[URBANTH-L]re: Barry Wellman's "this is so unbalanced"

Lurie glurie at att.net
Wed Jan 7 17:00:11 EST 2009

Barry Wellman's note raises three points: that the various posts had been (1)"so unbalanced", that they are (2) "extraordinarily anti-Israel, and (3) that "the discussion is not being carried out in our area of expertise". It is unclear whether his call in the first instance is to advance a Rightist Israeli perspective - one which legitimates the current war and denigrates those calling for peace and rapprochement . But his perspective renders moot the various alternative voices of peace and reconciliation - both in Israel itself, and among Diasora Jewry - who speak out against this brutal war. Sadly, today's set of postings are, however, overtaken by current news in the UK's "telegraph.com"which reports that 70 corpses were found by a Palestinian paramedic  near a bombed-out house in Gaza. It is not "anti - Israel" not "unbalanced" to raise moral and ethical concerns with what is happening in Gaza, anymore than was the similar horror and revulsion displayed during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon  by 100,000 Israelis - many of whom were in the military and  who protested the war and Israel's complicity with the massacre in Beirut - was anti-Israeli or unbalanced. The acclaimed Israeli journalist Amira Hass - daughter of Holocaust survivors who knew what it meant to be confined behind barbed wire fences in a small area and to be deprived not only of food and medicine but even of water for five days, who understood well the plight and anguish of  those confined and pummeled in Gaza - writes in today's Ha'aretz how her parents were nauseated by the "language laundromat" that allows those like Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak to contend that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza - who ask - no, demand - that we redefine reality and our moral compass. And they are not alone. In 2005 Prof Zeev Sternhell of the Hebrew University [ who luckily survived a bomb attack by Rightist Israelis only a month or so ago ] wrote in Ha'aretz - quoting Raymond Aron - "We must be true  in everything, even regarding our homeland. Every citizen must sacrifice his life for his country, but no one must lie for it." 

To look away, to parse our analysis, to evoke urban anthropology or sociology as but an "abstract theory" or research program, devoid of ethical and moral moorings, is but a desiccated  evasion. Urban analysis is - and always has been - a martix of inherently political, ethical, and moral domains. It is the sets of diverse voices, networks, and perspectives - alive and in dialog  that collectively constitute the"the city". No one should understand this more that Wellman. As a researcher on the multiple personal/social networks which comprise the "network city, and as the original editor of Social Networks, and an advocate for structural analysis, he knows well the moral undercurrents which constitute the texture of network analysis - [see:Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker's "The Exploit: A Theory of Networks"]. More, he understands the dangers attendant on misusing network analysis for military goals. The last eight years under Bush/Cheney has taught us the danger to our civil liberties and the threat to our very health of securing "total information" via "data mining" - the gathering of multiple data bases and  social networks into a matrix to foster surveilance. Central to the so-called "war on terror" has been the mobilization of network models, analyses, and programs to track and anticipate any possible - or improbable - threats. This has been at the heart of the CIA, Homeland Security, and the RCMP in Canada. But conceptual analysis demands ethical constraints, as well. If it was so with the atomic bomb deriving from early nuclear physics research, it is so with the misuse of network analysis for war and terror on civilians.  Ultimately we must discern just what constitutes our "area of expertise". Ultimately we need to consider more fully the moral underpinnings of urban analysis.

More information about the URBANTH-L mailing list