The Comparison Between Israel and Apartheid

There was an interesting two-part article in The Guardian asking if modern-day Israel can be legitimately compared to South African Apartheid (curtsy: Behind the Surface).

I’m torn about this approach. Let me say, flat-out, that Israel’s policies – taken as a whole – cannot fairly be said to be the equivalent of Apartheid. (For anyone wondering where I stand on other very basic issues – does Israel have a right to exist, etc? – I completely endorse everything stated in this post at It’s All Connected.)

The Guardian series doesn’t conclude that Israel is an Apartheid state; on balance, I think the article makes a convincing case that Israel has racist policies but, despite some similarities, falls short of Apartheid-level discrimination. Here’s a couple of more-or-less representative paragraphs from near the end of the second article:

Hirsh Goodman emigrated to Israel three decades ago after his national service in the South African army. His son moved to South Africa after completing his conscription in the Israeli military. “The army sent him to the occupied territories and he said he would never forgive this country for what it made him do,” says Goodman, a security analyst at Tel Aviv university. He says Israel has a lot to answer for but to call it apartheid goes too far. “If Israel retains the [occupied] territories it ceases to be a democracy, and in that sense it is apartheid because it differentiates between two classes of people and separates and creates two sets of laws which is what apartheid did. It creates two standards of education, health, of dispensing funds. But you can’t call Israel an apartheid state when 76% of the people want an agreement with the Palestinians. Yes, there’s discrimination against the Arabs, the Ethiopians and others, but it’s not a racist society. There’s colonialism, but there’s not apartheid. I feel very strongly about apartheid. I hate the term being abused.”

Daniel Seidemann, the Israeli lawyer who is fighting Jerusalem’s residency and planning laws, says that he used to reject the apartheid parallel out of hand but finds it harder to do so nowadays. “My gut reaction: ‘Oh, no! Our side? My goodness, no!’ I think there’s a good deal to be said for that reaction to the extent that apartheid was rooted in a racial ideology which clearly fed social realities, fed the political system, fed the system of economic subjugation. As a Jew, to concede the predominance of a racial world view of subjugating Palestinians is difficult to accept,” he says. “But, unfortunately, the fact of the absence of a racial ideology is not sufficient because the realities that have emerged in some ways are clearly reminiscent of some of the important trappings of an apartheid regime.”

So what is accomplished by making the comparison? Well, I suppose that more people will read it because of its controversial subject (witness this blog post). This might be useful, since the article includes information about discrimination in Israel that is not well-known – at least, not here in the States. (Admittedly, things may be different in Britain, where the story was published).

“Planning and urban policy, which normal cities view as this benign tool, was used as a powerful partisan tool to subordinate and control black people in Johannesburg and is still used that way against Palestinians in Jerusalem,” says Scott Bollens, a University of California professor of urban planning who has studied divided cities across the globe, including Belfast, Berlin, Nicosia and Mostar. “In South Africa there was ‘group areas’ legislation, and then there was land use, planning tools and zoning that were used to reinforce and back up group areas. In Israel, they use a whole set of similar tools. They are very devious, in that planning is often viewed as this thing that is not part of politics. In Jerusalem, it’s fundamental to their project of control, and Israeli planners and politicians have known that since day one. They’ve been very explicit in linking the planning tools with their political project.”

At the heart of Israel’s strategy is the policy adopted three decades ago of “maintaining the demographic balance” in Jerusalem. In 1972, the number of Jews in the west of the city outnumbered the Arabs in the east by nearly three to one. The government decreed that that equation should not be allowed to change, at least not in favour of the Arabs.

“The mantra of the past 37 years has been ‘maintaining the demographic balance’, which doesn’t mean forcing Palestinians to leave,” says Daniel Seidemann, a Jewish Israeli lawyer who has spent years fighting legal cases on behalf of Jerusalem’s Arab residents. “It means curtailing their ability to develop by limiting construction to the already developed areas, by largely preventing development in new areas and by taking 35% [of Palestinian-owned land in greater East Jerusalem] and having a massive government incentive for [Jews] to build up that area.”

The down side is that no one’s talking about these aspects of the article. Instead, by framing the article as a question about Apartheid, Israel’s defenders are given license to defend Israel by correctly pointing out that things in Israel are not the same as they were in Apartheid South Africa.

