Israel

On most issues my politics are decidedly left-wing, but there is one big exception to that. That exception is Israel. On the subject of Isreal I get very right-wing.

When I look at Israel I see a Western-style democracy that has achieved extraordinary things in just sixty years. Their universities and technological achievements are among the most impressive in the world. They have achieved a standard of living for their people that puts the surrounding, mostly despotic, Arab regimes to shame. This they have done while facing relentless terrorism and threats to their existence from neighbors so consumed by religion-fueled hatred that they will not even take the elementary step of recognizing Israel’s right to exist. I see a country that spent decades negotiating in good faith with Palestinian leaders who were not returning the favor. Reading much of the outraged, but ultimately clueless, self-righteousness from liberal pundits I respect on most other issues can be a painful experience.

Unfrotunately, I also see a country that has, more recently, been radicalized by the growing realization that it is unlikely that there will ever be peace in the region.

By now you have no doubt heard about the raid by the Israeli navy against a flotilla of ships claiming to be bringing humanitarian aid to the Gaza strip. More than a dozen people were killed in the ensuing violence. The people who delight in pointing to israel’s moral failings are having a field day, of course. But, as usual, as more facts come out it looks increasingly like the purpose of the flotilla was to provoke precisely what happened. From what I have been able to learn so far, Rabbi Daniel Gordis has it right when he writes:

Israel’s actions were “misguided”? Let’s take that first. Were there tragic outcomes? Obviously. But “misguided”? Gaza is under the malicious and cynical rule of a terror organization sworn on Israel’s destruction, that is holding an Israeli soldier captive in contravention of all international treaties, and that oppresses its own population while even Palestinian witnesses there acknowledge that there is no food shortage. Given Hamas’ military objectives, Israel would be crazy not to check what’s going in. But Israel had already pledged to pass on any humanitarian goods after they were inspected, and told the boats the same thing. So, no, I don’t think that the idea of stopping the boats was misguided.

What we know is that on five of the ships, the commandos (among them friends of our kids, by the way) boarded the boats, and there was no resistance and no fighting.

On one boat, however, the first soldiers to land on the boat were attacked with metal rods and knives. There’s video of it. It’s playing all over Israel and all over the internet. In some cases, soldiers’ weapons were stolen and used against them. One was stabbed, apparently in the abdomen. Another was tossed from a desk and trampled when he landed. There were a handful of commandos there, and 600 “peace activists.” On Israeli news tonight, the soldiers on helicopters taking them to the hospital were interviewed. They descended the ropes, they said, planning to talk the “activists” into going to Ashdod. Their weapons were not in their hands, but strapped to their backs. “We went into war,” one in his 30’s said bitterly tonight, “and all we had were toys.” They were beaten, trampled, shot (yes, there were bullet injuries) but only after forty minutes of combat did they resort to live five. They were going to get lynched if they didn’t fight back, they said.

Was I there? No. Do I know what really happened? No. But do I trust these kids and their officers? Yes, I do.

As for “peace activists,” David, how much do you know about the IHH? It’s a terror support group, supported by Turkey (among others) and it was sent to provoke. If they just wanted the goods to get to Gaza, they could have agreed to transfer them to an Israeli ship, or to unload them in Ashdod, as the Navy personnel asked them to. But they didn’t want that. They just wanted to break the blockade. Why? For food? Even a few Palestinian journalists with some guts are reporting that there’s no humanitarian food crisis in Gaza. No, it wasn’t about food. They want the blockade broken so that after that, non-humanitarian items (read weapons) could brought in. Why should Israel allow that? So that they can be better armed the next time we have to send our kids into Gaza?

Compared to that litany much of the commentary I have been seeing from the other side just seems morally obtuse to me. That the attack happened in international waters, for example, hardly seems like the really important issue here.

Of course, the broader issue is the blockade on Gaza. At the risk of stating the obvious, Israel has legitimate security concerns there. Let us not forget that it was Hamas who declared war on Israel not the other way around, and that Hamas seems more interested in lobbing rockets into Israeli cities in the desperate hope that they can kill some civilians than they do in actually governing. Also do not forget that Egypt does its part to maintain the blockade on Gaza, which should tell you something about what other countries in the region think of Gaza’s leaders.

That said, Peter Beinart is surely correct when he writes:

No, the guilt lies with the Israeli leaders who oversee the Gaza embargo, and with Israel’s American supporters, who have averted their eyes. Yesterday’s events are the most dramatic example yet of why the epidemic of not watching must end.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations greeted news of the flotilla disaster by repeating a common “pro-Israel” talking point: that Israel only blockades Gaza to prevent Hamas from building rockets that might kill Israeli citizens. If only that were true. In reality, the embargo has a broader and more sinister purpose: to impoverish the people of Gaza, and thus turn them against Hamas. As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz has reported, the Israeli officials in charge of the embargo adhere to what they call a policy of “no prosperity, no development, no humanitarian crisis.” In other words, the embargo must be tight enough to keep the people of Gaza miserable, but not so tight that they starve.

This explains why Israel prevents Gazans from importing, among other things, cilantro, sage, jam, chocolate, French fries, dried fruit, fabrics, notebooks, empty flowerpots and toys, none of which are particularly useful in building Kassam rockets. It’s why Israel bans virtually all exports from Gaza, a policy that has helped to destroy the Strip’s agriculture, contributed to the closing of some 95 percent of its factories, and left more 80 percent of its population dependent on food aid. It’s why Gaza’s fishermen are not allowed to travel more than three miles from the coast, which dramatically reduces their catch. And it’s why Israel prevents Gazan students from studying in the West Bank, a policy recently denounced by 10 winners of the prestigious Israel Prize. There’s a name for all this: collective punishment.

That’s the problem. From what I have been able to glean of the situation it seems clear that Israel is doing a lot more in Gaza than just tending to its legitimate security concerns.

I have no idea what the solution is. Israel can not just tolerate having its cities bombed, but it also can not afford one PR disaster after another. It has a legitimate right not to do business with a terrorist regime bent on its destruction, but it also can not just turn a blind eye to the suffering they are heaping on millions of people. In the end, I think Kevin Drum sums things up all too well:

Fanatics on both sides have been in control of the region for years — the hardline Orthodox population relentlessly gaining influence in Israel and Hamas terrorists among the Palestinians — both convinced that they can win if they can only provoke enough insane overreactions from the other side. Which they do with depressing regularity. Hamas’s rocket attacks are indefensible, the Gaza embargo in return is indefensible, the blockade runners in their turn were plainly hoping to provoke an overreaction that would force Israel’s hand, and the Israelis then went insanely beyond anyone’s expectations by landing commandos on one of the ships and killing more than a dozen people while it was still far off in international waters. And now, there are rumors that the Turkish navy might escort the next ship that tries to run the blockade.

In David Petraeus’s famous phrase, How does this end? Unless something dramatic happens, it ends with Israel as a nuclear-armed pariah state. Where else can it go? Hamas and Hezbollah are never going to stop attacking, Israel’s responses will continue to get deadlier and more hysterical, the West Bank will never be freed because no Israeli government can any longer cobble together the public support it would require to take on the most extremist elements among the settlers, and like it or not, Israel eventually becomes a permanently armed camp and an apartheid state. Israelis may have hated it when that’s what Jimmy Carter called it, but even if it’s arguably not quite accurate today there’s very little question that it will be before long.

Not much to argue with there.

A final note. You are welcome to have at me in the comments, but I will not be tolerating personal attacks, insults, or anything else I choose to get annoyed about. I know emotions run high on this issue, but please keep it civil.

Comments

  1. #1 Coturnix
    June 1, 2010

    What do you think about this other recent article by Breinart on the related topic?

  2. #2 tbell
    June 1, 2010

    The only acceptable sort of patriotism or (patriotism one step removed) is as follows “My country right or wrong; if right, kept right; if wrong, set right”. It only makes you a right winger if you remove the last bit.

  3. #3 NewEnglandBob
    June 1, 2010

    Here is the video of the terrorists attacking the Israeli soldiers and beating them:

  4. #4 NoAstronomer
    June 1, 2010

    “…it looks increasingly like the purpose of the flotilla was to provoke precisely what happened.”

    Indeed. It’s extremely distressing that the Israeli government doesn’t seem to recognize that they are being played. While you don’t seem to think that the location of the raid was important, it would have been much better to wait until the ships were in national waters.

    “…Hamas seems more interested in lobbing rockets into Israeli cities in the desperate hope that they can kill some civilians…”

    While I’m sure that the people who actually fire the rockets are hoping for that I’m equally sure that any civilian casualties are just a bonus to the Hamas leadership. If not actually to be avoided. Their aim is primarily to keep the tension up whilst limiting the incoming damage to their power-base.

  5. #5 barry
    June 1, 2010

    A thoughtful piece, Jason. You capture the pains of supporting Israel in principle while shuddering at so many of its practices.

    It’s depressingly difficult to envision a peaceful Middle East.

  6. #6 Jason G. Goldman
    June 1, 2010

    Excellent, well-written piece.

  7. #7 Rob Jase
    June 1, 2010

    As I recall the 1948 plan was for a Jewish state called Israel & another state called Palestine – I see that Israel accepted the invitaion but rejected the establishment of Palestine. And still does.

    I think that just may be part of the problem & Israel has no interest in solving it thanks to biblically justified landgrabbing.

