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Freddie

Freddie deBoer used to blog at lhote.blogspot.com, and may again someday. Now he blogs here.

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28 Responses

  1. Avatar Evan says:

    This post misses some important points about moral/ethical relativism. Yes, children on a playground do know that wrong is wrong, regardless of how much worse one’s peers might be. However, the whole notion of “relativism” rests on context – is so and so better or worse because of the people or situation around me. In this case, using a playground is too simple context.

    To use a cliched example, is a hungry bread thief unethical? If an otherwise good person were wrongly imprisoned, could we not see him take actions (starting fights to protect himself, for example), that might be okay given the circumstances? I am not arguing for carte blanche relativism, but context can matter.

    Along these lines, I think current contextual defenses of Israel have it wrong. Killing innocent Palestinians is wrong, as is launching rockets at a town – without respect to which is “worse”. However, the issue isn’t that Israel’s actions are okay because other countries might be worse. The important point is my prison analogy – sometimes you have to get your hands dirty to protect yourself in a bad neighborhood against an enemy with bad tactics. If you grant that Israel has a right to defend itself militarily, and you note that Hamas launches rockets from hospitals and schools, then you are at an intellectual stalemate. Other than taking every reasonable precaution, what would you have Israel do?

    Now, in the actual Gaza war, there have been reports that seem to indicate Israel went above and beyond in its destruction, and that certain soldiers or groups may have even committed war crimes. If this is the case, it should be prosecuted, it is wrong, and would be wrong regardless of who did it. But, even without those above and beyond transgressions, I’m sure any war against a populace-located enemy like Hamas will result in the deaths of innocents. This is not “okay”. This is not “fine since it’s Israel”. It is, however, the reality on the ground. This does not make it moral, but it may be an unavoidable tragedy.Report

  2. Avatar Lev says:

    Well said. Then again, hard-core conservatives use similar arguments about torture. When confronted by the moral argument, they just say that al-Qaeda does worse stuff. As if that makes it right.Report

  3. Avatar brierrabbit says:

    Heres the torture argument again. however, if the Israelis stop defending themselves, and hand flowers out to the Palestinians, and then the next day the rockets start landing in Jewish villages, from the Palestinian neighborhoods again. the question still stands, what do you expect the Israelis do? sit and take it? Sometimes the only decisions are between bad, and worse. What if the drug gangs in Mexican border towns start lobbing rockets into the American side, killing people? what next. do we sit and hope that the corrupt Mexican government stops it? What if they can’t? Sometimes there is not good and bad. sometimes it’s between bad and worse. the Israelis have chosen bad, over the worse. Unfortunately, thats reality for them. The worlds a hard place.Report

  4. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    Israelis have the right to defend themselves.
    With that said, Freddie, here’s a blog suggestion: the 3% ers, and the “oath keepers!” Kinda makes the ‘birthers” and tea party folks look rather placid. And, thanks for “Snarlyow!”Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    There is an analogy that may be more helpful. Maybe not. It’s all good.

    Sophie’s Choice.

    Sophie, you may recall, was forced to pick which one of her children would live and which would die. (To make the analogy better, Nazis were involved.) She was told that if she did not pick, both would die. There was this awful scene where she was clinging to the one child saying take the other.

    To focus on Sophie as an awful person who was so vile as to tell the Nazis to kill her child is to misunderstand the basic dynamic that was going on there.

    Now, of course, this is something else… but I would say that the Israelis are in a position where more or less any choice they make will be an immoral one. That’s the position they are in. If they do this, it won’t work (and people will die). If they do that, it won’t work (and people will die). If they do this other thing, it won’t work (and people will die).

    They’re looking at the available options and, having come to the conclusion that no matter what they do, they will do something immoral…

    Well, they’re picking favorites.

    This is not laudable. It is immoral.

    To focus on the choices that they are making rather than the entire dynamic in which the choices are made is to overlook something very important, though.