That is of course true – but there’s a lot that falls short of Apartheid that is nonetheless terribly wrong. The moral lesson of South Africa should not be “anything that isn’t as bad as Apartheid is okay.” But somehow, that is where discussions of Israel tend to go.

I’m also distressed by the Apartheid angle because Apartheid is one of our iconic images of “evil perpetuated by a state.” Using such an iconic, stark image of evil to describe the Israel/Palestine conflict has the effect of covering up the extent to which some Palestinians – those that commit or support terrorism – are morally co-responsible for creating the current, appalling situation.

In the States, extremely nasty political rhetoric (“objectively pro-terrorist,” wingnut, etc) co-exists with a crushing political timidity, in which only a tiny range of political opinions are considered acceptable. To seriously criticize Israel – or, for that matter, the U.S. – for the brutality of the occupation, and for the recent use of the security wall (which is a good idea) as an excuse for a land grab, is well outside of the tiny range of acceptable “mainstream” views in the USA. In that context, it may seem strange to object to fundamentally unfair attacks on Israel, such as equating Israeli policy with Apartheid. Since we’re going to be treated as intellectual pariahs no matter what we say, why not use extreme arguments and rhetoric?

But we can’t know for certain that our arguments are irrelevant – indeed, at some level we must believe that political criticism has a hope of making a difference, or why else would we bother? But if we’re going to act as if we believe that our views and statements might contribute, in some way, towards changing the world, then probably it makes sense to try and express our views in a manner that is honest and responsible. Just in case.

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30 Responses to The Comparison Between Israel and Apartheid

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  2. 2
    reddecca says:

    I think policies practiced in Israel are apartheid, in that they’re about seperating different groups and the way they live, and there is an inequality. Apartheid has a dictionary definition, as well as being a description of a particular regime. I don’t think there was anything in that article that was either dishonest or irresponsible.

    Using such an iconic, stark image of evil to describe the Israel/Palestine conflict has the effect of covering up the extent to which some Palestinians – those that commit or support terrorism – are morally co-responsible for creating the current, appalling situation.

    I really disagree with this. I actually don’t think an iconic form of evil is a useful way of discussing apartheid. It was an actual regime, which had actual people running it, for actual reasons.

    The main reason I find people holding the Israeli government and Palestinian militants co- responsible, is that it ignores who holds power. The Israeli government has the power in Israel and Palestine.

    I don’t understand how you can see people resisting a government that is oppressing them as being morally culpable for the situation they are in, even if you don’t agree with their aims or their tactics.

    The ANC committed terrorist acts, does that make them morally culpable for apartheid?

  3. 3
    dorktastic says:

    I think that an argument can be made for holding some Palestinian militants co-responsible for Israeli policies (but not equally responsible) since they have often acted as spoilers in the peace process by timing suicide bombings to make actual negotiation impossible. At the same time, I think it is important to remember that suicide terrorism is a method of the weak, and is therefore illustrative of the power dynamics that redecca mentions above.
    Robert Pape has made some convincing arguments about the strategic logic of suicide terrorism, pointing out that modern suicide bombing campaigns (the LTTE in Sri Lanka, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and so on) are used to try and coerce foreign occupiers (usually democracies, if only in a minimal sense) to leave the territory that the groups considers to be their homeland. The point being, that it is a popular tool for those groups that don’t have much of a chance of winning using regular military or political strategies.
    One thing that stood out from the exerpts from the Guardian was the claim that Israel is not an apartheid state because 76% of Israeli’s say they want peace with the Palestinians -that doesn’t strike me as particularly meaningful unless the terms of that peace are defined.

  4. 4
    reddecca says:

    I was going to say something about that quote too. Apartheid would still have been Apartheid if 76% of white south africans had wanted to end it.

  5. 5
    Richard says:

    Hi Amp–

    I will read this post in detail later. For now, I just wanted to say thanks for the endorsement.

    Richard

  6. 6
    reddecca says:

    I also don’t think it’s picky to say that the comparison shouldn’t be between Israel and apartheid. But between Israel and South Africa, or between Israel’s actions and apartheid.

    Comparing a country to a policy regime is different from comparing a country with another country, or a policy regime with another policy regime.