  8. #8 bobh
    June 1, 2010

    @4

    Yes they are being played. And its incredibly easy. They put restrictions in place on Gaza that makes it look like their own Warsaw ghetto. Hamas fighters go into a civilian compound wanting Israel to kill civilians and the Israeli’s happily oblige because multiple civilian casualties in Gaza are not worth one Israeli life. With the flotilla, if the people on the boats wanted to incite something, the Israeli’s go in in the most provocative way, fast roping down with guns obvious. Israeli’s are not stupid people but they sure act stupidly sometimes.

  9. #9 Uncle Bob
    June 1, 2010

    I’m always a bit baffled why anyone “take sides” on this problem. It seems to me, no matter which side you wish to stand with, you are, by necessity, required to belittle the crimes of the side you’re defending.

    Although there is no doubt that Hamas will likely never recognize Israel’s right to exist, I don’t see how anyone can overlook that Israel is the one occupying their land, and has all the power. The humanitarian crisis is totally Israel’s doing, and it obviously isn’t helping the bad feelings any.

    To me, it just looks like a slow land grab, hoping no one notices.

  10. #10 Tony61
    June 1, 2010

    1. “But do I trust these kids and their officers? Yes, I do.”

    I don’t. Why should I? I barely trust the military of my own country, why should I trust that of a theocracy a world away? And why are “these kids”, many of whom were born in the USA and/or are US citizens, taking up arms under a foreign flag? Israel gets special treatment in this regard, but they should be careful about squandering their political capital in the eyes of the US. My relatives immigrated to the US a mere 20 years before WWI and they were very conscious of remaining loyal to their new homeland. I shudder every single time someone puts the interest of a foreign nation ahead of our own.

    2. You say, “From what I have been able to glean of the situation it seems clear that Israel is doing a lot more in Gaza than just tending to its legitimate security concerns.

    Duh. See #1 above. You’re a thoughtful guy; try re-thinking your stance. I respect your views, and there is hardly a hair’s width between our opinions on nearly every other issue. Perhaps we’ll have to agree to disagree.

  11. #11 M.
    June 1, 2010

    Hi Jason,

    I’m usually in complete agreement with you, but here I think you are waaaay off mark.

    I absolutely support Israel as a state, but unfortunately, I have come to think that the vast majority of the problems in the region are not caused by Islamic fundamentalists as much as by completely insane politicians within Israel (many of whom are driven by religious motives as destructive as those of jihadists).

    It is very, very sad to see Jews act towards Israeli Arabs in very much the same way they were treated in Europe (say, Russia towards the end of 19th century).

    For many of the reasons behind this opinion, check out the following article:
    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/jun/10/failure-american-jewish-establishment/?pagination=false

  12. #12 Christopher Gwyn
    June 1, 2010

    My attitude is increasingly “I don’t care who hit who first, stop hitting each other”. As far as I’m concerned anyone who uses violence against a non-combatant, or near enough to a non-combatant that the non-combatant is at risk of injury, is behaving unacceptably. No matter how ‘justified’ the revenge is, no matter how ‘worried’ you are about an impending attack, no matter how little you trust the opposition – No Hitting. Just freaking stop it. Both of you. Stop it now.

  13. #13 Jason Failes
    June 1, 2010

    It was tragically, obviously stupid to create a country right on top of where people already lived.

  14. #14 tgt
    June 1, 2010

    I’m not sure quoting the rabbi was the best idea. While most of what he says is technically true, he is also intending to mislead (or is pretty blind).

    He makes no mention of the stun guns and pellet guns that have been reported on, though he does let the Israel commandos call them toys. He quotes one side as the truth, and doesn’t even do so blindly. By his faith in the words of members of one side, a faith he doesn’t even see a point in justifying, he makes it obvious that he is in no way impartial. Moreover, his aside that his kids have friends that are commandos makes it clear he is predisposed to believe their side no matter what the evidence actually shows.

    I’m not saying the rabbi is wrong, just that he is clearly not a moral authority. I think that there are reactions from both sides that are morally obtuse, and there are reactions from both sides that are more measured. The rabbi’s response seems pretty obtuse to me, so I wonder if our preconceived notions our causing us to see the same argument in different lights.

    For starters, you called Israel a “Western-style democracy.” Israel is western style in that it is a representative democracy. Point taken. Unfortunately, that’s not really what most people mean by western style democracy. Treating all inhabitants equally and having non religious governments is normally also required. Suppressing an ethnicity based on theocracy is decidedly non-western.

    Israel and its actions are a tricky subject. Criticize the policies of Israel, and hardliners will call you an anti-semite. Defend Israel, and you are called a Zion-ist, in a pejorative light. It’s hard for me not to assume that your heritage is tainting your opinions, but it’s nearly impossible to broach that subject without causing a fury. As your beliefs on Israel are so out of step with the rest of your beliefs, I believe that question has to be on the table.

    You say you are right-wing in your beliefs on Israel. Does that mean you support Israel in remaining a religious state? Do you support Israel in its attempts to remain a heterogenous ethnicity as well? Do you believe that whatever is best for Israel must be best for the United States? Do you believe that the stability of the middle east is due in part to the existence of Israel as a Jewish state? Do you believe that Israel should rule over the entire west bank and Gaza, not really concerned about what happens to the other inhabitants of those territories? Those are all right wing positions on Israel.

    Personally, I support the democracy of Israel, but rail against the idea of a Jewish nation(both religiously and ethnically), much like I rail against the U.S. as a christian nation and a caucasion nation. I am completely open to both the inclusive state and the two state solution, but think the status quo is becoming more morally indefensible every day. Basically, I support Israel from the left. Moreover, I’m not sure how any self-consistent atheist or moral human being can support Israel from the right. Support Israel, yes. Support Israel from the right, no. To me, it’s like scientists supporting religion.

    I’d love to hear your take on the matter.

    And some parting shot quick hitters:
    * Like you, I agree with most of Beinart’s take and Drum’s take.
    * I quibble with Drum on the inevitability of Israel’s Nuclear Pariah state. His belief that Israel will only radicalize seems to be out of whack with my understaning of the democratic state. Should we believe that Israel will always be run by neo-con extremists? I’m hoping for the backlashes we’ve seen in U.S. history.
    * Your summation of the reasons for the embargo is extremely unfair. You made it seem like Hamas declared war for no reason whatsoever. I’m not saying Hamas was right, but just like when Israel started the embargo, Hamas also had legitimate concerns that they thought could only be solved by force. The Israeli policies and actions behind Hamas’ concerns were in turn based on Israel’s own legitimate concerns. Repeat. Your decision to push to a bad action on the Palistinian side without giving any context for why that action was taken is poisoning the well. It’s below you.

  15. #15 Iddo
    June 1, 2010

    Re “It was tragically, obviously stupid to create a country right on top of where people already lived.” – Well, isn’t this also applicable to the creation of Australia as well? or New Zealand? or the U.S. for that matter? (just to name a few). Or do you mean it only for Israel? there were people already living before in each of the others, you know… Reality is that Israel is right there now and some reasonable solution has to be worked out, or do you imply we must dismantle Israel, along with any of the above countries, as a result? It would be really great if we could somehow find a way to implement a “No Hitting. Just freaking stop it. Both of you. Stop it now”< \it> approach so that everyone on this planet could then live peacefully together ever after… Unfortunately, what do you do when one side consistently threatens to annihilate another and takes real steps towards it (Hitler, al-Qaeda, Ahmadinejad, etc.) Just how do you “talk it over” with fanatics, lunatics, and psychopaths? or do you really count Israel to also be one of those?

  16. #16 Explicit Atheist
    June 1, 2010

    Israel says they found “bulletproof vests and night-vision goggles, as well as gas masks” on the Mavi Marmara. Also, among about 50 people not carrying passports, “many of them were carrying envelopes packed with thousands of dollars in cash”. Israel is not going to agree to permitting ships carrying cargo to dock directly in Gaza without first inspecting the cargo, not as long as Gaza is controlled by a group that remains committed to war against Israel, and no amount of criticism from anyone or anywhere is likely to change that. Reading the action alert from CREDO that decries the “Israeli siege” against “medical supplies and food”, when in fact there is no such siege, and that categorizes all of the actions on the Israeli side as unjustifiable, when in fact there are reasonable justifications, its difficult not to conclude that there is a lack of commitment to integrity on the part of the CREDO’s co-founder who authored that action alert.

  17. #17 Chris Bell
    June 1, 2010

    It’s hard not to support a state created “for Jews,” especially after what happened during the twentieth century.

    However, I can’t support a “Jewish state.” I would think that the readers of this blog would agree that a theocracy, no matter how well intentioned, will in the end not turn out well.

  18. #18 inverse_agonist
    June 1, 2010

    1. Given that the demographics favor Palestinians, will Israel stop being so Jewish once Jews are a numerical minority? If not, how is that democratic?

    2. Israel doesn’t respect the right of the Palestinians to choose their own government, so I guess we could call it even on the “right to exist” issue.

    3. Conditions in many Arab nations are what they are partly because of American intervention, just like Israel has the security it has because of American intervention.

    4. The flotilla was attacked in international waters. Civilians were shot, the cargo was taken, and the passengers were kidnapped. This is piracy. Attacking armed goons forcibly boarding your ship on the high seas is self-defense. Poles and knives are normal items for a ship. Crying about the injuries of the soldiers is as absurd as crying about a burglar getting shot by a homeowner. Also, the IDF footage has no context. People on the boat claim the Israelis attacked before boarding the ship in question. As usual, rhetoric focuses on the suffering of the Israelis, despite the fact that the suffering of the Palestinians is orders of magnitude greater. Remember that dozens of activists were killed or injured, compared to how many elite members of the Israeli military?