    And that’s without getting into the whole “which side recognizes same-sex civil unions, allowed medicinal marijuana, has legal abortion, and lets you buy copies of Playboy?” questions that libertines like me really, deep down, use to pick which side they are on.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

      Additionally, let this not be seen as an attack on the Palestinians either. The vast, vast majority of them are being jerked around by their leaders as well. They’re seriously caught in a no-win situation where they can’t speak out against their leaders, they can’t really agitate for change in their own backyards, and the only thing they can do to let it all hang out is scream about Israel.

      When Fatah lost that election a while back (to Hamas), I remember thinking “good! There is hope! They threw the bums out!!!”

      Meanwhile most of the right was shrieking about how this means that the Palestinians have gone from bad to worse.

      So they’re in a situation where they can’t even repudiate their leaders with a fair election by kicking them to the curb without everyone and their brother going apeshit and screaming about how this proves that they’re terrorists.

      It sucks.

      I keep thinking that we just need to evacuate Israel to Crown Heights and let the Palestinians run in and burn all of the infrastructure down and begin to notice how, huh, maybe we should learn how to engage in commerce or something.Report

  6. Avatar North says:

    It’s a good post Freddie. But to refer to another old post of yours I must inquire. Have you come up with the alternative solution that you lacked (and that Andrew Sullivan has never proposed) the last time you decried Israel’s incursion into Gaza? At that time you acknowledged that you did not have an answer to the question as to what the correct Israeli response would have been to the hail of rockets raining down on civilians from within Gaza. A moral, liberal democratic government must act when their neighbors pelt their citizenry with ill aimed rocketry. Indeed if said government does not act then in a democracy like theirs they will shortly find themselves replaced with a government that will.
    That there were war crimes committed during the incursion is terrible of course and also predictable considering that the entire point of the Hamas provocation was to force such crimes to occur. Such is to be expected when militants launch their attacks from atop or beside schools, mosques, UN shelters etc or when they hide their gunmen, rocket launchers and artillery among droves of civilians and especially children. My goodness, considering that many of their fighters are near children themselves and usually lacking in any uniform even in a perfectly executed counter attack that killed only the targeted aggressors it would be easy to count Hamas militants as innocent victims (it would be merely a matter of removing a gun from their hands presumably).

    As Jay pointed out above so ably the Israelis were faces with a no win scenario. They could just no response and innocent Israelis would die or they could choose the Gazan incursion and innocent Palestinians would die. Faced with this dilemma they did what any responsible government would do. They acted in the living interests of people who were their citizens to the detriment of the living interests of people who were not.

    Of course they acted immorally. There were no moral actions available to them. To not act and cause people to die by your inaction is immoral. A man as dedicated to positive rights as you are surely can’t deny this. When the rockets rained down what would you have had them do? Platitudes from the US, the UN or from you or me would not block the attacks. If they could then Israel would be under an impenetrable shield and would probably be busily trying to cart their screeching right wing fanatics out of the West Bank.Report

  7. Avatar Katherine says:

    Here’s my answer to people who are suggesting the Israelis had no other options.

    First, put things in perspective. The number of Israeli civilians killed by Palestinian rockets was in the single digits. The number of Palestinian civilians killed by the IDF was over one thousand. While accepting the right of Israelis to defend their citizens, this was clearly disproportional retribution.

    Secondly, the massive killings of civilians weren’t just a natural consequence of urban warfare. Even Israeli soldiers interviewed have reported that they were ordered to shoot and kill pretty much anyone they saw. That wasn’t to preserve the lives of civilians. That was in order to, hopefully, minimize Israeli opposition to the operation by minimizing Israeli casualties. Purposeful indiscriminate killing of civilians is not a morally acceptable tactic.

