Effect Measure

Gaza: shock, awe and brutality

This is about the Israeli invasion of Gaza. Because it cannot be ignored. Let me be clear at the outset: I think the assault on Gaza is brutal, vicious and cruel, the act of a notorious regional bully. Israeli leaders (Olmert, Barak, Livni and probably others) are war criminals in a class with Bushes Jr. and Sr., Kissinger, Nixon, Pinochet, Putin, Saddam, Milošević, Karadzic, Charles Taylor and a number of others. I wanted to get that out of the way because I don’t want this to be misunderstood as a defense of Israeli actions. Far from it. It is a condemnation of the kind of action that has become distressingly familiar. George Bush approves of it. Because he’s done it.

The Gaza attack is Israel’s version of “shock and awe.” Israel is the most powerful military force in the Middle East and the Israeli state is essentially unconquerable because of US security guarantees. As a result, Israel is “the US” of the Middle East. The US is the most powerful military force in the world, although in its region Russia dominates, as do the Chinese in theirs. All of these countries have undertaken brutal, vicious and cruel assaults on weak opponents: the US in Vietnam, Gulf War I, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. Russia in Chechnya, China in Tibet. All have used overwhelming force, ignored or only paid lip service to civilian casualties, justified actions in ways that are irrelevant and hypocritical, actions approved by a fearful and self-absorbed majority. To take only the most recent example, the US was attacked by international criminals on 9/11. A responsible leadership would have worked within international law to bring them to account and embarked on ways to reduce the anger and resentment that caused this horrific event. Instead US leaders whipped up the anger and blood lust of its people, focussed it first on Afghanistan (not the origin of the attack), then on Iraq (for geopolitical reasons). And again the assaults were brutal, vicious and cruel. Shock and awe. The attackes were approved by the US public, whose anger and fear were compliant weapons in the hands of a cynical leadership who manipulated them for political gain. Too many politicians who knew it was wrong lacked the courage to say so, although an impressive number (half the Democrats in the Senate) stood against it. It wasn’t enough.

The Gaza attack is not much different from the US assault on Iraq. It was planned ahead of time, waiting for a pretext:

We know, from reporting in Ha’aretz, that the Israeli leadership began planning for the current attacks before entering the Egyptian negotiated cease-fire which expired on December 19th and used the cease-fire as an opportunity to prepare. Add in two months of forced starvation for the people of Gaza which seems now to have been designed to weaken their resistance and it seems all too likely that what we are watching today is the culmination of those plans made back in March right after consultations with Condi Rice. (Sium, Firedog Lake)

It is also a part of the Israeli election campaign, and by all accounts, the architects of this atrocity have benefitted in the polls. This should all sound familiar to Americans. Just as Americans were, Israelis seem surprised and outraged their country has become a pariah among nations. They shouldn’t be. They have brought it on themselves by the willingness and ease with which they have been manipulated. Just as Americans were.

Not everyone, of course. There was a vigorous and courageous push back in the US against unfounded US military adventurism. It wasn’t enough and for the most part our political leaders were either complicit or craven and cowardly as was its population. But not all of us. We were overwhelmed and defeated by mob psychology. The opposition in Israel is also overwhelmed. But it is there. They are doing what they have to do. There are some things about which one has no choice.

Measuring Israeli actions by the standard of recent history isn’t to defend them. On the contrary, it is to condemn them in the strongest possible terms.

Comments

  1. #1 Orac
    January 4, 2009

    Given the relentless anti-Israel bias evident in your postings, I have one simple question:

    If you were the Prime Minister of Israel, and Hamas was raining crude missiles down on your southern cities at the rate of as many as 80 a day, what would you do? Ignore for the moment “who started it” or whether Hamas is justified or not. That’s all history. It is now. You are in charge, and Hamas is firing crude missiles over your southern border. True, they’re crappy missiles and usually miss, but every so often they damage a school or other structure and kill or injure some Israelis. The people in southern Israel are becoming restless and demanding that something be done.

    You’re Prime Minister. What do you do–specifically? No nation would tolerate such a situation. None. Certainly the U.S. would not. So what do you propose as an alternate and, above all else, effective solution that does not involve military activity but stops the missiles and starts an actual peace process that could lead to permanent solution? Or do you just sit back and take it?

    FWIW, I think Jason Rosenhouse got it far closer to the truth than you did in your extreme bias:

    http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2009/01/gaza.php

  2. #2 Bob O'H
    January 4, 2009

    Orac – how about using the ceasefire that was in place to build trust with the democratically elected leaders of the Gaza strip?

    The tragedy of this is that it continues, and fuels itself by this cycle of violence. I can only see two ways of stopping it – either one side has to annihilate the other, or at some point the two sides have to sit down and talk. There’s no way Israel will be able to destroy Hamas and its support, instead this action will kill and wound a lot of people, and bred more hate.

  3. #3 Jonathon Singleton
    January 4, 2009

    Thanks Revere for writing this posting — as you know, I was on the receiving end of “mob psychology” back in the late 90s (only a very few family members will acknowledge it, all others exhibit “denialist behavior” acting as if I were dead and don’t exist). These Aussie folk are emotionally dead and, quite frankly, personality disordered sadistic!

    Anyway, earlier this evening I turned on the tv to record the original “Brideshead Revisited” series for my Aunty Joan — she’s technophobic and just can’t work a DVD recorder… The news was on and mucho-macho images of Israeli tanks, bombs, and young attractive (but moronic) soldiers doing the “worship bow” assailed me.

    I initially thought… Okay, the Babyboomer run Israeli government have decided to go in to Gaza, take over — like the Bush administration did in Iraq — kill off (or intern) the dissidents and then create a “puppet Palestinian” government. Is this the current Israeli government’s goal!?! If so, has this “strafe everything, including civilians” approach ever actually worked during the 20th century!?!