    5. If the Palestinians of Gaza don’t get to decide what happens in their own ports, then Israel is occupying them. As occupiers, they’re responsible for the wellbeing of the Palestinians under international law. Since the civilian population of Palestine is obviously suffering from the blockade, the blockade is illegal. Collective punishment is not a legitimate defense against anything.

    6. It makes no sense to deliver the aid via Ashdod. The Israelis are the ones enforcing the blockade. Think about what you’d say about the military in some African country saying they could take care of distributing foreign aid. How is this different, besides the fact that we’re talking about Israel?

    7. It’s extremely disingenuous for defenders of Israel to make a show of acknowledging facts like “80% of Palestinians are dependent on foreign aid,” then throw up their hands with a “gee, what can you do?” You could start by not imposing such conditions on the Palestinians, for starters.

    8. The idea that Israel faces any real military danger from Hamas is ludicrous. They have the strongest military in the region and the firm backing of the strongest military in the world. It’s the same ludicrous and neurotic fear that makes Americans act as if they actually have something to fear from terrorists. It’s more likely that they’ll die crossing the street, which nobody seems to lose any sleep over. It’s typical of the right wing to act like victims even when they’re in charge. Supposedly Christianity is in grave danger in America, and we have reason to fear Marxist revolution…

  19. #19 JimV
    June 1, 2010

    I’ve been following this on Andrew Sullivan’s blog, and some of his sources paint a different picture. For example, he posts an abbreviated listing of banned imports which includes food items and fishing rods, as well as musical instruments. I suppose anything could be considered as a possible weapon component if you try hard enough, but the net effect seems to be mainly punitive.

    I haven’t seen anyone dispute that what is going on in Gaza is a humanitarian nightmare.

    There should be blame on both sides for the event itself, IMO. Treating a ship carrying relief items on international waters as a pirate manned by “terrorists” (in the words of the Commando Captain) – that could have been handled better in numerous ways. Attacking the commandos with knives and clubs had predictable consequences also.

  20. #20 Thomas
    June 2, 2010

    Jason, what if you didn’t rely entirely on Israeli sources for the information on what happened? The video that is circulating is edited by Israel, and witnesses report that Israelis started firing on the boat before boarding it, injuring and possibly killing people. It was an act of piracy (or possibly war) on international water.

    The idea that the ships should have headed for Israel neglect the fact that Israel doesn’t let most goods through to Gaza but is involved in a collective punishment in which they only let enough basic food in to avoid direct starvation while malnutrition is common. The whole idea of the flotilla is to break that blockade.

    You are right that you are *far* right wing though. The idea that someone is morally right because he is succesful is typical of right wing ideologues. Maybe you should look at the price the Palestinians have paid for that jewish success?

  21. #21 Soren
    June 2, 2010

    Jason, you say that Hamas has declared war on Israel.

    So you don’t see the continued occupation of palestinian territory as an act of war?

    Isral has moved civilian onto palestinian soil on the so called “settlements”, on land they occupy as the aggressor in defiance of all international law, and the Geneva convention. They tear down buildings in east Jerusalem, and pretend they have rights in that part of the city, when it is not part of Israel. They have a policy of apartheid with special rights for settlers and n rights for palestinians.

    They build a wall on foreign soil – granted the wall was to protect Israel, but they should have build it in Israel, and not driven away civilians.

    And its not quite a democracy like the western ones. Just as an example only the government sanctioned version of Israeli history is allowed to be taught or researched.

    The state of war is not initiated by Hamas, it has been ongoing for decades.

    And before someone goes there – the Palestenians are not any better. Just like Israel does not acknowledge Palestine, many Palestenians do not ackowledge Israel. Just like the Israeli summerily execute innocent civilians as part of their collective punishment, terrorist kill both legitimate targets and civilians in their bombing raids.

    But lets not pretend that a child killed by a suicide bomber is any more dead than a child killed by bombs thrown from a jet or missiles from a helicopter.

    As a western style democracy however I think it is only fair to expect Israel to live up to the same standards as would be expected of other countries. A government led by terrorists as the one in Gaza must be condemned, but we can have little faith in the posibility of ever changing their minds.

  22. #22 heleen
    June 2, 2010

    Israel is on its way to self-destruction by its own behaviour. The clear intent of its policies is grabbing the West Bank and force its people out, by not recognizing any property rights there and by continuous harassment of its people. The only way to peace would have been allowing the Palestinians prosperity in their own land: a policy that never has been tried. As it is now, all Israel can look forward to is destruction, and the more israel behaves with violence, the easier and sooner the destruction will come. In the long term, even the US won’t be able to stomach Israel’s level of violent misbehaviour.

  23. #23 SLC
    June 2, 2010

    Actually, the terrorists on board the ships got off lightly. Imagine what would have happened if the late and unlamented dictator of Syria, Hafaz Assad, were the prime minister of Israel. He would have ordered the Israeli Navy to sink the ships and machine gun their crews and passengers, just like his actions against the City of Hama in 1982. In response to terrorists using that town as a base, he ordered the Syrian Army to surround it with several hundred artillery pieces and initiated a 2 day bombardment that killed upwards of 20,000 people. This has been called Hama Rules by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman.

    The Government of Israel has been heavily criticized for its actions during operation Cast Lead, the invasion of the Gaza Strip in 2008, in which some 1350 fatal casualties were inflicted on the population there over a 3 week period. Assad killed that many in Hama in the first 1/2 hour of the artillery bombardment in 1982.

  24. #24 hendrik
    June 2, 2010

    ja, i totally understand israel’s situation. in south africa we had the same problem with terrorists. thousands of our people have been killed by the terrorists or by their supporters (they form the government now, but i believe some of their high ranking officials where only just taking of the terrorist lists by the US).

    they would also try and provoke the police and situations like sharpeville would happen. just like these people of the boats. what did they expect would happen?

  25. #25 Iddo
    June 2, 2010

    Hypocrisy may well be the root of all evil. How come all those here who are quick to point out the many wrongs of Israel towards Palestinians (true or otherwise), are perfectly willing to gloss-over the on-going bombing of the Kurd’s minority by (no other than) Turky? their sole crime being a desire for an independent homeland free from Turkish occupation, that among other things forbids them to use their native tongue! Go on, look it up on Wikipedia and the media. You may be shocked to learn that some 40,000 have already died in these violent clashes, continuing right now as the UN security council gathers to condemn Israel, with Turky’s staunch position against a Kurd homeland remaining resolute (no existential threat to Turky in this case, needs be added…)

    And in what maybe more to the “spirit” of this blog, why is it — a fact not discussed heretofore — that language by certain leaders intended for local consumption to arouse the masses (be it in Arabic, Turkish, or Farsi) invariably contains Islamic vehemence against Israel? (use google-translate or equivalent for an impartial research of your own.)

    In my opinion what we’re witnessing here is no less than a bona fide Holy War. As always, instigated by religious fanatics to further their own megalomaniac ends, chief among them Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. If the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was any secular dispute over territories or other resources, it could have been resolved years ago through a diplomatic compromise (cf. Egypt and Jordan peace accords with Israel, remaining differences notwithstanding but no physical hostility once the religious zeal is tamed, well, at least for now).

    And no, this is not some bizarre form of sadistic barbarism by the state of Israel, as implied by the very same fanatics in rhetoric intended for Western consumption, which amazingly is so eagerly swallowed and repeated, all facts to the contrary — well, maybe except for some of the most extreme and outrageous anti-Israel language on posters we routinely see in “spontaneous” protests across Europe, in which case is mostly ignored or simply shrugged-off by Westerners as probably some form of a benign exotic rage they may not wish to comprehend for now…)

  26. #26 Sam C
    June 2, 2010

    Wow! What nonsense! You really have swallowed the propaganda!

    Israel doesn’t have a “right to exist” – rights are for people (arguably for animals too) but certainly not for abstract entities like countries. Most certainly not one whose “right to exist” is founded in pre-historic fables and the attempt to mitigate the guilt for the genocide wrought by the government and people of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s.

    OK, let’s look at Israel. A racist regime that tried to sell nuclear weapons to the apartheid regime in South Africa. Yeah, nice. A country that invades its neighbors without compunction. A country that just takes land from the resident peoples when it feels like it.

    And it applies apartheid-style policies in its attempt to wipe out the Palestinians, destroying their water and food supplies, and gaily taking pot shots at men, women and children. After all, why shouldn’t it, it treats Palestinians as sub-human!

    And what about this undiluted horse-piss about the poor soldiers being attacked? Whether it’s piracy or terrorism is a moot point, but boarding and terrorising boats in international waters is completely illegal. And these boats were coming from a country that was until then fairly friendly towards Israel (that is, Turkey), which had checked them. How stupid are the Israelis?

    It is NOT aggression when one defends oneself against armed attackers.

    It is NOT legal for Israel to just ignore international law on a whim. The excuse of “we decided to do it” is not adequate justification.

    And if you want to really see how moronic the pro-Israel apologists are, consider how they would respond if the situation were reversed, and an unarmed Israeli ship were attacked in the middle of the night by armed troops? Would they say “oh, that’s OK, the Israelis were asking for it?” No, Israel is always right on Planet Bigot.