  7. 7
    Michelle says:

    Thanks for the hat tip. :)

    I can certainly appreciate the discomfort with comparing Israel and South Africa, and I think McGreal’s article did a good job of pointing out that Israel does lack the overt racism that so marked the apartheid regime (i.e. Israeli Arabs can vote, drink from the same water fountains, ride the same buses and therefore die along with Jewish Israelis during suicide bombings). And I too think there is a terrible problem when comparisons seek out the most egregious examples and thus cause us to normalize horrific events (unless genocide reaches the levels of, say, the Holocaust, we somehow don’t seem to be as impressed with its inhumanity).

    However, I think the Wall in particular has forced this issue in many respects. It’s a visible symbol of an existing bureaucratic reality that has sought to separate and herd Palestinians away from Jewish Israelis. Ironically, I think the Wall is becoming a way to bring Israelis and Palestinians together. A Ha’retz article back in June about the protests against the Wall shows that Palestinians and Israelis need each other to do the right thing — they both have to step out in faith at the same time, and their protests at Bil’in (and other places) together are a way to do just that.

    As reddecca pointed out, comparisons between governments is a fair way of assessing policy. The problem becomes when we start making racial/religious-based comparisons, as in “the Jews” are like “the racist white South Africans.”

  8. 8
    Jesurgislac says:

    “But you can’t call Israel an apartheid state when 76% of the people want an agreement with the Palestinians.”

    Unpacked, this statement says that 76% of Israelis don’t want Israel to be an apartheid state so you can’t call Israel an apartheid state. But the only way this would actually be so would be if 76% of Israels want to take down the borders between the Occupied Territories and Israel, and grant all Palestinians in the Occupied Territories full Israeli citizenship. As far as I know Israel politics, that’s just not so: a majority of Israelis do not want to lose Israel’s artificial Jewish majority. What does this “76%” refer to?

  9. 9
    Barry says:

    Jesurgislac,

    It’s not even that. Israel is in a tough position with the West Bank – they needed the space for defence. However, the settlements were put there for one reason only, to displace the Palestinians. If the only reason that Israel was in the West Bank was for defense, then the last thing that they’d want to do would be to put civilians in there.

  10. 10
    Richard says:

    Seems to me that the problem with comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa, even though the comparison may be morally accurate–and I think this may have been Amp’s point–is that the use of a term like apartheid tends to block out all further critical thought rather than encourage it. It’s the same logic behind the way the Bush administration, for example, uses the word terrorist. Since we all already “know” what a terrorist is and what he or she stands for–in the same way that we “know” what apartheid was and what it stood for–there is no reason to look at the specific details of the situation or people being so labeled.

    This is what happens when a Jew who criticizes Israel is called self-hating; or what happens–and I am assuming there are circles in which it still happens–when a white person is called a “nigger-lover.” It is what happens when feminists are labeled lesbians, by definition; and I could go on and on.

    I guess what I am getting at here is that Amp’s point in the post seemed to me to be more about rhetorical choices rather than the moral accuracy of the Israel-apartheid comparison. (And I guess I should be clear that by a “morally accurate” comparison I mean one in which the two sides of the comparison might not be precisely equal, but are equal enough that one can say the difference is of degree, not kind.)

  11. 11
    Meteor Blades says:

    Richard hits the nail, just as I think Ampersand does with The down side is that no one’s talking about these aspects of the article. Instead, by framing the article as a question about Apartheid, Israel’s defenders are given license to defend Israel by correctly pointing out that things in Israel are not the same as they were in Apartheid South Africa.

    The very choice of “apartheid,” rather than broadening the discussion, narrows it, inflames defenders and critics alike, has us offering up dictionary definitions and making other semantic distinctions, and generally focusing on a tangent to “the real issue.”

  12. 12
    reddecca says:

    The idea that a journalist shouldn’t write an article *comparing* South Africa to Israel is really weird to me. Comparison is an important and useful tool for understanding. I don’t understand why any comparison should be taboo (as opposed to the points made in the comparison, which may be wrong or stupid).

    What about the second article, the one that talks about the relationship between Israel and South Africa, and the fact that they helped each other develop Nuclear weapons. Do you think that shouldn’t be written about because it might inflame people.

    I reject the idea that we should stop talking about ideas because people might get upset. I don’t think the only reason to discuss issues is to persuade. If there are people who are really so close-minded that as soon as they hear ‘Israel’ and ‘South Africa’ (and I’m sure they are), then I don’t think we get anywhere by softening our words.