    Thirdly, we have to ask why all this is happening. Two decades ago, the Palestinians were holding marches and throwing rocks. They have no reason to believe peaceful means will get them anywhere – there have been treaties with Israel, there have been peace processes, as far back as the Camp David Accords Israel agreed to withdraw from the occupied territories. It all achieved nothing for them. Until and unless the Israeli government takes some action indicating that it is willing to withdraw and that a Palestinian state is a feasible possibility, there’s no way forward. You can’t negotiate with a people who have no reason to trust anyone and nothing left to lose.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Katherine says:

      Err.. Kathering.. uh… Gaza.. no settlers? Empty? Withdrawn? Also I’m also recalling something about the Palestinians deliberatly blowing Israeli civilians into kibble in pizza joints and on busses. That’s a bit more than rock throwing.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to North says:

        Gak.. I will put up a more coherent post in a bit. But if the only answer is that the Palestinians are historically opressed through no fault of their own that’s pretty weak tea to answer the question about what actions to take in response to rocket bombardment from neighboring (recently returned to Palestinian) territory.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Katherine says:

      “there have been treaties with Israel, there have been peace processes, as far back as the Camp David Accords Israel agreed to withdraw from the occupied territories. It all achieved nothing for them.”

      Do you understand that there are people out there who think that the Israelis have done such things as “withdraw from Gaza”?

      Are they stupid or evil or both?Report

      • Avatar Katherine in reply to Jaybird says:

        They withdrew from Gaza and proceeded to blockade it off from any economic interaction with anywhere else and hold back all of the tax revenues. That doesn’t permit any viable economy or governance and isn’t anything resembling a peace process.

        I’m not defending everything Palestinians or their government have done, but I don’t think there’s any realistic chance of them laying down arms until they have some reason to believe that they’re actually likely to get a state out of any negotiations. The first intifada was, at least at the start, primarily a campaign of civil disobedience. When that’s suppressed, people turn to violence.Report

  8. Avatar Freddie says:

    As an aside, I should point out that the only citation available to say that Hamas hides among civilians and children comes from IDF sources. I wouldn’t put it past an organization as villainous as Hamas, not at all. They’re a despicable organization. But the point is an important one: everyone here simply takes Israel’s word for everything; no one believes the Palestinians. It’s enough for Israel to say that they aren’t targeting civilians, and everyone believes them.

    First, Katherine is absolutely right about proportionality. I am not entirely comfortable with the idea of proportional warfare. But surely, at some extremes, there has to be some sort of attention paid to the fact that responses are totally unequal. Even by the IDFs own numbers, Israel’s civilian victims are dwarfed by the civilian victims in Palestine. By a huge number. Should that matter to us as a democracy and as a discourse? It seems antithetical to our values to say that it just doesn’t matter. How many dead civilians are enough to provoke our condemnation of Israel? Just how much leeway is given by the fact that “they have no choice”? What’s the limit? Is there no limit at all?

    Second of all, I think it is easy for everyone– me certainly included– to fall into the same old arguments here. That would be a mistake. Recognizing how incredibly vicious and destructive this most recent Gaza incursion was is essential. This was categorically different from other recent Israeli military adventures. Attacks on civilians were not the product of a few rogue agents but rather coordinated and conducted under orders. Check the record. We have several IDF soldiers saying explicitly that they were ordered by command specifically to target and kill civilian populations. This wasn’t just collateral damage. This was an organized campaign of war crimes and aggression against civilians.

    Say you were a member of a dispossessed people, numbering in the millions. For over 40 years, you have been subject to a brutal and illegal (according to the Geneva convention, of which Israel is a high-contracting signatory) occupation. This occupation represents an assault on your self-determination, on your dignity, on your health and well-being, on your most basic and sacred human and civil rights. Your country lacks self-government; it lacks self-determination. Every legal and diplomatic challenge to this status quo has failed.

    What should you do? If you really have the values that we in the West say we have– if you really believe that you would rather die than to live without freedom– than what possible recourse do you have? What if you have no moral choices, as some are insisting that Israel does not, does that mean that any immoral action you choose is open to you? If you have no moral choices, are you allowed– entitled– to strap yourself with a bomb and go off to kill civilians?

    I say no. I say we always have choice. I say that a lack of moral choices does not excuse immoral ones.

