Comments: War Crime Morals

Nothing sez Love like WillyPete.

Posted by Mike Meyer at March 25, 2009 04:05 PM
Because generosity is our middle name, and freedom is something very hot and heavy to drop from the sky.

It also comes in the shape of sanctions, or in the sideways delivery of sharp metal fragments, and I'm sure many other forms of tough love.

Posted by Angryman@24:30 at March 25, 2009 04:13 PM

Look at it this way - we're the Avis of war criminals. We try harder! Go'bama!

Posted by AlanSmithee at March 25, 2009 04:28 PM

Bernard and Jon,

What's with the obsession with big, bad Israel? Given the I-P conflict's geopolitical complexity, I'm curious as to why you are so emotionally attached to the issues. Have either of you lived in or visited the region? Why so personally invested in this firestorm as opposed to, say, Tibet or Darfur or Congo or Chechnya?

As a Jew who once lived in Israel, here are my two cents:

In 1947, when the UN Partition Plan was declared, the Palestinians elected to follow the leadership of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, and attack the new Israeli state. (In 1941, wanted by the British, al-Husayni took refuge in Nazi Germany.) The Arab armies told the Palestinians to evacuate until the war was over, when the Jews were defeated. But that didn't happen. Israel won, and the Palestinians never returned to the homes that they abandoned on orders of the Arab armies.

In 2000 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yassir Arafat a deal which would have given the Palestinians a state in all of the land taken in 1967 except the Jewish sections of Jerusalem–about the best deal the Palestinians could ever hope to get from the Israelis. The Palestinians turned it down because it did not include a right of return for Palestinian refugees into Israel. The reason for the insistence of a right to return to Israel instead of Palestine is to create a Palestinian majority in Israel, which would simply vote Israel out of existence. Until the Palestinians are willing to accept a negotiated peace instead of attempting to negotiate victory, there will be no peace.

What led to this occupation? How about Syria, Jordan, and Egypt preparing to attack: At the end of May 1967, Jordanian forces were given to the command of an Egyptian general, Abdul Munim Riad. On the same day, Nasser proclaimed: "The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are poised on the borders of Israel … to face the challenge, while standing behind us are the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan and the whole Arab nation. This act will astound the world. Today they will know that the Arabs are arranged for battle, the critical hour has arrived. We have reached the stage of serious action and not of more declarations."
And so, now that these Arab armies failed in their attempt to take Israel - and Israel captures the land to protect themselves - they are expected to just give it back? That merely reinforces my point that the violence is not centered around a territorial issue but rather an existential one.

Today, there can't possibly be any peace agreement with the Palestinians until Hamas and the Palestinian Authority make peace with each other. One of the major reasons why Gazans have been starving during the last 20 months is because at that time Hamas started a civil war and violently overthrew the Palestinian Authority. Since Egypt's agreement to monitor the entry way into Gaza was with the PA and the EU, Egypt had to close it. This civil war had nothing to do with Israel, yet Hamas blamed Israel for border closings and sent missiles into Israel when in fact Hamas caused the border closing by sending the PA/Fatah out of Gaza.

In addition, the rockets fired by Hamas did not begin with the Israeli blockade. The firing of rockets are also not acts of resistance; rather they are the embodiment of the expressed purpose of Hamas, which is the destruction of the Jewish nation state. To masquerade this behavior as resistance is dishonest.

The Palestinian people democratically elected a government that is a thinly veiled terrorist apparatus. The launching of rockets was a clear statement that they continue to deny the existence of Israel and would do whatever is within their power. The reality is that today they are launching marginal rockets. Tomorrow, they may very well have the technology to sew much broader and significant damage.

I believe Israel is correct in not waiting for a smoking gun (or rocket as the case may be ). They need to respond forcefully and do their utmost to avoid collateral damage, as they have been doing. Gaza contains over 1 million people crammed into an area about twice the size of Washington, D.C.; considering Israel's super aggressive tactics during the war, it was remarkable that more people did not lose their lives.

