosystems that collapse in our wake, are gone, the biosphere will in time regenerate, as it has invariably done after previous mass extinctions.
It is ironic that Martin Walsh (letters, 6 February) should berate your excellent Jeremy Warner for putting two and two together. Having a modest understanding of ecology, I am amazed that economists and most others persist in believing that unfettered wealth creation is compatible, either with planetary health or, in the long run, human survival. Ecological models indicate the opposite. With ice sheets melting before our eyes, oceans dying, deserts expanding, biodiversity plummeting and human population racing headlong towards nine billion – all empirical facts – our politicians run around like headless chickens in the vain pursuit of technological fixes as means to everlasting growth. They and most of the media are living in cloud cuckoo land.
Without visionary leadership and a new economic orthodoxy (which replaces globalisation with localism), we are heading for disaster.
Shoddy defence of Israel’s policies
Once again Howard Jacobson parades his repetitive and intellectually lazy fare. His “argument” is predicated on his tedious belief that he is, by definition, cleverer, more intellectually discerning and more morally subtle than anyone who disagrees with him.
In the past few weeks alone, he has used a variety of adolescent tactics. Street protesters against Israel were dismissed as those who “wear their consciences on their sleeves because they do not know where else to wear them”, signatories of a letter to The Guardian were derided as media studies lecturers (beneath contempt presumably) and “professionally asham-ed Jews” who do not understand that signing a letter does not make (them) humanitarian.
In his latest piece, “they” are damned by association; “”they” sing “anti-Zionist carols with Ken Livingstone and George Galloway”. And, of course, underpinning all this is the cheapest trick in his wide repertoire, his assertion that criticism of Israel equals anti-Semitism.
The truth is that no criticism of Israel could be decorous or sophisticated enough for Mr Jacobson. He hides behind his veil of sophistry, apparently unable to acknowledge the legitimate, widespread and entirely sincere revulsion generated by the viciously indiscriminate Israeli campaign in, and blockade of, Gaza.
He really should grow up or else leave the floor to more reasoned commentators, such as Bruce Anderson who, so far as I know, does not align himself George Galloway or Hamas, but whose article about Israel in your Monday paper was bracing and balanced, such a welcome change from Mr Jacobson’s single perspective, sneering self-indulgence.
St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex
If there is a renewed outbreak of anti-Semitism it is due to the confusion between the Zionist state of Israel and Jewry. Zionism is a political movement within Judaism and does not represent the interests of those who categorise themselves as Jews. It has been one of the triumphs of Zionist propaganda that it has successfully convinced the world that Zionism and the state of Israel is the same thing as Jews everywhere.
In 1948, as an idealist young man, I told my Jewish fiancée, who had survived the German occupation of France, (unlike most of her family), that I wanted to join Haganah. She told me in no uncertain terms that if I wanted to join the reactionary Zionists then I could say goodbye to her. I got my first lesson in the politics of Judaism.
Israel, governed by political Zionism, is a reactionary state in spite of its propaganda. It is exclusive and expansionist. I cannot think of any other country where to become a citizen it is necessary to demonstrate purity in the form of descent through the mother or to convert to one specified religion. It is the success of Zionist propaganda which accounts for the renewal of anti-Semitism.
I wish to commend Howard Jacobson on his excellent article “Let’s see the criticism of Israel for what it is” (18 February). But I really do not know why he bothered. Any facts, logic and reason presented to Israel-hating “anti-Zionists” in defence of Israel become immediately suspect because of – to paraphrase some of the comments on The Independent website – “the author’s name” (it’s Jewish), his “Zionist credentials”, or “Zionist control of the British media”, thereby raising the old anti-Semitism spectre.
In other words, it would seem that Israel-haters will not allow themselves to be confused by facts, and are so blinded by their prejudice that they are unable to accept what their prejudice truly represents: the age-old hatred in a modern dress.
Petach Tikva, Israel
Yes, Hamas must take a lot of blame for this tragic situation, but when the fourth-greatest military power in the world indiscriminately bombs one of the most crowded and poverty-stricken areas in the world, which has only lightly armed fighters and no anti-aircraft defences, is Mr Jacobson really surprised that people will protest?
Our supposedly biased press continue to refer to this massacre as a war and make no mention of the fact that it was Israel that broke the “ceasefire” on 4 November. Little mention has also been made of the many Israeli peace campaigners who staged marches against the action in Tel Aviv and other places. At least he didn’t descend to describing them, in that ridiculous phrase used by some Israel apologists, as “self-hating Jews”.