    There have been protest demonstrations in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth — some of us do care:*), but we are relatively few as most Aussies are more interested in animal pleasures and the “mob psychology” of “Screw you mate, I’m alroight and I just don’t give a flyin’ frick ’bout anyone else!”

  4. #4 revere
    January 4, 2009

    orac: Unfortunately it is your bias that is extreme and unlike most of the rest of the world. But, alas, typical of the US media, although they are getting better. You might wish to read up on the history of the region, although you find it irrelevant.

    As to your (loaded) question [ignore everything that went before and make the same assumption you do] one could ask the same question of Hamas or your average Palestinian. It is hard to put myself in the place of a war criminal, so I won’t. If I were PM, I would not have caged 1.5 million people into Gaza or promoted illegal settlements in the West Bank in violation of UN resolutions or carried out assassinations on a continual basis or cold bloodedly ploanned the Gaza operation and heedlessly provoked the kind of response we see. It doesn’t matter that it is Hamas. Any population would probably have reacted that way. If you were a Palestinian, how would have reacted to continual Israeli attacks and now the bombing of hospitals and the killing of doctors and nurses?

    FWIW, I consider your attitude lacking in empathy, insight and compassion, not to mention ordinary imagination. FYI, my bias is pro-Israel but opposed to the vicious and far right regime currently in power and its murderous policies, just as I was opposed to the Bush administration’s policy. I don’t know which side you came out on in March 2003 but I strongly opposed the Iraq war then, as I do now, and I strongly oppose the Gaza slaughter. BTW, what was your position in March 2003? Specifically.

  5. #5 Brett Dunbar
    January 4, 2009

    Specifically, If I were Israeli PM.

    Cancel all building permits in the settlements and freeze the settlements and order that no retrospective building permits be issued to unauthorised outposts.

    Call for Israeli history syllabus to require understanding the Palestinian perspective on the war of independence as well as the Israeli position, disaster versus triumph. Surprisingly only recently has a history textbook that does this been approved, it was in Arabic and is used in some of the schools in the Arab Israeli communities. Understanding the other side is really quite important so I was fairly shocked that Israeli textbooks didn’t already include this.

    When the recent incidents of Settler initiated violence occurred in Hebron, such as the stoning of Palestinian homes within the Jewish enclave in the centre of Hebron order that the settlers be evacuated and state that any other settlement who’s inhabitants engaged in organised harassment of Palestinian civilians or construction of unauthorised outposts would be forcibly evacuated. That would provide an excuse for removing a lot of the small right wing settlements that cause a lot of the petty injuries that really infuriate Palestinian.

    Then propose fresh talks with the PNA about final status of the West Bank starting on the basis of the positions reached at Taba (with the slight amendment of agreeing that any land exchange must be 1 for 1 and Gaza be sidelined). The current Palestinian leadership seem a little less stubborn than Arafat was.

    Basically try to improve Israel’s image with the Palestinian people in order to strengthen the moderate elements. Fatah aren’t all moderate but pretty much all of the moderates are in Fatah. So we really need to help Fatah.

    Try to reach an indefinite ceasefire with Hamas via back channel discussions. Offer to lift the sanctions in return for an indefinite ceasefire. Look for some form of words to get a de facto acceptance of Israel from Hamas and a commitment to use only peaceful methods even if they don’t renounce the destruction of Israel as an aspiration.

    Then attempt to get the Palestinian parties to agree to hold fresh elections throughout the Occupied Territories, hopefully Fatah would do rather better if negotiations look likely to succeed. Fatah lost the last set of elections as it was viewed as corrupt and incompetent. While Hamas were viewed as honest and fairly efficient. With Fatah apparently unable to offer much prospect of a peace deal with Israel their only advantage, that the Israelis would talk to them, was effectively eliminated.

    We really do need to include Hamas in talks, the not talking until they formally recognise Israel strategy hasn’t worked. Note that Britain was perfectly happy to talk to Ireland about Northern Ireland even though Ireland maintained a constitutional claim to Northern Ireland as the Irish were committed to using only peaceful means to achieve this.

  6. #6 Doug Alder
    January 4, 2009

    Well said both Revere and Brett, and Revere your response to Orac was spot on. The eminent conductor Daniel Barenboim, who is both a,Palestinian citizen and Jewish, wrote a good article Gaza and the New Year>, on December 31

  7. #7 wordtodawise
    January 4, 2009

    If I were the Prime minister of Israel I would remember the holocaust. I would remember the mass imprisonment and brutal killings of helpless Jews by a superior military force commanded by fiends and led by a lunatic psychopath.

    I would remember the reasons given by the Germans to justify the ruthless extermination of the Jews in concentration camps and gas chambers.

    I would remember the confiscation of Jewish property and the vandalization of Jewish businesses. I would remember the dehumanization of the Jewish people with arm bans and animal-like brandings.

    I would imagine how the Jews felt about their persecutions, wondering why the German people did nothing to stop the carnage by their government.

    I would remember how the Germans where finally defeated and how the mass murderers where brought to justice to avenge the death of innocent Jews, man, woman and child.

    After pondering the dark and evil past, I would reflect upon today’s reality and ask the important questions. Is today�s Israel yesterdays Germany? Are Israeli leaders like Hitler? Are suffering Palestinians equivalent to the Jews of the holocaust fame? Is Palestine the same as the concentration camps? Are Israeli soldiers the same as the SS? Will Israel survive as a state in the end? Where is the humanity? Good lord, the horror.

    Wordtodawise

  8. #8 paiwan
    January 5, 2009

    It is nothing wrong with that ‘Israel is the most powerful millitary force in the Middle East’, but to conclude that Israel is unconquerable is very dangerous and complacent. Could you imagine what if Isral had failed in 6 days War, or next that Iran via Hamas to drop a nuclear bomb to Israel’s territory.

    In fact, Isreal could do much better as social capital and economic center more than millitary force to the region. As the alternative energy like solar energy and biofuel are coming up, the oil price will drop, see if it is down to 20 US. The region need Israel more than the other way around.