    Israel, meanwhile, has in fact two choices. They are each profound and each difficult but each confronts a problem that cuts at the very foundation of democracy. When a people are dispossessed and disenfranchised, there are two ways to solve their dilemma. You can incorporate them into the existing democracy, with an absolute and full integration into the democratic polity, a one state solution. Or you can allow them to create their own state, a two state solution. But to keep an ethnically and religiously distinct group in a state of subjection and second-class is just out of the bounds of democratic governance.

    That won’t be the end of hard decisions. If an independent Palestine continues to have terrorist groups shooting rockets into Israel, that would likely mean war. I think that, absent the legitimate grievance of occupation, moderate Palestinians would be empowered to put an end to that kind of thing. We’ll have to wait and see. But such a glaring and deep crime against democratic principles cannot stand, even if the solution results in pain and bloodshed. And as long as the Palestinians remain a people without even the barest amount of self-determination, as long as they are a subjugated and second-class people, there will be atrocities, crimes, violence, disruption, disorder, and controversy. “The American people have this to learn: that where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither person nor property is safe.”Report

    • Avatar Bo in reply to Freddie says:

      I generally agree, but… The hypothetical you spin at the end is essentially what happened in Gaza: The Israelis evacuated Gaza, turning over the entire area to the Palestinian Authority; and the rockets did continue falling; and then there was war. That’s what essentially broke the peace movement in Israel: those rockets got Israelis thinking about how, from the West Bank, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were in rocket range instead of just Sderot and Ashkelon.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Freddie says:

      Thanks for the response Freddie. I’d like to say off the bat that I agree with you that ultimately a 2 state solution is the only moral and feasible option available to the conflict (the 1 state solution being a demographic time bomb and one that the Israelis are understandably loathe to strap onto themselves). That said I have a few thoughts I’d like to put in. Especially before a harder core Israeli supporter comes in and starts going into a frenzy.

      I am not an expert on the Gazan operation having followed it only generally so you may be more conversant to the particulars than I am. That said I did take your advice to look at the record and so did a quick review of the wikipedia entry (not exactly an IDF mouthpiece) on the Gazan attack. It states “Associated Press photos showed rockets being launched from densely populated areas in northern Gaza.[15]” If I can come up with this after a few minutes cursory search I think it’s fair to say that Hamas is likely intentionally provoking the civilian casualties. Particularly since that behavior is part of their MO and strategically sound considering their position.

      From the same article the reported fatalities are at 110 with much arguing over which are militants and which civilians (I reiterate that Hamas goes among the populace without uniform which makes it very hard to tell whether a casualty is militant or civilian). Now the Israelis say they aren’t targeting civilians and I am somewhat dubious about claims that there were orders to do so. Not because of any intrinsic trust in the Israeli adherence to truth, heavens no, but rather because my common sense says that if the Israeli’s put a couple thousand troops in Gaza with explicit orders to shoot civilians there’s be a –hell- of a lot more casualties than that. There’d be a hell of a lot more even than the highest estimates we have coming from the pro-Palestinian sources. Also I’m dubious because I fail to see the reason behind such orders. What would be the gain or value to Israel from intentionally targeting civilians? Hamas certainly doesn’t care about civilian casualties, the only people who do care would not be pleased about Israelis doing it and the Israelis are supposed to be cold blooded in calculating. Where is the gain? Also lets be real here; if the Israelis decided to empty out Gaza and damn the consequences Gaza would be empty. There’d be a lot of pissed Gazans in Egypt and a lot more dead ones on the ground but the strip would be empty.