  13. 13
    Rachel says:

    A few years ago while working on an article on this subject for a college paper, I did some interviews with an anthropologist who specialized in African cultures (to be fair, his emphasis was in Kenya, not South Africa, although I believe he was well-versed in the situation of apartheid because he had to teach classes called ‘Peoples of Africa’ and such). Basically, he said the comparison works to a point — and can be politically useful — but that the operation of Apartheid is different from the operation of Israel in that Apartheid was codified overtly on all levels rather, pervasive on every tier, and enacted primarily against internal citizenry. More or less, this is what others have said here.

    At the time, there was an article circulating by Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committe Against House Demolitions who suggested the term ‘Nishul’ or displacement as something which came from the vocabulary of the region and could describe & emphasize the valid, unique, and important-to-recognize-and-act-on ways that Palestinians are being abused by the Israeli state.

    Personally, I don’t see any problem with *comparisons* between Israel and South Africa — for me, that’s great, because it’s a way of highlighting the importance of the problem in a way that will grab the attention of Americans who may not understand it. What I don’t like is what I saw a lot in the material I was researching for the article – not comparison, but equation A = B, end of discussion. Comparisons are great. Equations are less helpful. If nothing else, each atrocity is its own unique horror.

  14. 14
    Ampersand says:

    I don’t think there was anything in that article that was either dishonest or irresponsible.

    Point well taken. When I wrote “honest and responsible,” I was thinking more broadly of some of the extreme rhetoric I’ve seen about Israel, and not about this article in particular; but I didn’t make that clear in what I wrote. Sorry about that.

    The main reason I find people holding the Israeli government and Palestinian militants co- responsible, is that it ignores who holds power. The Israeli government has the power in Israel and Palestine.

    I don’t understand how you can see people resisting a government that is oppressing them as being morally culpable for the situation they are in, even if you don’t agree with their aims or their tactics.

    But their tactics contribute hugely to a situation in Israel in which it is impossible for any political candidate advocating anything but a hardline stance to be credible; and in which all Palestinians are stereotyped as child-murderers. The actions of the terrorists directly contribute to empowering the worse, most right-wing Israelis. Why on earth should I not hold them accountable for the effects of their own acts?

    The security wall is a terrible evil, but it’s an evil that has been made necessary by the sucide bombers above. The Israelis alone are responsible for using the wall as an excuse for yet another land grab, but the wall itself is politically viable because of suicide bombers. And a wall along the green line – which would have still had horrible effects for many Palestinians – would have, in my view, been justifiable under the circumstances created by suicide bombers.

    Nor is it true that “The Israeli government has the power in Israel and Palestine,” if by “the power” you mean they are the exclusive holders of power. The Israeli government holds most of the power, but they do not hold the power to stop suicide bombers from attacking civilians. That power is, to a great extent, in the hands of the bombers and of organizations that support and encourage suicide bombings.

    The ANC committed terrorist acts, does that make them morally culpable for apartheid?

    I don’t know enough about the history of South Africa to be able to answer that question with any sophistication. But if the ANC bore no responsibility at all for Apartheid (and it’s my impression they did not), then that just emphasizes the significant differences between Israel now and South Africa then.

  15. 15
    Ampersand says:

    I agree with everyone who didn’t find the “76%” statistic at all meaningful. And, really, I agree with a lot of what Redecca is saying. I’m a bit of a fence-sitter on this question.

    Dorktastic wrote:

    At the same time, I think it is important to remember that suicide terrorism is a method of the weak, and is therefore illustrative of the power dynamics that Redecca mentions above. [...] The point being, that it is a popular tool for those groups that don’t have much of a chance of winning using regular military or political strategies.

    I understand that, but I don’t care. Given the choice between blowing up a pizza parlor full of innocent civilians, or losing a war against a more powerful colonizer, the moral thing to do is to lose the war. (And by saying this about Palestinian terrorists, I am in no way excusing the IDF for the innocent civilians it has killed).

    Besides, although I understand that suicide bombing is a tactic, I am not convinced that it is the only available tactic, or that in the long run it’s more effective than other tactics. But even if it were effective, terrorist attacks on civilians would not be justified.

    (I’m not assuming that you’d disagree with me about that.)

  16. 16
    Richard says:

    Amp, you wrote:

    Given the choice between blowing up a pizza parlor full of innocent civilians, or losing a war against a more powerful colonizer, the moral thing to do is to lose the war.