    International community is very keen to be invoved with the solutions, especially like President Sarcochi. This is just an topic of leading by example, if the Jewish people could find the city in France as their home like in Boston or in New York, then Israel could trust French leadership. It is wise to tell Israeli people, “Don’t forget Holocaust for one thousand years, perhaps never forever.” After all, Europe had been granted thousand years and failed to prove it. What else to qurantee?

    A decent self defense is the symbol of potency to develop the healthy foundation of the social and economical network.

    Hamas bascically is crossing the border, who would buy the proposition based on terror?

    Last words for Israel, don’t compromise, especially in dealing with China. Don’t share with them the secrecy of advanced weapons. You have the chance to demonstrate the first rate of leadership apart from millitary capability, of course the US’s support is essential.

  9. #9 anon
    January 5, 2009

    > war criminals in a class with Bushes Jr. and Sr.,
    > Kissinger, Nixon, Pinochet, Putin, Saddam,
    > Milošević, Karadzic, Charles Taylor

    you should refine your classes a bit

  10. #10 Scott
    January 5, 2009

    So, what could the medium term goal of Israel possibly be with this recent offensive? Does occupying Gaza really stop the rocket attacks? I wonder if Israel could learn some lessons from Britain’s experiences in Northern Ireland? Could there be any parallels?

  11. #11 tymbuktu
    January 5, 2009

    Any argument supporting Israel presumes it has a right to exist — it does not. Don’t even think of using the Bible as some mandate — it is a book re-written many times by groups of self-serving men to furthertheir agendas at any given times.

    “Israel” is an invading entity that inexplixably tricked a percentage of the Western populace into supporting an arrogant, criminal group of people who had and continue to have no compunction against stealing the land and homes of an innocent group of people. They have the nerve to represent themselves as the victims. (At the same time, I find the tenants of Islam as it pertains to many issues, mostlt notably women, to be repulsive — although Hassidic Judaism is not much better.)

    The amount of the USA’s problems and that of the Western world’s are directly and indirectly related to the support of this criminal entity — if Bird Flu doesn’t wipe many of us out first, the arrogance of our puppetmasters in the ME will.

  12. #12 maryinhawaii
    January 5, 2009

    Thank you Revere, for bringing this subject up for discussion. American policy set the precedent for this kind of attack when we justified our own unilateral attack on Iraq on the basis of their alleged potential “future threat” to us. We substantiated this claim of threat with all kinds of disinformation, clearly fabricated and fully discredited by many sources before we even got the okay from congress to wage the war. These fabrications were later admitted to by the administration, but not until the war had already killed tens of thousands of innocent civilians and destroyed not just Iraq’s modern infrastructure but most of the irreplacable artifacts of mankind’s early culture in this historic center of early civilization .

    We set a precedent and international policy that made it ok for any nation in the world to preemptively attack any other nation on the basis that at some point that nation might be a danger to it. Yet just as there was and is little if any true danger to the United States from Iraq, what real threat is Gaza to Israel’s might? Virtually none. So why does Israel keep them blockaded, subjugated and in abject poverty, prisoners in their own land? And when they object with their mostly ineffectual rockets, like throwing rocks at Goliath, why is the punishment so far above and beyond all that could ever be considered necessary or justified, like an abusive rage-maddened parent beating their child to death for some infraction.

    It was only a short time ago we watched a similar bloodthirsty overkill of inhumanitarian proportions waged against the people of Lebanon, and then as now the US stood steadfastly behind Olmert and his horrific cold blooded savagery, waged with American made and/or funded weapons of war.

  13. #13 Charles
    January 5, 2009

    This isn’t going to end well – for Israel.

    They’re bitten off more than they can chew. Again.

    This isn’t merely brutal, vicious and cruel.

    It is also criminally stupid.

    The only way that Israel can stop the missile attacks from Gaza, using raw force, is by permanently wrecking Hamas. Since Hamas is primarily a political organization rather than a military one, this will require, at minimum, the military seizure of the entire Gaza strip for an indefinite period of time. Together with forcible suppression of ALL Palestinian political activity.

    Frankly, I think the odds that the Palestinians in Gaza will permit governance by any group handpicked and installed (at gunpoint) by their enemies is so close to zero as makes no difference.

    More collective punishment of the Gaza population by the IDF will not improve those odds, it’ll worsen them.

    So what’s a feasible Israeli endgame?

    Ethnic cleansing and depopulation of Gaza, either by extermination or by mass deportation are the only options I can see.

    While Bush may find these acceptable, Obama isn’t likely to. Nor are many Americans, past the hardcore right wingers.

    If American support goes bye-bye, Israel’s long-term prospects aren’t promising.

    Bottom line?

    The Knesset should have sacked Ehud Olmert two years ago.

    That’s what usually happens to a head of state who starts a hopeless lost war. That’s what happened to the Greek Colonels. That’s what happened to Leopoldo Galtieri.

    This invasion shows why that’s almost always neccessary.

  14. #14 Kate
    January 5, 2009

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Kate

    http://educationonline-101.com

  15. #15 Jason Rosenhouse
    January 5, 2009

    Revere -

    The ice you’re standing on is far too thin to support your arrogant and condescending tone. Orac’s question was entirely legitimate, and you ducked it completely. The reason you ducked it is that you know full well that any country would respond militarily to repeated missile attacks from a neighbor hell-bent on their destruction. And most of them would not go to the lengths Israel has to limit civilian casualties and destruction.

    You’re very good at rehearsing the anti-Israel talking points, your ridiculously simplistic descriptions of which are highly debatable to put it kindly. It would be nice, though, if you reserved some of your chest-pounding for the actions of the Palestinians over the years. Supporting suicide bombing and terror against civilians. Electing corrupt, despotic governments more concerned with picking fights with Israel than with providing a life for their citizens. Committing human rights abuses that make the Israelis look like amateurs.

    Yeah, the story here is really just Israel bombing hospitals, you know, because they are such bullies.