      On the issue of what the Israelis are supposed to do I should reiterate that the current position of the Israeli’s vis a vis the Palestinians is unsustainable and should end. I’m aware of the fact that as a democracy Israel is constrained in its actions in ways that its’ dictatorship and autocrat neighbors are not. You don’t seem to acknowledge that reality. Nor do you mention the fact that your answer (which ironically is the definition of “More of the Same” in that it is precisely the answer that the left has been stating to the Israeli/Palestine issue for at least the past 20 years) is a general action plan that would have to unwind over the course of at least a year. The idea that the Israeli electorate would willingly go through the painful internal fight that turning the West Bank over to the Palestinians during the times they’re not cowering in shelters under fire is one that I’m struggling to find an appropriate word to describe since naive or unrealistic seems weak as a descriptor.

      I’d also like to observe that your positions are ones that until recently a large portion of the Israeli electorate also shared. The left wing peace parties in Israel were a potent force. I would note that they are now almost non-existent as a political or demographic force in that country. Something it seems has convinced the majority of them that the Palestinians are more interested in perpetrating violence against them than they are in self determination. Has any of the Palestinian behavior been connected to this remarkable shift or is this just a fluke or a mass delusion on the part of the populace? I’d also like to point out that the Israeli main stream also believes, as you do, that a withdrawal is necessary. Even Peretz in his mad attic at TNR readily says that Israel needs to get out and leave the Palestinians to themselves. My read on the political situation in the country is that they’d love to be rid of the settlements but they can’t turn the ship of state to that course as long as the Palestinians are misbehaving the way they are. Particularly after the debacle of Gaza which was, lets face it, a complete withdrawal from that territory.

      Now the narrative that you and Katherine lay out for the Israeli/Palestinian history certainly has plenty of truth in it. It also seems to strip the Palestinians and their Arabic precursors before them of any responsibility for any of the history that has unfolded and as such is a very sympathetic spin on my understanding of the history of the region. From reading other threads like this I know that at this point the conversation would hurtle off into a blow by blow debate over every stage of the immigration of the Jews to join the ones already in the region, the terrorism/guerilla warfare of their nascent national movements, the foundation of their state etc. In an attempt to avoid this fate (I’m running terrible long) I’ll merely say that this seems a bit unfair to the Israelis and somewhat infantalizing to the Palestinians and leave it at that.

      Still, if more of the same is the answer you now have settled upon that’s fair and consistent I guess since it’s compatible with your original answer that there was not a good answer.
      https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=5902617359729115650&postID=8471558064367528017

      And in closing, apologies for my rambling length and sincere admiration, I’m not as far to the left as you are but I think that we share the same ends even if we disagree broadly on the history, facts on the ground and especially the practical means to those ends. Also I love your writing and enjoy it greatly when you lay into Republicans (though not so much when you lay into neoliberals. Our skins are thin.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Freddie says:

      Thanks for the response Freddie. I’d like to say off the bat that I agree with you that ultimately a 2 state solution is the only moral and feasible option available to the conflict (the 1 state solution being a demographic time bomb and one that the Israelis are understandably loathe to strap onto themselves). That said I have a few thoughts I’d like to put in. Especially before a harder core Israeli supporter comes in and starts going into a frenzy.

      I am not an expert on the Gazan operation having followed it only generally so you may be more conversant to the particulars than I am. That said I did take your advice to look at the record and so did a quick review of the wikipedia entry (not exactly an IDF mouthpiece) on the Gazan attack. It states “Associated Press photos showed rockets being launched from densely populated areas in northern Gaza.[15]” If I can come up with this after a few minutes cursory search I think it’s fair to say that Hamas is likely intentionally provoking the civilian casualties. Particularly since that behavior is part of their MO and strategically sound considering their position.

      From the same article the reported fatalities are at 110 with much arguing over which are militants and which civilians (I reiterate that Hamas goes among the populace without uniform which makes it very hard to tell whether a casualty is militant or civilian). Now the Israelis say they aren’t targeting civilians and I am somewhat dubious about claims that there were orders to do so. Not because of any intrinsic trust in the Israeli adherence to truth, heavens no, but rather because my common sense says that if the Israeli’s put a couple thousand troops in Gaza with explicit orders to shoot civilians there’s be a –hell- of a lot more casualties than that. There’d be a hell of a lot more even than the highest estimates we have coming from the pro-Palestinian sources. Also I’m dubious because I fail to see the reason behind such orders. What would be the gain or value to Israel from intentionally targeting civilians? Hamas certainly doesn’t care about civilian casualties, the only people who do care would not be pleased about Israelis doing it and the Israelis are supposed to be cold blooded in calculating. Where is the gain? Also lets be real here; if the Israelis decided to empty out Gaza and damn the consequences Gaza would be empty. There’d be a lot of pissed Gazans in Egypt and a lot more dead ones on the ground but the strip would be empty.