    This requires a great deal of unpacking, I think, and so before I dive into any discussion about it, I need to ask you: Why?

  17. 17
    Richard says:

    Nor is it true that “The Israeli government has the power in Israel and Palestine,” if by “the power” you mean they are the exclusive holders of power. The Israeli government holds most of the power, but they do not hold the power to stop suicide bombers from attacking civilians. That power is, to a great extent, in the hands of the bombers and of organizations that support and encourage suicide bombings.

    There is almost no situation of the sort in which the Israelis and Palestinians find themselves in which one party is entirely powerless. The question, Amp, that I have about this reasoning are:

    Are you suggesting that the power the Palestinians have is the same kind of power as that possessed by the Israelis. If so, this seems to me wrong. To have institutionalized power over a group of people is very different from the power one can find through resistance. Think about it in terms of patriarchy and women. Clearly women are not powerless and clearly power between men and women is always negotiated, contested, etc. on various levels. As well, there are ways in which women can use their power to put men at a disadvantage, but that power does not exist independently of the context created by patriarchy. So, for example, the power that adheres to false rape accusations–either actual ones or the fear of them that exists in men because of, to use a shorthand, feminism–only exists because the culture in which we live is, in a variety of ways, saturated with rape. I am not justifying false accusations by saying this; I am merely pointing out that it is an exercise of power that we would agree is criminal and unjustified but that I think we also would agree needs to be understood in a context and not in terms of moral absolutes–on which, see my question in the previous post.

  18. 18
    Ampersand says:

    Given the choice between blowing up a pizza parlor full of innocent civilians, or losing a war against a more powerful colonizer, the moral thing to do is to lose the war.

    This requires a great deal of unpacking, I think, and so before I dive into any discussion about it, I need to ask you: Why?

    Because, frankly, Israel is not driven by genocidal desires; that is to say, Israel does not have a goal of killing every last Palestinian. Rather, Israel is driven in this conflict by greed for land, which combined with anti-Arab racism has led to a situation of endless abuses to drive Palestinians from their land and crush the Palestinian resistance.

    If all Palestinian terrorists & terrorist supporters gave in to the Israelis completely and stopped resisting in any way, the result would not be the extermination of the Palestinians. Rather, the result would be ongoing poverty, landlessness, and lack of full civil rights.

    To me, poverty, landlessness, and lack of civil rights – awful as those things are – are simply not dire enough evils to justify the random murders of civilians.

    I’d apply much the same formula in reverse; nothing the Israelis have gained through the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians (including hundreds of children), the use of torture, the destruction of proprerty and livelihoods, etc., is important enough to justify the death and terror the Israelis have spread. There is no serious case that the Israelis are in danger of extermination at the hands of the Palestinians, and to my mind it would require an extermination -level danger to justify the evils Israel has committed.

    Are you suggesting that the power the Palestinians have is the same kind of power as that possessed by the Israelis.

    No, not at all.

    In fact, although doubtless I’ve slipped up countless times, I try to avoid using the term “the Palestinians” at all when referring to political power. The Palestinians do not have a legitimate government that can effectively claim a monopoly on the use of force; therefore, I don’t think one can correctly refer to what “the Palestinians” do. For this reason, I think Palestinians clearly do not have the same kind of power – or bear the same level of responsibility – as Israelis.

    However, I’m unwilling to extend that so far as to say that Palestinian murderers and those who support them bear no responsibility at all.

  19. 19
    reddecca says:

    To me, poverty, landlessness, and lack of civil rights – awful as those things are – are simply not dire enough evils to justify the random murders of civilians.

    I’d probably agree with you, for me. And if I was facing those situations then I’d make choices about how to react. But I’m not in Palestine, or Iraq or anywhere else where I’m facing those situations. I believe in people’s right to self-determination, and that includes self-determination of their struggle.

    However, I’m unwilling to extend that so far as to say that Palestinian murderers and those who support them bear no responsibility at all.

    See I’m willing to say they’re responsible for murdering people, but I don’t actually think they’re responsible for ‘the current situation’. Because I see their current situation as one of occupation which pre-dates the resistance. The resistance arose because of the occupation, not the other way round. I don’t think it’s useful to hold the resistance responsible for that oppression. Resistance, non-violent or not, usually leads to repression and not just of those who are resisting. That doesn’t make them morally responsible for the situation.