    The Arab countries are a mess, but a large part of the reason for them being a mess is the existence of Israel and its ever-present threat to the people of the area, including the possibility that it might choose to initiate a nuclear war.

  27. #27 Roland
    June 2, 2010

    I’ve been reading high and low about these current events and I’m still totally undecided about my position on it. I’m slowly leaning towards the ships bringing in supplies, mostly because the boarding happened in international waters (why not wait for them to enter national waters?) and because the Israeli media is clearly using a edited video clip of the incident (I have not seen the unedited clip, but the Internet tells me it does not show Israel in a favorable light).

    However, I am in deep disagreement with the blog author about his right wing stand on Israel. I cannot agree with your very first point about Israel being a Western-style democracy. Israel, through my eyes, currently represents a specific ethnicity and religion. The goal of the state is to protect that ethnicity and religion, to the detriment of anybody who falls outside that very narrow definition. What makes this observation non-judgmental from my point of view is that the US was set up in a similar manner (to represent white Christianity), but over it’s long painful history has slowly moved away from that (largely due to it’s ingenious Constitution separating church from state).

    So Israel is a Western-style democracy from 200 years ago. It is not secular and it has had not enough time to displace or assimilate the native population.

    I want to temper all this by agreeing that Israel is miles closer to being a Western liberal democracy than any Arab state. Turkey has it’s own sins and I find their indignation cloyingly hypocritical. But I was so sharply reminded of Israel’s backwardness when, during the first press-conference following this huge mess, the Israeli defense minister (I think) was giving an update standing in front of a Menorah.

  28. #28 heleen
    June 2, 2010

    Iddo:
    If for Kurds “their sole crime being a desire for an independent homeland free from Turkish occupation” is sufficient to exonerate them, why is for Palestinians “their sole crime being a desire for an independent homeland free from Israeli occupation” to be condemned?

  29. #29 Kit
    June 2, 2010

    My father, at the age of 18, was one of the British soldiers charged with trying to keep the peace in Trans-Jordanian Mandate in the 1940’s. He told me that the desire, and intention, amongst the Arab population to murder all the Jews was commonplace before the foundation of the state of Israel, as anybody with any time to research can easily discover.
    The Arabs got their part of the partition, Jordan, and then sort to deny the Jews theirs, Israel, with repeated invasions and endless threats and terror campaigns. Nothing has ever changed, all traceable to the results of the demented supremacist ideology followed by the Arab leadership, who can’t back down now because they have so radicalized their populations to the extent that they fear for their own futures should the conflict not continue.

  30. #30 Iddo
    June 2, 2010

    Don’t get me wrong, Heleen. I’m in no way exonerating the Kurds! Undoubtedly, they too have resorted to their share of horrible terrorist acts against the Turks in the quest for their cause. That’s the sad world we live in. I’m only alluding to the glaring hypocrisy of Turkey (and much of the world) in this matter.

    Now, Israel is no saint. There are no saints in this world, period. Israel is not infallible either, no one is. But while I can sympathize with people like you who are deeply troubled (me too) when faced with scenes of injustice everywhere and anytime throughout history, I somehow find it hard to trust words of vehemence such as Sam C’s comments above, as sincere. I don’t suppose he has shown the same level of outcry after Hamas had slaughtered Fatah members (themselves no saints, either) when it violently seized irrevocable and total control over Gaza after the so-called elections there, publicly throwing people off the tops of high buildings — an entirely internal Palestinian affair. Same goes for all sorts of the other atrocities occurring daily around the world.

    No, his tone and attitude is reserved for Israel alone: “[…] The Arab countries are a mess, but a large part of the reason for them being a mess is the existence of Israel […]”, really! The lethal feuds between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, the warring factions in Somalia, Iran threats to the Arab gulf states, probably also the rift between the two Koreas, Russia and Chechnya’s bitter clash, and the India-Pakistan tension too, are actually all because of Israel’s existence. What a wonderful world it would be without it! No telling what scientific, literary, and humane contributions the Arab world could have bestowed on the world’s civilization as a whole had Israel not intervened and ruthlessly oppressed them, constantly threatening to nuke them off the map, poor souls. Say no more…

  31. #31 Thomas
    June 2, 2010

    Iddo, how can you know what people who post about Israel thinks about Turkey and the Kurds? It’s a common tactics among defenders of Israel to, instead of defending Israeli actions, try to move the discussion to some other country which has also acted badly. Sorry, but Israeli actions are to be judged by themselves, not by Turkey, Syria or some other country also having done bad things.

    I might add that the worst crimes against the Kurds in Turkey happened when the nationalists were in power, and that regime cooperated just fine with Israel. In recent years with the islamists in power the situation has improved somewhat. For example, since 2009 there is a Kurdish speaking channel on state television. The islamists want to join EU and know that the discrimination against Kurds is a major obstacle.

  32. #32 eNeMeE
    June 2, 2010

    That the attack happened in international waters, for example, hardly seems like the really important issue here.

    It’s a pretty damn important issue, IMO. But then all sorts of people like to ignore international law, so what the hell do I know?

  33. #33 Iddo
    June 2, 2010

    Your absolutely right, Thomas. I certainly don’t profess to know what all others are thinking about Turkey vs. the Kurds. The point I’m making is about the huge disproportionate outcry against Israel in the flotilla incidence, as compared to other events that normally make up the daily news. When Israel is fighting its enemies rightly or wrongly, the entire world media suddenly shudders at the inevitable and regrettable collateral damage. For other countries, the same or worse actions would have been at least understandable (“it’s a sovereign country”), mostly acceptable (“it’s the norm, isn’t it?”) , or even salutary (“God is on our side…”)

    I don’t see how you can really separate the *intensity* of your response to one incident from how you judge a basically similar one. As you say: “[…] but Israeli actions are to be judged by themselves, not by Turkey, Syria or some other country also having done bad things […]. That’s called double standard, especially when practiced consistently, always to one side.

    I happen to believe most people basically do want to live in peace and quiet, raise their kids and prosper. The ones instigating wars (and crime), flatly rejecting *any* compromise and trying to push the world toward instability, are always those who consider themselves having nothing to loose and much to gain by it. I don’t see how Israel, a modern technological society falls in this category — it makes no sense. I can certainly see how fanatic religious forces do.

  34. #34 Jonathan Lubin
    June 2, 2010

    One can only echo the remark made by John Foster Dulles when he was Secretary of State, something to the effect that he hoped the Israelis and the Arabs would get together and resolve their differences in a Christian manner.

  35. #35 Thomas
    June 2, 2010

    Iddo, the intensity of the Israel debate is because there are people on both sides. You started to criticize Turkey over their treatment of the Kurds, and no one objected. How do you get into heated debate then? Try writing a polemic defending the right of Turkey to use tough measure against the “Kurdish terrorists” and see if you get a heated response then.

    Then there are several other reasons why Israel is in the media focus: It is a country created on mandate of the UN, which makes the world community to some degree collaborators. Jerusalem is a center of two large and one minor but influential religion. It claims to be a Western Democracy, and just like the apartheid regime in South Africa it thus gives Western democracy a bad name. It is the military superpower in the region, a non-declared nuclear power reportedly with nuclear armed submarines as far away as the Persian Gulf. If you think the conflict is so unimportant, why do you bother to comment on it?

    If you want hypocrisy, look at how NATO bombed Serbia for doing to Kosovo exactly what Israel has been doing to Palestine for decades while several NATO countries at the same time send military aid to Israel. That’s why Nethanyahu initially supported Serbia, he was afraid of a dangerous precedent. And why are there sanctions against Iran? That, if anything, is hypocricy. (Iran is a repressive dictatorship internally, but that’s not why there are sanctions)

    IMHO, the people who refuse to compromise are the ones who think they have nothing to gain by it. Israel has total military superiority and are gradually taking over the West Bank (Judea and Samaria as they like to call it). From Israeli viewpoint it makes perfect sense to make empty promises and then stall and do their best to provoke the Palestinians into whatever tiny attacks they can muster just to be able to claim that the Palestinians are just terrorists you can’t negotiate with.

    You describe Israel as “a modern technological society”, but I think you are a bit naive there. A fraction of the Israeli population fall under that heading, but they have a lot of religious and nationalist fanatics. Why do you think so many Israeli maps include the West Bank as part of Israel? In the second debate in Knesset Begin talked about the West Bank as the *western* part of the land of Israel!

  36. #36 hendrik
    June 2, 2010

    ja, just like israel we in south africa also had an advanced technological society while the rest of our neighbours were still living in the dark ages. Come on israel, don’t fail like we did and keep the terrorists back.

    Also, a two state solution is a better idea. Israel has it’s gaza and west bank, we had our transkei, ciskei, venda etc. When the got demolished, it was the begining of the end.