      On the issue of what the Israelis are supposed to do I should reiterate that the current position of the Israeli’s vis a vis the Palestinians is unsustainable and should end. I’m aware of the fact that as a democracy Israel is constrained in its actions in ways that its’ dictatorship and autocrat neighbors are not. You don’t seem to acknowledge that reality. Nor do you mention the fact that your answer (which ironically is the definition of “More of the Same” in that it is precisely the answer that the left has been stating to the Israeli/Palestine issue for at least the past 20 years) is a general action plan that would have to unwind over the course of at least a year. The idea that the Israeli electorate would willingly go through the painful internal fight that turning the West Bank over to the Palestinians during the times they’re not cowering in shelters under fire is one that I’m struggling to find an appropriate word to describe since naive or unrealistic seems weak as a descriptor.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Freddie says:

      I’d also like to observe that your positions are ones that until recently a large portion of the Israeli electorate also shared. The left wing peace parties in Israel were a potent force. I would note that they are now almost non-existent as a political or demographic force in that country. Something it seems has convinced the majority of them that the Palestinians are more interested in perpetrating violence against them than they are in self determination. Has any of the Palestinian behavior been connected to this remarkable shift or is this just a fluke or a mass delusion on the part of the populace? I’d also like to point out that the Israeli main stream also believes, as you do, that a withdrawal is necessary. Even Peretz in his mad attic at TNR readily says that Israel needs to get out and leave the Palestinians to themselves. My read on the political situation in the country is that they’d love to be rid of the settlements but they can’t turn the ship of state to that course as long as the Palestinians are misbehaving the way they are. Particularly after the debacle of Gaza which was, lets face it, a complete withdrawal from that territory.

      Now the narrative that you and Katherine lay out for the Israeli/Palestinian history certainly has plenty of truth in it. It also seems to strip the Palestinians and their Arabic precursors before them of any responsibility for any of the history that has unfolded and as such is a very sympathetic spin on my understanding of the history of the region. From reading other threads like this I know that at this point the conversation would hurtle off into a blow by blow debate over every stage of the immigration of the Jews to join the ones already in the region, the terrorism/guerilla warfare of their nascent national movements, the foundation of their state etc. In an attempt to avoid this fate (I’m running terrible long) I’ll merely say that this seems a bit unfair to the Israelis and somewhat infantalizing to the Palestinians and leave it at that.

      Still, if more of the same is the answer you now have settled upon that’s fair and consistent I guess since it’s compatible with your original answer that there was not a good answer.

      And in closing, apologies for my rambling length and sincere admiration, I’m not as far to the left as you are but I think that we share the same ends even if we disagree broadly on the history, facts on the ground and especially the practical means to those ends. Also I love your writing and enjoy it greatly when you lay into Republicans (though not so much when you lay into neoliberals. Our skins are thin and fragile like orchid petals.Report

      • Avatar Evan in reply to North says:

        North, you made many of the points I was going to, but for what it’s worth, here is a quote from former British Army Colonel Richard Kemp: “I don’t think there has ever, in the history of warfare, been an army that has taken such extreme measures to avoid civilian casualties as has the Israeli army.” While he has been involved with several pro-Israel initiatives, he is a decorated soldier and not an Israeli.