    Comparing this to the South Africa situation actually makes this clearer:

    The ANC committed terrorist acts, does that make them morally culpable for apartheid?

    I don’t know enough about the history of South Africa to be able to answer that question with any sophistication. But if the ANC bore no responsibility at all for Apartheid (and it’s my impression they did not), then that just emphasizes the significant differences between Israel now and South Africa then.

    But that begs the question I was trying to ask, in what way are people responsibile for repression that results from resistance? Resistance in South Africa, both violent and non-violent, resulted in further repression from the apartheid regime, and it didn’t do anything to assuage the fear of whites about what would happen if they gave up their power. I don’t think that makes the ANC morally culpable, for their actions sure, but not for the regime they were fighting.

  20. 20
    Richard says:

    Amp wrote:

    If all Palestinian terrorists & terrorist supporters gave in to the Israelis completely and stopped resisting in any way, the result would not be the extermination of the Palestinians. Rather, the result would be ongoing poverty, landlessness, and lack of full civil rights.

    To me, poverty, landlessness, and lack of civil rights – awful as those things are – are simply not dire enough evils to justify the random murders of civilians.

    So does this mean that you think genocide does justify the random murder of civilians? In Nazi Germany, or in Rwanda, or in Armenia–pick your genocide–would it have been okay, morally justifiable, since you’re original comment put this in moral terms, for the people who were the objects of genocidal aims randomly to murder civilians as a form of resistance? Why? Does the difference inhere in the people whose existence is at stake or in the status of “civilian” in a society/nation the government of which is attempting to commit genocide or both?

    I am asking these questions because, while I am also shocked and horrified by and deeply opposed to suicide bombings, there is something in me that resists your reasoning. I also think you underestimate the degree to which “poverty, landlessness, and lack of civil rights” can constitute a form of “collective” soul murder when they purposefully promulgated on an entire people. Again, my analogy comes from patriarchy: when a battered woman kills the man who has been abusing her, even when he is sleeping, when he is at his most helpless, I think we would agree that she is still acting to save her life, even though she is not at the moment she kills him in mortal danger. It seems to me that “poverty, landlessness and lack of civil rights” are analogous to wife-battering–in the same way that military occupation is analogous to rape–and aren’t the civilians killed in a suicide bombing part of the body of “the abuser,” no differently than the civilians killed as a result of the “abuse” are a part of the abused people’s body?

    Well, I am being interrupted. Gotta go.

  21. 21
    reddecca says:

    One more thought – and I’m not meaning to pick on you, I just find these differences interesting to tease out.

    Nor is it true that “The Israeli government has the power in Israel and Palestine,” if by “the power” you mean they are the exclusive holders of power. The Israeli government holds most of the power, but they do not hold the power to stop suicide bombers from attacking civilians. That power is, to a great extent, in the hands of the bombers and of organizations that support and encourage suicide bombings.

    But that’s why suicide bombings are a strategy of the weak, because it doesn’t matter how powerful you are, you can’t stop suicide bombings. Can’t be done, wall won’t stop it, checkpoints won’t stop it. Even closed borders won’t stop it, because people are willing to die there isn’t really much threat you can hold over them. I think Richard’s comparison is an apt one, there is no situation where one side has all the power, but a comparative power analysis is still useful.

    Again here comes the important difference, if Palestinians disengaged from the Intifada they’d be left poverty, landless and lacking civil rights, if Israel disengaged (as in withdrew from the occupied territories) there’d be, at minimum, a hell of a lot less suicide bombings.

  22. 22
    Daytrader says:

    “Again here comes the important difference, if Palestinians disengaged from the Intifada they’d be left poverty, landless and lacking civil rights, if Israel disengaged (as in withdrew from the occupied territories) there’d be, at minimum, a hell of a lot less suicide bombings. ”

    Allow ME to “unpack” this one.

    So if the Palestinians stop blowing up civilians in pizza parlors, they are doomed to eternal poverty. And if the Jews would just further appease the terrorists, peace would break out all over.

    Wrong on all counts Reddecca,

    The Palestinians are poor, landless, and without civil rights because they seem more than happy to keep propping up thug-governments who toss them the red meat of Jew hatred. Why…it’s not our fault you’re destitute…it’s the stinking jooos. They eat that stuff up over there.