  37. #37 Iddo
    June 2, 2010

    Thomas, you say: “You started to criticize Turkey over their treatment of the Kurds, and no one objected.” I’ve noticed that. I also totally agree with your prior observation that the Kurds are now actually better off with Erdogan’s regime. Still, the Turkish Air-Force has been bombing Kurds PKK for the last week or so and violent clashes are on-going there *right now* (just google “Past 24 hours” for: Turk Kurd “air force” bombing). By the way, Wikipedia tells us the Turkish Air-Force mainly consists of American F-16 with Israeli-upgraded avionics…

    Sorry if the similarity with Gaza’s Hamas and Israel immediately comes to mind… (OK, one exception: the PKK does not dispute Turkey’s right to exist, Hamas does Israel’s…) But with Erdogan’s cold and calculated lies taking advantage of the situation describing it as a supposedly crime-against-humanity (his public support of Hamas, on Islamist grounds, going back even before he was elected to office) and as the Turkish foreign minister describing the incidence to be “a 9/11 for his country” (see, e.g., The Washington Post), and while reliable reports are now starting to emerge linking “peace” activists aboard the ship along with the organizing Turkish IHH to al-Qaeda…, I’m sorry if the word “Hypocrisy” has somehow crossed my mind. No offense, anybody…

    Anyway, looks like all of this is already obsolete by now, this just in: (please google: flotilla martyrdom): recent talks heard in leading newsrooms around the world: “Well, if this is really the case, than this whole flotilla business suddenly begins to appear rather boring… And what’s with all these damming YouTube videos captured by IDF from the ship’s own security cameras showing the activists regrouping just minutes before the takeover, our entire momentum is now gone… We’d better move on the a new story… wait a minute, I got it… The World Cup!… Start rolling…”

    Also: “You describe Israel as a modern technological society, but I think you are a bit naive there.” Perhaps. But last I’ve checked Wikipedia’s “Religion in Israel” 44% of Jews in Israel are secular, and only 65% of Israeli Jews believe in God, whith other sources indicating between 15% and 37% of Israelis identify themselves as either agnostics or atheists (quite unlikely in the non-Jewish minority). This is much higher than the corresponding U.S. figure. However, admittedly all this is really beside the point.

  38. #38 Iddo
    June 2, 2010

    Now, Thomas, hypocrisy aside, let me say something regarding your other points. I write about it because I do care, and I do think that by-and-large Israel is given an enormously unfair treatment in the media, the U.N., and consequently by the public and its politicians.

    So here goes: Israel shouldn’t and can’t be expected to be held to a set of standards higher than any other nation (this also plays against a possible Israeli argument for some preferential treatment due to the holocaust.) Some may think Israel can be “wished away” by smearing it through harassment and boycotts. Well, it won’t be that easy: Israelis will have to cope as they have nowhere else to go. Some Israelis may think their “Palestinian problem” may be “wished away” too, either by ignoring it, transferring it elsewhere, appeasing some deceitful Arab leaders, relying on an unconditionally-friendly superpower to sort it out for them, or otherwise. It won’t be. The Palestinians are there and there are going to be more of them as time goes on.

    These are tough problems. Life is a struggle for every living creature. We humans may also use the gift of cooperation and work out a way to live in peace with each other, difficult as this may seem, or else lose the gift to another war and make things even more difficult. I hope you’re mature enough to realize a hypothetical elimination of Israel can’t be the answer to all the world’s problems. It can’t heal the conflicts within the Arab world, for example. It may not even solve the conflict between Hamas and Fatah… In fact, some experts would argue that about the only thing *uniting* the Arab world is their hatred towards Israel, so they should be very wary that Israel doesn’t suddenly disappear on them…

    Israelis long for peace. I have yet to meet an Israeli who doesn’t. Succeeding in taking root in the Middle-East through peace agreements with their neighbors that would enable them to go on with their lives is considered a victory for them. They deplore occupation of another people. They would happily return Gaza to Egypt and the West-Bank to Jordan, had these countries been willing to take it back and make sure no attacks on Israel are made from there, but Israelis have a problem handing it over to Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, or Syria, who are openly for the destruction of Israel. Israelis are not suicidal. On the other hand, Arabs are still mostly in the opinion that any non-Arab presence in the area is a disgrace. It goes against an inherent cultural trait they hold more precious than life: honor. It’s quite impossible for anyone brought up in the Western world to comprehend this.

    I can’t really persuade you, or anyone else with similar views, that Israel is as far from the South Africa apartheid regime as any other Western democracy. Certainly much more equal-rights towards its citizens than any Arab country in existence today — just consider women in Arab society when you mention the word apartheid. Anyway, you’d probably just laugh and stop reading, or get mad at me. I won’t even try. Let’s keep our differences and try to live peacefully each in his own beliefs. And if you choose not to, so be it.

  39. #39 Thomas
    June 3, 2010

    Iddo, I see you continue to prefer to discuss Turkey, but that is for another thread, this one is about Israel.

    Maybe you see this affair subside just because IDF released some carefully edited videos, but that is not what I see in Sweden. Perhaps by “the world” you mean US? Then there are more ships heading for Gaza, so don’t be sure the conflict is over just yet.

    You seem to assume that if a Jew isn’t strongly religious he can’t be a nationalist extremist, sorry, but that’s not how it works. Nor does it matter how individual Jews think, only how their government and military act, and they clearly prefer to continue the occupation and expand the settlements.

    “Israelis will have to cope as they have nowhere else to go”

    Actually, I doubt there is any other nation where so many citizens have double citizenship. You seem to think I want to wipe out Israel, but that isn’t the case. Either go back to the internationally recognized 1967 borders or form a single state combining Israel and Palestine seems reasonable to me. Polls show that either has considerable Palestinian support and that Israel is the large stumbling block for either of these solutions as it isn’t willing to give up those settlements.

    So you think Israelis want peace but Palestinians don’t? Of course everyone wants peace, the whole issue is on what conditions. Did you know that in 1970 there was a peace proposal wherein Israel would return Sinai to Egypt in return for recognition and a peace treaty? Egypt accepted, Israel refused, and it took the near disastrous war of 1973 before they realized the need to compromise to get peace. Syria has seemed willing to make peace too, but only for the return of the Golan, but Israel refuses. If Israel deplores occupation of the West Bank, why all the settlements? These certainly makes it seem as if they intend to keep the area forever, and that doesn’t give the Palestinians much choice but to fight. Sadly, the only thing that has ever worked to make Israel make real concession is military force.

    You are extremely hypocritical yourself when you pretend the Israelis are so peace loving but no one else is. Hendrik is more realistic when he see the similarity to the South African apartheid regime with which Israel had close ties and were even ready to sell nuclear weapons.

  40. #40 Gingerbaker
    June 3, 2010

    The patience and toleration of Israel astounds me. Imagine what would happen if New Jersey suddenly became a terrorist state lobbing rockets and cultivating suicide bombers. We would not tolerate that for even a few days.

    The Palestinians are a people who have continually elected leaders dedicated to the annihilation of Israel and its people. They aid, abet, and celebrate successful terrorist missions against Israeli civilians. This has been going on for about 100 years. And Israel lets them live there! It has been long enough.

    Israel ought to announce that one month hence the next terrorist attack will lead to the immediate deportation of all Palestinians from Israel and then bloody well follow through with it. Let their Arab brothers donate 1% of their own lands for new Palestinian states. They can transport their holy mosques from Israel.

    The response would be atrocious, but it would only last for a few months or so of news cycles. And then it would be over, and they would have some security.

  41. #41 Gingerbaker
    June 3, 2010

    Chris Bell:

    “However, I can’t support a “Jewish state.” I would think that the readers of this blog would agree that a theocracy, no matter how well intentioned, will in the end not turn out well.”

    Israel is not a theocracy.

  42. #42 heleen
    June 3, 2010

    “that Israel is as far from the South Africa apartheid regime as any other Western democracy.”
    Wasn’t there a proposal before the Knesset to deprive Arab Israelis of their citizenship?

    Israel is opposing international law by its de facto incorporation of the West Bank. Israel’s policies have been the cause of the trouble for the last 40 years – since the 1967 war. I cannot see how Israel will end other than in disaster.

  43. #43 Thomas
    June 3, 2010

    Gingerbaker, you ignore the entire background to the Palestinian conflict. It’s not as if the Palestinians just woke up one day and decided that it would be a fun idea to wipe out their far more powerful neighbor.

    Imagine what would happen if one group of immigrants to USA one day decided to declare an independent state for themselves in parts of USA, and they justified this with a vote in the UN general council? After a bloody war they managed to drive out most of the previous inhabitants to New Jersey, which they proceeded to put under a harsh blockade. Now, would you understand if those refugees might be a bit mad and decide to fight back by launching missiles at their oppressors?

    OTOH, maybe you are aware of the background, but look at the Jews as the inheritors of the attitude of the Europeans who colonized USA by killing or forcing the native population into reservations, being extremely upset if any of them had the temerity to strike back.

  44. #44 Sigmund
    June 3, 2010

    Gingerbaker said:
    “Israel ought to announce that one month hence the next terrorist attack will lead to the immediate deportation of all Palestinians from Israel and then bloody well follow through with it. Let their Arab brothers donate 1% of their own lands for new Palestinian states. They can transport their holy mosques from Israel.”
    You do realize that deportation requires the cooperation of two states, don’t you?
    You cannot simply deport someone from your country if no other country agrees to take them in.
    In a way, however, I actually agree with your sentiments. The practical reality is that Israel will not survive a single state solution since the demographics do not favor the Jewish segment of the overall population and the two state solution has been ruined by the endless creeping settlement of the West Bank, with the result that rather than a single landmass, the West bank is now a maze of fenced in segments, bisected by Israeli-only roads and checkpoints, making it impossible to govern as an independent entity.
    The idea of pushing all the Palestinians out is not new, only your suggested timescale.
    I would, however, make a couple of modifications to your suggestion before we try to implement it.
    First we avoid one aspect of the racism in your suggestion – that of assuming that Arabs are all the same and that its ‘simply’ a matter of sending the Palestinians to another Arab state. Lets choose another destination.
    How about the USA?
    If the US really cares about Israel the one way it can show this is to offer to take in the Palestinians, thus freeing their friends from the potential terrorists in their midst.
    The second suggestion is to also take the other related source of conflict to the Israelis – the occupants of the various Palestinian refugee camps that fled from Israel after independence and have been refused return to their former homes.
    Relocation to the USA and monetary compensation for these two groups of people and I think we may have a solution in sight.