        I stand by my original point that wanton destruction is not acceptable, especially if it was ordered (as opposed to a few stray soldiers). However, as several pointed out, war itself may have been unavoidable.Report

        • Avatar Katherine in reply to Evan says:

          You consider the quote of one guy who is biased in favour of Israel to be more credible than the investigations of numerous human rights groups, the United Nations, and the statements of members of the IDF involved in the operation?Report

          • Avatar Evan in reply to Katherine says:

            Not at all – he is merely one source, a source that I noted had a pro-Israel bent. I simply offered it as an alternative to Wikipedia. That said, to claim that the UN is a neutral source is equally unfair.

            Based on credible sources (including IDF troops), clearly there were instances in which the IDF was overly aggressive, and furthermore, there are indications that at least in some cases, this was official policy. Israel apparently made the calculation that a “disproportionate” response would serve as a deterrent to future attacks.

            Given the fact that the Palestinian people feel trapped (both literally and figuratively) in their homes/land, it is unlikely that this calculation will be correct. I do not believe in a “proportional response” doctrine, but instances in which Israel committed egregious acts can and should be dealt with however the international community deals with such things these days. But to simply look at destruction and say “Look at what Israel has done!” is to draw too big an abstract. In war, people die, and buildings are destroyed. This is especially true when fighting in largely civilian areas.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North says:

        I think that they need to get out of the West Bank. Get out and get out *HARD*. Like, everybody wakes up and says “where are the Israelis?”

        Though there is a part of me that knows that folks will still argue that Israel has rockets coming. And will have them coming for a good long while.Report

  9. Avatar Mark says:

    I find myself oddly indecisive on this issue. As a Jew, I like the notion that Judaism (even in its secular form) is a “light unto the nations.” But I also find it unfair to hold the Israelis to a higher standard than international law, or that other countries are held to. And I don’t want to get lumped in with the lefty anti-Semites who hold Israel to a higher standard for other reasons, including often a belief that Jews are all white people and as such should be held to a higher standard than the “brown peoples” of the World. (Living in San Francisco, I find “progressive” anti-racism pretty hollow.)

    That said, I think that Israeli military policy is driven by Israel’s own racism – that Arabs are “savages” who only understand force; or that the significant portion of Israelis who hate Arabs need to be appeased. Netanyahu embodies this, and Labor and Kadima have forever chased him to prove they’re tough as nails. It is a cruel twist of fate that Rabin and Sharon came to the realization that they needed to make peace and died (or were incapacitated) soon after, while Netanyahu and his rejectionism have survived.Report

  10. Avatar Rusty says:

    Some of these points have been made above, but I want to comment on Freddie’s disengenousness. First, Andrew’s emailer didn’t simply say Israel was “better than Hamas” but that Israel is in a different moral universe. Second, what schoolyard did Freddie play on — there’s a huge difference between the class bully who pummels kids just short of a hospital stay and the kid who ocassionally pulls another kid’s hair. “It most definitely does not “mean nothing” (either as far as moral relativism goes or social standing with the other kids).

    But the worst thing about this post is how it dodges the question of racism with the tired “oooh, you think any criticism of Israel makes me anti-semitic!” No, we think when people act like racist cops, targetting one race for speeding tickets while legions more of another race are committing far worse crimes, they might actually be racist. That’s not defending speeding! Speeding is dangerous, bad, and sometimes kills people — it deserves enforcement. But in this case, Isarel was speeding to catch the person who just broke in their house and tried to poison their food (because there is no 911 to call).

    But the real victim of this phony moral absolutism aren’t Israelis or Jews, but Africans and other people of color. Attention is a finite resource — do victims of genocidal levels of abuse and violence need to act like Hamas to get more than Human Rights Watch print-and-file reports? I’ll make Freddie a deal — if he’ll give 1/10 the writing/attention/concern to Darfur (or Ethiopia or Somalia or pick a death-so-massive-it-makes-the-occupied-territories-look-benign-by-comaprison-and-no-thats-not-a-dismissal-of-the-suffering-of-Palestinians) he does to Israel, he’s free to shed the burden of responding to all that “true” anti-semitism he comes across.Report

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