  16. #16 Brett Dunbar
    January 5, 2009

    Ehud Olmert is the Prime Minister, the Head of Government, the Head of State of Israel is the President, currently Shimon Peres.

    Israel has been slowly losing a war of attrition with the Palestinians, the longer it goes on the worse the final terms are likely to be and the cost incurred before finally getting to a deal is higher. Attrition is immensely costly slow and painful to everyone involved so both sides can have a lot to gain from a settlement.

    Attrition is quite distinct from shock and awe, shock and awe is a form of mobile warfare, a more modern development of blitzkrieg. Like blitzkrieg it involves paralysing one sides ability to manoeuvre with the intention that they surrender without much fighting. In Iraq the initial conquest was fast and fairly cheap, this was followed by a war of attrition which was slow and immensely bloody. Shock and awe was used only in the initial conquest.

  17. #17 revere
    January 5, 2009

    Jason: I ducked nothing. If you want talking points, just look at Orac’s comments. Essentially he goes along with whatever the Israeli leaders decide to do. He assumes (I don’t know what your position is) that Israel’s leaders had no choice in policies. You characterize my position as arrogant. What, exactly, is arrogant about it? Specifically.

    Yes, it angered me to have someone tell me that opposing Israeli military action is “anti-Israel,” just as you have done, merely on the basis of my strong opposition to their actions in Gaza, Lebanon and the West Bank. By that standard, many Israelis are “anti-Israel,” and it isn’t much different than being told that opposing the US assaults on Afghanistan and Iraq was “anti-American.” I guess that makes you anti-American and arrogant, too (Orac is probably safe on that account as I think he approved of both adventures). That wasn’t condescending of Orac (or you). It was offensive.

    No, the story is much more complicated that bombing hospitals, just as it is much more complicated than rockets. But the Israeli leaders are bullies. That’s not complicated.

    Orac’s question required I assume that the PM’s previous actions had nothing to do with whether rockets would stop or were ever started. My answer was to reject that and to say that if I were PM I would stop doing what caused the rockets in the first place. I guess that wasn’t plain enough for you because you can’t imagine that the policy of any Israeli leader could be wrong, or so it would seem from what you say.

    Finally, you presume to answer for me. If that isn’t arrogant and condescending, I don’t know what is, but let me take the words you put in my mouth and repeat them back to you:

    The reason you ducked it is that you know full well that any country would respond militarily to repeated missile attacks from a neighbor hell-bent on their destruction.

    You are blind if you think that applies only to one side.

  18. #18 Bob O'H
    January 5, 2009

    Jason – several of us have given answers to Orac’s question. If Revere’s standing on thin ice, then perhaps you should explain why the “Give Peace a Chance” suggestion is so bad.

    As for chest-pounding, I don’t think any side is innocent, so if we have to condemn one side we really should condemn all.

    Incidentally, isn’t describing Hamas as “a neighbor hell-bent on [Israel's] destruction” also “ridiculously simplistic”? Yes, I know that the destruction of Israel is one of Hamas’ stated aims, but hell-bent? They haven’t been terribly pro-active about this. Indeed, calling a ceasefire (as they did) doesn’t appear to be the best way of achieving this. Even if it was done tactically to build up arms, you might have expected they would have had more than a few missiles when they stopped it.

  19. #19 Jason Rosenhouse
    January 5, 2009

    revere -

    First of all, I did not say you were anti-Israel. I said you have rehearsed the anti-Israel talking points, and you have.

    Secondly, since I haven’t even taken a stand on whether or not Israel’s military action is wise, and since I’ve acknowledged at my own blog that Israel has a lot to answer for in its history, it’s pretty rich for you to say I can’t imagine a policy of an Israeli leader being wrong.

    My position is that most of the arguments being leveled against Israel in the current conflict are bogus and morally clueless. The arguments regarding the strategic wisdom of Israel’s action are a different matter. I don’t have a firm opinion on that, because I find it difficult to second-guess military decisions when I am on the other side of the world, hearing about the conflict from various biased media outlets.

    Next, your response to me in your last comment was different from what you said to Orac when you responded to him. In that comment you gave a list of things you wouldn’t have done in the past, and gave no indication of what you would do in the present, which is what you were asked about.

    It’s nice that now you have clarified what you would do in the present. It seems your solution, in response to attacks on your civilians from a hostile neighbor, is to give the neighbor everything they want. Might work, but I’m not optimistic given Hamas’ long-standing willingness to use terrorism and violence to get its way. When I see one side in a conflict deliberately targeting civilians I lose interest in the specifics of their grievances.

    You fret about Israel’s policies that have provoked Hamas’ rockets. Thus far you have shown no similar fretting for Hamas’ policies that provoked Israel in the first place. The very idea that Israel is acting now, or has acted in the past, like a bully is ridiculous. Israel would like nothing better than to go back to ignoring Gaza, which is why they packed up their settlements there and handed the land over to the Palestinians in the first place. Israel has routinely returned land they captured in wars started by their enemies. Bullies don’t do that.

    Bob O’H -

    I am on the road at the moment and have only limited internet access. So I am not able (and am not really inclined anyway) to reply in detail to every comment left here.

    I’m all in favor of giving peace a chance. The problem is that Israel tried that for the first fifty years of its existence, making one concession after another, even to the point of being willing to compromise on Jerusalem. It didn’t work. If I saw more willingness on the part of the Palestinians and other Arab nations to give peace a chance, I would be harder on Israel for using military force. Violence in the region could end tomorrow if the Arab nations acknowledged Israel’s right to exist. They will never do that, if for no other reason than they need to foment hostility towards Israel in part to distract attention from their own despotic and incompetent rule. In light of that, I don’t think that “Give peace a chance” has much to recommend it.