  45. #45 kuckucksblume
    June 3, 2010

    An Israeli’s take on the Gaza flotilla raid:

    Look, A Trap – Let’s Fall For It! (Or: Let’s Play Paintball!)

  46. #46 Gingerbaker
    June 3, 2010

    Thomas said:

    “OTOH, maybe you are aware of the background, but look at the Jews as the inheritors of the attitude of the Europeans who colonized USA by killing or forcing the native population into reservations, being extremely upset if any of them had the temerity to strike back.”

    I don’t think you want to go the historical occupier route. The Jews were there before anybody else. The Jews were in Palestine before the Arabs. There were Jews still there when the Mandate was been drawn up. The Jews have as much right to be called “Palestinians” as Arabs do. This idea of Jews ‘invading’ the homeland of anybody – including the so-called “Palestinians”, a term of recent origin adopted for political purposes – just doesn’t wash. If anyone has been clearly invaded, it is Israel.

    I’m afraid on this issue I am as right-wing as it gets. As far as I am concerned, the “Palestinians” already have a homeland – what is now called Jordan.

  47. #47 Iddo
    June 3, 2010

    An apology to Thomas – Reading your reply I see that I was wrong: you’re in fact *not* calling for the termination of Israel as a state, a view which I consider can’t really be debated at all, neither side hearing the other. Sorry I automatically assumed you were just because you’ve been using the words “apartheid regime”. I’ve now discovered I too have a knee-jerk reflex and I’d like to thank you for this. My apology!

    I’m not against ostracism of rouge states that threaten word stability and/or grossly violate human rights. Note that ‘ostracism’ is far less than ‘termination’; it leaves an open door for regime change and reforms. Each of us acts and interacts and we do have to accept the consequences of how the others see us and react to it. Israel is no exception! Now, as long as we’re criticizing Israel with the goal of influencing it to reform and become a better member of the international community, existing and prospering along with everyone else – that’s fine and dandy. My problem is I‘m somehow always picking overtones singling Israel out and calling for it’s demise as a state, typically indicating it should go extinct as the old South Africa apartheid regime.

    Israel has numerous faults! I’d be among the first to admit it and believe me I’ve got an infinite list of them. But who doesn’t? And where do you put Israel on the scale of gross human-rights violators? The harshest you can accuse Israel of regarding human-rights is its stern approach to Gaza (I don’t count stopping people for inspection at military checkpoints throughout the west-bank, after years of deadly bus-bombing Intifadas inside Israel, as a gross human-rights violation requiting U.N. intervention any more than the U.S./Mexico border patrol is). Now sit back and consider how the U.S. would react to an al Qaeda-controlled enclave right on its south border, firing rockets at population centers and kidnapping its soldiers. If you find it hard to do, simply replace Russia for U.S. above, or China, or any other country for that matter. Now, did you know that the U.N. human-rights council gathering as we speak to set up an “impartial” investigation of the flotilla incidence has never, throughout its entire existence, condemned *any* other country but Israel for human-rights violation? Not Sudan (Darfur), not China, not North-Korea, no one! Just Israel… Think about that! (And do check Wikipedia’s “United Nations Human Rights Council”). Now go back and examine the humanitarian situation in Gaza as compared to the really forgotten places of this world: start with Darfur… (Goggle: “”How many people die every day in Darfur”)

    Finally, regarding the settlements issue I’d like to correct something I’ve said about Israelis “will be happy” to return the occupied territories to its Arab neighbors in exchange for a secure peace, and replace it with “reluctantly willing” to do it. Sure, as a democracy Israelis are almost evenly divided between the left and the right, to their multiple shades and variants. You can’t gross-generalize either way. But history shows that when it comes to a real window of opportunity, like in Egypt and Jordan cases, than some form of compromise is feasible. Eventually, there is no other way, regardless of how many future wars it may take to realize this.

  48. #48 Thomas
    June 3, 2010

    Gingerbaker, I think your view of the historical situation is a bit incomplete. Here is an animated map of who has controlled the region:

    The Jewish kingdom is just one of many that has controlled the area. Nor can you really use 2000 year history as precedent, imagine what would happen in Europe if people tried that! And what do you think about USA, how much of that country are you willing to return to the natives?

    Finally, genetic studies have shown that current Jews and Palestinians are closely related, the Palestinians are descendant of the Jews that didn’t leave Israel but got mixed up with other people entering the area. So why should they have less right to it than the descendants of those who left?

    It is true there was a small Jewish minority living in the area before the large Zionist immigration wave, but you can’t say that any small minority in a country has a right to create a country of their own in the area. Especially not as those Jews mostly *didn’t* want a Jewish state, unlike the immigrating Zionists, they were quite happy to live in a mixed state, and you are right at that time they were all called “Palestinians” whether they were Jews, Christians or Muslims.

  49. #49 Thomas
    June 3, 2010

    Iddo, you want to use a US analogy, but I already presented you with a better one in #43. You just keep pretending the Palestinians have no reason to be upset with Israel. As for Israel being willing to return the settlements, I’ll believe it when I see it, and I think the Palestinians have the same attitude.

  50. #50 Steve Reuland
    June 3, 2010

    They descended the ropes, they said, planning to talk the “activists” into going to Ashdod. Their weapons were not in their hands, but strapped to their backs. “We went into war,” one in his 30’s said bitterly tonight, “and all we had were toys.”

    WTF? Heavily armed commandos with automatic rifles had only “toys” with which they could do little against people armed with their feet, rods, and small knives? Gosh, they sure are lucky they didn’t go into war with people actually carrying guns or anything. Imagine how unfair that would be.

    Look, I can accept that this is more complicated than it seems. But this kind of ludicrous nonsense — playing the victim when you have the other side vastly overpowered — does not make the Israelis look very credible. They should at least be honest enough to admit that they made the decision to use asymmetric force.

  51. #51 Steve Reuland
    June 3, 2010

    Reading one of the articles linked above, it says that the soldiers had paintball guns (in addition to pistols), so that would be a reasonable thing to call a “toy”. Nevertheless, pistols vs. impromptu clubs and a plastic deck chair is pretty asymmetric.

  52. #52 Iddo
    June 3, 2010

    “Iddo, you want to use a US analogy, but I already presented you with a better one in #43.” – My answer would be that your analogy is an excellent one! Actually, if a group of people were to declare an independent state on the ruins of New Jersey, and *provided* the new entity is able to keep its sovereignty (by force, if necessary) against intruders (aka “freedom flotillas”…), then we have just witnessed the birth of a new state! You see, it’s not so much whether or not the UN has anything to say about it that counts, rather the ability to maintain sovereignty. Sorry, that’s how our world works. And *no* country is exempt from this rule, for better or of for worse.

    “You just keep pretending the Palestinians have no reason to be upset with Israel.” – Where exactly did I say that? Of course the Palestinians have every reason to confront Israel. And Israel has every reason to respond in kind (cf. Turks and Kurds…) isn’t it obvious? These are not legal matters, this is called balance of power. It works in every other conflict around the world. Why is this case any different? (And I don’t buy that bullshit about the Jews being there first, over 3000 years ago. Just how did the Jews get there in the first place? By invading and driving out those that were there before! And how did they that were there before get there before themselves?)

    “As for Israel being willing to return the settlements, I’ll believe it when I see it, and I think the Palestinians have the same attitude.” – OK, you asked for it… How about the evacuation by force of Israeli settlements in the Sinai Peninsula in 1982 (Wikipedia: Yamit)? All returned to Egypt and peace ever after. How about the pullout from Gaza in 2005? (Wikipedia: “Israel’s unilateral disengagement plan”)? All dismantled and abandoned to Hamas, and rockets on Israel ever after, as deep as their rocket technology can reach. Some are concerned a unilaterally removal of the current blockade on Gaza (as UN and most everyone else seems to insist now) will enable Hamas to obtain longer-range missiles from Iran and reach Tel-Aviv (several such ships already captured by Israel in the past, Wikipedia: “Karine A Affair”). Is it possible for you to see now how intricate the situation Israel is facing with these flotillas is?

  53. #53 NotBlameless
    June 3, 2010

    @heleen

    Wasn’t there a proposal before the Knesset to deprive Arab Israelis of their citizenship?

    I know that a Jewish political party was banned from the Knesset for inciting violence against Arabs. So maybe you could try to be more specific, eh?

  54. #54 Thomas
    June 3, 2010

    Iddo, so basically you are just arguing that might makes right? Israel has the right to the country because they won the war? The weakness of this argument (apart from the fact that it is totally amoral) is that it doesn’t give a clue as to when the rest of the world ought to interfere to stop a war. Iraq defeated Kuwait fair and square, and the world responded by bombing Iraq into submission. The Serbs used ruthless violence to crush an terrorist uprising in Kosovo, and NATO responded by bombing Serbia to submission. Was that right, and then why shouldn’t Israel be treated in a similar way for similar activities? You ought to be worried about this given your concern about hypocrisy.