Howard Jacobson’s inability to resist the Zionist party line – from ignoring the fact that no Hamas missile had fallen in Israel for six months before Operation Cast Lead to the mind-boggling assertion that Palestinians were “guarded and honoured punctiliously” by the post Balfour Declaration Zionists – creates the impression of a tendentious motive to what could have been a useful and thought-provoking essay.
It is a pity he so quickly dismisses the psychological possibility that “Jews (may be) visiting upon others the traumas suffered by themselves”. In my experience these are offered not as “sophistical nastiness” but in a genuine attempt to evoke self-reflection among Israelis and the wider diaspora once universally so admired for such dialectical qualities.
Howard Jacobson invokes the tired old anti-Semitism arguments to explain the almost universal criticism of the Israeli state for its actions in recent times. Were Israel to declare tomorrow that its future policy would be to dismantle its settlements on the West Bank and to return to its pre-1967 borders I for one would support its moral position. This, of course, would be in return for a comprehensive peace treaty with its neighbours backed by international guarantees.
I think what riles Jacobson is that the Holocaust, “anti-Semitism”, and “vilification of Israel” are not the trump cards they once were. Even Jewish critics are fed up with this tired chant every time the Israeli army decides to indulge in a massacre.
The fighting in Gaza, which Jacobson argues is a more just description, presumes that both sides are more or less equal in terms of strength. Anyone with a scant understanding of the conflict will see that a gross imbalance of power exists in Israeli-Palestinian relations. If Israeli refuseniks can see this, why can’t anyone else?
Howard Jacobson’s article is symptomatic of the blinkered attitude that prevents this debate from progressing. He extrapolates from a few carefully chosen examples to disgrace all opposition to Israel’s actions in Palestine, and by labelling all criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism he shuts down the debate in exactly the same way as those who use words like “massacre” to describe the fighting in Gaza.
Like those who ignore the existence of Palestinian suicide-bombers while they demonstrate against the wall around the West Bank, he fills a double-page spread with an assault on the actions of certain protesters and news outlets (as well as one ignorant playwright) without paying one iota of attention to the numerous ways in which wholly un-anti-Semitic campaigners legitimately criticise Israel.
Both sides in this conflict are at fault. Perhaps if people such as Mr Jacobson and the reprehensible campaigners he writes of were less ready to use such inflammatory language we might be able to get somewhere and solve this awful situation.
Andrew T Barnes
Risks too high of nuke sub collision
We were told that the chance of two nuclear submarines colliding in mid-ocean was infinitesmally small (report, 17 February). We are also told that the chance of an accidental launch of nuclear weapons (although thousands are ready to go at the press of a button) is also infinitesmally small. We must bring an end to these mad risks to our survival by getting rid of these weapons.
We ignored the threats from the banking system until the first banks started to collapse. Then we took emergency action. We are behaving in the same way with the unsustainable and immeasurably more dangerous nuclear-weapons system.
Germ of truth
Your story of 12 February (“Gene therapy offers hope of cure for HIV”) refers to HIV virus. Does the HI virus have a virus of its own?
A C Gittins
Danged if we know
John Hawgood’s letter on why the rubbing/ wringing of hands means glee or misery (18 February) reminded me of something that has bothered me for years. Hot Dang! is a term used when a good thing has happened, whereas Dang! is used the other way. I have always wondered what Dang actually is, and why its temperature is so important.
Pity the pensioners
The media often refers to the difficulties of pensioners on fixed incomes but the pensioners in dire straits now are the ones such as my uncle, with fixed outgoings, such as care-home fees, but whose income fluctuates according to savings interest rates and dividend levels. If only half of their income comes from savings and investments, their overall income is likely to be down by a third this year. What are the care homes going to do about that? What is the government going to do about it?
Spread the blame
By blaming Scots solely for the banking crisis, Dominic Lawson’s opinion is tainted by his anti-Scottish perspective (17 February). Sir James Crosby and Andy Hornby of HBOS are English; Bernard Madoff and Lehman Brothers, who caused the market disruption, are Jewish. Lawson has failed to mention the billions from Scottish North Sea oil and gas revenues that have poured into the Treasury over the past 25 years.
Donald J MacLeod
A grip of life
Peter R Brown thinks that answers to the question “Why we are here” constitute a discipline and faith a search for truth (letters, 18 February). Many find the assumption that purpose and meaning can lie only beyond life and nature arrogant and demeaning. To be alive is good enough, and I see no reason why the orchestrated construction of supernatural meaning is a branch of knowledge analogous to science.
Liverpool Humanist Group
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