  20. #20 revere
    January 5, 2009

    Jason: We disagree. I consider your position morally clueless as well. Not a surprise. For the record, let me say that I find Israel’s response morally reprehensible, whether it is good for them or not, which seems to be your main criterion. In my mind, your position is morally clueless. There is no morality in it at all. Even if we stick to international law, collective punishment is a war crime. Israel has been continually engaged in collective punishment as a matter of policy. If you don’t see that then I don’t see how we can communicate because we are living in parallel universes.

    Regarding your parsing what I would have done in the past with what I would do now, I charge you with being deliberately obtuse so as not to have to yield the point that I replied to Orac. Regarding provoking Hamas, now suddenly you want to go back one step and ask what caused Hamas to provoke Israel to provoke Hamas. You’re a mathematician so I know you know about infinite regress. My complaint is that you and Orac suggest that the rockets are the starting point. Any objective person knows that’s just a lie. Israel was planning this operation for a year. That’s been widely reported, including by Israeli news media. But it is one of the Israeli talking points. I won’t be so rude as to suggest you “rehearsed it,” whatever that is supposed to mean.

    You may think that the idea that Israel is acting like a bully is ridiculous but many other people who have no axe to grind don’t agree. I think the US acts like a bully, too, and many people don’t agree with me about that.

    Regarding characterizing your views incorrectly, I noted that I didn’t know what your views were except by what you wrote in your (somewhat intemperate) comment. I drew an inference from what you wrote there. If you don’t want to be misinterpreted, then explain yourself more clearly .

    Regarding my own position on terrorism and Hamas, on another thread I have said I have no sympathy for Hamas. I think I have a very clear record opposing terrorism of all kinds, state actors and non-state actors alike. I’ve been jailed for that and had bones broken in non-violent witness. I’m not a shill for Hamas or for Israel. Neither get a pass from me, nor do you when you defend the indefensible.

  21. #21 maryinhawaii
    January 5, 2009

    For me the bottom line is a human one. Watch the live newscasts of bombs falling on neighborhoods, listen to interviews which register the shock and terror of Palestian civilians, hiding with their children in cold, blackened basements as the ground shakes and babies’ scream from the near misses…wondering if the next one will be their end. If you haven’t the soul to empathize with these fellow humans, if all you can do is stand back and coldly discuss, rationalize and justify the political and military strategy of the attacks, blaming the victims without feeling the cost, then as revere states so perfectly, we indeed are living in parallel universes. Sometimes I wonder if there are two different species of humans inhabiting this earth, or if we simply are all by nature a split personality, with a brain able to compartmentalize so efficiently such conflicting moral dichotomies that one can be the ultimate hypocrite without even realizing it.

    As an aside to Revere: although you are an atheist, you live your life by far more “godlike” moral principles than most purportedly religious people on this planet IMO. Thank you for your voice.

  22. #22 Lrod
    January 5, 2009

    Revere, I couldn’t agree with you more.

  23. #23 Sigmund
    January 5, 2009

    Well said, Revere.
    Some people fail to realize that one can be pro-Israel yet still be critical of the decisions taken by the Israeli government.
    Its a pity that some react as if the slightest criticism of Israeli actions is the same as support for Hamas.
    Killing children is wrong no matter who drops the bomb or fires the rocket. Does anyone seriously think that Israel would still drop those bombs if the ‘collateral damage’ were Israeli children? That Hamas are willing to let its own people die is not a surprise – they are, after all, religious fundamentalists with a firm belief in martyrdom. It is part of their plans to create martyrs but that doesn’t mean the Israelis have to oblige.
    The rocket attacks are wrong and in a normal society could be dealt with by legal means, such as sanctions from the international community or targeted rendition of the perpetrators (according to Israel they know who they are and where they live). The point that legal means have been rendered useless by the historical debasement of the Gaza population somehow seems to be ignored. It is rather telling that the Israeli government and its cheerleaders completely wash their hands of any responsibility for creating the conditions that made a despotic group like Hamas the better electoral choice. It is also rather sad that some commenters on here, normally shining beacons of clear thinking, react to criticism of Israeli actions with all the rationality of a Mother defending her son against a cast iron murder charge (“I know my son, he couldn’t do that”).

  24. #24 Bob O'H
    January 5, 2009

    I’m all in favor of giving peace a chance. The problem is that Israel tried that for the first fifty years of its existence, making one concession after another, even to the point of being willing to compromise on Jerusalem.

    Eh? How was the Six Day War giving peace a chance? What sort of concession was it – that they rested on the seventh?

    More seriously, this is bollocks. At various times, yes, Israel has been trying for peace, but at others is has been downright aggressive – how else could one view invading and occupying one’s neighbours?

    I’m curious to know – when has Israel tried to negotiate with Hamas, since Hamas were democratically elected to lead the Palestinians? Hamas have been (relatively!) conciliatory, but my impression is that they’ve been rebuffed (the West won’t talk to them and Israel has been blockading the Gaza Strip). It wouldn’t be easy, but has Israel even tried?

  25. #25 Jason Rosenhouse
    January 5, 2009

    Revere

    Since I don’t see this discussion progressing in any constructive direction, I will make this my last comment here. I will even swallow hard and try to get through this with a minimum of rancor.

    You say my “main criterion” for determining whether Israel’s response to Hamas’ provocation is legitimate is whether it is “good for them.” Since I said specifically that I don’t know if Israel’s current action is good for them, I don’t understand where you are getting this from. I believe that when a neighboring state lobs more than 7000 rockets over three years at your civilians, you have the right to respond militarily to remove the threat. Whether or not you should respond militarily is a harder question.

    You then go on to discuss Orac’s original question. In your initial reply to him you began by foisting on him an assumption (that the past was irrelevant) that was not present in his question. He did not say the past was irrelevant, he said merely he wanted to know what Israel should do now in response to the bombing. You responded first with some irrelevant bombast, and then with a list of four things that Israel has done in the past that you believe are immoral. None of them is easily transformed into the present tense to constitute a reply to Orac’s question. And if the remark about “caging 1.5 million people into Gaza” is referring to the blockade, I would remind you that Egypt and the US are parties to that as well (notice, though, that Hamas does not fire rockets into Egypt). I was not overly parsing what you said. I read what you plainly wrote and found in it no viable policy suggestion of the sort that would have answered Orac’s question.