    You can say the Palestinian people are struggling because of Jewish oppression, but you’d be dead wrong. The Palestinian people are struggling because of institutionalized Anti-Semitism mixed with religious fanaticism. Until they stop blaming Israel for all of their problems and start blaming the people in charge, nothing will change. Nothing.

    The most stunning bit:
    “if Israel disengaged (as in withdrew from the occupied territories) there’d be, at minimum, a hell of a lot less suicide bombings. ”

    If you were better informed about what is going on in that part of the world, or simply bothered to google “Gaza withdrawal”, you’d know that Palestinian suicide attacks inside Israel increased after Israel pulled back, Reddecca.

    Please see:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli-Palestinian_conflict_timeline#August.2C_2005

  23. 23
    reddecca says:

    “You can say the Palestinian people are struggling because of Jewish oppression, but you’d be dead wrong. ”

    I did, and would never say that. I say the Palestinian people are struggling because of Israeli government oppression.

    There’s a really important difference.

  24. 24
    Ampersand says:

    But that’s why suicide bombings are a strategy of the weak, because it doesn’t matter how powerful you are, you can’t stop suicide bombings. Can’t be done, wall won’t stop it, checkpoints won’t stop it.

    It’s yet to be determined that the Wall won’t stop it; I suspect it will, if not stop suicide bombings entirely, at least reduce them quite a bit.

    Even closed borders won’t stop it, because people are willing to die there isn’t really much threat you can hold over them.

    If the targets can be changed from pizza parlours and buses to armed border stations, however, that will be a significant improvement from the Israeli point of view.

    I think Richard’s comparison is an apt one, there is no situation where one side has all the power, but a comparative power analysis is still useful.

    I certainly agree with this. However, Israel’s possession of much more power should not be used to excuse terrorist attacks on civilians, or to put aside the fact that Israel’s desire to be free of such attacks is entirely legitimate.

    Again here comes the important difference, if Palestinians disengaged from the Intifada they’d be left poverty, landless and lacking civil rights, if Israel disengaged (as in withdrew from the occupied territories) there’d be, at minimum, a hell of a lot less suicide bombings.

    I’d like to think that’s true, but of course it’s all speculation. My speculation is that there would probably be a long-term drop in suicide bombers, but only after a short-term increase caused by bombers seeking to veto any chance of a peaceful coexistence with Israel.

    Contrary to Daytrader, I don’t think the Gaza example is telling, both because of the short-term analysis and because Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza happened concurrently with increased land-grabbing on the West Bank.

  25. 25
    Ampersand says:

    So does this mean that you think genocide does justify the random murder of civilians? In Nazi Germany, or in Rwanda, or in Armenia”“pick your genocide”“would it have been okay, morally justifiable, since you’re original comment put this in moral terms, for the people who were the objects of genocidal aims randomly to murder civilians as a form of resistance? Why? Does the difference inhere in the people whose existence is at stake or in the status of “civilian” in a society/nation the government of which is attempting to commit genocide or both?

    I’d say that the difference inheres in the difference between being threatened with poverty and being threatened with extinction. I admit, this is not an entirely rational distinction on my part; rather, it is a intuitive understanding that wholesale murder of civilians is so serious and so disgusting an act, that the only thing which can really justify it is an attempt to prevent the wholesale slaughter of civilians.

    To some extent, your response seems to be attacking the threshold issue; why do I set the moral threshold at this point, and not some other point? However, the same problem exists in anyone’s position, not just mine. Many threshold standards are at least a little bit arbitrary (why is 59mph acceptable, but 61 speeding?), but they are also necessary.

    I also think you underestimate the degree to which “poverty, landlessness, and lack of civil rights” can constitute a form of “collective” soul murder when they purposefully promulgated on an entire people.

    Admittedly, I’ve never been to Palestine. But I’ve known Palestinians who came to the USA to study, and I’ve read accounts of travels in Palestine (I highly recommend Joe Sacco’s in particular). These people do not seem to have dead souls to me; instead, the kindness and warmth of Palestinians is often emphasized.

    Again, my analogy comes from patriarchy: when a battered woman kills the man who has been abusing her, even when he is sleeping, when he is at his most helpless, I think we would agree that she is still acting to save her life, even though she is not at the moment she kills him in mortal danger.

    This is because she has observed her batterer go through the cycle of repentance-warmth-abuse several times, and she has legitimate reason to fear that next time he will kill her. In contrast, I don’t think there is a legitimate fear that Israel is about to commit genocide on the Palestinians, which would be the equivalent.