For all of those Hamas apologists, I find the state of affairs in Gaza awfully sad. After Israel unilaterally pulled out of Gaza, there were numerous opportunities for economic development, but Gaza's leadership eschewed those for the opportunity to create war. Belligerence is the unfortunate calling card that Israel's Arab neighbors have grown so accustomed to using.
Yes, it is really sad to see all the suffering in Gaza, but the place to put the blame is very clear–on Hamas. They are happy to have their civilian populace sacrificed to drum up international support for them. A just regime would end the suffering. Instead their leadership hides in tunnels below hospitals and schools, shooting rockets from kindergartens into kindergartens and issuing defiant statements, knowing that they are personally safe no matter how much their people suffer.

The Palestinians deserve much better than that.

-eb

P.S. Even paranoids have real enemies. And Israelis in particular and Jews in general, have good reason to be paranoid.


Posted by eBerg at March 25, 2009 05:45 PM
What's with the obsession with big, bad Israel? Given the I-P conflict's geopolitical complexity, I'm curious as to why you are so emotionally attached to the issues. Have either of you lived in or visited the region? Why so personally invested in this firestorm as opposed to, say, Tibet or Darfur or Congo or Chechnya?

Because I'm paying for it, and because it puts me and everyone I care about in mortal danger.

Also, I'm fascinated by the way societies and individuals generate self-justifying imaginary narratives about their history. The rest of your comment is one tiny example of this phenomenon, but of course it's extremely common among human groups generally.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at March 25, 2009 05:52 PM
Yes, it is really sad to see all the suffering in Gaza, but the place to put the blame is very clear–on Hamas. They are happy to have their civilian populace sacrificed to drum up international support for them.

Yeah. And all Israel is doing is being neighborly and sacrificing all those women and children that Hamas is happy to have sacrificed. And for doing all the dirty work of slaughtering children does Israel get any thanks? Noooo! I tell you, the world is full of antisemites.

Posted by empty at March 25, 2009 06:06 PM

Truthfully, I was shocked and nauseated by IDF soldiers` testimonies in Haaretz, as well as Gideon Levy's opinion piece (and I commend the paper`s courage for publishing them -- is there a Palestinian journalist writing today who would dare to criticize Hamas's leadership? If so, I would like to read.)
That said, I cannot help but roll my eyes at Bernard's response to Israel's "moral army" propaganda. Maybe Israel can wrestle Russia for the top prize of "least immoral" army.
Does any of this excuse the IDF? Absolutely not. But it`s worth keeping in mind.

I tend to agree with Orwell; those who abjure violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.

Posted by iceBerg at March 25, 2009 06:31 PM

"What's with the obsession with big, bad Israel? "

I've thought about that in my own case and it's because of the heavy dose of pro-Israel propaganda we get in the US. I think if Israel didn't have close ties with the US and we weren't fed romanticized nonsense about it I'd probably care about as much as I do, say, Sri Lanka's civil war. Ethically, we Americans ought to care more because we pay for a lot of it too, so it's our duty, but emotionally, in my case, it's just a disgust with all the lies that are told here about that particular conflict. Nobody bothers to lie to me about Sri Lanka and tell me how wonderfully moral one side or the other happens to be.

Incidentally, your own post is riddled with propaganda stated as fact, beginning with the discredited origin of the Palestinian refugees in 1948. I'd have to type something a lot longer just to disentangle all of it, along with supplying links and I don't have the inclination to do so right now.

Posted by Donald Johnson at March 25, 2009 06:49 PM

is there a Palestinian journalist writing today who would dare to criticize Hamas's leadership?

Has there been a journalist writing at any time in history in an occupied nation that's just been attacked by a military 1000X more powerful than its own who has dared to criticize its leadership?

I'm sure there must have been some, but I've never heard of them.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at March 25, 2009 07:08 PM

Bernard, I just happened to run across this before reading your post -- http://blog.wired.com/defense/2009/03/iron-eagle-isra.html

Enjoy.