    You were also hard on Orac for wanting to consider only Hamas’ firing of rockets into Israel. You lectured him to consider how he would feel if he were a Palestinian on the receiving end of Israel’s policies. But when I then suggest that if we are to go that route we should also consider Israel’s reasons for establishing those policies, you lecture me about infinite regress. I think you are being arbitrary in deciding where the analysis must stop. I am not “suddenly” going back one step. I was the one, after all, who said that when one side is deliberately targeting civilians (which has long been one of Hamas’, and Hezbollah’s, main tactics) I lose interest in the specific nature of the grievances. I simply responded to your demand that we go back one step by saying then we should then also go back one step farther still.

    Since I suspect someone will claim that Israel is deliberately targeting civilians, my reply is that I don’t believe that is what they are doing. They have a very clear military objective, and they are fighting an enemy that is perfectly happy to use civilians as human shields (which is itself a war crime, for those keeping track). I do not believe they are wantonly killing civilians just in the spirit of trying to hurt the people in Gaza. In this they are different from their enemies who take actions whose sole purpose is to kill civilians.

    You protest that it is a lie to say this started with the rockets (which is a claim neither Orac nor myself made). Israel has been planning this operation for a year, you said. Since they have been receiving rockets from Gaza for three years, I fail to see your point. If you are running a country, and are being bombarded by a hostile neighbor, of course you are going to make plans for military action in response.

    You then say that your mischaracterization of my views is my own fault for not writing with sufficient clarity in my original comment. Revere, kindly go back through what I have written and tell me which part of it can be misinterpreted to mean that I don’t think an Israeli leader can ever be wrong? Which part of accusing you of oversimplifying the issue (which you continue to do), and observing that any other nation would respond militarily when faced with the same provocation, can be misinterpreted to mean that I necessarily support Israel’s present actions in Gaza? With all due respect, I think you saw in my comment what you wanted to see.

    Concerning my use of the word “rehearse,” I think that if you consult a dictionary you will find my use of the term was both standard, and appropriate to what I was saying.

    I don’t think you are making much of an attempt to see this from Israel’s side. You talked about Israel’s right-wing government, but the fact is that Israeli public opinion, informed by a very healthy left wing, is almost completely supportive of the war. You can conclude from this that they have all turned into moral monsters and wanton war criminals, completely bereft of your own keen moral insights. Or you can conclude that the provocation to which they are responding, and the consistent inability to achieve peace through negotiation, are more serious than you care to admit. You act as if your job is done upon labeling Israel’s actions as war crimes. They might be (though, again, things are not as simple as you present them). But there is no question that they have faced decades of war crimes from their enemies, and have been rebuffed in every diplomatic overture, many of them involving real sacrifice. I think that simple observation needs to play a bigger role in your thinking on this issue.

    Okay, I’m done. Go explain one more time why I am a monster.

  26. #26 revere
    January 5, 2009

    Jason: I’ll start with the easiest first:

    Go explain one more time why I am a monster.

    Which I said . . . where?

    My position is that most of the arguments being leveled against Israel in the current conflict are bogus and morally clueless. The arguments regarding the strategic wisdom of Israel’s action are a different matter. I don’t have a firm opinion on that, because I find it difficult to second-guess military decisions when I am on the other side of the world, hearing about the conflict from various biased media outlets.

    I think I might be excused for reading this as saying that for you there is no moral issue, here, only whether this was militarily wise, something about which you don’t have an opinion but are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. What does this mean? That if it was militarily wise then it’s OK (because there was no moral issue)? Or something else. You tell me. I’m not a mind reader.

    [Orac] did not say the past was irrelevant, he said merely he wanted to know what Israel should do now in response to the bombing. You responded first with some irrelevant bombast, and then with a list of four things that Israel has done in the past that you believe are immoral. None of them is easily transformed into the present tense to constitute a reply to Orac’s question. And if the remark about �caging 1.5 million people into Gaza� is referring to the blockade, I would remind you that Egypt and the US are parties to that as well (notice, though, that Hamas does not fire rockets into Egypt). I was not overly parsing what you said. I read what you plainly wrote and found in it no viable policy suggestion of the sort that would have answered Orac’s question.

    Obviously I meant irrelevant in this context, his insistence that it not be discussed as a premise of his question. That’s like me asking what should Hamas do in response to the Israeli assault, not taking into account the context. It was a self-answering question and a favorite Israeli government talking point. The things I mentioned (the four “things”) are going on as we speak: targeted assassinations, consolidation and enlargement of settlements, blockade, planning the attack. The complicity about Egypt and the US in the blockade are just agreeing with me. They are complicit and they are guilty as well. The main point of the post was that Israel’s outrageous behavior is not out of the norm. We set the standard.

    It is just plain ridiculous to accuse anyone of lecturing the other. You know full well we are both lecturing each other. You are just engaging in rhetoric, and not very sophisticated rhetoric, either. What I was saying to Orac and now to you is that each side can construct a narrative whose punchline is “the other guy hit me first and therefore I have to hit him harder.” You are seeing the consequences of that kind of stupidity, stupidity in which both you and Orac are engaging, I regret to say.

    It is not possible to say Israel is targeting civilians only because Israel claims all its targets are “terrorists.” This extends to government workers, now. I have utter contempt for that kind of talk. We’ve heard the “human shields” talk too much, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now Gaza. Israel is fighting a whole population of people. Since a large proportion of Israeli citizens are in the reserves, does this make it OK to target them? I don’t think so, but by Israel’s standards it would be just fine.