    As I mentioned in #39 Israel got an offer to return Sinai in exchange for peace with Egypt. It refused and got the war in 1973, and that war was close enough that it scared Israel into leaving those settlements and Sinai. Likewise the people of Gaza put up enough of a fight that it became too expensive to protect the 6000 settlers there, but at the same time Israel removed settlers from Gaza they expanded settlements on the West Bank. However, Israel didn’t really leave Gaza alone at that point, they kept a blockade. Hamas tried a ceasefire during five months in 2008, but this didn’t lead to an end of the blockade, just an Israeli attack on Gaza November fourth.

    Sinai and Gaza actually suggest that a credible threat of violence is what makes Israel willing to retreat, and remember that both those areas are outside what Zionists see as the core of “The land of Israel”, unlike Judea and Samaria, not to mention the eastern half of Jerusalem that belongs to the Palestinians.

  55. #55 Iddo
    June 3, 2010

    Was the NATO raids on Kosovo, the US invasions of Iraq, Vietnam, and just about any war America was involved in simply an exercise in helping the meek inherit the earth? I don’t think so. I suspect international politics is based on harsher interests and the unjust, ever-present, balance of power. Consider this: what would happen if Kuwait was just a desert stretch with no oil. Would the US still go to save it from Saddam’s hands? I doubt it. I’ll leave it to you to search for the true causes in the other cases.

    Does that mean the US is going about looting resources of other counties just because it has the might? Of course not (well, some may disagree here…) it’s a free democratic society and morality is an important consideration for politicians seeking to be elected. In Israel, the laws and justice system is no less moral than in any other Western society, or do you deny that? Now, would the US refrain from killing people when it considers it a necessary evil for its security concerns, sometime at the cost of collateral damage of innocents? You need go no further than Afghanistan, where American UAVs roam the skies. Are we again holding Israel here to different standards, unheard of anywhere else?

    No, I’m not saying that “might makes right” is moral. But “might” can help to ensure you stay alive in a world where others around you do practice “might make right”. What else could you do? When you walk into a jungle, you take a gun with you, is that immoral? No, it’s amoral (huge difference). Just look at the warring factions all over the Arab world, despotic regimes and all. In the end, it’s not just “might makes right” but it’s a necessary ingredient: “Speak softly and carry a big stick”. It’s an intricate world of interests we live in. Different cultures will place different emphasis on morality as one of these interests. I believe *all* of them will put survival before morality.

    Let me ask you this: do you think Arabs have a right to their rich cultural tradition of “honor-killing” women (Palestinians do it too, you know…), or should the US + NATO intervene and bomb them for that? Are we going to go there and convert those “savages” into good little Christians again? I believe the answer is No! We may try to show them a better example through our own society, educate, offer help, but not coerce anyone to our kind of morality. It’s just not that universal. On the other hand, I certainly would not wish to have their Sharia law imposed on me or else forced to have my head severed, yet that’s exactly what Islam commands them to do. I’d better find that gun of mine…

  56. #56 Deepak Shetty
    June 4, 2010

    It seems to me, no matter which side you wish to stand with, you are, by necessity, required to belittle the crimes of the side you’re defending.

    Precisely. And you can see it here too , both in the post and in the comments , on both sides.

  57. #57 Blaine
    June 6, 2010

    When I look at Israel I see a Western-style democracy that has achieved extraordinary things in just sixty years. Their universities and technological achievements are among the most impressive in the world. They have achieved a standard of living for their people that puts the surrounding, mostly despotic, Arab regimes to shame.

    And right away, the platitudes and sweeping, generic statements lauding Israel start. A Western style democracy? I think not. The law of return (Which excludes Arabs, even though there are plenty of Arabs who have deeper immediate ties to the land than some Jews), the discriminatory policies of the JNF and ILA (which own the bulk of the land in Israel and have historically been discriminatory against Israeli Arabs, who make up 20% of the population), the Law of Political parties (Which is vague and forces non-Jews to accept a particular ethno-religious narrative of Israel if they are to try and run for office) and the Citizenship and Entry Law Into Israel (Which has age restrictions on those who want to become Israeli citizens from West Bank and Gaza and discriminates against Israeli Arabs who have spouses in the occupied territories) all highlight the very plain fact that Israel is really anything BUT a “western style democracy.” But continue…

    This they have done while facing relentless terrorism and threats to their existence from neighbors so consumed by religion-fueled hatred that they will not even take the elementary step of recognizing Israel’s right to exist.

    Hyperbole much? What regime or group could possibly be a “threat to Israels existence?” Name one. You probably can’t, because there are none. There are two reasons for this. The first is very obvious, Israel has one of the most technologically advanced militaries in the world and a stockpile of anywhere from 150 to 200 nukes (along with “unwavering support” from the worlds foremost super power). Thus, militarily, no one in the region can challenge them (not even asymmetrically). The second reason, and one you essentially lie about, is the fact that many in the region DO work with Israel (and several acknowledge its existence). Not only does Israel have a 30 year old peace treaty with Egypt, they routinely collaborate with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey… three of the biggest regimes in the Middle East. (Although, if Israel continue to spit in Turkeys face, that last one could certainly change).

    With regards to the idea that these people (i.e. Muslims) are fueled by “religious hatred,” I must say… I expect more from someone as intelligent as you. Many in the region have LEGITIMATE reasons to be angry at Israel that have absolutely nothing to do with religion (and everything to do with socio-political factors).

    I see a country that spent decades negotiating in good faith with Palestinian leaders who were not returning the favor.

    Then you fail to see your own bias. It is true that Palestinians haven’t always negotiated in “good faith”… but anyone with a cursory reading of the history of this conflict knows it is EQUALLY true of the Israelis. Your failure to acknowledge this, even slightly, is quite unbecoming.

    The people who delight in pointing to israel’s moral failings are having a field day, of course.

    Yes, none of the outrage could possibly be genuine at all….

    And then you go on to quote a rabbi, who by all accounts, gets practically NOTHING “right?” Ugh.

    First off, as this Rabbi should be well aware, the blockade he’s defending is ILLEGAL. Period. I have yet to hear any reasonable commentator on IHL state otherwise. Defending it because “Hamas is nasty!” is completely insufficient and an insult to our collective intelligence (As is making mention of ONE soldier, who of course *should* be released by Hamas immediately… but, cannot be used as a reasonable justification for the continuation of the blockade).

    Secondly, does he honestly believe it would be reasonable for these activists to funnel their aid items through Israel? Last I checked, Israel created this humanitarian crises to begin with by starting the blockade with the complicity of the International polity, so what purpose would these activists have been serving if they simply capitulated to the unjust status quo?

    And lastly, the IHH a terror group simply because it’s from Turkey? LOL. You think that “getting it right?” That’s worse than Israeli NGO’s marching out Evan Kolhmann’s flimsy, one source paper on IHH from 2006. He like all the others claiming that the IHH is “Al Qaida affiliated” better be able to provide some concrete proof.

    That the attack happened in international waters, for example, hardly seems like the really important issue here.

    For real, who cares about abstract niceties like International (and Maritime) Law? That stuff is for elitists and liberal pansies.

    To be serious however, if you care about upholding the law as it stands, it SHOULD be an important issue to you. Trying to commandeer a flagged vessel in international waters is BLATANTLY illegal under any reading of IHL. And unless you think some countries should be exceptions to the rule (a terrible precedent to advocate on behalf of IMO), then your best bet would be to remain consistent and ask that Israel, like Hamas and Fatah, be held accountable. Otherwise, what’s the point?

    At the risk of stating the obvious, Israel has legitimate security concerns there.

    Um, no. They don’t. Not enough of a “legitimate security concern” to perpetuate their blockade on Gaza anyway. Unless you’re going to tell me that Israel designating an arbitrary cooking spice as a “banned item” is because Hamas might use it as a weapon. Or perhaps Israels draconian restrictions on water use are to ensure Hamas doesn’t try to flood Israel, correct? Or maybe Israels restriction on freedom of movement for 1.5 million people are simply to keep terrorists out, right?

    Let us not forget that it was Hamas who declared war on Israel not the other way around, and that Hamas seems more interested in lobbing rockets into Israeli cities in the desperate hope that they can kill some civilians than they do in actually governing.

    Let us not forget that were it not for Israels illegal occupation and blockade of Gaza (starting back in 1967), Hamas probably wouldn’t even exist right now. (This of course, fails to mention the fact that Israel supported Hamas after its foundation as a means to undermine the legitimacy of Fatah…. looks like that worked out well). You see what I just did there? It’s called context.

    Also do not forget that Egypt does its part to maintain the blockade on Gaza, which should tell you something about what other countries in the region think of Gaza’s leaders.

    Indeed, Egypt has blood on its hands… As does Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the US… we are all complicit.

    Israel can not just tolerate having its cities bombed, but it also can not afford one PR disaster after another.

    I love how people state this so matter of factly. “Israel cannot tolerate…” Let me ask you a question, and be truthful, what should the Palestinians tolerate? Should they “tolerate” an unjust, illegal blockade? Should they tolerate the seizure of their homes and lands without any hope of recourse? Everyone always speaks of what Israelis should not have to tolerate, but no one seems to think Palestinians have the same rights Israelis do in that respect.