Posted by Aunt Deb at March 25, 2009 07:11 PM

Soldiers in the Israeli army have been expressing their morality by printing T-shirts bearing fun-filled art all about the pleasure and joy of killing Palestinians civilians.

Richard Silverstein picked up a post about this from Israeli blogger Idan Landau.

http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2009/03/20/idf-t-shirts-boast-of-killing-babies-pregnant-women-sodomizing-hamas-leaders/

Posted by Dena Shunra at March 25, 2009 07:27 PM

Donald,

How do you know you're not paying for one side or the other in Sri Lanka's civil war? In this clusterf^%#k of a globalized economy, it can get tricky following the money trail.
I just wish the culture of complaint would be more evenhanded is all.

Posted by icyBerg at March 25, 2009 07:40 PM

Is Sri Lanka a Pallet-O-Hunderd-Dollar-Bills type OR A-Pallet-O-Hundred-Dollar-Bills AND a coupla of dedicated satellites type?

Posted by Mike Meyer at March 25, 2009 08:52 PM

Lawrence of Cyberia details how this most moral of armies puts the slogans on their T-shirts into practice.

Posted by empty at March 25, 2009 09:17 PM

Regarding Sri Lanka, afaik the US isn't heavily involved. If we are, then yes, it would be my duty to be upset. And I did get upset in the 80's when I started realizing what was going on in Central America and found out the kinds of people we were supporting and the sorts of lies our politicians and pundits were spouting. The same with East Timor--in that case every President from Ford to Clinton sided with Indonesia (until 1999) as they slaughtered or oppressed Timorese. If something like this is going on with Sri Lanka and I eventually find out about it, I'll be writing letters to politicians and newspapers and bloviating online about it and mentioning it to friends--which is what passes for activism in my case.

Anyway, Israel/Palestine is another case where the US supports one side's crimes and where most politicians in both parties tell the most absurd lies imaginable. So it makes me angry. If the two sides reach some sort of fair agreement and things settle down, I'll just add the conflict to the list of past examples of US hypocrisy and move on.

Posted by Donald Johnson at March 25, 2009 09:24 PM

Why try to apply morals to war? I mean, once you get to the point of killing morals are just words.

I mean, I would hope that the puppies that I fucked when I was in the military, no the puppies I made love to meant something. It just seems like the words make it all so cheap.

Posted by tim at March 26, 2009 02:01 AM

I couldn't help but notice that icyBerg has shown no inclination himself to leap over to, say, "Empire Burlesque" and stand up for the moral right of Ethiopians not to be criticised for slaughtering Somalians. Until he does so, it's hard for him to claim that anyone else is bad for dumping on Israelis slaughtering Palestinians.

I think he's antiethiop. In fact, I'm sure of it. In Bizarro World, the counter-Horowitz would be all over him for his blatant antiethiopism.

Posted by MFB at March 26, 2009 06:46 AM

The Arab armies told the Palestinians to evacuate until the war was over, when the Jews were defeated. But that didn't happen. Israel won, and the Palestinians never returned to the homes that they abandoned on orders of the Arab armies.

False. The Arab armies, local militia leaders and radio stations exhorted the local population to stay. (See, for example, the findings of Benny Morris, who can hardly be considered a friend of the Palestinians.) Arab civilians fled because they didn't want to end up like the inhabitants of Deir Yassin, which, along with similar atrocities, was the reason Arab armies attacked "the new state". That the temporary flight of civilians from a war zone was then cemented into permanent dispossession by a policy of "retroactive transfer" is hardly a point in Israel's favour.

Simlar falsehoods and distortions pepper iceberg's post (Jon will be amused to see the "Hamas violently overthrew the Palestinian Authority" zombie fact once more clawing its way from the damp earth). One of Rob's Rules of Thumb: If your cause was just, you wouldn't need to lie about it.

Posted by RobWeaver at March 26, 2009 09:47 AM

One of Rob's Rules of Thumb: If your cause was just, you wouldn't need to lie about it.

