Hammering Tonge

Jenny Tonge, a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament, has said that she would consider becoming a suicide bomber if forced to live like Palestinians. Tonge stated, “I think if I had to live in that situation – and I say that advisedly – I might just consider becoming one myself.” In a subsequent “clarification” of her remarks, she added “I do not condone suicide bombers or terrorism. But I do understand, having been to Palestine myself and having seen the daily barrage of humiliation and aggravation faced by Palestinians, why suicide bombers opt for this most desperate of actions.”
Oliver Kamm responds that “Dr. Tonge’s insistence that she ‘understands … why suicide bombers opt for this most desperate of actions’ is factually wrong. She doesn’t understand. She has made no attempt to understand. Instead of so attempting, she has merely retailed an idle stereotype that shifts the moral responsibility for acts of barbarism on to the victims and away from the perpetrators.” Kamm points to an analysis by an economist at Princeton University, Alan Krueger, showing that Paletinian terrorists, like those elsewhere, are drawn mostly from society’s elites, not the dispossessed. But Kamm insists that “Dr Tonge’s pronouncements are worse than merely ignorant.” Relying on the work of the liberal political philosophy Michael Walzer, he concludes that Tonge’s “protestation that she does not condone terrorism is a disingenuous and indecent rhetorical trick intended to absolve her of responsibility for doing exactly what she claims she isn’t doing.”
For more excellent commentary on Tonge’s remarks see Norman Geras’ “Normblog” and Natalie Solent.
I’d like to think that not many Palestinians seriously consider becoming suicide bombers. If, in fact, many do, then at some level it is possible to say that if one were a Palestinian one might consider becoming a suicide bomber. But to say this without acknowledging what would be its true meaning — that a twisted, manipulated society has succumbed to an evil hatred — is indeed to condone terrorism.
HINDROCKET adds: A normal person might visit Israel and conclude that, having seen the carnage wrought by suicide bombers, she can understand why Israel imposes security measures that can lead to “humiliation and aggravation” for Palestinians. But I don’t think there is much danger of Ms. Tonge’s actually joining the ranks of the mass murderers she celebrates.


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