    Furthermore, as a practical matter, the abused woman’s actions can be justified as effective self-defense; whatever else happens, if she kills her abuser, he won’t beat her any more. The same cannot be said of a suicide bombing which kills Israeli civilians; the act will not bring Israeli abuses of Palestinians to an end, and may have the opposite effect.

    It seems to me that “poverty, landlessness and lack of civil rights” are analogous to wife-battering”“in the same way that military occupation is analogous to rape”“and aren’t the civilians killed in a suicide bombing part of the body of “the abuser,” no differently than the civilians killed as a result of the “abuse” are a part of the abused people’s body?

    With all due respect, Richard, this analogy dehumanizes the civilians killed in suicide bombings, and should therefore be rejected. Analogizing a twelve-year-old girl who was riding a bus to a the elbow of an abuser has the effect of covering up the immorality of the situation, because the girl has a mind and is a person, unlike the elbow.

  26. 26
    Richard says:

    Amp, there’s a lot in your post to respond to; unfortunately, I do not have the time to do so right now, but you do say one thing that I need to acknowledge:

    With all due respect, Richard, this analogy dehumanizes the civilians killed in suicide bombings, and should therefore be rejected. Analogizing a twelve-year-old girl who was riding a bus to a the elbow of an abuser has the effect of covering up the immorality of the situation, because the girl has a mind and is a person, unlike the elbow.

    This was in response to this rather carelessly worded statement of mine:

    It seems to me that “poverty, landlessness and lack of civil rights” are analogous to wife-battering”“in the same way that military occupation is analogous to rape”“and aren’t the civilians killed in a suicide bombing part of the body of “the abuser,” no differently than the civilians killed as a result of the “abuse” are a part of the abused people’s body?

    You are, of course, right, and I should not have made it appear like I was comparing individual people killed in a suicide bombing attack to body parts. What I meant to get at was the question of whether anybody is really innocent. The people killed in suicide bombing attacks, even 12 year old girls, live their lives of relative privilege on the backs of the Palestinians; the occupation is what makes those lives of relative privilege possible. I certainly do not approve of suicide bombings, but I do think it is problematic to think about Israeli civilians, whose lives depend in direct and immediate ways, as innocent in the same way that, say, the Iraqi civilians killed during the US invasion were innocent–which is what I think your original point was getting at. The Iraqi civilians who were killed did not represent a threat to the US, but, Israeli civilians do represent a threat to the Palestinians to the extent that the quality and shape of their (the Israeli’s) lives depend on the ongoing occupation and exploitation of Palestinians and to the degree that the Israelis are unwilling and/or unable to give up that privilege in the interests of justice for the Palestinians.

    Again, I do not support suicide bombings, but I can comprehend the way of thinking I have just outlined as part of the logic behind them.

  27. I also have to apologize for posting sometimes as Richard and sometimes as Richard Jeffrey Newman; I am posting today from a different computer and I just realized that I forgot to change the name in the name field to my full name.

  28. 28
    reddecca says:

    It’s yet to be determined that the Wall won’t stop it; I suspect it will, if not stop suicide bombings entirely, at least reduce them quite a bit.

    You’re right that it’s unproved that the Wall won’t stop suicide bombings. We’ll just have to wait and see. But other security measures haven’t stopped suicide bombings. It seems to me that the more you repress people to stop anyone suicide bombing you, the more people want to suicide bomb you.

    However, Israel’s possession of much more power should not be used to excuse terrorist attacks on civilians, or to put aside the fact that Israel’s desire to be free of such attacks is entirely legitimate.

    I’m not sure desires can be considered legitimate or not legitimate, only actions. In this case Israel’s actions are doing the opposite from creating the desired outcome.

    I think the starting point of this argument was whether Palestinians who supported suicide bombers were responsible for the situation in Israel/Palestine. I don’t support bombing as a tactic, there’s too much collatarel damage. I think people who commit bombing are responsible for that. But I don’t hold the powerless suicide bombers responsible for

  29. 29
    dorktastic says:

    I think there is some evidence that stopping the encroachment of settlers in the West Bank will stop suicide bombings. I have charts somewhere that show a relationship between increased Palestinian support for suicide bombings with increases in settler encroachment in the West Bank. Also, increased numbers of suicide bombing because of the perception (and reality) of the threat that settlers pose.

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