Friday, January 2, 2009


Daniel Larison has a post up explicating the "debate" taking place in America among our political and media class regarding the Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip. He notes that the debate is rather one-sided, or, in point of fact, has two sides: on one side, consisting of most all participants, you have those who support Israel's actions and policies (the "mainstream" "conventional wisdom" side), and on the other side, consisting small group of possibly anti-semitic cranks, you have dangerous radical extremists who support the destruction of Israel.

Larison approaches this from a somewhat forensic point of view, but my thought is that it is very simple: many people who might otherwise criticize Israel on logical and moral grounds are prevented from doing so from fear of being intimidated and labeled as Jew-haters. Now, your humble blogger considers himself somewhat immune from this type of tactic because, well, the folks who might intimidate me in this fashion aren't likely to take notice of this little blog, and even if they did notice, they probably wouldn't care a whole lot, and even in the highly unlikely event that they did notice and care, there's not a much they could do to me (what are they gonna do, get Google to erase my blog?) other than, as above, broadcast the fact they think I'm some kind of anti-semite, to which I guess I would say that if candidly discussing certain policies undertaken by the nation of Israel vis-a-vis its neighbors without the requisite predisposition to arrive at favorable conclusions about such policies, I say, if that is now considered anti-semitism then I submit that the term has lost all meaning, which can't be a good thing for the Jewish people. Or maybe it is. I guess we will leave such questions to the Jews themselves.

But the thing is (though it really ought to go without saying?): Jews, on the one hand, constitute a race of people, and Israel on the other hand is a sovereign nation, a government -- a state, in other words -- with a considerable amount bombs, and jets, and helicopters, and tanks, and armored personnel carriers, and rockets, and nuclear weapons ferchrissake, and as a well-armed state is capable of great mischief and harm if engaged in implementing the wrong policies, a fact which cannot be changed just by noting that its government is made up of, yes, Jewish people.

So... when I hear someone on NPR, in a very soothing-yet-authoritative voice tell me that one of the risks of Israel making an incursion into Gaza with ground forces is that one or more of its personnel might be "abducted" ("remember, it's happened before"), my immediate thought is: what the fuck is this person talking about? Because I think any unbiased, rational person understands that when you are engaged in a war and one of your soldiers is forcibly detained by the very people you are waging war against then we say that that soldier has been captured, not "abducted".

I suppose the response might be that the "abuductors" in this case are not legitimate "combatants", but rather some variety of criminals, who have no right (or cause) to "capture" anyone, and therefore the forcible detention constitutes the "crime" of "abduction". To which the very obvious reply would be that no matter how much and how loudly your side wants to proclaim what you are doing a "police action", the plain and obvious truth is that you are using military jets to bomb the offices of a democratically elected government, and that your incursion into this particular territory (were it to occur) is quite clearly an invasion undertaken by miltary personnel, transported in military vehicles, operating under rules of engagement which are exactly identical to those prevailing in state-on-state armed conflicts (i.e., wars). And if, in the face of all of this, you'd like to then tell me that the people you are fighting against don't constitute a regular "military force" because they don't have the proper uniforms or weapons, then I will laugh in your face and note that they also don't have proper food rations either, but rather are in various stages of starvation -- a situation, it should be further noted, that you yourself bear a great degree of responsibility for -- and thus it is difficult to imagine holding any reasonable expectation that they might have the means or motivation to procure proper attire to participate in your fucking war.


bgirl said...

YES! I have been questioning some "news" anchors' little commentary-as-reporting lately on this very thing. Why are Palenstinians always "militants firing on Israel" but Israel's frequent shows of force get to use the nifty military terms?

I don't know that I have an opinion on who is more justified/more righteous/more worthy of support. But I do know who is more Western. I do know who gets an automatic pass (from the media, from society, from pretty much any first-world leader) on just about every military strike they have ever issued, including the war that made them a sovereign nation to begin with. Is this still about righting wrongs? It this still about tiptoeing around racial landmines? Is it fear of hellfire?

HHL said...

right, it is the bias that bothers me, and the reasons you suggest are all contributing factors I think.

as far as who is right and who is wrong, this is a conflict that is very old and very deep -- probably the most complicated political situation in recorded human history -- and so for every issue on which one side can legitimately claim to be "right", the other side can point to a separate (or related) issue dating back a few months or years or decades or centuries and legitimately claim that they were wronged.

it just never ends. certainly it won't be solved by Israel's latest tactics. every person they kill in these kinds of attacks just means that many more survivors (the dead person's friends, family, admirers, etc) will swear eternal hostility toward Israel, the Jews, the West, etc. Especially when the dead are women, children, uninvolved bystanders, etc. It matters very little whether they "intend" to avoid this kind of "collateral damage", the result is the same.

That being said, I guess they (the Israelis) feel that they have no choice other than to take the most aggressively violent stance in order to keep themselves safe. But I wish people in the US media and government would treat this like the big complex gray area that it is, rather than subtly and not-so-subtly cheering on one side and acting as if there really is no question who is in the right.