    It has a legitimate right not to do business with a terrorist regime bent on its destruction, but it also can not just turn a blind eye to the suffering they are heaping on millions of people.

    It has a right not to, true… but then so does Hamas with regards to Israel. Where does that leave us? The problem I have isn’t necessarily the fact that I think Israel doesn’t have a right to exclude Hamas, it’s that doing so is both hypocritical and stupid. It’s hypocritical, because lets be frank with ourselves, NO country can escape shaking hands with the devil on occasion and Israel is NO different. They’ve been ready and willing to deal with terrorist groups (including Hamas) and terrorist/dictator regimes in the past. And it’s stupid because… how can you ever hope to have a reasonably united Palestinian state anywhere in the near future (if at all) when you’re perpetuating a policy that separates and isolates Palestinians from ONE ANOTHER. I simply don’t see how any “peace process” of any kind can come of a policy that effectively cuts the Palestinian polity into two. From a political perspective, such a thing is counterproductive.

    And um…. Drum does realize Hamas has actually (quite literally) ceased rocket fire almost entirely since Operation Cast Lead and has continued to crack down intensely on salafi-jihadi groups in Gaza, correct? For some reason, I get the distinct feeling he’s not aware of any of this. I guess that underlines my point that people who know little of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should probably avoid speaking about it.

  58. #58 PeterD
    June 6, 2010

    On the subject of Isreal I get very right-wing.

    Spoiler alert: Concentration camps good, international law bad.

  59. #59 SLC
    June 6, 2010

    Re Blaine

    Mr. Blaine thinks that Israel is being beastly towards the Palestinians. Mr. Blaine doesn’t have the faintest notion of what beastliness is. The fact is that the Government of Israel has been far to lenient towards the Palestinians. What it should have done is taken a page out of the Hafaz Assad playbook and do what he did to the City of Hama in 1982. Assad, in response to terrorist attacks in Syrian cities by terrorists operating out of Hama, had the town surrounded with several hundred artillery pieces and commenced a 2 day bombardment that terminated with extreme prejudice some 20,000 individuals in that town. This has been dubbed “Hama Rules” by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman and was quite effective as terrorist attacks by individuals from that town have ceased. Unfortunately, the current leaders in the Government of Israel are a bunch of pantywaists who are too concerned about world opinion to suck it up and do what has to be done. There is only one language that Muslim terrorists understand, and that is the mailed fist.

  60. #60 John Kwok
    June 7, 2010

    @ SLC –

    At least here we can find ourselves in complete agreement. Had Israel been as ruthless as Assad, it’s quite likely that we wouldn’t be reading now of a Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

  61. #61 Blaine
    June 7, 2010

    SLC,

    You are a perfect encapsulation of what happens to reasonably intelligent people when the subject of Israel comes up. Your small rant is truly nothing more than a logical fallacy.

    With that said, I point out the unjust measures Israel has taken because they ARE unjust. Other regimes having done worse is not an excuse to continue to allow such practices to continue. You see, unlike you apparently, I do believe Israel should strive to be better than many of the regimes in region with regards to human rights. You seem to advocate that Israel emulate the barbarism that has characterized many regimes in the region. By your standards, accountability (Whether it be Hamas, who is indeed guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity) goes out the window… All any regime would have to do is point out that others have done worse. Your thoughtless diatribe reminds me of those who defend the torture that took places at Gitmo or AG in Iraq because, well, the Taliban do worse. Suffice to say, it amuses me to see people build their moral compass via comparison with the lowest common denominator.

  62. #62 SLC
    June 7, 2010

    Re Blaine @ #61

    Mr. Blaines’ states that the Government of Israel should be better then its neighbors and not follow their example. That’s a very fine sentiment. The problem is that the half measures they have been employing have been ineffective. As Albert Einstein once said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

    Like it or not, Hafaz Assads’ brutal methods were effective. Terrorist activities in Syria emanating from Hama ceased.

    At the risk of being accused of invoking Godwins’ rule, Mr. Assad recognized, as, apparently Mr. Blaine does not, that Neville Chamberlainism doesn’t work. And don’t tell me that Hamas is not Hitler. The only difference between Hamas and Hitler is that, unlike the latter, the former lacks the means to carry out the latters’ ukases.

  63. #63 John Kwok
    June 7, 2010

    Blaine –

    By any truly objective standard, Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the occupied territories has been far more benign than, for example, either the United States or the United Kingdom, when both had vast colonial empires to administer (Consider for example how the United States eradicated Filipino guerrillas fighting for independence after the end of the Spanish – American War or how the British dealt with the Kikuyu-led Mau Mau uprising in Kenya.). It is also a sad, but uncomfortable, truth that many who have been harshly critical of Israel also tend to be virulently anti-Semitic.

    The only “errors” I am willing to concede with respect to Israel is how the IDF commandos botched the seizure of the sole Turkish ship whose passengers were so “non-violent” that they had pistols for protection, in the event that they were able to provoke Israel and the Israeli Defense Force into taking swift, direct action against that ship and the others in its flotilla. The deaths of innocents should be mourned; however, in this instance, the nine people killed aboard that Turkish ship were not “innocents” but terrorist provocateurs hoping for a bloody incident with Israel. Judging from world opinion, their hope succeeded well beyohd their wildest expectations.

  64. #64 tsktsk
    June 8, 2010

    PeterD says:

    Spoiler alert: Concentration camps good, international law bad.

    Spoiler alert: Dishonestly misrepresenting other people’s position, and lying about the situation in Israel.

  65. #65 Michael the little boot
    June 8, 2010

    The problem began when, in accordance with an ancient book and without any other evidence, the international community decided to give land which was not ours to a people who had been severely wronged. Until that is addressed, let alone rectified, there will be no peace (and no, I’m not saying Israel shouldn’t be a state – it’s already done, and, speaking pragmatically, can’t be undone). Horrible actions continue on both sides, and as others have said, neither is blameless. Anyone defending either side has a Sisyphean climb ahead of them.

  66. #66 Iddo
    June 9, 2010

    To Michael the little boot’s #65 – Fair enough, but you forget one important point: the amazing dis-proportionality and unbelievable intensity of the debate when it comes to criticizing Israel ‘s rights and wrongs (and Israel’s alone!), and where on the scale do you place these wrongs when compared to other nations in contemporary history (not only Israel’s adversaries).

    People responding here (and elsewhere) actually come from 3 distinct groups: (a) hard-line supporters of Israel, no matter what it does, (b) hard-line detractors of Israel, no matter what it does or doesn’t, and (c) honest, truth-seeking, unbiased individuals who try to make up their own mind about this as they would in any other issue under debate (evolution vs. creationism, anyone?…) While the first and second groups will go on verbally attacking each other ‘ad infinitum’ (often times, with arguments reduced to ‘ad absurdum’…), I very much hope it’s the third group that counts, since this is our only safeguard against seeing the world deteriorating into a global Holy War in our lifetime!

    To this third group (and to them alone), I’d like to propose: Check it up! Go on and use all resources nowadays available over the Internet. Apply your well-honed scientific inquiry skills to this matter. Always look at the evidence! Disregard high-pitched sermons crying foul, promising fire & brimstone to the disbeliever. And do watch out for any hypocrisy, double-standards, and cynical attempts to hide war-mongering personal agendas behind phony human-rights rhetoric, by always checking whether those advocating it themselves practice, in the secrecy of their own backyard, what they loudly preach to others on every available media platform.

    And if you say: “You must be out of your mind! You really expect me to spend my time extensively researching this minor flotilla matter, given all the other – order-of-magnitude more important – burning issues the world is now facing?”, I’d then ask you to simply consider the unprecedented media backlash against Israel we’ve witnessed in the first day after the incident, just before some hard evidence began to sip out (first from the IDF videos but then, curiously enough, also corroborated by Turkish activists themselves, as soon as they returned to Turkey), with the media’s attention, of course, quickly subsiding as a result.

    I rest my case…

  67. #67 Antonio Jerez
    June 10, 2010

    Sam C wrote:
    “The Arab countries are a mess, but a large part of the reason for them being a mess is the existence of Israel and its ever-present threat to the people of the area, including the possibility that it might choose to initiate a nuclear war.”

    I am no great lover of Israel, but to claim that the “mess” in the Arab countries can on “large part” be blamed on the “ever-present” threat of Israel” is absolute nonsense. I doubt that Sam has ever visited an Arab country. I´ve been travelling around the Arab world the last 30 years. The Arabs don´t have anybody else than themselves to blame for their own backwardness. The Arab wold was infested with ruthless autocratic rulers, an illiterate and a dangerously religiously indoctrinated population, corruption and incompetence on all fronts, long long before the existence of the state of Israel. And unfortunately the situation hasn´t changed much since 1947. Sam´s logic remind me of other people who blame all the ills in the Arab world on the invasion of the Mongols in the 13th century or the Western colonialism that started with Napoleon´s invasion of Egypt in 1798.

  68. #68 hrrrrm
    June 11, 2010

    @Sam D

    “The Arab countries are a mess, but a large part of the reason for them being a mess is the existence of Israel and its ever-present threat to the people of the area, including the possibility that it might choose to initiate a nuclear war.”

    Huh? What threat does Israel pose to the people of the area? The only times Israel has been dangerous has been when it was attacked first!

    If a modern democracy is a threat to Arab countries, then boo hoo.

    But hey, blame the Jews as always!

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.