You make a good point.

Posted by John Caruso at March 26, 2009 11:46 AM

One of Rob's Rules of Thumb: If your cause was just, you wouldn't need to lie about it.

Actually, I disagree. Or sort of disagree. It's true that you don't NEED to lie about just causes, but people lie so compulsively that even the champions of just causes do in fact lie a lot. It's just their non-just opponents lie more.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at March 26, 2009 12:05 PM

Gott mit uns.

Posted by Persona non grata at March 26, 2009 12:57 PM

The Rationalists.

Posted by Mike Meyer at March 26, 2009 02:48 PM

It's true, Persona, we've got mittens.

Posted by Save the Oocytes at March 26, 2009 03:50 PM

Jon: Or sort of disagree. It's true that you don't NEED to lie about just causes...

I think this means you agree, but would like to make a similar point using some of the same words.

StO: It's true, Persona, we've got mittens.

Nice!

Posted by John Caruso at March 26, 2009 05:19 PM

I think this means you agree, but would like to make a similar point using some of the same words.

Well, I want to disagree with Rob's implied rather than literal point. His literal statement is that you don't need to lie if your cause is just. His implied point is that you can tell whether someone's cause is just by whether or not they lie.

That's simply not true. However, it's a pretty widespread if often unconscious belief. Hence the people whose cause isn't just will seize upon instances of lies by opponents whose cause IS just to discredit their just cause.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at March 26, 2009 05:53 PM

His implied point is that you can tell whether someone's cause is just by whether or not they lie.

That's not logically implied by what he wrote, but I can go with it for the sake of argument.

That's simply not true. However, it's a pretty widespread if often unconscious belief.

I'd say that's only half true. I think you're failing to distinguish between the honesty and dishonesty cases, which function differently. Honesty gives a speaker more credibility, but that's a minor factor for most people in determining whether or not their overarching cause is just. For example, there are few people who'd think an honest Klansman has a just cause. But...

Hence the people whose cause isn't just will seize upon instances of lies by opponents whose cause IS just to discredit their just cause.

...this is absolutely true, because dishonesty alone can easily invalidate someone's point. But honesty alone won't validate it. So there's an inherent asymmetry there, which (as you observe) nefarious folk exploit by scanning for any tiniest hint of disingenuousness in their just opponents' statements.

Posted by John Caruso at March 26, 2009 06:39 PM

Well, it's only a rule of thumb...

Fair point, Jon, about human nature and the danger of allowing just causes to be smeared by association with their proponents' occasional terminological inexactitudes (and you were right about it being my position that dishonesty in support of a cause is, at least prima facie, evidence refuting claims of its moral worth). Perhaps I should have said: If your cause was just, you wouldn't need to lie about it ALL THE TIME. But even that might run up against the weirdness of human nature and other complexities.

Posted by RobWeaver at March 26, 2009 07:24 PM

Goddamn tags (html and Latin).

Posted by RobWeaver at March 26, 2009 07:28 PM

What is the cause of Zionists in Palestine? Militant ethnic nationalism, typical for the second half of the 19th - first half of the 20th century; perversion, dead and discarded branch of the Enlightenment.

How can this cause be just, and what difference would it make if the soldiers killing for this hideous cause were indeed nice people? I'm sure the people who comprised the Wehrmacht considered themselves 'most moral', and I suspect most of them really were nice guys - under normal circumstances. So what?

Posted by abb1 at March 27, 2009 05:03 AM

I think I jumped into the wrong blog pond.

Posted by icyBerg at March 27, 2009 11:26 AM

Jon: It's true that you don't NEED to lie about just causes, but people lie so compulsively that even the champions of just causes do in fact lie a lot. It's just their non-just opponents lie more.

Damn straight.

icyBerg:I think I jumped into the wrong blog pond.

Also true. Hey, I thought you got some pretty nice good faith responses given your anti-reality propaganda stream post. But then I have less patience than the smart fishes in this pond.

Posted by pulaski at March 29, 2009 12:31 AM