Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Honderich on Terrorism

Tipped off by Chris Bertram over on CT, I watched Ted Honderich's take on terrorism tonight on Channel 5. I haven't yet read Chris' after the broadcast piece, so this is very much my thoughts.

Basically, Honderich argued that the Jews had a right to the original borders of Israel (Zionism), but what he called neo-Zionism - trying ot take the remaining fifth of Palestine - is unjustified. Moreover, the Palestinians had a right to resist this occupation including, in a situation of asymmetric warfare, a right to terrorism. He went on to condemn Bush and Blair for fuelling terrorism, saying those who create its conditions hold a share of responsibility almost as great as the terrorists.

Sorry if that's a bit garbled, but so was the programme. I've often thought it's a shame that there aren't 'popular philosophy' programmes to rival, say, Schama's history or Winston's science programmes. I don't think Honderich did much to further the cause: There was no clear flow or line of argument, it largely consisted of interviews with a few peers and academics, documentary-style footage from Israel/Palestine and Honderich bland and repetitive 'I'm a philosophy' remarks.

The foundation for Honderich's judgements was what he called the 'principle of humanity' - though it wasn't Kantian, it seemed more like Finnis, in that it began by identifying six basic human goods (life, physical well-being, respect, community, etc) and argued that we had to take rational means to these. What this meant in practice was unclear, although he did condemn the 9/11 attacks as an irrational (by which he seemed to mean counter-productive) means to further a partly justified cause.

I was deeply dissatisfied by the lack of clear argument, but I did feel some of his conclusions were sound: if the Palestinians have some kind of right to their homeland, but have been deprived any means bar terrorism, it'd be almost hypocritical to censure them for using it - particularly when Bush and Blair have launched arguable illegal and immoral wars, killing far more civilians themselves.

Apparently there's a rival view being shown next week (7:15-8 Tuesday, on 5)


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