    You protest that it is a lie to say this started with the rockets (which is a claim neither Orac nor myself made). Israel has been planning this operation for a year, you said. Since they have been receiving rockets from Gaza for three years, I fail to see your point. If you are running a country, and are being bombarded by a hostile neighbor, of course you are going to make plans for military action in response.

    Thank you. You just said it again. And it is still a lie. This didn’t start at the cease fire, or last year or three years ago whenever the first rocket was launched. And rocket launching will not stop with this operation.

    You then say that your mischaracterization of my views is my own fault for not writing with sufficient clarity in my original comment. Revere, kindly go back through what I have written and tell me which part of it can be misinterpreted to mean that I don’t think an Israeli leader can ever be wrong? Which part of accusing you of oversimplifying the issue (which you continue to do), and observing that any other nation would respond militarily when faced with the same provocation, can be misinterpreted to mean that I necessarily support Israel’s present actions in Gaza? With all due respect, I think you saw in my comment what you wanted to see.

    You have done it again. What I said to you was this:

    Regarding characterizing your views incorrectly, I noted that I didn’t know what your views were except by what you wrote in your (somewhat intemperate) comment. I drew an inference from what you wrote there. If you don’t want to be misinterpreted, then explain yourself more clearly.

    I was responding to your claim that elsewhere you had made yourself clear. I hadn’t read what you said elsewhere, only what you said here and drew an inference from it. As for oversimplifying the issue, exactly how complicated do you want to make it? Because you know quite well that there is no end to the claims and counterclaims. You are already weary of this and I don’t blame you. So am I. There is too much anger here to allow effective communication (I include myself in this; my anger is deep and fierce and it is directed at my fellow citizens and leaders and Israeli leaders and all the good Israeli citizens who allow these thugs to do whatever they damn well please).

    Concerning my use of the word “rehearse,” I think that if you consult a dictionary you will find my use of the term was both standard, and appropriate to what I was saying.

    I guess by that standard, you are also rehearsing Israeli government talking points.

    I don’t think you are making much of an attempt to see this from Israel’s side. You talked about Israel’s right-wing government, but the fact is that Israeli public opinion, informed by a very healthy left wing, is almost completely supportive of the war. You can conclude from this that they have all turned into moral monsters and wanton war criminals, completely bereft of your own keen moral insights.

    The Israeli side is well represented in the US media. The other side isn’t and you are the one who makes no effort to see it from any other side. The US has a right wing government, too, and it did unspeakable things with the complete support of the population. So, for that matter did the Germans and the Russians in Chechnya and the Chinese in Tibet. Your sarcasm is immature and silly. It doesn’t deserve a response.

    You act as if your job is done upon labeling Israel’s actions as war crimes. They might be (though, again, things are not as simple as you present them).

    And how do I act that way? And what do you think is my “job”? What is yours?

    Do you think Israel has never committed a war crime? Seriously? Have you ever heard (just for starters) of Deir Yassin? Is not collective punishment a war crime? You talk as if the catalog of war crimes by Israel’s enemies is a long one. Yes, indiscriminate warfare that heedlessly endangers civilians is a war crime, one, sadly, which both sides have committed. When you justly point the war crimes finger at the Palestinians, three fingers justly point back at you.

    I’m through with this, too. Like you, I am writing to get rid of my anger.

  27. #27 JJackson
    January 5, 2009

    The Israeli censors have managed to keep quite a tight lid on footage of the carnage. If anyone has any doubt about the disparity between the big fireworks released by Hamas and the small number of casualties they cause compared to the obscene carnage caused by a modern military hit into a built up area.

    http://buzznewsroom.com/video/banned-from-youtube-israel-defense-forces-attack-on-gaza-civilian-market/

    N.B. The picture quality may be poor but be warned this is what war is like. Hat Tip Optimax at sic_semper_tyrannis

  28. #28 paiwan
    January 6, 2009

    I wish Israel having better choice than defeating Hamas now. But it seems that it is the best option from this comment below:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/05/opinion/05kristol.html?_r=1&em

    Thanks, JJackson & Revere. Both you have provided me a better understanding of this conflict.

  29. #29 victoria
    January 6, 2009

    Then again, there are some of us that could care less.

    This current conflict will never cease. There are two opposing sides, both with claims and counter claims. The opposing sides have diametrically opposed views. No amount of conflict resolution will change the situation. Palestine wants a homeland. Israel wants to keep her homeland. Neither party is going to leave. The antipathy between the two parties runs deep. Throwing the blame at one side or the other is a useless exercise. Both sides have blood on their hands, and both sides will continue to claim the moral ground.

    The Palestinian/Israeli conflict is a black hole into which and from which no light can shine. Let them duke it out. Annihilation seems to me to be the way to go. Let one annihilate the other, or let them both annihilate each other.

    If anyone can think of a solution bring it to the table. Because it just becomes a pointless exercise arguing to and fro.

  30. #30 JJackson
    January 6, 2009

    I have largely kept out of this debate, this time around, as the whole topic is so polarised it seldom leads to consensus. Laying my cards on the table up front I am pretty much in lock-step with Reveres original post. My main problem is with the disingenuous position of the US in particular and the West more generally. Without adopting a more balanced position in dealing with other nation states and non-state parties – rather than spinning the truth all of the time it is difficult to make meaningful progress towards repairing any of the long term animosities that face us globally. If both sides are whipping up their public to a point just short of believing their opposition eats babies then the trust required for progress is always going to be unattainable. Personally I can not see a vast difference between axis of evil Iran and friend Saudi Arabia they both have fairly barbaric to western eyes interpretations of Sharia law and once the Sunni fundamentalist get rid of the house of Saud (as the Shias did with the Shah) I fully expect we will have Wahabists in Eurofighters to deal with. Few, if any, of the Muslim states which the US/West view as friends (AKA moderate) are stable and selling them advanced weapons is monumentally stupid. Our friend Mubarak in Egypt is no better than Assad in Syria and while he may be viewed as a friend he is hardly democratically representing the views of his people who, in a 2007 PIPA poll, asked about their views of the US Government (given the options very favourable, favourable, unfavourable or very unfavourable) 86% plumped for very unfavourable. The Iranian public, on the other hand, generally view the US much more favourably than either Egypt or Pakistan. Polling data is a useful tool for cutting through our medias bias and there is plenty of it about. I would recommend looking through this http://www.brookings.edu/topics/~/media/Files/events/2008/0414_middle_east/0414_middle_east_telhami.pdf from 2008 if you are interest in the Arab worlds views on a wide range of topics including Hamas vs. Fatah, the Israeli/Palestinian one state/two state issue, Iraq War, Iran Nuclear program, Lebanon, Al Qaeda etc. Some of the findings are quite surprising; France is a big hit and when asked Which world leader (exc. your own) do you most admire? (Sarkozy did come equal 4th. with Bin Laden & others) but clear favourite equalling 2nd. & 3rd combined was Nasrallah (Hezbollah).

  31. #31 paiwan
    January 6, 2009

    JJackson: Your observations on friend-Saudi and axis of evil-Iran is quite interesting. Perhaps the friend is sophisticated, the evil is naked; nevertheless both are barbaic. Mostly, sophisticated is more dangerous. See, at least Iran has the election.

    Victoria: You do not seem to be bad hearted person to me, why mention “Annihilation” here? Please give us some hope.

    Jason Rosenhouse: Forget to tell you, thanks. One of the most decent debates that you have done, very convincing.

  32. #32 victoria
    January 6, 2009

    Paiwan,

    Where is the hope in this fight for land between Israel and the Palestinians?

    The only common ground that the two parties have – is that they both want the land.

    There is only one way to solve this impasse, the Palestinians and the Jews all must elect to become one nation. By becoming one nation they would double the size of land and they could indeed become the power house of the middle east.

    Of course the government of this mythical land would have to be secular, religion would not play a role in the political life of this new country. The government would need to have very stringent rules set in place ie. two parties, may be two minor parties, 4 year fixed terms, strong anti-corruption laws, 5, 10, 15, 20, 50 and 100 year plans and planning. Quite a lot of social engineering would need to be done, so as to ever decrease the levels of hatred in a fractious population. There would also need to be a “separation” between the Army and the State. No ex army generals becoming leader.

    Other than the above suggestion, what is there left to do? If the Palestinians were forced to leave, where would they go? If the Jews were forced to leave where would they go? Who would give up land for the Jews or the Palestinians? How would you move millions of people? How much would it cost to set up a new country? Who would pay?

    Well the above is pie in the sky. I suspect that we will have to wait until there has been so much bloodshed, that both sides realise that they are stronger together than they are apart.

    For now, annihilation is the way to go.

  33. #33 paiwan
    January 6, 2009

    Vitoria

    Forced marriage? Excuse me. Israel has 1.3 millions population- Israeli Arabians, it is enough to test your hypothesis.

    The consent of the ruled, so no annihilation, Victoria. Bad heart push. It is like a lazy judge to sentence two parties into life time prison.

    In fact now one state is formed, the second one is in forming. The solution is very near; the bottom line is no terroism. That is one of the reasons that I see William Kristol’s opinion is very positive. Hamas’ connection with terroism has to be cut off. It seems that this is the consensus of the international communities; every one now like to see the second state to be formed and behave responsibly. It is hopeful, IMO.

  34. #34 victoria
    January 6, 2009

    Paiwan,

    And just who has the magic wand that will make terrorism disappear?

    What do you propose? Forcing the Palestinians to live in an over croweded, gated, tiny area? How about cutting their food, water, sanitation capabilities? I know, lets make life so uncomfortable for them that they will just give in and stop their terrorism. We will teach them that terrorism does not pay!

    Even if the living conditions inside Gaza were to improve dramatically, you would still be left with simmering hatreds and religious zealots on both sides of the fence.

    At no time did I advocate “forced marriage”. I said “The Palestinians and the Jews must ELECT to become a nation, free of religion, and governed for all. The people that are in the line of fire, the citizens, would have to vote to become a nation, not Hamas or the Israeli government. I also said this was pie in the sky stuff. So what is your beef?

  35. #35 Lea
    January 7, 2009

    If you’re believing anything that comes out of William Kristol’s mouth paiwan you need to do more research.

    Your comments are spot on victoria and quite actually a solution to the hideous situation.

  36. #36 paiwan
    January 7, 2009

    Lea:

    In our saying, “The word from a person who is going to die usually is the wisest one.” I am sorry that George W. Bush has not been able to catch Bin Laden, at least before the end of his term; he has done the last kick to the terrorism, quite a wise one. I am a foreigner, maybe I am wrong; very soon, people is going to miss his legacy- a democratic Iraqi. I also was sorry for the money that he has spent- how many trillions dollars. Just comfort you a bit; the money mostly was from the right pocket to the left pocket. Of course it has left big debt to next generation. But as a famous English economist’s saying, “Anyway, we all will die.” Don’t be so sad for the money spent, just consider the consequence.

    Second, the situation in the Middle East of fighting with terrorism has turned more manageable. I believe that Obama will continue and hopefully fight the terrorism to the ash. This part I trust that William Kristol’s analysis is relevant.

    Both Israel and the United States are the scapegoats of democracy value in the Middle East. Tell me which country is more advanced than Israel in democratic system in the region?

    We cherish the value not because we have felt guilty; it is because it is important for the people in Palestine as well. When Hamas exchanged one hundred more prisoners with one Israeli soldier and failed to return the soldier in front the world. The world immediately knows which value they will stick to. The Hamas had embarrassed themselves in front of the civilized societies.

    Victoria:

    I don’t have beef now. Since you are sincere, I would like to offer the soup. The terrorism was/is supported by the dictator typed of rulers who are fearing the introduction of election and democracy to their region. This is the war of value. Jealousy and terrorism are the two sides of the coin. My opinion of the solution: is gravitating to the updated value and fight for it.